Café Mouffe: Astha Tamang-Maskey

Ms. M and I spent a delightful evening in Toronto last November with Astha, who told us about recording this song when she was in Nepal on her latest music tour. This video has been viewed more than 25,000 times since she posted it on Dec. 26. See more of her music videos on Astha’s YouTube Channel.

Astha writes:

Please download the song at — 100% of the proceeds go to the CWIN Balika Peace Home.

This new song is dedicated to the beautiful children of CWIN Balika Peace Home. I fell in love with these girls when I visited them for the first time in 2012. I am so happy to have finished this song for them this year. These young women have been through unimaginable struggles and seeing their positivity always inspires me to become a better person.

Special thanks to my mother Susan Maskey for writing the wonderful and uplifting lyrics, Rohit Shakya for producing the song, Fuzz Factory Productions for the gorgeous video, and CWIN + Sumnima Tuladhar didi for giving me this opportunity to help and connect with these incredibly talented young souls at the Peace Home.

Lyrics written by: Susan Maskey –…
Music produced by: Rohit Shakya –…
Music composed by: Astha Tamang-Maskey –…
Vocals recorded at: Range Studios
Face painting by: Pooja Shrestha
Music video by: Fuzz Factory Productions -…


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Café Mouffe: Bernadette Peters Sings Sondheim

In a flight of fancy disguised as a play treatment I suggested to Ms. M that, if our love could be translated into musical theater, maybe Bernadette Peters could play her part. Ms. M was dubious, reluctant to accept any simulacrum. I pleaded with her, “Not even for Broadway?”

So here are three clips to persuade her to change her mind. All are songs by Stephen Sondheim, recorded at Royal Festival Hall in London in 1998. Thanks to Eric Martin for sharing the DVD excerpts on the net.

Being Alive (Company) | Children Will Listen (Into the Woods) | No One Is Alone (Into the Woods)

Encore: From the same London concert, listen to Unexpected Song (Song and Dance) by Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber.

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Avett Brothers – “the love that let us share our name”

As the holidays approached I kept thinking of a line from a song I heard on Pandora. Didn’t know who sang it. Didn’t know the name of the song. Wanted to post the song as a Christmas greeting for my family. Googling a scrap of lyric (“the love that let us share our name”), I figured out that the song was called “Murder in the City” – not exactly the title I expected for such a lovely refrain. So I didn’t post the video for Christmas. Here it is now.

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Remembering “the love that let us share our name”

Mary Lou Willis with her daughter Diana circa December 1944.

Here’s my Christmas surprise for 2014. I was throwing out boxes of obscure stuff when something made me dig through the trash one more time, searching for something I’d missed or lost. It was a photo of my mother and sister, Mary Lou and Diana. It must have been taken around this time in 1944. I know it was a difficult time in Lou’s life. She was a single mother worried about her soldier-husband’s fate somewhere in northern France as the war raged on. I hadn’t seen this image before; it astonishes me. How happy she looks! I offer it here for all her children and grandchildren as a token of “the love that let us share our name.”

Many thanks to Ms. M for taking this smart phone photo of the original print, which made it immediately sharable.

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WWII Armed Forces Editions: “When Books Went to War”

Book cover for "When Books Went to War" by Molly Guptill Manning [Source: NPR] Molly Guptill Manning, Author Of ‘When Books Went To War’ : NPR 121014

“During World War II, American publishers wanted to support the troops,” author Molly Guptill Manning tells NPR’s Renee Montagne. “And so they decided that the best they could do was print miniature paperback books that were small enough that they could fit in a pocket so the men could carry these books with them anywhere.” | Guptill Manning’s new book, When Books Went to War, is a history of these paperbacks, known as Armed Services Editions. They included all sorts of literature — from Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare to mysteries and Westerns — and were the culmination of earlier efforts on the part of American librarians to get used books to servicemen with help from book drives. Well-intentioned though they were, the results of these book drives were mixed, turning up titles like How to Knit and Theology in 1870. So the focus switched to designing and printing books that soldiers actually wanted to read — no easy task since these Armed Services Editions had to be battlefield ready.

  • Best Cookbooks Of 2014 Offer Tastes And Tales From Around The Globe : NPR
    2014 was a year for far-away cuisines to take up residence in U.S. kitchens — cookbook authors cast their nets for flavors from Paris, the Middle East and Southeast Asia; from the ancient spice routes and every point in between. Meanwhile, the food world’s leaders struck out in unconventional directions, and some of the year’s most interesting books stray far from the glossy, aspirational approach we’ve come to expect from the big names. A food editor who claims she’s “not a great cook” goes to chefs for advice, while another starts a farm. One chef raids the pantry for its most common ingredients, while another swoons for mushrooms alone. And apples, glorious in their variety, spill from between the covers of a cookbook with hardly any recipes at all.
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At 86, Donald Hall Says He Doesn’t Have the Testosterone to Write More Poems

Photo of poet Donald Hall [Source: NPR/Linda Kunhardt/Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]
Photo of poet Donald Hall [Source: NPR/Linda Kunhardt/Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]

I’m captivated by the sound of Donald Hall’s voice in this NPR interview. He sounds just like Lou Bourgeois, who turned 98 last Saturday in Oakville, Ontario. The accent isn’t surprising: Hall grew up in New Hampshire, not far from the Acadia where the Bourgeois family started. The wry, debonair sense of humor – now that sounds like pure Lou.

Interview: Donald Hall

At 86 years old, the poet Donald Hall can no longer write poetry. Not enough testosterone, he says. But the former U.S. Poet Laureate and recipient of the National Medal of Arts still has prose in him: He has just published a collection titled Essays After 80.

The book spans Hall’s entire career, his family life, his addiction to smoking and his thoughts on his own beard.

From his rural New Hampshire farmhouse, Hall tells NPR’s Arun Rath why he’s still at it. “I love to work,” he says, “and work in my life has meant only one thing and that’s a pen on the paper.”

On writing prose now

Prose is not so dependent on sound. The line of poetry, with the breaking of the line — to me sound is the kind of doorway into poetry. And my sense of sound, or my ability to control it, lapsed or grew less. I still use it in prose, but the unit is the paragraph.

I had 60 years of writing poetry, I shouldn’t complain now.

On how his age has changed the way young fans think about him

I began a reading with a new poem, which eventually turned out to be no good, but I had hoped it was. It was thinking about what my grandfather would think now to see me. And when I read the poem, I had just entered on the stage, sort of creeping and bent over and so on, and after that poem there was a pause and then there was a standing ovation! I couldn’t believe it. What a wonderful poem I must have written.

But no. They felt as if they had seen, I think I wrote, a cadaver gifted with speech. They were applauding me at least partly because they knew they’d never see me again.

On aging and thinking about death

I really feel better about aging at the age of 86 than I did at 70. I cannot drive, I can’t walk except by pushing a Rollator, but I feel a great deal of energy and excitement. Obviously death is ahead of me. I don’t look forward to dying one little bit, but I simply don’t worry about it because it’s going to happen to me as it does to anybody. …

At some point in this book I said that I expect my immortality to cease about seven minutes after my funeral. I have seen so many poets who were famous, who won all sorts of prizes, disappear with their deaths.

I write as good as I can, and don’t try to turn that into some hope for a future that I could never know. I’ve had some people tell me that they knew they were great and that they would live in literature forever, and my response is to pat them on the back and say, “Maybe you’ll feel better tomorrow.”



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French Novelist Patrick Modiano Wins 2014 Nobel Prize

Photo of Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel prize in literature. [Source: Guardian/AP]
Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel prize in literature. [Source: Guardian/AP]

  • Patrick Modiano Wins Nobel Prize in Literature – 100914
    Patrick Modiano, the French novelist whose works often explore the traumas of the Nazi occupation of France and hinge on the themes of memory, alienation and the puzzle of identity, won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. | In an announcement in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy cited Mr. Modiano’s ability to evoke “the most ungraspable human destinies” in his work.
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Café Mouffe: Marin Marais “Sonnerie de Sainte Geneviève du Mont-de-Paris”

Ms. M is touring Versailles today with her daughter. Here’s a soundtrack for her.I think of this composition by Marin Marais [1656-1728] whenever the Sun King comes to mind, though perhaps it is more suitable for walking about in our Ve neighborhood near the Pantheon and Rue Mouffetard, since it is dedicated to Sainte Geneviève du Mont-de-Paris. I believe it also was used in the soundtrack for the 1991 Canadian film Black Robe. This performance is by Jordi Savall.

Marin Marais “Sonnerie de Sainte Geneviève du Mont-de-Paris” (Jordi Savall)

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Everybody Needs a Little B-Roll (It’s Good for the Soul)

I admit, in a past life I concocted this kind of PR phantasm… especially guys in lab coats with beakers full of DNA. Shitloads of that. Wish I’d had the brilliant idea to tell it like it is here. And a voice like Dallas McClain’s to pull it off!

This Is a Generic Brand Video – YouTube
This Is a Generic Brand Video is a generic brand video of “This Is a Generic Brand Video,” written by Kendra Eash for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. No surprise, it’s made entirely with stock footage. All video clips used are from See and license them here: | The original piece is published on McSweeney’s:… | Narrated by Dallas McClain.

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Café Mouffe: Iris DeMent with Emmylou Harris & John Prine

  • Our Town – Iris DeMent (H.Q.) – YouTube
    Iris Dement – vocals & guitar | Emmylou Harris – harmony vocals | Aly Bain – fiddle | Jerry Douglas – dobro | Molly Mason – bass
  • Iris DeMent – Leaning On The Everlasting Arms (“True Grit” 2010 Soundtrack) – YouTube
  • Iris Dement Sings in her Mama’s Opry | No Depression Americana and Roots Music 090109
    Terry Roland : “The 1991 album, Infamous Angel, now a classic, has the distinction of being one of the best break-out albums released in the country-folk genre. With “Let the Mystery Be”, Iris comes off as a philosophical hillbilly mystic who’s listened the songs of A.P. Carter while waiting out some Arkansas dust storm in a hermits tavern. Filled with story songs of hometown, heartbroken love, passionate romances, repentance, redemption, and gospel homages to a hymn-singing, praying, devoted, aging mother, the themes of this album are common to any ambitious country singer-songwriter but on Mystery, these songs are executed naturally and authentically, with the feeling of someone who knows the terrain first hand. And as always, the church-gospel influence is skillfully woven through every tune. This becomes never as clear as it does on the title song “Infamous Angel,” told from the perspective of a repentant home-bound prostitute drawn from the gospel story of the prodigal son. | Her two follow up albums, My Life and The Way I Should, a bold switch to more topical and controversial songs, were solid albums to come in the aftermath of what could have been an overshadowing debut. Then, in 1996, after five years, she disappeared. No new albums, no tours. Only an occasional appearance on tribute albums, like her cover of Merle Haggard’s “Big City” on Tulare Dust or appearances on “Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion.” Just enough to tease her audience. In 2000 her role in the independent film, The Songcatcher, as an Appalachian woman was a part she could wear like a dress with a perfect fit. She blended so well that it took a while to figure out that it was Iris and not a local mountain lady hired to lend authenticity to the film. | During the years following her divorce in 1994, Iris experienced what happens to many songwriters, poets, and other artists who build their art on reflecting the life around them – a period of depression. This led to a long dry spell for her songwriting and a disappearance from the public eye. She married songwriter Greg Brown in 2002 and after what can best be described as a heroic battle against the black dog of depression, she re-emerged. In 2004, she showed up with her friend and mentor, John Prine, on an album of duets, In Spite of Ourselves. The title song gave her the challenge of singing such lines as, “you ain’t been laid in a month of Sundays, I caught you once smelling my undies.” | Most important, 2004 was the year she returned to the studio for an album of southern gospel songs titled Lifeline. It is a natural extension of her spare but rich recording career, especially paying tribute to her roots and her mother, Flora Mae. At first glance, as is the case with many artists, when a new album is needed, it’s common to record either an album of covers or a gospel album. But, Lifeline is not just any gospel album. Carefully selected, not commonly covered gospel songs, Lifeline is clearly, like its title, an homage to the message of hope embedded in her spiritual journey, which is centered in the voice and songs she once heard her mother sing in her childhood. This is not just an album to fill the years between the release of songs of new material. However, most of the music industry didn’t get the title or the underlying story of Iris’ missing years. In this case, Lifeline is not just a reference to an old gospel song, but a virtual outcry from the hardship and emotional years of loss and the reach out for the lifeline of spiritual and artistic renewal. So, this often-passed-over album, generally reviewed as a four-star album, but discounted because of the lack of original material, is a return to her roots and, most important, to the voice of her mother, singing under the blue California skies of her childhood.” (originally appeared in San Diego Troubadour)

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