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.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


It's supposed to be pretty nice today but get much colder this week with a chance of flurries. Time to get the storm windows on the house. Hope everyone remembered to set their clocks back last night too...

1. Burn That Broken Bed/Iron and Wine & Calexico (16)
2. Automatic Situation/Joseph Arthur (13)
3. All The Old Showstoppers/The New Pornographers (8)
4. No Key, No Plan/Okkervil River (4)
5. Italian Dry Ice/Josh Rouse (4)
6. Last Years Rain Didn't Fall Quite So Hard/The Twilight Sad (4)
7. Requiem/M. Ward (17)
8. O.K. Alright/The Whigs (11)
9. We Were Patriots/The Mountain Goats (7)
10. Breathe Deep Not Loud/Centro-Matic (11)

Friday, November 02, 2007


I got some money for Halloween (thanks, Mom!) and figured it was time I bought some pop culture goodies, since it's been a whole month since I've done so. I wandered off to Best Buy and looked around. There are at least a dozen CDs that have come out in the last few months that I haven't gotten around to and most of them were at the store. I settled on two from Sub Pop...

Band of Horses/Cease To Begin
Iron and Wine/The Shepherd's Dog

I've started listening to BoH as I've been typing this but I'm soon going to stop so I can catch Wilco on "Austin City Limits. Anyway, I'm sure I'll talk more about these albums in the future (or at least keep promising to). Good night!