Signs of Life 20/08/13

All quotes are from Climbing the Mango Trees, by Madhur Jaffrey, born Aug. 13, 1933.

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22) It just so happened that some American tap-dancers were staying with us at the same time. … [A] system of open hospitality was the norm. Welcome the tap-dancers.

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22) There were actually two types of family history. There was the documented version that sat properly in my grandfather’s office. But there was also the … fables, family customs, and hearsay passed along by my grandmother Bari Bauwa and the other women of the house. A combination of perspectives is best.

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22) The summer seemed endless. … Mangoes that could be eaten out of hand came and went, as did cherries from Kashmir and litchees from Dehradun. … After lunch we all tried sleeping through the long hot afternoons. Head for the shade trees.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21) I would then rush to observe the daily churning of butter. … Much better than watching paint dry.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21) My older sisters had sweet voices and could carry a tune and so had been cast in every convent musical, whereas I, after a stint at the age of five as the Brown Mouse in The Pied Piper of Hamelin, had given up on the theater. If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19) All I know is that nothing tasted more heavenly than that simple combination: grainy whole-wheat roti, raw onion, and green chili. Synergy works in your favor.

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18) It was an uncommon pickle. We knew of no other community that pickled dumplings. But we did, and delicious they were, too. You will enjoy an uncommon pickle.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20) Mrs. McKelvie was my history teacher. She didn’t just teach me Indian history and British history, which were part of the set curriculum; I also learned from her that any subject could be fascinating if I delved into it deeply enough. She showed me how history, for example, could be researched from a hundred angles…. Any angle you want.

Aries (March 21 – April 19) My mother … had already taught me knitting at the age of five. By now I was knitting the most complicated designs…. Sewing was another matter. The fact that you can knit doesn’t mean you can sew.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20) Until then, I had never been to an exhibition of paintings and did not apply the lessons I might have learned from my art books to myself. New insights await.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20) Lower mathematics, on the other hand, was a startling composite. It consisted of arithmetic, which I could just about manage, and domestic science, a catchall subject that must have drawn its inspiration directly from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Math may come in handy.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22) There was one other way at school of sharing … that was at lunch, which we ate together, as far away from the stone school building as possible. We all brought our lunches from home. If you’re going to bring a whoopie pie, bring enough to share.

Just laugh

Will Noonan on doing comedy post-quarantine

Perspective is one big thing that comic Will Noonan took from his time in lockdown. In the new normal, he realized, an edgy bit won’t bring groans like it once might have, and it shouldn’t. “We’ve all stared death in the face just to go to Stop & Shop,” Noonan said recently. “Why not laugh at a joke that makes us feel slightly uncomfortable in our bellies?”

Noonan was back on stage the moment live comedy returned to New Hampshire. Like more than a few standups, though, he took a few tries to find his old form.

“Everyone started getting it back at different levels and paces,” he said, “so that was one weird handicap.”

To his surprise, audiences had to adjust as well.

“A comedian would say something like, ‘Me and my wife have been married for 25 years,’ and normally the crowd would just clap automatically,” Noonan said. “But there would be these weird pauses. It was like, ‘Oh yeah, they’re rusty too; they don’t even remember how to clap when the guy said he’s been married a long time.’”

For Noonan, this was better than a recent corporate Zoom gig. His half-hour set lasted 17 minutes, when a miffed manager pulled the plug.

“It was like an episode of Black Mirror. … I’ve done shows like that where you can kind of hear them laughing, or even see their faces. But this one was just me and the cameraman, doing jokes to an empty space,” he said.

It ended in the middle of a long bit, when the guy who hired him walked into the room and said Noonan was done and could bring in the next comic. But there were no hard feelings.

“You’re like a birthday clown — they paid you, so they can send you home after five minutes if they want, or they can get the whole hour. It’s really up to them,” he said.

Another realization for Noonan as he returned to performing live was that audiences craved regular comedy.

“We all came in thinking everyone’s gonna want to hear these crazy thoughts I have about the coronavirus,” he said. “You can talk about it, but it’s not necessarily the only thing. … They want jokes to be about things they’ve always wanted them to be about — relationships, families and the stuff that drives you crazy. That material is hitting the hardest because it’s just kind of nice, like watching baseball or the NBA. It’s nice to just forget about it for a time.”

In early August, Noonan went to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for his first NASCAR race.

“It truly was awesome,” he said. “All the things that NASCAR fans say are true. … On TV it’s kinda cool, but it doesn’t feel much like a sport, but when you’re there you kind of understand it has a rhythm to it, a pace. There are times you can tell they’re just going around in circles biding time, and other times they’re fighting to win. … it’s long but it kind of just flies by. The sound is incredible; I could still hear it in my head when I was coming home. It made me want to drive faster.”

Seeing the race with a socially distanced crowd was a bit surreal, but it was still “extra special,” Noonan said.

“It kinda had a Children of the Corn, Rob Zombie vibe to it,” he said. “That was something I never experienced before. … like Woodstock and a Trump rally mixed together.”

Featured Photo: Will Noonan. Courtesy photo.

Will Noonan
Friday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m.
Where: Riverside Pavilion, Amherst Country Club, 72 Ponemah Road, Amherst
Tickets: $20 at

The Music Roundup 20/08/13

Park it: Traverse across music of the early 20th century as Tall Granite Big Band performs a free show on the village common, ranging from Chicago speakeasy hot jazz to the swing made famous by Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and Hoagy Carmichael. There are even a few modern touches, like Miles Davis, Van Morrison and Hank Williams. Free face coverings provided. Thursday, Aug. 13, 6 p.m., Jane Lewellen Bandstand, Riverway Park, Contoocook,

Blues power: Boston-based trio GA-20 plays traditional blues inspired by Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, John Lee Hooker and more. With the twin guitar front of Matthew Stubbs, who played with Charlie Musselwhite as well as leading his own band The Antiguas, and Pat Faherty, who also sings, backed by drummer Tim Carman, they’re authentic and engaging. Friday, Aug 14, 7:30 p.m., Zinger’s, 29 Mont Vernon St., Milford,

Joke in a box: A BYOB comedy showcase marks the return of Jay Chanoine after biding his pandemic time with Facebook snark like teasing an album of ’90s alt rock lyrics interpreted by Jerry Seinfeld: “If you’re the one who wants to destroy the sweater, why am I the one walkin’ away? You wanna destroy it? You do the walkin!” Chad Blodgett hosts, with feature Duke Mulberry. Saturday, Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m., Hatbox Theatre, 270 Loudon Road, Concord, tickets $12 to $18 at

Welcome back: After being idled for a long, long stretch, live music returns to a venerable downtown venue, with Marty Quirk performing on a newly expanded outdoor deck. “Marty Party” is preceded by a brunch that includes traditional Irish fare like black sausage and white pudding. It’s a happy return for a place that’s provided much memorable music and comedy over the years. Sunday, Aug. 16, 3 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester,

Truckin’ on: A triple can release, eats from Big Lebowski-inspired The Food Abides and Andrew North & the Rangers playing originals are all good reasons to make a Concord brewery a midweek stop. Piano ace and songwriter North recently released Allamagoosalum, a concept album inspired by Phish’s Rift as well as Tommy and Dark Side of the Moon. Wednesday, Aug. 19, 4 p.m., Lithermans Limited Brewery, 1268 Hall St., Concord,

At the Sofaplex 20/08/13

*Black Is King (TV-14)

Beyonce writes, co-directs and stars in this visual album whose music and story are based on 2019’s photorealistically animated The Lion King, to which she lent her voice, and which inspired the album The Lion King: The Gift (the songs from which appear here). 

Not surprisingly, Black Is King is vastly superior to the 2019 movie that served as its creative prompt. Even the song “Spirit,” which felt flat to me in the 2019 movie, feels fresh and cinematic and joyous as used here. The visuals of this movie blend images of Africa (the people, the culture, the land, the flora and fauna), with eyeball-grabbing high fashion and, just, like, Beyonce awesomeness. Each song fits into the overall narrative, which is sort of Lion King-ish in its examination of children and parents and ancestors and duty. Some songs are more literally connected to the throughline than others, but each also offers up its own set of ideas. In particular, the song “Brown Skin Girl” and its accompanying visuals and presentation are so sweet and lovely I feel like I’ll be thinking about its ideas and message long after I’ve stopped thinking about the overall project’s Lion King comparisons. (There are graduate theses to be written on that video’s use of the female point of view in praise and honor of Black and brown beauty.) It’s so cool that this much artistry exists in such a mainstream-accessible way. A Available on Disney+.

Radioactive (PG-13)

Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley

Marie Curie gets the biopic treatment in this movie directed by Marjane Satrapi, author of the graphic novels Persepolis and Chicken with Plums, among others. Her background (she also directed the movie adaptations of those books) makes sense here because this story is specifically adapted from the graphic novel Radioactive and it has an overall graphic novel feel. In between more straightforward depictions of Curie’s life, we get scenes from Hiroshima in 1945, Chernobyl in 1986, a nuclear testing ground in the American West, a hospital in the 1950s where a boy is getting cancer treatment. This narrative choice doesn’t always work great but it also doesn’t not work — it shows the wider ripples of Curie’s work, along with the things she saw in her lifetime (like the use of X-ray technology to help treat soldiers injured during World War I).

Of the more conventional parts of Curie’s life, I liked how Pike shows us how Curie is desperately in love with her husband and fellow scientist Pierre Curie (Riley) but also struggles with the way her field is more comfortable with lauding him for their work than praising them together. We also, delightfully, get a fair amount of that “great scientist, less than great co-worker/boss/parent” element of Curie, which is so common in stories of Great Men. Curie is, at times, an awkward, single-minded person uninterested in the squishy emotional or career-diplomacy side of things. B Available on Amazon Prime.

Animal Crackers (PG)

Voice of John Krasinski, Emily Blunt.

Circus family drama and a box of magical animal crackers are at the center of this very plot-stuffed animated movie that I first heard about on a Cinema Sins Sincast podcast episode (“The Curious Case of Animal Crackers”) a few years ago. That podcast, with this movie’s co-director Scott Christan Sava (who returned to a recent Sincast episode), delved into not only the making of the movie but also the strange and at the time ongoing process of trying to get it distributed. It was an interesting tale and I went into this movie pulling for it.


Owen (Krasinski) grows up loving the circus run by his uncle Bob (voice of James Arnold Taylor) and aunt Talia (voice of Tara Strong). Regular circus goer Zoe (Blunt) grew up loving the circus too — and Owen. When he proposes, she blissfully accepts but her father (voice of Wallace Shawn) wants her to follow in his footsteps at the dog biscuit factory. He bullies Owen into leaving circus stuff behind and coming to work for him. Years later, Owen, an official dog biscuit taster, is miserable in his job. And yet, when offered a chance to run the circus after the death of Bob and Talia, he doesn’t jump at it — Zoe does. On the way home from the funeral, Owen eats one of the strange animal crackers left to him by Bob and Talia and, poof, turns into the hamster whose cookie form he just ate. While his young daughter, Mackenzie (voice of Lydia Taylor) is delighted with her animal-daddy, Owen is at first reluctant to assume the role of “animal performer” that is the true secret to Bob’s successful circus.

There are a lot of other subplots: a dog-biscuit-factory inventor (voice of Raven-Simone) looking to create biscuits that taste like people food who is constantly undermined by a suck-up ladder-climber (voice of Patrick Warburton); Bob’s jealous bad-guy brother Horatio (voice of Ian McKellen), who still thinks the animal crackers and Talia should have been his, and the various exploits of Horatio’s not totally competent henchman Zucchini (voice of Gilbert Gottfried). It’s all a lot, and a serious streamlining of story would have benefited this movie that does have a lot of good elements. There is also a bit of adult “what am I doing with my life” stuff in here that felt like it would just be a lot of action-slowing blah-blah-blah to the kids who should be this circus and funny animal movie’s core audience. B- Available on Netflix.

An American Pickle (PG-13)

Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

Seth Rogen is a turn-of-the-last-century immigrant to America and a modern app-developer in An American Pickle, a surprisingly sweet New York fairy tale.

Back in the old country, Herschel Greenbaum (Rogen) dreamed of drinking seltzer water, digging holes with shovels that didn’t split in half, not having to dig holes and other elements of a Better Life. His wife Sarah (Sarah Snook) shared this dream and, after Cossacks burned their town, they decided to look for a better life in America. Herschel’s job killing rats at a pickle factory in Brooklyn helped them save enough to buy their own burial plots (Sarah’s particular dream) and might have even afforded the occasional glass of seltzer but one day after being overrun with rats Herschel fell into a pickle vat that was then sealed up in a factory that was then condemned and left to fall apart for the next hundred years. One day in modern Brooklyn, that vat is opened again by kids chasing a drone and out sputters Herschel, well preserved but alive.

After rather delightfully yada-yada-ing the science, the movie gives Herschel, whose beloved Sarah and the child she was carrying when he hit the vat are both long gone, a relative in Ben Greenbaum (also Rogen), Herschel’s great-grandson. Ben picks Herschel up from the hospital and takes him to his Brooklyn apartment. Herschel is at first amazed with Ben’s life — his 25 pairs of socks, his seltzer making machine, his many shoes. But Ben’s career (freelance work on an app called Boop Bop), Ben’s lack of family photos hanging on the wall and his seeming lack of interest in visiting the family burial plot have Herschel wondering what Ben’s life purpose is.

An American Pickle makes a lot of the jokes you expect — the similarity of Herschel’s hat and vest to your modern-day Brooklyn hipster, the Instagrammable nature of the pickles he makes using bottles and cucumbers found in the trash (which he first sells for $4 and later for $14) and the pushcart he sells them from, the way conservative media applauds Herschel when he appears to be speaking his mind. But these are kind of garnish on the actual story, which is sort of a melancholy-tinged rumination on family and legacy and what connects us to our roots. This is the second movie (the other being The Sunlit Night) I’ve seen recently that seems to consider religion and how it helps with expressions of grief. What does religion mean to a modern-day Ben who doesn’t have the societal structure that are part of Herschel’s specific experience with being Jewish? It’s not a huge part of the movie but it’s a nice, thoughtful element to show up in a movie with riffs on silly internet company names and jokes about the vast variety of nut and grain milks.

I liked this oddball movie, which I can’t picture doing great in theaters but seems perfectly suited to the relaxed home viewing experience. Rogen’s performance seems to come from a heartfelt place; he and the movie seem to have empathy for both characters, which makes them feel like multi-dimensional people. B

Rated PG-13 for some language and rude humor, according to the MPA on Directed by Brandon Trost with a screenplay by Simon Rich, An American Pickle is an hour and 30 minutes and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It is available on HBO Max.

Book Review 20/08/13

Midnight Sun, by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown and Co., 658 pages)

Twilight aficionados read the first pages of Midnight Sun 12 years ago. They just now found out how it ended.

That’s because when Stephenie Meyer learned that the beginning of Twilight 2.0 — the same vampire love story, told from another perspective — had been leaked on the internet, she fell into a foul funk and stopped writing. “If I tried to write Midnight Sun now, in my current frame of mind, James would probably win and all the Cullens would die,” Meyer wrote on her website in 2008.

At some point, however, Meyer’s state of mind improved, or maybe the contents of her bank account dwindled, and she was able to find the will to finish the story, providing a sparkly bit of happiness for Twilight fans in a dreary Forks kind of year.

I have suffered through it, and here is what happens: The vampire gets the girl, and she lives to tell the story in four bestselling books and five movies. Sorry if that spoiled anything.

It is a testament to American capitalism that Meyer has pulled a 658-page rabbit out of this tattered and blood-stained hat. Not that the franchise has aged poorly; the bones of the original story — “the lion fell in love with the lamb” — were always strong, and the excellent casting and memorable soundtrack of the first movie propelled Twilight from the “young reader” shelves to the stratosphere of publishing. It’s not the “modern classic” that the Midnight Sun book jacket boasts but something more commercially valuable: a cultural phenomenon.

That’s what makes Midnight Sun so disappointing.

There is little new in this interminable navel-gazing of an angsty vampire newly in love, other than the opportunity to reflect on plot holes. My puzzler grew sore trying to figure out why, if Edward Cullen has two medical degrees, he stands by so helplessly in the climactic scene where the dying Bella Swan convulses violently on the floor of a dance studio, leaving his father, the good doctor Carlisle, to do most of the work.

As Edward moans about the boredom of going to high school for the 30th — or is it the 50th? — time, the perpetual matriculation explained as necessary to keep the myth of the perfect family intact, something inside me curdles, and I switch movies and go from Robert Pattinson to Cher, and want to slap him and yell, “Snap out it.”

Why are you in high school at all? You have two medical degrees! Go to work with your dad and contribute something meaningful to the world!

But no. Edward Cullen’s eternal purpose seems to be to stalk, as Bella Swan’s is to pout, and they do this for nearly 700 pages, with brief interludes for scintillating first-love conversations that are as interesting to behold as paint in the process of drying. As it turns out, we waited 12 years to find out Bella’s candy (black licorice and Sour Patch Kids) and soda pop (Dr Pepper), and the stream-of-consciousness drivel that goes through the mind of everyone in Cullen’s orbit. (You will recall that he can read the minds of everyone but for Bella. Pity the reader.)

The biggest plot hole of all, however, is how someone with such an interesting existence can have such banal thoughts, too often delivered huskily with lowered eyelids. (Note to vampires: Don’t turn anyone immortal as a teenager, lest they be trapped in adolescent angst for all of eternity. Wait until they’re at least 30.)

That said, there are a few mildly interesting scenes, all having to do with Edward’s pre-Bella existence, such as Edward’s first Christmas as a vampire. But this made me long all the more for another book — not a companion novel, but a prequel. Midnight Sun would have been much more compelling as a novel that gave us Edward from Carlisle’s bite to the day he first saw Bella.

As it is, this is warmed over hash — the taste a bit different the next day, but overall the same dish.

Twihards will protest, and there will be some who can encounter the 18th worshipful reference to Bella’s liquid chocolate-brown eyes without perpetuating violence in a physical book. Which is good, because there is sufficient violence in Midnight Sun already.

In the first intoxicating hours of exposure to Bella, Edward mapped out a plan to slaughter a roomful of students so there would be no witnesses when he killed Bella. (“I wouldn’t have to worry about the windows, too high up and small to provide an escape for anyone. Just the door — block that and they were trapped.”)

However much this fantasy might align with vampire thought, it’s deeply unsettling to read in post-Newtown America, particularly in a franchise that targets adolescents. Even for Twi-Moms like me, it’s a step beyond the pale, so to speak.

I could have done without that information, and the bulk of what accompanies it. I prefer my vampires mysterious and brooding. But sure, sign me up for the prequel. D

Is there a bigger fan of reading than Oprah Winfrey, who has said that “nothing, not one thing or activity, can replace the experience of a good read — being transported to a different land, a different realm, through words and language”?

Well, yes, as it turns out, there is Bella Swan, who is revealed in Midnight Sun (reviewed above) to be a more voracious reader than fans of the Twilight series might have inferred from her presence in Stephenie Meyer’s earlier books.

The Bella Swan Book Club, should you wish to join it, is heavy on classics, mysteries and dragons, causing her vampire boyfriend to swoon, “There was a bit of Jane Eyre in her, a portion of Scout Finch and Jo March, a measure of Elinor Dashwood, and Lucy Pevensie.”

If you want to read like Bella, here’s what that entails:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. And everything by Jane Austen, except for Emma.
Jane Eyre and everything else by Charlotte Bronte.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, “especially The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton, which appears to be about a family of dragons that eat each other’s bodies after death.

And, odd for a girl who grew up in the Southwest, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. (She hasn’t gotten the memo that GWTW has been canceled.)

If you would rather read like Oprah, that’s still possible, too, even though Winfrey has announced that her 20-year-old magazine will print its last edition in December.

Oprah’s Book Club is still going strong, and her latest pick is Caste, the Origins of Our Discontents, by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson. It’s the 86th title that Winfrey has kissed and consequently No. 1 in “historical study” on Amazon. (But please buy from a local bookstore.)

Album Reviews 20/08/13

My Morning Jacket, The Waterfall II (ATO Records)

I tend to associate this Louisville band with their neighbors to their southern border, Tennessee’s Kings Of Leon, who’ve similarly carved a lucrative niche for themselves by tossing depleted-soil mystery-meat 1970s-rock into a blender, hipstering it up a little, and trying not to come off too rock-starry lest they’re abandoned en masse by the last few millennial-pandering blogs that might be interested in them. Where Kings are more like a rebooted, radio-centered Allman Brothers, MMJ are more blatantly Lynyrd Skynyrd-like, which won’t mean much to most of you, not that you should believe Last.FM’s assessment that they’re similar to Wilco and Spoon (good grief already). Whatevs, MMJ is at this point just a very good rock band, as we heard in 2015’s The Waterfall, from whose sessions these new songs sprang. “Tropics” had its Blue Oyster Cult side to it but was still uniquely epic, while here, album opener “Spinning My Wheels” flirts with early Yes throughout its breezy, windswept duration; it’s pure yacht-rock really. “Still Thinkin’” touches on Beach Boys, then we get some twee (“Climbing the Ladder”), some faux-Jamie Liddell soul interpolating a monster guitar interlude (“Magic Bullet”) and a bunch of similar things, the biggest departure being “Wasted,” the token Flaming Lips-ish jam-out. Harmless vacation listening, not that they should be doing that, but it’s their career. B

VOS, Rise EP (Cammo Music)

Not big on mawkish, wildly overacted gospel-pop myself, but hey, plenty of people love them some network talent-show bombast, and this is as good as any, I guess. VOS stands for “Voices Of Service,” a foursome (a woman and three guys) of African American singers who placed fifth in Season 14 of America’s Got Talent; all of them are military, two active, two not. You can easily picture Howie Mandel or whoever bowing and mugging it up with “I worship you as music gods” in the face of this angst-racking four-song effort, but that’s fine with me. After all, “Brother” has more in common with Ten Tenors/Celtic Woman than it does with any shlubby awards-show tribute to Aretha Franklin; it’s not horrifically overdone, and does have a lot of melody to it. “Choke” is the ballad, such as it is, unplugged guitar accompanying refried but boldly delivered breakup sentiments that spotlight each singer’s strengths. All the best of luck to these folks. A

Retro Playlist

Eric W. Saeger recommends a couple of albums worth a second look.

Last night, with literally nothing else on TV, I wound up watching the last two-thirds of Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie about the 1970s superstar rock band Queen. It’s a fairly forgettable biopic, not all that believable at times (trust me, no band has ever stopped in the middle of a high-drama fight to go “Say, that’s a cool bass line!” and suddenly start jamming out). That sort of thing aside, Rami Malek (playing Freddie Mercury) did a good job of convincing me that he was experiencing genuine distress over coming out as gay and upending his entire life.

Maybe I’m “too online,” but in my view, the LGBTQIA community hasn’t benefited all that much from the “Social Justice Warrior” (SJW) craze that’s swept over Twitter and such for the last decade or so. Instead of helping to spread real understanding and empathy between gays and repressed types who can’t get over their generalized fear of things that weren’t de rigueur in 1950s culture, it’s served as a popularity (and, let’s face it, money)-generating machine for B-list celebrities, self-obsessed nobodies and wannabe philosophers. The only online personality I trust (and have learned a lot from) is American trans woman Natalie Wynn, a philosophy major whose YouTube channel Contrapoints is must-see stuff. The short of it is that she’s actually had more support from conservative types (many of whom she’s taught to adjust their worldviews) than from certain rigid SJW gangs.

As a music critic and cis male, I tend to view gay-made and/or gay-centered music as simply another form of world music, a glimpse into a different culture. For the record, I don’t lump Queen as a “gay band” and never really thought much of them; aside from “Bohemian Rhapsody,” that tune’s rather uninteresting follow-up “Millionaire Waltz,” and a few sections of certain songs (they were/are annoyingly modular in their song structures), I don’t like them, really. I do like New York glam-disco band Scissor Sisters, whose album Night Work I talked about here in reverent tones way back in 2010. I was thrilled by it, a fun, jubilant set of really great songs.

I admire trans singer (for the band Against Me!) Laura Jane Grace’s courage, if not her music so much. In 2014 I may have been a little too enthusiastic with my praise for the band’s album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which was pretty disposable. But she’s a hero to many, and I’d never detract from that.

Before I toddle off to read your hate mail, does anyone remember the local Nashua band Billie Dare, the punk band that used to play all the gay clubs in Boston? The girl singer used to wear a giant “diamond” on her ring finger? No? I loved those guys.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Email for fastest response.


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• The coronavirus marches on, and so I must fill this page with music news and snark, so that I can hopefully elicit a little half weep-giggle from you, as you sit sniffling back all the tears you’re shedding over having nothing left to watch on Netflix other than gross, badly overdubbed police dramas from Norway. Maybe you’ve even given up all hope and actually watched Tiger King, like, it’s gotten that bad. But for now, shut up, it’s time for your bowl of snark-berry cereal, this time focused on the music nonsense-albums that will hit the SoundClouds and your little brother’s totally hacked dark web laptop on Aug. 14, starting with Motherhood, the new album from Canadian shoegaze band No Joy.They hit the big time when they opened for Grant Hart of Husker Du, and he was like, “wow, two hot blonde chicks totally shredding it,” and that’s the whole story! I’m listening to “Birthmark,” the rollout track from this new album, and it’s got a lot of semi-interesting syncopation, and gentle sexless shoegaze singing. It’s kind of like a cross between Kylie Minogue and Goldfrapp but more interesting. The video has a UFO flying around in interstellar space, interspersed with some hipster doing a 1990s breakdance, but other than that, awesomeness does abound, and I approve.

• Yikes, it’s Scottish metrosexual-metal whatevers Biffy Clyro, with A Celebration Of Endings, their new album! I guess they’re sort of emo now, judging by the new single “End Of.” Wait, the guitars have been cool for a few seconds. Nope, forget it, it’s just boyband rawk wearing a scary Halloween mask. Seriously, do people buy albums like these, or do they take the advice of their older brothers and broaden their horizons away from this kind of recycled Weezer-meets-Papa Roach garbage? I need answers, fam.

• Dum de dum, oh look, someone I’ve never even heard of, Kathleen Edwards. Isn’t she the weather lady who replaced Al Kaprielian on local cable? I’m almost interested to find out. Nope, she’s a Canadian alternative-folkie who plays guitar, bass and violin. She once wrote a song called “Hockey Skates,” in case you didn’t believe she’s Canadian. Who cares, her new album, Total Freedom, is on the way right this minute, led by the single “Options Open,” whose opening chords were ripped off from the fadeout to Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” a.k.a. the national anthem of Hannaford Supermarket. Yadda yadda, boring verse, two-note chorus that was probably written by a bot. We’ll do one more and bag it, guys.

• To close out, we have somehow-still-relevant Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, whose resume includes the lame solo to “L.A. Woman,” a song I detest with the power of a thousand suns. The Ritual Begins At Sundown is his new “platter,” and it includes a tune called “The Drift” that sounds like Pat Metheny, which means it’s awesome. I forgot he’s into jazz now, sue me. This isn’t bad. — Eric W. Saeger

Local bands seeking album or EP reviews can message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

A sour ale, an IPA and a Pilsner walk into a bar

Drink these beers now

When it comes to beer, sometimes you just need someone to steer the ship for you, a trustworthy friend who can serve as your guide when it comes to choosing a brew — because let’s be honest, there are just so many to choose from. Even if you can narrow down your style, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Look, I don’t mean to suggest you can’t make a decision for yourself, but you already have to make so many decisions each and every day. Should you shower before your first Zoom call of the day? Which shirt should you wear for that Zoom call? And, then, once the Zoom call starts, should you even keep your camera on?

It’s stressful.

Obviously, if you can navigate that battlefield, you can surely pick out a beer. But your brain might appreciate it if I do it for you just this once.

So here goes. Here are three beers I’ve had recently that I have thoroughly enjoyed and that I think you will too.

Rainbow Dome by Grimm Artisanal Ales (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

I don’t want to be too dramatic but this one kind of blew me away. Sours, as I’ve said many times, can be hit or miss for me personally, but this was a resounding hit. This is a dry-hopped sour ale “brewed with apricots and conditioned on oak,” and the result is a bright, fresh, tart, juicy sour ale that absolutely delighted my taste buds.

This brew, which pours pretty close to the color of an orange creamsicle, features a pronounced hop character, making this an excellent choice for the IPA lover who has thus far steered away from sour ales. There is some light oakiness and some lingering, pleasing bitterness. Just a wonderful brew for a hot summer day.

Your only problem might be tracking this one down. I found this one in a Craft Beer Cellar in Westford, Mass. Good luck in your quest.

Baby Seal Pool Party IPA by Shebeen Brewing Co. (Wolcott, Conn.)

The label features baby seals enjoying a pool party with a puffin serving as lifeguard — absolutely zero chance I wasn’t giving this one a shot. And I’m glad I did.

Shebeen dubs itself “Connecticut’s only Irish brewery,” and, hey, that may be true but by my count only one of the 20 beers listed on their website was in any way Irish, but who cares? Not me. Literally all of their beers sound amazing with very creative labels and names, such as “Puffin Puffin Pass” and “Alpaca Blanca.”

Baby Seal Pool Party is a New England-style IPA brewed with lactose, which might sound a little scary, but really, the resulting brew is hazy, juicy, and also kind of sweet and creamy, and that’s kind of the point of the lactose. You get the big citrus hop character you’d expect, alongside an extra sweet and juicy package.

Is my stomach still trying to digest the lactose nearly two weeks later? Yes. But was it worth it? Yes.

Mountain Time Premium Lager by New Belgium Brewing Co. (Fort Collins, Colo.)

It’s just a beer — a crisp, refreshing, flavorful beer that makes your taste buds say thank you as you drink it way too fast on a hot day. But seriously, this was light and refreshing but also really satisfying and when I say that, I mean it has a lot of flavor. It has more sweetness than you normally get from a Pilsner but it’s still in that same light, bright package you expect.

I would want a few of these by my side when I’m sitting at the beach.

What’s in My Fridge
Citra Brau by Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers. (Framingham, Mass.)
Nice and hoppy but extremely light, this is just an excellent all-around, anytime brew that you will probably want to keep a steady supply of. Cheers!

In the kitchen with Edwin Ward

Edwin Ward of Candia is a manager and cook at the Union Street Takeout (90 Union St., Manchester, 260-7663), a takeout-only eatery that quietly opened in January in the space long occupied by Willie B’s. Union Street Takeout is open Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering a menu of burgers, hot dogs and sub options like steak and cheese, ham and cheese and roast beef. Ward said the eatery has also quickly become a spot known for its $5 lunches — the chili dogs, which also have the option of adding cheese and bacon, are among the most popular.

What is your must-have kitchen item?
A loaded spice rack.

What would you have for your last meal?
Spaghetti and meatballs.

What is your favorite local restaurant?
Steve’s [House] Restaurant, or … Athens, both in Manchester.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from your restaurant?
Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg! I would like to see what they would order.

What’s your favorite thing on your menu?
The Breakfast Package is a real favorite of mine. It’s two hash browns, two grilled dogs, a nice amount of bacon, chili, a fried egg, cheese and onions.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?
Chili dogs are becoming a huge trend. Sometimes we have a line out the door for them.

What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?
Slow-cooked lamb.

Shepherd’s pie
From the kitchen of Edwin Ward of Union Street Takeout in Manchester

1 pound ground beef (80 percent lean)
½ medium onion
2 cobs corn
4 large potatoes
½ stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook ground beef and onion in a pan until brown. Husk the two cobs of corn and boil for four minutes (or grill for eight minutes). Boil the potatoes. Mash with butter, salt and pepper. Combine in layers (meat on the bottom, corn in the middle and potatoes on the top). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle cheese of your choice on top and broil for four minutes. Sprinkle paprika on the top (optional) and serve.

The Weekly Dish 20/08/13

Assumption’s Greekfest canceled: Greekfest, a popular two-day Greek food festival normally held in late August at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Manchester, has been canceled for this year, event chairman Costas Georgopoulos confirmed. “We plan on the event to take place next year at the end of August,” Georgopoulos told the Hippo in an email. Greekfest has been around for nearly three decades, usually featuring authentic homemade dishes a la carte or as dinners, in addition to music and dancing.

Sushi and more: A new eatery offering various Chinese, Thai and Japanese items, including dozens of sushi options, is now open in Manchester. Golden Karma Asian Fusion & Bar opened late last month at 6 Willow St. in the Queen City, in the former space of the Brothers Restaurant and Lounge, and now has dine-in and takeout service available. The menu features more than two dozen maki plates to choose from, in addition to specialty sushi entrees, fried rice dishes and noodle options like stir-fried udon, pad Thai and lo mein with chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or vegetables. There are also hot appetizers like peking dumplings, duck bao buns, edamame with sea salt or chili sauce, and shrimp and vegetable tempura; cold appetizers like citrus-marinated salmon ceviche; several soups and salads; hibachi or teriyaki chicken, sirloin steak, shrimp or filet mignon; and authentic Szechuan-style hot platters, like chicken, beef, seafood or tofu with a spicy chili sauce and white rice. Golden Karma is open Monday through Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, from noon to 10 p.m. Call 206-5780.

Umami to close: Umami Farm Fresh Cafe in Northwood will close its doors on Aug. 22. “Although the pandemic has presented its challenges, this is not a Covid-19-related closing,” read an Aug. 4 post on Umami’s Facebook page, which goes on to cite “other ongoing issues in the background” that weren’t able to be resolved. “We welcome your suggestions if you know of a potential location for Umami’s new home.” Two members of Umami’s culinary team, meanwhile, have recently launched a food truck known as The Food Abides. Patrick Harris and Max G. Dowling have taken the truck to several locations across the state, but you’ll next be able to find them at Henniker Brewing Co. (129 Centervale Road) on Saturday, Aug. 15, from 1 to 6 p.m. Find them on Facebook @thefoodabidestruck.

Golden Corral to open in Manchester: New Hampshire’s first Golden Corral Buffet & Grill will hold its grand opening on Aug. 17, at 655 S. Willow St. in Manchester, according to a press release from M&M Construction Services of Bedford. The new cafeteria-style eatery is one of around 500 in the country, offering a variety of menu items like USDA sirloin steaks, pork, seafood and shrimp, along with traditional favorites like pot roast and fried chicken. The location will also have its own butchers, a salad bar and fresh baked goods and desserts prepared daily. Visit or call 232-4896.

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