Just one book this time - David Savakerrva (and some new Cubicle fun)
I recently finished another book that has jumped ahead of the many others in my queue, David Savakerrva (this is another that was read at the behest of the author who provided me with a physical copy). I would have mentioned it weeks ago, but I've been having major PC issues for the past several weeks (which seem to have all begun when I installed the new version of my anti-virus, but that could just be a coincidence). I can't do much of anything that touches the filesystem without the computer pretty much going into limbo (though the non-filesystem applications are working fine - no browser issues unless I'm trying to download files).
David Savakerrva was a satisfying read, but took a long time to get through (see my earlier laments about spending less time reading recently). It was equal parts steampunk Alice in Wonderland and Dune, and had a little bit of a Lord of the Rings flavor. I also remember feeling some serious RA Salvatore vibes (more Saga of the First King vibes than Drizzt Do'Urden). There were a bunch of other impressions I picked up as I was reading, but by the time I'd reached the end, many of those had faded from my barely-functional memory.
David Savakerrva, Larry Brown
David Savakerrva Volume 1 is a pretty massive tome - over 600 pages - and took me a while to finish. I found myself thinking that the editors should have done what they did to Tolkien's opus and insisted on splitting this huge book into multiple shorter books just to make it feel less overwhelming. I later discovered that Volume 1 contains books 1 and 2, which are each pretty lengthy books in their own right. Funny enough, After reading my Lord of the Rings paperbacks (I went through a few sets) multiple times, I finally picked up a Lord of the Rings hard cover with all three books lumped together as Tolkien originally intended. Lord of the Rings is definitely more overwhelming to read in a single-volume format, as is David Savakerrva.
The main protagonist in David Savakerrva is a young, very unremarkable, boy named Garth. He's very Bilbo Baggins-ish (who wasn't exactly "young" in man-years) or Harry Potter-ish. He's equally annoying in his immature floundering as either of the aforementioned characters. He comes across as whining and incompetent and all his successes are seemingly accidental. But he does grow on you over time.
As I was reading, the similarity of Larry Brown's alien language and his completely foreign/alien character names reminded me a lot of Dune, the more recently read The Rage of Dragons, or even Tolkien's Adventures in Middle Earth. It took me a while, as it did with each of the aforementioned works, to translate the unfamiliar words as I was reading. Early on, I struggled a little to translate the unfamiliar verbiage.
Here's a really long excerpt (a few pages) filled with names and alien words to give you a feel for the . It's also one of the scenes that reminded me of a demented Alice in Wonderland. But first, a little background: the "Soot" character is an alien who has kidnapped our young protagonist to curry favor with the other aliens who have invaded the alien world. Garth has escaped and his doing his best to evade capture in the alien landscape.
Misery, every crackling branch and prickly stem.
Snagged and clawed, scratched and pierced - Garth nearly missed the underworld's hot, windy gale. Fear raked like every thorny bough, but so did thoughts of what next? Soot had taken him for a reason, and though what awaited seeded terrors and plowed up dread, Garth wondered about the Kavahl.
Did they still need to stop it?
Yes! Dahkaa's presumed response. The recent past seemed a blur, but before the Cave of the Beast, Dahkaa had said the G'mach would finish the Kavahl in just seventeen moons. So, what was it now, fifteen or less? And if Dahkaa had died, then what about his plan to unite with the tribes? Was that dead, too?
Garth plowed on. Battling every barbed branch and vine, he perceived he no longer felt Soot's blows and kicks. In fact, by the occasional shouted "Feehj!" Soot sounded like he trailed at least ten feet behind.
Not much separation, not in the clear. But in the briars? A foot or two more, and the brush behind Garth would block Soot from view.
Garth surged ahead. Ducking and weaving, he weaved and bulled with all he had left. He plowed forward for a solid minute then, gasping and spent, looked back.
No sign of Soot, the branches and vines blocked like a wall.
Garth bolted like a hound. Staying low and running fast, he careened left and right, whatever opened up. No other sound penetrated his cacophonous thrash, so if Soot was shouting or shooting, Garth couldn't tell. He flew into thistles square in his path then, squirming and clawing, he broke from the forest and tumbled down a hill.
Garth slid to the edge of a creek. A mirror-smooth blue, the water reflected a face he barely knew. Soot blackened his skin, blood seeped from scratches and welts - and he didn't care. Lurching into the creek, he splashed cold water into his mouth.
Electric, the slaking, every gulp jolted and charged. He drank and gulped and drank some more, then started to cough. Hating the interruption, this need to breathe, Garth lifted his head. And watched, vaguely concerned, the passing of a sock.
Garth looked upstream. Ragged shirts and pants, knitted socks and skirts - clothes from both sexes soaked in the creek while tied to a line. But as for a washer?
Garth saw only water, a stream about thirty feet wide. Cattail-size weeds shouldered its muddy banks, and for hundreds of yards to either side, the blue-green flora stood dense and tall. Thrilled by the cover, he wondered if the water and weeds heralded a change, some break in his chain of relentless bad luck.
A branch cracked in the briar woods behind.
Garth sprang to his feet. Avoiding the mud, he sprinted on riverbank stones, then dove into the chest-high weeds. He stayed low and crawled, but compared to the forest, progress came fast. Restored by water and free of the thorns, he reveled in escape, his sanctuary of weeds.
He stopped. Squinting through the weedy stalks, he discerned a wild brown mane framing a shadowed, staring face.
Garth didn't move. But the weeds did, and as a breeze teased the stalks, the waves of sway revealed a second shadowed face, then a third. Advancing with a quiet, well-practiced stealth, the shadows crept his way.
Garth reversed course. First at a crawl, then in a crouch, he sprinted until he reached the creek.
He stopped and looked. Still no Soot; the brushy treeline looked clear.
Garth splashed across the creek. The far side mirrored the weeds just left, but halfway across, he spotted a wind-rippled tangle of long brown hair.
Shadows and hair ahead and behind, Garth stood mid-stream while heads rose from the stalks. They showed no weapons, but...muddy and grungy, they looked like hunters in ambush waiting for prey.
Garth spun around. Shoreline weeds quivered, and a woman emerged. Some primordial ideal of the feminine mystique, she wore only mud. And perhaps just an afterthought, the makings of a skirt.
"Yai ahh," she sighed. Her greeting confounded, but not as much as her smile. No shyness or fright, it perfectly suited her languid advance. She slid her toes into riverbank ooze, and with easy undulations, sloshed toward Garth. Not knowing where to look, too shy for her eyes and more so the rest, he focused on her hair. Some thistles weaved her long shocks, but unlike her skin, her hair had the gloss of clean. The dark tresses snaked into her cleavage, then tucked under a skirt flap, some iridescent shimmer spun, best guess, from dragonfly wings.
She circled Garth. Slowly closed in. Shin-deep in creek, yet basting in sweat, Garth felt the tug of her gaze. The light off the creek lit the green of her eyes, but depending on the angle, the shade shifted from muted moss to fiery jade. A moth to her flame, Garth knew he shouldn't stare, but he couldn't stop. He felt an inescapable tug to this primal she, and as this Woman of the Weeds circled in, she playfully turned.
The spell of her gaze momentarily checked, Garth noticed what she'd done with her hair. Routed around her waist, it dangled to the creek in a long, braided tail.
"Ta lef!" she shrieked, and spinning around, the woman yanked two spikes from her hair and lunged for Garth.
A gunshot banged.
The woman arched back.
"Rohf!" shouted Soot. One muzzle smoking from his two-barrel gun, he stepped from the forest and gestured toward Garth. "Sha rohf, Savakerrva!"
The Woman of the Weeds looked back at Garth. Her smolder gone cold, she peered at the boy in the creek with skepticism, the squint of a cook inspecting strange meat.
"Savakerrva?" asked a gruff voice. Heavy with authority, heavier still in the gut, a middle-age man parted the weeds with - a mace? A spiked-steel ball topped a jeweled handle, and the weapon flashed more carats than a crown. This Man with the Mace wore a long coat, and though its squarish cut had a military look, his quick, rattish glances and scraggly hair cast him more as a deserter, someone forever on the run.
"Savakerrva!" Soot answered, pointing to Garth.
The Woman of the Weeds snickered, then doubled up with laughter. Nothing refined, no lilting feminine peals, she snorted with the abandon of a sow in fresh mud.
"Der kek!" scolded the Man with the Mace.
The Woman hacked back her laughter and, slipping her fingers deep into her hair, slid back her spikes. Then wiping her eyes, this woman who bewitched one moment and nearly butchered the next just sat on a rock.
The Man with the Mace looked at Garth, then nodded toward the Woman of the Weeds. "S'lek," he said.
Still infected with smirk, the woman - S'lek, her apparent name - feigned a bow toward Garth.
"Kahbahk," said the Man with the Mace. He gestured to himself, indicated his name was Kahbahk, then nodded to Garth. "Savakerrva - oove?"
Startled by the word - oove means yes? - Garth realized these people of the weeds sounded like Eylahn and the herd. They spoke the tongue of the Worms, but if he answered their question and confirmed who he was, would they kill me right here?
"I - " Garth tried to brace himself in the creek-bottom mud. "Savakerrva, oove," he said, touching his chest.
Kahbahk's eyes narrowed. He stroked his patchwork goatee, then eyed Garth's dirty fur vest. He clicked his tongue.
A little boy and girl ducked out from the weeds. Cute, the pair, their golden curls reminded of greeting-card angels. Straining angels, for each dragged a heavy leather bag.
Kahbahk opened the girl's bag first. He dug through a clatter of jewelry and gems, then retrieved a metal square the size of his palm. Knowing he'd seen such a thing before - didn't Logaht use that in the cave? - Garth watched Kahbahk snap it open and aim it at the creek.
Rays of light swept the creek's surface. But instead of Garth's grades, the rays formed an image of Garth. Front view and side, the same picture projected to the Worms by Atta Ra now shimmered the creek. Trying to keep up, Garth recalled the General of Blood: didn't he say the G'mach had offered a reward - passage to another world - for whoever brought me to Elka?
"Vel!" Soot descended to the edge of the creek. "Cho Savakerrva, choi vel!" he declared, his scabbed lips in a grin.
Kahbahk gestured wait! He turned to the boy's leather bag, then opened it to chunks of - coal? It resembled coal, but yellow veins marbled each black chunk. Garth knew he'd seen the stuff before, but too distracted to recall, he watched Kahbahk pull out a shiny silver chest. He unlatched the lid, then lifted out a glass vial.
"Vel!" exclaimed Soot. He charged into the creek and splashed toward Kahbahk, but his gaze fixed on the vial, on the blue liquid within. "Skoh vel, skoh vel!" he repeated. Soot dropped his gun while grabbing the vial, but apparently not caring, he popped the top and shook blue drops into his palm.
Kahbahk swiped the vial back. Soot didn't care, he had his precious drops. He rubbed the honey-thick substance into a steamy foam, then slathered his face.
Soot screamed. Riveted by the sight, caught up in the drama like everyone else, Garth watched the lather dry, then slough away like old snake skin.
Soot grabbed the small silver chest. His scream receding into intermittent gasps, he peered into the mirror-like finish and checked his face.
Still a boiled-crab shade of red; that hadn't changed. But as Soot gaped and Garth looked on, no quiver animated his skin, the squirms had gone. Soot hooted and hollered, splashed a fine jig, and a happier man, Garth had never seen. Soot tossed up some water and exulted once more, then turned to Kahbahk and went still.
His arm cocked and ready to throw, Kahbahk gripped his mace.
"Ah - Savakerrva?" asked Soot, nodding to Garth.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
Here's a good excerpt to illustrate why I envisioned a "steampunk" Alice in Wonderland as I read. This excerpt features the most steampunk of all the characters in the story: Torgen Betugen.
Torgen burst through the door of his high-tower room.
Fast but quiet, he leapt down a narrow stairwell. But with every quick turn, the bazooka-like tube strapped to his back scraped the tight walls.
He jumped to a corridor landing and charged a wall. A brick wall, by all appearance. But when he lowered his shoulder and leapt, he crashed through a plaster facade.
Torgen fell three feet, then landed on a platform in a dark, vertical shaft. Already descending, the platform quivered as it dropped, some unpowered freight elevator plunging straight down. Pulleys whined with increasing speed, and Torgen braced for the plummeting end.
The elevator slammed to a stop. Torgen tumbled off, then rocked to his feet in a cellar's quiet gloom. Hurrying through near-darkness, he splashed through puddles and ducked leaky pipes while approaching the only light: two grimy windows in a wide pair of doors.
He stopped before an inclined cargo ramp. It led up to the doors, but Torgen focused on the base of the ramp.
A dozen blankets draped a large, bullet-shaped mass.
He whipped off the blankets. Staring a moment, he watched the weak light gleam the object's sleek copper-colored skin.
Torgen crouched beside its cylindrical form. He inspected the rope tread on the centerline wheel, then checked both wooden skids. The tire showed rodent bites, and the runners some rot. The long wait had taken its toll, but it should hold together. At least, long enough.
Torgen slid his hand across her smooth ceramic skin and tapped the reinforced nose.
Solid, no give.
He moved to the control nozzles - one pair in front, the other aft - and tested each swivel and mount.
No binding, no kinks.
Torgen peered into the big, horizontally-mounted drive nozzle, then blew it clean. Dust swirled, he coughed and fanned, but when he touched the nozzle interior, he felt no syrupy residue, no fuel had leaked. Lucky, he knew. I'll need every ounce.
Pulse increasing, he ran his fingers over the rigging, the exterior lines to the four control nozzles.
Acceptable tension, no frays.
Torgen grabbed a handhold. He swung up his leg as if mounting a horse, then settled onto the narrow saddle. Rock hard, but they always were, at least until things got warm. He stuffed the bazooka-like tube into a leather holster, then lifted dark goggles off the throttle lever. He blew dust off the lenses and strapped them on, then grabbed his helmet. Torgen pulled it over his head, but it felt a little tight.
Well, he mused, at least I'll die with more hair.
Torgen checked the faceplate that shielded the right half of his face. He swung it open and shut, then eyed the leather bag beside his left knee. He reached in, removed a spiny gourd, then shook it - gently - near his ear. Three shakes later, it rattled, so he eased it back into the bag.
Torgen pulled on his ragged gloves, then grabbed the orange cord near his right knee.
He took a long breath. Should he ignore the message, pretend it never arrived? Could he just sleep through the end of the world?
Torgen yanked the cord.
Sparks firefly'd the four small control nozzles and the big drive nozzle behind. Air hissed, seeping fuel flash-banged and smoked, and after years of slumber, the sand rocket awoke.
Torgen wrapped the nozzle control lines in his ragged right glove. His machine now reined, he grabbed the throttle lever with his left. Then, looking up, he eyed the cargo ramp, the twenty-foot incline to the pair of closed doors.
A trip wire waited halfway up.
Torgen rotated the control nozzles with deft tugs of his lines. Gripping the throttle, he felt the motor shiver. Disaster loomed, he knew, his violent end waited ahead. But what was the saying, what had he always told his men?
A Sand Phantom lives with a scream and dies in flame.
Torgen sighed. And missed, with an ache, the days he believed it was true.
He slammed up his throttle. Combusting fuel boomed, the drive nozzle bellowed, and as the fourteen-foot rocket blazed up the ramp and tripped the wire, the doors sprang apart.
Riding the fire into Elka's blue twilight, Torgen Betugen screamed.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
There is a very early reference to Frank Herbert's Dune in the story, but more Dune-like are the residents of the brutal scorched sub-side culture of the alien planet, who are very similar to Dune's Fremen culture. They're maybe even a little less compassionate than the Fremen. The Dune reference is near the end of this lengthy excerpt.
Dahkaa sat alone. Brooding between boulders on the wind-whistled peak, he ignored the auroral elations high overhead, the fleeting greens and flitting blues. Unmoved by the Northern Lights, the Man of Scars pondered, instead, the still, gray moon.
"So." Garth shivered near the cave. "That's it, we're done?"
Dahkaa didn't respond.
"I mean," Garth continued, "now what; you'll just - take me home?"
Dahkaa exhaled. "I must."
Wanting to holler and punch the air, Garth pulled back to a nod. "Okay," he said, trying to sound subdued. "Then whenever you're ready, I'll be inside." The nightmare unwinding, he turned back to the cave.
"It's always the same?" asked Dahkaa.
Garth looked back.
"Your moon," said Dahkaa. "Its face never changes?"
"Never," Garth answered. "At least, not to us."
Garth waited for acknowledgement, but heard only wind, Dahkaa seemed as distant as the stars. Places, Garth realized, he would now never see.
"And you?" Garth asked. "Your world, you also got a moon?"
"We have two."
"Yeah?" Garth moved a foot closer in. "Amazing, that's - well, this whole thing's amazing, even just our talking, you know? I mean, how come your English is so good?"
The answer irked. Cut to his indifferent quick, Garth turned back to the cave. But curiosity persisted, and wouldn't every unasked question bring a lifelong regret?
"Your moons," said Garth. "They look like ours?"
"Oh - " Dahkaa rubbed his eyes. "In some ways. But just as our world is different, so also our moons. And while the larger marks our months, the lesser counts our nights."
"You mean, days?"
"I mean nights, we have no days," said Dahkaa, pulling out his straight blade knife. "Not on my side, and because our planet refuses to turn, because our cold side freezes while the hot side burns, we call our world Corrahg."
A fricative clash rippled with brogue, Corrahg boxed the ears. "Huh," Garth managed, suddenly grateful for a world smart enough to turn. "Sounds nice."
"Corrahg means 'cursed.' Our climate kills both man and beast, and nothing about it has, is, or ever will be nice." Dahkaa stabbed a snow drift. "And though a thin strip of green divides our world, that agreeable exception has caused uncounted wars. So we call it, our lovely swath of grass and trees, the Bloodlands."
Intrigued by a place more dangerous than Detroit, Garth waited for more.
"Though in truth, all of my world has bled." Dahkaa carved a 20-inch circle into the snow. "The Tribes of the Greater Sand have battled our Great Ice Clans since the first throw of a stone, and we only have peace when there's too few to fight." Carving complete, he scooped out the snow and set it on a rock. "But your world's different, I suppose? Your Tribes and Clans get along?"
Garth wondered where to start.
"If they do, they'd be the first." Dahkaa rounded the corners of the chunk of snow. "From what I've seen and regardless of the world, men fight for the best reasons and also the worst. And sometimes, even none. So by the evidence? We seem to be the work of some very angry gods."
The word surprised. "Gods?"
"Listen to Logaht - and wherever you find humanity, you also find gods. Not the same ones, of course, the gods of the stars seem as varied as us," said Dahkaa. "Which is certainly true in my world, for though my Clans of the Ice have five, the Tribes of the Sand worship seven. Then, of course, we have the Worms."
The word sprung thoughts of Frank Herbert novels, miles-long monsters with crystalline teeth. "Worms from the sand?" asked Garth. "They're huge?"
Dahkaa scratched his nose with his knife. "The Worms, David, are people. Who lack, like their namesake, any semblance of spine." Resuming his work, he smoothed the snow into a sphere.
"Sorry, I don't understand."
"Nor do I, because once long ago, they were our best, our most promising sons and daughters from both the hot side and cold. But - " Dahkaa pulled out his flask. "Tired of the wars between Tribe and Clan, the Worms made a home in the Bloodlands, a place where everything old would die to the new. Can you guess the result?"
"They prevailed. Ancient oaths were buried, men of the ice married women of the sand, and never again did they fight. Instead, the Worms built their dream; Elka, they called it, the City of Peace." Dahkaa sipped another drink. "And while Clans and Tribes continued to war, Elka prospered, never bled. But then - "
Footsteps scraped the cave floor.
"Then came the G'mach," said Dahkaa.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
So, to sum it all up, David Savakerrva is a well-written science fiction epic that delivers. And it's definitely primed for future sequels - the ending is satisfying and equally unsatisfying (if the story ended here).
Further Adventures in Cubicle Decor
I've had the Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic comics (#1 was signed by Terry Pratchett himself way back in 2005 at a Mysterious Galaxy book signing many years ago) on display on my cubicle wall, along with two issues of Doctor Who (with the exact same photo of Amy Pond/Karen Gillan superimposed on different backgrounds that I hadn't really picked up on when I bought them), for the past few weeks. I included the Doctor Who comics to finish filling up the six frames - The Colour of Magic is just a 4-issue mini-series (as is The Light Fantastic, which I had planned to display next).
I decided to display Peter M Hsu's Elf Warrior series instead of The Light Fantastic since I'd already had a month of Terry Pratchett awesomeness in my cubicle. Elf Warrior is also a 4-issue series, so I chose a couple of other Peter Hsu books from my collection: Quadrant #7 and The Adventurers #1 - to round it out since Elf Warrior is another 4-issue series from the 80s). I was also tempted to go with one of the workplace-friendly The Gauntlet covers or his Ninja Elite cover, but...well, I didn't.
Peter Hsu has been out of the comics game for a few decades, but his stuff is still worth seeking out and Elf Warrior is still pretty affordable...the Quadrant books are pretty pricey, though. And I suspect they're also much more rare.
I brought in a few of my older toys from my many toy bins, a How to Train Your Dragon concept art print I picked up at the ComicCon in 2009, an R2D2 card Emeli made me just because she's so super-sweet, and I also decorated the not-home-away-from-home for Christmas. Oh, and I bought some awesome tiny magnets from Amazon that are super strong. They've made the cubicle-decorating much easier.
There's plenty more to ramble on about, but I'll never finish this thing if I keep adding to it...
A few well past due book mentions and a visit to the Black Spire Outpost on the Planet Batuu!
As I mentioned a little while back, I've read several books over the past many months (some over a year ago) and have totally neglected to say anything about them. Which is a shame because pretty much all of them have been well worth mentioning - I noted passages from each to illustrate why I thought they were worth reading - but I suck. I'm reading less than usual and putting less and less effort into my blathering here, so I doubt any of these books will get the full effort they deserve. That said, here's a start on mentioning the members of my ever-growing stack of semi-recently-read books and the very modicum level of effort I'm willing to make...
Art Matters, Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell (illustrator)
I had heard all about Art Matters on Twitter long before it was even available to order. Pages were being posted online for weeks before I could even get my own copy. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon about a month before its U.S. publication date (the U.S. version was available over a month after the U.K. version for some reason - even from Amazon, which is weird because they had the U.K. version in stock). When I received my copy, I quickly read it in its entirety. There isn't a whole lot to read - it's mostly illustrations and brief, but thoughtful, commentary on the importance of libraries, the value of fiction and other creative endeavors, and the value of imagination. I liked it so much that I quickly went out and picked up a copy for Emeli (from Mysterious Galaxy, I think) and shipped it to her in Idaho.
Here are a few of the pages that really stood out to me. Most I saw on Twitter before I received my book, but I had to scan a couple of them myself. I especially like Neil's thoughts on fiction because I've heard so much negative criticism of fiction in my lifetime. And being a dinosaur who loves and prefers to read physical books, I like Neil's and Douglas Adams comments on the value of physical books.
click here to show all the thumbnails
I also heard about another book from Neil Gaiman's Twitter feed: Eric Idle's sortabiography, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Eric Idle
I also pre-ordered Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from Amazon well before its publication date. And it arrived with more than just the book - it came with a button that has been proudly displayed on my computer bag since I received it, and a signed (presumably by Eric Idle, but who knows) book plate. So that was a nice bonus.
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is an excellent biography of Eric Idle's event ful life. It starts out very biographical, but quickly becomes, while still technically biographical, an avalanche of celebrity name-dropping. I didn't realize Eric had been so close to George Harrison, or had rubbed shoulders with Bowie and so many other very famous people. But there you have it - take Neil Gaiman's advice (not provided in this book - see the review just a little northward) and doggedly stick to what you want to do. And get famous. And then you, too, can vacation with the rich and famous, marry a gorgeous model, and visit an awesome castle belonging to one of The Beatles.
There are several pages of color photos of the people mentioned in Eric's memoir in the center of the book (there are also black and white photos throughout the book). Here are a few of those color photos and a couple of the black and white photos.
I noted too many specific passages to mention (as usual) and several were about people other than Eric (like Robin Williams and Steve Martin) that are hilarious and interesting to read, but aren't Eric-adjacent enough for me to mention - so here are the few I noted and have deigned to share...
Firstly, we have Eric interacting with a young journalist...
Laughter is still the best revenge. One day the sun will die, one day the galaxy will die, one day the entire Universe will die. I'm not feeling too good myself. So, what have I learned over my long and weird life? Well, firstly, that there are two kinds of people, and I don't much care for either of them. Secondly, when faced with a difficult choice, either way is often best. Thirdly, always leave a party when people begin to play the bongos.
Now I just wait for the inevitable question: "Didn't you used to be Eric Idle?" That and the delicious irony that I get to sing my own song at my own funeral. I have prepared some last words. Well, you can't be too careful, can you? In the Eighties when I was still comparatively young, a man sitting next to me in the Groucho Club said, "Oh. that's funny seeing you here, I'm just writing your obituary."
I checked for vital signs, my wallet was still there, my dick was still there, my wife was still there.
"So far as I can tell," I said, "I'm not dead yet."
The young man explained that he was working for the Daily Telegraph and his job was to write obituaries of celebrities so that they would be ready to print at the drop of a hat.
"In that case," I said, "perhaps you'd like to know my last words?"
Indeed, he would.
"Say no more," I said.
He liked that. It's best to be prepared, and that does take care of the final words problem. Suppose you're having an off day and you can't think of anything funny, and you say something fatuous like "Pass the Kleenex." That would be embarrassing.
And my song goes on. I sang it at a Pembroke College fund-raiser in Cambridge in 2017 and they very kindly rewarded me with an honorary fellowship, which touched and moved me more than I can say. I sang it to the survivors of the England football team who won the World Cup fifty years before, back in 1966, when I had stood on the terraces at Wembley Stadium with Bill Oddie. I sang it at my daughter's graduation, where I was commencement speaker and Whitman College generously gave me an honorary degree. I have let Exit International use it, and, to the dismay of my wife and manager, I have turned down several large sums of money from advertisers to license it, so you will know I am either finally dead or destitute when you hear it on a car commercial. Not that I want to go, of course. I'll be like the rest of you, clinging on desperately and screaming for more morphine. Though I did want it to say on my tombstone: I'D LIKE A SECOND OPINION . . .
My funeral song will go on .. . and on . .. though obviously we don't. Dust to dust is about right. We dissipate into the carbon atoms we came from; technically. reincarnation is sort of correct, we get reassembled into other things. I'd like to be reassembled into a Tesla so my wife can still drive me.
I was born in the same place as my mother and I wonder if I will die in the same place as her, which would mean our home in LA. To be precise, in our guest room, but that's now become my wife's shoe closet. I think I wouldn't mind dying in there amongst the Jimmy Choos. I worship the ground she walks on anyway, so that would be appropriate. She, who sadly knows me best, thinks my last words will probably be "Fuck off'," but that doesn't look good on a tombstone, so instead I would like on my grave:
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
Next, we find Eric accepting an award in Hollywood on behalf of the Pythons...
A year later Monty Python was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, and John Du Prez and I went along with our touring company to accept the trophy. There were wonderful nostalgic clips of us at the Bowl twenty years earlier, and then Robin Williams came on like a blast from a blowgun and torched the audience with a high-octane tribute.
Originally Terry Gilliam was going to join me onstage to accept the award and then we were going to sing "Sit on My Face," but the Bowl nixed that naughty song, saying it was inappropriate for a gala, and so, sadly, Terry Gilliam pulled out. He has very high moral standards when it comes to low moral songs, so that moment of particular public tastelessness would have to wait.
Meanwhile I took the trophy from Robin and said:
It's wonderful to be back at the Bollywood Hole after all these years.
I am proud to be here on behalf of Monty Python to accept this honor.
I bring messages and thanks from the others. Terry Gilliam sadly can't be with us tonight as they won't let him show his ass, which has been very favorably compared with Spielberg's ass.
Graham Chapman can't be with us tonight, as sadly he is still dead. And John Cleese is finishing a movie.
He has to get it back to Blockbuster by tomorrow.
So that just leaves me here tonight.
And so, l'd like to thank me, without whom I too wouldn't be here this evening.
I'd like to thank everyone at the Bowl for honoring us in this way.
I'd like to thank Robin for friendship above and beyond the call of comedy.
But above all l'd like to thank America and you Americans for accepting Monty Python's essentially British silliness so warmly, so wholeheartedly, and so surprisingly.
Because, you see, I never wanted to do this for a living.
I always wanted to be a . . . lumberjack . . .
- and on marched a chorus of Mounties to sing the inevitable with John Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Of course, as we exited we naughtily sang "Sit on My Face" . . .
After Monty Python they honored Stevie Wonder, introduced with a spot-on impersonation by Smokey Robinson. At the end, there was an incredible curtain call, where I appeared holding hands with Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson. I can die now, I thought as the crowd went wild and two of my heroes held my hands and we bowed onstage at the Hollywood Bowl.
Little did I know I would return within a year for a less happy occasion.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
And the final excerpt I'll share is from Eric's time working with Leslie Nielsen on a 4-D ride for an amusement park...
A year later. Anheuser-Busch approached me with an offer to write one of these 4-D things. They wanted a pirate film for their Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, Virginia. I was intrigued by the technology so I wrote one. In mine, when seagulls flew overhead, water would drop like bird poop on the audience. I wrote the lead for Leslie Nielsen and he said he would do it only if l would be in it too. You mean filming in the West Indies on a pirate ship with Leslie Nielsen? Well, alright then. So off we went to Puerto Rico, eventually ending up filming on a boat in Cancel Bay off St. John, where I had stayed so happily with George and Liv. At the end of each day's filming I would dive overboard and swim back to my hotel.
I loved every second with Leslie. He was extremely funny. He would play with his own fame and had found a clever way of coming to terms with it. He had a fart machine. He kept it hidden in his hand. He used it to perfection on a crowded elevator in our tourist hotel.
People would enter the elevator and suddenly notice that there was Leslie Nielsen, deep in thought. staring into the middle distance. You would see them recognize him and nudge each other. He would gaze placidly ahead. completely unconcerned. not noticing. They would be trying to make up their minds to say something, but his benign concentration held them back. The doors would close. A moment of silence and then suddenly there would be a loud fart. Louder than socially polite. Impossible to ignore. But who was it? Leslie would continue to stare straight ahead. His face would not move a muscle. There would be another loud fart. The passengers would begin to look uncomfortable. Was that...Leslie Nielsen...farting?
Now it was awkward. They could hardly burst into "Aren't you Leslie Nielsen, we loved Airplane, can l have an autograph?" while he clearly had this epic bowel problem. Another couple of floors of silent descent
and there would be another extremely loud fart. This time there was no mistaking the source. Leslie would give away nothing. Not a glimmer. Not a twinkle. The tourists' eyes would meet. They would clearly just have to pretend it wasn't happening. They would give this poor farting star the anonymity his unfortunate entrails deserved. Mercilessly, as the ground floor approached, Leslie increased the tempo. He would play a whole range of farts, little ones, big ones, short ones, long ones, melodic ones, Handelian ones, starbursts, frog farts, his repertoire was lengthy and relentless, his face a study of intense concentration as this terrible barrage unfurled. Deeply embarrassed for him, the other passengers in the elevator looked studiously at the floor, avoiding each other's eyes and this terrible secret. Finally, the doors opened and the passengers burst out, leaving Leslie saying nothing, revealing nothing. It was the most brilliant controlled display of deadpan acting I ever saw.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
If you love the Pythons, love celebrity memoirs, love biographies in general, or just love to laugh, this is the book for you. Go get it (though you won't get the cool button and nameplate that I did, slackers!)
Alternate Routes, Tim Powers
I hate that I've waited so long to write down my thoughts on Alternate Routes, and more importantly, the Tim Powers signing of Alternate Routes at the Mysterious Galaxy book store in August of 2018. I will try to pry the memories out of my severely-damaged brain, but I'm sure much of the amazingness of hearing Tim Powers talk to the small audience of true-believers about anything and everything will be lost now. Luckily, I did jot down a few rough notes about the signing, so all hope is not lost.
I arrived late, so that wasn't great. And to top it off, I forgot to mute my phone. A few seconds after I arrived, my phone made its presence known with a loud "None of your Business!" (a sound clip of the belligerent French knight from Monthy Python & The Holy Grail), so that was awkward. Due to my inability to arrive on time, I stood near the store's entrance throughout the pre-signing and listened to Tim's many colorful stories. I seem to recall there being some open chairs set up near Tim, but I didn't want to disrupt the flow any more than I already had, so I stood unobtrusively in the back. The crowd for this book signing was significantly smaller than the semi-recent Bruce Campbell signing, which was a good thing for me, but not so great for Tim.
Tim talked about Alternate Routes for the first 20-30 minutes, then answered questions and talked about the L.A. area as a goldmine of story ideas. He referred to the inspirations as "hints, not completed stories." One of the things I actually remember was mention of a book called "Secret Stairways" - a book about stairways in the Hollywood hills that you'd never find without the book, which lead to secret valleys with weird temples, movie set graveyards, and other surreal, unexpected things to experience. There were other stories, but they've been pretty much lost in a dead end of my brain beyond a block of damaged synapses. I think he may have even revisited his Pirates of the Caribbean experience with On Stranger Tides. That seems to come up consistently at the signings. if you every have a chance to attend an event with Tim Powers speaking, I highly encourage you to attend. I guarantee you'll learn something.
After story time ended, there was a short line for the signing. While I waited, I also picked up hardcover copy of Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald. I thought about asking Tim to sign it just to be funny (Tim had mentioned being a big fan of HP Lovecraft) since the book is a Cthulhu vs Sherlock Holmes graphic novel, but chickened out. To tell you how elderly the crowd at this signing was, I might have been one of the youngest people there. The person in the signing line behind me actually knew Tim Powers and Philip K Dick (who I think I've mentioned from other signings that Tim Powers knew and hung out with for many years) when they were younger and hung out with them. As I was leaving, overheard Tim talking to her about the places they'd hung out and the other people who were there (Philip K Dick, specifically).
I thought I had some photos from the signing, but...I can't find a single photo (now over a year after the signing took place), so they may appear here someday if I can find them.
Now, on to the reasons you should read Alternate Routes (reasons that will be, in my defective brain, hazy at best since I read Alternate Routes months ago)...
With Tim Powers, you either get great historical fiction or great modern-day, generally set in Southern California, fiction. This is the latter - very similar to the Fault Lines series I read many years ago: Last Call (to be honest, I don't know if I read this one), Earthquake Weather, and Expiration Date. Tim Powers knows and loves Southern California. Or maybe just California in general. I can't remember any stories set north of Los Angeles right now, but there could have been some. But his knowledge of the history of the area is unsurpassed - he does his research. In this case specifically, his research would have been around secret service agents, the LA freeways , and occult practitioners of black magic (or gray magic or somewhere in-between).
Here are a few excerpts to give you a feel for the story.
In this one, the secret service and ex-secret service agents are hiding out from the government's secret occult agents in one of the many places found throughout L.A. I found this one interesting because it talks about the creepy too-real animation that's becoming more and more prevalent - and how it even spooks ghosts.
She shivered. "I imagine ghosts sitting at that other table, with a pitcher of lemonade, staring at the wall. Staring through the wall."
"Not in here," said Vickery. "They don't like the uncanny valley. Too bad the management doesn't let people sleep on the premises! Ah, here comes our dinner - - God knows what it is."
A heavily tattooed gray-haired man in a T-shirt brought two plates and set them on the table, along with plastic tableware wrapped in paper napkins. As he walked away, Vickery looked at what he'd brought them - it appeared to be cold marinated onion and carrot slices beside ladlefuls of steaming curried stuff, possibly chicken. By accident or
design, it all seemed to conform to the diet Hipple had recommended.
Castine had freed a fork and was already digging in. "Where's the uncanny valley?" she asked around a mouthful.
Vickery waved at the pictures and the nearest mannequin. "All around you. All the faces in the pictures are waxworks or Japanese robots or characters from new animated movies like Polar Express."
Castine shifted around in her chair, still chewing, to see the ones on the wall behind her. She swallowed and said, "Oh. Yes. I thought they were pictures of real people." She looked back at Vickery. "It's kind of creepy, all these realistic fakes."
Vickery nodded. "Exactly." He paused to take a mouthful of the steaming curried stuff; it was very spicy with cumin and peppers, but it did seem to be chicken. After a few moments he went on, "People don't mind most representations of faces - statues, animation - they like them better the more realistic they look. But there's a point when they look just a bit too realistic, and the approval curve drops; that's the uncanny valley, that dip on a graph. We find it creepy, but ghosts can't stand the apparent contradiction - it looks genuinely human, but you can sense that it's not."
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
In this one, our two secret service agents are sleeping in a tomb to stay off the radar of the people trying to catch them. As one would expect, creepiness ensues..
At last he fell asleep.
He didn't dream of Amanda; instead he dreamed that he was at a crowded table in a bar, and for a long time he couldn't make out the faces of the others at the table, nor remember where this place was. The conversation was lively and loud, and the words his companions spoke were in English, but Vickery wasn't able to fit them together into comprehensible sentences. Eventually he heard explosions and gunfire from the street outside - but none of his companions paused in their conversation, and he realized at last that this was the King Tiki Bar, one of the fake buildings in Hogan's Alley at the Rowley Training Center in Michigan. Hogan's Alley was a specially constructed tactical village, like a Hollywood set, in which Secret Service agents were confronted with various simulated attacks and trained in how to react; so of course the gun-battle outside was not real. But even though his tablemates went on talking as energetically as ever, Vickery now saw that their shirts and blouses were blotted with blood, and when one of the men turned to face him, the previously averted half of his face was just a gory crater. Vickery touched his own face just as the other man did the same, and he knew that he was looking into a mirror on the wall.
In the moments before he forced himself to open his eyes to the darkness of the tomb, all the people at the table fell silent, and then began to sing, very softly, an old song that he knew - and as he rolled over in his sleeping bag on the marble floor, he remembered what it was: "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?"
And though he was now awake, he was still hearing it.
The tomb was not completely dark; a faint glow of ambient city light made a narrow upright rectangle of the door, interrupted by the standing silhouette of Castine.
He saw her head turn in profile. "You're awake?" she whispered. "Check this out."
Vickery crawled out of the sleeping bag and stood up, and the floor was cold through his socks as he crossed to stand beside her.
The singing was more audible from the doorway, though still very faint. Vickery rubbed his eyes and peered out across the cemetery, and each of the tombstone-perching ghosts that he could make out was swaying gently, and the spots that were their mouths were wide; it was the ghosts that were singing. He thought some of the frail voices seemed to be those of children.
Standing in the doorway of a tomb under the infinite night sky, Vickery shivered as he listened to this secret chorus of the dead in the middle of the sleeping city, and he was glad that Castine was beside him.
She took his arm, as if for support. "The poor things," she whispered.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
Who knew shaman (is "shamen" the plural of shaman?) lived among us in modern times (at least in the alternate universes spun up by Tim Powers). In this one, we learn one of the dangers of L.A. freeways from a modern day shaman (who has been creeping around for a long time) living in the hills of L.A. And the danger on the freeways isn't related to the fast-moving metal boxes hitting each other or stationary objects.
"All this business." Laquedem went on, freeing one hand from a crutch to wave in a circle, "making use of the current generated when multiple free wills move at a constant speed past stationary free wills, in order to see little way into the future or past--it was harmless enough, back in the days when you could only work for the few seconds a train was passing, or by driving a wagon down a crowded street; though even from the first there were canny protests against railroads, and there was the law that an automobile must be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag, which prevented any effects. That law pretty much ended with the convoy from London to Brighton in '96.
"But when the big roads came along, providing endless streams of steadily moving free wills, the supernatural current could be strong enough so that a man might open a conduit to a sort of - what you might call - place, that exists outside of here. A region, a...situation Two times two might equal a million there, five times five might equal next Wednesday. It's a state in which irrationally expanded possibility prevails, and so ghosts gather there, and when a conduit is open they can come through to here." He pivoted on one crutch and scowled at Vickery."Someone was bound to open it sooner or later!"
Vickery nodded. "You opened it."
An elderly woman pushing a walker appeared in the doorway to the hall.
"Get out!" roared Laquedem, and she muttered a rude word at him and retreated. Turning back toward Vickery, he said, "Yes, I opened it.. God help me. I opened the...floodgates, and the Pasadena Freeway began to overlap with the Labyrinth. And as other LA freeways spread out, and the gypsies and the TUA have made more and more use of the current, the overlap has become more extensive - the worlds, as it were, have got closer to each other. Ghosts come across now without even being summoned, even entities whose never happened to occur, and all the souls who die in the here go across the other way." He bared his teeth in a grimace. "Sometimes even living people go across the other way!"
"So l've seen," sighed Vickery, "so I've seen."
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
I had several other passages noted to share, but they just didn't stand well enough on their own out of context with the rest of the story to make them worth sharing. Even though most of the excerpts I shared are pretty much rooted in supernatural stuff, there's much more to the story than just ghosts and haunted highways. Tim Powers is, as I mentioned above in regard to his speaking at the signing, a great storyteller. If you appreciate speculative fiction, you;'ll love any of Tim's books.
Return to the Dreaded Land of Disney
I was just going to blather about books, but I decided to mention something non-book-related: Disneyland. We returned to the land of Disney after over a year of avoiding the overcrowded & overpriced nightmare that is Disneyland because Emeli was home from school and Star Wars land had opened (in addition to a bunch of other changes in the parks that didn't really entice me at all). I remembered the days after Labor day being very lightly crowded the last time we'd had annual passes, so we decided to schedule a trip in September after Labor day. And while not amazingly empty, it wasn't painfully crowded. We actually went on every ride we wanted without having to wait in exceptionally heinous lines, as well as exploring the new surprisingly immersive Star Wars section of the park. It did get a little busier as the day went on, but was never as awful as it usually gets. We just parked in the Toy Story lots so we could stay as long as we wanted to.
As for the new Star War section of the Park, I was impressed. It's an interesting transition to walk from the old west in Frontier land to an Imperial outpost on some alien planet in Star Wars land. The buildings are as authentic (if you can call something that comes from a complete work of Fiction "authentic") as Disney's many other immersive areas (Main Street and New Orleans Square are my favorite "immersive" areas). The giant weird rock formations surrounding the outpost really add to the otherworldly feeling and separation from the rest of the park. And I really liked seeing all the full-sized vehicles (a land-speeder, a pod racer, an X-Wing, an A-Wing fighter, the Millennium Falcon, and a couple of Imperial shuttles) throughout the park. There were a few characters from the films (Rey, Chewy, several stromtroopers) and also a few cast members who weren't from the films dressed as Outpost personnel who were interacting with the real characters. The cast member who played Rey was spot-on - she even spoke with an English accent. I didn't get any good photos of her, but you can see her messing around with the X-Wing in a couple of photos. A wookie (possibly Chewbacca) was up there, too. I didn't drop any dough on Star Wars related merchandise, other than a bottle of water with weird alien writing.
Here are some photos from the visit (including a few that are intended to show how not crowded the park was for our visit). First, here's Main Street decorated for Halloween.
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Next, a few from Adventureland (this was the first time I'd climbed around on Tarzan's Treehouse - formerly the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse - in many years, so I took a bunch of photos of the area.
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And then on to my favorite area in all of Disneyland, New Orleans Square. Home of the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
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My last batch of photos all came from the new Star Wars land. They did a really good job with the details, despite the lack of much of anything to do here.
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We returned to Disneyland a few weeks later and had our Happy-Disney-Bubble burst. It was as crowded as ever and we didn't go on a single ride in Disneyland. Luckily, we'd planned for a short visit (we parked in the Downtown Disney lot that requires Downtown Disney validation with a $20 purchase for 3 hours parking or a sit-down restaurant purchase for 5 hour validation), so we were out the bucks we spent on a meal at the La Brea Bakery in Downtown Disney, but their food is pretty great, so that wasn't too painful. Star Wars land was too over-crowded to be enjoyable and it was a shoulder-to-shoulder crush of people. We did make our way to California Adventure, which was only slightly less crowded) and went on the one ride of the day: Soaring over The World (I think that's what it's called now). I hadn't been on it since it was Soaring Over California. It's as good a ride as any in Disneyland and my favorite in California Adventure, though I do enjoy the Little Mermaid ride, too. That ride feels misplaced in California Adventure, though - it should be in Fantasy land on the Disneyland side.
Here are a few of the photos I took this on abbreviated visit (mostly just to show how much more crowded the park was this time - the first photo is the transition from old west to science fiction in the tunnel to Star Wars land).
click here to show all the thumbnails
I also thought about showing the new set of comics adorning my cubicle wall, but I decided to save those for later. And I just finished another book, David Savakerrva, that's going to jump to the head of the line for the next exciting addition of Who has the time to read all this drivel?.
There are probably only three1 currently-touring musical acts that I'm really interested in seeing live. Dia Frampton (and now even more so, Meg & Dia) is one of the three. So when I head Dia announce on Twitter that she would be touring and coming to San Diego, I went online and immediately bought tickets. And, not surprisingly, I'm glad I did.
If you missed out on Meg & Dia's earlier albums, you can still get a few of them from HelloMerch (and see the band's original line-up).
I'd never been to the Soma venue that Meg & Dia were playing, so I wasn't sure what to expect. There was plenty of parking, which was nice (maybe it would have been worse with more well-known performers), and it's located just down the street from the Sports Arena. The venue itself looks like an old movie theater and was standing room only inside the SideStage room (I don't know what the MainStage room looks like or what it offers for seating). By the end of the 3-hour show, my legs and feet were barking. I'm too old to stand in one place for hours.
Before the show started (I'd arrived early, not knowing what to expect), I picked up the HappySad CD (I'd been waiting to buy it because I was hoping there would be signed CDs or maybe a CD signing event, but if there was, I missed it). I was tempted to buy the vinyl record version of the album, but I decided to pass on it. Now I'm wishing I had picked up the vinyl.
The show started just before 8:00 with the first opening act, a local San Diego band I was unfamiliar with, Glamour Waves. Glamour Waves reminded me a little of No Doubt, mainly because the lead singer is a tiny little pixie with long blonde hair, which she constantly flipped around, and way too much weird eye makeup. She wore fishnet stockings and a t-shirt that fell down to mid-thigh. If there was anything on under the t-shirt, I didn't see it. The band consisted of the blonde lead-singing pixie, a guitarist, a bass player, 2 saxophone players, a trumpet player, and a drummer. The brass section didn't play in every song but they were a nice touch on the songs they did contribute to. I can't honestly say I cared much for any of Glamour Waves' music, but the acoustics of the room/volume of the amplification made it a big muffled mess so I couldn't really judge it fairly. The bass player was a character and the lead singer (I wish I had names, but I can't find anything online) was pretty enthusiastic. Sadly, the distorted, blaring audio made pretty much everything she said into muffled noise. It was like being inside a Peanuts cartoon. Part of the problem may have been the volume level of the microphone. I don't know. I do know that the speaking and singing of both was pretty much a solid wall of noise.
Next came an L.A. band I'd also never heard of, New Dialogue. This was a smaller band: a heavily tattooed female lead singer wearing leather short-shorts and a tube top, a male singer who also played guitar and reminded me of a Talking Heads cover band performer, a skinny mustached guy on guitar, a bearded guy on bass, and a drummer in a hoodie who looked like he was hiding from the law. Their songs were pretty generic and not all that interesting. And they also suffered from the same audio-difficulties of the previous act.
Finally, an hour later, Meg & Dia's crew got to work prepping the stage for their performance2. Meg & Dia's guitarist (co-guitarist - Meg also plays the guitar very well), Carlo Gimenez, was doing some fun crowd-work while walking back and forth across the stage. He was very entertaining - before he even picked up his guitar. There was no sign of a bass player. And the drummer was introduced as a new band member, so I don't know what happened there. The new drummer was a lot of fun to watch during the set, as he twirled him drumsticks and never missed a beat. Unfortunately, the percussion was too much for such a compact venue and just drowned out everything else (not just with Meg & Dia - it was a constant for all the bands). And maybe it was more familiarity with so much of their music, but I recognized and followed along with most of their songs (not the new ones on the album I'd just acquired, of course), There were a few songs that were more stripped down with just Dia's vocals and Meg on guitar and sometimes singling, too. Those were magical. One was Dear Heart, which is a song that I suspect was about the separation the sisters felt during the past several years following Dia's attempt to become a solo artist. Dia had to stop singing at one point because she started crying. She did recover and fish the song, but it was a touching moment.
Between songs were many stories told by both Meg and Dia. Events like shoe shopping and Dia's new jacket, and a few about their childhood. It was so interesting to hear about their actual life events. Also so sweet and wonderful was Dia's tiny sweet little voice saying "Thank you" at the end of every song. I loved it when Dia did the same thing on her last tour. She's so adorable. And I'd never seen Meg in person before, but...wow. She's even more gorgeous than Dia. I wish I'd been able to get a photo of Meg that captures just how attractive she is in real life because no photo I've ever seen does her justice. The Frampton sisters share some great genes.
Meg & Dia finished their set strongly with Monster, one of the not-stripped down songs. and even through the crowd was tiny and many left after Monster, enough weirdos stuck around and kept clapping and cheering to get Meg & Dia to come back and do an encore. Unfortunately, they hadn't done an encore in their earlier shows and Dia said they'd already performed all the songs they had prepared. Carlo came back on to the stage and whispered something off-microphone to the girls. After Meg and Dia discussed things (also off-mic), Dia announced that they were going to perform a stripped-down version of one of their new songs, Teenagers. And it was beautiful and amazing. And should have been on the album this way.
Here's the video for Monster. The live performance, and a more experienced Meg and Dia, made the live version of the song different - and maybe a little better. But there's something charming about the younger Frampton sisters' performance, too.
One final comment about this show. It was advertised as an "all ages show," but there were more than a few f-bombs lobbed during the between-song spoken bits, mostly from the male co-singer in New Dialogue. Only one came from Dia, though she did share a few other words of a non-f-bomb, yet still profane, variety. There were also a few songs that violated the "all ages" label - mostly from the two opening bands.
One final (and late) comment not-about-the-show: I just listened to a Podcast (Just A Tip with Megan Batoon) that Meg & Dia were guests on. I had never, prior to this episode, heard of this Podcast, but I really enjoyed it. It was, surprisingly, not very much about Meg & Dia's music and mainly just about dating. Throughout the episode, I struggled to tell Meg & Dia's voices apart, which seems weird because Meg has such a distinctive voice. Loved getting to know both girls just a little better.
There's still a bunch of stuff I plan to mention someday (mostly fun trips over the past year or so), but I think the book-blather tsunami is probably up next. Or maybe I'll squeeze in some Disneyland blathering. Or maybe a little Susie Cakes blather. Who knows?
1 The other two performers are Xenia (another discovery from The Voice) and Grace Vanderwaal (who I only found out about after she won her TV talent show, so I was late to the game). Admittedly, I wouldn't say no to Green Day, Chris Isaac, Living Colour, The Lemonheads, or many of the wandering 80s bands that pass through town, but I have been a little lax in seeing shows from many of the above when they passed through town over the past few years.
2 It was interesting to watch each band (with the help of a couple of guys who I assume work for the SOMA venue) setting everything up and tearing it down between each band's set.