I never liked Pat Benatar. Back in the day she was all over MTV (and even in Fast Time at Ridgemont High) and I just didn’t like her. I’m not sure why, although I was particularly bitter about “Hell is for Children” (being a child myself). Of course, I still know all of her singles really well.
But I haven’t thought about her in probably a decade. And then around 2014 that she was playing with Neil Giraldo in some kind of acoustic tour. I recognized his name but didn’t know they were married or anything like that.
And so here they are doing a Tiny Desk Concert–all acoustic–with him playing guitar and contributing backing vocals. Over the decades, Benatar’s voice has changed a bit–she sounds gruffer and it really suits her.
Of course, I said that I knew her songs, but I didn’t recognize the first song at all. It’s a pretty song and her voice suits it very well. In the middle of it, he looks at her and says “You know I wrote this for you baby,” She laughs and says, “Oh sure.”
Part of their repartee is a lot of chatting about the old days and about getting older. He asks if there is a massage therapist who can work on his arm (it’s NPR, so there are three in the room). Pat says the arm thing is not from playing guitar as he claims, but really from playing golf. Golf is he only thing they dont do together.
Then they play “We belong,” to much delight from the audience. I don’t know if this is in a different key, but she sings some really low notes and sounds great.
Before the final song, Pat says I think we should have cocktails while we’re doing this (to wild applause). Bob reaches up and grabs some cans of PBR and then a bottle of vodka which Neil backs off from very quickly.
Then he says we’re going to do “Promises in the Dark.” They talk for a very long time about the song. She says it’s impossible to sing this song without the band. He says that it was originally an acoustic ballad, so she should have no trouble. But he was inspired by Pete Townsend to add some rocking chords and make it faster in the middle.
Interestingly he says its hard to do these songs acoustically because they deliberately made the original versions in a higher key to make them rock even more.
And then he says that when they play acoustically, they confuse “We Belong” with “Promises” because they start the same (and they do). And she promptly forgets how the songs starts. And then he can’t remember either-0-since they just played We Belong, that’s all they can think of. No one in the room remembers either (which is pretty embarrassing). So they look it up.
And as much as I said I disliked Benatar, this version of “Promises” is great.
[READ: July 16, 2016] Under Wildwood
I said that I really enjoyed part two of this series–the book totally took off and I was fully engrossed. It did not feel like its 550 pages were excessive. He really filled up every page with story.
But I had a totally different experience with Part 3. I assumed it would be an exciting climax to this series, but, boy, did I find it slow going. I actually put the book down about 200 pages in and sort of forgot about it–never a good sign. I also put it down once I finished Part 3 and then had to sit down and make a point of finishing it.
Multi-part stories run the risk of boring readers by summarizing what came before, but they can also alienating people who are starting with that book (although why would you do that?) or those who read the first part 3 years earlier. We could use a brief recap to get back up to speed. And I have to say that this book felt like it took 250 pages to get me up to speed.
In part because there was a new character in Part 1. Her role is very important in the overall story, but she pops up out of nowhere and the whole story is devoted to her for quiet some time. Her name is Zita and she has been crowned the May Queen (in the real world). To celebrate she and her friends decide to enact a ritual–call up the legendary spirit of the Verdant Empress. Instead, they accidentally call up the spirit of Alexandra, the Dowager Governess.
The Dowager starts sending Zita messages. Since Zita just lost her mother, she feels for the spirit of the old woman and is aware of her loss (her son died), so she decides to help. Her quest is to collect three things: an eagle feather, a pebble from beside a stream in Wildwood, and the teeth of the Governess’ son, Alexei (the teeth are in his entombed mechanical body and were used for bringing him back to life the first time).
I found it unsettling to star this third book with no mention of the characters from the previous books. So I was happy when Prue and Ebsen the bear finally showed up. They head back to the Impassable Wilderness to carry out the wishes of the Great Tree and try to bring Alexei back to life again. Part of what I found really confusing in all of this is that the Dowager wants to bring Alexi back to life (that’s why she wants the teeth, right?), and Prue and Ebsen and the good guys also want o bring him back to life. It seems like they could have all just worked together.
In order to get Alexei back to life they need to recreate the cog which Ebsen and Carol created. But after they made the cog in the first place the witch cut off Ebsen’s hands and put out Carol’s eyes.
Incidentally, Wikipedia mentions a quibble: When traveling to the Tree Wikipedia notes: “(oddly, this journey takes “many days”, although Prue and her army traversed the same distance in a couple of hours in the first book).” I certainly didn’t notice that but I feel like its a basic problem with the book–everything seems to be really dragged out here.
When she gets out there she finds that people have been worshiping The Bicycle Maiden (who is actually Prue) and that many people are being arrested for it.
But the real power belongs to a new set of Caliphs who worship the Blighted Tree of South Wood and are gaining control. Roger Swindon is the head of these Caliphs
Meanwhile, Rachel and Elsie and all of the other former orphans of Unthank’s Home have taken refuge in a warehouse in the Industrial Wastes. They are hiding from Roger Swindon and his stevedores. Through some unexpected occurrences, the orphans meet and then align themselves with the Chapeaux Noir, and underground revolutionary group, dedicated to bringing down the Titans of Industry who run the Industrial Wastes.
Jacques is one of the leaders of the Chapeaux. He was once one of the Titans but was betrayed by his fellows, who absorbed his branch into the others. While skulking around, they run into Joffrey Unthank. Obviously the children hate the man, but he seems to have gone crazy. He has been living like a hobo and singing a lot. They convince him to help their cause of fighting the remaining Titans (Joffrey was one also)
Together they plan an assault on Titan Tower, where the Carol and one of the orphans, Martha–who helps Carol, are being held captive.
Part Two has some pretty exciting passages the whole sequence where Joffrey and the unadoptables attack the Titans’ building is pretty great–full of tension and near misses. Although their training sequence is pretty long. Astonishingly, someone who we know is killed in the assault. True, he was an evil man, but I never expected that.
In the meantime, Zita has completed her task and given the Dowager the power she wanted. Prue has been taken prisoner by the caliphs and is headed toward the Crag–an island prison from which no one escapes..
Part Three added some unusual pieces of humor and story that the rest of the book sorely lacked. It opens with a very lengthy story of an owl who is inspired to build a scale model of the Eiffel Tower (Ii enjoyed this part a lot). It suffers an ignoble fate because of the rise of the Dowager.
Then we see that the orphans and the remaining Chapeaux, who rescued Carol and Martha and have captured Roger Swindon, find themselves ensnared in a rope trap in Wildwood.
And that’s when we see that their captor is Curtis. I had been complaining to Sarah that Curtis was a great character, was instrumental in the first two books and that he hadn’t shown up yet. And here it is some 300 pages into the book before we first get a look at him? I was so frustrated by this.
All this time he has been hiding in the woods assuming that he is the only Wildwood bandit left alive. Well, him and Septimus the rat. There’s a very emotional reunion between Curtis and Elsie and Rachel, who weren’t sure Curtis was even alive. They’re also a a bit mad to see that he has been living out in the woods and never went back home (although they wouldn’t have been there anyhow).
Meanwhile, thanks to Zita, The Governess has become very powerful and she has sent shoots of ivy throughout the land to take over everything. All of Wildwood is overwhelmed by these snaking tendrils. There’s ivy creatures stomping around and ivy birds swooping around and she’s pretty much overtaking everything. Anyone overwhelmed by the ivy is put into a deep slumber. Prue is able to battle with the ivy a little with her powers–she can control ivy pretty easily–but this is powered by the Dowager so it is much harder–and she wears herself out in battle.
Once the orphans’ party gets close, a search party goes to Alexei’s grave to fetch his body. There they find Zita who is full of remorse for what she has done.
The ending is pretty satisfying, although one of the bad guys escapes (this is supposed to be a trilogy, there should be no loose ends). But overall, I wanted this to be so much more. I enjoyed the first two books, and it’s unfortunate that the finale didn’t keep the momentum of the first two.