Sunday, September 30, 2007


I had plans to post this week but things got crazy at work as my boss was out sick. I also had to get back in the water when I went back in the evening. Anyway, I hope to get at least a couple posts up this week but we'll see what happens.

1. Rain/Bishop Allen (5) - also on the iPod
2. Pick Me Up/Dinosaur Jr. (6) - also on the iPod
3. Miss Misery (Early Version)/Elliott Smith (7) - also on the iPod
4. Milkcrate Mosh/The Hold Steady (8)
5. El Otro Lado/Josh Rouse (11)
6. Cardinal Points/The Essex Green (15)
7. Wonderous Life/The Drams (11)
8. 5 Years/Kathleen Edwards (8)
9. Introduction/Voxtrot (2) - also on the iPod
10. Nice To Fit In/Josh Rouse (3) - also on the iPod

Sunday, September 23, 2007


A very late entry to the "Sunday Shuffle" this week for a variety of reasons, which I may or may not get into in the next few days. Also, a note before I start - I deleted several downloaded albums from iTunes the other day to try and clear some space and jettison the stuff I only ever listened to if it came up on shuffle. No more songs from The Format, for example. And now, what's left...

1. And She Would Darken The Memory of Youth/The Twilight Sad (3) - also likely to be jettisoned in the near future
2. Web in Front/Archers of Loaf (13)
3. How Can You Be Sure/Radiohead (9)
4. September's High/The Drams (13)
5. Beautiful Car/M. Ward (4)
6. Murder Me Rachael/The National (7)
7. Lie To Me/Tom Waits (6) - never got the other discs in this set, so maybe this will be deleted
8. Tallahassee/The Mountain Goats (8)
9. Stitch In Time/Mary Weiss (3) - this may go too
10. Dignity/The Broken West (14)

Monday, September 17, 2007


Over the weekend I remembered to DVR an episode of Doctor Who. I've been hearing good things about this latest series but have never managed to catch it. It's not like I've been a longstanding fan of the series as a whole either, though I did watch a bit of it with my father back in the 80s on PBS. It was fun stuff but I never made a long-term commitment and certainly couldn't debate the merits of the different actors who have played the Doctor over the years. But I know the general idea of the series and about the Tardis and the Daleks and that's enough to pick a random episode to watch.

This particular episode, "Blink," started with a woman going into an abandoned house and taking pictures. While there, she discovers some writing behind some wallpaper that contains a message to her from the Doctor advising her to duck. And that sends Sally Sparrow on a rather interesting journey. We get time travel. We get DVD Easter eggs featuring the Doctor that reproduce his half of a conversation he has with Sally in the future (sounds confusing but makes perfect sense in the episode and is extremely cool and funny). The villains seems really stupid at first - stone angels that move when you're not looking - but turn into something very creepy and cool by the end of the episode. Time is a wobbly ball, we learn. And I learned that I need to keep watching Doctor Who.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

F&SF SEPT. 2007

The Sept. issue of F&SF starts of with a story from Alexander Jablokov, "Wrong Number." Normally, I enjoy his work but this story took too long getting to the heart and too much time trying to be cute about what was going on. I just didn't have patience and abandoned it, the first time that's happened with F&SF this year.

After two books columns (by Charles DeLint and James Sallis) covering (among other things) Jonathan Lethem's You Don't Love Me Yet and the Lou Anders-edited Fast Forward 1 (both of which I read this year), came "Envoy Extraordinary" by Albert E. Cowdrey. It's a humorous tale of a pompous diplomat sent to defuse a situation with the tyrant of a backwards planet. Naturally, things don't turn out quite so well. It's a solid story.

Another humorous story follows - "Atalanta Loses at the Interpantheonic Trivia Bee" by Heather Lindsley. It's the story of how Hippomenes woos Atalanta in the midst of, well, a trivia. Atalanta is on a team with Aphrodite, Athena, and Artemis; Hippomenes is teamed with Zues, Apollo, and Hermes. It's a fun story.

John Langan delivers a much more serious story with "Episode Seven: Last Stand Against the Pack In the Kingdom of the Purple Flowers." It's the story of Wayne and Jackie, two friends on the run from the horrors of the Pack in an apocalyptic world. Oh, and Jackie is 8 months pregnant. It's told as a very short story (in bold) but also as a very detailed story (after every bold entry is a longer explanation in regular typeface). The story is very gripping and well-written and you're not sure what to make of it. Are these things really happening? Or is one of them hallucinating the whole thing? This is fiction at its highest quality.

More mythology and humor arrive in the form of a very short story that is formatted as a list in "Requirements for the Mythology Merit Badge" by Kevin N. Haw. Pretty much what you get and it's enjoyable.

You know, I usually glide over Lucius Shepard's movie reviews without comment but I had a thought as I was reading his put-down of Next. He may rip a movie but I always get the sense that he is disappointed with each and every movie that doesn't do its job. Some critics you think are writing negative reviews just because they can. Shepard writes negative reviews with anger that they weren't better than they were. That's a rare skill. Of course, he is one of the best writers we have today across all genres and mediums, so that shouldn't be surprising. And it isn't, really. I just thought it should be said.

Robert Reed is up next with the sixth story I've read by him this year, "If We Can Save Just One Child..." It's a future where illegal cloning of children is being done for nefarious purposes and has multiple viewpoints that shift around each other. At the center of most of those vignettes is Gary Olsen, who may or may not be participating in those illegal activities. It's a solid story with a quite a bit to think about as you read it. Not Reed's best but they can't all be.

The final story in the issue (after a Science column) is Ted Chiang's "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" and it is a fantastic story. It is a tale told by Fuwaad ibn Abbas to the Caliph and is set in Baghdad and Cairo is some unnamed past. The story is very much concerned with the past and the future and how neither can be changed. Fuwaad tells of his meeting with an alchemist, Bashaarat, who has built a Gate of Years, through which one can go 20 years into the past or future. Bashaarat tells Fuwaad several tales of people who have used the Gate both ways and that leads to Fuwaad also going through the Gate. The stories within the story are very well told and full of interesting implications. This is one of the best time travel stories I've ever read and I have a particular love for the genre. It is also one of the best stories of the year, if not the best, and I predict it will be winning awards next year and will appear in all the year's best anthologies.

The presence of the Langan and Chiang stories make this already solid issue of F&SF into a great issue.

Well, so much for my optimism. I was a pretty good week and I adjusted to the job and the expanded hours as the week went along. The kicker is have to be at work 6 days a week, though Fridays it will only be an hour or so (I picked up an open guard shift for 2 hours before I taught this week). Anyway, I'm still optimistic that I can do all that I want to. And God help me, I'm thinking of launching a second blog...more on that later. Maybe.

1. Stars Fell on Alabama/The Mountain Goats (18)
2. eterna (concerning the end of the world) (ps 30:9)/The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers (21)
3. Black Wave/Bad Vibrations/Acrade Fire (9)
4. Getting Saved/Portastatic (15)
5. White Waves/Shearwater (6)
6. Magazine Called Sunset (Alt. Version)/Wilco (7)
7. The Loss Adjuster (Excerpt 1)/Jarvis Cocker (4)
8. Rubidoux/Cold War Kids (7) - with another "hidden" track
9. Raised By Wolves/Voxtrot (3)
10. We Were Patriots/The Mountain Goats (5)

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Tomorrow brings a bunch of change to the Steiner household. I've mentioned bits and pieces of what's been going on but I thought I'd cover things a little more clearly.

I received a promotion a few weeks ago and am now the supervisor of all swimming lessons at the YMCA. I will still be teaching all the classes I have been during the daytime and then will come back at around 4:00 Monday through Thursday evenings for a few hours to make sure things are running smoothly, as well as Saturday mornings. If people don't show up, I'll jump in and teach. If a teacher needs some guidance or extra help, I'll jump in. The idea is for me to not only make sure our lesson quality is high overall but to have a sense of where all the kids in the program are and communicate with they and their parents. I will be doing some administrative duties. I have also just been recertified as a lifeguard after about 18 years; that's not a position I'd ever thought I'd be in again but I am commited to doing the job and feel comfortable that I could rescue someone from the water. I will be on call certain nights of the week and on some weekends and it's necessary that I can fill in when the need arises (we also have a new supervisor for all lifeguards); additionally, we are short-staffed at certain times and I have a lifeguard shift to cover for an hour or so before I teach on Tuesday and Thursdays. Of course, it all means more money and more hours and more responsibilities. I'm not saying it will be easy but I am looking forward to the challenge and plan on doing the best job I can.

Jill is currently in rehearsals after school; they are doing a murder mystery this fall. This means Grant will have to come to the Y many evenings, a definite change for him. He also starts Spell Bowl practice this week and has to be at school at 7:45 on Mondays and Fridays and stay after school on Wednesdays. We're also planning on getting him back into guitar lessons with Graham.

Another change is in how we are spending money. We are in a period where we are trying to reign in our spending, especially in the entertainment and food areas. To that end, I got a library card a few weeks ago and am currently reading the third book I've checked out of the library in about 15 years, maybe more. It's weird going back to reading books other people have handled, an anal retentive quality I've developed over that same time period. On the other hand, it's freeing to think that I can read as much of the new stuff as I can since I was never able to afford all the books I wanted anyway (and don't have space to keep them either).

I'm still not sure how I'm going to handle comics. I want to stay current but with most books at $3 a pop, it's going to be really hard. My way of dealing with it so far has been to stay away from the comics shop for three weeks but I know that's not an option. I love comics and I have to keep my hand in somehow. I'll get it worked out. For now, though, "Catching Up With Countdown" is no longer active. Someday, perhaps.

So, time and money are going to be factors in my consumption of pop culture but I know I need to keep myself involved. It's what I love and is a good stress relief. I'm going to intake as much as I can. I still want to work on my music and get out to play open mics and shows. I still need to follow through on goals I set out for myself last year, in regards to creative writing. And I still need to do this blog. I don't know how often I'll post but I'm commited to it. Maybe the tighter schedule will help me all around.

It's an exciting time right now and I'm optimistic that these will be good days for the Steiner family.

I'm anticipating downloading two albums on Tuesday to start off my next round of 65, so it's time to talk about the latest round. I spent part of this past download period waiting for the new New Pornographers to show up but I was saved by my brother; he bought Challengers on vinyl and it came with a download coupon which he gave to me since he doesn't do mp3s. I am still waiting for Jason Isbell's solo album and the newest Buffalo Tom to make their appearance at the site, two months after they came out. Soon, I hope.

Okkervil River/The Stage Names - This is a good album and a worthy follow-up to Black Sheep Boy. eMusic also had a bonus track attached to the record. I've still only listened a couple of times and am looking forward to learning the songs inside and out.

Imperial Teen/The Hair the TV the Baby and the Band - Solid pop music from a band that's been on the shelf for a few years. Again, I've only listened a couple times so far.

Stars/In Our Bedroom After the War - The follow-up to Set Yourself On Fire, which I grew to love when it came out a few years ago. I'm still trying to grow into this one but there are some really good songs on here.

Pela/Anytown Graffiti - I liked this the first time I heard it...liked it more the second time...and now I'm close to wanting to listen to it constantly for a week or two. It's a rock record with a lot to like.

Aesop Rock/None Shall Pass - This is the very first hip-hop/rap album I've ever bought. Kinda sad that it took me until the age of 36 to do it. I'm still trying feeling my way through it but there are some songs that I've taken an immediate liking to.

Voxtrot/Raised By Wolves - And here's the third of the Voxtrot EPs. Guess the full-length will be next.

I can't quit you, Sunday Shuffle...

1. Peacocks/The Mountain Goats (8)
2. Somebody Changed/The Clientele (4)
3. Beautiful Machine Parts 3-4/Apples In Stereo (5)
4. So Blind/The Ladybug Transistor (4)
5. Insurance Fraud #2/The Mountain Goats (6)
6. Moral Centralia (demo)/Harvey Danger (9)
7. Gimme One More Chance/Cracker (8)
8. Get To The Table On Time/M. Ward (9)
9. Letter From Belgium/The Mountain Goats (15)
10. Beanbag Chair/Yo La Tengo (7)

Monday, September 03, 2007


As I've mentioned before, life is changing around the Steiner household. Those changes don't take full effect until next week, when we start up swimming lessons for the fall. Once that happens, I'll be at the Y around 5 hours a day. Between those hours, household chores, keeping Grant on task for school, quality time with the whole family, songwriting and other creative endeavors, pop culture ingestion, food ingestion, and sleep, I won't have a whole lot of time to devote to blogging (especially as I get acclimated to the new job and schedule). So, for the forseeable future, I will be going on a hiatus. Not sure when I'll be back to blogging on a semi-regular basis, but it will be a few weeks at least. So, take care of yourselves and I'll see you down the road.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Back to the usual number today, as we clean up from yesterday's party and I have to start reading the lifeguarding book in preparation for Tuesday...

1. Last Time in Love/Sloan (11)
2. Everything You've Done Wrong/Sloan (7)
3. The Sons Of Cain/Ted Leo + Pharmacists (5)
4. Green River/M. Ward (4)
5. Always on the Telephone/The Ladybug Transistor (4)
6. Cruelty To Animals/Pernice Brothers (16)
7. Endless Supply/Pernice Brothers (11)
8. Red Right Ankle/The Decemberists (6)
9. Toast/Archers of Loaf (9)
10. Pittsburgh/The Lemonheads (10)

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Two-thirds of 2007 is gone already. School is back in session; I am in a new position at work. Lots of changes going on at the Steiner house but they are positive ones. I have a feeling my pop culture intake will be shrinking from here through the rest of the year.

I read 3 books in August - Thursday Next: First Among Sequels, Spook Country, and Bad Monkeys. That brings my 2007 total to 25, still one book behind a pace of 40 books on the year. I need to read 5 books in Sept. in order to get back on pace and I have serious doubts that will occur. Still, I'm going to keep reading (and I won't count the book on lifeguarding I need to start studying).

I read 10 stories in August, coming back down to more normal numbers for me. These stories comprised the whole of two issues of F&SF; I have 4 issues of my SF mags stacked up to be read. The year's total of stories read is at 125.

I read 12 comics in August and they were all single issues, which is the first time that's happened all year. It also brings the comics total to 107 on the year with still only 23 trades read (the books are back ahead). These numbers will fall drastically as we go through the rest of the year, since we are watching our spending and I'm going to have to cut down on my comics habit considerably.

Once again I got 6 CDs in August, all downloads but one (I received Kelley Stoltz's Below the Branches from my brother). My total for the year is now 72.

I didn't see any movies in the theater in August, though I did want to see Superbad and Stardust. They may end up being ones I catch on DVD. The year's total stays at 14.

DVD viewing is a bit more complicated. I watched 4 full movies on DVD - Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, 300, Wet Hot American Summer, and Blades of Glory (which I also saw in the theater). Grant and I watched 8 episodes, listened to 2 commentaries, and watched 1 feature on Batman: The Animated Series Vol. 2 to finish off that set. We also watched 6 episodes, did 3 commentaries, and 1 feature from The Simpsons Season 9. I also watched one episode each for The Wire Season 3, Entourage Season 1, and Futurama Season 3. Whew.

I actually played a show in August, as one of the opening acts for Graham. It was a fun night and I made $10. Other than that, I played open mics at three different venues...however, I only played six times total. I did play piano when Graham performed "Bag of Bones" last week. The big news is that I debuted 4 songs in August and wrote another that I have not yet played out (and may not ever). Here's the songs and how many times I played them...

Bitter Pill (debuted Aug. 2) - 4
That's Okay - 3
Dear Propsective Employer - 3
Could Have Been - 2
Decoder Ring - 1
What Will We Do When the Party's Done? - 1
Let's Get Married Tonight - 1
Toll Booth Operator (debuted Aug. 23) - 2
Play Pretend (debuted Aug. 23) - 3
Nothing You Can Say (debuted Aug. 27) - 1