Monika is a superstar in her native Greece (her full name is Monika Christodoulou). She is a charming woman with a big voice and a bigger stage presence. She incorporates theatrical notions in her performance too (the fact that she has a shirt that looks like a mime’s kind of encourages that idea): “throwing” stars, flying, sleeping.
It is hard to believe that the blurb says used to sing sad songs, as she is so fun and bouncy. But there’s this biographical note:
her recent transition from singer of sad songs to purveyor of upbeat jubilance came after she nearly lost her life in a boat fire; she had to swim eight hours in the dark to safety without food or drinkable water. These days, it’s all about a great band grooving, her joyful voice, and that infectious smile.
She sings four songs. The first, “Yes I Do,” opens with what I assume is a lyric about the then current moment: “24th of March has arrived and I think it’s Thursday? Washington is beautiful out there but we don’t really care.” It has a kind of circus opera feel. And Monika’s voice is a marvel–powerful and beautiful with a good range.
For the second song, “Shake Your Hands” she asks if everyone is ready to dance a little. She climbs up on the desk and as she sings the slow opening, when she gets to the “I love you” moment, she sings without the mike and is as loud as when she uses it. Once the song kicks in, it has a big disco beat: wah wah’d guitars and a funky bass line. She encourages everyone to sing along: “Even if you don’t understand, just repeat, okay.” The song ends with a very fun extended ending of staccato chords.
“Hand in Hand” has a kind of gospel quality (a big group sing along of the opening lines), although it is a brief, transitional song before “Secret in the Dark” begins. She straps on a guitar for this final song which has a discoey riff and a fuzzy keyboard sound. It’s really fun.
I’d never heard of Monika, but she seems like the kind of pop/dance star that would be really fun to see live.
[READ: April 1, 2016] Mike’s Place
Somehow I missed that word in the subtitle: True. I didn’t realize that this was a true story until the very end. The story was really good before I knew that and it makes it even more amazing after I found the truth.
In Tel Aviv, Israel, John Baxter (Jack), a filmmaker has come to cover a story. He goes into a local bar called Mike’s Place for a meal. He is greeted warmly and is told that there is live music every night of the week. They proudly state that Mike’s is a place where people of all stripes comes to congregate and do anything but talk about politics.
It turns out that there are already people making a documentary about the subject who John came to cover (Marwan Barghouti) so Jack decides to give up.
At the same time, we meet the owner of Mike’s, a man named Gal. He calls his bartender Joshua to come in but Joshua tells him that he is on his way to the airport to pick up his girlfriend Sasha. Sasha is the most depressing person I’ve seen in a comic book (and knowing this is true makes me wonder if she is really like this). She is perpetually sad and filled with grief. And true, her back story does justify it, but what a drag she is.
Jack goes into Mike’s place. He talks to Gal and Gal convinces him to make a film about Mike’s Place and how accepting it is. Jack calls his wife to say he’s going to stay in Tel Aviv for a few more weeks to make this film.
And so Jack meets and interviews all of the characters at the bar, like Avi the bouncer; Joshua; Dom the waitress; and bartenders U.K. Dave and Downtown Dave.
As Part III opens, we see some men strapping on guns and heading for the border. The back pages show the actual photos that inspired some of these pictures–suicide bombers showing off in the last minutes before going out to kill people.
And that chapter ends with the explosion of Mike’s Place.
The final half of the book is all about recovery–those who have died and been injured and the will of everyone to get Mike’s Place back up and running again.
It is astonishing that this story is true and that Jack happened to be filming this place while all of that was going on. Jack himself was hospitalized in the blast and his crew carried on, doing interviews and more.
In addition to the interviews with the people of the bar, there are also stories behind the stories, like the relationship between Gal and Dom and a somewhat confusing story about money and a possible new enterprise.
The epilogue explains how the authors made every effort to make the details correct. The filmmakers were able to make a documentary out of their footage (called Blues by the Beach). Also, the chapters are all headed by Scripture passages from the Qur’an–each is meant to be a voice of tolerance, not violence.
It was later discovered that the attack on Mike’s Place in 2003 was linked to the suicide bombers in London in 2005.
The end page shows the owners of Mike’s place which lets you know how great a job Koren Shadmi did of capturing the people in the story. I actually didn’t love his style–all of his people seemed too skinny, but it does seem to be rather accurate.
This was an intense story. And I’m glad I read it, even if it was really horrifying. #10yearsof01