Posted in 1980s, 1990s, holidays, Music

Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!—Celebrating my fave songs, Part II

To mark DDAD 2020, I decided to do a Part II of last year’s celebration of my personal Top 10 faves. The songs in the second half of my Top 20 are in no particular order. I can hardly believe Valentine’s Day 2021 will mark ten years since I became a Duranie! Where did all that time go already?

11. “The Edge of America,” eleventh track on Big Thing (1988). So many lovely, deep, thought-provoking lyrics. I particularly love the refrain, “Learn to love your anger now, anger here is all you possess.” This is the kind of political song I like, intelligently and respectfully making a point without angrily, one-sidedly ranting and condemning anyone who doesn’t think that way.

My 34-year-old little brother just disowned me, in a fit of rage, because I support J.K. Rowling and don’t share his toxic woke ideology, so this is a very relevant subject now. So many people, particularly the younger ones, have forgotten, or never learnt, how to have dialogue and state their case without a torrent of insults and ignoring anything that contradicts their ideology.

12. “Do You Believe in Shame?,” sixth track on Big Thing. This tribute to Andy Warhol, record producer Alex Sadkin, and Simon’s childhood friend David Miles has such beautiful, poetic lyrics. The music video is also great.

13. “Last Chance on the Stairway,” seventh track on Rio (1982). Once again, such lovely lyrics, pure poetry in motion. So many people criminally underestimate this wonderful band because of the stigma of throngs of screaming teenyboppers in the Eighties. Some bands who get really popular really quickly and are heavily marketed to teenyboppers have substance below the prettyboy image.

14. “New Religion,” sixth track on Rio. This is a quintessential example of a song with a very long intro done right. There’s over a minute of instrumentation before the first note is sung, but it’s more than worth the wait. It builds anticipation beautifully.

I love the haunting lyrics and vocal tracking. They work so well with the music. The title of my future sixth book with my Russian characters (to be set 1957–64) will be Seagulls Gathered on the Wind, after a line from this song.

15. “Khanada,” B-side of “Careless Memories.” I named my eleventh journal after this song (pronounced Ka-NAY-da, not like the country). The lyrics are like surrealistic poetry, and very evocative of a dream or fairytale.

16. “Serious,” fourth track on Liberty (1990). One of the two standout gems from an awful album that bombed for a reason. Even if the record company had promoted it a lot better, most of the songs are terrible. How did beautiful songs like “Serious” and “My Antarctica” end up among so many bottom of the barrel scrapings!

Warning: Video NSFW or under 18!

17. “The Chauffeur,” final track on Rio. Like “Khanada,” the lyrics are rather trippy and surrealistic, and like poetry in motion. At least twenty other artists have covered it, and it’s been sampled in several other songs. The music video is a prime example of how to be sexy without being smutty.

18. “Breath After Breath,” seventh track on The Wedding Album (1993). I love how part of it is in Portuguese (sung by Milton Nascimento). Romance languages have a natural poetry built into them. Though I’ve never studied Portuguese, either formally or independently, I usually understand a fair amount because it’s so close to Spanish, which I studied for seven years.

19. “Too Much Information,” first track on The Wedding Album. The message about a constant barrage of capitalist advertising and over-commercialized music industry is still relevant over 25 years later.

20. “Tel Aviv” with lyrics, bonus track on their eponymous début (1981). The instrumental version is the final track on the album, but this powerful song somehow went unreleased for 30 years. Though I want to live in the Lower Galilee (preferably Tiberias, right on the lake) when I make aliyah, Tel Aviv is also awesome. Hearing this song makes me wish I could visit Israel again soon!

Posted in 1950s, Couples, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Unexpected gifts

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, from Chapter 55, “The Streets of the Future,” of my WIP A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. This chapter, which closes Part I (to be published as Volume I), is mostly set over Orthodox Christmas 1950.

Twenty-year-old Bogdana Sheltsova, who survived two horrific, life-altering events six weeks apart, is now living with her aunt Fyodora in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Bogdana and Fyodora were discussing skating at Prospect Park when the doorbell rang and Bogdana found her friend Achilles with roses and a gift bag.

The last time Bogdana saw Achilles, who’s also a med student and her cabbie, she made an extremely unprofessional request which Achilles turned down in horror. She’s shocked he sought out her company after that scene in the clinic.

“Thank you for thinking of me, Mr. Medved, but you made it clear our professional relationship cannot continue. You can leave the flowers and present with my aunt, and I’ll get you the presents I bought you and your daughter.”

“Come here, Bogusya,” Achilles calls. “I came to see you because I like you so much. I never said I wanted to stop being your friend or that I hated you.”

Bogdana tentatively steps forward and accepts the flowers. “You’re always so thoughtful. I hope you haven’t spent too much money on all these flowers.”

“Money’s no object when it comes to making you happy, and there’s no such thing as getting a lady too many flowers.”

Posted in 1950s, Couples, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Bogdana’s Christmas surprise

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. For my Orthodox Christmas-themed snippet this year, I’m sharing something from Chapter 55, “The Streets of the Future,” of my WIP A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. This chapter, which closes Part I (to be published as Volume I), is mostly set over Orthodox Christmas 1950.

Twenty-year-old Bogdana Sheltsova, who survived two horrific, life-altering events six weeks apart, is now living with her aunt Fyodora in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Bogdana mostly lives in the guesthouse, but she’s been prevailed upon to join her aunt’s family in the main estate for Christmas. Her discussion with her aunt about wearing old-fashioned skating boots to Prospect Park was interrupted by the doorbell.

This has been slightly altered to fit ten lines.

Bogdana goes back to the Christmas tree in the sitting room when Fyodora goes to answer the door. She has no intention of trading her ankle-length grey wool dress for a skating outfit she can comfortably move in, and doesn’t care if she’s the most unfashionable person on the rink. Those people ought to be more concerned with their own affairs instead of gossiping about someone else’s.

“Bogusya, Dyed Moroz has a surprise present for you!” Fyodora calls.

Bogdana clenches her fists. “Don’t tell me you paid some old man to dress up like Dyed Moroz and come to deliver a gift. I’m too old for that silliness, and even if I still believed in Dyed Moroz, nothing could change my melancholic mood. The die was cast that disgusting night, and nothing can ever change it.”

“Please, come take a look at your present before you decide it’s worthless; something tells me you’ll really, really like it.”

Bogdana returns to the front entryway, and immediately looks away when she sees Achilles standing there, holding a large bouquet of red roses in his right hand and a small gift bag in his left hand.

Posted in 1940s, Food, Historical fiction, holidays, Shoah, Writing

WeWriWa—An unlikely celebration

Copyright Jüdischen Museum Im Stadtmuseum, Berlin
Yad Vashem Photo Archives 5409/3094

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. For my last Chanukah-themed snippet this year, I’m sharing something from Chapter 17, “Evacuated Westward,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees.

It’s December 1944, and a group of nine young women from Abony, Hungary, along with two non-Jewish friends, have recently been moved from the privileged Kanadakommando sorting detail at Auschwitz to the all-female Breslau–Hundsfeld factory. Because this factory was run by the Wehrmacht, not the SS, prisoners had rather good treatment, including the chance to clandestinely celebrate Chanukah.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten lines.

Copyright Posner Family Estate, courtesy of Shulamit Mansbach, Haifa, Israel

A week before the holiday, one of the women had organized some leftover cotton and thread from the factory and hidden them under the mattresses. She had also gotten hold of some precious potatoes, cut them in half, created indents for oil, and twisted wicks. Since the prisoners had relative freedom in their living quarters, they were able to gather to light candles, sing holiday songs, and bless one another. As always, they talked about food too.

“My mother always made noodles and cabbage with poppy seeds,” Hajnalka said on the fifth night, rubbing her stomach. “My favorite was chicken paprikash.”

“I wish we had lots of latkes to fill our stomachs,“ Klaudia said. “I’d dunk mine in an ocean of applesauce, sour cream, lecsó, quark, you name it. Next Chanukah, I’m going to stuff myself silly with sufganiyot. My favorite filling was blueberry, but I’d take any filling after this crummy diet, since I’ve got to build my voluptuous figure back up.”

Posted in 1930s, Atlantic City books, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Resisting assimilation

Copyright Jüdischen Museum Im Stadtmuseum, Berlin;
Yad Vashem Photo Archives 5409/3083

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP.

As last year, my Christmas- and Chanukah-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

It’s now the eighth night of Chanukah, which coincides with Christmas Eve, and the Smalls and Filliards are having a joint holiday meal. Cinnimin’s mother tries once again to talk the Smalls into adopting secular Christmas symbols, but they steadfastly refuse.

Mrs. Filliard helped herself to more pierogi. “Are you sure you don’t want to put up a Chanukah bush and a few secular decorations? The Christmas season ain’t over till January seventh, Russian Christmas. Even many people who ain’t Orthodox celebrate Twelfth Night on January sixth with special foods.”

“We’ll never celebrate Christmas,” Mrs. Small said. “It’s your holiday, not ours.”

“Chanukah is about resisting assimilation,” Gary agreed. “The Maccabees fought against the Seleucids’ attempts at introducing Greek customs, language, and religion into Judea. If our ancestors had given in and accepted foreign religion and culture, we’d be as much in the dustbin of history as the Seleucids are now. The holiday is about so much more than the oil lasting for eight nights instead of only one.”