Friday, January 29, 2016

The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

Tom Clancy supposedly said "The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." Or was it Mark Twain?

Brad Meltzer's The Inner Circle made no sense to me. Characters motivations made no sense to me, their actions made no sense to me, their role as antagonist/protagonist made no sense to me.

And the book didn't end. It just stopped. I didn't get the sense that anything had been resolved. I'm not even certain that I really know who was the bad guy and who was the good guy.

I'm sorry my first fiction book of 2016 wasn't a favorite.

Bard Meltzer's website is

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Silence of #blizzard2016

It's the silence you notice most. The kind of silence where the pulsing in your ears is the first thing you hear. From eight floors up, the only other sounds are low, growling, urgent rumbles that repeat every five or ten seconds. Expansive, deep, weightless silence.

Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Composition: White on White, 1918. source
There's motion too. Streaky, horizontal, particulate, white, infinite. Something's in a hurry but it's not you. Chaotic is how they're describing it, and yet from this safe vantage it's creating a supreme uniformity, an erasure, a white, undulant canvas.

Robert Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953. source
Despite the growling plows' efforts to erase it, the world outside remains virtually unchanged. Inside, using the word "trapped" mocks the word itself, the vanity of a first world problem. Yet inside this bubble, time has stopped. Nothing to do, or everything to do. No time to accomplish anything, or time enough to accomplish everything.

The window beckons, framing the silver-tinged, grainy whiteness, a vista made tangible solely by the slight chill it imparts, your only direct connection to reality. It's an unchanging view below, punctuated rarely by rapidly filling footsteps.

Vija Clemins, Night Sky #17, 2000-2001. source
There's a crescendo of the growls and footfalls, attempts to hold back time. Yet time and today are already lost to the slicing crystalline blankness with hopes that time will fly back tomorrow.

Massive, swirling swarm of black birds stipples the sky.

Immediacy, timelessness. Proximity, vastness. Fate, luck. All wrapped in a veil of snow.

From the 8th floor of the Hampton Inn at Reagan National Airport, 22-24 January 2016. Written with full knowledge that not everyone involved in #blizzard2016 has the opportunity for faux philosophy.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Never ruin a good painting...

Today's streaming soundtrack is:
Texas Wine Lover profiled friend and wine maven Tom Reed of Hawk's Shadow Winery in Austin.

Git yer interior design on with WSJ's lists of what's in for 2016 (e.g. black metals) and what's out (e.g. facets).

Karl Benjamin, Small Planes: White, Blue, and Pink, 1957. source
You have only two days left to bid on eBay for a 6-foot tall banner from The Elements of King Crimson Tour that's been signed by all the band members. Current bid is £1,200.

My favorite Aviation Week issue of the year is their annual photo contest, chock full o' aviation pr0n.

Sorry friends, but this list of the 10 dumbest cities in Texas includes Grand Prairie and Watauga. Is yours one of the other 8?

So America. B-2 flyover of this year's Rose Bowl. source
If you're old enough to remember the website "Hot or Not," this may appeal to you: HowHot will guess your age and rate your hotness based on an uploaded photo. The good news is it thinks I'm 40 years old.

Are you an extroverted introvert? Myers-Briggs says I'm a 60-40 extrovert but I don't know how that relates to this.

This is a pretty good list of internet hacks.

Leave it to our friends in Japan to turn a lazy egg into an animated character. From the same people who brought you Hello Kitty comes Gudetama.
Have you seen the fog cannon? It's part of your home security system and when triggered it fills your home or office with a dense fog making it impossible for intruders to see or do anything inside.

In the 41st annual list of banished words you'll find "stakeholder," "vape," and "physicality" among others. The latter has always bothered me during football broadcasts.

Get to the theater during 2016 for these animated films. Except for the Angry Birds movie.

...with the truth. ~Henri Matisse

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Favorite Music of 2015

I went a little nuts this year with new music (new to me, not necessarily newly released). Forty-three albums is a lot relative to prior years, from which you may rightly infer that there was a lot of stuff I liked out there. Now the challenge becomes picking my favorite music of 2015.

The Aristocrats

The Aristocrats continue to make raucous, joyous, intricate, funny, and deviously complex music. The (nominally) rock trio of Guthrie Govan (guitar), Brian Beller (bass), and Marco Minnemann (drums)  have not yet disappointed with any of their releases, including this year's Culture Clash Live and the (in my opinion) more wonderful Secret Show: Live in Osaka. The trio molds rock, country, metal, blues, and other genres - within the same song. Here's the band's official preview of Culture Clash Live.

Just listening to that video while I write this makes me smile. As a bonus, later in 2015 I picked up the band's latest studio album, Tres Caballeros. Another winner.


Heaven and Earth by ProjeKct X

I finally plunked down the cash (twice, due to a shipping mystery) for the hard to find Heaven and Earth by ProjeKct X, one of the King Crimson side projects (hence the "Kc" in the name) from the Construction of Light era (2000). Robert Fripp (guitar), Adrian Belew (guitar), Trey Gunn (Warr guitar), and Pat Mastelotto (drums) share raw - but not in the unfinished sense - progressive rock in turn of the century KC style. The tracks include studio chatter, stops and starts, but that's what gives Heaven and Earth it's essence, in the same way that crowd noise adds to a live album. The performance has a rumbley sheen, like big cats wrestling inside a velvet bag. Give it a listen.

2015 also brought me Live at the Orpheum, from King Crimson's recent tour and the promise of other music from the tour or its rehearsals in 2016.

Doctoring the Dead by Metallic Taste of Blood

MToB's lineup for Doctoring the Dead, their second album, evolved into Eraldo Bernocchi (guitar), Colin Edwin (bass), Ted Parsons (drums), with contributions from Roy Powell (keyboards). The performances are rich without being heavy, refined without being constrained. Give it a listen.

I knew as soon as the last track ended on my first listening that Doctoring the Dead would make my favorites list for the year.


The debut album from the trio of David Kollar (guitar), Pat Mastelotto (drums), and Paolo Raineri (trumpet) was a wonderful addition to 2015's listening. Mastelotto provides the pulse, Kollar growls the attitude, and Raineri gives voice to what I can only inadequately describe as experimental heavy ambient jazz. See for yourself.

I could lose myself in here for hours (and have).

From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete by Markus Reuter and Zero Ohms

Lest anyone think my musical preferences have gotten all heavy and hard, rounding out this year's favorites is From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete by Markus Reuter and Zero Ohms.

This album (inspired by a Kubrick quote which makes me in turn think of 2001: A Space Odyssey which in turn makes me think of Eno's Apollo which ties back to this title) is a vast canvas of "composed improvisation," a three-dimensional aural landscape that we each illuminate by our own attention.

With each listening, new worlds appear.

Honorable Mentions

  • Carousel by Robin Guthrie - simply beautiful
  • Absinthe and a Cracker and Official Bootleg by TU - My favorite duo (Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto), performers of one of my favorite live albums of all time (Live from Russia), create arresting music.
  • So (25th Anniversary Extended Edition) by Peter Gabriel - Why did it take me so long to buy this?
  • I'll Tell What I Saw by Trey Gunn - This 2 CD "best of" compilation is a must-own.
UPDATE, 02 Jan 2016: Allow me to correct an egregious omission. The live album pair, Midori: Live in Tokyo by Stick Men featuring David Cross is absolutely fantastic. Cross allows the band to delve deep into King Crimson's catalog to delicious effect, most notably on Shades of Starless.

For the record, here's all my new music from 2015.

 "I don't know a lot about music but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for these reviews.

My Favorite Books of 2015

My reading this year was a bit light (on the paper book side, not the audio book side) due to an ongoing project involving two big books. Volume notwithstanding, and keeping in mind that these are just books that I read this year, not necessarily books published this year, here are my favorite books of 2015.

David Brin's Existence revealed to me that I really should read more science fiction. Probably the last sci-fi I read was Orson Scott Card's excellent Ender's Game. Brin, like Card, creates a fantastic future populated with real characters. I had the pleasure of meeting Brin and hearing him speak and he has more thoughts in an hour than I can muster in a week. Brin's website is

Any fan of Monty Python will enjoy John Cleese's So Anyway, with the caveat that the biography ends with the formation of the genius comedy troupe. it certainly provided wonderful insight into Cleese the person as opposed to Cleese the persona. I dare readers not to hear Cleese's voice in their head as they read. Cleese's website is

Honorable Mentions: I read several non-fiction business books that made me think "Hey, those are pretty good ideas." Among them are Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell, Yes! by Robert B. Cialdini, and Be Our Guest by the Disney Institute. Unfortunately, my problem is turning these ideas into action. 

For 2016: The City of Mirrors, the third in Justin Cronin's outstanding The Passage trilogy is said to be scheduled for a May 2016 release. I can't wait. But I also can't remember exactly how the 2nd installment ended. 

For the record, here's all my 2015 reading.