They Might Be Giants released their eponymous debut album in November, 1986 and it immediately attracted the attention of Village Voice music critic, Robert Christgau, who, in giving the album an “A,” said “the hits just keep on coming in an exuberantly annoying show of creative superabundance”. Almost thirty years later, the band performed the seminal first album live in its entirety during its 2013 world tour. And now, as a special gift to fans old and new, they’re making available a recording of those performances for free. It runs 47 minutes. To get the recording, click the “Free Album Download” button below, and follow the instructions. Or click here.
If you live in England, you’re probably familiar with the Shipping Forecast, a nightly BBC radio broadcast that details the weather conditions for the seas surrounding Britain. The broadcast has been on the airwaves since 1911. And many Brits will tell you that the forecast, always read in a soporific voice, can lull you to sleep quicker than a dose of Ambien. The broadcast has a strict format. It can’t exceed 350 words, and it always begins: “And now the Shipping Forecast, issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency at [fill in the time] today.” Below y0u can listen to a recording of actual forecasts. (Or catch the one from 6/29/2014 here.) Don’t listen to it while driving, or operating heavy machinery. A primer that decodes the unfamiliar terminology in the radio transmission can be found here.
All of this gives you just enough context to appreciate Stephen Fry’s parody reading of the Shipping Forecast. It was recorded in 1988, for the first episode of his radio show Saturday Night Fry. (Full episode here.) You can read along with the transcript, while listening to the clip up top:
And now, before the news and weather, here is the Shipping Forecast issued by the Meteorological Office at 1400 hours Greenwich Mean Time.
Finisterre, Dogger, Rockall, Bailey: no.
Wednesday, variable, imminent, super.
South Utsire, North Utsire, Sheerness, Foulness, Eliot Ness:
If you will, often, eminent, 447, 22 yards, touchdown, stupidly.
Malin, Hebrides, Shetland, Jersey, Fair Isle, Turtle-Neck, Tank Top, Courtelle:
Blowy, quite misty, sea sickness. Not many fish around, come home, veering suggestively.
That was the Shipping Forecast for 1700 hours, Wednesday 18 August.
A great deal of mythology has built up around the life of Jack Kerouac, and especially around the experiences that went into his best-known work, the 1957 novel On the Road. Even the very act of its composition — perhaps especially the act of its composition — has, in the imaginations of many of Kerouac’s readers, turned into an image of the man “writing the book on a long scroll of teletype paper in three coffee-soaked-benzedrine-fueled days.” With this image in mind, illustrator Paul Rogers of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design created On the Road, the illustrated scroll, featuring “a drawing for every page” of the novel, and depicting the historically researched “cars, buses, roadside architecture, and old signs” from Kerouac’s America of the late 1940s and early 50s, one that “looked awfully different than it does now.” You can scroll, as it were, through this work in progress at Rogers’ site.
We’ve here included only four of the over 100 drawings Rogers has so far made, but these examples capture the novel’s multigenerationally intoxicating mix of Americana and pure momentum. You’ll also notice that, underneath each image, Rogers excerpts a passage of Kerouac’s. “Adding Kerouac’s words as captions to the drawings makes the series feel like a journal and not a carefully planned out illustrated book,” he writes, “and it seems to capture some of the spirit of Kerouac’s ‘this-happened-then-this-then-this’ writing style.”
You can read the scroll part-by-part on these pages: one through three, four, five, six, seven. Though I never took quite the lifestyle inspiration from On the Road some have, I can’t wait to see what visual inspiration Rogers draws from the bit about fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
“…a frying pan is a most necessary thing to any trip, but you also need the old stew kettle and the folding reflector baker.”
Clearly, the man did not trust readers to independently seek out such sources as The Perry Ladies’ Cookbook of 1920 for instructions. Instead, he painstakingly details his method for successful preparation of Trout Wrapped in Bacon, including his preferred brands of vegetable shortening.
Would your mouth water less if I tell you that literary food blog Paper and Salt has updated Hem’s trout recipe à laEmeril Lagasse, omitting the Crisco and tossing in a few fresh herbs? No campfire required. You can get ‘er done in the broiler:
Bacon-Wrapped Trout: (adapted from Emeril Lagasse)
2 (10-ounce) whole trout, cleaned and gutted
1/2 cup cornmeal
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lemon, sliced
6 slices bacon
Fresh parsley, for garnish
1. Preheat broiler and set oven rack 4 to 6 inches from heat. With a paper towel, pat trout dry inside and out. Dredge outside of each fish in cornmeal, then season cavity with salt and pepper. Place 4 sprigs of thyme and 2 lemon slices inside each fish.
2. Wrap 3 bacon slices around the middle of each fish, so that the edges overlap slightly. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil, and place fish on pan. Broil until bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. With a spatula, carefully flip fish over and cook another 5 minutes, until flesh is firm.
Like any thoughtful hostess (simile!), Hemingway didn’t leave his guests to starve whilst waiting for the main event. His choice of hors d’oeuvres was little pancakes made from a mix, and again, he leaves nothing to chance, or Aunt Jemima’s instructions…
With the prepared pancake flours you take a cupful of pancake flour and add a cup of water. Mix the water and flour and as soon as the lumps are out it is ready for cooking. Have the skillet hot and keep it well greased. Drop the batter in and as soon as it is done on one side loosen it in the skillet and flip it over. Apple butter, syrup or cinnamon and sugar go well with the cakes.
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (either fresh off the cob or thawed)
2 green onions, white parts only, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
Canola oil, for frying
1. In a food processor, add corn and green onions and pulse 4 to 5 times, until finely chopped. In a large bowl, stir together corn mixture, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, red chile flakes, salt, and sugar.
2. In a small bowl, combine egg, buttermilk, and butter. Add to corn mixture, stirring until just combined.
3. Coat a large skillet or pancake griddle with oil. Over medium heat, spoon batter onto pan in 1/4 cups and fry until cakes are golden on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Villeneuve opts out of recreating Hemingway’s dessert, an al fresco fruit pie so good “your pals … will kiss you” (provided, of course, that they’re Frenchmen). Because I, too, aim higher than weenies and marshmallows, here are his lengthy, rather self-congratulatory instructions:
In the baker, mere man comes into his own, for he can make a pie that to his bush appetite will have it all over the product that mother used to make, like a tent. Men have always believed that there was something mysterious and difficult about making a pie. Here is a great secret. There is nothing to it. We’ve been kidded for years. Any man of average office intelligence can make at least as good a pie as his wife.
All there is to a pie is a cup and a half of flour, one-half teaspoonful of salt, one-half cup of lard and cold water. That will make pie crust that will bring tears of joy into your camping partner’s eyes.
Mix the salt with the flour, work the lard into the flour, make it up into a good workmanlike dough with cold water. Spread some flour on the back of a box or something flat, and pat the dough around a while. Then roll it out with whatever kind of round bottle you prefer. Put a little more lard on the surface of the sheet of dough and then slosh a little flour on and roll it up and then roll it out again with the bottle.
Cut out a piece of the rolled out dough big enough to line a pie tin. I like the kind with holes in the bottom. Then put in your dried apples that have soaked all night and been sweetened, or your apricots, or your blueberries, and then take another sheet of the dough and drape it gracefully over the top, soldering it down at the edges with your fingers. Cut a couple of slits in the top dough sheet and prick it a few times with a fork in an artistic manner.
Put it in the baker with a good slow fire for forty-five minutes and then take it out.
Remember, campers: The real woodsman is the man who can be really comfortable in the bush. – Ernest Hemingway
Indian mystic and philosopher Patanjali supposedly created modern yoga by transmitting his doctrine and disciplines to seven sages. In the mid-1950s, those teachings came down through the centuries to another sage, Sonny Rollins, who, like his good friend John Coltrane, incorporated his experiments with Eastern spirituality into his jazz improvisations. In Rollins’ case, yoga has given him, as he recounts in the short video above, “spiritual understanding” and “direction.” Setting out for India in 1967 to find “upliftment,” Rollins checked himself into an Ashram, with nothing but a bag and his horn, “and it worked out well,” he says. Rollins and his jazz “compatriots” like Coltrane “were trying to find a way to express life through our improvisations,” he tells NPR. “The music has got to mean something,” he says, “Jazz improvisation is supposed to be the highest form of communication, and getting that to the people is our job as musicians.”
In his new set of live recordings, Road Shows, Vol. 3, Rollins plays a “mantra-like” song called “Patanjali,” a tribute to the discipline that keeps him physically and musically vital. In his “Morning Edition” interview above, Rollins describes his yoga practice as helping his “concentration level.” “The thing is this,” he says, “When I play, what I try to do is to reach my subconscious level. I don’t want to overtly think about anything, because you can’t think and play at the same time—believe me, I’ve tried.” At age 83, and still sounding as fresh as he does, one imagines he’s tried it all and learned some valuable lessons. In 1963, Rollins met the Oki Yoga group in Japan, who combine yoga, Zen, and martial arts principles, and he’s also studied Rosicrucianism, Buddhism, and “Kabbalah, even—I was really into those philosophies of life.”
As for whether Sonny Rollins considers himself a member of any particular sect, hear his thoughts on organized religion in answer to a recent Google Hangout question (above). While he may not subscribe to a specific belief system, he’s certainly found spiritual techniques that give him—as he puts it in an interview with Yoga Journal—“a center.” Rollins “still practices asana [poses] every day, including Halasana (Plow Pose) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).” Want to learn more about yoga? You could always read Patanjali’s famous sutras. For more practical instruction in this peaceful physical discipline, perhaps take a look at the rather ironically named Lesley Fightmaster’s Youtube channel, with free lessons for virtually everyone.
Of course, no one teacher should be considered the authority on yoga. Like every spiritual practice, yoga has its many schisms and divisions, even so-called “Yoga Wars”: among Hindus and Christians, between corporate giants like Lululemon (and Western teachers like Fightmaster) and traditional Indian practitioners, between “Hot Yoga” (and its controversial founder) and everyone else…. I doubt Sonny Rollins has time to get enmeshed in these squabbles, and maybe neither do you. For a much less uptight fusion of Eastern practice and Western spirit, perhaps try some Star Wars Yoga. In this video, instructor Erica Vetra offers a free beginner’s class for those who “A. love Star Wars, B. have never seen Star Wars, C. love yoga, or D. have never done yoga.” The ecumenical Sonny Rollins might approve, though the venerable Patanjali, indifferent to “fancy” and “illusion,” may not have been amused.
According to the film summary, the new documentary “depicts the life of American computer programmer, writer, political organizer and Internet activist Aaron Swartz. It features interviews with his family and friends as well as the internet luminaries who worked with him. The film tells his story up to his eventual suicide after a legal battle, and explores the questions of access to information and civil liberties that drove his work.”
Not hard to imagine the Coen Brothers enlisting Buscemi to hold forth on the ballast ratio for corpses. Those with the stomach for it can watch the whole disturbing thing here, though as Buscemi himself warns, it’s not for everybody.
In a 2013 blog post, the great Ursula K. Le Guin quotes a London Times Literary Supplement column by a “J.C.,” who satirically proposes the “Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal.” “Writers all over Europe and American are turning down awards in the hope of being nominated for a Sartre,” writes J.C., “The Sartre Prize itself has never been refused.” Sartre earned the honor of his own prize for prize refusal by turning down the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964, an act Le Guin calls “characteristic of the gnarly and counter-suggestible Existentialist.” As you can see in the short clip above, Sartre fully believed the committee used the award to whitewash his Communist political views and activism.
But the refusal was not a theatrical or “impulsive gesture,” Sartre wrote in a statement to the Swedish press, which was later published in Le Monde. It was consistent with his longstanding principles. “I have always declined official honors,” he said, and referred to his rejection of the Legion of Honor in 1945 for similar reasons. Elaborating, he cited first the “personal” reason for his refusal
This attitude is based on my conception of the writer’s enterprise. A writer who adopts political, social, or literary positions must act only with the means that are his own—that is, the written word. All the honors he may receive expose his readers to a pressure I do not consider desirable. If I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre it is not the same thing as if I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner.
The writer must therefore refuse to let himself be transformed into an institution, even if this occurs under the most honorable circumstances, as in the present case.
There was another reason as well, an “objective” one, Sartre wrote. In serving the cause of socialism, he hoped to bring about “the peaceful coexistence of the two cultures, that of the East and the West.” (He refers not only to Asia as “the East,” but also to “the Eastern bloc.”)
Therefore, he felt he must remain independent of institutions on either side: “I should thus be quite as unable to accept, for example, the Lenin Prize, if someone wanted to give it to me.”
As a flattering New York Times article noted at time, this was not the first time a writer had refused the Nobel. In 1926, George Bernard Shaw turned down the prize money, offended by the extravagant cash award, which he felt was unnecessary since he already had “sufficient money for my needs.” Shaw later relented, donating the money for English translations of Swedish literature. Boris Pasternak also refused the award, in 1958, but this was under extreme duress. “If he’d tried to go accept it,” Le Guin writes, “the Soviet Government would have promptly, enthusiastically arrested him and sent him to eternal silence in a gulag in Siberia.”
These qualifications make Sartre the only author to ever outright and voluntarily reject both the Nobel Prize in Literature and its sizable cash award. While his statement to the Swedish press is filled with polite explanations and gracious demurrals, his filmed statement above, excerpted from the 1976 documentary Sartre by Himself, minces no words.
Because I was politically involved the bourgeois establishment wanted to cover up my “past errors.” Now there’s an admission! And so they gave me the Nobel Prize. They “pardoned” me and said I deserved it. It was monstrous!
Sartre was in fact pardoned by De Gaulle four years after his Nobel rejection for his participation in the 1968 uprisings. “You don’t arrest Voltaire,” the French President supposedly said. The writer and philosopher, Le Guin points out, “was, of course, already an ‘institution’” at the time of the Nobel award. Nonetheless, she says, the gesture had real meaning. Literary awards, writes Le Guin—who herself refused a Nebula Award in 1976 (she’s won several more since)—can “honor a writer,” in which case they have “genuine value.” Yet prizes are also awarded “as a marketing ploy by corporate capitalism, and sometimes as a political gimmick by the awarders [….] And the more prestigious and valued the prize the more compromised it is.” Sartre, of course, felt the same—the greater the honor, the more likely his work would be coopted and sanitized.
Perhaps proving his point, a short, nasty 1965 Harvard Crimson letter had many, less flattering things than Le Guin to say about Sartre’s motivations, calling him “an ugly toad” and a “poor loser” envious of his former friend Camus, who won in 1957. The letter writer calls Sartre’s rejection of the prize “an act of pretension” and a “rather ineffectual and stupid gesture.” And yet it did have an effect. It seems clear at least to me that the Harvard Crimson writer could not stand the fact that, offered the “most coveted award” the West can bestow, and a heaping sum of money besides, “Sartre’s big line was, ‘Je refuse.’”
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