Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Music: The Gothic Archies

Happy Halloween! As most newsaholics know, the mother of all current events costumes just got dropped in our laps last week. So, how many of you are going out with fake shiners and a backwards "B" drawn on your faces with lip pencil? You gotta admit, it's a lot easier than pulling together the Caribou Barbie thing.

On some NPR show this weekend, they asked listeners to submit things from movies that terrified them as children. The flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz pretty much swept the competition away. Wow, they were frightening. Monkeys are unnerving to begin with, since they look like ugly, hairy little men, hopped up on speed. The host reminded listeners of the moment they swarmed Dorothy and her friends, and pulled all the straw out of the Scarecrow. Horrible!

In addition to flying monkeys (and clowns), what really scared me were dolls--especially those creepy baby dolls with clear, soulless eyes that snapped open suddenly when upright. One Christmas, my elderly great-aunts gave me baby doll in a bridal gown--an interesting sartorial choice, considering the fact that one had never married, and the other was a cheerful widow of an alcoholic. I could barely suppress my loathing. The only doll I played with on a regular basis was a cheap injection-molded Ken, an amputee due to his right foot collapsing into his leg cavity. The neighbor boy Craig and I pretended that Ken was one of the teenage cast members on Flipper, a television show starring Lloyd Bridges and an incredibly talented dolphin. Flipper himself was portrayed by my Grandpa's fishing-tackle measuring tape, which was in a metal case shaped and painted to look like a trout.

Mom insisted that we put the bride doll in a place of honor. There she sat on one of the Dutch Colonial chairs at the far end of the living room, blankly staring ahead as the family watched Gunsmoke. She was waiting until our guard was down. Perhaps this explains why, when I saw the Twilight Zone episode where a doll torments mean step-dad Telly Savalas, I was rooting for Telly.

"Living Doll" The Twilight Zone

Our song this week is "This Abyss," by The Gothic Archies, wonderfully described by founder Stephin Merritt as a "goth-rock bubblegum" band. Dan Handler, otherwise known as children's author Lemony Snicket, played accordion with the Gothic Archies while on tour.

The House of Tomorrow. The Gothic Archies. [Link]

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Music: Brazilian B-Sides

Miss Fifty Foot took a break last Sunday. To those who contacted me to ask what was wrong, thanks for checking in! Truth is, I was dog-tired, and for some reason hadn't listened to music the previous week. I work at a university, so some of this can be attributed to the regular Fall quarter overload. And, as winter approaches, every day is shorter and darker than the last. It's been a struggle to awaken at a normal time. My doctor recommended I buy a therapeutic light for seasonal affective disorder. The use of therapeutic light to stabilize circadian rhythms, and thus stabilize mood, is backed up with good research.

My 10,000 lux Apollo BriteLite arrived on Wednesday. To give you an idea of what we miss during winter: overcast daylight is about 10,000 lux, while bright sunlight ranges between 32,000 to 130,000 lux. Despite being only as bright as a cloudy day, the fixture produces one of the most blazing white lights I've ever experienced from an artificial source. To get the best results, I sit next to it for 30 minutes in the morning. Although it's too early to deliver a final verdict, I do feel more alert after awakening.

On Friday, I went to a concert featuring Brazilian musical legend Milton Nascimento, and the Jobim Trio. Nascimento, whose recent work seems to veer toward jazz/bossa nova fusion, is not one of my top picks from his era. I favor his early stuff from the late 60s and early 70s, as did the audience, which appeared to be nearly every Brazilian living in the tri-state area. Later, I waited in the inevitable post-concert restroom line, the only gringa, it seemed. Amid the flock of stunning birds-of-paradise, I felt like a common house sparrow. Wearing a hoodie and track shoes was definitely a mistake. A couple women continued singing choruses from their favorite songs. "Al-la-la, Al-la-la,la la la..."echoed from a stall as one lady did her business.

I have little familiarity with recent Brazilian pop music, with the exception of Cansei de Ser Sexy ("tired of being sexy"), an electropop band with a handful of international hits. That's why this playlist from the Brazil Travel Blog is much appreciated.*

Folkloric rabeca (fiddle) from Antonio Nóbrega.

"Instinto Coletivo" by O Rappa, with animated capoeira.

Real, live capoeira. Unbelievable! [Link]

Top Ten: Brazilian Music (B-sides) [Link]

*It's a little dated..just up to 2001. Still, new territory for me.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Music: Pharcyde

Hip-hop, or rap, or whatever you want to call it, has been around for some 30-plus years. It started as a DJ's spoken-word accompaniment to funk records: sort of a black, urban version of a square-dancing call.

For the most part, I'm not a fan. Part of this is due to my musical Achilles heel: lyric-deafness. I do not seem to be able to understand very many song lyrics, either when they are sung or spoken over music. Since the rhymes are the primary focus of hip-hop, there's not a lot left for me to enjoy. Throw in a blizzard of post-1980 b-boy slang and it might as well be in a foreign language.

Despite my dis-hip-hopability, I have some affection for Pharcyde, a group of South LA long-haired freaks who started out as dancers. (LA, again!) The video of the single "Drop" (which is old news to anyone who watches MTV), was shot with all the action in reverse. The performers even had to learn their lyrics in reverse, which puts them light years ahead of my feeble abilities. A libretto follows.

Bootie Brown:

Let me freak the funk,
obsolete is the punk that talk more junk than Sanford sells
I jet propel at a rate that complicate their mental state
as I invade their masquerade
they couldn't fade with a clipper blade
10 years in the trade is not enough, you can't cut it
I let you take a swing, and you bunt it
for an easy out, I leave mc's with doubt
of exceeding, my name is Bottie Brown and I'm proceeding, leading,
they try to follow but they're shallow and hollow
I can see right through them like an empty 40 bottle, of O.E.
they have no key, or no clue
to the game at all, now they washed up
hung out to dry
standing looking stupid, wondering why
(why man?)
it was the fame, that they tried to get
now they walking around talkin about represent
and keep it real, but I got to appeal
cause they existing in a fantasy when holding the steel

Slim Kid 3:

rock a bye baby,
listen to my heart pumping to a fine ravine
of all things it's a vain of a shrine
all missions impossible are possible, cause I'm
heading for a new sector 365 days from now, I'll
wipe the sweat from my eye
and each and every true will stick, or fall from the sky of my cloud nine
from homies all the way to chics, no matter how fine
controlling is a swollen way to wreck a proud mind
you hold it in your hands and watch a man start crying
tear after tear in the puppet man's hands
every time you take a stance you do the puppet man's dance
and the worlds at a stand-still
deep in broken mansville, trapped in the moat with an anvil, still
killing yourself, and dogging ya health
you ain't amphibious, so grab a hold of yourself

Knumbskull #1:

shit is-shit is ill, my flow still will spill
toxic slick to shock you sick like electrocute
when I execute, acutely over the rhythm
on those that pollute, extra dosages is what I gotta give em
got em mad and tremblin
cause I been up in my lab assemblin
missiles, to bomb the enemy
because they envy me, and the making of my mad currency
currently I think we're in a state of an emergency
cause niggas done sold their souls, and now their souls is hollow
and I think they can't follow
they can't swallow the truth because it hurts
this is how I put it down, this is my earth, my turf
the worth of my birth is a billion, and you know what time it is
I'm going to make a million