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Archive for the ‘War’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 15, 2022] City of Iron and Dust

Like a bird attracted to shiny things, when I see an interesting-looking book come by my desk at work, I decide to read it–no matter how big my tipping over pile of other books to read happens to be.

I dithered about reading this book and I had a slightly hard time getting into it (probably because I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to read it).  But it got very good and very exciting very quickly.

The book is broken up into chapters and each chapter is broken into subsections about a particular character

Jag.  She is the daughter of one of the big goblin families in the City of Iron.  But she longs for a world where goblins don’t dominate and persecute the rest of the fae.  She’s an idealist who goes to fae bars trying to feel something more than the money and power her family has.

Sil.  Sil is half goblin half Fae.  She is Jag’s half sister.  But she was brought up to be an assassin.  And her only purpose in life is to protect Jag.  Later on, we are shown the brutality she suffered to become such a formidable creature.  She has no opinions of her own. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 10, 2021] “The Bees, Part 1”

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’ve enjoyed Aleksandar Hemon’s stories.  And this one was a huge mix of humor and sadness.

This story begins simply enough.  The narrator and his family are watching a film.  But his father is so annoyed that the film isn’t real that he (and the family) walk out before it’s over.

His father only wants to see things that are real so he sets out to make his own film. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: October 2021] Three Hearts and Three Lions

Every since I signed up for Chirp audio books, I’ve been able to really indulge my love of Bronson Pinchot as a reader.

I bought this book without knowing much about it.  I basically make sure that the books aren’t war books, because I don’t care about that subject, and if it’s not, then I’m on board.

This book was a cool sci-fi fantasy story by an author whom I had heard of but didn’t know anything about.  Imagine my surprise to find out that book was initially written in 1953 as a novella and expanded into a novel for 1961!  I was especially surprised because there is some serious science a the book opens which seemed far more contemporary.

Holger Carlsen is an engineer.  The prologue of the story shows him working in an engineering department and talking about science-y stuff.  The story is about Carlsen, but told from a different point of view.  Pinchot gets to use a Danish accent for all of his speaking parts.

The narrator talks about what happens as if it is not believable but that he is going to relate the story anyway: “Holger’s tale does not seem altogether impossible to me. Not that I claim it’s true.”  He says that Carlsen was generally well-liked and respected.  And this is his story.

Carlsen decided to join the Danish resistance in fighting Nazis in WWII.  The fighting is going well, and the American forces are known to be coming.  But Holger is shot.  He wakes up naked in an unfamiliar place.

He looks around.  Things seem normal, although he can’t explain his nakedness.  He wanders around and finds a horse who is not afraid of him.  He also finds a cottage that has clothes which fit him,  Things seem off somehow, though, and he genuinely can’t get his bearings.

Soon enough he meets an old woman who claims to be a witch. She speaks a language he doesn’t know and yet he understands her.  Through a drawn out discussion and some revelations, he realizes that he is kind of a medieval knight and he sees a shield emblazoned with three hearts and three lions. (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: THE HOLD STEADY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #219 (June 23, 20210).

sudan

I have never seen The Hold Steady, but I have seen Craig Finn solo (which seems like the same thing to me).  I never really liked them all that much, although he was great live.  It’s the spoken/sung delivery (that sounds a little too much like Bruce Springsteen) that makes all the songs sound the same to me.  I feel like there’s a story in each song and his delivery makes me tune out of the words.  Oops.

But for its first-ever full-band Tiny Desk appearance, the group squeezed behind a cramped backstage corner of the Brooklyn Bowl, COVID mask protocol in place.  Illuminated by string lights, the band ran through tracks from its latest album, Open Door Policy, kicking off with “Heavy Covenant” as a swell of clarinets and trumpets round out the sound

“Heavy Covenant” opens with an accordion from Franz Nicolay with Craig Finn singing.  After a verse or two Stephen Selvidge and Tad Kubler bring in the guitars.  Halfway through, The Horn Steady add clarinet (Stuart Bogie and Peter Hess) and trumpet (Jordan McLean).

Though the lineup consisted of its current supersized iteration – featuring both Steve Selvidge on guitar and multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay back on accordion – the band scaled back its swagger for the space. Here, the recurring “Woos!” on the recorded version of “Unpleasant Breakfast” become softer and more subtle;

For “Unpleasant Breakfast” Bobby Drake starts the song with some hi hat claps before Tad Kubler adds in chords and Stephen Selvidge adds in solo notes.  You can hear Galen Polivka’s bass pretty clearly (even if he is hidden behind Finn).  Normally I don’t like the addition of horns on songs, but these gentle additions (maybe its the clarinet sound) add perfects accents.  After what felt like three minutes of the same melody the song changes gears and gets really big and swaying–and I started paying attention again.

The surf sounds of “Riptown” still rolick, but with restraint that suits the setting.

Finn says “Riptown” is a fictitious place that they should now visit.  The claps are a nice addition as are the horns (once again).

“Parade Days” is a bonus song (it didn’t make the vinyl).  I like the drama of the opening guitars and the accordion build up.

[READ: July 1, 2021] “Dream Fragment”

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

The second piece is a poem. It is about the winter, which is a little odd for a summer reading issue.

This story, about many things, but focusing on the moment children are taken from their parents, is a tough read.

The story is also not set at a specific time or place.  Some clues are given.  The parents are called Amma and Appa but those words are used in both Korean and Tamil.  The opening line asks, How do you find sweet syrup at the end of the world?

Things were bad.  The family would soon head into the basement and then “see if there was still an upstairs.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Sonic Boom, Toronto, ON (September 5 2019).

Back in 2007, when the Rheostatics said farewell, who ever would have guessed that they’d be back in a record store for an album release event.  But here they are, playing in a record store and answering a formal Q&A.

For the release of the Here Come The Wolves album the Rheos did a Q&A at the record store Sonic Boom in Toronto with Laurie Brown.  Her interview is included here but the video can be found here.  The band then did a 45 minute set of new songs which may have been the first time since reforming that Hugh Marsh did not play with them as he was in Europe at the time. Luckily Eric Mac Innis traveled to Toronto from the Maritimes for this event and recorded it for everyone to hear.

After a 40 minute interview (which is quite nice), the four guys are going “to try to play the first five (actually six) songs of the record.”  Which is the first side of the record.

They tune up. Martin jokes “this is the Ravi Shankar portion” and DB says “our record is actually a Doors tribute album.  Every song starts in a minor key.”

They start after two minutes with “Vancouver.” The recording is very spare–like they are holding back for the small space.  The entire middle part is instrumental with maybe Dave noodling away until Martin comes back to sing the rest.  The end rocks a bit more.  Martin throws in a hint of a Journey song in the solo.  Tim: “We still haven’t quite learned that one yet.”   DC: “I did.”

“AC/DC On The Stereo” has big guitar chords and a few false intros (it’s weird without High’s violin).  “Rearview” sounds really nice in this setting.

DB: we used to do these things at the Rivoli–live rehearsals.  I’d like to bring that back.  Super fun.  We worked songs out.  It was entertaining for us.  Maybe not the audience.  I remember them being really full and then that thing turned up on YouTube of us spanking Dave Clark on the ass.  The Rivoli was very dark.  [whisper: people deal guns there?  Don’t go downtown, Dave.]  There’s no one–12 of our friends there.  You can buy gum at the Rivoli.

“Here Come The Wolves” is next.  Martin tunes while Dave gives a big drum intro.  Wanna see my tuner?  Here clip this on the head stock.  [Ha ha ha Now that’s comedy].  How you doin?  The song works well.  Everyone claps at the pause and then Martin does his part.

They thank Michael Phillip Wojewoda, Chris Walla, Gus Van Gogh for working on the album and Martin tells a funny story about MPW’s disgusting dreadlock.  Mike has left Dave has known him since he had that beaver-shaped dread in the middle of his hair it had a gray core–it was oxidizing in the middle.  Never leave a Rheostatics shows or the band will tell stories about you.

DC: I was being nice to the guy and you guys are tearing him a new one  Martin: that’s not a new one that’s something he did.  There’s nothing wrong with dreadlocks.  DC: I’m just stirring the pot.  MT: Stirring a big pot of dreadlock stew–it makes a fine broth.  We were on tour with the Dough Boys (Dreadlock Stu).

Next song is by David Clark.  DC: Martin, pick your favorite chord, don’t look.  Martin plays an insane chord and the song starts.  After the song DB: remember that chord, it’s pure gold.

Sympathetic vibrations.  DC starts talking about sympathetic advice he received from a luthier.  never leave your instrument in a case (they die), have them on stands in the noisiest part of the house they will vibrate and stay in tune.  DB says that’s bullshit.  Martin says it’s largely bullshit, but not totally.  Pick up an acoustic guitar that’s been in a case it will sound like shit; pick up a cheap one that’s been out and it will sound good.

DB: You learned that all from a Lutheran?
DC: Yes he nailed it to me.

Buy the record upstairs on the mezzanine level.  They play a jazzy number: buy the record in the mezzanine. How much does it cost?  $1.79.  No, that’s not even the tax.

They end with another song by Tim: “Music is the Message.”  We’re gonna play it and go.  It’s slow and pretty–sounds good, although the backing ahhs are a little crazy.

[READ: June 15, 2021] Void Trip

I saw this book on the shelf at the library and thought the title sounded promising.  The cover also looked pretty cool, so I brought it home.

As the book opens, we see Ana and Gabe stealing fuel from a tanker in the desert.  Gabe is much older than Ana and they seem to be arguing about their (confusing) plans.  They are quickly interrupted by the owner of the truck–a rather large but cute humanoid creature with a furry face.

Ana tells him that space pirates were trying to steal his fuel and she and Gabe frightened them off.  The trucker is grateful for the help but when he is visited soon after by a white robot, he’ll wish he wasn’t so gullible.

Ana and Gabe are the last humans alive (according to the back of the book, although I’m not sure it says that anywhere in the story).  They are headed to Euphoria, a sort of promised land planet.

They stop off at a rest stop where a humanoid elephant with lots of trunks (Ganesh-like) joins them to indulge in froot (various psychedelic drugs).  Mooreberry gives psychedelic experiences; Gaimangos turn everything into a fairytale.  Busiekhini will taste like the best food you’ve ever had.  (Those names are pretty good).  He eats it and hilarious trippiness ensues. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: June 19, 2021] On Juneteenth

In recognition of Juneteenth this year, my University gave anyone who wanted one a copy of this book.

Gordon-Reed begins the preface by saying that Juneteenth was originally a Texas thing.  June 19, 1865 was the day that enslaved Texans were told that slavery had ended.  That was two year after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed and two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant.

What’s interesting though is after stating this she says that she was initially annoyed that people outside of Texas were celebrating this day because it was a supposed to be a Texas thing and she has great pride in her home state–despite the above.

This short book is written with anecdotes and history in an attempt to not only talk about the history of Black people in Texas but also to help understand how she can have pride in a place that seemed to not want her.

Indeed, the first chapter is about Texas and how it came to be–a brief history lesson for Texans and non-Texans alike.  Most importantly though is the image of Texas:  Texas is a white man.  Her essays look to find out what that means for all not-white, not-men in the State. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JENDRIK-“I Don’t Feel Hate” (Germany, Eurovision Entry 2021).

I couldn’t really leave Eurovision without mention the German entry which raised lots of eyebrows with its dancing foam middle  finer.

The melody is very catchy–reminds me a lot of Wham or a George Michael song except he’s playing it on the ukulele.  After a quick clapped beat, the bass kicks in.

The song is pretty over the top in terms of everything, but his heart is so on his sleeve that I 100% support his message of tolerance.

So you can wiggle with that middle finger, it’ll never wiggle back to you

And then came the big surprise.  He sings “I don’t feel”  and the song explodes with orchestral hits.  It turns into a big dance party and then ends as quickly as it started.

There’s a middle section that begins

I really don’t mind (ah, ah-ah) to be your rival (ah-ah, ah-ah)
‘Cause for your kind it’s essential for survival (say what? He did not just say that)
Yes, I did (yes, I did), and I feel sorry (so sorry)
I don’t feel hate, that’s the whole point of this song (that’s the song)

and then segues into a twenties-era melody with muted trumpets and very fast vocals:

I guess you need patronization as some kind of validation
You won’t cope with the frustration that your random me-fixation
Is another affirmation that you’re just a hateful person
Who’s not really better than me

Then comes a muted trumpet solo which toes in perfectly to the following, yes, tap dance break.

Jandrik really couldn’t have put anything more into this song.  It is so over the top, so very much too much, and I really like it. The foam middle finger is crazy cheesy though, which fits pretty well.

The actual video though is quite well produced–his extras are really excellent.

[READ: May 21, 2021] “How I Spent the War”

Do you want to know what went through the mind of a Nazi as World War II was ending?

Well, this essay by author Günter Grass–whom I have never read although I have often intended to–tells you.

When he was fifteen, living in Danzig, he volunteered for active duty.  This was not youthful folly.  He wanted to support his country and his Führer–he offers no excuses.

He had been serving in the Luftwaffe auxiliary–a group of boys too young to be conscripted.  It was compulsory but many viewed it as a respite from school routine.

They felt like they were guarding the front line–the last line of defense before Germany was destroyed.  They were allowed to go home every two weeks but Grass’ home wasn’t great.  He hated his father–probably because his father was a peace loving man.

So he would watch the newsreels and revel in videos of Germany’s subs returning victorious.

He volunteered to serve on a submarine, was rejected–they had too many volunteers and he was too young.  He was later called up for Labor Service like everyone his age–three months active duty—giving up the chic Luftwaffe uniform for Labor Service’s shit brown. (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: GIVĒON–Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #166 (January 28, 2021).

GIVĒON is a pretty classic R&B crooner.  He seems pretty grateful to have gotten where he is.

“Just bear with me while I just enjoy this and soak in it,” GIVĒON admits with a laugh.

He plays three songs.

“The Beach” opens with gentle guitar chords from James Murray and a slow bass line from Ivan Chatman.  Then GIVĒON and RaVaughn Brown sing together.

After the song, he says he’s pretty excited to play in February.

“Any moment to do this would be special,” he says between songs, “but I think Black History Month … just celebrating Black culture for this month, I’m really excited to get to do this on this platform.”

He also notes that he is a Pisces.  “Pisces are emotional, maybe that’s why I make songs like this.”  “Like I Want You” opens with a simple drum intro from Andre Montgomery and a slow bass line.  Deondre Ellis plays a keyboard melody that matches the vocal melody at the beginning each line–it’s a nice touch.  Murray plays a pretty ripping guitar solo, too.

Before the final song, “Stuck on You,” he says, “I can’t wait to watch this with my mom and see what she thinks because she likes to nitpick sometimes.”  It’s a bit of a faster song and when there’s about a minute left, GIVĒON walks off to let the band jam out the set.  The mark of an old school singer already.

[READ: February 20, 2021] Goliath

The final book of this trilogy was as exciting as the rest of the series.

Everyone is back aboard the Leviathan and they are heading toward the Arctic.  They have an exciting and dangerous mission up ahead–they are going to lower Leviathan as low as she can go so that they can retrieve some cargo from the back of a polar bear beastie.

Deryn and Newkirk are on a small platform swinging madly through the air as they try to secure this very large parcel from the back of a moving bear.  It’s something that’s been done before, but never with something this large (usually just mail bags).  This is a massive time saver, but if they miss, it means a several hours before they can turn around an try again.

The package is a huge amount of supplies both for the Leviathan and for the special guest who they are going to meet in the Wilderness. Things don’t go as smoothly as promised because the package weighs more than was promised–the danger is pretty great and the scene is very exciting.

When they open up the packages in the ships hold, they discover that in addition to the various supplies there is a massive Clanker gadget that needs assembling.  It is good that Alek and his men are on board to help assemble the Clanker contraption.  He’s also happy to have gainful employ for a time–it’s the happiest he’s been in a while.

The device proves to be a portable metal detector–a powerful one designed to be used almost like a giant magnet. But there’s no explanation for why it’s here.

The ship continues on its mission further up towards Greenland.  Then the watchman sends a message: Trees All Down Ahead.  It doesn’t make sense until they see a clearing up ahead and indeed all of the trees are destroyed–knocked over as of by the world’s largest hurricane. Worse yet, there are gigantic bones littering the place–as if a whale beastie was eaten. (more…)

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