Monday, December 31, 2007


Here it is, the roundup you've been waiting for! You're getting all the numbers for my pop culture consumption in 2007. It's a stat geek's dream! Enough hype, let's get to the data...

I read 44 books in 2007, which was 4 more than the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year (and 6 more than last year). The biggest month was October, when I read 6 books. The smallest month was February, when I read 1 book plus a portion of another. I read 19 books in the first half of the year and 25 in the second half. Even more interesting is that I read 20 books from Aug. 27 to Dec. 23 (a span of 4 months), which means I've averaged 5 books a month over that time period. That goes a long way in showing that my reading levels have been as much about what I could afford as anything over the last 6 years, since once I started getting books from the library I've increased my output tremendously. It will be interesting to see how that carries over to next year. Oh, I also abandoned 2 books during the year. My average books read per month for 2007 was 3.67.

I read 216 short stories in 2007. I didn't have any goals, nor did I keep track of those stats for the whole year in 2006. The biggest month was November, when I read 30 stories. The smallest month was May, when I read 7 stories. I read 89 stories in the first half of the year and 127 in the second half, which means that I was also increasing my story output along with my books output (though there were a number of stories read that were also in books I read). The stories came from 11 issues of Asimov's, 12 issues of F&SF, and 4 books. I also abandoned 4 stories during the year. My average stories read per month for 2007 was 18.

I read 119 comics in 2007, of which 27 were trades or OGNs. Again, I didn't have any goals and didn't keep any stats for comics in 2006. The biggest month was March, when I read 24 comics (4 trades or OGNs). The smallest month was October, when I didn't read any comics. I read 4 trades or OGNs four separate times (March, May, June, and July). I read 85 comics (19 trades or OGNs) in the first half of the year and 34 comics (8 trades or OGNs) in the second half, which means I really tailed off in my comics reading. That's a direct result of the new budget we instituted in August. My average comics read per month for 2007 was 9.92 (7.67 for single issues and 2.25 for trades and OGNs).

I bought, downloaded, or received 110 CDs in 2007, which is 3 more than in 2006. I didn't have any goals, other than to hear as much music as possible. 74 of those CDs were downloaded and 14 of the grand total were EPs; I also downloaded 14 songs, either singles or songs from singles or other EPs. The biggest months were May and June, when I got 13 CDs in each month. The smallest months were February, July, and August, when I got 6 CDs in each month. The download high was 10 in September; the download low was 2 in March. I got 60s CDs in the first half of the year (35 downloaded, which is 58.3%) and 50 CDs (39 downloaded, which is 78%) in the second half, a trend that can also be linked to the new budget. My average CDs bought, downloaded, or received per month is 2007 was 9.17 (3 physical CDs and 6.17 downloads).

I saw 14 movies in the theater in 2007. That is more than I've seen a year in a long time, though I don't have any actual data on that. I didn't keep track of my monthly totals until July, in which I saw 3 movies. That means I saw 11 movies in the first half of the year and only 3 in the second half. Budget, anyone? My average movies seen in the theater per month in 2007 was 1.17.

That's everything I kept track of this year. I plan on keeping track of all this information in 2008 as well and I may add more categories. I know it's a lot of numbers and fairly anal retentive but I like doing it.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Yes, it's time for the last roundup of 2007...or is it? I'm actually going to talk about December now and will do a full breakdown on the year a little later. A little two for the price of one action on New Year's Eve. I've been reading magazines for the last few days, trying to catch up a bit, so I know these numbers are set in stone (the DVD watching is still not complete for the year but I wasn't keeping strict track anyway).

I read 4+ books in December; I finished Remainder (of which I'd read about 90 pages in November) and also read Hartsburg, USA, Dreamsongs: Vol. 1, Slam, and The Spiral Labyrinth.

I read 29 stories in December, a total which includes the whole of Dreamsongs: Vol. 1 and the Dec. 2007 issue of F&SF.

I read 8 comics in December - 6 of them single issues (3 each of Action Comics and Booster Gold), 1 OGN (Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together), and 1 trade (Jack of Fables Vol. 2: Jack of Hearts).

I bought, downloaded, or received 11 CDs in December as well as downloading a single song ("Surf City Eastern Bloc" from Arcade Fire's No Cars Go single). Hmm, when was the last time I did an eMusic download update?

I didn't see any movies in the theater in December.

As far as DVDs go, I know that I watched The Squid and the Whale and Once. Grant and I watched some more of The Simpsons Season 9 and I watched most of The Simpsons Movie with him on Christmas Day. Jill and I have gotten through most of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Seasons 1 & 2 and will probably finish it this evening (except for a commentary...maybe). She's also talking about watching Superbad, so that will most likely happen tonight as well. That's about it.

I read quite a few comics in 2007, though I didn't really nearly as much as I wanted to (never do). I read a mix of ongoing comics and trades (or OGNs), so this list cobbles together the best of all of them...

1. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
2. Booster Gold
3. All-Star Superman
4. Nexus Archives
5. Fables/Jack of Fables
6. Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story
7. Doctor Strange: The Oath
8. Justice Society of America
9. 52
10. Batman

When you read over 200 stories a year, it's hard to remember all of them. I don't know that this will be a strict top ten, although the top story is definitely the best story I've read this year. Otherwise, these are the stories I remember most from the past year...

1. "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang
2. "Unpossible" by Daryl Gregory
3. "Urdumheim" by Michael Swanwick
4. "Jesus Christ, Reanimator" by Ken MacLeod
5. "Don't Ask" by M. Rickert
6. "Voluntary Committal" by Joe Hill
7. "Yellow Card Man" by Paolo Bacigalupi
8. "The Ice Dragon" by George R.R. Martin
9. "I, Row-Boat" by Cory Doctorow
10. "X-Country" by Robert Reed
TV 2007

I watched a lot of TV in 2007, which is nothing new. Here are the shows I liked the best and the characters from each show who are a big part of the reason I watch...

1. The Wire - Lester Freamon
2. The Office - Dwight Schrute
3. Lost - John Locke
4. Flight of the Conchords - Jemaine and Bret
5. It's Always Sunny in Phildelphia - Charlie Kelly
6. 30 Rock - Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy
7. Doctor Who - Rose Tyler
8. Chuck - Chuck Bartowski
9. Battlestar Galactica - Starbuck
10. Torchwood - Gwen Cooper

I saw more movies in the theater this year than I have in years and years. However, I haven't been to the movies since the end of July. Thanks to Netflix I've caught some other movies that I missed, though I still haven't seen Superbad or The Bourne Ultimatum or No Country For Old Men or Juno or Walk Hard, to name five. I'm also going to include a movie on my list that didn't release widely until earlier this year, though it was nominated for Oscars last's that good.

1. Knocked Up
2. Children of Men
3. Ratatouille
4. Zodiac
5. 300
6. Transformers
7. The Simpsons Movie
8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
9. Once
10. Grindhouse

Sunday, December 30, 2007


It's the last Sunday Shuffle of the year and it's been an eventful day. We got home last night to find that our furnace had stopped working, so we cranked up the electric blankets and hunkered down to sleep. The repair man arrived before 7:30 and got the heat working by 9:00. Whew. Anyway, here's the music one more time in 2007...

1. Rain/Bishop Allen (6) - also on the iPod
2. Sugar Never Tasted So Good/The White Stripes (5)
3. Dress Me Like a Clown/Margot & the Nuclear So & So's (9)
4. Gonna Break Into Your Heart/Earlimart (10) - also on the iPod
5. Song for a Clock/Portastatic (16)
6. Loss Leaders/Spoon (15)
7. Car Radio (Different)/Spoon (3)
8. The Ghost of You Lingers/Spoon (13) - also on the iPod
9. Baby and the Band/Imperial Teen (5)
10. Placemat Blues/Slobberbone (13)

Saturday, December 29, 2007


New comics day was delayed until Friday this week due to Christmas and I actually bought multiple comics. Actually, I bought two comics and three trades (thanks for the Christmas comics cash, Mom and Dad!)...can't remember the last time I bought that much at once. Plus, I got Previews and the new issue of Wizard, which is the 2008 preview issue (I'm a sucker for a preview issue). I love comics.

So, Action Comics #860 is the third part of the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" storyline and I just have two words: Shadow Lass. Okay, I have more but the appearance of the sexy Shadow Lass as drawn by Gary Frank was really cool. Okay, it was great to see Polar Boy and Night Girl and Timber Wolf and everyone as well. Some fight scenes and character moments and an ending that further complicates things just give it that much more. Three more issues to go and I can't wait to see where it goes.

Hmm, I guess it was a Geoff Johns day because I also picked up Booster Gold #3 (thank you, reorders!) and have now read every issue of the series, albeit out of order. This issue saw Booster going back and getting drunk with Jonah Hex and ties into The Kents maxi-series from the late 90s (which I never did read). Plus, another encounter with Supernova and some complications for Booster's ancestor and some nifty Dan Jurgens art. Not the best issue of the series but still highly enjoyable.

When I get around to reading the trades, you'll hear about it. Next year, most likely.

Friday, December 28, 2007

F&SF DEC. 2007

The highlight of the Dec. 2007 issue of F&SF is definitely M. Rickert's "Don't Ask." No surprise there, as Rickert is one of the best writers working today. This story is about a town that had boys stolen by wolves years ago and what happens after their return. It's creepy and sad and wise, plus it's told in the third person. One of the best stories I've read all year.

That's not to say there weren't other worthy stories in this issue. No, no. I was particularly taken with the cover story, "Finisterra" by David Moles. Its narrative is told within the framework of a truly alien world that is all air (it's called Sky) and it's landmasses are islands that float through the sky. Highly original. David Marusek's "Osama Phone Home" tells the tale of capable people who decided to do something about tracking down Osama bin Laden through the use of crazy technology...and how it ultimately backfires on them. And "Stray" by Benjamin Rosenbaum and David Ackert is about an immortal who falls in love with a black woman and has to learn to give up his ways.

"Who Brought Tulips to the Moon?" by S.L. Gilbow had its moments and some interesting ideas but it stayed on the surface of things and didn't quite earn the surprise ending. Frederic S. Durbin's "The Bone Man" had some nice atmosphere and writing about an amoral man learning about a local legend but I didn't care for the ending so much either.

Books columns, Lucius Shepard on films, and some Plumage From Pegasus by Paul Di Filippo round out the issue. Overall, another solid issue with the Rickert leading the way.
BOOKS 2007

With only four days left to go in 2007, I am officially done with reading books for the year. On Dec. 2 I finished my 40th book of the year, meeting my goal for the year. Since then I've read an additional 4 books for a grand total of 44 (I also abandoned 2 books during the year). As usual I read a wide variety of books, from short story collections to literary fiction to SF to fantasy to horror to non-fiction; I read many books that came out this year, many from past years, and even reread books for the first time since I started with a goal for the year. Here's a list of the ten books that I enjoyed the most in 2007...

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
2. The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
3. Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
4. Here, There & Everywhere by Chris Roberson
5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
6. Halting State by Charles Stross
7. I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
8. Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
9. Brasyl by Ian McDonald
10. You Don't Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem

Thursday, December 27, 2007


The other week I mentioned that Jill had gotten up at 4:30 on a Sunday in her quest to get a Wii for Christmas, a quest which was a success. That was the present that anchored Christmas for our son and he was suitably excited. We've all gotten into it, playing a lot of Wii Sports (which came with the console). We've bowled and boxed and played golf (and Grant has played baseball too). It's been lots of fun.

As for me, I received tons of gifts - DVDs, CDs, a book, a shirt, and a passel full of gift cards and cash. I'm going to be able to augment my entertainment spending for a few months, which is awesome. Thanks to everyone who gave me a gift!

Oh, and we got news from my cousin Ryan that he got engaged to his girlfriend Katie on Christmas Eve as well. Looks like we'll be heading to Baltimore some time in 2009 - congratulations, you two!

Hope everyone else had a great holiday as well!

About a week ago, I got around to watching Once. It's a musical but a musical in which the music is completely organic to the story. It's about an unnamed musician who works in his father's vacuum repair shop and also busks on the street; he's trying to futher his musical career. One day he meets an unnamed girl who turns out to be a piano player. The story is about their relationship, both real and musical. In fact, the music-making often says what they can't actually say to each other and neither is really in the position to give themselves to the other. It's all done in a subtle fact, it's a really low-key film. The performances by Glen Hansard (the lead singer of The Frames) and Marketa Irglova are very charming and real and the music stays in your head, especially "Falling Slowly" and "When Your Mind's Made Up." I'm not a fan of musicals but I would watch more stuff like this with no hesitation.

On Sunday I finished the last book I'm reading this year, The Spiral Labyrinth by Matthew Hughes. It's another short novel in the Hengis Hapthorn series and the first couple chapters were published earlier this year in F&SF as "Sweet Trap." Hapthorn and Osk Rievor are still dealing with their shared cohabitation of the same body and Rievor is keen to investigate magic. This leads to the two being separated into two bodies and leaves Hapthorn stranded in the future where magic has fully taken over. He has to navigate this landscape and eventually to deal with a future version of a symbiote that has grown in knowledge and capabilities over the centuries. I think if you like Hughes' tales of Old Earth, you'd like this one too. It's readable and fun and a pleasant way to spend a couple days.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I've got a cold that turns into a cough at times and I haven't slept very well for a week. On the plus side, it's almost Christmas! My brother has arrived my NJ and my cousin drove up from Evansville (though she has to leave tomorrow and work on Christmas...she's a newspaper photographer), so we've spent some time together already. I have to get up early to be at the Y at 4:45 tomorrow morning so I can open the pool but I'll be done at 8:30. A nice little nap will get me set for the party after church and then on to Christmas day. Anyway, enough about me; here's the music...

1. All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth/New Pornographers (13)
2. No Name #6/Elliott Smith (8)
3. Love In Mind/Neil Young (3)
4. Mr. Tough/Yo La Tengo (15)
5. Cherbourg/Beirut (3)
6. Personal/Stars (4)
7. Red Right Ankle/The Decemberists (8)
8. Pretty in Pink (live)/The National (2)
9. Dead Man/M. Ward (8)
10. If It Works/Tokyo Police Club (10)

Friday, December 21, 2007

MUSIC 2007

I may be one of the last bloggers to get around to my list of top ten CDs for the year. That's okay, it's not like I'm on the cutting edge. I thought it was a really good year for music and it was hard to pare things down to the best 10. Or my favorite 10...however you want to call it. My favorite artist released a new album this year and it's quite good but it didn't make the list. Sorry, Bruce. Sorry also to Dinosaur Jr. and A.A. Bondy and Sea Wolf and Pela and Elliott Smith and Kings of Leon and John Vanderslice and Sloan and Bishop Allen (though you guys made it last year with different versions of many of the songs off your album). Here's what did make the cut...

1. Wilco/Sky Blue Sky
2. Spoon/Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
3. New Pornographers/Challengers
4. The National/Boxer
5. Radiohead/In Rainbows
6. Arcade Fire/Neon Bible
7. The Broken West/I Can't Go On I'll Go On
8. Band of Horses/Cease to Begin
9. Okkervil River/The Stage Names
10. The Shins/Wincing the Night Away

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Last night I finished my 43rd book of the year, by a writer responsible for one of my all-time favorite books. That's Nick Hornby and the book is High Fidelity, of course. The unfortunate thing is that I've liked each of his books a little less than the previous one, though I've still enjoyed them. He recently published his first novel for young adults, Slam.

It's the story of Sam Jones, a sixteen year-old skater (that's skateboarding) who lives in London and meets a gorgeous girl, Alicia Burns. They spend too much time together and then they drift apart. One problem. She's pregnant. So it's the story of what happens. Sounds fairly straight-forward and it's written in Hornby's usual style of the narrator questioning everything that happens in life. One difference here is that Sam talks to a poster of Tony Hawk and the poster answers back (well, mentions pertinent parts of his autobiography anyway). Oh, and the poster appears to send Sam into his own future a couple of times. That makes things interesting and means that I'll probably remember more about the book than say, Long Way Down or How To Be Good. So yeah, it's worth a read and I'll keep on reading Hornby.

I also started on a new trade paperback last night and finished it up just over an hour ago. It is the 12th collection of material from Bill Willingham's long-running Fables series, although this is from a spin-off of the main series. I'm talking about Jack of Fables Vol. 2: Jack of Hearts, which collects six issues (#6-11) of the current ongoing series. The opening story (which seems to have been split between issues #6 and #11) is about how Jack became Jack Frost and is a fun tale of lust and betrayal and Jack's own moral code (or lack of one) leading him astray yet again. The other story (which took up issues #7-10) is the titular "Jack of Hearts," which finds Jack waking up married in Vegas and involves Lady Luck, who has been dealing with all the casinos and cops in the area to suit her own needs. Jack's sidekick Gary (the Pathetic Fallacy) takes up with a mannequin and Jack finds himself really liking his wife, not only for the fact that she's gorgeous and rich. He takes some measure of revenge when she's killed by Belgians. Oh, and there's a lucky horseshoe as well. Anyway, Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges have fun with this comic and the conventions of storytelling, ably abetted by a variety of artists...not to mention the stunning cover work of James Jean. Good stuff.

I forgot to mention an album in my heavy rotation post last week - Sloan's Twice Removed. The songs have wormed there way into my head completely at this point, especially "Coax Me." Today I've gone back and listened to Never Hear the End of It (which I really should consider for my top ten of 2007) and One Chord To Another. And now I'm thinking I should use some of my eMusic downloads to grab another one. Hmm, might just do that.

Monday, December 17, 2007


A couple months back I wrote about the return of Booster Gold to the ranks of monthly comics. I liked the series a lot but only read the first two issues when we realized we needed to watch our spending a bit more closely. In the past couple months, I've figured out how to work the entertainment spending a little bit (see my recent post about Action Comics) and went to the store to pick up Booster Gold #5.

The cover catches the eye immediately - the Joker is pointing a camera and reflected in the lens are Booster and Batgirl (the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon). It's a take on Batman: The Killing Joke, the one-shot from the late 80s where Alan Moore had the Joker cripple Batgirl. And that's the time period Booster travels to in this issue; Rip Hunter sends him back to save her from the bullet. Booster fails. And has Rip send him back again and again and again, trying desperately to defeat the Joker. In the end, he finds out that Rip is trying to make a point - not all time can be changed, some things are fixed points. It's a testament to Booster's determination and heroism that he keeps trying and it makes for a strong issue. And that's not even touching on the villainous trio of Ultra-Humanite, Per Degaton, and Despero, or the ending. I know the comics shop has #4 still on the shelves and I'm gonna have to try and find #3 as well. This is what makes me love super-hero comics and the DC Universe.

Last night Jill and I finally got around to our latest DVD from Netflix, The Squid and the Whale. It's the story of a family going through a divorce - the narcissistic father, the mother desperate from attention, and the two boys trying to figure out who they are by which parent they're like. None of the characters are particularly nice and it's a fairly depressing story. However, it is watchable - not only for the performances of Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney (and the kids) but for the way it's shot and the way the music works with it. This was Noah Baumbach's first film; his second, Margot at the Wedding, is out now.

Speaking of DVDs, Grant and I are once again making progress on The Simpsons Season 9 with only two episodes left on the second disc. It's interesting watching these episodes because this may be the first season we've watched where I haven't seen most of the episodes multiple times. There are some here I've seen maybe two or three times before if even that.

Today I have the day off - the first day other than a Sunday that I've not had to go into the Y since early September, not counting Thanksgiving break. Classes are done for three weeks. I will be doing some lifeguarding shifts over that time period but nothing at all today or Wednesday (and just a short time tomorrow). I'm going to use the time to catch up on my DVR and try to finish the two books that are due this Wednesday (I'm about 60 pages into the one). I'm also caught up with my Entertainment Weekly reading, ready to start the issue that arrived on Saturday (other magazines...not so much). Oh, and some last stuff for Christmas. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I recently finished a big collection of stories by George R.R. Martin, Dreamsongs: Volume 1. The only Martin I've read before this was his occasional story in an SF mag and his work in (and editing on) the Wild Cards series, which mixed alternate history and super-heroes to captivate me in the early 90s (late 80s?). I've been hearing great things about his ongoing fantasy series "A Song of Fire and Ice" and thought I would just dive right into his breadth of material (there is a second volume as well, which came out a few weeks after the first).

The book is broken up into five themed sections and each has an accompanying essay where Martin talks about his background and the formation of the stories in that section. We get a section of his early stories written for comics fanzines, his first sales as a pro, science fiction, fantasy, and horror (with is often cross-bred with another genre).

We get the mood piece of "With Morning Comes Mistfall" and the love story of two telepaths on an alien world of "A Song for Lya." There's the loneliness and weirdness of "The Stone City" and the look at the future of religion in "The Way of Cross and Dragon." There's the dark fable of "In the Lost Lands" and the heart-breakingly wonderful "The Ice Dragon." And that doesn't even cover the delicious horrors of "Nightflyers" and "Sandkings" and so much more.

Martin knows how to unspool a plot and he knows how to write about people, whether human or alien. He knows how to tell a story and this book has almost 700 pages of them. I can't wait to read the next volume and I'll probably dive into "A Song of Fire and Ice" next year too. Great stuff.

Bit of a later start than usual - it's 1:30. Why? Well, Jill got up at 4:30 this morning to shovel and then go get in a line at K-Mart for a Nintendo Wii. It was our second real shot at it - I was second in line when the shipment arrived at Game Stop on Friday...but they didn't have any. K-Mart was opening at 6:00 this morning and had advertised them; Jill was given a ticket and waited in the car until they openned. She got one and was back home by 6:30. So, Christmas is officially made.

Beyond that, we got tons of snow overnight and had lots to dig and snowblow out. Our neighbor had a heart attack earlier this week, so we took care of her house as well as ours. It took Jill and I working together almost 2 hours to get it all done. Then we had to run to the grocery store and eat lunch and here it is heading towards the middle of the afternoon.

Anyway, here's 10 random songs from iTunes...

1. Been There All the Time/Dinosaur Jr. (5) - also on the iPod
2. Isn't Life Strange?/The Clientele (8)
3. I Was Meant for the Stage/The Decemberists (8)
4. Van Occupanther/Midlake (7) - also on the iPod
5. Sugar Never Tasted So Good/The White Stripes (4)
6. We Were Patriots/The Mountain Goats (8)
7. Golden Eyes/Sloan (11)
8. wordgamething/Kathleen Edwards (7)
9. 30 Gallon Tank/Spoon (4) - from the 30 Gallon Tank EP
10. The Swish/The Hold Steady (33)

Friday, December 14, 2007


I've been reading and working and getting holiday errands done. Watching TV. I should get back to more content next week but for now here's what I haven't been able to stop listening to lately...

A.A. Bondy/American Hearts
Tim O'Reagan/Tim O'Reagan
Radiohead/all the albums

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I just read my 200th story of the year, "The Way of Cross and Dragon" by George R.R. Martin. Today is day #345 of the year, which means I've average about .58 stories read per day this year. That's not too bad. Of course, I'm still not done. I have more than 300 pages left in this story collection by Martin (which is due on Thursday!) and will probably get to some more SF mags before the end of the year too. The average might come up a bit...I might make it up to 220 stories or so by the time it's done.

And now back to reading...

Sunday, December 09, 2007


It's another progress report weekend, my last for 2007. I've already done 5 classes worth and want to get through 4 more today (one of which has 8 students and another that has 6). That will take care of all my normal classes and would leave 4 classes that I had to take in my capacity as the assistant in charge of swimming lessons, which I can do as the week progresses.

This also happens to be my 400th post to this blog and it's appropriate that it's a Sunday Shuffle, as today's edition means 16.75% off all my posts have been Sunday Shuffles. It took me 5 months and 3 days to get from #300 to #400, after taking 5 months and 1 day to get from #200 to #300. Guess I've been pretty consistent.

Anyway, here is today's batch of 10 songs...

1. Don't Be Denied/Neil Young (3)
2. The Thanks I Get/Wilco (5)
3. Jeff Buckley Moves to Memphis (2001 Demo)/The Prayers & Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers (11)
4. Candy Cane Crawl/The Twilight Singers (13)
5. Change My Life/Spoon (12)
6. Cheer It On/Tokyo Police Club (12)
7. Astro/The White Stripes (4)
8. Shaken Baby/Pernice Brothers (10)
9. I Understand/Sloan (13)
10. Soft & Warm/Voxtrot (5)

I was having a dream this morning that I was hanging out with my mom playing the guitar. I accidentally bumped into her leg and started singing a little couplet about it. I liked the couplet and soon I was writing it down in my notebook, though I wasn't writing very legibly. I was also playing some chords that I was working on the other day and it fit with a melody I was playing with. Then I woke up. I remembered the lyrics and after a minute I'd thought of another couplet to go with it. I'm just amazed. If this song works out, I'll have started it in a dream singing off the top of my head. Wow.

Speaking of wow, my wife's friend just called (at 7:30 on a Sunday morning) to see if she wants to go to Indianapolis with her. Why? Heather is taking her daughter and her daughter's friend to go see Hannah Montanna and her cousin bailed on her. So, Jill is going to give up her day to go see Hannah Montanna. It's already a very odd day.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Grant and I had a fair amount of time where we were the only two home today and we used that opportunity to catch up on some cartoon watching.

This morning we watched an episode of Legion of Super-Heroes from last Saturday, where Superman and some others shrank into the bottle city of Kandor to fight against Imperiex. Brianiac 5 delved into a subroutine and was possibly corrupted by the original Brianiac...something to watch in future episodes. It was a solid episode.

This afternoon we watched today's rerun of Karate Kid's induction into the Legion (we'd missed it the first go-around). It had Grimbor as the villain, who I remember from the comics, and also saw the induction of Nemesis Kid (that won't end well). It also had a nice spotlight on Chameleon Boy and a glimpse of some other old favorites during a quick Legion audition scene. Everything was great, except for another appearance by Imperiex - they have used him waaaay too much this year. Still, I'll take it to have the Legion on TV.

Tonight we decided to delve back into The Simpsons Season 9. I wasn't sure where we'd left off in listening to the commentaries; we started on "Lisa's Sax" but I remembered the opening lines and we moved along. We actually did three commentaries tonight (on "Treehouse of Horror VIII," "The Cartridge Family," and "Bart Star"), finishing off disc 1 after more than 3 months. Really, we need to make more of an effort.

We are now all caught up on stuff from the DVR and we might actually get in a rhythm of watching some more of The Simpsons. It would be fun.

I've mentioned several times that I trace my love for comics back to Legion of Super-Heroes #272 back when I was in 4th grade. I remained a huge fan of the myriad heroes of the 30th century throughout my first phase of fandom and it was the first comic I checked in on when I came back to comics in 1994. Later that year, the series was relaunched and my Legion was no more. I still followed the series for many more years, eventually losing track as I made the switch to buying only trades. A third relaunch occurred a few years back; I reviewed the first collection of that series a few months back.

Earlier this year, member of the original Legion made a reappearance in the pages of JLA and JSA, in a five-part crossover that culminated in the return of Wally West, the Flash. Now a new story, "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes," is running in Action Comics and I have decided I couldn't wait for a trade, making the first two parts (#858 and #859) my first single issue purchases in three months.

The story (written by Geoff Johns) begins with a couple on an alien planet in 3008 who make the decision to send their son to Earth, since it had worked out well long ago for Superman (who still remains "the ultimate symbol for truth, justice, and the universal way"). This time it doesn't work out, as the Ma and Pa Kent-like couple who find the kid make the decision to kill it...something is amiss in the 31st century.

Cut to the present, where Clark Kent is ignored by his colleagues trying to join them on the elevator; soon is being lectured by Perry White that he needs to have friends other than Jimmy Olsen. He's saved by the appearance of Brianiac rampaging through Metropolis (a gigantic Brianiac no less!) and goes off to fight. Turns out it's not really Brianiac - it's Brainiac 5 from the Legion - and he helps Clark remember his past (lonely before meeting the Legion). Now the future needs Superman's help and Clark jumps in the time sphere to come help.

Superman lands in Legion HQ but he is attacked by the Science Police and subsequently rescued by Colossal Boy, Dawnstar, and Wildfire. They try to send him back but the time sphere is destroyed; even worse, Superman learns the sun is red and he has no powers.

In the next issue, we start to get some answers as to why he is in danger in the 31st century. His legacy has been distorted and his name used to drive aliens away from Earth and for Earth to secede from the United Planets. Earth is being policed by the Justice League, a group of Legion rejects (we see them defeat Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl in the remains of the Batcave). Of course, Superman still wants to help and sets out with the three Legionnaires who rescued him to try and find Brianiac 5 (who's been missing for months).

Obviously, I'm hooked. I'm looking forward to seeing what other glimpses we get of my old favorites and where the story goes and hoping that this could lead to a new series chronicling the ongoing adventures of my Legion. The art by Gary Frank and inker Jon Sibal is very dynamic - Dawnstar has rarely looked better. It's a good package all the way around and I wish I didn't have to wait until a few days after Christmas for the next installment. But I do.

Friday, December 07, 2007


As promised, I dove right into my stack of library books this week, not content to rest on meeting my goal of 40 books read. At the top of the pile was Hartsburg, USA by David Mizner. I started it on Monday and read 36 pages and thought about abandoning it, as it covered some similar territory to The Abstinence Teacher. I picked it back up on Tuesday and read 80 pages or so, then 100 on Wednesday, and finally just over 140 last night. Obviously, I felt it was worth continuing.

It's the story of a school board race in the titular town (which is in Ohio). One candidate is Bevy Baer, running on a platform of good Christian values (she wants intelligent design taught in schools, homosexuality to not be mentioned, etc.); the other is Wallace Cormier, who is running on the fact that truths should be taught and religion should stay out of it. The novel is pretty balanced - each candidate's humanity, good and bad, comes out and we learn a lot about their families and other members of the town (the war in Iraq hangs heavy in the 2003 of the novel). Bevy has a past that comes back to haunt her in more ways than one and Wallace loses his way and stoops to low levels of campaigning.

It's a good book and serves as a reminder that people (red state or blue state) are people.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


As I mentioned, we watched Futurama: Bender's Big Score last week. It's an original DVD and marks the return of the series after an absence of a couple years (and four seasons worth of episodes). It's a little odd watching Futurama for almost an hour-and-a-half (these new movies will be broken up into 4 eps each for TV) but it's a very welcome return. The plot features alien scam artist, time travel, marital problems, unrequited love, beheadings, and all sorts of fun. Many, many characters and situations from the whole run of the series are present and it makes the whole thing just that much more fun. I haven't gotten around to any of the extras yet but I will soon. If you were a fan of the series, buy this. If you weren't, you should be. So get cracking.

I finally managed to get a copy of the new Scott Pilgrim comic, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together (the 4th volume of the series). I've extolled the virtues of Bryan Lee O'Malley's series before and this new offering deserves all the same praise. How can you argue against a comic with half-ninjas, rock-and-roll, subspace, characters gaining experience points like in video games, and more. Plus, Scott really does start to get it together...he even gets a job! This is one of the best comics going right now and everyone should be reading it. I turned my brother onto it earlier this year and I'm ready for another victim. Let it be you.

This morning I found out (via Chromewaves - link at the right) that Gary Louris is finally releasing a solo album on Feb. 19. Yay! You can go listen to some songs at his MySpace.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


My second post to this blog (a little over two years ago) was about how I had finally achieved my reading goal of 36 books in a year. It had taken me five years to reach that goal, having set it in 2001. At the time, I suggested I would easily reach 40 books read on the year, having more than a month-and-a-half left in the year in which to read. Well, I didn't. I only made it to 38 books and so set a new goal of 40 books at the start of 2006. I only made it to 38 books again. By finishing Remainder by Tom McCarthy a short while ago, I have now read 40 books this year (16 of them since Aug. 27).

Remainder is about a man who had an accident and remembers little about his life. He was hit by something that fell from the sky, was in a coma for a long time, and has had to relearn how to do simple activities such as eating a carrot. He receives a settlement of 8 1/2 million pounds and is not sure what to do with the money, until he sees a crack in someone's bathroom and it sets off a vision of a place where his movements were real. He employs a man (Naz) to help him recreate that vision, that space, those feelings. He buys a building and modifies it, hires people to reenact the events of his vision. Pretty soon, he is reenacting others events that happen to him and even events that he doesn't even witness. He starts falling into trances and all of the planning has an affect on Naz as well. By the end, they take decide to transplant a reenactment to real life. The book is disturbing and odd and wonderfully human as well. It describes things in minute detail and yet is never boring. While reading it yesterday, I felt like I was a visitor in my own house. Something very different.

So, I've finished 40 books with four weeks left to go in the year. I have 4 books from the library still to be read. Will I be able to read one a week? I'm gonna try.

I read about 150 pages of Remainder yesterday; watched Pushing Daisies, 30 Rock, and Scrubs; and finished most of an issue of Entertainment Weekly. Pretty good. However, I recorded Doctor Who, Torchwood, and a Bob Dylan documentary and got an new EW, F&SF, and Discover in the mail. It's a neverending cycle. We had a big winter storm yesterday that was self-correcting - you can barely tell we had anything. Thank you, rising temperatures. Today is about laundry and big football games for both the Colts and Bears, as well as continuing my quest to catch up. While I get to work on all of that, here's 10 songs at random from iTunes...

1. Black/Okkervil River (8)
2. Insurance Fraud #2/The Mountain Goats (9)
3. How to Fight Loneliness (live)/Jeff Tweedy (7)
4. (Even If You Die On The) Ocean/Saturday Looks Good To Me (4) - also on the iPod
5. Bright Eyes Darkened/Slobberbone (15)
6. Island Garden Song/The Mountain Goats (8)
7. Money Making Money/Canasta (5)
8. Your Blood/Destroyer (10)
9. Cold Cold Heaven/Earlimart (9) - also on the iPod
10. The Monitor/Bishop Allen (6) - also on the iPod

Saturday, December 01, 2007


I greatly enjoyed Thanksgiving weekend, as previously mentioned. One side effect of the weekend was that I fell a bit more behind on my pop culture intake. I'd gotten myself caught up on my DVRed TV shows and Grant and I had made some headway in our DVRed shows. I only captured a handful of shows over last weekend and I did get some reading done on the trip as well. This week has put me even further behind - I've been at work twice a day all week and am going in this morning for 3+ hours as well.

I mentioned yesterday that I'd read about 90 pages of Remainder. I started it on Tuesday and have really been enjoying it...but I haven't read any of it since Wednesday. I have 4 more books stacked up as well as two issues of SF mags and the new Scott Pilgrim.

I'm still a couple weeks behind on EW. I've read the Springsteen/Win Butler interview in Spin but haven't looked at much of the rest. I have an issue of ESPN the Magazine, an issue of Discover, and I borrowed an issue of The Economist from my dad (why?). Bought the new Previews for the first time in a number of months too.

On the DVR I still have Battlestar Galactica: Razor and episodes of Reaper, Pushing Daisies, My Name Is Earl, 30 Rock, Scrubs, and Friday Lights. A second ep of Legion of Super-Heroes will be captured today, as will the season finale of Torchwood and the second season finale of Doctor Who.

Grant is getting on my case to get through some commentaries of Simpsons Season 9 so we can watch more episodes (I sometimes forget he hasn't seen most of them). I want to watch the extras on Futurama: Bender's Big Score and still haven't gotten around to the extras on Knocked Up either. Our Netflix movie is The Squid and the Whale, which I want to see.

So, I guess I should shut up and focus on getting through some of this. Today's already pretty busy, though. Oh well, I'll get to it all.

Friday, November 30, 2007


It's the last of the month, so it's time for yet another fun-filled monthly roundup - the penultimate roundup of 2007! Try to contain your excitement...

I read 4 books in November (Patriot Acts; The Abstinence Teacher; The Hidden Family; and 20th Century Ghosts) and am about 90 pages into a fifth (Remainder). That means I am currently working on book #40 for the year, which is unprecedented territory for me in the last decade or more and is my goal for the year. I also have four library books stacked up after that, so I'm well on the way to surpassing that goal.

I read 30 stories in November, which just edges out January to be the high monthly intake. That total includes most of the Oct./Nov. double issue of F&SF, the Dec. issue of Asimov's, and all of 20th Century Ghosts. It also brings the year's total to 187.

I actually read 2 comics in November, a trade (Immortal Iron Fist) and an OGN (Shortcomings). One was purchased and one was from the library. Those two put the total at 111 for the year and I know it will be added to next month, because I bought a new comic today (about which you will be hearing more).

I got 9 new CDs in November, two actual discs (Band of Horses' Cease To Begin and Iron and Wine's The Shepherd's Dog) and 7 downloads (including the bonus EP for Wilco's Sky Blue Sky). That brings the year's total to 99.

Once again, no movies. Still holding at 14.

I actually watched something on DVD this past month - Futurama: Bender's Big Score. More on this in the next couple days...

That's it. Next month will bring not only a monthly roundup but the yearly stats as well. Get ready!

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I got out and played tonight, which gives me two performances in November, both at Front Porch. I'm making a comeback! It's been nice to get out and I'm going to try and do it more as we move into December and beyond. It's fun. Anyway, here's the short list...

Nov. 8 - Out of Balance (debut); That's Okay

Nov. 29 - Out of Balance; Decoder Ring

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


We left for Pennsylvania at around 11:00 last Wednesday, since Jill had to teach part of her day. We also had my mom with us this year, as my dad had to teach a class on Wed. night (he drove by himself on Thanksgiving and got there when we were getting back from dinner). Our trip took us 11 1/2 hours with weather and traffic and stops. A long haul. At the other end, though, I got to see my cousins and aunts - it's the one time a year we can all get together.

I went out with my cousins that night, to a local brewery. I tried a citrusy beer called Wit's End and we filled some growlers with other beers. We went back to the hotel and played cards untiil 3 in the morning, the latest I stayed up all weekend.

That pretty was the theme for the weekend - hanging out, having some beer (the scotch ale and the nut brown ale were personal faves), playing lots of euchre and Sorry, and eating. Lots and lots of eating. I could talk about the seafood bisque and the mashed sweet potatoes and the scallop martini and the turkey sub and so forth but I won't. Instead, I'll mention the five kinds of pie I had - blueberry crumb, apple crumb, shoofly, grape, and raspberry. Wonderful.

I had such a good time. It was really hard to come back to is the first day I feel like I'm ready to be back at work (after working two days already). I wish we all lived closer and could see each other more but I guess the holiday wouldn't mean as much that way either.

Oh, we managed to make it home in 10 hours and 10 minutes and that included sitting in a line at the toll booth leaving Ohio for a half hour. I was able to watch the Bears come back and beat the Broncos and got a fair amount of laundry done.

I listened to the iPod a little bit while we were there - a little shuffle, A.A. Bondy's American Hearts, and half of Radiohead's In Rainbows. Here's what I played in the car (lighter than usual since I talked to my mom on my first driving leg on Wed.)...

Arcade Fire/Funeral
Band of Horses/Cease To Begin
The Beatles/Rubber Soul
Iron and Wine/The Shepherd's Dog
The Jayhawks/Sound of Lies
Ben Kweller/Ben Kweller (just over half)
Material Issue/Freak City Soundtrack
Tim O'Reagan/Tim O'Reagan
Tom Petty/Highway Companion
Sea Wolf/Leaves in the River
Bruce Springsteen/Magic
John Vanderslice/Emerald City
Wilco/Sky Blue Sky

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Okay, not really. But I did recently read Joe Hill's story collection 20th Century Ghosts and I still have songs from the new Band of Horses stuck in my head. So, that explains the lame title. Anyway, this is the second book from Hill I've read this year (I read his debut novel, Heart-Shaped Box, back in March) and also the second short story collection I've read (I read Fast Forward 1 back in late February and early March, right before the Hill).

You would expect this to be a collection of horror stories and the lead story, "Best New Horror," seems to back that up. Eddie Carroll is the editor of Best New Horror, an long-running anthology series. He's done it for so long that he is bored with the job and bored with the fiction he has to read for it every year. Then he's sent a story that is a breath of fresh air and also disturbing. He tracks down the author and finds himself in the middle of a horror tale himself.

Hill isn't after bloody horror, though. He's more interested in psychology, the human condition. Interested in not only the straight-forward (relatively) but also the odd. He also delivers quality fiction.

"20th Century Ghost" tells the tale of a theater that is haunted by a ghost, though that ghost only appears to certain people. She's a bloody ghost but she's also a movie buff and materializes to catch quality movies. It's also a love story and very effective.

"Pop Art" is about the relationship between a troublemaker and an "inflatable boy." It's sweet and odd and feels very real.

"Abraham's Boys" is the story of the two Van Helsing boys (whose mother was Mina). What they go through living with their father, what they learn, and what they do is very chilling.

There are very creepy stories as well. "The Black Phone" is about a kidnapping and a phone connected to nothing that rings with calls from the dead. "In the Rundown" has an angry kid come upon a scene of such horror that he doesn't know what to do.

"Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead" contains no horror elements outside of it being set during the shooting of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Instead, it's a relationship story and is very well done.

Some of my favorite stories all full of weirdness. "Last Breath" features a museum of the last breaths of the dead. "The Cape" deals with a person who can fly and what it does to him (and what he does to others). "My Father's Mask" is almost beyond description, a story full of imagery and games and full of meaning that is only grasped subsconciously.

All of Hill's talents come to fruition in the final story, "Voluntary Committal" (which also happens to be the longest story, novella-length). It features relationships between boys, between brothers, dark impulses, mental illness, and compelling strangeness. It is a fantastic and disturbing story, easily one of the best I've read all year.

20th Century Ghosts was originally published in the UK in 2005 but it wasn't widely available. Between this collection and the novel, Joe Hill is having a great year. I will definitely pick up his next book.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


We arrived back home at 5:00 this evening, after a relatively smooth (except for some snow/rain in Indiana) and quick (except for a half hour wait at the toll booth at the end of Ohio) trip. We are unpacked, the laundry is washing, and we're eating some Jimmy John's. Oh, and the Bears are losing too. Anyway, more on our Thanksgiving weekend soon - for now, let's shuffle some songs...

1. Burn That Broken Bed/Iron and Wine & Calexico (17)
2. People Think They Know Me/Sloan (9)
3. My Love Is True/The Broken West (14)
4. Well Thought Out Twinkles/Silversun Pickups (9)
5. A Glow/Okkervil River (8)
6. Things Nobody's Named Yet/Warren Zanes (13)
7. High As A Kite/Pernice Brothers (13)
8. How Can You Be Sure/Radiohead (11)
9. When I Lose My Eyes/Saturday Looks Good To Me (4)
10. Last Time in Love/Sloan (13)

Monday, November 19, 2007


I may not have accomplished a whole lot today - work, getting our mail held, a little magazine reading (an Entertainment Weekly from two weeks ago), watching Saturday night's Doctor Who and tonight's Chuck - but I did do something important. I sold our old car. Jill put a sign on it yesterday and it had a call this morning followed by a guy out front with cash - he got it. So, our old Ford Escort is gone. Yay me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


It's only a couple days before we head to PA for Thanksgiving. I always look forward to this time of year but I'm anticipating it even more this year. It will be nice to get away for a few days and to see all of my family (there's a new addition this year!). We'll be traveling back home next Sunday, so I don't know if I'll get to a shuffle or not. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

1. Nothing Is Easy/The Whigs (9)
2. Title Track/Okkervil River (6) - also on the iPod
3. Best of Luck/Oakley Hall (3) - also on the iPod
4. Kingdom of Spain/The Decemberists (5)
5. Something You Ain't Got/Cracker (9)
6. The Family Gardener (live)/Jeff Tweedy (5)
7. Getting Saved/Portastatic (16)
8. Thirteen/Elliott Smith (6)
9. Duet For Guitars #1/M. Ward (5)
10. Like a Light/The Broken West (12) - also on the iPod

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I read the Dec. 2006 issue of Asimov's back in January, so I guess I've gotten a bit more caught up on my SF magazine reading over the year. Really, it's hard to believe we're at the point of the year (I've already gotten the Jan. 2008 issue too). Anyway, here's what I thought...

The issue starts off with a Christmas story from Connie Willis, "All Seated on the Ground." I'm not a big fan of how Christmas keeps creeping up the calendar - the TV commercials are now starting the day after Halloween, fer cryin' out loud! - but at least I chose to read this now. This is a madcap Christmas tale featuring disapproving aliens and choirs and buffoons of all stripes, plus a falling in love story. It's solid.

Next is a short tale from Tim McDaniel, "The Lonsesome Planet Traveler's Advisory." It's modeled after the "Lonely Planet" guidebooks, the twist being it's a primer for aliens who travel to Earth. Amusing.

"Strangers on a Bus" is the 13th Asimov's appearance for Jack Skillingstead, whom I've found very readable over the course of the last four years. This story, about a writer who thinks he can create the realities of those around him and the woman he meets on a bus, is no exception. It's odd and cool and affecting, even if you're not quite sure what's happening.

Nancy Kress gives us "The Rules" or rather, a story in which a dying rich man uses new technology to try and stop the effects of climate chaos by appealing directly to people. Another solid effort.

I'm not quite sure I understood "do(this)" by Stephen Graham Jones, as it's a very philosophical tale that has a character trying to find metaphors in computer languages. Very very interesting.

Finally, there's part two of Galaxy Blues by Allen M. Steele. "The Pride of Cucamonga" takes Jules Truffant and his fellow crew members into orbit and across the galaxy to the habitat of the hjadd. Along the way he learns more about the crew and the hjadd, naturally. It's the second part of four, so there's a lot of character work and moving the plot along. The ending suggests things are about to change and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

I have only two issues of SF mags in my pile now, though the last time I did a new issue arrived in the mail a couple days later. Time will tell if that happens again. With four books piled up, though, it will take a while before I get to another. But that's a story for another day.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Last night Grant participated in his first ever academic competition, Spell Bowl. He's been working on a list of 750 words for a couple months now, both with me and at practices with his team. He's comes from a line of people involved in Spell Bowl - I did three of them in high school (we made it to state one year) and my mom has been the coach at her high school for 21 years. Both of us were in attendance last night, along with Jill and my dad.

Grant was one of eight spellers, with each team member spelling seven words. He missed one word, tying him for the best amongst his teammates with four others. I'm sure I was more nervous for him than he was for himself. I'm very very proud of him.

Oh, I spelled along during the competition and missed 6 of 56 words. Two of the elementary schools there had higher scores than that - one of them only missed one word all night. Impressive.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I've just returned from the library, where I had an item waiting for me. A couple days ago I put myself on the list for a bunch of books, because I can't help myself. It's like putting things on your wish list at Amazon, except I can actual get and read all of these. And after finishing The Hidden Family and then Shortcomings (more on which in a bit), I needed some more reading material. Knowing that this checkout would take me through next week's Thanksgiving trip, I grabbed two other books and went to checkout and get the one being held. Turns out I had two now being held. Now I have four books to read...after I finish the Dec. issue of Asimov's. What are they?

Joe Hill/20th Century Ghosts
George R.R. Martin/Dreamsongs
Tom McCarthy/Remainder
David Mizner/Hartsburg, USA

Speaking of multiple incoming pieces of art, I went on a bit of a spree at eMusic yesterday. Yeah, I used up all 65 downloads in one day. I've only listened to each only one time (with the exception of one that I've had a burned copy of for a while), so no comments yet. But here's my 22nd round of downloads...

A.A. Bondy/American Hearts
The Redwalls/The Redwalls
Beirut/The Flying Club Cup
Thurston Moore/Trees Outside the Academy
Spoon/A Series of Sneaks - this is the exception; it has two extra songs tacked on

Okay, Shortcomings. It's the new graphic novel by Adrian Tomine and was serialized in his comic Optic Nerve. I've only ever read one issue of that comic, many years ago. I liked it well enough and really liked Tomine's art style. This new work has been getting rave reviews and since the library had it, why not get it? Well, I'm glad I got it from the library. Tomine's art is great as always but I didn't care much for the story; Ben Tanaka is a jerk who is fixated on white women. That's about it. Sure, there are other characters but none of it was very interesting. And if you can't find any sympathy with the main character, you're not going to care for it much. I though Ben was an ass, pure and simple. Oh well. I read it all last night, so it wasn't a big waste of my time either. Still, I was hoping for better.

Finally, let's talk TV. No, not the least not right now. I am behind on my TV watching. Well, half of it. The shows Jill and I watch together - The Amazing Race, Chuck, Pushing Daisies, 30 Rock, The Office, Scrubs, and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia - I'm caught up on. The shows that only I (or Grant and I) watch - The Simpsons, Reaper, My Name Is Earl, Friday Night Lights, Legion of Super-Heroes, Doctor Who, and Torchwood - I'm a week behind on. Oh, I have been watching How I Met Your Mother as it airs while Jill is watching Dancing With the Stars and the DVR is capturing Chuck. I also watched the Wilco episode of Austin City Limits but still have the Arcade Fire to watch. I'd like to catch up by the time we leave for PA on Wednesday...gonna have to watch a lot in the near future then. It can be done.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I just finished reading The Hidden Family by Charles Stross about a half hour ago. It's the second novel in his fanstasy series, The Merchant Princes. I read the first novel, The Family Trade, a couple years ago when it was published. I liked the book well enough, though obviously not enough to keep buying the series in hardcover as it came out. After reading Halting State, it seemed like the time was right to backtrack and see what was going on.

The series centers around Miriam Beckstein, who discovered in the first book that she was actually a member of royalty - on another world. She was ensnared in the machinations of that family (the Clan), who made money by crossing over to our world and selling things such as drugs. Oh, and there were members of the Clan trying to kill her.

This time around Miriam sets up shop in yet another world, with the idea of introducing ideas that this alternate America (though nowhere close to ours in history) could use, such as efficient brake pads. Meanwhile, she is dodging the different factions trying to kill her, figuring out where the civil war in the Clan is coming from, and making a big political power play within the Clan. At times, the book moves her from plot point to plot point, with stops for speechs about a wide variety of ideas along the way. The dialogue can seem forced. And yet, the book is readable and it's easy to get caught up in the story. Stross has definitely written better books but I'm sure I'll be reading the next books in the series before too long.

Monday, November 12, 2007


That's right, I spent a good portion of my weekend reading the new novel from Tom Perrotta, The Abstinence Teacher. I first heard of Perrotta through the movie adaptation of Election, which still remains a favorite film. I eventually got around to reading the book as well. When Little Children came out, I bought it right away and it was one of my favorite books that year (still haven't seen that movie adaptation, however). So, I got myself on the request list at the library for the new one and it fell to me fairly quickly.

It's the story of Ruth Ramsey, a high school Sex Ed teacher who has found herself in hot water over a random comment in class that some people enjoy oral sex. It's also the story of Tim Mason, who has found Jesus after years of destructive behaviors (drugs, alcohol, adultery). Tim is the soccer coach of Ruth's daughter Maggie and Ruth is attracted to him upon first meeting; Tim then leads the girls in a spontaneous prayer after a victory and Ruth gets very upset. That drives the plot of the book.

Perrotta tackles faith, love, sex, the lies we tell ourselves, family, loneliness, and other aspects of human nature. The book is satirical but also has heart to it. Take the figure of Pastor Dennis, for instance. He comes off like a showman and someone who is more worried about numbers than the actual souls of the people he is trying to save...and yet, we also realize that it does matter to him. In the end, nobody's perfect, believer or non-believer. And we're all just trying to make any connection we can.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Only a week-and-a-half left before we head to PA for Thanksgiving, which is hard to believe. I have leaves to rake but it's supposed to rain the next few days, so I'll probably have to put it off until next weekend. Big hardship, I tell you. So instead of leaves, how about 10 songs?

1. Transfiguration #2/M. Ward (10)
2. Microscopic View/Pernice Brothers (15)
3. Rue the Blues/Oakley Hall (3) - also on the iPod
4. Citronella/Aesop Rock (3)
5. Set in Motion/Sloan (13)
6. Ruby II/Amy Millan (9) - also on the iPod
7. Either/Or/Elliott Smith (7)
8. Song for Myla Goldberg/The Decemberists (5) - also on the iPod
9. Missing Children/Okkervil River (5)
10. Lucinda/Tom Waits (8)

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Today is this blog's second anniversary. It has lasted longer than my previous efforts and with today's post being #378, I have averaged about a post every other day over that time. Frankly, that amazes me. Anyway, thanks to all of you who still come by and read my ramblings. I plan to keep on doing it, so come on back.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Once again, in lieu of writing actual music reviews I thought I'd quickly mention what I can't stop listening to of late. I've had plans to institute a "Midweek Music Review" but haven't quite done it. There's always next week!

Earlimart/Mentor Tormentor
Band of Horses/Cease To Begin
The Mountain Goats/All Hail West Texas

Get your hands on 'em!

Earlier this week I read the new novel from Greg Rucka, Patriot Acts. It's a return to the story of Atticus Kodiak, a former bodyguard who now is partnered with Drama, one of The Ten (most wanted assassins, that is). The new novel picks up right after events in Critical Space (which came out 6 years ago), with the killing of another member of The Ten. Afterwards they go back to a safe house and Kodiak prepares to leave. He is ambushed along the way, then returns to find out the same happened at the safe house. That launches the rest of the book, as Atticus and Alena (Drama) try to remain hidden while also seeking revenge. It's a typical Rucka novel - well done and page-turning with an overreliance on process over plot or characterization at points. Plus, everyone wears a watch cap. Still, the book is worth a read and if you've never read the Kodiak books, go back to Keeper and start.

Just this morning, I finished a new trade (first comic I've bought and read in almost two months), The Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story. It collects the first six issues of the recently-started comic, plus a short story from one of the many spinoffs to Civil War. It's written by Ed Brubaker (who's written many a fine comic) and Matt Fraction (with whom I'm way less familiar) and drawn by David Aja (with a handful of others in the flashback sections). I don't know very much about Iron Fist, having only read a few stories featuring him (mostly in the John Ostrander-written Heroes For Hire series in the 90s). I picked up the first issue when it came out and like it enough to wait for the trade; I'm not disappointed. Action? Check. Generational super-heroes? Check. Mysteries and secrets? Check. Kung-fu action? Check. Humor? Check. Fantastic art? Ooooh yeah, Aja is amazing. As an added bonus, the trade ends with the promise of more of all of it. Can't wait for the second trade to come out!

My subscription rolled over on Sunday, so it's time to mention what I grabbed in October...

The Mountain Goats/All Hail West Texas - Let my Mountain Goats obsession continue!

Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew/Spirit If... - This is like the BSS record I have - some really good stuff and some stuff that makes me say "eh." I can live with that.

Pavement/Slanted & Enchanted - Can you believe this is my first Pavement? Yeah, I don't know how I missed them the first time around either.

Saturday Looks Good To Me/Fill Up the Room - For some reason, I had thought this was an emo band. It's not. They write great pop songs with a bit of a 60s sound.

Sloan/Twice Removed - It was time to pick up another Sloan. This is my third and there will be more.

Monday, November 05, 2007

F&SF OCT./NOV. 2007

I took a few days out of my book reading to tackle the annual double issue of F&SF. Here's what I thought...

The issue starts of with a story from Robert Silverberg, "Against the Current." It's getting rare these days to see a new Silverberg story and I'm happy to see one, as he was a regular presence when I first started reading SF mags on a regular basis. In this one, Phil Rackman starts moving through time backwards and is able to interact with his past for a bit before heading off on a big adventure. Solid stuff.

Fred Chappell's "The Diamond Shadow" is a fantasy tale set in a world where shadows can be stolen and used by other people for various purposes. Here, Astolfo and Falco uncover the secrets of a diamond in order to help a Countess who is also a triple figure (child, adult, and crone in one). Again, solid stuff.

"The Star to Every Wandering Barque" by James Stoddard is a hopeful tale about what would happen if human beings suddenly realized how precious and beautiful life is and how stupid and mean we've all been to each other. No more wars, ending hunger, and space exploration picks up again. If only...

Albert E. Cowdrey gives us a Katrina ghost story in "The Recreation Room." To be honest, I wasn't quite expecting the ending and don't think the story really gave enough clues to get us to that point. On the other hand, Cowdrey is always readable, so I'm not upset that I read it. I liked it well enough until I got to the end. Happens.

I did not finish Judith Moffett's "The Bird Shaman's Girl" - she lost me early on with the varying religions of the world and an odd film project. Only the second story in F&SF this year that I haven't finished.

M. Ramsey Chapman makes a writing debut with "Two Weeks After," a very human ghost story that makes a lot of sense and has a great ending. Looking forward to more stories from Chapman...

"Fragrant Goddess" by Paul Park deals with alchemical secrets and an old house and an old relationship and doesn't quite hold together, though it is definitely interesting along the way.

My favorite story was "Unpossible" by Daryl Gregory, a look at what happens to children able to travel to magical lands once they grow up. Smart and fun and sad all at the same time. The story notes mention Gregory is putting out a novel next year and I plan on reading it - he's a writer worth watching.

I also loved Michael Swanwick's "Urdumheim." How could I not? First, it's written by Swanwick, one of the best writers out there. Second, it's a creation myth full of humor and despair and words and heroes, big and small. Villains too. Excellent stuff.

In addition, there are the usual books and film columns as well as a "Plumage From Pegasus" from the always dependable Paul Di Filippo. It's another solid issue with great work from Gregory, Swanwick, and Chapman.