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Archive for the ‘Fears’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE KLEZMER CONSERVATORY BAND-Oy Chanukah! (1987).

For the first day of Hanukkah, it’s time for a Chanukah album.

This is a collection of traditional Chanukah songs interspersed with brief stories and a history of the holiday.

It works as a musical collection, although the dialogue does obviously stop the flow every couple of minutes.

Klezmer music is fun (provided you like the clarinet), but it really can’t be dissociated from the stories behind it.

The first narrator talks about the Maccabees and the Festival of Lights.  There’s the tales of Judith and Hannah and memories of klezmorim coming to the shtetl.  There’s even a recipe for latkes and the story of the dreydl.

Some of the songs have words (sung in Yiddish) but just as many are instrumentalist.  The majority of the songs are traditional, of course, but my favorite is “Klezzified,” which is written by one of the band.

This disc is a good introduction to Chanukah music.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Souterrain”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

This story was really powerful and it revealed all of the details and connections in a slow and excruciating way–once you realized what was happening.

There are several characters in the story which takes place primarily in France.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN ZORN’s A Dreamer’s Christmas (2011).

You can never say with certainty what kind of music you will get with a John Zorn record.  It could be beautiful; it could be scary.  It could be chaotic; it could be traditional.  There’s could be death metal or gentle jazz.  There could be vocals or not.

Some time in 2008, Zorn started yet another project.  This one was called The Dreamers and it proved to be on the mellow, jazzy side of his spectrum.

The members have been Cyro Baptista − percussion; Joey Baron − drums; Trevor Dunn − acoustic and electric Bass; Marc Ribot − guitars; Jamie Saft − keyboards and Kenny Wollesen − vibes, chimes, glockenspiel.  For A Dreamer’s Christmas, Mike Patton (notorious for making a racket) sings some delightful vocals on 2 songs.

The album contains eight tracks: six traditional and two original Zorn compositions.

“Winter Wonderland” is played on vibes.  There’s a cool repeating bass signature that bounces the song along and a groovy jazzy keyboard background before the electric guitar comes in to play the main riff.

“Snowfall” is just lovely with more vibes and a delicate guitar and twinkling piano.  There’s even some hand drums to add some cool percussive effects.  the songs is primarily a lovely piano instrumental.  I don’t understand why I don’t know this song.  Why isn’t it on other Christmas albums?  It’s lovely.

“Christmastime is Here” is, indeed, the song from The Peanuts movie.  The main melody is guitar and vibes and this version is possibly more entertaining than the original.

“Santa’s Workshop” is a John Zorn composition.  It’s faster and a bit more upbeat than the others, but with a really groovy riff and some fun vibes to match it.  There’s also a fun keyboard solo.  This song first in perfectly with the others.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”  begins with a quiet and somber piano playing the melody.  It’s a lovely piece with some fun piano noodling.

“Let It Snow” starts with a bell and a rather funky bass line.  After a minute or so the guitar takes over to play the main melody.  There’s some weird and wacky 70s keys playing around in the background that you don’t really notice right away.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is the first odd-sounding track on the disc.  The guitar is plucked and the percussion seems to be all kinds of small wooden things clattering around.  I assume someone is playing the rims of glasses as well.  That goes on for a minute before the piano comes in and it gets very jazzy (with an upright bass).  It sounds a lot like the kind of piano playing featured in Charlie Brown.  The end of the song features a kind of whispered, slightly sinister take on the lyric by Patton.

“Magical Sleigh Ride” is the second Zorn original.  It is a swift-moving treat–fluid bass, repeated guitar licks and solos, and a fast percussion beat before the melody kicks in.  After about 2 minutes there’s a pretty wild and rollicking guitar solo.  It’s the most intense thing on the record (which isn’t very intense really) but all along the jazzy pianos and percussion remains.  Its followed by a similarly exuberant vibes solo.  It’s another great Christmas song and fits in perfectly with the others.

“The Christmas Song” returns to the traditional with a lovely, quiet piano rendition of the song and a nice vocal delivery from Mike Patton.  Patton is in perfectly deep-voiced crooner mode and it suits everything perfectly.  There’s a lengthy piano solo in the middle and then Patton finishes the song.

The disc ends with everyone wishing us a Merry Christmas.

It is a surprising and wonderful Christmas album worthy of addition to everyone’s collection.

[READ: November 26, 2017] The Crown of Fire

This is the fourth and final book in the Copernicus series.  There is no third or fourth mini book (I wonder why there wasn’t at least at third one).

I found this book to be exhausting and depressing.   And that’s because for the most part that’s how the characters felt–exhausted and depressed.  I also felt more exhausted by the series than I apparently felt after book three.  I thought I had stopped because I was burnt out on the series, but that’s not the impression I get from reading my post.  But this book did get very dark for most of its 500+ pages.

Lily and Darrell are together by themselves and they are fleeing once again.  They eventually find someone who will help them leave the country in a cargo ship–two weeks in a tiny hold by themselves.  Even Darrell who is still crazy about Lily finds it a bit much.

Back in the other part of the world, Becca Wade and Sara have just gotten a message from Roald.  But it turns out to be a trap. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TED LEO-Tiny Desk Concert #678 (December 4, 2017).

Up until now, I have more or less missed Ted Leo and all of his phases.  The blurb notes:

How you listen to Leo depends on when his work came into your life. If you’re a back-in-the-day type you might rep for Chisel, his ’90s punk outfit born on the Notre Dame campus and bred in Washington, D.C. If you’re just tuning in, you may have witnessed his understated comedy chops in arenas like The Best Show on WFMU and a highly enjoyable Twitter feed. At the center of this bell curve are those who found Leo at the dawn of the 2000s — when, at the helm of what’s most commonly called Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (shout-out to the typographical variants still mucking up iTunes libraries), he kicked off a run of five stellar albums in just under 10 years, each one urgently attuned to its political context and yet defiant in its ideas of what punk could sound like and whose stories it could aim to tell. Fans will tell you the songs about eating disorders and missing old ska bands felt just as vital to their moment as those that explicitly took on Sept. 11 and the Iraq War.

I know Ted Leo from when he played with Aimee Mann as The Both (they did a Tiny Desk show) and I am aware of Ted Leo + Pharmacists (the above mentioned typographical variant), but I somehow never really heard him/them.  I didn’t even know he was a Jersey guy.  (My friend Al is a big fan, I recently learned).

Recently, WXPN has been playing his new song “Can’t Go Back” which is wonderfully poppy and catchy and which I sing along to each morning.  Leaning more about him (and how funny he is in the Tiny Desk show) makes me want to see what I’ve been missing.

I obviously had no idea about his punk past, so I was pretty surprised to hear the feedback and heavy guitar of the first song here “Moon Out of Phase.”  Leo sings pretty hard on this song, too.  It’s fairly simple musically, but there’s a bunch going on lyrically that’s fun to pick out.

[After] the bone-rattling slow burn “Moon Out of Phase,” he smiled and explained the song was perhaps “a little heavy for noon — but, practically speaking, it helps me get the cobwebs out.”

“Can’t Go Back” couldn’t be more different. It’s catchy and not at all heavy.  It has backing vocals (provided by Leo himself) and just swings along.

 It’s a bit faster than on record, and as the blurb notes:

By the time he hit the first chorus of “Can’t Go Back,” a danceable bop about accepting that the life you have isn’t quite the one you planned for, any remaining cobwebs had been scattered to the wind.

Interestingly for being such a guitar based guy, there;s no solos on the songs (and yet they’re not short either, the first and third songs are about 4 minutes long).  Rather than a solo on “Can’t Get Back,” there’s a cool guitar chord progression.

He seems unsure of the quality of that song (not sure why–because he doesn’t hit those high notes perfectly?)  But then says he’ll finish off with a request.  “I’m a Ghost” is an old song that he doesn’t usually play solo, but figured he would because of the time of year (guess this was recorded around Halloween).

He tells an amusing story about someone asking about the first line: “I’m ghost and I wanted you to know its taking all of my strength to make this toast.”  The person asked if the toast was “a toast” or a ghost pressing the lever down on a toaster and “the hand of the frosty apparition is just going through the thing.”  He says it was originally “a toast” but now it is absolutely about the toaster, that’s the greatest metaphor for so many things.”

It’s really about “alienation from the political process.” It’s more rocking, like the first song, but with a catchy chorus like the second song.  This is a fun set and a good, long-overdue introduction to Ted Leo.

[READ: April 6, 2017] The Golden Vendetta

This is the third full-sized book in the Copernicus series.  It follows the mini-book about Becca.

I enjoyed this book more than the second one.  I enjoy the sections where they have some downtime and aren’t just running around.  And there was more downtime in this book.  I was also really intrigued by the way it began.

The families had been reunited and them separated.  So Darrell and Wade and the adults Kaplans were living in a hotel under an assumed name.  And Lily and Becca were also together under assumed names–but they were not allowed to contact the boys.  This went on for two months.

In that time Galina Krause had been inactive.  We learn that she had been in a coma, but the good guys never find that out, they’re just in the dark for months.

Until Galina wakes up and is on the move again.  And then everyone is on the move.

The families travel under assumed names but are still followed relentlessly by the bad guys. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS TOO? (2003).

This second installment of this Nettwerk Christmas series is much darker than the first.  Perhaps this is indicated by the tree being on fire.  In fact, of the three it’s the one I listen to the least, despite the fact that it has a couple of my favorite Christmas songs on it.  The downer songs are labelled [NSFC] Not Safe for Christmas.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-“Spotlight on Christmas”  I love this song.  It’s actually quite sad and stands up for poor little rich people at Christmas, but the chorus is so pretty.  And i really love Rufus’ voice.

EISLEY-“The Winter Song”
I’ve never heard of this band outside of this song (they are still active).  The song is terrific and their voices and harmonies are really wonderful.

AVRIL LAVIGNRE & CHANTAL KREVIAZUK-“O Holy Night”
This version of the song has stuck with me for years.  I simply cannot decide if Avril has the most pure and unmodified voice when singing his song or if she is just totally flat (which I don’t think she is).  I find her delivery is haunting in a very strange way.  Krevizauk, on the other hand has and absolutely incredible voice and her parts are amazing.

RILO KILEY-“Xmas Cake” [NSFC]
This is the first of many depressing songs.  Five and a half minutes of bad news and sad tidings.  Good grief.  The melody is nice and maybe in another context it would be powerful, but holy crap, no one want to hear this at Christmas.

DAMIEN RICE & LISA HANNIGAN-“Silent Night” [NSFC]
This is a really dark song that turns Silent Night from a song of hope to one of despair.

GUSTER-“Donde Esta Santa Claus?”
This is perhaps my favorite Christmas song, ever.  It’s fun and lighthearted and super catchy.  I can’t believe it is wedged in between these really dark songs that I always skip.

THE BE GOOD TANYAS-“Rudy” [NSFC]
This is a sweet, catchy song until you hear the words and that its about a red-nosed wino who dies.  Good grief.

DAVE MATTHEWS BAND-“Christmas Song” [NSFC]
This song has a pretty decent melody but Matthews sings it really quietly and, man, it just never goes anywhere. It’s five and a half minutes long and has no energy.  Gah.

OH SUSANNA-“Go Tell It on the Mountain”
I always forget that this is a Christmas song, but it certainly is.  It’s full of gospel tinges, as it should be.  Apparently new lyrics have been added but I don’t know all the words so it was news to me.

BARENAKED LADIES-“Green Christmas”
BNL has recorded three versions of this song.  It was written for the 2000 film How the Grinch Stole Christmas and appeared on the soundtrack.  It also appears on Barenaked for the Holidays.  Each of those versions is different and they both differ from this one.  It’s a bit of a downer but only as much as BNL can be downers.

MARTINA SORBARA-“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” [NSFC]
Never has anything wonderful felt so sad and mopey.  This bluesy version is kind of interesting but man is it ever at odds with the meaning of the song.

BADLY DRAWN BOY-“Donna & Blitzen”
This is another terrific song.  Its got a  great melody, some terrific piano and a super catchy chorus.  Its not exactly Christmas although it sort of is and certainly works for the Christmas season

THE FLAMING LIPS-“White Chritsmas” [NSFC]
Despite my love for the Lips I really don’t like this version of the song at all.  It’s subtitled that it is a demo for Tom Waits which might explain why it is sung in such a crazy way, but Waits would do it so much better.  He just sounds mocking all the way through.

SIXPENCE NONE THE RICHER-“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”
This band used to be pretty huge back in the day.  This song is very pretty–played on a kind of Spanish-sounding guitar with some neat and kind of spooky keys playing single notes at the end of each verse.  It’s a really cool version and ends the disc on a good note.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Kings”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

This is a story about D.H. Lawrence and his life in Kandy, Ceylon in 1922.  I don’t know anything about Lawrence, so I assume this is all based on research.  As with most fictionalizations of real people’s lives, I don’t get why it was written.  But it was quite interesting and enjoyable, so maybe that’s why.

He and his German wife had exiled themselves from England immediately after the war.  They met an American, Brewster, who invited them to Kandy, nicknamed Little England.  But it was a sad trick, that name, for it was all jungle.  Lawrence suffered from tuberculosis and the jungle heat did not help. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WALTER MARTIN-Tiny Desk Concert #677 (December 1, 2017).

Walter Martin’s name didn’t sound familiar.  So this blurb helped:

Best known as a singer and multi-instrumentalist with the band The Walkmen, Martin has spent his solo career making unabashedly joyful, sweetly innocent and playful music perfectly suited for quirky four-part harmonies.

I sort of know The Walkmen; I know them more as an outlet for Hamilton Leithauser.  But after watching this, I find Martin to be a more satisfying performer.

I really enjoy his easy singing style and the every loose way he has with his guitar and with the songs in general.

Only Walter Martin would bring a barbershop quartet to the Tiny Desk.   The barbershop quartet is known as The Glen Echoes, a group of singers he found online and met for rehearsals the day before coming to NPR. It works particularly well on the song with which he opens this performance, “I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour,” a brilliant and comical call-and-response story-song about, well, going alone on a solo Australian tour.

“I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour,” is indeed really enjoyable.  Martin is casual and I love how the quartet starts out singing with him, then questioning him and then just acting like casual acquaintances–he asks them questions, too and they sing the responses.  All without losing the pacing.

It’s funny but also thoughtful.

The second song, the equally charming if slightly more wistful “Me And McAlevey,” is about a dear friend who lives in Maine.  It’s about friendship and loyalty and life as a middle-aged father.

The song is relatively simple and straightforward, but the guitar picking is delightfully complex and pretty.  I really like his vocal delivery and the way he ends his verses.

Martin closes with “Sing To Me,” his best-known song, thanks in no small part to its appearance in an Apple ad.

He describes it as the romantic centerpiece of his children’s album.  It is a pretty song once again, with lovely sentiments.  The pianist switches to electric guitar for a rather different sound.

The whole Tiny Desk Concert is delightful and makes me want to check out more of his stuff.  There’s no mention of who play what, but the mudsicians were:  Josh Kaufman; Jamie Krents; Brian Kantor; Richard Cook; Ken Sleeman; Mike Holmes and  Al Blount.

[READ: March 28, 2017] Becca and the Prisoner’s Cross

This is the second (and final) novella in the series.  It comes between books 2 and 3.  And, as the title suggests it is all about Becca.

The end of book 2 had Becca “materialize” on a boat in the past–right next to Nicolaus Copernicus.  It was a weird ending for a book that while sometimes magical, seemed to follow some kind of reality.  But this was different.  What could it mean?

Well, this novella explains it all (sort of).  We suspect that Becca’s proximity to the Kronos device when it went off triggered something.  (I keep wondering if it has something to do with her hurt arm which, frankly, shouldn’t hurt anymore, it has been two weeks, right?).

Anyhow, what we determine is that Becca is sort of passing out at home and her mind is travelling to Copernicus.  No time passes at home, but she is able to spend time with the scientist.  The best reveal comes early in the book when Copernicus senses that someone is there as well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-Live Phish Downloads 7.6.98 Lucerna Theatre, Prague, Czech (2007).

After finishing recording “The Story of the Ghost” in Vermont and Bearsville in upstate New York, Phish embarked on June 27th for a short European tour.

What’s interesting is that the official comments about this show talk about hoe legendary it was, and my takeaway was just how often someone (usually Trey) messes up.

“Buried Alive” is a surprising opening track.  It rocks and segues into a choppy “AC/DC Bag.”  The song ends with a funky section that segues into a 15 minute “Ghost.”  “Ghost has a fast and scorching middle jam section.”  I’m going to include some of the online notes here:

They deconstructed Bag’s concise jam into a perfect segue to the centerpiece of the show – a fast, funky and furious “Ghost.”  You can clearly hear the sonic flourishes layered over a driving groove with confident vocals that seethed energy. The dynamic feel of “Ghost” lent deep drama to the lyrics, highlighted the loops and effects and provided an ideal platform for some hairy soloing. Page migrated from piano to synthesizer, Clavinet to Rhodes in a floating conversation with the band. Eventually “Ghost” took on an electronic tinge that hinted at the deepest post-hiatus improvisation. This was fueled by Trey’s Hendrix-esque leads with bent tone and pitch into a series of shifting polyrhythmic counterpoints. Expanding until it seemed the room would explode, the music evolved into a funky groove with starts and stops punctuated by the now-roaring crowd.

“Ghost” segues into Talking Heads’ “Cities” which has a really sharp (weird) drum sound.  There a lengthy intro before the song starts properly.  The choruses are really slow (and someone plays a wrong chord).  But the song end with a really groovy solo that encourages people to clap along.

“Cities” started in double-time and shifted effortlessly into normal rhythm for the first chorus and the rest of the song. With the lyrics “a lot of ghosts in a lot of houses”, “Cities” continued the eerie theme of this already-historic performance, blending a smooth, creative vibe with an aggressive, rocking attack. Seemingly on cue, the band dropped out of “Cities” and left Trey to end the song alone with the clapping crowd. The momentary pause after Cities was the first time the band stopped at all, having linked Buried > Bag > Ghost > Cities into a powerful opening sequence for the ages.

“Limb By Limb” is mellow with Trey on guitars.

 “Limb By Limb” followed. Written by Trey on a sequencer with a drum part intended to stump Fish, Limb is always a feat of execution. This performance exhibited an added sense of dynamics no doubt spurred on by the intimate setting, highlighting restrained melodic dialogue among the whole band. While sometimes this jam breathed fire, this groovy interlude danced intricate circles around the glowing embers, leaving space for Fish to lay down some outrageous fills and cymbal work. Trey’s final solo culminated in repeated guitar fanning, which brought the song to a cathartic close.

Then comes “Train Song” and “Roggae” which gets more mellow by the end.

“Train Song” provided a moment of tranquil reflection in the middle of the set. The second-ever live “Roggae” followed, giving a chance to show off more new material in a new country as the band fashioned a coda with so much inherent space that the notes hung slightly suspended between phrases.

The 12 minute “Maze” perks everyone up.  There’s a lengthy keyboard solo followed by a nice solo from Trey.  During Maze the band stopped on a dime to thank the audience (and appreciate the architecture) , then finished the song.  It’s amazing how tight that was.

“Maze” blossomed into an electric improvisation starting with Page’s lively organ solo followed by a cacophonous solo from Trey who shredded unabashedly until the whole band telepathically stopped on a dime for him to say “We hope you’re all having a good time tonight…we just want to say that we really appreciate your support and how much we enjoy playing in Prague here.” Page interjected “We love the architecture” while Trey continued “I don’t think we got a chance to thank you last night so we just thought we’d take this moment to thank you very much.” After a quick countdown, the band re-entered the song in the exact shred-space they’d occupied before the acrobatic stop. After Maze, they closed the first set with Golgi Apparatus that had a rave-up ending with Trey shouting, in an apparent nod to the World Cup Soccer quarterfinals, “Jon Fishman, Jon Fishman, Hey, Ho, Hey, Ho”.

I noticed that “Golgi Apparatus” has a whole series of mess ups—someone is in the wrong key and can’t get free.

Set Two opens with the fast verses of “Julius” and then the slow staccato “Meat.”

Set two began with a swinging “Julius” that got everyone moving and Fishman passionately testifying at the highest peaks. “Julius” led into “Meat,” a new song. “Meat” returned the show to its initial ghoulish theme, confounding the audience with its multiple stops and starts. Immediately after Meat came a soaring, adventurous “Piper.”

“Piper” is 19 minutes long with a scorching solo in the middle.

“Piper” stretched nearly twenty minutes and bumped up against the boundaries already shattered by “Ghost.” Piper sped into a ferocious jam characterized by intense guitar runs … before it settled into hard rock with plenty of room for the whole band to explore. Like the experimental “Ghost” in set one, “Piper” was fearless, building to massive peaks before floating off into a slower, more minimal section accented by loops from Trey and Mike atop Page’s piano and Fish’s cymbal rolls. This part of “Piper” hinted at “Fikus,” part three of the “Ghost” trilogy, becoming slow and funky before locking neatly into the rowdy reggae of “Makisupa Policeman.”

“Makisupa Policeman” is a little goofy and fun. “Petrov” (Page) sings lead vocals. During this song there’s a drum solo and Trey tells the audience that if the solo is long and boring they should just whistle to make him stop.

As he scatted around the lyrics of “Makisupa Policeman,” Trey uttered the key phrase, “stink-kind”, adding a touch of home with “policeman came to Vermont!” He handed things off to Page for a piano solo (calling him “Petrof” after the logo visible on the rented piano) during which Page developed a ska feel. Trey announced a drum solo next, saying if Fish soloed too long the crowd should start whistling, as the band did when he talked too much. Fish played along, rendering a minimal solo of high hat, kick drum and rim shots, returning to the song in the nick of time. After some dancehall-style dub effects, the band finished Makisupa and dove into David Bowie.

The 13 minute “David Bowie” has lengthy washes of guitars and some noisy parts.

A thematic jam hinted subtly at Santana before riding a dissonant wave into the ending changes of the second and final Bowie of the European tour. With scarcely a pause, Page hammered out the opening notes of Loving Cup, cementing the status of this magical night.  it segues into Loving cup a loose jam

“Loving Cup” is a loose, fun version running almost 10 minutes.  There is much cheering at the “I know I play a bad guitar” line.

The encore is “Possum.”  It’s kind of slow and loping but fun.

The band returned for an encore and repaid the rowdy crowd’s enthusiasm with Possum. The audience clapped along for a bit eventually leaving the band to a textbook performance that was at once conscious and passionate, restrained yet explosive. Trey dropped a quick tease of “Stash” as he propelled “Possum” through machine-gun fans entwined with soft, dynamic sections that made this a perfect encore for such an intimate show. As the crowd filtered into the streets of Prague it was clear that this had been an unforgettable night that could only have happened when and where it did.

So there’s two takes on the show.  You can read all of Kevin’s essay here. and I’m going to re-listen to this show to hear the magic foe myself.

[READ: March 6, 2017] The Serpent’s Curse

This is the second full-sized book in the Copernicus series.  After reading the Copernicus Archives book I noted that the event of that book are not referenced in this book, but I was wrong.  There are several mentions to San Francisco.  It’s not a huge gap and you wouldn’t be lost without reading it, but it is odd that he would reference a book that apparently some people don’t read.

This book is pretty large–480 pages.  And I feel like it was kind of slow.  Or perhaps they just spent way too much time in Russia.  Or, and this is most likely the case–they spent the whole book looking for one relic.  And 500 pages is a lot of traveling for one item.

I’m bummed that I felt this way at the end because in the beginning I thought it was really exciting.  And Abbott filled in some things that a nitpicky reader might nitpick about with some interesting new developments.  One of the things that one has to wonder about is how this normal family will be able to jet set around the world.  Well, that comes with the assistance of a best-selling author with millions of dollars at his disposal.  Convenient? Sure.  But it’s a nice development.  The author, Terence Akroyd writes exciting thrillers (so of course he is interested in the plot) and he has a personal vendetta against the bad guys, so he’s happy to help out with money and resources, like his jets and technology. [That author is presumably not based on reality].

Terence also has a son, Julian, who is apparently pretty hot.  But he’s a few years older than our protagonists so presumably nothing will come from that.  Despite all of the potential romance between Wade and Becca in the first book and parts of this one, nothing is progressing on that front. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKENYA-Oiche Chuin (1995).

I bought this 3-song single back in 1995.  A few years later Enya released a Christmas EP with five songs on it.  It contains the first and third songs from this single and then a few songs from her other records.

“Oiche Chuin” is Irish for Silent Night.  Her version of the song is beautiful and haunting.  The melody is the same, but it has all of Enya’s trademark sounds on it which makes it even more ethereal.  Having it in Irish in no way removes the power of the song, unless of you course you just listen for the lyrics.

“Oriel Window” is a pretty piano instrumental–very different from her multi-tracked productions.

‘S Fagaim Mo Bhaile” is a lovely Enya track.  Not Christmassey, but it’s in Irish so it doesn’t really matter what it’s about.  It translates as “And I Leave My Home,” so it is full of sorrow and yearning.

So not a full Christmas album but the version of “Silent Night” is wonderful.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Souterrain”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

I didn’t expect that these advent stories would be all sweet and full of Christmas, but I also didn’t expect to read about bodies being torn in half and flattened by tanks.

I have enjoyed a few stories from Boyko in the past.  However, this story is, as you can tell from the title, a military story.

What happens in military stories?  Somebody (sometimes everybody) gets killed.  And the rest of the time everyone else is more or less waiting to get killed.  Either you wipe out the enemy or they kill you.  It is a torturous time where any diversion is welcome.

But these frightening episodes don’t really make for compelling stories–especially if the person you care about is going to die.

So you can only read for the details of each story and hope they are effective..

The one nice change for this story was that most of the soldiers were women.

I guess these are actually five episodes within the story:

“High Ground” is about choosing the safest place from which to attack some one.

“Six Inches” has the soldiers talking about death (if she had been six inches to the left she would be dead.  And then they were all attacked.

“Mail Call” looks at what happens to the package of a dead solider.

“Still Alive” deals with a soldier’s fear of the dead and how to cope with it–by exposing herself to more dead bodies.

“The Cook Up” finally shows some leisure.  The soldiers are allowed to scrounge for something other than the lousy food ratios.  It’s nice to see them enjoying themselves for a few hours before they all die.

Being a soldier really must suck.

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