There was a time when a band played one Tiny Desk Concert and that was it. That tradition has been broken twice before on special occasions. But this time, the distance between shows was just over a year. What gives?
Well, in addition to the band being pretty sick last time, The Oh Hellos have released The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album and are on the Christmas Extravaganza Tour. so what better group to do a holiday Tiny Desk Concert?
The band plays four songs. Their EP is full os interesting folky transitions that sound nothing like the main songs, but which flow into them seamlessly. Like “Deck the Halls” which has a rocking intro and rocking chords on the downbeats. There’s also fun bluegrass fiddles and banjo. I really like how the music of the song sounds so different from the traditional version and yet when they actually sing it, it is spot on.
Then a wild shift in tone to a beautiful acoustic rendition of “Mvmt III: “Silent Night, Holy Night”” sung by Maggie Heath. The opening guitar melody is really different and interesting–enticing and unexpectedly morphing into the traditional song. Once the main part of the song is done, they switch to a kind of oh ho oh ho chant–folky and warm.
For the next song Tyler says that its a tradition in their extended family that for the holidays they eat a lot and then break out the hand chimes. He says they are going to sing the one verse of “Jingle Bells” that everyone knows. Bob asks if there are more. Tyler’s not sure. They play some kind of hand bells (and Bob gets one too) while everybody sings.
The final track is “Mvmt IV: “Every Bell On Earth Will Ring.”” It opens with another cool rolling guitar intro on acoustic guitar which is followed by the electric guitar. And the song morphs into “Joy to the World.” The harmonies are outstanding. And once again, you’d never guess the song by the guitar parts. The middle rocks out in a very fun way until it shifts to a section of “I Saw Three Ships” sung by Maggie. With about 1 minute left snow starts falling from the ceiling as they shift to “O Come Let Us Adore Him.”
It’s a pretty fantastic Tiny Desk Holiday show. And their album seems like it might be a fun addition to any holiday music collection.
[READ: July 19, 2016] “Blue Roses”
I’ve never read anything by Hwang before so I don’t know what her stories are typically like. But this one has such a distinctive narrator that I wondered if she normally writes like this. The story is the first person from an older Taiwanese lady, Lin. She is opinionated and judgmental and, I think, most often wrong.
Linstarts by saying she had asked her daughter if she might invite her friend Wang Piesan over for Christmas Dinner. The daughter says she doesn’t know this woman, so no. This gets Lin so mad that she more or less refuses to talk to her daughter for most of the rest of the story.
It was bad enough that her daughter said no but then her husband suggested “if you want to invite her maybe you should host.” Lin is outraged: “I’ve waited your whole life for you to invite me to dinner. Now you want to take it back?” To make things worse her daughter called back the next day to ask if she would babysit that night. Lin is appalled: “She didn’t realize that anything had happened between us.”
Lin said no and also that she also wouldn’t be going to Christmas Dinner now.
Lin feels terribly used when she babysits. She then relates the time when she was babysitting and her granddaughter cried that her mom was gone. Lin told the girl that her own mother was also gone “I am sadder than you. Your mother is coming back in an hour. My mother has disappeared for good.”
Then we learn about Wang Peisan. She is an older woman, very frail and thin. She and Lin met at a banquet. Wang barely ate anything which the narrator felt was a travesty given the cost of the banquet. Meanwhile her husband was gorging himself.
After the diner they exchanged phone numbers although Lin assumed they’d never speak again. But Wang called her and so they met for lunch. Soon after Wang’s husband had a premonition of death and died. That was two years ago.
So Wang has been asking Lin to help with her with errands, especially driving. The first errand was grocery shopping–but Wang took so long to decide everything that Lin was too frustrated to stay.
Back in the present Lin’s other two children flew in for Christmas dinner. They went, but Lin stayed home as she said she would. The kids made fun of her for a lot of things, like her getting her eyebrows tattooed on–she had plucked them too much as a younger person and hated the work of drawing them in. When the children got back they said how much her lack of presence ruined the dinner and that the meat got overdone while they waited for her.
Two weeks after Christmas, Wang called Lin to have her take her to the doctor. The doctor diagnosed Wang and that where the title comes into play (a mishearing of word pluerosis).
The doctor insists Wang goes to the hospital and that the narrator take her right away. But they need to stop at Wang’s house first. And here is where some more details come to light.
The narrator reflects on Wang and on her own children. She longs for a break from all of them. Her son Andre is repelled by her: “mom you stink” he said. He claimed it was the lotion she used. Although, “No doubt the thought that he once lived inside my body disgusts him.” And Elizabeth resents her because there is nothing she can do to make her happy. But Eileen, the one with the dinner, has never been repelled by her or violent towards her.
The narrator’s husband tried to force a reconciliation but the mother fled, leaving Eileen crying on the lawn.
What does it take to make a stubborn woman reconcile with her daughter?
I was intrigued enough by this story–and the stubborn and demanding main character–that I wanted to read the interview with the author. And I was fascinated by this Q&A:
The main characters in your story “Blue Roses” are two women, Lin Fanghui and Wang Peisan, who have immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan and raised their children here. They are both stubborn, difficult, demanding, sometimes irrational—and yet one senses that you have a genuine affection for both of them. Is that true?
I sympathize with both characters actually. I can see why each is at fault, but at the same time I feel badly for both of them. No doubt the way Lin Fanghui responds seems unfair, out of proportion to what her daughter did. Yet Eileen is oblivious of her mother’s feelings, and her mother has to overreact in order to get her daughter’s attention. What triggers the fight is a small thing, but it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.