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SOUNDTRACK: THE DIVINE COMEDY-Loose Canon: Live in Europe 2016-2017 (2018).

I loved The Divine Comedy at the turn of the century (the fin de siècle, if you will).  They were one of my favorite bands.

Since then Neil Hannon (the man behind the band) has released a few albums which I have liked–but none as much as those early records.

This recording is primarily his latter songs, and as such isn’t as exciting to me.  (Although setlists from the tour shows that he played a lot of older songs as well, so this disc is mostly a latter period recording).

The first three songs are from the newest album Foreverland: “How Can You Leave Me On My Own,” “Napoleon Complex” and “Catherine the Great.”  And among the next few songs are “To the Rescue” and “Funny Peculiar.”   So that’s five in all from that album.

The previous album Bang Goes the Knighthood accounts for five more songs “The Complete Banker,” “Bang Goes The Knighthood,” “At The Indie Disco,” “Assume The Perpendicular” and “I Like.”

So that’s ten of seventeen from the two latest albums.

After listening to it a few times I have come to appreciate his newer music even more and to see that it is equally as cleverly crafted.  He’s just a different person now with different lyrical and musical ideas.  I will certainly give a re-listen to the last decade;s worth of music.

“How Can” is fun a bouncy, “Napoleon” is snarky and witty.  “Funny Peculiar” is a duet with  guest vocals from Lisa O’Neill.  She has a fascinating singing style which is kind of peculiar in its own way.

“The Complete Banker” is wonderfully sarcastic and catchy and “I Like” is so simple and delightful.  “Assume the Perpendicular” is an other fun uptempo song, but of this batch its “Indie Disco” that is the real highlight (this includes an excerpt from New Order’s Blue Monday”).

It also sounds like this was a fun souvenir for anyone who saw the tour (he dressed up as Napoleon and others, and apparently “Indie Disco” was really fun live).  I have always wanted to see them and hold them high on my list of bands to see.  But he hasn’t been to the States in almost ten years, so I don’t have high hopes to experience them live.

The band for The Divine Comedy’s live shows has changed over the years, sometimes large and orchestral or, like this tour, a simpler five-piece.  They sound good although they do underplay the orchestral quality of the music.

Going back there’s one from Victory for the Comic Muse “A Lady Of A Certain Age” and one from Absent Friends “Our Mutual Friend.”  These two songs are lovely and quite poignant, especially “Lady.”  They are a far cry from the raucous songs of old.

The first older song is from 2001’s Regenertaion with a wild and fun rendition of “Bad Ambassador.”  His voice doesn;t sound great on this song.  I’m not sure if he ever sounded great live, but he certainly underplays some of the bigger moments in the song.

The crowd really gets pumping for Fin de Siècle‘s “Generation Sex” and “National Express.”  These two songs are a lot of fun and I imagine mus t be really rousing live.  Once again he doesn’t sound great. Not that he has lost his voice but almost like he;s not trying all that hard.

The disc is collected from shows all over Europe, so its interesting if they picked songs where he doesn’t sound that great.

It’s not until the encores that he brings out two really old songs 1994’s “A Drinking Song” and “Tonight We Fly.”

I’m sure they picked this particular version of “A Drinking Song” because he admits to being quite drunk himself.  And there’s a funny moment where he gets a hair caught in his throat.  “Is it yours?”  Indeed, his banter with the audience is a highlight.  He is clearly a good showman, and perhaps that makes up for some of the shortcomings of the disc.  This song is a good example.  His voice is much louder than the instruments and, frankly, he doesn’t sound that great as what is mostly a capella–but the overall presentation is fun.

The ending “Tonight We Fly” is a treat as well.  Again, he doesn’t sound perfect, but he sounds like he’s having fun.

I feel like this makes me want to see them a little less–except that it sounds like the performance is great even if his voice isn’t anymore.  Regardless, is he ever comes back to the States, I’ll be there for sure.

[READ: January 19, 2018] “The People Who Kept Everything”

I read this novel 7 years ago.  But since I’ve been going back through old Harper’s and found this excerpt I thought it would be worth reading (the excerpt) again.  And I really enjoyed it, I had forgotten about this scene until the end of the piece.

The narrator says that on the night before he left for college his father gave him a Spanish dueling knife and told him to keep it and never lose it.

When the narrator asks his father where he got it he says he’d better not say–he could tell him he won it in a card game in El Paso or a cathouse in Brownsville.

He kept the knife in a drawer and it moved with him to every location her went–dorm rooms, apartments.  Often it was in the kitchen with the cutlery, ignored by everyone except the new girlfriend who wanted to cook something. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARLINGSIDE-Pilot Machines (2012).

The first Darlingside EP had no information about the band.  It was almost a blank slate.  This, their first full album at least gives us this:

Darlingside consists of David Senft, vocals and guitar; Harris Paseltiner, cello, guitar and vocals; Auyon Mukharji, mandolin, violin and vocals; Don Mitchell, guitar and vocals; and Sam Kapala, drums and vocals.

Yes, drums.  This is the final Darlingside album with drums and the final Darlingside album with a sound that is not their current sound.  At this time Darlingside was more of an indie folk rock band who sang with great harmonies and had some unusual instruments.  But they still rocked in a fairly conventional way (in fact the drums are often front and center).

“Still” bursts forth with harmonies (ahhhs) and loud drums. They play with a loud/quiet dynamic within the verses.  It sounds like Darlingside if you squint your ears.  The lyrics are pretty funny, (and now a message from our sponsor) and it’s really catchy too.  But those drums really modify everything.

“The Woods” opens with the kind of harmonies that Darlingside would become known for.  But this song has a propulsive drum moves things forward.  It also highlights some great wild violin and a short spaced-out outro with some heavily processed vocals.  “The Woods” and “Ava,” both have really big loud moments.  Ava starts with a thumping bass and picking guitars but it builds nicely with some great tension between the vocals and guitars.

“Drowning Elvis,” has a very spaced-out drum groove, lots of strings and a clean guitar sound.  “The Company We Keep” features mandolin and high voices.  It’s a pretty, folkie song.

“Blow the House Down” is familiar to fans because they have re-recorded it and play it live consistently.  “The Ancestor” was also recorded without the drums for their next album.  This version has a kind of low thrum underneath the song but the drums are just a kick drum.  It sounds pretty close to the familiar version.

I’d actually like to hear this whole album re-recorded in their current style (no disrespect to their drummer), but the rock band format changes the whole sound of the songs and it would be interesting to hear how they differ.

Having said that, this rock band format also makes some great songs.  “Only Echoes” starts as a slower, moodier piece but midway through it dramatically shifts gears and grows really loud with a buzzy bass and distorted guitar and smashing drums.  It’s the most un-Darlingside song I can imagine, but it’s really great.

“When Fortune Comes” and “My Love” are quieter songs.  “Fortune” focuses on their harmonies (there’s no drums).  While “My Love” has shuffling drums and an upright bass.  The lyrics are also a bit rougher than expected: “You weren’t the first to call me….an arrogant son of a bitch but…”

“Terrible Things” opens with snapping drums a rocking staccato guitar line.  The singers do a series of single note “coo” sounds that’s pretty neat.  The vocal harmonies are really cool and a little spooky, too.  It’s a neat song.

“Sweet an Low” has a very smooth sound (and an extra vocalist–Caitlyn Canty).  The final two minute are kind of an extended jam with this little electronic device.

When I first listened to this after falling in love with Darlingside’s current sound, I didn’t like this very much.  But having listened a few times, I really like these songs.  They’re very well crafted with some excellent details.

[READ: February 5, 2018] “Fletcher Knowles”

This excerpt is from a then novel-in-progress and it is a doozy.  It’s very funny and very meta and once again I can’t imagine where the story is going to go from here.

The story begins with the character saying that his name is Fletcher Knowles.  And he is going to tell his story.  He says that he is going to tell everything from memory and that you should never doubt your own memory.  Nor should you trust anyone who says that they doubt their own memory.

So he is going to tell his story exactly as he wants to.  Which means he is not going to: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TROUBLE FUNK-Tiny Desk Concert #748 (May 30, 2018).

If Tiny Desk was set anywhere other than Washington D.C. I would never have heard of go-go.  It is a regional funk style that seems to have never left the area and of which the DC crowd is very proud.

Go-go — Washington D.C.’s regional twist on funk — reigned in the DMV during the 1980s, and one of the scene’s signature acts was Trouble Funk. More than 30 years later, the collective — led by Big Tony Fisher — still fills sold-out venues with heavyweight percussion and call-and-response lyrics. Trouble Funk concerts are bona fide jam sessions, so I was determined to squeeze their unrelenting rhythms behind the Tiny Desk. While the late Chuck Brown is often acknowledged as the godfather of go-go, Trouble Funk was a key part of the sound’s second wave.

And considering that the band is decked out in matching Trouble Funk baseball uniforms, it seems like they have no intention of going anywhere (clearly not all of the members are original).

How do you fit 12 members behind a Tiny Desk?  Put the horns: (Dean Harris (trumpet), Eric Silvan (saxophone), Paul Phifer (trombone)) on the right.  Put the drummer (Tony Edwards) on the left and the hugely important percussionists (Chris Allen and Larry Blake) back and center, anchoring everything.

Then you have the keyboardists (Allyson Johnson and James Avery) and the guitarist/vocalist David Gussom (only one guitar in the whole band of 12 people!).

Right up front you have the two singers Derrick Ward and Keith White and orchestrating the whole thing is Big Tony Fisher (bass/vocals).

They begin with the 1982 banger, “Pump Me Up”, which has a great watery funky bass sound (from the keys) and tremendous percussion.  All of the verses are rapped in a 35-year-old-style–rhythmic more than rapping (with lyrics about Calvin Klein and other jeans, Superman, Studio 54 and Fat Albert).  Four of them take a verse, but the show is all about Big Tony Fisher, who has got this great deep voice.

Incidentally, this song was

sampled in Public Enemy’s protest anthem “Fight the Power” and M/A/R/R/S’s dance classic “Pump Up The Volume.”

I need to hear the original to figure out what was sampled.

The drums breaks here are definitive go-go and it was hard to discern who was having more fun: the band or the audience.

As they shift to “Grip It,” you can hear the change of style but not intensity as the song shifts and “buoyant and staccato horn melodies propelled the song forward.”

It segues to “Let’s Get Small” through a funky bass line.  It features Trouble Funk’s classic call-and-response chants of “I like it!”

The music stops but the rhythm continues as they segue into “Drop the Bomb,” “another notable gem from their lengthy discography which keeps the energy level high.”

“Don’t Touch That Stereo” was the first song where I couldn’t hear much of a difference between it and the preceding song.  And I realized that they’d been playing nonstop for nearly 14 minutes–all in a similar funky style.  It’s a great fun party even if the individual songs are kind of beside the point.

They did take a short break as Tony introduced their first hit from 1979 “E Flat Boogie.”

I’m rather surprised that go-go never took off anywhere else, since, as the blurb says, the music “inspires a spirit of dance, rhythm and sheer joy.”

[READ: July 7, 2016] “Fable”

This was another story that I found strangely unsatisfying.

I feel like this story was almost perfect but that there were elements that prevented it from being so.

Since it is called “Fable,” it begins with “once upon a time.”  But we know that it is not a real fable exactly because the next part is “there was a man whose therapist thought it would be a good idea for the man to work though some stuff by telling a story about that stuff.”

His first attempt is short and dull: “one day the man woke up and realized that this was pretty much it for him.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OPEN MIKE EAGLE-Tiny Desk Concert #687 (January 3, 2018).

I had seen Iron Mike Eagle’s album on a lot of Year End Best of lists, but I hadn’t heard of him before.  Well, I absolutely loved his Tiny Desk Concert and I’m ready to get his album as well.

I love that the “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home” starts with a live trumpet and the rest of the band is there playing live, too–two synths, a live bass and Mike on some kind of techie gadget.  But the great thing about this Concert is Mike’s delivery.

He sings/raps and he’s got an uplifting style of rapping combined with the spare but cool/weird music that fit with the lyrics.

And it’s really the lyrics that won me over.

Everybody’s secrets inspire all of my scenes
I write in all of my fantasies and I die in all of my dreams
My superpowers I maintain
I take control of my scene

and the hook:

I done told
Some goofy shit that sounded like a poem
I spun around in circles on the globe
So who the hell could ever feel at home

I could tell that  the lyrics were pretty interesting, but I was surprised to read:

Open Mike Eagle may have released one of the most political albums of 2017, but Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is also among the most personal. It comes across best in his live performances. For only the second time during his recent tour cycle, the LA-based artist played a set aided by the live instrumentation of musicians Jordan Katz (trumpet, keys, sampler), Josh Lopez (keys, sampler) and Brandon Owens (bass) for his Tiny Desk debut.

He performed two songs from the stellar Brick.  The title comes from:

It’s been a decade since the last brick fell from the Robert Taylor Homes, the old Chicago Housing Authority project personified on the record. Yet, when it comes to excavating the politics of place, and all the racial implications inherent in cultural erasure, there is no project released in recent years that comes close.

“Daydreaming in the Projects” is, like the other songs, political but warm:

(This goes out to)
Ghetto children, making codewords
In the projects around the world
Ghetto children, fighting dragons
In the projects around the world

and then this seemingly nonsensical rhyme that speaks volumes

Everything is better when you don’t know nothing
I’m grown so I’m always disgusted
All these discussions online is mayonnaise versus mustard
Mayonnaise people think French can’t be trusted
Mustard people think eggs is all busted
But fuck it
We in it for the pattern interruptions

I love that it is accompanied by a simple but pretty trumpet melody while Jordan is also playing keys.

The set ender “Very Much Money,” from his 2014 album Dark Comedy, is tremendous.

What a great verse:

My friends are superheros
None of us have very much money though
They can fly, run fast, read Portuguese
None of us have very much money though
They know judo and yoga, photography, politics
Some of them leap over buildings
Writers, magicians, comedians, astronauts
None of it mattered when niggas was hungry

All to a catchy, cool beat that is in the spirit of bands like De La Soul, but far more modern and powerful.  Great stuff.  And if “Very Much Money” is representative, I need to check out his old stuff too.  And maybe even the other three (!) bands he’s with: he is a member of the hip hop collective Project Blowed. He is also a member of Thirsty Fish and Swim Team.

 

[READ: October 20, 2017] If Found

Tabitha had this book and I thought it looked really cute so I grabbed it not really knowing what it was.

Basically, it is the blank notebook of Montreal artist Elise Gravel.  She says:

At night, when my daughters are asleep, I draw in my blank notebook.  I draw complete nonsense   Whatever comes to my mind.  When I draw in my black notebook, it feels good–it’s as if I let out all the ideas that are bouncing around in my head.  I never critique the drawings in my black notebook. I give myself the right to fail.  To mess up, to create ugly drawings.  I’m kind to myself. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS (2010).

This is one of my favorite Christmas discs.  There’s not a lot of traditional Christmas music on it, but the originals are all either spot-on Christmas songs or at least work nicely for this time of year.  The only song that doesn’t fit is Ben Folds’ which is funny and vulgar.  It is not safe for Christmas and should be skipped in a family setting and saved for the drunken debauchery part of the night.

PHANTOM PLANET-“Winter Wonderland” Back in 2010, Phantom Planet was a kind of buzzy, talked about band (you’ll have to look up why).  But this is a great version of the song, I especially love that it’s kind of rocky and slightly dissonant but still really pretty.

RON SEXSMITH-Maybe This Christmas.
It’s a shame that this series of records is named after this song, which is so forgettable.  I usually like Sexsmith’s stuff, but I can’t keep this song in my head at all.

COLDPLAY-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Unlike Phantom Planet which was all buzzy when this was recorded, Coldplay had yet to take off and had a small hit with “Yellow.”  It’s interesting to hear this spare version (just Chris Martin singing and playing piano) and how he modifies the words in small ways.

VANESSA CARLTON-“Greensleeves”  This is a lovely version of this song, even if Carlton’s voice is a bit affected (and its technically not a Christmas song in this lyrical version).

BRIGHT EYES-Blue Christmas
This is a nice version of this song, mellow and catchy.

SENSE FIELD-“Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” The more I listen to this song, the more I think it’s really weird.  “The yellow and red ones” (?).

JIMMY EAT WORLD-“12/23/95”
This is a very catchy Jimmy Eat World song (once again, before they got huge for a time).  It’s hard to realize its Christmas-related until late in the song when they mention the holiday.

JACK JOHNSON-“Rudolph”
I love this version of “Rudolph” so much because Johnson tacks on an ending where the other reindeer feel bad of making fun of Rudolph.  And Johnson’s vibe is just always so mellow and chill.

BARENAKED LADIES & SARAH McLACHLAN-“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
This recording is quite old–from 1996.  The artists work very well together and Sarah’s voice sounds great.

BEN FOLDS-“Bizarre Christmas Incident” [NSFC]
Ben played all of the parts himself on this song.  I love Ben and I love when he is funny and vulgar.  But this song which is very vulgar and mildly funny is so out of place on this disc.  You can’t play this for the kids, whereas everything else is totally fine. I might like it on a vulgar CD collection bu I dislike it a lot here.

DAN WILSON-“What a Year for a New Year”
Dan Wilson always writes pretty, catchy songs.  This is a lovely song that seems (possibly) even more appropriate in 2017 than it did in 2002 when he wrote it.

NEIL FINN-“Sweet Secret Peace”
This is a very pretty, delicate song with a wonderful chorus.  It’s not necessarily a Christmas song, but it works at this time of year.

LOREENA MCKENNIT-“Snow”
McKennit’s voice is amazing, and this song is hauntingly beautiful.  It’s a stark and lovely ending to this disc.

[READ: December 14, 2017] “Lady with Invisible Dog”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This story was pretty bizarre and really wonderful.

There’s so much going on.  And much of it is pretty weird.  The story is set in 1995.  The narrator, Edwin, has had a run-in with a man called “The Narrator.”  And that has set all of the action of the story in motion. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AMINÉ-Tiny Desk Concert #671 (November 14, 2017).

Aminé–is rapper Adam Daniel’s middle name.  And while I like his light manner and fun hair, musically, nearly everything else about this Tiny Desk is cheesy to me.  From the cheesy guitar (by Pasqué) that opens up “Spice Girl” to the “clever” lyrics all about the spice girls

Scary and Sporty, tell her what I want
What I really, really want is a Spice Girl
Zig-a-zig-ah, fuck up my whole world .

It segues into his debut single “Caroline” which peaked at No. 11 on Billboard’s Hot 100 last year.  It is so full of curses I can’t believe it made it that high.

Don’t wanna talk it out, can we fuck it out?
‘Cause we gon’ be up all night, fuck a decaf
You say I’m a tall thug, guess I’m a G-raffe
If ya want safe-sex, baby use the knee pads
Freaky with the sticky-icky, baby give me kitty kitty

There’s also the backing vocalist Fahrelle Devine who mostly says single words (that weird R&B thing) until she harmonizes quite nicely.

Despite his rather crass songs, he’s an entertaining guy: “I was trying to go to the white house you can’t go up to the gate anymore. That’s really bad.  What’s up with that y’all? Ain’t got an answer, cool.  Lets go on to the next song.  “Slide” has more cheesy keys from Davon Jamison and Madison Stewart (who is male, I’m sorry to say) and cheesy b vocals.  I guess the lyrics are funny, but they seem really tone deaf.  “This ain’t a booty call it’s just a late night snack.”

His delivery and voice are really nice, I wish that he would sing about more substantial stuff.

Having said that, he introduces the final song “Wedding Crashers” with “You ever been a to a wedding before?  Can we go to one real quick?”  The song begins with almost childlike keyboard sounds.  And while the verses go too far, the chorus makes me smile

This is dedicated to my ex lovers
Hope that you hear this, never find another
Me and my friends, we don’t worry or pretend
Hope you play this at your wedding
Yeah, the one I won’t attend (Sike)

I did enjoy watching drummer Cory Limuaco because for such simple drumming, he uses all kinds of mallets and sticks and sides of sticks, which is always fun to see.

[READ: April 25, 2017] Chekhov’s First Play

This play was created by Dead Centre.  Dead Centre was formed in 2012 in Dublin by Ben Kidd, Bush Moukarzel and Adam Welsh.

The play is based on the fact that Anton Chekov wrote his first play at 19 and then more or less denounced it: “there are two scenes in my first play which are the work of genius, if you like.  But on the whole, it’s an unforgivable, if inconsistent, fraud.”  The intro notes: to this day it is unclear which two scenes Chekhov was talking about.

The play was discovered after he died.  It had no title, but is probably a play he referred to in is letters called Fatherlessness, although most renderings of the play have named it after the central character–a philandering charismatic schoolteacher named Platonov.  It first appeared after his death as “That Worthless Fellow Platonov.”  Although almost all scholars believe that the piece is a conversation piece rather than a viable addition to the repertory.

Here’s a little bit of interesting history of the play from Wikipedia: (more…)

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spowerSOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Canso, NS (July 3, 2005).

stanBack in 2005, the Rheostatics played two days at the Stan Rogers Folk Festival. The first day’s show was a kind of mash up of the Rheostatics and other bands.  Indeed, the recording includes some other artists along with the Rheos.

This second day it was apparently raining.  But it’s just the Rheos doing their best folk band impression, but not being afraid to totally rock out.

The recording opens very echoey and with a woman who is having a different kind of fun screaming quite a bit really nearby.  But after a minute or two, I assume the recording device is moved because you can no longer hear her. It’s jut Martin singing “California Dreamline.”

“Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” is particularly rocking, especially the “Michael!” part.  It’s a great version of the song, with lots of interesting bass work from Tim.  The whole band seems really into it.

Dave says, “The first European settlers stopped at Guysboro so we feel honored to do the same.  I went to the cairn…. I read the cairn.”

Mike: “Was the plaque about golfing?”

Dave: “No, it was about settling by the Mi’kmaq.”

They play a terrific, rocking “Marginalized,” a song that they seem to always play great.  It’s followed by a grooving intro to “Horses.”  Dave is really into it and the song ends really really loud and aggressive for a folk festival–Dave is screaming.

It’s followed by a terrific “Stolen Car.”  The “Kill a cop” line is really intense with a big drum roll.  And Martin is in great form throughout, especially that ending “drive away” section.

Mike: Thanks, we’ve got one more for you
Martin: Thanks, we’ve got one more for you
Dave: As a great man once said, Thanks, we’ve have one more for you

After all of that intensity, they end with a slow, pretty “Making Progress.”  Martin says, the composer of this next number in the middle: Timothy Rabbit Warren Vesely.  So that’s two songs by each singer.  As the song ends, Martin plays some interesting echoing guitar lines as the other guys leave.

The announcer says: “Rheostastics.  These guys were nominated for 3 Junos and one Genie and the Barnenaked Ladies and The Tragically Hip are constantly singing their praises and we got to hear them tonight.

[READ: April 25, 2017] The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power

This is the reboot of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  This edition collects issues 1-4 and a special comic from Marvel Super Heroes #8.

For the reboot, Erica Henderson has re-imagined the appearance of Squirrel Girl from the rankly really creepy and ugly early version (as seen in the Marvel issue included) into a new much cooler looking hero.  Although I find her face really distractingly strange-looking.  I suppose it’s meant to invoke a squirrel somewhat, but since I read the Shannon Hale book first, I imagined her looking less odd.  But I have since gotten over that and I find her personality is too great to care.

There are several things I love about this story line.  It is so very funny.  Every bit and piece is great.  I also love that she is, as her name suggests, unbeatable.  This is not a spoiler exactly, but she really can’t be beaten–it’s pretty great.  I also love that there is running commentary along the bottom of the page (essentially the footnotes).  Sadly in some issues it is really hard for these old eyes to read, but if you can read them, they are worth it.

But really it’s the tone that I love,  It’s so lighthearted and fun.   (more…)

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