Music, Podcasts, Shameless self indulgence, Writing

Random Thoughts Part II

It might be the insufferable heat and humidity here at Monkey central, but once again the inspiration just doesn’t seem to be coming. Therefore it’s time for yet another episode of random Monkey thoughts.

  1. The Adam Carolla podcast continues to deliver an amazing amount of free content each week. We’re talking an hour of solid programming each day, and apparently there is also a car-themed podcast that the guy is doing as well. Your Monkey is not a grease monkey and has no business with the car-themed podcast, but the regular podcast is really hitting the mark. Recently we’ve had good turns by Curb Your Enthusiasm Star Jeff Garlin and Rotten Tomatoes TV cohost Brett Erlich. Erlich in particular proves that you don’t have to be a name guest to make a good podcast. Click here for link to site.
  2. Everyone should read at least one article from the New York Times each day. Not because it is a pretentious thing to do, but because the Times is home to by far the best set of journalists anywhere. They have a marvelous talent for digging up interesting stories, finding unique angles to explore, and capturing the imagination without resorting to cheap sensationalism. Check out this piece that explores a series of bad omens leading up to a horrific car crash in Long Island over the weekend. It’s everything you want good journalism to be  (i.e. informative without being insensitive).
  3. It’s a wonder George Orwell wasn’t more of a pessimist. Listening to Dan Carlin outline the devastation that was caused during the war between Germany and Russia in World War II makes one realize that we are truly fortunate to live in a time and a place where copywriters pretending to be Monkeys can write long blog posts complaining about the unfairness of the world. We are so far removed from true suffering that it is all too easy to lose our perspective.  Check out Carlin’s Ghosts of the Ostfront series here, and then realize that Orwell started writing 1984 only a few years after this awful mess.
  4. Someone owes Iron and Wine an apology. A couple of days ago a certain Monkey may have praised the Great Lake Swimmers for doing mellow acoustic folk without being sleepy and dull. This same Monkey may have then suggested that Iron and Wine might be guilty of putting people to sleep with his “so soft you can barely hear it” mellow acoustic folk. But then Iron and Wine has to go and deliver a great new song called “Belated Promise Ring.”
  5. Your Monkey is usually against posting YouTube videos that are just one still shot of the album cover with the song playing underneath. Let’s face it, this practice is just one step below illegal file sharing. But since this song is available as a free download as part of the Current’s Song of the Day Podcast, a video is included here.
Music, Podcasts, Shameless self indulgence

Random Thoughts

In an effort to keep this blog going during a period of low creative inspiration, your Monkey will now attempt to type a catch-all report of some thoughts from the past week.

  1. KEXP Live Performance Podcasts are perfectly timed at about a 1/2 an hour each. There was a time when your Monkey was greedy for more and larger podcasts, but lately he has been finding it hard to listen to two hours worth of anything. The NPR All Songs Considered Live Concert podcasts, for all the great artists that are featured, sometime seem a little too long for this Monkey’s tastes. As far as KEXP goes, the last two weeks of live performance podcasts have featured English duo The Kills (doing an acoustic set) and English electro-folkie James Yuill. Both are worth checking out. Here is a link to the KEXP live performance podcast.
  2. George Orwell’s 1984 was written under bleak circumstances that fit the book’s pessimistic world view. Few “required reading” books from high school left as strong an impression as Orwell’s 1984. This excellently written piece in the UK Guardian explains the struggle that Orwell (nee Eric Blair) went through to birth this book.
  3. You can tell Neil Gaiman is a hugely talented writer just by reading his blog posts. Whether he is reminiscing fondly about his kids or talking about a quiet evening with a friend, Gaiman turns descriptions of everyday events into marvelously written prose. Highly recommended reading. Here’s a link to the blog
  4. People who run secondhand shops are usually odds and ends themselves. This is the kind of whimsical observational musing that you will find on my new radio show, Lake Grump-be-gon Tales, in which I play the slightly curmudgeonly Monkey editor of a local newspaper in small town Minnesota.
  5. The Mermen play excellent psyche-surf rock. This San Francisco band has an excellent mellow sound. Here is a video that is fittingly shot in an aquarium.
Shameless self indulgence, Work, Writing

5 Things I Learned This Week

Having lagged a bit in his blog postings over the past 7 days or so, your Monkey feels inclined to provide some updates on the growing and changing he has done since his last post.

1.White hot rage is like a super power. Have you ever been truly deeply and sincerely mad about something? So mad that you burn white hot heat and your body shakes for hours on end? It’s not recommended, but it does give you a certain feeling of empowerment that you might otherwise lack. No one is going to push you around when you get that mad.

2. Emusic reviews are to be taken with a grain of salt. Sure emusic editor Tim Chester may give a glowing review to an neo psychedelic album by the Residual Echoes. And sure this same review might prompt your psychedelic music-hungry Grumpy Monkey to make an impulse purchase. But that doesn’t mean that the album is any good. The Residual Echoes make music that can best be described as an incomprehensible mess. Shame on this Monkey for not doing the research before clicking “buy.”

3. Facebook grows old fast. Oh yes, my doubting friends. After years of being a conscientious objector, your Monkey finally took the plunge and set up a facebook account, maybe because all of his baby-having friends insisted on posting their newborn photos on their facebook sites. At first, your Monkey was oddly touched by the cute little news updates from friends and seeing who was watching what on Netflix and who ordered food from what restaurant and what everyone did over the weekend. But now the thrill is fading. Perhaps we would be better served spending our Facebook time doing something  more productive. We could be volunteering for a charities, cleaning our rooms, or searching WordPress for clever blogs written by pretend Monkeys.

4. The Great Lake Swimmers truly are great. Two weeks ago your Monkey affectionately wrote about the band’s latest single, Pulling on a Line. See that post here. But many bands have one great single and not much else. Turns out the Great Lake Singers are really onto something. This band delivers beautiful, shimmering melodies that are matched with smart lyrics. The music is soft and gentle without trending towards dull (I’m looking in your direction, Iron & Wine).

Some other great Great Lake Swimmers songs include:

  • Still
  • Palmistry
  • Your Rocky Spine
  • Backstage With the Modern Dancer

5. Careerbuilder is a den of deception. The company with the clever commercials featuring monkeys like yours truly has a site with more bad come-on deals than a late night infomercial. When you set up your account, every page that you’re asked to add work information to has a tricky-looking opt-in field that appears to be part of process, but is actually seeking your permission to be contacted by phone by a shady online correspondence school.

And let’s not forget that the first five emails your Monkey received about potential “jobs” through this site made Nigerian email phishing scams seem plausible by comparison.

Careerbuilder: Clever ads but a bad user experience…

Great Lake Swimmers: As smooth and refreshing as a dip in Lake Michigan.

Uncategorized

Rating the Cohosts of the Adam Carolla Podcasts

The Adam Carolla podcast has been up and running for a couple of months now, and it seems like the show has settled into a pretty good rhythm of regular co-hosts and special guests.

If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, you really should check it out. Much like the Howard Stern show, it’s a good mix of everyday life and show business talk, with Carolla frequently riffing on topics related to sex, work, immigration, ticket-happy California police departments, and his generally miserable childhood.

Just about every show has at least one co-host. So far there have been a few standout acts, a couple of surprise winners, and one or two duds.

Standout Acts in the Regular Rotation:
These co-hosts have all been on more than once and have been solid performers every time.

Bill Simmons (ESPN’s the sports guy), Dave Dameshek (chatty ESPN radio host), Jimmy Kimmel (Carolla pal, former Man Show Co-host and current ABC talk show host), and Theresa and Bald Brian (former members of Carolla’s terrestrial radio show).

One Time All Stars:

These guys have only made one appearance thus far, but the shows were truly memorable. Brad Garrett (who knew the dour brother from Everyone Loves Raymond could be so bitterly funny about the network TV business?) and Harland Williams (the comedian of “Seven Minute Abs” fame was way out there with his comments but way funny at the same time).

Surprise Success Story Thus Far:
Jimmy Pardo of the “Never Not Funny” podcast. Pardo and Carolla got into a surprisingly candid conversation about being caught masturbating that was way funnier than one would have thought. (That is if one had listened to Pardo’s podcast before and didn’t find it all that funny).

Disappointments:

Mike Tyson — Look, it’s a little unfair to think that Carolla would be able to wrangle the oddball Tyson into a coherent conversation, but since they are both into boxing there was some hope that they could at least talk shop about the sport. Instead it was weird and uncomfortable and ended too early.

Tom Bergeron — Too much Dancing With the Stars Talk.

Bobcat Goldthwait — Nothing against the guy, but it was a little uncomfortable to hear him protest over and over and over again about how he’s not bothered by people who only see him as the Bobcat character and not as a talented comedy director. If you’re a director and you’re confident about it, then there’s no need to protest too much.

Most Gleefuly Uncomfortable Interview:

Adam with Jack from Jack in the Box: There might be a funny comedian behind the voice of the fast food icon, but it was clear that the man didn’t want to do anything that would compromise his position with the company. Listening to Carolla make him uncomfortable by delving into sex topics was worth any product placement messages that might have filtered through with the podcast.

Overall, this is a great podcast that we are fortunate to be getting for free. Here’s a link to the podcast homepage. You can also find it on itunes.

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Podcasts, Uncategorized

KEXP Live Music Podcast Roundup

Your Monkey seems to go through cycles in his podcast listening habits.

Sometimes all he wants to hear is talk show podcasts and documentaries, and at other times all he wants is music.

Lately he has been in the music mood, which has given him an opportunity to catch up on the last four offerings from the KEXP Live Performances podcast series.

Country rocker Steve Earle was first on the plate. Earle stopped by a few weeks ago to promote his new album of Townes Van Zandt covers (simply called “Townes”). Van Zandt is a widely respected but somewhat obscure country singer-songwriter who is perhaps most famous for the song “Pancho and Lefty.” Willie Nelson made the song famous, but for this Monkey’s money the Van Zant original is probably the best. Earle does an admirable job covering Van Zant on this podcast, though his version of Poncho and Lefty from the Sound Opinions podcast last month is probably a little better. Here is a link to Earle’s website.

Then came a short set from popular French rockers Phoenix (click here for myspace page), who have had a modern rock hit with the song Liztomania. Phoenix are pretty much the buzz band of the moment, so your Monkey was a little afraid that they would be all hype and no substance. But to his surprise, the band played a short, tight acoustic set and they seemed to be pretty down to earth guys.

The highlight of the four podcasts would have to be the Brooklyn rock band Pela (link to band’s myspace site is here). The magic of this band is in the voice of frontman Billy McCarthy, who has a blistering delivery that is apparently matched by a high energy stage show (there have been some broken bones in the past).

Last on the docket was El Ten Eleven (band’s website is here), an instrumental duo from Los Angeles that played a couple of pretty good tracks.  This band recently lent their skills to the soundtrack for the cult fave documentary Helvetica, and are apparently featured on the director’s follow-up film as well. Perhaps this band paid the price for being the last of four performances that Your Monkey listened to today, but there didn’t seem to be anything particularly unique. Just good, groovy, high energy stuff.

The excellent KEXP podcast can be found here.

Thanks again to the station and artists involved for delivering so much good stuff for free.

And here is Pela. This performance is pretty good, but if you want to hear Pela at its best, check out their studio track for Tenement Teeth. The only version of that song on You Tube is a live one, and it doesn’t quite do the band justice.

Shameless self indulgence, Writing

10 Minutes of Grumpy Monkey Fiction

In which your Monkey narrator, finding himself uninspired by real life, tries his hand at 10 minutes worth of fiction.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a time for copywriting Monkeys in gray suits with chips on their shoulders and black coffee in their veins.

The Monkeys would shuffle into work each morning in v-formation like a gaggle of gray geese. Their  office typewriters started up the moment they sat down and they would clack clack clack all day long.

The Monkeys were hulking and brooding and sullen and they pounded their keyboards with a masochistic fervor that made the secretaries uneasy as they walked up and down the rows with files and files of copy to be written.

At lunch the Monkeys would gather by the elevator and nod grimly to each other without saying a word. They’d sit at a bar on Seventh Avenue and drink banana daiquiris while munching on fried plantains.

Sooner or later one of them would pull out a dusty copy of Atlas Shrugged and they’d take turns reading aloud, their hoarse monkey voices turning warm and smooth from the bananas and rum in their drinks.

And then it was back to work, the office once again coming to a halt as this gang of gray Monkeys shuffled back in from the elevators and wordlessly took up their typing again. And so it went until 5 pm, when their typing would come to a sudden and severe halt.

The silence that fell over the office was broken up only by the squeaking of chairs, the shuffling of papers, the rustling of gray trenchcoats and the clicking sounds made by a half dozen briefcases snapping shut.

And then the elevators would come and the Monkeys would leave, heading home to their wives and their lives and their thoughts of Ayn Rand.

Movies, Work, Writing

Forget it Monkey, it’s Chinatown

There is a scene near the end of the movie Chinatown where the morally bankrupt millionaire Noah Cross (John Huston) tells private eye Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) that deep down inside, most people are capable of some pretty rotten things.

Your Monkey is not quite as corrupt as old Noah Cross.

But he had a similar revelation recently after he took a long hard look at himself and discovered that he’s not just bad at writing cover letters, but downright terrible at it.

Of all the cruel ironies in a world filled with cruelty and irony!

To be a writer who can’t write a cover letter must be the worst of all.

Sure, your Monkey is OK at writing other things, but when it comes to cover letters, it is a jumbled mess of run on sentences, warmed-over cliches, and half-baked ideas that don’t speak at all to the specifics of the job or his personal accomplishments. No wonder human resources types are nauseated by his every entreaty.

How is anyone supposed to give this Monkey a chance when his first foot forward is a horribly awkward one?

A writer who can’t write a cover letter is like a dentist with a mouth full of fillings, a personal trainer who smokes, or a doctor who can’t stand the sight of blood.

It just doesn’t work.

And thus,  sadly, neither will this Monkey. At least not at any job he has to write a cover letter for.