Saturday, December 3, 2016

Book Blogger Hop December 2nd - December 8th: Stock Footage of the U.S.S. Straub (DE-181) Was Used in an Episode of Wonder Woman Titled The Bermuda Triangle Crisis

Book Blogger Hop

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: What format do you use to set up your giveaways? Rafflecopter, Google, Leave a Comment for an entry, or some other style?

I don't do book giveaways, so I don't have a format for them.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, December 2, 2016

Follow Friday - Roman Emperor Probus Was Killed by His Own Troops in 282 A.D., So He Didn't Last Long Either


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and a single Follow Friday Featured Blogger each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the Featured Blogger of the week - Closet Geek Book Group.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: What is your favorite book with a "winter" world?

The Left Hand of Darkness

My favorite book with a "winter" world is Ursula K. Le Guin's classic science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness. The story is set on the planet of Gethen, which, when translated literally means "Winter". As one might expect, the planet is always cold. What one might not expect is that the inhabitants of Gethen are ambisexual, that is, they switch genders on a regular basis during their monthly "kemmer" period when they are sexually receptive.

The story focuses on Genly Ai, an ambassador from Earth who is seeking to persuade the Gethans to join an insterstellar alliance known as the Ekumen. To that end, genly has spent two years living in one of the two major powers on Gethen, working with a powerful political figure named Estraven. The book starts off just before Genly is due to meet with the monarch of Karhide, and features a perplexing betrayal by Estraven that ends up sending Genly across the planet, eventually resulting in Genly and Estraven traveling across an almost barren plain of ice for nearly three months. The novel is brilliant in so many ways, exploring how sex affects human relationships, and how different from the familiar a "genderless" society like that of Gethen might be, as well as how similar it might be in other ways.


Follow Friday     Home

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Musical Monday Playlist - Halloween Songs

When I set about creating Musical Monday playlists, I was midly surprised at the number of Halloween songs that I had featured as Musical Monday selections. After Christmas songs, Halloween songs are the most prevalent of any of the holiday-related songs that I have featured. I suspect this is mostly due to the fact that there just aren't a lot of songs for other holidays - there aren't a whole lot of Thanksgiving songs, for example, and Easter songs are pretty rare as well. And so on.

What makes the number of Halloween songs kind of odd is that I don't really have any particular fondness for Halloween - I am just not one of those people who gets excited about decorating the house for the holiday, carving pumpkins, dressing up, or going out to cornfield mazes, or any of the other activities that some people get really worked up over. I don't have anything against the holiday, but for the most part my participation has come down to making sure that I have candy on hand in case I get trick or treaters, and not even that in the past couple of years due to the fact that the place I am living pretty much gets no trick or treaters.

These songs have no real connection to one another save that they are at least vaguely Halloween-related and I like them. None of them are really serious either. One odd note that I have noticed is that even though Halloween is ostensibly scary, in popular culture it is more often portrayed in a light-hearted humorous manner.

09/28/15: Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Musical Monday Playlists     Musical Monday     Home

Monday, November 28, 2016

Musical Monday - The Greatest by Sia Furler


I was going to post a Christmas video for my Musical Monday selection today. I had some music from A Charlie Brown Christmas all lined up accompanied by a post about how disappointed Charles Schulz would have been that even fifty years later, we still haven't figured out how to have a Christmas that isn't commercialized to the hilt.

Those plans were derailed by the news today that there was an active shooter at the campus of Ohio State University. Students were told to take shelter, set their cell phones on "vibrate", and prepare to "run, hide, fight" if necessary. People across the country appeared to brace for the worst, as initial reports of nine people taken to the hospital and one more dead came out. Initial reports said there were two attackers, one with a gun and one with a large knife. The implications of the early reporting was that the body count would rise, as it always seems to when such incidents occur. Like so many other attacks, we expected that as the hours passed, the news would report an ever-increasing number of casualties - both wounded and dead.

And then it didn't happen. The number of wounded sent to the hospital rose to eleven, but no more deaths were reported. It turns out that there was only one attacker, and he was the one dead body, apparently killed by the police when they arrived on the scene less than two minutes after the incident began. The question is, why was this attempt at a mass attack so different from so many others that had preceded it?

The answer is simple: The perpetrator had a knife, not a gun. Omar Mateen was able to kill forty-nine people and wounded fifty-three others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando becayse he had a gun. Dylan Roof was able to kill nine people and wounded one other in Charleston because he had a gun. Adam Lanza was able to kill twenty-seven people in Sandy Hook because he had a gun. Seung-Hui Cho was able to kill thirty-two people and wounded seventeen others at Virginia Tech because he had a gun. Elliot Roger was able to kill six people and wounded fourteen others in Isla Vista because he had a gun. The list of people who were able to kill and wound large numbers of people because they had easy access to guns goes on and on. Abdul Artan, currently identified as the attacker in the Ohio State University incident, had no gun. He was unable to kill anyone. He wounded under a dozen people before his rampage was stopped.

Sia's song and video commemorates the Pulse nightclub shooting where, as noted before, Oma Mateen killed forty-nine people and wounded fifty-three more, The truly shocking thing about the Pulse nightclub shooting is that it wasn't really all that shocking. After the shootings at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Isla Vista, Aurora, and so many other places, an armed man killing or wounding more than a hundred people in a night seems almost normal. As a people, Americans have decided that sacrificing hundreds of people on the altar of Gun Rights is acceptable. These sorts of mass murders don't happen with similar frequency in other nations, when confronted with yet another horror involving a mass shooting, as the Onion put it Americans simply throw up their hands and say ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens. The common denominator in the bulk of the mass killings in the United States is the easy access to guns. To preserve this ease of access, we turn away from the hundreds murdered as a result.

One might seize upon the fact that Artan is a Muslim, and Mateen was also a Muslim as support for the theory that Muslims pose a particular danger to citizens of the United States. It seems an attractive theory until one actually considers the identities of the perpetrators of mass shootings in the United States. For example, Dylan Roof is not a Muslim. Adam Lanza was not a Muslim. Seung-Hui Cho was not a Muslim, Elliot Roger was not a Muslim. Jerad and Amanda Miller were not Muslim. Jaylen Fryberg was not Muslim. Micah Johnson was not a Muslim. Gavin Long was not a Muslim. James Eagan Holmes was not a Muslim. When one looks at the perpetrators of mass shootings in the U.S., one finds a Muslim here and there, but they are lost in the sea of non-Muslims who have set about shooting their fellow Americans. The case for Muslim's being a particularly dangerous source of violence is remarkably thin when one looks at the array of perpetrators who have gone on violent and deadly rampages within the United States over last few years. The common element is that they were all young, male, and armed with firearms.

One might assert that Artan's assault proves that immigration is the cause of problems. After all, Artan is an immigrant from Somalia. But even though Mateen was Muslim, he was born in the United States, in New York specifically. Syed Farook, the Muslim man who orchestrated the San Bernadino shootings that left fourteen people dead and another twenty-two wounded, was also born in the United States, in Chicago. They may have been Muslim, but they were home-grown murderers. Multiple studies have shown that immigrants are less likely to be criminals than native-born citizens. Immigrants aren't the prime cause of mass shootings in the U.S. - native-born Americans are. We are literally killing ourselves, and all anyone can do in response is throw their hands up helplessly.

The root of the problem is not Muslims or immigrants. The root of the problem is the easy access to guns that the laws of the United States permit. Some people have tried to put options on the table to reduce the frquency of these types of killings by reducing the ease by which firearms can be acquired, but such efforts have thus far been thwarted by the Republican servants of the National Rifle Association. I remember when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris murdered thirteen people and wounded twenty-one more at Columbine High School and it was an incredibly shocking event. Now, it is just one of many, and not even among the most . Given the results of the recent election, this is not going to change in the next few years. I expect that the Pulse nightclub shooting memorialized in this video, like all of the other shootings mentioned in this post, will soon be overshadowed by some new tragedies in the years to come.

Previous Musical Monday: Fiddler on the Roof Pogrom Scenes

Sia Furler     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Book Blogger Hop November 25th - December 1st: In Men's Archery, the Clout Shooting Distance Is 180 Yards

Book Blogger Hop

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Name one book that you would fight for on Black Friday!

There aren't many books that I would fight for, because for the most part, you can always find a copy of that same book somewhere else. To be worth fighting for, the book would need to be unique in some way. Perhaps a particularly interesting first edition volume would be worth fighting for, like a first edition copy of The Hobbit - because The Lord of the Rings was originally published in three volumes, and thus would not be "one" book worth fighting for.

Previous Book Blogger Hop: 179 Days of the Year Are Even-Numbered

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, November 25, 2016

Follow Friday - Emperor Probus Had the Usurper Proculus Put to Death in 281 A.D. (I Told You Proculus Didn't Last Long)


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and a single Follow Friday Featured Blogger each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the Featured Blogger of the week - Bathory's Closet.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: What are you most thankful for (in the blogging world)?

Authors. I am most thankful for authors. Specifically, I am most thankful for the authors I have met who have turned out to be not only talented at putting words on paper, but fantastic people as well. Authors in this category include Catherine Asaro, Tom Doyle, Scott Edelman, Chuck Gannon, A.S. King, Alethea Kontis, C.S. McCath, Alex Shvartsman, Fran Wilde, and so many more. One of the best things about blogging has been that it has put me in contact with so many authors who, in many cases, have turned into good friends. They write the books and stories I love to read, speak on the panels that make conventions possible, and are just generally great people to know and be around.


Follow Friday     Home

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Musical Monday Playlist - Christmas Songs

Every year over the last few years, starting some time in December I post a couple of Christmas-related songs as Musical Monday selections. There isn't really a lot that connects these songs other than the fact that most of them are a little bit nerdy, many of them are fairly funny, and they are all about Christmas in some way. The songs on this list range from country songs about a gloriously red-necky Christmas celebration to a nerd-folk science fiction song about people ruled over by robot overlords (excuse me, I mean protectors) to an a capella celebration of the season by two of the student singing groups at the University of Virginia. For the most part, the only thing that truly connects these songs (other than their Christmas theme), is that I like them.

11/26/12: Chiron Beta Prime by Jonathan Coulton (with Paul & Storm)
12/03/12: Kidnap the Sandy Claws by Lock, Shock, and Barrel
12/17/12: Christmas Is Interesting by Jonathan Coulton (with Paul & Storm)
12/24/12: Present Face by Garfunkel & Oates
12/09/13: The Hobbit Christmas Song by The Doubleclicks
12/16/13: 12 Days by Straight No Chaser
12/23/13: Christmas Eve Eve by Paul & Storm
12/22/14: Old City Bar by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Musical Monday Playlists     Musical Monday     Home

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Musical Monday Playlist - Dream Five Year Mission Set

Left to right: Butler, Spurgin, Fark, Rittenhouse, and O'Connor
Based in Indianapolis, Five Year Mission is, quite simply, the best Star Trek themed band in existence. Composed of Noah Butler, Andy Fark, P.J. O'Connor, Mike Rittenhouse, and Chris Spurgin, the band was originally formed with the intent of writing and recording a song for each of the episodes of the original Star Trek series, including the originally unaired pilot The Cage (which was later reworked into the two part story The Menagerie). Thus far, the band has released three CDs consisting of songs about individual episodes up through The Immunity Syndrome, plus two more specialty CDs composed of songs all focused on a single episode: One for The Trouble With Tribbles, and another for Spock's Brain.

Between August 2015 and February 2016 I laid out what I would consider to be the best play set for the band, drawing from the songs they had released through that time period. As far as I know, this set has never actually been played, and nor is it likely to, as I believe some of these songs are songs that the band either no longer plays live, or has never played live. Even so, this is the playlist I wish they would play some time, and if I were the king of the world who could make such things happen, it would be.

08/24/15: Miri by Five Year Mission
11/30/15: Arena by Five Year Mission

Musical Monday Playlists     Musical Monday     Home

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Musical Monday Playlist - Brandenburg Concertos

J.S. Bach
The Brandenburg Concertos are a set of six musical works Johann Sebastian Bach presented to the Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt as a group in 1721. Although the concertos were all given over as a gift to the Margrave in 1721, it seems likely that several of them were composed earlier. Accompanying the compositions, Bach provided a dedication, which reads in part

"As I had the good fortune a few years ago to be heard by Your Royal Highness, at Your Highness's commands, and as I noticed then that Your Highness took some pleasure in the little talents which Heaven has given me for Music, and as in taking Leave of Your Royal Highness, Your Highness designed to honour me with the command to send Your Highness some pieces of my Composition: I have in accordance with Your Highness's most gracious orders taken the liberty of rendering my most humble duty to Your Royal Highness with the present Concertos, which I have adapted to several instruments; begging Your Highness most humbly not to judge their imperfection with the rigor of that discriminating and sensitive taste, which everyone knows Him to have for musical works, but rather to take into benign Consideration the profound respect and the most humble obedience which I thus attempt to show Him."

Christian Ludwig
The concertos were exceedingly innovative works for their time, using a broad array of instruments in combinations that had never been tried before. Ironically, due to a lack of musicians available, it appears likely that Ludwig was never able to hear the concertos himself, and they remained unused until after his death in 1734, when they were discovered in the Margrave's library and sold for a relatively trivial amount.

This playlist is fairly straightforward: Bach wrote six Brandenburg Concertos, and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra recorded performances of all of them. I posted them in part because one was played at my son's high school graduation, and in part because they are pieces of music that have inspired me over the years. I find them to be the perfect music to play when I am writing or working.


Musical Monday Playlists     Musical Monday     Home

Monday, November 21, 2016

Musical Monday - Fiddler on the Roof Pogrom Scenes


I'm going to talk about anti-Semitism.

There isn't really any music in this week's Musical Monday, although these scenes are drawn from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. The musical itself focuses on the life of Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman living somewhere in Russia some time between 1900 and 1905 (I believe one of the climatic scenes in the movie takes place during the 1905 Rebellion) with his wife and five daughters. Much of the play revolves around Tevye's attempts to secure good marriages for his three eldest daughters, and how the changing world around them comes to affect their little village and how his daughters rebel against their traditions.

Lurking in the background of this more or less happy story about how a poor man weaves his way through the traditional strictures of Jewish life, fantasizing about being wealthy enough to pray and study all day, and his daughters get progressively more headstrong, is and undercurrent anti-Semitism. Key in this part of the story is the figure of the Constable, who shows up in the very first sequence in this video, first to congratulate Tevye on the impending marriage of his daughter Tseitel, and then to warn Tevye of an impending "unofficial demonstration". When one watches this sequence, one can see the differing reactions - Tevye is horrified by this news, wondering if this means a pogrom is on the way. The Constable, on the other hand, doesn't think that the impending trouble is anything to worry about. The difference here is that Tevye's friends and family are threatened by the coming wave of violence, while the Constable's are not. This is relevant to the current United States: White citizens can afford to be sanguine about the prospect of a Trump administration overrun by "Alt-Right" fascists, while Muslim, Hispanic, Jewish, and African-American citizens really cannot.

The deeper truth revealed in these scenes is that the Constable does not think of himself as an anti-Semite. He likes Tevye, and says so. He thinks to compliment Tevye by saying he is a good person despite the fact that he is a Jew. The Constable doesn't want there to be trouble between Christians and Jews, and imagines himself doing a good deed by warning Tevye of the fact that trouble is coming. The harsh reality is that even though the Constable doesn't see himself as an anti-Semite, he is perfectly willing to go along with anti-Semitic orders to keep his job. After leading his men to attack Tseitel's wedding and engage in some vandalism (destroying some of the meager possessions the mouse-poor Jews in the story own), the Constable attempts to evade responsibility for his actions with a sheepish, "Orders are orders, understand?" The Constable still doesn't see himself as an anti-Semite, but to the people he attacked, does that distinction really matter?

Very few racists view themselves as such, just as very few anti-Semites see themselves as such. The Constable clearly doesn't regard himself as an anti-Semite. The Constable probably even thinks he's helping his Jewish neighbors by tempering the violence of the pogrom. The trouble is, he is still complicit. He still participates. He still lends the action legitimacy. He still condones it by implicitly saying that his job is more important than his neighbors. Further, his reaction when Tevye says it is too bad the Constable is not a Jew is revealing. He is an anti-Semite, he just isn't as much of one as other people - obviously he's not as bad as the official who shows up and orders the demonstrations to take place. But he is an anti-Semite just the same, both in thought and more importantly, in deed.

On a side note: Notice that Tevye doesn't challenge the Constable at all. Even though the Constable makes more than one comment that is clearly anti-Semitic, Tevye never speaks up, because it is clear that Tevye believes that doing so would be hazardous. It is better to let the Constable think you regard him as a friend instead of a rather dangerous predator. The Constable walks away from that first interaction thinking of himself as a great friend of Tevye, and despite the obvious anti-Semitic remarks made by the Constable in the exchange, Tevye lets him. When people who are racist, homophobic, or xenophobic assert that they can't be any of those things because their African-American, Gay, Lesbian, Muslim, or other minority friends have never called them out, realize that this is probably why. Minorities understand that their position is precarious, and it is often better to stay silent and just accept the kind of casual bigotry exhibited by the Constable rather than run the risks of confronting the bigot.

I believe this is going to be an issue a lot of people in the United States are going to have to grapple with in the next few years. We've already had a major news network air a program in which they talked about American fascists raising the question "Are Jews people", and the hosts of the show did not immediately condemn the question and answer, "Of course they are". Already, they have failed the test the Constable faced. I foresee that many Americans will face the decision that the Constable faced, and the question is how will they respond. Already millions of Americans have said quite loudly that they are willing to condone racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia in a political candidate. How will Americans react when told to organize a registry for Muslims? Or to deport millions of their neighbors? How will Americans respond to the racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia of a nativist white supremacist movement empowered by a Presidential administration that has placed some of their people in positions of power? How will you respond? Will you be the Constable, and go along with the horror to get along and keep your position? Or will you choose a better, braver path?

I hope Americans rise to the occasion, because the alternative is too terrible to contemplate.

Previous Musical Monday: Anthem by Kate McKinnon
Subsequent Musical Monday: The Greatest by Sia Furler

Game, Movie, and Television Music     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Book Blogger Hop November 18th - November 24th: 179 Days of the Year Are Even-Numbered

Book Blogger Hop

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Would you take a book with you when you go to your family's Thanksgiving gathering/dinner?

I pretty much take a book with me everywhere, so not only would I take a book to one of my family's Thanksgiving gatherings, I have taken a book to several of them. Given that I am going to need to avoid certain conversations this time around, I can pretty much guarantee that I will do it again this year.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, November 18, 2016

Follow Friday - Proculus Declared Himself Roman Emperor in 280 A.D. It Didn't Last Long


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and a single Follow Friday Featured Blogger each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the Featured Blogger of the week - Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: What is your favorite scary story?

It isn't the scariest book I've ever read, but I think I am going to go with Neil Gaiman's book Coraline. Even though it is aimed at younger readers, the book is still unsettling in so many ways, attacking childhood fears almost directly. The central theme of the book is love, but it is how love can be used as a weapon and then inverted into something horrible. The book touches on some of the most primal fears that children have - threats to their home, threats to their family, and laced them through with a creepy villain who explains that she is only doing all the things she does because she loves the protagonist. As the book progresses, it gets creepier and creepier, and the stakes rise as Coraline doesn't just find herself locked in a an alien place with her family at risk, she finds herself in danger of losing her very identity. Being scary and creepy isn't what makes this book so good, but rather that Gaiman takes things that are entirely mundane and transforms them into almost horrifying elements of terror. Everything about this book is almost perfectly crafted, and that is why it is my favorite scary book.


Follow Friday     Home

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Musical Monday Playlist - Cabaret

In the 2016 Presidential election, I wrote about the music from the movie Cabaret, using it to compare the Trump campaign to one of its closest historical precedents. Starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York, and Joel Grey, and set in Germany during the Weimar Republic, Cabaret shows people living out their fairly ordinary lives, and that is what makes the play so terrifying. In the background of the play, showing up every now and then, the Nazi Party is on the rise, and with only a few fleeting exceptions, the characters mostly ignore them. There are a few instances in which the performers at the Kit Kat Klub make fun of the Nazi adherents, and one notable albeit futile instance of open resistance, but for the most part, the characters all put the Nazi threat out of their mind and proceed with their lives as normal.

This, I believe, is paralleled by the rise of Trump, and the fact that most people seem to want to simply put it out of their mind and go on with their lives as if everything was normal. Make no mistake about it, Trump is an authoritarian, and if he were given the opportunity to impose the policies he has espoused and the leadership style he has favored in the past, he will be a fascist. All those saying "give him a chance" are merely playing out the part of the characters in Cabaret, who spent their time worrying about the details of their personal lives while the nation around them slowly caught fire.

In the weeks before the election I said that I feared that the election of Trump as President of the United States might mean the end of the U.S. Republic as we have known it. I still stand by that assessment. It is likely that we are about to see a remaking of the nation at a very fundamental level. Laws and practices that most people alive today have taken for granted as the basic foundations of the landscape of the country are up for grabs: The Voting Rights Acts, the Civil Rights Acts, the separation of church and state, a respect for non-Christian religions, the laws against neopotism and graft, the very existence of national parks - these and much more that people simply assume are facts of life in the U.S. are all likely to be threatened by a Trump administration. Effectively, with a pliant Republican controlled Congress, there is no law or policy that is not subject to revocation or alteration. With a Republican controlled Supreme Court, there is nothing at all that is safe.

The world is changing, and like the characters in Cabaret, many Americans are willfully oblivious to the coming storm.

09/12/16: Wilkommen by Joel Grey
09/19/16: Mein Herr by Liza Minnelli
09/26/16: Two Ladies by Joel Grey
10/17/16: Tiller Girls featuring Joel Grey
10/24/16: Cabaret by Liza Minnelli

Musical Monday Playlists     Musical Monday     Home

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Musical Monday Playlists

Over the last couple of years, some of the Musical Monday selections I have made have been thematically linked, either by accident or by conscious decision making on my part. Over the next few days, I am going to gather these linked selections together into Musical Monday playlists that I will post links to here. I will probably post more in the future, and as I do, I will add them to this list.

Brandenburg Concertos
Cabaret
Christmas Music
Five Year Mission Dream Set
Halloween Music
Other Holiday Songs
Symphony of Science

Musical Monday     Home

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review - The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder by John Bellairs (with Brad Strickland)


Short review: While on vacation with his Uncle Jonathan, Lewis wakes a vengeful spirit that he tries to ignore until it becomes imperative that the two of them deal with it.

Haiku
On trip in Europe
Woke up an evil spirit
That tried to kill me

Full review: When John Bellairs died, he left two half-finished books and outlines for two more. Brad Strickland completed all four books, and one of the results of those efforts is The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder. The story is part of the Lewis Barnaveldt series, and one which actually features Lewis (as opposed to being one the books that feature his friend Rose Rita as the protagonist).

One oddity of the series is that Lewis, teamed with his uncle Jonathan Barnaveldt, and Rose Rita, teamed with the Barnaveldt's neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman seem to alternate in solving the various mystical mysteries featured in the books, but don't seem to work all together very often - almost as if Bellairs and Strickland had decided they needed an all-boy team and an all-girl team to feature but that the two sexes should be kept apart whenever possible.

Lewis and his uncle Jonathan are traveling through Europe, interrupting their visits to tourist sites to visit Barnaveldt Manor, the home of their distant English cousins. While there, Lewis gets to poking around the manor, and with the help of the housekeeper's son, accidentally releases something that would have been better left undisturbed. Like many youthful protagonists, Lewis decides against telling any adults about the brewing trouble, and he and his uncle leave to continue their tour of Europe.

Weeks later, Lewis and Jonathan return to Barnaveldt Manor, and find that what Lewis released was the spirit of an evil witch-finder who was alive during the English Civil War, and who wants to put all the Barnaveldt's on trial for witchcraft. The witch-finder was, of course, a practitioner of magic himself who dabbled in dark magic, unlike kindly Jonathan (who is a wizard, but only practices good magic). Lewis outsmarts the evil spirit, and all ends well.

The story seems a bit thinner than the works that Bellairs wrote when he was alive. The mystery itself is fine, but there is less material focused in on developing Lewis, Jonathan, and the other characters than in previous works. That may be at least partially due to the constraints Strickland worked under to complete an unfinished work, but it makes the book seem somehow incomplete. There is a little thrown in about Lewis' travels helping him to transform from an overweight, bookish boy into a "normal" boy who is athletic and plays baseball, but it is really only given cursory attention. It also seems somewhat out of place - earlier books established Lewis as an overweight, unathletic boy, and Rose Rita as a baseball playing tomboy - making them both essentially misfits. Further, the previous books also established that this was perfectly okay, even if some people thought less of them for that. Having Lewis transform into a "normal" boy seems to undermine that message to some extent.

While not as good as some previous books in this series due to a lack of character development, the mystery is still good, and Lewis (despite some foolish choices here and there) is a sympathetic and enjoyable protagonist.

Previous book in the series: The Ghost in the Mirror
Subsequent book in the series: The Doom of the Haunted Opera

John Bellairs     Brad Strickland     Book Reviews A-Z     Home