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Archive for the ‘Medusa’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KARINE POLWART TRIO-Tiny Desk Concert #840 (April 10, 2019).

I had never heard of Karine Polwart and her beautiful and thoughtful music.   And I suppose that’s not surprising.

Scottish singer, songwriter and essayist Karine Polwart seldom comes stateside. She prefers to limit air travel in order to minimize her carbon footprint. She took exception, however, to fly from Edinburgh to New York City to participate in the Carnegie Hall Migrations festival, a celebration of the history of the movement of people all around the world. Polwart and her brother, guitarist Steven Polwart and multi-instrumentalist, Inge Thomson, then escaped New York for a day to play the Tiny Desk here in Washington, D.C.

They play three beautiful songs.  Steven seems to play the main guitar melody while Karine adds lovely accents.

The first song is “Ophelia.”

Polwart writes songs about hope, music that harnesses spiritual power and lyrics that address important social justice themes. Stories of human emotion and the human experience are also commonplace as in the first tune, “Ophelia.”

“There’s a wind in from the desert
Red dust blows across the sun
It bleeds into the evening
We watch it from the garden
Your hair glints in the strange yellow light
We let go of all our fighting
Ophelia”

There’ some very cool sound effects–wind and warped sounds echoing–surrounding this song and I can’t quite tell where they are coming from (presumably from Thomson).  It’s a cool if unsettling backdrop for this pretty song on acoustic guitar with lovely vocals (wondrous backing vocals from Thomson, who also plays a gorgeous accordion solo.

Indeed, the music is wonderful and the blurb describes it perfectly

Lyricism and messages of hope and beauty heard throughout punctuate a stunning accompaniment of inventive instrumentation. The steady, resonant guitar riffs played by Steven Polwart ground the delicate vocal harmonies. Inge Thomson’s accordion lines, combined with an array of percussion instruments and synth-generated effects, add a complimentary layer of sound without overpowering the music. Karine Polwart’s bellowing and drone-like Shruti box provides a sweet serenity.

She speaks with her wonderful accent between songs, introducing the band and then introducing the second song, “I Burn But I Am Not Consumed.”   It features a mesmerizing spoken word denunciation of trump, from his hated golf course back in Scotland to everything he does now.

Your mother was a wee girl once,
who played upon my rocky shore.
And you, you are broken boy,
and you want more and more and more.
You build a tower. You build a wall,
You live in fear that they might fall.
You who see nothing but your face
in the sheen of The Hudson River.

The music is wonderful too.

Read the whole thing here and watch a performance on the eve of the inauguration with an orchestra for the BBC.

How does one follow that up?  With a song called “King of Birds” which praises the power of small things.–in their guile and their nimbleness.

In it Polwart recounts the legend of a wren who piggybacks a lift on an eagle’s wing. Just as the large bird is unable to fly any higher in the sky, the tiny wren catches a breath of air, soars higher than the eagle and is crowned the king of all birds.

Tinkling bells and gentle guitar introduce this verse

“At Ludgate Hill
where the towers of smoke and mirrors bruise the sky
the pilgrims huddle in
as the tiny King of Birds begins to cry
the people start to sing
to light glory in the dark
to ring the bell
and to breathe hope in every heart”

And as the song reaches its loudest Thomson is playing a cymbal and the accordion while she is singing.  Wow.

This concluding blurb is spot on

This performance will quite likely inspire you to learn more about Polwart. The NPR program, Thistle and Shamrock often features her music. This recent episode features cuts from Polwart’s latest album, plus her ideas on movement and migration.

[READ: April 14, 2019] “Medusa”

This is a brutal story about a woman who has been raped.  But the brutality isn’t in the way it happened–in fact, when I first read it I wasn’t entirely sure it had actually happened.  It’s in her reaction to the event and how it changes her life.

It was raining and the narrator left her back door open as she went outside to take out the garbage bags. How could this man have gotten in in that short time?  When she first saw him she thought he was a lost student from across the way.  But it soon dawned on her that that was not his reason for being there.

She introduced herself, trying to humanize herself to this man.  He said his name although she could tell he was just “trying it on for size.”  She got a good look at him–his hair, his tattoos, a good smell of him.  She tried to run but fell in her front hall–leaving her in the perfect position for what he wanted. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 2016] Nightmares! The Lost Lullaby

I was really excited to get this third volume of the Nightmares! series.

The previous book ended with the startling revelation that on the first day of the new school year, India Kessog (INK) is sitting in Charlie’s classroom.

INK and her sister ICK were responsible for creating the tonic that nearly destroyed Orville Falls–not to mention the Dream Realm, the Netherworld and the Waking World.

Charlie and his friends knew that INK was on this side of the portal and that her sister ICK was still in the nightmare realm, but they never expected that INK would come to them rather than then having to track her down.

INK is still dressed like she has always been–in old-fashioned clothes with a red bow–exactly the way that she (or ICK, they are twins) terrorized everyone’s dreams in Charlie’s town.  As INK walks through the school–observing everything very carefully–all of the kids keep their distance and stare and whisper.

When she sits down to eat, she is repulsed by the chicken nuggets–who wouldn’t be?  But she loves the tater tots.  That must make her okay right? (c’mon, EVERYONE loves the tater tots).  Charlie is just about to go approach her when his little brother Jack beats him to it.  And he starts talking to India (he calls her Indy) like she was his friend instead of a monster.  They seem to be having a good conversation until a new characters approaches. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 2016] Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic

2I though the first Nightmares! book was great.  I had listened to both of these books before, but what was fun about listening this time is that the end of book one gives a little hint at what book two would be about.

Towards the end of Book One, the story tells us that Charlotte’s business was doing well, although a new store had opened up in the next town and was also doing very well–possibly taking away her customers.

And that’s essentially what book two is about.  (No, not about small town commerce).

But let’s back up.  In book one, Charlie Laird and his three friends Paige, Alfie and Rocco prevented the evil president of the Netherworld from taking over the waking world.

Back up some more.  Nightmares aren’t bad.  They are there to frighten us, yes, but their goal is for us to face our fears and come out stronger.  They don’t want to hurt any of us. But the nightmares have an enemy–the goblins.  The goblins have been forced out of the nightmare realm never to return.  And they are constantly trying to get back into the Netherworld. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: Summer 2016 & November 2016] Nightmares!

nightmresI loved Jason Segel on How I Met Your Mother.  I loved that Jason Segel was instrumental in bringing The Muppets back to the big screen.  And now I love that Jason Segel has written a series of really enjoyable–funny and frightening–children’s books.

This book is about–wait for it–nightmares.  But not in the way that you might expect.  Segel (and Miller–I have no idea how much she contributed to the book) have created a realm where Nightmares live.  It is a wonderfully realized and very well thought out world.  And I am really impressed with how well the whole story works.

It is the story of Charlie Laird.  Charlie is a pretty normal kid.  He does okay in school, he has friends, his family loves him.  But three years ago his mom died unexpectedly.  It was a harsh blow to him and his family.  Charlie has never really gotten over it.  And what has made it especially tough is that Charlie’s dad recently got remarried.  Apparently he got over it just fine.

If that weren’t bad enough, Charlie’s family moved from his old house–the house he grew up in and loved–into the mansion on the hill.  Not a far move–still in the city of Cypress Creek–but worlds apart from what he was used to.  Or what he wanted.

The mansion has always been there in town. It is huge and…it is purple.  It towers over the whole town–you can’t avoid looking at it–and it has always been rather creepy.  It was built a long time ago by Silas DeChant, and it has been in the DeChant family ever since.  So it makes sense that Charlie’s new stepmother, Charlotte, who is a DeChant, would want to live there.

But Charlie hates it  And he hates Charlotte, and he hates anything that tries to get him to see reason about his horrible stepmonster (I didn’t like the lazy use of this term, but it is rather appropriate). (more…)

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