The single opens with “Rafmagnið búið” a kind of brass introductory piece. There’s lots of horns building slowly, growing louder but not really playing a melody. By the end of five minutes, it segues into “Ný batterí” which opens with horns as well. Then the bass comes in, a slow, deep rumble of simple melody. After 4 and a half minutes, the drums are a powerful counterpoint to the sweet melody.
“Bíum bíum bambaló” is a slow piece (aren’t they all) that is mostly percussion. Apparently it is an Icelandic lullaby. The final track, “Dánarfregnir og jarðarfarir” was a theme used for death announcements on Icelandic radio. I love the way it builds from a simple melody into a full rock band version and then back again. It’s very dramatic.
Both tracks were used in the film Angels of the Universe (and appear on the soundtrack).
That certainly makes this single less interesting than the first one (although I’m not sure that the soundtrack was readily available at the time).
[READ: December 1, 2013] Breakfast on Mars
This is a collection of 38 essays (and an introduction by Margaret Cho). It also includes an introduction geared toward teachers–an appeal that essays do not need to be dull or, worse yet, scary. The editors encourage teachers to share these essays with students so they get a feel for what it’s like to write compelling personal nonfiction. The introduction proper gives a brief history of the essay and then talks about the kind of fun and funny (and serious) essays that are included here.
This was a largely fun and largely interesting collection of essays. When I grabbed it from the library I didn’t realize it was essays (I was intrigued by the title and then looked at the author list and immediately brought it home). I know it says essays on the cover, but I chose to ignore that apparently. When Sarah saw the authors (she knows more of them than I do) she had to read it first. This proved to be a great counterpoint to the very large novel that I was reading at the same time.
The essays each take on different topics. And what I liked was that before each essay, they include the question that inspired the essay. I have included the questions here.
Describe a time you had to do something you really didn’t want to
RANSOM RIGGS-“Camp Dread or How to Survive a Shockingly Awful Summer”
The horrible experience of a horseback riding camp for someone who doesn’t particularity like horses.
Pick a myth or an urban legend and argue why it must be true
KIRSTEN MILLER-“Sasquatch is Out There (And He Wants Us to Leave Him Alone)”
Basically, if the Sasquatch wanted to be seen, it would. This essay even had footnotes!
Pick a belief that is widely accepted and then debunk it
SCOTT WESTERFELD-“Warning: This Essay Does Not Contain Pictures”
Westerfield criticizes teen and adult books for no longer including illustrations. Early adult books (like Dickens), he explains, included them (some illustrators were as well known as the authors), so why did they stop? Largely because of cameras–illustrations were no longer valued because photos could do it better.
Put yourself in the shoes of “the villain” and write an essay from his or her perspective
ALAN GRATZ-“It’s on Like Donkey Kong”
Donkey King offers his side of the story.
If time travel were possible, what moments from your past would you revisit and change? Where would you go in the future and what would you do?
STEVE ALMOND-“The World is Full of Time Machines”
This was intriguing concept although slightly disappointing that his “time machine” is your memory.
If you could pick any name for yourself what would it be and why?
JENNIFER LOU-“Hello. My name Is”
Jennifer Lou is Chinese. Her parents came to America and her father chose the name Nelson as an American name. Her brother was named Norbert (it wasn’t even in the top 1,000 names in the 1970s). There were no souvenirs for him. Her mother chose the name Julie for herself and then named their daughter Jennifer. Paradoxically, her name was so popular that all souvenirs were always sold out. She also had no middle name and so she chose one herself.
Make an argument in favor of something you care about. Then make a convincing counterargument addressing that same topic
CHRIS HIGGINS-“Breakfast on Mars: Why We Should Colonize the Red Planet (Part 1. Argument)” and “Robots Only: Why We Shouldn’t Colonize Mars (Part 2. Counterargument)”
Higgins offers both the pro and con here. Part 1 is that the goal is an inspirational one. As well as a practical one as we are running out of room on the planet. Part 2 argues that it is too dangerous for people and that only robots should be allowed to go.
Write about a strong memory and what it means to you
RITA WILLIAMS-GARCIA-“Recall and Defend”
The author’s family has arguments about the author’s encounter with John F. Kennedy as a child. They claim that JFK picked her up. She says the man did not. Who is right?
Write about a before and after. What was life like before? What was life like after?
ELIZABETH WINTHROP-“My Life Before Television”
She and her brother desperately wanted a television, but as soon as they got one they stopped playing outside so much.
Write about a time when you had to experience pain in order to get a huge reward
CHRIS EPTING-“A Rite of Passage (and the Importance of Penguin Etiquette)”
This was the most enjoyable essay in the book. Epting and his daughter travel to Antarctica to stay with Emperor Penguins for a few days (his daughter won… an essay contest). The intensity of what they encountered (and the difficulty of the trip) was really amazing and inspiring.
Write about a memorable encounter you had with someone you didn’t really know
SLOANE CROSLEY-“Natural Light”
This was an interesting essay about neighbors in an apartment building. The essayist’s neighbor grew a garden and the grapevine blocked her windows, but she loved the taste of the grapes.
What makes your family unique
APRIL SINCLAIR-“Home Girl”
A crowded house with lots of family coming and going.
Pick a superpower and explain its pros and cons
This essay is sort of a riff on the invisibility potion in her book The Apothecary. I was a little bummed that that’s all this was because I love Meloy so much I wanted to read something new from her.
Analyze a character from a fairy tale
DAISY WHITNEY-“The Most Famous Fairy-Tale Cat of All is a Furry-Faced Fabulist”
This was about Puss in Boots. It was the least interesting one for me.
Write about a time when you felt like an outsider and how you dealt with it.
KHALID BIRDSONG-“On Facing My Fears”
This was the first graphic story in the book. Birdsong makes a little comic strip about the time when he was a young boy and went to Germany to study (he is African American and stood out more than a little).
What makes/made your upbringing unique?
SARAH PRINEAS-“Raised by Wolves”
Parents who cared so little, it was like being raised by wolves.
If you could steal one trait from an animal what would it be and why?
NED VIZZINI-“Why We Need Tails”
Vizzini talks about just how great tales would be. And how much money people would make in clothes that fit tales. It’s a win-win.
Write about a loss and how it has affected you
ALANE FERGUSON-“Death is Only a Horizon”
I bristled at this essay a lot as well. In it the author talks about her friend who was killed by a serial killer and that she then named her main character after her. And how she goes to psychics. I just lost interest by the middle, and I’m not sure I believe any of it.
Is the grass always greener? Write about a time when someone else’s circumstances or belongings seemed more appealing than your own.
LISE CLAVEL-“Blue Jeans, Cat Stevens, and My First Kiss”
Blue jeans that don’t fit and a first kiss that is less than memorable. Why is everyone’s life more interesting?
What is your favorite story? Explain what makes this story so compelling
MARY-ANN OCHOTA-“King Arthur’s Great Power”
A history of the Arthur myth.
Write about a time you had to make a hard decision. Were you happy with the outcome;
STEVE BREZENOFF-“A Thousand Truths: (Mostly) a Good Dog”
Brezenoff talks about his dog Harry and how he was such a good dog until one incident made people think otherwise. This was a sad story.
Write a bout a crazy experience or adventure you’ve had
CASEY SCIESZKA AND STEVEN WEINBERG-“Death by Host Family”
This essay included illustrations (by Weinberg) and it is all about Casey and Steven’s trip to Colombia and the crazy ride they took with a family on a railcar. It sounds crazy and exciting.
Write a research report on an unusual animal
MICHAEL HEARST-“The Incredibly Amazing Humpback Anglerfish”
Hearst talks about the Anglerfish. He has written an entire book about unusual creatures and I’m excited to read it.
What are you afraid of? What strategies do you have to cope with your fears?
CLAY MCLEOD CHAPMAN-“Showering with Spiders”
When he was five, Clay took a shower outside at a beach house. While showering, a spider came down and landed on him. He freaked out and has never been the same.
What is your favorite place and why
GIGI AMATEAU-“River Girl”
For Amateau, that place is the James River in Virginia.
Write about a time a friend helped you or you helped a friend.
LAUREL SNYDER-“A Good Lie”
If you have a friend who covers for you when you wet your pants at a sleepover, you keep that friend for life.
Think of something you enjoy doing. Then in essay form write the directions for how to do this activity
WENDY MASS-“How to Fly”
Mass talks all about lucid dreams and how you can fly in them. This makes me really want to try lucid dreaming.
Write about an object or family relic that is especially meaningful to you
Rutkoski’s grandmother had blueberry bushes and they meant the world to her and her family. This was a very touching essay that I enjoyed a lot.
Should school and libraries be allowed to ban books?
SARAH DARER LITTMAN-“Banning Books–An Un-American Act”
Some sound arguments against burning books.
If you could change an event in history, which one would you choose and why?
NICK ABADZIS-“Laika Endings”
Abadzis tells the story of Laika the cosmonaut dog.
Look back at one of your written or artistic creations and then describe the inspiration behind it
MICHAEL DAVID LUKAS-“From Seed to Flower”
Lukas compares writing to taking care of plants. The seed is the idea, but you need to nourish it every day for it to come out like a full plant.
What makes someone or something “cool”?
LÉNA ROY-“Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll”
In this essay, Roy, a preacher’s daughter, bought a shirt that said “Sex Drugs Rock n Roll” just to see how her father would react. She gets a long term lesson out of it. It was really good.
Write about a time you helped make the world a better place
CRAIG KIELBURGER-“A Single Story Can Change Many Lives”
See tomorrow’s post for the amazing story of a young man who formed Free The Children.
Write a plan to fix an area of your life that you have been neglecting
JOSHUA MOHR-“Creative Boot Camp”
Treat your mind like a couch potato. Get it up and exercising its creative juices so you too can be an artist.
Compare and contrast two characters form the same story
CECIL CASTELLUCCI-“Princess Leia is an Awesome Role Model”
Can I just say that I had no idea Cecil Castellucci was a woman. That’s neither here nor there, but the name Cecil…. She talks about Princess Leia as a strong woman (and cites many examples in the films) and then talks bout how useless Padme Amidala is. It’s yet another blow against the later Star Wars films.
What is the strangest/worst job or chore you’ve ever had?
JOE CRAIG-“The Only Job I’ve Ever Had”
This was a strange and fascinating essay about the London underworld and weird gangsters who are shipping god knows what. And which Joe innocently got involved in. Very briefly.
When is it okay to break the rules?
ELLEN SUSSMAN-“Break the Rules”
Sussman ends the book with a very funny essay that breaks the rules as she talks about breaking the rules. It was a lighthearted and enjoyable essay, but one that was also informative.
This was a great collection for essays. Any middle-schooler or above who is reluctant to write his or her thoughts should certainly read a few essays in here just to see how interesting they can really be. I’m so glad I stumbled upon it at the library.