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[LISTENED TO: August 2017] The Trouble with Twins

I grabbed this book because it seemed kind of interesting.  I see also that this book was released in the UK as Missing Arabella, which I think is a slightly better title).  I wasn’t entirely sure if we’d like it.  I mean, we don’t have twins and this is about twins and I wasn’t sure that our 12-year-old boy would like a book about twin girls.

But holy cow was this book outstanding!  It was utterly hilarious and the way it was read aloud was genius.

The book begins with this wonderful setup:

And so it begins in front of the fire, the story of two twin sisters.  One remains with her family in their lovely country house, where yellow roses perfume the air.  The other waits for her in another house, where she stands alone at huge arched windows.  She is restless, pacing wooden floors that creak in the night when a cat jumps down from the bed to chase at shadows.

And then in different typeface:

“What are their names?” the girls asks.  “The sisters.”
“Arabella and Henrietta.”
“Are they lonely,” asks the girl.
“They belong together,” says the mother.  “And it makes them sad to be apart.”
“Can’t you tell a happy story?” the girl asks.
“With puppies and a garden?”
“Yes!” says the girl.
“I’m only telling it the way my mother told it to me,” the mother says.
“And will there be puppies?” the girls persists.  “Or only gloomy girls at windows?”

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RAVI COLTRANE QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #630 (June 26, 2017).

Ravi Coltrane is the son of John Coltrane–giant shoes to fill.  Indeed there’s quite a legacy in this band:

Yes, Ravi Coltrane is the son of the John Coltrane, one of the most famous and important jazz saxophonists and composers of all time. He’s also the son of multi-instrumentalist, composer and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda. (In fact, all members of the band here are performing artists in their own right and come from artistically rich families; drummer E.J. Strickland is the brother of saxophonist Marcus Strickland; Adam Rogers parents performed on Broadway and Yunior Terry is Yosvany Terri’s brother, both heirs to Cuban music royalty.)

I don’t know anything else about Ravi Coltrane, so I’m going to let the blurb do the detailing:

The first song in the set, “Cobbs Hill,” was written by Coltrane’s good friend and colleague Ralph Alessi. Beginning with Yunior Terry’s funky and deliberate bass line, further enhanced by intentional drum rolls the 2/4 time signature, two beats per measure, captures a march-like proclamation. [Ravi plays the soprano sax on this one.  There’s a lengthy guitar solo in the middle of the song in which Ravi just relaxes, but it is primarily Ravi’s show].

The second song is Coltrane’s own composition, “Three For Thee”, a fan favorite from the 1998 Moving Pictures album; the original recording included Ralph Alessi on trumpet. Only 32 years old when that record was released, it could be taken as a sign of things to come: Ravi Coltrane, an old soul in a young body, mature and capable of creating work so robust and important. Almost 20 years later, hearing that music again here, even better, is affirming and a testament to Coltrane’s ever-evolving artistic journey. And E.J. Strickland’s opening drum intro couldn’t be more spunky; he teases the audience into the groove with effortless, intentional punctuations.  [Ravi is on tenor sax for this song.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo in the middle].

After this song, he thanks everyone and then points out that there is a two drink minimum.

Sadly there is no blurb for “Phrygia,” so it’s up to me.  I really like the main riff of this song.  And the middle has a groovy bass solo, which could be longer, frankly.  I like that the guitar plays some really delicate notes and phrases to accompany the bass solo.  After some good wailing, I like that they return to the main theme and then bring things down with some thumping bass and gentle guitars

[READ: August 20, 2016] “Four in Prose”

Back in 2009 Williams had 7 brief stories published in Harper’s.  My take away was: I would have not finished this work, except the whole thing was only two pages long.

These four pieces are also only 2 pages long.

The first is called “The Perverted Message” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Rivoli, Toronto, ON (November 11, 1989).

“This is not the best sounding show – it sounds like a 25-year-old soundboard from a small club which is what it is – It is very interesting though as it is from a poorly represented period between Greatest Hits and Melville.”

The notes also say:

It contains early versions of Northern Wish, Aliens, Record Body Count, Christopher, King Of The Past, Horses, Chanson Les Reulles, Queer and When Winter Comes. Horses refers to Ozzy getting caught on the high voltage wire. Queer doesn’t have the ending portion yet, lyrics to Soul Glue are not quite the same etc. Plus a bunch of songs which were not played often such as Seems Like, Uptake, Poor Mouth and As I Was Going Down The Stairs (which sounds like it was a precursor to Triangles On The Walls).

I don’t think it’s a precursor actually, but that’s just me.

Northern Wish has a lot of hiss and a rather disconcerting echo on Martin’s vocals. The hiss comes and goes on a few songs, but is mostly absent.

“Aliens” has some notable lyric changes.  “Woodstuck” gets the CSNY intro (which he says they never do anymore).  In this version they sing in silly falsetto.

Northern Wish, Aliens, Record Body Count and Christopher sounds pretty much the same (and very good), although Christopher has some interesting sounds on guitar strings–maybe from Dave?–during the solo.  Christopher: “That was about Etobicoke, where we’re from.” and this [“King of the Past”] is about our trip to Winnipeg (with the disconcerting lyric change: “I won’t close my eyes–oh nevermind” instead of “I won’t close my eyes to the passage of time.”

As the intro to “Horses,” Dave asks, “Hey Mr lighting guy can you make it look like the hull of a freighter?”  or “can you make me look like thee tar of the band?” “Dave Clark responds: “Yes, just turn around and show your ass.”  The song totally rocks, but it’s really weird not hearing the audience sing along to “Holy Mackinaw, Joe.”  I trust they responded appropriately the awesomeness of the ending of the song.

After the song they have “the ceremonial exchanging of the instruments (that we can’t play).”  Martin says he got a book out of the library about ghosts across Canada.  And he wrote this song about it.  Dave interjects, This is dedicated to Jim Hughes.  Then Martin says, “That’s the first time I’ve ever spoken on stage.”  The lyric is “As I was going up the stairs, I met a man who wasn’t there” played with accordion, by Tim I think! (apparently the poem is called “Antigonish”).  They continue with the accordion on “What’s Going On” (which gets cut off).

You gotta stand up for three minutes and 20 seconds while they play the drum-heavy “Chanson Les Reulles” (which Dave says he can’t understand).  They play “Queer” and mess it all up: Clark says “don’t you hate it when the drummer counts in?”  It has a really lengthy intro and no ending.

“This is a song Martin wrote I have no idea what it’s about.  All you guys and girls at the bar, there’s plenty of room up front.”  Seem Like” is a quiet song with some dark lyrics and a cool effects filled guitar break.  “Poor Mouth” is a slow mournful ballad by Bidini (with some loud growls at the end of each section).

They say “It’s hard to tell if we stink or not.”  Clark asks, “Hey Dave, if you were hiding from a guy with a gun, would you stick your fluorescent yellow flag out or would you hide it under your camouflage jacket?”  Not sure if that is an introduction to “When Winter Comes” or not, but the song sounds great.

Dave then does a poem which is kind of stupid (like usual).  Then they play “Good on the Uptake” they played a lot but never officially recorded.  It’s got a lot of their early new wave style but with Martin’s wild guitars.  It segues into a wildly chaotic “PROD.”  Midway through Bidini wanders into the crowd.  He tries to get the audience to sing.  Some do, but one guy speaks it, “oh no, you have to sing melodiously.  That’s why we came out here.”

For the final song, called “Grant’s Song in G,” Clark shouts, “Grant? Sober enough to play drums?  Come on up.”  It’s all silliness for about a minute and then Clark starts singing an intense anti-drug song: “well you had your chance / and you blew it / up your nose / in your arm / in the car at the end of that…” When he shouts “Take it away Marty,” the tape ends.

[READ: August 28, 2016] “Home”

I hate when the first sentence of a story throws you.  I don’t know if it was the typographical layout, but I had to read this sentence three times before it sank in: “Lee was the daughter of his mother’s hairdresser.”

Once unpacked, it made perfect sense.  The He is the main character of the story.  Jim had heard about Lee for years.  She as in an abusive relationship and finally got out. Jim’s mother told him that Lee was looking for a lawyer (which Jim is).  He initially refused but then agreed to take her out to dinner because “she’s a beautiful girl.”

Jim’s ex-wife was pretty, sure, but Lee is stunning.  He can’t believe that he is having dinner and then seeing her in his own house later that night. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 2016] The League of Beastly Dreadfuls

beastlyI was looking for an audio book to listen to with the kids and I found this one.  I didn’t know anything about it, but the title was interesting.

I never suspected just what a peculiar story this turned out to be.

It is the tale of Anastasia McCrumpet, an otherwise normal 11-year-old girl who suffers from flatulence and a mum who does little more than yell from her bed all day.  Her father is a loving man, but as of a few years ago he has been quite obsessed with vacuum cleaners.  She also has a guinea pig who is quite ill-tempered; when it feels crossed by someone, it takes revenge by pooping in their slippers.

On this particular morning, they were having a funeral.  A funeral for her father’s plant (they wound up tossing it out the window).  And then her father made them his famous waffles (which her mother screamed for upstairs).

But Anastasia was running late for school that morning because of the funeral and she ran out of the house wearing a most unusual outfit (part of a Halloween costume, which was top on the laundry pile). (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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