new music: BLEITCH; Des Ark

BLEITCH, “Crime”

Piers Baron and Madelyn Deutch formed BLEITCH in 2013 to create a self proclaimed style of “future pop.” Madelyn Deutch makes her directorial debut with this video that showcases her stunning vocals and the Los Angeles duo’s cool electro-pop style.

Des Ark, “Nighttime Moths”

dreamy, intricate song.

It’s tough out there in the music industry for women which may be why many solo female artists take in other names which indicate a band when it’s really that woman’s songwriting and compositions. With Des Ark, Aimée Collet Argote can go minimalistic and the softer singer/songwriter route or bring in the full-on loaded arrangements facilitated by a band.

third album Everything Dies [Graveyard Records] out October 6.

tour dates:

Oct- 8 – New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge

Oct- 10 – Carrboro NC @ Back Alley Bikes

Oct- 16 – Savannah, GA @ Graveface Records (acoustic set)

Dec-10 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter

Dec-11 – Philadelphia, PA @ Everybody Hits!

Dec-12 – New York City, NY @ Bowery Ballroom

Dec-14 – Boston, MA @ Great Scott

Dec-16 – Washington, DC @ Comet Ping Pong



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show preview: Girlpool at Middle East Club October 5 and 6, 2015

I saw Girlpool a few months ago and was instantly impressed by the two piece’s impressive and captivating performance. The punk duo formed in Los Angeles a few years ago and is a band on the rise with cool harmonies, raw energy and dynamic songs. 

Girlpool is:

Cleo Tucker (guitar, vocals) 

Harmony Tividad (bass, vocals)

Girlpool’s 2015 Fall U.S tour kicks off with two nights at the Middle East Nightclub– Monday October 5 and Tuesday October 6. 

Girlpool Facebook & Twitter

venue info:

Middle East Nightclub

472-480 Massachusetts Ave

Cambridge, Mass.

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book celebration and giveaway: 200th anniversary edition of EMMA


Description from Penguin Classics: 

Beautiful, clever, rich—and single—Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

A conversation with JULIETTE WELLS– Editor and Introducer of EMMA: 200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition(Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition; on-sale September 29, 2015; 9780143107712; $16.00)

Q: When we celebrate the 200th anniversary of EMMA, what in particular are we celebrating? What’s new about this edition?

A: We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emma’s original publication, in London in December, 1815. The date of publication is a little confusing because “1816” was printed on the title page of the first edition of the novel, but it was actually released in December, 1815. I think this gives us the right to celebrate for a whole year!

And what better way to celebrate than to re-read Emma, or read it for the first time? Our 200th-anniversary annotated edition has everything you need, all in one place, to help you appreciate this wonderful novel. You can immerse yourself in Austen’s world and also have, right at your fingertips, explanations of some of the elements of the novel that tend to trip up or puzzle today’s readers.

 Q: In the Austen canon, what would you say makes EMMA special and unique?  

A: Emma is special because it’s the capstone of Austen’s career as an author. She had already published three novels (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park), and she was at the very top of her game as a writer. She didn’t know it, of course, but Emma would be the last book she saw through to publication. When Austen died in July 1817, she left two essentially completed novels (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion), which her brother published at the end of that year. So Emma is the last Austen novel that was published in the exact form that she herself approved.

                Emma is also special because it’s the most perfect example of Austen’s particular genius as an author, which is (I think) to create a recognizable, engaging fictional world from the slenderest of materials. She writes about everyday life and ordinary people—you won’t find kings and queens in her novels, or ghosts or vampires. Her effects are wonderfully subtle. 

 Q: What was the publishing process like when EMMA was first published? How was the novel received critically? Was Austen as popular in her own day as she is today?

A: The publishing process was recognizable in some ways and very different in others. Austen didn’t have a literary agent; at that time, authors dealt directly with publishers. With Emma, she chose a new, more prestigious publisher—John Murray—than she had used for her three earlier novels, and she negotiated hard for a good contract with him. As authors are today, Austen was responsible for proofreading and approving copy before publication. Since being a published author was considered not so respectable for an unmarried woman, Austen chose to remain anonymous on her title pages throughout her lifetime. Emma identifies her as “the author of Pride and Prejudice.” Her identity wasn’t made publicly known until after her death.

                Like Austen’s earlier novels, Emma was praised by reviewers, who appreciated Austen’s ability to convey a very realistic fictional world. Austen wasn’t a bestseller in her day; then as now, thrillers, adventure stories, and romances outsold quiet literary fiction. But Austen did have the satisfaction of knowing, in her lifetime, that readers appreciated her work. In addition to reading reviews, she kept track of the responses of her friends and family, which offer a wonderful glimpse into what everyday readers of Austen’s own time thought of Emma. Some of what they liked and didn’t like may be very familiar to us!

 Q: One of your specialties as a professor of English is how Jane Austen’s work continues to appeal to people, how it remains at the forefront of pop culture conversation. Last year, Alexander McCall Smith updated EMMA, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” hits the big screen in 2016, and movie and TV versions of Austen continue to draw viewers. Why do you think we keep updating and adapting Austen? What are your favorite adaptations or updates, and what makes them successful?

A: Austen really is endlessly adaptable, much like Shakesspeare! You can transpose her stories and her characters to other places and times, and they still work. My own favorite creation inspired by Austen is Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, from 1995. Clueless is a joy to experience, and smart too, much like an Austen novel.

                I’m also a big fan of Sense and Sensibility, also from 1995, for which Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay. Experiencing Austen through the eyes of a witty, thoughtful contemporary woman—it doesn’t get any better than that! I like Karen Joy Fowler’s novel The Jane Austen Book Club, from 2004, for the same reason—an experienced writer chooses to think about how Austen’s works matter to us today, and takes us along for the ride. Lost in Austen, the British miniseries from 2008, is also a big favorite of mine. A rabid Austen fan finds her way into the world of Pride and Prejudice and messes it up. It’s a hoot to see the Austen characters we know so well doing and saying things that they NEVER would have done or said in the original novel.

                I think TV and movie adaptations of Austen are so popular for two main reasons. They’re beautiful to watch, no question. And they offer a respite—which a lot of people of all ages value—from the loud, fast, scary, stuff that much of mainstream entertainment is these days. The tricky part comes, sometimes, when someone knows and loves Austen through the films and then goes to pick up one of the novels, only to discover that the reading experience is a lot more complex and challenging than the viewing experience. I had those first-time readers of Austen very much in mind when creating this new edition of Emma. 

 Q: What is it like to prepare a new edition of a book that’s so well-known and exists in many editions? What kind of research did you do? Did anything you learned during the process surprise you?

A: It was really important to me to create a truly new approach to —a welcoming, reader-friendly approach. Excellent editions of Emma already exist for scholars and for devoted “Janeites.” With this anniversary edition, I wanted to open Austen up to people who hadn’t given her a try before, and to support their reading experience by using everything I know from years of teaching undergraduates and from talking with everyday readers. I certainly reached for plenty of scholarly and reference sources on my shelves, but I’d say my most important preparation was to have built up, over time, a sense of what readers are curious about and what frustrates them in their first encounter with an Austen novel. And, through my teaching, I’ve had a lot of practice at explaining historical concepts in an accessible way. 
I also had the huge pleasure of re-reading Emma myself, slowly, with pencil in hand, making lists of topics to cover in my contextual essays and marking words that would likely be unfamiliar to present-day Americans. By doing this, I developed a much deeper appreciation of Austen’s artistry with words. This surprised and delighted me—I would have said I appreciated her artistry plenty before! But it wasn’t until I was trying to figure out how to convey the meaning of a particular phrase that I realized how much meaning she packs in with her clever, economical word choices. 

Thinking about readers’ experience with Emma also shaped how the contextual material is presented in this new edition. In my experience, many ordinary readers, and even college students too, are put off by footnotes, or at best ignore them. So we decided instead to group topics together in contextual essays, which are easier—and, I hope, more fun—to read. Here too my experience explaining historical concepts And, there’s no question, the gorgeous cover by Dadu Shin is a beautiful invitation to pick up this Emma!

 Q: The illustrations for this edition are drawn from historical copies of Emma in the Jane Austen Collection at Goucher College, where you teach. Can you tell us more about that collection? What is it, exactly?

        A:        The Jane Austen Collection at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland began as the passion project of an alumna of the college from the 1920s, Alberta Hirshheimer Burke. Alberta loved, loved, loved Jane Austen’s writings and decided that her own purpose in life was to gather as much material as possible relating to Austen. So Alberta bought first and rare editions and even some manuscripts—such as letters in Austen’s handwriting—all of which she felt brought her closer to her beloved author. The images in our new edition reproduce turn-of-the-twentieth century illustrations of Emma by English and American artists, from books that Alberta owned, and which she bequeathed to her alma mater when she died in 1975. (Her manuscripts went to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.) 

                Alberta also cared deeply about ephemera with an Austen connection, such as newspaper and magazine articles, which she preserved in ten overstuffed scrapbooks. So our Austen Collection at Goucher is a terrific resource for popular culture studies as well as book history.

 Q: As a college professor, what’s your favorite aspect of teaching Austen? Do you face any challenges in interesting students in her writings?

A: Absolutely the best part of teaching Austen is that so many students are enthusiastic about studying her writings. She is an easy sell! Shakespeare is the only other English writer who has a draw like hers. And Austen has the advantage that her life story as a woman writer is especially appealing. Many of my students are creative writers themselves and find Austen’s confidence and perseverance to be very inspiring.

That said, I do often encounter people—students and ordinary readers—for whom Austen just seems unappealing. Maybe her novels seem girly; maybe they seem awfully full of privileged white people (not untrue); maybe the sentences or paragraphs are just too long. Stephen King said recently in a New York Times Book Review that he had never read any Austen, and I feel it’s a real shame that a great writer like him has missed a great writer like her! Maybe I’ll have to send him this new Emma and see if he can get into it.

I love it that everyone who reads Jane Austen has her or his own ideas about what’s important and what’s interesting. Some readers gravitate towards her humor, while for others, the morality really resonates. Pretty much all of us can find at least one character who reminds us of someone we know—and we’re lucky if it’s a character who’s nice!

 Q: Do you think we have a modern-day equivalent of Jane Austen? Or do you have any “further reading” suggestions for Austen fans who’ve read all of her books a thousand times and are looking for something new?

A: I love to read contemporary novels and memoirs, and I always keep an eye out for hints that an author is influenced by or interested in Austen. I recently re-read Allegra Goodman’s novel The Cookbook Collector and really appreciated how she weaves in elements from Emma as well as from her more obvious place of inspiration, Sense and Sensibility. I also particularly like that Alison Bechdel, author of the graphic-format memoir Fun Home and the Dykes to Watch Out For comics, gives several shout-outs to Austen. Flyover Lives, Diane Johnson’s hybrid family history / memoir, includes a fascinating account of what Johnson’s foremothers in America were up to at the same time that Austen was writing about much more privileged women in England.

I’d also warmly recommend the novels of Barbara Pym, a 20th-century English writer. Pym’s dry humor and close observation of everyday people ally her very closely with Austen. And it’s always rewarding to read, or re-read, 19th-century novels by authors who knew and loved Austen’s writings. In that category, I’d especially recommend Elizabeth Gaskell (start with Cranford) and George Eliot (outside of Austen, Middlemarch is my all-time favorite novel).

And, finally, I’d say that Austen lovers are the best people to ask about what to read next! Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of shout-outs for the novels of Anthony Trollope, so I may have to get cracking on his enormous oeuvre . . .

Giveaway: Penguin is letting me give away a copy of this 200th anniversary edition of Emma. Leave a comment with your email if interested. 

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book review: F*ck Feelings 

<em> F*ck Feelings: One shrink’s practical advice for managing all life’s impossible problems</em> By Michael I. Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett. Simon & Schuster| September 2015| 370 pages | $19.99| ISBN: 978-1-47679-0015

It is what it is. Don’t worry, be happy. Go with the flow. Life sucks and then you die. You can’t always get what you want (but if you try sometimes you might get what you need). Let it go. These might be cliches but they’re all truisms about how challenging, unpredictable and unjust life can be and that sometimes we need to just accept the bad to be able to conserve energy  to embrace the good.

“F*ck Feekings explains that, in most cases, you have not failed and do not need to try harder or wait longer for improvement to begin; instead, you need to accept that life is hard and your frustrated efforts are a valuable guide to identifying what you can’t change.”

Turns out that emotions are just that. Mindfulness is a good thing. You can only tweak and improve yourself and what makes you happy. You can’t change or influence those around you. Shit happens and the best you can do is keep your mind and body healthy and sometimes just stay quiet when you don’t want to or just go with something as uncomfortable as it may be at that moment. 

Through chapters on self-improvement, self-esteem, fairness, helpfulness, serenity, love, communication, parenthood, assholes and treatment, Dr. Michael Bennett and his comedy writer daughter Sarah Bennett approach these topics using honesty, humor and sensible solutions. They provide examples. They list what you want and can’t have, what you can actually aim to achieve and how to get it done. Quite useful tips. This is the most refreshing and useful self-help book I’ve read in some time. 

on self-improvement:

“Instead of trying to figure out your problem, use your best tools for managing it, be they finding a rehab program, an organizational coach, or a group of girlfriends whose opinions on jerks you trust.”

on self-esteem:

“So while it’s certainly worthwhile to try to develop your talents and seek fulfillment, it’s dangerous to say you should be able to make it happen and thus make yourself responsible for producing a solution you don’t control. 

“Instead accept the fact that sometimes you can’t and won’t feel good about yourself. That’s no reason, however, for stopping yourself from doing good things and writing off your feelings of low self-esteem as an unimportant by-product of a hard life, perfectionism, or subpar personal equipment.”

on serenity:

“Unfortunately, some people don’t recover from loss, even when they get lots of support and work hard to move on. It may be that loss triggers an innate vulnerability to depression, their personalities are unusually loss-sensitive, or they lack the ability to control destructive impulses. Again, it sounds sappy, but not every broken bone or heart is guaranteed to mend.”

on love:

“Again and again, you have to face the fact that someone you love can’t love you back, or you can’t find someone to love when that’s what you want and need. Failed love almost always feels like a personal failure… If you’re extra careful and selective about loving and being loved, you’ll probably find yourself spending more time feeling lonely.”

on communication:

“Unfortunately, however, many problems do not, in actuality, represent a failure to communicate. Rather, they arise from differences in character, culture, or values, and communicating these differences is a bad way to bridge gaps and a good way to cause disagreements.”

Michael Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett will be at Brookline Booksmith on Tuesday, September 29 at 7pm.

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Banned Books Week September 27- October 3, 2015

Read a banned book this week!

the ALA’s Banned & Challenged Classics list:


1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

6. Ulysses by James Joyce

7. Beloved by Toni Morrison

8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

9. 1984 by George Orwell

10. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov

11. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

12. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

13. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

14. Animal Farm by George Orwell

15. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

16. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

17. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

18. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

19. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

20. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

21. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

22. Native Son by Richard Wright

23. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

24. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

25. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

26. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

27. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

28. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

29. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

30. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

31. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

32. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

33. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

34. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

35. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

36. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

37. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

38. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

39. A Separate Peace by John Knowles 

40. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

41. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

42. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence

More recent banned books:  



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Happy 43rd Birthday Gwyneth Paltrow

born: September 27, 1972

one of my favorite actresses. won Best Actress Academy Award in 1999 for Shakespeare in Love. Lately focused on her online lifestyle magazine Goop and writing cookbooks.

favorite Gwyneth roles:

Country Strong (2010)

Proof (2005)

Sylvia (2003)

Possession (2002)

The Royal Tennenbaums (2001)

Bounce (2000)

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Emma (1996)

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show preview: Skinny Lister at Middle East Nightclub Thursday, September 24


British six-piece folk act Skinny Lister formed in 2009 after meeting at clubs in Greenwich. High energy folk with varied instrumentation. If you’re a Frank Turner fan you’ll surely appreciate Skinny Lister’s blend of the political and the social.

Skinny Lister is: 

Dan Heptinstall – vocals, guitar, and stomp box (July 2009–present)

Max Thomas – melodeon, mandolin and vocals (July 2009–present)

Lorna Thomas – lead vocals (July 2009–present)

Michael Camino – double bass and vocals (October 2012–present)

Thom Mills – drums (March 2014–present)

Sam “Mule” Brace: guitar, concertina, vocals (July 2009- March 2013, September 2014–present) mandolin (2014–present)


Forge & Flagon (2012)

Down on Deptford Broadway (2015)

Skinny Lister perform at The Middle East Club Thursday, September 24.






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