Monday, June 23, 2014

Rainy Days and Mondays

It's been raining and raining and raining. That's a good thing, unless your fields are under water or your sump pump has stopped working. Because of this, I've found myself seeking trivial diversions more than usual lately. Here is a trio of tasty pop culture morsels to brighten your soggy day:

Eminent Hipsters
A book by Donald Fagen

Best known for his work with Steely Dan, Donald Fagen's musical credentials need no justification. “The Dan” produced what was arguably the most successful fusion of Jazz, Pop, R&B and Rock music. In addition, Fagen’s solo album The Nightfly is one of the best concept albums of all time. This slim volume of collected essays gives an inside look at the influences and tribulations of this unlikely pop culture icon.

This book is sort of a “sideways” autobiography, Fagen’s life is revealed through his appreciations of such musical pioneers as The Boswell Sisters, Ike Turner, DJ Jean Shepard, Henry Mancini, and numerous jazz musicians. The second half of the book was written while he was on tour with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald. It’s just as revealing: Fagen comes across as more than a little neurotic, wary of fame, but often hilarious. The only fault I could find with the book is that it was too short.

On a related note, here’s a surreal cover of Reelin' in the Years:

YouTube videos, various

These short (1 to 3 minute) excerpts from the IFC show are like eating salted in the shell peanuts—tasty, with an occasional dud. Fred Armisen (of SNL) and Carrie Brownstein (of riot grrl band Sleater-Kinney) are the main performers and there are numerous other comedic stars sprinkled in  as well as celebrity cameos. Although urban hipsters are a frequent target, the humor is never nasty, most of the scenarios seem to be taken from real life. Fred is a versatile actor, but the real treat here is the way Carrie disappears into her roles, her presence brings a depth to these comedy sketches that the genre often lacks. Click through to YouTube for dozens of clips. They can be repetitive, however. I don’t think I could watch a season of full shows without burning out on them; in this case less may be more:

My third “treat” is Jerry Seinfeld's web-only series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
I was pleasantly surprised by these. Whereas the TV series Seinfeld was too neurotic for my simple tastes I find this series most appealing.  The premise is the same for each show, Jerry is driving a classic car and calls one of his friends, (comic performers, writers or actors) for“coffee” and they meet up, drive around, get coffee: all the while riffing on humorous themes and stories. This could have all gone so wrong, but Jerry’s light approach seems to bring out the real people behind their performers’ masks.  Special note must be made of the episode with Louis CK:

I thought that if I sat down and wrote this post the weather would clear up, but it looks as if there is a real chance for more rain THREE MORE TIMES TODAY!

UPDATE: The Seinfeld material has disappeared behind a subscription paywall. It seems that Mr. CK has disappeared as well.

By Professor Batty


Blogger Jono said...

I honestly didn't believe you when you said you had that Osmond fiasco. That was awful! I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or hurl.It reminds me of an old SNL with the Young Caucasians and Ray Charles.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

I think the only video I've seen more disturbing is the one of Paul Anka singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit".

I actually knew someone who knew Donny (while working tech on Joesph and the Technicolor Dreamboat). When my friend died a few years later in a motorcycle accident, Donny called up his brother and talked with him for an hour. He's a good guy.

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