Children’s Literature: A Gripping Read

The Stumps of Flattop Hill

(The Curious Flower Girl of the Town Down Below)

By Kenneth Kit Lamug

A fairytale like no other, The Stumps of Flattop Hill is a lusciously penned cautionary tale, with mild horror elements, about a little girl Florence, who more strongly believed the children daring her by exploiting a perceived personal flaw, than believing them about any of the real dangers laying in wait in the House on Flattop Hill.

“They dared, declared
that Florence was scared
to enter the house on Flattop Hill.”

And yet young Florence didn’t heed the warning about the house being a place of pure evil, it called out to something deep inside — perhaps loneliness, a need to prove them all wrong, natural curiosity (written in such a way that you can draw your own meaning)…  we are invited along on a beautifully grisly, increasingly tense journey all the way to the absolute end. Although the artwork echoes the work of Edward Gorey and Tin Burton, in this work, Kenneth Kit Lamug has created very much his own style.



With so much to love about this fairytale and all the details highlighted with flecks of nuance and shadowed with splashes of dread, there’s scope for discussion. A strong warning arises when Florence passes by the departed spirits making their way home across the river Styx that adds to the ominous tones. Once explained that the River is the causeway between life and death, the foreboding only deepens.

The house of Flattop Hill does not disappoint

A fun read for seasoned readers; to be read out loud, an absolute must and with as much dramatic expression as you can muster… just be cautious with more sensitive children, if you’re not certain, avoid the first read at bedtime — besides you may need to leave some room for discussion of some very long words and concepts. Written in a rhythmic style, the visual elements scattered throughout draw the art and story neatly together.

In the world of Children’s literature, Kenneth Kit Lamug both illustrator and author, is more than good enough to hold his head high, and stand alongside the rest of the best. I will be on the lookout for more of his work in future. Links to his existing work are in the Author’s biography below. If you would like to support the Author more directly, the links to his work are on his website: The Stumps of Flattop Hill .

Said Kenneth Kit-Lamug;

“This book is meant to be read aloud; that’s when it comes alive.
It is my goal to inspire and spark imaginations.
Kids love campfire stories and this is one that will keep them talking.
My four-and seven-year olds love to repeat the rhymes over and over.”

About the Author

Kenneth Kit Lamug is a Filipino-American author/illustrator based in Las Vegas, Nevada. His debut picture book A Box Story has won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, Literary Classics, Pinnacle Awards and the National Indie Excellence Book Awards. He has contributed to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tiny Books of Tiny Stories, Underneath the Juniper Tree and various publications. He has also worked in movies, comics and his photography has been showcased internationally.

Watch the trailer for a sneak peak into the wonderful imaginings of Kenneth Kit Lamug’s The Stumps of Flattop Hill 

Monday Meh: Three Articulate Women (and a Man with the Blues)

Songs are poetry set to music. Some are the perfect marriage of sound and message while others are just wasted creative potential. Monday Meh is about presenting the best musical offerings and a little backstory to get you through to hump day.

It was really difficult wading through the mire of break up songs written and performed by women. Some have great music, and horrible lyrics… others have wonderful lyrics and half-baked music… I’m not going to name and shame anyone here because music is subjective. I found three different kinds of breakup songs, though the territory is somewhat depressing and maudlin coming from where I am in my life. But we’ve all been there.

Last week we had the Three Angry Men and it was fairly straightforward picking the ones I wanted to use. There is a subtle difference in the way the material is handled. I’m sure there are good examples from both sides of the fence (and in the gap in between), but I think good break up songs performed by women tend to tell some kind of story everyone can relate to on some level.

The first song I thought of was written by Dolly Parton. Elvis Presley wanted to perform a cover of it but wanted a share of the publishing rights, something Dolly Parton agonised over, but decided against. Whitney Houston made a brilliant cover of it but I think she really only borrowed it and made something that was beautiful to begin with, even greater.

“My songs were what I was leaving for my family and I wouldn’t give them up,” she told Mojo in 2004. “People said I was stupid. I cried all night. I would have killed to hear him [Elvis] sing it. But, eventually, when Whitney recorded it, I was glad I held out.”

The best break ups are like this. If only we could all be more like the elegant and gentile Dolly Parton. I have loved her for all my life and I am constantly in awe of her sheer amazingness. Relationship break-ups like this, don’t come around often (and admittedly this is more about the end of a business partnership than a personal one) but this is about that rare breed – a relationship that ends gracefully with minimal drama, where both people agree to mutually and respectfully move on as decent human beings because they’re done.

“So I sang this song, Porter [Wagoner] said you can go, providing I can produce that record… and he did… and it was the best song I ever had.” – Dolly Parton

And I hope life, will treat you kind
And I hope that you have all
That you ever dreamed of
Oh, I do wish you joy
And I wish you happiness
But above all this
I wish you love

Dolly Parton, 1974

For my second song, I thought about using Madonna’s Heartbreak City from her new album Rebel Heart. There’s some really biting lyrics in it. Unfortunately no live version with good production values exists yet. Recommend doing a search for it, hope it does well. It’s so angry and it is about the kind of breakup where one party has been taken advantage of and only discovers just how much afterwards. This seems to be a common theme in break up songs in general, “He/She gave them everything, they took it all, and left the musical party with nothing.” .

The second song is therefore, Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and tells a story of her personal relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil, giving away the most painful details, right at the heart of the issue.

It’s hard to watch videos of Amy without feeling a lingering sense of regret that her voice will no longer grace anything new. Perhaps she was doomed to feeling that way, but she was incredibly unhappy. It didn’t seem like therapy or rehab helped in a sustained capacity, perhaps it got way too hard when she was opened up to the brutality of online opinions by every human and dog able to pinpoint with peculiar accuracy everything she’d ever thought about herself in her darkest hours, and indiscriminately lay it open for hyper-critical dissection. I remember heckling a comedian at a comedy club one night who was hoping to have a laugh at the expense of Amy Winehouse’s cocaine addiction. Yes. Funny stuff huh. I don’t remember what I wrote on his little slip of paper he handed out trying to garner cocaine jokes, but he pointedly avoided all further eye contact with me sitting up there in the first row for the rest of the night.

This was the first song Mark Ronson wrote with Amy Winehouse. He is quoted in Mojo in June 2010: “I’ll never forget the first day I met Amy – because it changed everything for me. It was in New York, March 2006, in the studio I used to have on Mercer Street. She told me she presumed I was some old guy with a beard – like Rick Rubin. I just thought, Let’s talk about music, see what she likes. She said she liked to go out to bars and clubs and play snooker with her boyfriend and listen to the Shangri-Las. So she played me some of those records, which turned into a crash course in girl group productions. She was staying at the Soho Grand around the corner and I told her that I had nothing to play her right now but if she let me work on something overnight she could come back tomorrow. So I came up with this little piano riff, which became the verse chords to ‘Black in Black.’ Behind it I just put a kick drum and a tambourine and tons of reverb.”

Amy Winehouse disclosed in the Oct, 27 Sun Newspaper – “Back to Black is when you’ve finished a relationship and you go back to what’s comfortable for you. My ex went back to his girlfriend and I went back to drinking and dark times.” – Amy Winehouse

We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to
We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to black

Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson, 2006

The third song by Jewel is Foolish Games. For me, the worst kind of love is unrequited love. Breaking up with someone you never were really with, hung up on them for so many reasons – reasons that are over-articulated a million times more, made sense of, torn apart, put together, torn apart again, reinvented, reframed, reignited and even after years of being able to reconcile with the bitter disappointment, these people can still somehow get under your skin.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Jewel demonstrated how determined she is, “I can move every muscle in my face, I just remember, like in 4th grade science class, they said your muscles in your face were involuntary. And it just pissed me off. I was like ‘they’re my muscles. Bullshit! They’re my bitch. I’m gonna dominate!’” I know, I should have talked about that time she was Homeless because she refused to lay on her back for a recording deal, but everyone knows that story already. I can also move all the muscles in my face (and wiggle my ears) though it never really occurred to me that I couldn’t.

Her full name is Jewel Kilcher and she will be featured in future Monday Meh posts because she’s totally underrated. Her songs are lyrically amazing, accompanied by really good music that just gets better as the years march on.

You took your coat off and stood in the rain,
You’re always crazy like that.
And I watched from my window,
Always felt I was outside looking in on you.
You’re always the mysterious one with
Dark eyes and careless hair,
You were fashionably sensitive
But too cool to care.
You stood in my doorway, with nothing to say
Besides some comment on the weather.

Jewel, 1997

And as a Bonus just for today, you get a fourth track, Gary Moore’s Still Got the Blue For You, Just Because. It’s a brilliant example of an Unrequited Love Song, and his death anniversary was a couple of days ago. Released in 1990, he died of a heart attack in his sleep at age 58, 6 February 2011 – he’d had WAY too much to drink!

Who needs great lyrics when you can make your guitar cry like that?

Used to be so easy to give my heart away.
But I found out the hard way,
There’s a price you have to pay.
I found out that love was no friend of mine.
I should have known time after time.

If you’re looking for a lot more break up songs, do a google, bing or duck… there’s more out there for the sad and lonely than you realise. If you have any other information about these songs, or similar recommendations, other videos of the same quality… y’know… pop them in the comments underneath. I’d also appreciate a heads up if you find any broken links. Follow me for future updates.

Monday Meh: Three Angry Men

Songs are poetry set to music. Some are the perfect marriage of sound and message while others are just wasted creative potential. Monday Meh is about presenting the best musical offerings and a little backstory to get you through to hump day.

The pen is mightier than the sword when it comes to songs about breaking up. It was quite a challenge having a listen to lots of music on this subject, so I included my hubby, the inimitable Captain Kirk in on the process to ensure he didn’t feel like it was all about us – it’s not, we’re good.

At the moment it seems people around me are going through the end of a significant relationship (or similar), and in the process of finding their ways through the storm. There is a lot of reflection going on as they encounter the reality of singularity in the present age. We’re not in Kansas anymore.

This week it was tough choosing. I found three great songs where I think that the music and lyrics work well together, told from the perspective of men and none of them are similar. It’s like Snow White turned three of her compadres into Happy, Shitty, and Guilty.

First up is Happy relating the best advice to extract the ultimate revenge – Living a Good Life with the happiest, danciest song I have ever heard relating to breaking up, it’s the Mavericks, founded by Raul Malo, with Dance The Night Away.

First released on their album Trampoline, the song went to number 4 in the UK and remained on the charts for eighteen weeks and I kinda wish it’d make a bigger revival on the easy listening wavelengths.

This one is good for light-hearted break-ups. You know, I wouldn’t ever recommend this kind of extremely happy music when you’re bawling your eyes out and your tears are the size of two pound coins. There’s something oddly surreal about wailing and blowing-nose to happy dance music that feels a bit too much like a Tarantino flick… or maybe that’s just me.

The Mavericks’s influences include Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and unsurprisingly, Los Lobos as they combine neo-traditional country music and latin into aural chicken soup. Here’s a live video of a gig at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the sound quality is excellent.


I just wanna dance the night away
With senoritas who can sway
Right now tomorrow’s lookin’ bright
Just like the sunny mornin’ light

And if you should see her
Please let her know that I’m well
As you can tell
And if she should tell you
That she wants me back
Tell her no
I gotta go

The Mavericks, 1998

Next up is Shitty, and this one has always conjured up the image of a dingy bar, a mountain of tequila shot glasses and a general fiery finger of fuck-you approach to dealing with heartbreak. This song kind of blew me away the first time I heard it at age 17… I had never really thought about it quite like this before! Rock and Roll! Use your Illusion had just come out and I’d gone through all the popular songs first on the cassette taped copy-of-a-copy, before just letting it run through a few hundred times until there was no magnet left. Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 were one of the first CD sets I ever bought when I finally earned cash by full-time employment.

The song was one of several written by the co-founding member of Guns N’ Roses, Izzy Stradlin, who along with Axl Rose enlisted Slash, Duff and Adler to create an awesome band that had its ups and downs. Axl Rose wanted to give it more kudos, to raise it up to the heights of Queen and co. But alas, t’was not meant to be, Axl believed he was possessed by John Bonham, and he accused Courtney Love of possessing him too –I’m still not quite sure what to make of that… and then Chinese Democracy, then poof. A whole other story.

You Ain’t the First is indeed the least Guns N’ Rosesy song being more bluesy, with an acoustic sound, Slash providing the atmospheric twang of the slide guitar-work – the man is brilliant. I always thought this song, along with the others written by Izzy Stadlin balanced out the album by creating a powerful aural contrast.

After Izzy left somewhere in the aforementioned mess, GNR included him as Easter eggs in post-Izzy work — like the sign that says “Where’s Izzy?” in Don’t Cry, and they used his picture on the milk carton in Live and Let Die. Make of that what you will.

Time can pass slowly,
things always change
You day’s been numbered
And I’ve read your last page
You was just a temporary lover
Honey you ain’t the first
Lots of others came before you woman
Said but you been the worst
Sa’ you been the worst

Izzy Stradlin, Founder of Guns ‘n Roses, 1991

As for Guilty, it’s the time-honoured classic that still sounds as good as it did in the eighties, Careless Whispers. George Michael is a legend and this well-covered song is so well known that it’s unlikely you’d meet anyone that hadn’t heard it at some point or another. Although most Wham! songs were written by George Michael, this one was also credited to Andrew Ridgeley.

George Michael said that he was taking the bus to his job as an usher at a cinema and BAM was inspired to write “the silver screen” in the first verse (I paraphrased). and it had nothing to do with anything he was going through at the time. He came up with “Guilty feet have got no rhythm,” demonstrating sophisticated song-writing skills. I still find it hard to believe that George wasn’t doing something he shouldn’t have been… (who George Michael? No!?! Okay.)

George Michael has previously stated that he’s had more compliments on his writing of the sax solo than anything else, and it’s likely because it is undeniably distinctive and an amazing piece of music.

George Michael once said, “I’m still a bit puzzled why it’s made such an impression on people… Is it because so many people have cheated on their partners? Is that why they connect with it? I have no idea, but it’s ironic that this song – which has come to define me in some way – should have been written right at the beginning of my career when I was still so young. I was only 17 and didn’t really know much about anything – and certainly nothing much about relationships.”

I’m never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it’s easy to pretend
I know you’re not a fool
I should have known better than to cheat a friend
And waste a chance that I’ve been given
So I’m never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you

Wham!, 1984

If you’re looking for a lot more break up songs, do a google, bing or duck… there’s more out there for the sad and lonely than you realise. If you have any other information about these three songs, or similar recommendations, other videos of the same quality… y’know… pop them in the comments underneath. I’d also appreciate a heads up if you find any broken links. Follow me for future updates.



Monday Meh: In No Particular Order

Songs are poetry set to music. Some are the perfect marriage of sound and message while others just wasted creative potential. Monday Meh is about presenting the best musical offerings, and a little backstory and sample lyrics, to get you through to hump day. 

In no particular order

First up is Spandau Ballet with Through the Barricades which is a song about love hindered by the political and religious ideology separating Northern and Southern Ireland. Politics is fairly complex to gain consensus about at the best of times, but when coupled with the dogma of religion, impossible to reconcile.

Through the Barricades was written by Gary Kemp, inspired by the killing of Tom Riley who was a friend of the band. Although not specifically about him, his death had such an impact on Kemp who said, “I was living in Ireland about a year later, and Through The Barricades came to me in one evening. About two in the morning, lyrics started appearing in my head and I picked up a guitar – this has never happened to me before. I felt the song was leading me itself.”

And now I know what they’re saying
It’s a terrible beauty we’ve made
So we make our love on wasteland
And through the barricades

Spandau Ballet, 1986

Next pick, is a song that doesn’t fail to induce Saltwater. Go on, I dare you not to feel something. The lyrics ring true about the state of the Planet and our inability as a species to prioritise the important issues. It is a sad state of affairs that it did not chart in the US, though it achieved significant success in other parts of the world.

Julian Lennon co-wrote the song with Mark Spiro, and John Waite. George Harrison was supposed to perform the slide guitar for the song but as he was unable to attend, he sent Julian the samples instead — the old fashioned way, as the Internet had a long way to go before delivering seamless remote working.

“I write exactly the same way as I always have. It’s whatever comes to mind first, whether that’s musical or lyrical or an emotion. Generally it’s down to whatever I’m feeling, at that point in time, strongest about. And it’s generally to do with everything and anything that we all share in life emotionally.” – Julian Lennon

We light the deepest ocean
Send photographs of Mars
We’re so enchanted by how clever we are
Why should one baby feel so hungry she cries
Saltwater wells in my eyes

Julian Lennon, 1991

And last because it’s all been on our collective minds recently with the death of David Bowie, I have to round off the musical triumvirate with Under Pressure, a collaboration of the sublime duo, Freddie Mercury and David Bowie.

I highly recommend that to truly appreciate the full song this song, you need to find someone with Rockband 3, guitar controller and a microphone, and really play and sing it, loud and proud. Oh and do do yourself a favour, have a sniff around for the version where the music has been stripped away completely revealing the combined power of Mercury and Bowie – Magic!

John Deacon came up with the bass line, but Freddie Mercury wrote most of it – with collaboration from everyone else, at an impromptu session in Switzerland.

Brian May said, “It was hard, because you had four very precocious boys and David, who was precocious enough for all of us. David took over the song lyrically. Looking back, it’s a great song but it should have been mixed differently. Freddie and David had a fierce battle over that.”

I think whatever happened, they all won, and it’s still a brilliant song that rings true with currency, thirty-five years later! Thirty-Five Years!

Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?..

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure

Queen and David Bowie, 1981

Some mainstream choices to start off with – I figured I’d slide in easy like George Harrison’s guitar. I’d love to hear from you. If you have any other information about these three songs, or similar recommendations, other videos of the same quality… y’know… pop them in the comments underneath. I’d also appreciate a heads up if you find any broken links. Follow me for future updates.

Steel Giants

Happy new year.

Not sure about you, for me, 2015 was awesome for many reasons, photography being one, but blogging, not as much. Have you noticed that writing takes up so much time? And working takes up so much of that time. Luckily I did some freelance photography and actually got paid for my work in that regard!

As for 2016, I will be writing more regularly – so many ideas, I love that introspective space, but for blogging I’ll be going for short, sharp and punchy, a selected photo and a poem of some description. Maybe a few reviews, maybe some other things. I just want to see how it flows.

The paid photography work I did last year centred around architecture, office interiors and the latest AV technology. All things I’m interested in! I absolutely love Canary Wharf because from an architectural point of view, it’s like another world.

The photo below is a crop of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf.



This was taken April 2015, the day was beautiful and the sky had never been so blue.

The biggest challenge is taking straight shots from the ground with a standard lens. This was tricky and required only minor manipulation to get it exactly straight, but the original on Flickr allows you to zoom right in and peer into each window. I’m guessing that the people are sitting behind the blinds because the sun was so direct and penetrating, but the result is a building that appears to be completely without a living soul in sight… though it would have been poetic if someone had been peering pensively out, somewhere three quarters up.


I love this shot.

As my daughter flipped through the photos of this day, she observed that some of them made her feel so incredibly small. It is akin to walking among giants.

Steel Giants

Occupied Towering
Bastions of Wealth
Fortress’s Fortunes
Peers across Thames

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