Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #210

I hope everyone had a great Christmas yesterday - we certainly did. I did get some new music, though all in a physical form. Haven't listened to any of it yet but I will very very soon. Meanwhile, let's get the last Sunday Shuffle of 2010 going!

1. Destroyer/King Khan And The Shrines (2)
2. If You Let Me Be Your Anchor/Dawes (5)
3. The Ballad of Bjorn Borg/Pernice Brothers (4)
4. Moby Octopad/Yo La Tengo (1)
5. Without a Heart/Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (7)
6. The Game Gets Old/Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (8)
7. I Can See Your Future/Belle and Sebastian (8)
8. Chasing After Deer/Midlake (3)
9. My Pretend/Apples In Stereo (2)
10. Nobody/Shearwater (2)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Comics Catchup

A couple weeks ago I decided that it was time to make the change back to only trades. I had a bunch of comics I've bought over the last year or so that I would trade in for some credit but I let the pile sit here for a while to make sure I wanted to go that route. Finally, I wrote the note to the owner and took in the comics. After about a week-and-a-half, of course, I decided I was wrong. Luckily, he hadn't gone through them yet and I was able to take them back. I don't know who I'm kidding at this point - my love for comics is as strong as it's ever been; I'll sort out the monetary and space issues one way or another.

I have managed to read a handful of comics and some trades over the last few weeks...

Adventure Comics #521 - This is the issue where the title becomes what I thought it would be when it switched from focusing on Superboy to focusing on the Legion - a second Legion title. Okay, it has been one but the stories Paul Levitz were telling took place in the past and not current continuity. I was so disappointed by that fact that I didn't even pick up the book. I know, I know. Anyway, now that it is set in current continuity I am picking it up. This story is a little scattered between the selection of a new Green Lantern and various Legionnaires getting things done but it was solid enough. The Atom backup was part six and didn't make much sense. It's done now anyway as DC scales back to $2.99 titles and only 20 story pages.

The Flash #7 - This is a patented Geoff Johns look at the lives of the Rogues, this time focusing on Captain Boomerang. While the look back at his history is solid, the most interesting bits come from his chat with Reverse-Flash - clues for the next big story event. This issue is drawn by Scott Kolins, who tweaks his current style to be more in line with regular artist Francis Manapul with better success than his art on Justice Society of America.

Superboy #1 - A comic where The Phantom Stranger shows up on pg. 4 is a comic I will read. I was a big fan of the previous Superboy series when written by Karl Kesel but the character is tonally different these days. That said, I enjoyed this introductory issue by Jeff Lemire and Pier Gallo enough to pick up the second (maybe today).

Thor the Mighty Avenger #7 - This is the penultimate issue of this cancelled-too-soon series by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee. Seriously, why can't we get more of this fun comic? I'll probably do a longer post on this series after next issue.

The Unwritten #20 - One of my favorite comics on the shelves, hands down.

Fables Vol. 14: Witches - You should be reading this book.

Chew Vol. 2: International Flavor - You should also be reading this book, if you like things that are funny and awesome.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Superchunked II

On Dec. 2 I took my first trip to the Metro in Chicago to see Superchunk for the first time (exactly 2 months after seeing The National in Indy). I came late to Superchunk, so late that they'd been on hiatus for a few years already and only doing occasional shows. During the months before their fantastic new album Majesty Shredding came out in Sept., I started hitting up their catalog and fell head over heels. When I found out they were coming to Chicago I just knew I had to go. I was not disappointed.

The members of the band are only a few years older than I am and they just had so much energy, particularly Mac McCaughan. He was jumping all over the place while ripping off great solos. Jon Wurster kept the beat going and Laura Balance was doing some pogoing while holding down the bottom end. Jim Wilbur plays it more cool but you could tell he was enjoying himself.

I had no complaints with the set list, a mixture of new songs and old favorites with some solid tracks from the middle years thrown in. I couldn't pogo for a whole song but I did some work on many many songs. You could see my head bobbing up and down during "Precision Auto" in a video shot by a guy who wasn't standing far behind me but it looks like he took it down.

The Metro is a cool place to see a show - it isn't a big room and the stage is up higher than everyone. I'd definitely go back.

It was an awesome night and one of the highlights of my 2010.

Set list:

Learned to Surf
My Gap Feels Weird
Punch Me Harder
Cursed Mirror
Crossed Wires
Detroit Has A Skyline
Song For Marion Brown
Watery Hands
So Convinced
Digging for Something
Late-Century Dream
Hyper Enough
Slack Motherfucker
Everything at Once


Driveway To Driveway
I Don't Know (Naked Raygun cover)
Precision Auto
Throwing Things

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Asimov's June 2010

In my never-ending quest to catch up on reading my SF mags, I recently tackled the June issue of Asimov's. Here are some quick thoughts.

Allen M. Steele continues to impress with "The Emperor of Mars," a sweet ode to Mars SF over the years and the story of how a man deals with the loss of his family. This is a complete departure from his Coyote stories but just as engaging. I think maybe I should delve into his catalog a bit further in 2011.

Chris Beckett's "The Peacock Cloak" was an interesting exploration of how people go about helping a brand-new making the same mistakes that humanity has been making for years.

Stephen Baxter's "Earth III" is a continuation of a series of stories but I don't remember reading "Earth II," to be honest. It's a story of power, exploration, and challenging the predominant views of the world. I enjoyed it.

The rest of the stories were solid enough but nothing else jumps out as worth mentioning here.

I have started the next of the now 11 magazines I have stacked up, so I'm sure I'll be writing about it soon.

Sunday Shuffle #209

It's the last Sunday Shuffle before Christmas, which is hard to believe but here we are. Christmas music has been eligible for the shuffle the past few weeks but nothing's come up. Maybe today. I know for a fact that I'll be at my parents' house frosting sugar cookies this afternoon - a yearly tradition that I love.

1. What I Mean to You/Justin Townes Earle (5)
2. My Lovely Jezebel/Elvis Costello (5)
3. Changing Partners/Elvis Costello (1)
4. Philippians 3:20-21/The Mountain Goats (2)
5. Sunshine State/Superchunk (3)
6. Fallen Idol/Imperial Teen (1)
7. Islero/Crooked Fingers (5)
8. Won't Want For Love (Margaret in the Taiga)/The Decemberists (4)
9. Useless Switch/Portastatic (3)
10. Modern Art/Art Brut (4)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #208

It's been a rough week and this upcoming one won't be much different. Music helps, though, so let's get to today's ten...

1. Play The Part/Little Joy (1)
2. Theme to Wendel Stivers/Spoon (3)
3. Sleepin In/The Morning Benders (7)
4. Floating Vibes/Surfer Blood (5)
5. We Can Work It Out/The Beatles (3)
6. Beautiful Machine Parts 1-2/Apples In Stereo (1)
7. You Don't Have To (If You Don't Want To)/Gentleman Jesse (3)
8. Linda Blair Was Born Innocent/The Mountain Goats (2) - 2 weeks in a row!
9. Nomenclature/Andrew Bird (2)
10. Gwen, Now and Then/The Broken West (1)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #207

I'm in a work mode today, in part because I couldn't find the motivation to get much done yesterday. Accordingly, we'll jump right into the music...

1. 1 Samuel 15:23/The Mountain Goats (3)
2. Shame Shame/Sloan (1)
3. Northern Lights/Bowerbirds (1)
4. Black Hole/She & Him (4)
5. Linda Blair Was Born Innocent/The Mountain Goats (1)
6. The Angel's Share/Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (4)
7. Sensory Deprivation/Sloan (2)
8. I Fought Piranhas/The White Stripes (1)
9. What I Mean to You/Justin Townes Earle (4)
10. It Ain't Easy/Robert Forster (1)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Pile #2

Here's an updated look at the to-be-read pile to my right, from top to bottom...

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories Volume 1 - We have been reading selections from here for the past 2 weeks of class, which has been just fine with me. This week we will be discussing "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Five Orange Pips" to close out our semester (outside of the paper due Wed. and our final the following Wed.). At some point, I would like to read everything in this and the second volume.

Asimov's June 2010 - Yes, I'm still many months behind on my SF magazines but I have at least started this one, which got off to a great start with Allen M. Steele's "The Emperor of Mars."

The Passages of H.M. - I just read about Jay Parini's novel based on Herman Melville's exploits and decided to request it at the library. It came in and I picked up it today. For some reason, my 19th century Brit Lit class has me thinking of the same period in American Lit and Melville is a biggie.

Masked - This has not been touched since the last picture of the pile. It will be at some point.

Chew Vol. 2 - The same can be said about this.

Fables Vol. 14: Witches - This latest volume of the long-running series just came out Thursday and I can't wait to dive into it. I really should finish the paper before that happens, though.

Superchunked I

I have lots to write about Superchunk over the next month or so and to kick it off, here they are from The Current the other day.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Batman's Back

Today I finally caught up on Batman. Well, Grant Morrison's Batman anyway. And by caught up I mean only on recent developments; I still haven't read most of his run. For today, though, I'm going to set aside all those comics, as well as the final issue of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman: The Return. Why? I'd rather talk about the awesome Batman Inc. #1, "Mr. Unknown Is Dead."

The premise behind the new book is that Bruce Wayne has decided to take his war on crime global. He's leaving Gotham City in the hands of Dick Grayson and Bruce's son, Damian, who will continue as Batman and Robin (as will that title). Bruce has picked up the mantle of Batman back up as well and this issue has him traveling to Japan with Catwoman after a little B&E at Dr. Sivana's lab.

Japan is the home of Mr. Unknown, about whom I know nothing - brand-new character or has he been seen before? No matter, as the title of the issue suggests he is no longer among the living, having been killed by Lord Death Man, who has a skull for a head and dresses in a long black robe. Mr. Unknown's sidekick (?) survives and confronts him at the end of the issue. Meanwhile, Bruce and Selina chill out by working out and bantering sexily before getting involved with the goings-on at the end of the book.

So, we have new mysteries and new directions. The book is a ton of fun and is helped tremendously by the art team of Yanick Paquette and Michel Lacombe. The visuals of Lord Death Man and his henchmen are creepily cool and his Catwoman is as curvy as you would want her to be.

This is a great starting point for anyone interested and I can't wait to see where the book goes from here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #205/206

It's my annual Sunday before Thanksgiving weekend double issue. Why a double? We'll spend most of next Sunday driving back home from PA, where we'll have had a great time with my side of the family. I wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving as well.

1. Ballad Of Sire Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)/Yim Yames (4)
2. As I Rise/The Decemberists (2)
3. 36 Inches High/Nick Lowe (2)
4. Disney Time/Jarvis Cocker (2)
5. Crimson/Apples In Stereo (1)
6. River's Edge/Great Lake Swimmers (3)
7. Chesley's Little Wrists/Pavement (2)
8. We Are Underused/Pavement (4)
9. Here's Where The Strings Come In/Superchunk (2)
10. On My Way/American Music Club (1)
11. All I Got Is Me/Spoon (2)
12. Sallie's Heart Is Stone/Say Hi (1)
13. Blue Angel/The Love Language (9)
14. The Old Days/Dr. Dog (3)
15. Awkward Kisser/Telekinesis (5)
16. Baby's Coming Back To Me/Jarvis Cocker (2)
17. The Ghost Inside/Broken Bells (2)
18. I Know You/Sloan (2)
19. God, Please Let Me Go Back/Josh Rouse (1)
20. There Will Be No Divorce/The Mountain Goats (1)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #204

Not much to say, so let's get right to the music...

1. Ruination Day/Gillian Welch (3)
2. Staples/Buffalo Tom (2)
3. The Royal We/Frankel (2)
4. Dress Me Like a Clown/Margot & The Nuclear So & So's (4)
5. Heavy and Hanging/Patterson Hood (4)
6. Way Out West/Big Star (6)
7. Videotape/Radiohead (1)
8. Big Light/Roman Candle (4)
9. A Long Time Coming/Sloan (3)
10. Rule of Three/The Lemonheads (2)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mile Run

Greg Rucka and Dennis Lehane are forever linked for me. In 1998, I bought and devoured Rucka and Steve Lieber's Whiteout from Oni Press. Somewhere in that time I learned Rucka had written a few novels, which I quickly found and started reading. I'm still a fan of his Atticus Kodiak books. A friend of mine from the APA I was in at the time (Hi, Tim and Pulp Legacy!) recommended Dennis Lehane's novels about Kenzie and Gennaro to me and I bit. I was reading one of them on my trip to Spain in March 2000. They both moved away from those series - Rucka to many comics, one of which spun out into a couple novels, and Lehane to standalone books like Mystic River and Shutter Island. Both published new books within the last couple weeks and I've managed to squeeze both into my busy schedule.

First was Rucka's The Last Run. It's not a return to the Atticus Kodiak cycle, though his last book was. Instead, this is the third Queen & Country novel, the same series that started as a comic I mentioned before. In fact, the comic returned for a while after the last novel, Private Wars, came out in 2005. I do not own those issues in any form, something I should rectify.

The new novel begins with Tara Chace feeling like it's time to stop being a Minder. Events, of course, conspire to keep her active for one last mission involving double crosses and politics in Iran. Back home, her boss Paul Crocker is dealing with political repercussions from his utter support of his Minders over the years. It's fast-paced and very engrossing and I loved every minute of it. I did see the ending coming but I was okay with it, as it puts a pin on the series.

Speaking of putting a pin on a series, Lehane's Moonlight Mile is his first Kenzie and Gennaro novel since 1999's Prayers For Rain. The new one actually deals with events from Gone Baby Gone, which was released the year prior to Prayers For Rain (and made into a critically-acclaimed movie by Ben Affleck that I still haven't seen). Amanda McCready, the kidnapped girl from that book, has once more disappeared. Kenzie and Gennaro are now married with a four year-old daughter, barely holding on in the down economy and find themselves drawn back into Amanda's life. It's a compelling book that deals with guilt and class issues and the big issue of right versus wrong. I read it quickly. Unfortunately, I don't think there will be another one but I'm okay with the way it ended.

If you like your PI/bodyguard genre, you could do worse than picking up some Rucka or Lehane. I'd start at the beginning, though. You won't be able to stop yourself from catching up quickly.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #203

It's been a busy week for various reasons and this upcoming week will be busy for some of the same reasons. I hope everyone remembered to turn their clocks back last night...

1. January Wedding/The Avett Brothers (6)
2. I Will Kill Again/Jarvis Cocker (1)
3. Help Help/Mates of State (1)
4. Someday I'll Be Forgiven for This/Justin Townes Earle (1)
5. You Threw A Spark/Crooked Fingers (5)
6. White Collar Boy/Belle and Sebastian (4)
7. Station Approach/Elbow (3)
8. Chill Out/The Hold Steady (3)
9. The Lost Brigade/Ted Leo & Pharmacists (2)
10. I Know You/Sloan (1)

Monday, November 1, 2010

F&SF Mar./Apr. 2010

One reason I haven't been doing these posts on the SF mags I've read this year is that I haven't read that many of them. However, I ran out of space in the nightstand drawer I store the unread mags in and that spurred me to get reading. It's no secret I like the anthology format and I consider F&SF to be the better of the two SF mags I read on a regular (well, sort of) basis.

Humor is difficult to writer because it is so easy for the words to fall flat on the page. A couple stories this time out worked well - "Epidapheles and the Insufficiently Affectionate Ocelot" by Ramsey Shehadeh and "The Frog Comrade" by Benjamin Rosenbaum. The former was a tale of a bumbling wizard narrated by an invisible chair named Door that mixed humor with an affecting character study of Door and the latter was a twist on the old princess and the frog story with a nice dose of Communism thrown in. Once you throw in Paul Di Filippo's "Plumage From Pegasus" about a penal system full of writers, you've got a nice set of humor.

The humor works well in contrast to darker stories, of which there were a few good examples. Dennis Danvers' "The Fairy Princess" is a story of a woman divorced from life and newly-sentient sex robots. "Blue Fire" by Bruce McAllister looks at the night a child Pope met a child vampire and what it meant for both of their souls.

You also get your classic themes and classic writers in this issue. The opening story was a take on mythology and time-crossed love ("Amor Fugit" by Alexandra Duncan) and the always dependable Albert E. Cowdrey gave us a story about art and death in "Fort Clay, Louisiana: A Tragical History." Mix that with the books column and the hide-and-seek nod to one of the stories in the classifieds and you get another good issue.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #202

I hope the football games on my TV today are treats and not tricks. Happy Halloween to you all. Don't think today's ten will be very spooky but you never know...

1. Proud Mary/Creedence Clearwater Revival (4)
2. The Past/Teenage Fanclub (7)
3. Crumble/Dinosaur Jr. (5)
4. Calculating Bimbo/Belle and Sebastian (6)
5. You Are Free/Joseph Arthur (3)
6. Lucky One/Michael Penn (3)
7. Biology Tricks/Centro-Matic (2)
8. Take Heart, Sisters/Bowery Boy Blue (2)
9. The Salesman (Tramp Life)/White Rabbits (1)
10. Die Die Die/The Avett Brothers (1)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Pile

Now that I've written about the last two things I've read, I thought I'd run down what's currently sitting in my to-be-read pile. I'll go top to bottom...

The Mar./Apr. issue of F&SF - No, you didn't read that cover date incorrectly. I'm waaaaay behind on my SF magazine reading - there are 3 more issues of F&SF and 7 (!) of Asimov's still socked away in a drawer (well, the drawer isn't big enough to hold them all, so some are shifted to the bookshelves behind me) after this one. On the plus side, I've read over 120 pages of this issue since last night and will read more after this post is completed.

English Victorian Poetry - We're spending two days on poems from this anthology between novels in my English class. We covered Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Matthew Arnold on Wednesday and will discuss Alfred, Lord Tennyson on Monday.

The Woman in White - This novel by Wilkie Collins is next up after the poetry. It's the longest novel we've read in class so far and I'll need to knock out large chunks in a short amount of time. I'd heard of Collins before this but not the book and I'm eager to check it out. Strangely, it also got a mention in Bob Dylan in America.

Masked - This is an anthology of super-hero prose stories edited by Lou Anders, who usually puts these sorts of things together very well. I've read the first four stories so far but that was a while ago. It's not that I've lost interest - I just need to carve out some more time.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk - I was a fan of David Sedaris's essays in The New Yorker back when I was a subscriber and this small book of short stories seemed like a good way to check in with him again. The title alone, you know?

The Last Run - This is the third (and final?) Tara Chace novel from Greg Rucka, a series that started as the comic Queen & Country. You know, I'm still not sure I own all those trades (a quick check reveals I didn't get the final one of the main series or a couple of the offshoots). Anyway, the last novel came out in 2005, so it's been a while.

Chew Vol. 2 - This collects issues #6-10 of the ongoing series about cibopathic Tony Chu. It's an odd premise and a great book.

Fantastic Four - This is one of the most venerable comics in the Marvel Universe, of course. This particular collection contains the first six issues of the current run by Jonathan Hickman which has gotten pretty good reviews. The first story is a multiple worlds tale and I'm a sucker for those, so I'm interested to see Hickman's take on the team.

It'll take a while to get through these but I'm always ready to read...

Heavy Rotation #13

Here are the albums I've been listening to a lot the past couple of weeks...

Belle & Sebastian/Write About Love - This is another band I was late on. I did pick up The Life Pursuit a few months after it was out and really liked it...but didn't dig back into the catalog. The songs on this album got quickly stuck in my head and that was just fine with me. I owe this one a more in-depth review and I owe it to myself to start grabbing their earlier work.

Bob Dylan/Blonde on Blonde - I pulled this out because there was a section on its making in Bob Dylan in America and kept listening because it's Blonde on Blonde. Don't know that I ever noticed the awesome drumrolls in "Sooner or Later (One of Us Must Know)" before. Gotta love the Robbie Robertson guitar on "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" too.

Ben Kweller/Ben Kweller - I pulled this out to play for the teacher I'm working with this year - she said she was into hearing new music and you don't have to invite me twice. She liked it a lot and I haven't been able to stop listening to it since. This is pure power pop goodness and performed entirely by Kweller. The way he harmonizes with himself on "I Don't Know Why" is awesome and there is not a dud track to be found.

The Long Winters/Putting the Days to Bed - This is another one I tried out on Katie (the teacher), though I'd been listening to it before that. I took it on my trip to Indy to see The National at the beginning of the month but didn't listen to it then. A week or so later I did and was hooked all over again. This is literate power pop at its finest and I can't wait until the new album comes out in early 2011 (I hope).

Old 97s/The Grand Theater Volume One - I spent some time listening to Rhett Miller's recent self-titled album and the band's last one , Blame It On Gravity, in the run-up to the new album's release on Oct. 12. I had to get myself prepared, you see. Anyway, I like the new one. A lot. I'm also excited that the current plan is for The Grand Theater Volume 2 to come out in May. I need to write more in-depth about this as well.

Bob and Jane

My reading has been dominated by two books over the last two weeks or so, both of which I have now finished. One was for pleasure, the other for school. One was fiction, the other non. One was a classic, the other written about a classic songwriter. Have you used all the clues to figure them out yet? That's right - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Bob Dylan in America by Sean Wilentz.

Bob Dylan in America places him as an American artist and spends a lot of time dealing with his influences and even people who may have influenced him. Early chapters deal not so much with Dylan as with Aaron Copeland and the Beat writers. It also deals with more recent projects and I had no idea people were calling him a plagiarist during that time period. Naturally, the book does talk about the music as well, including a section on Blonde on Blonde. It's a very interesting read, though I suspect someone who doesn't care for Dylan would find much of interest.

I've read a Bronte before but not Charlotte; I read Wuthering Heights multiple times in my teens and really liked the novel (maybe I should reread it now that I'm older and see what has changed). I've also read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, though that didn't really prepare me for Jane Eyre itself (I did flip through the Fforde after finishing the Bronte and it made me laugh now that I know the novel). I did enjoy the book and enjoyed our class discussion just as much. Jane is very headstrong and steely and though her romantic foils weren't the greatest, they still illuminated her resolve.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #201

Back to the regular old shuffle today...

1. A Bite Out Of My Bed/The New Pornographers (10)
2. Border Guards/The Rosebuds (2)
3. Wait And See/Reigning Sound (3)
4. Snake Song/Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan (7)
5. A Slow Parade/A.A. Bondy (2)
6. Hello Darlin'/The Rosebuds (1)
7. Pour Me Up Another/Amy Millan (1)
8. Time To Die/The Dodos (3)
9. River's Edge/Great Lake Swimmers (2)
10. Sonnet 46/Roman Candle (4)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #200

I have combed through the archives to pull up the dates of the other big episodes of Sunday Shuffle. Here is a quick recap:

#1 - Aug. 27, 2006
#50 - Aug. 19, 2007
#100 - July 27, 2008
#150 - Sept. 9, 2009

There have been some skipped weeks and double issues along the way but 200 is a pretty big number. This feature has been a constant for over 4 years now and is ingrained into my Sunday routine. And yes, there are long stretches where these Shuffles have been the only posts I've done...and I'm okay with that.

Enough with the talk - it's time to get to the music. I'm making today a double issue, so here's today's twenty...

1. Anonanimal/Andrew Bird (4)
2. Any Time At All/The Beatles (1)
3. Angela/Oakley Hall (3)
4. I Feel Better/Frightened Rabbit (1)
5. Kiss Yourself/Verbena (2)
6. My Punishment For Fighting/The Rosebuds (2)
7. Daisychain/Matthew Sweet (2)
8. Uncovering The Old/Dr. Dog (2)
9. Everywhere I Go/Lissie (4)
10. I'm Not There/Buffalo Tom (2)
11. Mole/The Mountain Goats (4)
12. The N.S./Sloan (1)
13. Nature's Wrath/The Budos Band (5)
14. I Will Sing You Songs/My Morning Jacket (2)
15. She Handed Me a Mirror/Elvis Costello (3)
16. Change of Time/Josh Ritter (4)
17. Shadows/Yo La Tengo (1)
18. Motion Suggests/Pavement (2)
19. Romanian Names/John Vanderslice (2)
20. Low Branches/Superchunk (4)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #199

Today is 10/10/10 and to celebrate I'm going to do what I always do and write down the first 10 songs from shuffle mode on my iTunes. 10!

1. Faust Arp/Radiohead (2)
2. Lowdown/Tom Waits (1)
3. Reach Out/Sloan (3)
4. Pride of the Yankees/Patterson Hood (3)
5. I Wanna Know Girls/Portastatic (1) - an acoustic version
6. Better Things/Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (8)
7. Most People Are DJs/The Hold Steady (1)
8. The Lady Vanishes/White Rabbits (2)
9. Rabbit/The Essex Green (2)
10. Angela/Jarvis Cocker (3)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #198

I'm off to a later start than usual today because I was up late. Why? I drove down to Indy last night to see The National with my friend Trevor and some of his friends. It was a great show (more on it later) and great to finally meet Trevor face to face. It's also a football Sunday and I have stuff to do for English, so let's get to the music...

1. My World/The Thermals (2)
2. You Won't Let Me Down Again/Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan (7)
3. Who Makes Your Money/Spoon (5)
4. I Felt the Chill Before the Winter Came/Elvis Costello (2)
5. Dark as Days/Army Navy (2)
6. An Imagined Affair/Elbow (1)
7. Unison Falling Into Harmony/Great Lake Swimmers (2)
8. Runaway/The National (13) - perfect!
9. In My Younger Days/Eels (1)
10. Tuberculoids Arrive In Hop/Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (11)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #197

I didn't get much done on my weekend to-do list yesterday and I want to watch football today even though my Bears don't play until tomorrow night, so we'd better jump right into the music...

1. The Trouble With River Cities/Pela (1)
2. Take Good Care of the Poor Boy/Sloan (2)
3. Don't Say A Word (Hot Chicken #2)/Yo La Tengo (1)
4. Bandits/Midlake (1)
5. Fat/Archers of Loaf (1)
6. Bunny Ain't No Kind Of Rider/Of Montreal (2)
7. Someone I Can Be True With/Sloan (1)
8. Trash Talk/Reigning Sound (1)
9. Wild West Love Song/Marah (1)
10. Saints/Army Navy (3)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #196

I have lots to do today and that doesn't include all the football I want to watch. I also have a couple posts I want to get to this week and ideas for more but we'll see what happens. For now, let's get right to today's ten...

1. June's Foreign Spell/Spoon (1)
2. Something for You/Pernice Brothers (9)
3. Broken Window/Arcade Fire (1)
4. Into the Open/Heartless Bastards (1)
5. Production City/The Whigs (1)
6. Cast Iron/Superchunk (6)
7. Sonnet 46/Roman Candle (3)
8. Blind/TV On The Radio (2)
9. Whenever We Finish/Two Hours Traffic (1)
10. When We Were Alive/The Thermals (4)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #195

Today is the first Sunday of the 2010 NFL season and I can't wait. While I do love baseball, I also love football...and my White Sox are pretty much done for as far as the playoffs go this year. I don't necessarily have high hopes for the Bears but we'll see. I also love music, so let's get to some...

1. Straight Shooter/Reigning Sound (2)
2. Take Good Care of the Poor Boy/Sloan (1)
3. And Your Bird Can Sing/The Beatles (2)
4. Weary Arms/Crooked Fingers (3)
5. Twin Peaks/Surfer Blood (6)
6. Backseat Sweetheart/Two Hours Traffic (1)
7. Market Girl/Headlights (2)
8. the most important words (ps 80:5)/The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers (4)
9. It Ain't No Fun to Me/Al Green (4)
10. Re: Stacks/Bon Iver (1)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Heavy Rotation #12

It's almost mid-September and time to take a look at what I've been listening to the last few weeks...

Isobell Campbell & Mark Lanegan/Hawk - How have I ignored this combination before now? Wow. The sweetness of Campbell's voice paired with the weariness of Lanegan's is a winning combination on songs like the torchy "Come Undone" and the driving "You Won't Let Me Down Again," which also features a great little guitar solo from former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha.

Delta Spirit/History From Below - The song taking up the most headspace the past few days has been "Bushwick Blues" but the rest of the album is just as entertaining in its mix of folk and rock and solid lyrics. This is my first time with this band as well.

My Morning Jacket/Evil Urges - I don't know that I ever really embraced this album when it came out. I loved Z, which was my introduction to the group, and this one...I don't know. I liked songs for sure but the whole feel just felt off. However, I'm rediscovering it now and liking it more than I ever thought I did. I think we'll get a new one next year too.

The National/Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers - I grabbed this from eMusic a couple years ago and played it a few times. For some reason, it didn't scratch the same itch as Boxer or Alligator. Lately? Hell yeah. I think it was the version of "Lucky You" from their Daytrotter session a few years back that made me go back to it. Thanks, Daytrotter! Of course, the fact I'm seeing them three weeks from tonight might have helped too.

Superchunk/No Pocky For Kitty and Superchunk/On The Mouth - These are the remastered versions put out a few weeks ago. I'd never heard these albums - a fact I will probably talk about after Majesty Shredding is released on Tuesday. Until then, suffice it to say I'm enjoying them and "Throwing Things" is one of my new favorite songs.

Tokyo Police Club/Champ - Unlike a lot of people on the internet, I was a big fan of TPC's debut album, Elephant Shell. A big fan of all their work, really, so I was eager for this record to come out. It felt a little off to me after the first listen or two but I've finally plugged into it and can't get the songs out of my head. It still feels like they're an unappreciated band these days. Maybe that's what happens when you have early music blogger mythic status?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #194

It's been a busy week, which explains the lack of posts this week. I had intentions but you know how that goes. Hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend!

1. If A Song Could Be President/Over The Rhine (3)
2. I'm So Glad She Ain't Never Comin' Back/Cracker (1)
3. Embassy Row/Pavement (4)
4. A Sentence Of Sorts In Kongsvinger/Of Montreal (1)
5. Cue The Elephants/Bishop Allen (1)
6. Strange Overtones/David Byrne & Brian Eno (4)
7. Farewell To the Pressure Kids/Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew (1)
8. Don't Come Back/Mary Weiss (2)
9. Black Hole/Gentleman Jesse (3)
10. Here Comes the Phantom/The Clientele (1)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #193

I've managed to post every day this week, something I haven't done in a long while. I've found some balance this week and I hope to keep that balance as we get fully into the school year and my college semester. For now, however, let's get to the music...

1. Catacomb Kids/Aesop Rock (1)
2. Been There All the Time/Dinosaur Jr. (3)
3. Money City Maniacs/Sloan (3)
4. Mole/The Mountain Goats (3)
5. House of Lies/The Broken West (1)
6. Easy Morning Rebel/My Morning Jacket (3)
7. Cajun Country/Hoodoo Gurus (2)
8. Get Back/The Beatles (1)
9. Stereo/Pavement (5)
10. Summer Is The Champion/Laura Veirs (3)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Looking Ahead #3

Here's a video of Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy covering a Creedence Clearwater Revival tune. I love the chemistry between them. The album they did together comes out on Sept. 14 and I can't wait.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Looking Ahead #2

The box set of Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town is coming on Nov. 16, even bigger than I thought it would be. It's a 3 CD, 3 DVD (or Blu-Ray) set that includes not only the remastered version of the album but 21 unreleased songs that include alternate versions of songs we know...and songs we've never heard before! Add in a documentary on the album and tons of live footage and a big booklet and I am just beyond excited. While I love Born To Run (which just celebrated its 35th anniversary), I consider Darkness to be my favorite Springsteen album. I can't wait...

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Tonight I played my first ever guitar solo in a performance. It was on the acoustic guitar and it was made up of 4 notes but everyone has to start somewhere, right? I've been playing with a friend the last couple weeks and we're having fun. In honor of my debut solo, I posted a song with one of the greatest guitar solos ever to my, a solo that has only one note in it. Go check it (and other songs I've posted) out here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Looking Ahead

Today is new comics day and I bought two of them but I haven't read them yet. I did flip through the new Previews and I can't wait to see this cover in my hands 13 weeks from today. It's by Jock and this issue starts a new storyline by Scott Snyder and Jock with a Commissioner Gordon backup by Snyder and Francesco Francavilla, who just kills over at Comic Twart. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Time Travel and Body Swapping

One of the bright spots of the 2010 summer TV season has been the return of Futurama on Comedy Central. It's had a long and spotty history, starting with how it was often preempted by football back in its early days. I've been a fan of the show since it aired and lamented its loss along with other fans. Now, of course, the show is back producing new episodes and I've been enjoying it. Two recent episodes, however, rank right with the best episodes of the whole series.

"The Late Philip J. Fry" was a time travel story and I'm a sucker for those. It is centered around the budding relationship between Fry and Leela. Leela is upset at Fry for never being on time and he responds by swearing he will be on time for a big birthday dinner. On his way, he is persuaded by the Professor to join him in a quick time machine test run that will last only a minute. The problem is that the Professor screws up and they go a bit farther in time than planned. Another problem? The time machine can only go forward. The story is then split between their (Bender is along as well) quest to find a backwards time machine and the future of the Leela and the rest. It's funny and touching and the ending totally works.

Even better than that was last week's episode, "The Prisoner of Benda." It takes another science fiction trope, body swapping, and melds it to the emotional needs and issues of the cast. Bender wants to steal a crown, Leela thinks Fry only likes her for her looks, the Professor is tired of being old, and Amy has her old cravings for food. Initial body swaps occur and things get crazier from there but there is also a real (and gross) payoff for Leela and Fry's arc. Even Scruffy gets a poignant moment. It is funny and creepy and full of heart and is one of the best epsidoes ever of the series.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Race For Food

I have plenty of TV shows to watch, enough that it feels like I'm always trying to catch up. I don't need to find new shows but I always want to. I'm now hooked on The Great Food Truck Race on Food Network. In fact, I chose to watch last night's episode today over the new Mad Men and True Blood (though to be fair, I didn't have time to watch a full episode and knew I'd rather save those two for when I did have more time to devote).

The premise is simple: seven food trucks race across the country with stops along the way. At those stops, they have 48 hours to sell as much as they can. The team with the least amount of profit goes home and to keep things fair, each team starts with the same amount of seed money at each stop. The rest is up to them.

The seven teams have different cuisine and different personalities, of course. I find myself rooting for Grill 'Em All, who deal in outrageous burgers like the one that is between two grilled cheese sandwiches. I like how their name plays off of Metallica and the art on the truck follows suit. I'd like to eat one of their burgers (though not that grilled cheese one - yikes!). In fact, I'd like to try everyone's food but that's one of the perils of watching a food show.

So far, the teams have stopped in San Diego and Santa Fe and two teams are already gone. With five teams left, there won't be many episodes and maybe that's a good thing with my schedule. I'm going to keep watching no matter what, though, because it's a fun show.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #192

I've spent a lot of time not sitting at the computer this past week. Instead, I've been staring at the TV catching up on various shows on DVD and the DVR. That all starts to change tomorrow when I start college and work at the school starts back up on Wednesday. My short summer vacation is over already but that's okay. I don't mind the routine. And speaking of routines, here's today's ten...

1. Way Out West/Big Star (5)
2. Step On It, Jean/Sloan (1)
3. Reset Anytime/Centro-Matic (2)
4. Golden Pony/Army Navy (2)
5. Small Deaths/The Dodos (2)
6. Room With a View/Imperial Teen (3)
7. Get To The Table On Time/M. Ward (1)
8. I Understand/Sloan (1)
9. Slicker Drips/The White Stripes (2)
10. Life 2: The Unhappy Ending/Stars (1)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The National Do It Again

One of my favorite bands, The National, recently did a live session on The Current and it is great. It includes a song they haven't released yet. So excited to see them in early Oct.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #191

Another week has flown by and I still haven't managed any other posts. I have been ingesting books and comics and TV and movies, so maybe this week I can get my act together and talk about them a bit. This is my summer vacation week, which I'm very much looking forward to.

1. Duet For Guitars #2/M. Ward (1)
2. The Palace At 4 a.m./A.C. Newman (1)
3. In This Camp/Midlake (3)
4. Now We Can See/The Thermals (5)
5. Autumn Sweater/Yo La Tengo (1)
6. OK/Higgins (3)
7. Hurtin' You/Ben Kweller (1)
8. Queen of Everything/Haley Bonar (1)
9. Execution/Spoon (1)
10. [Untitled Track]/The Black Keys (3)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #190

I had planned on jumping into a bunch of posts once my class finished but I found myself unable to focus earlier this week. Over the last few days, I've been hitting the DVR pretty hard and have caught up on True Blood, Entourage, and Friday Night Lights. I've also read some comics and finally settled into the new Gary Shteyngart novel. My plan is to generate some posts this week but we'll see. For now, let's get into the music...

1. Try To Make It/Sloan (2)
2. The Past Is A Grotesque Animal/Of Montreal (2)
3. Headsfull/Amy Millan (1)
4. Life is White/Big Star (6)
5. I Know That's Not Really You/American Music Club (3)
6. Automaton/Pernice Brothers (2)
7. Islero/Crooked Fingers (4)
8. The Things You Don't See/Canasta (2)
9. Unhinged/The Drams (1)
10. Here Comes The Sun Again/M. Ward (1)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #189

August has arrived and with it comes a few endings. Once I proofread and tweak my final paper today I will be done with my summer class. I only have seven days left of teaching swimming this summer as well. The big ending, though, is my son's - he will turn 13 in a few days, a huge milestone in anyone's life. In honor of his birthday, today's shuffle will be 13 songs...

1. Help!/The Beatles (2)
2. Out On The Wing/Superchunk (2)
3. Tallahassee/The Mountain Goats (1)
4. Burn That Broken Bed/Iron and Wine & Calexico (2)
5. Country Mile/Camera Obscura (1)
6. Fool Says/M. Ward (2)
7. OK/Higgins (2)
8. Firenze/Canasta (2)
9. The Weight Of Guilt/Lucero (1)
10. Like A Train/Paul Burch (3)
11. Duet For Guitars #1/M. Ward (2)
12. The Great Depression/Pernice Brothers (9)
13. Citronella/Aesop Rock (3)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Heavy Rotation #11

My music listening was fairly scattered through the early part of the summer and included a fair amount of shuffle mode both on iTunes and my iPod. Over the last few weeks, however, a few albums have been played repeatedly and it's time to talk about them.

The Afghan Whigs/1965 - This album represents another in a long line of groups that I missed out on the first time around. I'd heard about The Afghan Whigs, of course, but I don't think I really ever heard any of their stuff. Thanks to eMusic, I took the plunge with this album late last year. It didn't sink in immediately and I forgot about it until recently...and now I can't get enough of it. It's slinky and sexy and creepy and stylish and Greg Dulli is one of a kind. Once I've had my fill of this one, I'll be delving into some more - should I go Congregation or Gentlemen next?

Band of Horses/Infinite Arms - So, for this band the backlash came with album #3 and not the sophomore release. I think people just decided it was time to turn on Ben Bridwell, maybe because the rest of the band is different from the first 2 albums or maybe it's just not as majestic-sounding as those albums were. I read a lot of mediocre reviews and I'm not sure why. Yes, I did take a few listens to for the album to fully sink in but once it did, I was hooked. This is melodic folk-pop in the finest sense. Kudos to those few critics brave enough to avoid the rock critic playbook on this one.

Pernice Brothers/Goodbye, Killer - This is the new album and it is packed full of great pop and country-inflected songs. As always, Joe Pernice writes with a wonderful melodic sense and a way with words that can be depressing and beautiful at the same time. So good.

Bruce Springsteen/Born To Run - A recent purchase and viewing of his new DVD, London Calling, had me grabbing this classic album from 1975 (the remastered version from a few years back) and playing it for the thousandth and one time. "Thunder Road" is my favorite song ever and songs like "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out," "She's The One," and the title track sound great blasting on my car stereo with the windows down on my way to and from class.

Superchunk/Indoor Living - I came late to the Superchunk party and am very excited that I get to buy one of their albums upon release, as I can in Sept. with the upcoming Majesty Shredding. I spent some time on my Blip account posting older songs of theirs that I mostly don't own and decided it was time to devote some listening time to this album. I grabbed it from eMusic a while back and mostly ignored it but I won't make that mistake anymore. Mac McCaughan is someone I have a lot of respect for as an artist and businessman (as one of the heads of Merge Records, my favorite indie label). Again, once I exhaust this album, I'm going back for more.

Sunday Shuffle #188

I've got a lot of things to do today, so we'll just jump right into the music.

1. Crackin' Up/King Khan And The Shrines (3)
2. Big Star/Haley Bonar (2)
3. Newark Wilder/Pavement (1)
4. Friends/Dinosaur Jr. (1)
5. By My Car/My Morning Jacket (2)
6. The Legionnaire's Lament/The Decemberists (1)
7. No You're Not/Spoon (3)
8. Denver/Clem Snide (8)
9. Boy With (100) Hands/Crooked Fingers (2)
10. Prizefighter/Eels (1)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #187

It was a busy week this past week and it will be another one this week, so I may just be in one of those Sunday Shuffle and little else periods for a little bit. I have only 2 weeks left of my class and quite a bit to do as well, so August might be the time to start posting more. We'll see, though, since I'd like to write about some things. In the meantime, let's get to today's ten...

1. You & Me, MF/The Drams (2)
2. Paul Burch's Rattlesnake Daddy Blues/Paul Burch (1)
3. The Grand Duchess of San Francisco/American Music Club (1)
4. I'll Still Be True/Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (6)
5. I Wanna Thank You/Sloan (2)
6. Give It Time/The Mynabirds (5)
7. There's A Reason/A.A. Bondy (1)
8. Even Heroes Have To Die/Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (8)
9. Hard Rain/Shout Out Louds (1)
10. Modern Diet/The Redwalls (2)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #186

We're already at the All-Star Break (after today, anyway). The White Sox have a 7 game winning streak going not too long after they won 11 in a row. If they win today and the Tigers lose, they'll be in first place at the break. Hope that can happen...

1. Pablo And Andrea/Yo La Tengo (2)
2. January Wedding/The Avett Brothers (3)
3. Funny Little Frog/Belle and Sebastian (2)
4. Bottom of the World/Tom Waits (1)
5. Same Kooks/The Hold Steady (3)
6. Learned to Surf/Superchunk (3)
7. Elouise/Say Hi (3)
8. Zurich Is Stained/Pavement (1)
9. Tears For Affairs/Camera Obscura (3)
10. Velvet Guitar/Alejandro Escovedo (2)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Let's Go to the Video

I've never been a big gamer. Part of it was that I never had a video game console growing up. I did have friends with them, of course, and spent a lot of time playing Atari at their houses. At college, I had friends with game systems as well, so I got more exposure. Years ago my wife and I bought a Super Nintendo and kept it for a while but eventually gave it to some nephews because we felt a little embarrassed about it. We our son was old enough, we bought a Nintendo Game Cube and enjoyed playing. My son has become a real gamer and has a wall of systems in his room. I play from time to time but not as much as I tell myself I want to. I'm just more wired into other forms of entertainment, I guess, and playing video games detracts from time spent with those.

Over the past few days, I've been reading Tom Bissell's new book, Extra Lives. In it, he makes a case for video games as an art form and why they matter. He talks about problems inherent with narrative and ways that some games have tried to work around that issue. He talks to people who spend their time thinking about games and designing games. He writes about the games that have captured his interest and time in such a way that makes me want to track all those games down and start playing.

It is a very interesting book and worth a read even if you aren't a hardcore gamer like me.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Great Visit

I remember reading reviews of Jennifer Egan's Look At Me back in the early part of the decade and thinking that the book sounded interesting. I never did get around to picking it up and don't remember seeing Egan's name again, though I probably should have based on what I'm now learning about her novel The Keep. All of this is prelude to talking about her new novel, A Visit From the Good Squad, which I recently read.

The first chapter introduces us to Sasha, who is out on a date and trying not to succumb to her kleptomaniac tendencies. She is smart and funny and damaged. This chapter hooks you in immediately. None of the rest of the novel is told from her point-of-view and it works wonderfully.

This book continues a trend I've been noticing in fiction lately - that of the mosaic novel. It's not quite a series of linked short stories that make up a novel but instead chapters giving us different character viewpoints that all have links to one another. Yeah, the distinction isn't a big one. Recent example of this approach include Let the World Spin by Colum McCann (which I loved) and The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (which I read and enjoyed well enough earlier this year).

Throughout the course of the book we learn about Sasha's former boss, Bennie Salazar and his friends from high school. We meet Bennie's mentor in the music business and Bennie's wife and son. We see Sasha's uncle in Naples "searching" for Sasha and Sasha's college best friend who comes to a tragic end. These are all in different time periods. Near the end of the book there is a 50 page plus section that is a Power Point presentation. It is set in the near future and the Power Point is written by Sasha's 12 year-old daughter about her family. Amazingly, this section is just as effective as the rest written in straight prose and renders insight in a new way. Bravo.

The novel isn't just tied together through Sasha either. We have a similarity of themes - ideas of how structure informs personality, questions of identity, the passage of time, the quest for meaning. I'm just scratching the surface here too. A closer re-read would yield a much more in-depth analysis.

I really liked this book and I can't recommend it enough. I will definitely be delving into the rest of Egan's work as well.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #185

Today is the 4th of July and the 1st anniversary of this iteration of the blog. So, let's celebrate!

1. Maggie Mae/The Beatles (1)
2. Agony of Laffitte/Spoon (1)
3. Lover Like You/The Avett Brothers (2)
4. Give And Be Taken/Crooked Fingers (1)
5. Fourth World War/Ted Leo & the Pharmacists (3)
6. It's Not the End of the World/Sloan (2)
7. Easily Aroused/Portastatic (2)
8. You Threw A Spark/Crooked Fingers (1)
9. No Need To Cry/British Sea Power (1)
10. Walking To Do/Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (2)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Truths About True Blood

I resisted. When the HBO adaptation of the Charlaine Harris was announced, I shrugged. I hadn't read the books and didn't much care about another vampire series. Alan Ball was announced as the creative force behind the series and that didn't suck me in either - while I enjoyed early seasons of Six Feet Under, it got so damn depressing that I gave up on it. So, no True Blood for me, no sir.

And yet...

I kept hearing positive things about the show and I tried to see if I could catch up before Season 2 through HBO On Demand. I couldn't sustain my interest or maybe I just knew I wouldn't get to all the episodes before they disappeared. So I was out. Again.

And yet...

I still heard good things about the show and when I knew Season 3 was coming up, I checked On Demand and saw both seasons sitting there. Let's try it, I decided. This time I was in to stay.

The show is creepy, sexy, gory, funny, and just a great time. Each episode ends on a cliffhanger as well, just willing you to come back for more. To be honest, I don't know how I'll be able to watch it as it airs (though I'm still behind on Season 3, which is a few episodes in). I'm sure I'll find a way.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

More Stories

I love reading short stories. For many years I kept track of how many stories I read and it was usually over 200 a year. Not a bad total when you factor in the novels and comic books read during each year as well. As fans of short stories know, anthologies are a good way to discover new writers to follow and to find new stories from old favorites. When I heard that Neil Gaiman, one of my very favorites, and Al Sarrantonio were editing a new collection of stories called, well, Stories, I was ready to read it.

Most of the writers in Stories are high-profile and well-known - your Joyce Carol Oates and Lawrence Block and Jeffrey Deaver and Walter Mosely. The ones who aren't well-known to everyone are usually well-known in their genre, Michael Swanwick and Jeffrey Ford, for instance. It's a star-studded cast, for sure. Like all anthologies, though, there are stories to love and stories to not love so much.

Roddy Doyle starts off the collection with "Blood," which is a perfect opener. His normal 41 year-old man starts craving blood and doesn't know why. The story tracks what he does and how he deals with his feelings about that fact. At the end, he has to admit it to his wife and it's a great scene to close out the story. I've never read any Doyle other than random stories in anthologies like this one and I'll have to remedy that fact.

The collection also ends very well with Joe Hill's "The Devil on the Staircase." Not only is it a chilling tale of murder and hell but it plays with typography- most paragraphs resemble the titular staircase as the main traverses up and down the 800 plus stairs on the mountain where he lives. I love that type of play in literature when it's integral to the story.

I also want to mention "A Life In Fictions" by Kat Howard. Who is Kat Howard, you ask? Well, she's the throw-in amongst all the big names - this is her first published story. Let me tell you, she more than holds her own. It's a very short story about a woman who keeps getting written into fiction by the writer who loves her. It's a smart idea and it plays out perfectly. I will definitely be on the lookout for more of her work.

I could go on and on about each story I loved but instead I'll quickly mention a few more. Jeffrey Ford turns in a creepy and melancholy romance in "Polka Dots and Moonbeams." Lawrence Block delivers a sensationally skin-crawling "Catch and Release," making your opinion of the main character change over the course of it. Stewart O'Nan delivers a quiet yet powerful tale of a woman searching for a dead girl she has no connection with in "Land of the Lost." Michael Swanwick plays with the idea of fiction and what it means for the characters contained within that fiction in "Goblin Lake." Finally, Kurt Andersen's "Human Intelligence" takes the old SF idea of aliens observing the planet out for a pleasing whirl.

Obviously, there were stories I didn't like but I'd rather not dwell on those. Instead, I'd like to savor the storytelling on display in this worthwhile collection.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #184

It's already a hot sticky day at 7:30 in the morning and I have a number of chores lined up. One thing I will definitely make time for is the White Sox/Cubs game - my Sox can sweep, win their 12th in a row and 16th of their last 17. The last time they won 11 in a row was 1961, well before I was born, so it's been exciting to watch this run. Hope you all have a pleasant Sunday...

1. Silver Plate Complaints/Centro-Matic (2)
2. Rust/Telekinesis (4)
3. Left on Laura, Left on Lisa/The Avett Brothers (1)
4. I Could Be Underground/Spoon (1)
5. Broken Bricks/The White Stripes (2)
6. Beneath Your Tree/Bowerbirds (1)
7. More Stars Than There Are In Heaven/Yo La Tengo (2)
8. All the Time/Tom Waits (1)
9. I Think I'm Going To Hell/My Morning Jacket (2)
10. People In The Sky/Sloan (2)

Saturday, June 26, 2010


My Google Reader was advertising a new feature this evening and I enjoyed it enough to add a new part to the blog - you'll see it over there in the upper right-hand corner. It pulls things from the internet that I can look at and share with you, if I find the item interesting enough. Yes, it's another way to waste time on the internet but I got a kick out of the 4 items you'll find over there right now.

I hope to have more things to share with you soon in the way of actual posts. I would like to talk about True Blood (I have one episode left of the 2nd season), Toy Story 3, all sorts of music, and more. I have 4 books out from the library out right now with 2 more waiting for me, so some book posts need to happen too.

I do have one last item to share tonight, a good old-fashioned link. Matt Fraction is relaunching Casanova through Icon soon and GQ did a longish interview about it with him. I've only read the first 7 issues of the original 14 (the 2nd story arc was never collected), so I'm looking forward to more. I think Fraction is one of the better writers in comics today and there's quite a bit of interest to read here.

Ok, enough sharing for one night...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jayhawks Live Yet Again

I haven't talked about the reissue of their first album yet, which I really should get around to. In the meantime, here they are playing tracks from that album and others last week...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #183

Happy Father's Day to any of you who might be reading this. I'm going to spend my day working on a quiz for my summer class and watching my White Sox go for a sweep against the Nationals, which would also be their 6th win in a row.

1. Wash It Out/The Mynabirds (2)
2. I Called Out Your Name/The Thermals (2)
3. The Greatest Sum (acoustic)/The Avett Brothers (1)
4. I Love My Label/Nick Lowe (1)
5. Cannibals/Crooked Fingers (1)
6. No Key, No Plan/Okkervil River (1)
7. I Felt the Chill Before the Winter Came/Elvis Costello (1)
8. Canvey Island/British Sea Power (1)
9. The Big Three Killed My Baby/The White Stripes (2)
10. Night Falls/Cracker (1)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday Pop

Last week's batch of comics hit all of my pleasure centers but this week's (smaller) batch didn't do quite so well. A month or so ago I picked up Brightest Day #0 and found it an intriguing start to the new bi-weekly series spun out of Blackest Night. I thought #1 was a big pile of crap. So, I decided that #2 would be my make or break (and yes, #4 came out this week - I'm behind, what can I say?) and while it wasn't terrible, it also wasn't particularly good. You can see the plot mechanism working and characterization seems to just be shouting. I won't be reading any more of them.

I thought S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 was a lot of fun with its secret origins of the organization and presence of Leonardo DaVinci. #2, however? It was an incoherent mess. Tim Callahan over at CBR gave this issue 4 1/2 stars and while I often agree with his point of view, I just don't get it. The issue is a swirl of pseudo-mystical speak and answers are promised but I'm not interested in finding out what they are. Oh well.

My wife and I are slowly working out way through the DVR and I'm still sorting through True Blood through On Demand and trying to catch up to the present. Here's the TV yet to be watched list...

Glee (5 eps)
Doctor Who (6 eps)
True Blood (10 eps)
Burn Notice (2 eps)
Treme (2 eps)

Meanwhile, I've also started reading the insanely long The Passage by Justin Cronin. I also have work for a summer class I'm taking, so it's going to be tough to get it all read and back to the library in time. I'm going to try, though...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happy Returns

When I went to the comics shop on Wednesday this week, I didn't overthink anything. I bought four comics I was interested in (including three first issues, featuring the returns of characters and titles) and I did it without guilt or hand-wringing over the cost. It felt good, especially after I read them. Unfortunately, I'm not made of money so I can't do that all the time but I am going to try and keep the feeling. Anyway, here are a few words about what I bought...

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 - I've written often about my love for the Legion and how they were my gateway into the world of comics. This new series follows on the heels of a couple stories which brought back "my" Legion and the continuity of the original series (with a few additions from other version of the Legion over the last 15 years or so). It also brings back long-time Legion writer Paul Levitz, who was at the helm for many years and who solidified my Legion love. I admit to being a bit nervous about him returning to the title after 20 years but I was worried for nothing. While it isn't the best issue of Legion I've ever read, it felt like the Legion with multiple subplots and multiple characters and things such as the Time Institute. Yes, it picks up on some threads from Green Lantern lore but is quite balanced. I enjoyed the work of art team Yildiray Cinar and Wayne Faucher as well. I'm looking forward to the 2nd issue.

The Unwritten #14 -Even though the impending publication of the 14th Tom Taylor novel (an obvious fake to the editor, who nevertheless wants to cash in) is the spine of the this issue, it's really more of a character study of Lizzie Hexam. She uses an interesting method, known as "Channel 2," to contact Wilson Taylor, which is immediately noticed by the shadowy group who have been on the trail of Tom. The ending is fascinating and I can't wait to see where it goes.

Hawkeye & Mockingbird #1 - I've never been a huge Marvel reader, though I have read many Marvel comics over the years. One of my earliest titles was West Coast Avengers, which featured Hawkeye and his wife Mockingbird. Hawkeye instantly became one of my favorite characters. There has been a lot of upheaval in the Marvel Universe over the last few years and Mockingbird has come back from the dead, or rather from the alien planet she was held captive on for years. Hey, it's comics. Anyway, this debut issue does a great job setting up the relationship between the two as it currently stands, bringing in some villains with past ties to the heroes, and a great opening action sequence. I've not read Jim McCann's work before but I was impressed with this, along with the art by David and Alvaro Lopez. More of this would be nice.

Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #1 - I tweeted that I wanted to marry Chris Sprouse's artwork after reading this issue and I stand by that statement. This is a welcome return to the world of Tom Strong, though Peter Hogan is at the helm and not Alan Moore. That's okay, though, because this issue has a lot going for it - humor, family, and an alternate universe that Tom has somehow survived to see. Plus, a sexy and evil as hell Ingrid Weiss. My one complaint is with myself - when I made the switch from single issues to trades 10 years ago I missed some things along the way. Obviously, this series is picking up plot points from the earlier series which I know nothing about. It's not impeding my enjoyment but makes me want to read (and reread) the whole series. Maybe I'll trip over a few hundred dollars soon...

Sunday Shuffle #182

Today I'm going to stop feeling sorry for myself over the fact that I can't just read and listen to music when not at work this summer. I have a class I'm taking and I need to deal with that fact and just get the work done. So, yeah. I will still have time for myself too, so it's not all doom and gloom. Let's see if today's ten can get me going...

1. Citronella/Aesop Rock (2)
2. Bright Lights/Black Mountain (1)
3. Things Nobody's Named Yet/Warren Zanes (2)
4. Marie Provost/Nick Lowe (1)
5. Blood On The Knobs/Glossary (2)
6. Johnny Viola/Shearwater (3)
7. The Americans/Saturday Looks Good To Me (1)
8. Guest Room/The National (2)
9. Riot Coming/Elliott Smith (1)
10. Reach Out/Sloan (1)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Small Portion

I've been aware of Aimee Bender for a number of years but never quite managed to pick up one of her books. That fact has now changed with the release of her new novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, although it almost didn't. I've found that I have a harder time settling into books as the years have gone by, usually based on my mood at the time. It could also be that I have less free time than I ever did and more distractions. Whatever the case, after a pause of two days or so, I picked this book back up and went the distance.

The big idea here is that Rose Edelstein can taste emotions in food, specifically the emotions of the people who made the food. This is a pretty traumatic discovery for her, especially since it takes place when she is 9. Much of the book deals with her ways of coping with and finally learning to deal with her "gift."

Rose is not only in her misery - each member of her family is off in some way, from the flat-out strangeness of her brother Joseph to the intense need of her mother and the mostly vacant spot that is her father. Luckily, the claustrophobic feel of the family is broken up from time to time by Joseph's only friend George, who serves as an anchor to reality throughout the book.

I said it was a big idea and these are crazy characters but this isn't a big book in temperment. It's a small book, concerned with everyday discoveries about ourselves and the world around us. That's not a bad thing.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #181

Tomorrow I start my summer schedule of being in the pool a lot more and taking a class. The class is a hybrid, so I only have to be on campus for 3 hours each week and the rest is done online. That will last 8 weeks. We'll see how it all goes. Right now, though, let's get to the music...

1. Rollin' Back/My Morning Jacket (1)
2. Malibu Gas Station/Sonic Youth (1)
3. Hang Me Up to Dry/Cold War Kids (1)
4. Forty Dollars/The Twilight Singers (1)
5. Un Dernier Verre (Pour La Route)/Beirut (2)
6. My Love Is True/The Broken West (1)
7. Ambuscade/The Broken West (1)
8. Open Eyes/Apples In Stereo (1)
9. Lord, Don't Pass Me By/The Ladybug Transistor (4)
10. Pride of the Yankees/Patterson Hood (2)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Heavy Rotation #10

As we head into June, I thought I'd mention the albums that got the most play in May...

The Beatles/Revolver - This is the other of my two favorite Beatle albums. John's "I'm Only Sleeping" is just a perfect marriage of lyric and music - that woozy, chuggy feeling of needing some sleep. Paul's "Eleanor Rigby" is famous, of course, and justifiably so with the strings and the sense of urgency to such a depressing song. All that, plus 12 other great songs too!

The National/High Violet - This is the newest album from the band and it's another winner. One could listen to "Bloodbuzz Ohio" or "Afraid of Anyone" over and over and over again and still be entranced on the tenth repeated play. I really should do a longer post on this one.

The New Pornographers/Together - This has everything you want from a New Pornos record. An insanely catchy song or five? Check. Neko Case working those pipes? Check. A brilliant Dan Bejar song that you have no idea what it means? Check ("Silver Jenny Dollar," in this case). Just another great album (their 5th) from a great band.

Matthew Sweet/100% Fun - I tend to think of this as Sweet's 3rd album (behind Girlfriend and Altered Beast) but it's actually his 5th. No matter the number, this is a collection of great songs of the power pop persuasion and a highly underrated album of the 90s. I have an idea for a series of posts and this one will definitely be covered more in depth.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #179/180 (Memorial Day Edition)

I'd started a Shuffle yesterday but it got messed up and I deleted the post in frustration. Luckily, this is a 3 day weekend and I'm going to take advantage and make it double. Why not?

1. My Shepherd/The New Pornographers (8)
2. Blue Line Swinger/Yo La Tengo (1)
3. My Favorite Year/Destroyer (2)
4. The Stars Just Blink For Us/Say Hi (1)
5. The Things You Don't See/Canasta (1)
6. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song/Fleet Foxes (1)
7. Land of the Freak/King Khan and The Shrines (1)
8. Song For Mary/Clem Snide (7)
9. Go to Sleep/The Avett Brothers (1)
10. God Rest My Soul/Dawes (5)
11. Keep the Car Running/Arcade Fire (1)
12. Here's Lookin At You, Kid/The Gaslight Anthem (2)
13. So Much Water/M. Ward (1)
14. No One Here Knows Jane/Warren Zanes (2)
15. Black River Killer/Blitzen Trapper (2)
16. Lucky Ones/Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew (1)
17. People Think They Know Me/Sloan (2)
18. Keep You Inside/Frankel (1)
19. You Can Always Count On Me (In The Worst Way)/Superchunk (1)
20. Can You Tell/Ra Ra Riot (1)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Widow Talk

Sometimes you need to find the right book at the right time. After finishing Cory Doctorow's Makers (which I liked), I had two more books out from the library. The problem was that neither one was appealing to me at that moment. I took them back to the library and checked out Jonathan Tropper's How to Talk to a Widower instead. I'd really enjoyed his most recent novel last year and decided to check out his previous work. It's a decision I'm glad I made.

We start the story about a year after Doug Parker has lost his wife and he is still deep in grief and has cut himself off from the world. The book deals with him coming back to life with the help of his messed-up family. It's funny, dark, sexy at times, and just good. I recommend it.

It was the 10th book I've read this year, which is my slowest pace in quite some time. I am taking a summer class, so I probably won't read with the same ferocity as last summer but I do hope to step things up a bit.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #178

Another week and nothing else posted. Oh well. I still love doing these Sunday Shuffles, so here's another one...

1. She's A Mover/Big Star (5)
2. Shivers Down My Spine/King Khan And The Shrines (1)
3. Number One/Lightspeed Champion (1)
4. We Were Born The Mutants Again With Leafling/Of Montreal (1)
5. Smokin from Shootin/My Morning Jacket (1)
6. OK/Higgins (1)
7. Butch Cassidy/My Morning Jacket (1)
8. Coffee/Aesop Rock (2)
9. People In The Sky/Sloan (1)
10. Mountain/Lucero (1)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #177

I'm off to a later start today due to chaperoning prom and post-prom with my wife last night. Lots of things to do around the house today as well, so we'll get to it. I do hope to post some non-Sunday Shuffles in the coming weeks, so don't give up on me completely.

1. You Are A Light/Pavement (1)
2. People Think They Know Me (1)
3. Your Own Cloud/Portastatic (1)
4. True Or False/Bishop Allen (1)
5. Violet Furs/The Whigs (1)
6. Break It/Reigning Sound (2)
7. Bright Future/Bowerbirds (1)
8. Backwards Walk/Frightened Rabbit (1)
9. Die, Die, Die/Dr. Dog (1)
10. Act Surprised/Superchunk (1)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #176

It's the last weekend of my semester and I have a paper to write and a Spanish final to study for, so I'm going to jump right into today's ten...

1. Happiness Writes White/Harvey Danger (2)
2. Andiamo/The Twilight Singers (1)
3. Rampage/Blair (3)
4. Take Courage/Andrew Bird (3)
5. The Twist/Frightened Rabbit (1)
6. Nothing Left To Make Me Want To Stay/Sloan (1)
7. Dignity And Shame/Crooked Fingers (2)
8. No You're Not/Spoon (2)
9. Take My Love With You/Eli "Paperboy" Reed (2)
10. Bottled In Cork/Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (8)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #175

It's the last Sunday in April already and I have just over a week left of my college semester. My last final is May 4, which is also a big music release day. I was thinking about taking the next day off anyway...I could spend the day listening to new music. We'll see. Meanwhile, here are today's ten...

1. Quiet as a Mouse/Margot & the Nuclear So & So's (1)
2. Martinis On The Roof/Superchunk (1)
3. I Need All the Friends I Can Get/Camera Obscura (1)
4. New Disaster/Elliott Smith (1)
5. Rhthm & Soul/Spoon (2)
6. Fortunate Son/Creedence Clearwater Revival (1)
7. Time Machine/Matthew Sweet (1)
8. Got It Bad/The Broken West (1)
9. Beautiful/Michael Penn (2)
10. Sunday Sounds/Apples In Stereo (2)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Heavy Rotation #9

I've spent a fair amount of my listening time over the last few weeks in shuffle mode, whether on the main computer or my iPod. I have, however, managed to listen to a few things a handful of times each...

AC/DC/Back in Black - I've never owned this album before but bought it on a whim with some birthday money. Sure, there's the awesome opening of "Hells Bells" and the flat-out great "You Shook Me All Night Long" but I'm digging the stuff I've never heard before like "What Do You Do For Money Honey" and "Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" (which I can't stop singing).

The Beatles/Rubber Soul - This is #1 or #2 on my list of favorite Beatles albums, depending on what day you ask me. Actually, since I've been listening to it a lot these past few weeks it would probably rank #1 right now. Why? How about some great John songs like "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," "Nowhere Man," "Girl," and "Run For Your Life?"

Big Star/#1 Record/Radio City - The recent death of Alex Chilton had me diving back into this combo of the group's first two albums. Together, they are two of the best power pop albums ever recorded with song after great song.

The National/Alligator - They have a new album coming out in a few weeks, so I've been reacquainting myself with this one, their album before the last one. I'd forgotten just how awesome this one is, especially the five song set that closes the album - "All The Wine," "Abel," "The Geese of Beverly Road," "City Middle," and the raging "Mr. November." Listening to this also reminds me of my friend Mike (who blogged as Little Toy Robot), who recommended I check it out the first and only time we met face to face. Wish he were still around...

Sunday Shuffle #174

I added 2 new albums this week, so we'll see if songs from either pop up...

1. Now You're Among Strangers/J. Tillman (2)
2. Darl/Buffalo Tom (1)
3. Bright Smile/Josh Ritter (3)
4. Marrow/St. Vincent (1)
5. The Wolves (Act I and II)/Bon Iver (1)
6. We Are Sleepyheads/Belle and Sebastian (1)
7. The Compromise/The Format (1)
8. Gimme The Wire/Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (7)
9. Changes/The Zombies (1)
10. Nice Fox/The Rosebuds (2)

None of the newest but at least all of today's selections weren't the first time they've come up since I had to reboot everything.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #173

I've been in shuffle mode since last Sunday and I'm going to keep it rolling at least through today. I do have about 50 albums saved for later on eMusic, so eventually I'm going to add to the digital collection.

1. 2:19/Tom Waits (1)
2. It's Gonna Be Beautiful/Wisely (2)
3. I Never Want To Go Home/The Whigs (1)
4. A Lesson In Crime/Tokyo Police Club (1)
5. All Dolled-Up in Straps/The National (1)
6. San Andreas Crouch/Portastatic (1)
7. Scene From #12/M. Ward (1)
8. Hangman/The Redwalls (1)
9. Marie/Steve Earle (1)
10. The Swish/The Hold Steady (1)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #172

All of my digital music has been recovered from our external hard drive and I have reloaded iTunes with it. I feel like celebrating with my first Sunday Shuffle in a little while. Call it my Easter present to anyone who may still be reading.

1. Jail Is Fine/Army Navy (1)
2. The Riverside/Cracker (1)
3. The Moonbeam Song/Harry Nilsson (1)
4. Jeff Buckley Moves to Memphis (2001 demo)/The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers (1)
5. Slow West Vultures/The Mountain Goats (1)
6. Today's Undertaking/M. Ward (1)
7. Rake/Steve Earle (1)
8. Young Men Dead/The Black Angels (1)
9. Past Time/The Baseball Project (1)
10. Sad, Sad Song/M. Ward (1)

"Past Time" is a perfect song to pop up today, since the 2010 MLB season opens tonight. I bought Sports Illustrated's Baseball Preview issue yesterday, an annual tradition for me.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Heavy Rotation #8

Here's what I've been listening to the most in the last half of March...

The Beatles/Help!
Clem Snide/The Meat of Life
Drive-By Truckers/The Big To-Do
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists/The Brutalist Bricks
Sparklehorse/Dreamt For Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reading Rebound

I finished the Dec. 2009 issue of Asimov's last night and I didn't have a positive view of the magazine. I gave up on the final story by Brian Stableford (I keep trying with him but I'm just not a fan) and the rest of the stories didn't do much for me, except for Mike Resnick's humorous high concept, "The Bride of Frankenstein." I was reluctant to pick up the Jan. 2010 issue but I've been trying to wipe out my SF mag backlog, so I did. I read the entire issue today and was glad I did.

It's rare to find any anthology, whether magazine or book, where you like everything but I found that today. Thanks to Geoffrey A. Landis for the mix of hard SF and character, Felicity Shoulders for the gut-punch ending in a story about a world where babies with modifications are abandoned, Steve Rasnic Tem for the uplifting melancholy, Chris Roberson for the birth of a Superman substitute in an alternate world, Robert Reed for the similarities and differences of his alternate world (which includes a never-made movie by Martin Scorcese, Carol Emshwiller for her wonderful oddball characters, and Allen M. Steele for the pulpy thrill of the "true" story of an alien lifeform landing on an exclusive Georgia island.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Heavy Rotation #7

As we head towards the middle of March, here's a few things I've been listening to a lot lately...

Ryan Adams/Heartbreaker
The Beatles/Beatles For Sale
U2/All That You Can't Leave Behind

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Shuffle #171

This is day three of a four-day weekend, a weekend where I have a bunch of college work to do. I've been working through it and alternating with watching stuff from the DVR and reading a little bit. So far so good. Today I need to write a Valentine's e-card in Spanish, read the fifth book of The Odyssey, and get a really good start on a paper for English. So, let's get right to the music...

1. Powder Burns/The Twilight Singers (2)
2. Too Many Demons/I Love Math (1)
3. La Ferrassie/Tokyo Police Club (1)
4. Bomb. Repeat. Bomb./Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (1)
5. Jen Is Bringin The Drugs/Margot & The Nuclear So & So's (2)
6. Missing Pieces/Voxtrot (1)
7. Way Out West/Big Star (1)
8. The Greatest Sum (acoustic)/The Avett Brothers (1)
9. Hangman/The Redwalls (1)
10. Leave It At The Door/White Rabbits (1)

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I've spent most of my weekend trying to clear out some things (mostly brought on my whiny post about all of the piles I have) and have been slightly successful. It's also helped by the facts that my Spanish professor didn't post any online exercises like she said she would and that the pdf of the first book of The Iliad I have to read for English isn't downloading properly.

Yesterday morning I finished The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris, the follow-up novel to his acclaimed debut And Then We Came to the End, which I liked well enough. I almost gave up on The Unnamed after 75 pages but then decided to stick with it. It's about a man who has a recurring condition where he just walks. That's right, walks. He is unable to stop himself until his body decides and then falls into deep sleeps that are dangerous due to where he sleeps. He's not a particularly interesting character and the first two-thirds of the novel are fairly tedious. The final third is much more interesting, when Tim has reached a state of roaming and warring with his body. It is odd and compelling and the story ultimately reaches a nice crescendo before tailing off again in the final pages. I'm glad I stuck with it but wouldn't say I loved it.

Once I finished the Ferris novel, I returned both it and the next novel I had out from the library, then canceled my other requests. It's time to try and get a handle on the reading material I have here before dipping back into the never-ending stacks.

I did make a start by reading the second story in the Oct/Nov issue of F&SF, "Bandits of the Trace" by Albert E. Cowdrey. I usually like the work Cowdrey produces for the magazine but this one kicked it up a bit. The story has an odd opening then shifts to a college professor who is struggling with a book and a crossword puzzle. He ends up roping a student into a puzzle around which is book is based. We then get the entire first chapter of that book, telling the tale of the titular bandits, which is quite engrossing. Eventually all three sections weave back together and the fantastical element is revealed. It's clever and fun.

I've managed to clear out most of the 160+ posts I had in my Google Reader and heard some good music that way - Phantogram, Lissie, and new stuff from Josh Rouse and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I also listened to the third disc of that Hall & Oates box set, though I still have another to go...and then bought myself 2 more albums yesterday (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Vampire Weekend).

I watched a handful of things from the DVR, including the last two eps of Batman: Brave and the Bold with my son. He thought "A Bat Divided" was hilarious and I agreed with him, plus it was fun seeing the version of Firestorm they introduced. That show is tons of fun.

I am hoping to finally watch the final episode of Dollhouse before the Super Bowl starts. I also plan on starting the Jack of Fables trade at the top of my pile during the game.

Sunday Shuffle #170

It's another Super Bowl edition of the shuffle, which always reminds me of my beloved 1985 Bears and "The Super Bowl Shuffle." I do have a horse in today's game - the Colts are my second-favorite team and I have tons of respect for Peyton Manning. I'm hoping for a good game but not so close that I have to sweat bullets all night. In any event, here are today's ten songs...

1. I Called Out Your Name/The Thermals (2)
2. Dignity And Shame/Crooked Fingers (4)
3. Everyone Gets One For Free/Cracker (1)
4. I Want to Love You in My Room/Irving (2)
5. Deeper Into Movies/Yo La Tengo (1)
6. Plans/Dinosaur Jr. (2)
7. Oblivion/John Vanderslice (1)
8. All Used Up/Sloan (4)
9. Said The People/Dinosaur Jr. (1)
10. Multitude of Casualties/The Hold Steady (1)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Eight Piles High

I went out and bought the new Fables trade yesterday and I'm looking forward to reading it. However, there are 5 other trades piled on top of it.

I'm trying to finish The Unnamed by tomorrow because it's due back at the library and I can't renew it. I have 3 other books on the shelf to be read after that.

I bought the Hall & Oates box set on Saturday and have only managed to listen to half of the discs.

I started the Oct./Nov. 2009 issue of F&SF and few weeks ago and have only managed about 50 pages. I have 2 more issues of F&SF and 4 of Asimov's sitting in a drawer.

Adventureland arrived via Netflix last Friday and I still haven't watched it. Hell, I have DVDs I got for Christmas three plus years ago that I haven't watched yet.

The DVR is 76% full and set to record 4 more hours worth tonight and 2 1/2 tomorrow night.

Oh, and my Google Reader? It has over 100 unread posts, including links to a number of podcasts I want to listen to.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Heavy Rotation #6

As we start a new month, here's a look at what I couldn't stop listening to at the end of January...

The Beatles/With The Beatles
Crooked Fingers/Dignity And Shame
Bruce Springsteen/Darkness on the Edge of Town

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fours and Two

My January pop culture consumption has had an abundance of fours: I read 4 books, 4 trade paperbacks, 4 single issues of comics, and bought/downloaded for albums (one of which has 4 discs). In fact, the only thing I didn't manage 4 of (besides TV, but who can keep track of all that) was short stories, having read only one. There's no big significance to any of this, of course, but I found it interesting.

Here are some quick reviews of two comics I read yesterday...

Joe the Barbarian #1 - This is a new Vertigo series from Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy and this first issue costs only a dollar. As far as the story goes, it's definitely a set-up issue about a geeky diabetic who is either hallucinating or actually traveling to a world where all his toys are real and "the drains are choked with guts and stuffing." Interesting. Even better, though, is the art by Murphy (who also drew one of the short stories in that first House of Mystery). I'm not very adept at talking about art, so I'll just say that his work makes me feel like I could visit the places he's drawing. More than that, I want to. Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Astro City: The Dark Age Book Four #1 - This is the final book of the long-running Dark Age storyline, where Charles and Royal Williams are out for revenge for their parents' murder. This is not a good place for newcomers to start, as this is the 13th issue of the story. For long-time readers like me, I'm looking forward to finding out what happens, especially filling in the pieces of Silver Agent's time jumps.

Sunday Shuffle #169

I can't believe we're at the end of January already. I'm four weeks into my session at the Y and three weeks into my college semester. Mid-winter break at the day job is less than two weeks away as well. Anyway, here is today's music...

1. Last Day Of Magic/The Kills (1)
2. Darling Night/J Tillman (1)
3. Summer Babe (Winter Version)/Pavement (1)
4. Jen Is Bringin the Drugs/Margot & The Nuclear So & So's (1)
5. Swedes In Stockholm (Acoustic)/Tokyo Police Club (1)
6. Hostile, Mass./The Hold Steady (1)
7. You Really Got a Hold on Me/She & Him (2)
8. With Arms Outstretched/Rilo Kiley (1)
9. Brown Paper Sack/Reigning Sound (1)
10. A Bottle of Buckie/Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (1)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I'm With Them

I've taken the last few weeks to play With The Beatles repeatedly, letting the music soak in. It was the second album from the Fab Four and other one I'd never heard in its entirety. To be honest, there were quite a few songs I'd never heard at all. Still, that's the fun, isn't it?

For me, this is an album that gains steam as it goes along. Sure, there's fun in the descending chords that end "It Won't Be Long" and the nifty bassline working with McCartney's melody in "All My Loving." I was surprised to hear "All I've Got To Do," which feels like it could be a protoype for low-fi indie rock - the instrumentation is sparse but effective.

George Harrison really shines on his first Beatles original, "Don't Bother Me." It has a nice groove to it and a short, sharp guitar solo. The harmonica comes out for "Little Child," which feels like a 50s-style rocker. "Till There Was You" has such a pretty melody but such goofy lyrics - "There was music and wonderful roses." You know, I don't remember that song from The Music Man but it's been a long time since I've seen it.

The covers continue with the great "Please Mr. Postman" as the boys harmonize and a solid take on Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven." The one original stuck between all the covers is "Hold Me Tight" with its fun call-and-response vocals.

I love their version of Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got a Hold on Me." John and George sound great together harmonizing on the verses and when Paul joins in on the Plus, Ringo's drum fills are great.

Speaking of Ringo, he rips it up on "I Wanna Be Your Man" along with some cool Hammond B3 organ and nice lead work from George. What a great little tune. And speaking of George, he's back in the lead with "Devil In Her Heart" and so are the great three-part harmonies. Then speaking of Ringo again, his drum work and the piano are highlights of "Not A Second Time."

By the time we get to their cover of "Money (That's What I Want), I realize the album has just gone full-speed ahead and it brings it on home is a rocking way. Hey, this band was pretty good!