reviews on blogcritics: december

Things I reviewed in December.

December was a busy month for me, which left me little time to do much reviewing. I had hoped to get quite a bit done over the holidays, but instead I relaxed with friends and family. I think it was worth it, but it means working a bit harder in January.

A Princeton Christmas: For The Children Of Africa, Vol. 1 & 2

If you’ve heard a country version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” one too many times this season, or if any other rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” performed by your grade school child/sibling/cousin/whatever will push you over the edge, then I suggest you pick up either or both volumes of A Princeton Christmas: For The Children Of Africa. With the selections of classic and classical Christmas songs performed by musicians who care more about the music than about cashing in on the season, these are Christmas albums worth owning.

Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton by Stephen Miller

In addition to the fairly comprehensive 60-year overview of Parton’s life, the book contains a selective discography, source notes, a bibliography, and an index – all useful tools for researchers. I particularly enjoyed looking at the 16 pages of plates of photographs of Parton at various points in her life. Unfortunately, only the most dedicated fans are likely to read the book from cover to cover.

reviews on blogcritics: november

So, I didn’t end up catching up as much as I thought I would. Hopefully, I can do that in the next few weeks.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Live in Japan

This live album includes many of the band’s popular tunes, and serves as a “best of” recording much better than any compilation of their past studio work could attempt to do, mainly because as precise and flawless as the studio recordings can be, they do not convey the energy contained in a live performance, which is a significant part of their appeal. [more]

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte

…Duarte outlines the elements that make up an effective presentation design, and provides many real-world examples of these elements in action. She does not give too many details on specific tools and functions within particular slide presentation programs; instead, she provides the reader with the design theory needed to create an effective presentation. [more]

P!nk – Funhouse

Beginning with the post-relationship celebrity breakdown of “So What,” P!nk tells stories of substance abuse, co-dependency, and emotional/physical abuse. Alternatively cursing her lover and also pleading with them to not leave, she explores the complexity that led to the broken ending that began the album. [more]

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 3 Remastered

The visual enhancements, for the most part, are not noticeable unless one is obsessively familiar with every detail of the original format, and in most cases, they stand out only against scenes that did not clean up quite as well.

reviews on blogcritics: July-September

Hey, there. I know it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, but I want to you know that I’ve been thinking about you while we’ve been apart. I’ve had a busy schedule this past month, and it has kept me away from you, at least in this forum, and I want you to know that I have missed you very much. I hope you can forgive me for being away so long.

Anyway, I wanted to share some of the things that I have written for Blogcritics in recent months:

The World Is Your Litter Box: A How-to Manual for Cats by Quasi, with Minor Help from Steve Fisher

This book is by no means a serious psychological study of cat behavior or cat-human relationships, but it does provide some insight into the latter. The main thing I took away from this book is that no matter what cats do to irritate humans, most of us easily melt into a puddle of mush when our pets show affection. Think of how much calmer rush hour could be if we all had a purring cat in our laps? [more]

Amy Ray – Didn’t It Feel Kinder

Even though Ray worked with some of the same musicians on Didn’t It Feel Kinder as she did for Stag and Prom, this album has a completely different feel to it. The message is the same, but the medium has shifted. Fans expecting a punk rock album may be disappointed, but I think that Didn’t It Feel Kinder will find its audience among listeners who enjoy the message as much as the medium. [more]

Alū – Lobotomy Sessions

Each of the ten tracks are what some have described as “cinematic soundscapes.” Think of them as an art house film told in three to five minutes. Horror, science fiction, political commentary, drama… whatever your movie type of choice, there is likely to be a track on this album that draws on elements of it. It’s a veritable film festival of sound. [more]

Uh Huh Her – Common Reaction

…don’t go looking for much depth in the lyrics. Although the insert devotes a full six panels to the poetry, it’s by far the weakest aspect of the album. Some of the more uninspired lines are held up quite well with the musical arrangements, so unless you’re paying close attention, you’ll be too distracted by the beats and melody to notice. In any case, it’s slightly better than the drivel on Top 40 radio. [more]

Cordero – De Dónde Eres

Past albums have featured a mix of English- and Spanish-language songs, but regardless of the language of the lyrics, the message was frequently delivered in packages spiced with horns and beats that made it impossible to sit still. De Dónde Eres heightens the Latin rhythms, instrumentation, and mood. Alternating between contemplative, strident, and festive arrangements, the album and the band are unified by Ani’s passionate lyrics and delivery. [more]

Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp (Standard Edition)

Most likely, the audience that will pick up this DVD will already be familiar with shape note singing. However, I think that anyone interested in Early American music should also take the time to view it. The filmmakers, both Sacred Harp singers themselves, have created a piece of work that, much like shape note music itself, is simultaneously utilitarian and glorious. [more]

The Age of Rockets – Hannah

Hannah is designed to be a palindrome of an album. The first five songs reflect the last five songs, with the middle sixth track creating the pivot point. Listening to an album that is half-music, half-mathematical art piece can sometimes be disappointing, but despite (or because of) this structure, Hannah stands on its own as a cohesive and fun collection of delicately blended electronic/organic tunes. Honestly, I hardly noticed the relationship between the songs in the dozen or so times I have listened to this album over the past couple of months. [more]

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Until watching it again in this remastered deluxe edition, it had never occurred to me that the film has a structure that allows for that kind of repeat showings. Several of the characters refer to Linus’ past obsession with the Great Pumpkin, and the implication that the same thing happens every Halloween makes it easy to suspend disbelief and watch it anew every year as though you weren’t already familiar with the plot and events. Maybe, just maybe, this year things will be different and the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the patch! [more]

why I write for Blogcritics: reason #27

One of the Blogcritics writers was asking today about the site stats (3.5 million page views per month, if you’re interested), and another writer suggested using Alexa. That particular resource isn’t very accurate, but I found it interesting to compare what it considers to be the traffic number for Blogcritics with my own website. Eclecticlibrarian.net barely makes it on to the graph at this scale.

If you’re a writer and wanting to get more exposure to your work, Blogcritics is a great place to start.

Oh, and I forgot to do the round-up of what I wrote last month, so I’m going to do a July/August combo. Expect to see that shortly after I return from Dragon*Con early next month.

thing 12: Rollyo

Blogcritics used Rollyo for a while a couple of years ago, and I was never happy with the search results or the way they were displayed. It could have been some setting that BC used, but I assumed it had more to do with the way Rollyo works.

When I was at Blogworld last fall, I chatted with the folks at the Lijit booth for a while and made a note to take a look at their product when I got home. Apparently so did Phillip Winn, the Blogcritics Chief Geek, because not long after, Lijit replaced Rollyo as the site’s search tool. It’s worked out well.

Rollyo’s web search is powered by Yahoo Search, so I can’t see why I would want to use it as a general search engine. I think that Rollyo’s best value is as a search engine that looks at a specific collection of websites. This might be handy in a library if you have, for example, a number of different digital collections being served up from different domains or subdomains. With a Rollyo (or similar) service, you could build a single search interface for them. That is, if you don’t mind sending your users to a site that mixes in six paid links for each page of ten results, in addition to side-bar advertisements.

reviews on blogcritics – june 2008

I’ve decided that one way I can keep this blog from being just a “look at my latest review/article on Blogcritics” blog would be to do monthly summaries rather than individual posts right after each article is published. Here’s the first installment.

Ladytron – Velocifero

The second track is the album’s lead single, “Ghost,” and it’s easy to hear why that was chosen. The song’s pulsating beat and repetitive chorus are addictive and likely to be club favorites. “I’m Not Scared” follows with a relentless grind and power rock chords that touches the musical soul and compels the listener to crank up the volume a little bit more. With the attitude and energy level of the album set within the first few tracks, the band takes a moment to give the listener a breather before launching back in with the electronic wave assault prevalent in most of the rest of the tracks.

Rosemary & Thyme – The Complete Series

An aspect of the show that I find very appealing is the relationship between Laura and Rosemary. Early on in the series, they addressed the social perception that the only reason why two grown women could care about each other is because they are romantically linked (“Arabica and the Early Spider”). With that bigoted and misguided stereotype thrown out the window, Ferris and Kendal set out to develop their character’s friendship to be something deeper and stronger than what is usually shown on an episodic dramedy television series. The interplay between the two went from merely comedic to the kind of inside joke humor that happens only between very close friends.

Jaymay – Autumn Fallin’

It’s difficult to peg this album into any particular genre. There are elements of folk, pop, and even touches of the wall-of-sound aspects of electronica, although no processors are used in the creation of the music. And, just when you think you’ve got a label, with gusto she throws in the ragtime-style song “Hard to Say.”

That’s all for now! As you can tell from my sidebar, I have a few items that I’ll be working on this next month, although one is for a print publication due out later this year or early next year.

shhh, kitty! (#12 & #13)

In which I reference reviews of a memoir by a librarian and a book of cat excuses.

I finally finished reading Scott Douglas’ Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian this week, and right after that, Everyday Cat Excuses: Why I Can’t Do What You Want by Molly Brandenburg arrived in the mail. I’ve found that Saturday morning is the best time for me to write, so yesterday I worked on writing the reviews of both, which have now been published on Blogcritics.

Quiet, Please:

I am a university librarian at a small private school, but I still felt the sting of his between the lines reprimand. Librarians sometimes need a wake-up call to remind ourselves of what it is that we are supposed to be doing — providing information and resources to all of our users. So often we place roadblocks to prevent that from happening, and many examples of that are in Douglas’ book. As he shows, these roadblocks mainly stem from a rigid adherence to rules versus considerate compassion and an understanding of the user’s needs.

Everyday Cat Excuses:

The cartoons are simple line drawings of stylized cats in minimalist locations. The captions are in block print, and occasionally there are thought balloons for the cats. It is a cartoonist representation of deadpan humor, and it works well, considering the subject.

electronic projects for musicians

My review of The Apples in Stereo album Electronic Projects for Musicians has been published on Blogcritics. I really like the band, and I was entertained by the album, but I found that when I went to write about it, there wasn’t much that stood out to me as “ohmygosh you have to hear this!” I guess that’s one of the problems that all b-sides and rarities albums face.

Despite the twelve year span, the sound is cohesively Apples in Stereo: pop-rock with an electronic edge, mixed gender vocals, and a slightly nerdy twee-ness. On its own, each track on Electronic Projects for Musicians is capable of making an Apples in Stereo fan wet their pants in excitement, but they don’t necessarily work together to build a thematic album.

how the university works

My review of Marc Bousquet’s book How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation has been published on Blogcritics. It took me a few months of reading a little at a time to get through it, and I will admit to skimming quite a bit. I also had to put it down several times because it was too depressing to keep reading.

The stereotype of the tweedy professor — older, male, and white — is one that continues to be the common perception of academics in American culture. The reality is that this stereotype is such a minority, it might be a candidate for the endangered species list. It is this stereotype that prevents the average American from seriously considering the plight of college and university educators. Bousquet blasts that stereotype out of the water with his accurate and thorough descriptions of the true working conditions in higher education.

a tapestry of rich and royal hue

My review of Carole King’s Tapestry: Legacy Edition has been published on Blogcritics. I love this album, but I found myself without much to say about it, so I focused on what makes this edition different from previous ones.

The thing that makes this particular release of Tapestry unique and worthy of the collection of any Carole King fan is the second disc of previously unreleased live recordings. Producer Lou Adler says the live versions, with just her voice and piano, are like the demo versions he first heard of the songs.

Also, the review is a little late because I was operating under the assumption that it was going to be released on the 22nd, as was noted in previous press releases and on Amazon. However, as it turns out, the release date was moved up to the 15th. Oh, well!