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Archive for the ‘Prison’ Category

SOUNDTRACKALEJANDRA RIBERA-Live at Massey Hall (February 5, 2016).

I had never heard of Alejandra Ribera before. She has a beautiful deep voice that can really soar.

I love that she sings in English and Spanish (in the same song) and sometimes, because of her delivery it’s hard to tell which language she is singing.

The show begins with her talking about Massey Hall and how the trajectory from the [working in? a] bar to this moment is unexpectedly fast and natural (because when you’re in it, you’re in it) but it has been overwhelming with ‘pinch me’ moments.

She says, “I used to have a poster on my wall with all of these goals… to get played on the CBC and to play at Massey Hall.”

The band is minimal and they create terrific sounds with just (primarily) an acoustic guitar from Jean-Sebastien Williams and upright bass from Cedric Dind-Lavoie)

The first song “La Boca” has the acoustic guitar and upright bass moving briskly with her voice soaring (but low) on top of it–really mesmerizing.  She sings parts in Spanish.

“Goodnight Persephone” has a muted picked guitar and bowed upright bass (it opens in vaguely Velvet Underground “Heroin” way until the bowing becomes bigger and deeper).  Alejandra sings to Persephone in a wonderful wounded, pleading voice.  The ending build with the refrain “keep this light burning bright for me.”

Before starting the next song, “No Mi Sigas” she tells us (not the audience) that when she was a young girl, she had crushes on girls and at the time she knew it wasn’t okay so she started writing poetry that was metaphorical and laden in imagery so no one would know what she was writing about.  And now she’s older and it doesn’t matter who she is writing about but she has still taken this approach and it’s why all of her love songs are in Spanish because she lives in Canada.

It’s only a shame that they cut off part of this beautiful song so much while she is talking.  She plays guitar as well in this sultry love song while Jean-Sebastien plays some wonderful leads.

“I Want” is an award-winning song and her voice really reaches deep to sing it.  She sounds great in this moody piece.  And the lyrics are very cool too: “There’s so much labor just in breathing lately.”

“Carry Me” is a bit more uptempo and she sings with that great style of hers–I’d never guess she was Canadian, even with the line “all the snow in Montreal couldn’t bury this.”

Turns out she is of Argentine and Scottish descent but was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, and has been professionally based in Montreal, Quebec.

The bridge of this song is quite compelling with the three of them singing just notes the rise through a scale–strangely compelling.  And then Ribera gives a great whistling solo–which people want to applaud for (and should) but no one does.

In the last segment, she says that before playing music publicly she had gone through a nasty depression.  She had seen that Ron Sexsmith was playing at Massey Hall and she wanted to go see him.  But the depression was too powerful and she checked into St Mike’s across the street.  She had checked in for a time and then one night went to the stairs to smoke and saw the Ron was playing at Massey Hall that night.  That was the pivotal moment–she was so close–and she decided to get on the other side of that door.

Once again, it’s a shame she talks over so much of her song “Led Me To You” which starts quietly but builds to a great powerful ending (with her on guitar again).

This series has been excellent in introducing me to new artists, and Ribera is a great one I hope to explore more.

[READ: January 9, 2017] “Fifty-Seven”

If you were paying attention, you’ll notice that I have been posting these old New Yorker stories on the date that they were published (no matter what the year).  There have been some exceptions (like when there was more than one story in an issue), but I thought it would be a fun thing to keep up).  I am making an exception for this because when I read this story and the one after it I felt like they were connected in some way.  So I’m moving this to July  because there’s a ton of stories to go in November.

I feel like this story was trying to make a point.  And I didn’t like it because of that.  Although I will say that it seems like Kushner really did a lot of work (unless she happens to know this much about the penal system).

This is the story of a murderer.  It is third person but from his point of view. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROY AYERS-Tiny Desk Concert #712 (March 1, 2018).

I hadn’t heard of Roy Ayers, although I imagine I’ve heard his work somewhere before.  I love the vibes so I was looking forward to his set.

I was a little bummed to hear him singing–I assumed it would be all instrumental. Especially since his songs aren’t exactly lyrically masterful.  But the jazzy funky solos were pretty great.

Roy Ayers [is a] 77-year-old jazz-funk icon.  He sauntered through the office with a Cheshire grin on his face, sharing jokes with anyone within earshot. Accompanying him was a trio of brilliantly seasoned musicians — keyboardist Mark Adams, bassist Trevor Allen and drummer Christopher De Carmine. Later during the performance, pride washed across Ayers’ face as his bandmates took the spotlight. (Be sure to watch as Adams woos not just the room but brightens Ayers’ face during his solo.)

The set began with one of Ayers’ more recognizable hits: an extended version of “Searching,” a song that embodies the eternal quest for peace and love.  The vibes solo at 2 and a half minutes is worth the wait, though.

The lyrics are essentially.  I’m searching, searching, searching searching. It takes over a minute for him to even get to the vibes!  It’s followed by a groovy keyboard solo that starts mellow be really takes off by the end.

During “Black Family” (from his 1983 album Lots Of Love), you’ll hear him call out “Fela” throughout. That’s because Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti was a huge influence on Ayers in the late 1970s; the two eventually collaborated on an album, 1980’s Music Of Many Colors. “Black Family” is, in part, a tribute to Fela, even if the original version didn’t include his name.

Again the lyrics: “lo-lo-lo-lo-long time ago” and not much else repeated over and over and over. But it’s all lead up to a great vibes solo (as the band gets more and more intense).  I love that the keyboardist has a keytar as well and is playing both keys at the same time–soloing on the keytar with an awesome funky sound.  There’s even a cool bass solo.

Concluding this mini-concert, Ayers closed the set out with his signature tune, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”, a feel-good ode if there ever was one. The essence of this song flowed right through him and out to the NPR audience.

Another terrific vibes solo is followed by a keytar solo which is full of samples of people singing notes (they sound like Steely Dan samples)–it’s weird and kind of cool.

[READ: August 2017] McSweeney’s No 46

As the subtitle reflects this issue is all about Latin American crime.  It features thirteen stories selected by Daniel Galera.  And in his introduction he explains what he was looking for:

DANIEL GALERA-Introduction
He says it used to be easy to talk about Latin American fiction–magical realism, slums and urban violence.  But now things have expanded.  So he asked 13 writers to put their own Latin American spin on the crime story.

And of course, each McSweeney’s starts with

Letters

DANIEL ALARCÓN writes passionately about Diego Maradona’s famous “Goal of the Century” and how as a child he watched it dozens of times and then saw it thousands of times in his head.  When he learned of Maradona’s questionable “Hand of God” goal, his father said that his previous goal was so good it counted twice.  But Daniel grows sad realizing that the goal of the century also marked the beginning of Maradona’s decline.

LAIA JUFRESA this was a fascinating tale about a game called Let’s Kill Carlo that her family played.   It involves a convoluted history including her mother “inventing” a child in order for her husband to come to Mexico from Italy and avoid conscription there.  But when this child “Carlo” “came of age” they had to think of reason why he wasn’t there anymore–so they invented the Let’s Kill Carlo game.

YURI HERRERA waiting for a bus in New Orleans as a man lay in the gutter also waiting.

VALERIA LUISELLI her friend recently moved to Minneapolis with her nervous wreck Chihuahua named President.   He was diagnoses with terminal cancer and the vet encouraged all manner of alternative therapies.  This friend was a very sweet person and had many virtues. And yet perhaps through her virtue the alternative therapy seems to have worked.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN wants to know why immigration officers at Newark Airport are such dicks (and this was before Trump–#ITMFA).  He speaks of personal examples of Mexican citizens being treated badly.  He had asked a friend to brings books for him and she was harassed terribly asked why did she need so many bags for such a short stay.  Another time he was flying back to NYC with a Mexican girlfriend.   She went through customs and he didn’t hear anything for hours.  He didn’t know if she would even make it though customs at all–even though she’d done nothing wrong.   He imagines wondering how these officers live and what their lives must be like that they seem to take pleasure in messing with other people’s lives. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS WITH MERZBOW-Rock Dream (2007).

Rock Dream was recorded live in November 2006 at Tokyo’s Earthdom festival.  It is a mix of the heaviness of Boris and the noise of Merzbow.  And it is lauded as a spectacular live document.

The Austin Chronicle discussed the album in their overview of Boris’ career, declaring it “definitive live document, an impossibly dense double album that touches down on nearly every point of their career, from Dronevil to Smile’s contorted stairway to heaven (“Flower Sun Rain”), with Merzbow’s electronic manipulations stitching it all together like connective scar tissue.”
In a retrospective review Tiny Mix Tapes, declared Rock Dream to be “not just the best album Boris ever made, but also one of the finest live albums I’ve ever heard.” and that “It’s incredible then that someone recorded Boris and Merzbow that night, because for two hours they got to be the best band on the planet.”

And what live show that opens with a 35 minute song wouldn’t be fantastic?  “Feedbacker” starts quietly with just guitar and Merzbow’s effects.  It has an almost spaghetti western feel to it with all the reverb.  Unsurprisingly, there’s moments throughout the 35 minutes where things dramatically change.  At 6 minutes there’s loud ringing guitars.  At 9 minutes things slow down and then slowly build back up with swells of music from the guitars, keys and effects. At 20 minutes, muted vocals come in and then grow louder.  It feels like it’s building to an end but it turns into faster guitars and a lot of noise.  By 31 minutes things have slowed down heading towards an ending which is primarily Merzbow’s pulsing sounds.  (And there’s so much more going on in that half an hour).

These sounds segue into “Blackout” full of thrashing guitars, crashing cymbals and Merzbow’s noise.  This segues into a song that I gather is only heard here: “Evil Stack” which features a lot of Merzbow’s knob twiddling and noise making and a lot of feedback as well.

This all segues into “Rainbow,”  a far more mellow song that opens with bass harmonics and simple drum beat with Wata’s quiet vocals.  It’s a slinky cool song with a mellow guitar solo.  Merzbow throws in some interesting sounds and and mild noises throughout.

If Disc one showcased their more expansive sound, Disc two opens with a bunch of really short fast loud songs all from Pink.

First off is the raging punk blast of “Pink.”  It is all-out thrash with a lot of yelling from Atsuo and wailing solos from Wata.  It’s followed by the 2 and a half minute rager “Woman on the Screen” with a great punk riff, lots of Atsuo’s screams and of course Merzbow putting a wall of distorrted noise over the top.  The trio concludes with the two minute  “Nothing Special.”  The punky blasts continue with “Ibitsu.”   It’s not from Pink but it’s just as fast.

Things slow down somewhat with “A Bao A Qu.”  It is 4 and a half minute with a lot of squealing feedback and thunderous drumming.  The final four songs return to that epic style–they are alternately 13 minutes or 8 minute long.

“The Evilone Which Sobs” slows things down with more of that reverbed spaghetti-western style guitar.  There’s squeals of feedback, slow plucked guitar and Merzow as this 13 minute song gets under way.  After three minutes the loudest guitar and bass imaginable come crashing through the melody.  The rest of the song is full on loud drone and feedback.  It all slows down for their surprisingly catchy of cover of Pyg’s “Flower Sun Rain,” which sounds just as good live as on record–including Wata’s wailing solo.

The final two songs return to Pink.  “Just Abandoned My-self” runs over 13 minutes and opens with a scream from Atsuo, wailing guitars from Wata and vocals from Takeshi.  The song barely lets up for seven minutes, and when it finally changes pace, it’s more for the guitars to do some e-bow working while Atsuo continues to pound away.  The last four minute are those droning chords with Merzbow making some really interesting sounds while the band plays on.  Merzbow ends the song with a kind of looping siren that leads into the show ending with a great version of “Farewell.”

Unlike the one from Crossing Waltz, Merzbow’s presence make a pretty big difference in the dynamic of “Farewell.”  The band sounds terrific and it’s a fantastic take on this by now iconic song.

For sure this live set isn’t for everyone–it’s loud, there’s some uncomfortable moments–but it really captures a band at full power.  And as with most Boris releases, it had a different cover in Japan.

Disc one   Total length:       49:58
“Feedbacker” (Originally from Boris at Last: -Feedbacker-) 35:05
“Blackout” (Originally from Pink) 5:19
“Evil Stack” 5:04
“Rainbow” (Originally from Rainbow) 4:30
Disc two  Total length:       60:32
“Pink” (Originally from Pink) 4:14
“Woman on the Screen” (Originally from Pink) 2:37
“Nothing Special” (Originally from Pink) 2:14
“Ibitsu” (Originally from Akuma no Uta) 3:35
“A Bao A Qu” (Originally from Sound Track from Film “Mabuta no Ura”) 4:35
“The Evilone Which Sobs” (Originally from Dronevil) 13:41
“Flower Sun Rain” (PYG cover, later released on Smile) 8:04
“Just Abandoned My-self” (Originally from Pink) 13:21
“Farewell” (Originally from Pink) 8:11

[READ: February 21, 2017] “Mrs Crasthorpe”

This story revealed itself slowly and in interesting ways.

We meet Mrs Crasthorpe in the first paragraph.  She is humiliated because her husband’s funeral has just been poorly attended.  It was also, by his own design, in a small, unassuming, frankly embarrassing cemetery.  Mrs Crasthorpe is 59.  Her husband was 72.  Yes, she had married him for money and yet it didn’t really make her a more fulfilled person.  She had cheated on her husband, but he didn’t seem to mind or care.

She had felt herself to be always a rosebud, claiming to be 45 when she was late nearly 60.  She also told no one she had a son.

Then we shift to following Etheridge, a man whose wife is near death.  He is tender to her, caring, but she doesn’t have long to live. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IBEYI-Tiny Desk Concert #703 (February 7, 2018).

ibeyiI have been fascinated with Ibeyi since I first heard them a couple years ago.  Their more recent song “Deathless” is just outstanding.  I’d also heard they put on a great show.

So I was looking forward to this Tiny Desk.

But just who are they?

They come by their connection to the Afro-Cuban culture by way of their late father, Miguel “Anga” Diaz, an in-demand Cuban percussionist who was part of a vanguard musicians who reinvigorated Cuban music before he died prematurely at age 45 in 2006. The sisters, Lisa-Kaindé (in blue) and Naomi (in orange) Díaz, carry that calling in their DNA, and how they’ve manifested it into their own art is nothing short of amazing.

The show begins with the sisters singing a capella: an invocation of a West African Yoruba deity called “Oddudua.”

The first song they play is “Deathless.”  “This song is dear to our hearts.  It’s made for you; for us.  Whatever happens, this moment is deathless.  We made it for you to feel for three minutes and believe it.”  Naomi hits a sampler to get the horns going and then Lisa-Kaindé plays the nifty buzzy keyboard melody and vocal samples.  Then Naomi starts playing the batá, which is really fun to watch.  Lisa-Kaindé sings lead (her voice breaks on one of the high notes)

The twins (Ibeyi means ‘twins” in Yoruban) perform their music with the batá drums associated with Yoruban sacred music and their elaborate vocal arrangements channel the call-and-response of traditional African music. The melding of their voices when they harmonize can be breathtaking, but the same can be said about the messages behind their songs, themes that inspire both inward introspection and celebrations of life.

The drums are such a cool percussive element that I didn’t expect.  The chorus is so uplifting and joyful even as it has a tinge of menace.  They get he audience to sing along in a rather inspiring call and response of the chorus.

“Valé” is a lullaby written for their niece–she sings frozen and she’s really into it.   Naomi sings leads while Lisa-Kaindé plays the pretty piano melody.  It is a delicate, quiet song (a lullaby, duh).  Then Lisa-Kaindé sings lead and Naomi plays cool percussion on a box drum which include lap-slapping as well.

Lisa-Kaindé says “Transmission” is the heart of their album.  It’s nearly seven minutes long and goes through several changes throughout.  They are both by the keys for the start of this one, with Naomi playing bass notes and both of them singing out of the same microphone.

The audience sings the gentle “Transmission” chorus as Naomi speaks in Spanish and then she adds the batá and sings some lovely harmonies.  It’s quite moving.

[READ: February 6, 2018] “Stanville”

I’ve been meaning to read one of Kushner’s novels for a while now because of great reviews.  But in the meantime, I have these short stories.

I’m not sure if this is an excerpt or not.  It feels pretty full on its own, but I coud easily see it going much further.

This story is done from two points of view.  A third person POV for the one main character, Gordon Hauser.  And then, later, a first person point of view for another major character Romy Hall.

Gordon Hauser is teaching G.E.D. classes in a women’s prison.  He was surprised to find that people would much rather teach in men’s prisons.  Indeed, no guard wanted to work in a women’s prison “female prisoners bickered with the guards and contested everything, and the guards seemed to find this more treacherous than having to subdue riots.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS FORSYTH & THE SOLAR MOTEL BAND-Dreaming in the Non-Dream (2017).

I was anticipating watching Forsyth at the end of last year but the show sold out on me.  (Note: he is playing nearby this Friday).

I heard about him from a stellar Tiny Desk Concert and was totally psyched to hear this four-song full length album.

The disc opens with the 11 minute History & Science-Fiction that starts with a slow bass line and lots of percussion.  After a short intro the guitar comes in with whammy bar’d chords.  It resolves into a really catchy “chorus” and then a slow down that reminds me of a softer “Marquee Moon.”  But instead of turning into a rocking solo section, it totally mellows out, with keyboards and cymbals and a pretty guitar melody.  It slowly builds out of that by switching from organ to sax.

“Have We Mistaken the Bottle for the Whiskey Inside” is the only song with words.  Of the four it’s my least favorite, but that’s only because I like his guitar playing better than his singing.  It’s a fairly simple riff–kind of Crazy Horse-ish with Forsyth’s deep spoken-singing asking the title question.  After about 3 and a half minutes, the song starts to pick up speed and turns into a huge freak out of noise and chaos. 
“Dreaming in the Non-Dream” begins as a simple picked guitar line repeating.  Throw in some a steady drum beat and some buzzy synths and the song starts to build. And then Forsyth’s soloing makes an appearance.  At first he is just playing harmony notes alongside the lower notes but at the 2 minute mark, the full throttle wah-wah guitar soloing takes off (the backing guitar also throws in some cool wah-wah, too).  And the song runs as a full instrumental for over 15 glorious minutes.  But it is not just a 15 minute guitar solo.  The whole band gets involved–the rest of the band is fully present and there’s a synth solo.  But it’s all within that catchy melody line.  Fifteen minutes never went by so fast.
 “Two Minutes Love” is a beautiful two-minute song.  Gentle guitars interweaving over lush bass lines and twining with the other guitar.  It’s a nice delicate end to that spiraling CD.

[READ: December 27, 2017] Obama: An Intimate Portrait

Sarah got me this book for Christmas and it is awesome.  I wanted to spend 2018 looking forward, getting past the dumpster fire of 2017 and hoping we can move past what we are bogged down with.  #ITMFA #RESIST

But this book was just an amazing look back and something that gives me hope that we can move forward past what we have now.

Pete Souza is a tremendous photographer and this collection offers amazing access to a President who was full of gravitas and thoughtfulness.

We were concerned that reading this would be too depressing given the State of our country and the Embarrassment in Chief.  And in some ways it was depressing.  But in many ways it was what it was intended to be: inspirational.

It’s hard to believe that before our Chief Idiot was bumbling his way through life and giving literally zero thought to anything except his own ego, we as a country had 8 years of a leader who, these pictures show, put serious thought and concern into (almost) everything he did.  Obama was never quick to do anything–he was often mocked for his slow speech patterns–but this is a job where rushing to judgment never does anyone any good.  And you can see the pressures of the world weighing on him.

But this book is not all about pressure.  There are delightful moments of joy–with his daughters, with delightful citizens, with staff and of course with Michele. (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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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: BRANDI CARLILE-Tiny Desk Concert #229 (July 9, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

brandiBrandi Carlile has been making a lot of noise on WXPN this last year.  She has a few song that I really like.  But I didn’t realize that her background was in country music—it’s slightly apparent on her more recent music.  But in this Tiny Desk, her whole country style really comes out.  Well, I guess she’s more alternative country—it’s strange that she has a country twang in her voice since she is from Washington.

“Raise Hell” is a romping stomping ass kicking song.  The riffing and power of the song is undeniable.  And it’s lyrically fun.  She actually sounds a bit like one of the Indigo Girls (I can never remember which one is which) on this song, with a notable but not pronounced accent.

Her backing band is great—two guitars a cello and a violin.  And they sing some great “ooohs” always right on pitch and sometimes quite high.

She asks if they should do a guitar version of “That Wasn’t Me.”  This is straightforward folk song with some more great “oooh” backing vocals.  But when the strings kick in about half way through, it really elevates the song.  Bob jokes about how often they’ve played the song in that way and she says, “That arrangement is about 5 minutes old.”

For the final song she wants to feature the strings.  “Promise to Keep” is a pretty , slow song with great strings and backing vocals.   Her voice is strong and powerful throughout all the songs and she hist some really high falsettos in this one.

I am glad she is moving more towards folk, although some of that stomping country would be fun to see live.

[READ: December 11, 2016] “Crazy Life”

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.

Most of the stories so far have been somewhat hopeful, but this one really removes all hope from the characters’ lives.

The story is told in first person by Dulcie.  Dulcie is dating Chuey, a gang member who has been picked up by the cops in the past.  She gives him grief but then realizes that this time it is far more serious.

She went downtown and there were all the town’s reporters there.  There was talk of capturing an important gang member.  I love that Dulcie walks through one reporter’s take because she doesn’t care about the media.

Dulcie knows she has to lie about who she is–they’d never let a girlfriend in to see a perpetrator.  So she pretends to be Chuiey’s wife.

After some hurdles, she gets to see him and he reveals that they think he was the shooter, but he swears he was just the driver.

(more…)

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