Book Reviews: Rush, Librarians, and Sports

Banged a knuckle and yelled “Son of a–” Then saw a woman glaring at me with a kid, so I finished with, “Preacher Man.” (It pays to know music.)

On This Date
After an intriguing and thought-provoking intro, the book moves to one usually-long-forgotten historical anecdote a day, much more interesting than any one-small-page calendar. Some are more or less expected, even if the particular date wasn’t known, but the fun is in the topics that would usually have no right being in a serious history tome.
Some of my faves. . . okay, a lot of my faves:
March of Dimes (Wow!); Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer; Tokyo Rose; Lou Hoover; Edmund G Ross; Oppenheimer; Massacre on the Tuscarawas; Sherman and Johnston; Columbine; Jingle Bells; the low-altitude barrel roll in a 707; the birth of the Smiley; We Shall Overcome; Marshall wins Nobel Peace Prize; Jack Robinson and Pee Wee Reese (“someone with the guts NOT to fight back.”); Carson McCullers, Karen Blixen, and Marilyn Monroe walk into a lunch; Theodore Geisel (“He was a political cartoonist all his life, meaning he managed the difficult task of being amusing to kids and adults.”); Princess Bride (even Mark Knopfler gets a mention!); and “Surf music is just the sound of the waves being played on a guitar.”
Did not expect the author of a non-fiction history book to go meta, but in one entry he writes about Philadelphians booing their cricket team as a reason the capital was moved to DC. . . then, “Well, no, I was just seeing if you were paying attention.”
4/5

Rush: Album by Album
The title tells you everything you need to know: a bunch of Rush fans got together to shoot the breeze about each of the many studio albums. . . except these guys are either incredibly familiar with the band from working with them, or are musicians—some in tribute bands—music journalists, or similar.
Intriguing forward by the author, but then I’d expect no less when it comes to my favorite band. Oddly, the book isn’t all that long, even with tons of photos, from album covers to concert fliers to pages from comic books! (As graphic novels were called back then, kiddies.)
Not a fan of Dream Theater, but Mike Portnoy seems like a fun guy to hang out with: “The way most kids my age were staring at a Playboy centerfold, I was looking at a Modern Drummer centerfold and salivating over the whole kit.”
The one downside for me was a lot of musical verbiage that went way beyond my understanding, especially about drumming. Was also surprised by how short the Moving Pictures section was, considering everyone calls it the band’s seminal album. As I’m sure every reader/fan will think, they spend too little time talking about my favorites and too much on those songs I hardly ever listen to, if at all. Still, there are nice things said about The Pass and Bravado—yes, among my faves—especially Geddy claiming the latter is his fave to play live. There’s also a great feeling when someone says something I’d already thought of, such as the addendum in Ghost of A Chance. Most of all, the agreement of The Wreckers being such a beautiful song made me smile.
The last 15 pages or so list the contributors, offer a bibliography, and end with a pretty thorough index.
3.5/5

This Is What a Librarian Looks Like
Subtitled: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information
When I started this I thought it would be quick and easy; boy, was I wrong. The format is a photo of a librarian followed by a short quote, with some longer articles to break up what eventually becomes monotony, though once in a while a cute line appears, like “ultimate search ninjas.” For those who have a stereotypical view of what librarians do—or look like—this will change that completely. Very few of the women shown here, for example, wear glasses, and even though I’ve only seen one with a pierced nose in person, there’s plenty of oddly-painted hair and such in here.
But it’s the longer stories that are the highlights. The doll-lending program has to be the cutest thing ever. Amy Dickinson and Cory Doctorow chime in with great articles, but if I had to pick a best, it would be the Montana Bookmobile.
There’s also a fascinating intro, in which the author says: “What made the library of Alexandria great wasn’t just the collection of books, but rather its intellectual raison d’être: the insatiable pursuit, creation, and dissemination of knowledge as a force to drive civilization.” Nothing more to say after that. . .
4/5

Battle of Arnhem
In what might be too short to even be called a novella, a veteran of the battle recounts his experience, filled with death, destruction, stupidity, and black humor. There’s tons of tiny details, some of them incredibly interesting.
“It was explained that, when we arrived, we would most likely be disappointed as all the fun would be over.” Wonder how often soldiers have heard that.
For such a short story, there’s a ton of detail. There’s also more to it than just the battle, as after his capture the author was taken to Dresden, along with 500 other prisoners, and was there for the famous firebombing.
But more than anything it gives you the grit and emotion of being that close to an enemy who’s trying to kill you just as bad as you’re trying to kill them. This is exceedingly rare in modern warfare; even as a former Marine I find it hard to imagine what these soldiers went through.
But some things never change, like the incompetence of staff officers, whom he disses over and over.
3.5/5

Women In Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win
Though it clocks in at 128 pages, it felt a lot longer. Formatted in tiny chapters, each section of prose is accompanied by a cartoonish painting with hard-to-read words in tiny script floating around the outsides. It mostly just states facts in a boring manner; every chapter starts with “she was born on” and then “she started to play.” They are good intros to each person, but the lack of style is such that I doubt it would inspire anyone to find out more. I realize this is for kids, but it underestimates the intelligence of its young readers.
The only chapter that I found remotely interesting—not that the women weren’t interesting, it’s the presentation that lacks—was about the final game of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, where over 90,000 spectators packed the Rose Bowl to watch the United States beat China in penalties. Why did I find this interesting? Because I was there.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: This Blog Is Graphic

Sometimes a cigar is just a cancer stick.

Savage
A David Beckham-ish soccer star—he’s even moving to the States to continue his career—and his rather shrewish wife, along with their latest baby, crash on a deserted island and have to survive against—gasp!—dinosaurs! And bad humans, with access to a portal. The soccer player’s last name is Sauvage, hence the title; cute.
There’s a brief clip of the present before flashing back to original crash, which is a lot funnier than I would have thought: as the crash occurs and stuff is flying around, including the two adults, there’s a shot of the baby looking all kinds of concerned, and it’s hilarious! Later the kid looks right at the “camera,” also really funny. Not that the rest was bad, but that was such a high point I couldn’t help but feel a little let down after that.
A few complaints, such as all the British-isms, and not familiar ones at that. The way the writer got rid of one of the main characters struck me as abrupt and unnecessary. It’s interesting that while the kid grew up without any schooling or even jungle training, he’s smarter than the other semi-humans on the island. And as always, it’s not the dinosaurs that are the most dangerous.
Not so much a cliffhanger ending as a jump point for his next adventure.
Each issue has author/artist commentary at end; the first has side-by-side versions of the same page showing the first draft, the inked version, and the colored. Interesting in a DVD extra kinda way.
Some vivid colors, maybe even go as far as bright, others muted. At times the artwork was a little too realistic, as in gory, but this is probably the most detailed I’ve ever seen dinosaurs drawn (not that there’s a huge pool to wade through on that). The colorist, in the last interview, says he wanted to make the setting “alarmingly beautiful,” a character in itself, and I think he succeeded.
3.5/5

Kiss: The Elder V.1: World Without Sun
“A world without heroes is like a world without sun.” Nice tag line, and lyric.
In a dystopian future where war has destroyed the surface of the planet, four kids explore where they’re not supposed to and change the course of history (there, got the requisite cliché out of the way).
What sets this apart from most other graphics is how well written it is. You know the government is up to no good when they call the society a “collective.” But once I saw how far in the future this was set, I wondered how the author was going to get KISS to be relevant. That worked out okay, though in the end I realized they didn’t need to be there at all to make the story work, so that was a little disappointing.
There’s some cool touches, like the Sphinx wearing sunglasses; just imagine how big those things must be. The “educational” (brainwashing) videos for the citizens remind me of the FedNet from Starship Troopers. Adi was my fave of the four main characters; the way she uses her butt to open the secret door is awesome. And most of all the dystopian story and setting were well made.
A couple of nitpicks, though. The robot battle was too confusing, couldn’t tell which side was which. And there’s an oopsie medical-wise; one of the characters sprains an ankle but is running fine a little later.
The artwork was okay in the old underground city, but once the story gets to the forbidden levels it really takes off. Much brighter in the garden, for example.
Bonus starts at 116 of 154, with the first two pages being congratulatory notes from two members of KISS. After that comes the expected early designs and alternate covers.
If only they could have worked Detroit Rock City into it. . .
4/5

Battlestar Galactica: Folly of the Gods
Original Galactica, not “reimagined,” so don’t whine about getting the wrong one.
Adama’s injured getting the fleet through a black hole, and his concussed mind has him thinking about Baltar and reliving the past. In the real world the Cylons are still following the fleet until they encounter the last enemy you would expect, and then Baltar shows up for realsies; this guy’s like a thousand bad pennies! In fact, the writers brought absolutely everyone they could think of back for this. . . except Athena!
Not happy with the deus ex machina that ends it. In fact, the story wasn’t much good from plenty of perspectives. There’s a lot of borrowing from other places; there’s even some Borg overtones in these new Cylons. For someone who was a huge fan of the original series, and who’d enjoyed previous graphics, this is really disappointing.
The artwork is watercolor-y, but the humans are drawn very strangely; it’s them in the general sense, like you might recognize someone at a distance, but in the close-ups it doesn’t look anything like the actors. Apollo in particular looks horrible. Oddly enough, Iblis is the one who looks most lifelike.
About a dozen pages of variant covers.
2/5

Betty Boop
She’s listed as “The most famous female cartoon star of all!” and I don’t know if I can argue with that.
Betty is a waitress and wannabe star trying to keep her grampy from losing his house, but not doing a good job of it; perhaps grampy shouldn’t waste all his time and money buying tiny jet engines to put on turtles. Despite there being numerous stories, they all have that same plot: bad spirits want the house.
The first thing you see is the cover art, and it looks kinda surreal: her pose, her clothes. . . the fact that’s a clown behind her. . .
An orchestra made of bones seems like a good idea. Not so great when a little dog has a crush on you. The double-headed blonde is creepy. There’s a shot from behind that shows just how little Betty’s dress is, but later we see she looks better in her winter skating gear. So does Sally, for that matter.
Some fun lines:
“Ain’t that a kick in the head?”
“Mephistopheles Metamorphosis!”
“Every member of the clown’s guild is required to carry a crowbar with them at all times.”
Best moment: the clown making the nightclub owner literally smile is awesome.
20 pages of extra stuff. Mostly alternate covers, with a sketch of her on a rolling log, for some reason.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Suns, Violins, Planets, and Song

Sunrise, Sunset
A Florida woman with balcony views shoots the sunrise and sunset. Her boyfriend and then other people add poems or words to the photos. Simple premise, elegantly done.
Enjoyed the story of each sunset being done by a famous painter, trying to figure out which one it looked like. No surprise that one went first.
“I never met a sunset I didn’t like. It means dinner’s almost ready.” Nice.
As expected, there’s a lot of rebirth and “life goes on” with the sunrise, while sunset is an opportunity to reflect. Other themes include gratitude and, of course, religion.
I’m sure most people would find these photographs great. As a professional photographer for over 25 years, I could quibble about that, but what would be the point?
Yet despite the preeeety pictures I found myself getting bored halfway through. Don’t try to read/look at this in one sitting.
3/5

Violin
Rather than a history of the violin, this is ten essays on various subjects, some a lot more fun than others.
Starts right off with how the violin was widely considered an instrument of the devil; now we know where Charlie Daniels got that idea. Another chapter talks about the violin in fiction—Sherlock Holmes made the list!—but probably because I was looking forward to it so much it didn’t live up to expectations.
Then the real problems start, with chapter 4. To understand anything that’s been said here you need a ton of knowledge about violin playing, or even music in general, particularly notation. Is this really intended for a general audience? Because I’d say there are a lot more people interested in music who don’t know anything about playing it than those who do. Because of this, entire chapters are of absolutely no interest at all. I’d just seen one of Mozart’s concertos the day before I read about it, and still had no idea what this was talking about. What should have been informative became only boring.
So there’s some interesting tidbits here, but so much of it talks in musical terms that leave us non-musicians in the metaphorical dust.
2.5/5

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better
Stories about how people broke up or were broken up with, obviously not edited, with the author including drawings to punctuate the story. That’s it. It’s like one of those Facebook links that take you to Reddit or some such.
The funniest parts were before and after the main event, like the dedication: “To that one dude, for being such an inspirational dick.” And in the blurbs, “Oh my god, you have a book!” – Hilary’s Mom.
But does she really? Other than some drawings that only highlighted the story—without adding anything original—this was all stuff sent to her. But even the stories weren’t that great. The author states in the forward that she drew a doodle in response to her own breakup, and it made her laugh and feel better; great thought, but I didn’t find much that was funny here. Sure, there were a few laughable instances, but most were either sad or simply mean.
2/5

Planet Song
An advanced long-lived race of fish base their entire civilization and economy on music, particularly sounds made by living beings. Having found the ultimate song—humpback whales—they come to Earth to take some home, in a story obviously inspired by the fourth Star Trek movie. (With a small touch of Harlan Ellison’s original draft of City on the Edge of Forever, where sound could be addicting.)
This is written on a huge scale, taking place over hundreds of years and having around thirty points of view. The main character seems to be one of the very few females of the Fahr species, who manages to work her way into a position of power and then just as quickly loses it. There’s a lot of political wrangling, both within the alien ship and the humans who finally figure out there’s trouble out there. Telescope technology is a fun running theme.
But for such a huge scope there isn’t all the much that takes place; most of it is talking. Thankfully there’s a lot of small touches of humor, and while it never gets boring I wish there could have been more to it. There’s an appendix that explains some of the aspects of the Fahr race that seemed incomprehensible while reading this book, so it might have been more helpful at the beginning.
There’s no actual ending, but since at the start it tells you this is the first of a trilogy, I didn’t mind.
3.5/5

Improper Conduct
The rich daughter of a Chicago politician runs to her first love to help her find her runaway sister. He cons her into having sex with him, not that she’s at all reluctant. In addition to that he makes her live the life of the homeless people she’s encountering—well, he cheats a bit—rather than go right out and find the sister, who’s in danger. He’s a bit of an ass, but then she’s no prize either. By the end they understand each other better, show they regret the times they acted like jerks, and come together. . . and oh yeah, remember about the sister in danger.
This was kinda bland. Can’t think of much to say about it. Actually a good story frame for the silly romance, but they spent so much time denying their feelings I got exasperated.
3/5

;o)

We DO Need Some Stinkin’ Badges!

That’s if you want to get into the cool places. With nothing all the special left on the horizon of December, here’s my top three of the year.
(Notice it does not include the Rio Olympics; even if I remembered what happened to it, it would not have made the cut.)

#3

#3

#2

#2

#1

#1

;o)

Music Review: Lindsey Stirling’s Brave Enough

For those people who don’t know—and should know better—Lindsey Stirling is a violinist who fuses classical with modern music, such as dubstep and other forms of EDM. She also happens to dance while playing, which is a huge part of the draw, but for me first and foremost is the fact she’s a great composer. As I mentioned in a previous blog, one of the songs on her last album, Take Flight, if it was stripped of everything except violin and piano, could be considered one of the best classical compositions of the last fifty years.
In addition to that, this lady is just fun. Besides her amazing music videos—she was a film major in college—she has another YouTube channel of behind the scenes and tour stuff, where you get to know her so well you think she’s been your buddy for years. She’s a lady who personifies the term “adorable badass.” In fact, it might have been invented for her.
On to the new music. As should be expected, the top two songs off this album are the ones released early, which I’ve already reviewed. That feels like so long ago that I was a bit disappointed in my first listen of this album, thinking there was nothing that really slammed me until I remembered the previous two. Usually it takes a while for a song to really worm into my heart—okay, that’s a disgusting metaphor—which is why I decided to take some time, almost a month and maybe a hundred runthroughs, before writing this review.

Lost Girls
Gentle plucking gives way to a soft romantic theme, real purty. Then a completely unnecessary vocoder wastes a few seconds before the song bursts into a fast Celtic melody that would not be out of place in Riverdance. This sequence repeats a couple of times. I imagine this is a song Lindsey and her dancers will enjoy doing live; with the right choreo and background this could end up being as much fun as Roundtable Rival.
8.5/10

Brave Enough ft. Christina Perri
Christina’s voice is not bad, although nothing special either. But then I’m not really here for the vocals. One of those reasons is the penchant for a lack of respect to the art of rhyming; too many of these attempts don’t come close.
The music is so much better. I love when the violin plays the vocal melody, reinforcing it. This solo also sounds Celtic, and is the best part of the song. I wish it didn’t end so abruptly into the next verse, though, but at least the outro continues that deliciousness.
And when you realize exactly what the lyrics are about. . . it’s heartbreaking.
7.5/10

The Arena
Already reviewed here. Best song on the album.
10/10

The Phoenix
The easy opening goes a little too long before hitting the main melody, which is soft and beautiful as it climbs. A minute later it’s at full power, with a clashing of drums that feels like a gift to Drew, who will go crazy playing this live. There’s a lot to like here, especially the violin, though with so many different parts it feels a little uneven/unfocused to me.
8/10

Where Do We Go ft. Carah Faye
Right off the bat, gotta say I’m not liking this singer’s voice. She certainly has the talent, but the tonal quality. . . it sounds like she has a cold. It’s distracting, but I find the more I hear this song the less it bothers me, it’s that good.
The chorus, while simple, is powerful. “Where do we go when our prayers are answered but the answer is no?” In a way it’s almost a perfect song: simple in execution, deep in meaning. As good a “message” song as you’ll likely find.
9/10

Those Days ft. Dan + Shay
I was a little wary when told this would be country, but the opening sure didn’t sound like it. In fact, nothing here sounds country at all, to my everlasting relief; no twang in either the vocals or instruments. The music makes this sound like a romantic jaunty non-ballad, but it’s not, if you pay attention to the lyrics.
As always the song shines when we get to the instrumental solo, with Lindsey playing off the melody with much more enthusiasm than between the vocals. Nothing spectacular here, more of a cute interlude. I like the cut ending better than had it faded out.
8/10

Prism
Possibly the most electronic/techno song, with a fun melody amongst all the other stuff layered in here. In fact, there’s so much here it makes it hard to describe. This is the kind of song where each person could invent their own dance moves for it, but since I’ve seen it live, I can’t get the image of Lindsey shaking her booty out of my mind. . .
9/10

Hold My Heart ft. ZZ Ward
A dramatic start gives way to dramatic vocals and violin melody. It’s somehow playful and heavy at the same time. The theme of being a strong woman who still wants love is powerful. On a personal note, there’s more of my pet peeve of misfiring on rhymes, which lessens my enjoyment.
7.5/10

Mirage ft. Raja Kumari
I have a love/hate relationship with Indian music, as I much prefer a sitar to vocals. The violin opening is wonderful, and Lindsey does make what I’m assuming is Excalibur sound like a sitar at times. I’d like to see this in concert just to find out if that’s her doing the extremely fast picking in the middle. The vocals are more melodic than atonal, thankfully. There’s a playful part where it seems the voice and the violin are having a discussion. But even though it’s playful it doesn’t get much further than cute.
7.5/10

Don’t Let This Feeling Fade ft. Rivers Cuomo & Lecrae
Hate rap, hate autotune. Best for me not to attempt a review of this.
0/0

First Light
At first glance this is an instrumental reminiscent of previous songs that were fun but didn’t make as much of an impression, for example Heist and Night Vision from the last album. But somehow this one is better. Chalk it up to experience; less frenetic, more polished. With alternating slow verses and heavily syncopated chorus, this is an amusing and enjoyable jam.
8.5/10

Love’s Just a Feeling ft. Rooty
This lady has a wonderful bluesy voice, and the violin is delicious. The chorus slows to showcase the vocals, and after it comes the inevitable bigger dance section, all fitting together very well.
With that said, this would get a higher score if the attempts at rhyming weren’t so atrocious.
8/10

Something Wild ft. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Already reviewed here. Second best song on the album. Lovely. Speaking of the video, I love how Lindsey filmed Andrew doing the rhythmic clapping. And that’s the first time I’ve seen Lindsey in jeans. . .
9.5/10

Gavi’s Song
For those of you not aware, Gavi was Lindsey’s best friend and keyboardist, who passed away last year, just before the start of recording this album, of complications from the chemo that treated his lymphoma. And it happened after he’d become cancer-free and everything was optimistic, which makes it all the harder.
This may be a simple violin piece with gentle piano under, but that’s what makes it so lovely. Lindsey has said she began writing this with Gavi, so it obviously had a different meaning to it at the time, but as a dirge—only the second I’ve ever liked—it’s spectacular, a fitting remembrance of one of the most important people in her life.
At the end the melody is played as if far away, coming through an old radio or gramophone; I choose to believe this is her interpretation of how it would sound in heaven. . .
9/10

Target Exclusives
Waltz
The title does not lie. The start is all violin, leading into electronica supporting the melody as it swirls around the dance floor. Feels simple, but there’s more involved here than is first apparent, soaring in the same way Beyond the Veil does near the end.
9/10

Afterglow
This is as old-school new age as I’ve heard from Lindsey, with a touch of techno. It’s so playful—reminiscent of Electric Daisy Violin—that I can see dance students using this for their performances. It’s too bad there’s little chance this’ll be played live, as I imagine it would be a ton of fun for Kit and his keyboards.
8.5/10

Powerlines
This has another dramatic beginning, but by the time it settles to just violin and fingersnaps it’s nothing but fun. After that the violin melody feels subtly Arabic, not as much as Yeah! but still noticeable. At some points there’s a bubbly playful keyboard, which somehow manages to fit right in, along with the high female vocalization reminiscent of Take Flight.
8.5/10

Forgotten Voyage
at the start this sounds like a continuation of the previous, then jumps into a slightly techno version of a Riverdance-style tune. Lindsey has mentioned that she thought “Space pirates!” about this one, but I don’t hear it.
Can’t help but point out that the extras were more vintage Lindsey, the more playful side of her musicality.
8.5/10

Entire album: 8.5/10

Bonus: The Only Pirate At the Party audiobook
Since I’ve already reviewed her book, this will only involve the vocal version, which I braved even though audiobooks usually put me to sleep.
Right away—I mean at the very start—it shows why in some limited cases this version can be better than the written: music! Not one of my favorite of her songs, but it proves its point. Another of the few ways audiobooks can be better is the way she yells “Scarfman!” with such joy, or the voice she uses when playing her alter-ego Phelba.
But as fun as that is, it can also be painful. When you read in the book “I hope I never have to hire another keyboard player,” it’s hard enough, but to hear her voice breaking as she reads it aloud. . . it’s heartrending, even more so at the end with a special page dedicated to Gavi.
But in general this is more fun than reading it, simply because you can hear the joy in her voice as she remembers certain good memories, as well as her sometimes hammy attempts at accents. I’m heartened to know that, as crazy as I might get, I won’t be the craziest person in the room; there’s a certain freedom to it. (As Lindsey says in her concerts, “Crazy in a good way!”)
BTW, if there’s a sequel it should be called The Only Pirate With a Pedicure.

;o)

Book Reviews: Art and Oddities

The tattoo sealed the no-deal.

Photographs from the Edge
Travels To The Edge is most likely my favorite travel show, in no small part due to the awesome theme song (still waiting for it to be released. . . someday. . . just sayin’). More importantly, as a travel photographer this show gives me ideas where to shoot next, as well as fond memories of previous shoots. But this book is even better at that, as most of these shots are from places not visited by the TV show. Art Wolfe’s philosophy is that he wants to shoot places that haven’t been photographically exploited before, which is hard to do nowadays, considering it doesn’t take long to reach any spot on Earth in this modern world.
Each photo comes with a description of how it came about: camera and lens, f/stop, exposure, ISO. The fact he took the time to document all that while shooting, especially back in the film days, makes my head hurt. Each page also has a photo tip, which in a book this large is an astonishing number of tips. One of these says his workhorse lens is an 80-200; that’s the one I use the most too, so I had a momentary geek-out. (But I’m feeling much better now.)
On to the important stuff. The first image is of an arctic fox, and it’s beautiful, a perfect opener. Another shot that stayed with me was of a small house and some trees looking amazingly tiny as a mountain looms straight up behind them. I also learned more about hyenas than I ever expected. And as much as I know I shouldn’t laugh at his scare on Easter Island. . . I laughed. There are hundreds more, and while it’s impossible for all of them to be awesome, considering everyone’s taste is different, this is a stunning and fitting document to what I consider an underappreciated modern photographer.
For fans of his show, think of this as a “best of” episode, told chronologically. I read this with his voice in my head.
4.5/5

Circles of Delight: Classic Carousels of San Francisco
In this photo book three vintage carousels in San Francisco are photographed, with a format of a general photo on one page, followed by a close-up. Each merry-go-round gets its own chapter, with the figures further divided into jumping, standing, and chariot.
Of the first carousel my favorite was the tiger, the sculpture and color so beautiful. I don’t know much about these devices, so I have no idea if giraffes, ostriches, pigs, deer, and even bunnies are common, but these made me smile.
The second carousel is housed in a glass building, which makes it so much brighter, especially for photographs. Unfortunately its pieces weren’t as lovely as the first one’s, so that was a bit of a letdown.
The third has the most dramatic drawings on the horses, and even features a unicorn and a sea dragon, plus a tiger with a mermaid on it. The camel looks amused.
There’s no doubt both the craftsmanship and the photography is gorgeous, but it takes a serious merry-go-round buff to make it through the whole volume in one sitting without losing focus.
3.5/5

Anatomy of a Song
Interviews with the people involved in the writing and recording of many hit songs. This is by no means encyclopedic, as there were quite a few tunes I thought merited attention, but perhaps it’s as simple as not being able to get interviews. One of the artists mentions their 2015 tour, so this is definitely up to date.
Most of the articles were pretty standard, which made one in particular stand out: not only was Joni Mitchell interviewed, so was the guy she wrote “Carey” about, a trip down memory lane that takes us all the way to the Greek Islands.
The thing is, not being a musician or a sound tech meant there was a lot here I didn’t understand. But what I did understand, I liked. Too bad there were so few songs I got excited about, but of course that’s in the ear of the beholder.
3.5/5

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders
I have a friend on Facebook who constantly posts articles from this website, and since I usually found them interesting enough to click through, I felt the same about this book, though from the times I checked it out on the internet it felt like a tonier international version of Roadside America.
As expected, each page contains a strange destination, with some filler blurbs of other interesting places that didn’t make the cut for their own article. Interspersed with the locations are a few articles on the places, or the science—or bogus—of the contraptions that make the place interesting, and so on. I found “Constructed Languages,” playing off the Esperanto museum in Vienna, the most interesting of the articles, along with “Everything’s bigger in Australia.”
While I was reading I was anxious to find places I’d been to, but to my chagrin I topped out at about three dozen (a surprising number of them in Austria, Munich, New Zealand, Mexico, and Scandinavia). In the London extras there was a mention of the Temple of Mithras, which I’d been hoping would get a page, so that was disillusioning. I was simultaneously disappointed and relieved when there was no photo of Archie the Giant Squid, though from the drawing it may be too big to capture in one shot. One of the nicer photographed entries is Skellig Michael, though I have to wonder if this book was in the planning before the new Star Wars movie, as that would seem like an automatic mention. Another highlight for me was that John Frum, Tom Navy, and Prince Phillip—all our favorite cargo cults—are mentioned near the end.
There’s not much else to say. If you like to travel and visit weird museums and locations, this is exactly what you’ve been wanting.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Music and Sci-Fi Shorts

Drowsing after sex
“I’m almost afraid to get off this bed, for fear it really is Cloud 9 and I’ll fall back to earth.”
I truly am a romance ninja. . .

Punk Rock Princess
Can’t help but think this title would have been great for an outside-the-box romance novel, but thankfully it’s not that. Instead it’s an autobiography of a clean-cut suburban gal who turns her love of punk rock into a journalism career, chronicling her college years and how she met so many now-famous musicians, and the interviews she did for publications after that.
If you have a picture in your head of how a punk fan looks like, brain-scrub it, because the photos in this book are completely opposite of what you’d expect. It’s actually a bit hard to believe this teen was in the clubs headbanging and such, and later went face to face with some of the biggest egomaniac jerks in the music world, but that just makes it all the better. The stories are fascinating, especially when you find a musician you’re familiar with whom she describes as a nice guy, contrary to their reputation.
3.5/5

Dark Murder
I’ve reviewed this same author recently, two books out of three in a series about a group of English cops. This new entry follows a character introduced in the last one, with his own squad and mysteries to solve.
Liked this a little less than the others; perhaps it’s due to the writer needing to include a lot of background on the characters; I haven’t read the first in the other series, so who knows if that happened there too. What I did find here is a lot of extraneous material, for example a scene featuring a long talk between a suspect and his girlfriend, for no reason I could discern. The characters here simply aren’t as likeable as the other squad’s, except for the female detective with the kid.
There’s nothing wrong with it though, and without the previous readings I might have liked it a little more.
3.5/5

Anthology I
A very common title for a collection of eight uncommon science fiction short stories of varying levels of quality.
In the first entry, a teenage girl’s consciousness merges with a ship; something other than hilarity ensues. Okay, she merged when she was younger, but she’s teenaged when this story takes place. This one was really good, 4.5/5
A being not quite human and not quite android does a film noir first person monologue—wait, that’s redundant. Also good, 4/5.
15-year-old girl and dad flee London for the Scottish Highlands to escape a gambling debt, or so he says. At one point I wondered if she was a robot, only to find at the end that I was half right. (If you read this story, you’ll find what I just wrote hilarious.) Good story, but not enough meat on it. 3.5/5
In a Muslim country, albeit a permissive one, in the future, a girl runs away from her rich upbringing and telepathic control. Not sure what to think of that one.
A telepathic hunting hawk is shot, its owner wants revenge, but ends up leaving the killer alive. Unless it was making a point about mercy, this one didn’t have much to it.
There’s an entry told from the point of view of a magic wand. Now THAT’S how you write a story! 5/5
Didn’t care for the next story from the start, with golf, rich old white guys, and then tribes of pygmies. 2/5
The last one. . . don’t even remember reading it.
3.5/5

The Record Store of the Mind
The owner of an independent record label reminisces about some of his favorite musicians, mostly those he’s worked with and reissued on his label. There’s some intriguing stories about how he meets them or is introduced to them, and if you follow on his website he’s got a playlist of the songs he mentions.
After the first chapter I have to say this author’s musical tastes are way different than mine. He talks about modern singer-songwriters lacking “authenticity,” whatever that means, but so far I find his selections lacking spirit. He calls his choices “simple” like it’s a good thing. Our tastes in vocals also differ. It’s different when he’s talking about more famous people, the first—getting his own chapter—being Eric Clapton. He makes Syosset, Long Island with Billy Joel and Lou Reed sound like Jersey must’ve been with Springsteen. There’s also a piece on his friendship with Judd Apatow.
Throughout the book I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t going to review his music picks; just because his taste is different than mine, especially in vocalists, didn’t mean this isn’t a great book full of reminiscences about real musicians, those who make music rather than a spectacle on stage. Still, I had been hoping to make some discoveries, but since I didn’t, I forced myself to concentrate on thinking of this as a biography. For instance, there’s a hilarious note about the author with a musician visiting a dilapidated venue where he’d played over 50 years ago. When they see an old bathroom they muse “Elvis likely pissed in there.”
There are some chapters at the end that might be better described as appendixes. When he’s talking about concerts he’d attended and reached the indie part, I was hopeful he might mention some I knew; didn’t happen. I did find some commonality on more famous acts we’ve both seen live, like Rush, The Police, Tom Petty, and U2. And I happen to be wearing an Alice in Chains shirt when he mentions working with them. . .
There’s a great chapter at the end on why you should—really shouldn’t—have your own label. He’s also a huge proponent of naps.
3.5/5

;o)