This is a fairly standard blog spin off book with some random pictures submitted from the internet, some more “real” than others; ostensibly recordingThis is a fairly standard blog spin off book with some random pictures submitted from the internet, some more “real” than others; ostensibly recording various incidences of gross incompetence, naive gaffs, accidental blunders, and other weird things somebody took a picture of once. There is no back story to any of the images collected, and a few seem suspiciously contrived; some are not even "fails," but simply bad luck or just random weirdness. However, setting the book up as a pseudo-travel book, complete with scrawled notes from other readers, was an inspired move, particularly the maps. Good for some laugh when your network is down. ...more
“The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future” is a short, quickly digested, thought provoking, worrying, but ultimately hopeful piece“The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future” is a short, quickly digested, thought provoking, worrying, but ultimately hopeful piece of creative fiction. I found it particularly, and frighteningly, topical reading during a 52 degree December night in Minnesota, as drought and now flooding beset California and we are gearing up for another even warmer year in 2015. Written as a introduction to the Penumbral Age (1988-2093) by scholars in the Second People’s Republic of China, circa 2393, it reads like something that could be assigned to first year students in a low level world history course, an easily understandable summary of the elements that resulted in the collapse of world population a few centuries previously (including a particularly amusing glossary of “archaic terms” like “environment,” “positivism,” and “capitalism.”)
While dropping a few hints of future societies aside from China, including the United States of North America and the Nordo-Scandinavian Union and the horrific extinction of human society from the continents of Australia and Africa, much of it explores how our current political, scientific, and social cultures are preventing us from preventing what we know is happening in front of our eyes. During the Penumbral Age, we can look forward to much turmoil and strife as nations collapse once the climate begins to spiral out of control thanks to the melting of permafrost and belated attempts to combat it with atmospheric emissions and genetically engineered lichen; Food shortages, desertification, flooding, and plagues rendered many places uninhabitable, sending mass migrations of “eustatic” refugees to higher ground; it’s too late for Amsterdam, Bangladesh, and Florida. Still, there is also much hope to be had; according to this future, humanity has survived with much of the technological and cultural knowledge of the past intact and are able to look back and discuss the mistakes of the past.
The book ends with some very interesting and thoughtful comments by the authors on their use of science fiction to comment on the current responses and ideas of climate change. Will this year, as the article linked earlier in this review suggests, become a turning point that will, in some way, nudge us away from the future presented here? ...more
This was, I believe, my first exposure to a lot of the classic "weird tales," including H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, and M.R. James, courtesy oThis was, I believe, my first exposure to a lot of the classic "weird tales," including H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, and M.R. James, courtesy of the high school library. Checked it out around Halloween senior year, and even added it the the list of "best hidden gems in the school library" for the student paper my sister edited circa March 2001. Most of the stories are good, solid choices for a night of eerie reading, including some obscure stuff and a few that felt out of place. On the other hand, there is little to differentiate "Dying of Fright" from any other standard anthology of horror tales, and perhaps unsurprisingly, many contain more than a fair share of those old pulp standbys of casual racism and sexism.
Returning to the anthology more than a decade later, I found I could recall reading only about half of it, really, the older, more "classic" tales from Washington Irving, Poe, Bierce, etc. but having no recollection of the more modern tales included, some of which seemed a little dull, in particular the short biographical sketches describing each of the writers. On the other hand, most of the stories are no more than three or four pages which allows for a good sampling. Still, there are probably better collections available, (and in print!) to get a more contemporary collection of spooky stories, particularly ones that could offer a more diverse collection of authors. ...more
I had not seen Kat Su's hilarious blog, but after flipping through this hilarious little book, I quickly rectified that and added it to my Feedly. I sI had not seen Kat Su's hilarious blog, but after flipping through this hilarious little book, I quickly rectified that and added it to my Feedly. I saw Crap Taxidermy in the library's new release shelf and, curious, checked it out. It turned out to be a very witty collection of photos of curious dead critters posed in various states of preservation and "activity" throughout the world. A bit creepy, a bit quirky, all funny, the unfortunate subjects of these folk art faux paus, from "forty-a-day lion" to "flat wolf," these poor creatures display a certain goofy pathos in their dead glass eyes.
This is one of the better little coffee table humor books translated into print from the anarchy of the web that I have seen, each page giving ample space to the photos and the inclusion of do-it-yourself mouse taxidermy instructions at the end was a great, irreverent way to expand the ranks of crap taxidermy! In the end, Crap Taxidermy strikes me as a good creepy/funny choice to leave on your coffee table/office around Halloween...more
Recently, I’ve gotten it into my head to try out some homebrewing and after requesting a whole shelf of do it yourself beer brewing treatises from theRecently, I’ve gotten it into my head to try out some homebrewing and after requesting a whole shelf of do it yourself beer brewing treatises from the library, both basic and advanced, Emma Christensen’s “True Brews” came to be my favorite. I will probably invest in a copy! True Brews is a great place to start, with Christensen’s clear explanations detailing basic instructions and recipes for a beginner to quickly start doing their own homebrewed beverages, including the equipment and ingredients needed, as well as tips for more unique and difficult projects.I liked that “True Brews” did not focus on one specific brew, but included a variety of fermented beverages to try out, alcoholic and non-alcoholic; sodas, kombuchas, kefirs, ciders, beers, meads, wines, and even sakes. I also appreciate her focus on one gallon recipes, easily accomplished in even the most cramped apartment kitchens; this also allows for a lot of tinkering with recipes as well.
I scored some high quality unpasteurized Door County apple juice last October, so for the past few months I’ve been processing it into cider; cracked it open for a holiday party and it turned out to be not too disappointing; very crisp and boozy, not bad for a first attempt! I’m also planning a chai-spice mead for my next main brewing project. I also love how Christensen’s recipes are both specific enough to be followed by someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing (like myself), but also open enough to be almost immediately hacked for specific tastes; the “master” soda and “master” beer recipes, in particular, are ripe for just about anyone to start up some improvisation and experiments. I started out with my own experiment on the soda front, a pumpkin spice soda brewed up with roasted pumpkin, lemon juice, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg; one taster called it “fall in a bottle.” I’m going to try a cranberry ginger ale this week, (basically, I am a fan of all things ginger), and I”m going to try an improvised beer, a extra special bitter ale, based on the master beer recipe as well. Really, I’m inspired to try something new every time I crack the cover! ...more
From such an intriguing, eerie, and promising beginning, I found “The Vanishing Season” to be sadly quite disappointing. Reading this on a short tripFrom such an intriguing, eerie, and promising beginning, I found “The Vanishing Season” to be sadly quite disappointing. Reading this on a short trip to Door County, Wisconsin, where it is set, added a lot to their atmosphere of the ultimately empty novel.
16 year old Maggie’s family has fallen on hard times and are forced to move into a dilapidated inherited vacation house in the tiny tourist town of Gill Creek, Wisconsin, on the Door Peninsula. Maggie, a serious, staid girl, is apprehensive about the move but soon meets her neighbors, Pauline, a wealthy, beautiful quirky girl who seems refreshingly unpretentious and childlike, and her childhood friend Liam, the gentle eccentric outdoorsy boy who loves woodworking. The two soon help Maggie adjust to her new surroundings and she even begins to think of it as home. It is evident pretty early that there will be a love triangle between the three, as Maggie soon finds Liam her first love, while he is smitten with Pauline, who sees him only as a friend and appears completely uninterested in romance.
Meanwhile, terror is being spread on the peninsula as a mysterious serial killer begins murdering young women and dumping their bodies in Lake Michigan, while at the same time a mysterious ghost-like entity watches the three teenagers and the killer, while trying to remember his or her reason for lingering. These asides became the most interesting part of the novel, but unfortunately neither the ghost nor the murders effect the characters or the plot in any tangible way, and they could be removed entirely with very little change in the proceedings.
While we got to know Maggie a little throughout the novel, I felt the characterizations of every other character were misleading and weak, if they got any characterization at all. Their actions often contradicted what we (or at least Maggie) thought they knew about them- is this because Maggie is a bad judge of character or because of poorly described characterizations? I think I’m going with the characterization, judging that aside from these three, nobody else got more than a token identity- with cases such as Liam’s dad receiving just a handful of lines of dialogue. As the novel closed into it’s last few chapters I was like, “Hmm, they’re going to have to make a reveal pretty quick here,” but...
(view spoiler)[While not completely unexpected due to overt foreshadowing, I was surprised to find that what I thought were red herrings ended with Maggie freezing to death for no real reason, led to her death by the happy go lucky Pauline. I was not certain what the tragic death of our viewpoint character was supposed to signify, narratively? It seemed to render large portions of the proceeding story totally meaningless, I felt. Compared to another tragic ending I’ve read recently, Maggot Moon, Maggie’s “sacrifice” seems feeble and pointless; yes “bad things happen to good people” and anyone can just be hit by a bus, as it were, but since we were never really interested in these characters in the end, the tragedy serves no purpose but to annoy the reader. Pauline, Liam, and Maggie's parents ability to go on without much thought of either Maggie's tragic death or their roles in it also seemed odd. (hide spoiler)]
Beautiful writing and atmosphere coupled with a disappointingly meandering love triangle and a hasty, unsatisfying ending was not enough to make “The Vanishing Season” anything but a disappointing read. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
“Seconds” was a fun, stand alone follow up to the Scott Pilgrim series, following it’s predecessors mix of humor and pathos, a realistic setting and f“Seconds” was a fun, stand alone follow up to the Scott Pilgrim series, following it’s predecessors mix of humor and pathos, a realistic setting and fantasy elements, a type of set up that really works for me. Following the successful chef Katie (founder of chic restaurant Seconds) as she struggles to open up a second “dream” restaurant, come to terms with turning 30, and her feeling stuck in between stages in her life, she finds herself regretting many of her life choices. When she encounters a strange magical notebook, labeled “My Mistakes,” and some odd mushrooms, a notebook which promises to be able to rectify some of the dumb decisions of the past, Katie soon finds herself attempting to perfect her life, though at what cost?
The cute but slightly menacing guardian spirit of the house, Lis, who watches over Seconds, reminded me of another Canadian author working with urban fantasy themes, Charles de Lint, and I wonder if there is any influence? Was the unnamed city Katie and her house spirits lived in somewhere near Newford? Anyway, I really enjoyed Seconds use of fantastic elements to explore everyday concerns, fears, desires, and second chances that many people, myself included, would be very tempted to try out. A little spooky, a little funny, a little heartwarming, Seconds is a charming graphic novel that makes a quick read....more
A bleak, effecting, beautifully resonant work, Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon may be the strongest (and most chilling) young adult dystopian work I’ve reA bleak, effecting, beautifully resonant work, Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon may be the strongest (and most chilling) young adult dystopian work I’ve read so far. There are definitely shade’s of Orwell’s 1984, but this novel feels more inclusive and fresher, and is an all too realistic account of human cruelty and hope. The audiobook, narrated by Robert Madge, really accentuates the strong emotions evoked by the story and makes a harrowing experience.
Post war England under a brutal fascist regime is a decidedly unpleasant place; it is implied this authoritarian government was a result of Nazi Germany’s defeat of the UK, though this left unstated, unimportant. The Motherland is a place where any sign of defiance or any trace of standing out is punished with death, all for the greater strength of the nation. Propaganda is the only luxury afforded most of the impoverished, paranoid citizens of Zone 7, a less prestigious occupied territory of the Motherland. Enforced patriotism has reached a fever pitch as the regime gears up to mount a Moon mission, that they may launch missiles at their enemies across the globe.
Standish Treadwell, a kind, gentle, and imaginative teenager with the odd trait of one blue and one brown eye, struggles with dyslexia, but also his place in a world that sees little use for him; a world which would be happy if he were dead. Living in Zone 7, the cruel society of the Motherland works for utter domination and sees any difference as weakness that must be crushed; after Standish’s best friend and his family disappears (sent to the “Maggot Farms” where most inferior or politically inconvenient people are sent to die), he tries his best to follow his ideals and oppose the ever present secret police and perhaps aid the "Obstructors" in inconveniencing those in power, and call into question their strength. How much is Standish willing to sacrifice to expose, even a little bit, the lies and weakness of the regime? With an ending both horribly tragic and hopeful, Maggot Moon shows how the actions of “flawed” people like Standish can challenge a corrupt world. ...more