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Archive for the ‘Demons’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GRACIE AND RACHEL-Tiny Desk Concert #664 (November 1, 2017).

Who are Gracie and Rachel?

They are Gracie Coates the primary singer and keyboard player and Rachel Ruggles on a violin processed through various pedals.  The two Berkeley California high school friends are now New York loft-mates. Together with percussionist Richard Watts, a huge bass drum, and electronic drum pads, the group mixes classical training with pop hooks, and curiosity with uncertainty.

The complex tunes they beautifully reproduced in this thrilling Tiny Desk performance are from the group’s debut, self-titled album released back in June of this year.

All three of the songs have the same basic style and tone–rather intense–somber piano with soaring strings and Gracie’s interestingly delivered vocals.

“Only A Child” stars with a simple piano riff that has a real sense of uncertainty, almost menace.  I can’t decide what she’s doing with her vocal style but it’s certainly unique.  There’s some backing vocals although I can’t quite tell where they’re coming from (live or prerecorded) and they add a really creepy tone.    And then there’s the lyrics:  “I’m moving my mouth but I don’t say a word/My ears are open but nothing is heard/I’m only a child, only a child.”  But really the way the violin plays that descending mellow is absolutely captivating.

“Go” features the big bass drum which I didn’t even see at first.  This one has ringing piano notes and pizzicato strings.  The violin is primarily fast notes until the middle when she slows things down and it takes on a very different tone.  The middle features just a simple piano note repeated along with the women’s voices.

Before the last song she says, “I really wanted this moment to say something fun but I realized that our music isn’t very funny.”

And she’s right.  The music is sharp and inquisitive.  It’s not fun, but it’s very good.

“Don’t Know” has the pointed lyric: “And when did it become alright for you to take our rights and when did we decide to give away the life that we live today?”  There’s more sinister piano but there’s these interesting trills on the violin (and backing vocals) that float above the music.  It’s really some great and enticing music.

[READ: February 15, 2016] Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish

I really enjoyed the other two books in this series, and the tagline “Yet another 11-Year old time-travelling Orthodox Jewish babysitter” let me know I’d be in for more of the same fun.

Mirka is the 11-year-old orthodox girl.  Her mother died when she was young and her father remarried.  She has a brother and two step-sisters.  Her step mother is tough but fair (sometimes).  And they live very distinctly Orthodox life–Non Orthodox Jews are called moderns.  We learn a bit about Orthodox culture–there are lots of Jewish phrases with translations at the bottom, and little cartoon which show that unmarried women keep their hair long, while married women cut it short or shave it and wear a wig called a snood.

Right now the crisis in Mirka’s life is her six-year old step-sister Layele.  Mirka is going to babysit Layele for a couple of days.  Just as the adults leave, Fruma mentions having seen something in the woods–but stops herself before she can reveal anything.  This of course only sets Mirka’s mind in motion and she immediately defies orders and goes into the woods with Layele. (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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SOUNDTRACK: THE ENFIELD TENNIS ACADEMY-The Dark (2017).

The Enfield Tennis Academy is one of the major locations in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  So, of course, a band that names itself after it must be listened to.

This is the second release by the band (which states “The Enfield Tennis Academy is TR.”

The Dark is described as

This EP is a collection of remixes and covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”, from the 1984 album “Born in the U.S.A.” It is not ironic. “Dancing in the Dark” is © Bruce Springsteen and Columbia.

And that is literally what this is. Five tracks that rethink “Dancing in the Dark” each one called “Dancing in the Dark.”

Track 1 opens with someone doing a kind of Elvis impersonation (or is it actually Bruce?) of the first line of the song: I get up in the evening…”  It then gets echoed and looped on itself until it is inaudible.  After a minute a guitar comes in strumming music backwards, I believe.  The big takeaway is the rolling “I” repeated over and over.  After 1:30 there’s a rather pretty sax solo. which may be from the song, I don’t know it that well.

Track 2 is an ambient piece with electronic claps and a kind of slow almost pixelated pipe organ version of the main melody of the song.  There’s some of those 80s processed “ahhhhs” added to the end.  It would eerily make you think of the song without knowing exactly why.

Track 3 is a noisy track.  Electronic drums played very rapidly and then some glitchy guitars playing the melody in triple time.  It is the least recognizable of the five pieces.

Track 4 is a fingers-on-chalkboard electronic screech with what I assume is the song played in reverse.  It’s a tough minute before the noise clicks away and we’re left with the backwards vocals.  If you didn’t know it was “Dancer in the Dark” you might not recognize the melody but if you do, you can kind of hear it.

Track 5 plays the original song in the middle ear. But in the left ear is another song (as if the radio was staticky and in the right ear is another even louder song.  But Bruce is squarely in the middle.  It’s pretty disconcerting.  Ultimately, the left ear gives way to people talking and the right ear reveals itself to be “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.”  It fades and for about ten seconds during which you can hear pretty much only the Bruce song, but then it all falls apart into glitchy noise.

The longest track is 2:15; the rest are about 2 minutes.  No one will say this disc is enjoyable, but it is kind of ugly fun.

[READ: January 30, 2017] Liō ‘s Astonishing Tales from the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horrors

I have observed before about the maddening publication life of Liō books.  It’s going on four years since a new collection has been published.

But at the same time there are a number of books that cover the same territory.  Like this one.

This book collects “Liō” (which I take to mean Happiness is a Warm Cephalopod) and Silent But Deadly.  But what puts this book head and shoulders above the others (and just about any other collection of any series) is that it is almost completely annotated.

I didn’t compare the two books to see if all of the strips were indeed included.  But I’ll assume that claim is true.

Tatulli doesn’t comment on every strip but he does on a lot of them.  Like the very first one (in which he criticizes his–admittedly horrible-looking–spider.

He has at least three comments about what a genius Charles Schulz was.  Including the first time he tried to draw Lucy and Charlie: “I wanted to use the retro 1950s Peanuts look, but it was a bitch to reproduce…Schulz just make it look so simple.”

He’s also very critical of his drawing style of Mary Worth: “I won’t even tell you how embarrassingly long it took to make this lousy copy.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ENFIELD TENNIS ACADEMY-“My Missing Eye” (2017).

The Enfield Tennis Academy is one of the major locations in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  So, of course, a band that names itself after it must be listened to.

This is the first release by the band (which states “The Enfield Tennis Academy is TR.”

The bandcamp site describes this song as

“Garbage thrown together on a free trial of Reason. Song’s about missing a fucking eye. Real music soon.”

This is two minutes of noisy instrumental metal math rock.  There’s a lot of different sounds in this two minute song.

It opens with some staccato pummeling sounds–the guitars are interesting in that they sound like they are chords yet ringing out at the same time.  The middle is a really fast pummeling section that reminds me of Ministry.  Those opens stringed chords come back late in the song, and they sound really cool.

I’m curious to see what TETA’s “real music” is going to sound like.

[READ: July 20, 2017] Reheated Liō

I have really enjoyed the Liō books (going forward, I’m leaving off that line over the o, because it’s a real pain).

The strip has been going on for some 12 years now, which is pretty amazing.  And yet, there don’t seem to be any new or recent collections out.

So Lio is strip about a boy named Lio.  Lio is a dark, dark kid.  He has a pet squid, he loves monsters and he’s delighted by chaos.  Over the years his character hasn’t changed much but Tatulli has given him some surprising tenderness, which is a nice trait. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DUNGEN-Häxan (2016).

I have been to a lot of shows in the last couple of years.  I have also had tickets to a few that I had to miss for various reasons.  The one I regret missing the most was the Dungen show where they were going to play live for the film The Adventures of Prince Achmed.   I missed it because there was pretty heavy snow–it was the right choice, I am just bummed about it.  It’s not so much that I wanted to see them perform the music that’s in this album (I didn’t even know it at the time), it’s just the experience that sounded awesome (and the fact that they played a second set of their other songs afterward was icing).

So this soundtrack officially came out recently.  It’s about 40 minutes (the film is around an hour) and it is a largely fun Dungen release with a feeling of soundtrack invoked.

The disc opens with “Peri Banu vid sjön,” the perfect soundtrack–slow and loping with washes of sound.  “Jakten genom skogen” follows with slow washes of sound with a pretty acoustic guitar melody and some lively bass.  It slowly builds in a kind of rocking 70s way.  “Wak-Wak’s portar” is a fast loud riotous affair that lasts a minute and a half.   It traipses back and forth on headphones and even has a penny whistle solo. It is sort of forcibly segued into “Den Fattige Aladdin,” a rather muffled distant sounding flute melody (I’m guessing it’s Aladdin’s motif).

“Trollkarlen och fågeldräkten” is a jazzy number with bass and piano and soaring wild guitar over the top of it.  “Grottan” is a minute of spooky synths that segues into the noisy buzzy guitar workout of “Häxan.”  That rocking slows to a slow menacing thump of drum and piano.

“Aladdin’s flykt över havet” is a soaring minute of synths which is followed by the sparing uplifting synths of “Kalifen.”

“Achmed flyger: is a fast piano based piece about Achmed flying, I assume.  Then there’s two Aladdin pieces: “Aladdin och lampan, del 1” is a slow one minute piano piece “del 2” returns to that flute motif with a groovy guitar and bass behind it.  The melody gets shunted to the distance as “Achmed och Peri Banu”  takes over with its drums and somewhat menacing bass.

The final song “Andarnas Krig” is nearly seven minutes long.  It is classic Dungen: wailing guitar solos with feebdack ala Hendrx’ “Star Spangled Banner.”  There’s some great rollicking bass work and rocking drums and everything.

Although this isn’t as substantial as some of their other albums, it’s a great collection of psychedelic instrumentals and you can imagine a movie streaming behind it.

[READ: April 18, 2017] Birthright: Volume Four

So much happens in this book that it’s like having whiplash–in the best way possible.

We open with Wendy and Rya in Mastema’s dining room.  Wendy is pleased to be lavished, but Rya says not to forget that they are in fact her prisoners–no matter how nice the accommodations.  While they are there, the other three mages arrive and discuss what should be done about this whole Mikey thing.

Speaking of the Mikey thing, we cut to the men of Mikey’s family: Mikey, his brother Brennan, his father Aaron and his grandfather–Sameal.  They head towards Sameal’s “lair” which is a  warehouse with extra security “magic doesn’t protect everything.”  This time-out allows everyone to deal with each other.  Aaron get t o confront his father–the father who was never there for him, who left when he was little and was the reason the Aaron acted the way he did with his own kids.

While there, Enoch, one of the other mages, comes to confront Sameal and we learn what their whole deal was. Enoch says that in all of their time together Sameal never told him that he had a family on earth (whereas Enoch told Sameal everything).  Enoch is offended that he didn’t share this intimate detail, but is more upset because he wants to know what Sameal was hiding all this time.  And the crux here is that Enoch says that Sameal’s own family is irrelevant if he can save the world–killing his grandson could save the world! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GIRTH-Sleeper, Awaken! (2007).

This was the other disc in the Web of Mimicry Clearance section.  And it is radically different from Danubius.

Girth is an experimental metal band and these songs are heavy on the epereimental and heavy on the heavy.  Their page on Web of Mimicry notes:

We toured with this line-up for 6 months or so September 2005 through February 2006. The shows were our most brutal and experimental to date, often going off on long improvisational rampages. We recorded a through-composed 19 minute movie-like piece in four movements, entitled “Sleeper Awaken.” With Randall Dunn at the board, our intentions for this piece, were to create a mindfuck journey of psychedelic metal to supply a soundtrack for the listener during his/her most “indulgent” moments. WARNING: Not for the weak at heart… bum trips guaranteed for the unexperienced, depending on his/her state of mind.     — GIRTH [Guitar: Dave Webb; Keyboards: Andrew McInnis; Drums: Peijman Kouretchian; Vocals: B.R.A.D. Mowen]

This labum reminds me a lot of Naked City (but without the Japanese screamed vocals).  There’s very heavy sections and radically shifts in time signature and volume.  There’s wailing solos and quiet sections.  There’s pounding drums and no drums.  And it’s all done in about 16 minutes.

There four songs have elaborate titles:

  1. Confusion – “On the day my illusion shatters, I SEE.”
    The disc opens with a ringing bell and feedback but after 20 seconds the calm is exploded with some noisy guitars and feedback.   But it isn’t until 40 seconds that the left ear guitar takes off with super fast chaotic soloing.  The other ear is overwhelmed by noisy guitar squalls.  Washes of static and noise fill both ears for a time until a sort of noisy hardcore riff comes in around 2 and half minutes in.  Things alternate between intense noise metal and soloing (with echoed effects).
  2. Betrayal – “I will rise as you will die, diminishing within my luminous pride.”
    The songs segue into each other.  This song begins with some thunderous drums (five beats over and over) and staccato noisy guitars.  The middle of the song quietens down to some running water and dialogue (barely audible) until the end.
  3. Alone – “Wallowing in my indulgence, I am blind.”  “Divine perceptions unshackle power to dive within.”
    This opens slowly with quiet whispered noises and rumbling drums.  At 3 minutes comes the intense hardcore attack of punishing drums and squealing guitar solos.  The end of the song is a kind of tornado of guitar noises that seem to swirl around in between heavy two note punctuations
  4. Chaos – “This being is a vessel. You cannot stop me. I am Free, I am Awake And I LOVE.”
    Those two note punctuations continue into this final track but with much more frequency and intensity.  There’s some vocal at the end, but nothing especially audible–we’re there “vocals.” With a few more pummels and a fast guitar solo, the 16 minutes comes to an end.

This is a pretty intense record indeed and definitely not for the uninitiated.  I am very curious how they pulled off this challenging record live.

[READ: April 18, 2017] Birthright: Volume Three

This story continues to grow in excitement and tension.  Brennan is getting a little frustrated that Mikey seems to be hiding something from him (he has been getting hints that Mikey is lying about his mission).

But first there is a flashback to a time when Mikey disobeyed his handler, Rook. In this instance he disobeyed in order to help a helpless victim.  A young girl was about to sacrificed to King Lore and he risked his own life to save her.  Rook is furious that he could have been killed but also because he has now changed the way the world is supposed to work–the girl’s death was supposed to be a regrettable necessity.

Back on Earth, Agent Kylen has paid a visit to Aaron in prison.  He asks for Aaron’s help in tracking down his sons.  Aaron says no way but Kylen indicates that it is not a request after all.  So Aaron tells Kylen about his old house in the burbs of Chicago.

At the same time, Rya and Wendy are searching for them as well.  Rya is getting more exhausted (she is really close to giving birth) so Wendy winds up driving her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DANUBIUS-Danubius (2002).

After seeing Secret Chiefs 3 recently, I went to the Web of Mimicry website and saw what other CDs they had to offer.  In their clearance bin, they had a couple of CDs including this one by Danubius.  So who are they?

Danubius is a San Francisco-based Eastern European band, specializing in traditional and Gypsy (Rom) music from Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and other countries in the vicinity of the Danube River.  Led by Music Director Roman Titcu, our music has been called romantic, passionate, energizing, and can be described as a cross between the genres of folk and Classical music. We play both Western and traditional Hungarian, Romanian, and Bulgarian musical instruments, giving us a unique sound.

Yes, so even though Secret Chiefs 3 experiment with various Eastern Europeans styles, Danubius is not about experimentation at all.  They are about authenticity.   This 53 minute disc has twenty songs broken down into sections.  And the booklet is quite detailed in its explanation of the various songs and styles.

The members for this recording are David Skuse – vioolin, viola, gadulka, bass , drum ; David Nebenzahl – violin, viola, bass, tambura ; Clark Welsh – tárogató, fluier, Romanian caval, ocarina, Bulgarian tambura and kaval, prim and brach tambruricas, cobză and sax ; Jutka Mándoki – accordion, kontra, acoustic guitar, cimbalom, brasca (viola), Tekerőlant (hurdy-gurdy), ütőgardon (Beaten cello), bass ; Magdi Ordasi, Szilvi Gilbert, vocals ; former band member: Balázs Králik – bass, violin ; guests: Roman Titcu – tambal mare (cimbalom) ; Odile Lavault – accordion.

I enjoy that the notes state that some of the songs are intended as show off pieces.

The sections include (I tried to get every accent right, but there will be no searching for these titles).

Transylvanian Suite
Doină De Ardeal; Purtată și Invârtita Din Țara Fagarașului; Hațegana
This begins with some slow horn melodies as the rest of the band plays traditional backing instruments.  Accordion is prominent in some songs too.  The third is described as “a standard show-off piece.”

Hungarian Roma (Gypsy) style songs
The mandolin (the only instrument not listed up there so clearly one of the other ones–likely the prim which is a kind of tambura) runs free with this fast melody that grows faster as it goes on.  Made popular in the 1960s.

Caval Suite (Southern Romania)
Cântec Lui Dumitru Dobrican;  Joc Ca La Stâna
The caval is a long, five holed flute with a very soft sound.  There’s some truly lovely flute melodies over slow backing chords for the first one.  The second one is really fast a totally show-offy kind of piece with accompanimnet by the lute, the cobză .

Nóta Suite (Hungarian Gypsy Restaurant Style)
Friss Csárdás; Maros Víze Folyik Csendesen (“the water of the Maros flows quietly”); Minek A söke énnékem? (“What is the blonde to me”);  Hull A Fa Levele, Hull A Hó (“the tree’s leaves are falling, the snow is falling”)
Four very short pieces (none over 2 minutes) with primarily fiddle as the main melody.  The notes say that these kind of songs were usually mean as lead off for instrumental extravagance.  “Hull…” is probably the most popular instrumental tune of all time–each violinist tries to outdo the others.

Geamparalele (Romania Black Sea)
Geamparalele de la Cernavodă – Leliță loană – Geamparalele  Bătute
A fascinating whistle sound very fast ans almost birdlike.  This song is in Balkan 7/16 meter (2+2+3) with four lead instruments.

Bulgarian Suite
Melodija; Blateshnichka kopanitsa (“Hoeing”)
The first is a free rhythm tune.  It’s first lead instrument is the gadulka (Bulgarian folk fiddle) with three melody strings and 10 sympathetic strings.  There is no fingerboard and the notes are stopped with the fingers.  There’s also the Bulgarian kaval a 7 hole flute.  The second piece is in 11/16 (2+2+3+2+2) meter with tambura as lead.  There’s lots of beautiful soaring flute in the first of these two songs.  The second is a fast picking experience.

Dunántúli Suite (southern Hungary)
Urgós (“jumping”); Lassú / friss Csárdás (“Slow and fresh dances of the inn”)
This is the only section with vocals, which I don’t like as much as the instrumental songs.

Kyuchek  (Bulgarian Roma)
Flute is prominent in this song which is in 8/16 (3=3=2).

Muntenian Suite (Southern Romania)
Hora rară; Brâul pe șase (“belt dance in six”); Joc Țigănesc De Doi (“Roma dance for two”); Brâul Pe Opt  (“belt dance in eight”)
These are furiously fast dance songs.  The first was first heard by David during the Ceaseșcu years).   Violins dominate this song but with a delightful fluier (sounds like a penny whistle) added ion.  They’re mostly fast numbers all about 2 minute long.

This whole record is an enjoyable trip into Hungarian culture.  And you can dance to it (well, some people can dance to it).

[READ: April 17, 2017] Birthright: Volume Two: Call to Adventure

As this book opens up Aaron and his wife, Wendy, are trying to reconcile.  They both see that their children are in something big here.  Aaron is still super pissed that she even for a second considered that he killed Mikey, and she is still pissed about well, everything else.  But they are willing to talk it out.

That is until Agent Kylen with the National Security Agency busts in and tells him that Agent Brooks is no longer on this case–things have gotten too serious.

Meanwhile back in the woods, Mikey is trying to toughen up Brennan a bit–cold river baths and a bit of swordplay, when they are attacked by a large bear.  But rather than violence, Mikey is able to communicate with the bear and pacify it.  Mikey says that he has a way with animals.  And then proceeds to smash its skull in.  Brennan is outraged, shocked, aghast that his brother could kill so easily.  But Mikey just say to do what you have to to survive.

Wendy discovers the journal that Mikey created when he was first in Terrenos.  And this is great way to learn a little more about his life there.  She reads how Mikey really wants to come home, but that he knows he has a job to do. (more…)

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