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Archive for the ‘Mona Awad’ Category

julyaugSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON, September 6, 2015).

06Sep2015Almost exactly one year ago, my family traveled to Toronto as a mini-vacation.  The impetus was my scoring tickets to see The Rheostatics live for the first for me (and potentially–but not in reality–last) time.

They had called it quits 8 years earlier and were reuniting for the 20th Anniversary of their Group of 7 album–a soundtrack of sorts that was created to celebrate the works of the great Group of 7 artists.  They were scheduled to perform three nights at the Art Gallery of Toronto.

I purchased tickets to the second night assuming that the first night they might be a little rusty and the final night they might be burnt out.  Well, it turns out, that was completely faulty logic.  The final night was outstanding (as this recording shows), not least because it was so much longer!

The quality of this recording is really good.  Dave is in fun form, commenting and joking with the audience.  At the end of “Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day),” the band goes a little nutty with noise and after the jazzy ending, Dave says that “playing fake jazz is way more fun than real jazz” because you gotta know stuff.

They thank everyone during this break.  Dave introduces Martin: “You got Martin Tielli back… look at a him, he’s a good boy.”  Someone shouts, “We miss you!” and Dave responds, “We miss you very much, especially you, sir, with the loud voice.”

As they’ve noted, the break here is because they’re playing the album as if it were two sides.  So do what ever you do between the two sides of records.  “urinate? I guess? or make a sandwich?” Kevin chimes in: “wash some dishes.”  “Look around outside make sure no one is stealing your stuff or inside in case you’re living with a dodgy housemate.”

Later, Dave sends a Hi “to the mother’s lounge up there.”  Tim’s mom and Dave’s mom are there.  Dave quips, “they’re in the mother’s lounge getting hammered.”

Each night there was a new piece of information added to the history oft he Go7 album. This night’s was a thank you to “Winchell Price, an artist friend of Don Kerr’s who did all of the spoken sections on the album.  (It was Don’s decision to add him to the record).  Price was vegan in 1919 totally ahead of the curve.  They are happy to raise the spirit and the ghost of the Go7–and their rebellious form of art when rebelliousness was discouraged in Canadian culture.

Before one of the songs Dave dedicates the night to his kids: “Lorenzo and Cecilia you weren’t here 20 years ago but you’re here now and life is beautiful because of it.”

The encores tonight were many: “Bad Time To Be Poor,” “Green Sprouts Theme,” “Stolen Car,” “Legal Age Life At Variety Store,” “Christopher,” “Claire” and “Horses.”

After a great version of “Bad Time to be Poor,” with cello and acoustic guitar, Dave introduces “The Professor Tim Vesely… now that Neil Peart has retired, Tim can become The Professor.”  Tim retorts, “I prefer the Mad Chap from Mississauga.” Dave: “That’s Don.  You’re from Etobicoke.”  Then they tell us, “Don was the mad chap on tour for… one hour.  Back in his neck beard days.  “I can’t believe we’re about to discuss the neck beard days–an underappreciated era.”

Dave notices someone whistling the Green Sprouts Theme Song, so the band plays it. And then they launch into a great version of “Stolen Car.”  “Legal Age Life,” is a lot of fun, of course, with everyone getting a solo.  And then after the disastrous “Christopher” the previous night, they played a near perfect “Christopher.”

Martin thanks everyone and says it “really meant a lot to us and to me, thanks a lot.” While Dave is thanking everyone involved with the shows, Kevin plays some nice “Oscar wrap up trills.”

Tim rather sheepishly tells everyone they’re going to play “Claire.”  Dave comments, “Tim is warning you that we’re going to do Claire–come on back in everyone.”  It’s a really great version, and I love that just before the solo, Dave says, “Martin, paint us a picture.”

And then they wrap up the night and the whole series with a blistering version of “Horses.”  During the middle section, Dave goes on a major rant about the upcoming election:

We must be free…. Imagine the beauty of October 20  Imagine a country where scientists keep their jobs for believing in science.  Imagine a country where the great first nations of our country don’t have to look over their shoulder at the prison cell behind them.  Imagine a country where the cops take orders from us not from some security company put in power by Stephen Harper, the most evil man in the history of Canada

And the crowd loves it.

But even more fun is that later that they’ll be at the Monarch Tavern.  If I had gone to this show instead of Saturday night’s, I totally would have gone to the Monarch which sounds like it was a blast and half.  The write up from the Rheostatics Live site notes:

After an amazing show Saturday night with some special moments at the end that most would never know occurred, [I wonder if the statute of limitations has run out so we can finally find out what happened that night?] the rheos came out tonight and played the best night of the 4 day GO7 run. GO7 was followed by Bad Time To Be Poor with Hugh Marsh on violin and Don on Cello, and impromptu version of Green Sprouts. Stolen Car, Legal Age Life, a redemptive Christopher and then a 2nd encore of Claire and Horses closed the 4 night run of rheos magic time machine glory at the AGO.

After that, around 12:30AM the band reconvened at The Monarch Tavern to play what was without a doubt the ending true fans were hoping for: a sloppy, magnificent set of hot bar room rheos songs that if it had to be the end was exactly the way they should go out. Song of Flight led into The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part 2 and Bridge Came Tumbling Down. After sorting out the monitor kinks they went into Soul Glue…. Kevin Hearn took them through I’m Waiting For My Man, Ring Of Fire, Monkeybird, and Lou Reed’s Down at the Arcade…. Northern Wish was absolutely slayed by Terra Lightfoot, and then Mike O’Brien did the same with We Went West. Selina Martin killed Dope Fiends and Mary Margaret O’Hara singing RDA….

Of course, I was long asleep by then. But I hope they keep doing little shows like this and one day I’ll get back up to Toronto to see one.

01. One (Kevin’s Waltz)   1:54
02. Two (Earth (Almost))   7:50
03. Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans))   7:16
04. Four (Landscape And Sky)   0:48
05. Five (Blue Hysteria)   3:40
06. Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day)   8:09
07. Chat   6:20
08. Seven (Northern Wish)   5:17
09. Eight (Snow)   4:10
10. Nine (Biplanes and Bombs)   5:38
11. Ten (Lightning)   8:20
12. Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun)   6:10
13. Bad Time To Be Poor   3:48
14. Chat and Thanks   1:46
15. Green Sprouts Theme   0:52
16. Stolen Car   6:01
17. Legal Age Life At Variety Store   5:13
18. Christopher   6:50
19. Claire   5:38
20. Horses   10:05

[READ: August 19, 2016] “Three Tshakapesh Dreams”

After the lighthearted love and lust theme of the summer issue of The Walrus, it was time for a story about drugs and death!  This one is set in Quebec and was translated from the French by Donald Winkler.

A boy, Simon, was found in the Frontenac Library with a needle sticking out of his arm.  Brisebois was the policeman who notified people of the death.  And he notified The Indian who was an undercover cop.  But the Indian said to Breisbois, “Simon may have had his faults but he knew how to shoot up.”

He made Breisbois check the stash.  It turned out to contain coke an almost pure heroin. (more…)

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julyaugSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON, September 4, 2015).

06Sep2015Almost exactly one year ago, my family traveled to Toronto as a mini-vacation.  The impetus was my scoring tickets to see The Rheostatics live for the first for me (and potentially–but not in reality–last) time.

They had called it quits 8 years earlier and were reuniting for the 20th Anniversary of their Group of 7 album–a soundtrack of sorts that was created to celebrate the works of the great Group of 7 artists.  They were scheduled to perform three nights at the Art Gallery of Toronto.

I purchased tickets to the second night assuming that the first night they might be a little rusty and the final night they might be burnt out.

Well, it turns out that the first night was really strong.  There are two recordings of the show on the Rheostatics Live site.  Obviously the content is the same, but the sound is different in each one.  (The Eric Mac Innis recording is quite muffled and bass heavy so you can’t really hear any of the spoken stuff).

The main content of the show-the music from the Group of 7 album is pretty consistent through all three nights.  It’s mostly the length that varies on a couple of tracks and some little details that change from night to night.  On this night for instance the opening speech that in which the man says “every Canadian” does not repeat like it does on the other nights.  It also seems like “Six (Cello for a Winter’s Day)” doesn’t get quite as crazy and loud before the “jazzy” section comes in.

Before they get to “Northern Wish,” Dave introduces “Northern Wish,” by talking about how he wrote it: “The amazing thing about Canada is that every time you leave the door an incredible impossible journey is waiting for you not far from your house.”

They didn’t play “Ten (Lightning)” the first night, so it’s fun to hear all of the audience whoops and wolf howls during the set.

Dave Bidini is in great banter mode, which is no surprise really.

He first starts talking after track six.  “Nice to see you again, you’ve all age well.”  After welcoming everyone he jokes “Really tonight’s about hooking up.  Last night as a bit of a meat market.”  This causes Martin to ask, incredulously, “you’re kidding.”

Upon introducing the record properly he says that this was “music commissioned 20 years ago–remember 1995?”  Someone shouts “Don’t forget the vinyl, Dave.”  So he jokes, “We’ve only been inactive for 8 years and in that time vinyl has made a resurgence.”

They only performed this album “four times over the course of their speckled career.”  Interesting that they will do it three more over the next three nights.

So that leaves the bonus tracks.  The first night they played four: “Claire,” “Easy To Be With You,” “Christopher” and “Horses.”

Before starting “Claire” there’s a little down time so Dave introduces Kevin Hearn and asks him what his favorite snack is.  Kevin: “Have you heard of ants on a log?”  Dave says his is a Cadbury Crunchy bar which “lasts a half hour if you nurse it.” MT: “What kind of chocolate bar eater are you?”  Then Dave asks, “Shall we go around the horn?” to much laughter.  He speculates, “Tim’s gonna say …”  But Tim says “home-grown carrots” which elicits an “ewww.”  Dave says, Tim you’ve changed so.”

As they start “Claire,” Martin introduces Hugh Marsh on the violin.  He says that at the first concert he ever went to Hugh was playing with Bruce Cockburn and now they are very very very close friends.”  He then mentions their other band, Nick Buzz (which Hugh plays in) and he says Nick Buzz “only played four gigs on our career.”  “Claire” is played wonderfully.  They talk about it being kind of obvious (“interesting because it’s totally obvious”) that they’d play it.  But “Easy to Be with You” a track from Harmelodia is a pretty surprising choice–a popular song sure, but certainly not a huge one.  Before the song, he sings Happy Birthday to him mom: “Happy birthday to Sheila / Happy birthday to my mom / She’s 75 years old  / and she’s standing right there.”  In the middle of the song Bidini comments that Stephen Harper is not the Prime Minster of Harmelodia (indeed, he is not).

Dave asks is anyone under the age of 7 is there.  Kevin says: “My dad’s here.”  Dave asks, “Is he a leap year baby?”  Then Kevin explains that it is his dad who is reading the “Tall White Pine” poem.  Then they ask Don if he has any family there.  Don says “All of them.” Dave says “Don’s four families are here.”

The Jeff Robson recording has some weird digital feedback and static.  It’s mostly during the chatting parts, but it does impact the songs a little.  There’s some static on “Christopher,” but otherwise it sounds pretty good.

Before “Horses”someone asks “who should we vote for?” Dave says “Never listen to a pop star when it comes to politics.  Tomorrow will be political night.”

And “Horses” is a dynamite version, notable mostly for the fact that Bidini doesn’t do a spoken word section in the middle of the song (keeping it unpolitical).

01. One (Kevin’s Waltz)   1:47
02. Two (Earth (Almost))   7:33
03. Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans))   6:16
04. Four (Landscape And Sky)   0:42
05. Five (Blue Hysteria)   4:33
06. Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day)   6:01
07. Chat   5:40
08. Seven (Northern Wish)   5:35
09. Eight (Snow)   1:18
10. Nine (Biplanes and Bombs)   6:13
11. Ten (Lightning)   6:30
12. Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun)   4:50
13. Clarie Intro   1:21
14. Claire   4:47
15. Chat   2:56
16. Easy To Be With You   3:32
17. Chat   3:19
18. Christopher   6:08
19. Horses   8:07

[READ: August 19, 2016] “Never Too Late”

The July/August Summer Reading Issue of The Walrus has a theme of “Love and Lust.”  The theme promised to be a bit more upbeat than the darker stories in the last few issues.

Bev is a man who is long divorced.  He couldn’t provide his wife with children so she left him.  He doesn’t seem very bitter about it and is even still friendly with her as well as her new husband and their children.

Bev owns a farm–he has some horses and cows.  On a cold morning in April, a strange dog appears on his property.  It’s a friendly dog but he wants to get it to its owner so he brings it into town and learns that it belongs to Janice and  “She loses her [dog] at least once a week.”

He goes to Janice’s house and she is very happy that Bev found “Keller.”  He brings the dog upstairs to her place and is surprised to see that she is in an electric wheelchair.  He notices that she is too young to be in it due to age.  And, she’s also very attractive. (more…)

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julyaugSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON, September 3, 2015–surprise show).

06Sep2015Almost exactly one year ago, my family traveled to Toronto as a mini-vacation.  The impetus was my scoring tickets to see The Rheostatics live for the first for me (and potentially–but not in reality–last) time.

They had called it quits 8 years earlier and were reuniting for the 20th Anniversary of their Group of 7 album–a soundtrack of sorts that was created to celebrate the works of the great Group of 7 artists.  They were scheduled to perform three nights at the Art Gallery of Toronto.  The night before their first show, Thursday the 3rd, there was a tribute show and the Rheos made a surprise appearance.

They played half of the Group of 7 album and a few encores.  The sound is a bit muted but is pretty clear.

The opening track, ” One (Kevin’s Waltz)” is played by Kevin Hearn and sounds great.  For the first proper band song, “Two (Earth (Almost))” they sound tight but maybe a little stiff in the bah bahs.  “Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans))” is a loose song and the band sounds great. Although I cannot believe that people are talking during the song–especially during Martin’s singing of “Five (Blue Hysteria)” the first time Martin has sung in years!

“Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day)” is usually a noisy/jazzy number.  The recording is a little too muffled to hear details, but the song sounds good, especially Martin’s guitar workout at the end. After this, they skip a few songs and go right to the end, with Kevin’s “Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun).”  Kevin’s voice sounds a little rough I must say.

And then they take time for a little chat with Dave, in which he says “We used to be the Rheostatics.”  And before returning to the album, he says “We’re here for three more night, try the veal.”

For “Northern Wish,” Don Kerr is on cello Tim is on upright bass, and it sounds great, a really beautiful version.

“You guys bought the cheap tickets, eh?  We’re gonna cheapen up this next song for you.  Martin comments “Let’s get fucking cheap.”  They’ll do one more song.  Dave says The other shows will be longer.  “But they’re fucking sold out–Stubhub, folks.”

Martin thanks Kristine Peters and clonazepam [ a seizure medicine, also called an anti-epileptic drug].  Dave jokes, “that’s Martin’s old band.”

As they play a gorgeous Saskatchewan, Dave notes, that it’s their “First time playing together in 8 years.”  Martin plays a slightly off chord and then comments “It’s been a long time.”  But his guitar sounds amazing throughout.

Before the final song, David says “because we can’t stop playing we’re gonna do one more–we gotta catch the last street car (someone in the audience yells “too late.”)  There are the perennial requests for “Horses” with someone shouting “Holy Mackinaw Joe,” but instead they play “Legal Age Life, with Paul Linklater (who played in the tribute show) to play some guitar.

I’m including the setlists from each night mostly for the duration of the songs–they did some versions longer than others, but were mostly right on time–(and to compare encore selections).

01. One (Kevin’s Waltz)   1:47
02. Two (Earth (Almost))   7:14
03. Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans))   6:47
04. Four (Landscape And Sky)   0:51
05. Five (Blue Hysteria)   3:43
06. Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day)   6:08
07. Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun)   3:32
08. Chat   1:09
09. Seven (Northern Wish)   5:25
10. Encore Chat   2:19
11. Saskatchewan   8:05
12. Encore Chat   1:35
13. Legal Age Life At Variety Store   4:14

[READ: August 19, 2016] “Bye Judy and Good Luck”

The July/August Summer Reading Issue of The Walrus has a theme of “Love and Lust.”  The theme promised to be a bit more upbeat than the darker stories in the last few issues.

This is the story about “Fun-Sized” Judy.  She’s called “Fun-Sized” because of her height: “she’s no more than four-foot eleven, probably twice as wide.”  And, most importantly “None of us would ever fuck her, but we all agree she’s a riot.”

The “none of us” part is interesting because the whole story is written in second person.  as the song progresses it’s unclear if the “we” refers to a group (at times it seems like it) or a single person speaking as a group (which seems more likely at the end).

So despite her unattractiveness, Judy is enjoyed by just about everyone: Judy is a lot of fun, “one of the reasons we love her…. she never knows what she’s thinking.” (more…)

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janfebSOUNDTRACK: TANYA TAGAQ-“Uja” and “Umingmak” live at the Polaris Music Prize (2014).

tanyaTanya Tagaq won the Canadian Polaris Prize this year.  Tagaq is a Canadian (Inuk) throat singer from Cambridge Bay (Ikaluktuutiak), Nunavut, Canada who at age 15, went to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories to attend high school where she first began to practice throat singing.  Mostly I included that so I could have the word Ikaluktuutiak in a post.  She is the first native Canadian to win the prize.

Tagaq sings in a gutteral throat singing style combined with some more traditional high-pitched notes.  She has worked with Mike Patton and extensively with Björk.  Most of her songs don’t have lyrics per se, and the album that won the prize is called Animism.

This is a live broadcast of her set which has been describes as truly mesmerizing in person.  It is certainly mesmerizing in video–marveling that the woman can sound so possessed  and yet so clearly in control.

At 1:38 when the backing vocalists (who were shrouded in darkness sing out, it’s quite startling.  I don’t know when the first song ends and the second begins, but at 3:48. when the drums start a regular beat, you can hear a sense of commercial rock amidst the avant garde music.   Around 5 minutes the music drops away and when Tagaq sings briefly in her non-throat voice she sounds almost childish. But when the throaty growls returns, it’s a bit scary, frankly.

Tagaq has talked about bringing the sensuality of throat singing out into the public and by 7 minutes, the sensuality is right there on the stage.  By the end, when she is screaming her lungs out, it has to have been really intense in the theater.  And her wold howl at the end is uncanny.

Clearly not to everyone’s taste, but probably not lie anything else you’ll hear all day.  And unlike anything you’d hear at the Grammy’s.

[READ: January 2, 2015] “Beyond the Shore”

This is  brief story about competitiveness at the gym.  It’s the kind of story that is probably acted out in gyms across the country and one which shouldn’t have been all that interesting, but Awad chose an interesting setting and characters to flesh this out.

I also enjoyed that the title has nothing to do with the action of the story.  Rather, it refers to the place where they live: “Beyond the Shore, a gated-living community that has nothing to do with California (we are nowhere near California), the apartment building which overlooks the Malibu Club Spa and Fitness Centre.”  Each morning when the narrator wakes up, she can see from her bedroom window that Char, an extremely depressingly fit woman, is already working out ion the gym. And most of the time she is working out on Lifecycle One, the very machine that the narrator has signed up for in fifteen minutes.

This wouldn’t be a problem except that in fifteen minutes, the narrator, who is not in peak physical shape will get to the gym and Char will still be in mid-routine with no intention of stopping.  When the narrator approaches Char, Char says she’s almost done (even though she ‘s already over by five minutes) and then mutters a nasty name about the narrator under her breath.  Often by the time Char gets off, the narrator has but 24 minutes in her time slot before the cardio group comes in next. (more…)

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walrusjulySOUNDTRACK: POND-“Giant Tortoise” (2013).

pondWhen I first listened to this song I wasn’t all that excited by it.  In part I’ll admit it’s because I was listening with only one earbud (a work hazard).  When I was finally able to listen with both earbuds, the song grew exponentially, turning it from a kind of mundane classic rocker into a trippy psychedelic classic rocker.

There’s not much strikingly original about this song–the sound is totally retro, the riffs are pretty simple, even the recording technique is nothing all that exciting.  And yet when you put it all together in this big soundscape, the song is much more than the sum of its parts.

The guitars are big and expansive like their native Australia, the vocals are soft and processed, and the ending instrumental section is very trippy.  Oh, and three of the members of Pond are also in Tame Impala.  Not a bad side project at all.

[READ: July 15, 2013] “When We Went Against the Universe”

In this story, two girls play a game in which they ask the universe questions and do whatever the universe dictates.  The game, which they call Fate Papers, is very simple.  They take two scraps of paper and write Yes on one and No on the other.  One of the girls holds out her hands and lets the scraps drop.  Whichever lands first is what they do.  And they never go against the universe.

The girls live in Mississauga (which they call Misery Saga) and they have done everything that young teens can do that summer–they’ve eaten all the snacks, hung out at all the places, even talked about everything they could ever want to talk about.

The girls go to McDonald’s and get McFlurrys.  When they are about to leave, Mel, the more daring of the two, says that the three businessmen sitting at the other table were checking her out.  She says she has been emanating sex all day and these men responded.  And so Mel proposes that they should offer to suck off the men for money–at least $50 each.  The narrator goes along assuming that nothing will come of it.  But Mel is serious.  She imagines just how much they could get from each of them (even more because they are virgins).  And she drags the narrator to the bathroom so they can make sure they look good and to see if they guys checked them out as they walked past.

When the narrator realizes that Mel is serious, she says it’s time to do Fate Papers.  The papers say Yes. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra-Kollpas Tradixionales (2010).

Silver Mt. Zion are back!  And they are noisy!

This disc continues their fine output of haunting, rambling epics.  The opener is a 15 minute slow builder called “There is a Light” and the finale is a 14 minute story called “‘Piphany Rambler.”  In between we have  a couple of multi-part tracks: “I Built Myself a Metal Bird” and “I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds” which are some of the fastest tracks they’ve recorded.  The other “suite” is 3 versions (and spellings) of the title track.

The one consistent thing about Silver Mt . Zion (in whatever version of their name they employ) is that they write incredibly passionate music.  It’s often raw and it swells and ebbs with feeling.  I especially enjoy the (multiple) climaxes that fill all of the longer songs.  And when the band brings in the horns and the strings and the whole group sings along, it’s very affecting.

The one thing that I’m still not totally on board with is Efrim’s voice.  On previous releases, I bought it because he sounded very angsty, but I’m starting to think that the tenor of his voice just doesn’t work with the bombast of the music.  When the backing singers chime in, the sound is glorious, but I find his voice to be simply the wrong sound.  There’s a few parts on the disc where he sings in a lower, softer register, and I found them really moving.  I think if he sang all of the parts like that, they would impact the songs more strongly (and maybe even be more understandable).

I realize that the vocals are an essential part to the disc, and I definitely get used to them after a few listens, I just feel like the whole disc (and not just the music) would be amazing if Efrim used that deeper register more.

Nevertheless, the music is really fantastic, and if you buy the LP, you get some great artwork, too.

[READ: May 13, 2010] McSweeney’s 34

After the enormous work of Panorama, (McSweeney’s newspaper (Issue 33)), they’ve returned with a somewhat more modest affair.  Two slim books totaling about 400 pages  Each is a paperback. The first is a collection of short stories artwork, etc.  The second is  nonfiction work about Iraq.  Both books are bound together in a clear plastic slipcover (with a fun design on it).  [UPDATE: I cannot for the life of me out the books back in the cover.  They simply will not sit without ripping the plastic.  Boo!]

The first collection opens with a Letters column, something that we haven’t seen in years!  And, as with the old letters column, the letters are absurd/funny/thoughtful and sometimes just weird. (more…)

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