The Slow Reader – Episode 4 Gone, Chapters 10-12

Returning to Gone (Michael Grant) this week with chapters 10-12. There’s a lot of new information learned in these 3 chapters. Also, this is really a slow-read. Also in this episode: re-reading Dune alongside the Dune Subreddit.

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/stephen_g

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2474979-stephen-gower

Blog: https://www.noformatblog.ca

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The Slow Reader – Episode 3

Here we go again – two weeks later. I didn’t implement any of the changes I wanted to from the last one, but I took some notes as I was listening back to this before releasing. I haven’t actually done much reading on the book covered here since I recorded this episode, but I’ve got some plans to make the next episode better. Hope you like it!

This episode starts off my coverage of Gone by Michael Grant. I read chapters 1-9 (17% of the book). Pick up your copy of Gone from the Library or at Amazon.

Slow Reader – Episode 2

Still going somewhat strong! I have a few adjustments I need to make to the content…this was still one of the early episodes I recorded when I first started the idea, so things aren’t really going to take shape until probably Episode 3.

Book two of The Slow Reader: Erebos, written by Ursula Poznanski and translated by Judith Pattinson.

“It’s a game. It watches you.” Intriguing tag line that lead to another fun, quick read from the library.

Also discussed the podcast “Wild Thing”, which you can find at https://www.foxtopus.ink/wildthing

I recorded episode 3 already – I have some notes of where/how I want to improve, so hopefully I can stick to those notes and make a better show.

Crazy Rich Asians – Review

Vanessa and I saw this movie last Saturday – we both decided that based on the previews, it looked like a fun film and it was going to be funny.  Before I go on, I’ll confirm that yes, it WAS a good film, and it WAS funny.  We loved it.  

Online Backlash

One of the things I like to do after seeing a movie is to see what other people think of it.  So I headed to reddit’s /r/movies to check out what kind of reception it had…and nope Nope NOPE do not go there yourself, I do not recommend it.  To put it nicely, there was a lot of negative feedback.  

People were really hating on the film.  Thankfully it wasn’t because of its (mostly) all-Asian cast, it was because the film itself was in their opinion, lacklustre.  I will admit, it’s a basic fish-out-of-water romantic comedy in terms of plot.  Most of the beats you’d expect are there.  In that sense, I agree with them.  It was not a great film. 

But I thought the writing was clever, the jokes hit home, and the movie was paced well.  The music was fantastic (go listen to the soundtrack!), the camera work and shots were beautiful, and I felt drawn into the movie and we both related to a few different parts of it.  

To me, that makes a successful movie.  Oh, and the fact that it was an all-Asian cast had nothing to do with my enjoyment of the movie.  I think you could replace it with a “diverse” cast and write the same movie and it would have worked just as well.  The “Crazy Rich Asians” part of it was just the setting / window-dressing.  I am not Asian so this fact did not resonate as much with me as others, though.  

One of the other reasons I advise NOT going to check out the /r/movies discussion about Crazy Rich Asians is because some people are dismissing the movie because of the all-Asian cast.  Trust me, some of the worst people are on reddit.  

I liked it, OK?

Look, the bottom line here is – enjoy the movie for what you see on the screen.  Just like I would say for Black Panther, ignore the casting aspect of it and enjoy it for the story, the jokes, and the stunning visuals.  If you can’t get past who was cast in the movie, you’re not going to be able to stop and appreciate the artistry involved in it (and probably there are other issues you’re dealing with that maybe you should reflect upon).

The Microsoft Surface 3

Surface 3

Why am I writing this here?  I honestly can’t tell you what compelled me to start writing about this tablet that I’ve had for maybe…a year and a half?  A tablet that I bought second-hand, without fully realizing what it was that I bought.  

The Surface 3 (and I’ll spare you from having to look it up) is the “non-pro” version of the Surface line that came out I think at the same time as the Pro 3.  They came in 2GB or 4GB RAM models, varying in hard drive size.  I happened to get the 2GB / 32 GB HD variety.  When I bought it, the seller also happened to have bought the type cover (aka the keyboard) and Surface pen.  That was lucky, because the Surface 3 came with neither of those when bought from retail.  

When I learned of the Surface line, I knew this was what I wanted for a laptop.  I didn’t realize that the Surface 3 was not really very powerful, and as I alluded to above, is more of a tablet than a laptop.  BUT I have found it to be a pretty amazing device, especially since I purchased the thing.  

One of the best things I’ve done for it is install a 128GB micro-SD card to expand the hard drive space.  I was getting some pretty terrible performance from the device, both in terms of random freezing and slowness; I attributed most of this to lack of hard drive space.  At one point I had a 32GB micro-SD card but that wasn’t enough to help it.  

But the other thing that’s helped revitalize my use of it has been April 2018’s massive update.  It seems to have brought some stability to the device (it took a long time to install the upgrade; I believe part of the problem was the aforementioned lack of hard drive space) and even some shiny new features.  

The size of the tablet itself is great as well.  I noted recently that while in tablet mode, and orienting the device in portrait mode, it’s basically the perfect size for e-reading.  I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 that I think is great, but its size is best suited for video (and great for watching 4:3 aspect videos).  I haven’t tried this yet, but I have a hold on some Library e-books so hope to give it a shot soon.  

What I think the Surface 3 will be great going forward is a mobile extension of my desktop work area in my studio.  I need to upgrade that computer, but it’s a solid enough work-horse that I can get the audio work I need to on it.  I believe it can handle Windows 10 (currently running Windows 7 – I’ll have to test my theory).  It’s not a powerful computer in terms of getting things done, but for my needs, it works.  

From what I’ve seen of the new Surface Go, it seems similar to that (albeit less powerful with only 2GB of RAM).  I’m interested in seeing what that one looks like!

Maks – 3 Ft No Diving (Review)

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

A while back musician Maks, from The Netherlands, sent me a message via the Alternative Airwaves Facebook page.  He was letting me know of a new release, 3FT NO DIVING, a solo effort after years acting as drummer in another band. 

He writes,

I have been playing as a drummer in rock bands for a big part of my life.

After the splitting up of my most recent band in 2012, I went on a small tour through the USA as a stand-in drummer in a blues-rock band. During this trip I decided I was going to write my own material and see where this could lead to...

The learning curve was pretty steep, I must say. Besides learning how to play a bit of decent guitar and keyboards, I also had to cope with my vocals. Perhaps my greatest challenge was to find my singing voice.

He passed the album my way (which you can pick up over at http://www.maksagency.com), and I listened to it a few times.  I'll start off with saying that I liked it!  Maks' voice reminds me a lot of a less rough Peter Dreimanis (July Talk).  I didn't find anything especially unique on my first pass through, but I found that I enjoyed the different elements Maks added to differentiate his sound. 

He uses many different instruments on his tracks, and some of the tracks make use of sound effects to create mood and atmosphere.  Technically speaking the album sounds very good, and I can tell that Maks is a very capable guitar & keyboard player.  If I'm reading his messages correctly he recorded and mixed everything on his own, without a backing band, so that is quite impressive. 

One especially prominent through-line I heard for the entire album was a lot of classic rock influences.  I reached out to Maks to ask him about this, and he let me know that I wasn't wrong:

My biggest influences are a band called Magazine, Japan, Ultravox, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and of course a bunch of bands from the late 1970s punk era  

I sort of combined all of them and gave it a swirl in my head and this CD was the result. Mind you, this swirling process took years...!  

I'm listening back to 3FT No Diving as I type up this review, and now that I think of it, I can sort of hear a Bowie-like quality in his voice.  And at the last minute I'm adding perhaps a little bit of Pearl Jam sneaking in there.  Despite all the influences, it doesn't sound to me like he's merely copying styles, but has created his own sound. 

For kicks, I decided to listen to a few songs from Maks' influences, starting with Magazine.  Fun to hear where his blended sound came from!

Once again you can check out the album at www.maksagency.com.  Enjoy!

Review: Dallas Wayne – Songs the Jukebox Taught Me: Volume II

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

I was recently given the opportunity for an advance listen & review of singer/songwriter/DJ Dallas Wayne's 2016 album, Songs the Jukebox Taught Me, ahead of the release of Songs the Jukebox Taught Me: Volume II.  Volume II is set to release next Friday, June 22nd.

The songs on "Jukebox" are pure, classic country.  They're all very well-produced, and are almost bare bones: you've got Wayne singing (and his own voice has that classic twang to it), steel guitar, and some light percussion behind most songs.  Sprinkle in some violin, bass guitar, and acoustic, and that's pretty much the album right there.

There are also some appearances by country vets in there, including Willie Nelson on the first track ("Your Time's Comin'").  The lyrical content is a mixed bag - there are songs about heartache, love, and just plain having a good time.  That to me is pretty much what I expect from most classic country songs.  I'm listening to the album over again as I write this, and "A Dime At A Time" is playing - love it when the piano comes in to add a little personality to the song.

Then you also have songs like "Devil in the Bottle" which sounds like a pretty personal song.  In fact I believe that Wayne put a lot of himself (whether it be through personal lyrics, or just his interpretations of 'traditional country themes') into this album.  This seems like it sounds exactly the way that he wanted it to sound. 

Here's some brief info about Dallas Wayne, in case you were curious (I was):

Dallas Wayne
  • Singer, songwriter, radio DJ, voice-over artist, actor and music producer
  • Recipient of multiple honors, including CMA of Texas Choice award, DJ of the Year and the Disc Jockey Hall of Fame
  • Staff songwriter for Warner/Chappell Music for six years
  • On-air personality for SIRIUSXM Satellite Radio’s Willie’s Roadhouse (Channel 59) and Outlaw Country (Channel 60)
  • Released 11 of his own albums, as well as being featured on five collaborative recordings, including the honky-tonk supergroups Heybale! and the TwangBangers, and a Grammy-nominated bluegrass album with Special Consensus
  • Graced some of the most hallowed stages in country music, from the Grand Ole Opry and the Kennedy Center, to the Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree and Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic
  • Opened shows for many of the biggest names in country music, including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Jeannie Seely, Charlie Pride, Bobby Bare, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley, to name a few
  • Featured artist on “Larry’s Country Diner”
  • Numerous acting credits including the original Broadway cast of “Pump Boys and Dinettes”
  • Commercial voice overs for radio and TV including United Airlines, Chevrolet, McDonald’s, MTV and Avis, among others

My in-laws like to listen to Willie's Roadhouse a lot, so I thought it was cool to find out he's one of the on-air personalities there.

Anyway - if you're looking for some country music that isn't a cross between pop or rock, and closer to the classics, you should check out Songs The Jukebox Taught Me.  3/5.

In the meantime - here is the press release for the upcoming Volume II:

Country music artist and SiriusXM Willie’s Roadhouse and Outlaw Country host, Dallas Wayne will release his latest album, Songs The Jukebox Taught Me: Volume 2, on June 22.

“My latest album represents a continuing journey back to the songs that made me fall in love with classic country music. Together with the previous Songs The Jukebox Taught Me project, this collection of 25 songs is a tribute to the songwriters who crafted them, and the artists who sang them — the heroes and teachers who taught me this music,” Wayne said.

Artists such as Willie Nelson have already given positive reviews of the album: “I’m really enjoying listening to this new CD, Songs The Jukebox Taught Me Vol. 2, by Dallas Wayne. Great job on an old song of mine called ‘Blame It On The Times.’ Thanks for bringing this one back! Also, I love the Vern Gosdin cover, ‘Is It Raining At Your House.’ Remember our motto: If It Ain’t Broke, Break It.”

Songs The Jukebox Taught Me: Volume 2 comes as a sequel to Songs The Jukebox Taught Me: Volume 1, which was released in 2016. In addition to releasing a new album, Dallas will be performing throughout the year, with multiple shows in his home state of Texas. Keep up with all of Dallas’ tour dates on www.dallaswayne.com.

Dallas Wayne Tour Dates
June 27 – Tyler, Texas* - Liberty Hall (w/Connie Smith)
June 28 – Arlington, Texas* - Arlington Music Hall (w/Connie Smith)
June 29 – Waco, Texas* - Waco Hippodrome Theatre (w/Connie Smith)
June 30 – Weatherford, Texas* - Texas Opry Theater (w/Connie Smith)
July 7 – New York City, N.Y. - Lincoln Center Heybale Band
July 8 – Buffalo, N.Y. - Sportsmens Tavern Heybale Band
July 11 – Kansas City, Mo. - Carl Butler's Gospel LoungeKnuckleheads
July 12 – Kansas City, Mo. - Knuckleheads
July 13 -15 – Branson, Mo. - Hit Songwriters in the Round (Americana Theater)
July 28 – New Braunfels, Texas - Gruene Hall -Flat Top Jones (Gruene Hall)
Aug. 10-11 – Carthage, Texas - TX Country Music Hall of Fame Show
Aug. 16 – Waco, Texas* - Waco Hippodrome Theatre (w/Bellamy Brothers)
Aug. 25 - New Brunfels, Texas - Gruene Hall - Flat Top Jones Band
Oct. 27 – New Braunfels, Texas - Gruene Hall - Flat Top Jones Band
Nov. 1 – Waco, Texas - Waco Hippodrome Theatre (w/John Conlee)
Nov. 3 – Carthage, Texas* - Carthage High School (w/John Conlee)
Nov. 24 – New Braunfels, Texas - Gruene Hall -Flat Top Jones Band
*Dallas emcees/opens the show

About Dallas Wayne

“My latest album represents a continuing journey back to the songs that made me fall in love with classic country music. Together with the previous Songs The Jukebox Taught Me project, this collection of 25 songs is a tribute to the songwriters who crafted them, and the artists who sang them — the heroes and teachers who taught me this music,” Wayne said.
Artists such as Willie Nelson have already given positive reviews of the album: “I’m really enjoying listening to this new CD, Songs The Jukebox Taught Me Vol. 2, by Dallas Wayne. Great job on an old song of mine called ‘Blame It On The Times.’ Thanks for bringing this one back! Also, I love the Vern Gosdin cover, ‘Is It Raining At Your House.’ Remember our motto: If It Ain’t Broke, Break It.”
Songs The Jukebox Taught Me: Volume 2 comes as a sequel to Songs The Jukebox Taught Me: Volume 1, which was released in 2016. In addition to releasing a new album, Dallas will be performing throughout the year, with multiple shows in his home state of Texas. Keep up with all of Dallas’ tour dates on www.dallaswayne.com.

Kalie Shorr – Awake (Review)

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

Kalie Shorr - Awake
Another one of those "off my radar" music submission reviews!  This time, it's Kalie Shorr's Awake EP, which was released January 26th of this year.  Here's a bit of the press release:
Country rockstress Kalie Shorr released Awake last night to an at-capacity crowd of fans, music industry and friends in Nashville. The highly-anticipated new project features seven songs that bring a rock-infused sound to country, showcasing Shorr’s authenticity, passion and energy which she injects into her music. Awake is available now on iTunesApple MusicGoogle PlayAmazon Music and Spotify.
So let's unpack this EP a little bit.  The album is most definitely a country-rock album, reminding me a lot of Miranda Lambert (thinking her Kerosene days as I haven't heard much of her recent music).  If I were to describe the EP as a radio station, it would be the local Country station that drops in songs that straddle the tip of the country-rock-pop triangle.   I felt that the EP started off on the softer side, and built up to a rougher, rock-infused ending.  I appreciated the build-up.  I haven't checked the country charts to see how Kalie's doing, but I imagine that "Who What When Where Why" would be a song that will do well.  I like that one, and "Cool Kids" quite a bit.  "Two Hands" is also not too bad, being a bit of a love ballad.   OK scratch that, I did do some research, I'm not THAT lazy.  Turns out that "Two Hands" was released as a single and quickly added to rotation on Sirius XM, featured on The Highway, as well as added to Radio Disney Country (there were some promotional exclusives involved with Disney and a few other properties) and TuneIn.  Unfortunately I don't see her name anywhere on the Billboard charts but it sounds like she's still getting airplay out there.   Definitely recommend this one if you're into rock-infused country.  3.5/5.

Avengers Infinity War – Review (Spoilers)

I put “spoilers” in the title, but they’re probably pretty mild.  Honestly, I need to see this movie a second time to really take it in.  There’s a lot going on here.

I'm pretty sure this is an accurate representation of Thanos' Gauntlet.
I’m pretty sure this is an accurate representation of Thanos’ Gauntlet.

I liked the movie.  Quite a bit more than I expected to, honestly.  What I expected was a mostly coherent movie with all of the established movie characters on screen thrown together.  What we got instead was a very coherent movie with all of these characters on screen, but they were put together in a very logical manner.  What I thought worked very well for it was that it featured the cosmic players primarily (i.e. Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Dr. Strange to an extent), with Earth’s heroes crossing over.

Essentially, similarly to how Captain America: Civil War was basically an Avengers movie, Avengers: Infinity War was basically a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  This makes sense to me, because the villain (Thanos) is cosmic in scale, so it follows that we would be dealing with characters that operate on a cosmic scale.  It’s rather interesting to me that Earth is only important in that two of the stones are there, but it’s not important enough that Thanos personally wants to go there until the very end (he sends his “children” to go get the stones).

Some pieces of the movie I didn’t completely like.  The part at the beginning with Vision trying to pass as a human in a relationship with Wanda was interesting, but I feel like we jumped quite a bit from his attempts at domesticity in Civil War to being in love with Wanda here in Infinity War.  I was told about a Vision comic book story line recently where he tries to start a family, so I guess that’s where this came from in the movie.  All of the other characters seemed to have made logical progresses, but this one was a big leap.

I also didn’t completely like Banner in this one.  I hope that there is a logical reasoning for sidelining the Hulk (I wonder if it’s possible they’re going to split him into two characters?  I think that’s a thing that happens in the comics) in part two of Infinity War.

One last nitpick – Infinity War seemed to undo a lot of what happened in Thor: Ragnarok.  In that movie, Thor discovers – he doesn’t really need the hammer.  He loses an eye.  In Infinity War, he regains an eye (comically stolen by Rocket) and gets a big axe.  Now that I think about it, looking at The Hulk and Thor specifically, a lot of Ragnarok’s work is reversed with Infinity War, for some reason.

Overall, I appreciate how Marvel has really widened the scope of its movies over the years since the first phase: we started with individual hero movies, with only secondary characters overlapping (Fury, Coulson), leading up to the big collaboration movie: The Avengers.  That was The Big Event movie.  While each individual film dealt with mostly Earth-bound villains, The Avengers was the first to open up the Earth to Space (well, technically I guess Thor did that first).

Then they slowly started building up the universe – crossing characters over in The Winter Soldier, and then the larger cast in Civil War.  There are still some isolated movies, like Black Panther and Ant-Man movies (and presumably, the upcoming Captain Marvel movie) but I don’t think there will be many more ‘primary character only’ movies with the OG Avengers.

I can’t think of much more interesting things to say about Infinity War without watching it again.  I highly recommend you listen to these podcasts, which go much more in-depth than I ever could:

And, I haven’t listened to it yet, but Make Dad Read Comics did an episode about the comic for which this movie is based on, The Infinity Gauntlet, if you’re interested in some background comic information.

 

Anela & The Early Hours – Yesteryear

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

I received this email submission back in June 2017; so right off the bat, a slap on the hand to me for not getting to the review until now, nearly a year later. Yesteryear by Anela & The Early Hours Anela & The Early Hours is an indie pop group out of London, Ontario.  Yesteryear is their debut album; here are some of my thoughts about it. Right off the top, I have to be honest and say that this album did not "wow" me.  I feel that it is a solid, well-produced album, but it doesn't stand out as something special to me.  That said, I would still recommend giving this album a listen. Like I said, it sounds well-produced.  It's "radio ready", in the sense that it sounds good over my speakers and headphones - the sound isn't too flat or anything like that.  Guitar work in the 7 tracks is delicate but has a presence, and the drums have a certain "pop" to it.  I like lead singer Anela Navarro's voice, though it doesn't fluctuate through very much range (however it sounds like she potentially has a wide vocal range in her if she chose to use it). Singles from the album include "Space" and "All Alone", for which there are some YouTube videos you can watch: here and here.  The stand-out track for me though was "Stuck With You" - I liked that one the best. Overall, "Yesteryear" is a good album and I recommend it.  3/5.  You can purchase it from iTunes, or stream it on Spotify/Soundcloud/Bandcamp (link above).