Category Archives: Arts

How To Enjoy Social Distancing

No matter who you are, where you live or how much money you thought you had at the beginning of this past week, the fact is, we are all now living in uncertain times. Is this the same feeling of uncertainty my parents suffered at the beginning and throughout World War Two? Can we equate this pandemic with anything we may have endured before? The rows of empty shelves at the supermarkets, the stockpiling of food and, yes, toilet-paper is bizarre and disturbing. Restaurants, bars, and almost all businesses are closed, streets are empty of people and rush-hour traffic has dwindled to mostly UberEats deliveries. “Weird!” “Unbelievable!” “Crazy!” Are just some of the descriptive words you hear repeatedly in any given conversation. And, a new vocabulary has stormed our everyday dialogue. “Coronavirus” may be slightly amusing if you choose to believe Mexican beer is associated with a plague from China.  “COVID-19” is just plain scary. Forget the initials, what does the “19” mean? Then, there are two words that you never thought you’d hear together, “Social Distancing”. Talk about a wacky contradiction. “Social distancing? It’s a bit millennial-biased!” Exclaimed my friend MS who also believes, “Good music stopped being made around 1977!” I will admit to feeling a little awkward when I first uttered, “social distancing”. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and yes, it does come across as a bit affected. Yet, here we are letting each other know we are doing it, we are “social distancing”. Now what? To help answer that bewildering question, we called upon some of our favorite guests who also happen to have exceptionally creative minds to share their thoughts on how to enjoy social distancing.

Film and media critic, Bob Ross, jaded as he sometimes pretends to be, always enthuses over his favorite movies. With a new book on the way, Demagogue For President – The Rhetorical Genius Of Donald Trump, Dr. Jennifer Mercieca turns away from politics to talk about baking while social distancing. The dry-humor of comedian, writer, musician, Dave Hill is unavoidable as he gives his sage advice on social distancing. While, best-selling author, Mark Haskell Smith offers pertinent tips for social distancing, plus enthusiastically raves about must-read books. Crosswords are Adrienne Raphel’s passion, her fascinating book, Thinking Inside The Box – Adventures With Crosswords And The Puzzling People Who Can’t Live Without Them was published just a couple of days ago, unavoidably in time for social distancing.

 

Show #365

A Conversation With Harry Stafford

There is something assuringly honest about Harry Stafford’s demeanor. He says without a hint of self-consciousness that he likes to get up on stage and put on a show and if that means dressing the part, then so be it, he’ll gladly do his best. Which goes a long way to explain why the one-time spiky-haired goth rocker now prefers to wear a conservative business suit with a white shirt and tie to perform in. Harry reckons if people pay good money to come to see you, then they deserve a show, not some bloke shambling on in boring jeans and a t-shirt. It all works because Stafford’s new album, Gothic Urban Blues presents melancholy look backward without being old-fashioned. It’s a collection that could have easily been released ten, twenty or maybe thirty years ago, yet the suggestion that this is a carefully crafted homage to nostalgia is shattered by the crisp production and Stafford’s almost languid but up-to-the-moment lyrics. Gothic Urban Blues can be played all the way through without stopping or one track at a time, it’s one of those albums that works perfectly either way. Which is a lot like chatting with Harry. He gives thoughtful, well-considered answers with a treasure trove of insights and details that could persuade you that your sixty-minute conversation was really just ten minutes. He’s an affable chap is Harry Stafford, the ups and downs of the music biz may have given him cause to be cynical but he manages to keep that persona well hidden. Instead, he recounts the early days as founder, guitarist, and vocalist of post-punk gothic rockers Inca Babies as fondly as he chats about his latest venture. Stafford decided to release untamed solo material that echoes his love of blues piano and barroom ballads. The idea he says was to leave his noisy electric guitar behind – abandoning everything he held and cherished – to make some new music with a piano and a head full of ideas. His band is now called Guitar Shaped Hammers to reflect this cohesion of musical unity – with more guitars from Vincent O’Brien, and an additional layered sonic blast from Nick Brown (The Membranes). With intense percussion from Rob Haynes and a truly masterful trumpet contribution from jazz supremo Kevin Davy, the result is very much the soundtrack of a basement radio station stumbling across a new genre they’ve tagged Gothic Urban Blues

LEM Vol 172

Pandemics And Human Evolution

“If the Corona Virus doesn’t change the way we behave – we are idiots!” The uncompromising words of Augustin Fuentes, professor of anthropology. Pandemics have been decisive markers in over ten thousand years of evolution and human behavior has changed in response explains professor Fuentes. Our future after the coronavirus pandemic will change, but Augustin suggests we should take a positive approach. After all, the resourcefulness of humans, technology and most importantly, our use of social media should be exciting. We will probably find new ways to interact with each other. How we go about and conduct our daily lives may change forever. Yet, in the here and now, the anthropology professor warns that we must heed the health risks and warnings. Our immediate response to implementing a workable national healthcare system in the United States is imperative. And, yes after a number of weeks of self-quarantine, we should expect in about a year, a boom in the birthrate.

Agustin Fuentes, trained in Zoology and Anthropology, is the Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. His books include, Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being (Foundational Questions in Science); The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional; Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature. Agustin is a frequent guest on Life Elsewhere.

       

Show #364

A Conversation With The Shend

The Cravats

“What a nice fella.” That was my immediate takeaway after spending an hour in conversation with The Shend. From the promotional photos he sent us, the man appears formidable. The videos of The Shend performing with his band and some clips of his acting roles suggest he could be a little grumpy. The Shend swept away any concerns I might have had with a pre-chat message, “Hi, mate, I’m looking forward to talking with you.” The Shend, along with Svor Naan, Viscount Biscuits, Joe 91 and Rampton Garstang make up The Cravats. Originally from Redditch, near Birmingham, the band haphazardly got together in 1977 after seeing and being impressed by The Stranglers. Their first single, Gordon b/w Situations Vacant was self-financed with a little help from The Shend’s mum, who didn’t approve of “that awful punk noise”. A recording contract with fledgling indie label Small Wonder led to the attention of  John Peel and in turn, four sessions for his influential BBC radio show. The band took a rest in 1982 with original Cravats member Robin Dallaway and The Shend forming The Very Things, as well as DCL Locomotive and The Babymen. The Cravats story picks up again in 2006 with a double CD compilation of Cravats singles and other material was released as The Land Of The Giants – The Best Of The Jazz-Punk Colossals on Overground Records, including unreleased track Seance mixed by Paul Hartnoll of Orbital, and also released as a single. A CD reissue of their first LP, The Cravats In Toytown was released in 2012, accompanied by an additional CD featuring a complete remolding of the original In Toytown 8 track masters by Penny Rimbaud of Crass. The Cravats recorded their first new material in 30 years in the form of Jingo Bells b/w Batterhouse, a limited edition 7″ released on Overground Records. This was followed by the album, Dustbin Of Sound in 2012. And now The Cravats are back with a new long-player, Hoorahland. It’s twelve tracks of rollicking, rambunctious Englishness. (Even though the decidedly American Jello Biafra joins in on Now The Magic Has Gone). In our conversation, The Shend and I zig-zag between the early days of innocently putting out records without a clue, but magically being able to snag Judas Priest’s drum kit for their first recording session – to the remarkable DIY ethos of today’s enterprising music-makers. Plus, I unabashedly tell The Shend how much of fan I have been of The Cravats since that very first single. Trainspotters take note: this conversation is full of references and name-checks. Enjoy!

Norman B – March 2020 

LEM Vol 171

Life Elsewhere’s Juke Box Jury

“Would you listen to this again?” We asked the jurists after playing each new release. We didn’t want boring answers, so we selected three guests we knew would provide intelligent, and entertaining critiques of every song. The first edition of Life Elsewhere’s Juke Box Jury features three highly qualified guests:

Mark Haskell Smith, author of rollicking smart fiction – Blown, Raw, Salty, Baked, Moist and Delicious. The LA-based writer is also a deft hand with non-fiction – Naked At Lunch and Heart Of Dankness. When not hunched over his MacBook, Mark teaches, writes screenplays and searches for the ultimate cocktail. In his earlier years, he slung a guitar on way down low and was part of Seattle post-punk noise-makers, 3 Swimmers.

Highly acclaimed creative director, Robert Newman has an impressive list of magazine designs under his belt, including, Real Simple, Entertainment Weekly, New York, Details, Vibe, The Village Voice and Guitar World. He was also the editor of The Rocket, a music and culture magazine based in Seattle. Newman and his teams have won over 500 design awards. Plus, he is past president of the Society of Publication Designers and has been a guest lecturer at the Poynter Institute. Robert is based in New York City and is an avowed music aficionado.

Singer-songwriter, poet and producer, Sylken Somers came to our attention just a short while ago. So impressed were we with Prone, her three-track EP, we had to find out more about this intriguing talent. We reached out to engage Sylken in conversation, (available here), she talks about music, life, love, mental and physical health, plus being non-binary. Sylken’s obvious delight in vocabulary made her a perfect choice for this show where we asked our guests to articulate their opinions – honestly.

The music we selected:

Akai Solo – Stand Alone Calm (prod. Ibiss)

Onipa – Makoma

Jordana – Signs

Iceblink – Dialoghi

Stutter Steps – Giant Sand Heart

David J with Emily Jane White – I Hear Only Silence Now

Hallows – Subtle

Grimm Grimm – Ginourmous

Drama – Forever And A Day

Nnamdï – Price Went Up

Listen carefully, do you agree with the opinions of our Jury, Sylken Somers, Robert Newman, and Mark Haskell Smith?

Show #362

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