Tag Archives: podcast

A Comic Writer’s Funny Obsession

Mark Haskell Smith Rude Talk In Athens: Ancient Rivals, the Birth of Comedy, and a Writer’s Journey through Greece

In ancient Athens, thousands would attend theatre festivals that turned writing into a fierce battle for fame, money, and laughably large trophies. While the tragedies earned artistic respect, it was the comedies—the raunchy jokes, vulgar innuendo, outrageous invention, and barbed political commentary—that captured the imagination of the city. The writers of these comedic plays feuded openly, insulting one another from the stage, each production more inventive and outlandish than the last, as they tried to win first prize. Of these writers, only the work of Aristophanes has survived and it’s only through his plays that we know about his peers: Cratinus, the great lush; Eupolis, the copycat; and Ariphrades, the sexual deviant. It might have been the golden age of Democracy, but for comic playwrights, it was the age of Rude Talk. Watching a production of an Aristophanes play in 2019 CE and seeing the audience laugh uproariously at every joke, Mark Haskell Smith began to wonder: what does it tell us about society and humanity that these ancient punchlines still land? When insults and jokes made thousands of years ago continue to be both offensive and still make us laugh? Through conversations with historians, politicians, and other writers, the always witty and effusive Smith embarks on a personal mission (bordering on obsession) exploring the life of one of these unknown writers, and how comedy challenged the patriarchy, the military, and the powers that be, both then and now. A comic writer himself and author of many books and screenplays, Smith also looks back at his own career, his love for the uniquely dynamic city of Athens, and what it means for a writer to leave a legacy.

Mark Haskell Smith

Mark Haskell Smith is the author of six novels with one-word titles including Moist, Salty, and Blown; as well as the non-fiction books Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup and Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, Vulture, Alta, and Literary Hub. He is an associate professor in the MFA program for Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts at the University of California Riverside, Palm Desert Graduate Center, and a frequent contributor to Life Elsewhere.

Following the conversation with Mark Haskell Smith – improvisation on a replica of an Ancient Greek Aulou played by Benjamin Simao. Two tracks, Stone and Can’t Live Like This Anymore from the LP, Stone by Athens-based musician Lola Demo, AKA, Erica Bach, and Dirty Magazine by Four Eyes AKA Erin Lovett from her album titled, I Hope This Finds You Well (Songs From Quarantine). Erin is based out of Athens, Georgia. The final piece of music is Stefan Hagel playing a reconstruction of an Ancient Greek Aulou.

Show 436

Life Elsewhere Music Vol 245

What a lot of exceptional new music continues to arrive at Life Elsewhere Tower. The aftermath of the year of Covid really does appear to have made a major effect on creative talent. (As I write, Covid has not gone anywhere thanks to the ignorance of some of our fellow citizens). We begin with a fine example of quality production from a label that has a catalog you need to investigate, Hand Drawn Dracula Records out of Toronto. The band is Praises, their EP is unassumingly titled, EP4. The cut you’ll hear is A World On Fire. Simply put, a delicious song deserving of repeat plays. Next up, some lads from Essex who have chosen the sly moniker of Don’t Worry. From the example of their EP, Sideways Rain, I’m under the impression a live performance from Don’t Worry would possibly be a rumbunctious, but most enjoyable affair. Doctor Doctor captures a distinctive throwback aura, and that’s a good thing. Harry Stafford of Inca Babies fame and punk-blues veteran, Marco Butcher have never actually met in the flesh. But they are punk soul brothers from the same muddy musical pond. Connecting with one another during a year of ‘lockdown hell’, their exchange of ideas and talk of musical influences inadvertently led to their collaboration. Bone Architecture is the name of their LP, I’ll play the title cut and a splendid cover of Pink Floyd’s 1967 debut single, Arnold Layne. A much-discussed and debated over song that Harry and Marco have no problem reimagining. London-based Loraine James has been on my radar since her 2019 release, For You And I. She is back with Reflection her second album via the superb Hyperdub label. This is Loraine looking back on 2020 with unflinching honesty. She says Reflection is pared down and tells of how last year felt as a young, Black queer woman in a world that suddenly stopped moving. I’ve segued together, Reflection and Self Doubt (Leaving The Club Early). I’m a firm advocate of compilations. They are a perfect way to sample a vast array of new music for the price of an album. Check out, Still Live Vol 1, out of NYC. Apollo Vega with Does Heaven Have WiFi and Insect City with Stardust (not) Loneliness are my selections. Very cool graphics, too. If you buy into the press release for Breadminster County Council Music Initiative then you have probably missed the point. The charmingly named Elijah Minnelli offers us Stats (with a glorious over-the-top Dub on the other side. More investigating is needed to find out who is behind this lark. Talented Anna Vincent admits that she has always struggled with self-doubt. She taught herself guitar at age 14 and then began writing poetry, which developed into songwriting. Although she says, “I wasn’t confident enough to share my work until my early 20s”. Thankfully, Anna has shared her talent, and her LP, Under The Glass is lovely. Listen to Naxos, I have no doubt you’ll agree. Dana Margolin and bandmates do not disappoint on each release. In fact, I’m astonished why Indie radio in the US of A is not playing the shit out of Prrige Radio. Here are two cuts, back to back, a cover of The Shins’, New Slang and Happy In A Crowd. I do believe you can hear Maria Marzaioli of Slum Of Legs on violin in the mix. (Psst, Maria has her own EP coming out soon). Here’s an interesting one, Me Lost Me with Acrobat On The Roof. This is the work of Jayne Dent out of (one of my favorite places), Newcastle-upon-Tyne. About this song, Jayne says, “I imagine it as an interaction between two characters, one taking a break from their work and sitting on a roof and enjoying the view, the other on the ground below passing them, a snippet of a mundane interaction in an imaginary future”. The cut was written and produced by Jayne Dent and features, Faye MacCalman on clarinet and John Pope on double bass. Acrobat On The Roof is from The Circle Dance EP. To take you up to the close, a cut from Duppy Vaulted (2011 – 2021, Jamaican recordings courtesy of LA-based Duppy Gun Records. This compilation they say “Is a ink between amazing producers from all over the world with unique & amazing vocalists from the island & doing our part in trying to reverse a history of exploitation between the states & the Jamaican music world”. Lopo gives us Never Play Dat 2021, Produced by Big Flyte & Genesis Hull. There you have 60 minutes of wonderful music for your listening pleasure. Do make sure you send your feedback to norman b at lifeelsewhere dot co

  1. Praises – A World On Fire
  2. Don’t Worry – Doctor Doctor
  3. Harry Stafford & Marco Butcher – Bone Architecture
  4. Harry Stafford & Marco Butcher – Arnold Layne
  5. Loraine James – Reflections
  6. Loraine James – Self Doubt (Leaving The Club Early)
  7. Apollo Vega – Does Heaven Have WiFi
  8. Insect City – Stardust (not) Loneliness
  9. Elijah Minnelli – Slats
  10. Anna Vincent – Naxos
  11. Porridge Radio – New Slang
  12. Porridge Radio – Happy In A Crowd
  13. Me Lost Me – Acrobat On The Roof
  14. Lopo – Never Play Dat 2021 (Prod. Big Flyte & Genesis Hull

Artwork by Ishi Yamamoto “NYC 12.26.2009″ 2010 24″ x 24” giclée print on archival paper. Courtesy of Norman B’s collection

LEM Vol 245

Life Elsewhere Music Vol 241 – A Conversation With Keeley – Part 1. The Inspiration

Keeley is a singer-songwriter based in Dublin. She has a new EP, Brave Warrior. Keeley likes to talk about her passion(s). She has two. “I’m obsessed with music!” She exclaims, then, more subdued, she says, “I’m consumed by the tragic, unsolved assault and murder of Inga Maria Hauser, the inspiration for my new EP”. Keeley wasted no time explaining why the death of a German student in Ireland in 1988 was so important to her. Keeley goes into explicit detail revealing all she knows about Inga’s horrific death. She recounts her last movements, even counting down the final seconds until Inga vanished. It’s a harrowing story that has clearly moved Keeley, not only has she dedicated her Brave Warrior EP to the young student tourist, she also produces a blog about the mystery, The Keeley Chronicles. One hour passes very quickly when you have an engaging guest, we will continue our conversation in Part 2. Where Keeley goes into detail about her music and why she wants to be the best guitar player in the world. 

Also in the show, new music from Ellis out of Hamilton, Ontario. “Sad but nice” is how Ellis introduces her EP, Nothing Is Sacred Anymore. You’ll hear the cut, Hell (feat. Chastity) which we think will prompt you to check out more from Ellis.

LEM 241

Assessing The News With Binoy Kampmark

Frequent contributor to Life Elsewhere, Dr. Binoy Kampmark shares his well-considered assessments of the following news items:

Haiti’s President Assassinated 

A group of gunmen allegedly posing as agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency forcibly entered President Jovenel Moïse’s private residence and assassinated him in the early hours of Wednesday. The macabre act will prolong the uncertainty as Haiti tries to avert pandemonium.

Lockdown in Sydney

Australian authorities on Friday pleaded with Sydney’s five million residents to stay home, warning a three-week lockdown may be extended as they struggle to control a COVID-19 outbreak, with the city reporting the biggest rise in local cases in 2021.

Extreme Heat In US

Last week, a “thousand-year” heatwave baked the Pacific Northwest and adjacent British Columbia with widespread highs topping 100 degrees, resulting in a death toll in the hundreds. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday that the heatwave helped the United States clinch its hottest June on record. Eight states had their hottest Junes, including Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah.

Taliban Advance In Western Afghanistan

The latest part of Afghanistan to collapse in the face of a rapid militant advance, during which they have taken control of areas far beyond their original southern strongholds. Their speed has fuelled fears the government in Kabul could fall within months. Joe Biden confirmed a 31 August deadline for the final departure of American troops.

Russian-Linked Group Hacks 200 Businesses With Ransomware

Cybersecurity teams are working feverishly to stem the impact of the single biggest global ransomware attack on record, with some details emerging about how the Russia-linked gang behind it breached the company whose software was the conduit.

Donald Rumsfeld Known Unknowns

The architect of the Iraq war and a master Washington power player, dead at 88. 

Dr. Binoy Kampmark is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Show 431

Life Elsewhere Music Vol 240

As I type these notes for Volume 240 of LEM, it is pissing down outside. Torrents of rain have been causing havoc all night and day. Over-the-top thunder and lightning has caused Mr. Grumpy, the orange (ginger?) half-feral cat I feed, to shelter under the chair he usually poses on. I say half-feral ‘cause he just showed up one day about 15 years ago. No collar, no tag, and he wouldn’t allow any petting or human contact. He kept his distance, but he also hung around. Eventually, I gave him a bowl of cat food. He scoffed it down and came back for more. He’s been doing that about three times a day ever since. He still won’t tolerate any stroking or belly rubs. But, he does waft his rangy body around my legs when I present him with another helping of ridiculously expensive cat food. As the years have gone by he has become more and more vocal. These days it’s an indignant ME….OW!! if I don’t serve him food promptly, every time I open the door. We have taken upon a staring game. He always wins. I’m tempted to invite him in, but he never seems interested in crossing the threshold. So, he misses out on hearing all the new music I review. I have no idea if cats have an appreciation of any music, but I like to imagine that if Mr. Grumpy did venture inside, especially on a sodden day like today, he may settle down next to me and quietly digest each cut I play and perhaps give a flick of his tail in approval or dismissal. We begin with an artist I have been keeping my eye on for some time, Tizrah is back with a new album, Colourgrade recorded soon after the birth of her first child and shortly before her second child was born. Tizrah says, “The album explores recovery, gratitude and new beginnings”, adding “I discovered the type of love that is shared between a mother and a child for the first time, whilst simultaneously working as an artist”. Send Me explains all as she croons, “Let me in, now I’m sure”. Watch out for the surprising ending. Then, don’t let the almost cartoon-like Chinoise refrain fool you of Michael Sayer’s Little China Boy fool you. The LA-based musician is writing from experience. I’m familiar with his story. My son’s mother is Asian. He came home from school one day and innocently asked me, “Dad, a kid at school said I’m chinky – what does that mean?”. Michael’s album is A Good Fool, it’s excellent with cool artwork. His video for the single, Little China Boy is worth checking out not least of all for his splendid hair color. Love it. The Vovos are from Melbourne, Australia. The Vovos are Ada Duffy, Bethany Feik, Bianca Ayliffe, Lu Galante, Mika James, and Ruby Ayliffe. Their Jana EP is on Roolette Records. The single is Spring Cleaning. They are magnificent. A three-piece called Soursob is based in Glasgow, originating from Lithuania, Australia, and Glasgow. Blow is from their self-titled LP on HoZac Records out of Chicago who says, “The right kind of music for the wrong kind of people, since 2006”. Oh, what a gloriously good single. But, should I be concerned they are going on about cocaine? I think not, Soursob is being ironic, right? Girl Friday, a duo by way of New Zealand and LA knows how to write an engaging pop song as illustrated by I’m Impossible. Thos F sings songs and makes noises as Trees And Flowers and I enjoyed everything about their LP, Are You Broken? Take Cover and all the other songs here are by Seattle-based Thos F helped out on each cut by a collective of friends it would appear. The album is on Pelagoram Recordings and thumbs-ups for the striking artwork. Deep Sea Fish is from the album, Tangerine by Reiko and Tori Kudo. Recorded during winter and spring of 2011 and 2012 and just rereleased. Tangerine, they say is the culmination of over thirty years of experimentation, making this a touchstone of contemporary Japanese folk minimalism. Inspired by thick forests and nature of Lithuania, also by Baltic ethnic culture, Giriu Dvasios gives us Sanku from the LP, Dub Vibes Vol. 4. This is one you can put on and ask your dinner guests to select the country of origin – extra dessert for anyone who gets the answer right. Blackjack Illuminist Records is operated by a genial chap named, Alex. When he is not teaching elementary kids or running marathons, Alex dedicates himself to putting out exceptional releases. His latest, Ready To Drown is by Cologne-based duo, Adnan Abbas & Nadin who present as Verneblung. The video for Cracked Puppet is required viewing, featuring a beautiful solo male dancer whose body and movements are like a living anatomy lesson. Some while back a conversation I had with Colin Moulding, the legendary bassist for XTC has been downloaded scores of times. A new conversation is being arranged because Colin has a new solo single, The Hardest Battle.  I think you’ll agree, this has that distinctive, XTC/Moulding sound and we like that. London- based singer-producer, Satu says, Play The Game from their Technicolor Wreckage EP. Listen to this one carefully, so much going on and that voice – so good. Love the production! Make sure you check out the rest of Satu’s releases. The Ophelias are out of Cincinnati, their 3rd album Crocus deserves your attention. Take a listen to the cut we selected, Neil Young On High featuring Julian Baker. The Ophelias have been on my radar for some time as I regularly prompt adventurous PD’s to include them in their playlists. It goes without saying that when a new Benin City single arrives you know dancing is going to be the first priority at Life Elsewhere Towers. Josh, Shanaz, and Tom have produced a beauty with We Belong To Us. Not only is this a Pride anthem, but it’s also our summer anthem. Always right on the money is Benin City with their social and cultural observations and commentary, so much going on in this mix, that juxtaposition between Shanaz’s vocals and Josh’s voice, Tom is in there too, plus Tom on sax adds a brilliant touch to masterful recording. Mr. Grumpy gave me a threatening stare as I cranked up the volume to way past 11. He demanded more food, but I had Benin City on repeat play and signaled through the glass door for him to shelter from the rain and be patient. Enjoy!


  1. Tizrah – Send Me
  2. Michael Seyer – Little China Boy
  3. The Vovos – Spring Cleaning
  4. Soursob – Blow
  5. Girl Friday – I’m Impossible
  6. Trees And Flowers – Take Cover
  7. Reiko and Tori Kudo – Deep Sea Fish
  8. Giriu Dvasios – Sunku
  9. Verneblung – Cracked Puppet
  10. Colin Moulding – The Hardest Battle
  11. Satu – Play The GameThe
  12. Ophelias – Neil Young On High (Ft. Julian Baker)
  13. Benin City – We Belong To Us

Artwork by Stephen Brownwell “Sex headline” 24″ x 26″ 2011 mixed media on craft paper. Courtesy of Norman B’s collection

LEM Vol 240

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