Tag Archives: arts

Peter Bergen. Jordan Ellenberg. Tana French. Matilda Mann.

Peter Bergen Trump And His Generals

Journalist, author and CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen’s timely new book, Trump And His Generals reads like an outrageous fantasy thriller, set in Washington DC. The antics of the president and his cohorts as they proceed without customary norms to select generals for major posts in his administration could be sub-headed, “Truth Is Definitely Stranger Than Fiction!” Bergen, without unnecessary titillations, soberly lays out the course of events before Trump sets foot in the White House, until the present day. Peter’s almost deadpan narrative is occasionally interrupted by a slight chuckle when the dark humor of the story is alluded to by Life Elsewhere host, Norman B.

Jordan Ellenberg How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

“I believe you have Dyscalculia”, mathematics Professor, Jordan Ellenberg tells Norman B, who admits to having difficulty with numbers and being daunted by interviewing the author of How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking. The professor’s book, now out in paperback is all about math, but not the math we learn in school which can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. Instead, Jordan Ellenberg explains to us how terribly limiting this view is. “Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it, the math.” the professor says.

Tana French Dublin Murders

All seven of Tana French’s books are set in Dublin, and six of them form the loosely connected Dublin Murder Squad series.  Instead of featuring a static cast of characters solving every case, the cast is a daisy chain, with each new book narrated by a supporting character from a previous volume. 2007’s In the Woods is narrated by one detective; in The Likeness, his former partner takes over; in Faithful Place, her former boss becomes the narrator; and on it goes. That evolving cast allows French to escape from one of the great problems of the detective story: namely, how to make the detective into someone who changes and evolves over time, while also preserving the status quo enough to allow them to continue building their lives around solving mysteries. French’s detectives are undone and remade by their cases. In every novel, they are taken apart and then put back together again by mysteries that are fiendishly designed to reveal their very worst tendencies. Now, Starz has adapted her first two books, In the Woods and The Likeness, into the new TV show Dublin Murders. Tana always a welcome guest on Life Elsewhere each time she releases a new book. So, for this edition, we have gone back into our archives for a conversation with the celebrated crime novelist.

Matilda Mann Loch Ness Monster; Nothing At All

Matilda Mann

Talented London-based, Arlo Parks is a good example of a singer-songwriter we spotted long before she had risen to major acclaim. With 2020 just ahead,  Arlo is already poised to become a serious headliner. So, it’s with great delight we bring you another name we rate highly,  19-year-old Matilda Mann from West London. From the small examples of her singer-songwriting abilities, we are suggesting Matilda could be another name to watch out for. You’ll hear two cuts, Loch Ness Monster and Nothing At All, both songs have depth, yet with enough pop sensibility for us to give serious approval and ask you to make sure we hear your feedback.

 

 

Show #353

 

 

Unprecedented Times

                              

No President in the history of the United States has inspired more alarm and confusion than Donald Trump. As questions and concerns about his decisions and qualifications for office have multiplied, they point to one primary question: Does Trump pose a genuine threat to our country? In his book, Trump On The Couch, Dr. Frank answers this question by observing Trump’s actions through a psychiatric lens, using years of study to connect Trumps’s actions to the psychosis of narcissism, misogyny, pathological deception, racism, and lack of empathy. While for years the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater Rule has precluded psychiatrists from offering diagnoses on public figures who are not patients, Dr. Frank feels the actions of our President are too destructive for him to remain silent. According to Dr. Frank, Trumps’s Presidency caps a lifetime of dysfunction and disorder, stemming from his childhood. His mother was known for riding around Queens in a rose-colored Rolls Royce with vanity plates to collect the change from laundry machines in her husband’s buildings. His ruthless father and grandfather made their fortunes in dubious ways – brothels during the gold rush, seedy housing deals during the Great Depression – and took financial advantage of government-funded programs originally meant to benefit WW11 survivors. Cut to the present day, Dr. Frank observes that we find ourselves with a President whose verbal idiosyncrasies range from deception to hyperbole, and a whose inability to experience empathy permits him to express misogyny and racism/sexism toward anyone he sees as a critic. 

There are questions that the Mueller report couldn’t—or wouldn’t—answer. What actually happened to instigate the Russia investigation? Did President Trump’s meddling incriminate him? There’s no mystery to what Trump thinks. He claims that the Deep State, a cabal of career bureaucrats—among them, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok, previously little known figures within the FBI whom he has obsessively and publically reviled—is concerned only with protecting its own power and undermining the democratic process. Conversely, James Comey has defended the FBI as incorruptible apolitical public servants who work tirelessly to uphold the rule of law. For the first time, bestselling author James B. Stewart sifts these conflicting accounts to present a clear-eyed view of what exactly happened inside the FBI in the lead-up to the 2016 election, drawing on scores of interviews with key FBI, Department of Justice, and White House officials and voluminous transcripts, notes, and internal reports. In full detail, this is the dramatic saga of the FBI’s simultaneous investigations of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—the first time in American history the FBI has been thrust into the middle of both parties’ campaigns for the presidency. Stewart shows what exactly was set in motion when Trump fired Comey, triggering the appointment of Robert Mueller as an independent special counsel and causing the FBI to open a formal investigation into the president himself. And how this unprecedented event joined in ongoing combat two vital institutions of American democracy: the presidency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At stake in this epic battle is the rule of law itself, the foundation of the U.S. Constitution. There is no room for compromise, but plenty for collateral damage. The reputations of both sides have already been harmed, perhaps irrevocably, and at great cost to American democracy. Deep State goes beyond the limits of the legally constrained Mueller report, showing how the president’s obsession with the idea of a conspiracy against him is still upending lives and sending shockwaves through both the FBI and the Department of Justice. In this world-historical struggle—Trump versus intelligence agencies—Stewart shows us in rare style what’s real and what matters now. And for the looming 2020 election.

                      

From two excellent books focusing on these Unprecedented Times, we focus on talented folks making noteworthy music. Arizona-based dark rock outfit Audra return with Dear Tired Friends their first album in 10 years. They say the LP deals heavily with loss and letting go. A testimony to the effect the last decade had on each band member. Comprised of 10 tracks, this album was mastered at The Cage Studios in Coventry, UK by Martin Bowes of Attrition, well known for his work with Nine Inch Nails, Psychic TV and Steven Severin of Siouxsie & the Banshees. You’ll hear two cuts from Audra, Drinking Yourself To Sleep and Sunglasses. Shore Dive Records is an enterprising indie label based out of Brighton on England’s south coast. They have an optimistic tag-line we appreciate, “We hope to surprise you.” This is an imprint that appears to be open to different genres and where music or artists hall from. For this show we selected Privative Heart out of Brooklyn with, Dying To Live (Memoryhouse Remix). With an exciting catalog, you can expect to hear more from Shore Dive on Life Elsewhere and Life Elsewhere Music.

Show #346

 

 

The Assange Problem

What will happen to Julian Assange if he is extradited to the US? In the event of that happening, the future looks dire for the Wikileaks founder, says Dr. Binoy Kampmark in his recent Counterpunch piece titled, Dangerous Detention: Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison. As if Assange’s present situation were not awful enough, being held in solitary confinement in Britain’s notorious Belmarsh Prison, after seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over seven years. Assange had exercised his rights to asylum, based on a genuine, and now proven fear, that he could be extradited to the United States to face charges with a cumulative prison time of 175 years. Dr. Kampmark broadens the conversation to include commentary on the troubled governments of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. Julian Assange is crucially important to both countries and no matter what happens next, he will remain a problem. We always look forward to the often alternate, but well-considered opinions of Binoy, a frequent contributor to Life Elsewhere.

Also in this edition, we pose the question, “What Do You Do” to Ray Roa, editor-in-chief of Creative Loafing in Tampa Bay. Until just recently, Roa was the music editor of the weekly paper. As with many cities across the USA, Creative Loafing is available for free each week, providing a rundown of upcoming entertainment attractions, including music, movies, theater, dance, galleries, food, and drink. Local, social and political issues are also covered, but the vast majority of the paper features advertising for bars, clubs, restaurants, tattoo parlors, dating sites and all of the periphery of modern, urban living. We ask Ray about his job and what it entails. The editing process for selecting stories on music and how much his personal taste matters. And, how much input do advertisers have on the paper’s content? One topic that comes out loud and clear in our conversation is how much the new editor-in-chief is focussed on promoting the local scene.  

Illustration by Nathaniel St. Clair

Show #344

Angry, Yet Scathingly Funny

“If you have a President who comes from reality TV, why would anyone be surprised there would be a specious relationship with the truth?” Asks Jarett Kobek in our conversation about his latest novel, Only American Burn In Hell. Truth and reality versus lies and fantasy criss-cross in Mr. Kobek’s vision of the current state of our world. The present occupant of the White House is omnipresent in Jarett’s novel as his foul tentacles and clawing apologists clog the air of every landscape on every page. What if your country had elected as its leader a shameless millionaire who was stealing your money, your democracy, and your dignity? What if the media were owned by filthy-rich men who didn’t give two shits about any of it as long as it continued to make them filthy rich? Wouldn’t it be enough to send you certifiably insane? To make you write a novel about an immortal lesbian fairy that mimicked the conventions of movies like Wonder Woman but became an accidental allegory for #MeToo? To write a savage death wail of a satire about how the rich stole everything from us?

The delight of conversing with Jarett Kobek is the tangents you can go to, just like his writing. Does he commit rock ’n’ roll blasphemy by relating incredible details about the unrelated track, “Doing’ The Dookie” from Lou Reed’s Berlin sessions? His pastiche of Reed’s austere lyrics is masterful.

Show #342

A Conversation With David J On His Most Personal Album, Yet

“It’s descriptive of a period of time, the last five years in my life.”
“A journey I’ve been on.”
“The whole thing is a love letter.”
“I dedicated it to my wife.”
“It’s all there in the lyrics.”
“The most personal recording I’ve made.”

Gather together these small fragments David J allows himself to say about his forthcoming double album and very quickly you’ll feel as if you’ve been granted a peek into the man’s heart and soul. Listen to all sixteen tracks from
Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy & Allure for confirmation. With a celebrated heritage beginning with Bauhaus, then Love & Rockets and a vast catalog of his solo work, you may believe David has poured his heart out in the studio at least a couple of times. There can be no doubt he has on occasion suggested to the listener that his emotions were on display in his music. The boldness of the title for his latest release could be a warning. Don’t expect a collection of neo-BowieSylvian maudlin-style odes to unrequited love. The opening cut, Mosaic tells of a jaded rock star’s cocaine-fueled fractured life, complete with an exotic violin refrain. A simple-sing-along Blues Eyes In A Green Room underplays the serious lyrics as the seeming laissez-faire snare drum gives space for the pristine piano leading the melody. David’s only cover on the album of the late Peter Laughner’s Baudelaire is both poignant and reverent, while he manages to craft what essentially could be mistaken as his own composition. “Like a kid in a candy store, I want to lick what I like”, sings David in I Don’t Want To Destroy Our Beautiful Thing. Self-confession and reflection while away from home. There is an unnerving wavering quality to his voice on this cut. How many takes? Was this the first and last? Lovelorn comes next. Surprisingly jaunty albeit with a raw biting story.

At this point in listening to the record, an overwhelming thought sweeps in – how come we don’t listen to whole albums from start to finish anymore? The accordion(?), then the strummed acoustic guitar, the up-close vocals, the piano, and the plaintive violin all deliver Clandestine Valentine as if as a familiar song. And, that’s a good thing. With references to Pasolini and arty-farty girls, you know you’re in for a “triple X” adventure as David says in Purgatory and Perfume, masquerading as Blood On The Tracks era Dylan. The story behind the evolution of Migena And The Frozen Roses is best told by David J, which he does in our conversation. The collaboration with The Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman, Anton Newcombe and actress Asia Argento on this song is indicative of the brilliance of David’s ability to co-opt the talents of other artists to accomplish an exceptional body of work. Oh, and yes, this is the song that unabashedly explains so much about this double album. In No Floods Can Drown, an honest statement, simply presented. “Morning wood” may not be your typical idea of love. Yet, David does suggest it’s all part of thinking about love, a Pre-Existing Condition. “She bats her lashes and a hurricane starts in China. You’re on your knees at the vestibule of vagina.” Sings David J in Copper Level 7. The power of a woman who uses hair color apparently. Rhyming China with vagina is just part of his flavorful word-play – “She slips on her stockings and initiates a coup d’etat.” The tune breaks down halfway through into a mock ragtime interlude before easing back into the original melody. The positively-poppy tone of (I Walked Away From) The Girl In Yellow disguises Mr. J’s self-questioning or is it congratulation of being able to avoid getting into trouble. Beginning with a quasi-western guitar sound, Best Western Blues proves how smart David J’s writing can be. In the end, he is still checking in to find love as the song closes with an electronic wind sound, the ascending violin(s) and the clippity-clopping beat. The sound of rain recorded on David J’s iPhone begins the title cut Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy & Allure. The somber violin coming to the fore as an acoustic guitar strums behind compliments David’s woeful but assured voice. Is this the album’s tour de force? I would argue that it could well be, yet David gives us two more tracks to contemplate. The Auteur (Redux / The Starlet’s Cut), an older song from his library of work has been revisited adding the voice of actress and activist, Rose McGowan. It’s a haunting song, disturbing in that Ms. McGowan has featured at the forefront of the #MeToo movement and David has not shied away from exposing his interaction with women. Finally, the beautiful voice of Emily Jane White joins David on I Hear Only Silence. Listen carefully to the words and reflect on what you have heard already on this album. A simple piano coda plays and the quietness, the vulnerability comes scorching through with the two voices.

In the next edition of Life Elsewhere, David J talks openly about Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy & Allure with Norman B. Plus you’ll hear a Life Elsewhere exclusive, a world-wide premiere of the title cut.

Show #341

« Older Entries