Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!—Celebrating my fave songs

To mark DDAD 2019, I decided to showcase ten of my favourite songs. One of the many reasons I’ve been a Duranie for almost eight and a half years is because of the wonderful lyrics. So many of their songs are like poetry.

1: “The Seventh Stranger,” last track on Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983). Where to start! Every line is like pure poetry. I’ve used the line “like splinters of ice” in my own writing, and titled a chapter “Trading in His Shelter for Danger.”

2: “Secret Oktober,” B-side of “Union of the Snake” (1983). It’s like an avant-garde, surrealistic poem. I really want to use some of the lines as part of chapter titles.

3: “My Antarctica,” sixth track on Liberty (1991). While Liberty is one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard (even worse than Extra Texture), this is one of two standout gems. So romantic! I titled one chapter “Heat Beneath His Winter.”

4: “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” third track on Rio (1982). It’s so beautiful and romantic. I have a chapter entitled “Lonely in Their Nightmares,” and called the first part of a book “Angry in His Nightmare.”

5: “Perfect Day,” third track on Thank You (1995), an album of covers. This was originally a Lou Reed song, and one of the album’s standouts. It reached #28 in the U.K. Lou said, “I think Duran Duran’s version of ‘Perfect Day’ is possibly the best rerecording of a song of mine. I’m not sure that I sang it as well as Simon sang it. I think he sings it better than I. If I could’ve sung it the way he did, I would’ve. It wasn’t from lack of trying.”

6: “To the Shore,” fourth track on their eponymous début (1981). More beautiful surrealistic poetry! It’s a shame this lovely song was left off the U.S. repackaging of their first album, replaced with the single “Is There Something I Should Know?”

7: “Out of My Mind,” fourth track on Medazzaland (1997). The video is so deliciously macabre, making the lyrics even better and taking them in such a wonderfully dark direction. It reached #21 in the U.K. and #14 in Italy.

8: “Beautiful Colours,” recorded 2005 but not officially released on an album or as a single. I love the line “Life isn’t standard-issue, it’s customised.” I’ve used riffs on that line a number of times in my writing.

9: “Palomino,” seventh track on Big Thing (1988). Absolutely gorgeous, lush poetry!

10: “Come Undone,” sixth track on The Wedding Album (1993). Officially, it’s their second eponymous album, but just about everyone calls it The Wedding Album because of the cover art with photos of the bandmembers’ parents’ weddings. The song reached #2 in Canada, #6 in Italy, #7 in the U.S., #9 in Ireland, #13 in the U.K., #16 in New Zealand, #19 in Finland and Australia, and #42 in Belgium and Germany.

This was the song that flipped the switch and made me a Duranie on Valentine’s Day 2011. Someone named it as one of their most romantic songs, and I looked up the video and ended up watching it over and over. This song made me come undone!

WeWriWa—How it should’ve ended


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from my alternative history, And Aleksey Lived, which released 17 July, on my primary protagonist’s real-life 100th death anniversary. Once I’ve earned enough money from sales, I’ll use some of it to make donations to the National Hemophilia Foundation and the National Hemophilia Federation, in memory of Aleksey.

This will be the last sample I’ll share from this book for awhile. These are the final lines, from the second section of the short Epilogue. Like the end of the main text of my magnum opus Cinnimin, it’s also based on the wording of Deuteronomy 34, the final chapter of the Torah. Those final paragraphs always give me goosebumps.

The time had come for Aleksey to die.  He was one hundred years old at the time of his death, his eyesight undimmed, his mind as sharp as ever, his intellect unabated, his overwhelming sense of compassion as strong as it’d been throughout his whole life.  He and his belovèd Arkadiya breathed their last breaths together, holding hands.  Just as Arkadiya had always promised, she’d made it to one hundred seven to ensure Aleksey survived a full century.

The Imperial Family bewailed their passing for forty days and forty nights, in keeping with Russian Orthodox tradition, unable to believe the couple who’d led their empire for so many decades was suddenly no more.

The period of mourning for Aleksey and Arkadiya came to an end.  Following the period of mourning, Yarik was coronated.  Now Yarik was filled with the spirit of wisdom and compassion, because of the lifelong example he’d gotten from his parents; and since he was cut from the same cloth as his father, the people of Russia heeded him and did as he said.

Never again did there arise a leader like Tsar Aleksey II, called Tsar Aleksey the Savior, who was the most compassionate, intelligent, humane, enlightened Tsar who ever lived; lived through ten decades of history; survived longer than any other hemophiliac; who was snatched from certain Death the month before his fourteenth birthday by a last-minute miracle; and who demonstrated a powerful harnessing of might and compassion before all the peoples of the world.

Beginnings Blogfest

My Horny Hump Day post is here.


Today, 9 January, L.G. Keltner of Writing Off the Edge is holding a blogfest in which participants write about various beginnings—blogging, books, writing, jobs, relationships, life, etc. It’s in honor of her first blogoversary.

I was strongly leaning towards writing one of the stories of how I got into any one of my favorite bands, but decided against it. (If you don’t like those bands, you might not like my stories!) I also considered the story of how I was inspired to write my first Russian novel, since my 20th anniversary of that beginning is coming up at the end of this month. (Where did all that time go? Was 1993 really twenty years ago?!)

I decided to go with my story of how I began moving towards greater religious observance, excerpted in part from a blog entry I wrote in October. Until I was 22, I’d believed all the stereotypes about Orthodox Judaism, and didn’t realize what a diverse community Orthodoxy is. At the moment, I’m still not in a position to officially affiliate Orthodox, and I may never be 100% of the way there, but I would love to someday be part of a Liberal Modern Orthodox community. None of the Orthodox people I’ve ever known are the crazy fanatics who get all the bad press, people who throw rocks at women at the Western Wall or making blurry glasses so men can’t see women.


In late February 2002, I decided to take an Orthodox friend up on his invitation to go with him and a few other friends to Chabad after the Hillel services and dinner. I believed all these stereotypes about the Orthodox, and hated the idea of sex-segregated services. But he said we were going there for dinner, not more services.

It was such a lovely community. I immediately took to it. It’s easy to dismiss something when you’ve never experienced it, but when the real and the ideal conflict, you often change your perspective. I suddenly wasn’t offended at the fact that I couldn’t shake hands with the rabbis, or that men and women had to dance separately, or that the married women wore wigs.

At the end of March (the day the Queen Mum died), I bit the bullet and went for a Saturday morning service. It was my first time at an Orthodox service, and I ended up really enjoying it and feeling at home. I really liked the separate davening (praying), and how we have our own secret little world the men don’t know about. It’s easier for me to concentrate behind the mechitza, and I like the old-world feel to it. There tends to be a smaller crowd in the women’s section, and I’m usually one of only a few women who’s there for the entire service instead of popping in and out, but that just makes it feel more special, gives me even more private space to talk to Hashem.

For the first time, I was called by my Hebrew name, Chana. My full name is Chana Esther Dafna, but it’s not always easy for people to remember a triple name. I became Shomeret Shabbat (guardian of the Sabbath, or observing all the Sabbath prohibitions against things like using electricity). I added long skirts to my wardrobe and stopped wearing pants. I was Orthodox in all but name.

Sadly, I had to go back to the Berkshires after graduation, and all that beautiful forward momentum was lost for many years. I’ve been unmarried and childfree way longer than I ever dreamt I’d be. But at least I’m finally back on track with my spiritual identity.

Wildest Moments Blogfest

My Autumn’s Harvest post is here.

As part of the festivities to celebrate the release of her book Wilde’s Meadow, Krystal Wade is hosting a Wildest Moments blogfest. Participants will post about wild, life-changing, inspirational, heart-pounding moments they experienced. Anyone who posts between now and the 23rd can win a Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire Skins, or a $15 Amazon gift card.

In July of 2001, I was in Colorado for my maternal grandparents’ 50th anniversary party. (Their real anniversary is in September, but the family reunion was scheduled for a time it was more convenient for everyone to come out there.) That place was chosen because it’s where my surviving uncle and his family live. I must say, he picked a beautiful state to make his adopted home.

We were staying at the famous Bald Pate Inn in Estes Park, and one of our hikes was going to be up the nearby Twin Sisters Peaks. But on our way towards the climb, I had to go back to the inn because my shorts were too tight. I had to change into a new size 14 pair my mother had bought me in the aftermath of my college weight gain. At the time (I was 21), this was humiliating, but now I don’t care if I wear something that’s a size 14 on the high end or a size 8 on my lowest end. It’s not the size, it’s how healthy and active you are.

By the time I got back to the trail, the others had already started climbing. There was a fork in the road, and I picked the road I thought they’d gone on. The East Twin Sisters Peak is 11,428 feet high, and the West Twin Sisters Peak is 11,413 feet. All the way up the peak, I never ran into any of my relatives, and when I reached the summit, they weren’t there.

I began thinking they might be on the other peak and that I’d taken the wrong turn, but I couldn’t see anyone across the way. Then when I was standing on top of a hill on the mountain, I tripped and fell down, cutting my knee open somewhat badly. I think it was my left knee.

I had no other choice but to get off that mountain the exact way I’d come up. And keep in mind the sun is beating down very strongly. I had to walk all 11,400+ feet down with blood coming out of my knee and my leg feeling stiff and hurting. At least this was when I still had two fully-functioning legs, before my accident and the resulting 4 leg surgeries and metal hardware in my right leg. When I finally found some relatives again on a veranda at the inn, they thought I’d skipped the hike, but I told them, no, I climbed the wrong Sister and cut my knee open.

A few days later, we were on another hike/climb, and my uncle was very impressed with me for fully participating. He couldn’t believe I’d be up to more climbing and hiking after I’d just gotten injured. I love hiking and climbing, and wouldn’t dream of sitting out this uncommon chance to take on some real mountains in Colorado. We don’t go out there to visit him very often, and I wanted to take full advantage of the outdoors activities.

Somewhat off-topic but related to the story: On our way home to Massachusetts, our connecting flight was a small aircraft that flew low over NYC so we could have a good look at the Manhattan skyline, including the World Trade Center. Two months later, that skyline was gone.

Quarter-Century Mark

Today is the last day of the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge. Three major things happened when I was 25:

1. I finally learnt to drive, though I wasn’t to get my car till I was a month shy of 27. I’d grown up with the media-perpetuated stereotype that everyone automatically takes driver’s ed in high school and is driving by 16, usually in a car their parents give them for a birthday present. Total BS. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one person who was given a car by her parents, and she had to earn that present. It wasn’t given to her automatically.

My brother learnt how to drive the same year I did, though he’s 6.5 years my junior. He was a better learner than I was. I was so terrified in the early days of being behind the wheel. It was like I couldn’t believe I was responsible for moving this huge heavy machine all by myself. I was scared out of my mind the first time I drove on a road, to say nothing of being on the highway.

Practice makes perfect, and I’m a pretty good driver today. I didn’t pass my road test till the third try, but I’ve made up for lost time since.

2. I finally went on Birthright in June 2005. Birthright is a free 10-day trip to Israel for youth between ages 18-26 who’ve never been on an organized trip there before. It’s really important for building pro-Israel advocacy and a strong, positive Jewish identity. The trip has changed so many lives. I applied several times at uni, but was put on waiting lists every time. I applied again after graduation, but was on waiting lists then too.

One of the trip leaders was actually a girl I’d gone to uni with. I went with the IsraelExperts group, on a Boston-based trip. It’s impossible to describe the beauty and awe of this amazing land where ancient and modern co-exist, where five religions live together, where the events of the Bible happened. There’s a Magickal, mystical element to the passage of time, sort of like the so-called “mystical vav” in the Torah.

Beautiful mosque, beautiful purple flowers

This is the Sidna Omar Mosque, in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It hasn’t been used in decades, but after the city’s reunification after the Six-Day War, it was restored and protected.

So beautiful and yet so off-limits and audaciously built right on top of the Temple Mount

I’ve gotten some much better pictures of the Dome of the Rock on my later two trips. It’s such a beautiful, integral part of the Jerusalem cityscape. I love the idea of a Third Temple being built as a universal house of prayer for all peoples, with no animal sacrifice, but not on this spot. World War III would break out if zealots destroyed the Dome of the Rock just to build a new Temple on the same spot as the old ones.

The Santa Claus House

This strange place is called the Santa Claus House. It’s in Haifa, Israel’s most well-integrated city, where all 5 faiths live together in love, peace, and harmony. Every year, lots of people, regardless of faith, come to this house to celebrate Christmas together.

3. My grandpap died. I’ve previously written about him and what a wonderful person he was. He was a product of his time, but he was also a very, very good person. He lived what he knew, even if some of his attitudes come off as close-minded or racist in the modern era or in a larger city. I know a bit what that’s like myself, having grown up considering words like “Eskimo” and “mentally retarded” to be socially acceptable, yet today many people consider them offensive. I couldn’t help the language I was taught when I had no frame of reference to think that was bad.

My grandma was given some “Grandmother Remembers”-type book by my parents when I was young, and she gave it to me when I was an adult. In the “Grandpap Would Like You to Know” page, she wrote that he wasn’t a bit mad at me for the time I accidentally turned on one of his beloved lawnmowers and sent it barreling down the hill in the backyard towards the woods.

I was four years old, and fooling around in the toolshed. I ran away when I realized what I’d done. Grandpap had to run after the lawnmower to catch it before it got too far into the woods and down onto the highway below. Apparently he often laughed about the incident.