Archive for the ‘Stephen King’ Category


This song is somewhat legendary among Rheostatics stories.  I’m not really sure when they wrote it (a long time ago).  I’m not even sure if there’s more to it than this verse.  Every time I’ve heard it played it has lasted about a minute.

It’s a simple guitar riff with some quite ridiculous lyrics

Don’t look at me with your Halloween eyes Awhoooo
Don’t hit me with your pumpkin pies Awhoooo
Devil’s got horns, devil’s got a tail–666, gonna fuck you up
Some people say that he got scales—666, you’re a sitting duck
Awhooo Awhoo etc etc.

They play it live from time to time (as recently as 2017) and each time they play it they seem to add to the mythology

“These guys really were stoned when they wrote that.”

Is it scary?  Nope.  Is it safe to add to a party playlist?  Nope.  Is it dumb?  Yup.  Do they know that?  Yup.  Is it fun anyway?  Yup.  Sounds like Halloween to me.

[READ: October 20, 2018] “Gray Matter”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)


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thrilignSOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-Tiny Desk Concert #545(June 30, 2016).

adiaAdia Victoria has a rough, raw voice that goes well with her simple, exposed guitar sound.  The blurb says her music “carries the singular perspective of a Southern black woman with a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, who never felt like she’d fit in.”

She sings three song, mostly in a great, raspy voice.  For “Stuck in the South” she actually seems to be gritting her teeth as she sings: “I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”  When the first verse ends, and her band kicks in, it adds such interesting textures.  a distorted bass and a lead guitar playing quietly distorted sounds.  This song is really captivating.

“And Then You Die” with its swirling sounds and keyboards has a very distinctly Nick Cave feel–gothic in the Southern sense of the word.  Indeed, the first verse is spoken in a delivery that would make Nick proud. This is no to say she cribbed from Cave but it would work very well as a companion song  I really like the way it builds, but the ending is so abrupt–I could have used some more verses.

After the second song the band heads away and Bob says “They’re all leaving you.”  She looks at them and growls, “Get off the stage!” to much laughter.

She sings the final song “Heathen” with just her on acoustic guitar.  It is a simple two chord song.  It’s less interesting than the others, but again, it’s the lyrics that stand out: “I guess that makes me a heathen, something lower than dirt / I hear them calling me heathen, ooh like they think it hurts.”

I’m curious to hear just what Adia would do with these songs when she’s not in this Tiny format.  I imagine she can be really powerful.

[READ: November 23, 2016] McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

For some reason or another I have put off reading this McSweeney’s volume for many years.  This is technically McSweeney’s #10, although it was also released in this printing from a  major publisher. Sadly for me, my McSweeney’s subscription had expired sometime around here so I’ve never actually seen the “official” Volume 10 which I understand has the exact same content but a slightly different cover.

One of the reasons I’ve put off reading this was the small print and pulpy paper–I don’t like pulpy paper.  And it was pretty long, too.

But I think the big reason is that I don’t really like genre fiction.  But I think that’s the point of this issue.  To give people who read non-genre fiction some exposure to genre stuff.

Interestingly I think I’ve learned that I do enjoy some genre fiction after all.  And yet, a lot of the stories here really weren’t very genre-y.  Or very thrilling.  They seemed to have trappings of genre ideas–mystery, horror–but all the while remaining internal stories rather than action-packed.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy anything here. I enjoyed a bunch of the stories quite a bit, especially if I didn’t think of them as genre stories.  Although there were a couple of less than exiting stories here, too. (more…)

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march9SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Hillside Festival 20th Anniversary, Guelph ON, July 7, 2003 (2003).

hillUntil recently this was the only Rheostatics show listed on the live website for 2003 (a bunch have recently been added).  And there are none for 2002.  I don’t actually know if they didn’t tour much in 2002 or what.

But this is a fun set (and is just barely over an hour) with lot of guests and an interesting selection of songs.

The start with “Self Serve Gas Station,” and then “Song of the Garden” (since Kevin Hearn is with them and later “Monkeybird” too) and “P.I.N.”  Then they play “Marginalized,” the first time I’ve heard them play it live.  Tim says he wrote it the night George W. Bush was elected.

Since Kevin is therer, they play a Group of 7 medley.  I recognize “Wieners and Beans,” “Blue Hysteria” and “Yellow Days Under a Lemon Sun.”  Lewis Melville guests “on the ocean” for “California Dreamline,”  There’s a nice referential moment when the line “all the naked ladies” makes Dave comment “Steve, Ed, Kev, Tyler.”

More guests come out for”Claire” Chris Brown and Kate Fenner offer backing vocals.  And there’s a mellowish version of “Stolen Car” that is pretty cool.

“Horses” is a fun version since every guest gets to take a solo.  And at the end, Dave asks Martin to “ride the wild donkey” so instead of making horse sounds from his guitar he makes donkey sounds. How??

The set ends with a rollicking encore of Jane Siberry’s “One More Colour,” a rare treat.  This is a great show.

[READ: April 10, 2015] “A Death”

I loved this story.  King sets it in the past (the location they are in is soon to become a state: “although we are not one of the United States just yet, we soon will be”), in a place which I assumed was Maine since he writes so much about Maine, but which I see mentions Fort Pierre which is in South Dakota, so which makes more sense.

It is a deceptively simple story.  A girl has been killed.  The sheriff has a suspect.  The townsfolk assume the suspect did it.  So what’s the problem?

As the story opens, Jim Trusdale is working in his yard when the sheriff comes up to his house and  arrests him. Jim says he ain’t never heard of the girl who was killed.  The sheriff asks where his hat is and Jim can’t account for it.  That’s enough for the sheriff.

Turns out it was the girl’s birthday.  She was given a silver dollar.  Later that day she was found dead and Jim’s hat was found on her person. (more…)

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houseSOUNDTRACK: LAURA VEIRS-Tiny Desk Concert #49 (March 1, 2010).

lauraI have decided to contradict myself.  I simply cannot keep up with the regular release of Tiny Desk Concerts (sometimes 3 a week), so I’m going to focus on these older recordings for a while and occasionally devote a week or two to new ones.  we’ll see how that works out.

I only know Laura Veirs’ name, but not really anything she’s done.  So I wasn’t really sure what her “solo” work would sound like.  Well, she has a delightful voice and she writes really pretty songs.

She also offers one of the most dramatic screw ups I’ve seen in a live performance. She opens her song “Carol Kaye” with this lovely melody–just her and her guitar.  And then after about a minute, her band comes in with a beautiful harmony–in the wrong key!  The introduction of their voices is so dramatic (to go from her gentle voice to this huge chorus) was really amazing.  So much so that I didn’t quite realize they were in the wrong key at first.  Turns out that Laura put her capo on the wrong fret and it wasn’t until the keyboardist played the right note that they all sounded off.  And his mouth drops opens as he stares at Laura.  She laughs and says “you looked like this terrified Muppet.”

They play the song again, this time perfectly–and the harmonies are truly lovely.  As is the violin that swirls throughout the song.

“When You Give Your Heart” is another lovely song in which Viers’ voice and the violin play the same lilting melody.

“Sun is King” has some more lovely (that’s the word to describe her, clearly) harmonies–she has picked a tremendous backing band.  And they sound great in this small setting.

It’s hard to believe that the whole set (miscue and all) is only ten minutes long.

[READ: May 1, 2015] House of Leaves

I read this book when it came out in 2000.  I had the “2 Color” edition which the t.p,. verso explains has as features: “either house appears in blue or struck passages and the word minotaur appear in red (I had the blue version).  No Braille.  Color or black & white plates.”

The Full Color edition (which is the same price, amazingly) differs in this way:

  • The word house in blue, minotaur and all struck passages in red
  • The only struck line in Chapter XXI appears in purple
  • XXXXXX and color plates

So basically the full color edition isn’t really that big a deal although the three or four full color plates are much nicer.

Why do I have both?  Well, I bought the two color when it came out and then I won a free book at the library and there was this full color edition, so I brought it home.  I was amused to find that the previous owner had deciphered a clue in the back of the book (the first letters of sentences spell out a secret message).  She (it looks like woman’s handwriting) wrote out the secret message, which I appreciated as I didn’t feel like figuring it out.


This book had a huge impact on me when I read it.  Although I forgot a lot of the details, the overwhelming effect of the book has stayed with me an I never forgot the central conceit of a house that opened secret passages and expanded or contracted at will.  For, make no mistake about all of the accolades, this is a horror story.  One accolade, from Bret Easton Ellis: “One can imagine Thomas Pynchon, J.G. Ballard. Stephen King and David Foster Wallace bowing at Danielewski’s feet, choking with astonishment, surprise, laughter awe.” [Ellis will not be bowing apparently, and actually I can’t imagine Pynchon bowing before anyone].  It’s a very cool horror story with all kind of textual experimentation and twists and turns, but it’s still a pretty damned scary story.

The experiments are many and varied and they begin right from the start, as the title page lists Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves by Zampanò with an introduction and notes by Johnny Truant. The forward from the editors notes: “The first edition of House of Leaves was privately distributed and did not contain Chapter 21, Appendix II, Appendix III or the index.

This is all nonsense of course. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WOODEN SHJIPS-Live on KEXP, August 7, 2011 (2011).

while ago I reviewed an Earth concert and while I felt like I should have liked them, I didn’t like them as much as I anticipated.  Well, Wooden Shjips (no idea what’s up with that “j”) sounds like I would have liked Earth to sound–a bit faster and yet still ponderous   They play with really distorted guitars and heavy bass, but their songs aren’t terribly fast or anything.   The thing that sets them apart is the keyboard–loud droney keyboards that take a kind of lead role and add a weird sort of retro feel to the heavy proceedings.  Indeed, even the voice is fuzzed out and echoey, making the keyboard one of the few clean sounds in the show.

As befits droney metal bands, all of these songs are long.  The first two “Lazy Bones” and “Black Smoke Rise” are over four minutes while the final two “Home” and “Flight” are over 5 and nearly 7 minutes respectively.

Lazy Bones is dominated by a spacey keyboard riff and vocals that are echoed almost into oblivion, reminding me of a kind of mid 70s Black Sabbath (if Ozzy’s voice was deeper).  The riffs on “Home” and Flight” sounds like we’re in for some real classic rock, but again that droney keyboard (which also sounds retro but in a different way) mixes with the heavy distorted guitar in a new way.  I’m intrigued to hear more from them.

Rock out here.

[READ: November 15, 2012] “Batman and Robin Have an Altercation”

I’m always surprised to see a Stephen King story in say Harper’s or the New Yorker.  Not because he’s not good, but because he’s such a famous genre writer (and he certainly doesn’t need the exposure).   I don’t even think of him as a short story writer, really.  I wonder how he gets his stories in these magazines?  Does he get vetted?

Well, this story was really enjoyable and if I hadn’t known it was Stephen King, I never would have guessed.

The first 3/5 of the story are about Dougie Sanderson and his Pop.  Pop is in an old age home, suffering from Alzheimer’s. They have a routine, which is easy enough for Dougie  to do, even if to his father it’s new every time.  Dougie visits every week, they go Applebee’s, and they come home.  This depends, of course, on how good Pop is doing that day–as long as he’s fairly lucid and isn’t cursing out everyone in sight.

What I appreciated about this story was that Pop has moments of incredible lucidity that can be immediately followed by moments of utter confusion   Like when Pop calls him Reggie (Dougie’s brother who died forty-five years ago in a car accident .  But the moments of lucidity are nice for Dougie–although they’re not encouraging exactly, because most days he guiltily admits that he wishes things would end sooner rather than later.

The Batman and Robin of the title refer to a Halloween costume that Dougie ad Pop wore when Dougie was little.  Indeed, Pop remembers it very well, “Halloween, you dummy.  You were eight, so it was 1959.  You were born in ’51.”  Pop even adds a detail that Dougie didn’t remember: that Norma Forester looked at Dougie and said “trick or treat” and then looked at Pop and said “trick or drink” and offered him a bottle of Shiner’s.  Dougie is silent–amazed at the memory.  Then Pop says “she was the best lovin’ I ever had.”  Dougie doesn’t know whether to believe this or not thinking, “They hurt you….  They may not mean to, but they do….  There’s no governor on them, no way of separating the stuff that’s okay to talk about from the stuff that isn’t.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-Other Truths [CST062] (2009).

I’ve always enjoyed Do Make Say Think’s CDs.  They play instrumentals that are always intriguing and which never get dull.

But this CD far exceeds anything they have done so far (and  they’ve done some great work).   There are only four tracks, and they range from 8 to 12 minutes long.  Each track is named for a word in the band’s name: Do, Make, Say, Think.  And each one is a fully realized mini epic.

“Do” sounds like a gorgeous Mogwai track.  While “Make” has wonderfully diverse elements: a cool percussion midsection and a horn-fueled end section that works perfectly with the maniacal drumming.  “Say” is another Mogwai-like exploration, although it is nicely complemented by horns.  It also ends with a slow jazzy section that works in context but is somewhat unexpected. Finally, “Think” closes the disc with a delightful denouement.  It’s the slowest (and shortest) track, and it shows that even slowing down their instrumentals doesn’t make them dull.

It’s a fantastic record from start to finish.  This is hands down my favorite Constellation release in quite some time.

[READ: December 2009 – January 13, 2010] McSweeney’s #33.

The ever-evolving McSweeney’s has set out to do the unlikely: they printed Issue #33 as a Sunday Newspaper.  It is called The San Francisco Panorama and, indeed, it is just like a huge Sunday newspaper. It has real news in (it is meant to be current as of December 7, 2009).  As well as a Sports section, a magazine section and even comics!

[DIGRESSION] I stopped reading newspapers quite some time ago.  I worked for one in college and have long been aware that the news is just something to fill the space between ads.  I do like newspapers in theory, and certainly hope they don’t all go away but print issues are a dying breed.  When I think about the waste that accompanies a newspaper, I’m horrified.  Sarah and I even did a Sunday New York Times subscription for a while, but there were half a dozen sections that we would simply discard unopened.  And, realistically that’s understandable.  Given how long it took me  to read all of the Panorama, if you actually tried to read the whole Sunday paper, you’d be finished the following Sunday (or even two Sundays later).

Their lofty goal here was to show what print journalism can still do. And with that I concur heartily.  Even if I don’t read the newspaper, the newspapers as entities are worth saving.  Because it is pretty much only print journalism that finds real, honest to God, worthy news stories.  TV news is a joke.  There is virtually nothing of value on network TV.  Fox News is beyond a joke.  CNBC is sad (although Rachel Maddow is awesome!) and even CNN, the originator of all of this 24 hour news nonsense still can’t fill their airtime with non-sensationalized news.

Obviously, there are some decent internet sites, but for the most part they don’t have the budget to support real news investigation.  You either get sensationalized crap like Drudge or rebroadcasts of real news.

So, print is the last bastion of news.  And you can see that in journalistic pieces in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Walrus, Prospect and, yes, in newspapers.

But enough.  What about THIS newspaper?  Oh and unlike other McSweeney’s reviews I’ve done, there is NO WAY that I am writing a thorough comment on everything in here.  There’s just way too much.  Plus, there are many sections that are just news blurbs.  Larger articles and familiar authors will be addressed, however.  [UPDATE: January 18]: If, however, like Alia Malek below, you bring it to my attention that I’ve left you out (or gotten something wrong!) drop me a line, and I’ll correct things.

There is in fact a Panorama Information Pamphlet which answers a lot of basic questions, like why, how and how often (just this once, they promise!). There’s also a Numbers section which details the size, scope and cost of making this (it shows that with an initial start up, anyone could make a newspaper if they talked enough about what the readers were interested in). (more…)

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17Many many years ago, I discovered Might magazine.  It was a funny, silly magazine that spoofed everything (but had a serious backbone, too).  (You can order back issues here).  And so, I subscribed around issue 13.  When the magazine folded (with issue 16–and you can read a little bit about that in the intro to Shiny Adidas Track Suits) it somehow morphed into McSweeney‘s, and much of the creative team behind Might went with them.

The early volumes (1-5 are reviewed in these pages, and the rest will come one of these days) are a more literary enterprise than Might was.  There’s still a lot of the same humor (and a lot of silliness), but there are also lengthy non-fiction pieces.  The big difference is that McSweeney’s was bound as a softcover book rather than as a magazine. And, I guess technically it is called Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern as opposed to Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. (more…)

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