The SFFaudio Podcast #290 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

November 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #290 – The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving; read by Chip (for LibriVox). This is an unabridged reading of the novelette (1 hour 23 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and John Feaster.

Talked about on today’s show:
1820 (1819), the idea behind the story, Celtic folklore, Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, the Wild Hunt, Geoffrey Crayon, Popular Tales Of The Germans, Volksmärchen der Deutschenby Karl Musäus, racing to a bridged, a shattered gourd, Sir Walter Scott, “the wizard of the north”, Tam O’ Shanter by Robert Burns, headless ghosts, Anne Boleyn, headless horses!, jack-o’-lantern, is this a Halloween story or a Thanksgiving story?, 1834, the word “coconut” (head and soul), the South Pacific, breadfruit, The Red One by Jack London, the shattered pumpkin becomes carved into a Jack-O-Lantern, Brom Bones, meta-textual inference, Washington Irving is buried in Sleepy Hollow, NY, a Hessian artilleryman, a sleepy forgotten area, Rip Van Winkle, the Dutch of New York are like the Irish of the British empire, a Connecticut Yankee teacher, sleep, bustling New York City, Tarrytown, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Irving’s loving description of the landscape is like Lovecraft’s loving description of architecture, the jokey Washington Irving, Guests From Gibbet Island by Washington Irving, pirates, Pluto, “nod, wink, and giggle”, a comedy with a great sense of mood, the many birds, Crane, pudding in their bellies, the Van Tassel larder, a low yield version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne, an excellent ragù, an exquisitely painted portrait, Jeff Goldblum playing Ichabod Crane, the dilating abilities of an anaconda, the full orchards, the rooster with his wives, The House Of The Seven Gables, “the world’s first Scooby Doo ending”, Brom Bones is a colossal prick, anti-intellectual, having read several books all the way through, Cotton Mather, the labour of headwork, headlessness, a practical joke, the post-script, the moral (if it has one or if it needs one), The Cask Of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, a deathbed confession, family portraits or a mirror, “in pace requiescat”, alternate endings, the 1999 movie adaptation with Johnny Depp, “Rip van Kolchak”, beheading an embryo, the imagery, Christopher Lee, Marvel Comics adaptations, Ghost Rider, a goblin, J.R.R. Tolkien, distinguishing between goblins and orcs, interchangeable terms, Scrooge, FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY – Headless Horsemen, a whip made of a human spine, the Comics Code Authority, Morbius: The LIVING Vampire, the gaffers at von Tassel’s quilting frolic, an old brower, the Wild Hunt (again), rivers marking town boundaries, “liminal areas”, “a marvelously gruesome book”, Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber, vampires can’t cross running water, a Dukes of Hazzard crossover, the Disney/Bing Crosby cartoon, The Wind in the Willows, The Partially Examined Life (talking the American philosophers), walking while reading a book vs. walking while reading a phone, van Ripper, Gunpowder (the horse), anti-intellectual vs. hyper-competence, Sleepy Hollow as a vision of America (as opposed to Europe), William James, Henry James, young and different, Henry David Thoreau, Walden, the American Revolutionary War, NYC vs. NY State, Irving regretting the American revolution, Lovecraft’s nostalgia, a very American story, “the world’s turned upside down!”, Ivanhoe, enbosomed in the mountains, a debunking, Frank L. Baum’s new creations for an American fantasy, Kansas, the tin woodsman’s chopping, a cyborg version of the Ship of Theseus, written for little children, the heart is more important than the brains, Brom Bones as the hero, Ichabod mucks-in, haunted tulip tree, Major Andre, an unselfconscious hero, corporal punishment, Wackford Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, a wise-schoolmaster, spare the rod and spoil the child, “six of the best when they were ten”, dancing around the issue, squishing, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, “if this were the middle ages and he were a viking…”, Sons Of Anarchy vs. Vikings, bearded vengeance, ichthyology, von Ripper, von Brunt, von Tassel, von Brunt Colonel Ichabod Crane, The Castle Of Indolence by James Thomson, Gothic credentials, autumn, the sleepy hollow boys, Twin Peaks and the Bookhouse boys, the good old boys, more references to NASCAR, Brom Bones as an archetype, the Sleepy Hollow TV show, we can’t CGI our way out of bad writing, “Alan Moore-esque”, “nice, self-contained, and pretty much done”, Katrina as a master manipulator, singing lessons, it’s been haunted forever (maybe 30 years), belief in hauntings vs. belief in ghosts, a haunted green shag carpet, the stain, something was dragging itself on the ground, “The Stone Tape” hypothesis, “creeped by some creepy creepness”, a bad place, Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, poltergeist activity, Brom Bonesey, the 1790 setting, a haunted beach?, Center Lake, a hat sodden with blood, a headless borrower, a local Jimmy Hoffa, folklore becomes enmeshed, why does she settle for Brom Bones?, “a man of great parts”, Shakespeare: “Ale promoteth the desire but taketh away all performance”, Diogenes: “If only I could alleviate my hunger by rubbing my belly”

Supernatural Thrillers - The Headless Horseman Rides Again
The Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane
The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow - Word Cloud
The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow - "What Fearful Shapes And Shadows Beset His Path" (1899)

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter T. Leeson

May 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

AUDIBLE - The Invisible Hook by Peter T. LeesonThe Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates
By Peter T. Leeson; Read by Jeremy Gage
Audible Download – Approx. 7 Hours 41 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible, Inc.
Published: September 4, 2009
Themes: / Economics / Piracy / History / Slavery / Democracy / Anarchy /

Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss–it’s time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates’ notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a “pirate code”? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.

I love non-fiction, and I love books that look at history, books that look at history through one lens or another are even better! And so there is much to love in The Invisible Hook. The title is a play on Adam Smith’s elegant metaphor for how markets work, the invisible hand. Most of the examples cited deal with the Atlantic and Caribbean pirates, rather than earlier Roman era or modern day pirates. But we get a sense of how it likely worked in other regions and times. Chapters on the paradoxical attitudes towards pirate slavery, the wildly contradictory stories about piratical impressment, and the chapter on the Jolly Roger, the pirate flag, are absolutely fascinating. And, as something of a piratical hobbyist myself, I’m pleased to report they deliver clear insights only hinted at in other non-fiction books about piracy. You know you’ve got a good book in hand when you find yourself relating the premises, arguments, and conclusions of whole chapters to friends.

How good is the analysis really? That’s kind of hard to tell. Democracy and equality as a function of economics? Wonderful! Seems logical, seems plausible. And that’s the sort of thing you don’t hear often enough. Indeed, economist Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, gets a shout out early on in The Invisible Hook. This is a book in that vein, a kind of entertaining pop-economics, well written, and very thoughtful. But it also boasts the same kind of inarguable psychohistory-style post-analysis of such books. It reminds me of books like William Rosen’s The Most Powerful Idea in the World, and Jared Diamond’s Collapse. Well written history looked at through the lens of a soft science makes the seemingly inexplicable events of history seem almost inevitable. That is to say, this book should be just one of many such on such topics. In the end though how can you not wanto to read a book that makes piracy, as depicted in The Princess Bride, actually very plausible?

But this is not as merry a ship as it might be. As with many book published these days, there’s some bit of puffery. Concepts well illustrated in a paragraph or two are revisited, whole passages nearly reworded, and I’m betting that this for reasons of market driven economics. It might be that each chapter can be looked at on it’s own, textbook style, but listened to as I did, back to back the chapters have a tendency to revisit the same ports too often. This is one of my major complaints about books these days. Too many books are being published with too many words that don’t say different things. At under eight hours even this relatively slim volume, by today’s market standards, but it’s still puffier than any pirate’s shirt really ought be. It is like a pirate cutter on the stalk, slowed down by a sea-anchor of unneeded repetition. Saying the same thing over and over and over. Get my point? Okay, its the market, and to be fair Adam Smith’s own The Wealth Of Nations is a bloody long book, 36 hours! I’d be willing to bet my strong right arm that the original article, as published by Levitt (mentioned in the book), would be an even better audiobook than this very fine one, and no doubt it’d measure at least a peg leg shorter.

Narrator Jeremy Gage is from the old school of audiobook narration, the kind I like. He doesn’t so much as perform a book as read it. His conspiratorial tone typically him a great choice for first-person POV novels, like Lawrence Block’s Burglars Can’t Be Choosers. This is the first non-fiction book I’ve heard him narrate. So now I can say he’s great for non-fiction too.

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: Shadows In The Moonlight by Robert E. Howard

April 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Shadows In The Moonlight by Robert E. Howard

`Shadows

Though Robert E. Howard had originally titled this Conan adventure “Iron Shadows In The Moon” it was actually first published under the title Shadows In The Moonlight. Current publications, and adaptations, tend to favour Howard’s original title. But either way the novelette, featuring a shipload of pirates, a shapely maiden, and a giant ape, makes for some very good reading.

LibriVoxShadows In The Moonlight
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Phil Chenevert
4 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 1 Hour 31 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: April 17, 2013
First published in Weird Tales, April 1934.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/7755

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Iron Shadows In The Moon - illustrated by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Iron Shadows In The Moon - illustrated by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Iron Shadows In The Moon - illustration by Mark Schultz

Iron Shadows In The Moon - illustration by Mark Schultz

Iron Shadows In The Moon - illustration by Cary Nord

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

September 23, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Hachette Audio - Arguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensArguably: Essays
By Christopher Hitchens; Read by Simon Prebble
24 CDs – Approx. 28.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: September 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781611139068
Themes: / Non-fiction / History / War / Biography / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Iran / Afghanistan / Germany / North Korea / France / Dystopia / Utopia / Religion / Tunisia / Piracy / Terrorism / Feminism / Pakistan /

The first new collection of essays by Christopher Hitchens since 2004, Arguably offers an indispensable key to understanding the passionate and skeptical spirit of one of our most dazzling writers, widely admired for the clarity of his style, a result of his disciplined and candid thinking. Topics range from ruminations on why Charles Dickens was among the best of writers and the worst of men to the haunting science fiction of J.G. Ballard; from the enduring legacies of Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell to the persistent agonies of anti-Semitism and jihad. Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for arthe enduring relevance of Karl Marx. The audio book forms a bridge between the two parallel enterprises of culture and politics. It reveals how politics justifies itself by culture, and how the latter prompts the former. In this fashion, Arguably burnishes Christopher Hitchens’ credentials as-to quote Christopher Buckley-our “greatest living essayist in the English language.”

Here’s a question I was thinking about while listening to Arguably.

What is fiction for?

One answer, the bad one, is that it’s for entertainment. That’s certainly where many readers are willing go, and the fiction writers who write it too. Maybe that’s precisely why so much fiction is just so very shitty.

To me, if you aren’t exploring ideas in your fiction, then you really aren’t serving a greater purpose. Idea fiction, fiction with ideas rather than just action and plot, is to my mind a kind of supplement to the wisdom found in writings on history, biography and science.

Of the many lessons learned I in listening to the 107 essays in Arguably I was particularly struck by the wisdom Christopher Hitchens gleaned from his reading of fiction. Hitchens reviews many books in this collection, nearly half of the essays are book reviews. Books like 1984, Animal Farm, Flashman, The Complete Stories Of J.G. Ballard, Our Man In Havana, and even, surprisingly, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows all get fascinating, critical, and reverent reviews.

Yet Hitchens also takes the lessons with him into his writing about his travels. Hitchens writes about visits to such places as North Korea, Cyprus, Afghanistan, and Kurdish Iraq. When talking about his visit to Beirut we see what comes when Hitchens, a man of ideas, acts upon them. The essay, The Swastika and the Cedar sees the convictions of the commited anti-fascist Hitchens beaten and nearly kidnapped for an act of vandalism on a prominently displayed swastika. Writes Hitchens:

“Well, call me old-fashioned if you will, but I have always taken the view that swastika symbols exist for one purpose only—to be defaced.”

In a review of two books, Lolita and The Annotated Lolita, Hitchens applies the controversial subject in a real life look at the modern, and very non-fictional oppression and objectification of women. Indeed, the ideas he appreciated in fiction helped Hitchens to come to grips with the real world.

I think the worst essay in this collection is the one on the serving of wine and restaurants, Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite. It was simply a waste of the talent, too light, too easy a target. And yet, even that essay, the worst essay in all 107 has a memorable anecdote: “Why,” asks Hitchens’ five year old son, “are they called waiters? It’s we who are doing all the waiting.”

As to the narration of the audiobook. I’m ashamed to admit that I was initially dismayed when I saw that Christopher Hitchens had not narrated this audiobook himself. I was wrong to worry. Incredibly, Simon Prebble seems to have have become Hitchens for this narration. Prebble perfectly captures the erudite words, so eloquently performs them, and with an accent so like that of Hitchens’ own so as to make me think that it was Hitchens who had actually read it.

I think the worst essay in this collection is the one on the serving of wine and restaurants, Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite. It was simply a waste of the talent, too light, too easy a target. And yet, even that essay, the worst essay in all 107 has a memorable anecdote: “Why,” asks Hitchens’ five year old son, “are they called waiters? It’s we who are doing all the waiting.”

Here’s a list of the book’s contents, with links to the original etexts when available, along with my own notes on each:

ALL AMERICAN
Gods Of Our Fathers: The United States Of Enlightenment – a review of Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers by Brooke Allen

The Private Jefferson – a review of Jefferson’s Secrets: Death And Desire At Monticello by Andrew Burstein

Jefferson Vs. The Muslim Pirates – a review of Power, Faith, And Fantasy: America In The Middle East: 1776 To The Present by Michael B. Oren

Benjamin Franklin: Free And Easy – a review of Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, And Political Thought by Jerry Weinberger

John Brown: The Man Who Ended Slavery – a review of John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked The Civil War, And Seeded Civil Rights by David S. Reynolds

Abraham Lincoln: Misery’s Child (aka Lincoln’s Emancipation) – a review of Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingame

Mark Twain: American Radical – a scathing review of The Singular Mark Twain: A Biography by Fred Kaplan

Upton Sinclair: A Capitalist Primer – a review of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

JFK: In Sickness And By Stealth – a review of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 by Robert Dallek

Saul Bellow: The Great Assimilator – review of six novels by Saul Bellow (The Dangling Man, The Victim, The Adventures Of Augie March, Seize The Day, Henderson The Rain King, and Herzog)

Vladimir Nabokov: Hurricane Lolita – reviews of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and The Annotated Lolita edited and annotated by Alfred Appel, Jr.

John Updike: No Way – a review of The Terrorist by John Updike (with reference to The Coup too)

John Updike: Mr. Geniality
– a critical review of the affable Due Considerations: Essays And Considerations by John Updike

Vidal Loco – Gore Vidal went crazier, more elitist and perhaps more racist as he got older (with attention and quips for Quentin Crisp and Oscar Wilde and Joyce Carol Oates)

America The Banana Republic – Hitchens on the “socialistic” bank bailout of 2008 (“socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the rest”)

An Anglosphere Future – a review of The History Of The English Speaking Peoples by Andrew Roberts (with reference to both Sherlock Holmes and The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as to Cecil Rhodes and Rudyard Kipling)

Political Animals – a review of Dominion: The Power Of Man, The Suffering Of Animals, And The Call To Mercy by Matthew Scully

Old Enough To Die – on capital punishment as applied to children

In Defense Of Foxhole Atheists
– a visit to the United States Air Force Academy and the tax funded proselytizing

In Search Of The Washington Novel – a search for some good fiction about Washington, D.C.

ECLECTIC AFFINITIES
Isaac Newton: Flaws Of Gravity – a stroll through the medieval streets of Cambridge with the scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers who worked there

The Men Who Made England: Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” – a review of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Edmund Burke: Reactionary Prophet – a review of Reflections On The Revolution In France by Edmund Burke

Samuel Johnson: Demons And Dictionaries
– a review of Samuel Johnson: A Biography by Peter Martin

Gustave Flaubert: I’m With Stupide – a review of Bouvard et Pécuchet by Gustave Flaubert translated by Mark Polizzotti

The Dark Side Of Dickens
– a review of Charles Dickens by Michael Slater a biography (Hitchens was a not uncritical admirer of the subject)

Marx’s Journalism: The Grub Street Years – a glowing review of Dispatches for the New York Tribune: Selected Journalism Of Karl Marx edited by James Ledbetter, foreword by Francis Wheen (Marx admired the United States, and other fascinating facts about the father of communism)

Rebecca West: Things Worth Fighting For – an introduction to Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West

Ezra Pound: A Revolutionary Simpleton – a review of Ezra Pound, Poet: A Portrait Of The Man And His Work: Volume I: The Young Genius, 1885-1920 by A. David Moody (a biography of the fascist poet)

On “Animal Farm” – an introduction to Animal Farm

Jessica Mitford’s Poison Pen – a review of Decca: The Letters Of Jessica Mitford edited by Peter Y. Sussman

W. Somerset Maugham: Poor Old Willie – a review of W. Somerset Maugham: A Life by Jeffery Meyers

Evelyn Waugh: The Permanent Adolescent – a look at the enigmatic life, writing, religion, and sexuality of Evelyn Waugh

P.G. Wodehouse: The Honorable Schoolboy – a review of Wodehouse: A Life by Robert McCrum

Anthony Powell: An Omnivorous Curiosity – a review of To Keep The Ball Rolling: The Memoirs Of Anthony Powell

John Buchan: Spy Thriller’s Father – a review of John Buchan The Presbyterian Cavalier by David R. Godine (with discussion of The 39 Steps and a fantasy novelette The Grove Of Ashtaroth)

Graham Greene: I’ll Be Damned – a review of The Life Of Graham Green: Volume II: 1939-1955 by Norman Sherry

Death From A Salesman: Graham Greene’s Bottle Ontology – an introduction to Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene

Loving Philip Larkin (aka Philip Larkin, the Impossible Man) – a review of Philip Larkin: Letters To Monica edited by Anthony Thwaite

Stephen Spender: A Nice Bloody Fool – a review of Stephen Spender: The Authorized Biography by John Sutherland

Edward Upward: The Captive Mind – a look at the British novelist and short story Edward Upward

C.L.R. James: Mid Off, Not Right On – a review of Cricket, The Caribbean, And World Revolution by Farrukh Dhondy

J.G. Ballard: The Catastrophist – a review of The Complete Stories Of J.G. Ballard

Fraser’s Flashman: Scoundrel Time – a look at the George MacDonald Fraser series of Flashman books and the connection with The Adventure Of The Empty House

Fleet Street’s Finest: From Waugh To Frayn – an essay on the dubious romance of journalism

Saki: Where The Wild Things Are – a review of The Unbearable Saki: The Work of H.H. Munro by Sandie Byrne

Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived – a review of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

AMUSEMENTS, ANNOYANCES, AND DISAPPOINTMENTS
Why Women Aren’t Funny – a controversial essay on why more comedians are male and why women laugh at them the way they do

Stieg Larsson: The Author Who Played With Fire – a look at the phenomenon of the bestselling author of The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo

As American As Apple Pie – a literary and chronological history of the blowjob, with reference to Valdamir Nobokov’s Lolita

So Many Men’s Rooms, So Little Time – a fascinatingly insightful argument on what’s was going on with the Larry Craig bathroom airport scandal and related phenomena

The New Commandments – deconstructing the Ten Commandments

In Your Face – are bans on burqas and veils actually bans, or are they liberation?

Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite – ill mannered waiters are ruining the business of wine drinking

Charles, Prince Of Piffle – a damning look at the prince who shouldn’t be king

OFFSHORE ACCOUNTS
Afghanistan’s Dangerous Bet – a visit to Afghanistan, it’s all about the women

First, Silence The Whistle-Blower – is there any hope for democracy in Afghanistan?

Believe Me, It’s Torture – a report on what it’s like to be water-boarded

Iran’s Waiting Game – a visit to Iran and a meeting with Hussein Khomeini the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini

Long Live Democratic Seismology – on democracy, Chile, Iran, and earthquakes

Benazir Bhutto: Daughter Of Destiny – a personal remembrance of the brave liar, Benazir Bhutto

From Abbottabad To Worse – an explanation for the existence of Pakistan as the U.S.A.’s worst best friend

The Perils Of Partition – on what dividing a country does to it (it’s like a man with a broken leg – he can think of nothing else)

Algeria: A French Quarrel – a review of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne

The Case Of Orientalism (aka East Is East) – a review of Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents by Robert Irwin

Edward Said: Where The Twain Should Have Met – a review of Orientalism by Edward Said

The Swastika And The Cedar – a visit to “the Arab street”

Holiday In Iraq – Hitchens on holiday in Kurdish Iraq: it’s lovely

Tunisia: At The desert’s Edge – a lavish and lengthy visit to Africa’s gentlest country

What Happened To The Suicide Bombers Of Jerusalem? – why is no one writing about the dog that didn’t bark?

Childhood’s End: An African Nightmare – on Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army

The Vietnam Syndrome – on the horrific effects of Agent Orange and the legacies of dioxin

Once Upon A Time In Germany – a review of the movie The Baader Meinhof Complex, it explores the origins of The Red Army Faction

Worse Than “Nineteen Eighty-Four” – North Korea is a slave state seemingly modeled on 1984

North Korea: A Nation of Racist Dwarfs – a visit to North Korea

The Eighteenth Brumaire Of The Castro Dynasty – a look at the Castro regime’s familial coup

Hugo Boss – a visit to Venezuela with Sean Penn and a meeting with Hugo Chávez – he’s nuts

Is The Euro Doomed? – what will be the fate of Europe’s common currency?

Overstating Jewish Power – In the Israeli American relationship who’s pulling who’s strings?

The Case For Humanitarian Intervention – a review of Freedom’s Battle: The Origins Of Humanitarian Intervention by Gary J. Bass

LEGACIES OF TOTALITARIANISM
Victor Serge: Pictures From An Inquisition – reviews of The Case Of Comrade Tulayev and Memoirs Of A Revolutionary by Victor Serge

André Malraux: One Man’s Fate – a review of Malraux: A Life by Olivier Todd, translated by Joseph West

Arthur Koestler: The Zealot – a review of Koestler: The Literary And Political Odyssey Of A Twentieth-Century Skeptic by Michael Scammell

Isabel Allende: Chile Redux – an introduction to The House Of The Spirits by Isabel Allende

The Persian Version – a review of Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology Of Contemporary Iranian Literature edited by Nahid Mozaffari

Martin Amis: Lightness At Midnight – a review of Koba The Dread: Laughter And The Twenty Million by Martin Amis

Imagining Hitler – the problem of evil, and Hitler, with reference to Explaining Hitler by Ron Rosenbaum and Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris by Ian Kershaw

Victor Klemperer: Survivor

A War Worth Fighting – a persuasively systematic review of Churchill, Hitler And The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire And The West Lost The World by Pat Buchanan

Just Give Peace A Chance? – a critical review of Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker

W.G. Sebald: Requiem For Germany – a review of On The Natural History Of Destruction by W.G. Sebald

WORDS’ WORTH
When The King Saved God – for the love of the King James version

Let Them Eat Pork Rinds – Berthold Brecht, Charles Dickens and various other sources inform Hitch’s view of the Hurricane Katrina relief disaster

Stand Up For Denmark! – a still timely plea for preferring free speech to religious tolerance

Eschew The Taboo - on the banning of words, particularly the word “nigger”

She’s No Fundamentalist – a spirited defense of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Burned Out – the verb “fuel” is fueled by journalistic sloppiness

Easter Charade – on life and death and Terri Schiavo

Don’t Mince Words – the disenfranchisement of south Asians in Britain isn’t the cause of bombings, hatred of women is.

History And Mystery – al-Qaeda in Iraq, jihadists, or “insurgents”? Do words matter? Of course they bloody well do.

Words Matter – political slogans make of “every adult in the country” an “illiterate jerk who would rather feel than think”

This Was Not Looting – how can a government “loot” it’s own weapons manufacturing facility? The government of Iraq managed it according to The New York Times.

The “Other” L-Word – a lighthearted piece on the prominence of the word “like” and it’s use

The You Decade – what’s wrong with you (marketing to the selfish)

Suck It Up – the Virginia Tech shootings prompted the wrong response from the world (namely that it prompted one)

A Very, Very Dirty Word – the English empire, in centuries to come, may only be remembered for soccer and the phrase “fuck off”

Prisoner Of Shelves – on the indispensability of books

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #160 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Red Nails by Robert E. Howard

May 14, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #160 – Jesse, Tamahome, and Brian Murphy (of The Silver Key and Black Gate) talk about Red Nails by Robert E. Howard (read by Gregg Margarite for LibriVox). The audiobook runs 3 Hours 21 minutes and the discussion begins after that.

Talked about on today’s show:
Comics, the comic adaptation of Red Nails, Conan Saga, Savage Tales, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, Storyteller, Wolverine, the REH Comics Yahoo! Group, Beyond The Black River, Tower Of The Elephant, Karl Edward Wagner, Queen Of The Black Coast, grimness, pirates, torture, lesbianism, happy endings, “so much for that decades old gang war”, it’s Red Nails is like a Tom Baker Doctor Who serial, haunted city, a feud culture, Tolkemec’s laser, “if it bleeds we can kill it”, Conan the chauvinist, Valeria kicks ass, is the story told from Valeria’s POV?, it begins like a mystery, the “dragon” is a dinosaur (sort of), Techotl, writer shorthand, Star Trek (Let That Be Your Last Battlefield), Techotl is Gollum-like, Red Nails as a gang war, why didn’t they all get rickets and starve, Howard was the original locavore, a roofed city vs. a domed city, Hatfields vs. McCoys, the black pillar of vengeance, ConanRedNails.com, HBO can do no wrong, copyright vs. trademark, Dark Horse’s Chronicles Of Conan #4, colour and colouring, Howard as a stylist, Book X of The Odyssey, The Land of the Lotus Eaters, The Dark Man: The Journal Of Robert E. Howard Studies, using digital copies to research (control-f), Aztec, Toltecs, cannibalism, Jack London, Harold Lamb, William Morris, J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, sword and sorcery, horror, The Black Stone, Worms Of The Earth by Robert E. Howard, Tantor Media’s tantalizing collection Bran Mak Morn: The Last King, condemn Howard’s racism praise his writing, Orson Scott Card, Al Harron of The Blog That Time Forgot, Apparition In The Prize Ring by Robert E. Howard, Ace Jessel, Solomon Kane, what will we do after?, just an average weekend with laser beams, the gonzo ending of Red Nails, BrokenSea’s The Queen Of The Black Coast audio drama, Bill Hollweg, legal trouble, Sherlock Holmes, Disney’s John Carter vs. Dynamite Entertainment‘s Warlord Of Mars.

Red Nails - interior fold out art by Ken Kelly

Red Nails - Ending - art by Barry Windsor-Smith

Red Nails by Robert E. Howard

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

March 13, 2011 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - On Stranger Tides by Tim PowersOn Stranger Tides
By Tim Powers; Read by Bronson Pinchot
10 CDs – Approx. 11.7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: August 2010
ISBN: 9781441754981
Themes: / Fantasy / Pirates / Magic / Caribbean / Voodoo / Zombies /

On Stranger Tides follows the exploits of John “Jack Shandy” Chandagnac, who travels to the new world after the death of his puppeteer father to confront his uncle, who has apparently made off with the family fortune. During the voyage, he befriends Beth Hurwood and her father Benjamin Hurwood, an Oxford professor. Before they arrive at their destination, their ship is waylaid by Blackbeard (via Davies) and his band of pirates. With the help of the professor and his assistant, the captain is killed and Chandagnac is pressed into piracy and sorcery as Blackbeard searches for the Fountain of Lost Youth (and other nefarious goals). Chandagnac, newly dubbed “Jack Shandy,” must stop the evil plot and save Beth Hurwood.

I was all set to buy the audiobook, when I found an iPhone app for half as much.  The app has some problems though.  The sleep function only works when you disable locking on the phone.  So if you fall asleep, you might get screen-burn.  Also, frequently the app would lose its place in the current chapter, and if I didn’t write down my place in Simplenote app, I would have had to start the chapter over.  Otherwise it was a bargain.

I have some reservations with this book as an audiobook.  Bronson Pinchot is very dramatic in his reading of the dense text, but if you’re in your car or walking in public with some ambient noise, some of the whispering (Blackbeard), mumbling, and toothless (Skank) characters may be hard to hear.  Plus, the plot is so Byzantine, if you miss some important piece of information, you may not know what is going on later on, and get bored.  And watch out because some of the characters have multiple names, like Blackbeard may also be called Thatch or Hunzie Conzo (?), and others.  Hurwood and Shandy’s uncle assume different identities as well.  Even ships like the Vociferous Carmichael may change their identities.  This link may help (possible spoilers).  (Help me, Wikipedia, with a better plot summary.)  By the way, this is how you spell ‘Bocor’ (“Hatian witchdoctor”).  You’ll want to google it .  I’m still not sure what a ‘loa’ is.  Plus you have to watch out for scenes that only take place in fantasy, or within characters’ minds.  I found much more enjoyment when I listened to the book in a quiet room and actually took notes.  But it took a little more effort than I want from a novel.  The characters didn’t seem to have much depth to me, except maybe the evil zophtig Leo Friend.  So the plot is the highlight, and there are some good scenes toward the end, some memorable death and puppetry.

Also, listening to Tim Powers’ 2010 interview (scroll down) on the Agony Column helped me appreciate the book more.  He talks about this book around the 8 minute mark.  His method is to research and find ’20 cool true things’ and string them together into a novel.  (Yes, Blackbeard was real.)  If only the book had a nice appendix.

Remember, never eat a chicken with writing on the beak.

posted by Tamahome

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