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[READ: June 2022] Sea of Tranquility

S. brought this book home and said she thought I’d enjoy it.  She knows what she’s talking about, and I did enjoy it.

This is a time-travel/pandemic/end of the world novel.  And for all of the time jumps, it’s still pretty short (just over 250 pages).

The book opens in 1912.  We follow the story of Edwin St. John St. Andrew, and eighteen year old aristocrat who has been sent away from him home in England to the wilds of Canada.  I found his story to be quite interesting.  Being the youngest son, he stood to inherit nothing, so he had to make he way abroad anyhow.  But he also hated the way England had taken over India and colonialism in general.  But his parents were born in India raised by Indian nannies and had nothing but fond memories of the place.  So when he publicly stated his disgust with the system, he was told in no uncertain terms that it was time for him to go.

Edward eventually makes it to Victoria, BC.  He is miserable there, too and really doesn’t know what to do with himself.  He wanders into the forest.  He sees, inexplicably, a priest.  And then when he turns to a giant maple, he is struck by darkness, loud noises, music and chaos.  All for about one second.

The next section jumps to 2020 and follows Mirella and Vincent.

We open on Paul, a composer, who is showing off his latest work–a work that uses video footage that his sister filmed.  The footage looks a lot like what Edward saw in the forest.

Paul’s sister was named Vincent.  Mirella had been a friend of Vincent’s and hadn’t know she was dead.  In fact, she had come to Paul’s performance to try to get in touch with Vincent.  Their friendship ended when Vincent’s husband was involved in a Ponzi scheme that brought down a lot of people.

While she is trying to talk to Paul after the show, they are joined by another man, named Gaspery.  He winds up talking to her and she thinks she recognizes him.  But it’s impossible because she recognizes him as a man who was involved in a shooting in an alley when she was a little girl.

The next section is set in 2203 and is called The Last Book Tour in Earth.  Olive Llewellyn was born on the moon and has written a number of novels–novels that sold well on Earth as well.  She was happy to be on Earth because she could also visit her parents.  Her parents moved back to Earth after she had left for college.

This book, Marienbad, was being made into a film.  So even though it was a few years old, publicity was called for.  She enjoys the trip although she misses her family back on the moon.  Soon though, there is word of a pandemic stretching out across the Earth.  It had been a long time since the Earth had dealt with such a thing, and people didn’t know how to prepare for it anymore.  Emily had written a previous novel about a pandemic and knew, from her research, what she should be doing.  But no one else seemed to be paying any attention.

The last interview she has is with a man who prepares to ask her if she had experienced something strange at the Oklahoma City Airship Terminal.

The story jumps one more time to 2401.  A man named Gaspery.  Gaspery tells us about the first moon colony which was built in the Sea of Tranquility.  There was much interest in immigration and Soon they had moved on from Colony 1 to Colony 2.  The Colonies were meant to replicate Earth as much as possible–including artificial lights that mimicked the Earth cycle.  But when the lights failed and were deemed too expensive to repair, that set in motion the gradual abandonment of Colony 2.

Gaspery grew up living near the house where Olive Llewelyn lived.  It was now occupied by a family with a girl, Talia, who was about his age.  Talia seemed to always want to gaze out of the dome toward Colony 1.  Gaspery’s sister, Zoey, on the other hand, did not ever go near the dome (their mother didn’t like them going there).

When they grew up, Gaspery wound up getting a job at the Grand Luna Hotel in Colony One.  Coincidentally, that’s where Talia has moved and gotten a job (as head of HR).  Zoey, meanwhile had become a super smart scientist working at the Time Institute.  One night in a state of panic, she tells Gaspery that their work has uncovered something. It involves time travel.  It is dangerous.  Gaspery, hating his job and his life, volunteers.  Zoey won’t hear of it, but her coworker, Ephrem, agrees to let Gaspery try out for the job.

A few years later, Gaspery is ready and he is told about the video footage that Paul the composer showed in 2020.  Zoey fears that the glitch in the video, the glitch that Vincent film, the same glitch that Edward saw in 1912, the same glitch that Olive wrote about in Marienbad (which is why the reporter asked her about the airport).  If these glitches are connected…does that mean our world is a simulation (like the Matrix?).

Gaspery is to be dispatched to the above timelines to see what he can learn about this glitch.  The one caveat–the big thing that the Time Institute cares about, is that you don’t mess up the timeline.  Gaspery can’t imagine why anyone would do that.  Then he learns that Olive Llewelyn died on Earth on that book tour.  Because of the new pandemic she was not allowed to go back home to the Moon.  It wouldn’t hurt just to hint that she should end her tour early, would it?

The story unfurls quickly from there with Gaspery leaning a bit more with each time he jumps into.

I enjoyed this story a lot.

S. tells me that Emily St. John Mandel wrote a previous book about a pandemic (Station Eleven).  Interesting, no?

 

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For nearly fourteen years I was able to keep up this daily blog of books and music.

About a year ago I got a promotion and that changed everything.  I no longer had the time to post everything I wanted to.  Heck, I didn’t even seem to have the time to read all the short stories I wanted to.  Amusingly (or not), just before this new position, I had gotten a print subscription to the New Yorker.  This now means that I (like many others) have a two-foot stack of New Yorker magazines that I haven’t even looked at yet.

For a few weeks I was limiting myself to only the concerts that I went to because that was a little easier to write about.  Although back in the good old days, I used to include photo and links, and I pretty much have neither now. And I’m several shows behind as well.

So I’m still reading books and I think I may try to post some thoughts about them from time to time.  I’d also like to think I have time to write about my concerts, but even those are proving to be challenging.

So let’s consider the blog on hiatus more or less, with occasional posts about things I’ve read or listened to.

The good thing is that I like the new position and wouldn’t change it for the world. I guess I never realized how much down time my old position gave me!

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[ATTENDED: March 29, 2022] Sparks

Sparks is, without question, a weird band.  I got into them back in 1997 when they released an album of re-recorded versions of their best songs and called it Plagiarism.  Since then they have released eight albums.  Before  that the had release sixteen albums dating all the way back to 1971.  And yet despite the occasional hit, they remained largely unknown in the States.  They are from the States even though many people assume they are from Europe.  Sparks are Russel Mael (vocals) and Ron Mael (everything else).

And they remained at a certain level of obscurity until 2021 when a documentary called The Sparks Brothers was released (and did very well) and when they created a musical movie called Annette which won the Cannes Soundtrack award.

The time seemed ripe to do a (limited) tour of the States.  Sparks last played toured American back in 2013, they played at Le Poisson Rouge in 2017, but that was just two shows in New York and two in California–not much of a tour.  Normally I hate going into New York and will only do it for special occasions. (more…)

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[C. ATTENDED: November 28, 2021] Ice Nine Kills with Bad Omens, Currents, and Fame on Fire

When I saw that this show was announced, I offered to take C. to the show.  But he told me that his friend had already gotten them tickets.  I offered to drive (I really want to see Ice Nine Kills again), but what I didn’t know was that the friend’s mom had gotten them VIP tickets–something I wouldn’t have done, that’s for sure. So that was cool.

They got into the show early and to hang out with the band and got a bunch of swag too.

The problem is that after the VIP session was over, there was a pretty long wait for the first band to go on.

He said Ice Nine Kills was great (they put on an amazing show).  The new album is great and their stage set is spectacular.  And I’m happy to say that he and I are going see them in April–maybe I’ll get us VIP tickets as well. (more…)

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[CANCELLED: September 9, 2021] Bachelor

indexBachelor is the lockdown-inspired collaboration between Palehound’s Ellen Kempner and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte.  Their song “Stay in the Car” is one of my favorites this year.  I was excited to see both of these great women in a small venue like The Foundry.

Then on Friday August 13th, they sent out this message.

Unfortunately, the Event Organizer has had to cancel your event.

With this follow up on their Instagram

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Bachelor will no longer be hitting the road for the following shows. However, Ellen will still be supporting @lucydacus as @palehound on the first leg of her tour. Tickets for our headline shows will be refunded at point of purchase. Please get vaccinated and stay safe.

So that was a bummer.  Hope they can rebound and do more shows next year.

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SOUNDTRACKSEVDALIZA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #130 January 5, 2021).

Sevdaliza is the first Tiny desk Home Concert to be published in 2021.  Let’s hope she signals a great new year.

Sevdaliza is Iranian born although this concert is filmed in a culturally significant bookstore and publishing house in Amsterdam called MENDO.

Her collection of music is a wonderful mix of the organic and the electronic all centered around her gorgeous voice.

The set opens with “an old reel-to-reel tape machine spinning some Brazilian bossa nova.”  Then it stops and she starts singing “Human,” a song which

casts away the notion of artists — particularly female artists — as products.

It’s a moody Portishead-like track.

It opens with synths and drums as she sings achingly.  Her voice sounds a bit like Beth Gibbons as well.  Then in the middle of the song, the electronics drop off and she recites

I am flesh, bones / I am skin, soul / I am human /Nothing more than human.
I am sweat, flaws / I am veins, scars / I am human / Nothing more than human.

While she speaks, the strings of Jonas Pap (cello) and Mihai Puscoiu (violin) play an eerie backdrop.  When the strings stop a very cool electronic section takes over.  Leon den Engelsen manipulates sounds, making voices sound mechanical and machines sounds human–it’s really cool watching him do this.  Meanwhile, drummer Anthony Amirkhan adds some complex electronic and analog drums.

Then den Engelsen resumes the bossanova tape as Sendaliza announces:

“Good afternoon humans, my name is Sevdaliza, you’re very welcome on flight 808; our destination is Shabrang.”

I feel like “Dormant: sounds even more Portishead-like.  Her voice carries Gibbons’ ache as she sings “I need a different type pf caring, a different type of sharing.”  The percussion is minimal but interesting.  Meanwhile the electronics are buzzing around while the strings ground the song in melody.

As the song fades out she sings notes and words which I believe the keys are manipulating in real time.

“All Rivers at Once” opens with a pre-recorded guitar melody.  The song is just full of samples and interesting melodies and then the middle falls into place with a lovely violin solo.  It ends with a deep resonating cello note

“Gole Bi Goldoon” is sung in Iranian (I assume).  It sounds much more like an old folk song–strings and piano.

I really enjoyed this set and want to check out more of her album.

[READ: January 9, 2021] Do the Macorona

I’m not exactly sure why we have been getting so many books from South Africa at work lately, but it’s fantastic.

This book is a collection of editorial cartoons from South Africa’s Daily Maverick newspaper.  Zapiro (Jonathan Shapiro) has been making editorial cartoons and caricatures since the early 1990s and has 25 books of cartoons published.

Although I have been reading some novels from South Africa, I really don’t know very much about the country.  I have learned, however, that reading about a year’s worth of editorial cartoons is a pretty great way to learn about a country.  I don’t understand all of the jokes in here, but I do feel like I have a vague grasp on the country now. However, it’s when Zapiro turns his pen abroad–especially against trump, that I can see how good of a satirist he is.

It feels especially timely to include this post now as we prepare to get the corrupt traitor out of office for good.  He has, in fact, made a cartoon out of the insurrection. (more…)

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