Sunday, August 31, 2008
I read 5 books in August, bringing my total for the year to 40. That puts me only 8 books away from meeting my goal for the year and a full 4 books ahead of pace. I've averaged 5 books a month for the whole year, which means I'm on pace for 60. Not going to happen, obviously, but I ought to be able to read 8 books in the next 4 months. Last August I'd only read 3 books and had read 25 on the year. Anyway, all 5 books this month were by Kage Baker and are part of her Company series - Black Projects, White Knights, The Life of the World to Come, The Children of the Company, The Machine's Child, and Gods and Pawns.
I read 22 stories in August, bringing my total on the year to 166. All 22 stories came from the two short story collections I read - Black Projects, White Knights and Gods and Pawns. Last August I read 10 stories and had read 125 on the year.
I read 4 comics in August, all of them single issues. I've only read 73 comics this year, which is well below the 107 I'd read last year (12 single issues last August). I haven't read a trade in over a month, though I do have 3 sitting on the shelves that I hope to get to in the next month or two.
I downloaded 6 CDs in August, for a total of 63 on the year. I will detail those albums in a separate post, as they were all from eMusic. Last August, I also got 6 CDs but I had 72 for the year at that point.
I didn't see any movies in the theater in August, leaving my total for the year at 6. I didn't see any movies in the theater last August either but I'd seen 14 by that point in the year.
And that about does it.
Today's Sunday Shuffle kicks off the third year of this feature. I downloaded a handful of new albums this week, so I'm interested to see if anything pops up from one of those. Hope everyone is enjoying the three-day weekend!
1. Autoclave/The Mountain Goats (2)
2. PCH One/Pernice Brothers (25)
3. Get Up Get Out/The Rosebuds (8)
4. Impossible Germany (Live)/Wilco (8)
5. Backwash/Archers of Loaf (17)
6. Jealousy/Spoon (11)
7. Dancefloors/My Morning Jacket (3)
8. Don't Talk Anymore/The Whigs (14)
9. Reset Anytime/Centro-Matic (12)
10. Low Branches/Superchunk (6)
Sunday, August 24, 2008
As I've mentioned a few times, I am starting college again this fall. Well, "this fall" is now tomorrow and my first College Algebra class is less than 20 hours away; my first Spanish I class follows about 24 hours after College Algebra finishes. I am already working my new job in the school system and this will be the first full week of school. Luckily, I still have two more weeks before I add in another 6 1/2 hours of teaching swimming lessons at the YMCA. I'm not sure how all this will affect my pop culture intake but I thought I'd jot down some things I still need to read and/or watch, as much to remind myself as anything.
I still have the last 2 books in the Company series to read, Gods and Pawns and The Sons of Heaven. I want to read Lord Tophet and I have Sideways in Crime, an anthology of alternate history crime stories, on my shelf. Coming up in a few months, there will be 4 books from Jeffrey Ford available that I've never read, plus one from Kelly Link. Beyond that, there are tons of books I want to read.
I have 3 trade paperbacks lined up to read - JLA Presents: Aztek the Ultimate Man, Astro City: The Dark Age, and Zot! The Complete Black and White Collection. I still have 2 trades of The Walking Dead sitting in my file at the comics shop and the latest Invincible volume is on the shelves as well. Of course, new single issues keep coming out too and I've demonstrated I can't fully quit those.
The ever-present drawer of SF magazines holds 7 issues at the moment - 3 of Asimov's and 4 of F&SF (and one of those is a double issue). I also have 3 issues of EW that I haven't gone through, plus parts of another, and a new one should arrive in the mail tomorrow. Oh, there's a new issue of Spin too but I usually just flip through those.
What's on the DVD shelves that I haven't gone through? Well, Grant and I are about 2/3 of the way through Superman Animated Season 3 and then we have 2 volumes of Batman Animated and The Simpsons Season 10. I have two seasons of The Venture Bros. and The Darjeeling Limited, not to mention stuff like 30 Rock Season 1 that I've seen most of as it aired but haven't looked at on DVD.
I've got a number of TV shows on the DVR - all 7 episodes of Generation Kill and one each of The Middleman, Californication, Hard Knocks: The Dallas Cowboys, Burn Notice, and Mad Men. And of course, the new fall TV season gets underway very soon.
So, there's plenty to keep me busy in my shrinking spare time and that's not including spending time with my family, being social, and keeping up with my own music. Still, I'm very much looking forward to getting into all of it.
A year ago today I finished my 24th book of the year, Spook Country by William Gibson. I was averaging 3 books read a month at that point and still had my goal of 40 books for the year in my sight. This morning I finished my 39th book of the year, The Machine's Child by Kage Baker. I'm averaging almost 5 books a month and am well ahead of pace to read my goal of 48 books on the year. What's the difference? The library.
It was a year ago that we realized we needed to make some changes in our lives in regards to money. I took the promotion at the YMCA and we made a conscious choice to watch our spending. I knew I wouldn't have enough money for books and comics and music each month; part of the solution was to start using the library. It was a big step for me, what with my OCD tendencies with books (well, and all pop culture goodies). I was able to get past those and it has paid off. I started the first library book I checked out, Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff, on Aug. 27. Since that time, I have read 59 books. Fifty-nine books! That's almost 5 books a month over a year's time. It shatters any reading goal I've had for any one year since I started back in 2001.
That streak of productivity will come to a close as I start my college courses tomorrow. If I knew I had time, I would try to get Gods and Pawns read by Wednesday so I could say I read 60 books in a year's time. Not going to happen, though, and that's okay. What also won't happen is reading 60 books in 2008, which is what I'm currently on pace for. That's okay too. My goal for this year was 48 and I can still make that if I manage my time. I will probably be reading more short fiction and comics than novels over the next few months, since I'll have to read when I can find the time. But if I can get 4 or 5 books read by Christmas break, I'll be in good shape. And regardless, I can still say I read 59 books in a year's time. That's pretty cool.
When I last talked books, I was planning on reading Gregory Frost's Lord Tophet, the sequel to the fantastic Shadowbridge. I decided I couldn't hold off on reading more of Kage Baker's Company series (here are my thoughts on the first 4 books) and so I've read the next 4 books in the last 19 days.
Black Projects, White Knights is the first story collection of the series and contains many of the stories I first read in Asimov's and that got me interested in Baker in the first place. We have stories about Mendoza and Joseph and Lewis among others but even more interestingly, we have a series of stories about Alec Checkerfield, who is born in the years leading up to 2355 (when the Silence descends for the operatives of the Company). The stories are interesting in their own right but once we start to realize who Alec is and his relationship with others, both mortal and immortal, who we've seen through the series...you know he is going to play a prominent role in the rest of the overall story.
The next book, The Life of the World to Come, opens with Mendoza stuck Back Way Back until a time shuttle crashlands and reveals Alec Checkerfield, who happens to look like her former lovers Nicholas Harpole and Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax. They spend the night together and learn from each other before he leaves, promising to return. Unfortunately, he won't return before she is taken by Company operatives to Options Research, a far greater punishment than Back Way Back. Meanwhile, we meet three men who work for the Company and watch them as they design a new kind of Enforcer. Eventually, Alec (along with Nicholas and Edward) meet up with those men and the story takes it up another notch.
We step away from Alec in The Children of the Company and instead learn more about Labienus, one of the Company's Executive Facilitators and not a nice immortal at all. We see his ploys to position himself in power once the Silence arrives and how he tries to undermine his rival, Aegeus. These are seen in a series of case files and several more short stories are incorporated here, including "Son Observe the Time," which relates what happened to Budu during the San Fransicso earthquake of 1906. We also see the full story of Lewis's initial encounter with an alternate branch of humanity (which played a role in the events of The Graveyard Game). Schemes and schemes...
The Machine's Child brings us back to Alec's story, along with that of Nicholas and Edward (who know coinhabit Alec's body). They manage to rescue Mendoza from Options Research and with the help of Captain Henry Morgan, a powerful AI dedicated to Alec's survival, they nurse her back to health albeit with some gaps in her memory. They struggle against the Company of the three souls struggle against each other throughout the book, with a shocking ending. Meanwhile, we also catch up with Joseph and his ongoing restoration of Budu and the stories dovetail. In addition, we see what other operatives are facing as time creeps ever closer to the Silence.
As the series grows more complex and new elements are added to the mix, I've found myself wanting to rush through the rest of the books to see how it all turns out. I only have 2 left to go - the second story collection, Gods and Pawns, and the series finale, The Sons of Heaven. I'm going to do what I can to get them read in the near future.
Today's shuffle completes 2 full years of this feature on the blog, which is hard to believe. What isn't hard to believe is how much of a Sunday ritual it is for me and how much I enjoy doing it. I really do need to start doing some music posts to complement this feature since it's been a long time since I've really written about music. We'll see how it goes - I start classes tomorrow and my time will get squeezed even more. But enough about that, let's see what 10 songs will pop up today...
1. Plus Ones/Okkervil River (11)
2. My Favorite Year/Destroyer (5)
3. Personal/Stars (8)
4. Big Decision/Elliott Smith (9)
5. I'll Follow You/Oakley Hall (4)
6. Believe In Me/Sloan (2)
7. A Voice At The End Of The Line/M. Ward (13)
8. Wucan/Black Mountain (5)
9. Only Time Will Tell/Glossary (3)
10. First Timer/Elliott Smith (10)
Monday, August 18, 2008
This week marks the start of some big changes in my life. For the first time in over 5 years, I'm not going to be in the pool at the YMCA every day. Instead, I am going to be working in an elementary school as a teacher's aide.
Earlier this summer, I decided that I needed to make a change in the direction of my life. I love being at the YMCA working with the kids, getting them to learn how to swim. It is a very rewarding experience. But I know I can't just keep doing that for 20 years, for a variety of reasons. I decided that I should look into going back to school and becoming a teacher. I'm pretty sure I'd like to do elementary education, having worked with kindergarteners for years and other elementary students this year, but I could also teach high school English. The question is whether I'd like being with kids all day as opposed to the 30 minute or 45 minute spans I've had with classes at the Y. One way I could figure that out would be to work as a teacher's aide.
Meanwhile, I looked into going back to school. If I were to go back as an elementary education major, I would have to start over from scratch...only a handful of my classes would transfer. So I am going to finish my English degree, which will still take me 16 or 17 classes to do (and a few years at 2 classes a semester, maybe 3 in the summer), and then I will do a transition to teaching program. I start classes at Purdue North Central next week - Spanish I and College Algebra. It's been over 14 years since I was last in school but it shouldn't take me long to get back up to speed.
Late last week my position at Central Elementary School came quickly. I had almost given up on that part of the plan but now it has fallen into place. I am going to be working with the 5th grade in the morning and 1st grade in the afternoon. School starts on Wednesday.
As for the Y, I'm still going to teach a few hours a week. It keeps my hand in, it's something I like doing, and I could do it for a summer job.
So, it's going to be a very busy fall. Chances are good that I won't be posting much other than Sunday Shuffles and quick blog posts but you never know... Anyway, I'm looking forward to the challenge and the newness of it all.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Maybe someday I'll start posting entries other than Sunday Shuffles...
1. Expelled From Love/The Raveonettes (3)
2. Slapped Actress/The Hold Steady (11)
3. I'm Not A Kid Anymore/Sloan (2)
4. What You Do/Imperial Teen (5)
5. No Life Singed Her/Pavement (6)
6. An Apology/Canasta (9)
7. Cataracts/Andrew Bird (7)
8. 7/4 (Shoreline)/Broken Social Scene (1)
9. There's A Reason/A.A. Bondy (12)
10. Islero/Crooked Fingers (1)
Sunday, August 10, 2008
It's only supposed to be 75 degrees today. Cool for August but I'll take it.
1. Tonight/Nick Lowe (4)
2. Hit The Plane Down/Pavement (7)
3. Life 2: The Unhappy Ending/Stars (6)
4. The Happy End (The Drunk Room)/Mercury Rev (1)
5. Mellotron 1/Apples In Stereo (10)
6. Funny Little Frog/Belle and Sebastian (15)
7. (Antichrist Television Blues)/Arcade Fire (12)
8. Wrecking Ball/Crooked Fingers (1)
9. Complications/Julie Ocean (9)
10. No Regrets/King Khan and The Shrines (4)
Monday, August 04, 2008
Over the last few weeks, I've been working my way through Kage Baker's Company series. I first became aware of Baker in the pages of Asimov's, where she published a large number of Company stories starting with the Mar. 1997 issue. I really liked the stories and always meant to pick up the first novel in the series, In the Garden of Iden, but I never did. Then a few months ago, Chris Roberson posted about the series and I decided I would start on it before the end of the year.
What is the Company? It's a 24th century corporation called Dr. Zeus that has discovered time travel and the secret to immortality, both with a catch. The catch with time travel is that you can only go into the past and then back to your present time - no future. The catch with immortality is that in order to get it you also have to become a cyborg. So, Dr. Zeus goes into the past and creates a bunch of cyborgs that can work on preserving works of art and such for the future, which is how the company can get rich. Oh, you can't change the past but there's also a lot of unrecorded history and you can work in those grey areas. And only children can be made into cyborgs; the Company uses orphans.
In the Garden of Iden introduces us to Mendoza, a new recruit to Dr. Zeus in the 16th century. She is rescued from the Spanish Inquisition by Joseph, who works as a Facilitator for the Company. Upon her graduation from training, she ends up in England for her first assignment - she's a Botanist charged with saving rare plants from a garden. Mendoza is not a fan of mortals but she ends up in love with one and it does not end well at all. The struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism in the country looms large over the entire novel. It's a very good introduction to the world of the Company but things kick up a notch with the next book in the series.
Sky Coyote brings back Joseph and Mendoza as well as introduces new characters, notably Lewis. Joseph heads a team that is sent to California to preserve the culture of the Chumash. In order to do this, Joseph disguises himself as their trickster god, Coyote. It's a funny novel but also full of politics and economics and myth; we also start to learn more about the Company. Joseph's "father" was Budu, who worked as an Enforcer for the Company; the Enforcers have all been retired since they were hyrbids who came from Neanderthals or other earlier forms of humanity. We also get intimations that all is not as it seems with Dr. Zeus. What happens in 2355, when the Silence falls?
Mendoza in Hollywood finds Mendoza posted to Los Angeles in 1862, where Hollywood will end up. She's at a stagecoach in with five other operatives and her job is to investigate a temperate zone. One of her fellow operatives, Einar, is a huge movie buff and they occasionally screen film classics. In fact, one chapter has the group watching and reacting to D.W. Griffith's Intolerance. All of the cyborgs have interesting jobs or problems, one of them (Porforio) even has to deal with a member of his mortal family. More significantly, Mendoza and Einar manage to travel into the future and are sent back by Company operatives but before they are completely gone, Lewis tries to warn Mendoza about something. Soon after, Mendoza is reunited with her love from three centuries before, reincarnated in the form of Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax. Things do not end well.
I just finished The Graveyard Game yesterday and it is now my favorite of the books. We learn so much about the Company and have so many more questions raised. Joseph and Lewis are trying to piece together what happened to Mendoza, who has completely disappeared. Joseph also starts investigating what happened to Budu and we are introduced to players like Suleyman and Nennius and so much more. This book ends with some very interesting twists as well.
Unfortunately, my local library does not carry the entire series...only the novels. I ordered the first story collection, Black Projects, White Knights, and now have it here at home. I'll have to order the other one too in order to finish the whole series. I really want to dive into the collection but I had also requested Lord Tophet, the concluding book to Gregory Frost's Shadowbridge, which I read and loved earlier this year. It came in and is now sitting on my shelf, so I'll probably read it and then get back to the Company.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Today's agenda - Sunday Shuffle, Sports Reporters, laundry, a little grocery shopping, Baseball Tonight, baseball, finishing The Graveyard Game, catching up some more on the DVR. Sounds like a decent day.
1. Cardinal Points/The Essex Green (18)
2. Big Fan of the Pigpen/Guided By Voices (4)
3. January/Headlights (3)
4. Faberge Falls For Shuggie/Of Montreal (8)
5. Valerie/Crooked Fingers (1)
6. Beautiful Machine Parts 3-4/Apples In Stereo (8)
7. Same Old Drag/Apples In Stereo (11)
8. Shrinking Violet/Bishop Allen (8)
9. Were You There?/M. Ward (5)
10. Skinny Boy/Amy Millan (13)