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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“Don’t Believe in Christmas” (2002).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

Although yesterday’s song was full of Christmas cheer, this one is a rocking raspberry for Christmas.

It’s a pretty standard blues riff with the verses being just drums and vocals.  And it’s all about how last year’s Christmas was a real downer so he has given up on the holiday

I hung my stocking on a wall
I didn’t get a thing at all

It’s got the simple sing-along chorus:

I don’t believe in Christmas
I don’t believe in Christmas
I don’t believe in Christmas
’cause i didn’t get nothin’ last year

But as always, there’s a sly wink with all the bah humbug

Well i tried to get a little kiss
From a pretty little miss
She slapped me down and said “you jerk
Mistletoe doesn’t work”

There’s a nice guitar solo and then a surprising organ solo before the song wraps itself up in an tidy bow.

[READ: December 4, 2019] “The Unsupported Circle”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This is the kind of story that I really like and J. Robert Lennon is an author I would like to read more from.

The story is a series of unrelated vignettes–each one a movie or video–described by a narrator who we don’t meet for a while.

The first one is of a corporate retreat situation–a trust fall of sorts.

Next is a boy rapping on the street.  He has a humorous accident mid-video. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“Someday at Christmas” (2004).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

“Someday at Christmas” is a cover of the Stevie Wonder song.  I don’t know the original, but this version is a delightful Christmas song, one which I’m really surprised isn’t in regular Christmas song rotation.

The song is simple and catchy.  After a little guitar jingle of “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” the songs moves fluidly along with some nice bass lines from Jess Ament.

The lyrics are really wonderful, too

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

After the first two verses the song moves up a note and there’s some nice wah wah guitars added in.  There’s no chorus, just a bunch of verses which plead for a peaceful Christmas time.

There’s a slightly downer note at the end, although the song remains ever optimistic and ends with the guitar line playing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, once again.”

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime.

Now that it’s out in the ether, lets mix it in with the standard radio songs, eh?

[READ: December 3, 2019] “Save-A-Lot”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story is by Anthony Doerr.  I thought I had read a lot more by him, but apparently I’m mostly just familiar with his name.  Which is a shame because this story is really enjoyable, even if it starts very dark.

The story is broken into fifteen numbered sections.

I was amused that the first one started “On the one hand there’s Bunny.”  We learn about Bunny’s life–she fled Texas at 17 and earned a nursing degree and a job in Bangor, Maine.  She is beloved at Woodlands Assisted and is so energetic, she is nicknamed The Prius: small, sensible, an a million miles to the gallon.

Then, when Bunny turned 22, Mike Ramirez impregnated her and fled for Tampa.  She keeps hearing her mother’s drunken voice–you’re as dumb as box of hair, you’re not worth spit.

But the baby, whom she names Hanako after the oldest elephant in the world, is very smart.  And Bunny is resilient.  She is doing okay. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GURR-“Christmas One and Only” (2018).

I really enjoyed Gurr when I saw them live this year.  I wanted to see what their studio music sounded like and I found this release called the Christmas Business EP.  Two songs that feature Eddie Argos from Art Brut.

This second song has a poppier riff (More guitar than bass) and a happier vocals style with the Gurr women singing “Christmas coming into town all the kids are frantically screaming / Christmas coming into town its all about love, oh this is the season.”

Even the hard-hearted Eddie Argos finds his Grinch heart melting this year.

It begins with him saying “Sat around the Christmas tree sorry about my misery” and this rather amusing line: “My favorite thing about Christmas time used to be finishing everybody’s glasses of wine.”

But after some cheerful lines from Gurr, he has a change of heart:

“I never liked Christmas, but since I met you I want to grab it with both fists and give it a big kiss.”

There’s also this very nice ending sentiment

“good or bad this year is nobody’s business / I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.”

Thank you Eddie.

This short song (also less than 3 minutes) ends with this amusing comment:

Die hard is a Christmas film and so is Die Hard 2 / I want to drink some Glühwein and watch them both with you.

Cheers!

Check it out here.

[READ: December 1, 2019] “Torre Del Mirador”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story (translated by Margaret Jull Costa) seemed very familiar and I have to wonder if I’ve read it anywhere before.  I loved it for how weird and engaging it was.

One morning, the narrator is awoken by a phone call.  The caller tells him that he was close to having a nervous breakdown and he needed to talk to someone.  The narrator is annoyed at being woken up and assumes it is a prank from one of his friends.  But the caller tries to clarify.  He says that his wife was making his life miserable–always telling him how ugly he was.  She said she hated his face.  He got so fed up that he left her. He rented the apartment across from their villa and has been spying on her ever since.  He tells the narrator that he picked his number at random. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE HOOTERS-“All You Zombies” (1985).

WXPN played this song on the day after Halloween and the DJ said she couldn’t believe they hadn’t played it as part of their Halloween show.

It made me laugh about what people consider a Halloween song (and I know I need to let up on this).  Like so many other songs, the simple fact that there’s a monster reference in the title does not make the song a Halloween song.

Indeed, this song is about as far from a Halloween song as you can get.

The song itself is catchy as anything.  A great guitar riff and some tension-building synths support these rather dramatic lyrics:

Holy Moses met the Pharaoh
Yeah, he tried to set him straight
Looked him in the eye,
“Let my people go!”
Holy Moses on the mountain
High above the golden calf
Went to get the Ten Commandments
Yeah, he’s just gonna break ’em in half!
Interestingly, there’s no real chorus to the song.  The “All you zombies” part follows the same musical and vocal pattern.  The third verse is, like the first, Biblical.
No one ever spoke to Noah,
They all laughed at him instead
Workin’ on his ark,
Workin’ all by himself
Only Noah saw it comin’,
Forty days and forty nights,
Took his sons and daughters with him,
Yeah, they were the Israelites!

The Hooters guys say there was no explicit message to the song.  A 1985 interview with the Chicago Tribune, co-writer Eric Bazilian (with Rob Hyman) said

We really weren’t thinking at all when we wrote it. We were working on something else, and, true to the spirit of the song, it just came to us, like a vision. We were sitting there working on another song, and all of a sudden we started singing, ‘All you mmm-hhhmm-mmm.’ Then I heard something about Moses in my head, and I started singing, ‘Holy Moses.’

We just chased it down. We stopped what we were doing to go after this thing, and an hour later, the song was written, start to finish. We’re still trying to really understand the song. People ask us what it’s about, and while there’s a lot of heavy stuff in there, the weird thing is we didn’t consciously put it there. Who knows? Maybe in some bizarre way it came from somewhere else through us.

Interestingly, it got banned on several stations and there were some Christian stations that refused to play it.

So, not Halloween-related at all, but super catchy and lyrically unexpected.

Also interesting is that Hyman and Bazilian went on to work with Joan Osborne on her album Relish, with Eric writing “One Of Us” another religiously themed song.

[READ: September 2, 2019] Dead Weight

I haven’t read a graphic novel by Oni Press in a while.  They were once my go-to comic book publisher.

Then they stopped doing single issues and started publishing only graphic novels.  Nothing wrong with that but I had been collecting single issues back then, not books, so they fell off my radar.  I have to get them back on my radar because I really do enjoy their books.

I didn’t know what this was about, but the title and cover art appealed to me, so I grabbed it.

This story is set at a fat camp–Camp Bloom.  We meet many of the kids who are there for the summer as well as the counselors who are there to help them get through the summer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUCY DACUS-“In the Air Tonight” (2019).

For 2019, Lucy Dacus has been releasing songs that correspond with the holidays (to be pt out on an EP soon).  For Halloween she decided to cover Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.”  I have heard the original song a million times.  I loved it, then I got sick of it and then started to really hate Phil Collins and really never wanted to hear it again.

So it’s fun that Lucy has dug it from its grave to release for Halloween.

In a n interview she was asked why on earth it was this song.  She said that she knew this song from her childhood–it was one of the first songs she remembers hearing with her mom (who used to sing along with the radio in the car all the time).

Lucy–like everyone–could never hold back on air drumming to the big drum part in the middle.  Her band was listening to it one day when everyone air drummed along and they knew then they had to record it.

She also said you never realize quite how dark the song is until you really listen to the words.

Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand
I’ve seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am
Well I was there and I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been
It’s all been a pack of lies

Lucy’s version is pretty great–understated and whsipery.

It starts with the drum machine and some distant keys.  Lucy’s voice is quiet with a soft echo–possibly with a different take in each ear?

The synths stay quiet and subtle throughout the verses.

By the midpoint the music grows louder–to good effect–and there’s some creepy echoing on her voice.  Her delivery lets me understand lyrics that I never knew before (and her vocal processing is much more subtle too).

The big drum part is pretty great and the live drums continue throughout to the end.  I don’t honestly recall what the music of the original end part sounds like (apart from that prominent bass) but Lucy throws in some cool distorted guitar noises throughout to add just some more chaos to the proceedings.

And then the chilling matter of fact ending.

[READ: October 20, 2019] Fake Blood

Lots of times I don’t know what graphic novels are about before I read them.  Usually if someone in my family likes it, I’ll check it out.

I didn’t really even give much thought to the title (and cover) of this book before reading it.  I just read it because my daughter liked it.  So I didn’t really think to much about how vampires would appear in this book until people started talking about them.

AJ is entering sixth grade and he believes things are going to be different.  But things aren’t.  As he heads toward the bus his friends Hunter and Ivy race past him–seeing who can be first–because everything is a competition with them.  Like always.  When they reach the bus stop, Hunter is thrilled to be first but AJ is upset because they actually missed the bus…again.

As they walk to school, Hunter tells his story about his wild summer bungee jumping.  Ivy talks about hiking to the top of Mt. St. Helen’s.  And AJ… read like ten books. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TRENT REZNOR & ATTICUS ROSS-“John Carpenter’s Halloween” (2017).

A lot of the music I listen to is weird and probably creepy to other people, but I don’t necessarily think of songs as appropriate for Halloween or not.  So for this year’s Ghost Box stories, I consulted an “expert”: The Esquire list of Halloween songs you’ll play all year long.  The list has 45 songs–most of which I do not like.  So I picked 11 of them to post about.

I didn’t actually know this version of the Halloween theme song and I was pretty excited to be super creeped out.

It turns out that this version is decidedly less creepy than the original.  But then again, nothing can outdo the starkness of that original piano score.

This version takes a while to get going (about 45 seconds of buildup) before a little keyboard riff that sounds a lot like the “spooky” riff in The Brady Bunch in Hawaii episode pops up.  Then some original piano comes in along with building synths and what sounds like distorted voices growling in the background.  This lasts until almost 2 minutes.  And I have to say it’s creepier than the actual familiar melody.

When the plinking piano comes in, it’s a little muted and the synth chords are louder.  As the song progresses you can hear–whispered voices (?), distorted rumblings (?) a choir from hell (?).  It’s that background soundscape that is seriously creepy.

Around five minutes, the music drops out and there’s just echoing, clacking sounds and possibly breathing.  Yeah, that’s nicely spooky.

Then the main melody returns.  It builds and turns into a rock song–with a drumbeat and everything.  But it being a song is a lot less creepy than the original solo piano playing in the middle of a an abandoned asylum.

Don’t get me wrong, this has some serious creep appeal, but the original wins hands down.

[READ: October 24, 2019] “The Psychologist Who Wouldn’t Do Awful Things to Rats”

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

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

Oh god, it’s right behind me, isn’t it? There’s no use trying to run from Ghost Box III, the terrifying conclusion to our series of limited-edition horror box sets edited and introduced by Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, I’m going to read in the order they were stacked.

Even Patton Oswalt agrees that many people might not finish (or even start) this story.  I had the misfortune of reading it during breakfast.

James Tiptree Jr. was the pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon (her real name was not revealed until 1977! (she died in 1987).

As I was reading it, I had no idea this story was so old.  It seemed like a current take on animal rights and animal welfare.  Although I did think the conditions in the lab were worse than I believe they actually are now (but what do I know?) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANTONIO CORA-“The Cellar” (from The Blair Witch Project) (1999).

A lot of the music I listen to is weird and probably creepy to other people, but I don’t necessarily think of songs as appropriate for Halloween or not.  So for this year’s Ghost Box stories, I consulted an “expert”: The Esquire list of Halloween songs you’ll play all year long.  The list has 45 songs–most of which I do not like.  So I picked 11 of them to post about.

I was getting bored of the Esquire list so I found this fun little tidbit of spookiness.

The Blair Witch Project was a low budget, DIY-looking movie.  The soundtrack is a compilation with songs on it (Josh Blair’s Witch Mix), but this track is from the actual movie soundtrack.  I couldn’t exactly tell if there was a release of the actual movie soundtrack, but the last track on the disc is similar to a video I found online for the “end credits theme.”

Excluding the intro, which has 30 seconds of dialogue from the film (“Heather’s Apology”), this track is a five-minute DIY, nightmarish ambient score.

It is largely quiet with rattling, echoing sounds.  An online thread (therefore of dubious truth) says that the score was made with the sound of sticks breaking and being thrown into a culvert (or some such) then slowed down dramatically.

There’s some kind of droning sound throughout (maybe a synth, but who knows).  It seems to slowly percolate while things scrape and bang.  There’s a few louder noises that really stand out, but there’s no momentum or narrative to the soundtrack.  It’s just a sort of endless low grade scare.

Don’t listen at bedtime.

[READ: October 27, 2019] “Last Call for the Sons of Shock”

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

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

Oh god, it’s right behind me, isn’t it? There’s no use trying to run from Ghost Box III, the terrifying conclusion to our series of limited-edition horror box sets edited and introduced by Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, I’m going to read in the order they were stacked.

This story was the most genuinely scary and horrifying in the box because it was the most real.

It was powerful, painful and horrible.  But it was written so well, I couldn’t look away. (more…)

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