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Archive for the ‘YA Books’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DUNGEN-Häxan (2016).

I have been to a lot of shows in the last couple of years.  I have also had tickets to a few that I had to miss for various reasons.  The one I regret missing the most was the Dungen show where they were going to play live for the film The Adventures of Prince Achmed.   I missed it because there was pretty heavy snow–it was the right choice, I am just bummed about it.  It’s not so much that I wanted to see them perform the music that’s in this album (I didn’t even know it at the time), it’s just the experience that sounded awesome (and the fact that they played a second set of their other songs afterward was icing).

So this soundtrack officially came out recently.  It’s about 40 minutes (the film is around an hour) and it is a largely fun Dungen release with a feeling of soundtrack invoked.

The disc opens with “Peri Banu vid sjön,” the perfect soundtrack–slow and loping with washes of sound.  “Jakten genom skogen” follows with slow washes of sound with a pretty acoustic guitar melody and some lively bass.  It slowly builds in a kind of rocking 70s way.  “Wak-Wak’s portar” is a fast loud riotous affair that lasts a minute and a half.   It traipses back and forth on headphones and even has a penny whistle solo. It is sort of forcibly segued into “Den Fattige Aladdin,” a rather muffled distant sounding flute melody (I’m guessing it’s Aladdin’s motif).

“Trollkarlen och fågeldräkten” is a jazzy number with bass and piano and soaring wild guitar over the top of it.  “Grottan” is a minute of spooky synths that segues into the noisy buzzy guitar workout of “Häxan.”  That rocking slows to a slow menacing thump of drum and piano.

“Aladdin’s flykt över havet” is a soaring minute of synths which is followed by the sparing uplifting synths of “Kalifen.”

“Achmed flyger: is a fast piano based piece about Achmed flying, I assume.  Then there’s two Aladdin pieces: “Aladdin och lampan, del 1” is a slow one minute piano piece “del 2” returns to that flute motif with a groovy guitar and bass behind it.  The melody gets shunted to the distance as “Achmed och Peri Banu”  takes over with its drums and somewhat menacing bass.

The final song “Andarnas Krig” is nearly seven minutes long.  It is classic Dungen: wailing guitar solos with feebdack ala Hendrx’ “Star Spangled Banner.”  There’s some great rollicking bass work and rocking drums and everything.

Although this isn’t as substantial as some of their other albums, it’s a great collection of psychedelic instrumentals and you can imagine a movie streaming behind it.

[READ: April 18, 2017] Birthright: Volume Four

So much happens in this book that it’s like having whiplash–in the best way possible.

We open with Wendy and Rya in Mastema’s dining room.  Wendy is pleased to be lavished, but Rya says not to forget that they are in fact her prisoners–no matter how nice the accommodations.  While they are there, the other three mages arrive and discuss what should be done about this whole Mikey thing.

Speaking of the Mikey thing, we cut to the men of Mikey’s family: Mikey, his brother Brennan, his father Aaron and his grandfather–Sameal.  They head towards Sameal’s “lair” which is a  warehouse with extra security “magic doesn’t protect everything.”  This time-out allows everyone to deal with each other.  Aaron get t o confront his father–the father who was never there for him, who left when he was little and was the reason the Aaron acted the way he did with his own kids.

While there, Enoch, one of the other mages, comes to confront Sameal and we learn what their whole deal was. Enoch says that in all of their time together Sameal never told him that he had a family on earth (whereas Enoch told Sameal everything).  Enoch is offended that he didn’t share this intimate detail, but is more upset because he wants to know what Sameal was hiding all this time.  And the crux here is that Enoch says that Sameal’s own family is irrelevant if he can save the world–killing his grandson could save the world! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GIRTH-Sleeper, Awaken! (2007).

This was the other disc in the Web of Mimicry Clearance section.  And it is radically different from Danubius.

Girth is an experimental metal band and these songs are heavy on the epereimental and heavy on the heavy.  Their page on Web of Mimicry notes:

We toured with this line-up for 6 months or so September 2005 through February 2006. The shows were our most brutal and experimental to date, often going off on long improvisational rampages. We recorded a through-composed 19 minute movie-like piece in four movements, entitled “Sleeper Awaken.” With Randall Dunn at the board, our intentions for this piece, were to create a mindfuck journey of psychedelic metal to supply a soundtrack for the listener during his/her most “indulgent” moments. WARNING: Not for the weak at heart… bum trips guaranteed for the unexperienced, depending on his/her state of mind.     — GIRTH [Guitar: Dave Webb; Keyboards: Andrew McInnis; Drums: Peijman Kouretchian; Vocals: B.R.A.D. Mowen]

This labum reminds me a lot of Naked City (but without the Japanese screamed vocals).  There’s very heavy sections and radically shifts in time signature and volume.  There’s wailing solos and quiet sections.  There’s pounding drums and no drums.  And it’s all done in about 16 minutes.

There four songs have elaborate titles:

  1. Confusion – “On the day my illusion shatters, I SEE.”
    The disc opens with a ringing bell and feedback but after 20 seconds the calm is exploded with some noisy guitars and feedback.   But it isn’t until 40 seconds that the left ear guitar takes off with super fast chaotic soloing.  The other ear is overwhelmed by noisy guitar squalls.  Washes of static and noise fill both ears for a time until a sort of noisy hardcore riff comes in around 2 and half minutes in.  Things alternate between intense noise metal and soloing (with echoed effects).
  2. Betrayal – “I will rise as you will die, diminishing within my luminous pride.”
    The songs segue into each other.  This song begins with some thunderous drums (five beats over and over) and staccato noisy guitars.  The middle of the song quietens down to some running water and dialogue (barely audible) until the end.
  3. Alone – “Wallowing in my indulgence, I am blind.”  “Divine perceptions unshackle power to dive within.”
    This opens slowly with quiet whispered noises and rumbling drums.  At 3 minutes comes the intense hardcore attack of punishing drums and squealing guitar solos.  The end of the song is a kind of tornado of guitar noises that seem to swirl around in between heavy two note punctuations
  4. Chaos – “This being is a vessel. You cannot stop me. I am Free, I am Awake And I LOVE.”
    Those two note punctuations continue into this final track but with much more frequency and intensity.  There’s some vocal at the end, but nothing especially audible–we’re there “vocals.” With a few more pummels and a fast guitar solo, the 16 minutes comes to an end.

This is a pretty intense record indeed and definitely not for the uninitiated.  I am very curious how they pulled off this challenging record live.

[READ: April 18, 2017] Birthright: Volume Three

This story continues to grow in excitement and tension.  Brennan is getting a little frustrated that Mikey seems to be hiding something from him (he has been getting hints that Mikey is lying about his mission).

But first there is a flashback to a time when Mikey disobeyed his handler, Rook. In this instance he disobeyed in order to help a helpless victim.  A young girl was about to sacrificed to King Lore and he risked his own life to save her.  Rook is furious that he could have been killed but also because he has now changed the way the world is supposed to work–the girl’s death was supposed to be a regrettable necessity.

Back on Earth, Agent Kylen has paid a visit to Aaron in prison.  He asks for Aaron’s help in tracking down his sons.  Aaron says no way but Kylen indicates that it is not a request after all.  So Aaron tells Kylen about his old house in the burbs of Chicago.

At the same time, Rya and Wendy are searching for them as well.  Rya is getting more exhausted (she is really close to giving birth) so Wendy winds up driving her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DANUBIUS-Danubius (2002).

After seeing Secret Chiefs 3 recently, I went to the Web of Mimicry website and saw what other CDs they had to offer.  In their clearance bin, they had a couple of CDs including this one by Danubius.  So who are they?

Danubius is a San Francisco-based Eastern European band, specializing in traditional and Gypsy (Rom) music from Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and other countries in the vicinity of the Danube River.  Led by Music Director Roman Titcu, our music has been called romantic, passionate, energizing, and can be described as a cross between the genres of folk and Classical music. We play both Western and traditional Hungarian, Romanian, and Bulgarian musical instruments, giving us a unique sound.

Yes, so even though Secret Chiefs 3 experiment with various Eastern Europeans styles, Danubius is not about experimentation at all.  They are about authenticity.   This 53 minute disc has twenty songs broken down into sections.  And the booklet is quite detailed in its explanation of the various songs and styles.

The members for this recording are David Skuse – vioolin, viola, gadulka, bass , drum ; David Nebenzahl – violin, viola, bass, tambura ; Clark Welsh – tárogató, fluier, Romanian caval, ocarina, Bulgarian tambura and kaval, prim and brach tambruricas, cobză and sax ; Jutka Mándoki – accordion, kontra, acoustic guitar, cimbalom, brasca (viola), Tekerőlant (hurdy-gurdy), ütőgardon (Beaten cello), bass ; Magdi Ordasi, Szilvi Gilbert, vocals ; former band member: Balázs Králik – bass, violin ; guests: Roman Titcu – tambal mare (cimbalom) ; Odile Lavault – accordion.

I enjoy that the notes state that some of the songs are intended as show off pieces.

The sections include (I tried to get every accent right, but there will be no searching for these titles).

Transylvanian Suite
Doină De Ardeal; Purtată și Invârtita Din Țara Fagarașului; Hațegana
This begins with some slow horn melodies as the rest of the band plays traditional backing instruments.  Accordion is prominent in some songs too.  The third is described as “a standard show-off piece.”

Hungarian Roma (Gypsy) style songs
The mandolin (the only instrument not listed up there so clearly one of the other ones–likely the prim which is a kind of tambura) runs free with this fast melody that grows faster as it goes on.  Made popular in the 1960s.

Caval Suite (Southern Romania)
Cântec Lui Dumitru Dobrican;  Joc Ca La Stâna
The caval is a long, five holed flute with a very soft sound.  There’s some truly lovely flute melodies over slow backing chords for the first one.  The second one is really fast a totally show-offy kind of piece with accompanimnet by the lute, the cobză .

Nóta Suite (Hungarian Gypsy Restaurant Style)
Friss Csárdás; Maros Víze Folyik Csendesen (“the water of the Maros flows quietly”); Minek A söke énnékem? (“What is the blonde to me”);  Hull A Fa Levele, Hull A Hó (“the tree’s leaves are falling, the snow is falling”)
Four very short pieces (none over 2 minutes) with primarily fiddle as the main melody.  The notes say that these kind of songs were usually mean as lead off for instrumental extravagance.  “Hull…” is probably the most popular instrumental tune of all time–each violinist tries to outdo the others.

Geamparalele (Romania Black Sea)
Geamparalele de la Cernavodă – Leliță loană – Geamparalele  Bătute
A fascinating whistle sound very fast ans almost birdlike.  This song is in Balkan 7/16 meter (2+2+3) with four lead instruments.

Bulgarian Suite
Melodija; Blateshnichka kopanitsa (“Hoeing”)
The first is a free rhythm tune.  It’s first lead instrument is the gadulka (Bulgarian folk fiddle) with three melody strings and 10 sympathetic strings.  There is no fingerboard and the notes are stopped with the fingers.  There’s also the Bulgarian kaval a 7 hole flute.  The second piece is in 11/16 (2+2+3+2+2) meter with tambura as lead.  There’s lots of beautiful soaring flute in the first of these two songs.  The second is a fast picking experience.

Dunántúli Suite (southern Hungary)
Urgós (“jumping”); Lassú / friss Csárdás (“Slow and fresh dances of the inn”)
This is the only section with vocals, which I don’t like as much as the instrumental songs.

Kyuchek  (Bulgarian Roma)
Flute is prominent in this song which is in 8/16 (3=3=2).

Muntenian Suite (Southern Romania)
Hora rară; Brâul pe șase (“belt dance in six”); Joc Țigănesc De Doi (“Roma dance for two”); Brâul Pe Opt  (“belt dance in eight”)
These are furiously fast dance songs.  The first was first heard by David during the Ceaseșcu years).   Violins dominate this song but with a delightful fluier (sounds like a penny whistle) added ion.  They’re mostly fast numbers all about 2 minute long.

This whole record is an enjoyable trip into Hungarian culture.  And you can dance to it (well, some people can dance to it).

[READ: April 17, 2017] Birthright: Volume Two: Call to Adventure

As this book opens up Aaron and his wife, Wendy, are trying to reconcile.  They both see that their children are in something big here.  Aaron is still super pissed that she even for a second considered that he killed Mikey, and she is still pissed about well, everything else.  But they are willing to talk it out.

That is until Agent Kylen with the National Security Agency busts in and tells him that Agent Brooks is no longer on this case–things have gotten too serious.

Meanwhile back in the woods, Mikey is trying to toughen up Brennan a bit–cold river baths and a bit of swordplay, when they are attacked by a large bear.  But rather than violence, Mikey is able to communicate with the bear and pacify it.  Mikey says that he has a way with animals.  And then proceeds to smash its skull in.  Brennan is outraged, shocked, aghast that his brother could kill so easily.  But Mikey just say to do what you have to to survive.

Wendy discovers the journal that Mikey created when he was first in Terrenos.  And this is great way to learn a little more about his life there.  She reads how Mikey really wants to come home, but that he knows he has a job to do. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE WOODSHED ORCHESTRA-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 5, 2012).

The Rheostatics were originally supposed to play 3 Reunion concerts to help celebrate the 65th Anniversary of The Horseshoe Tavern. Unfortunately the concerts got cancelled but Dave stepped in and offered up a free show on Wednesday December 5 2012, what was to be the first of the reunion shows.  Dave Clark’s Woodshed Orchestra opened the show with a 48 minute set of New Orleans-style jazz (a limiting descriptor since their site says):

Legendary Toronto drummer Dave Clark (Rheostatics, Dinner is Ruined, The WoodChoppers Association, Gord Downie and Charles Spearin) pilots a five-piece horn section, four-piece rhythm section and full-ensemble vocals through New Orleans Funk, 2nd line and Jazz, R&B, Ska, Soul, Reggae, Punk, Rock n Roll, Blues, Country, Surf Rock, Neo-Greek, Ranchero, Polka, Disco, Samba, Afro-Pop, Waltz, New Wave, Cajun, Tex-Mex, Power Pop, Klezmer, Torch Ballads, Tango and Calypso, in an extraordinary celebration. This band is a funky, uplifting and joyful ride every time it plays.

The joy is utterly true. Dave is a warm and friendly guy, introducing all songs with a smile and calling everyone “friends.”

The play nine songs from their three albums.  Each song is a variant on that New Orleans style of tuba and banjo (and more of course).  It’s exemplified by “Love Letter to New Orleans” a song that seems like an instrumental but which is actually just really long before the words come in.

Dave introduces the second song, “There’s certain things I forget…. ”  “Drugs & Alcohol” is, unsurprisingly, a song about drinking.  He introduces our friend Pavel (Paul Kolinski) and then Karen Ng on “I Got No Clue.”

The next song’s entire lyrics are the band members meowing while they play.  I can’t find the name of the song.

Dave introduces the next song as a dancing song dedicated to one of the greatest guitarists to walk the planet.  It could be me or you or anyone on the planet because were all great then we try.  But this is for “Levon Helm” who looks like he was a bout to die on stage but still gave two hours of the slinkiest, grooviest music.

Next, Karen Ng is going to play you a song and then teach it to you: “Seasons of our Lives.”

Dave says, “We’re good for two more numbers or so and then we’ll take it out to the hallway.”

Then: “Let me name some names: Geezer Butler, Erica Badu, the guy from Crazy Horse who doesn’t t move but he’s got a really good voice.  Tim Vesely.”  This is all an introduction to their song “Geddy Lee.”

Want to hear a sing about sex?  “Clothes Off” features the line: “Come on take your clothes off I wanna see you naked.”

The final song is dedicated to each and every one of you and people you don’t get to see.”   “Penny & Mousie’s Antidotal Lullabye” is a sweet slow number, a nice send off of love and tenderness.

Considering that Dave Clark was always the weirdo in the band, and he is still a bit of a goof, this music is really sincere, and really good.

[READ: April 16, 2017] Birthright Volume 1

The name of this book intrigued me when I saw it in the library.  And I really liked the cover image.  So I grabbed it and volume two.

And man, did  I love how quick and abrupt the beginning of the story came.

On page one a dad is throwing a ball to his young son.  On page two the dad talks to his wife while the boy, Mikey, runs into the woods for the ball.  On page four Mikey is officially missing and the police have been called in.  On page five the dad is being accused of killing his son and by page ten the parents have filed for divorce.  Yowza.

In that time the mom has started dating one of the detectives (I think).  The dad, Aaron, has become a useless drunk.  But there is some news on the case.  The detective calls both of the parents and their older son Brennan into the precinct because they have brought someone in.

The man is in his mid 30s, totally muscular and wearing intense armor.  They immediately think that this man abducted Mikey. But the dad says no, that IS Mikey.  WHAT?  The detective says that the DNA matches. It makes no sense, but there are real indications that it is indeed Mikey.  It’s just that time moves faster where he went, obviously.

Mikey tells them it was destiny and then we see how he was grabbed by some flying creatures and some large orc-like creatures.  There is a brief story of Mikey’s introduction to Terranos–where it is his destiny to be the world’s hero.  And he has come back to earth to protect it from the bad guys of Terranos who plan to invade.

Twists upon twists and great storytelling.  But a pretty standard premise, right?

No, because Williamson has one more twist up his sleeve. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: SARAH JAROSZ-Tiny Desk Concert #324 (December 7, 2013).

I know Sarah Jarosz’ name from somewhere (anything spelled like tha I’ll remember), but I’m not sure where.  It turns out that Jarosz plays awesome bluegrass.

Perhaps I’d heard of her because of her youth:

The singer and multi-instrumentalist first surfaced as an 18-year-old wunderkind with the release of 2009’s Song Up In Her Head, which generated the first of what will likely be many Grammy nominations; now a grizzled 22, she’s out performing songs from her fine new third album, Build Me Up From Bones.

performed with the aid of fiddler Alex Hargreaves and cellist . All

“Over the Edge” has a great riff.  It starts out with Jarosz’ guitar (which is an 8-string guitar: twinned four string, so almost like a bass and yet strummed).  She’s accompanied by a plucked cello (by Nathaniel Smith).  And then her voice comes in: distinctive, raspy and really lovely.  But it’s after the first verse when the guitar and cello both play that fast 8 note riff that the song really kicks into bluegrass territory. In the middle of the song, it’s fiddler Alex Hargreaves who throws in some great bluegrass fiddling lines.  It’s swinging and rollicking and really fun.

“Build Me Up from Bones” is more folk sounding—her voice is beautiful and the melody of this song (which she plays on that 8 string guitar) is outstanding.  There’s a cool alt-folk tone to the song, especially in the bridge.  The cello is bowed, giving a rich sound before the violin (rather than fiddle) solo comes in.

For “Fuel The Fire” she switches to banjo.  This is a great bluegrass song and that banjo sounds great.  I’d love to see a double bill with her and Punch Brothers.

[READ: November 12, 2016] Gunnerkrigg Court 3 [23-31]

I really enjoyed book 2 of the series and was pretty exited to see that book 3 was already out–in fact books 4 and five have been released, too.  This book collects Siddell’s online series–for frame of reference, this book ends with chapter 31 and as of May 2017 he is up to chapter 62 online.

I loved that Chapter 23 started with a totally different style–looking like a kind of sci-fi epic (and called Terror Castle of the Jupiter Moon Martians). But we quickly learn that this new look is a simulation–a kind of test for the main kids.  But it’s very poorly made and they solve the mystery almost instantly. This plot leads to a couple of interesting revelations.  That Parley has a thing for Smitty (everyone can tell but the two of them), and that Jones is becoming a fascinating and enigmatic important character. Reynard is also even funnier with his comeback “I think you detect a hint of shut your face” which Anni responds to with “Hah, Katerina must be helping you with your comebacks.”

The simulation room also allows for us to learn more about the origins of Reynard and Coyote. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: ASHLEY MONROE-Tiny Desk Concert #317 (November 3, 2013).

Ashley Monroe is a country singer.  She’s part of the new way of female country singers, most of whom I don’t really like.

But some of the folks at NPR music love country, so I’ll let the blurb do the talking for me:

The title track from Like a Rose tells an optimistic story of survival, the ambivalent ballad “You Got Me” chronicles ill-advised romantic obsession, and, of course, the Top 40 country hit “Weed Instead of Roses” functions as a playful, fun-loving mission statement. Speaking of “Weed Instead of Roses,” which closes this charming performance, Monroe says the straitlaced [Vince] Gill insisted upon the song’s inclusion on Like a Rose — even going so far as to declare it a condition of his producing the album. The guy knew what he was talking about, both in his support of the song and of Monroe herself.

“Like a Rose” is almost comical in how stereotypically country it starts out:  “I was only 13 when daddy died /Mama started drinking and my brother just quit trying.”  Good lord.  At least it has a positive message.

She says that the melody for “You Got Me” came to her in her sleep and woke her up.

“Weed Instead of Roses” is a song she wrote as a joke when she was 19.  She says her grandpappy first heard the lyric as “give me weeds as well as roses” and he thought that was right on because the weeds are just as important as the roses.

The song is definitely fun (and funny) but the whole set is way too twangy country for me.  And IO find her back up guitarist/vocalist to be even more whiny/twangy than her.  Yipes.

[READ: February 26, 2015] Gunnerkrigg Court 2 [15-22]

I was originally mixed on Volume 1 of this series, but I jumped right into this one and loved it from start to finish (even if I admit to not understanding everything that was going on).

The book, which compiles chapters 15-22 and some extras, doesn’t begin with any kind of recap, so you kind of have to catch up as you go along.

We meet the fairy from beyond the river who was turned into a girl.  She is very upset that her friend is no longer friends with her.  She assumes it’s because of her hair (which is now long).  In an amusing sequence, she believes that if she cuts her hair short and spiky she will be friends again (with some other girl).  She is delighted to learn she can cut her hair and it doesn’t hurt (then she attempts to cut off her finger).

But these cute one-off chapters are strategically placed between the more serious arc, which involves the awesome looking Muut (an owl head on a hunky man’s body) and the introduction of a short-haired woman who might be a teacher and who goes by the name Jones. She is a wise woman and an amazing fighter (she shows off by beating a man wielding a sword while she is unarmed). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AGNES OBEL-Tiny Desk Concert #598  (February 15, 2017).

Agnes Obel recently played a show near me, but it wasn’t until after I watched this show that I realized I should have gone to see her.

Agnes Obel, a Danish singer and writer of deeply alluring music, brought her work into what you could call its opposite — an office in the daylight. While the setting is a bit contrary to her carefully plotted, vocally dense songs, she mapped out a strategy which included her own reverb and monitor mix in the (successful, I think) hope of giving the Tiny Desk an aesthetic more suitable to these focused and powerful songs.

Obel plays three songs from Citizen of Glass alongside her band, keeping it sonically spare.  “It’s Happening Again” opens with fairly standard-sounding piano chords.  Then Obel’s voice kicks in and it’s unique–not weird, but with a cool almost detached delivery.  Accompanying her is a cellist and keyboardist.  They each sing backing vocals (along with a third backing vocalist).  When they all sing together, it is magical–sometimes creepy, sometimes beautiful.  The song builds to the end with all of the strings growing louder as the cello plays some wild, sliding sounds.  It is quite striking.

For “Golden Green,” the cellist switches to percussion (which is a kind of clacky ball that she throws in the air).  The main melody comes from the mellotron.  Once again when the backing vocalists kick, in everything is magical, especially the way the final note ends with a dramatic rise in pitch from all of the singers.

On “Stone,” the mellotron player switches to (electric) ukulele.  The melody comes from the uke and it is quite quiet until the chord when the cello and keyboard adds some deep bass notes that seem to overwhelm the room–quite dramatic and quite lovely.

[READ: December 1, 2016] Bandette Volume Three

Bandette Volume Three is just as much fun as books one and two.  It opens with Bandette getting shot at as she gives her little dog Pimento an important note for Daniel.  Daniel calls her and she proceeds to tell him about an upcoming heist (while she is still being shot at).  She says that there is a fabulous emerald on display.  An emerald that was once owned by Madame Presto: fabulist, mesmerist, woman of impudent morals.

And later that night (after she easily dispatches the bad guys) she goes to that special event and steals… a film about Madame Presto.

The next night several people (and a dog) are hit with sleeping darts from a new villain–Dart Petite. (more…)

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