Saturday, November 18, 2017

Book Blogger Hop November 17th - November 23rd: Area Code 229 Apparently Shows Up in a Lot of Rap Songs

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: If you had an author-only Thanksgiving party, who would you invite?

Well, first, I would invite Ursula K. Le Guin, because I always pick her for things like this. She is simply one of the greatest authors of the last century, and seems incredibly interesting otherwise. She's the only author on this list that I haven't actually met and don't actually know.

Second, I'd pick Alethea Kontis, because she's also an awesome author, and she'd be likely to bring some fantastic Greek food with her. She's also incredibly fun to hang out with and would be pretty much perfect at any gathering. She wrote several books that are a kind of curveball style take on traditional fairy tales, and she knows more about fairy tale stories than anyone I know.

Third, I'd invite Ceillaigh MacCath-Moran, partially because she is awesome and partially because she'd bring her husband Sean, who is great to hang out with, and also because she's working on a Ph.D. in folklore, and I'd really love to listen to her talk about myths and legends.

Fourth, I'd invite Fran Wilde, who is a fellow Cavalier and also a fantastic author and just generally a great person to spend time with. She is also one of the editors of the SFWA Cookbook, so you know she has a lot of great recipes on hand.

Fifth, I'd invite Tom Doyle. As long as I'm having a Thanksgiving that involves people who are going to be talking about folklore, why not have a guy who wrote an entire trilogy based upon various folk traditions being real and serving as the foundation of a hidden world of magic. Plus, he's a great guy in person, so he'd be a perfect Thanksgiving guest.

Finally, I'm going to throw Ursula Vernon into the mix here. She's another great author, and many of her stories have very obvious folkloric elements, so she'll be able to add quite a bit to the conversation. Plus, she's apparently got a huge garden so she can probably bring some really good fresh vegetables.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review - The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

Short review: A collection of eighty-five works of nonfiction covering a range of topics from book stores, to the comics industry, from boons to video games to movies, and from authors to refugees.

Pull up a chair and
Listen to Gaiman expound
On almost all things

Full review: The View from the Cheap Seats is an eclectic mix of selected nonfiction drawn from a wide swathe of Neil Gaiman's career. The works include the transcripts of speeches, introductions to books, memorials to departed writers, liner notes from albums, interviews, and pretty much every other form of writing that one can think of. The topics covered range from libraries to bookstores, from authors to books to music, and from comic books to refugee camps. While this volume is not a complete collection of Gaiman's nonfiction (assembling which would likely be a nigh impossible task), it does contain a broad spectrum of his work, both in terms of style and substance.

Normally, I would describe a volume like this as a collection of essays, but in the case of The View from the Cheap Seats, that would be a misnomer, as these are, for the most part, not essays, but other pieces of writing. The various pieces in this volume are grouped into ten broad categories, each with a relatively loose theme. Because these pieces appeared in a variety of outlets often separated from one another in both time and venue, many of them return to the same themes (and in some cases, the same anecdotes) so reading them one after another can be a little repetitive at times, as Gaiman returns to the same rhetorical well in one article after another. This is somewhat exacerbated by the groupings, as, for example, Gaiman's thoughts on what he believes generally have similar tempos and hit the same notes over an over again, which means that putting them all together in the same section has the effect of highlighting their similarities.

That said, this is Neil Gaiman's work, and as a result, it is almost all top notch, even when he does repeat himself a bit. The sections are: "Things I Believe", which are mostly speeches and articles in which Gaiman expounds upon some element of art, myth, or writing. "Some People I Have Known", which are either introductions to books or memorials to authors who have passed on. "Introductions And Musings: Science Fiction", which are introductions to books and one Nebula Awards speech. "Films and Movies and Me" which is basically Gaiman expounding upon film, mostly filmed work he has been involved in. "On Comics and Some of the People Who Make Them", which consists of articles about various comic book properties and creators as well as some insightful speeches about the genre. "Introductions and Contradictions" which is a grab-bag of introductions Gaiman wrote for books that don't really fit in any of the other categories. "Music and the People Who Make It" consisting of album liner notes, a couple of stories about Amanda Palmer, and his interview with Lou Reed. "On Stardust and Fairy Tales" a section that, given the title, has far less about Gaiman's Stardust than one would think, but a lot of commentary about fairy tale stories. "Make Good Art", which is the only section that is comprised of a single essay, whose title is the same as the section. "The View from the Cheap Seats: Real Things" the last and probably most personal section has essays that are clearly important to Gaiman but cannot really be categorized with the rest of the material in the book, and includes both his harrowing article about visiting a Syrian refugee camp and his intensely personal essay about the loss of his friend and collaborator Terry Pratchett. Every section contains brutal, brilliant, and insightful pieces in which Gaiman explores such a wide variety of topics that one has to wonder how he keeps up with all of them.

The most notable thing about The View from the Cheap Seats is that, with two notable (and entirely understandable) exceptions, Gaiman is relentlessly positive. I suppose it is kind of sad that a collection of writing that is almost entirely about how much the writer loves the things he is writing about is unusual in that regard, but it does make reading this book an enjoyable experience. It doesn't matter what Gaiman is writing about, he seems to always try to find what he loves in the subject. If he is writing about libraries and bookstores, he writes about the things that he loves about libraries and bookstores - even when writing about the creepy adult book store that somewhat inexplicably had a stack of old science fiction paperbacks on a back shelf. When he writes about books, he focuses on the part of the book that he found transcendent and sublime. When he writes about authors, he writes about the things they created that moved him.

Gaiman even generally keeps the tone positive when writing memorial pieces about authors, which he seems to often be having to do. It is probably a function of Gaiman coming to prominence at a relatively young age, but he seems to now be in the position of being the one who is called upon, by virtue of his relationship with the deceased, to write a tribute to an author or artist who has passed away. He is, to a certain extent, now in the role of being the man who remembers the great authors, artists, and singers of the past for those of us who were not fortunate enough to know them. For the most part, these memorials are sad and wistful, but focus primarily on what great art the departed made while they were alive, and how they touched the lives of others in beneficial ways. The one time Gaiman lets his anger at the loss of someone shine through is late in the volume, in A Slip of the Keyboard: Terry Pratchett, his essay about the passing of his friend and collaborator, but in the end he turns to focusing on the good things about Terry and leaves behind the fury at having him taken away too early.

The one essay which sees Gaiman angry is his piece about Syrian refugee camps titled So Many Ways to Die in Syria Now: May 2014. This is markedly different from the other works in the book, because its subject matter is the human tragedy playing out in dusty UN refugee camps in the Jordanian desert rather than books, music, authors, or artists. Without denigrating the rest of the work in this volume, this essay is definitely the most powerful and moving in the book, in large part due to the seriousness of the subject matter, but also because the plight of the Syrian refugees seems to bring out the very best in Gaiman as he works very hard to make sure their voices come through in his writing. Gaiman has done some news articles in the past, although most of his work seems to have been fluffy celebrity pieces - he did, after all, get his start writing a book about Duran Duran, but this article shows that if he hadn't moved into comics and fiction writing, he'd have been an excellent news correspondent.

In the end, The View from the Cheap Seats is five hundred pages of Gaiman writing about the world around him, and mostly writing about the things he loves. To a certain extent this book can be seen as Gaiman's attempt to pass on the things he loves to the reader, hoping that by extolling their virtues, his enthusiasm will rub off on his audience. By and large, at least for me, this worked, and I came away from the book with a list of new writers to read, music to seek out and listen to, and movies to watch. This is an excellent survey of Gaiman's work, that is likely to appeal both to those who have never read any of his nonfiction work and those who are hardcore fans of his, and is definitely worth reading.

2017 Hugo Award Finalists

Neil Gaiman     Book Award Reviews     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, November 13, 2017

Musical Monday - Big Bang by the Doubleclicks featuring Jonathan Coulton

In the Doubleclick's most recent album Love Problems, Angela seems to have opened up the floodgates of her thoughts on relationships and breakups and unleashed a collection of some of the most devastating nerdy songs that has been put forth. Big Bang is fundamentally a break-up song that tells the story of two people who long for the past, don't quite understand how everything went wrong, and resent the present. There isn't anything new or unusual about a break-up song - Taylor Swift has made pretty much her entire career out of break-up songs - but the difference here is that the Doubleclicks couch their break-up song in the language of nerdy references.

One might say that this is banal - break-up songs are common, and just taking a standard tale of a splintered relationship and draping it with imagery about the Big Bang and molecules is just doing something conventional with a genre-style facade. The thing is, I think this is not something ordinary, but is instead something quite valuable. Angela has taken something conventional and translated it into a language that will speak to a specific segment of the population. Phrasing stories and art in a way that it reaches a different audience is important. This is why, for example, you generally won't hear me dumping on romance novels - I don't care for them, but they speak to a particular audience. My science fiction and genre fantasy novels probably don't speak to romance fans either, even though there are probably a lot of crossover in the fundamentals of the stories.

Telling a story in a way that your intended audience can identify with it results in a sublime piece of work. And I can definitely identify with Big Bang. I've been exactly where the characters in the song are. I remember how that felt - the listlessness, the confusion, the disappointment, the resentment. I've lived through a dead relationship and this song captures that feeling perfectly for me in a way that "conventional" break-up songs just don't. On that ground, just writing "love songs with nerdy references" isn't a bug, it is a feature.

Previous Musical Monday: Lord of the Rings by the Doubleclicks

The Doubleclicks     Jonathan Coulton     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Book Blogger Hop November 10th - November 16th: Shah Arshadir I Conquered Parthia in 228 A.D.

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: What is your favorite part of blogging? Is there a least favorite part of blogging?

My favorite part of blogging is the writing. Organizing my ideas and getting them into written form is really the main reason that I blog at all, and as a result, it is the best part of the process. I don't really write for anyone else, so I don't really care about feedback that much. I mean, getting comments is nice, but it isn't why I blog, so I don't see it as ll that big of a deal. I suppose one could say that the reading is a great part of blogging, but I'd read the books I read whether I was blogging or not, so that's not really part of what I would count as blogging. So the best part has to be the writing.

My least favorite part of blogging is the writing. Getting my thoughts down in written form coherently is often like pulling teeth. I have a stack of books that need reviews sitting on my desk that are simply mocking me as I struggle to find the right words to discuss their contents. It usually doesn't matter what I actually think about the book in question - writing about a book is almost always a draining and difficult process.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, November 6, 2017

Musical Monday - Lord of the Rings by the Doubleclicks

At a recent concert, Angela commented that a critic reviewing the Doubleclicks music once said that that their songs were just relationship songs with nerdy references, and that this had caused her to avoid writing songs about relationships for a long time. On their most recent album Love Problems, she reversed course on that decision and loaded it up with tracks of relationship songs with nerdy references. I'm glad she did: I first fell in love with the music of the Doubleclicks primarily because it was a pile of love songs filtered through a nerdy lens.

Lord of the Rings is a relationship song, but it isn't a love song. Well, in a way it is, but it is about loving the things that make you joyful and not allowing that love to be ruined by their association with someone from your past. For a variety of reasons, a lot of the Doubleclicks' songs about failed relationships and bad breakups resonate with me, and this one is no exception. There are songs I will never sing again, but there are a lot of other things that I simply refuse to give up, despite their associations with my past.

Previous Musical Monday: Stranger Things Opening Theme
Subsequent Musical Monday: Big Bang by the Doubleclicks featuring Jonathan Coulton

The Doubleclicks     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Book Blogger Hop November 3rd - November 9th: Marla Gibbs Starred in the Sitcom "227" from 1985 to 1990

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: When reading a book, do you use a bookmark to mark your place in the book, or do you just fold over the top corner of the page?

I use bookmarks. I have literally dozens of bookmarks, mostly from conventions I've attended, book promotions, libraries, or websites like Bookmooch. Most of the library bookmarks are from libraries advertising their annual book sales. In effect, I have a pile of rectangular-shaped advertisements made out of poster board. But I do use them. In fact, I have enough that I could probably read about five dozen books and have sufficient bookmarks to have one in each book. This doesn't even count all of the things that I have that I have used as impromptu book marks, or the strange things I have found in used books that people were clearly using as bookmarks before they gave the book away (mostly old receipt, but also one Canadian $20 bill and a brochure for laboratory equipment). Basically, I have sufficient bookmarks that I will never again have to dog-ear a page in a book.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: Shah Arshadir I Conquered Parthia in 228 A.D.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Review - Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey

Short review: The crew of the Rocinante all head off to take care of personal business. Then the entire solar system collapses into chaos.

Some angry belters
Steal from Mars and shower Earth
Everything changes

Full review: Nemesis Games is the fifth book in the Expanse series, and despite being part of a series that has seen the discovery of alien life, the opening of the gateway to the stars, and human colonization of alien worlds, this is the book in which the biggest change takes place. It turns out that not everyone is happy with the changes that are happening in the universe of the Expanse, and rather than simply accept them, they have decided to take drastic action to keep the status quo, even though that status quo is one they have railed against for their entire lives. This book also structurally moves in a new direction, splitting up the crew of the Rocinante for much of its length, and using the four crewmembers as the primary viewpoint characters.

Following on after the events of Cibola Burn, Nemesis Games starts with an interlude in which a team of Belters, led by a young man named Filip, attack a Martian military outpost on Callisto, killing most of the garrison, destroying much of the facility, and making off with a substantial volume of classified military equipment. This section is quick, brutal, and devastating, which sets the tone for much of the book. Meanwhile, the crew of the Rocinante has made the long, slow journey back from Illus/New Terra to Tycho so that they can repair their mangled ship. The only trouble is that the repairs needed are quite extensive and will take quite a long time to complete, and the various crew members all start to get itchy feet, and one by one they leave to take care of personal business and get some character development.

Alex heads off to Mars to try to find some sort of closure with his ex-wife who stayed with him through his roving Navy years, but it turned out he wasn't very good at being married when he retired and they had to actually live together. Amos returns to Earth after learning of the death of Lydia, a woman who was an important mother-figure to him during his youth. Finally, Naomi heads to Ceres, drawn by a message that she refuses to reveal the contents of to Holden, on a mission she refuses to talk about, but which is firmly connected to her mysterious past. For the most part, the reasons they head their separate ways turn out to not really matter: Alex's reunion with his ex-wife goes about as well as one might expect a meeting between estranged ex-spouses would go, while Amos' mother figure is still dead and the old neighborhood he used to live in has changed a lot and mostly forgotten him, although he is still able to make arrangements to provide for Lydia's widow. Both Alex and Amos more or less drift into new difficulties, as Alex teams up with Bobbie to investigate irregularities in the Martian Naval supply chain, and Amos finagles a visit with Clarissa Mao, who, following the events in Abaddon's Gate, is firmly ensconced in the most secure prison Earth has. Each of the men more or less stumbles into the main plot of the book, or rather, the main plot of the book almost literally crashes into their lives.

Naomi, on the other hand, gets entangled in the main plot of the book almost immediately. It turns out that Naomi's enigmatic past includes a son, who turns out to be none other than Filip from the first chapter of the book, and Filip's father is Marco Inaros, the leader of a splinter group of the OPA that is on the furthest and most extreme anti-Earth end of the group's spectrum. It turns out that Inaros and his followers have been planning something big, and when they put their plan into effect, it changes the direction of the entire Solar System. It turns out that some Belters aren't happy about the fact that humanity now has access to at least a few thousand new planets to settle upon, and feel like they are about to be left behind - cast aside without a thought by the rest of the human race as it stampedes through the alien gate to live upon the freshly available alien worlds. To voice their displeasure, Inaros and his gang more or less set out to destroy human civilization, although they aren't willing to admit to themselves that that is what they are doing. Instead, they assert that they are protecting the Belt from the unscrupulous and uncaring denizens of the inner planets, and setting their own people free to pursue their own destiny.

The real problem with Inaros' plan is that Inaros is simply not nearly as brilliant as he thinks he is. Inaros is one of the most compelling and hateable villains to appear in genre fiction in recent years, and part of what makes him so compelling are his rather obvious flaws. Inaros is not stupid, but once the reader encounters him via Naomi, it quickly becomes clear his personal charisma has allowed him to bluster through his schemes going awry for much of his life, and as a result, he has come to believe his own propaganda about his abilities. The fascinating thing about Inaros is not that his plan is fatally flawed and probably inherently self-defeating, but rather that he is able to sell his plan to people who really should know better. Through almost sheer force of personality, Inaros is able to convince his collection of followers not only to engage in mass murder on an epic scale, but also to fairly obviously follow a course of action that is almost guaranteed to get them and all of those they claim to be defending also killed, although slowly and painfully. The Expanse series has had technocratic sociopathic villains, revenge-driven obsessed villains, amoral murderous villains, and incompetent villains, but Inaros is the first charismatic villain in the series, and his combination of evil cunning, duplicity, and at times almost buffoonish stupidity makes him one of the most interesting villains the series has produced.

All of the four storylines converge, which is pretty much to be expected, but the real meat of the story belongs to Naomi, which is interesting because Naomi spends most of the volume unable to actually do much of anything, as Inaros holds her prisoner and alternately tries to woo her and threaten her. This helps to flesh Inaros out as a character, and makes both his strengths and glaring flaws stand out quite vividly, but it does more or less sideline Naomi for a substantial portion of the book. This is the second book in a row in which Naomi has been captured so that she could serve as a conduit for the reader to understand the position of the "other side" in the central conflict of the story, and while this has been a fairly effective technique for the authors, it is a trend I hope doesn't continue. Aside from the fact that putting Naomi in danger to humanize the villains and motivate the crew of the Rocinante is kind of tedious and predictable, it also kind of limits Naomi as a character in some ways.

The central theme of Nemesis Games is change. Each volume of the Expanse has seen major shifts in the structure of the world, but this volume is the first in which the political, economic, and military landscape has been completely reshaped. The novel also continues the recurring themes of the series of "when faced with inscrutable alien technology, humans try to kill one another" and "Holden more or less make every situation he comes across worse". In addition to the large scale shifts in the political and military balance of power, there are smaller changes in the fictional world as well, as two new (and somewhat unexpected) potential crewmembers for the Rocinante find their way into the narrative. The only real weakness of the book is that the story it tells is markedly incomplete, essentially halting in the middle of the action to put off on finishing the primary plot until Babylon's Ashes. This is also a change for the series, which until now has been mostly self-contained stories that leave a few threads dangling, but basically wrap up their plots within one volume. Nemesis Games, on the other hand, is clearly only the first part in a two-part story.

The Expanse series is currently projected to total nine books, which makes Nemesis Games the exact middle of the story. As such, it seems fitting that this book would be the pivot point where the story rotates to an entirely new paradigm, and that appears to be what the authors have done. The changes wrought on the universe of the series in this installment are dramatic and far-reaching, and at the same time feel completely organic, and in hindsight, almost expected. This is a big, bold story that also manages to make room for some interesting character development and interaction. In short, Nemesis Games is both an unexpected twist to the ongoing story of the Expanse and at the same time, exactly what the series needed.

Previous book in the series: Cibola Burn
Subsequent book in the series: Babylon's Ashes

James S.A. Corey     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, October 30, 2017

Musical Monday - Stranger Things Opening Theme

Last week I caught up on the Marvel Netflix universe by finally finishing The Defenders. This week, I watched all of Stranger Things 2. Now all I need to do is finish watching the second season of Sense 8 and I'll be pretty much caught up on all of the nerdy Netflix shows that I have been watching.

Previous Musical Monday: The Defenders Opening Theme
Subsequent Musical Monday: Lord of the Rings by the Doubleclicks

Game, Movie, and Television Music     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Book Blogger Hop Halloween Edition! October 28th - November 2nd: The Colossus of Rhodes Was Destroyed in 226 B.C.

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Off the book topic - Candy corn, a chocolate bar, or popcorn. Which of these snacks are your favorite to eat while reading?

1. I loathe candy corn. It is terrible, awful, wretched stuff that shouldn't be considered candy.

2. All things being equal, I prefer chocolate bars to most other snacks. My favorites chocolate bars are Reese's Fast Break, Baby Ruth, Milky Way Midnight, and Hershey's Special Dark. Actually, anything that is either dark chocolate or combines chocolate and peanut butter is pretty much perfect. Around Halloween, I am partial to the Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins because the peanut butter to chocolate ratio seems to work better than with normal peanut butter cups. All that said, chocolate bars are not really great reading snacks, mostly due to the possibility that one might get chocolate on the pages of the book one is reading.

3. Popcorn is probably my preferred snack for reading, although it it not my snack of preference in general. It is easy to eat while you're doing something else, which makes it a pretty good snack for when your attention is focused on reading. The only real downside is when you get butter on your fingers and it gets on the book.

Previous Book Blogger Hop: Trieu Thi Trinh Was Born in 225 A.D.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Musical Monday - The Defenders Opening Theme

Guess what I just got finished watching. Go ahead, just try to guess.

Previous Musical Monday: Southern Accents by Tom Petty
Subsequent Musical Monday: Stranger Things Opening Theme

Game, Movie, and Television Music     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Book Blogger Hop Halloween Edition! October 20th - October 26th: Trieu Thi Trinh Was Born in 225 A.D.

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Off the book topic - What is your favorite scary movie?

I suppose it would be the movie Alien, although to be perfectly honest, it is probably because I read Alan Dean Foster's novelization of the movie long before I ever saw the movie, and in my memory, the novelization is terrifying. Maybe it was because I read the novel when I was medically evacuated to South Africa for surgery on my hand and as a result I was in kind of a strange state of mind, but the novelized version of Alien is the scariest book I have ever read, and that almost certainly affected my perception of the movie.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, October 16, 2017

Musical Monday - Southern Accents by Tom Petty

Tom Petty was a Southerner. Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Petty's life was steeped in Southern tradition and a love for where he came from. In this video, he is singing in his hometown and you can see just how much this song, sung in that place, meant to him. I defy anyone to challenge Petty's bona fides as a proud Southerner.

But Petty was not going to put up with any of the "heritage not hate" bullshit about the various Confederate flags that people associate with the South. He knew what they really represented, and knew that it wasn't "Southern pride", but rather Southern racism. And he wanted nothing to do with it.

Petty didn't always think that way. Like many people who grew up surrounded by symbols, he never really thought about what they truly meant. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Petty said:
The Confederate flag was the wallpaper of the South when I was a kid growing up in Gainesville, Florida. I always knew it had to do with the Civil War, but the South had adopted it as its logo. I was pretty ignorant of what it actually meant. It was on a flagpole in front of the courthouse and I often saw it in Western movies. I just honestly didn't give it much thought, though I should have.
The element that sticks out here is the unthinking nature of his acceptance of the battle flag of the Army of Tennessee (which is what most people think of when they hear the words "Confederate flag") as a symbol of Southernism. He even used it in his tour in support of his album Southern Accents, putting it on stage when he performed the song Rebels, a decision he came to regret later. When Petty thought about the flag, and what it really meant, he stopped using it, asked his fans to stop bringing it or wearing Confederate-themed clothing to his concerts, and had it removed from subsequent releases of his albums. That doesn't mean he stopped being proud to be from the South, he just stopped using a racist symbol to represent that pride. He said as much in the interview:
That Southern pride gets transferred from generation to generation. I'm sure that a lot of people that applaud it don't mean it in a racial way. But again, I have to give them, as I do myself, a "stupid" mark. If you think a bit longer, there's bad connotations to this. They might have it at the football game or whatever, but they also have it at Klan rallies. If that's part of it in any way, it doesn't belong, in any way, representing the United States of America.
Petty criticizes himself here - he just didn't think about the meaning behind the flag when he used it, and he offers others a way out of their devotion to a racist symbol. If you are Southern, you can still love where you are from even if you shed the symbols of the Civil War. From the interview with Rolling Stone:
Again, people just need to think about how it looks to a black person. It's just awful. It's like how a swastika looks to a Jewish person. It just shouldn't be on flagpoles.
Petty understood that no matter how pervasive the symbol was, and no matter what he associated it with, the reality was that it was, and is, a symbol of racist oppression and violence. Here's the thing: If someone as proud of being Southern as Petty could get it; if someone who loved his home as much as Petty did could get it, then no one else has any excuse.

Previous Musical Monday: Learning to Fly by Tom Petty
Subsequent Musical Monday: The Defenders Opening Theme

Tom Petty     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Blogger Hop October 13th - October 19th: The Sassanid Dynasty Was Founded by Arshadir I in 224 A.D.

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Who is your favorite horror/suspense author and why?

I don't read much horror or suspense, so I'm going to have to pick someone who kind of sidelined in that area. Perhaps Ray Bradbury or Robert Bloch would be good choices. I'd pick Bradbury on the strength of stories like Mars Is Heaven, and Bloch on the strength of stories like That Hell-Bound Train, The Hungry Eye, and Space-Born. Neither of them were primarily horror or suspense writers, but they were both really good writers in general, and so when they turned their work in the direction of horror and suspense, they turned out really good stories.

On reflection, there is a lot of science fiction that tends towards horror - encounters with inscrutable, mysterious, and hostile aliens frequently take on a horrific tone with stories like Opening the Door by Philip José Farmer, or You'll Never Go Home Again by Clifford Simak. Sometimes science fiction touches on the terrifying with horrible dystopian visions of the future such as Wake Up to Thunder by Dean Koontz or That Only a Mother by Judith Merril. And sometimes science fiction just provides creepy stories such as Its a Good Life by Jerome Bixby or The Dark Room by Theodore Sturgeon. No matter the exact format of horror story they choose, science fiction authors dip into the genre so often that seeing a horror-ish science fiction story is an ordinary occurrence. It happens so often that most science fiction authors are actually fairly good at writing horror style stories.

The only real difficulty this situation poses with respect to this week's question is that while there are a lot of authors who I like who have written some pretty good horror or suspense stories, none of them make it their primary focus, and their horror output represents only a tiny fraction of their work and only a small part of why I like them as authors. I suppose this is a really long-winded way of saying that while I don't have a "favorite" horror and suspense writer, I have an array of authors that I like who have waded in that pool from time to time.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: Trieu Thi Trinh Was Born in 225 A.D.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ad Astra Review - Apple Crumble by Chet Gottfried

What Is It? Sliced apples with a brown sugar and ginger sauce topped with a buttery cinnamon flavored crust.

Delicious apples
Made even better with some
Cinnamon and crust

Review: I know I said that I was going to make, try, and review all of the recipe's in the Ad Astra cookbook in the order they appear in the book, but I needed a dessert recipe for a gathering of my game group, so I skipped ahead a bit.

I am glad I did. This is a really good apple crumble.

Apple recipes are, in my experience, surprisingly tricky. Some recipes call for far too much seasoning - too much cinnamon, too much ginger, or too much nutmeg, and the resulting mix overpowers the apple flavor. Others call for too little, and the result is bland. This recipe, on the other hand, strikes almost exactly the right balance, with just enough cinnamon and ginger, and a crumble topping that is perfectly balanced by the apple base.

The other thing about this recipe is that it is really quite simple and easy to make. The entire recipe only has nine ingredients, and two of those are apples and water. The recipe only takes about ten or fifteen minutes to make - and most of that time is taken up peeling and slicing the apples. If you had an apple peeler, you could probably cut the prep time down to five minutes or so.

The recipe says to eat it warm and with vanilla ice cream, so we did. It was glorious. This is easily one of the best apple recipes I have had, and as one might guess, I highly recommend it. If you like apple dishes, you should try it out.

Previous recipe in Ad Astra: Wizard's Piglets in Blankets by Rosemary Jones
Next recipe in Ad Astra: Pudding Course: Apple Fritters by Gail Carriger

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Musical Monday - Learning to Fly by Tom Petty

Petty was an amazing performer who always seemed older and wiser than his years. When he died, one of my coworkers said that she was surprised he was only 66 years old - she had always thought he was much older than that. Part of this misapprehension may have been because his friends were mostly older then he - Petty was the youngest Traveling Wilbury for example. But I think the real reason for this was that his music so frequently had a weatherbeaten, almost weary feel to it.

Born in 1950, Petty was still a Baby Boomer, but only just barely. He was born at the tail end of that generation, and didn't rise to prominence until the mid-1970s, with the meat of his career coming during the 1980s and 1990s, after the burst of youthful Boomer exuberance of the 1960s and early 1970s had passed. He was never really a Boomer icon, but rather a figure that loomed large for people my age - who came of age in Reagan's America and were disillusioned from the get-go. His music hit the country when it was tired and worn down, and often, his lyrics speak to that part of us that feels overwhelmed but still refuses to stop fighting.

Now he's gone, and far too soon. There was more music left in him, and we won't ever have it now. But we can be grateful for what we do have, and remember.

Go and fly Tom. You'll never have to come down again.

Previous Musical Monday: The Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog
Subsequent Musical Monday: Southern Accents by Tom Petty

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