Did You Hear? Sweet Mama Janisse

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

Taj Mahal can always put a smile on my face, especially when he really leans into a horn section.

This song features at least 2 trombone players and a tuba just killing it the whole way through. I especially like how the beat jumps in and attacks after that acoustic intro, and just rides the upbeat the whole way through. This song is a mess, but it’s a total head-nodder!

Want more? Check out one of my all-time favorite Taj Mahal songs, “She Caught the Katy.”

- Brook Reeder

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The Boomstick Film Club: 13 Sins

13 Sins Boomstick

The Boomstick

Watch it with us: Netflix streaming

The idea behind 13 Sins is a cool iteration of one of my favorite movie tropes: the impossible ethical quandary. Elliot (Mark Webber) is your average Joe Niceguy. Strapped for cash, he has a pregnant fianceé (Rutina Wesley), a disabled brother (Devon Graye), and a horrible elderly dad (Tom Bower) all depending on him. While driving around and fretting, he gets a mysterious phone call offering him a thousand dollars to kill a fly buzzing around the inside of his car. He does it with no hesitation, and the money is immediately wired into his bank account. Then the caller offers him $3,266, the exact balance on his fianceé’s credit card, to eat the fly. The caller explains the rules of what becomes known as simply the Game: Elliot will be given thirteen tasks of increasing difficulty to complete. Each task is worth more money, and the last will be worth a fortune. The hitch is that he has to complete all thirteen tasks or he loses everything he’s won so far. He’s also forbidden from telling anyone else about the Game or trying to interfere with it.

What I like about this twist is that it explains immediately why Elliot is so committed to seeing the Game through and completing all thirteen tasks. If he had the option to walk away at any time and take his winnings with him, it would be easy for us as viewers to think “I’d never do that, I don’t care how much money they offered me.” He’s clearly not a guy who’s driven by avarice. But even the second task, eating the fly, is unpleasant enough that you understand why he’s committed after enduring it. So he has no choice but to keep going, even as the tasks go from uncomfortable to horrific.

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Alone Again, Naturally

LouvreWittgenstein's Mistress

Pages Read: 50-64, then 50-100, then 50-100 again

So, the plot: basically, our heroine Kate is the last woman––nay, living being––on earth. Or, she thinks she is, according to the summary on the back of the book. The doubt is borne of her recognition that for periods of time over the last decade, she was insane, but she doesn’t seem to think she is now, or at least she doesn’t mention it. Her speech is what I might call schizotypal, but nothing about the way she behaves––as far as a reader can tell––might qualify as crazy—that is, within the context of being the last person on earth.

It’s unclear exactly when everyone disappeared, but based on the information she releases in little bits over the course of the first one hundred pages, it seems that it just happened one day. Poof. Everyone was gone. She was living in SoHo, then in a loft, working as a painter. First she picked up and moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, burning paintings for warmth and coating giant canvases in gesso (is it color or the absence of color? Nemira asks) to pass the time. That whole section reads, to a relatively young person like me, who knows her idea of joyful solitude is the folly of her youth, like a grown-up version of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Leaning your own paintings against the wall like it’s your guerrilla art fair! Racing around the big entrance hall in a wheelchair! If hell is other people, then heaven… well, you get it.

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Dana Schwartz: Girl in Your Twitter Feed

GuyInYourMFA

If the brilliance of @GuyinyourMFA was immediately apparent, its longevity was hardly certain. When I first discovered it last Fall, my assumption was that—like erstwhile Tumblr Life in Publishing or the awkward romance between the Twitter feeds of Harper Perennial and Melville House—it was the creation of bored publicists in one of the New York publishing houses and that, like those, it would gain some quick attention before slowly fading from view. @GuyinyourMFA manages to skewer every aspect of literary culture, from its constant hand-wringing over the line between high and low art to its obsession with New York, but @GuyinyourMFA isn’t an insular concern.

“Of course I’ve read The Corrections,” writes Guy. “Let’s just say I would have made a few corrections.”

It’s perhaps unsurprising that the human behind @GuyinyourMFA isn’t a guy, but nor is she a bored publishing assistant or even an MFA candidate. She is, in point of fact, a senior at Brown named Dana Schwartz.

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Did You Hear? Busy Earnin’

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

To be fair, this is more of a “Did you Watch.” It would be totally uncalled for to divorce the music from this amazing dance routine.

Wow. Just wow.

If you find yourself in Washington State in Late May, you can catch these guys and several other “Did You Hear?” selections at the amazing Sasquatch Festival. What a lineup this year!

- Brook Reeder

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Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

FA review tag

Sometimes I just want to start walking. To pick a direction and continue until there isn’t land to walk on anymore. I’ve had this itch in the soles of my feet for a long time and am usually able to ignore it but sometimes it flares. When I hear of a friend completing the 800-kilometer Camino de Santiago across Spain, for example, or of coworkers cycling across Cuba on their vacation, I can feel it in my feet. And I’m not the only one. Just last year the idea of a woman walking was narrative enough to drive Reese Witherspoon in Wild and Mia Wasikowska in Tracks. You don’t really have to be escaping anything to justify picking up and leaving your life. You might just be the type of woman who is always looking to go.

Emma Hooper speaks to this desire in her debut novel Etta and Otto and Russell and James. Etta is a woman of 82 living on the Saskatchewan prairie who begins to walk toward the ocean. She has never been to the water and though the Pacific is closer, she goes east. She leaves a note for her husband Otto, promising she’ll try to remember to come back. Etta is accompanied only by a coyote whom she meets along the way and names James. Complicating it all is Etta and Otto’s neighbour and lifelong friend Russell, who decides that if Otto won’t go after Etta, then he will. As Etta walks, Hooper reveals the origins Etta and Otto and Russell’s connections with one another. We learn how the three came together and what they lost along the way.

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City Hall Pair-Bonding Study

City Hall Pair Bonding Study

Assuming that love actually did take place—that the love between two City Hall employees (one from Sewage and Disposable Income Studies, the other from the much-less-heralded Bikes and Bike Rack Division), was indeed a manifestation of actual love, of throw-your-arms-around-it-and-cry kind of love, and not a by-product of lonely-office, interdepartmental ballyhoo (see: one-night stand)—then the current variables, social media studies, and other weights and measures can be correctly applied.

For ease of this study, the male (Bikes and Bike Rack Division), will herein be known as Kenneth. Or Ken. Or, “Don’t stop, faster harder my hot piece of City-Hall ass,” as indicated in the relationship vernacular established by the female, who, from this point on will be referred to as Francis. Or Franny. Or, “My little ball of wet love,” as indicated by the reciprocating, passion-induced awkwardness of Kenneth.

Furthermore, their place of residence, or Quickly-Acquired Domicile, will herein be referred to as the Apartment. Or, when used in conjunction with common catch-phrases adopted in passing by Kenneth and Francis, as Home (see also: “Take Me Right Now, Right Here, Right Inside This Fucking Apartment.”)

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THE FREE STUFF: I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son by Kent Russell

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son

Well, we tried.

Half of the essays from Kent Russell’s debut collection, I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son, are available online. And we wanted to share the links with you, because Russell is clearly an heir to David Foster Wallace and John Jeremiah Sullivan: his writing is ambitious, emotional, and chronically ambivalent about the contemporary American condition. You will love him. But in order to read most of his articles, you would have to subscribe to various publications.

There is ONE essay from I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son that is available online for free. In the book it’s called “Island Man,” but when it was originally published at The New Republic, it was (rather desperately) called “This Man Moved to a Desert Island to Disappear. Here’s What Happened.”

“Island Man”

If you subscribe to Harper’s or n+1 you can read “Ryan Went to Afghanistan” online.

“Ryan Went to Afghanistan” Harper’s

“Ryan Went to Afghanistan” n+1

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