Most of the Time

The thing about being a child of the late 70s and 80s is that the perception is there was no good music. The sixties had the revolution of music, the 70’s had the excesses of rock and then the purge of punk. The eighties according to most writers had post punk and little else of note. How sad to be defined as after something else, of course we brought this upon ourselves with New Romantics, awful synths and gated drums. The decade fashion forgot etc. the slurs go on and on. Forever defined musically as the moment between punk and grunge that had no redeeming features. Well as one who lived through the rejected decade I have to say there was some good in there, yes you had to search between Wham and Duran Duran but it was there honest.

I remember a summer spent on the LLeyn Peninsula in North Wales, all I had for company was a copy of Pink Floyd’s the Wall, Rumours  and Live by Fleetwood Mac and every science fiction novel they had for sale in small gift shops at the beach. It was a heavenly summer, the one that stands in my mind as perfect.Llyn peninsula Two weeks in a small cottage in Wales, with no worries, I think it was the year before O. Levels so it was relatively stress free, the next year I was waiting for O. Level results, it rained continuously and the house felt like the walls were closing in. That was the year we went home early, never to go back to that house.

Back to 1981, Ghost Town by the Specials on the radio everywhere we went, that and I Don’t Like Monday’s by the Boom Town Rats which was the song most often played on the pub juke box my parents dragged me to some evenings. All the girls seemed to be wearing yellow that year and have Stevie Nick’s hair. Sat on the beach I read Philip K. Dick, Clarke, Heinlein and as much Moorcock as I could find, I swam in the cold Irish Sea, snorkeled around the crusted rocks and sank the stupid canoe, climbed on cliff faces, fished with my Dad and learned how to cook crab. It was that idyllic summer that in a Stephen King novel would have turned to terror but in reality was just a wonderful lazy summer that you forever try to reach again. I don’t think my parents ever realized what they gave me although I have tried to tell them.

Which all has nothing to do with the music of the eighties in the end apart from to say those albums are etched in my mind as the soundtrack to my youth. In 1982 I went to Cropredy and then other festivals throughout the decade. I was introduced to Richard Thompson’s music and discovered a more roots based music than my contemporaries were listening too. I also became a pretentious ass, preferring the Barrett Floyd to the Gilmour/Waters version which meant I had to listen to the Dark Side of the Moon and Animals in the closet.

The music I remember from that era now is Julian Cope, the Teardrop Explodes, the Icicle Works and Waterboys and also Robyn Hitchcock. I still return to that music even now. I also have a fondness for Here and Now who seemed to be on every festival stage passing the hat around.  My wife was very much in the Benatar, Idol, Journey and Foreigner camp. I remember listening and on strange occasions dancing to it in smoky Liverpool clubs but have to admit I don’t return to it. The biggest musical constants in my life though had to Fairport Convention and Hawkwind. I always seemed to be going to a Hawkwind gig or planning for the next and saving for Cropredy, or going to the seemingly endless tours a band that had split up constantly was on.

It could be a little odd at times to watch your peers succumbing to the synth pop agenda, of course now I can enjoy Depeche Mode and Ultravox along with Japan and the others but at the time it was anathema. So I ended up spending time looking for those lost gems of the 70’s and 60’s and actually becoming more pretentious than my lip stick wearing contemporaries, it also meant I missed out on the Jam, Elvis Costello and other joys through having my head so far up my own behind. I did allow myself as mentioned earlier to enjoy some contemporary music but it had to be performed by relative failures, if it was on top of the pops it sucked if it was on the Tube it was cool etc.

Anyway here is the mix of what I was allowing people to know what I was listening to during that weird strange period. As I made this I realized that with the exception of Hitchcock and the Icicle Works I discovered most of the other music of the eighties once the period was over. I guess I was more pretentious than I realized, although that may be the reason for a blog at the end of the day.

The mix:  https://anonfiles.com/file/fb2b53d006e85fdf82774ffedb437222

 

 

Slide Through My Fingers

The great musical journey continues along with the reading, sometimes at the same time.

The music today has been Tame Impala, an Australian band that is at times channeling Pink Floyd and T-Rex at the same time. A truly psychedelic experience and nowhere near the list in the 1000 Recordings book but hey this is my journey.

So it’s Tame Impala and the self titled ep, it’s strange to call a CD an ep, as that was originally an extra play single  usually  four songs instead of two, in the 80’s they always seemed to be of the 12 inch variety and have pointlessly meandering remixes or extended versions, these are now what fills up the “deluxe” edition of any CD that gets the “deluxe” treatment.

Tame Impala-Lonerism was next which definitely has expanded on the sonic palette of the ep. Much more of a Flaming Lips feel to this one but definitely worth the listen.

The drive into work was accompanied by Crosby Stills and Nash, which really is a masterpiece, well the drive was only Suite: Judy Blue Eyes but I did hear the rest driving around.

Reading wise the science fiction continues, I have been reading Gavin Smith’s military science fiction novel Veteran. I am only about a third of the way into it but the characters are engaging and I have no idea were the story is going which for military science fiction is a good thing. A strange war in space being fought by modified humans who when they reach the end of usefulness are discarded by the government to live in squalor, and in the case of Jacob the main character knowing they can be brought back into service.

At the same time I continue with the Neil Young biography. Diversions and then information in equal measure.

Should have been a no-brainer, David Byrne and Brian Eno My Life In The Bush of Ghosts, two geniuses playing off each other. It’s universally acclaimed but just left me cold. I get the idea world music and electronica but for me it just does not work, it’s too difficult, too clever, too self conscious. I’m not sure what it is but I love both these artists and am a little saddened I did not get this. I can’t even say it was a brave attempt although there must be something there for so many to rave about it. Or maybe it’s a big joke and we have been convinced by the hype that we should like it.

Another hyped album though with Todd by Todd Rundgren, again it’s taken awhile but I finally took the plunge and it is a collection of quirky and inventive pop songs that are captivating as well as challenging.

More normal has been Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall in 1971, this a great document of the early Neil Young, many songs from the first four albums performed solo. It is amazing that this album took so long to be released and makes you question what else is hiding out in the archives on the ranch. I’ve been avoiding Neil Young since beginning the book, mainly because I can become a little obsessed at times and did not want to be a total freak for a week.

Playing the whole album is difficult it seems. I have become so used to the constant change of sounds that it’s a little hard to stay  in the moment with an album. I hear moments that make me want to skip to another artist as my mind has been triggered, Playing CSN always reminds me of Yes, I think Anderson and co. must have been listening to the harmonies on the first CSN album when they recorded The Yes Album. The urge to search out Yes halfway through Lady of the Islands was almost overwhelming. I have always had the tendency to flit around often not even listening to the whole song. This has apparently got worse over the most recent years. This may be a useful discipline to practice, listening.

To finish the week off in the Jeep was Bongo Fury by Zappa and Beefheart. It’s amusing to me that once you own a Wrangler it’s no longer the car, or truck but the Jeep. Bongo Fury was particularly fun as I pulled into the bank that was having a Justin Bieber promotional event, I have no idea why. The look of confusion on the attendees face was worth going to the bank for, there was a moment of disgust at the strangeness of the rhythms and then Beefhearts voice took it over the edge.

Then there was Green on Reds No Free Lunch, haven’t heard them since the 90’s but some great memories of dancing in the dark at the Bierkeller on Mt. Pleasant in Liverpool. This was a fun place I almost remember seeing Big Audio Dynamite and many a Roy Haper gig here.

Saturday night was finished off with Michael Chapman’s Fully Qualified Survivor. This is a great folk-rock album although some would like to call it psych-folk whatever that means.

I just realized I could get really pretentious doing this, so I’m going to do my best not to. There are so many albums I have never gone near or been afraid of going near, so the library will get a work out for sure. There is also so much new music being produced that it could get confusing.

I finished the Neil Young book this afternoon. It was a great ride, repetitive at times although I cannot Imagine it being edited. A real attempt by Neil to settle some rumors and come to terms with some tough decisions and losses in his life.

Mind Gardens

It’s a world of sound bites, nothing is more apparent as we enter the week of the presidential debates starting. It was even a day when Bill O’Reilly said the word zinger. So as information gets more compressed to almost meaningless moments held separate from context or meaning I have to ask the question:

When was the last time you listened to the whole album?

Of course in the i-tunes world we can choose the playlist or let the genius button do it for us, We don’t have to appreciate the running order or track list, the artistry of compiling a whole  piece an experience if you like. Also there appear to be more greatest hits packages than ever before allowing us to only hear the songs that the compiler considers greatest. With artists that specialized in the long extended album this can get difficult and don’t mention the box set and what that has done to us. Then there is the extended, repackaged album with extras and extras on top of the extras. We have chopped, cut up, compressed compiled and boxed our way so far away from the listening experience it is hard to know if any one knows what the album used to mean.

Don’t get me wrong I love my i-pod with it’s playlists and random play function as much as the next person obsessed with technology. I was excited when technology allowed us to burn our own compilations on CD and the mp3 playlist in the car is a life saver at times. I have to admit though that I have gone away from listening to the album in order, the ebb and flow of the music as it unveils itself the way the artist compiled it, with no extras or outtakes. I don’t miss the crackle of old vinyl though but I do miss the album sleeves with their art work and folds and creases and information.

I miss music being a shared experience now we are all plugged into our ear buds and private worlds. We share playlists on spotify and social networking sites rather than passing around albums or inviting a friend over to hang out and listen. I remember when Blind by the Icicle Works was released gathering in a dingy smoky room to play the record. We played it three times that night trying to make sense of the various stylistic turns the band were making on every cut. We did the same when Dave bought Sheikh Yerbouti by Zappa, laughing at the coarse humor and wondering at the music, there was eight of us in the room talking laughing and arguing about the music. Last week I bought Tempest by Dylan, well I downloaded it, listened on ear buds and then told my son he should put it on his     i-pod. At no point have we played it together or talked about the music or lyrics.

This weekend I was in the library and found 1000 Recording You Should Listen to Before You Die by Tom Moon, he has a blog here:

http://www.1000recordings.com/

Looking at the book I thought about changing my listening habits. For a year I am only going to listen to whole albums. Maybe not the list in the book but albums I find important to me. I am going to rediscover old favorites, listen to new recordings and maybe even invite some friends over to listen along at times. I am going to play albums as I cook, drive and hang out.  I am going to limit the use of ear buds to walks, runs and mowing the lawn, I am going to share the music with the people I love and talk about it again, I may even keep a record at times here if I remember.

This weeks list so far:

John Adams-Harmonium

King Sunny Ade-Best of the classic years

Ryan Adams-Heartbreaker

Frank Zappa-One Size Fits All

Mumford and Sons-Babel

The Byrds-Younger Than Yesterday

Fela Kuti-Confusion-Gentleman

Crosby Stills and Nash-1st Album

Of Monsters and Men-My Head Is an Animal

I played some of these twice it was so much fun.

I also began Neil Young’s autobiography/memoir Waging Heavy Peace which is one of the most unusually written books I have ever read. It really is liking sitting down with Neil and having a conversation. In reality if there was one artist I would love to do this with it would be Neil Young, although I would undoubtedly be so tongue tied I would never ask a question never mind actually remembering any of it.

Back On The Streets

You would think being on vacation would allow for more reading but that’s not the case.

I read Survival by Julie Czenerda but got less interested when I realized it was the beginning of a series. I seem to be looking for more stand alone type books. It was an enjoyable read but nothing special enough to go out and find the other books.

I also read Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer which was a fun read although not as fun as just saying the title. I know it’s part of the latest craze to add vampire or zombie to the title and suddenly a best seller is created, but I could not resist. Especially after seeing the poster for the movie. It is such a silly idea it is too good to miss. I will be waiting for the DVD though and not shelling out at the theater.

So the great 2012 roadtrip is over, 4,300 miles and just over two weeks of travel and fun and visiting . I had this crazy idea that I would update the blog from the road, then I just got involved in the moment and it was too much fun just spending time with family.

After the Black Hills we headed straight to Minnesota and the complications of family reunions. The Boxell murder clan got together and shared theories, fears and visiting strange old houses to look at alleged blood stains. The funner side was getting to hang out with people we don’t often see regardless of their weird obsessions. Sandy hosted the whole clan gathering brilliantly with just the right mix of humor and reverence for a story that obviously means a lot to her and others in Howard Lake Minnesota.

Once the wierdness of the reunion was over we headed out to Lake Aaron. This small lake in central Minnesota has immense meaning for Michelle and her family. It is the lake that her father grew up on in the summers and the place where his siblings put some of his ashes last year. The whole area is full of memories for Sandy and stories that are engaging and meaningful. GPS coordinates in hand we set out to hang out with Michelle’s dad and fish and have fun. The boys even caught dinner but negotiating the bony Minnesota blue gill was something I left for others. It is not the best fish you will ever eat, in fact it’s kind of bland, and no fish you have to work harder to eat than catch is worth the eating unless it’s for survival purposes. Three days of relaxation and hanging out where exactly what everyone needed and then we set off renewed and reinvigorated for a twelve hour drive.

Billings Montana for the night. Water slides and junk food and laundry. Nest day we were off to Glacier Park to camp. It was a long beautiful drive, a lot further than we thought, is Montana the largest state or does it just feel that way. In the end we were defeated byt he drive and ended up in a KOA camping cabin for the night. The next day they had kept our site for us and we had a wonderful day in Glacier National Park. It’s odd to think that in 2030 there will be no glaciers left out there. The lakes are beautiful, the bears elusive and Polebridge may be the coolest place on earth. If only we had known we were near the ancient Amundsen homestead but who knew really.

The drive home from Glacier was another long day. Everyone was happy to be home, the dog had survived and Thomas was very happy to see us all even though he may never admit it. A great long vacation in the jeep, dirt roads and asphalt, families and strangers and amazing sights that I never expected to see.

At the end of the day as with every vacation we probably did too much but I would probably not change anything as it was memorable and fun to hang out without such an intrusive amount of technology.

Right to Decide

So this week I bought a Jeep Wrangler, well the head gasket went in the 4Runner and the radiator was cracked in two places, all the hoses were leaking, the A.C. no longer worked and it was going to cost more than the vehicle was worth to fix it. So we had to go car shopping, something a little larger than my wife’s Corolla so we can get everyone in and go camping, hopefully with OK gas mileage. Well that never worked out, it’s smaller in some ways than the 4Runner, has the same gas mileage and now we have a car payment.

It’s the four door version so on some level and in some quarters is not a true jeep but what the heck some people think Coors light is beer. Yes I know it’s a gas guzzling monster and in this time of high gas prices and green awareness it was a bad decision, I really should have bought the hybrid, or the focus. I know it’s loud on the freeway and the soft top will probably leak during rainstorms, it will be cold in the winter and I will be judged by the people I pass, or more likely am passed by, but I have to admit I couldn’t resist. The whole concept appealed to my inner child, or mid-life crisis, that and finally coming to realize I was never going to buy a Land Rover Defender when a ’93 was going for $32,000. So I bought a Jeep. Here it is in the dealership.

Then all of a sudden you realize that there are all sorts of things you need to do, it’s needs a small lift maybe, new tires, an antenna that is not 5 feet long and distracting while driving, a roof rack, harness for the dog and on and on and on.

Buyers remorse set in until the first time I took the top down, it only took an hour to get down due to inexperience and the confusing directions in the manual. Don’t ask about the confusion putting it up. I had never driven a convertible before. It’s fun to drive and of course people wave to you. Then you start to rationalize, I can go 4 wheeling, back country driving will be more exciting with the top down than it was in the 4Runner, but ultimately it’s just plain fun, and it didn’t leak in the rain storm and the heater is powerful so it’s not cold.Then there is the fact that when society collapses due to zombies, pandemic disease, Triffids and bright comets then we are already 50%  better equipped to escape the town on the back roads of Oregon, as long as it is not an EM pulse. Now I have to find the survival kit to be fully prepared.

There is of course the reading, constant and at times potentially intrusive but as I will no longer be able to afford to leave our house in the new vehicle because of the car payment it’s good there are lots of books.

The last couple of weeks have seen the end of Inverted World by Christopher Priest which was an interesting account of a city travelling out of sync with it’s world. It also seemed to be about imperialism and it’s affect on indigenous populations, especially when they are faced with a more technologically advanced society. It was a fun read Priest definitely writes with skill as he should considering some of the scathing criticism he directs at others.

The biggest surprise however for me was Lloyd Biggle Jr’s Monument. This was a book filled with humor and wisdom and managed to pack a lot into 200 or so pages. Again Biggle is a new author to me and I was pleasantly surprised at how well he writes. Written in 1974 the story like Inverted World deals with a more advanced societies impact on an indigenous population. In Monument however the natives are lucky enough to have a Plan handed down to them by their Langri. This is a story with a message but it is delivered with humor and compassion, there are also a few plot twists that make for a great book.

 

I also managed to begin Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Icerigger is an old favorite that has been waiting to be reread and I am looking forward to it, especially as I have the other two books in the trilogy now. I have been looking for a reasonably priced copy of Snow Crash and finally found one in a Goodwill store for $2.99. Snow Crash is also this months modern read at the Classic Science fiction Yahoo group,  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ClassicScienceFiction/, were it has already caused a little stir because of it’s stylistic elements and Stephenson’s writing style. I have enjoyed all the Stephenson books I have read so far, the Baroque Cycle may be one of the greatest series of books I have ever read, but he can at times be a bit too clever for his own good.

All in all it’s been a good couple of weeks, the garden is coming along well although I think I only planted onions and beans this year for some reason. It was also a reasonably good haul at used bookstores this last couple of weeks which have filled up the space on the fireplace. The ax is obviously in case of zombie attack,  the gold piggy bank is the book fund and the Costa Rica book is for Michelle and Ben who go to Costa Rica next summer and are super excited about it as they should be.

Social Alliance

Passing time reading books is one of the pleasures of my life. I have a hard time sitting still so it can be a challenge just to sit down, the one thing that can make it happen is the re-reading of an old favorite. I never had this difficulty earlier in life, easily finding time to read, now I have to make time and too often that time is at the end of the day when I am tired and not at my best to pay attention to the  book as well as I should.

The Day of the Triffids is the book I think I have read the most over the years, more than Lord of the Rings and more than any Heinlein although Tunnel In The Sky must come close. I have owned nine different copies and they have either fallen apart or been given away to other deserving owners. The book grabbed my attention from the start and has all 20 times I have been on the journey with Bill and Josella. From the age of about 12 I began every summer holiday with reading it, it was how I knew summer was here in a way, I also began every spring with Meddle by Pink Floyd and ended the Summer with Heavy Horses by Jethro Tull, so as you can see I was a child of traditions. Every year I wondered what life would be like without all the clutter of society, of course it would be a safe life so I could catch up on the reading and listening to all those things I’d missed.

Day of the Triffids and The Death of Grass by John Christopher are the best examples of what Brian Aldiss called the “cosey catastrophe” were life was dramatically changed but the survivors were able to have enough left over from the past to continue to live comfortably. There is little violence in Day of the Triffids  that is motivated by greed apart form the group in Brighton and the red haired thug who later joins them. It is really a book about ideas on how society would need to respond to adversity to survive. The Death of Grass has much more violence, ending in the ultimate betrayal in a sense in order to survive. This betrayal was repeated in Darin Bradley’s Noise which is a more modern take on the collapse and a good example of the direction this genre has taken.

Gone are the contemplative arguments on the need for leisure time and multiple wives, no longer do character’s agonize over taking what they need in the face of collapse and predatory plants are replaced by zombies lurking in the dark corners of the garden. It is probably a case of genre stories reflecting the society they are written in. Post-war England of ration cards and reasonable behavior and doing what is necessary no longer exists. The world Wyndham and Christopher wrote about in the 50’s  has changed to a much more dark world.

Zelazny saw this in Damnation Alley in 67 with his character Hell Tanner having to kill or be killed to survive in the post-nuclear wasteland. Cormac McCarthy’s the Road is a bleak novel of everything gone and predation being the only way of surviving and constant movement being the only way of staying safe. All these books emphasize the individual or the small group/family unit rather than an attempt to rebuild we have survival as the goal. This is similar to Earth Abides when Ish realizes all he can do for his descendants is give them the necessary skills to feed themselves and in the long run their ancestors will rebuild. Martin does have hope in Earth Abides but it is the long view.

I still remember those Summers of laying on the grass and hoping for the end of the world so I could read all those books and not have to go back to school in six weeks. Having read more images of collapse now as an adult I don’t necessarily think I want to be around without a bunker, enough food and plenty of heavy duty weaponry so I can be safe and read.

This last few weeks reading has been:

Day of The Triffids-John Wyndham

Who Fears of Death-Nnedi Okorafor

Deathworld 1,2  and 3- Harry Hasrrison

Inverted World-Christopher Priest still in progress.

All these books are stories of humanity attempting to overcome the challenges of it’s world, whether  that is man made, natural or the adversity of a belligerent indigenous wild life and population. It’s been a couple of weeks of armchair survivalism.

The Hills Have Ears

A week or so of listening and enjoying the music of Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts. Two songwriters that transcend there young age with the maturity of their songs. It takes a brave person to write a song about a bookseller in this day and age, it caught my attention because of the lines about the only constant in the characters life being his love of books and reading. Jamie has a deft touch on guitar and Katriona must be one of the finest young fiddle players around at the moment.

Also there has been an obvious rash of listening to the music of Ray Davies as we bought tickets to go see him last week, too much fun in too may ways.

Reading has been busy. I finished several books over the last few weeks and none of them were duds although one Brian Aldiss book was of dubious worth in so may ways but so much fun to read. The Year Before Yesterday was entirely too tempting on the bookshelf. A swastika wearing spaceman with a laser gun is too confusing, especially when he is stood on the moon without his helmet. Thankfully the insanity continued throughout the book, it was a strange fix up of two stories of alternate histories tied together loosely with an excuse of a mystery. Well I am going to hope it was a fix up although it really does not matter considering the amount of pleasure from reading it.

Also in no particular order was Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson which apparently is going to become a Stephen Spielberg movie. It is an intelligent and thought provoking book, although comparison to Terminator are obvious, it also has quite possibly the creepiest cover art in a long time.

Also this month was my second ever Joe Haldeman book with Camouflage. Haldeman’s Forever War is a classic, Camouflage is not a classic but it is a fun read. It concerns two chameleon type creatures on earth and their travels through history. One seems to be learning about humanity the other is more interested in violence and aggression although in the beginning they are hard to distinguish. I found the ending to be disappointing and too easy. Now Camouflage would make a great movie if someone chose to make it, it’s intelligent thought provoking and most importantly for Hollywood full of action.

Also listened to was Ellen and the Escapades. A great English band in that new tradition of folk bluesy English bands made so popular after Mumford and Sons. The truly refreshing thing is the confidence allowing singers to sing in their own accent not trying to adopt a transatlantic middle of the road accent like so many have had to do to be successful. The album has enough feel good songs on it to make it essential for the summer. Here is a suitably atmospheric picture of the band, probably in Yorkshire. Go out and buy the new album it’s called All The Crooked Scenes, you will not regret it.

Back to books, the last one finished was to To Say Nothing of the Dog, which I really enjoyed. It’s a well researched time travel book which is actually funny from start to finish, and considering the length that is no mean feat. Part homage to Victorian fiction and part romantic  comedy it really was a lot of fun. The amount of enjoyment I got from this book will make sure I investigate Connie Willis more.

Of course after such a sweet treat it was essential to jump right back to the conclusion of David Moody’s Hater trilogy with Then Or Us. This has been a thrill ride of a series, following Danny McCoyne and his fellow Haters as they systematically dismantle society. In this episode Danny and Rufus decide that the monster the Haters most resemble in fiction is the zombie, although they are still capable of rational thought but are consumed with hate and attack any of they Unchanged they see. I am about two thirds of the way through this book and still cannot guess how the series will end, every time I think I have a handle on it Moody changes the plot. This is really more horror than science fiction but as I began this blog with a vampire story what the heck.

Well that has been the last few weeks of reading and listening, along the way there was also Bruce Springsteen’s new album and I tried to read Embassytown and gave up. I will go back but I think my mind was not really into it.

Albion Sunrise

A fun filled couple of weeks, new counters leading to now we need a back splash, which is a whole new shopping experience still happening. Off to shopping again today who knew tile would be so difficult to buy, then there is the doubt about the installation, off to youtube videos for that.

Reading wise it has been great, I stated off with Charles Yu’s How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe, which a unique funny, engaging time travel story, if you enjoy science fiction the constant reference will amuse, ultimately though it is the story of one mans search for his father.

I then moved on to Alistair Reynolds Pushing Ice, which at times had overtones of Alien with it’s working space ship setting, Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama with the mysterious large object in space needing investigation and soap opera with the relationship difficulties an isolated group  of humans hurtling through space at the mercy of the unknown  would face. The ending is a breathtaking achievement and was difficult to put down for a moment. A hugely entertaining piece of hard science fiction.

The final book I finished was A Princess of Mars. Previously I think I have read one book by Burroughs and that may have been Tarzan or The Land That Time Forgot after watching the movie. This time the same thing happened, we went to see the John Carter movie. Realistically we expected very little not least of all because it is a Disney movie. This means for me the movie comes with baggage as Disney really hasn’t made a great live action movie for a long time. With John Carter it seems they have remembered their roots with adventure movies such as 10,000 Leagues and those great genre movies they made in the dim and distant past. It had to help having an author like Michael Chabon help with the script. Anyway the movie is a fun filled action-adventure romp, no it probably will not win any Oscars but it will reward viewing again I believe. After watching the movie my first question was is the book as good, so I looked online and downloaded the first three in the Martian series by Burroughs and found the answer to be yes. Like the movie it is not high art but it is fun and action filled. I was also struck at the richness of Burroughs language. He is writing a popular pulp story but he does not hold back on the language or talk down to his audience, it just makes me think that our vocabulary as a society has diminished, we are also discouraged from taking the time to fully describe settings and experiences for the reader, so much is in short hand nowadays.

It is amazing to think of the number of authors Burroughs has influenced with his novels, from Michael Moorcock to Michael Chabon, Philip Jose Farmer, Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles was a re-imagining of Mars because of Burroughs, and so many others. Tarzan and his infamous yodel are now part of  our collective consciousness. He also helped define a genre as it was in it’s adolescence.

Listening has been based on my hope of going to Cropredy this year, which is now not going to happen. I have discovered three wonderful new bands in Ellen and the Escapades. Larkin Poe and Brother and Bone all three write great songs with Brother and Bone being a definite rock band anyone going to Cropredy this year will enjoy all three I’m sure but the big discovery for me was the new Albion Band album that arrived this week. A rebirth of the Albion Band without Ashley Hutchings just seems wrong. The band has always been a collective and the bands best album Rise Up Like The Sun was the one with the least Hutchings input apparently but the vision has always been his. So now we have a new band with young performers trading under the Albion Band name. Many find this idea difficult to accept although a cursory listen Vice of the People  will I am sure win over the naysayers. It is a loud album definitely on the rock end of the folk-rock spectrum but with enough sense of the tradition of the music as well as the name of the band to make it a worthy addition to the Albion Band catalog. None of the performers on the album need to spend any more time to defend the work, it stand on it’s own, in fact it is in my mind preferable to more of the twee and at times overly precious attempts the Albion Band has made over the years, of course I always did like them best when they rocked. The versions of Roll Over Vaughn Williams and One More Day are performed with confidence and a contemporary feel. Coalville and Thieves Song as original songs sit nicely with the more traditional tunes and the Albion favorites already mentioned. I am excited by the band and the hope for more albums to come as they may be the most exciting folk-rock band out there which I believe is something that has been said of the Albion Band before.

Fable of a Failed Race

Well another month of reading and a need to decide what to do with the blog. I’ve been happily writing away for myself with no depth and no consideration, it began as an enterprise to read the great s.f. books, morphed into a travelogue of our England journey and had returned to a record of my reading with vague ramblings that are intermittent.

Maybe the close of the year always does this but I may have to rethink.

Anyway the reading list from memory so with lapses:

  • Finished the Ulysses Quicksilver Omnibus, my first excursion into steampunk, a lot of fun I would definitely recommend it.
  • On Basilisk Station by David Weber, it was fun, it was free and so is the next one, Horatio Hornblower in Space if you like that sor of thing go for it.
  • Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, a great idea let down by unsympathetic characters.
  • A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin, still reading it’s heavy going.
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, very fun soaked in 80,s references a good book that could have been great if the ending was better, read it especially if you grew up in the 80’s.
  • Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock, a masterpiece everyone should read, go on have your expectations challenged.
  • The Drowned World by JG Ballard, more style than substance but a great book all the same, it;s really only let down by the quickly and shallowly drawn characters.
  • Flu by Wayne Simmons, zombies provisional IRA members what’s not to like.
  • The Men In The Jungle by Norman Spinrad, this may have been one of the most horrific, brutal, shocking and most important Science Fiction novels forgotten, if you abhor war read this.
  • Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding, this was an engaging and fun book and may turn into a wonderful series, I am looking forward to the next one.
  • I tried to read Galactic Patrol by EE Doc Smith but had to give up
  • Dark at the End by F Paul Wilson, the Repariman Jack series along with Butcher’s Dresden books have been an ongoing obsession for many years, it looks like Jack’s days are numbered though.

Ok that was the most recent reading, we are most of the way through January now and I am just finishing this post now. I am going to rethink what I am doing with this blog, maybe I will try and get some readers you never know instead of using it as my journal of reading alone.