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Archive for the ‘Supernatural’ Category

SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 21, 2021] “The Three Hermits”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

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 this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

By the time I saw Leo Tolstoy I was getting a little annoyed by the end of this collection.  Nothing against Tolstoy at all–we should all read him more, but again, I wanted a contemporary writer to get excited by.

And then this story turned out to be exactly the same as Ray Bradbury’s story (obviously Tolstoy was first), but it was less satisfying.

Basically, a bishop is aboard a ship and is told by the pilgrims on board that there’s an island nearby with three very holy hermits.  Naturally the busybody bishop needs to see them to make sure they are praying correctly. So he disrupts the entire voyage, making everyone else delay their travels for at least a full day, so he can be a pain in the ass to these poor hermits.

He tries to teach them about god, but they don’t understand him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 20, 2021] “Ch’ien-niang”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

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 this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

As with Homer and Hans Christian Andersen, I am fairly surprised that Manguel went back to the Tang Dynasty (even if it the Golden Age of Chinese literature) to find a story.  Especially since “’Ch’ien-niang’ is a Chinese version of Sleeping Beauty with a twist.”

Ch’ien-niang is a legend that the narrator had often heard of.

Ch’ien-niang was designed to marry Wang Chou.  But Chou was to be sent away instead. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 18, 2021] “The Travelling Companion”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

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 this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

I have mixed feelings about including a Hans Christian Andersen story here.  On the one hand, I don’t think I have ever actually read an HCA story (of course I know many of them).  So on the one hand it was interesting to do so.  But, as with Homer, there was no from the last century and a half in Denmark worthy of inclusion here?

In this story a Poor John’s father dies immediately.  So Poor John sets off with his few belongings to seek his fortune.

The first night he slept under the stars and in the morning gave some coins to a beggar.  Later that night, he happened upon a church and made to sleep there for the night as the weather was worsening. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 14, 2021] “God Has Passed Through Here”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

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 this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

This is a dark story.  As Manguel notes:

The vast shadow of the Armenian Genocide, when a million ethnic Armenians were murdered in the Ottoman Empire during World War I, hangs over every Armenian writer today.

In this story a young girl is to be inspected by The Europeans.

The story starts kind of amusingly with The Europeans having a very hard time getting to the Armenian village:

In about twenty minutes, when the highway ends and we turns right.  Then we’ll take the first side road, it’s about fifteen minutes long, after which… No we won’t come to the village yet…but it will be closer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 13, 2021] “Tobermory”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

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 this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

Saki was the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro, a British author born in Myanmar (then British Burma).  He loved skewering the British upper class.

This story is hilarious.

An upper class couple is throwing a party and they have invited a host of boorish people.  They’ve also invited Mr. Cornelius Appin, a “clever” man with a vague reputation.

It soon came out that Appin discovered a means for instructing animals in the art of human speech.  The room is incredulous, until he says that his first subject was the hosts’ own cat Tobermory. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 7, 2021] “The Complete Gentleman”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

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 this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

Manguel has this to say about Amos Tutuola:

He was educated in an English school but never quite abandoned his native Yoruba. Instead, he began to write stories and novels drawn from the collective imagination of his people in an English that is certainly not that of English schoolbooks, but is enriched by strange turns of phrase and an idiosyncratic grammar and spelling that the reader can follow easily.

That’s pretty interesting.

As is this story which is, indeed, pretty unusual.

Each small section has a heading which outlines the action.  First we meet the “complete” gentleman.  He was perfect in every way.  So much so that a woman decided to follow him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 3, 2021] “A Lovely and Terrible Thing”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

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 this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

You know this story is going to be unusual because the main character works for Ripley’s Believe It or Not (I didn’t know they had that in Australia).

He is off to investigate a claim when his car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.  After a few hours of fruitless struggle, a local man approaches.  They decide that the place the driver is going is too far to walk so the local (named Angola) offers to let him spend the night at his place. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: August 2021] Secrets of Camp Whatever

I’m not sure who brought this book home, my wife or my daughter, but I was pretty delighted to read it.

Two kids are heading to the town of Nowhere with their parents. They are moving into their father’s mother’s old house on the outskirts of town.  It’s a small town and when they pull into the local diner, the waitress tells them to turn around and go back home… that place is haunted.  But the local museum owner, Henry Person, tells them not to believe that nonsense.

He says that Nowhere is known for unusual things–monsters in the lakes, elves in the forest, even a bigfoot sighting.  But the fog is so thick no one can confirm anything.

Willow is going to summer camp and is not particularly pleased about it.  Her younger brother Gryphon is not going to camp, but he really wants to.  Where’s the justice?  When their mother hears about the fog and the creepiness around the camp she wonders whether they should even send WIllow.

But the kids’ dad when to Camp … Whatever like a million years ago and he is pretty excited for Willow to go.  He can’t wait for her to hear all about the camp at the opening campfire.  Even if a kid did go missing the year he was there… and was never heard from again.

But Mr Person says the camp hired a new camp director … Clarence Tooter, a big game hunter.  He’ll keep the place safe.

A nice touch is that Willow uses a hearing aid, but it’s not a big deal to the story.    Except that Mr Tooter believes she is deaf and so he yells at here whenever he sees her.  And that sign language is very important to the story (although the reader doesn’t need to know it). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: August 2021] World Piece 1

I saw this book at work and thought it looked really intriguing.  I liked Agroshka’s drawing style immediately and then the story really captured me,

It opens in a basketball game. Lucas Densen is a decent (but not great) player for his high school team (the Pulsars).  He makes a nice block, but he threw a terrible brick.  However, he’s really cute and quite popular with the ladies.

However, he’d really rather be spending time at his mother’s archaeological dig.  They haven’t found much stuff in this dig, but while Lucas is there the crew has a small discovery.  Lucas’ mother tells him not to touch anything, but when he sees something, he can’t help but grab it which sends him through a portal to another world where he is left holding the earth like it’s a basketball. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOSEPH KECKLER-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #223 (June 14, 2021).

I saw Joseph Keckler open for Sleater-Kinney.  I’d never heard of him and had no idea what to expect.

He had videos and sang funny lyrics.  And then, POW, he had the most amazing operatic bass voice I’d ever heard.

You can hear that about two minutes into the first song here.

“My love called me many names,” Joseph Keckler sings in “GPS Song,” which opens his Tiny Desk (home) concert. He proceeds to list them: “Baby animal. Little baby animal. Big baby animal. Black chicken.” (It goes on like this for some time.)

“GPS Song” — which is sung partly in a made-up language and evolves to feature the titular navigation system droning in the background of a breakup — is one of Keckler’s hallmark absurdist arias, which he performs with a commanding presence and a winking, deadpan delivery. While their content is quirky (another features the narrator’s relapse into a teenage goth identity), it’s not quite right to call them strictly funny; they’re infused with a kind of intimate, observational detail that makes them simultaneously comedic and affecting. (“It was the most heartbreaking moment of my life,” Keckler once said of the situation that inspired “GPS Song,” “yet it was also so ridiculous to have this disrupting automaton, breaking our silence to misdirect us at every moment.” This performance captures that ridiculousness and heartbreak equally.)

The music is wonderful.  Gorgeous piano from Matthew Dean Marsh.  Michael Hanf bows his guitar for rumbling low chords.  Two minutes in Lavinia Pavlish joins on violin and Keckler shows just how amazing his voice is.  Even if the lyrics are comic.

Is it funny?  Yes.  Baby potato?  Yes.  And also when he finds his love’s text messages (in operatic Italian) to “Baby Zebra” and when he sings “Google translate: ‘god is a bicycle, ride slow’ nothing made sense.”  Or when in the middle of the operatic intensity the GPS says (in English) recalculating, recalculating, recalculating.

But not everything is funny.

“City” has a bouncy piano with lovely violin from.  because of the slow operatic way he sings this song (in English) it’s a little hard to follow the words.  But again musically, it’s so interesting.  In the middle, there’s a cool soaring moment when both violin and Michael Hanf play a high scratchy descending note.

So who is this guy?

A classically trained singer, performance artist and writer whose work spans styles and genres, Keckler turns his Tiny Desk (home) concert, shot in Brooklyn, into a showcase of his dynamism as a performer.

For “Goth Song” he sits at the piano and says, “I used to work in a music library but one day…” That is not idle banter, it is the introduction to the song–the story of his descent into a teenage goth.  It’s very funny hearing him singing these things in his amazingly deep operatic German.

He ends with “Appearances” another song sung in English.  Michael Hanf swipes a bow across his guitar to generate an echoing chord.  Hanf also plays the low bass on the synth (and even a cymbal midway through).  Again, this song is not comic, but it really shows off his voice nicely.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Giganto”

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

The third piece is a short story.

It’s an interesting look at infighting in an under-funded and under-appreciated university department.

There are four people in the truck, a truck that’s off-roading until they have to start using the ATVs.  Dr. Krentz is head of the department.  The narrator, Melinda, is Dr. Krentz’ (poorly) paid assistant.  She intends to hang on to this job until Krentz retires and then take it over herself.  Camryn is Dr Krentz’ intern.  Camryn is Dr Krentz’ intern.  Melinda fears that Camryn, who is young (pretty) and full of energy, is looking to steal her own job.  And then there’s Nigel.  Nigel was some rando who “appreciated the doctor’s work.”  He was hoping to interview Dr. Krentz for his upcoming book on megafauna in North America.   Krentz was flattered and Nigel was a pain in the ass. (more…)

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