Hooray For Everything.

I’m happy to announce that after over 12 years of searching, I have finally tracked down and purchased a copy of the first Heavy Blinkers CD, Hooray For Everything.  It’s shown somewhere below face down with everything else I’ve acquired so far this year.  Other highlights from this batch include Wake the Dreamers by Shelley Short, Music For Cats by Hector Peñalosa, The Best of Andrew by Andrew (Sandoval), The Great City by Hilary Gardner, and Trapped and Unwrapped by Friends Again.

Both of the pictures can be clicked to view the corresponding front covers.  Yes, I have found a way to combine my two most annoying posts.  I’m innovative like that.

vinyl backs

(backs of records)

cd backs

(backs of cds)

There are three recent acquisitions that don’t appear in the pictures shown above.  That’s because those three got their own posts:

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The G in Bell Gardens is very twirly.

I recently ordered a copy of Bell Gardens’ Slow Dawns For Lost Conclusions from Insound, an online music retailer I’ve used on and off for years.  I’ve had good luck with them in the past, so I was surprised when my order arrived and it was just a CD in a plastic sleeve.  No cover art.  No case.  There wasn’t even a track listing.  I had to stick the disc in my computer to find out what the songs were called.  It was just a CD in a plastic sleeve.

slow dawns for lost conclusions cdNow this might not seem like a big deal to you, but it got me all grumpy as Insound’s website made no mention of the fact that they were selling such a meager edition (to put it nicely).  They even showed the cover art for the CD in their listing.

slow dawns for lost conclusions (front)Hey, let’s turn a long and grumpy post into a short and positive one.  I contacted Insound, got ignored for a week, and then eventually heard back from a customer service rep.  He gave me a full refund.  My grumpiness subsided.  It still didn’t get me any closer to cover art, though, so I decided to go ahead and draw myself some.  I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

slow dawns for lost conclusions (replacement art)By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve drawn replacement cover art.  I drew some gun-free art for Keren Ann’s 101 (in proper red ink) a couple years ago.  There are others, but that’s the only one I can think of right now.

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SIBR: Books from February 2015

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame–Victor Hugo
A novel has serious problems if its only appealing character is a goat.

Station Eleven–Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven is about a flu pandemic that wipes out most of the world’s population.  The book begins with the famous actor Arthur Leander having a heart attack onstage during a performance of King Lear.  A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches while Jeevan Chaudhary jumps onstage and tries to save the actor’s life with CPR.  The flu hits shortly after.  Although the book features a large supporting cast, the author primarily uses these three main characters to tell us the story of what happens before, during, and after the spread of this devastating flu strain.

The time before the flu is mostly told through the Arthur character.  We learn about his three ex-wives, his son, and follow his career from struggling acting student to his final stage performance.  Although we learn some of Jeevan’s history, he is the character who primarily appears during the flu outbreak and its immediate aftermath.  His storyline was my favorite.  When it comes to apocalyptic novels, I usually prefer the parts that take place during the shitstorm.  And finally, Kirsten is the character we follow through the years after the outbreak.  She grows up on the road and settles in with the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who roam the nearly empty countryside putting on performances of Shakespeare’s plays.

The book jumps back and forth between storylines and time (but not so much for the Library of Congress “Time travel–Fiction” designation to make any sense at all) and we begin to see how the many characters are connected.  There’s a lot going on, but I guess the main storyline concerns the Traveling Symphony and what happens when they show up at a previously friendly settlement and find that it’s been taken over by a weirdo self-proclaimed prophet.  In addition, the symphony members who were supposed to be waiting for them in the town are nowhere to be seen.  Kirsten and the Traveling Symphony head off in search of their friends, but they probably haven’t seen the last of that weirdo self-proclaimed prophet fella.

Station Eleven was my favorite book of the month.  I thought there were maybe too many characters for a 330 page book and that the prophet seemed more like a minor nuisance than a proper villain, but I didn’t have any other complaints.  I thought Jeevan’s scenes in Toronto were particularly well-written.  His trip to the grocery store was harrowing and had me on edge.  I also enjoyed the scenes at the airport in the days immediately following the outbreak.  I’m not sure I can think of anybody I’d recommend this book to, but I thought it was a worthwhile read.

Mort(e)–Robert Repino
My second post-apocalyptic novel in a row was Mort(e) by Robert Repino.  I bought this book based solely on Kapo Ng and Sam Chung’s striking cover work.  I walked into Joseph-Beth Booksellers, saw an orange and white cat staring at me from the New Arrivals table, and went straight for it.  I knew I was buying the book even before I flipped it over to read the synopsis.

After hundreds of years of planning, a race of sentient ants rises up and starts a war with humanity.  Fighting on the side of the ants are other animals who have been altered by their exposure to an ant hormone.  These animals increase in size, begin walking on two legs, develop the ability to speak, and become capable of higher thought.  The first thing they do, of course, is start killing humans.  This sudden uprising takes humanity by surprise, and it’s not long before the animals have the upper-hand.  The dwindling human population continues to fight back, and have some success with a mysterious bio-weapon known as EMSAH.

One of the heroes of this animal uprising is Mort(e), a de-clawed house cat formerly known as Sebastian.  He doesn’t care much for the ants or their goal of eradicating humanity, but he’s more than willing to kill humans if it helps him work towards his secret goal of tracking down his best friend, a dog named Sheba who used to live next door.  Mort(e) joins an elite squad, rises in the ranks, and is eventually assigned to investigate EMSAH.  It’s around this time that he receives a message from the humans suggesting that Sheba is still alive!

The book is pretty good (and a lot of fun) up until page 230.  That’s when Mort(e) learns the truth about humanity’s secret bio-weapon.  The truth about EMSAH is so ridiculous that I was in a perpetual state of scoffing for the remaining 125 pages.  I was sincerely disappointed.  I finished the book, of course.  Here’s what I remember about the end: dirigibles, a hokey prophet subplot (again with the prophets), some hymn singing, and a final action sequence between the ants and the forces of humanity that was choreographed with all the elegance of a battle scene from a G.I. Joe cartoon.  I can’t even remember if Mort(e) eventually found Sheba.  Probably.

The Go-Betweens Anthology, Volume 1: 1978-1984–Robert Forster & others
I debated if I should include this as it’s really just something that came with the G Stands For Go-Betweens music box set I recently purchased.  It took me well over an hour to read, so I decided that’s enough reason to count it as a book instead of just liner notes.  There are a lot of great stories about the band’s history and some amazing pictures inside.  My favorite bits were Grant McLennan’s acceptance postcard (as seen on the cover) and the story of the Lee Remick record on the wall at Rough Trade.  Also, Lindy Morrison sounds like an interesting character; I’d like to read more about her.

books for february

(books for february)

I’m currently reading a novel by Vladimir Pištalo called Tesla: A Portrait With Masks.  The book is taking me a long time as the chapters are very short and I keep putting it down when I get to the end of one.

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Hey, at least it’s not spoons.

First you could click on a fancy green box to open it and see all the records and CDs inside.  Then you could click on a plastic cat butt to see the second greatest Dunny ever.  Now I present you with the third post in this annoying series.  Just click on the bubbles to pop them and see what’s in the sink getting a good soak.

sink with bubbles

(pop, pop, pop)

I found these things in a moldy box in my cellar.  I’m not sure what happened to the Yoda.  I’m fairly certain I used to have the Yoda.

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Long May You Run

Here’s a screen capture of a post I wrote back in 2007 about the death of my beloved 3rd generation iPod Classic.  I include it here because I still get a kick out of the sad post-it face and because the post has been “private” since I moved over to WP.

death of an ipodWell, I never threw that iPod in the garbage.  I stuck it in a box of obsolete computer-related stuff…where it stayed until I rediscovered it a couple months ago.  I got the idea that I should try to bring it back to life.  I guess I was looking for a project.

I dug around online and found a few places that purport to sell replacement iPod batteries.  It’s all very unofficial, though, as Apple doesn’t make their batteries available to the public.  The replacement battery market is full of shady people selling dubious products to the optimistic, but the prices charged for these replacement batteries are so low (around $5) that I didn’t mind placing a few orders and engaging in half a dozen open-Pod surgeries.

ipod surgeryThe first battery never showed up.  The second one was DOA.  The third one didn’t do anything at first, but I decided it would be worth it to pop open the iPod again and check all my connections before giving up.  I found a slightly loose touch wheel cable, resecured it, put everything back together, and then plugged in the iPod.  For the first time in over seven years, my iPod was showing signs of life!  It was working again!

ipod surgery success2My iPod had very little power, though.  I plugged it in overnight and was happy to see a full charge showing the next morning.  I loaded up a collection of 78 Neil Young rarities and began playing them uninterrupted in an attempt to measure my battery power.  I’d been thinking that a couple hours of playback time would count as a major success but that I’d probably only make it through a few songs.  You can imagine my surprise when my iPod played the entire 5 and a half hour collection and started over at the beginning.

born to runMy iPod’s new battery played Neil Young rarities for 9 hours and 47 minutes non-stop.  It finally conked out during a version of “Long May You Run”.  I found that amusing.  I was also relieved as I’d grown sick and tired of Neil Young about five hours earlier.  The 9 hours and 47 minutes of uninterrupted play exceeded my wildest expectations. It’s especially impressive when you consider that the iPod 3G was advertised as featuring “up to 8 hours of continuous playback time” when it was first released back in 2003.  Yes, my iPod has more battery power now than it did when I first got it.

I should probably draw a happy post-it face.

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(meow meow meow)

I once read that February 22nd is some sort of feline-related holiday in Japan.  I don’t remember all the details, but it has something to do with how the Japanese word for “two” sounds a bit like the noise a cat makes.  The way I understand it, 2/22 could be misheard as “meow meow meow”.  Or something like that.

I’ve heard of sillier excuses for a holiday.

So I’ve been waiting until February 22nd to post a picture of this little Dunny I got back in January.  It seems like a good fit for today as the figurine features three cats and was designed by a Japanese illustrator named Aya Kakeda.  KidRobot included this toy in their female-designed Dunny Fatale Series back in 2010.

aya kakeda cat dunny (back)

(click a butt)

That, of course, is the back view.  As you may have noticed, I like to set it up so that clicking on a picture takes the viewer to an entirely different image.  That’s what I’ve done here.  Just click on a cat butt to see the front view.  I assure you it’s worth the effort.

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What does G stand for?

G stands for Go-Betweens.  They’re one of the few musical groups I can think of that were great from start to finish.  Everything they released is worth hearing…especially this super fancypants reissue box set that cost me a month’s worth of dinners.  Click the image to open up the box and see all the goodies inside.  It’s four records, four CDs, a couple books, some ephemera, and a gigantic poster of Lee Remick.

G stands for go-betweens (outside)

(open me)

If the Lee Remick poster doesn’t make sense to you, just know that the first Go-Betweens single was named after the hard-to-draw actress.  All you’ve got to do is listen to the first 12 seconds of the song to know why the Go-Betweens were a band for me.

Discussion topics:

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In which two collections collide…again.

As some of you probably know by now, I have a small collection of vintage photographs featuring women on boats.  I also have a lesser known collection of photos showing people with old record players.  One time these two collections overlapped when I found a picture of a woman on a rowboat with a record player.  It seemed like a strange thing to have on the water and buying the photo made me far happier than it probably should have.  Although I’ve already posted it, I’d like to share it again:

vinyl boatTwo years went by.

I now have a saved search on eBay that spits out most of the black and white photographs featuring women on boats.  It takes some of the fun out of the hunt, but it also makes things a lot easier.  I skim the feed a couple times a week.  Most of the search results don’t interest me, but I occasionally click on one to get a closer look.  This little thumbnail came through a couple weeks ago:

vinyl boat againSomething about that tiny image set off an alarm.  I clicked on it and was surprised to see it turn into this:

vinyl boat againYes, it’s the same woman from the photograph I bought two years ago!  What are the chances?  She’s still got her record player and is wearing the same outfit, but now we can see that there’s a friendly-looking fellow in the rowboat with her.

Not only is this another photograph that fits into both collections, but it answers a question that always bothers me when looking at old snapshots…who was behind the camera?  Well, the guy at the oars must’ve taken that first picture.  Now if only I could figure out who took the second one.  I’m also curious about what they were listening to on that record player.  Maybe I’ll find the answers to these questions in a couple more years.

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SIBR: Books from January 2015

The Girl on the Train–Paula Hawkins
This addictive thriller is about a woman (not a “girl”) who passes by the same neighborhood every day on her train trips to and from London. She notices the couple living in one of the houses and takes a liking to them. She gives them names and imagines their personalities and back stories. Then one day she looks out the train window and sees something going on at the house that she can hardly believe. It makes her rethink everything she “knows” about the couple. It also makes her get off at their stop to investigate. It’s not long before she regrets that.

The Girl on the Train is apparently the book that people are reading now that everyone has read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.  It’s hard to read Paula Hawkins’ book without comparing it to that one. They both feature missing women, brutal violence, and unreliable narrators. The difference is that I was able to figure out who did what to whom in The Girl on the Train by page 150 and Gone Girl kept me guessing longer than that. That doesn’t mean this book isn’t worth reading, though. Despite determining what happened fairly early on, I still had to figure out why it happened and that kept the suspense going for most of the book. The other difference is that The Girl on the Train had a much better ending that Gone Girl did. Paula Hawkins’ book didn’t leave me with that feeling of disappointment I got from Flynn’s.

Revival–Stephen King
Stephen King’s new novel is about the decades-long relationship between two characters, Jamie Morton and Charles Jacobs. When we first meet the two, Jamie is a boy playing with toy soldiers in his front yard and Charles is a young minister who has just moved to town to work at the local church. When he isn’t preaching or spending time with his family, Charles enjoys inventing things and experimenting with electricity. As often happens in Stephen King novels, tragedy strikes. As a result, Charles preaches a sermon so scandalous that he’s forced to say goodbye to his young friend and leave town.

Many years go by. Jamie grows up and becomes a musician. He finds himself abandoned at an Oklahoma state fair addicted to drugs and close to broke. He’s near rock bottom when he recognizes his old preacher friend working an amazing attraction at the fair. The sign says, PORTRAITS IN LIGHTNING!

The two characters meet up many times over the course of the book and each time Charles Jacobs seems a little more unhinged and more obsessed with his electrical experiments. It’s not until 40 years have gone by that Jamie finally learns what Charles has been working towards all this time. The end of the book is truly shocking and features images that are still burned into my brain three weeks after finishing the book. I’m sure they’ll continue to haunt me for years to come…especially at night during lightning storms.

The Old Man and Me–Elaine Dundy
I’m not sure why people don’t talk more about Elaine Dundy. Her Dud Avocado was so biting and hilarious that I had to look around for her other books. That novel was about a young American woman living in Paris in the early 60s; The Old Man and Me mines similar territory by placing its young female heroine (or anti-heroine, depending) in London at around the same time.

When we first meet her, “Honey Flood” is searching London for a rich old man she plans to seduce and possibly murder for his fortune. She’s not looking for just any rich old man, though. She’s got her sights set on a particular one and it’s not long before she finds him and sets her scheme in motion. Then it’s just a high-stakes battle of the sexes set among bohemian clubs, fancypants country houses, and pompous restaurants where grey soup is called crème waldeze.

I thought this book was just as funny as The Dud Avocado. One of my favorite scenes is when Honey and the old man go on a date to see Hitchcock’s Psycho. As Honey puts it:

The idea of going to a murder movie in the first place was to watch it closely in the hopes of picking up some valuable pointers.

The punchline, of course, is that Honey can’t stomach the film. Maybe she needs to rethink her plans. What’s the best way to kill an old man if you’re unwilling to stab him in the shower?  Who is Honey Flood and why did she pick this particular old man in the first place?  And how much does he know, anyway?

Autobiography of a Corpse–Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
I usually avoid carrying an unfinished book over from one year to the next, but I couldn’t manage to finish this short story collection by the end of 2014. While the author’s other collection, Memories of the Future, was one of my greatest literary surprises of the last few years (bought on a whim solely for its title), this second collection was one of my biggest disappointments. I had a lot of trouble getting into these philosophical tales about cracks and seams and shadows and what-Nots. I’m not ashamed to admit that I found many of Krzhizhanovsky’s stories as difficult to follow as his name is to pronounce. The exception is “The Unbitten Elbow”, a satirical story about a man whose goal in life is to bite his own elbow. I liked that one.

books for january

(books for January)

I’m currently zipping through Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and reading a chapter-a-day of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. I’m scheduled to finish up the Hugo on the last day of February.

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I have noticed two things about Josh Ritter’s new album, Acoustic Live, Vol. 1.

First of all, he says “thank you” a lot.  He says it so many times, in fact, that I got curious to know the exact number.  I gave the record a special listen and wrote them all down.  So here’s a list of all the times Josh Ritter expresses gratitude on Acoustic Live, Vol. 1:

  1. Thank you very much everybody.
  2. Thank you so much for coming tonight.
  3. Thank you.
  4. Thank you very much.
  5. Thank you for coming tonight…
  6. Thank you for being here.
  7. Thank you.
  8. Thank you.
  9. Thank you very much.
  10. Thank you very much everybody.
  11. Thank you.
  12. Thank you very much.
  13. Thank you very much everybody.
  14. Thank you for an amazing night.
  15. Thank you.
  16. Thank you.
  17. Mister Bernie Guerra right here on guitars, thank god.
  18. I wanna say a big thank you to Daniel…
  19. …and I wanna say thank you to this man right here…
  20. Thank you everybody for a great, great night.
  21. Thank you very much.
  22. Thank you.

That’s a lot of gratitude for a ten song, 45 minute album.

The other thing I noticed about Acoustic Live, Vol. 1 is that it’s not on marbled orange vinyl as seen in the early promotional photo (and advertised on the sticker).

marlbled orange vinyl The color of the real record is more of an unpleasant brownish.  It’s a color I used to call “bossk” when I was a kid after the similarly-hued bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back.

that's not orangeI don’t mean to suggest that I’m annoyed by these two things.  I think it’s charming that Josh Ritter feels so thankful to his audience and to those he works with.  And despite the fact that the record is kind of ugly, it still makes for a good listen.  I’m especially fond of the two cover songs, “I’m Not Afraid” and “Save Me a Place”.

Thank you so much for reading this.

Thank you.

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