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Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MEN I TRUST-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #224 (June 16, 2021).

I hadn’t heard of Men I Trust, one of the more interesting new band names out there, but I really like their sound.  It’s a kind of gentle synth pop that seems to flow so effortlessly from French-speaking singers (even when they sing in English).

Men I Trust was initially the duo of high school friends Dragos Chiriac (keyboards) and Jessy Caron (guitars), before adding vocalist Emma Proulx in 2015 and recording the group’s debut album, Headroom. (They expanded to a quintet for this performance, with Cedric Martel handling bass and Eric Maillet on drums.)

The band straddle the line between interesting indie rock and 70s soft rock.  In fact even the setting straddles that line.

From a rustic and retro-looking cabin on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, the band Men I Trust seized the essence of the Tiny Desk almost to a tee. The controlled, yet layered four-song set, bookended by tracks from 2019’s Oncle Jazz would almost certainly make for a plug-and-play situation had it been behind Bob Boilen’s desk.

“Show Me How” leans away from the soft rock with a pretty guitar intro and some nice bass work.  Proulx’s voice has that softness that lures you in.  The shift to the chorus is a really nice chord change too.

The band’s style sways between rubbery upbeat electro-pop and the muddy pace evident on last year’s “Lucky Sue,” but generally hits that sweet spot for anybody looking to be cradled and carried by a vibe-y groove

“Lucky Sue” opens with a wah-wah guitar intro that sounds like synth.  Caron also makes some really cool chords on his guitar–he gets some really interesting sounds from it.

 The song “Humming Man,” was its first official single as a trio and they never looked back from there.

“Humming Man” opens with thumping drums and a soft synth chord progression.  Again Caron play a wah wah filled riff but also gets some really interesting guitar sounds–almost like a reverse wall of chords that he stretches out to a lengthy solo for the end of the song.

I’m fascinated to read that

The overdubs and reverb on Emma’s vocals are stripped away here, leaving a deceptively endearing quality to her voice.

Her voice here isn’t full of reverb, but I can’t imagine doing much processing to her delicate voice.  “All Night” sounds very nice–whispery and inviting even if this song veers a little too far into soft rock territory.  Caron’s solo takes up more than half of this song, and I found myself missing Proulx’s voice by the end.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Private Hands”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features three pieces of fiction and three poems.

The fifth piece is a short story about provenance and ownership.

The narrator works as a (poorly) paid assistant to Harvey, a wealthy collector.  Harvey had made his money in pesticides and was worth about $200 million.  Harvey bought things with the intent of upselling them.  Disney merch always sold well.  But Harvey had a few things that were hard to sell, like Jimi Hendrix’ 1963 Fender Strat.

Paul was a buyer.  Harvey tried to sell him the Hendrix for $500,000 but he wasn’t biting.  Normally Harvey would haggle, but he had overpaid for this, and wouldn’t budge.

Harvey had a few other interesting items (a test pressing of Led Zeppelin III), but Paul really wanted guitars.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PALBERTA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #210 (May 18, 2021).

Palberta has a great name (even if they are not from Alberta).  They are an underground Philly band.  I saw them a few years ago, and this attitude of relaxed yet frenetic fun was evident then as well.

While many of us have gotten better at using technology to feel close to our friends and collaborators over the past year, there’s still no replacement for being in the same room as someone who you swear can read your mind. That’s what it feels like to watch punk band Palberta, whose music makes magic out of repeated phrases sung in tight harmony and charmingly zany pop hooks. For its Tiny Desk (home) concert, shot on a MiniDV and a Hi8, the band crams into Nina’s Philly basement for a set that’s a testament to the group’s tight-knit collaboration and playful exuberance.

The band plays six songs in fifteen minutes (including the time it takes to switch instruments).  Five songs are off of their new album Palberta5000.

The guitar-bass-drums trio is made up of Ani Ivry-Block, Nina Ryser and Lily Konigsberg, and each member sings and plays each instrument. Here, they trade places every couple of songs.  The songs aren’t over-complicated but still manage to surprise at every turn – a true Palberta specialty.

The “frenzied opener” “Eggs n’ Bac'” has a wild instrumental opening which jumps into a faster indie punk sound for most of the song.  All squeezed into less than 2 minutes.  For this song Nina is on bass, Lily on guitar and Ani on drums.  Their sound reminds me of early Dead Milkmen.  Is this a Philly thing?

For “No Way” Nina stays on bass, Lily switches to drums and Ani takes the guitar.  Nina sings lead with the other two giving great tight harmonies.  For these songs the bass lays down the main melody and the guitars play a lot of single note melodies that run counter to the bass.

For the “queasy-yet-sentimental” “The Cow” it’s the same lineup but Lily sings lead on the first verse and Ani sings leads on the second verse.  The staccato guitar style on this song is so unusual.

For the “anxious and melodic” “Big Bad Want” Lily stays on drums and sings lead, Ani switches to bass and Nina gets the guitar.  Ani plays some chords on the bass and you can really see how the guitar plays a repeated pattern while the bass takes more of a lead role.  The call and response for this chorus is really tight.  Nina even plays a guitar solo.

“Sound of the Beat” (from 2018’s Roach Goin’ Down) is “a sweet testament to grooving” and gets a full lineup switch.  Nina sits behind the kit, Ani is back on guitar and Lily is on bass.  This song is really catchy–surely the catchiest thing in this set.  It has a feeling like early Sleater-Kinney.  All three sing harmony lead.

They end with “Before I Got Here” with same line up.  It’s one of their longer songs at over three minutes.  Ani and Lily switch off lead vocals for the fast verses.  After a minute or so, the tempo shifts and the last two minutes are a slow instrumental jam with Ani playing a guitar solo while Lily keeps the melody on bass.

It’s tempting to try to see if one of them is “better” at one instrument or another, but they are all clearly very comfortable on each instrument.  This leads to endless possibilities for songs.

[READ: May 1, 2021] Weird Women

“Introduction” by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

Why summarize when they say what this book is about so well

Any student of the literary history of the weird or horror story can hardly be faulted for expecting to find a genre bereft of female writers, at least in its first two centuries. …

Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.

Spiritualism—the belief that spirit communication could be conducted by a medium at a séance, and could be scientifically proven (despite continued evidence to the contrary)—was widely popular, and so one might expect to find that many writers of this period were producing ghost stories. But ghost stories were just one type of supernatural story produced by women writers at this time. Women were also writing stories of mummies, werewolves, mad scientists, ancient curses, and banshees. They were writing tales of cosmic horror half a century before Lovecraft ever put pen to paper, and crafting weird westerns, dark metaphorical fables, and those delicious, dread-inducing gems that are simply unclassifiable.

ELIZABETH GASKELL-“The Old Nurse’s Story” (1852)
Gaskell wrote primarily about social realism, but she also wrote this creepy story.  The set up of this story is fascinating. A nursemaid is telling a story to her new charges.  The story is about their mother–from when the nursemaid used to watch her.  The story seems like one of simple haunting–strange things are afoot at this mansion.  But there’s a lot more going on.  I love the way everyone is so calm about the broken pipe organ playing music day and night.  Way back then, the children’s mother saw a girl outside and went to play with her.  But it was winter and when they found the child, alone, under a tree, there was no evidence of anyone else being there with her.  That’s when we learn the history of this house and the way the owner treated his daughters.  The ending gets a little confusing, but when you unpack it, there’s some wonderful deviance at hand. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAMES NEWMAN-“Embers” (England, Eurovision Entry 2021).

.Eurovision 2021 is over and the big news (aside from drug-taking accusations against the winner) is that the entry from England received zero.  Nul points.

This is not unique, but it’s not something that anybody wants.  It’s actually better to not make the finals than to make the finals and get nul points, because no one is going to forget that.

So just how bad was “embers?”

I’m not going to defend the song, because I would never listen to it on purpose–it’s not my thing.  But by the same token I can think of a lot of songs that are much worse than this.

This song is just kind of bland.  It thinks its big and catchy with the horns and the “light up the ROOM!” line.  But really it just doesn’t do much.  I could see this song playing in a club and people would dance to it and then forget it.  No one would ask who it was or request it again.

And maybe that’s worth nothing.

[READ: May 26, 2021] 52 Times Britain was a Bellend

Bellend is such a great insult and it is exclusive to Britain, which is a shame.

Also a shame is just how terrible Britain as a country has been throughout history.

Obviously any global superpower is going to be dickish–you get power by crushing others.  You could write this same book about the United States and cover just the last four years.

But Felton, whom I’ve never heard of before, but who is apparently a huge Twitter presence, narrowed history down to 52 (one a week) examples of Britain being absolutely horrible (and somehow managing to make it funny).

How did he decide on these events?  Well, they are judged by today’s standards (saying “I’m from the past” is no excuse).

What you’ll get here is a good overview of fun and horrifying times when we were cartoonishly evil, from a comedian just as appalled as you are about what shits it turned out we were in the past.

Most of the terrible behavior involves other countries.  Like starting wars with China because they wouldn’t buy British opium.  Or making Zanzibar pay for the bombs that Britain dropped on  them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MANNEQUIN PUSSY-Patience (2019).

I saw Mannequin Pussy two years ago and they were dynamite.  I’ve been waiting for a full length to come out and this release (while only 25 minutes) was worth the wait.

“Patience” opens with fast drums and rumbling bass.  I love that the lead guitar is playing some riffs that meld in perfectly with the rest of the band’s chugging along.  At just over two minutes, as it fades out it seems like there should be more, but it segues right into

“Drunk II” is a classic-sounding alt rock song from the 90s.  The guitars are just fantastic–catchy but diverse enough not to be obvious.  Dabice’s voice ranges from screaming to cooing “I still love you, you stupid fuck.”  It’s also got a super catchy chorus. At 4 and a half minutes, it’s the longest song on the disc, and even though their other songs are much shorter, they can keep a four minute song sounding great.  This song also has one of the few (long) guitar solos from Athanasios Paul.

“Cream” is a roaring punk song with screamed vocals, some grooving sliding bass from Colins Rey Regisford and pummeling drums from Kaleen Reading.  I love that even though the song is not even two minutes long they have time for choruses, verses and even an instrumental break.

“Fear /+/ Desire” slows things down with an acoustic guitar and Marisa’s gentlest vocals as she sings clearly this updated lyrics

When you hit me
It does not feel like a kiss
Like the singers promised
A lie that was written for them
…Is this what you wanted?
Holding me down makes you feel desired

“Drunk I” is less than a minute long and lurches between a really catchy guitar riff and gentle vocals and roaring full out choruses (or vice versa).  Again things slow down for “High Horse” with lovely echoing guitars and Dabice’s soft, clear vocals.  Until the loud chorus with anguished screamed vocals–the shift back to delicacy is really well done.

“Who Are You” is a catchy bouncy song with a terrific chorus.  Midway through, the song moves to double speed and gets even catchier.  It’s followed by the thirty eight second “Clams” a blistering screaming duet of noise, chaos and intensity.

It’s followed by the awesome, harshness of “F.U.C.A.W.”  Between the dissonant guitar and the screamed vocals is the middle of the song which is practically shoegaze, before the noise ending wraps things up in under two minutes (with some sounds ringing out for a bout fifteen seconds).

The disc wraps up (already) with “In Love” the second longest song.  It’s got cool sampled sounds and a piano., but the song is still all about the guitars (and terrific bass).  The song has a kind of mellow jam to the end–that nifty sample for the melody and some guitar soloing.

There’s so much packed into these twenty five minutes that you can easily start it right back up for another ride.  I’m really looking forward to seeing them live again.

[READ: September 29, 2020] “The Work of Art”

There was so much going on in this story, I really liked it a lot.

The narrator begins unfolding the story of an incident at an (unspecified) museum.

A guard named Cliff arrives on the scene and his coworker Geraldine tells him that the woman in the burqa has been staring at ths one piece of art for hours–unmoving. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CONWAY THE MACHINE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #84 (September 23, 2020).

Several musicians have tinkered with the “home” component of the Tiny Desk Home Concert.

Conway the Machine’s “home” is in the Queens, NY restaurant lil’ Sweet Chick, where he performs five songs, and has a fine looking plate of chicken and waffles.

Conway the Machine is part of Griselda, a Queens-based rap trio.  I watched Benny the Butcher’s Tiny Desk recently and rather enjoyed it. Conway’s songs seem grittier and darker (especially when you learn the origins of “Front Lines.”

He opens with “Lemon” (prod. by Daringer & Beat Butcha) as a waitress brings him a drink (a lemon squeeze?).  The music is dark and grimy and it works very well with his voice.

Up next is “Front Lines” (prod. by Beat Butcha) which was inspired by the George Floyd incident–he wanted to record a perspective from the upset angry protestors.  It speaks directly to the racial profiling committed by cops while policing Black communities with this outstanding verse:

I just seen a video on the news I couldn’t believe (nah)
Another racist cop kill a nigga and get to leave (again?)
He screamin’, “I can’t breathe”, cop ignorin’ all his pleas
Hands in his pocket, leanin’ on his neck with his knees (psh)
Cracker invent the laws, that’s why the system is flawed
Cops killin’ black people on camera and don’t get charged
We ain’t takin’ no more, we ain’t just pressin’ record
Can’t watch you kill my brother, you gon’ have to kill us all
Just ’cause he from the ghetto, that don’t mean he sellin’ crack
He drivin’ home from work, you pull him over ’cause he black
Think he gangbangin’ ’cause he got dreads and a few tats
He reach for his ID, you think he reachin’ for a strap
He get out, put his hands up, and he still gettin’ clapped
But if he try to run, you just gon’ shoot him in his back
What if it was my son? I wonder how I’m gon’ react
I bet I’m finna run up in this precinct with this MAC (brr)
I swear to God

“OverDose” (prod. by The Alchemist) has what sounds like a zither as the main discordant musical tone.  I like the way the bass is slow and his rapping is really fast.

Then comes “The Cow” (prod. by Daringer)  “The Cow” is, as he says in the intro, “one of [the] most personal and transparent records I ever wrote,” in which he speaks about losing one of his best friends and getting shot in the head and neck. The injuries led to permanent facial paralysis.  The song has brought Conway to tears in the past, and the memories clearly get to him again here.

Last is “Anza” (prod. by Murda Beatz) which is a pretty traditional bragging rap, with maybe a touch more aggression than other.

As the set ends, he thanks lil’ Sweet Chick for the ambiance: “I’m about to get into this chicken right here … tastes like it was made with a mother’s care.”

[READ: September 23, 2020] Three Hundred Years Hence (excerpt)

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here.

This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others.

As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

This first story is by Mary Griffith.  Written in 1836, it looks, literally, three hundred years into the future.  Romney writes:

It is the story of a man who gets caught in an avalanche of ice in 1835 and wakes up in 2135.  It’s often cited as the earliest utopia written by an American woman.  The author imagined a future in which society’s advancements increase dramatically due to one major structural shift: supporting women in science.  Born in 1772, Griffith herself was one of the nascent United States’ earliest practicing women scientists, with special contribution in geology.

The ice man, Hastings, is given a tour of the country–New York, Boston and Philadelphia–by a man named Edgar.   Edgar updates him and tells him about al of the changes that have taken place.

The writing style of this tory isn’t all that interesting–it’s a little preachy and dry.  Since this is an excerpt I’m not sure if there’s a plot necessarily.  But in this excerpt it’s mostly just meandering around.    (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Æ MAK-“We Have It Right Here” (2020).

Æ MAK is Aoife McCann.  She creates a fascinating tapestry of music.  It feels classical and operatic and yet also feels very electronic and oddly poppy.

This song begins with muted xylophones -sounding electronic tones playing a pretty melody (which reminds me of Björk).

McCann’s voice comes in and lilts and flutters almost bird-like. She sings in English but with interesting emphases on words.

Her vocal delivery and melodies conjure Regina Spektor.

About halfway through the, until now entirely electronic song, adds some soft acoustic guitar and gentle bells.

The second chorus is almost all voice with simple percussion and a kind of Kate Bush vocal trill.

The electronics come back in and suddenly start getting fuller and louder–filling up your headspace with sounds as her voice echoes itself and adds other lines before building to a remarkably catchy ending.

There’s so much going on in this song even though it often feels very minimal.

And wait until you see her on stage.

[READ: September 21, 2020] On Contemporary Art

I have enjoyed Aira’s novels and was intrigued by this short essay about Contemporary Art.

The entire book is 60 pages and it includes and Foreword and an Afterword.  That jibes with the premise of the imprint itself.  Ekphrasis Press reprints works about visual art that are not meant to be academic in nature–but compelling as prose.

In the Foreword Will Chancellor, talks about how language can throw you off.  He recalls bring a child and seeing the Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear warning.  He wondered how objects and their appearances could diverge.  He continues that Aira suggests this gap between appearance and reality might be the origin of cotemporary art.

~~~

The main body of the book is Aira’s essay, translated by Katherine Silver.

He starts by saying he is a writer who looks for inspiration in painting.  He says that cave painters painted facts, but it took a person relating the adventure, the storyteller, to make the episode come alive.

As a lover of art, he subscribes to many art magazines, namechecking Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, Frieze, art press and more.  He says the magazines look better every year but that their ability to convey art gets worse every year–they cannot properly convey what an art piece looks like.  You have to read the texts to see what is happening.

His essay concerns the Enemy of Contemporary Art who says that today’s

frauds who pretend to be artists depend on a justifying discourse to validate the nonsense they produce.

They say that contemporary art doesn’t speak for itself–that it needs critics to explain it. (more…)

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[POSTPONED: April 30, 2020] Dan Deacon / Ed Schrader’s Music Beat

index

I have wanted to see Dan Deacon live ever since I saw his mind-blowing Tiny Desk Concert.

Deacon is an electronic musician and a bit of a wild card.  His shows are full of audience participation and are a lot of fun.  There’s improv and looping and a whole lot of jumping around.

He hasn’t played Philly since 2015 (apparently, when he opened for Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz). Well, he did a show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (!) back in 2018, which was apparently wonderful, but which I wasn’t prepared to go to.

I was super excited to see that he was playing at Underground Arts and I grabbed tickets immediately. UA would have been an ideal venue to see him in, with the low ceiling and wide audience area.  I do hope this tour gets rescheduled soon.

When show were first starting to get cancelled in March, I held out hope that a show at the end of April might still go on.  But shows all around him started getting postponed.  He held out longer than most artists before postponing.

Technically Deacon’s music isn’t really my scene.  I do like him quite a lot, but I don’t particularly like other music like it.

So Ed Schrader’s Music Beat is a duo and Dan Deacon produced their latest album.  I listened to a couple of songs but didn’t really like it all that much.

I’ll bet they are fun live, especially if Deacon is guiding them.

Do come back soon, Dan!

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30SOUNDTRACK: TANYA TAGAQ-Toothsayer EP (2019).

toothEarlier this year, Tanya Tagaq released a five-song EP to accompany the British National Maritime Museum’s “Polar Worlds” exhibit.

Tagaq’s music doesn’t radially change from release to release but she does vary things quite a bit within the style she creates.

This album feel more electronic than organic.  It’s full of drones and pulsing sounds.

“Icebreaker” opens with a low rumbling drone joined by a pulsing drum beat.  Then her heavy breathing/growling enters and she moved between guttural throat singing and high squeals.  A vocal melody appears around 2 and a half minutes but it is quickly swallowed by the main pulsing rhythm.

Tagaq uses katajjaq which Pitchfork explains is the vocal game traditionally played among Inuit women while men are away hunting. It involves two women standing face to face, exchanging repetitive vocal motifs until one fails to keep the pattern going. In older recordings of katajjaq, it’s easy to sense just how entertaining they were: Many games end with laughter.

When Tagaq does katajjaq she is solo (and not laughing).

 “Snowblind” is next.  with slow pulsing synths (from the Iranian-British electronic musician Ash Koosha) and a delicate piano as she sings a gentle wordless melody. The piano starts to pick up half way through and the low note grow more ominous as her voice grows more urgent.

“Toothsayer” features guttural breathing underneath while her voice soars above.  Midway through, it resolves into some gentle voices and an harsh stabbing guitar solo.

The most exciting track to me is “Submerged,” her katajjaq is delivered over what sounds like Inuit drumming, but Inuit drumming underwater–echoing and slightly underwater sounding.  Deep, slow clicking and heavy gasping breaths make up most of the song until about three minuets when a chord comes crashing in and her voice soars like a scream.  The pulsing continues and her voice sounds more ragged.  As it reaches its climax so does her voice shrieking louder and higher louder and higher until it abruptly ends.

The disc ends with the prettiest song, “Hypothermia.”  It is a quieter song, awash with keyboards.  Her voice soars like a siren.  Like the feeling of hypothermia, you are lulled by beauty when really your body is shutting down.

In “Hypothermia,” her katajjaq takes on the desperate cadence of someone panting, while the crystalline harmonies of “Snowblind” are both a vivid evocation of landscape and a bittersweet expression of pain—the pain of knowing that this could all be gone.

[READ: December 30, 2019] “I Can Speak!™”

The end of the year issue is called the Cartoon Takeover: A Semi-Archival Issue.  So there’s a lot of cartoons, but there’s also some old stories. Like this one.

This was originally published in the January 14, 1999 issue of the New Yorker.  I’ve now read it a few times, but it has been a while and I enjoyed it more this time than any other time.

The story is actually a letter to a customer unsatisfied with her I Can Speak!.  The customer service rep from KidLuv says he is on his lunch break–that’s how much he cares about her satisfaction. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Silent Night” (2009).

There’s been quite a lot of songs coming out for Amazon Soundtracks lately.  This Christmas song comes from Eric Paschal Johnson’s short film The Letter.

There have been probably hundreds of recordings of “Silent Night,” one of the few Christmas songs that I feel should not be tampered with. It’s a beautiful song and if done right can be incredibly moving.

Sharon’s version is really fascinating to me.  It’s not especially traditional.  Indeed, it feels very contemporary.  The music is a kind of throbbing bass note, almost like a slow, dance song.  It pulses and changes pitch, but all quite slowly.

And yet, the song doesn’t feel like a dance song.  Sharon doesn’t sing it like a pop song at all.  Rather, she sings gently in a deep register–very earnestly.  After a verse, a second vocalist comes in and adds some dreamy backing vocals.

For the third verse, a simple drum rhythm is added.  The song is now much fuller than when it started and yet it’s not all that different.

It’s really quite a lovely update to the song and an all around excellent version.

[READ: December 14, 2019] “Natural Light”

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 played around with linear reality in a number of ways.

It opens with the narrator telling us her mother is dead, but that she keeps getting emails from her.

She wanted me to know that a small penis size was not an indictment against my future happiness….  She needed some money for an emergency that had unfolded, totally beyond her control, somewhere at an airport in Nigeria.

The narrator could not bring herself to flag the spam.

She also continued to wear her wedding ring even though they had been divorced for a year.  Her husband had said more than once “I can’t imagine t he man who would have an easy time living with you.”  There are a few instances where the ex-husband comes up in the story which really flesh out what’s happening.  The ring wasn’t a hope for reconciliation.  Rather, it was a reminder that her unhappiness was not only a chemical dysfunction. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WIRE-Kidney Bingos (1988).

Wire’s first three albums are punk and post-pink classics.  So classic that a Britpop band ripped off one of their songs to make an even bigger hit.  (I rather like Elastica too).

After their hiatus in the early 1980s, they returned with a new sound.  Like King Crimson only with fewer notes.

Their second post-hiatus album A Bell is a Cup even had a single, “Kidney Bingos.”

This song is remarkably far from their early punk sound. It’s almost as if on their first albums, their guitars only had the low strings,  And on this one, they only have the high strings.

The guitars on this song are gentle and jangly.  The bass is pretty similar–nice and deep with a great resonance, although the tempo is much slower and more chill.

The chorus is a really catchy bit if pop fun, even if for 30 years I had no idea that he was saying

Money spines paper lung kidney bingos organ fun

which makes as much sense as what I thought he was saying.

The end of the song throws in some synths and a wordless singalong that shows a real depth to Newman’s voice.

[READ: June 29, 2019] “Pastoralia”

I was sure I had read this story before.  But it turns out I’ve had his collection Pastoralia on my “too read” list but had never actually read it.  In the collection, this story is almost 70 pages.  It’s pretty long in the New Yorker, but i do have to wonder if it is an excerpt as there’s so much that is unexplained.

This story is set in what I think of as the Saunders future.  There’s no ProperName objects as there usually are.  But this future has a lot of the mildly dystopian qualities that Saunders tends to put in his stories

This one includes an exhibit where humans act out historical scenarios in a museum of sorts (the details are never given).

The narrator’s name is never given.  Over the course of a few pages we determine that he is a caveman in an exhibit.  Every day he is supposed to “eat grubs,” “see” a herd of animals and not speak English.  He has a “wife,” Janet.  She is not his real wife, he has a real wife and children.  In fact he doesn’t especially like Janet. She tends to speak English a lot and disregards most other work protocols.

In many respects it doesn’t matter because hardly anyone comes into the museum.  But they are doing a job and they do have supervisors.

When the light dims as if it were night time they each go to their separate personal quarters where they have such modern amenities as a fax machine (this was written in 2000 so that’s not a goof, I don’t think).  (more…)

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