Work

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Mom has told me that she knows when I’m not liking something or when something isn’t going well because I just stop talking about it.

Work has been hard this year, so far. Adjustments, change, things like that. I guess no job is ever going to be a complete hayride, right?

I still am very happy to be where I am doing what I’m doing. There are just things that I miss. People. You know how it is. It is what it is.

Hit That

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I play percussion in a local community orchestra. Specifically, I usually play what is collectively called (after three adverbs) “mallet percussion”: things with keyboards and tuned notes, rather than the “battery” (things you, y’know, batter).

Most of my time is dedicated to the triangle (which is much harder than it looks), the chimes, the bells/glockenspiel, and the xylophone. For the uninitiated, these are chimes, this is what I mean by bells, and of course this is everyone’s favorite token X word.

(I wasn’t always a percussionist and, in fact, I’m not entirely sure I can call myself one with a perfectly straight face. I’m an accidental percussionist, by way of years of saxophoning and many more years of pianoing. Hence the mallets; I lack the chops for battery. Yes, it’s harder.)

The reason I tell you all this is to set up the sharing of a hilarious discovery. If you’ve ever spent time in a band room, you’ve probably seen The Posters. Ubiquitous, creased, oft-laminated souvenirs of a time when the director had energy and funds to attend music conferences. Perhaps (s)he even inherited them from a predecessor. They’re always outdated, featuring musicians who were “small world” famous years before.

And the musicians in them are always stiff, fussy looking folks in black tie — especially if they are mallet percussionists. Take, for instance, this lovely lady whose benign visage has popped up in several band rooms I’ve frequented:

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Sometimes they loosen up a little. Give us an action shot, looking away from the camera. Maybe even a look of distracted elation or concentration as they nail a particularly tricky lick:

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Both of these posters have been wilting on the wall of our orchestra’s rehearsal space for as long as I’ve been a member.

And then, this week, they were joined by a third.

A new mallet percussion poster.

Ah, but this is no Mona Lisa of the mallets, no earnest devotee of the keyboard. Here we have no bow tie, no artful black and white photography. All of these things are far too buttoned-up for this, the Casanova of the Marimba.

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Men only wish they could achieve the sheer suaveness of the popped-collar multimalleted alpha male. Women swoon at the sight of his erected music stand.

He stares into the eyes of the anonymous middle school percussionist. To some, he seems to say, “You will never be as hot as I am.” To others, he seems to promise things the average twelve-year-old has yet to imagine. He is… the most interesting percussionist alive.

And to the exhausted-to-the-point-of-giggles adult amateur percussionist, he whispers huskily, “You have GOT to blog about this.”

Review: Sci-Fi Chronicles: A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Fiction

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Editor Guy Haley opens this hefty volume with the sentences, “Science fiction is arguably the most exciting genre of entertainment. No other form of storytelling shapes our culture as much, or is as popular.” He’s certainly got a point, particularly when it comes to male readers (and watchers). Ask a room full of boys what sort of books they like, and you’re going to hear words like adventure, action, battles, and maybe more specific items like robots, time travel, lonely three-boobed green alien women. Obviously that’s not a universal preference, but ask a random guy and chances are you’re going to find he likes to read something that falls in the broad spectrum of science fiction.

The other thing that a lot of guy readers seem to enjoy is trivia — just ask my disintegrating copies of Guinness World Records and Ripleys Believe It or Not! annuals. The literary equivalent of a candy buffet is a fat book full of glossy color photographs and attractively arranged factoids, especially when the subject matter is something tasty like sports/games, gross stuff, or a beloved movie or TV series.

And so, Sci-Fi Chronicles: A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Fiction falls pretty tidily in the intersection of the school librarian’s Golden Venn Diagram:

Let’s start with the good stuff.

Sci-Fi Chronicles is impressively thick. At about 9″x7″, it’s no larger than your standard trade paperback, but it boasts 576 pages of thick, glossy paper. If you’re looking to become the local authority on all things science fiction (or at least look like it) this resource is going to catch your eye. Measured purely on quantity, there’s a lot of bang for your buck here.

Open this book to a random page, and you’ll likely find multiple color photographs or illustrations, a couple of columns of readable encyclopedia-style text (more friendly in tone than Wikipedia, but also less exhaustive) and — probably the neatest feature — color-coded timelines, subgenre headings, and a sort of “evolution of the text” that shows each of the editions/iterations of the story. The entry on Blade Runner, for example, starts with the book cover for the initial printing of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and progresses through the movie posters, video game packaging, and comic books. Your budding speculative fiction pedant will find hours and hours of interesting information here, in very attractive packaging.

Now for the less-good stuff.

I won’t waste more than a passing mention of the SF industry’s general grumpiness about the abbreviation “sci-fi,” nor of the title’s cutesy assumption that better speculative fiction isn’t being written elsewhere in the galaxy. These were stylistic choices that Firefly Books made for reasons of their own, and I, at least, am not pedantic enough to really care all that much. However, I see no way to avoid bringing up two significant flaws in this volume.

This is not the sort of book you read cover to cover, so as I sat down to review it I tried looking up random science fiction works to see how they were included. After all, if this is (as the back copy claims) “a definitive sci-fi guide for the 21st century… and beyond,” it ought to be — well, definitive, right?

I didn’t try to pick especially obscure pieces: The Man From Earth, Logan’s Run, The Postman, Sliders, Flight of the Navigator, Explorers, Zardoz, Starship Troopers. A fairly wide variety of science fiction classics, good and bad, commercial and otherwise. To the dismay both of myself and my indignant husband, only half of these had entries, and the other half weren’t even mentioned. What kind of “definitive” guide to science fiction neglects what is arguably the best movie of Paul Reuben’s and Sarah Jessica Parker’s careers? How could any visual history of science fiction leave out the glory of Sean Connery in long braid and red bondage wear?

Leaving aside Haley’s questionable criteria for selecting “the galaxy’s greatest science fiction,” I had a more seriously complaint. While Firefly Books clearly put a lot of energy into the graphic design for this book, it sacrificed attention to detail — specifically editing. The entry for Logan’s Run talks about the film’s “widespread appeal laying [sic] in a core concept…”. The Sliders page refers to a Professor Maximillian Jones, who doesn’t exist; it no doubt meant Professor Maximillian Arturo. It seemed that every page I flipped to had a grammatical or factual error — little stuff, but a darned shame in such an otherwise well-assembled volume. Heck, even the copy on the back cover commits the sin of repetitive word choice, boasting of “lavishly illustrated entries” on one line and “lavish photo features” only two lines down.

Ultimately, is this book actually “definitive”, “truly international,” “a must for all sci-fi fans,” or representative of “the galaxy’s greatest science fiction”? I’m skeptical.

But is it lavish? Yes. Fun? Interesting? Appealing? Yes, yes, and yes.

Does it have multiple pages of Doctor Who coverage for my rabid Whovians, a meaty section on Star Trek for my Trekkies (or Trekkers, since we’re being nitpicky), and a respectable amount of attention paid to the science fiction movies and shows contemporary young males are likely to have watched and enjoyed?

Yeah. Yeah, it does. So even if it’s sloppier than it should have been, and even if my household is offended by some of its blatant and inexcusable omissions and characterizations (my husband is still muttering under his breath about Logan’s Run being described as a minor work), I’m sure it will be well-liked by fans of science fiction and collectors of trivia.

[Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire]

More Consignment Clothes

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Kate the consignment shopper strikes again!

First, if you remember, last time I was making fun of the crazy expensive baby pants people buy — well, I found myself a pair for $3!

corduroy pants

These pants, or similar ones of the same brand, are selling for $45 new, and this particular pair looks like it’s been worn about twice… goodness.

Here are some more:

moose overalls

adorable lined moose overalls

gray fleece jacket

gray fleece jacket

shearling lined flannel shirt

shearling lined flannel shirt

Children's Place dress shirt

Children’s Place dress shirt

thick orange sweater

heavy orange sweater

striped zip-up sweater

striped zip-up sweater

argyle cardigan

argyle cardigan

red hoodie with helpful kitty

red hoodie with helpful kitty

turquoise hoodie (I know it doesn't look like it)

turquoise hoodie (I know it doesn’t look like it)

orange REI fleece vest (pre-laundering)

orange REI fleece vest (pre-laundering)

black velvet dress vest

black velvet dress vest

d'Artagnan likes the monster booties

d’Artagnan likes the monster booties

Two kitties

Two kitties

 

There’s a cute dragon sweatshirt, too. I don’t have a clear idea of what H is going to be for Halloween, but we’ve got a couple of cute things to play with, anyway. :) He makes a very cute black kitty cat!

Dressing my Little Dude

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So, I guess there must be people out there who can pay $155 for a pair of pants that their infant son will outgrow in a matter of months, but I kind of hope I don’t know them, because seriously. Heck; I’m not going to spend $20 — or $12, on sale — for a baby sweater, not unless it’s a special occasion.

Fortunately, there are plenty of people out there who can and do buy more expensive clothes for their kids, because thanks to the magic of our throwaway society, those clothes end up in like-new condition at thrift stores and consignment shops, just waiting for people like me to come along and give them a second round of play.

Here are the highlights from today’s treasure hunt:

fleece lined orange flannel

blue & green flannel

blue & green flannel

blue and green sweater

blue and green sweater

zip-up fall sweater

zip-up fall sweater

moosic maker shirt

moosic maker shirt

fleece sweatshirt -- new with tags

fleece sweatshirt — new with tags

a bevy of sweater vests

a bevy of sweater vests

dragon play suit

dragon play suit

 

All of these were $2-$5 each. Can’t wait for the weather to cool down so we can break out the cute warm clothes!

Review: Copper by Kazu Kibuishi

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In our middle school library, which is heavily frequented by boys, there are a few authors whose books never seem to touch the shelves before being checked out again. Chief among them are graphic novelists Jeff Smith (the Bone series), Doug TenNapel (Cardboard, Bad Island), and Kazu Kibuishi (the Amulet series).

I’m always hoping these guys will release another dang book — so when I realized that I’d somehow missed Kibuishi’s 2010 collection of his webcomic Copper, published by Scholastic, I ordered it right away.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this slim volume with a cute boy and his neurotic-looking but equally cute dog on the cover. What I got was a fantastic collection of short stories and one-page vignettes that demanded more time to read than I’d planned.

Copper is a boy — or is he a man, rendered small to reflect his childlike spirit? — whose sole companion is his dog, Fred. Copper is brave in a a reckless sort of way, and he is also recklessly optimistic. He wants to believe that crazy things are possible. Fred is cautious, worried, and battling an existential crisis. Copper wants to go check things out, and Fred wants to wait and see. The bright-eyed boy tends to get his way, and the result is a quiltwork of adventure and misadventure, both real and imagined.

I tried to read it as a kid and found myself thinking about Calvin and Hobbes, especially in the scenes where Copper and Fred dream themselves into wild escapades. (They seem to have plenty of wild waking adventures as well, and I spent a good portion of this book wondering what was real and what was dream.) If I follow that line of thought, Copper is a grown-up Calvin who has absorbed the best of his tiger friend’s philosophical maturity… and Fred is Hobbes crossed with a healthy dose of Eeyore.

Reading it as an adult, I was drawn in by the surprising depth of emotion captured in the short pieces. Copper often seems chipper and carefree, but his dreams are haunted by a sad girl trapped in a bubble, and his nights and days are painted over a backdrop of loneliness and a yearning for something more. Fred, meanwhile, is wrestling with his sense of his own mortality and his fears that no one cares enough to even notice him. Is Copper’s audacity really a frantic attempt to get to an adult life he fears he’ll never have? Is Fred’s reticence really a half-conscious attempt to slow the march of time? A better mainstream cartoon for comparison might be Family Guy, with its moral underpinning in the forms of canine Brian Griffin.

What you’re wondering is, is this book right for middle school guys (or high school guys, or….)? I submit that the answer is yes. It isn’t necessarily written “for” my rampaging hoards of eleven-year-old boys, but they’ll pick it up and they’ll read it. They won’t understand all of it — they’ll possibly miss the deep stuff entirely as they rush to soak in the gorgeous imagery and daring exploits. But I think seeds will be planted, and if they return to Copper as an older teen, as a man, as fathers — why, I think they’ll find that it’s a pretty dang literary work of sequential art.

(Speaking of art: hands-on types will love Kibuishi’s “behind the scenes” section at the end of the book. It was accessible, entertaining, and illuminating — a great resource for the budding graphic artist.)

Review cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.

Posting

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Well, if you don’t have the password to read my protected posts, you’re probably thinking this is about the most boring blog you’ve ever seen, huh.

Usually I get bored and write (or do other online time-wasting) a lot during the summer, but this summer the opportunity for boredom never really hit me. I was really busy with a lot of different stuff, and thought several times of things I ought to be writing, but never did. In fact, I even slacked off on my weekly reading updates. Oops. 

If you are not a scary creeper person — if I know you in real life, or you’re a mom who likes reading about other peoples’ families, etc. — you can leave a comment (making sure to include your email, which won’t be published or shared) and I’ll happily send you the password to the other posts. They’re mostly just pictures of my little boy and recaps of things we’ve done, and I would love to share them with everyone, but you know how things are these days. I’m trying to save him some privacy. 

And if you have any ideas of something you’d like me to write about, comment with that, too. I tend to do well with assignments…