Category Archives: Books

The Unconventional Actor + New Music

 

 

When did you first encounter Jeff Goldblum? Maybe as a deranged killer in his 1974 screen debut in Death Wish? Maybe as a cynical journalist in 1983s The Big Chill? Or a brilliant if egotistical scientist-turned-fly in 1986s The Fly? Perhaps as the wise-cracking skeptical mathematician in 1993s Jurassic Park? Or maybe you’re not a film buff but noticed his face as part of one of the Internet’s earliest memes. Whenever it was, you’ve probably noticed that Goldblum has become one of Hollywood’s most enduring actors, someone who only seems to grow more famous, more heralded, more beloved through the decades, even though he’s always followed his own, strange muse. The guy primarily plays jazz music these days but is more famous than ever. Actor, pianist, husband, father, style icon, meme. Goldblum contains multitudes, but why? What does he mean? The Washington Post’s Travis M. Andrews decided to find out. He talks to Norman B about his adventure discovering Jeff Goldblum and the result, his new book Because He’s Jeff Goldblum. While we are talking about movies we called upon long-time Life Elsewhere contributor, film, and media critic, Bob Ross to give us an update on the state of movies now. The Oscars, or as Mr. Ross prefers, The Academy Awards. Bob also gives his appraisal of Jeff Goldblum. Plus we have new music from Such Small Hands. This is the solo project of Melanie Howard also known as the bassist for The Wedding Present. Brighton-based Melanie has created a stripped and raw version of her debut album, Carousel. She says, “These are live home recordings, completely acoustic. Each song is just my voice and my guitar, recorded down one microphone across two afternoons in March while, while my cat snoozed next to me in my living room”. I want to share two tracks with you, because, well, I think you’ll appreciate what Melanie Howard as Such Small Hands has created with Carousel: Raw Home Recordings

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A Conversation With Rebecca Handler

After reading, Edie Richter Is Not Alone, the outstanding debut novel from Rebecca Handler, the big question was how do you talk to the author about her surprising book without revealing the “secret” I prepared myself by taking my time in reading a book that taunts you to immerse yourself in the tragicomic stylized writing and devour it in one sitting. Instead, I forced myself to gobble up Handler’s cleverly observant prose over three evenings. It was a struggle, but it was worth it. Rebecca Handler’s writing is so smart, so clever, she craftily intends you to not put her book down. I began our conversation with, “possum”. A reasonable start, the first sentence in Edie Richter Is Not Alone is, “The possum is dead”. From there, Rebecca Handler explained that Edie Richter is married, childless by choice, and moving from San Francisco to Perth, Australia. She leaves behind a sister and mother still mourning the recent death of her father, but Edie has a secret, she committed an unthinkable act that she can barely admit to herself. Edie Richter narrates her experience of complicated grief with brutal accuracy. As you read, you discover along with Edie herself what happened to an oddly ordinary wife and daughter, who in her stunned anguish resembles all of us. 

   

Also in the program, new music out of Hull in the UK, from accomplished musician Katie Spencer, along with Alan Thompson & Spencer Cozens give us a beautiful version of the late John Martyn’s Hurt In Your Heart. The legendary British songwriter, guitarist, and singer, born Iain David McGeachy in London, 1948, sadly died in 2009. Katie Spencer pays tribute to Martyn with Cozens and Spencer, two longstanding members of his band. The recording sessions for the three-track EP, Hurt In Your Heart were captured as live performances. Plus, new music from an artist who describes herself as, “A 15-year-old singer-songwriter from Leigh-on-sea in Essex and I have been writing music for a couple of years now. Here I am with my first EP. I started solely on piano, but I have really enjoyed pushing my guitar and vocals too“. Her name is Ruby Hickman, the two tracks I chose are, I Hate You and the title cut, The Fake You. A talent to keep a watchful eye out for. 

Norman B April 10, 2021

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What Animals May Tell Us About Aliens. A Return Visit With Katherine May.

                                   

Was Arik Kershenbaum’s intent in writing, The Zoologist’s Guide To The Galaxy to make the reader reconsider – everything? To look at our world from a new perspective? “Yes!” the zoologist, College Lecturer, and Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge responds rapidly. His new book will not only make you think, you’ll also find yourself wanting to share your discoveries. Kershenbaum has a quirky, yet delightful knack of setting up a question, answering it, then questioning what you’ve just learned. He is a gifted storyteller who uses colloquialisms and common-day language, while his studious research is paraded before us without a hint of laborious, long-winded academia. The book gallops along at an agreeable speed, yet never once do you feel the author is only giving you a précis of his knowledge. Arik says Scientists are confident that life exists elsewhere in the universe. However, while we often imagine that life on other planets is the stuff of science fiction, the time has come to abandon our fantasies of space invaders and movie monsters and instead place our expectations on a solid scientific footing. Short of aliens landing in New York City, how do we know what they are like? Could there be an alien planet with supersonic animals? A moon where creatures have a language composed of smells? Will aliens scream with fear, act honestly, or have technology? Kirksenbaum draws on his own expert understanding of life on Earth and Darwin’s theory of evolution, which applies throughout the universe to answer these questions and more. The Zoologist’s Guide To The Galaxy is an engrossing book. Arik Kershenbaum will open your eyes to the marvels of our planet and the universe beyond.

Katherine May, author of Wintering: The Power Of Rest And Retreat In Difficult Times returns to the program to talk about where we are now at the second anniversary of the Covid pandemic. Katherine wrote her book before she or we had any knowledge of Covid 19. The unlikely timeliness of her book was and still is remarkable. Katherine has insights into what we have all been going through in the last year, not least of all because she had written a personal narrative about the unexpected. In the conversation, Katherine shares her thoughts about coping and explores the ways we can repair ourselves when life knocks us down.

Over on Life Elsewhere Music Vol 225, talented Liverpool-based duo, King Hannah offers a remarkable cover of Bruse Springsteen’s State Trooper. Plus, sixty minutes of very cool new releases.

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A Conversation With Chip Jacobs

If you are going to write a crime thriller, what are the essential ingredients? Well, how about a big helping of murder, mix in a generous portion of blackmail, spice everything up with a layer of greed, add a dollop or two of 1979 Los Angeles, and sprinkle in a shiny El Camino. Pasadena-based writer, Chip Jacobs has perfected the recipe with his latest book, The Darkest Glare. Only there is one important ingredient Mr. Jacobs has no option but to admit to – his new crime thriller is true, all of it. The Darkest Glare reads like a grotesquely macabre fantasy it also has moments of absurd hilarity. Yet despite, Chip Jacobs’s undoubted ability to create a dark twisted tale, he readily agrees, even he could not have come up with such a bizarre cast of characters, or a plot with more twists and turns than a bowl of spaghetti. Mr. Jacobs tells the tale with a steady hand and crystal-clear eye. He spares no details yet he skillfully moves the story along at a feverish pace. Below the surface, this is a story of personal failure and hidden vulnerability. As the story unfolds Chip paints the complexity of real people instead of presenting two-dimensional villains. Like his book, Jacobs verve for explaining the details makes for a fascinating guest.

Just as we were putting this show together, news came in that the last surviving member of the original Wailers had passed. Jamaican-born Neville O’Riley Livingston also known as Bunny Livingston or Bunny Wailer was dead at the age of 73 just a couple of months short of his 74th birthday. Long considered a living legend, the Rastafarian singer-songwriter winner of a number of Grammy awards was named recently by Newsweek as one of the three most important musicians in world music. For a tribute, we take you back in time to circa 1981 to hear Bunny Wailer’s, Rise and Shine, a 12” platter on Solomonic Records. Rest In Peace, sir.

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More Questions Than Answers?

What happened? How did we get to where less than one percent have more wealth than everyone else in America combined? Why are so many people holding down jobs but living in their cars because they can’t afford rent? Who are the people panhandling at every busy intersection of every American city? How is it possible that we spend gazillions of dollars on weapons that will never be used while children starve across all fifty states? Why is health-care debt the number one cause of bankruptcy in America? Questions. So many questions. Dale Maharidge has spent the last couple of decades asking these questions. He has written extensively about all of these problems and more. Dale has traveled the length and breadth of the USA to investigate, to interview, to experience, to learn—to attempt to understand the downward spiral of the American working class. His latest book, Fucked At Birth delves deep into all these issues. He explores the realities of being poor in America in the coming decade, as a pandemic, economic crisis, and social revolution up-end the country. Maharidge channels the history of poverty in America to help inform the voices he encounters daily. With Fucked At Birth, he dares the reader to see themselves in those suffering the most and to finally, after decades of refusal, recalibrate what we are going to do about it.

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To begin the show, new music from Cathal Coughlan an Irish singer-songwriter who is not shy about sharing and exposing his opinions. As you’ll hear with Owl In The Parlour from his latest solo album, Songs Of Co-Aklan. The Irish Times described Cathal as the “genius of Irish rock”, noting his earlier and acclaimed bands, Microdisney and The Fatima Mansions. Make sure you check out Norman B’s Conversation With Cathal Coughlan. We close the show with a powerful new singer-songwriter discovery from London, YVA with a beautiful acoustic version of her debut single, I Won’t Wait. Amy Holford performs under the moniker of YVA, and we suggest you keep a watchful eye out for more releases from YVA.

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