Thoughts On Our Eco-Crisis Responsibility & A Chilling Account Of Motherhood

 

Nathaniel Popkin loves writing. And he is passionate about delivering his thoughts to his readers. He agrees that his latest book is a guidebook to what we need to be thinking, not what to do, but what to think about the eco-crisis. In To Reach The Spring – From Complicity To Consciousness In The Age Of Eco-Crisis, the Philadelphia-based writer doesn’t lecture, he shares his own thoughts on responsibility. In the shadow of an escalating eco-crisis—a looming catastrophe that will dwarf the fallout from COVID-19. Popkin asks, how can we explain our society’s failure to act? What will we tell future generations? Are we paralyzed because the problem is so vast in scope, or are there deeper reasons for the widespread passivity? Nathaniel Popkin explores the moral, social, and psychological dimensions of the crisis, outlining a path to a future spring, using a smart technique of writing a letter to an as-yet-unborn grandchild. We welcome Nathaniel back to Life Elsewhere and urge you to listen carefully to what he has to say.

It would be accurate, if not seem contradictory to suggest that Ashley Audrain is demure yet vivacious. Not unlike her debut novel, The Push, engaging yet chilling. In our Zoom conversation, the Canadian author smiles sweetly a lot then responds to questions with animated laughing. All the while we are talking about a dark tale about a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for—and everything she feared. “The women in our family, we’re different,” Says Blythe Connor, this is the central character in The Push. Blythe is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had. But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter—she doesn’t behave like most children do. Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Ashley prompts the reader to ask, is this a novel that manipulates and exploits the fears and insecurities almost every mother has, however happy her own childhood? 

Over on our other show, ingeniously titled, Life Elsewhere Music we have 60 minutes of new releases, expertly curated for your listening enjoyment.

Show 410

Life Elsewhere Music Vol 218

Hello there, something a little different in this volume, it’s all music, non-stop for 60 minutes. The past week has been a bit of a strain on my vocal cords. Many Zoom interviews, a number of long, complicated voice-over reads, plus chatting on the phone and shouting at willfully-ignorant pundits on cable TV shows. So, when it came time to produce volume 218 of Life Elsewhere Music, I tried doing my usual ad-libbing but my croaky voice just doesn’t cut it. OK, wait for a few hours, gargle with a mixture of honey, lemon, and warm water, but time wasn’t on my side. We have to send the finished show out to our affiliate stations so they can upload it to their servers. Because of different time zones and upload schedules we are always working a couple of days before airtime. The result, no voice-over comments about the music from me, instead, you can read exactly what I would have spluttered into the microphone here…

In this, volume 218 of Life Elsewhere Music a stack of new music, plus I dig back into my archives to demonstrate how some music stands up to the test of time. As you listen try to match the year a song was released. We begin with Moosefrog a duo out of Helsinki, Finland. Their superb 2005 downtempo LP, Come was essential listening for me back then. It could be the sparse quirky vocals that make Sixshooter the cut I selected sounds so “now”. I would bet that NYC-based producer, Charlie Nieland will agree. The segue into Divisions from his new album of the same name proves my point. Charlie knows all about the right sound, after all, he is well known for his work with Blondie, Rufus Wainwright, Dead Leaf Echo, Debbie Harry, and more. Oui Plastique is next with Failure, this will be the lead single from their forthcoming debut album, Fraternity of Strangers. Oui Plastique is Martin Nyrup and James Thomas, they say Failure deals with themes of loss and hopelessness. We are looking forward to hearing more from these two smart musicians. Without you noticing, I segued into Nocturnal from Black Needle Noise with Helena Mamich. Serious trainspotters will recognize the name John Fryer who started his career in 1979 at London’s Blackwing Studios and soon began working with seminal bands on 4AD, Mute, Rough Trade, and Beggars Banquet, including Depeche Mode, The Wolfgang Press, and Cocteau Twins. His achievement in helping develop the latter’s pioneering ethereal and ambient sound ultimately led Ivo Watts-Russell to recruit Fryer as his partner for This Mortal Coil. It should be noted that Fryer’s imprint is impressive, having shaped the sound of bands from Nine Inch Nails and Cocteau Twins to HIM. Croatian-Australian soprano, Helena Mamich joins on Nocturnal. Another collaboration I’m eager to hear more from. The next cut is a curio I like to play to see people’s reactions. Its French singer, songwriter, and actor, Benjamin Biolay with Little Darlin’. This comes from his excellent 2003 LP, Négatif. Benjamin cleverly sampled The Carter Family from a 1931 recording. I promise you’ll want to hear this one again, and again. Biolay has new(ish) album which I’ll try to get on a future volume. It happens, every so often a band comes along I like so much I want you to hear more than one cut. Subsonic Eye is from Singapore, I know little about them, I’d like to give them all a namecheck. All I could find is they say “Just 5 friends jamming” and they have a cute video for one of their songs. You’ll hear, Fruitcake and Kaka The Cat from their LP, Nature Of Things. Another one from my archives is next, we go back to 2005 to enjoy Le Volume Courbe with I Killed My Best Friend, this is French-born, London-based singer-producer, Charlotte Marionneau, AKA Charlotte Courbe. She released a new album last year, 14 Years on Honest Jon’s Records. I really do wish my voice hadn’t given out, I wanted to talk up Emperor Of Ice Cream. What a great name! John ‘Haggis’ Hegarty (vocals), Graham Finn (guitar), Edward Butt (bass), and Colum Young (drums) are out of Cork, Ireland, these lads prove they know how to construct and perform a good solid pop/rock song on It’s Alright To Show Yourself. Their debut album, No Sound Ever Dies is certainly worth investigating. From the beautiful Emerald Isle, we dash on over to London where Surya a talented fellow says in a message to me, “I am an independent artist from London and I wanted to share with you a track I’ve just released called U Me We. This track means a lot to me as it talks about my upbringing in Chennai, relocation to London, and taking baby steps towards building a legacy”. Surya, thank you for sharing your music. Beautifully crafted. Dare I say, you seemed to have managed to cross that divide that London-based female artists have had a hold on for a while now. I wanna give a namecheck here, but if you listen back to Life Elsewhere Music shows, you’ll pick up the reference. Good work! Tashaki Miyaki says, “We are a Los Angeles-based rock band and we are happy you’re here”. I’m happy we found Gone. Their album, Castaway comes out in April. So well produced is this one. I wanna hear this in rotation on lots of radio stations, everywhere. Sympathetic Magic is the 5th studio album from Portland, Oregon-based Typhoon. I selected Room Within The Room because it touched me. Then again, many of the songs here captured my attention. All the songs were written by Kyle Morton, he is ably assisted by Toby Tanabe, Dave Hall, Pieter Hilton, Alex Fitch, Tyler Ferrin, Devin Gallagher, Shannon Steele. Quality. With Florian Schäffer on acoustic drums, e-drumpads, spring drum; Ismail Özgentürk on kalimba; Henning Rice on Minimoog, prophet 08 you have, The Von Duesz with Diesel from the 2012 LP, Garant. Splendid music. Play loud. Taking us to the close of this volume a cut that has not dated, it also showcases such a stellar line-up it’s almost illegal not to include it occasionally in a playlist. Released in September 1974, I Can Feel The Fire was the first cut on Ronnie Wood’s solo album, I’ve Got My Own Album To Do. Recorded at The Wick Ronnie’s then home in Richmond, (now owned by Pete Townsend I believe) with my dear departed art school friend, Ian McLagan on organ, Willie Weeks on bass, Andy Newmark on drums, Ross Henderson & Sterling on steel drums, Keith Richards on guitar and vocals, percussion, Mick Jagger on vocals and Ronnie on lead vocals, guitar, percussion, David Bowie is also said to be on the track. What a marvelous song! Sing along and wiggle yer bum around to this gem.

Do let me know what you think of this volume. Hopefully, my voice will be in better shape for the next volume of Life Elsewhere Music.

LEM Vol 218 Playlist

  1. Moosefrog – Sixshooter
  2. Charlie Nieland – Divisions
  3. Oui Plastique – Failure
  4. Black Needle Noise with Helena Mamich – Nocturnal
  5. Benjamin Biolay – Little Darlin’
  6. Subsonic Eye – Fruitcake
  7. Subsonic Eye – Kaka The Cat
  8. Le Volume Courbe – I Killed My Best Friend
  9. Emperor Of Ice Cream – It’s Alright To Show Yourself
  10. Surya – U Me We
  11. Tashaki Miyaki – Gone
  12. Typhoon – Room Within The Room
  13. The Von Duesz – Diesel
  14. Ron Wood – I Can Feel The Fire

The artwork for this volume: David Larkin “Then Again” 2007 6′ x 6′ (detail) acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Norman B’s collection

LEM Vol 218

Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery

“How the KGB Cultivated Donald Trump, and Related Tales of Sex, Greed, Power, and Treachery” That’s just the sub-title to investigative journalist, Graig Unger’s latest book, American Kompromat. Jam-packed with what would otherwise be easily described as fantastical fiction, Mr. Unger’s intricate research and painstaking interviews unravel layer-by-layer a roller-coaster ride of truth. At the center is a person of such exaggerated ego, vanity, and willful ignorance, it would be absurdly cruel to create him as a fictional character. That he actually exists and actually became President of the United States is mind-boggling. Unger goes deep into the Trump-Russia connection, back to the 70s, and then carefully traces events up until the present day. Along the way, American Kompromat delves deep into Russian spies who brazenly used a small electronics store in Manhattan as a meeting place. We learn of the antiquated workings of the KGB; how Trump’s purchase of hundreds of televisions aided the KGB; Roy Cohn’s influence; the Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell connection; Opus Dei and Attorney General, William Barr; the former Florida deputy sheriff who received asylum in Russia and so much more. To set the stage for Craig Unger’s new book, we go back to the time of the Mueller investigation and share part of our conversation on House Of Trump. House Of Putin. Make sure you don’t miss one second of this show!

Show 409

A Conversation With Cathal Coughlan

As the very first moments of my conversation with Cathal Coughlan began I knew that 60 minutes were not going to be enough time to enjoy what this adventurous musician had to say. Born and raised in Cork, Ireland Cathal began singing in the late 70s and by 1980 he had met Sean O’Hagan and formed Microdisney. A band that was hard to (thankfully) slot into a nice neat genre. On Discogs, Cathal is described rather aptly, as an anti-Bono. His music and lyrics some may call challenging, on the other hand, I was fascinated and loved playing Microdisney alongside the plethora of post-punk-one-hit- wonders that cursed new music in the early 80s. The temptation to slide easily into a lovable New Wave outfit was enough for Mr. Coughlan to see Microdisney dwindle down to a two-piece with O’Hagen and eventually reassemble as The Fatima Mansions, making, splendid yet hard to categorize music. The eventual demise of The Fatima Mansions in the mid-90s led to Cathal stepping away from being in a band to releasing solo albums, taking part in collaborations, and making guest appearances. For a while, he was involved in musical theatre, mostly in France. In 2006 he was described in The Irish Times as the ‘genius of Irish rock’. Cathal has been back in the studio recently and the result is his new album, Song Of Co-Aklan.

You’ll hear the title cut, Song Of Co-Aklan during my chat with Cathal, you’ll also learn why I’m determined to have him back on the show. 

Norman B 1.23.2021

Playlist

  1. Microdisney – Birthday Girl
  2. The Fatima Mansions – Blues For Ceausescu
  3. Cathal Coughlan – Song Of Co-Aklan

LEM Vol 217

Who Are They?

When you study the scores of images from the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol Building, you can easily spot Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Neo-Militia, unabashed-Nazi wannabes, the MAGA-garbed, the Fascist-cos-play actors, and the QAnon cultists. They were all there, along with even more factions, resplendent in their uniforms. The one consistency is the faces – the angry, scowling, raging, snarling, faces. Let’s be honest, this was a monumental event. A terrifying moment in the history of the United States. If we ask the question, “Why?” then, we have to ask, “Who?” Citizens from across this extraordinary country came together en masse to not just protest the outcome of the presidential election but to prevent the confirmation of a new administration. Despite the cartoonishness of a man with a painted face, bare-chest, buffalo horns, and holding a spear, this assortment of truth-deniers were serious – deadly serious of their intentions. David Neiwert, author, and journalist predicted the storming of the Capitol and has been writing about the rise of the radical right for many years. His most recent book, Red Pill, Blue Pill: How to Counteract the Conspiracy Theories That Are Killing Us goes further and looks ahead. David joins Life Elsewhere to share his thoughts on who are the people that stormed the Capitol Building? What will they do next? And, is there another charismatic leader waiting in the wings to consolidate all the different factions into a falsely-named Patriots Party?

We close this edition of Life Elsewhere with some meditative music from Manchester-based, The Lovely Moon with As The Sun Rises from the album, Meditations

Show 408

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