Two years ago, I reviewed Andy Partridge and Todd Bernhardt's highly-recommended Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC, a collection of deep-nerding conversations between these two musicians about beloved XTC tracks. While that book was a wonder, it understandably focused on Andy and his contributions to the band. While deepening my admiration and appreciation for the band, it left me hungry for more.
Enter What Do You Call That Noise? An XTC Discovery Book. I didn't think I could love an XTC book more than Complicated Game, but this book just keeps inspiring and surprising me every time I poke my nose into it. This is a delightful and dizzying collection of XTC exploration, analysis, and devotion that should stoke the soul coal of any hardcore fan of the band.
Put together by Mark Fisher, editor of Limelight, the 80s XTC zine, this book is a collected conversation between dozens of musicians deconstructing XTC songs, interviews with ALL of the band members (including their Spinal Tap-worthy causality list of drummers), kids and young music students reacting to XTC music, home studio recording tips from Andy Partridge, Andy on music theory (or lack thereof) and songwriting. Contributors include Rick Buckler (The Jam), Chris Difford (Squeeze), Debbi Peterson (The Bangles), Steven Page (Barenaked Ladies), Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa), Peter Gabriel, and many more.
Also included are a piece on drummers breaking down some of Terry Chambers more brilliant moments, members of XTC tribute bands around the world talking about their music, a cultural studies professor on the genius of Colin Moulding's lyrics, a piece about a German YouTuber who's covering his way through the XTC catalog, and the (apparently) obligatory photo tour of Swindon, England (the band's beloved home town). Read the rest
"Your first doomsday machine is a malevolent, inscrutable wristwatch.”
The Please Don't Tell My Parents series, by Richard Roberts, is a wonderful young adult series of novels about Penelope Akk and her two friends Claire and Ray. They are normal middle school kids just hoping their superpowers will kick in soon. Read the rest
In Rodney Hartman's Wizard Defiant, space cadet boot camp meets elves and wizards.
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If you're looking for a comprehensive explanation for modern life is how it is, there are probably other books to read. But if you're looking for something light, informative and fun, HOW WE GOT TO NOW is just the thing.
There's also a PBS TV show that goes along with it. Read the rest
Last night I tore through Hiroshi Sakurazaka's All You Need Is Kill. I have not bothered to see Edge of Tomorrow, a movie based on this fine piece of battle armor/combat genre sci-fi, but now definitely I will.
As I enjoy stories in vein of Haldeman's the Forever War or Scalzi's Old Man's War, All You Need Is Kill was suggested as a must read. Keiji Kiriya is a novice 'Jacket' trooper killed in his first engagement against the strange alien Mimics. Somehow his death puts him in a time loop where he must refight the battle over and over. After 158 attempts, Keiji finds an ally and learns the secrets that may enable humanity to survive.
I really liked the starfish-like Mimics and their origin story, I found them some of the best enemies/assailants of humanity I've read recently.
All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka Read the rest
In addition to wearing All The Gear, All The Time, I'm always looking for new tips and tricks to help me keep my motorcycle upright. Lee Parks' Total Control: High Performance Street Riding Techniques is a wonderful addition to my library.
Clear illustrations, diagrams and photos paired with Parks not taking himself very seriously make for one great book.
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As a kid I loved Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. What an incredible TV series! TWIKI, Buck, Wilma, Doctor Theopolis and some incredible dance moves (that NBC appears to have taken down from YouTube) grabbed my attention and promised an amazing future for a resilient human race.
In my 20s I discovered Philip Francis Nowlan's Armageddon 2419 A.D.
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This is a book about "doin' what comes naturally". Which is to say, sex. But what kind of sex? With whom? And to what purpose? At what point do things like gender expression, sex, reproduction, and child-rearing stop being "normal and natural" and start being something weird that humans do because we are diverse/perverted/sinful/creative (depending on your personal point of view)?
In reality, the word "natural" is mainly how we tell each other which behaviors and traits are the socially correct ones. Calling something natural is often more about specific human cultural standards than it is about what actually happens in nature. Crime Against Nature is artist Gwenn Seemel's attempt to correct that mistake. Filled with gorgeous, Klimt-esque illustrations, Seemel's book shows readers just how diverse nature can be and just how often it fails to conform to our ideas of what is normal — from girls who are bigger and tougher than boys; to boys who give birth; to boys and girls that don't have sex or reproduce at all (and don't seem to mind one bit).
The issues at play here are hefty and potentially uncomfortable, but the book itself is light, playful, and pleasantly un-preachy. It's also set up in a way that allows it to evolve with kids as their reading skills improve — pairing simple statements like "Boys can be the pretty ones" with longer but still easy-to-read paragraphs explaining, for instance, the most recent scientific theories about why male peacocks are so much more colorful than females. Read the rest