NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson and Travis Larchuk hop onto Morning Edition to talk about Christmas songs that are melancholy sad and downright sullen (which is quite a lot of them, if you really listen to the words).
They talk about some new(ish) songs that are depressing Like David Mead’s “The Smile of Rachael Ray” (which would be bad enough, but that’s just a lead in to the bummer within), Harvey Danger’s “Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes),” Garfunkel & Oates’ “Year End Letter” (which is quite funny) and the song “Dead, Dead, Dead” from the South Park holiday album Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics.
Of course, dark Christmas songs are nothing new. There are plenty of dour holiday standards that originate in the 1940s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Blue Christmas” are major downers.
When I try to compile Christmas mixes I try to leave off the bummer songs, but it’s really hard.
Stephen Thompson gives an excellent summary of the season: “Christmas is the one day a year when we’re all supposed to be happy, and so you’re hyperaware when you’re not.” I hope everyone has a Happy Christmas this year.
[READ: December 10, 2013] Mouse Guard The Black Axe
This book features a preface by Terry Jones. It doesn’t say a lot, but it’s worth a mention.
The Black Axe begins after the events of Winter 1152 (it is set in Spring, 1153), but the bulk of the book is a flashback to the origin story of the Black Axe.
As the book opens we learn that Lieam, one of the Mouse Guards has been missing for the last three months. We also learn that even though the Winter was a dangerous time for the mice, the Spring proves to be equally treacherous as all of the predators are awaking from hibernation. But despite the current crises, Gwendolyn’s thoughts turn to Spring 1115 where the story of Celanawe begins.
We see Celanawe on an island building a house. Suddenly a crow approaches. On the crow is Em, a mouse who can communicate with the crows and who reveals that he she has been looking for him.
While they talk, the crow is ambushed by a group of scary looking ferrets. They are clothed in the skulls and skins of their victims and they quickly dispatch the crow.
Em is horrified, but he mission must go on. She explains that she and Celanawe are related and are descendants of the forgers of the Black Axe. She knows where it is and hopes that he will help her find it. When she reveals that she has been sent by Lady Bronwyn, Celanawe’s true love, he joins with no further questions.
They set off for Port Sumac where they hire the services of Conrad, a former Captain who wishes to regain his stature. As they sail across the sea, we learn the history of the Black Axe. I love the way this is told through old art styles. It’s beautiful (as is the rest of the book). The journey is exhausting and very long and eventually they wind up crashing on the shore of an island. They realize they are in the right place when they find the bones of Benn, the last known mouse to have the Black Axe.
Em and Celanawe make their way to a house, which proves to be the residence of King Luthebon, leader of the ferrets. The King proves to be an honor bound animal, very different from the ferrets we saw earlier. And although he takes no pity on the mice, he does listen to their story. And while he is talking, they see that he has the Black Axe on his belt. They try to devise a plan to get it back. But while they are talking, the King’s son is brought to them. He has been killed by the fox in the area. And just like that, Em proposes that Celanawe will kill the fox in exchange for the axe.
Celanawe sets out and the next scenes take place in the fog, which is once again, beautifully illustrated. While he is hiding in wait for the fox, Conrad stumbles into the brambles. The fight with the fox comes quickly and ends just as quickly. There is a causality and a serious injury, but Celanae has proved his mettle. Unfortunately, when he returns, he find Em dead. Not by the King, but by one of the Kings’ men. And, the King proved his word by having that ferret killed. For his brave deed the King offers Celanawe and Conrad a place to live on their island for as long as they wish.
But Celanae desires to get back home. With the axe. To see his love. And so off they head. But when Celawne returns he finds that things are not as he expected and he cannot live there. So he sets off for the middle of nowhere–hiding in the way he hid when he was “discovered” in Fall 1152.
As the book draws to a close, we come full circle to Spring 1153, where we see Lieam explaining his actions to Kenzie and Saxon. And the Epilogue lets us know that Lieam’s story is just beginning.
The fourth book in the series is a series of short stories. It actually came out before this, but the stories are flashbacks and do not impact the overall arc so they can be read in any order. I’m excited to read them Oh, and lest I forget to say. The artwork in this book is simply, stunning.