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Archive for the ‘Guns’ Category

SOUNDTRACKPLANTS & ANIMALS–Live at Massey Hall (December 1, 2016).

This is the start of the fourth season of Live at Massey Hall.

I didn’t really know any of the six artists, but they have recently begun adding new bands about whom I am pretty excited.

Of course, as with many of these shows, it’s the bands I don’t know which blow me away.

I didn’t know Plants and Animals, but I loved their set.

Drummer Matthew Woodley says that he and Warren Spicer (guitars and vocals) met in Halifax and had a series of bands until they moved to Montreal and met Nick Basque (guitars, keyboards).  They started as an instrumental band and then Warren started to craft words and now we’re a normal singing, dancing and playing band.

“We Were One” opens with feedback and some cool mechanical sounds that come from one of their guitars.

Warren sings kind of quietly and plays acoustic guitar.  Mid way through, the song shifts gears with some big guitar sounds from Nick with a great little autocratic guitar run and riff before a big chord ends it all.

“All of the Time” is a cool moody piece with loud pianos from Nick, rumbling guitars and backing vocals from bassist Josh Toal.

During the break, one of them says, “we like an element of danger… if I go to a show and everything is under control it’s still fun if you like the music, but as an experience if you forget about the music,  the feeling it’s just going to play out…   they’ll get two encores and we’ll go home….  But we’d rather feel, “Oh, but this is cool whats going to happen?” The first band they toured with was Wolf Parade and they had a “wow, anything can happen, they might just stop.”  That’s the kind of show we want to pursue–something that feels a little bit dangerous.

“Flowers” opens with some cool falsetto vocals and then a moody middle section.

“So Many Nights” opens with synths and a cool bass line.  It sounds a bit like Air (French band) with some lengthy guitar solos from the acoustic guitar which sounds very cool.  The slows down and slows further and then builds and build and builds and builds further to a noisy crescendo with them chanting “your feet are heavy, carry on.”

“A L’oree Des Bois” opens with pretty, intertwining guitars while Nick talks about making records in his Québécois accent.

Before the final song they bring out a tiny boy (Aaron Spicer) who sings a quiet song in French–to rapturous applause.

“No Worries Gonna Find Us”  Is a great humping song that repeats the title and “no worries gonna be the boss of my mind.”

They say “you guys are gonna get your faces ripped off by Half Moon Run.”  But it was Plants and Animals that really impressed me so far.

[READ: July 8, 2018]  “Active Shooter”

I always like when David Sedaris talks about visiting with his sister(s).

Sedaris and his sister Lisa were driving “in her toy-size car” to her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

She is bemoaning a woman at Starbucks with a tiny monkey on a leash (in a pink dress).  She wanted to yell at woman, “What do you plan on doing with that thing once you lose interest in it?”

I love that this piece is about guns, but he is willing to throw in a bit about pet owners.

Like a lot of pet owner, I know, Lisa is certain that no one can take care of an animal as well as she can.

But as she was saying of  the woman “It’s a monkey, of course she’s going to lose interest in it” they drove past a firing range called ProShots. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Massey Hall, Toronto, ON (April 29, 2016).

After their farewell concert at Massey Hall in 2007, who would have guessed that some nine years later they’d be back again.

When I heard this show was announced I immediately bought a ticket, not really thinking about how I would logistically manage such a thing.  I was able to get it to a fan who could go, but at least I’ll have my email confirmation:

Live at Massey HallRheostatics
Fri 04/29/2016 8:00 PM
Main Floor Centre Front  Seat I-44   $29.50

This time Martin’s voice is working again.  But in the intervening years he has had something else go on with him.  I don’t know details, but there’s some kind of anxiety present–and it comes out during this show.

Amazingly, for such a big show, there is hardly any evidence of it online.  There’s a few fan videos but no full sets available.

The only performance available that I can find is the official release from (the terrific) Live at Massey Hall series.  The whole series is wonderful–professionally filmed and beautifully recorded.  The only problem is that it’s so short.  I don’t know how long the show was, but the video is only 40 minutes.

The video opens with Martin talking about his laryngitis, “laryngitis taught me to enjoy singing in a lower range.”  There’s Tim talking about seeing Devo (who were walking on treadmills the whole show) at Massey Hall and overheating from wearing a heavy coat in winter.  Dave saw lot so new wave bands who weren’t great live but were great because they were in Massey hall–it’s a forgiving and inspiring place.

Big red letters in the back of the stage spelled out RHEOSTATISC (sic).

The set opens with “King of the Past” Martin plays a lovely solo and gets some applause and the whole thing sounds great.

“Californian Dreamline” opens with some great sound effects from Martin, Hugh Marsh and Kevin Hearn.  But after the “sensamilla” bit, Martin freaks out.  He steps away from the mic and waves everyone off.

Dave jumps in, “this happened in Montreal once. It’s true.  We were opening for Moxy Fruvous, so it’s a kind of curse we’ve got to exorcise.”

The band jams on and them Martin comes back to sing and the crowd gives him a big cheer–there really is no more forgiving crowd than a Rheostatics crowd.

The opening acoustic guitar of “Claire” begins.  That’s Tim on acoustic, Dave on bass and Martin on his gorgeous double neck guitar.  The letters have been rearranged to say SORTA ITCHES and Martin plays a great solo.  Tim sounds perfect, of course.

They start “P.I.N.”  Martin sings the first line and then has an issue.  He steps away again while the band plays on. He catches himself and returns (again to encouraging applause).  Once it gets going it all sounds great.

Dave finally gets a lead vocal song.  The letters spell out SHITCOASTER as they play a flawless “Mumbletypeg.”

Then apparently the entire rest of the show happens and we get the night-ending encore–a wild and raucous “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds.” (The letters finally spell RHEOSTATICS). The song gets off to a pretty good start.  For the middle, Martin and Hugh face each other (Martin always seems comforted by being with Hugh) and then Don Kerr gets a drum solo (with sound effects from Kevin Hearn).

At the end of the song, for the “moon,” there are howls, probably from Kevin, possibly from the audience.  As they slowly fade away, Dave jumps of the drum rise and the end of the song begins.  But this is an extended jam ending.  Hugh and Kevin make some menacing sounds and then Martin plays a solo with a slide.  It’s a weird, very undramatic ending for such a dramatic band.

I have always been sad that I couldn’t go to this show, but it sounds like it would have been a real roller coaster of a night.

Read this review from Radio Free Canuckistan for the perspective of someone who was there.

Over the closing credits, Kevin Hearn’s father read “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski.  I assume he read that before the band came out (accompanied by Hugh Marsh).

I don’t know much by Bukowski, but this is great for its simple profundity.

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

[READ: March 5, 2018] Head Games

As with some of my favorite books, the story behind the creation is almost as interesting as the book itself.

Craig McDonald is a journalist and he says that he is often frustrated by trying to write the truth: “read five biographies about the same person and you’ll feel like you’ve read about five different people.”  With fiction maybe you can find something bordering truth.

The introduction by McDonald tells us that we will be riding with pulp novelist Hector Lassiter.  Lassiter is the protagonist of a finite arc of ten novels. The last one, Three Chords & The Truth is a sequel to Head Games and appeared in 2016.  Lassiter is a charmer, a rogue, a rake and a crime novelist who lives what he writes and writes what he lives.  Hector was born in Texas in 1/1/1900 and the arc of the novels spans the 20th century.

McDonald says the publishing history of the books is not chronological. Head Games was the first novel published.  The second was set in 1935 and features Hemingway prominently.  Other books hopscotched through the decade. They have recently been reissued and presented in roughly chronological order.

The novels “follow secret histories and underexplored aspects of real events.”  They’re set in real places and use history and real people to drive the plots. (more…)

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815SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Pink (2005/2016).

You never know exactly what you’re going to get with an experimental band like Boris.  Well, you sort of know what you’re going to get–it will be loud and heavy (mostly).

Boris is and pretty much always has been a trio from Japan: Takeshi on vocals, and double neck bass/ guitar;  Atsuo on drums and some vocals and Wata – with guitars effects and vocals.

.  Their first album came out in 1996 and was a 60 minute continuous piece of drone metal.  It is considered ground breaking (and ground shaking) and is completely influential.  It (along with half of their catalog) is currently out of print, at least in the U.S.  Boris is also nigh impossible to collect all of their music, if you like that sort of thing.  Their Japanese releases are inevitably different from any American release (and sometimes vinyl differs from CD).  Either by track order or length of song or even the mix of particular songs

A decade and eight (plus) releases later with names like Amplifier Worship and Heavy Rocks, they put out Pink.

Pink is a landmark album for Boris (two years ago they toured the album),  because even though it was still incredibly heavy, it also experimented.  Most notably with shoegaze.

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Pink has a specific track listing on both American and Japanese releases, but the vinyl mixes things up.

The CD releases open with “決別” (“Farewell”) a beautiful soaring 7 minute slow song with a catchy chord sequence and lovely ringing guitars.  Although the beauty is interrupted by Wata’s wailing guitar solos.  She plays some wonderful soaring notes although at times they are rather piercing.  But it’s still kind of soothing and dreamy

Until track 2, when “Pink” scorches forth with a  super fast super heavy super guitar blast.  Four minutes of all out metal with soaring guitars, heavy drums and some appropriate screams from drummer/singer Atsuo.  And if you listen with headphones, there may be two or three guitars echoing in there (in addition to Wata, Tetsuo exclsuivly plays a doubleneck bass/guitar so you never really know what you’re going to get form him next.

The two and a half-minute “スクリーンの女” (“Woman on the Screen”) continues the thrash while the two-minute “別になんでもない” (“Nothing Special”) only increases it with a guitar so fuzzed out as to be almost recognizable.

“ブラックアウト” (“Blackout”) shows another side of the band.   Still loud, still heavy, but grindingly slow and sludgy (those shoegaze days are long gone).  The song ends with nearly a minute of ringing feedback before abruptly cutting off and switching to a more standard heavy metal sound in the 75 second instrumental “Electric.”

“偽ブレッド” (“Pseudo-Bread”) stomps along with fast drums and all kinds of distortion.  It’s even got a kind of mumbly sing-along chorus.  In the second half of these song there’s a great riff and even some “ooh oohs” to sing along to.  It’s really catchy until the ten seconds of noise tacked on at the end (the vinyl version extends this sheer brutal wall of noise to six minutes!).

“ぬるい炎” (“Afterburner”) changes tempo a lot.  It sounds like a big old 1970s rock song with chanted vocals and hand claps.  Wata’s solo is pure old school classic rock.  Prominent drums and highly distorted guitars split headphones as the vocals sit in the middle of the three-minute “6を3つ” (“Six, Three Times”).

“My Machine” is only two minutes on the CD, but it is eleven on the vinyl.  The Cd version taken from the middle of the song–where there’s more bass and echoed guitars underneath, while the eleven minute version has soaring guitars and washes of waves moving back and forth.  It’s dreamy and lovely until the ending feedback, of course.  But that fades out and then it’s just relaxing washes of waves until the main melody pokes it head back up briefly and then fades once more.  There’s a kind of rumble for the last minute or so of the extended version which leads into “Farewell” on the vinyl.  But the CD continues with “俺を捨てたところ” (“Just Abandoned Myself”).  On the American release, it’s eighteen minutes long, although it’s only ten minutes on the Japanese version.

The song is a favorite of many fans.  It’s got a totally catchy riff with distant vocals singing a catchy melody.  It’s like 7 minutes of a super catchy metal song with great vocals, a catchy melody and a terrific baseline riff.  There’s some very cool sounds that bounce around the song too.  Around eight minutes the heaviness goes away and soaring guitars take over, but with a low rumble to keep it grounded.  The next six or so minutes are pretty much classic metal drone–two chords repeated slowly while a feebacking guitar wails over the top.  The only difference is the kind of quieter guitar that;s sort of soloing throughout–almost plucking out notes amid the noise.

Pink was reissued in 2016 as a deluxe two disc package.  The second disc is called Forbidden Songs with nine well-produced and great-sounding tracks.

“Your Name Part 2” is dreamy and melodic.  It opens quietly almost like a spaghetti western with some bass notes, soaring guitar notes, and quietly echoed vocals.  “Heavy Rock Industry” starts with some loud droning chords and then about a minute an a half in there’s just drums and Atsuo whooping until the song takes off again.  “SOFUN” is four minutes of a heavy pummeling riff and scorching solos.

“non/sha/lant” is like a heavy short jam with bass riffage and soloing followed by some guitar work.  “Room Noise” is catchy with a cool bassline and soaring guitars.  “Talisman” is slow and heavy with loud distortion.  There’s a shouted chorus with heavy downtuned guitars that makes it almost singalongy.

“N.F. Sorrow” is nearly eight minutes long.  starts off slow with echoed vocals and a shaker.  It’s a quiet moody piece that builds to a heavy chorus with rumbling slow bass.  When the song really gets moving around 6 minutes there’s some great driving bass under Wata’s solo.

“Are You Ready?” is a simple two note riff on the guitar with a chorus of loudly whispered menace.  The song fades on a wild solo.  And the bonus disc ends with the 2 minute “Tiptoe” a quiet piece of gently plucked guitars and echoed notes that resolves into a really catchy melody.

Boris has dozens of records out but this is certainly the place to start–you get to experience pretty much all phases of the band.

[READ: July 21, 2015] “Lost Luggage”

This was the 2015 New Yorker fiction issue.  It featured several stories and several one-page essays from writers I like.  The subject this time was “Time Travel.”

Mueenudin imagines travelling back in time to the 1930s when India was still unified, to visit his father when he was young.

His father was a lawyer and when he studied at Oxford, the girls nicknamed him The Shiek. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ARTISTS FROM THE “TAKE ME TO THE RIVER” TOUR-Tiny Desk Concert #692 (January 15, 2018).

This is a touring band playing classic soul.  But I found the modern updates to be unpleasant and almost undermined the tone of the show.  The blurb says:

“Take Me To The River” is a 1974 song from the legendary Al Green and guitarist “Teenie” Hodges. And though it wasn’t a big hit at the time, this song’s mix of religion and desire has become part of pop music’s canon.

Here at the Tiny Desk, some of the original players of this deep southern soul have come together to honor and update this tradition. It’s a celebration of Memphis soul old and new, with 13 musicians wedged behind the desk.

Some of those players of the old include singers Bobby Rush and William Bell; on the Hammond organ, Rev. Charles Hodges and LeRoy Hodges on bass. But it’s what’s new that makes this more than a look back – the addition of southern rappers Frayser Boy and Al Kapone – that truly puts this project on new musical ground.

But it is this update–Frayser Boy and Al Kapone who really ruined this show for me.

I’m not suggesting that the original lyrics to “Push and Pull” are profound.  They are not, but Frayser Bay’s rap is just up front and graphic whereas the original song is more understated (as much as something called “Push and Pull” can be).  Bobby Rush is a great singer and he looks spectacular in his sequined jacket.  Rush has a nice harmonica solo too.  That rap just seemed to come in and mess the whole thing up.

“I Forget To Be Your Lover” suffers from the same problem.  William Bell has a great sound–a cool rough voice.  And the original has this conceit: “I forgot to be your lover and I’m sorry.”  Al Kapone  comes in with a fairly explicit and hardly apologetic rap.  And what’s even stranger is that Rev. Charles Hodges who plays an outstanding organ throughout the show (I loved seeing the organ’s spinning fan that makes the great organ sound), plays really sour notes while Kapone is rapping.  Each verse has this weird nauseating sound. In every other section it sounds amazing, but during the rap it’s almost like he’s commenting on the rudeness of the rap.  The contrast is even more stark when Bell takes back the song mid way through and holds a high falsetto note for about 10 seconds–which really shows his power and range.

The backing vocals by Ashton Riker and Evvie McKinney are a nice touch.   Then on “Take Me to the River” Riker shares lead duties with Bobby Rush and they sound great together.  Riker hits some powerful high notes while Rush keeps it all together.  This is the song that really sells the show.  But look at how uncomfortable Frayser Boy looks during this song.

The rest of the band sounds just fine, playing quiet and understated:  LeRoy Hodges (bass), Edward Cleveland (drums), Andrew Saino (guitar), Jamel Mitchell (sax), Scott Thompson (trumpet), Martin Shore (percussion).

[READ: November 10, 2017] The Talented Ribkins

I saw Ladee Hubbard on Seth Meyers.  She was really interesting (and went to Princeton) and her book sounded fascinating.

On the surface the book is fairly simple, even fairly uneventful. Johnny Ribkin has to come up with $100,000 in a week because he has run afoul of a powerful man.

A few things separate this from similar books.  The first is that over the course of his life, Johnny buried various amounts of money and possessions in random places around the state of Florida.  He should be able to find the money fairly easily.  The reason why he buried all of this is part of the story.

Another thing is that he and his siblings all have special powers.  Not exactly superpowers, but certainly special powers.  And while these powers don’t exactly come into play in the quest, they are ever-present and unavoidable.

So what the heck is going on here? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE WEATHER STATION-Tiny Desk Concert #689 (January 8, 2017).

The Weather Station played a show in Philly a while back.  I knew that Bob Boilen really liked the album, and I thought about checking them out live.  But things came up and I didn’t.  And now here they are at a Tiny Desk.

It was the first song here, that Bob especially liked:

It’s called “Thirty” and in less than four minutes and nearly 400 words, singer Tamara Lindeman paints images of joy intertwined with the awaking jolt of turning thirty.

The dollar was down
But my friends opened businesses
There were new children
And again, I didn’t get married
I wasn’t close to my family
And my dad was raising a child in Nairobi
She was three now, he told me

The song is a pretty, shuffling song (spare drums from Ian Kehoewith a speedy rhythm guitar (from Lindeman), a roaming bassline (Ben Whiteleyand some cool guitar licks (William Kidman) over the top (both of which are really lovely).

The musicians in The Weather Station underpin these words with delicate playing and by sitting quietly but poignantly under Tamara Lindeman’s beautiful voice. Her soft voice shifts pitch with a rapid flow in a Joni Mitchell-sort of way, never coming up in volume more than a quiet, table conversation level.

There’s a great (relatively) wailing solo that really pushes the song forward and which ends perfectly when Tamara starts singing again.

“You and I (On the Other Side of the World)” has a slow slinkiness that I rather like.  There’s also some nice, understated backing vocals (deep male voices under Tamara’s higher register).  I love the bass work at the end of the song, too.

Tamara’s voice sounds very much like someone else or maybe a number of people: I hear Laura Marling and yes, Joni Mitchell, but maybe Margo Timmins as well.  In other words, all good benchmarks.

In fact, the final song, “Free” has a real Cowboy Junkies feel with the big slow echoing rhythm guitar that opens it.

On “Free,” there’s some great lead guitar work once again as well as a wonderful bass line.

a song Lindeman describes as about being both free and not free at the same time, there’s restraint in the voice and a release in the powerful guitar chords. That tension and release is an essential element to The Weather Station’s sound and one of the joys I’ve found listening to their enchanting music.

Initially I wasn’t blown away by this concert, but I found myself hitting replay over and over, enjoying it more each time.

[READ: August 20, 2017] Fierce Kingdom

I read about this story on Skimm, a daily news digest that I have since read is geared to women (and according to some criticism, treats women like they are dumb.  I have recently stopped subscribing to it because I do find it rather dumb and subtly right-wing (how could a site for women not be pissed that Hillary lost? #RESIST).  But whatever, the book sounded interesting so I put it on hold.

The premise is fairly simple: a woman and her young child (4 perhaps), are in a zoo.  Right around closing time two gunmen enter the zoo and start killing people.  What will she do?

For some reason, the blurbs didn’t reveal that there were gunmen, just that “something” happened. Well, honestly what else could it have been but gunmen. So, perhaps I spoiled that part but it came out pretty early anyway.

The story begins with a time stamp 4:55 PM. The zoo closes at 5:30 and Joan and her boy Lincoln are sitting in their favorite spot waiting to leave the zoo.  As they head toward the exit around 5:30, she notices bodies on the ground.  She had heard explosions earlier but didn’t think much of it,  But when she sees the bodies, she quickly puts things together and takes off.

Now the blurb for the book on the inside cover says “an electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.”  That’s not wrong exactly but I feel like that puts a weird focus on it being about mother hood instead of survival.  Must be some kind of marketing thing.  I didn’t get the sense in the book that it has anything to do with motherhood–I mean frankly any parent would do that for his or her child and I’m sure any person would do the same for anyone they loved.  The fact that the child is younger and doesn’t have the same cognitive skills make the story more compelling.

Because, frankly, as she hides in an abandoned animal enclosure, there’s no reason she would ever have to leave such an enclosure–she can’t be seen, she is well protected, and it is dark.  She even has her cell phone and she talks to her husband (I find it a bit hard to believe that the police wouldn’t listen to him if he has a text from his wife in the zoo, but that’s what happens).  The bad guys even come into where she is and don’t see her.

So, end of story right?  At least I couldn’t imagine why there would be more story when she is safe and the police are coming. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CIGARETTES AFTER SEX-Tiny Desk Concert #684 (December 13, 2017).

I only know of Cigarettes After Sex from when NPR played a song of theirs and Bob asked us to guess whether the singer was a man or a woman.

Greg Gonzalez has one of those wonderful voices that is deep and husky and sounds feminine (although his speaking voice is very deep).

This Tiny Desk Concert is very quiet (like The XX).  It is just Gonzalez on heavily echoed guitar and vocals and his unmoving, emotion-free longtime bandmate Phillip Tubbs on spare keyboards.

Although there’s not a lot to these songs, the melodies are truly terrific.

The three songs sound very similar–unmistakably them.

“K.,” the opening track to this Tiny Desk Concert – and the opening cut to the band’s eight year-long awaited debut album – is especially memorable. The lyrics are simple and easy to remember: “Kristen, come right back/I’ve been waiting for you to slip back in bed/When you light the candle.”

Amazingly, for almost half of each song, there are no keyboards, just the guitar.  So that extra, gentle wash of music sounds huge.  “Apocalypse” has the lovely swooning chorus of “you’ve been locked in here forever and you just can’t say goodbye” and “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” follows that same pretty structure (although it’s my least favorite of the three).  With the minimalism:

each note and each word seems to count for more  …  and the office environment of the Tiny Desk Concert [may work better] than in a club, where just the chatter of a crowd can drown out this gentle music.

[READ: November 1, 2017] The Hunting Accident

I loved this book. Everything about it was utterly fantastic.  The story, the way it was told, and the amazing drawings of Landis Blair

The book opens on a snowy day in Chicago in 1959.  A boy whose mother has just died has moved from sunny California to miserable Chicago to live with his blind father, Matt.   The boy had lived with his mother since he was four (his mother’s mother thought that his father was a trouble and that they needed to get away from him).  So he barely knew his father.  And now it was time to find out everything about the man.  Like, first off, how he became blind.

The father told the boy all about the hunting accident.  He and his friends were screwing around, playing by the train tracks.  They were having fun scaring each other.  All the kids were afraid of real life bogeymen Leopold & Loeb local murderers.  The boys even believed they found the pipe in which Leopold & Loeb stuffed their victim.

There’s even little reminder of the crime:

In 1924, two wealthy educated men kidnapped and brutally murdered Bobby Franks, a 14-year-old neighbor…just for the thrill of it… to see if they could commit “the perfect crime.”

Anyhow, the boys had a shotgun and heard a deer.  When one of those boys shot at the deer he missed and his Charlie’s father right in the face.

Soon Charlie must learn what it is like to live with a blind man–how everything must be in the exact same place.

Charlie’s father writes all the time (on a braille machine).  He writes about morality and poetry.  He quotes Dante.  And soon, Charlie’s dad was having Charlie help with the writing–by proofing and checking things (Charlie learned a lot at the same time).

Charlie’s grandmother also said that Chicago was dangerous, but not for Charlie.  He got along fine. He even made friends with Steve Garza–the coolest kid in the neighborhood.    Garza was so cool he bummed cigarettes off of Charlie (from his dad–even though Matt, counted them and got mad about it).

Charlie also began getting involved in extracurricular activities–he loved tap dancing and tried the cello–two things his father appreciated. But soon Steve and his buddy started pressuring Charlie.  He “left” his tap shoes at the park, he stopped playing cello and he got involved in some ugly things.

Garza wanted to join the JPs–a local mob related gang.  But he was too young so he started the Junior JPs and soon enough that involved theft.  And since they were dumb, they were easily caught.

And that’s when the truth comes out.

I was already hooked into the story and then I was blown away.  Charlie’s dad did not lose his sight in a hunting accident.  Charlie is furious that his dad lied to him.

Garza convinces Charlie to head for Canada to avoid the cops.  (The third guy has already gotten there and is at a free-love commune or something).  Charlie is prepared to drive them both (he’s the one with the car after all).  And then his dad tells him the whole truth, which gets Charlie to pause.

The rest of the book cover’s Matt’s story.

He was poor in 193os Chicago and got mixed up with the wrong crowd.  His did go blind from a gun shot, but it was a very different setting–and it led to prison.

On the day he got to prison, the same prison that Leopold and Loeb were in, Richard Loeb was killed in the shower.  This left Leopold alone.

Charlie asks if he met Leopold.   And Charlie’s dad says that Nathan Leopold is the reason for his divorce.  What?

Turns out hat not only did Charlie’s dad know Nathan Leopold. He was Leopold’s cell mate.  Since Loeb was killed there was concern that Leopold might be next.  And since Matt was blind, they were put together under watch.

After Matt was out of prison, Leopold sent him a letter (in braille) which the grandmother intercepted.  Matt had never told anyone he was in jail, and that made Matt a Liar.

Matt was miserable in jail.  He couldn’t see, his father was disappointed in him and he had nothing to live for.  He just wanted to die, but that was pretty hard to do under constant supervision. We see daily life for a blind man in jail–food stolen all the time and knocking his cellmate’s things over.

Leopold was angry and bitter and wanted nothing to do with a blind man.  But soon, Leopold began talking to Matt about the life of the mind–something he realized that Matt lived all the time.  Because he couldn’t see everything was in his mind. Leopold used to hold educational lessons in the library at the jail.  He also showed Matt how to make a Glim Box (a way to use a spinning coin to light a fire to light cigarettes).

Matt tells Leopold that he has no family.  Meanwhile, Leopold’s dad visits every two weeks (the visits are awkward and uncomfortable but are a way for Leopold to get things from the outside).

Soon, Leopold is trying to convince Matt to learn Braille.  Why?  well, this gave opportunity for Leopold to learn it to and thereafter he could read after lights out.  (Leopold was a master of many languages and picked up braille easily).

And that’s when Leopold persuaded Matt to read Dante’s Inferno.

The story of Matt’s imprisonment jumps back to the present where Charlie is still annoyed with his father, but is really interested in the story. Especially when he leans that his father almost committed suicide there.

I loved the philosophical ideas in the story–they way the book interprets both Plato and Dante for the everyman .  I loved that Matt’s story runs throughout the book and I loved the whole idea of a blind man helping one of the most notorious criminals of he 20th century.

This story is thought-provoking and exciting at the same time.

The only thing that I feel was left out–did Charlie wind up going to jail or not?  It’s never addressed.

The end of the story and that final two-page spread are just breathtaking.

I also love that David L. Carlson more or less found out about this amazing true story by accident.

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SOUNDTRACK: HANSON FOR THE HOLIDAYS-Tiny Desk Concert #686 (December 18, 2017).

The Hanson Tiny Desk Concert back in October ended with them saying “See you for Christmas everybody.”  And, lo, here they are.

But it turns out that Christmas was in October this year.

During the break, the NPR crew set up the Tiny Desk to look like Christmas.  Two of the three (why not all three?) brothers even wear Christmas sweaters.

They play three Christmas songs.  Two originals and one “traditional” medley.

The two originals are rocking, very piano heavy (the pianist does a LOT of sliding down the keyboard as they rock n toll out).

“Finally, It’s Christmas” is fun and bouncy song that I imagine we’ll hear a lot next year.

“To New Year’s Night” is a very conventional rock n roll song about a North Pole Party.  The guitarist with his gruffer voice (and no sweater) sings this song about needing a toddy for hid body (since I think of Hasnon as being 8-12 years old (although they obviously aren’t), it’s weird to hear them singing about drinking.  It’s a pretty standard rocker, they even quote “da do ron ron.”  After rocking out, they comment “Can anyone saw ‘sweat”ers.”  Since it is obviously not Christmastime.

It has been 20 years since their first Christmas record.  So they decided it was time to do a new one.  While they are talking Bob starts blowing snow all over them.  This leads to them singing “Joy to the Mountain” an a capella mash up of “Joy to the World” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”  They sin the melody in a non traditional way.  Their harmonies are really good even if I don’t care for their delivery.

2017 has been a pretty strange (mostly bad) year.  I never would have guessed I’d be watching two Tiny Desk Concerts with Hanson (and more or less enjoying both of them).

[READ: December 25, 2017] “A Chaparral Christmas Gift”

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. (more…)

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