#15

Two nights ago I really wanted to read a book before bed, but it was late, and I knew that I would end up reading until all hours of the morning and regret it the next day. So, I scoured the mass market Mt. TBR and found a thin book, which also happened to be a collection of short stories. Yay!

Last night I finished reading Isaac Asimov’s Nine Tomorrows, and as can be expected, it was an engaging read, with each short story providing a different insight into how (in some cases, minor and insignificant) actions and events of now might evolve into the future. Some of the characters in the stories were charged with solving mysteries, but mostly it was left to the reader to figure out what was going on and how humanity got to that point.

The book is a product of its time. The copyright is 1959, and the stories themselves were originally published in magazines in that decade. Understandably, the Cold War and nuclear research play roles in several of the stories. Asimov also explores his (apparent) favorite social science theme of societies where the actions of individuals or the whole can be predicted through mathematical theory.

If you are looking for some bite-sized Asimov, I recommend picking up a copy of this book, if you can find one.

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!

But we have the white wizard. That’s got to count for something.

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.

#7

Heads up, librarians — this may be of interest to you. My review of Wikipedia – the Missing Manual by John Broughton was published this weekend on Blogcritics. There has been some discussion among the profession about our relationship to Wikipedia, ranging from warnings against using it to calls for librarian contributions to the content. For those interested in the latter, I recommend picking up a copy of this book (your library should have one, too).

…Wikipedia has plenty of documentation on how to edit itself, and if you are willing to find your way through all of that, you may not want to read this book. I have muddle through a few Wikipedia contributions (both new pages and copy edits on existing ones) without this book, but in reading it, I frequently found myself making notes of things to look up later or tweaks I could do to make editing easier. The book does not contain anything you probably would not find on Wikipedia. Instead, it takes that information and lays it out in a workflow that is designed to take the novice user from ignorance to full-on Wikipedia-obsessed editing.

everybody wants to be a hero

My review of the documentary Darkon has been published on Blogcritics. To be honest, I was surprised by how good it was. The cinematography is often quite stunning, and whomever they had doing the animation knew their stuff. Sure, it’s edited with a bit of a slant, and as the commentary track reveals, some things happen in the gameplay that might not have had the cameras been absent, but all in all, it comes off as a fair representation of the LARP game and players.

The tagline for the documentary Darkon is, “Everybody Wants To Be a Hero,” which succinctly sums up the main message of this film about a group of people involved in the full contact, live-action role playing (LARP) wargame of the same name. As one of the players puts it, “If you could watch Brad Pitt or be Brad Pitt, which would you rather do?” For these Baltimore area gamers, the answer is easy — they would rather pretend to be the heroes they wish they were.

#6

My review of Sylvia Engdahl’s Stewards of the Flame has been published on Blogcritics. I’ve had it on my pending review list for far too long, but most of that was because the length intimidated me. I still haven’t broken my pattern of reading a book cover to cover in one sitting, so I wasn’t particularly eager to jump into the 450+ page tome. However, since I still don’t have teh internets at home, I was able to put off my usual evening routine for a couple of nights and finally get this book read.

Stewards of the Flame is a thought provoking novel that may make you question the authority and direction of modern Western medical practices. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading genre fiction with some substance to it.

let’s get this party started, yo

My review of Freezepop’s Future Future Future Perfect has been published on Blogcritics. This was a purely voluntary review of a CD I bought with my own money, which doesn’t happen very often since I’m usually busy with the publicist-provided stuff.

My love affair with synth pop began some years ago when the general manager at WRFL handed me a few CDs and recommended that I play some tracks off of them on my show. The sweet, sweet sounds of synthesizers and ethereal pop vocals hooked me immediately, and from then on I kept an ear to the airwaves, hoping to find more of the “right stuff” that makes this music so addictive.

Over the past few months, I have discovered that the Boston-based trio Freezepop has the “right stuff.” Their new album, Future Future Future Perfect (Cordless/Rykodisc), has been on constant rotation in my “favorites” playlist, to the point that it has woken my muse to write a few pithy words about it.

#4

I have been reading Rita Mae Brown’s (& Sneaky Pie Brown’s) mystery series for at least ten years, if not longer. I have read all of them, and in the past few years, I’ve begun to collect them in hardcover. In fact, I have bought the last three new in hardcover as soon as they were released, so you can imagine that I was pleased to greet another January with another new book in the series. Except that I didn’t pick up my copy until the first day of February….

Anyway, The Purrfect Murder is now available, and I have spent a lovely evening reading it. After the boring local and unpleasant characters of the last book, and the gruesome and dark murder in the book before it, I was pleased to note that Brown has returned to her tried and true formula for this book. Some might say it’s worn and dated, but for me, it’s just the right kind of predictable-yet-new brain candy that I crave from time to time.

Brown has allowed her characters to grow and develop over time, and she has also continued to incorporate some into the core that were originally introduced as side characters in previous books. Sneaky Pie notes in the afterwards that each book is meant to represent a season, and that four books equal one year in real-time. This was good to know, and something I hadn’t quite consciously noted before now. However, since Brown references events from previous books, it might be difficult for someone not familiar with the series to understand the context.

My only complaint with this book is that it is more noticeably preachy at times. Brown seems to use her characters to make statements on current politics, social issues, and just about any other hot-button issue of the day. I found this distracting, even when I agreed.

#2

My review of Lipstick & Dipstick’s Essential Guide to Lesbian Relationships by Gina Daggett and Kathy Belge has been published on Blogcritics. I read the book over the first week of this month, but I didn’t have time to start writing the review until the end of last week. Which I then left on my work laptop (what I had with me in the hotel where I wrote the first two paragraphs) over the weekend. Otherwise, it would have been finished and published long before now.

[The book] may seem to be targeted at a limited audience, and for the most part, the examples given would mainly be applicable to lesbian relationships only; however, the core of their advice — from dating to long-term commitment decisions — rings true for any romantic relationship, regardless of the gender of those involved.