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Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: December 20, 2021] Weird Accordion to Al [Vanity Edtion]

This book came to my work and I said, Hey I have this!  And then I said, but my cover is orange.  What gives?

And then I saw that Rabin, inspired by Al’s Ill-Advised Vanity tour expanded this book.  Or actually, since there is very little information about these books, perhaps he wrote them at the same time and released a shorter and longer version.  But why would he do that?

The first 366 pages are the same but, (and here’s the thing that messed with my head) they are not exactly the same.  Now, I didn’t read the same text in both books and compare them (that would be really insane). But I did flip through the book comparing paragraph and chapter breaks.  The text appears to be the same in both books.  BUT, the paragraphs are not!  For reasons that I don’t understand, in book 1 some pages end with paragraph F, but in book 2, with the same exact text, the page now ends with paragraph E.  Like the spacing of a period threw off all of the justification (Users of Word will know what I’m talking about).

So I’m assuming that both books are the same.

And then the new stuff was added to Book 2 (or taken out of Book 1, whatever).

Starting on page 368 we move on to Other Stuff. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: December 20, 2021] Weird Accordion to Al

After writing the “Weird Al” biography, with “Weird Al” himself, Nathan Rabin dug even deeper into his “Weird Al” fandom to write a detailed account of, as the subtitle says, “Every ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Album Analyzed in Obsessive Detail.”

“Weird Al” wrote the (short) introduction and then Nathan drops the needle on “Weird Al” Yankovic, Al’s 1983 debut album.

Nathan goes into varying degrees of detail on each of the songs.  Nathan was a rabid “Weird Al” fan from when he was a little kid.  And when he talks about how much he loves Al, you can see his deep abiding appreciation for everything Al has done.

Some songs get a paragraph, nut most get a page or so.  He usually talks about how much he likes (or loves) the song (and occasionally dislikes).  There’s nostalgia in the older songs and jokes and observations about contemporary things as well (Rabin’s politics poke through once in a while.  Good thing he’s a smart guy.

Because he did the Al biography with Al, he presumably got a lot of insight into the man and his work.  So although sometimes his insights seem like maybe he’s reading too much into a goofy parody, perhaps he’s on to things.  Maybe Al’s depth is deeper than rhyming Sharona with Bologna.  Which is not in any way to diminish Al’s intelligence.  He’s obviously very smart, especially as his later songs indicate.

Rabin’s tone throughout the book is smart and snarky.  He talks about the songs and the video (if there is one).  He talks about the production quality (or lack thereof) on the first album.  He references Dr. Demento (because the Dr is essential to Al’s career).  He also references Don DeLillo’s White Noise and says things like “Al is in deconstructionist mode.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKCRO-MAGS-The Age of Quarrel (1986).

In a post from a couple of days ago, Rebecca Kushner mentions a bunch of punk bands that she either knew or hung out with.  I was amazed at how many of them I’d heard of but didn’t really know.  So this seemed like a good opportunity to go punk surfing.

Cro-Mags are another of those classic punk bands that I never really listened to.  I mean, sure I’ve heard of them.  And that album cover is well known to me.  I just never gave them a listen.

This is their debut album.  They are still together but have only released 6 records.  And their later stuff is much more heavy metal oriented.  But this first one is classic punk.

There a whole bunch of really short songs–eight under two minutes.  But there  were hints at the metal direction because there are also some longer songs too.  Opener “We Gotta Know” is over three minutes and even has a wild guitar solo from Parris Mitchell Mayhew.  “Seekers of the Truth” runs to over four minutes and is comparatively rather slow paced.

But the punk elements are there too.  Chanted call and response and a song like “World Peace” has a good moshing break down.

Overall, it sounds a bit like a few of the metal albums form the 80s that I really liked.  There’s no reason I shouldn’t have listened to this back then.  They’ve even got pointed lyrics that as a teen I would have really gotten into

Interestingly, their follow up album, Best Wishes, had a big lineup change.  Their bassist (and the only guy who has been with the band for all of these years) Harley Flanagan took over on vocals.  His singing style was very different.  The short songs are gone and the metal feel really dominates.

In Kushner’s essay she talks about Harley the hare krishna and you can see that spirituality in his lyrics

Days of Confusion which is only 2 minutes long has this lyric

In these days of confusion much illusions try to get you
Try to trick you Every single day
Much aggravation and frustration
Devastation always heading my way
And I know why I’m suffering
Looking for satisfaction my mind keeps leading me astray
And I know and I see spiritually there’s gotta be a better way
It’s nice when bands do the right thing.

[READ: February 2, 2021] “Passeur” 

A man is in Krakow, the only major Polish city to have survived World War II without its buildings being severely demolished.

He is staying in “a pension” (which I’m picturing as a hostel) and asks where the nearest ATM is.  I enjoyed this line:

It’s not far, she said, sighing regretfully, as if she wished she were sending me to the other side of the world.

He says he has never been in this square before, but he knows it by heart.   Or at least he knows the merchants–grandmothers selling vegetables and home-made goods.

Then he looks in a barbershop and he sees a man who looks comfortable there, Ken.

Ken was born in New Zealand and died there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKEMEL-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #134/145 (January 12, 2021).

EmelGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The fourth band on the second night is Emel from Tunisia.

Tunisia-born singer Emel first performed at globalFEST in 2015, the same year she performed her song of Tunisian Revolution, “Kelmti Horra,” at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. Emel was hailed by NPR as a “21st century catalyst for change.” She created her latest album, The Tunis Diaries, equipped with only a laptop, tape recorder and a crowdsourced guitar after she was unexpectedly quarantined in her childhood home in Tunis last spring.

Emel plays only two songs.  It’s just her and her co-guitarist Kareem.  The songs are spare but very full and quite powerful.

“Holm” (A Dream) is a pretty, quiet song with soaring vocal melodies over the restrained lead guitar from Kareem.

“Everywhere We Looked Was Burning” is sung in English.  The spare and lushly echoed guitars make her voice sound especially raw and passionate.

[READ: January 14, 2021] “Drawing from Life”

I found this story to be a little confusing as it started.

Without really referring to the narrator specifically, the story starts with talk of being called out of retirement and away from Netflix, etc.

It wasn’t until the third paragraph when things started to get explained that it made sense.

Harold is a 70-plus year-old-man.  He was one of the first people in his neighborhood to get the Coronavirus.  His son had thought to get him an oxygen tank and so he didn’t need the hospital.  Two weeks later he had survived the virus and was more or less immune.

It was sometime a month or so later that the local rabbi called up.  He explained that people could no longer sit with the dying, with the deceased, as their faith prescribed.  Perhaps, since he was now immune, he would be willing to do so.  And, more to the point, perhaps he would be willing to paint the deceased for their family–as a last gesture.

Harold was an excellent painter–former teacher, exemplary artist who sold paintings to raise money–and often made a lot.

And so, Harold found himself in the hospital, often overnight, by himself, painting. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKNATU CAMARA-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #134/143 (January 12, 2021).

Natu CamaraGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The third artist on the second night is Natu Camara from Guinea.

Natu and her band play four songs.
From a studio space in Brooklyn, Guinean native Natu Camara mixes West African soul, rock and pop music. As a builder of inter-cultural bridges, Camara uses her songs to bring people together, weaving a tapestry of musical stories and visions of her beloved home.

“Ka Hirdé” is a short introductory piece. The “boombastic” Kayode Kuti on bass and Matthew Albeck on guitar set the melody going while percussionist Gary Phes and drummer Oscar Debe propel it forward.  Camara and her backing singer Lindsey Wilson sound great together while Camara plays a percussive stick.

It’s a short introduction before the funky “Waa” which means “crying for your soul.”  There’s some great bass work behind this simple catchy song.  I love the way it builds with the sung “waa, waa”  until a grooving keyboard solo makes the song feel like a jam.

“Dimedi” means “child” and is dedicated to all the children around the world.  She says, “Let’s take care of the children so we can change the future.  We may not be here when the world is better but at least if we train them well maybe they will do better than our generation.”

The song is slow and mellow with just Camara singing and playing guitar and keyboard washes from John F. Adam.  Until the whole band joins in to flesh out the song.

“Arabama di” ends the set in a really fun way.  It has a kind of reggae intro with some super funky drums and a wild bass line.   By the end, the song has turned into a wild jam with everyone dancing (in their seats) and a wailing solo from Albeck.

[READ: January 14, 2021] “Christmas in Cochinchina”

This story comes from a collection called A Very German Christmas: The Greatest Austrian, Swiss and German Holiday Stories of All Time.  I don’t know if the whole collection was translated by Michael Z. Wise, but this story was.

This was a very simple story, full of memories of childhood.

The narrator’s class went to the World Panorama.  It was a small class trip and cost five pfennings.  The narrator didn’t have the money so the school paid for him.

Once you went inside and the darkness cleared, you could see a large cabinet. It was illuminated from within and has holes that you could look in.

After being told to sit, he saw the show begin.  There were scenes from Cochinchina (Vietnam).

The sky was an intense blue and the sun was radiant–the narrator quickly forgot it was December in Germany..

There were palm trees and men in pith helmets.  There were women with arousing breasts and loincloths

that certainly would have fallen off if one could have stopped the pictures.

There was a British man teaching naked children.  There were fishermen and swimmers.

And then a gong sounded and it was over. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LEO KOTTKE AND MIKE GORDON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #100 (October 21, 2020).

I’ve enjoyed Mike Gordon’s playing with Phish and his solo records for years. But I’ve never really explored his recordings with Leo Kottke.

It’s been 15 years since the legendary guitarist Leo Kottke put out a new recording, and it’s no coincidence that his new music is with Phish bassist Mike Gordon. The two have a history of making albums together, but that hit a hiatus in 2005 with their Sixty Six Steps projectThey’re back with a 2020 album, Noon, and Phish drummer Jon Fishman joins the duo.

They open with “Flat Top,” a fantastic instrumental with lots of melodic runs.

They begin with what fans of Leo Kottke fell in love with 50 years ago, the sound of his acoustic guitar fingerpicking. Mike Gordon punctuates the opening song “Flat Top,” which at moments feels like a musical chase.

Mike plays his five string bass like a lead instrument, either playing a kind of counterpoint to Leo’s guitar melodies or even following them along beautifully.

Jon Fishman is a tasteful addition. Mike and Jon have played over 2,000 shows together, so there’s telepathy there. Still, he also finds ways into the music that isn’t merely rhythmic; he adds aural atmospherics with brushes in hand. There are some fun visual tricks but — musically speaking — not a moment of trickery. Just pure magic.

Before “The Only One” Leo’s phone rings and he talks about his friend Sam.  He met Sam when they played poker.  Sam told Leo his two pair beat Leo’s three of a kind.  “On such rip-offs life long friendships are made.”  Mike introduces Fish (“he’s my hero”) who is playing in the studio downstairs from Mike.

Introducing the song, Leo says, the name “The Only One” sounds better than “How to Be an Asshole,” I gotta admit.

There’s plenty of picking in this song as we’l, but its also got some gentle singing from Kottke, harmonies from MIke and gentle drumming from Fish.  The middle solo section is a wonderful moment where both Leo and Mike play complementary solos.

And while they’re miles apart for this Tiny Desk (home) concert, Leo at Creation Audio in Minneapolis and Mike and Jon at Tank Recording Studio in Burlington, Vt., there’s plenty of humor and spirit traversing the wires.

They do an amusing visual joke of them throwing a water bottle through the cameras frames–it’s lined up perfectly.

Mike tells a story that might have inspired “Sheets,” but Leo says,

I don’t know why I wrote this tune.  I don’t know why I write any of them.  I’ve always got my guitar–annoy the neighbors.  I have to hear the guitar.  And every now and them something will come up.   This song uses some of Mike lowest bass notes–they really resonate with Leo’s pretty guitar and gentle singing.

The final song is clearly written by Mike.  He introduces “I Am Random” by saying

This is a song that’s not about being a person standing in a room doing something … ever.

Then he says

it’s about people who came to our country from Kiev in 1885–they took a bell out of a church tower and rode it on out of town.

Who knows what the truth is. This song has a great funky bass line and Mike’s lead vocals.  There’s all kinds of weird (random?) things going on in the song.  Bass slides, time changes and a wonderfully chaotic denouement from all three.

This is a fantastic introduction to what this dup can do and a great introduction to Kottke’s music for me.

[READ: December 3, 2020] “A Famous Man”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth 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

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

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.

It’s December 3. Kathryn Scanlan, author of The Dominant Animal, doesn’t need to pay admission if she’s just visiting the gift shop.  [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

Yesterday’s story was told in first person plural. This one is told (in part) in second person singular.

“You” follow the life of a famous man. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS FORSYTH WITH GARCIA PEOPLES-Peoples Motel Band (2020).

This is a fantastic document of a band an an artist who are totally in sync with each other, making forty minutes of amazing jamming music.  I saw this combination of artists in New York City on New Year’s Eve and the set was spectacular.

I absolutely could have (should have) gone to this show.  It was recorded on September 14, 2019 at Johnny Brenda’s in Philly, a place I have been to many times.  I can’t recall why I didn’t go to this one.  But this document (while obviously shorter than the real set) is a great recording of the night.

Recorded September 14, 2019 before a packed and enthusiastic hometown crowd at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia, Peoples Motel Band catches Chris Forsyth with Garcia Peoples (plus ubiquitous drummer Ryan Jewell) re-imagining songs from Forsyth’s last couple studio albums with improvisatory flair.

As is often the case with Forsyth shows, the gloves come off quickly and the players attack the material – much of it so well-manicured and cleanly produced in the studio – like a bunch of racoons let loose in a Philadelphia pretzel factory.

Recorded and mixed with clarity by Forsyth’s longtime studio collaborator, engineer/producer Jeff Zeigler, the record puts the listener right in the sweaty club, highlighted by an incredible side-long take of the chooglin’ title track from 2017’s Dreaming in The Non-Dream LP (note multiple climaxes eliciting wild shouts and ecstatic screams from the assembled).

The disc opens with “The Past Ain’t Passed” a kind of noodling warm-up with three guitarists all taking various solo pieces and it segues into the catchy riff of “Tomorrow Might as Well Be Today.”  It’s a bright instrumental with a series of jamming solos all around a terrific riff.

Up next is “Mystic Mountain,” the only track with vocals.  It has a classic rock vibe and Forsyth’s detached voice.  The highlights of this nine-minute song are the riff and the soling.

The best part of the disc is the 20 minute epic “Dreaming in the Non-Dream.”  The studio version of this song is terrific with Forsyth playing some stellar riffs as both lead and rhythm lines.  But here with three lead guitarists Forsyth, Tom Malach and Danny Arakaki) the experimentation is phenomenal.  But it’s Forsyth’s wailing solo at 18 minutes, when he is squeezing every noise he can out of his guitar, that is the peak of the song and the set.

Also playing: Peter Kerlin: bass guitar; Pat Gubler: organ/synthesizer and two drummers: Cesar Arakaki and Ryan Jewell.

This is a great release and I’m pretty happy to have gotten the vinyl of it..

[READ: September 1, 2020] “Serenade”

I started reading this and thought it was a short story (the title where it says “Personal History” was blocked).  It seemed to be oddly written.  Then when I got to the paragraph where he talks about writing Love in the Time of Cholera, I realized it was non-fiction.

He says that Love is based around his parents’ own love story.  He had heard it so many times from both his mother and his father and he seemed to remember it in different ways, so that by the time he wrote the book he no longer knew what was the actual truth.

And what a fascinating and tangled story of love they shared. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK
: BILLIE EILISH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #71 (August 26, 2020).

There’s so much to say about this Billie Eilish concert.

The biggest artist in the world has just done a Tiny Desk Concert!

Somehow it looks like she’s in the Tiny Desk studio!

Why does she only play two songs?

My daughter and I were supposed to see her back in March and she cancelled her tour about three nights before our show was supposed to happen.  What a bummer!  Especially because who knew if people would even want to see her again in a year (I’m pretty sure they will).  And would her stage show and song style change over that year?

The answer to that seems to be a dramatic yes.  Especially if these two songs are anything to go by.

For these two songs Billie embraces her torch song inner child.  She has a really lovely voice–delicate and emotional.

These songs are personal and lovely–there’s no “Duhs,” there’s no snark.  Compared to what I expected, they were kind of dull, actually.  Very pretty, but kind of dull.

These are the two new singles.  For “my future” Billie plays keyboards and her “real brother” Finneas plays guitar and sings some backing vocals.

On “everything i wanted” they switch places, with Finneas playing the pretty piano melody and providing a lot of nice backing vocals.

These two songs seem like they would go very nicely in the middle of a set of bangers for a few moments of cool down.  I hope when her show is rescheduled that she still brings all the excitement I;d heard her shows typically have.

As for the background…at first I thought it was just a cute idea.  But after six months, it was really comforting to have musicians look like they were playing the actual Tiny Desk.

[READ: August 28, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball

This is the book that started my resurgence into reading Wimpy Kid books. I bought this one for my daughter.  This story had me laughing out loud once again.

This book has a lot to do with the Heffley’s house.  I don’t know if middle school kids can appreciate jokes about household maintenance, but as an adult I sure can.

The book opens with Greg’s mom wanting to do some cleaning up.  That means going through the closet in Greg’s room.  He tells us that he basically just throws things into it, so it’s like an archaeological dig.

He starts sifting through things and finds old toys and things to feel sentimental about which is pretty funny.  But with all this junk, he decided that rather than throw it out, he should make some money off of it and have a garage sale.  Cue: Family Frolic magazine and their “great” ideas for a garage sale.  [I love when he makes fun of this magazine].

Greg has labelled his tables in creative ways: “Great gifts for your grandkids”(stuff from his grandparents that he doesn’t want).  “Pre-written birthday cards” (with his name white-outed). Mystery socks (which is just a pile of junk for 50 cents) and Rare Items (like an invisibility lotion and a freckle remover (an eraser or soap I guess)). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Will You Return/When You Come Down” (2020).

As part of The Flaming Lips’ slow release of new songs from American Head, here comes this gentle song “Will You Return/Will You Come Down.”

Wayne sings his falsetto vocals over a gentle piano and bells melody.  He sings the title a few times before the verse begins.

The verses are very Flaming Lips–a friendly vocal melody about death.

About half way through, after the second chorus, the song takes off with soaring backing vocals and more instruments added.

A vocal line (Wayne’s voice sped up?) sings the “will you return” part a few times before a folky acoustic guitar comes in to take over the chorus.  The last minute or so goes full on Lips with strings, different vocal lines (screaming from beyond) and a wild guitar solo.

Although there’s not much to this song, there’s quite a lot going on.

[READ: August 21, 2020] “Woven, Sir”

After reading some bizarre and exciting stories, this one felt rather dull.

A man is in a hotel in Madrid waiting for a friend.  He looks around the hotel, makes observations about the other people there and then notices a man name Tyler.

There’s a number of interesting lines in the story which I liked.  Like when the narrator requests food from the waiter and Tyler, who is not facing him, says

I notice that, regrettably, you haven’t improved your pronunciation.  You are as lost in Spanish as you once were in English, he says…. You don’t listen to how other people talk.  You never say to yourself, He speaks well, so I’ll listen to him and learn how to speak.

Then we learn that the narrator knew Tyler (it’s his last name, first name unknown) many many years ago, when the narrator was six or seven.  Tyler was a tutor at a facility called the Green Hut.  (more…)

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download (98)SOUNDTRACK
: TAME IMPALA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #69 (August 24, 2020).

download (97)With so many artists that I’ve never heard of doing really long Home Tiny Desk Concerts, why on earth did Tame Impala, one of the biggest bands around, only play for 16 minutes?

The studio version of Tame Impala is pretty simple on paper: All songs are written, produced and performed by Kevin Parker. For the live version, Parker is still front and center but surrounded by a host of musicians who interpret his recorded work almost to a tee.

For his Tiny Desk (Home) Concert or his “Tame Impala Soundsystem” Parker brought Jay Watson and Dom Simper together to

do this kind of electronic jam with heaps of equipment around us and we’ll recreate the songs with samplers and sequencers. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while and thought Tiny Desk would be the opportunity to do it.

So the three of them are in a room with banks of keyboards and all kinds of buttons to push and knobs to twist.  There’s even a guitar (most notably on “Is It True”).

They play two songs from this year’s The Slow Rush.  They open with “Breathe Deeper.”  The most interesting part of the song comes at the end when Parker starts messing around with the mixer in front of him and he starts generating drum beats and manipulating the sound of the entire song.

“Is It True” is similarly dancey and Parker’s soaring falsetto rides over the top of the song nicely.

They end the set with “Patience” a fantastic 2019 single that for some reason, didn’t make it to The Slow Rush.  This is my favorite song of the three.  The melody is great and with the pace slowed a bit it makes the song a bit more memorable.

When I saw then live, their show felt massive.  This show sounds massive too, yet it’s all confined to a tiny room.

[READ: August 20, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway

I was looking forward to reading this book after really enjoying Book 12.  But I felt like this one wasn’t quote as laugh out loud funny as some of the others.  I find Greg’s family dynamic to be the funniest part of these books and his family doesn’t feature all that much in this one.

This book is all about snow.  And snow means snow days from school, sledding and snowball fights.

The book begins with some environmental concern about global warming (it is unseasonably hot that winter).  Despite the genuine concern for global warming, Greg’s take is always a little warped–he’s concerned that if the ice caps melt there could be a giant monster hiding in there.  (more…)

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