Sunday, August 26, 2007


This is the real anniversary issue of "Sunday Shuffle." I did the first one on Aug. 27, 2006 and called it "Shuffle Off," since I felt I'd ben using the iTunes shuffle feature way too much. Then I came back the next week and did it again and it's become a tradition ever since, though I thought about stopping it along the way. Think I did manage to skip a week or two but I caught up somewhat with double issues.

I listen to my downloaded music differently these days - a lot of the play counts would be higher if I could sync my iPod with iTunes but that's okay. I have so much downloaded music that I don't get to things as quickly either. I do love my iPod and I love my eMusic and I enjoy doing the shuffle.

I've decided to make this a real double issue by giving you even more than two issues worth. And while the music is going, I'm going to wander around the A.V. Club, something I've been meaning to do for months and months. So sit back and enjoy!

1. Seashell Tale/M. Ward (6)
2. How Can You Be Sure/Radiohead (8)
3. Insurance Fraud #2/The Mountain Goats (5)
4. Country Mile/Camera Obscura (14)
5. Down In The Valley (acoustic)/The Broken West (3)
6. This Better Be Good/Fountains of Wayne (4)
7. Darling We're Out of Time/Cracker (11)
8. Stickman/Elliott Smith (24)
9. Tell Me What You Want Me To Do/Mary Weiss (4)
10. Silver Plate Complaints/Cento-Matic (13)
11. Against Pollution/The Mountain Goats (16)
12. Constantinople/The Decemberists (5)
13. I Was Meant for the Stage/The Decemberists (6)
14. She's Not Shy/Irving (3)
15. Young Bride/Midlake (5)
16. Sweetie/Josh Rouse (2)
17. New Disaster/Elliott Smith (7)
18. Going Away/M. Ward (8)
19. A Voice At The End Of The Line/M. Ward (10)
20. Don't Talk Anymore/The Whigs (10)
21. I See The Rain/Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs (4)
22. My Very Best/Elbow (10)
23. Lord I've Been Changed/Tom Waits (6)
24. Zero Refills/Pernice Brothers (13)
25. Snails/The Format (6)
26. Yawny at the Apocalypse/Andrew Bird (3)
27. The Story Of Yo La Tengo/Yo La Tengo (6)
28. Automatic Situation/Joseph Arthur (12)
29. Act Surprised/Superchunk (10)
30. Wasp Nest/The National (7)
31. I'm Actual/The Format (9)
32. Kamera/Wilco (4)
33. Sketchy Metal/The Hold Steady (13)
34. Just a Star/Canasta (6)
35. You Won't Forget/The Drams (9)
36. Underneath The Waves/The Twilight Singers (10)
37. Baboon/The Mountain Goats (6)
38. Sad, Sad Song/M. Ward (12)
39. Change My Life/Spoon (11)
40. Midnight Coward/Stars (2)
41. Cherries In the Snow/Elk City (5)
42. Rhythm (demo)/Wilco (8)
43. June Showers/Superchunk (5)
44. La Ferrassie/Tokyo Police Club (9)
45. Nobody But You/The Black Keys (10)
46. A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene/Okkervil River (4)
47. Shot in the Arm (live)/Jeff Tweedy (7)
48. Missing Children/Okkervil River (4)
49. Picture, Picture/Harvey Danger (10)
50. Abigail/The Broken West (10)

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Lots and lots of rain over the last week - severe thunderstorms with high winds, tornadic activity, sirens going off in the night. It's not been fun but we've certainly had a better time of it here in Valpo than many other towns in the Midwest. It looks like the rain has finally stopped this morning and we're not supposed to get anymore for a few days. Good news.

Speaking of good news, I got a promotion at work. I am now going to be the swimming lesson supervisor, which means I will be working more hours (and at more pay). It also means that I am going to have to bring my lifeguarding skills into the 21st century (I was a lifeguard in the late 80s) for those days when I'm on call or when problems crop up. I can handle that. Grant is going to end up being at the Y for a couple hours many nights, since Jill is on a schedule where she won't get home until 6:00 or so most of the year. But he's 10 now and it's not as big of a deal. I'm looking forward to the challenges and while it feels a bit odd to be embarking on something that is career-like, it also feels good.

I've been off of work this week, the first of three where there are no swimming lessons going on (though with the new position, I'll actually be in having meetings and learning duties and the like). Jill went back to school on Aug. 15 and Grant went on Wednesday, so I've been at home alone for a couple days. I've been doing the usual errands and household chores but I've also had more time for pop culture and my own creative work...

Last night I finished Spook Country, the latest novel from William Gibson. I am a big fan of Gibson's work and I really liked his last novel, Pattern Recognition, which was his first set in the present day. The new novel follows that same path and even features a character from that previous novel, Hubertus Bigend. He is funding a new magazine called "Node" (that no one in the industry has heard of) for which Hollis Henry is writing. Hollis was the singer in a band called The Curfew that once enjoyed success but is no more. She is sent down a path that brings her in contact with strange people doing strange things. The novel has two other viewpoints and eventually all the characters are brought together in Vancouver. I didn't care too much for one of the characters but another of Chinese-Cuban descent and part of a shadowy family is very interesting. In the end, I didn't like this book as much as some of Gibson's other work but it is still a good read and worth the time.

I got two DVDs through Netflix this week. The first was Hellboy. Readers of this blog know how much I enjoy the comic book series and I was prepared to enjoy the movie as well. However, I abandoned it just under an hour into it. Why? I could not stand the portrayal of Abe Sapien, who in the comic books is cool and mysterious and was played onscreen as a freaky fussbudget by David Hyde Pierce. No thank you.

Ironically, David Hyde Pierce plays an odd associate professor of astrophsyics in the other movie I watched this week, Wet Hot American Summer. It's from the gang behind Stella, one of my recent favorite oddball shows on Comedy Central, and it's a sendup of movies about summer camp and is set in 1981. It doesn't make a lot of sense at all and not every joke works but if you like that type of humor, there'a a lot to enjoy. And I did enjoy it.

I was in a unique position when I played the open mic at Front Porch on Thursday...I had three new songs since the last time I'd performed (which was two weeks ago tonight). Last weekend I wrote a new song very quickly about some of the stuff that's been happening with a very tense musical bed and surreal and yearning lyrics. It's called "All These Questions." However, I chose to set that aside the other night and I'm not sure I'll ever perform it as it feels like too much of me. We'll see.

Anyway, I had no such problems with the other two new songs, both of which I finished writing the last lyrics for that afternoon. Both were songs that have been gestating for a while. "Toll Booth Operator" had music for a while and then part of a first verse and then part of a third verse and it eventually came together. I didn't play it to the best of my ability at the Porch but I did it well enough.

The other song is a radically different version of a song I wrote early this year, "The Only Thing." I only played it a few times before abandoning it. In recent months I experimented with speeding up the music and changing it around just slightly; I really liked how it sounded but didn't have any lyrics that I liked. Last week I had a small lyrical idea that I jotted down and liked - "Sugar on the spoon/Honey in the jar/You're trying to make yourself sweeter than what you really are." A couple days ago I realized it would fit the music and the rest of the words came fairly quickly. It's now called "Play Pretend" and it got a very nice response the other night, with some friends and fellow songwriters giving me very specific compliments on it. I think it's easily one of the best songs I've written, which is a nice feeling. I'm now over 20 songs written, though 5 or 6 are ones that I don't play. Still, that's pretty good for 16 months of being a musician.

I also got to sit in on one of Graham's songs (he was the host), "Bag of Bones." I've been telling him for months that I'd love to try and play some piano with it and we gave it a try the other night. We did a quick test run of about two minutes and figured it was good enough. When the time came, I sat at the piano and just let it flow. Graham told me afterwards that he liked what I was doing and another friend said he though it worked very well with the song. Collaborating with Graham is fun and I'm feeling so much more comfortable with my musical ability these days.

And that's the last week or so.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I love being able to stream upcoming albums. Who doesn't? In the last few days, I've listened to four of them that way...

Merge Records is an example of how to market music the right way. Not only do they stream upcoming albums, they continue to stream them once they are released. They make their music available at eMusic and other online retailers and they will add bonus discs as an incentive for the actual CDs. The fact they have a fanstastic lineup of bands helps too. Over the weekend I listened to new Imperial Teen, Oakley Hall, and Shout Out Louds. All of them are really good records and the last two could end up in the running for the best album of the year when it's all said and done. Imperial Teen's The Hair the TV the Baby & the Band comes out tomorrow; the other two will be released on Sept. 11. Go the the website and give them a listen; I will soon be downloading them.

You can also hear the new Rilo Kiley album, Under the Blacklight, at their MySpace. It comes out tomorrow as well. It's a different sound for them and I need to listen to it a few more times to get a handle on it. Chances are I won't be picking it up anytime soon, for a number of reasons. But it's still worth checking out.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


When a comic book hits issue #50, it's usually cause for celebration. In this case, it means I'm just shy of a year of doing these posts. But still, 50 is pretty cool.

1. Another Way I Could Do It/Sloan (10)
2. Underneath The Waves/The Twilight Singers (9)
3. Sweetness and Life/Portastatic (16)
4. Hymns For The Heathen/Cursive (2)
5. Beautiful Machine Parts 1-2/Apples in Stereo (7)
6. So Long, Lonesome/Explosions In The Sky (5)
7. Des Moines/The Drams (6)
8. Horseradish Road/The Mountain Goats (6)
9. Almost Ready/Dinosaur Jr. (5)
10. Nuclear Daydream/Joseph Arthur (8)

Friday, August 17, 2007


This is the biggest week of comics I've had in quite a while. I will cover the two Countdown comics in another post, so here's some thoughts on the rest of them...

Booster Gold #1 - Confession time: I've always been a big fan of Booster Gold. The original series started back in 1986 and I bought it from the first issue; I even used the cover to #3 as an example of dynamic art during my freshman English class. Dan Jurgens did a great job writing and illustrating the series and I was sad to see it disappear after two years. Since that time, he's kicked around the DCU and has been a joke for much of that time period, something I've never been a fan of. The writers of 52 resuscitated him to the point where he played a huge role in the return of the Multiverse. This new first issue (written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz with art by Jurgens and inker Norm Rapmund) sees Booster trying to reclaim a big role by joining up with the newly-reformed Justice League. He gets the offer and ends up turning it down. Why? Rip Hunter (a master of time) has come to him and told him only he can help save the time stream from someone trying to exploit wormholes within time. Booster agrees to play the fool while working to save heroes throughout time. Time travel and all sorts of corners of the DCU? Sign me up. Johns (and Katz) repeats his trick from the first issue of Justice Society of America by giving us a teaser page of what's coming up in the first year of the title. Brainiac 5 trying to take back his Legion flight ring? Multiple Blue Beetles and Booster fighting Maxwell Lord? Yes, please!

The Flash #231 - Here's a different Flash book - Wally and Linda are parents! And, of course, their kids have super-powers (and have grown at a very fast rate). We see fun interaction between the kids and their parents, touching moments, a glimpse of where the Wests have been, and a weird mystery at the end. Mark Waid knows what he's doing. I also have to mention the art by Daniel Acuna, which is cartoony and sleek and very appealing.

Justice League of America #12 - This is Brad Meltzer's last issue, capping off his relaunch of this longstanding title. We get glimpses of all the members as they shuffle in and out of monitor duty and we learn some secrets and see some plot developments and it's all framed by two characters who aren't revealed until the end (though you can figure out who they are). It's a good issue. I am interested to see where Dwayne McDuffie goes from here; he takes over next issue.

Clash #1 - This is the first book from Moonstone I've ever bought and I probably wouldn't have bought it in the first place except for the fact it's written by my friend and local comics shop owner, Greg Karras. It's drawn by Cory Hamscher, who lives in the area and whom I've known for a long time as well. They turn in a solid story about a grim future where some super-powered people are trying to overthrow other super-powered people. There is a lot going on but you can follow it and the last page has me interested to see what else he's going to throw in there.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

F&SF JULY 2007

Only 5 stories this time around because almost half of the issue is taken up with a Lucius Shepard novella, "Stars Seen Through Stone." It's about people in the town of Black William, PA, many of whom seem to gain in intelligence after an unexplained event takes place. We see all these events through the eyes of Vernon, a music producer. He brings a talented (and worthless) musician to live with him and the story plays out during the course of their interaction. You know, I'm not explaining it very well. It's about how people interact with each other and the ties between creativity and what kind of person someone is. It's about love. Really, it's a Lucius Shepard story and that's all you need to know in the end. He's one of the best writers we have, genre or no genre.

The other stories in the issue all have their pleasures as well. My favorite of those is "Car 17" by P.E. Cunningham, in which we hear the tale of a sentient police car and a feral car that terrorizes a town. Ray Vukcevich is back after a long absence with "Cold Comfort," which is an odd and chilling tale about machines and/or humans interacting by passing the Turing Test. Lawrence C. Connolly has a classic SF tale of observers of an alien species ending up getting directly involved in "Daughters of Prime" and M.K. Hobson's "PowerSuit" is the tale of how personal AIgents make the business world of the future into something different and the same all at once.

On top of all that, we get a Lucius Shepard film column and the usual book columns (Charles DeLint and Elizabeth Hand, who covers that final book of John Crowley's Aegypt series and gives the good news that the books will be reprinted starting in the near future. Since I only ever read the second book in the series - without knowing it was a series - this is good news). And that all means another good issue of F&SF.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Over the weekend Grant and I finally finished our run through Batman: The Animated Series Vol. 2. It took us at least two months to watch all 28 episodes, maybe more. Of course, we also watched all the features and commentaries skimping on the DVD experience for us.

I think it's one of the best cartoons ever and this volume has a number of the very best episodes of the series - the adaptation of the classic "The Laughing Fish"; the villains trading stories of how they "Almost Got 'Im"; Batman meeting up with an old friend in "Zatanna"; and the team-up of "Harley and Ivy." Watch any one of them and you'll be hooked on the series. Of course, not every episode is as high quality as those but most are still very very good. The best part? We still have two more volumes to watch!

Jill and I just took two nights to watch 300 (sometimes life gets in the way of DVDs). I had wanted to see it in theaters but it just never worked out. I'd read some mixed reviews but wanted to make up my own mind, as I read the Frank Miller comic books series as it came out a number of years ago. I liked it quite a bit back then. And I liked this movie quite a bit too.

First of all, the movie is visually stunning. Yes, much of it looks like it came off the pages of the comic but that's not a bad thing in this case. It is highly stylized and wonderfully colored and is a feast for the eyes. I thought the performances complemented those visuals very well. It was a different time and a different people and an epic tale - the acting should be heightened and can be done so without scenery chewing. I believed that's what Spartans were like, even with the pounding rock soundtrack. Gerard Butler was great as King Leonidas and David Wenham was perfect as the narrator (I forget his character name). Dominic West and Lena Headey and all the just worked very well.

After seeing this movie, I have hopes that Zack Snyder will pull off Watchmen, which he is going to start shooting soon. His visuals will definitely be up to the task. Now, Watchmen is a much different story so a lot will come down to the script; his cast looks like it will be up to the task. I'll be there opening weekend without a doubt.

When we were in Columbus a couple weeks ago, we went to The Laughing Ogre, which is one of the most-known comic book stores in the country. It can be overwhelming when you walk in there, as they have rows and rows of single issues and trade paperbacks and so much more. I wandered around and looked at all the possibilities...and ended up buying just one comic. Eh, I'll be there again.

The comic I bought that day was Nexus #99, the first new issue of the series in 10 years. Obviously, it's been a while since I read those last issues and I no longer own them, of course. But Nexus has always been one of my favorites and it wasn't hard to get back in the groove. Mike Baron and Steve Rude are back in their groove with this issue - a plot against Nexus, the Elvonics and Alvinites are at each other's throats, and Sundra is about to give birth to their son. All that and a letter column to boot. One of the best comic books ever is back and here to stay for what I hope is a long, long time.

I also brought a trade along on our vacation and managed to get it read. The All-New Atom: My Life in Miniature collects the first six issues of the recently-relaunched series, this time with a new Atom at the helm. Dr. Ryan Choi comes to Ivy Town to take Ray Palmer's (the previous and longstanding Atom) place on the faculty and ends up taking his place as the hero as well. The series is full of weirdness and humor with a scientist support group, a new villain who shares the same powers, intergalactic war, a cancer god, and a man trying to adjust to his new powers. Gail Simone does a great job in writing the series and the art (by John Byrne and Eddy Barrows and Trevor Scott) is super-hero solid. I will definitely pick up the next volume in the series.

The week I bought the first two issues of Countdown I also picked up Justice Society of America #8. It foucses on Jesse Quick, the daughter of Golden Age heroes Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle (who starred in one of my favorite series of the 80s, All-Star Squadron). I've always had a fondess for the character and the mixture of her history and the present day (where she is married to Hourman) works very well. The issue also deals with some redemption for Damage and Jesse learns even more about herself. This is how done-in-one comics are supposed to be. Thanks Geoff Johns and the solid fill-in art by Fernando Pasarin (and Rodney Ramos) for that.

Finally, I picked up Batman #667 last week. It teams Grant Morrison with J.H. Williams once again and that's a great thing - Williams is easily one of my favorite artists. This is the first issue of the three-part story which features "Batmen" from around the world. It's funny and twisted and features Batman the way you want him to be. Can't wait to see where the story goes from here...

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Maybe that should be "The New Next." Either way, I'm talking about the latest Jasper Fforde novel, Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. This is the fifth novel in the series and the first in a couple years, as Fforde put out two books about Jack Spratt after the fourth Next novel. I liked those books quite a bit but I've been waiting for more adventures featuring my favorite literary detective.

The new novel opens 14 years after the events of Something Rotten. Thursday is fully settled into life as a wife (to Landen) and mother (to Friday, Tuesday, and Jenny) and works for Acme Carpets. It's a nice quiet life...or so she wants her family to believe. Acme is just a front for her continuing activities as a literary detective (even though Spec-Ops has been disbanded) and as an agent of the Jurisfiction, the force that polices life inside of books. That's where all the fun is.

As usual, there is a lot going on in this novel both plotwise and ideawise. We have dead people reappearing; an assassination attempt by the Minotaur, two versions of Thursday from within the books written about her adventures (yes, versions of earlier books in the series and one that we never read); Mycroft returning as a ghost; Friday's refusal to join the ChronoGuard; the possibility of the end of time; a recipe for unscrambled eggs; books turned into reality shows; clones; and an ending that makes what just came look like small potatoes. It's silly and serious and full of wonderful touches about books and the characters who populate those books. It doesn't make much sense at points but that's part of the fun. I really enjoy these books and highly recommend them; however, I would go back and start with The Eyre Affair or you'll be more lost than the rest of us who have read the previous books. But either way, get reading.

I posted on DC's weekly series 52 many times over the past year or so - the series ended in May. On the heels of the last issue of 52 (the very next week, in fact) came a second weekly series, Countdown. While the first series focused on a missing year of time in the DCU, the new series dealt with the here and now of the DCU and promised to weave its story among current events in a wide variety of books. The whole project is overseen by a head writer (Paul Dini, who was behind many of my favorite episode of the Batman: The Animated Series as well as many other things) with a rotating cast of writers undertaking the nuts and bolts of particular issues. The art is by a variety of artists, which is necessary with a weekly book, and the covers are being done by a series of artists - a month's worth at a time. And the series is counting down in numbering as well; it started with #51 and will reach #0. So why am I just writing about this series now when it started in May? I didn't buy it.

I've talked about how I wanted to get out of buying single issues again and that was the big factor in leaving Countdown on the shelves. I might have had a bit of weekly comic fatigue too but I don't know. That could just be an excuse. In any event, now that I am back to buying some single issues and not worrying about how I will keep them, I am catching up with Countdown. #38 just came out this week and I am buying back issues 2 at a time. At that rate, I will completely catch up with the series in 10 weeks and there will still before over half of the series that I will buy as it happens. Not bad. Oh, and the news has come out recently that Countdown in counting down to something called Final Crisis, which will be written by Grant Morrison and drawn by J.G. Jones, and that is something I won't be able to resist either.

#51 has a great wraparound cover by Andy Kubert and Tim Townsend that feature a wide variety of DC characters. Paul Dini kicks off the series by writing the first issue and the art team of Jesus Saiz and Jimmy Palmiotti works very well. The issue opens with Desaad and Darkseid talking about the approaching time when Darkseid will reshape reality; I haven't seen Darkseid scheming in quite a while so that's a good hook for me. The scene then shifts to Duela Dent, the Joker's Daughter, kidnapping a pop star being thwarted by the Red Hood (or is it Red Robin now?). Dent remarks that she isn't from this Earth and wonders where the formerly dead Jason Todd (who was the second Robin) fits into the picture. Next, we find Mary Marvel cut off from the rest of the Marvel family as well as from her powers and Trickster and Pied Piper trying to get in the good graces of the rest of the Rogues (as they had been too friendly with Flash for the rest of the Rogues' liking). Jason Todd catches up the with Duela Dent, only to see her murdered by a Monitor and he only has his life spared by the appearance of another Monitor. These Monitors seem charged with keeping the 52 Earths of the DCU separate from each other. The Monitor who saved Jason goes to the Source Wall and receives a few cryptic answers - a "Great Disaster" approaches and the possible solution to that disaster is Ray Palmer (The Atom), who disppeared after the events of Identity Crisis). Yes, it can all sound confusing but it hits on corners of the DCU that I like and the story is a great setup. I was hooked.

#50 opens with Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen tracking down Jason Todd with the help of Superman. Why? He wants to ask him about the death of Duela Dent. Mary Marvel visits Madame Xanadu and gets some cryptic advice. We see a bit more of the battle between Batman and Karate Kid that took place in "The Lightning Saga" (the JLA-JSA crossover). We get more of the rogue Rogues trying to come back to the fold and Jimmy Olsen talks to the Joker, learning the Dent was not his daughter. A solid issue that continues the mysteries and gives us some good characterization. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray had the main writing duties on the issue and J. Calafiore and Mark McKenna are the art team. Oh, and the Andy Kubert cover of the Joker is a great one.

Another Kubert cover graces #49, featuring a scene that suggests events that are referred to within...more of a metaphorical image, I guess. Tony Bedard takes over writing duties and the art is handled by Carlos Magno and Jay Leisten, names I've never heard but they do a nice job. Jimmy Olsen displays some unexpected abilities in Arkham Asylum and avoids being eaten by Killer Croc. The Monitors argue amongst themselves and we learn that Jason Todd, Kyle Rayner (a Green Lantern), and Donna Troy (originally known as Wonder Girl) are "cosmic mistakes." Karate Kid and Red Arrow trade insults. Trickster and Pied Piper do a dirty deed to get back into the Rogues with doublecrosses aplenty. And Mary Marvel comes face to face with Black Adam. Dan Jurgens also starts a backup feature on the "History of the Multiverse." Again, a good solid DCU comic.

Finally, I read #48. It picks up with Mary Marvel (momentarily, at least) avoiding being killed by Black Adam. Jimmy Olsen heads out to cover trouble and demonstrates another unexpected ability. Jason Todd catches up with Donna Troy and talks to her about living on borrowed time. Karate Kid has a conversation with addled Legion of Super-heroes teammate Star Boy (now a member of the JSA). The New God known as Lightray falls from the sky and Superman is unable to discover why...and then discovers that Lightray is dead. Writer Adam Beechen keeps up the quality and the art team of David Lopez and Don Hillsman (with Alvaro Lopez) is another solid one, as is the Andy Kubert cover. Mysteries abound and I plan to keep reading...look for a post on #47 and #46 later in the week!

A slow start to the day today, with a show last night plus a friend stopping by afterwards and no milk or butter for breakfast prompting a trip to the store. There is still cleaning to do and it's yet another weekend where I have to do progress reports for work. Still, I gotta do the shuffle...

1. Sin City/The Essex Green (16)
2. A Magazine Called Sunset/Wilco (2) - Wow, it's been almost a year since I downloaded this!
3. I Better Run/The Rosebuds (6)
4. Into the Open/Heartless Bastards (9)
5. Massive Nights/The Hold Steady (21)
6. Young Bride/Midlake (4)
7. The Mighty Midshipman/Centro-Matic (10)
8. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (demo)/Wilco (9)
9. Funny Little Frog/Belle and Sebastian (9)
10. writing snippet: Cream and Bastards Rule/Harvey Danger (7)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


As I downloaded the first album of the month today, I remembered I hadn't mentioned what I grabbed in July. So here I am to rectify that...and as always, I highly recommend eMusic.

Spoon/Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - This is in serious contention for album of the year. Everything you've ever loved about Spoon is here and more. "The Underdog" is one of the best songs of the year and yet it might not even be the best song on the album.

M. Ward/Duet For Guitars #2 - This is a reissue of Ward's first album with a few extra tracks. It's not his best album but there are a lot of good songs here and it is well worth owning. But really, if you're a Ward fan you would have already picked this up.

Bishop Allen/The Broken String - This is their second full-length but most of the album is made up of new recordings of a bunch of songs from their EP project of 2006. I plan to write more about this in the near future.

Josh Rouse/Country Mouse, City House - I've only listened to this a couple times but I'm a big fan of Josh Rouse. The sound here is along the lines of Subtitulo but it's a bit jazzier.

The Avett Brothers/Emotionalism - This is the right kind of country music...banjos with a pop and rock sensibility (and there are guitars too, of course). Still just digging into this album but I'm really liking it.

Voxtrot/Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives - I liked the last EP enough to check out another from last year. Bit of a different sound but that doesn't bother me - I like it when artists try different things.
F&SF JUNE 2007

I finished this issue during our short vacation; it was the fourth SF mag I read in July. You would think that helped me catch up on the pile but I still have 5 yet to be read. Anyway, here are my thoughts...

The issue starts with a story by Matthew Hughes, which is always a welcome presence in any F&SF. This is a Henghis Hapthorn story that ran as a bonus in a limited edition of Majestrum (which I read and enjoyed earlier this year) and it's called "Sweet Trap." It's a minor Hapthorn tale, though that doesn't mean it's not without its pleasures - Hapthorn meets up with a new alien species and there is more back and forth between he and Osk Rievor (the presence that resides in his body). It does a good job standing on its own but also whets my appetite for the next Hapthorn novel, The Spiral Labyrinth.

Charles Coleman Finlay delivers a funny caper-gone-wrong in "An Eye for an Eye." The voice of the narrator is highly entertaining as is his involvement in the shady side of the law. He gets mixed-up in a double cross over frozen testicles or ovaries (depending on who's telling him the story) and things end badly for him. Great humor along the way and that narratice voice really make this a story worth reading.

Next up is "Elegy" by Melanie Fazi, a shorter story about a woman pleading with a tree god (or something like that) to be reunited with her children who she believes were taken by that diety. To be honest, it didn't do much for me but I read through the whole thing because it was so short.

Paul Di Filippo's "Plumage from Pegasus" this time out is "It's All Goodkind," a look at how publishing would work under the best-selling fantasy author's regime. Not so fun, as it turns screw normative writing! Yeah, it makes more sense if you read the whole thing. And you should, as Di Filippo is always worth reading.

Alex Irvine has been one of my favorite story writers of the last couple years so his appearance with "Wizard's Six" was welcome. He works in fantasy mode here with a story about a knight sent on an errand to kill the children that a rogue wizard has collected to be the base of his power. Paulus isn't always happy with this duty and he learns some surprising things about himself along the way. It's a very good story.

"First Was the Word" by Sheila Finch shows us the origins of the Lingsters, those who are able to communicate with alien species. I've read a few other stories in this sequence and have enjoyed them; this tale is no different. Unexpected aliens and unexpected sex and ideas of how language works is a good mix. It makes me think I may want to pick up her new collection of these tales, The Guild of Xenolinguists, now out from Golden Gryphon.

Finally, there was "Lazaro y Antonio" by Marta Randall. It's a tale of a grim future where Antonio is trying to save his brother from a death sentence linked with the governemnt's taking his memory. Lazaro worked as a pilot on a smuggling ship and now can't remember much at all. It's sweet and it's funny and it's sad. I liked it.

So there you go, another good issue of F&SF. What else is new?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Last night was one of the coolest nights in my life. I realized a dream I've had for 20 years or more - recording one of my songs. Graham guided me through the process and added some killer slide guitar to a slowed-down version of "Decoder Ring." The results are up at my MySpace page...please stop over and take a listen. And while you're at it, check out Graham's page too, especially "Mood Ring."

On Sunday Grant turned 10, leaving the single digit life behind for good. I think he had a pretty good day of opening presents and watching DVDs and playing computer games. My aunt was in town and we went with she and my parents out to our favorite local Italian restaurant, Pesto's. We got him registered for school this morning; he will be starting 4th grade in a couple weeks. It's weird to think we're already at this point in his life but it doesn't make me feel old at all. I like the kid he is and it's nice that he's pretty independent and I don't always have to make breakfast anymore and stuff like that. He also hit the age of 10 at 5 feet 4 1/4 inches tall. Yeah, he's a big kid. Obviously, he's been through a lot of changes in his first ten years...I'm looking forward to the changes that will come in the next ten.

I didn't bring my guitar on our short vacation last week and I don't regret that decision. Wednesday night, a couple hours after we got back, I picked up the guitar and a song came pouring out. I think it came from me thinking about Grant's birthday and the changes in my life. It's my most straightforward and personal song but I think it works pretty well. It's called "Bitter Pill."

And speaking of double digits, the weather has been in the high double digits for the past week or so, along with pretty hefty humidity. The dogs days of summer indeed. This is the part of the year where hopping in the pool and teaching for 3 to 4 hours is not a bad thing at all.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


It's been busy the past couple days, so I haven't posted a number of posts I was planning. I'll try to get to them soon. Meanwhile, here's a double issue of Sunday Shuffle to make up for last week....

1. Laminated Cat (live)/Jeff Tweedy (5)
2. Running The World/Jarvis Cocker (5)
3. You Never Arrived/Midlake (4)
4. High Times/Elliott Smith (7)
5. New Year's Day/The Broken West (15)
6. The Ballad of Love and Hate/The Avett Brothers (2)
7. Game Shows Touch Our Lives/The Mountain Goats (13)
8. The Alphonse Mambo/The Mountain Goats (6)
9. Cream and Bastards Rise/Harvey Danger (28)
10. Instrumental 1 (demo)/Wilco (10)
11. eterna (concerning the end of the world) (ps 30:9)/The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers (20)
12. Jimmy the Exploder/The White Stripes (4)
13. Sunday Morning Wednesday Night/Spoon (18)
14. Things Nobody's Named Yet/Warren Zanes (11)
15. Shadowcat/Canasta (5)
16. I am Morris Townsend (No-Fi Transmission)/The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers (12)
17. Non-Pythagorean Composition 3/Apples in Stereo (5)
18. All the Wine/The National (7)
19. Have To Explode/The Mountain Goats (9)
20. Slicker Drips/The White Stripes (4)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


July is gone already? Wow.

I read 3 books in July - Soon I Will Be Invincible, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. That brings my 2007 total to 22 so far, which is one short of where I need to be if I want to read 40 books on the year. Two months of 4 books each will do the trick but again, we'll see.

I read 26 stories in July, which almost equals the total from the previous three months...combined! In fact, it's the highest number of stories in a month since January...and I even abandoned a story for the first time this year. Of course, reading 4 issue of my SF mags (two each of Asimov's and F&SF) will up the totals. And that yearly total is up to 115.

I read 10 comics in July, 4 trades and 6 single issues. So much for my prediction last month of how it would be mostly trades from then on. Ah well. I have now read 95 comics on the year, of which 23 have been trades. Those have gotten ahead of the books.

Only 6 CDs in July and all of those were downloads. Those things are both rare occurences. Anyway, one of them was an EP and that brings my 2007 total to 66.

I saw 3 movies in the theaters in July - Transformers, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and The Simpsons Movie. Pretty darn good month at the cinema, I'd say.

I actually kept track of my DVD viewing in July (yes, I know). I can tell you that I saw two movies - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Fight Club and abandoned another (I Heart Huckabee's). Grant and I watched 8 episodes on Batman: The Animated Series Vol. 2, as well as one feature and a commentary for an episode we saw in June.

And there's July!

It was a different month of performing in July. I played at two places I'd never played before (Espress Yourself and The Coffee Cup) and played at one I hadn't been to in a number of months (MoOOM); on the other hand, I only played once at a usual haunt (Anneliesje's)...a couple nights at Front Porch were mixed in too. I also did some collaborating on stage - singing harmony with Britt (on her song "Let's Run Away"), having Graham play electric guitar on a song we hadn't done together since February ("Holding Pattern"), had Tom get up and play electric guitar on another song ("Let's Get Married Tonight), and did an impromptu collaboration with Graham on guitar, me on piano, and Jill tap-dancing. And to top it all off I debuted a new song, "What Will We Do When the Party's Done?"

Here's the list in chronological order from the first time I played each song in July...

Holding Pattern - 2
Could Have Been - 5
Decoder Ring - 1
In the Dark - 3
Let's Get Married Tonight - 4
What Will We Do When the Party's Done? - 4
That's Okay - 1
Dear Prospective Employer - 1
Stolen Car (Springsteen) - 1