This past weekend I went to my fourth RavenCon, the local science fiction slash fantasy slash gaming slash podcasting slash writing slash whatever convention. As I was getting ready to head over to the hotel for the first day, I reminded myself that there would be a lot of “attempts at conversations with socially awkward people” and I shouldn’t be too put off by this. As it turns out, there were far fewer of them than what I encountered at my first RavenCon, in part because I now have a “tribe” of folks that come regularly and with whom (for the most part) there are no awkward conversations.
In fact, I spent very little time participating in the con programming, and far more time talking with friends about anything and everything. So, I can’t really say whether this was a good RavenCon or not, except that for me, it was fantastic and more fun than I expected.
The Holiday Inn Koger Center renovated the lobby since last year, putting in a bar and lots of conversational seating groups. This became our default gathering space around meal times or between panels. At any given time, if I wandered out there, I’d see at least one person that I knew and wanted to hang out with.
I also found myself living the mantra of “where I am now is where I want to be.” Often when I am at conferences or conventions with many options of things to do and people to do them with, I will end up feeling like the option I didn’t choose would have been better, regardless of whether that is true or not. This time around, I managed to enjoy myself with most everything, at least, until the end when I was too tired to enjoy much of anything that wasn’t my bed and a darkened room.
That’s what I call a good con.
When I agreed to review The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King (The Complete Recordings), I had no idea what reviewing a soundtrack of this magnitude would entail. My usual genres are those that have singer/songwriters, or band members who compose and perform the music. Reviewing a three hour recording of music composed by one person and performed by many was far more daunting than I ever could have expected.
In the end, I did what I could, but I feel that someone with more experience in classical music reviewing would have done a better job of addressing aspects of the music itself. My approach ended up being as a fan of the films and the books, and how the music effected my experiences with them.
Tolkien provided rich material, ready to be harvested and presented by any talented composer. And, much in the way Jackson approached the film adaptation with reverence for the source material, Shore has done the same with the soundtrack. I don’t know what I expected for the soundtrack, but the one Shore has given us fits, and will forever be what plays through my mind as I re-read the books.
I tried and failed once again to complete the 50 book challenge last year. However, I did a little better than the year before, and probably would have read at least two more books if I hadn’t made a cross country move.
- The Empty Chair by Diane Duane (fiction)
- A Librarian Is To Read by Betty Vogel (non-fiction)
- Wordplay: The Official Companion Book by Will Shortz (non-fiction)
- Death in Winter by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Puss ‘n Cahoots: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery by Rita Mae Brown (fiction)
- So Say We All: An Unauthorized Collection of Thoughts and Opinions on Battlestar Galactica (Smart Pop series) edited by Richard Hatch (non-fiction)
- Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip (fiction)
- Gauntlet by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Progenitor by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Reunion by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- The Valiant by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Three by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Oblivion by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Enigma by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Maker by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Journey Between Worlds by Sylvia Louise Engdahl (fiction)
- Orphan’s Quest by Pat Nelson Childs (fiction)
- The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (fiction)
- Towards Zero by Agatha Christie (fiction)
- At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie (fiction)
- Nemesis by Agatha Christie (fiction)
- Ordeal By Innocence by Agatha Christie (fiction)
- First Have Something To Say by Walt Crawford (non-fiction)
- Social Software in Libraries by Meredith Farkas (non-fiction)
- Beer & Food: An American History by Bob Skilnik (non-fiction)
- Guinness – The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint by Bill Yenne (non-fiction)
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My review of Agatha Christie’s Marple: Series 3 was published on Blogcritics. Go read it and find out why I’ve spent the past month re-reading the books.
Read some stuff, reviewed some stuff, and I’m still working until late at night.
I’ve been swamped at work and at play, leaving little time for blogging. For anyone who is keeping score, I read two more books towards my goal of 50 this year, thus bringing me up to 22 total. Those two were Nemesis and Ordeal By Innocence, both by Agatha Christie. I re-read them before watching the new film adaptations of them. My review will be published on Blogcritics this week.
Speaking of which, I had two more music reviews published. Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Experience…101, which was released last week, and Amy Grant’s Greatest Hits, which was released today. I have been fans of the music of both for many years, so it was a nice change to review something… familiar.
The insanity will continue. I have tons of committee and seasonal work in my day job to keep me busy for quite a while, and my Blogcritics work is increasingly consuming even more time in the evenings. There’s still enough of it that I enjoy to keep the balance, but I fear that it may one day tip and something will have to go.
One hour of an excellent blend of rock and pop with solid singer/songwriter underpinnings.
Lennon‘s major label debut album had the misfortune of being released on September 11, 2001. With the country focused on other things, the album didn’t get much attention and she was later dropped from Arista. Undaunted, Lennon has continued to pump out an excellent blend of rock and pop with solid singer/songwriter underpinnings.
Most of Damaged Goods leans towards darker sounds. The album is a lengthy collection of songs dealing with tragedy, mainly on a personal level. “Goodbye” is one song that steps out from this and provides, at least musically, a hint of hopefulness. The lyrics capture a moment in time near the end of a relationship when the protagonist realizes that they cannot be who their lover/friend/relative wants them to be. While the lyrics are a bit disparaging, the music and hook indicates a looking forward to when the pain of the moment will fade into memory.
The rhythm of the album flows effortlessly from introspective and dark ballads to head nodding guitar-driven rock. One song that sends this listener into rock ecstasy is “Nothing Out of Me“. It leads out with pounding snares and chunky electric guitars, and then shifts into a hooky chorus that has just the right amount of anguish. The momentum shifts down to poignant at the last verse with just vocals and percussion. Then the guitar is added in and leads into one last driving chorus.
Along with the solid songwriting, Damaged Goods is blessed with a tight studio band. The songs themselves are stereotypical of their genres, and it is the production and execution that makes them shine. In addition to writing (or co-writing) all seventeen tracks and singing the lead vocals, Lennon plays the piano on several. The piano has the potential of turning a good rock album into something that will forever be compared with Tori Amos, but in this case the producers smartly incorporated it in only sparingly and where appropriate.
The lead track (“No One Knows“) begins with a bit of piano and vocals, but then ramps up into full-on rock with muddy electric guitars and aggressive vocals. “Finish What We Start” is a mostly piano-driven tune, and one of the more introspective ballads on the album. After ten tracks of drums and guitars, it is almost like finding a quiet corner away from the party to catch your breath and regroup. None of the energy and momentum of the album is lost on this track; merely, they are put on hold while allowing the listener to revel in the beauty of Lennon’s voice.
Lennon is currently touring with Aerosmith and Mötley Crüe, and if Damaged Goods is any indication, I have no doubt that she will be able to hold her own.
New York style roots rock that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Most Blogcritics readers are familiar with Jon Sobel as a witty and thoughtful music critic, but probably few know that Sobel is also a musician and songwriter. His band, Whisperado, has an EP that should be in every literate music fan’s collection.
Continue reading “shhhh cowboy”
I re-read 4:50 from Paddington (or What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw) by Agatha Christie because I had recently watched a new production of it staring Geraldine McEwan, which had some different details from the version with Joan Hickson, and I wanted to check them against the original. Of course, by the time I read the book, I had forgotten the two movie versions. Expect a comparison review at some point in the future when I have time to watch the movies again.
I love a good cosy murder mystery. I’ve always assumed it’s something about sharing my birthday with Agatha Christie (who died the year I was born – cue spooky music). Actually, I set out a couple of years ago to read every Christie book I could find, and I’ve pretty much covered all of the mystery novels and short stories. But I digress.
The whole point of this entry is to direct your attention to yet another humorous list created by the witty contributors to McSweeney’s: Not-So-Good Names for Murder Mysteries
I think I’m the only person on the face of the planet who could care less that the new Harry Potter book has been released. I read the first one, thought it was cute, but was so bored with the second book that I haven’t bothered with the rest. A friend told me this past weekend that Dawn French is in one of the movies. Now that might be worth my time.