Archive for the ‘Historical Fiction’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SPACEFACE-Holidazed EP (2018/2019).

Last year, Spaceface released a single of “Christmas Time is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas.  It was trippy and cool with lots of echoing guitars and keys.  I guess it came from this EP, which I only learned about this year.

Although i see that some of the songs on this EP came out in 2019, so Spaceface is messing about with time this year.

The first song is “Christmas Party (Naughty & Nice)” credited to Spaceface, Andy Clockwise and Swimm.  Swimm is a band that “makes music with the concepts of weightlessness and fluidity as the common elements in their genre-blurred sound.”  Andy Clockwise and Chris “Cookie” Hess (from Swimm) do the vocals on the track.    The song opens with jingling bells.  Then a big fat fuzzy riff kicks in and the song takes off.  Angelic group vocals sing the chorus and then the music fades out as the spoken word part comes in.  With statements like “it seems like this year we might be able… to party” and “we’ll have a merry Christmas after all as long as Jake can share his adderall,” that must be the naughty side.  While the nice side has the angelic voices singing “your presence is the only present we need.”  It’s pretty catchy and that cool opening riff comes back at the end to finish it off.

Up next is “Single Star” featuring “LABRYS on vocals (Penny from Broncho).”  I unpacked this to discover that Penny Pitchlynn’s solo project was called Labrys and she is now in Broncho.  A quiet echoing guitar flows through the song as Penny’s low key voice sings the lyrics

A single star is lighting our new way,
but is it fate? A shadow’s doubt outshines your quiet truth
A single star’s bluish halo hue, brings promise of truth
Unbroken yet fickle as a flame

It doesn’t feel overtly Christmasy, although the lyrics do tend tin that direction.  But the addition of jingle bells in the chorus do give it a holiday feel.

There is also “Wish To Come True” which is the demo of “Single Star.”  It’s a lovely instrumental version of the song.

The EP also includes the original “❇Christmas Time Is Here❇” as well as the instrumental version by Spaceface and Kwka (Mike Fridman) which ares till trippy and wonderful.

This is a nice leftfield Christmas EP–a trippy addition to your holiday party.

[READ: December 15, 2019] “Executions and Horses”

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.

I’m going to use Jarman’s description of the story to summarize it, because I couldn’t do it justice.

“Executions and Horses” is historical fiction set during the Red River Rebellion.  Riel’s shooting of Thomas Scott at Fort Garry is often viewed as his big mistake and that Riel was hanged in 1885 because of this shooting. The Prime Minister said Riel will hang though every dog in Quebec howl.  This still echoes in Canadian politics.

I couldn’t do it justice because I don’t really know this period in history very well at all and I really didn’t know what was going on for much of the story.

The story is elliptically written and, although the death of Thomas Scott is a central moment to the story, the focus is really on someone with nothing to do with the story.  I actually assumed the narrator was a woman, although re-reading the story there is no indication of that and I think perhaps the narrator is a man.  Which means that the lesbian/outsider subtext I assigned to the story is totally false.

Rather, I guess it is just a guy who fancies Gertie the Outside Woman who “walks her manic chicken on a length of twine.”  He is following Gertie’s backside, but also wondering if they put Scott’s half-alive body under the river ice. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Memorial Stadium, St John’s, NL (December 03 1996).

This is the 17th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. First 4 songs missing.

Even with the first four songs missing, this tidy little 30 minute set is quite enjoyable.

It opens with “Four Little Songs.”  Dave says that Don Kerr on the durms, he invented this beat (a simple snare/bass 4/4).  Then Dave messes up the 4-3-2-1 intro!   But they start over and rip it out.  When it comes to Tim’s part, he says, “Song two if you’re keeping score.  Tim changes the lyrics a bit from

This lady’s shaped like the Tour de France.
A thousand wheels besieged the city of romance.


This lady’s shaped like the Tour de France.
A thousand wheels besieged her underpahnts

And after the jaunty “you cant go wrong/you can’t go wrong”, Dave shouts “UNLESS” before Don’s “Huge creatures plowing the streets tonight, right, right. / The mighty puffin sets the sky alight.”

I learned a fascinating thing during this show.  In Canada, the corn dog is called a “Pogo!”  “While you’re picking yourself up a pogo or a root beer you may want to check out the CD with lovely cover art by Martin Tielli as always.”

Up next is “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” in which Martin jhits some amazing high notes by the end.  It jumps to “Feed Yourself.”  The end rocks with some great feedbacking.  Tim comments: Way to go Dave.”  Dave replies “Way to go Tim” as they start “Bad Time To Be Poor” which is “for all the green sprouts.”  They thank the Tragically Hip for bringing them to Saint Johns twice.

Then they end the set with “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”  It sounds great–Martin’s vocals and guitars, everything is great.  The high notes at the end are wonderful.  And even though at the end, he sings the opening lyric, he catches himself and sings the proper ending.  Great stuff.

[READ: April 2, 2019] Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules

Boy do I love Delilah Dirk.

These stories are wonderful–fun, fantastical, exciting, witty and historically inaccurate (mostly).

I have totally embraced Cliff’s drawing style.  He has wonderfully subtle, expressions and his command of faces is amazing.  I absolutely love his amusing “action” words when one of the characters does something: “Skid,” “Grab,” “Hoist,” “Scramble.”

But like with the first two books, it’s the story that is really wonderful.

This book opens in 1812.  Delilah Dirk and her companion Erdemoglu Selim are in Turkey waiting to help a ship in Adalia’s harbor.  They are trying to protect the ship from the local tyrant Küçuk.  We see Delilah mingling at Küçuk’s party (and her expressions of distaste are wonderful).

Things do not go as planned, but the end result is the same–success for Delilah and humiliation for the tyrant.  Of course, it’s the not-going-as-planned that makes all the fun. (more…)

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deogrataisSOUNDTRACK: JOSH RITTER-Tiny Desk Concert #119 (April 11, 2011).

ritterNot too many performers mention the actual day that they are performing their Tiny Desk Concert.  But Ritter mentions Valentine’s Day twice during his set so I thought I’d post it on Valentine’s Day even if the actual date of the posting is much later.

I don’t really know Ritter, I’ve heard of him, but I’m not too familiar with him.  Nevertheless, I was quickly won over by him.  He is charming and polite and is certainly having a good time (he even laughs at some lines in his songs).

His first song “The Temptation Of Adam”sounds vaguely familiar.  The melody is very catchy and his voice is strong and excellent.  Lyrically the song is quite interesting.  I especially loved this section: “We passed the time with crosswords that she thought to bring inside/ ‘What five letters spell apocalypse?’ she asked me/ I won her over saying, W.W.I.I.I.’/ She smiled and we both knew that she misjudged me.”

“Lark” is a faster song, but still very folksy and clever.  I love that although the melody is fairly simple, the way he plays it (with very fast fingerpicking) makes the song sound more complicated.  “Rattling Locks” is a dark minor chord song, louder and heavier than the other two.

The site says there is an audio only track called “Pale Blue Eyes,” but I can’t find it.  For the last track, his 2003 song “Kathleen,” he introduces the song by saying, “I think Valentine’s Day is the most awkward self-imposed holiday — even worse than New Year’s — so this is an awkward song.”  It’s a louder song, with Ritter’s voice reaching great intensity.  It’s a great way to end the set.

[READ: February 14, 2016] Deogratias

Here’s another story that I would never have read if it were not for First Second’s #10yearsof01 challenge.  The thought of reading a story about the genocide in Rwanda just seems to depressing to undertake.  And yet in the spirit of reading things outside of your comfort area, I decided to read this this weekend.

And I am incredibly glad that I did.

I feared that this story would be one of rampant genocide–struggle and death and mutilation and everything else that I could imagine.  But rather, what Stassen has done is created a story about how the toll of genocide can impact one person.  Yes, it affects him directly and the story is incredibly sad, but it was a very different story than I expected, and it was so personal that it made it more tragic without having the oppressive unreality of millions of dead people in the plot.

The introduction alone is worth reading, as translator Alexis Siegel gives a brief summary of the Rwandan tragedy.  I’ve always found the conflict to be really hard to grasp.  Hutus and Tutsi, a privileged minority, a brutal majority.  The back and forth was so hard to grasp, and the names of the tribes were similar as well.  It is hard for a lazy person to keep straight.

But I found Siegel’s explanation to be succinct and very effective. (more…)

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mccarthySOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Undermind (2004).

undermindAs I understand it, Phish fans didn’t like Undermind that much and yet I really liked it and still do.  Indeed, “Undermind” is one of my favorite new Phish songs, it’s clever and boppy and just really catchy.  The album has very Beatles vibe to it—a kind of echoey feel on all the songs.  And I have recently read that people interpret the cover design to be a nod to Let It Be (there are other connections made but I’m not going to go too deeply into that).

“Scents and Subtle Sounds” opens the album.  This is a brief intro–the full songs, which sounds different appears later on the disc (it’s 97 second here)).  It leads into “Undermind” which has a loose, slightly funky sound—one of their more fun songs on recent albums.  The album version has some big fat organ sounds on it which make it even cooler.

“The Connection” is another great poppy song—gorgeous harmonies and wonderful melody, and indeed it was their first real hit.  “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” is another great song, great backing vocals, an excellent melody and great alternating verse vocals from Mike.  It also has a great middle guitar section—it’s long and wild and reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’ solos.  “Army of One” is sung by Page.  It is a big soaring song and it’s got a very upbeat sound.  “Crowd Control” is a very Beatleseque song.

“Maggie’s Revenge” is a noisy instrumental, with Trey’s guitars making all kind of squealing noise.  It’s weird and quite refreshing from Phish’s more recent fair.  “Nothing” picks up with the open and poppy sounds of earlier records and has more great harmonies.  It seems to fade out in the middle though—a song that could have been longer!  “Two Versions of Me” is another mid tempo song with great harmonies and  great chorus.  “Access Me” is a brief poppy song that feels a bit like filler, although it has a cool and interesting coda.  “Scents and Subtle Sounds” resumes

“Tomorrow’s Song” has a very African feel to it.  It is a simple repetitive rhythm that lasts for about 3 minutes before it fades out just like it faded in.  “Secret Smile” is a very pretty piano ballad.  It’s a little heavy handed with the strings, and at nearly 7 minutes it’s too long (especially the long coda), but the melody is certainly nice.  The album ends with “Grind,” a barbershop quartet track which shows just what kind of great harmonies they cool do.

Although it’s a mature sound, there’s enough weird stuff to let them show their funky side too.  The CD comes with a DVD called “Specimens of Beauty.”

[READ: October 8, 2013] C

I received a prepub version of this book back in 2010.  The cover and title were weird and I thought I’d like to read it.  And it sat on my shelf for two years.

And then Borders closed (bummer, their chai tea was the best!) and I saw a hardcover copy of the book for $1 so I bought it (I’m enough of a geek to want to see how prepubs and final copies are different.  In this case, the books appear identical except that in the last two dozen or so pages, there’s a section with ellipses.  In the prepub, they are single spaced but in the final book they are double spaced which throws off the line spacing.  So by the end of the book, the lines are about three lines different.  Fascinating huh?).

Anyhow, what on earth is a book called C about?

Well, it is a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story.  By definition these stories focus on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood.  Our protagonist is Serge Carrefax, even though he is not the first person we meet.  That would be a doctor delivering materials to Serge’s father, Mr. Simeon Carrefax.  Mr Carrefax runs a school for the deaf in which he tells children to stop using sign language and to start speaking properly.  And he has had considerable success with the children, each of whom acting in a play every year.  (The book, by the way, is set in the late 1800s).  His mother is a silkworm farmer, and much of their money comes from this job.

But the main person in Serge’s life is his sister Sophie.  Sophie is a deviously clever girl who is alternately mean to Serge (as only older sisters can be) and then encouraging him to play with her.  She is mad for science and is constantly experimenting with her chemistry set (leading to more than one explosion in the house).  The early sections of the book show Sophie and Serge’s education.  And when Sophie goes off to school, Serge is lost, especially when she returns from school but keeps telling him to leave her alone.  And then one day, Serge discovers her dead in her “lab” and experiment in progress. (more…)

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mister orangeSOUNDTRACK: MUSE-The 2nd Law (2012).

2ndlawMuse are over the top.  No question about it.  And that’s why I like them so much.

So when the new album opens with crunchy guitars that give way to keyboards that sounds not unlike a Bond movie, it’s not really surprising.  The first verse is fairly mellow, building until Matt Bellamy hits some crazy high notes and the heavy bass guitar kicks in.  But unlike some previous albums, this one is not all heavy heavy guitar rock.  There’s some electronic elements as well.  Especially on the single “Madness” (which was debated about on the alt rock station I listen to, wondering if it was too dance-oriented).  The song uses a dub format for repeating the Muhmuhmuhmuhmuh madness, but the verses are so catchy it’s hard to resist.  It also has a major Queen feel (a common complaint about them, although it’s not like Queen are still making music).  For Muse, this song is kind of understated until the big verse at the end when Bellamy can really soar.  “Panic Station  has a big thumping bass and drum along with some screams that sound out of an 80s metal band but there are horns that give it a dancey feel–always a contradictory outfit, Muse.

“Prelude” sounds indeed like a prelude to what proves to be “Survival” it is big and anthemic (as Muse tends to be).  It is uplifting and, as one may recall, it was the official song of the 2012 London Olympic Games (which is fitting it’s all about winning).

“Follow Me” slows things down a bit in the beginning, but it of course comes back with lots of bombast (this is Muse after all) but there’s also elements of electronica (is that  dubstep sound?) and backing vocals that remind me a lot of U2.  “Animals” has a kind of slinky bass line that wends its way through the song’s guitar solos.  By the end of the song it has grown much heavier with shouting crowds and a furious double bass drums.

“Explorers” is a ballad that grows and retracts.  “Big Freeze” has another big chorus. It’s followed by “Save Me,” a gentle ballad with harmonies.  Then “Liquid Freeze” picks up the pace a bit.  This is all leading to “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” which is my favorite weirdo song in ages.  It is so crazy over the top and audacious that I love it.  It opens with crazy strings and a fast talking jittery computer voice.  And when she reaches the word “unsustainable,” the song goes absolutely bonkers, with crazy sound effects–I would assume most people hate this track, but I think it is very cool.  The final track “The 2nd Law: Isolated System” is a kind of denouement for the whole album–a piano ballad of 5 minutes that has a bit of a dance feel to it.

I can’t get over how much I enjoy this record.  It’s definitely not as heavy as past muse records, but it has some great experimentation and Bellamy absolutely knows a great melody.

[READ: March 8, 2013] Mister Orange

I was walking past the New shelves in the library and this book caught my eye (who says placement isn’t important?).  Something about the title and the cover design was really appealing.  I looked at the blurb–it’s about an American kid during WWII.  I wasn’t really sure I wanted to read that, but then there was a line about an artist and comic books.  I immediately thought about The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay which is also about comics in the 1940s (although this book is NOTHING like that one at all), and I decided to grab it.  Besides it was only 150 pages.

Well, I never would have guessed that the book is a historical fiction novel about Piet Mondrian, one of my favorite artists of all time.

So the story is about a boy, Linus, and his family living in New York City in 1943.  His oldest brother, Albie has volunteered for the war.  His mother is disappointed in him as she believes that all war is wrong and that nothing good every comes from war.  She is so disappointed, in fact, that she does not hang the blue star that all families with soldiers are given to hang in their windows.  Linus wonders if she is not proud of her son for fighting for what he believes in, but his mother says “Flags are for celebrating, and there is nothing to celebrate about war.”  She doesn’t even let him go to the parade for the departing soldiers.

When Albie leaves, the rest of the family is stuck waiting for word from him.  But life goes on at home and with Albie gone, that means that everyone moves up in responsibility (and shoes get handed down).  Simon (now the oldest at home and a sullen teenager) takes on Albie’s work at the newspaper, Linus picks up Simon’s grocery delivery route (their family owns a grocer’s shop) as well as Simon’s shoes, which are way too big, and Max takes over looking after the youngest children: Sis and Willy.  For the most part we follow Linus as he learns the new route and learns a bit more about the city. (more…)

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