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Archive for the ‘Trilogy’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JAMES ELKINGTON-“Black Moon” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

Elkington is the first person on this compilation I didn’t know.

He plays an absolutely gorgeous, complicated guitar melody to open the song.  I am mesmerized by how lovely it is.  It’s actually so much different from the original–which has a subdued guitar opening–that i didn’t recognize the song at first.

Elkington sings in a quiet, hushed voice through the verses which continue that beautiful guitar melody and add percussion.

When the chorus kicks in with organs and a great electric guitar slide it become catchy just like the original (possibly more so).  But as the chorus dissolves into the verse, the electric guitar soars throughout while the acoustic picked guitar resumes the beauty.

What a wonderful cover and what a fantastic guitar player.

[READ: February 15, 2020] The Hidden Witch

After finishing The Witch Boy, I was really happy to see that we also had the second book in this trilogy, The Hidden Witch.

This book picks up right where the last one left off, although this one includes a map of the area, so we can see how close Aster’s house is to the main town (and the school).

The book opens in with witchcraft class.  Aster is there with the girls (who are looking at him funny).  He is far behind but his Aunt Iris doesn’t seem too happy about the fact that he is in the class.

Aster’s grandmother agrees to teach him if he will help her.  Her special request is to try to save her brother Mikasi–the creature from the previous book who they have trapped.  She believes that because Aster also had an inkling for witchcraft that he could possibly speak to the Mikasi within the beast.

Then we switch to Sterling Junior High where Charlie is showing off that her leg is no longer broken.  But there’s  new girl in school now.  Her name is Ariel and she seems very dark–thick eyeliner, dark clothes, etc,

This is one more reason why I love this series so much.  Charlie walks up to Ariel and tries to talk to her.  Ariel says you don’t have to partner with me just cause you pity me or whatever.  And Charlie replies “I thought you looked cool.  I like your bracelets.” They immediately start chatting and Ariel admits that she is good at art.  She draws something and Charlie is very impressed.  And soon enough they are friends.  I loved that interaction and wish it was that easy in real life.  And maybe sometimes it is.

Later that night, Aster goes to Charlie’s house. Their friendship is out in the open–her dads like him and everything.  They talk about their day and have a family dinner (I love that Charlie has two dads, but it is not a plot point or an issue at all.  It just is).

Then we cut to Ariel’s house.  Ariel is in foster care (you can tell by how different she looks from the rest of the family).  Her “dad” is kind of jerk saying that if she can’t make it in this school, she may have to go back to the foster system (jeez).

Ariel complains that trouble finds her–none of the things that happened in the past were her fault.  But the whole time she is staring at the phone and getting angrier.

Charlie promised she would call that night but she hasn’t..  And by the time she is ready for bed, Ariel goes to her hideout and summons a Fetch which she sends to find Charlie and give her “a scare.”

The Fetch is basically a shadow that sneaks into Charlie’s room and burns her (or something) on the arm.  Charlie runs away and the creature follows.  She runs all the way to Aster’s house and when she crosses through the protection stones, the Fetch can’t follow.

Charlie finds Aster and with his grandmother’s help, he is able to heal her arm.  Then the grandmother looks through the eyestone and they an all see the Fetch.  The grandmother can’t determine who made the Fetch, but she does make a protection spell for Charlie.  As Charlie walks away, Aster agrees to help his grandmother wit her brother.

At school the net day, Ariel is making enemies and sends a Fetch to push the bullies around a bit.  She is also super frosty to Charlie.  That’s when Charlie realizes she forgot to call her and is very sorry.  When she says “You kind of hate me now,” Ariel is taken aback and promises not to hate her.

She asks why Charlie had a bad night.  Charlie says she dealt with whatever it was and Ariel says to herself that that’s never happened before.

The next day, Charlie and Ariel are studying together when Aster comes by to bring Charlie a bracelet of protection.  Ariel gets a little jealous of their friendship.  When Aster leaves, she says boys are mean.  Charlie says everyone can be mean sometimes.  Charlie says that even though she has friends, sometimes she thinks everyone got the message about how to act and she missed it.  That’s why she likes Ariel.

Ariel is offended “Because I don’t know how to act?”
Charlie replies, “Because you don’t think there’s a right way to act.  You’re just doing your thing.”

That night is Charlies basketball game.  Aster goes and on his way Sedge tags along.  Sedge admits he doesn’t want to shapeshift–he’s freaked out about it.  In fact, he thinks that normal school sounds pretty great.

At the game Aster sees that Fetch is helping Charlie in the game–fouling people and assisting with the ball. Charlie is devastated that she wasn’t as good as she thought she was.  But the more pressing concern is who was casting the Fetch.  That’s when she realizes it must be Ariel.

They confront Ariel and she says that Charlie is clearly a witch too–that’s why she wasn’t hurt by the Fetch.  But Aster says it was his family that helped Charlie.  And he wants to help Ariel as well–hes concerned for her because the Fetch could backfire on her.   Being angry all the time can really impact you–When people treat you like a monster you start to act like one.

Soon enough the Fetch attacks Ariel and she is rendered unconscious.

Aster and Charlie bring her to Aster’s house–the only place she can get help.

I loved the way the story was resolved and who it tied so nicely to the previous book.  I also enjoyed the way the story lines twisted together ta the end (no spoilers)

I’m looking forward to book three (which is out already)!

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SOUNDTRACK: JEN CLOHER-“Impossible Germany” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

Cloher takes on of my favorite Wilco songs and transforms it in a way that I quite like.  The song opens with some cool buzzing guitar sounds before the main melody resolves with some plinking guitars and keys.

When Cloher starts singing in her quiet, whispering voice, the song builds up a bit and grows really catchy (with cool sound effects swirling around).  The song is really mellow and catchy until the guitar solo in the middle which has a great echo on it as the song ramps up the speed.

I love that the song has picked up the pace and Cloher has vocally as well, although her delivery remains much the same–understated and cool.

It’s a great version.

[READ: February 15, 2020] The Witch Boy

My daughter has had this book for quite some time and she and S. both encouraged me to read it.  I didn’t put it off for any reason, it’s just that there were other things around first.

But boy did I love this story.

I love that it plays with gender roles but in the inverse of a lot of stories.  In this one the boy wants to do what the girls normally do.  And I liked that it’s not that the boys think what the girls do is too girly, it’s just that that is how it has always been done–boys do one thing and girls do another.  So it’s a nice twist on the gender role reversal story.  Plus the story is unyieldingly positive.

We open on a group of young girls learning witchcraft.  I love that they are speaking in runes and that (I assume) Osterberg made up all the symbols?  Or maybe they are classic witchcraft symbols?

Then we see that Aster is in the tree above them eavesdropping.  He is yelled at and told the girls are leaning secrets that he is not privy to.  His mother tries to calm him by saying the magic is not for him, but he insists that he wants to learn it.  But his role, like all the boys, is to learn to shapeshift (I’m glad they each have a cool skill, at least).  But he’s not interested in shapeshifting.  He wants to cast spells.

Then we learn why the gender roles are separated.  Aster’s grandmother had a twin, Mikasi.  Mikasi wanted to learn magic and he eavesdropped as well.  But the spells poisoned him and he lost control.  A darkness came over him, people were hurt and he was cast out. (more…)

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nameless

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 10 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 17, 2005).

This was the 10th and final night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.   And their final show on the Rheostatic site before the “final” shows in 2007.

Great guest moments including Anthony Fragomeni reprising his Drumstein character from Dave Reid’s Centennial High School Production, Selina Martin and Jenn Foster guesting on I Dig Music/PROD, Robin Lowe taking another shot at Sweet, Rich, Beautiful and Mine due to issues with Martin’s Rig on Guest Vocalist night, Ida Nelson and Tim performing Listening, Kaitlyn and Nevil guesting on the Pogues Fairytale of New York and an awesome version of Powderfinger wedged inside Feed Yourself. Great show to end the final edition of the Fall Nationals.

The show opens with “a folk song for all you drinkers here at the hustling Horseshoe Hotel”  It’s a big friendly welcome that introduces the band as well.     Martin: As the song says, “Welcome.  Things have been pretty hairy the last few nights.”

As they start “Northern Wish,” Dave says, “Hey, who is that guy.  You’re not in our band.  Someone call security.”  It sounds great. Then Ford starts playing the “Everyday People” chords.  They sing the song and fun and then Tim segues his bass line perfectly into “It’s Easy To Be With You.”

There’s a very nice “Introducing Happiness.”  Ron Koop from Peep Show comes out, “He’s been our knight in shining armour.”

During “Queer,” Ford gets a lengthy piano solo which suddenly changes to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Alberta Bound” (send this one out to Dutch)

Up comes Ms. Robin Lowe, she’s been selling you shit for the last ten days.  There’s some talk about Roger Clemens.  Martin “What?”  Robin: “The Astros.  Baseball.”  This leads to a discussion about the Italians on the Moon.  Dave: “The Italians wouldn’t go to the moon because it’s just too far from home, from mama’s kitchen.  Unless mom could go too and lay out his spaceman clothes on his space bed.”  Martins mom is there tonight.  “So no cussing, Martin.”

“There’s no swearing in this one.”  On “Sweet, Rich, Beautiful, Mine” Robin makes up for the problem the other night and does a great job–such high notes!  The only thing I miss in the song is when Martin’s guitar soars at that one mention of “rich.”

Martin then says “This is Ford’s set list.  I wrote this song when I was a teenager.  And I think the last time we played it i was still one.”  For the line: “And mother said [Mike: tonight] lying’s wrong.”  Martin: “I like that song.  I forgot about it.”  Ford: “It got played last year. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal.”

Selina Martin and Jennifer Foster come out for “I Dig Music.” Ford: “now there are beautiful women, who knows what will happen next.   They sing backing vocals but not very noticeably.  Mid song, Dave notes: “we defer to the velvet fog or in this case the Polish fog.”  (MPW’s vocal about “Senor Slime.”  They get really insane by the end with everyone screaming “jazz animal.”  Dave says with just a little bit of hard rock thrown in there.  It turns into “P.R.O.D.”  Ford plays the horn.  Dace: “That’s a big horn. What hardcore needs is more French horn.”  Tim is called on for a bass solo, but it’s the wrong bass. “Shall we pause while Tim puts on the right bass.”

It’s our last night so we feel required to walk the tightrope–always on the edge of trying too hard.

Send this out to George Collins: “Making Progress.”  At the end Tim says, “That’s for Lisa.”  Dave: “No I already dedicated it to George.”

Ford plays a long wavery weird keyboard note as a transition to “Who Is This Man And Why Is He Laughing?”

Dave says “On Wednesday we did Whale Music and we brought some songs out of the woodshed and here’s one of them in case you missed it.”  It’s a nice version of “Who?”   Tim: That was definitely from my They Might Be Giants phase [I can hear that].

But it takes a bit to start because Michael’s having a pee.  Every time he plays that red guitar he has to pee.

Martin says “We’re gonna tighten up the space between songs from here on.”
Dave: “That was peeing problem.”
Martin: “I’ve noticed as a general trend.  It’s not a gabby night.  Last night was a gabby night.”
Tim: “incontinence was a trend.”
Mike: “Tim is one of those toque guys who when he takes it off you think male pattern baldness but then he peels it off and he’s got lustrous hair.”
Dave: “hair pride, hair shame, hair shame, hair pride.”
Tim: “You guys are talking not rocking.”

I Am Drumstein.  Anthony Fragomeni (formerly Anthony until he went to jazz college, now he’s Tony).  He was the lead of Centennial High School’s Story of Harmelodia.  Tim says it was a career highlight seeing that.   Tony adds personalized notes about the band in the lyrics and they really rock the end.

MPW plays a drum fill through the end–I just did that because I blew the ending and I thought I’d do an interesting beat to a new song.
Tim: “That drum part reeked of cover up.”
Mike: “You’re right.  Me and Karl Rove.”

After a pause.  Mike says, “Let’s do something sprawling and epic.”
Martin: “Almost as sprawling and epic as the space between songs.”

Martin introduces “CCYPA” as “this is a little blues number I wrote to sell chicken wings.”  Mid song Tim advises, “Remember they call it conservative but it’s still spelled Reform.  They’re like wolves in dogs’ clothing.”  Dave: “Stephen Harper eats babies.  You can see it in his eyes.  He takes off his face and there’s a  lizard face.”  Mike: “He went to France to get dead eye transplants.”  Tim: “And under the face of the lizard is the face of a Reform party member.”
By this time, they’re down to just a few bass notes playing.  “If Tim stops, are we still inside the song?”

Mike asks Martin if mid-song patter is okay, and Martin says, “yeah, I’m enjoying this.”

This next song is also brought to you by Ford Pier (Mike: and his incessant caterwauling).  They play a fun “Triangles On The Walls” and Martin modifies a line to: “her name was Satan, but I guess she called herself that for her own protection because she was perfectly nice.”  It’s followed by a very nice “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”

Up next is a surprise cover of “Fairytale of New York” sung by Kaitlyn and Nevil (“and we’re both wearing matching outfits tonight.”  Nevil does a great Shane/Tom Waits style.  Kaitlyn is less impressive.  After the first verse, no one does the penny whistle fast part, but that doesn’t stop them. They kind of fight their way through the song and it’s overall pretty okay.

There’s a really intense “Feed Yourself” with Dave singing/screaming “I wanna see her face” and getting really creepy: “open up the grave.”  They play a decent “Powderfinger” in the middle of the song and then come back to finish it.”   We’ll stay in the suburbs for this next song: “Stolen Car.”

Dave thanks everyone for the privilege of playing for them “It gives us lots of fuel for the future.”  (Rats)

The end of “Song Of The Garden” is just insane with Dave freaking out and screaming about the beauty of Harmelodia.  But as the song ends, Mike won’t stop his insane drumming and Martin is making all kid of feedback noises.  Dave even tries to get everyone to stop “Hey children, you know what time it is?  Rock n roll children, do you realize what time it is?”  But Mike won’t stop.  Dave starts playing “You Are Very Star” and Martin starts singing even while mike thunders away.  They finish the song in a childlike way and someone says, “Aw young’uns you’re all so adorable.”

“The Land Is Wild” starts with Dave solo.  It builds but people mess up the end on him.”  Then Tim plays a new one (“Listening”) with Ida from Vancouver  Great Aunt Ida has opened for them the last few nights).

“Legal Age Life At Variety Store” starts.  Dave says, “I think it’s time.”  Tim: “For me to play the drums?”  It’s tradition.  Every year for the five years or maybe even longer…  I don’t mean Martin playing the bongos, or mike playing the bass or Tim playing the drums.  It’s the fifth annual Horseshoe twist contest.”

Mike is terrible at the bass and Tim screws up a fill, “I know, I know, I’m back on the bass.”  “Timmy ‘smooth fills’ is fired.”  “I’m not fired so much as demoted, downsized.”  The contestants, are Melissa, Eric “that’s Eric with his version of the twist.”    Stephanie fulfilling her life-long dream to twist with the Rheostatics.  Susan, Paul and James.  As the twist continues, Martin starts talking in a crazy Russian accent: “Hi, my name is Wendell Clark (presumably he has the Wendell doll). Can you twist with Wendell.? I guess i think Wendell Clark is Russian or something.”

Then he introduces “the twist champion of the greater Ottawa Valley Ron Koop.  All of our contestants have been super fine–they all get something from the merch table and the honor of twisting with Ron Koop.”

After nearly 20 minutes of Legal Age Life and twisting they play “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne.”  Dave switches the words to “Wendell, dear old Wendell” and Ford gets on organ solo.

After a jaunty “PIN,” Dave says, “don’t worry fellas, you guys are going to get to the leather bar.  Things don’t really get started until 5 clock.

And after all of that, they end the nearly three hour show with a ten minute scorching version of “Horses.”  When they get to the Talking Heads part, Martin sings it in the robot voice–which sounds pretty awesome.  It’s a great ending, a great set, and quite a shame that the band broke up a few months after this.:.

[READ: July 26, 2017] The Stone Heart

It had been a year since I’d read the first book in this trilogy.  I was worried that I’d forget what had happened, but Hicks catches us up pretty quickly and, more importantly, her storytelling was so good in the first book that it was easy to get right back into this exciting story.

The story opens on Rat and Kaidu–Rat has been doing some physical therapy on her hurt ankle and is feeling pretty much all better.

As a nice reminder, we see Rat and Kaidu meeting Ezri, the son of the General of All Blades.  In the last book, it was Rat and Kaidu who saved Erzi and the city.

We also see that a monk is there to discuss things with the general.  Rat knows the monk (named Joah) who used to be a soldier but rescinded violence when he joined the monastery.  Then we also see that Erzi’d guard Mura also knows the Monk and doesn’t seem to like him much. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2017] The Prophet of Yonwood

I did not enjoy the second book of Ember much at all.  I wasn’t even going to continue with the series, but I was intrigued at this being a (shorter) prequel.

This book came out when I was still working at a public library so I remember the cover quite vividly.

But when I put in the disc I was shocked to realize that the narrator was different!  Where was beloved Wendy Dillon?  That was disappointing.  Worse yet, this book was set in the South so the new narrator, Becky Ann Baker, had a whole lot of Southern to speak to us, which I don’t care for in an audio book.

So there were already two strikes against this.  And then it turned out that the story has literally nothing to do with Ember at all.  Well, that’s not strictly true, but it is set in America (at an unspecified future date) where global stresses are tense, but in which life goes on.

Set with a backdrop of global war, the United States is up against the “Phalanx Nations,” and unless changes are made, war seems imminent.

Into this we see Nicole (Nickie) Randolph, an eleven-year-old girl visiting Yonwood, NC, with her aunt Crystal.  Nickie’s grandfather recently died and Nickie’s mother and aunt want to sell the property, called Greenhaven, and be out of Yonwood.  For reasons either unclear or which I don’t remember, Nickie is travelling with her aunt and not her mother, which is a little odd, but whatever. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: July 2016, July 2017] The City of Ember

I enjoyed this book when we listened to it the first time and I enjoyed the graphic novel as well.

But I couldn’t remember enough about the audio book to post about it so I listened to it again.  And what was so interesting this time was how much it sounded like an attack on our current political situation:

A greedy pig in charge of a country; sycophants as his cronies; keeping as much as possible for themselves and allowing the richer to get richer while the country falls apart; shutting down truth; imprisoning dissenters and just to top it off, the mayor is a large man with very small hands (seriously).  The only real difference is that the mayor speaks eloquently and has a big vocabulary.

I absolutely loved the reading by Wendy Dillon.  She has quite distinctive voices for the main characters and some of the secondary characters have wonderful details about them that keeps them individual–the mayor wheezes, another character smacks his lips together, Clary speaks slowly and deliberately almost with a stutter.  It’s wonderful.  And the sound effects, while not necessary, are a nice addition.  Although they are fairly infrequent and can be surprising if you forget about them.

So what’s the story about? (more…)

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after-room SOUNDTRACK: NICOLA BENEDETTI-Tiny Desk Concert #274 (May 6, 2013).

nicolaNicola Benedetti is a Scottish violinist who has had a storied career already.

Benedetti was mentored by Yehudi Menuhin starting at age 10, and won the BBC Young Musician of the Year Award a decade ago.  She plays a 1717 Gariel Strad. (It’s worth some $10 million.)

The first piece she plays was instantly recognizable–where had I heard it before?  Ah yes, the mournful and harrowing music from Schindler’s List.  [Williams: Theme from ‘Schindler’s List’].  She plays it perfectly, of course.  It’s evocative and instantly brings back scenes from the film.  And then apologizes for it being a bit of  sombre start.

 Then she plays a piece by Bach–he wrote six sonata and partitas trying to emulate many instruments at once.  This one is Bach: “Chaconne from the Partita for Solo Violin in D Minor.”  She says she’s not playing the whole thing because it’s 16 minutes long.  But she plays the first third which is also recognizable.  Once again, it sounds beautiful.  The blurb speaks of “the way she makes room for silence in Bach’s Chaconne before tearing deep into its dense warp and weft.”  And it is indeed enchanting.

[READ: May 30, 2016] The After-Room

This is the final book in a trilogy (what is it about trilogies that are so popular?) that began with The Apothecary.

This book is set in 1955.  (Sarah and I were commenting on how this era of history is an unusual one for stories to be set and how that’s a nice change).  Janie and Benjamin are safely back in Michigan after the deadly exploits of the previous book.

Benjamin’s father was killed at the end of the previous book and Janie’s parents have agreed to take care of him–so he is living with them.  Janie’s father is quite suspicious of a romance between the two of them and he has every right to be.  Janie is certainly in love and Benjamin probably is too, but he has other things on his mind right now.

I had planned to read this book when it came out, but I was involved with a very big book when it came out.  But I was at the library with nothing to do so I grabbed this and started reading it and I was hooked immediately.  In fact, I found this book so good, so fast paced and exciting that I put down my other reading and just flew through this. (more…)

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compassSOUNDTRACK: CAROLINE ROSE-Tiny Desk Concert #465 (August 24, 2015).

carolineCaroline Rose is a rocking country gal.  Rose’s music is inspired by rockabilly, fast country and traveling from town to town in a van.  She plays electric guitar and the rest of her band includes a bass drum and slide guitar.  The slide guitar kind of dominates the songs though, so they all sound kind of samey to me.

“Yip Yip Yow” is a fast rockabilly type of song with some silly lyrics.  It’s a fun song.  “I’ve Got Soul” This song is bouncy and rocking although I can’t help thinking of the old adage that if you have to say it you probably don’t have it

“I Will Not Be Afraid” is a more inspirational song with a real honky-tonk feel.  The guys ware wearing T-shirts that say “fuck fear” but they had to cover them up for broadcast (which is why they are wearing jackets).

Of all of the recent rocking country gals I’ve been hearing, I like her best.

[READ: March 15, 2016] The Golden Compass Graphic Novel

I loved The Golden Compass when I read it about a decade ago.  I thought it was really smart, really subversive and really engaging.

What you might notice about this graphic novel is that it was translated.  The Golden Compass was written in English.  This graphic novel was written in French (as Les Royaumes du Nord #1) by Stephanie Melchoir and then translated back in to English by Annie Eaton, which is a weird process.  The art was done by Clément Oubrerie.

The original book was quite large (about 400 pages).  This graphic novel is about 8o pages.  And, as you might guess, quite a large chunk of it is pictures.  So it has been reduced pretty drastically.

One of the great things about the book was the subtlety and evocative descriptions.  You can see where I’m going next–this condensed version is…lacking. (more…)

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