Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Hard to believe it's roundup time already...

I read 6 books in October (New Bedlam; Halting State; Mister Pip; The Gum Thief; Here, There & Everywhere; and I Just Want My Pants Back), which brings my total for the year to 35. This is the first time I have read 6 books in a month since I started keeping my book goals in 2001 and probably the first time I've read that many books in a month since summers off of college. I am also ahead of pace on my goal of 40 books read this year; I have two months in which to read 5 books. Looks good.

I read 12 stories in October, a bit of a dropoff from last month (but to be expected with reading as many books as I did). 11 of those stories were in the Oct./Nov. issue of Asimov's; the other is in the Oct./Nov. issue of F&SF, which I started on today. My story total for the year stands at 157.

I did not read or purchase a single comic in October and haven't done so since Sept. 12. I wandered around a sale last weekend but nothing jumped out at me (though a better selection would most likely have made a difference). So the yearly total stays at 109, 23 of which have been trades.

I got 8 CDs in October, 6 downloads (five from eMusic and the Radiohead) and 2 actual discs (Bruce Springsteen's Magic and Sea Wolf's Leaves In The River). That brings my total on the year to 90.

No movies again this month, which leaves the year's total at 14.

I didn't watch anything on DVD this past month either. Not sure when that happened last. It's explainable, though, as I'm about a week-and-a-half behind on my TV viewing (thank you, DVR).

And just to mention it here, there will be no October "Performance Log" either, since I didn't get out and play anywhere. That will change tomorrow. October out!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I just finished reading I Just Want My Pants Back, a debut novel from David J. Rosen. It tells the tale of Jason Strider, an Ivy League grad who is just getting through life. He goes out and gets drunk, smokes pot, falls into bed with hot women from time to time, and just drifts through life. The title comes from a girl he sees twice and who leaves with his pants, never to communicate with her again. There's not a whole lot of character arc; at the end, we get a glimpse that he might finally be getting his shit together (the last scene doesn't do much for me in that regard, though it does make sense in the context of the events of the book). It's not that funny or particularly insightful but I did enjoy some of the music references. I guess it didn't really cohere for me. Ah well, you can't win them all.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Last night the Boston Red Sox won their second World Series in the last four years, sweeping the Colorado Rockies 4 games to none. I'm on record that baseball is my favorite sport and I always try to watch as much of the playoffs as I can...really, as much baseball as I can period. This past season has been a little different for me, in that I've been busier with open mics and social activities and, most recently, more hours at work. So, I haven't watched as much baseball, including the playoffs. I did see Game 1 of the Series on Wednesday and parts of Games 2 and 3, before watching the entire game last night. That's a good Red Sox team.

Long-term readers know that my favorite team is the Chicago White Sox and that I've always been very happy to root for the Chicago Cubs as well. My father is a Red Sox fan from way back so we were always aware of how they were doing and felt the heartbreak of the 1986 World Series. So, when the Red Sox game back from a 3-0 deficit against the Yankess in the ALCS back in 2004 and went on to sweep the Cardinals, I was very happy.

2005, of course, brought even more happiness, as my White Sox finally got to and swept the World Series against the Houston Astros. The fact that their playoff wins came during the period of time when I lost both my grnadmothers made it bittersweet as well (I still have a hard time watching highlights from those games without feeling the loss).

And now, here are the Red Sox again. Some kind of Sox have won the Series three of the last four years. It's been good days for this fan of baseball.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Over the past two months, I've made a substantial change in how I read books. I haven't bought any of the books I've read; instead, I've been checking them out of the library.

It's been years since I've checked anything out of the library, probably since my summers home from college. I allowed my OCD tendencies to rule how I read books and would only read ones that I'd bought or that I was loaned from a trusted source (and those times were very rare). I've bought and read a lot of books over the years (208 from 2001 to 2006 alone, minus a handful that I didn't buy) but that reading has also overflowed my shelves and cost quite a bit of money. That money has brought about this change; we are trying to cut down on our entertainment spending and that's been working.

One of my fears about library books - the fact that other people have handled the books - has turned out to be not such a big deal. I've checked out books that no one has read yet, books that few people have, and books that more than a few have. I've survived. I've been happy to just be reading the book and most of them have been in good condition.

There have been a number of positives. One is that poking around the library is a joy, looking at all the possibilities. I would get that same feeling in a bookstore as well. The difference is that I don't have to worry about what I can afford or justify to myself. Along those lines, I can now read more books. Before I would force myself to read more slowly or try to read other things in between books so I didn't overextend myself monetarily. I don't have that problem anymore.

On Aug. 27, I started reading the first book I checked out of the library (Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff, which I never could have bought myself - $20 for a oddly-shaped paperback). Today is Oct. 28, two months later, and I finished reading my 10th library book (more on which in a bit). That's 10 books read in two months! I think I'd have to go back to my teenage years to get to such a prolific reading period.

Obviously, I'm enjoying the freedom of the library. I used to go in there only to donate books to the library sale when I had to pare down my shelves or to take Grant over to check out some books but now I look forward to my trips. I should be doing another one in a few days. And all of this is not to say I won't buy books anymore. I will. But I have a whole lot more reading freedom now.

So, what have I read lately?

After Mister Pip, I dove into the Oct./Nov. issue of Asimov's. It's the annual double issue (well, now there are two but this is the traditional one that I've been reading for 10 years or so) and chock full of stories. I won't go into every one like I usually do; instead, I'll mention the highlights. Greg Egan's "Dark Integers" is a sequel to his 1995 story "Luminous," which I remembered somewhat during the reading of this story. It's a story of select group of people who are in contact with an alien intelligence and can patrol a borderland between worlds through use of high level math. I'm oversimplifying here but it's a very effective story that loses me a little with the hard SF math element. That's okay, though, I like being challenged. Robert Reed gives us an homage to the classic Isaac Asimov story "Nightfall" with his "Night Calls." For comparison, we get the original right after, which I've never read. Both were good reads. I enjoyed the hunt for an experimental creature in Michael Cassutt's "Skull Valley" and the unusual setting of Chris Butler's "The Turn." Finally, Allen M. Steele is back with another story about Coyote; actually, he's back with a new novel, of which "Down and Out on Coyote" is the first part. The rest will be serialized over the next three issue (one of which is waiting to be read by me). One of these days, I need to read all the Coyote novels - I've read much of them in pieces in the pages of Asimov's but it would be good to put the whole thing together in my head. Sounds like a job for the library. Anyway, all of the stories in this issue were worth reading but those were my standouts.

I've been meaning to read Douglas Coupland for years and years, way back to when he published Generation X (of which I am a member by age). Never got around to it, though...until now. He's just come out with a new novel, The Gum Thief. It's the story of Roger, a depressed forty-something, and Bethany, a young adult Goth girl. Both of them work at Staples but they don't talk; rather, they write each other letters or leave writings for the other. Roger is working on a novel with the horrible title of Glove Pond, which reflects the characters and events in the book. Bethany loves the novel. Both of them do a creative writing exercise where the main character is a piece of toast about to be buttered. We meet their families and unspool some mysteries. It's a depressing book and a funny one. It can be bitter. But it's full of humanity and told in a very entertaining way. I liked it quite a bit.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned how I planned on getting around to Chris Roberson's Here, There & Everywhere in the near future. The future is now the past, as I galloped through the book the last three days. It's the story of Roxanne Bonaventure, who is giving a device at the age of 11 that allows her to travel in time and space and is able to explore the many worlds of the Myriad. Those concepts are right up my alley and Roberson delivers. The book is told in an episodic manner and covers a wide variety of situations and characters. The mosiac adds up to a very appealing whole and comes to a very satisfying end. High quality SF.

That's the reading over the last ten days or so. Where does the rainbow come in? I still haven't had enough of the new Radiohead album, In Rainbows...but that's a post for another day.

I might actually do postings other than a Sunday Shuffle later today, so stay tuned for that. Until then, here's what's popping up on my iTunes...

1. Prison On Route 41/Iron And Wine & Calexico (11)
2. Fish in the Jailhouse/Tom Waits (7)
3. All the Lightning Rods/Centro-Matic (10)
4. Mr. Tough/Yo La Tengo (13)
5. Pre-Crimson/Apples In Stereo (6)
6. It's Natural To Be Afraid/Explosions In The Sky (6)
7. The Bachelor and the Bride/The Decemberists (5)
8. Mating Calls/Warren Zanes (8)
9. Chips Ahoy/The Hold Steady (26)
10. The Garden at Night/The Clientele (4)

Sunday, October 21, 2007


The Bears play the Eagles in a must-win situation this afternoon; we get a Game 7 in the ALCS in Boston tonight; I need to finish up my progress reports and want to read as much of the Oct./Nov. issue of Asimov's as I can. Oh, and laundry. To top it all off, it's supposed to reach 80 degrees today.

1. She's Not Shy/Irving (4) - also on the iPod
2. Everybody Wants You/Sloan (12)
3. It Looks Like Love/Josh Rouse (10)
4. The Good In Everyone/Sloan (8)
5. Elsinore/The Essex Green (16)
6. Adventures In Solitude/New Pornographers (7) - also on the iPod
7. Another Way I Could Do It/Sloan (11)
8. 5 Years/Kathleen Edwards (9)
9. Better Times Are Coming Our Way/Cracker (9)
10. Some New Town/Slobberbone (16)

Three songs from Sloan and five songs in double digits? Highly unusual...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I just finished reading Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. As you might guess from the title of the book and the title of my post, the novel spends a lot of time with Great Expectations. The book is introduced to a group of school children on an island in the middle of a war by Mr. Watts, the only white man they know. The kids are taken with the book because it takes them to a place they've never known and some of them, especially Matilda, see something of themselves in Pip. Matilda is caught between her admiration for Mr. Watts and love for her mother; the two adults are at odds with each other.

It may sound like a book about how books can transport you to another world and teach you things about yourself. It is. But the story takes a dramatic and violent turn and after that the book tears away some assumptions the reader has during the first part. It's a story about stories, the stories we tell each other and the stories we tell ourselves. It's funny, depressing, uplifiting, and melancholy. I recommend it to all book lovers, especially those who didn't hate having to read Dickens in school (like me).

Monday, October 15, 2007


I'm not together enough to write coherently about these albums just yet but I wanted to mention how obsessed I am with three partiuclar records at the moment (and no, one of them is not the new Springsteen; I'll get to that at some point...and no, I don't hate it). What are they?

Radiohead/In Rainbows
New Pornographers/Challengers
Okkervil River/The Stage Names

Go buy them and listen to them. Then repeat the second part. Repeat again. Then try to stop.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I'm starting a week early on my progress reports this session, since I have about 75 to do. Sigh. So add that to the usual cleaning and laundry and football watching and reading and all the usual Sunday stuff. Let's shuffle...

1. Microphone Song/Canasta (6)
2. Phantom Limb/The Shins (3) - burned from a disc for a mix
3. 7th And 17th/Pela (5) - also on the iPod
4. Some Day/Brendan Benson (14)
5. Take The Bench/Sloan (10)
6. People That I'm Wrong For/Warren Zanes (13)
7. Chasing After Deer/Midlake (5) - also on the iPod
8. Plasticities/Andrew Bird (4) - also on the iPod
9. Just Because/Earlimart (3) - also on the iPod
10. Half Right/Elliott Smith (6) - also on the iPod

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I've just finished the latest novel from Charles Stross, Halting State, and I wanted to jot down a few impressions of it before I get two weeks down the road and don't remember it as sharply.

It all starts with a robbery within a game. Avalon Four is a RPG that works on the players' phones and someone has managed to rob a bank in the game and make off with a fair amount of money's worth of treasure and so forth. It's set in Scotland ten years in the future and features a logical extension of today's technology in regards not only to games but to ubiquitous personal recording devices and driverless cars (driven by remote drivers via cameras) and all sorts of interesting bits. Naturally, the robbery turns out to be much more and along with a crackling plot, Stross takes a look at the issues involved as the world becomes more connected.

The novel is told in three view points - a cop (Sergeant Sue Smith), a forensic accountant (Elaine Barnaby), and a code monkey (Jack Reed) - and they weave around each other in various interactions (sometimes very interactive) and propel the plot forward. Interestingly, the book is written in second person. It's something you don't often see and I really noticed it in the early chapters before the characters' voices took over along with the plot. A very deliberate choice in a book about games.

I've read quite a bit of Stross's work and consider myself a fan (though I still have gaps). I think this is the best book he's written and won't be surprised to see it nominated for all the big SF awards next year. In the hands of a good director, it could make a great movie as well. You should read it.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


After I do my Sunday Shuffle every week I keep iTunes on shuffle for the rest of the day. Sometimes I'm off and on a bunch, sometimes not.

I've also been running my iPod on shuffle over the past week or two. I use it when I go out for walks or for doing chores around the house, sometimes running it through the stereo. I was listening to it this morning as I was doing the rest of my cleaning.

Well, today both iTunes and my iPod were paused with the same song coming up next - "Impossible" by Shout Out Louds. That's never happened before. Very interesting.

I've been up for a while and gotten some of my cleaning done already. Only dusting, vacuuming, and laundry to go. No Cubs watching today either...stupid Cubs.

1. Cemetery Lawn/The Rosebuds (8)
2. My Rights Versus Yours/The New Pornographers (4) - also on the iPod
3. No Backbone/The Lemonheads (12)
4. Baby and the Band/Imperial Teen (3) - also on the iPod
5. Rains on Me/Tom Waits (6)
6. He Lays In The Reins/Iron and Wine & Calexico (10)
7. Talking To Mary/Elliott Smith (6) - also on iPod
8. Buzz Fledderjohn/Tom Waits (6)
9. Alone (Alternate Version)/Wilco (7)
10. Barfight Revolution, Power Violence/Margot & the Nuclear So & So's (6)

Saturday, October 06, 2007


I've spent parts of the last four days reading the new novel from Bill Flanagan, New Bedlam. I've read two previous books by Flanagan - U2: At the End of the World, an engrossing look at the band during the period of Achtung Baby, the Zoo TV tour, and Zooropa; and his first novel A&R, a fun book about the music business. This book stays in the realm of entertainment but is a look at television, another medium Flanagan is familiar with in his job as a higher-up for MTV.

New Bedlam starts with Bob Kahn, a TV executive who is taking the fall for a reality show that was fixed. He is desperate to find another job before people in the industry find out. He is successful to a point, taking an offer from a small cable provider that also has a couple channels in Rhode Island. King Cable is the domain of the King family, though that family is not a nuclear unit. Dominic, the father and founder, has three kids by three different women (Skyler, Annie, and Kenny, who is not actually a blood relative much to his chagrin). The novel is as much the story of the Kings as it is Bobby's but it also looks at how TV works with stunts and ratings and the like. One of the channels the family owns is the Comic Book Channel and I was surprised by how much comic books were in the novel.

I don't think the book is as funny as the jacket claims it to be and it's written in a style that bugs me - narrative shifts from paragraph to paragraph - but I still found New Bedlam to be entertaining and a pleasant way to occupy my time for a few days in an unseasonably warm October.

Friday, October 05, 2007


I finished the issue over a week ago but I wanted to get down some quick impressions; I don't want to give up on talking about the SF magazines.

Robert Reed started things off with "The Caldera of Good Fortune," another story set on the Great Ship. Crockett escorts an alien to a tourist spot in order to follow two good-looking policewomen and ends up getting caught in a crossfire. Perri and Quee Lee make an appearance at the end as well. Good stuff as usual.

Next was "My Heart as Dry as Dust" by Kim Zimring, a story about a woman about to be hanged for killing more than 80 million people as a side effect to curing AIDS. Obviously, it's not an upbeat story but it is well done.

A middle school band plucked from their homes and now working and living in an alien setting is the focus of James Van Pelt's "How Music Begins." It has been a few years since their abduction and the kids are now almost adults and dealing with their siutation in different ways. It's a character piece as well as a twist on the old trope and I really liked it.

Local writer Ted Kosmatka (I believe he lives in a town just north of here) delves into a world where evolution has been disproved in "The Prophet of Flores." It's an interesting blend of science and faith and it was a solid story.

Kit Reed brought the high concept with a story about what could happen if you find a family member who had been lost and raised by wolves in "What Wolves Know." I liked this one quite a bit.

"Draw" by Patti Nagle is all action as Dimitri goes out in a underwater habitat to try and rescue his missing father, not even sure his father is where he thinks. Solid.

A future with a damaged earth features in "By Fools Like Me" by Nancy Kress. A young girl finds a cache of books and she and her grandmother enjoy the "sin," which gets them in trouble with superstitious family members, especially when the weather becomes extremely difficult. A decent story but not her best work.

Finally, R. Garcia y Robertson gives us another story set in his world of SuperCats and Greenies with "The Good Ship Lollypop." In it, Shirlee tries to escape from her life and from the Boogie man and ends up stowed away on a ship. It's not my favorite of the series but his work is always entertaining.

Of course, there were some poems and a Silverberg column and Paul Di Filippo on books and such but that's the fiction for the Sept. issue. The Dec. issue arrived a couple days ago already, so I still have two more Asimov's in the to-be-read stack (including the Oct./Nov. double issue). I'll get to the double issue within a week or so, I think.

My downloads refresh today, so it's time to rundown what I grabbed in this past month...

Shout Out Louds/Our Ill Wills - Pop music just the way I like it

Oakley Hall/I'll Follow You - Two vocalists, rock, country, and a darn good album

Earlimart/Mentor Tormentor - A very good follow-up to their previous album (Treble & Tremble), which was a year-end fave the other year

Over The Rhine/The Trumpet Child - I downloaded this on the basis of one song and did not care for the album as a whole; I have already deleted it

Spoon/30 Gallon Tank - Some Spoon I didn't have

Voxtrot/Voxtrot - Since I got all the EPs, I figured I might as well get the full-length too

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I only played one open mic in September, at Front Porch Music. My plan was to play a second at MoOOM the day after but I was the only one who showed up to play. Since then I've been very busy at the Y and lately I'm in the water again until at least 6:00 four night a week, which doesn't leave much voice or energy to go and play. I do miss it and hope to get to a couple in Oct.

Sept. 6 - Could Have Been; Dear Prospective Employer

I did get an opportunity to play the night no one else showed up for the open mic; I went back to Tom's house (the host) and did a performance with him and an interview for his You Tube show. His guitar playing really adds another dimension to the song and when I get around to recording it I will ask him to play on the track. You can check it out at my MySpace page.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I didn't post a whole lot in September, so I'll try and throw in a few mini-reviews while I give all the stats...

I read 4 books in September (well, I actually finished the 4th book yesterday but I had read 300 pages of its 375 or so by Sunday night, so I'm counting it completed), bringing my total to 29 for the year. That still puts me behind the pace of reaching 40 for the year but I still have 3 months left.

First up was Falling Man by Don DeLillo. It was the first DeLillo I've read and it's a quieter book focusing on what happens to a family when a man walks out of one of the Twin Towers on 9/11. I read this right around the anniversary of that event and I found it very moving.

Next came Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery. It's the story of a man's search for his missing lover and the various people he came in concact with. Slattery writes with a joy of words and ideas and it is a very very good book.

I followed that with an even better book, Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It's the story of a 300 pound Dominican who is a total geek and the curse on his family. It jumps back and forth in time; is written in a melange of English, Spanish, and geek reference; is full of humor and heartache and history lessons; and is well deserving of all the praise in has received.

Finally, I read Chris Roberson's Set the Seas on Fire. It's the story of Hieronymous Bonaventure, who was also featured in Paragaea (to which this new novel is a prequel of sorts). Bonaventure is first lieutenant on a ship romaing the seas hunting bandits and a storm blows them off-course and lands them on an island paradise for a time. Eventually, he faces down some demons on yet another island. The books is incredibly readable and very entertaining. I now need to read the rest of Roberson's work, sooner than later.

I read 20 stories in September, doubling the number from August (I also abandoned 1 story). These stories came from two issues of Asimov's and one issue of F&SF (I start October with a double issue of each to read and a further issue of Asimov's). The story total for the year is at 145.

I read only 2 comics in September - Justice Society of America #9 and Booster Gold #2. After purchasing those two, I've decided to go back to only trades as I don't want to commit a certain portion of my small entertainment budget each month to a handful of comics. It will free me up to pick up a trade when I really want it. Speaking of trades, that number is still at 23 on the year; the comics total is at 109.

I got 10 CDs in September, all of which were downloads (one courtesy of my brother and another from Aquarium Drunkard). I have already deleted one of the downloads but my new CD total stands at 82 for the year.

Movies? Nope. Still 14 on the year.

DVDs? I stopped keeping track of those again. I did watch some extras from Blades of Glory and Grant and I did some of The Simpsons Season 9. I watched Children of Men, which I liked a lot, and Jill and I watched Knocked Up the other night (her first time, my second). That's about it.