Shires has a powerful non-vibratoed voice and she plays several different instruments–what looks like a giant ukulele as well as the fiddle. She’s accompanied by Rod Picott on the guitar. He really seems to flesh out her instruments very well.
As to her sound, she explains before the final song, “I do have one happy song, we’re just not going to do it.”
The most remarkable thing about the first song, “Swimmer…” is her excellent whistling of the main melody. It is piercing and very catchy. Actually the whole song is quite pretty
Before starting the second song she asks if they are in a fast mood or slow mood. When the answer is fast, she immediately says they’ll play “Shake the Walls.” I really liked how the opening notes were plucked and strummed on the violin. The song is pretty simple and quiet until she plays a noisy violin solo in the middle which really livens things up.
Before the final song she asks if they’d like a song about suicide. Someone whoops in assent and they laugh. So she says they’ll play a song about trains. (“when you need a train, it never comes”). I really like the chord progression in the chorus.
Despite the downer music, the duo clearly had a fin time. Picott ends by saying “Its hard playing for smart people instead of our usual crowd.”
[READ: March 6, 2015] “Total Solar”
The protagonist of this is a journalist in Afghanistan. He has been speaking with a researcher from the United Nations Ornithological Department, who keeps introducing conversations with “If you really want something to write about…”
But rather than taking notes, he is drawing pictures of himself committing suicide in various gruesome ways. This relates to his writing a story about a contractor who’d been executed in a new way–using wire rather than a knife.
Yes the story is pretty brutal.And yet there is at least one amusing scene (which maybe I found amusing if only for some levity) in which the waiter seems to be deliberately pissing everyone off.
And then things change dramatically. For that was all a bit of a flashback. Rather than sitting and talking, he is now sitting in a pile of rubble. There are body parts everywhere. And there’s a giant hole in the wall.
The only other person he can see is Sue Kwan. Sue Kwan is from Human Rights Watch. She was so nice and thoughtful and he did all he could to be mean to her. She once tried to help a street urchin who had fallen to the ground, even though the protagonist told her he was faking. That it was a trick. “So what?” she replied.
He looked at her now and she was waving to the gunmen.
The gunmen stormed into the place and started firing again. So he simply laid down and closed his eyes.
Amid this horror, there is a joke that I found very funny in part because it is a mistake that someone has told me she made. On CNN (and then on YouTube) he was reading a cue card and read the word misled to rhyme with “guy’s old”–the President had myzled the people. It had many many views and he never lived it down.
When he finally dared open his eyes again, the people coming in through the wall were now wearing uniforms. So he stood up and tried to get their attention, but they ignored him.
So he slowly left the scene.
He reflects back on another story. He had always assumed he could blend in (as many people do) to his surroundings. There was a translator sent on assignment who also believed she could blend in. But when he watched the footage of the documentary she was a part of, he could hear a man behind her who had been following her. He distinctly hear the man say “I can easily grab her, no problem.”
Afghanistan is a scary place, obviously.
As he is walking through the streets he sees birds, pigeons, flying in a very specific pattern. And then he notices that a man below seems to be controlling them. He walks over to the old man, who invites him in.
He explains to the man what happened to him in the simplest term possible: “boom.”
The man allows him to rest. He falls instantly to sleep. But when he awakes, everything is changed.
There’s a lot of mystery shrouded in this story–including what ultimately happens to the protagonist.