Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Dead Wake by Erik LarsenDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larsen; narrated by Scott Brick

When the Lusitania steamed into the waters off Britain in 1915, everyone on board knew the Germans had threatened the ship. But the convergence of politics, military action, timing, and fate made the attack on the ship a startling and gripping event, one that would draw the United States into war–albeit a full two years later.  A few thoughts:

  • Erik Larsen weaves his usual trick here, building the narrative from three primary tracks — the people aboard the ship, the people aboard the U-Boat, and the British government,  The resulting network of elements and ideas works very well, creating an intense, moving story.
  • Larson rather nonchalantly shares the fact that the Lusitania was carrying thousands of rounds of rifle ammunition and some other key munitions components.  Apparently, this wasn’t a violation of neutrality.  He doesn’t even touch on the common ideas of “conspiracy” that the Lusitania was carrying huge stockpiles of weapons.
  • The sinking scenes in the book are among the most harrowing sea tales I’ve read.  All those Titanic films I’ve seen gave me lots of visual imagery to accompany the tale Larsen tells.  Of course, his accounts of what happened are all based on accounts from survivors of the wreck.  Amazing.
  • There’s plenty of blame for the sinking to go around — particularly for the British government, which knew about the u-boat and let the Lusitania sail blithely on anyway. Larsen doesn’t come out and say it, but he strongly implies that certain forces in the Admiralty saw the sinking of the Lusitania as a way to draw the U.S. in to help the British cause.  And it turned out to be.

Overall, an excellent book.  On par with In the the Garden of the Beast.  The audio book was narrated by my favorite golden-voiced reader, the incomparable Scott Brick.  He’s the best.

Well worth a read.

Sous Chef

Sous Chef: 24 hours on the lineSous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line
by Michael Gibney, narrated by Fred Berman

Sous Chef is part detailed explanation, part memoir, part battle narrative.  It recalls a day in the life of the assistant chef at a mid-level “star rated” restaurant in New York.  Gibney does a great job explaining both what the day is like and why it’s like that.  The book mixes some philosophy of cooking in with science and restauranteurship.  Very enjoyable.  A few extra thoughts:

  • I used to think a “sous chef” was in charge of sauces.  Turns out it means “assistant chef,” a second in command, but more like a chief of staff than a vice president, to use a political analogy.  Calls the head chef “Chef,” and is called “Chef” by those under him.
  • I like the smattering of Spanish throughout the book, given without translation.  I didn’t understand it, but it fits the sense of the world better.
  • The level of intensity required of chefs in restaurants is crazy.  I suspect this is why so many shows focus on kitchens — they’re intense places to work.  My favorite part of the book is when the second seating on the Friday night takes place, and the narrator (who speaks in second person, making you the sous chef) gets into a flow state.  Check out the clip below.
  • Like the other restaurant book I enjoyed, Waiter Rant, Gibney slips into poetic language occasionally, creating city tableaux.  It works okay, but some of his prose gets a little purple.
  • I love the early discussion of the way teamwork and cohesion function as part of a good kitchen.  I’d think this book is required reading for any aspiring chefs, both as warning and as guidebook.

Fred Berman does a good job with the book, bringing a gravelly bark to the tale and handling the variety of languages skillfully.  Worth a look, or listen. (Caviat – I haven’t read any other chef memoirs before, so I can’t compare it with those.)

 

Farside

farsideFarside
written by Ben Bova; narrated by Stephan Rudnicki

On the far side of the moon, a new observatory is building the biggest telescopes ever crafted by Man.  These massive instruments, combined with the Moon’s airless surface, and the far-side’s shelter from the brightness of the Earth, give its scientists the ability to see things much more clearly than ever we have before.  Alas, amid the excitement of the project, trouble is brewing.  And in the vacuum of space, even a small problem can become a big problem quickly.  A few thoughts:

  • This is only the second Bova book I’ve read, and it seems to be in the middle of his “Grand Tour” series.  As such, there’s some context I’m missing, but generally it’s readable on its own.  The characters are believable, even if they’re drawn a bit quickly, and their emotional lives take a stronger center stage than in most SF novels.
  • Bova’s hard SF angle works really well here, as the entire structure seems cogent and potential.  Of course, it’s infused with current worries, but at least thinks through the potentials of the next century or so.  I also didn’t catch any years listed in the dates, which will help keep it relevant longer.
  • I particularly liked the depth of the characters as the novel progresses.  Often, quickly drawn characters prove to be two dimensional, lacking believability or depth that’s part of the human experience.  As the novel goes along, the characters become more complex, and more interesting, and it works well.
  • Aside from thinking through the Moon stuff, the use of Nanotechnology plays a big role in this book.  I like the discussion very much, and think it would make a nice entry into the field.  A reader who finds this idea interesting should next explore The Diamond Age.
  • Stephan Rudnicki’s reading is excellent, and his voice is awesomely deep.

A good read – enjoyable and quick, with cool ideas and a strong story.

Thinking about dead bodies: Stiff, by Mary Roach

Stiff by Mary RoachStiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
by Mary Roach, narrated by Shelly Frasier

As always, Mary Roach explores a topic of interest and (perhaps) disgust with tact, verve, and lots of humor.  In this book–the first of her science books–Roach explores the myriad ways we deal with death and dead bodies, and explains how science uses them.  A few thoughts:

  • The history of medical cadaver use is interesting, particularly the lengths to which early doctors had to go in order to study the human body.  Many dissected their own family members, since these were the only corpses they could get hold of legally.
  • Many military applications (such as body armor for mine sweepers) aren’t tested on human cadavers because of the potential bad PR — there’s a distinct worry that people would be upset to learn that the cadavers of family members were used in this way.  Roach puts it succinctly, “How do you ask someone if you can shoot their grandfather’s corpse in the face?”
  • This book marks a couple early and amusing appearances of Dennis, Roach’s husband who appears in many of her books, often reluctantly participating in zany adventures in the name of science.  One of Roach’s experts is “New York Heart Surgeon, Mehmet Oz.”  This was in 2002 or 2003, before he first appeared on Oprah.
  • The section on transplants was most informative.  We’re already at the point where we could, if needed, do a full body transplant — just moving the head.  The limits on this surgery are significant — the new body would be a quadriplegic since we can’t repair spinal columns yet, but it might add decades of life to someone who was already in a similar situation, even giving them the ability to speak.  One of the big objections, aside from the extreme expense, is that a healthy body could save many lives if its organs are shared.
  • Most fascinating was the innovation of ‘human composting,’ designed to be an alternative to funerals that produce a more environmentally friendly message.  Plus, you have a memorial bush or tree at the end.

It’s a great read, fascinating and wonderful and horrible.  It might not, however, be good lunch reading.

Where’d you go, D.B. Cooper? Skyjack

Skyjack by Geoffrey GraySkyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper
written and narrated by Geoffrey Gray

Gray starts the tale of famed plane hijacker D.B. Cooper with his own introduction to the tale — a visit from a private-eye friend who wanted to pitch a story.  What follows is a three-year odyssey into one of the modern rabbit holes, a chasm of mystery littered with half-baked theories, impostors, and secrets.  Gray does a nice job chronicling his own trip into the Cooper mythos, chasing leads, and learning all about the people who might have been the “Robin Hood of the skies.”  A few thoughts:

  • At the beginning of the tale, I was a little irritated by the way Gray inserted himself into the story — it seemed to get in the way of what could have otherwise been a very interesting tale to tell.  But as the book wore on, it became clear this was a good choice, since so much about the aftermath of the Cooper case is about the personalities involved in the investigation and theories.  Without the centering presence of his own narrative, it would have been hard to digest.
  • I like Gray’s method of introducing several different leading suspects during the early stages of the book — this helps keep the reader guessing.  Otherwise, Gray’s early leading candidate (the subject of his 2007 article) would have made the story too narrow.  Alas, in the audio book, it was difficult to keep track of the separate threads without better section titles.  The dates all run together in the audio version.
  • The later part of the book, which focuses on the diverse (and kinda loony) bunch of people who obsess over the case satisfies in a different way than the detailed story of the hijacking itself did.  I especially like the part toward the end where people are suddenly unwilling to share ideas with Gray as they worry about being ‘scooped’ from the book they are working on. (In looking at Wikipedia, I see that at least one of them did write their own book, and published it before Gray finished his.)

Overall, an interesting, detailed account of the current state of the D.B. Cooper case.

Here’s a theory Gray didn’t mention:

XKCD on D.B. Cooper
XKCD on D.B. Cooper (cc licensed http://xkcd.com/1400/)

Bossypants

Bossypants

Bossypants
written and narrated by Tina Fey

Fey’s memoir is a nice balance between stories about her career, essays on life as informed by her own experience, and a few cogent and telling discussions of the modern state of comedy (particularly of women in comedy).  Fey shows herself to be a thoughtful, funny writer–this is not surprising–with sharp rejoinders both hilarious and crass.  A few thoughts:

  • Her twisting route to SNL is inspiring, I’m sure, for young writers and performers.  But the underlying message — just do your art — is crucial.  She went out and got what she wanted.
  • Fey’s attitude toward parenting is great — a sensible balance of concern over following ‘best practices’ and awareness that each person is different and finding the right for you is the key.  I also liked her round scorn for judgmental breastfeeding advocates whom she calls “Teat Nazis.”
  • The section on how 30 Rock came to be is great — I love the discussion of the show as an entity with its own attitude that couldn’t be controlled, and the jokey sadness in which she admits that they weren’t trying to make a critical darling, they were trying to make a popular show.
  • Equally good is Fey’s discussion of her brief run as the SNL go-to actor to play Sarah Palin.  In particular, her discussion of the way both she and Sarah Palin were treated differently because they were women is solid and interesting.
  • This book once again confirms my thought that comedians make very good memoirists. (See also: Dad is Fat, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, You’re Not Doing It Right)

Fey’s narration is excellent, both warm and easy to follow.  All in all, a great read.

A Rumpole Christmas: Stories

A Rumpole Christmas
A Rumpole Christmas

A Rumpole Christmas: Stories by John Mortimer, narrated by Bill Wallis

Everyone’s favorite cantakerous lawyer is back for more glasses of Pomeroy’s finest, carping at judges, and winning most of his cases.  In this collection, Rumpole puts up with Helga’s changing plans for Christmas, resorts to a bit of arm-twisting for a good cause, and has a productive trip to the theater.  This story collection is a delight for the Rumpole enthusiast, but doesn’t really do much new.  As always, Bill Wallis brings the collection to delightful life.

December music roundup: Holiday tunes

I review my music playlist for each month, compiled from albums that drift across my transom and tunes I download from eMusic.

Snow Family by Sylvia Chan
Snow Family by Sylvia Chan (cc-licensed flickr.com/photos/abakedcreation/4200105073)

Simplify Christmas, Volume 3. Various artists
This album is a mix of new songs and covers of classics.  The new songs are generally quite good, with the best being “It’s Gone Before you Know It” and the favorite in my family, “The 12 Days of My 1970’s Christmas” featuring Charlie Hines.  I’ll keep my eyes out for Simplify Christmas albums vol 1 and 2.

Christmas by Low
A calm, cool album mixing new songs and classics.  With a mellow and contemplative mood, it’s good background music for a quiet party or dinner.  I like “Just Like Christmas” and “Taking Down the Tree” the best, but all are a bit slower than I like in my holiday music.

A Not Ordinary Christmas by Various Artists
This selection of new tunes wasn’t my favorite.  “Gimme Toys” is kinda silly, and “A List for Christmas” feels like a classic Christmas ballad, but generally these are forgettable.  I wouldn’t recommend this album.

Menorah Mashups by Various (compiled by DJ bc)
A good collections of Hannukah-themed mashups.  “Challahback Girl 2011” is a funny juxtaposition, and “Hannukah in Dub” has a kinda weird coolness to it.  The clear winner for me is “House of Klezmer” by FAROFF, which I’ve mentioned on this blog at least once.  It’s in the top three songs of the season for me.

Santastic Four and Santastic Five by Various (compiled by DJ bc)
Once again, two robust collections of holiday mashups.  There’s AC/DC, fast swing music, some ska, I was going to highlight some, but I couldn’t decide which ones I liked the best.  From Santastic Four, check out the swingy “The Polex Swing,” mojochronic’s “Whoville (Won’t Get Yuled Again),” and “The Nightclub Before Christmas” from dj BC.  On Santastic Five, I like Mojochronic’s “Rudolph (You Don’t Have to Put on the Red Light)” and “Christmas Bop,” which mixes a variety of tunes with the Ramones. Smash-Up Derby gives a military feel to the big man with “7 Nation Santa,” and there’s an uncategorizable delight in “Insane in the Winter Wonderland.”

I also had three new novelty tunes in my mix this month:

  • “Holidays Song” from Paul and Storm is the cranky person’s anthem, very NSFW.
  • “Pretty Little Dolly” was recommended by a friend as a good holiday tune, but it seems downright creepy to me.
  • “Captain Picard sings Let It Snow,” a masterful supercut giving our favorite bald space captain the holiday treatment.

Scaling back the podcasts

"Headphones" by Kai Friis
“Headphones” by Kai Friis (cc-licensed https://www.flickr.com/photos/kaifr/15482420128/)

The last couple years have seen a big drop-off in the number of books I read.  In 2008-2012, I read more than 100 books each year (this includes comic collections). But in both 2013 and 2014, I have come in well under that.  There are two reasons for this drop.  First, as the Executive Director of Operations in addition to my primary work as an Associate Professor, I’m very busy these days.  But equally significant in my reading load is my podcast schedule.  In listening to more and more podcasts, I’ve slipped away from audio books.  Check out these stats:

While podcasts are great, I miss the longer form books I devoured during that listening time.  My goal this year will be two audio books each month.  I’ll check in next January about this.

2014 in Review: Podcasts

"Headphones Cat" by Pete Prodoehl
“Headphones Cat” by Pete Prodoehl (cc licensed https://www.flickr.com/photos/raster/3889896822)

I listen to a lot of podcasts.  I’m planning to scale it back a bit, but here are the podcasts I listen to, divided up by how frequently I listen to them:

Exhaustively (I listen to every episode of these podcasts – they’re the first to get played):

  • Judge John Hodgman (weekly)
  • Jordan Jesse Go (weekly)
  • Wham Bam Pow (weekly)
  • International Waters (bi-weekly)
  • The Board Game Show (bi-monthly)

Thoroughly (I might miss an episode here or there, but I catch most of these):

  • Wait Wait … Don’t Tell me (weekly)
  • Ask Me Another (weekly)
  • Throwing Shade (weekly)
  • Sawbones (weekly)
  • Planet Money (weekly)
  • TL;DR (weekly)

Often (I listen to these regularly, but don’t worry or backtrack if I miss one):

  • On the Media (weekly)

As the Whim Takes Me (I look through the backlog of these and pick some occasionally, randomly):

  • The Memory Palace (monthly)
  • The Moth (weekly)
  • WTF with Marc Maron (weekly)

Nostalgically (Podcasts I used to listen to exhaustively that have slipped down my queue but I want to get back to):

  • This American Life (weekly)
  • RadioLab (weekly)

Aspirationally (Pocasts I like, I wish I listened to more often, so I keep them on the iPod):

  • Topics (weekly)
  • Welcome to Night Vale (weekly)

Without category (These podcasts were not easily put into one of the other categories)

  • Serial (I listened to all of these, but it’s on hiatus now)

New to the Family (I used this opportunity to add a few podcasts to the mix to see if I enjoy them.  Check back next year to see if these are still here.)

  • The Adventure Zone
  • Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin
  • Lady to Lady
  • Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
  • Reply All
  • Sklarbro Country
  • StartUp Podcast

2014 in Review: Music

This is the hardest review post to write, as I often don’t pay strict attention to the music I ingest, even as I’m listening to it.  Nonetheless, here are some notes about music this year.

Pokey LaFarge
Pokey LaFarge by Bill Streeter (cc-licensed)

New albums (by month acquired):

  • The White Stripes, The White Stripes
  • Passenger, All the Little Lights
  • Katy Perry, Prism
  • Pete Seeger, American Favorite Ballads (five songs a month)
  • Jonathan Coulton, Code Monkey Save World
  • Cheap Trick, The Essential Cheap Trick
  • Greg Brown, Hymns to What is Left
  • fun., Aim and Ignite
  • The Langer’s Ball, Ships are Sailing
  • Missy Higgins, The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle
  • Reel Big Fish, Cheer Up!
  • Young Statues, Young Statues
  • Tim Minchin, Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra
  • The Pogues, Hell’s Ditch
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!
  • John Halloway, In Celebration: 25 Years of Naxos
  • Great Big Sea, Fortune’s Favour
  • Gaelic Storm, Chicken Boxer
  • The Wayfarers, Music from Around the World – Australia
  • Paul and Storm, Ball Pit
  • Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
  • Dropkick Murphys, Signed and Sealed in Blood
  • Primus, Pork Soda
  • J. Mascis, Tied to a Star
  • Garfunkel and Oates, Music Songs
  • Pokey LaFarge, Riverboat Soul
  • u2, Songs of Innocence
  • The Mountain Goats, The Coroner’s Gambit
  • The Real McKenzies, Off the Leash
  • Various collections and compilations

Notable songs:

  • Passenger, “The Wrong Direction”
  • Avicii, “Hey Brother”
  • fun. “Walking the Dog”
  • The Langer’s Ball, “The Titanic”
  • Missy Higgins, “Hello Hello”
  • Reel Big Fish, “A Little Doubt Goes a Long Way”
  • Bearcat, “The Nothing”
  • Tim Minchin, “Thank You God”
  • The Pogues, “Rain Street”
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, “My Heart Will Go On”
  • The Taxpayers, “Medicines”
  • Great Big Sea, “Oh Yeah”
  • Gaelic Storm, “My Lucky Day”
  • Paul and Storm, “Write Like the Wind”
  • Tom Waits, “Big Black Mariah”
  • Dropkick Murphys, “Don’t Tear Us Apart”
  • Pokey LaFarge, “La La Blues”
  • The Real McKenzies, “Old Becomes New”

Most played:  “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore.  “I’m gonna take your grandpa’s style”  is still hilarious.

My Jam of the Year: “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down” by The Toasters

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSo-_TavE1U]

 

 

November Music Roundup: The Mountain Goats, The Real McKenzies, etc

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66K84j_r_fY]

The Mountain Goats,The Coroner’s Gambit
The Mountain Goats early albums have a pretty distinct sound, and I’d say The Corner’s Gambit fits that profile pretty well.  These guitar-driven story songs with fuzzy recording technique feel sincere and whole and often heartbreaking.  I particularly like “Island Garden Song” for its hopeful hermit narrator, “The Coroner’s Gambit” for its melancholy meditation on death from the otherside, and “Horseradish Road” for its slightly more complicated music line and its cryptic plot. “Insurance Fraud #2” seems to tell the story of a man investigating insurance fraud, or perhaps worried someone is trying to bump him off.  There’s probably a metaphor there, but I don’t know what it is. (See also: March 2013 Music Roundup)

The Real McKenzies, Off the Leash
The Real McKenzies have a schizophrenic sound, half Scotch-sounding Rock band with a solid bagpipes section and half 90s-era pop-speed-Punk.  “Chip” and “The Ballad of Greyfriars Bobby” feel distinctly Scotch, while songs like “the Lads Who Fought & Won,” “Anyone Else,” and “Too Many Fingers” sound like Offspring songs.  Then there are some that don’t easily fit categorization: I particularly like “Old Becomes New,” which blends the two sounds above well, or “The Maple Trees Remember,” which feels like a Cake song, or “My Mangy Hound,” which is almost as bouncy as a Blink 182 song.  An enjoyable album with a broad spectrum of rock-driven, celtic-influenced songs. (See also: August 2012 Music Roundup)

Compilation, Now Hear This! – The Independent Music Awards 11th Annual Winners (part 3)
It’s always hard to write about compilations, because the song styles are so diverse as to make any statement about the album itself pretty useless.  (I wrote about the first half of this album last month). That said, I liked this album alright.  Highlights are:

  • “Change Your Mind” by Alan Hampton has a strange floating quality with a solid folky songline.
  • “Mistletoe (feat. Chris Ayer)” by Amanda Duncan sounds like a great song from the jazzy 20s.
  • “1000 Nights” by Roscoe James Irwin is a light-touch pop ballad; reminds me of Rodeo Ruby Love a bit.
  • “M.O.D.” by Hemoptysis stood out as so distinctly different from the other songs in the album that I had to write about it.  It’s from the ‘driving guitar, growly singer’ genre of metal.  Not my cup of tea.  The driving beat reminds me a little of Helmet or Ministry, though.
  • “Balloon” by Echo & the Empress is lovely and gentle, with excellent singing.
  • “Crushing Limbs” by Anni Rossi has a light, cute feel despite rather dark lyrics.  Also, solid synth work.

Modern Jazz Stylings of Blue Canue Records – four songs that are about what you’d expect.  Still makes me thing of my friend John Chapman, who played jazz bass in Florida, and whom I went out to hear play once or twice. (So little new to say that I just repeated my entry about songs from this album that I wrote last month.)

Pete Seeger, four from American Favorite Ballads – This selection of four songs, including “Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier” and “No More Auction Block” reminds us of the folk progressive roots of folk music.  And depresses you unless you’re just soul-less.

Spike Jones, four songs from (Not) Your Standard Spike Jones Collection – Some love songs, “At Last I’m First With You,” “Red Grow the Roses,” and “Liebestraum.” “City Slicker Polka” is a tale about a country lass being harassed by a hound-dog full of goofy sound effects.

The Wayfarers (six songs from Music from Around the World – Australia) – Two about cooking: “Toss Another Shrimp on the Barbie” and “Who Put the Roo in the Stew,” one real classic: “Waltzing Matilda,” and a weird paean to odd Australian names: “Wooloomooloo.”

Garfunkel and Oates, last song from Music Songs – “Only You” is a lovely (or sad) song in honor of the partnership that is this novelty duo.  Also, a little NSFW.

Dad is Fat

Dad Is Fat
Dad Is Fat

Dad is Fat
by Jim Gaffigan

Jim Gaffigan is funny.  If you didn’t know that, get thee to Netflix! Gaffigan’s book, Dad is Fat, explores the weird, wild world of the father of five who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City with his apparently amazing wife.  It’s a funny book full of brief essays with sharp observations on the parenting life.  It’s funny and earnest and simple, and well written.  A few thoughts:

  • Gaffigan makes a good argument about our society’s happy willingness to comment on other peoples’ lives.  The section on peoples’ reactions to the fact that he has five kids works really well, feeling both earnest and thoughtful.
  • I kept finding myself telling Jenny my favorite bits.  A few quick quips: “I’m the kind of guy who dresses up with for Halloween with his kids.  I wish I’d known how much Captain Hook looks like Captain Morgan, and how much people in New York like rum.” and “Whoever thought up the phrase ‘terrible twos’ must have felt pretty dumb when his kid turned three.”
  • Gaffigan does a great job explaining how a great marriage should work.  He seems like a real partner to Jeannie, and she to him.  It’s interesting to compare his approach to the darker honesty of Michael Ian Black in You’re Not Doing It Right.
  • My favorite section in the book is toward the end, when Gaffigan explains how he takes his family on the road with him in the summer, doing shows at night and using a tour bus to “camp” their way across the country.  It’s heartwarming and amusing.
  • Throughout the book, Gaffigan maintains his self-depreciating humor and clean approach to comedy.  He explores the ups and downs of parenting, of family life in New York, and of parenting-related aspects like babysitters and friendships.

Dad is Fat is a great book, very amusing and earnest and touching.

October Music Roundup: Pokey LaFarge, Haunted Halloween, and the new U2 album

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-Ueckurv-U]

Albums:

Pokey LaFarge, Riverboat Soul
Last month, I liked the Pokey LaFarge song from the “Now Hear This” compilation so much that I downloaded a whole album from emusic this month.  The songs on this album are all pretty similar (the way most bands are), but that’s part of what makes them great.  I particularly like the upbeat positivity of “La La Blues” and “Daffodil Blues,” the jaunty speed of “Hard Times Come and Go” and the remix of an old classic in “In the Graveyard Now.”  I was also glad to hear their cover of “Old Black Dog,” a song from Koerner, Ray, and Glover that I enjoy.

Various, Haunted Halloween, Vol 1
This album has 25 tracks, many of which are clips from trailers or old horror movies.  The rest are classic monster-themed songs.  They all have the same goofy feeling as that most-classic of monster songs, “The Monster Mash.”  My favorites are “Jam At the Mortuary” and “The Mummy’s Bracelet,” both of which are weird narrative songs, and “Wombie Zombie,” a great dance number.  There are some real misses as well, particularly: most annoying and misogynistic is  Ivan’s “Frankie Frankenstein” and Jan Davis’ “Watusi Zombie,” for it’s jungle sounds that recapitulate the worst parts of the 1940s zombie movies. Weirdest is Don Hinson’s “Riboflavin-Flavored Non-Carbonated Polyunsaturated Blood,” about a scientist who manufactures a fake blood that’s better than the natural stuff — True Blood, in essence.

U2, Songs of Innocence
I generally like U2, so when their new free album showed up in my iTunes, I figured I’d give it a shot.  It’s a fine example of late U2, as far as I can tell, but it didn’t have much impact on me in the listening.  I like “Volcano,” “Song for Someone”, and “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” but not a lot more than the other songs.  I guess my main review here would be: meh.

Compilation, Now Hear This! – The Independent Music Awards 11th Annual Winners (part 2)
It’s always hard to write about compilations, because the song styles are so diverse as to make any statement about the album itself pretty useless.  (I wrote about the first half of this album last month). That said, I liked this album alright.  Highlights are:

  • “Singin’ in Tongues” by Bleu – a pretty good rockin song.
  • “North Side Gal” by JD McPherson – sounds like a song from the Otis Redding / Wilson Pickett era.  In a good way.
  • “Mockingbird” by Spring Creek – a great, bouncy bluegrass song with a bluesy notion.
  • “Brother” by The Soul of John Black – a great blues song.
  • “Roller Coaster” by Kira Willey – a great family song with a zip-zip-zip theme.

Songs:

“Head to Head (With the Undead)” by Chas ‘n’ Dave – a goofy, catchy song from the movie Cockneys vs. Zombies.  It’s great.

Garfunkel and Oates, three from Music Songs – “One Night Stand” and “Silver Lining” are both great, funny and positive.  But “As You Are” stands out as a great friend/love song.

Pete Seeger, four from American Favorite Ballads – “Oh, How He Lied” is a silly, fun song that’s just DEPRESSING.

Spike Jones, four songs from (Not) Your Standard Spike Jones Collection –”Yankee Doodler” is another of Jones’ jingoistic weird songs with a verse about the Japanese returns to the ol’ racism, as does “Down in Jungle Town” with its ‘African Rhythms.’  I can see why Dr. Demento was relatively restrained with the number of Spike Jones songs he played.  Yikes.

The Wayfarers (ten songs from Music from Around the World – Australia) –”The Australia’s Cup” is all about a team of sailors trying to win the America’s Cup; “The Last Keg on Earth” revisits the old Australian concern with always having enough to drink (viz “A Pub with No Beer”).

Modern Jazz Stylings of Blue Canue Records – four songs that are about what you’d expect.  Still makes me thing of my friend John Chapman, who played jazz bass in Florida, and whom I went out to hear play once or twice.

 

On Voices 7

Harvey Hudson

An update of the audio book narrators I’ve read since the last On Voices post.

*Books narrated by their authors

This list includes only the readers I’ve encountered more than once.  The singletons are below the fold.

Continue reading On Voices 7