Off the Chart

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New EP, LIJE, iTunes, CDBaby, eMusic.com

If Fellini had made beach movies, Supermajor would have been their elegiac, enchanted house band. “Cemetery Eyes” is an anthem pouring out from and then somehow all around the dashboard of some convertible that went off a too-sharp curve on the Pacific Coast Highway in 1966 and never returned to Earth, picking up alien angel doo-wops and Eno buzzes from the ether and the future along with its irresistible elysian guitar jingle and synth fizz while it was in the air with no interference. “Your Drift Is a Drug” has that motorcycle-kickstart rhythm, recoiling on itself as it chews up distance, wrapped up in sensations torn away from the disappearing landscape. Happier yet still wiser, Supermajor are pop prophets and sibyls who haunt a collective hit parade without ever having had to die, as rock and roll never does, because they know that youth only passes from soul to soul. There is no more radio but there’s still ritual, and Adam Swiderski’s headlining songs are testaments of movie-star confidence and morality-play caution while Brooke Tarnoff’s and Sarah Engelke’s are séances of ’70s arena-diva sorrow and transcendence, “I See You Clearing” a prayer for hearts put back together from each others’ pieces and “Shotgun” the proto-punk hall of fame B-side. Everything converges for “A Little Piece of the Sun,” the kind of half-album-length epic that whole societies of counterculture would collect around. Supermajor makes the music of the flattened spheres, orbiting eternally on black tracks and then shooting you into the day each time the needle has to lift off.

Primeval

Fish weed

The Lives of Hamilton Fish
New York premiere, May 30, 2104

In 1928, a serial killer named Hamilton “Albert” Fish took a little girl named Grace Budd into the woods of upstate New York and she was never heard from again — and this sick destroyer’s own anguish was perhaps never heard the first time. Today few people would recognize his name upon hearing it — but multi-artform practitioner Rachel Mason was there a century later to note the strange counterpoint between that name and that of statesman Hamilton Fish II, whose obituary appeared on the same front page of a New York newspaper as the notice of the other Hamilton’s execution in 1936. Mason’s mission, over eight years, became to unearth their stories, and those of the people around them; to pay attention to what was untold and spin a story or her own from the pulp of ancient chronicles and the forgotten girl who fell in the woods.

The result is The Lives of Hamilton Fish, a film that stages the surreal reflections on these faded strands of history as a popular opera, playing out onscreen with mouthed vocals while Mason takes the bardic role of singer and musician live onstage in front of it. Actors portray the two Fishes, the statesman’s wife (a suicide), the little girl and her mother, a prisoner, and a psychic, while Mason plays a reporter obsessed with the coincidence — yet another bardic figure.

All actors seem to sing in her voice, which is fitting; the historic figures’ own sounds have been silenced, and the reporter is determining their narrative, though trying to breath some life back in.

Events and characters intersect in ways that elaborate on reality, but also illuminate it. Elegant, eerie use is made of the two main characters’ shared last name; of the killer, it is sung, “The wild fish is out of water and he’s roaming around your town/The wild fish is out of water and he leaves no mark on the ground” — an image of accursed evolution, of edenic expulsion, and a profaned early-Christian symbol, evoking not the savior the sign represented but the kind of predator the world was left to (as echoed by Fish the statesman, who abandons his position of authority in Washington, DC, retreats to his New York mansion and sings of his disillusionment about a universe of order or fairness after his wife’s death).

The killer Fish is sung about as a “werewolf” (one of his real-life media nicknames) and stands like some time-travelling Jack the Ripper figure at a nexus of folkloric horrors; when he eventually is put to death, it is in the grip of electric-chair lightning like Frankenstein’s monster; upon his capture we see him spun up in linen like a mummy, and of course his recurrent theme-song conjures the fairytale Big Bad Wolf — an unhappy story told to him about himself and lived out while others do not. His own abused childhood is hinted at, and in one subtly horrifying scene he staggers slowly between lifeless dolls set up in a quaint old bedroom, effigies of his prey. In this role, Bill Weeden is an unforgettable tragic monstrosity, dead-eyed yet conveying volcanoes of turmoil even further back than that, darting and furtive like a calculating cornered beast when confronted, locked slackly on some horrors he’s lurching away from experiencing and speeding toward causing, railing at the cosmos or stonily certain.

Fish II

As the favored Fish, Theodore Bouloukos is earnest and supremely focused in his portrayal of numb trauma and existential drift. We assume this turn-of-the-last century assistant U.S. Treasury Secretary to be a not particularly reflective man, but his misfortune stirs depths in him which I would like to have seen Bouloukos convey with a bit more tragic weight. This Fish’s storyline is fascinating — self-interment in his mansion, a weird chorus-girl voudon ritual that he invites a sprit medium to perform in his house to contact his wife’s soul — but it is carried more by Mason’s libretto whereas Weeden holds his up equally. Still, it is the curse of decent men that the predators will be more vividly remembered, and Bouloukos’ sepulchral calm is well-taken, yet another counterpoint between him and the charismatic demon who shares his name and seems to prowl beyond death while the good Hamilton turns out his lights ahead of it.

Mason herself, as a character, is an everyperson imbued with great nervous vigilance and downplayed dread. As a performer, she shows remarkable expressive discipline yet conceptual adventurousness, a pillar of storytelling steadiness who can incarnate every furious, despairing, ethereal and doggedly cerebral character. Her musical palette both on and offscreen is impressive, from propulsive rock songs to unsettling ghostly ballads, from howling flute to chilling gusts of metal guitar to a great reality-bending use of auto-tune as instrument.

Her choice of settings is transporting, a collection of interiors and elysian grounds that convey the luxurious mausoleums of the Hudson Valley (though some of them are actually situated as far from that, both geographically and culturally, as Jersey City). As well as the dungeon walls of Sing Sing Prison and the primal woods of the New York wilderness.

Fish pavillion

Sarah Baskin is heartbreaking and invincible as Emily Mann, good Hamilton’s lost wife; dressed like some gilded-age goddess effigy she dances and soliloquizes in a classic pavilion that’s like some alabaster phallic cage. At one point her ghost encounters a florally-dressed version of Grace Budd, a lovely primavera fantasia, and the true memorial of this work is to these two tragic sisters, the woman who took herself out of the world for reasons we may never know, and the one who was taken before she’d ever have a life to record.

These spirits, like the two Hamiltons and others here, only meet in memory, in the retold story of a later observer trying to make sense of what happened to them. In Mason’s lyrics the theme of “lines” recurs — spaces of text on a newspaper page, lineages of both privileged and lowly families. Strapped in the electric chair, bad Hamilton sings that this device “gives you no future and takes away your past,” and we’d like to think that some of the lines of our life are so easily unwritten, or that the marks on us are only made by others. But artists like Mason and her collaborators fill in the picture, with more than the surface we know how to present, and the portrait performs the miraculous feat of speaking, truthfully, to the living.

http://www.livesofhamiltonfish.com/

Pro-Creative

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There were giants in the earth — or at least “Marvel Earth,” and Earth 2 — when Dean Haspiel was growing up reading comics. It was his book of myths, with heroes from the apex of American self-assurance who bestrode the pop imagination like direct descendants of the brand-name gods, and Haspiel’s own characters — and his own persona — attempt to follow that line and take the world those gods left onto new shoulders.

His signature characters Billy Dogma and Jane Legit define a new day from the market mastery of previous pop, colliding the universes of 1940s-‘50s romance comics and 1960s-‘70as action ones by being lovers, not fighters — a power-couple whose barely-costumed encounters shake their city like the brightly costumed battles of old. They speak like mod deities reciting scrambled psalms, the secret of the universe one cry away and their eyebeams and forceblasts the transcendence we feel when chemistry ignites.

In this lovely volume, half of which (“Immortal”) longtime admirers will recognize from Haspiel and Michel Fiffe’s Image anthology Brawl and the other half (the title tale) from activatecomix.com (all of it remastered revelatorily for the holy technology of handheld tomes), Billy and Jane learn a thing or two about the reality they come from — a creation myth that helps us all look back to how we can be new people. Haspiel tells it in a masterful maelstrom of animated imagery that dances on solid air from the cliffside of cartoons past into the mix-and-mash of digital visions yet to be.

In his introduction, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge author Josh Neufeld can’t help quoting Billy’s bizarre catchphrases at length and I don’t blame him; eschewing the commonplaces of a less-complicated era, Billy’s exclamations are more like shaggy-dog free-association (“Give a crippled crab a crutch”); Billy will not come up with the next “Great Caesar’s Ghost!”, but no one will ever be able to duplicate what’s his.

Comics, like sex, is a language, but to only speak it is missing more than half the point. Haspiel operates at the event horizon of understanding, chiseling prophetic malapropisms that are like the first translation of some lost utopia, dead alien race or basic equation of existence. In one particular masterstroke of the literally unseen but deeply understood, an epic, transcendent lay between Billy and Jane is described from outside the scene Haspiel is actually depicting; a survival struggle between a colossal squid and the giant whale the couple are biblically traveling in (and I meant to day “stroke” and “deeply,” at least once I’d written it).

Haspiel remembers back to when our gods were not so solitary or circumspect, and would engage in creative acts of attraction between world and sky when there was barely yet an Earth to move. Long before a “Word” started existence, we read of it springing from giants’ loins (something we see metaphorically enacted in one scene toward the end of “Immortal,” though I won’t spoil and probably couldn’t describe it).

Mother Earth and Father Sky were the golden-age deities, and word and image are the divine parents of comics’ unnamable combined sense, its third-eye candy; the avatars of those facing pages, the impulsive, muscular Billy and the strategic, light-footed Jane, are like action and thought, meeting in the physical as one perfect being, which is to say far from a finished one, but one who is whole.

The Crypt Keeper & Cousin Eerie Don’t Escape from Guantanamo Bay

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The Blood Brothers are back, from wherever they came from — which is old news reports on clown-faced serial killers, and nostalgia sites for the haunted-house hosts of vintage horror movies repackaged for pre-cable TV. They are the compelling community-guignol stage characters of Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer, participant observers to the morality-tale inhumanity which is epidemic in our species and of which the Blood Brothers are just the fright-makeupped mascots. (Their latest live-action EC Comic just closed at Brooklyn’s Brick Theater but will be re-possessing the place with a new episode in May.)

In the Blood Brothers’ world the tragedies of history are rerun pretty much as the same tragedies; this time (in Bedlam Nightmares Part One: Strapped In), abuse of captive mental patients and snakepit-movie stereotypes rise again with zero retribution or redemption, except maybe the sour self-awareness of the Brothers, MCs of their own story. At the start of this new series they’re walk-ons in it too, apprehended for a gulag asylum like the situational setup of some even-more-psychotic Stooges short.

These anthologies always run through exploitation cinema’s top-tens of human folly, including the spiritual seekers who don’t know what they’re dealing with and get more than they bargained for, in the evening’s standout segment, “Into The Life of Things” by Nat Cassidy.

Cassidy has a stereophonic ear for both the insider’s delusion and the outsider’s confusion (each of which will be duly punished) at a wilderness yoga retreat, where supernatural complications ensue which will land one lucky disciple in the Blood Brothers’ new place of residence.

As a believer sworn to silence, Stephanie Willing enacts a sublime kinetic narrative of danced and gestured expression (and embodies just as pristine pretention when her character breaks the vow), while Matthew Trumbull as her doubting husband paces out of his yoga-pretzels with a positively Chaplinesque totter, his expression set in a world-exhausted facial drawl worthy of Keaton — more of the Brothers’ history-repeated-as-not-so-funny — and August Schulenburg is tragic and hilarious as a guru spouting Cassidy’s gourmet psychobabble.

Highlights in other sections include Bob Laine as an eerily benevolent patient showing a new-guy around in what could be the plays’ most restrained performance (and thus maybe makes Laine’s character the most crazy), and Kristen Vaughan as the hospital’s burlesque-Ratched head doctor/warden in a role that goes over the top and still lands perfectly due to Vaughan’s understanding that the best buffoons take themselves completely seriously.

Toward the end the Doctor menaces one Blood Brother with a scalpel and ponders “what to remove,” then settles on “your audience,” addressing the crowd and cutting off the mass-killers’ attention supply. It could be that as the series progresses (one new show every other month) the Brothers in isolation will be forced to consider the consequences of their actions and the implications of their art. They’ll be really dangerous once they’ve lost their innocence.

Singular Sensation

Chorus

The Chorus Girl Show
By Carolyn Raship

Dixon Place, NYC through March 31

The sepia backdrops of Carolyn Raship’s Chorus Girl cycle are like the skin canvas of a tattoo, and the stylized works would lend themselves well to that chic vintage medium, but these images endeavor to portray more of what’s on the inside of lives we know mostly from the surface.

Time tends to paint over personalities that don’t fit the picture, and Raship is fascinated by early-last-century women who came from obscurity and attained either prominence or notoriety in their lifetime, but tend to be forgotten or only sketched in today. She picks a pantheon of figures who started in the once-disreputable occupation of the show’s title, and emerged from the crowd-scene as famous names, breaking the mold of cultural prohibitions (Native American entertainer Princess White Deer), rising to serious artistic renown (screen icon Louise Brooks) and either coming to early ends or being too close to others’ (unwilling objects of scandal Evelyn Nesbit and Olive Thomas).

In some compositions Raship orders these life stories in the three-ring, Sistine Chapel-style montage known from Harper’s layouts of the time in the golden age of ornate paste-up, posing her subjects like figures of myth as if we’re seeing the blueprints of the carved monuments these heroines never got; in other pieces we seem to be seeing multiple chapters of the same woman’s life overlapping and interacting, an epic compression of incident that could be called personal-history painting.

A whimsy lifts these spirits back out of the unknown and an occasional Gorey-esque grimness conveys a festive yet thoughtful psychic underpainting to the pictures’ mood, like Day of the Dead feasts for personas enjoying one more day of being larger than life.

These works are worth as many words as you can find on Raship’s inspirations, portraits of women meant to be seen who also will be heard. No few of these pop goddesses were material for mass-culture illustrators and photographers of their day, but not ones who were interested in revealing identity and painting in the rest of the record like Raship (a playwright as well as an artist) can do.

The images are up at a legendary New York performance space through March 31, in a show that’s been extended twice already, a fitting symbol of what’s here to stay.

What Comes Around (5)

The Top 5 things I didn’t get to in 2013

New Year’s is a time for reflection and aspiration, but these are fueled by fruitful regret! Over the next week or so (okay, by now it’s been more like months), we’ll be looking back longingly at art, comics, books and music I should have paid more public attention to in the 12 months just past — and pledging to make all our cultural appreciation immediate and immortal!

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Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to YouTube by Trav S.D.

BearManor Media

Early in this family history of physical comedy, humorist, performer and variety-entertainment impresario Trav S.D. recalls how books alone brought to life a lost world of silent-movie comedy for him as a youth in the 1980s, noting the obstacles inherent in this activity as being like imagining the taste of gourmet dishes solely from food reviews. But Trav himself lays out a banquet of reminiscence, demonstrating how much of entertainment and edification occurs in the imagination, which is his most essential and assured medium. Like Wynton Marsalis, who was unjustly criticized in some quarters for acting, as frequent narrator of Ken Burns’ Jazz series, disingenuously “as if he had been there,” Trav wipes that concern away by making me feel like I was there. Also early in the book he proposes that Charles Chaplin held onto silent moviemaking so much longer than any of his contemporaries because he realized that the basics of storytelling do not require sound; Trav has a sense of the primal connections we make among events and with a work of art. That’s why his lively prose, itself dependent on words, paints pictures and conjures pratfalls — and historical turning points — that don’t just lead us to the source material but open a wide, clear window on it.ChaplinCoogan

It’s a common stumble of arts criticism itself that the act of analysis makes authors feel constrained to convey a seriousness in their phrasing that disserves the pleasurable values of what they’re describing to begin with — for pop to be honored, it doesn’t have to become respectable, and shouldn’t be. Trav’s prose is as energized and witty and open to the unpredictable and unforeseen as the high and low masterworks he considers; like all the best criticism it can’t compete with its subject but does complement it.

Trav’s cultural archeology is flawless, like he’s listening for the echoes of ancient laughter and feeding it new lines. He starts by explaining that some of the earliest clowns (performers preceding written-down theatre) were the mimes of ancient Greece (“mime” in this case for “mimesis” or imitation, placing them among the first memes); interestingly, this profession was so disreputable that it was strictly kept separate from the rites for the drunken god Dionysus, though it is hard to say now who has had the more enduring and fruitful Hangover.

Trav continues on through the Medieval-and-later European tradition of traveling pantomime and other entertainment, likening its temporary open-air stages to “the back of a pick-up truck” in the first of a book-full of phrasings in which he invokes historic practices by renewing them in the context of contemporary understanding. The conceptual continuum of Trav’s thinking is dazzling, as when he takes us through the centuries of suppression of European entertainment by the church, and the implicit origins of short-subject film comedy in brief scenarios played around or between more legitimate long-form culture (operas, ballets), as well as the disrepute that performers sustained across all these centuries, blowing through their material and your town fast. Life is short and feels long, so the jokes have to be even quicker.

KeatonFallLike a master career comedian (which he is), Trav retells stories that are old to him in ways that make them brand new, with both period patois and fresh turns of phrase. As important as it is to convey a thrice-told tale with its punchline intact, Trav also delves into not just the comic but the serious business of interpretations that have not been extracted before. His identification of early silent-comedy farce as a kind of proto-countercultural modeling of an anarchic spirit, and his perception of the greater role of blockbuster-scale disaster played for laughs (falling buildings, big explosions) as a diminishing of the individual’s scale by the very technology that’s also making these SFX advances possible, are all about what story is being told unconsciously by the jokes we tell on the surface.

Trav has a gift for cross-referential metaphor, as when he describes Chaplin’s improvisation of his films as being like using “the whole apparatus of the film studio [as] his pipe organ to compose on”; this talent serves Trav well in divining the symbolism that connected certain performers to the strivings of their viewers, forming more than just a bond of stage-and-audience call-and-response, as with Chaplin the recent immigrant embodying America’s possibilities for self-re-creation and Harold Lloyd (whose hilarity ensued while he was trying to play by the rules rather than flout them like Chaplin’s character) embodying the consolidation of comfort and following of social standards felt necessary by more long-established Americans.

LloydClockTo make these links Trav carries an encyclopedic, yet discerning, knowledge of every era’s context, sketching what was going on around a given comedian’s defining traits (like the acrobatic Douglas Fairbanks — known as a comic actor long before he was an early action hero — being surrounded by the first superstar body-builders, the popularization of vigorous outdoor activity by iconic president Teddy Roosevelt, etc.).

Trav’s populist scholarship acknowledges the need to connect with listeners in the way that all successful theatrics and effective educational transmission require, as when his historical lens takes in both the true phenomenon of a suis-generis genius like Buster Keaton, whose instincts and inventiveness were innate, and the context in which this supposedly (and avowedly) untutored humorist had to be influenced by cultural advances in ideas that (as often happens) we view as rare and recent but in fact were enjoying a first surge of discovery at an earlier time before the lid came down again (in Keaton’s case, the models of surrealism to be found mass-market in L. Frank Baum stories, Winsor McCay cartoons, and outlandish amusement park design as well as art galleries and literary journals). “No one comes from nowhere,” Trav remarks; we are always learning, even and maybe especially when we are being entertained.

The book brings to life personalities that even in their day were known to us mostly as their press-managed projected shadows, but reading those outlines Trav comes up with inspired psychological profiles (as with the fatalism of Keaton’s Midwestern, abused-child-star upbringing translating into an existential stoicism in his roiling comedy and impassive persona).

In the same way that modern vernacular and references refresh and clarify his content, Trav remains adaptable to where the results of individual artists’ experiments lead; for instance, affirming that some kind of emotional relation is needed to follow a comedic character through a whole feature rather that the shorts that once dominated Hollywood, while also acknowledging that, for the right type of completely absurd personality (Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers), conventional story can be a constraint which ruins the new territory that visionary jesters can take themselves and us to. Form-follows-function can also point the way to shapeless silliness when that’s what does the job (and when it is in fact just defining a new geometry we had to traverse the whole contours of to see).

However, Trav has a connoisseur’s eye for what should be left out of the frame. He persuasively argues that the prevalence of radio as the precursor to TV refocused film audiences to the verbal from the physical in a way that impaired comedy when films went from silent to “talkie,” a case of technological advances actually representing a narrowing of options in the way we can fixate on them at first.

keystone-kops-grangerThe book is a continual valued tutorial; I hadn’t known that pioneering comedy mogul Mack Sennet is partially responsible for the Miss America Pageant as well, or that Jacksonville, Florida was once a movie-making mecca. And throughout you get an idea of the kind of master-class Trav could run on how to get to the heart of what’s funny by acquainting yourself with that heart of your own (while also training your mind to understand what subjects stick with the audience as an odyssey into how they make sense of the world, and not just a diversion from it they’ll quickly forget). “The bird doesn’t know it’s singing,” he says, “it just does it” — artistry is intuitive, and can be an intention of the soul even if the artist is unaware and the consciousness of this only comes in those who are there to hear the song.

The book’s handful of flaws warrant much fewer than a thousand words: The scarcity of pictures is something you miss once you have read these stories, though you don’t find yourself wishing for them while making your way through Trav’s illuminating prose. In a discussion of the limited opportunities for African-American actors in the silent era, a footnote mentions Charles Lane’s much-later cult favorite Sidewalk Stories from 1988 and then never brings it up again, a bit maddeningly. And an over-apology for Chaplin’s (silly, irresponsible) celeb-statesman defense of the Soviet Union, in the face of the tyrannical McCarthyism that got him kicked out of the U.S. for it and is deemphasized by Trav, seems the one time when his grasp of historical context and proportion eludes him.

He can be allowed to miss one or two things since he is typically projecting magic moments and whole centuries of movement we otherwise couldn’t witness, or showing 20-20 vision for things no one saw at the time. His paralleling of the gruesome proto-torture-porn of the Three Stooges to the golden era of monster movies happening at the same time (the classic Frankenstein, Dracula and other franchises) is inspired, and causes a compact comic masterpiece in a brisk paragraph pointing up Larry, Moe, Curly and Shemp’s comparisons to slasher-movie/house-of-horrors psychos (fixating, or instance, on their neglectful, chopped or absent hair styles, which he likens to demented mad subgeniuses, head-hacking serial killers and patients shaved for brain surgery. Now that’s funny!)

HarpoLucyTrav needs to be as good an anthropologist as archaeologist in later chapters; silence can be right in the midst of modern commotion, but we don’t always stop to consider it that way. Harpo Marx was of course a lonely last-man-standing for pantomime in the center of hyper-verbal farces. Otherwise, Trav looks for flare-ups of the physical in our joke-obsessed current comedy canon.

Slapstick itself relies on the eyes, and the kinesthetic sense, and space, not words or explanations, though it does tell a story, like the dance that probably preceded spoken language among our ancient forebears. In this understanding Trav both tracks the persistence of precision slapstick — which mostly emigrated to TV after the 1940s, through veteran clowns like Red Skelton — and defines the debased variety (mere mayhem at the hands, feet and power-tools of the Stooges; mugging and contortions unconnected to the advancement of any story or delineation of any character by Jerry Lewis). He brings up the resurgence of formal clowning schools and popularity of theatrical clowning festivals throughout the 21st century world, and notes Sacha Baron Cohen as a standard-bearer (trained in this discipline and certainly a full-body comic in addition to his modern vaudevillian multicultural shtick).

Jim Carrey is conspicuous by his absence, perhaps lying unnoticed somewhere at the bottom of the Jerry Lewis file-folder, though I’d be interested to know what Trav makes of Carrey’s commute between pure farce and his Chaplinesque attempts (and occasional success) at art-house gravitas (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Keatonesque darkness (The Cable Guy, I Love You Philip Morris). Trav does identify present-day makers of entirely silent movie comedies, and the success of his way of thinking is to get me noticing examples he doesn’t mention of surviving strains of visual comedy in venues where it feels so natural that I at first don’t realize that a revolution is being reborn — Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill’s drug-stupored flounderings in The Wolf of Wall Street; Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Sisyphus-like struggles with fire-escape ladders and too-narrow doorways on Broad City; the improvised soundless side-stage café/cocktail-party business by the ensemble, especially dance-trained Stephanie Willing, in Ian W. Hill and Berit Johnson’s play The Strategist.

In short, and long, the show goes on, and while I didn’t want this book to end, Trav demonstrates that there is in truth no final act. Talk is cheap and laughs are gold, and in Chain of Fools Trav S.D. retells a grand story and epic punchline in your head, with a full and shining silence.

Part 1, Part 2Part 3, Part 4

No, Seriously, Stairs to Korea

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Indoctrinating myself with this disk (well, file) all month…the dead-Beach Boy angel-chorus and Miami-sound-machinery of “Paid Position,” the haunted player-piano and Eno hotwiring of “Josiah’s a Writer Now” (and the way it sounds like singer Will Vaughan is saying either “sigh” or “sire”); the lonesome drunk trumpet of “After You Die” and the interstitial muzak and the trapeze-ballet of intertwining backup vocals he does with himself and the way the whole set sounds like it starts on a triangle tinkle and ends on a bardic harp, and “Hey Roundheads” sounds like his best anti-American song yet, and I hope we can get him over here in not too long to do some more research. In 2013 David Bowie had the comeback of the decade, and Will Vaughan had the go-forward.

http://tapealarm.bandcamp.com/album/human-gain