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Archive for the ‘Babies’ Category

McSweeney’s 49: Cover Stories: Contemporary writers reimagining classic tales (2017)

SOUNDTRACKBIG K.R.I.T.-Tiny Desk Concert #714 (March 5, 2018).

A while back I downloaded one of Big K.R.I.T.’s mixtapes and rather liked it.  Since then he seems to have become pretty huge and I feel like he has really expanded on his style.

K.R.I.T. sings/raps three songs from his new album.

4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, a double album in which he covers everything from blessings to depression while plumbing the carnal and spiritual depths of his own duality. All three songs performed here come from side two, titled after his birth name Justin Scott.

The first song “Mixed Messages” is really thoughtful.  He sings and raps

I gotta whole lotta mixed messages / in my songs am I wrong / to feel this way
I got me a lover but I still wanna cheat / I wanna be saved but its fuck the police
i never really liked the fake shit / but I’m attracted to the fake ass and fake tits
i really wanna sing but id better rap

K.R.I.T.’s backing band, which includes Burniss Travis II on bass and Justin Tyson on drums, also features on keys Bryan Michael Cox — the hitmaking producer and songwriter behind a slew of Billboard chart-toppers. Together, the trio delivers stripped-down versions of the latest thought-provoking material in Big K.R.I.T.’s catalog.

Introducing the second song, “Keep The Devil Off” he says his grandmother introduced him to gospel.  She brought him to church and “she would wake me up when i fell asleep saying wake up you gotta hear this.”  He sings beautifully.  And then the rapped verses are really well structured.

And when he stops to pay homage to his church-going grandmother before performing “Keep The Devil Off,” it’s clear that everything she instilled in him is keeping him alive, too.

Definitely in these times we need to keep the negativity away–keep the devil off.

His grandmother was clearly very important to him.

Big K.R.I.T. has kept her spirit alive through his music since his breakout mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, which he released in 2010, the same year she died.  So it only makes sense that he would bring her with him for his Tiny Desk concert.

Halfway through his three-song set at NPR Music headquarters, K.R.I.T. stops to pull out an old-school tape recorder — the same one his grandmother would use to record him singing and reciting poetry as a child. “I have to feel like my grandmother was my first mix engineer,” he says before pressing play to reveal him and his brother as kids singing a duet of R&B crooner Donell Jones’ 1999 slow burner, “Where I Wanna Be.”

He plays the tape and cracks up listening to it.  He gets the audience to sing the refrain with his younger sell.  And then his grandmother introduces he and his brother as an R&B singer, “but I’m sticking with the rap thing.”

It’s a sublime interlude — one that resonated so strongly with K.R.I.T. that he had to start his last song, “Bury Me In Gold,” over to catch the proper beat. “I’m super emotional from this, too,” he says, laughing in a moment so genuine it was only right to leave it unedited.

He says “Bury Me in Gold” is not about gold really, it’s about having something so that in the event he gets to heaven he’ll give everything away.

He tells us to remember that peace of mind and your soul are more important than gold.

I’ve always enjoyed thought provoking rap and K.R.I.T.’s lyrics combined with his voice really work wonders.

[READ: May 29, 2017] McSweeney’s 49

It has been a long time (three years or so) since the previous McSweeney’s volume.  During that silence, the publishing house went non-profit and that seems to have taken up a lot of their resources.  They even address this a bit in the interdiction to this book.

But regardless of the reasons why, it is great to have them back.

As the subtitle says, this is a book of “cover stories.” What that means is a little vague–the contemporary writers model their story after a classic story.  I try to compare it to music covers, although in music covers the music and words are typically the same with some kind of variations.  Typically, the words are the same but the music is different.  I liked to flip this idea on its head for describing these stories in that the words are different by the music is the same.

Since I don’t know most of the original stories here I don’t know how similar these are to the originals–same character names?  Same ideas?  Same plot?  I don’t know.  And perhaps it would affect the way I read these stories if I was familiar with theory original pieces.  But without knowing them, these just turned out to be good stories from good writers.

Interspersed between the stories were poems and, in a wonderful commentary on our current shitty president and the cowardly house of representatives who on the day I finished this voted to strip 24 million people of health care, are comparisons of classic historical figures’ speeches with the petty garbled tweets of out current crap in chief.  Can we impeach this motherfucker already?  And send the whole lot of them to jail, please.  #ITMFA

As many McSweeney’s do, this one opens with letters.  And of course they aren’t really letters at all, even if they are addressed to McSweeney’s.  Many deal with cover songs, but a few are much more serious, political and right on.

WAJAHAT ALI writes from Camp FDR in Washington DC where he and his fellow prisoners were finally able to cobble together WiFi.  Ali explains that the Executive Order was inevitable the ban, the vetting, the registry were all just prelude. The need to protect against terrorism outweighs the individual rights and the rights of American Muslims…read the Supreme Court decision.

NICK JAINA writes about the Sept 23, 1970 episode of The Johnny Cash Show in which Ray Charles appears and plays “Walk the Line” and then “Ring of Fire.”  The letter states that the creator of “Ring of Fire” is actually mis-attributed.  The story is that June Carter wrote it after seeing a page in her uncle’s book of Elizabethan poetry.  But Johnny first wife claims that Johnny wrote it while drunk about a certain female body part: “all those years of her claiming she wrote it and she probably never knew what the song was really about.”  Then it reverts back to Ray Charles’ performance with an unseen band playing behind him–especially a great baseline–and as the song ends he lets out one last shudder and cackle like he just invented the orgasm.  “Johnny returns to the stage looking like a man who just watched someone have sex with his wife but was so in awe of how good he was at it that he could only thank him.”

ROBIN TERRELL talks about trumpmania in the Czech Republic from the perspective of a black woman, lesbian, child of civil rights activists, mother of a black man living in Prague.  The look in the eyes of people after the election: The U.S. is going to fuck us over again.  It stunned Europeans that the U.S. could generate someone fouler than Europe’s own crop of white male extremists.  She is now a refugee from her own country.  #RESIST #ITMFA

KIMBERLY HARRINGTON says she always believed that even in the darkest times humor has its place.  But lately she’s been bursting into tears rather than cracking a smile.  She hopes she can find things to laugh at–even death in these horrible times.

MARY MILLER says that for the longest time she thought her uncles wrote “Stagger Lee.”  Her uncles were musicians who wrote songs but also threw some covers into their shows.  She believed that “Stagger Lee” was one of theirs. She realizes that they are not famous and that no one will remember them–but she promises them that she will remember them.

RICK MOODY writes at length about Elektra’s 1990 tribute album Rubaiyat: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary.  I remember it coming out and I remember not getting it because it was too expensive. But Moody talks about what a great conceit this collection was to have contemporary artists cover classic songs.  He also talks about how the tribute album was quite popular in the 1990s (was it ever).  Some thought: He loves Bjork, but he thinks of the Sugarcubes as a cheeseball imitation of the B-52s (and that their “Motorcycle Mama” is pretty bad.  He mentions a few great tracks, like Kronos Quartet covering “Marquee Moon,” Metallica doing “Stone Cold Crazy,” and even a Howard Jones cover of “Road to Cairo” by the cult hero David Ackles.   But he says fully half of the collection is bad, some of it even awful–not worth its list price at the time but it has a great number of masterpieces on it.

Will Buttler (from Arcade Fire) wishes to make some amusing corrections: some errors during concerts, and apologizing for singing “I’m So Bored” with the USA because he is not.

ARIEL S. WINTER-This is an interesting philosophical question wondering whether or not Marty McFly actually created “Johnny B. Goode.”  How could he cover it before Chuck Berry had released the original.  As a child this blew her mind.  This facile beginning then goes on to say that before recorded music the notion of a cover didn’t really exist.  And indeed in the 1950s people recorded songs without concern for copyright.  It’s also true that when Chuck Berry plays Johnny B. Goode live, it’s not considered a cover of his original.  She concludes by that the Back to the Future is probably the first time she ever heard Johnny B. Goode.  So Marty McFly’s is the original to her (as it is to all the kids at the dance).  So in addition to a song having an original for the performer there is also an original for the listener.  Anyone who has loved a song for years before finding out that it’s a cover has had that experience.

INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITORS

This introduction talks about how the first time they did a “cover story” was in 1999 in issue 4.  Rick Moody covered Sherwood Anderson’s “The Egg.”  They had been planning to do an entire issue of covers as far back as two years ago and then things happened in the McSweeney’s universe to delay it.  And now : this issue is being born in a moment of racial, social and economic reckoning and imminent fascism…into a country that looks much different from the one in which it began, fronted now by a mean and disingenuous imitation of a president.   As such: Tucked between these thirteen beautiful renditions of thirteen classic stories are instances when a cover is not an homage but rather a perversion of its predecessor”  And by that they offer examples of eloquent speeches by former leaders and then tweets from our pervert in chief.

GARY BURDEN-excerpt from Nobody Knows (an autobiography)

Gary Burden created the cover images for this issue.  I had no idea who he was, but this autobiography tells me just how interesting a fellow he was.  He has been responsible for some of the most iconic album covers of the last 60 years!

These excerpt shows his origin story–he was 8 on December 7, 1941 and he has had vivid memories of WWII.  When he was 16 he joined the Marines.  But he was restless, got involved in bad things, was dishonorably discharged and got mixed up with even worse people (he says he can’t believe the things he did back then).  In 1964 he met “Mama” Cass Elliot. They spent a lot of time together and this opened him up to meeting all kinds of people: David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash.  Eventually he met and hung out with Jim Morrison and designed Morrison Hotel (a fascinating story that).  In one of the nicer things I’ve heard someone say he says that Jim was a real poet, someone who was unafraid of delving deeply into life irrespective of the personal cost.  Then he met Neil Young. He says that Buffalo Springfield has been his favorite band and then one day Neil came to Mama Cass’ house in his 1948 Buick Hearse.  He was also hanging around when CSN decided to become CSN&Y and then he and Neil became friends. and Neil sold him his house in Topanga.  Eventually he made the cover art for After the Gold Rush (and he gives a little story about the old lady there on the cover).  I’m kind of curious to read this whole book now, especially if it includes album covers.

EMILY RABOTEAU-“The Babysitter” after “Some Women” by Alice Munro
This is the story of a babysitter for Mrs Fagan.  She is a young girl and her employer is very rich and locally famous.  And quite eccentric (she went to East Africa and allegedly witness the Ark of the Covenant and then wrote a controversial book about it).  But in their town she was known as the white lady with black kids (Maya 3, Eddie 10 months old).  The story reflects back on the babysitter as child (she is now the same age as Mrs Fagan was when the babysitting began.  The babysitter’s mother is kind of jerk and is very sarcastic about this babysitting arrangement.  She is also a very strict Jehovah’s Witness, so when the narrator gets her first period rather than tell her mom, she just takes products from Mrs Fagan.  As the story opens Mrs Fagan’s son has just arrived and that changes the dynamic in the house.  How will Mrs Fagan take it when the narrator accidentally sets fire to the kitchen? I really enjoyed the way the end of the story plays on the notions of memories and the impact people have on others.

MEGAN MAYHEW BERGMAN-“The Lottery, Redux” after “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
“The Lottery” seems like a pretty easy story to cover–I think everyone knows everything about it and it has been covered in things like The Hunger Games in their own ways.  I don’t know if this story references the original (with the redux),  for this story the people of the island of Timothy were exiled from America fifty years earlier for crimes against the environment.  They were gathering on July 27th, the day of the lottery.  And indeed the lottery is a death sentence, although it’s not entirely clear why.  Interestingly, the story is more about the girl chosen and what her life up to that point has been like.

ANTHONY MARRA-“The Tell-Tale Heart” after “The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
This story doesn’t diverge all that much from the original except for the wonderful modern twist on the beating heart.  It’s hard to say more without giving things away but I loved the modernization.

JESS WALTER-“Falling Faintly” after “The Dead” by James Joyce
I didn’t know all that many stories before hand, but I knew this one very well and this is wonderful homage.  It is not in any way rewriting the story–it’s a very different story, but it alludes to the Joyce story and directly mentions it and it is quite clear where the connection between them is.
Michael is a writer.  He is married with kids but has moved temporarily out to New York to write for this new police procedural.  The show is doing well and the female star is quite beautiful.  They bond over cigarettes–she is foreign and smokes like a European, he recently started again.  As stories like this tend to go, Micheal gets the wrong idea about this young, hot actress.  And given that she is not American she misunderstands the subtleties of his behavior (which isn’t very subtle admittedly).  But he wants her to know that his story is a tribute to Joyce’s “The Dead.”  When he talks about the dead she thinks he means real dead people and is pretty freaked out.  This leads to a restraining order and a police intervention–not how he thought his life in New York would go.  What doe sit have to do with “The Dead”?  Well they are standing smoking in the snow as it gently floats to the ground falling through the universe, faintly falling.

LAUREN GROFF-“Once” after “Wants” by Grace Paley
I loved the way this story started.  I saw my enemy at the beach.  With that as a groundwork we slowly learn just how this woman has an enemy (it’s an old boyfriend’s mother) and how they have grudgingly begun to respect each other decades after the two broke up. I really enjoyed this short piece.

ROXANE GAY-“Men on Bikes” after “Rape Fantasies” by Margaret Atwood
I can’t imagine what the original of this story is.  The actual story of this is pretty peculiar itself.  Basically, the men in town have all started riding bicycles everywhere.  It started when one of them was arrested for drunk driving.  He didn’t lose his license but his wife took it away from him.  He dug out a bike and began riding it.  She thought he looked ridiculous, but when another man had his license taken away, they began riding together.  It was quite a sight, although I’m not sure what the point of it was.

NAMWALI SERPELL-“Company” after “Company” by Samuel Beckett
I like Beckett, and I know that he can be confusing.  I don’t know what “Company” is about so I have no idea how it relates to it, but man I did not get this at all.

It was confusing and really long.  It is broken into many small sections which might be connected.  The first is about the brightening which happened although many people missed it. Then we learn about the ship which is electro epidermal, which is cool but not really explained  and then the story turns into a quest for melanin and just when you think it’s a sci-fi story, it becomes a story about race.  There is a pale man tied to a tree hitting a sack (pound pound).  There’s a lot of vomit.  If the white man inseminates even one person, finding pure stem cells is impossible.  Dark skin marked you as  lucky when the darkening came.  But then she says the mission is over.  There’s more vomiting.  A fellow is supposed to be invisible in the village but Pound sees him.  There’s more vomit, a section titled rape, where Pound rapes Lila every once in a while and then who the hell knows what happens at he end.

KIESE LAYMON-“And So On” after “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway
Weeks ago 64 black folks changed the world.  You are the 11th.  Aside from the direct address to the reader the story is pretty straightforward and interesting.  Chanda Stewart was 8th, the narrators research assistant was 9th and Doug E., Chandra’s boyfriend was 1st.  They are at a fancy restaurant, Chandra, the narrator and you.  She swears that Doug is a porn star, but the narrator argues that having 1089 twitter followers and awkward consensual sex with a few white women filmed on an iPhone 2 in his fake Timberlands, blue knee brace and yellow wrist bands makes you a porn participant, not a star.  The story comes down to which side the narrator is going to choose.   sides or run for our lives.  Because while they were talking, Doug E. and about sixty young black kids were marching down the street.  To the school.  They each had an ax and a shovel.

MEG WOLITZER-“If You’re Happy and You Know It” after “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” By J.D. Salinger
I haven’t read this Salinger story in a long time, so I don’t really know how it connects to this, but I really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the way that it was written which was a little confusing but in an intriguing way.  Set in a hotel on Miami there is the young woman in 609 who arrived with her new husband.  She’d sent him off to the beach.  We see her telling her parents that he is taking it easy, but they want to know if he is taking the Klonopin.  Later that night in the lobby, a four year old girl, Chloe, is in the lobby of that hotel watching a man play piano.  The man is a guest also and he is playing and really getting into it.  Another boy asks if he can play This Old Man and the player jokes about the boy calling him old.  But Chloe asks if he can play “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”  He says he might be happy but he may not know it. She is puzzled by that.  He says she is breaking his heart.  We soon realize that the pianist is the Klonopin man, and while things don’t get dark exactly, they certainly get strange.  And Chole’s parents have foisted her off on a poor babysitter the whole time.  This was one of my favorites in the book.

T.C. BOYLE-“The Argentine Ant” after “The Argentine Ant” by Italo Calvino
I can’t imagine what the original story is like, but this one from Boyle was really icky and really fantastic.  Its’ a fairly simple premise–a family moves to a rental property in Argentina, only to find that it is swarming with ants.  The ants are everywhere–even crawling all over their baby.  They run to the next door neighbor’s house only to see that they know about the ants and might have a secret weapon.  But mostly they just seem to be putting their furniture in jugs of water–presumably as a deterrent.  There is also an Ant Man who might be fighting the ants or who might actually be bringing more.  What is great about the way Boyle writes this is that the guy renting the house is working on an academic theorem that his wife thinks is rather frivolous.  And that tension underpins everything.

ALICE SOLA KIM-“One Hour, Every Seven Years” after “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
Again I don’t know the original, but this story was great, and also weird. The weird part is that the story seems to start over multiple times. And that’s because there is a kind of time travel component to it.  The title refers to how often the sun comes out on Venus.  There is a girl, the main character, named Nargit. She was born on Earth and so she saw the sun.  The other kids are pretty angry at her for it (as if it’s her fault).  They are abusive to her, and the time travelling is the girl’s attempt to protect her younger self.  Many things go wrong but they bring about different results.

CHRIS ABANI-“Sleepy” after “Sleepy” by Anton Chekhov
This story was pretty horrific.  Kemi, a sixteen year old black girl who is now an orphan is working for a white family.  The family has two little children, one of whom is a baby.   The family is horrible to Kemi.  Pretty unrelentingly horrible.  Kemi is tired and never gets a break and the baby cries all the time.  She can’t soothe the baby and the family blames her for her failures.  Her exhaustion builds and builds until you pretty much know the ending several pages before it happens.

TOM DRURY-“The Yellow Wallpaper” after “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I know the original story although not super well.  But this version feels almost exactly the same. I honestly can’t tell what the difference is (without having re-read the original again to compare).   Jane and John are renting a place on an island for the summer.  John thinks Jane is not strong and keeps her hidden away in a room with yellow wallpaper.  He more or less runs everything in her life until she starts seeing people through the wallpaper.  You know things can’t go well from there.

POETRY:

REBECCA LINDENBERG-“Having a Coke with You” after “Having a Coke with You” by Frank O’Hara

MATTHEW ZAPRUDER-“Poem for Keats” after “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

STEPHEN BURT-“A Nickel on Top of a Penny” after “Piedra Negra Sobre Una Piedra Blanca” by César Vallejo

BRIAN TURNER-“The Metaphor Program” after “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams

STEPHEN BURT-“Roofers” after “The Armadillo” by Elizabeth Bishop

MATTHEW ZAPRUDER-“Poem on the Occasion of a Weekly Staff Meeting” [the first two lines are taken from “A Poem on the Occasion of the Consecration of Sandford and Shippon Churches” by Rev. F. Wilson Kittermaster, 1855]

STEPHEN BURT-“Suspense” after “To Brooklyn Bridge” by Hart Crane

KEVIN MOFFETT-“Second Wonder”-a monologue that will air on The Organist.
I found this puzzling at best.

PATTY YUMI COTTRELL-excerpt from Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
I read this book not too long ago.
This except was about two young children who invented a game called “Confession” in which the boy confesses his real or imagined sins to his sister.

~~~~~

The comparison quotes are called Great Speeches from History vs. the Tweets of Donald J. Trump:  I can’t bring myself to write any of the jerks tweets.

Mahatma Gandhi from the “Quit India” speech, 1942 vs. a Feb 4 2017 tweet

Abraham Lincoln’s “The Gettysburg Address” 1863 vs. a Feb 18 217 tweet (about fake news)

Martin Luther King Jr from “Letter from Birmingham Jail” vs. Feb 21 2017 (crowds planted by liberal activists)

Frederick Douglass from “The Hypocrisy of American Slavery” 1852 vs. Feb 6 2017 (negative polls are fake news).

Franklin D. Roosevelt, inauguration speech 1933 vs. Jan 22, 2017 (including all my enemies)

 

The bad thing about this issue is that the last four or five stories were all real downers, making it a pretty tough slog.  But I loved the idea, and I liked that they found the time and space to point out how stupid trump sounds and looks and is.

For ease of searching, I include: Cesar Vallejo

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SOUNDTRACK: A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHRISTMAS (1994).

This is one of the first alternative Christmas albums I bought.  I don’t listen to it that much because I tend to think it’s not that good (the cover is pretty uninspired).  But there’s actually quite a lot of good stuff on this.

SYD STRAW-“The Christmas Twist”
I’m happy to report that the “twist” is not some dark storyline, but an actual dance of The Twist.  Syd has written a Twist and it’s fun and dancey with plenty of Christmas lines to sing along to.  It’s a great opening track.

SHONEN KNIFE-“Space Christmas”
Shonen Knife does what they do best–short fast punky pop songs.  This one about a space Christmas, of course.

NRBQ-“A Christmas Wish”
I know this from the She & Him version.  I didn’t realize I had the original.  It’s sweet and cute with a really catchy and lovely melody in the “people all over the world” line.

BRUCE COCKBURN-“Mary Had A Baby”
This is one of those call and response songs that is very repetitive and goes on for too long.  If it was shorter it would be fun.

The dB’s-“Home For The Holidays”
This is kind of a stomping country song. It’s got a cool stomp stomp in the middle.  At under 3 minutes it’s just right.

SHELLYAN ORPHAN-“Ice” [NSFC]
I love the vocals and the song is quite pretty.  But this song is a downer (I don’t like Christmas anymore) and at over 5 minutes is not really good Christmas party music.

FISHBONE-“It’s A Wonderful Life”
Man I love this song.  It’s a super fun and dancey ska song that cites It’s a Wonderful Life and is just full of fun and pep.

POI DOG PONDERING-“Mele Kalikimaka”
It’s funny to hear this Hawaiian song done in this New Orleans brass style.  It’s a fun song regardless of who is doing it.

T-BONE BURNETT-“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”
This opens as a pretty instrumental version of this song on acoustic guitar and violin.  Lovely.  The vocals are fine, but I’d have preferred it with no words–the instrumentation was really striking,

TIMBUK 3-“All I Want For Christmas” [NSFC]
I really disliked Timbuk 3 back in the 1980s.  But I find their strange deliver to be reminiscent of X and I’m quite attracted to their style.  I like this song a lot. Although I can’t endorse a Christmas song about WWIII.  And I suppose lyrically, it’s a bit naive.  But the music is fantastic.

DAVE EDMUNDS-“Run, Rudolph Run”
I don;t know that anyone can get me to enjoy this song. Certainly not this vert standard version of it.

SHAWN COLVIN-“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Shawn has a lovely voice and this song is delightful.  It’s a simple piano version with some gentle accompaniment.  Interestingly, this does not appear on her own Christmas album (see the 24th), probably because it might be too upbeat–she does get a bit carried away, vocally, by the end.

So there’s nothing stellar on this disc (except Fishbone), but it’s a solid collection of alternative versions of songs and a few solid originals.

[READ: October 19, 2017] Pashmina

I wanted to love this book so much.  It has so many awesome elements.  The black and white to color juxtapositions are wonderful.  The colors are gorgeous and Chanani’s drawing style is simple but charming and effective.

And I think wanting to like this book as much as I did is why I wound up not enjoying it as much as I wanted.

And that’s because it feel like there’s a lot left out of the book–I wanted it to be twice as long.

This story is about Priyanka, a young Indian-American girl.  She is raised by her mother (and knows literally nothing about her father–her mother won’t say a word about him). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 8 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 15, 2005).

This was the 8th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Guest Vocalist Night.  Ford Pier on keyboards.

This guest vocalist night is a bit smaller than previous ones.  There aren’t twenty-six singers.  There’s only fourteen in total and a bunch of them sing two songs.  The show also runs just over 2 hours with the band singing some of their own songs at the end.   It’s like a tight, efficient guest night rather than a sprawling one.

Ford calls it “karaoke night.”  Dave nixes that, “Lets not call it that.  You have to be far more hammered to do that.”  Ford: “This is more like Star Search.  Mike sets forth the terms: “henceforth, we will be effectively mute except in support roles.”

As usual, they open with an instrumental “Four Little Songs.”  It’s always really interesting to hear this multi-part song with just the music.

“Produce the first victim!”

Here’s Selina Martin singing “Soul Glue” which segues into a very pretty “California Dreamline” (also by Selina).

Next up are Nick and Graham from Belleville.  Dave asks, “How’s Belleville?”  “No snow there.”  “It’s the Winter Nationals Pro-Am” as they sing “Fat” and do a terrific job.

Jennifer Foster comes out to sing “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos.”  Tim says, “Jen’s trying to play ‘stump the band.'”  Ford jokes, “Maybe you’ll wind up playing keyboard next year.”  Dave: “Coz we’re firing Ford’s ass.”  It is such a shame the mic gets staticky and cuts out because she does a good job with this hard song.  She notes, “its cutting in and out.”  Tim:”So were our brains.”

Then there’s a double shot of Don Kerr.  He says he’s going to do a double shot from his favorite album.  A terrific “Introducing Happiness” is followed by a change of selection.  He says he changed it just today.  They do “Fan Letter To Michael Philip.”  Don says it’s a real fan letter.  Dave: Don Kerr will personalize  a song to you for a small fee.”

Some of the lyrics:

I have all your records/
I have even helped you make a few
Among my favorite producers would be
Tchad Blake and you

I  would like a fan club letter/
but one of your Juno awards would suit me better

When i joined the Rheostastics / I was met by a lot of Dave Clark fanatics
I know they did the same thing to you / but just like me you made it through

During the end there are backing vocal chants of “Wojewoda.”  He must have been pretty overwhelmed.

Patrick Finch comes on to sing “Junction Foil Ball.”  Dave asks him, “And how’s that go exactly?”  Patrick: “It’s nice.”  And they do a great version.

I am amused to hear that someone is shouting requests.

Sarah Harmer comes out two songs.  A sweet “Loving Arms” (I love that Tim adds the spoken “Jeez, I don’t know” line, which is part of the song but it sounds amusing and sweet.  Mike: “That somehow just sounded right.”  It’s followed by a wonderful “Claire.”

Paul McLeod comes out and Ford says, “This guys isn’t as good-looking at the last one.”  Dave, “I don’t know, have you ever seen him in bicycle shorts?”  He does an excellent version of “Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too.”

Sean Cullen comes out for two songs.  “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” has a terrific voice for this rather silly song.  At the end, he scream/sings “he’s going off the rails.”   Then Cullen does a lengthy improvised Christmas Song.  It’s very funny and a twisted retelling of the Jesus story.  Some amusing lines:

Joseph was good with his hands and good with the ladies.
There was going to be a huge new tax. What an asshole Caesar was.
100s of men with their young pregnant wives clogging the roads.
They put him in a manger, which was weird, because cows were trying to eat.
The horse said to the turkey, you look ridiculous, look at you.  Sit down and shut up (the horse was a real asshole).
The turkey said I’m going to fight for Jesus.
The temple guard laughed because it was a turkey.  The guards fought and killed him, filled him with seasoned bread and threw him on the fire.
The angel came down and said you bastards.
The guards said, lets eat it and take a bit of him home with us.
We dream of that first Christmas where a turkey gave his life.  And the horse was an asshole.
It’s the Christmas turkey on Christmas day.  Thank you turkey for fighting for Jesus.
Dave: “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
Mike: “What album was that off of?”

Robin Lowe comes out to sing “Sweet Rich Beautiful and Mine.”  Robin has been selling stuff for us this week.  Public congratulations, Robin got married to Steve Clarkson, our sound man, this week.  Robin sings a duet with Martin.  Dave: “Well, isn’t that sort of cheating, Robin?”  Robin hits some amazing high notes.  They sound great together.  This version gives me chills.

“Take Me In Your Hand” is sung by Howard Druckman and Beverly Kreller.  Howard is one of our oldest and dearest friends.  Dave: “I’ve been demoted to bass.”  They’re giving the rest of the band a break.”  The song ends with penny whistle and bongos.

Yawd Sylvester comes out to sing Tim’s song “Row.”  Tim Vesely, Yawd’s rhythm guitarist.  Yawd went on tour with Violet Archers and Tim promised it would  be Rheos-free.  But after the encore, Yawd would go out for a smoke and Tim would do “Row” as an encore.  It’s a bit too slow and the world is incredibly rude throughout the quietness.

Ida Nilsen comes out to sing Marginalized.  It’s a little too un-intense.   Tim Sings the Vic Chesnutt song “Little Caesar” at the end.”

Paul Linklater from Justice, Manitoba, the Scribbled Out Man, comes out to sing “Horses.”  He’s great for the song. At some point Paul starts chanting “Put away wet” for some reason.  Dave says guys, throw it into G for a second.  Dave starts playing a simple riff which Ford turns into “Hang on Sloopy.”  Which he sings: “I don’t know the words to hang on sloopy / that’s okay it’s not a Rheostatics song / so we shouldn’t do it / It’s all wrong.
“Back to B minor.  Now its a Tragically Hip song.”   Paul is really intense at the end.

Someone shouts, “Soul Glue.”  Dave replied, “we did it the first song!”

Justin Rutledge utterly rips through “Feed Yourself.”  It is just rocking and intense.

Ron Koop comes up and Dave says, “Mennonites are the most ticklish people.  Ron, you’re so ticklish.  I don’t mean to generalize, but generally…”

Oddly, someone keeps shouting “Hey, it’s Christmas, play The River, please.  C’mon Gordy, save us.  The River!”  Mike mutters: “shut up.”

Ron sings a lovely “Making Progress.”  And at the end she says, “How about the best band in Canada.”  Dave: “Are the Constantines here?”

They come back for an encore and say “we’ll do a couple where we sing just to mix things up and get ready for tomorrow.”

Dave also asks, “Shauna, can we get some new flowers.  Are replacement flowers in the budget?  They’re starting to bum me out.”  Martin: “Strangely just yours are dying, Dave.”

“PIN it up, Marty.”   In the middle Dave sings “I want some flowers.”  Tim notes: Thanks to Great Aunt Ida for opening tonight.  They were awesome.”

In the audience, that ass is still screaming for The River.  So Ford sings.

When I speak the words I repeat
Are lost within this roaring

I know the one by No Means No, it takes about 9 minutes to play, but it can be done.

They end the nearly two and a half hour show with “Stolen Car.”  Tim starts by playing “Jingle Bells” on the bass really quietly.  But then the song rocks out to the end.

A final note from Darrin, who posts all of these shows:

10 Years later I randomly met Robin Lowe on Sept 4th, sold Jennifer Foster my spare ticket for the Saturday night AGO show on Sept 5 2015, and Selina sang with the band on Sept 6 at the Monarch Tavern after AGO Party.

[READ: July 27, 2017] “Making Scents”

My nine-year-old daughter Tabby liked this book.  And I know that because as I was complaining about the massive problems I had with it, she said she liked it.  So, I guess its good for nine-year-olds.

But I like a lot of books that are good for nine-year-olds.  And I did not like this one.

The premise is a weird one to start: Mickey’s parents raise bloodhounds.  As such, they teach him to be a great sniffer as well.  Cute, right?

The story begins with Mickey writing his life story: “First I was born.”  Next half of the sentence… “then I was put in a tree.”

What?  So he is an abandoned baby and someone thought it would be smart to put him in a tree in the woods?

The next scene puzzled me even more. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 4 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 11, 2005).

This series contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about.  This was the 4th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe–(All ages Sunday afternoon set). Ford Pier was on keyboards.  And once again Dave’s daughter Cece sings a song.

Recording starts at the end of Home Again – not sure what was played prior.  Given the length and set list they probably didn’t play much before “Home Again” but we only hear the end of it anyway.

All ages shows are typically shorter. But with having no beginning, this one is really short at just over an hour and a quarter.

“It’s Easy To Be With You” starts with an unexpected bluesy riff underneath the song before it starts properly.  It’s followed by a nice “Loving Arms.”

Then you hear Cece ask, “Dad, is it my turn, yet?” “No.”  “Awwwwww.  How many more song?”  “4 more.”

“Aliens (Christmas 1988)” (not kid friendly, actually).  But mid-song Dave starts playing the “When Winter Comes” during the quiet part, but they never leave the song.

Then Dave says, “We have to do this next one because we’re playing it at guest vocalist night.”  “Many words.”  Martin: “Good luck, Timmy.”  Mike counts out 7 but nobody follows through.  Tim: “So far, not so good.”  They make it through “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos” and Tim says, “I can’t believe all those words are in my head.  It’s a weird feeling.”  Dave: “Yea, you said you wouldn’t remember the second verse and you did.”  Martin: “Here’s a request for “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  “Shhhhhhh”  Tim: “Speaking of many words in your head.”  Dave: “And that request will go unfulfilled.”  Mike: “If anyone is going to make that request they have to make cue cards.”  Dave says, “We did it well at The Boot.”  Mike: “I had a fever, I can’t remember.  101 a rock n roll fever.  Dave: “I think the rock n’ roll fever is 102.  I’m just quoting Foreigner.”  Mike: “It’s 103 with Foreigner.  Check it and see / got a fever of 102?  I don’t think so, Dave.”  “103 that’s like malaria.”

We’re going to do a new song of Tim’s that we have been learning in advance of a record that we hope will some day get made.  After we rest on our laurels for the next 8 months.  Whatever laurels are.  Tim: “they’re like chaise lounges?”  Martin: “Or are they like haunches?”

Tim starts “Sunshine At Night” then stops.  “Ford is building something back there.  Ford: ” No I’ll catch up.”  Dave: Ford is just finishing his Chinese food from last night.”  Martin: “And building an amplifier.”  Mike: “What can’t he do?”

After the sweet “Sunshine” they play a cool “Christopher.”  The middle sections slows down quite a bit and then bursts forth loudly with the drums (I hope they had earplugs for the kids).  It’s followed by a lovely “Little Bird, Little Bird.”

Then Dave lays out the schedule for the next few days:

A wonderful week planned:
Tuesday its free.  That’s wonderful for you and… okay… for us.
Wednesday is the Whale Music album with many guests
Thursday is guest vocalist night with about 14 people singing–we give about 43 percent.  That’s not free.
And then the weekend is the last two licks so we all go crazy.  Paint our faces (not really).
And we have a hockey game on Thursday at 4 o’clock.   4 bucks to play.  Sticks and skates.  There’s a sign up card.

Then Cece asks, “Dad, is it my turn?”  After a sweet “Making Progress” it is finally Cece’s turn.

She is quite excited and yells “Perfect!” right into the mic.  She calls all the kids up on stage and then says you sing the song with me…that’d be even better.  You hear someone says “I wanna sing in the microphone.”  She says “After me!”  And then she sings a great “Everyday People.”  The whole song is fun.  And at the end Dave says, “we gotta teach you to throw to the guitar solo.”

Dave starts “Bread, Meat, Peas and Rice” and then realizes, “Hey, the same chords as ‘Everyday People,’ only faster.  At the end he notes, “Everybody has fun when the bongos come out and then half an hour later nobody’s having fun.  It’s the overstay-its-welcome instrument.”  Mike asks if they were expensive and Dave says they are the real things, I think they were like $150.

Martin says “next is a song about being lost in the wilderness.  And it’s called “Personal Identification Number” for some reason.  Dave asks if it was supposed to be a longer title and Martin says, “My publicist said the name was too long so I shortened it.”  Then he says, “This is a tenor guitar.  It’s got 4 strings.”  He starts singing “my guts, my guts, my ooey gooey guts” which Mike picks up on and sing “The ones in the back and the ones in the front.”

Martin finishes with a really fast solo.  He says, “that was very 2112.  But small.”  Dave:  “like point 2112.”  Mike: “It tastes like Rush but doesn’t get you drunk.”

They move on to “Four Little Songs.”  Dave asks if Max is here, but he has left. When they get to the third section, Dave says it’s traditional for Ford or someone else to do that slot.  But he wants to know if there’s anyone out there who has a song that must be sung?  At the back of the room?  It’s the wallflowers who have the most significant musical contribution.”  Mike; “It’s a die Fledermaus moment.”

They call Max over, not sure who Max is or if he even comes, but they play a jam, with Dave saying “it’s Max, ‘it’s not Max.”  When they get to the end Dave says, “Hold on, we need a new ending.  We have three: By Mennen, the two yells, and the Yes!”  Mike says “by Mennen is usually editorializing”  and that he’s been with the band for almost five years and he;s never done “Yes!”  So they demonstrate. Mike says, “this is like a DVD where you can choose the ending.”  Dave says, the new ending is the discussion of the ending.

And then Ford suggests that the new ending could be “like a zinger on The Muppet Show (wah wah).”  Cookie Monster ate all the cookies.  Bert will you ever win?

Dave says, “A couple more songs.” Martin: “and then the clowns.”

So Dave tells a story “When I was in Moscow there as an Americana diner and there was a security guard who looked like Captain Kangaroo expect he carried a gun.  Every Wednesday he was to dress like a clown.  So they have clown security in the American diner which tells you everything you need to know about the coming together of the United States and Russia.  Then Ford says, “And Australia…kangaroo.”

Dave: “Captain Kangaroo had never been within 15,000 miles of a kangaroo in his life.”

They play two final songs.  Dave: “Remember kids, only steal a car if you really have to.  And be careful when you invest in the Steinberger product, it’s hit and miss.”

They play a terrific “Stolen Car” and then surprisingly, given that this is an all-ages show, end with “Horses.”  “Horses” opens with a very different intro than usual, it sounds pretty cool.  The song rocks, but Dave doesn’t do any crazy ranting.  At the end, Martin does the horse sound with his guitar and some one says “whoah woah, horsey.”

[READ: July 9, 2017] The Big Bad Fox

First Second continues to publish first class French graphic novels and children’s books (this one translated by Joe Johnson).

This is a children’s book, but it is quite long.  It’s not hard to read by any means, but it’s a not a quicky 32 page picture book.

It’s possible that this was originally released as a series–there does seem to be a kind of punch line every few pages, but the story is consistent and quite funny (even if it’s not all that original). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Sugar, Victoria BC (November 17, 2005).

Lucky’s Notes: [Lucky recorded this show and gets a song dedicated to him]:
This was to be the last time the Rheos played in Victoria, though we had no idea at the time. We will all really miss you guys out here!!

Given that information, it’s particularly sad when they say, “we’ll see you hopefully in the spring.”  But despite that future sadness, the show itself is great.  It begins with a wonderful “Easy to Be with You” which sounds terrific: the “do da” part is really rich in harmonies.

It’s followed by a quite raw “CCYPA” and then a fun, romping “Garden” which ends with: “Hugh Syme’s dance party for your pleasure”–Martin making an electronic racket with his guitar.

“Fat” has some interesting echo on Dave’s voice that I wonder if it could be bouncing off the room or not.  The “don’t even know who you are” is pretty wild with many different vocal from the guys.  It’s a great version overall–the bands is really into it.  Having more fun with “PIN” Dave seems to be really enjoying himself with the backing vocal nonsense.

Dave says, “It’s great to be here in Victoria, the Queen’s city, once again.”  When they start the poppy and delightful “Mumbletypeg,” Martin acknowledges “the amazing rhythm guitar playing of Dave Bidini.  Very rhythmic.”

“We’d like to thank Shane Koyczan for opening tonight–one of the sexiest men in Canada–another Neruda.”

“Marginalized” sounds great–dark and angry with a lot of echo on Tim’s voice.  That sounds weird but cool.  There’s a quiet middle section where Dave is playing a gentle acoustic and Tim is keeping that bassline.  It goes on and then the final verse is sung quietly with little accompaniment.

Someone in the crowd shouts “Record Body Count,” and Dave says “yes we got records, what about it?”

But Tim says, “we’ll do another apocalyptic number for you.”  They play “Here Comes the Image” with lots of great synth from MPW including an awesome solo.  Some really cool backing vocal from Martin make this one of the best versions I’ve heard.  Then MPW sits back at the drums: “good now I can relax.”

“Christopher” starts with an interesting guitar chord structure intro before they get to the song proper.  There’s an intense soloing section and a terrific quiet ending.  It’s followed by “King of the Past.”  It’s not my favorite version of it but there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in it.  It’s followed by a wild “Rock Death America.”

When they get to “Satan is the Whistler” Dave says they’re going to try this one “coz we hope to play it [well] in two days in Vancouver.”  Martin sings some verses pretty slowly and then later he plays the fast part much more slowly and sloppily than usual.

He also adds to these lines:

bouncers came and snuffed the fucking fire out / there’s no smoking in the parking lot / “I hate this fucking place” / some punks in the windy peaks

After the song Dave concurs: “You gotta keep those parking lots clean.  For parking.  And loitering.  Gas huffing [Martin: “pathetic addicts”] nefarious activities.”

“Claire” is a little sloppy from everyone, even Tim’s singing is a bit mumbly.   But there’s a great long solo from Martin.  Martin continues the solid work on “California Dreamline which is slow and trippy with lovely weird keyboards.  While singing, he whoops after “sand in my tequila” and rolls his r’s after the “escondido” part.

The song segues into what sounds like “Horses” with Tim chanting “do it do it do it do it ; do it do it don’t you do it” but then Martin plays a rocking guitar for the intro of “Feed Yourself.”  It is noisy and aggressive and amazing, perhaps the best version of this song I’ve heard.  They play a riff of “Hey Hey, My My”  then Dave starts getting really intense: “what’s in his head?”  he starts screaming “open it up.  “Look inside.”  (The loudest screaming I’ve heard him do).  The intensity is undermined somewhat by Tim’s ending backing vocal of “trunk trunk… what ‘cha gonna do with all that junk / all that junk inside that trunk.”

They go for an encore break and Dave says, At this point in the gig Martin usually has a cigarette, so I felt required to write a smoking song.  It’s a new song about Martin smoking.  It’s called “Smoking Song,” but how on earth is it about Martin smoking when he references Joseph Stalin and Hitler?  he doesn’t say, but when it’s over, he says, “uh oh looks like a 2 smoke break.  He might never come out.” so they play “My First Rock Show.”  During the first verse, Dave stops and asks, “What’s so funny sir?  That must have been the laughter of pure joy.”  You can’t hear what they’re talking about, but Dave mentions NoMeanasNo and agrees that “they sent a lot of us on the wrong road.  In the best way.”

When Martin arrives, Mike asks, “Where to, lads?”  After some mumbling, you hear Mike say “boogers?”  Dave says “vetoed! songwriter gets veto.”  He then says they “support the locked out Telus workers.  Telus is the shittiest service. They just got so big and fat there sitting on themselves.”  More quiet discussion then Mike says “that’s good, Martin you had a smoke and now you’re asserting yourself.”

Perhaps they agreed to the earlier request, because they play “Record Body Count” which sounds great.  When the song is more or less over, Martin starts playing a riff and begins singing “I’ve Been Thinking of You” and the crowd cheers.  They jam that song and afterwards, Martin says “What was that song we did in the middle was it April Wine or something?”  No one knows.  It was a band called Harlequin.

Dave says, “We were in Nanaimo last night.  Home to two of the greatest record stores.”  Someone shouts: “Home of the Nanaimo Bar.” To which Dave replies: “Home of the Naniamo Bear.  That bear likes them dead salmon.”

They play “Making Progress” which opens with a buzzy staticky guitar and big echo on Tim’s voice.  When they get to the synth part it’s all messed up and someone apologizes, saying “don’t let me near that thing again.”  Then it gets fixed and the synth is back on.

They end the show with “Dope Fiends.”  There’s a big echo on Martin’s voice.  Someone else sings some great falsetto along with him.  During the slow part, Dave stars singing “Legal Age Life” but the music doesn’t change–it’s rather disconcerting but cool.  The melody starts playing a keyboard that sounds like “Norwegian Wood” and at the end Tim does backing humming to “Norwegian Wood” before Martin’s loud and wild guitar ending.

Despite the odd echo, it’s a really great show.  The band sounds in great form and they are having a really good time.  It’s hard to believe they broke up so soon after this.

[READ: February 15, 2017] The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Sarah and I have really enjoyed the Squirrel Girl graphic novels.  She was really excited to see this actual novel about Squirrel girl from Shannon Hale.

This book is part of the Marvel Universe.  And what I’ve learned recently is that while I enjoy the Marvel Universe, I far more enjoy the peripheral characters of the Marvel Universe–like those of S.H.I.E.L.D. (even if I don’t watch the show anymore–it got a little crazy).  So I find myself enjoying Ms Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy and now Squirrel Girl–characters who reference The Avengers but are not actually part of the team.

There’s some thing so much more enjoyable about these characters where the stories can have fun of the major Marvel figures.  And this one has a ton of fun with that conceit. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHILLING THRILLING SOUNDS OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1964).

The cover during Phish’s 2014 concert was of this album.

Apparently many people grew up with this record.  I personally didn’t know it, but if you read the comments (don’t read the comments!) on any YouTube clip of the album you will see how popular it is.

Wikipedia describes it as  intended for “older children, teenagers, and adults” released by Disneyland Records (now known as Walt Disney Records). The album was mainly composed of sound effects that had been collected by the sound effects department of Walt Disney Studios. The album was released in several different forms. The album was first released in 1964 in a white sleeve, with a second release in 1973 with an orange sleeve. In both versions, the first side contained 10 stories narrated by Laura Olsher, complete with sound effects. The second side contained 10 sound effects meant for others to create their own stories.

Despite the title, most of the cuts had nothing to do with haunted houses or witches or ghostly spirits. Featured were such situations as an ocean liner hitting rocks, an idiotic lumberjack, a man crossing an unsafe bridge, someone lighting a stick of dynamite and a spaceship landing on Mars. Also, there are tracks with several examples of cats, dogs and birds (similar to “The Birds”) becoming enraged for some reason, as well as a skit about Chinese water torture. In addition, some of the screams were taken directly from the scene where Miss Havisham catches fire in the 1946 David Lean film Great Expectations.

The full track listing is

  • “The Haunted House” 3:00
  • “The Very Long Fuse” 1:28
  • “The Dogs” 1:13
  • “Timber” 1:45
  • “Your Pet Cat” 0:49
  • “Shipwreck” 1:39
  • “The Unsafe Bridge” 1:21
  • “Chinese Water Torture” 2:02
  • “The Birds” 0:46
  • “The Martian Monsters” 1:41
  • “Screams and Groans” 0:57
  • “Thunder, Lightning and Rain” 2:01
  • “Cat Fight” 0:37
  • “Dogs” 0:48
  • “A Collection Of Creaks” 1:54
  • “Fuses and Explosions” 1:11
  • “A Collection Of Crashes” 0:45
  • “Birds” 0:33
  • “Drips and Splashes” 1:18
  • “Things In Space” 0:53

Nothing is especially scary–although maybe for a kid, as many adults claim to have been really frightened by it.  Everything is quite over the top, especially the screams and cat howls and dog snarling.  Even the stories are a little silly, although having them in the second person is pretty genius.

But things like “one night as you lie in your lonely room in your stone hut on the moors…”  (What?).  And the Martian one.  Just keeping with continuity: if “you,” meaning me, went on the trip, then I couldn’t hear the crunching as it ate me.  Or the silly voice saying “I wonder what that was.”

And the less said about the horribly racist Chinese Water Torture the better.  I mean, the opening is bad enough: “The ancient Chinese were a very clever race” but the end of the song is really awful.  But if we can look past that, the rest of the record has fun with sound effects and is generally pretty enjoyable.

During the John Congleton interview, he also talks about this album and says (at 40:28) “the speakers are 180 degrees out of phase to make it sound extremely stereophonic.”  He says now as an engineer it is totally painful to listen to.  Bob says it sounds like it comes from the back of your head.

[READ: October 15, 2017] Half-Minute Horrors.

The premise of this book (edited by Susan Rich) is simple: how scared can you get in 30 seconds?  To me, the answer is actually not very.  I guess for me fear builds over time.  It’s hard to get genuinely frightened over something that just suddenly happens (unless it is just trying to frighten you quickly, of course).

Having said that, I enjoyed this book a lot (look at the list of authors!).  I liked the arbitrary goal of writing a scary story in a paragraph or two (or more).  And some of them were really quite creepy.

I was originally going to point out which ones I felt were the most creepy, but there are so many stories, I kind of lost track.  So instead, here’s a rundown and a brief summary. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-“Martian Monster” (MGM Grand Garden Arena, Friday 10, 31, 2014).

In honor of Halloween, these Ghost Box stories will be attached to a recent Phish Halloween show [with quoted material from various reviews]. 

Known for dawning musical costumes to celebrate [Halloween], Phish broke with tradition last year to offer a set of original music.  The Phish Bill read that Phish’s musical costume would be a 1964 Disney album of sound effects – Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House.  But it wasn’t a cover set. Phish played original music set amongst an incredibly psychedelic, theatrical graveyard stage accentuated by zombie dancers and a ghoulish MC.  At the start of the set, the stage was cleared before a graveyard came to the foreground.  Smoke filled the air, zombie dancers appeared, and music filled the venue. A haunted house was brought to the front of the stage, which eventually exploded, and all four-band members appeared, dressed in white like zombies. 

“Martian Monster” is the final song in the Phish Halloween set.  It’s a funky clavinet-fueled rocker and the longest track at 14 plus minutes.  Page is having a lot of fun on this song, both playing the riffs and sampling portions of the narration.

The song is meant to be a trip to Mars.  Because of the speed of your rocket, your trip is short.  It as described as

a filthy, original Phish groove mixed with spoken word quotes, sound effects and vocal warbles as actors performed zombie-fied dances in the space surrounding the haunted house. McConnell’s funky clavinet leads were at the forefront of the deliciously weird “Martian Monster.”

There are dozens of samples of “your trip is short.”  By the middle of the song, Trey starts reciting “your trip is short” which is getting manipulated crazily.  They are processed and robotic as we hear the Martian chewing and chewing (chewing you, obviously).

The song builds and builds and builds to a big blast off climax and then it returns to the funky keys and lots of “your trip is short.”

It’s a great ending to this surprising original set.

[READ: October 25, 2017] “Shadetree”

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

This is a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening) that contains 11 stories for Halloween.  Lovingly described thusly:

A collection of chilly, spooky, hair-raising-y stories to get you in that Hallowe’en spirit, edited and introduced by comedian and horror aficionado Patton Oswalt.

There is no “order” to these books, so I’m reading them in what I think was the order they were boxed (or at least the order I last put them back in the box).

This is the final book in the box and it’s a doozy.

There was a lot of this story that made me really angry and I’m trying to decide if it’s a misogynist story or just a powerful story where a woman is the victim (subtle distinction, I know).

The story is about a girl named Colly Sue and a boy named Shadetree.  They enjoyed listening to the stories that Shadetree’s great-uncle would tell.  They were spooky supernatural stories about ghosts, witches and haunts.  He had a dry whispery voice and it made the stories seem very real. Colly Sue was frightened but never stopped coming to hear.  Shadetree enjoyed spooking Colly Sue.  He would grab her during the story or claim that he was a spook or a haunt.  One day he told Colly Sue that he was a swapchild–a small haunt that was exchanged for a human being.  And Colly Sue didn’t doubt it.  Shadetree asserted, “I’d never hurt you, Colly Sue.” (more…)

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