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Archive for February, 2011


Rockets punt season, time to watch Hockey

GO SHARKS!sharks

When the Rockets lost to the Western Conference worst Minnesota Timberwolves at home a few games before the All-Star break, it isn’t hard to imagine Les Alexander and the powers that be saying “Trade for Carmelo or blow up the season.”

And here we are. Carmelo went for the bright lights and the contract in NYC. A Rockets defense that sucks mightily (ranked 24th overall) just traded their defensive stopper for a project center and a draft pick. That Shane Battier’s contract was up at the end of the year and the Rox may have ended up with nothing if they had held onto to him until then is small consoliation. Best of luck to a class act, wish he would have went to a contender.

Brooks was toast as soon as he chose to walk off the court that day, and his contract was expiring as well. Perhaps with these two contracts, Yao’s and the draft picks, there will be something exciting in Rocket’s basketball next year.

The Rockets had an outside (okay, I’m being optimistic) shot at reaching the 8th seed in the playoffs, mainly due to Utah and Denver submarining themselves with trades. But they are four games out with Phoenix and Memphis also between them and the playoffs. And by throwing the towel in, they save me from the humilation of watching my ex-hometown Spurs annihilate them (the Spurs were my team when I was there, with the Ice Man, Larry Kenon, Artis Gilmore, the Whopper, etc….but not after I drank from the fountain of The Dream!). The remainder of the team is not Clutch City, they would stand little chance against the rejuvenated Spurs.

So, thanks in large part to Yao Ming’s feet not being built like Shaq’s (how does Shaq survive for so long?), I’ll just be glad that the San Jose Sharks rebounded from a poor first half, just in time for another wild ride at the playoffs.


Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Growing up in San Antonio in the 1980s, my brother and I fell firmly into the Rock and Roll camp, versus those country and western afficiandos whose pickup trucks frequently ended up in ditches (or worse, at the kicker bars!).

But our tastes diverged. Bob, Tom, Dan and I were at every heavy metal concert, in line for Judas Priest, April Wine, AC/DC, UFO…pretty much any band that had two or more guitars and could be played loud. My brother was listening to RnR, but venturing more into the Pink Floyd sound…which I considered “the dark side”; it wasn’t country, but it wasn’t heavy metal.

Then he brought home an album with the back of a naked dude on the cover staring at a red star. I knew he’d lost it.

He then cranked up “Working Man” from All the World’s A Stage, and I was hooked. I even used some of the themes from their songs for my first fiction attempts in high school and college; the obsession had begun.

Thirty years later, the DVD release of Beyond the Lighted Stage not only goes through the band’s history and provides some excellent concert footage guaranteed to cause flashbacks, but it begs the question: why aren’t these guys in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Is it simply because they are Canadian? Their lyrics too complex? Their playing just too good? Waiting on their new album, Clockwork Angels, before you let them in?

The first DVD of the two DVD set walks through the history of the band, starting with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson’s school boy friendship as the kids who got beaten up through their latest endeavors. The documentary walks through their first contract, what drove them to replace their first drummer, John Rutsey, with Neil Peart and how Peart’s lyrics started them into the longer “saga” songs; how they went out on a limb with the concept album 2112 (the album my brother started with) against their label’s wishes but to the raves of fans; and an excellent segment on Hemispheres, my favorite Rush album, how complex and virtuoso each of their playing was on that album and all of their albums. It also taunts their fashion sense (or lack there of) and Geddy’s voice.

The list of things that Geddy’s voice sounds like:

  • a rat caught in a wringer;
  • a hamster in overdrive;
  • the dead howling in Hades;
  • Mickey Mouse on helium (from Alex);
  • strangling a hamster;
  • a cat being chased out the door with a blow torch up its ass;

The story finishes with the band taking a break as Peart, working through the death of his child and wife, takes off on his motorcycle, and ultimately rejoins the group (Note: Peart has written several books about his ride, good reading). There are great concert scenes all the way through (I did not glimpse me or my brother), including excellent Farewell to Kings tour footage and one of Peart pounding out “Tom Sawyer”.

The second DVD starts off with some longer segments from the first side (not outtakes, perhaps director’s cuts of scenes, like Geddy and Alex searching the school for the room where they played their first gig). But the jewels of the second DVD are the concert footage, especially the “Canadian Bandstand” footage of a very young Geddy, Alex and initial drummer John Rutsey cranking out “Best I Can” and “Working Man” while teen school kids from Laura Secord SS sit on their hands in the auditorium (from 1974)…priceless. A full jam of my favorite Rush song, “La Villa Strangiato” is included, along with “Between the Sun and Moon”, “Far Cry”, “Entre Nous”, “Bravado” and “YYZ” (with Geddy Lee ripping the bass while some dude takes clothes out of a dryer on stage?).

Put them in the RnR HOF. After all, as the DVD cover proclaims, “….Ranked third in consecutive gold or platinum albums after the Beatles and the Rolling Stones…”, they are with pretty heady company.

Shadowplay by Tad Williams

Shadowplay by Tad Williams

Volume 2 in the four volume Shadowmarch series.

As readers, we are lucky that Tad Williams backs the Golden State Warriors; for if he needed to spend more time backing a winning basketball team, he might spend less time writing engaging series like Shadowmarch (sorry, Tad).

As with his other series, Williams effortlessly mixes human politics, royalty and coming-of-age stories with magic entities, god and demigod rivalries. He doesn’t explain all (similar to his Otherland series, where some events still puzzle me) but keeps his readers wondering. Why is there an alliance between the Tollys and the Sulepis of Xis? How is Qinnitan related to Briony, Barrick and King Olin? What is the relationship between the Qar and the Eddons? Are they half-Qar and half-human? If this series is like others of Williams, some questions will be answered and others will be left to the reader…which is yet another reason to enjoy his work. It is a large investment of time to read a series this long, but Williams’ past series (Otherland, and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn) have proven well worth the investment.

Shadowplay is volume two in the series of four, and it starts with the twin rulers of Southmarch, Briony and Barrick Eddon separated and struggling. Southmarch, the northern most human city, is surrounded by an army of the Qar (the fairy folk) and in the hands of the Tollys, enemies of the Eddons. Barrick had gone north to battle the Qar army, and had been had a magic encounter with Queen Yasammez of the Qar. He begins wandering the Shadowlands, followed by Ferras Vansen, captain of the royal guard, sworn to Barrick’s sister Briony that he would protect him. They encounter and begin traveling with the fairy Gyir The Storm Lantern, who has an object he received from Queen Yasammez who got it from Flint (who may or may not be the son of Duchess Mer0lanna, the twins Great Aunt) and Chert, the Funderling (small folk who are good at digging and stonework and live under the castle).

Got that? (more…)


Doc Savage primer on SFSignal

My not so secret obsession with Doc Savage comes fully out of the closet cover(where I keep the books!) with the “Who is Doc Savage? (A Doc Savage Primer)” on SFSignal.com. I’ve read most of the stories as a kid, and am in the midst of a re-read of the series.

The article discusses:

  • The Publications
  • Doc and his team
  • The History and Influence
  • Favorite Doc Stories (a selection of a few from the 180+)
  • Future Doc Stories (planned new novels by Will Murray from the notes of original author Lester Dent)
  • For Further Reading (links to informative sites)

We are also planning:

  • a review of the audio CD’s “The Adventures of Doc Savage”
  • an interview with Doc cover artist Joe DeVito
  • an review of the new Docs, as soon as they are available.

Python Isle by Kenneth Robeson (Will Murray)

This is the first of the Doc Savage novels penned by Will Murray under the docsavagepythonisleKenneth Robeson moniker. From a Doc chronological perspective, it is usually placed after Death in Silver (which is referred to in the story).

Diamond smuglers King Hancock and Blackbird Hinton, in their ship the Mighty in the Indian Ocean, see a plane heading toward them. They shoot it down, think it is the authorities, but it ends up being piloted by Tom Franklin, lost over the Indian Ocean several years ago, with a passenger, Queen Lha, who speaks no English. Their plane is patched in damaged places with pure gold, peaking the smugglers interest. Franklin will only say that they are looking for Doc Savage.

Franklin manages to escape, gets to shore in South Africa, and finds that Renny, one of Doc’s aides, is finishing an engineering project there. Realizing that Franklin is close to having Doc Savage in the mix, Blackbird Hinton phones Bull Pizano in NYC to stop Doc from getting the telegram. Bull is a large strong man, and takes out Monk easily (much to Monk’s chagrin) and manages to capture Ham. Doc, just back from the Fortress of Solitude, frees his men, finds out that Renny is now captive, and hops aboard the Zepplin Aeromunde (from The Lost Oasis) to head to South Africa. Bull and gang are aboard as well, and think they have dumped Doc, Monk and Ham into the ocean. But, upon landing, they free Renny, get Franklin and the Queen and hear her story. She is a descendant of Solomon, from the Kingdom of Ophir and speaks ancient Hebrew (which Doc understands a bit)…and now lives on Python Isle. The smugglers are after the treasure of Ophir (hence the gold), and all race to Python Isle. They do have pythons there, and yes, Doc does fight with some of them, but here the spoilers end.

 There are obvious differences between Lester Dent and Will Murray’s writing style, and I found the change refreshing. Mr. Murray added more humor to the Monk and Ham exchanges, more competition amongst the men, and more description of everything, including Doc. I’m looking forward to more of his books in my re-read, and to his new Doc novels.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by:Will Murray
  • Villain: Bull Pizano, Blackbird Hinton, King Hancock and Taxus on Python Isle
  • Doc Gadget: dust that he shoots out the windows of the hotel which allows him to follow the car that took Queen Lha
  • Doc Feat: fighting a shark off Python Isle; fighting with Bull, who bests Monk; making the pythons sleep;
  • Exotic locale: South Africa, Python Isle and, of course, NYC.
  • By the numbers: originally published October 1991; would be Bantam #184 if numbers had kept going; Philip Jose Farmer dated July 1934 (same date as Death in Silver)
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

After I read John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany (which is an outstanding read) several years ago, I went on an Irving reading rampage; I stopped because though the writing was exquisite, the stories had elements that repeated throughout.

That was several years ago. I read Last Night In Twisted River because my wife read it, and in her description it reminded me of why I liked Irving’s books: they take ordinary people, who have strange twists and turns in their lives, and follow them through life, love, loss and usually across America through time. unfortunately, it also has all of those elements that repeated throughout many of the previous Irving novels, making it repetitive and ultimately nothing new…which is why I stopped reading this author the last time.

Last Night in Twisted River is like that, following Danny Baciagalupo and his father Dominic through the years, starting when Danny is twelve and accidentally kills his father’s girlfriend, thinking she was a bear. The girlfriend, Injun Jane, also happens to be the local cop’s girlfriend as well. This starts a life a running and hiding for Danny and Dominic, aided by woodsman Ketchum, Dominic’s sometime friend and Danny’s protector…who was something a bit more to Danny’s wife than just a friend.

Thus starts a string of tragedies, common in the Irving books I have read, which seem to have an individual impacted by a multitude of horrible events. Tragedies, sex with older women, rants at the Vietnam war (and multiple ways to keep men out of the war), rants at America, people getting fingers, hands or arms cut off…and bears; all elements observed from other Irving novels (there is even mention in this book of using a similar method to that employed in Owen Meany to keep a young man out of Vietnam). 

The story follows Danny and Dominic from Twisted River to Boston, to Iowa, Vermont and to Toronto, always hiding from the mean cop…or the thought that the cop will come after them. Irving’s descriptions of the scenary and the activities (in this case, cooking as Dominic is a cook) are a pleasure to read. And, as in the other novels, the ancilliary characters were quite interesting and well developed, as was Ketcham the woodsman. Danny becomes a famous writer, and Irving mentions interactions with some of the famous writers he learned from (the great Kurt Vonnegut) as being Danny’s.

But at the end of the book, I started skimming, as the story had similar plot lines to novels read before (though certain occurences at the end of the story (which I will not spoil) though difficult to believe, were new and different).


Texas Independence Relay – 30 day countdown

The Texas Independence Relay (TIR) is a 40 leg, 203 mile relay race with 8-12 people, from Gonzales, Texas to the San Jacinto Monument. It should tirtake us (we hope) less than a day and a half of straight running, starting the morning of Saturday, March 5 and ending with what I am sure will be a well-beered celebration mid-day Sunday.

This is obviously all Bert’s fault, since he was the one who got me doing my first half-marathon (SA Half, 2009); or maybe I can blame this on my brother, the doctor and marathoner, who’s run Boston a couple of times and frequently extols the virtues of running.

As Bert knows due to my complaining after we pass mile ten, I still feel there is no good reason to run a half-marathon. But he still talks me into them..and into the TIR.

Our Team, named Most Likely to Secede, consists of twelve runners (more…)

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo


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