Tag Archives: Writing

I’m outta here as soon as I fix the flux capacitor: The best of MF Doom

A storyteller whose couplet-by-couplet sequences conjure realities as bent as Julio Cortazar’s, the late Daniel Dumile was a world-class rapper and first-rate producer. Only RZA matches him in the fluency with which he weaves musique concrète and samples of Fantastic Four and other cultural detritus. And as with other garrulous musicians like The Minutemen distinguishing songs from textures and attitudes is a mug’s game. You may not be able to tell the difference between tarragon and thyme at a good restaurant, but you’ll remember how rich the chicken tasted. Continue reading

Eastern European Cold War film ‘Isaac’ as precise and mysterious as poetry

Few Americans get to watch films set in the Baltic states over which the West and the former Soviet Union haggled for decades. On that basis alone Isaac is worth watching. It’s also an ambitious piece of work: as precise and mysterious as poetry. The young Lithuanian writer-director Jurgis Matulevicius took his film to Tallinn’s Black Nights Film Festival two years ago in 2019; it streams now as part of Miami Jewish Film Festival’s excellent lineup. Confident and dialectical, Isaac deserves a wide audience who warmed to, say, Toni Erdmann and The Square and especially the inferior Cold War. Continue reading

Ranking #1 singles, U.S. edition: 1976

What I love most about “Love Hangover” is how it wants to have it both ways about the mid seventies’ most prominent trends: agreeable talk show/supper club balladry and thumpin’ disco anthem awash in lust. Few singers of any gender could’ve amiably straddled both tendencies than Diana Ross. The Sylvers and Ohio Players didn’t brood over these differences. Continue reading

Ranking #1 singles, U.S. edition: 1977

A milestone: this post is hourglass-shaped. The Hague nominees and great ones cancel each other out. As decades approach their ends, tendencies get more pronounced, underscored. Fucking around on your spouse because growing mutton chops is an entitlement was a trope during the Ford years, and, alas, it wasn’t just David Soul and Leo Sayer responding: “Torn Between Two Lovers” at least expresses a semi-healthy statement about making do with infidelity. Continue reading

Reading Octavia Butler’s ‘Kindred’

“Nearly all of Butler’s protagonists face the accusation that their survival is a form of complicity,” writes Julian Lucas in a review of the Library of America edition of Octavia Butler’s fiction. I circled the volume when I spotted it last month at the bookstore, but it took a friend’s self-portrait reading Kindred that persuaded me to check out a library copy. I’m glad I did: I inhaled the book so quickly and thoroughly I got lightheaded, needed to slow down. Continue reading

Ranking #1 singles. U.S. edition: 1988

As kind as a hambone, as beholden to several generations of bluesmiths, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” boasted a guitar sound and, better, a vocal yarl that reduced 1988’s pop metal contendahs into warm mayo. Good music should sound like it could pummel you at any moment; Guns N’ Roses’ only #1 did it several times. The single is a rush over the abyss. “One More Try” is the abyss. The gay “Maggie Mae” still gives up no secrets, so committed are the organ and percussion preset to keeping a groove. As a follow-up to “Father Figure,” George Michael may not have sensed the thematic similarities. Continue reading

From the annals of the fully vaccinated: Introversion vs. shyness

Loath as I am to treat this thing as a deadline or as if it set to a metronome, I became fully vaccinated at 12:01 a.m. this morning. The CDC’s guidelines kick in. Not much will change. I won’t freak out during rare moments when a jogger or another walker crosses my path in the mornings (risks were minimal anyway). I’ll likely resume careful outdoor dining, mostly lunch so as to avoid crowds. I would like to figure out a dating protocol that doesn’t require me to say, “Hi! Show me your vaccination card, please” (if it comes down to this, readers, I won’t object). My grandmother won’t ask for the hundredth time why I mask. To her credit the ninety-six-year-old has kept her wit. “From the nose up it’s Alfred,” she said when asked if she recognizes me. “From the nose down I don’t know who the hell you are.” Continue reading