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Monday, February 13, 2012

My Q & A over at

I've got a lively little discussion going on over at Goodreads, where readers are asking me questions about all of my books, not to mention other people's books, the publishing industry, and topics of general interest. I don't think you have to join Goodreads in order to check out the page, you can just go to it by clicking here. However, you do need to be a member in order to ask a question or post a comment, but signing up is no big deal and takes about twenty seconds.

Of course, if you haven't joined Goodreads, you might want to consider it, and you can also do a quick search and become my friend. I'm not one to jump on every tech bandwagon that comes along, not to mention every social-networking hoo-hah, but I've been a member of Goodreads for a while now (like, a few years) and it's pretty great. It's pretty gratifying to have a site with 9 million members who are joined together by their love of reading and appreciation for books. Plus there are groups and discussions and things you can get into, which are fun.

Best of all, you get some pretty good book recommendations, not least of all from places like the Goodreads page for the always-lively Next Best Book Club...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Green Flash!

So you know about The Green Flash? Sometimes, very rarely, at the moment that the sun slips behind the horizon, you can see this split-second moment of refracted light as the disc vanishes: a little burst of green light. It happens I think only at the seaside, and it’s this quasi-legendary thing that I never really believed in until a few years ago, when Uzee saw it in Malaysia. I was looking at her at the moment, so I saw the flash reflected in her glasses, no kidding.

I had never seen it directly for myself. But then last week, as we were driving home at sunset, we rounded a corner on the hill leading to our house and suddenly there was this vista of ocean and sunset, the sun already half-vanished behind the horizon, a perfect semicircle sitting perched at the edge of the world. So we stopped, right there in the middle of the road, and watched at it slid further down. Hoping no cars would come roaring around the bend behind us. Okay, not the smartest thing in the world, but the view was spectacular, even for Hawai'i, which has no shortage of spectacular views.

I had no camera, which was fine, but it does mean that the photo below is of a different sunset and is included only to give some vague sense of things:

And then just as the sun dipped out of sight and a car did in fact come around the bend and quickly stop before ramming us, what did we see? THE GREEN FLASH! No kidding. Ding!—there it was, and then it was gone, just that fast.

We were tremendously excited and turned up into our driveway and home.

Of such little moments are wonders made.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

PopMatters music reviews roundup

A few of the more intriguing records I've reviewed lately for

Chicago bluesman Toronzo Cannon has recently release Leaving Mood, a strong album of straightforward blues tunes. Ranging from the rocking to the soulful to the angsty, Cannon delivers a polished set here. He doesn't exactly reinvent the form, but he does, maybe, reinvigorate it a bit. Besides, he plays a Gibson Flying V (cf. Lonnie Mack, Albert King, Dave Maine), so if nothing else he has impeccable taste in guitars.

JJ Grey is a Florida-based blues/soul/rock/whatever singer-songwriter whom I describe in my review as "a national treasure." I mean it too: if you're unfamiliar with his unique version of "swamp blues" or "Dixie soul" or whatever the heck you want to call it, you should check it out ASAP. His band, Mofro, is rock-solid too. "The Sweetest Thing" is pretty much my favorite song these days.

Power-pop doesn't get much love these days but SorryEverAfter might change all that. This 6-song EP marries energetic guitar squeal with liquid female vocals and attitude by the bushel. Pop it in the car CD player and drive somewhere fast. It's about as substantial as Cracker Jack, and twice as fun.

The Lijadu Sisters were (and are) a pair of Nigerian singers who were poised it break out worldwide in the 1970s and 80s with a string of slickly produced albums that incorporated elements of funk, soul and rock alongside more traditional West African sounds. An unfortunate accident struck down one of them and ended their career, but now the records are being re-released, beginning with their first, Danger. And what a terrific record it is! The beats are funky, the wah-wah is psychadelic, the harmony vocals will make you swoon. Even if you don't like "African music," this is worth a listen as being simply music that happens to come from Nigeria, not Motown.

Finally, here's a hip-hop record for people who hate hip-hop: No Bird Sing are a Minnesota-based trio who play live drums and guitar accompaniment to live rapping -- though the raps have more in common with tortured grunge introspection than stereotypical cars-and-bling braggadocio. The record isn't perfect, but at times it's terrifically compelling, and often it sounds like nothing else I've ever heard. For me, that counts for a lot.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pats lost.

Moment of silence.

Thank you.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Another "David Maine" crops up in Romanian...

A while back I posted some French paperback covers from books written in the 1980s; apparently some guy used the pen name David Maine for such timeless works as Geurillas Galactiques and so forth. (The link to my post is here.) Well, now another cover has surfaced, courtesy of a thoughtful fellow named Cosimo who wrote to this blog and left a comment asking if I am the author of this extra-lurid Romanian version:

The answer is: No, I did not write that, but man I wish I had. I especially like the New England Patriot-type tricorn-hat wearing laser-gun carrying starship trooper in the middle. The vaguely hawk-like face on the flying mechanical Raptor of Doom is also a nice touch. And is that guy in back a streaker?

Hey Cosimo! Thanks a million for tipping me off to this!

In case you're wondering, here is the original French version. (I think it's French. Or is "guerillero" Spanish? That would account for the faintly Aztec-like temple structure in the background.) Please note: this is an example of Super-Fiction. If anyone can put me in the same room as these materpieces, or anything like them with my/our name on them, please give me a shout.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pop Matters Slipped Discs 2011 - UPDATED

One of my favorite features on is their annual Slipped Discs section, in which music writers take the time to advocate for great records that have somehow been overlooked, either by critics or listeners or both. This year's edition is split into three parts, which can be found here:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

So check 'em out. Part One contains a brief writeup that I did for The Builders and the Butchers, whose record Dead Reckoning was quite possibly my Album of the Year, and which has been heard by just about nobody else besides me and a couple of people in Portland. I refer to it as "criminally overlooked," and I stand by that.