Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Short Story’ 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…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: GURR-“Christmas Holiday” (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.  There are two songs that feature Eddie Argos from Art Brut.

This first track has a very B-52’s vibe to it.  With Eddie Argos doing his thing and the women from Gurr singing lovely backing vocals, it sounds like a punkish update to their style.

A thumping beat introduces Eddie speaking (in his own distinct way) “Silent Night, holy night everything is gonna be alright.  Silent Night holy night, maybe not but lets pretend it might.”

Then the Gurr women sing a line (with lovely ahhs behind it).

The chorus is simple and catchy “We’re on Christmas holiday / sat around with nothing left to say / We’re on Christmas holiday / you don’t have to stay if you donb’t want to.”

The song is short (less than three minutes) and it continues with more great Eddie Argos lines like “We’ve got something cooking in the kitchen / it doesn’t fit in with your dietary restrictions” (this sounds the most like the with B-52’s since both women do the ahhs.)

After another chorus, Eddie ends the song with this heartfelt Christmas wish

I’ve gathered you all here today to say … I  hope you are all enjoying Christmas exactly the same amount as … I am enjoying Christmas.

Check it out here.

[READ: December 1, 2019]Beginnings

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.

The story it is told in many different parts–22 numbered sections.  Number 1 is called “The Beginning” and in its entirety, it consists of

 I find you impossibly beautiful, the man tells me. Give it a year, I tell him, and you’ll find me impossible

(more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: DAVID O’DOHERTY-“Florence Falls” (2012).

Back in 2012, Cathy Davey said she’d “been trying to figure out how to raise awareness for homeless dogs without it becoming a negative campaign.”  She says she “wondered how many songwriters would be interested in writing songs about dogs they have loved. It turns out nearly everyone I approached had a story to tell…”

So Davey and Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy curated this album.  Proceeds from the album go to the Dublin-based Dogs In Distress.

The album features new recordings from fourteen artists, including Lisa Hannigan.  When the album came out Hannigan tweeted: “A dog is for life, this album is for Christmas” playing on the Humane Society’s “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” which is designed to discourage giving pets as holiday gifts if they can’t be cared for.  Sharon Shannon and David Gray both contribute instrumentals).  And of course, The Divine Comedy.

I was planning  to write about The Divine Comedy song, but my favorite track turned out to be this one from David O’Doherty, an Irish comedian.  I don’t know anything about O’Doherty, but the delivery of this bittersweet song was top notch.

Musically, the song is simple, just a keyboard playing a nice melody.  The story starts somewhat sweetly as Florence’s owner returns home.

As my key went in the door I’d call your name, you’d start to growl
And move menacingly across the floor
And as you’d thundered down the stairs
Snarling angrily
I’d wonder why I liked you so much
And you always hated me

The details of how bad Florence was are really hilarious.

In the winter you’d curl up by the fire at home
I’d go off to get your chew-chew
And then you’d eat my mobile phone

Then we realize just how bad Florence was

The first time that you nipped me people said you were just young
And the second time it was the heat
And the third you were only having fun (ha ha ha ha ha)
And the fourth time I actually needed Tetanus and you got neutered at the vet
She said that it would calm you down
And then you bit me on the leg

And since Christmas is coming, there’s a Christmas verse too:

I remember one time at Christmas
When you opened all the stuff
I put you out into the garden
And you were furious
You cried so much at this great injustice
I had to let you back in
And then you were good for an hour


Then you licked the turkey

Florence was truly a terrible dog.  A terrible pet.  And yet the ending reveals the truth:

Oh, Florence, there was nothing good about you I can’t think of anything
But I wish that you were still at home … hating me again.
You were a rubbish dog
But a rubbish dog is better than no dog

And even though this song is sweet and might make you a little teary-eyed, the phrase “rubbish dog” will always make me laugh.

[READ: November 30, 2019] “The Curfew”

I have loved Roddy Doyle’s stories for years.  His early stuff was very funny, but it has been a pretty long time since he has written anything genuinely funny.  But no matter, because what he writes is always good and very real.

The curfew in this story is in place because ex-Hurricane Ophelia is heading towards Dublin.

The protagonist is heading home, with a half hour to spare before the curfew.  His wife is dismissive of the curfew–“Do they think it’s a civil war?  It’s only a bit of weather,” but he likes the drama of it.  He felt like he was helping to stave of a catastrophe–it was doing him good.  It almost kept his mind off the medical news.

A couple of wees ago he’d had a checkup.  All he could remember was the prostate exam.  He smiled to himself thinking he could now address his daughter’s lectures about gender: “I know what you’re talking about, he’d be tempted to say.  A woman doctor had her finger up my arse and she was thoroughly professional.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: FREDDIE JACKSON-“You Are My Lady” (1985).

I listened to this song after reading this story.

Somehow I assumed that this song was going to be a big old 60’s or 70’s powerful soul song.

So when I started the video on YouTube and the super cheesy 80s synths began, I thought it was accidentally playing “Endless Love” (1981) instead.

Interesting how this I created an entirely incorrect imagine of Jackson based on this story.

Reading the comments on the video, this song is hugely important to a lot of people.  I honestly can’t get past the production.

But his voice is pretty fine (well, except for that middle part which is the kind of singing I do not care for).

[READ: November 21, 2019] “Arizona”

I really haven’t enjoyed much by Wideman.  I just don’t like his style.  I think in everything I’ve read, I’ve enjoyed what the stories were about, but I didn’t like the way he wrote them.  This story was probably the one I’ve liked best by him, but it felt way too long and digressive.

It opens as a letter to “Mr. Jackson” which begins “Thank you for your music…”

I assumed it was to Michael Jackson.  But it turned out to be to Freddie Jackson, a soul singer who I don’t know.  Jackson is still alive which makes this story an actual letter to him (even if it as never “sent”) which is kind of weird.

The story is (as far as I can tell) largely autobiographical.  The crux of the story concerns Wideman’s son [one of his three children] who was convicted of a murder that he committed while he was a minor and was sentenced to life in prison in Arizona.  This is an unbelievably heartbreaking thing to have read and of course it fully colors the story (and makes me feel bad for saying I didn’t like parts of it).  (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: IGOR LEVIT-Tiny Desk Concert #917 (November 22, 2019).

Igor Levit is a 32 year-old Russian-born pianist.  I really don’t know anything about him, although the blurb implies that he plays Beethoven and little else.  It says that he

has been playing the German composer’s music for half his life. He recently released a box set of all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas and once again he’ll be performing complete cycles of the sonatas in various cities to mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020.

Most of us know many Beethoven pieces whether we realize it or not.  And, of course most of us know them by their “nickname” rather than their full name.  So when you see “Piano Sonata No. 14 ‘Moonlight,’ I. Adagio sostenuto” it’s easy to forget that that means “Moonlight Sonata,” the beautiful piece that is familiar with the very first notes.

Levit’s “Moonlight” emphasized the mesmerizing qualities in the music, with its oscillating pulse, smoldering low end and tolling bells.

After saying that “Moonlight” seemed like a good beginning to a Tiny Desk, he says he’s about to disrupt the situation as much and as hard as he can with anther sonata–this one a little bit earlier.  This one has no nickname, no title, no marketing gag, nothing.  Just G major sonata (officially “Piano Sonata No. 10, II. Andante”).

Levit says that this it is one of the funniest, wittiest pieces that Beethoven ever wrote. And…wait til the end.

The second piece proved Beethoven wasn’t always the grumpy guy he’s made out to be. His sly sense of humor percolates through the set of variations in a jaunty march rhythm, punctuated with a final, ironic, thundering chord.

After this, he returns to the familiar with “Bagatelle in A minor, ‘Fur Elise'”  Everyone knows ‘Fur Elise’ from the moment it starts.  Levit even jokes about playing it:

Sure, it’s a “total eye-roller,” Levit admits, but he also describes it as “one of the most beautiful treasures in the piano literature.”

He says people argue whether it was Beethoven’s piece–he thinks it is.

His playing is beautiful–I love that you can hear everything so distinctly.  He makes the familiar songs sound vibrant and alive.  And the unfamiliar piece (while not rolling-in-the-aisles funny or anything like that) does have little moments that will induce a smile.  He is also quite subtle in “Für Elise”–not emphasizing the most familiar parts.

Although many people have performed Beethoven over the years, I would absolutely look for his name if I wanted to hear a great performance.

 [READ: August 2019] American Housewife

This book had been sitting around our house for a few years.  I feel like I saw the cover of the woman on the toilet doing her nails every time I went into the spare room.  Then a TV show came out called American Housewife.  I knew that Sarah Dunn, the creator of the show, had written novels, but I had forgotten her name.  So I assumed that this book was the basis for the show.  Whatever the case, this book has nothing to do with the TV show.

This book is a collection of very short pieces and somewhat longer pieces.

Generally speaking, I found the shorter pieces a lot less funny as they seemed more like bullet point lists than actual jokes. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JOVINO SANTOS NETO-Tiny Desk Concert #903 (October 21, 2019).

Jovino Santos Neto plays piano–and then surprises by playing a lot more.

I have a come and go relationship with jazz.  I like some of it.  I like it sometimes.

But the blurb might explain why I liked this music right away:

Something happens for me when I hear jazz mixing it up with Brazilian rhythms. In the right hands it falls into the realm of magic.  Pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Jovino Santos Neto certainly cast a spell over those who gathered for this joyful turn behind the Tiny Desk.

I loved everything about this performance.

The trio rushed right out of the gate with the samba-influenced “Pantopé” that introduces the concept of the trio: seamless interaction between the musicians that make the band sound like one big, melodic rhythm machine.

“Pontapé” opens with slow piano and woodblocks from drummer Jeff Busch.  Then after about thirty seconds, the song takes off with some amazing piano playing and some great five-string bass from Tim Carey.

There’s a really impressive bass solo–Carey has got some really fast fingers.  Then, midway through the song–and a huge surprise if you’re not watching–Santos Neto pulls out a very solid-looking melodica and plays a really impressively fast solo on it.

It’s a solo that’s interspersed with some fun drum fills–cowbell, snare, wooblocks and a little whistle at the end.  It’s a wild and fun track for sure.

He explains that the name”Pontapé” means kick.  People who can play soccer can do amazing things with their feet.  But we do it with the notes instead.

Up next is “Sempre Sim.”  The song

starts with percussionist Jeff Busch riffing on the traditional percussion instrument called berimbau. 

It looks like a giant fishing rod.  Santos Neto says, “don’t be afraid it isn’t a weapon… I mean in the right hands.”  One plays the berimbau by hitting the instrument with a tiny drum stick (and also hits the cymbals with tiny stick).

its ethereal sound creating the perfect intro to the dreamy melody and solo from Santos Neto on piano, while bassist Tim Carey echoes the double beat on the bass drum that drives Brazilian music.

There’s some great piano and amazing bass.  The middle solo is an astonishing amelodic feast.  By then Busch has switched back to sticks and is playing drums.

They finish and Santos Neto seems to think they are done.  There’s a long pause with everyone looking off at someone.  Then he says Okay!  We’re going to play one more to much chuckling.

The final song is “Festa de Erê.”  He says that

Erê represents the spirits of children in the Brazilian Umbanda tradition, which makes “festa de Erê” an appropriate title for the intensely whimsical tune that weaves in and out of the different traditional rhythms performed by all three musicians.

The song starts bouncy and lively.  But they settle down so Santos Neto can play the main piano melodies.

Then midway through the song he surprises once again by playing a lengthy, pretty flute solo–the end of which consists of him playing the flute one-handed while he plays the piano with his right hand.

All the while Carey is tapping out the notes with both hands, but that impressive feat is overshadowed by the incredible stuff going on behind the piano.

Like the sometimes frenetic energy of the music they play, Jovino Santos Neto and his trio are perfect examples of musicians who have so much music coming from within, sometimes one instrument is just not enough.

Perhaps I like jazz best when it’s mixed with Brazilian rhythms too.

[READ: November 16, 2018] “The Trip”

I’ve only read one other story by Weike–a story of a difficult romance.

This story is also of a difficult romance, but in a very different way.

The story begins

In Beijing, he boiled the water.  It was August, so the hottest month of the year.  He put the water into a thermos and carried the thermos on a sling.  He called himself a cowboy because he thought he looked dumb. Other people in the group carried a thermos too, though he wife did not.

The opening is certainly confusing.  It continues to be so.  He and his wife go to the Great Wall.  She sprints along it to show him a particular spot hat her cousin showed her as a teenager.  Her cousin taught her the Chinese word for cool–imagine not knowing that word– shuang–until you were 13.  Can you imagine how that felt?  He says that she knew the word in English, though right?  She made a face and then sprinted on.

The trip had been a gift from her parents who wanted “her first husband to see China and have good memories from there and sample its regional foods and see the warmth of its people and not hate us civilians should our two great nations ever partake in nuclear war.”  At least that’s how she translated it. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »