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Musical Discoveries April 2021 #4

See also: March 2021 and May 2021 (View all)

Capsule Reviews of my Collection

I like to start out the month with a blank template and then add to it over the month. Stay tuned for more content!

Musical Mystery Meat

none yet

Articles about Music

none yet


Here’s the lovely Sesame Street closing song, with improvisations on the harmonica. I’ve been searching for this special closing number, and the name of that harmonica player is Toots Thielemans.

Every so often I watch documentary excerpts about musicians — especially the Wrecking Crew. Here’s a nice piece about Carol Kaye , There was a Wrecking Crew documentary a few years ago. You should check out Polyphonics’ other musical analysis. Here’s a fascinating vid about Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon (which is based on and a fantastic 1976 live performance for Midnight Special and an early 1975 audio from a Boston concert. Tusk, as I mentioned before was one of the earliest albums I actually bought, and holds up very well.

Speaking of childhood, I never can get enough of Schoolhouse Rock. Here’s a TED talk with Bob Dorough (he performs 2 songs). Here’s a clip of Bob Dorough and the original singer Jack Sheldon singing Conjunction Junction.

I made a Fito Espino playlist (he’s a Panamanian accordionist who was popular decades ago.

Emusic Purchases

  1. Wisconsin Mining State by Thet Liturgiske Oswasendet

Bandcamp Purchases

  1. First

Freegal Downloads & Library CDs

  1. First

Robert’s Roundup #18 (April 2021 Edition)

View the Roundup series || View Raves & Reviews || Mike’s Likes ||  Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section || Commercial Disclosures

View Previous Roundup and Next Roundup (View All)

Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.


As strange as this sounds, I like to put up incomplete posts and then add to them over the month. (By the end of the month, it is full of all kinds of good stuff — although maybe not for every category).

Indie Author’s Spotlight


Smashwords Sales


Ebooks published by Amazon Imprints


Under the Radar

Thin for Life: 10 Keys to Success from People who have lost weight and kept it off by Anne Fletcher (2.99). Use this for shedding your extra COVID year pounds. I discovered this 2003 book the last time I tried losing weight. Although Fletcher is a dietician, the most interesting thing about the book is how she identifies what behavioral strategies worked for successful dieters. Fletcher didn’t spend much time talking about nutrition or what to eat or how to exercise — and in fact, this makes the book still current today. I’m now trying to lose weight, and my first thought was go back and read this book again.

Invisible Pyramid by Loren Eiseley. 1.99

Emotional Rescue: Essays on Love, Loss, and Life–With a Soundtrack by Ben Greenman

Shakespeare’s Secrets – Romeo & Juliet: Essays and Reflections on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet by David Blixt.

Blink and It’s Gone Sales

Penthouse Uncensored series (I have to admit, I enjoyed reading one of these).

Creative Commons — Academi/Public Domain


Once in a Lifetime Deals

There There by Tommy Orange.

Indie Titles/Other ebook distributions

None this time

Review Copies Received

None this time

Library books & Printed books bought (Better World, Amazon, etc)

Bought a haul from Better World Books this time.

Love, Life, Goethe: Lessons of the Imagination from the Great German Poet by John Armstrong.

Goethe: The Poet and the Age: Volume I: The Poetry of Desire (1749-1790) by Nicholas Boyle

Collected Stories by Carol Shields

Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems by Mark Doty

Terminal Experiment by Robert S. Sawyer. I enjoyed the TV adaptation of his Flash Forward book, so I’m trying to read his others.

Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. Called by several people the best sci author and this is his best book.

Starting Over: Stories by Elizabeth Spencer

Festival of Insignificance: By Milan Kundera. Crap, I just realized that I bought the wrong book. I had meant to buy the essay collection, Encounter instead. (I probably will end up buying it).

What Light Can Do by Robert Hass — essays on poetry

Hell or High Water by Joy Castro (college friend)

Question of Bruno: Stories by Aleksander Hemon. Also, Love and Obstacles.

Pomegranate Lady and her sons: Selected Stories by Sara Khalili. Autobiographical stories by Iranian woman from pre-Shah days.

American Poetry Since 1970: Up Late by Andrei Codrescu. Alternative anthology of Codrescu rounding up stuff by his friends. Some really off the beaten path poets here, including Lorenzo Thomas

Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami. Really looking forward to this. Story about a Muslim who explored the Gulf coast of America in the 1500s with Cabeza La Vaca (and based on real events!)

Also, I’m going on a diet, so I found two books on that: The Diet Myth: Why the Secret to Health and Weight Loss is Already in Your Gut by Tim Spector and The FastDiet – Revised & Updated: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer.

Ebook Reviews


Literary Articles and Essays

Maria Popova has a wonderful short essay about the unrequited loves of H.C. Andersen. His permanent infatuation with Jenny Lind is well documented (aka, the Swedish nightingale), but apparently he had tender/erotic feelings for a man named Edvard Collin. In a related post, Popova writes of the intense relationship that Emily DIckinson had with Susan Gilbert:

To make art out of heartache is, of course, the most beautiful thing one could do with one’s sorrow, as well as the most generous — no artist knows how the transfiguration of their pain into beauty will salve another heart, give another sorrower the language of their own truth, the vessel for navigating their own experience.

Popova of course has a famous and wonderful literary newspaper which always amazes me every time I find time to read it. Apparently portions of Popova’s essays are found in the very expensive ebook Figuring (which despite the price is always something I’ve wanted or planned to buy).

Here’s a great elegy by poet Edward Hirsch on Adam Zagajewski: (Hirsch’s website and Z’s website)

Adam challenged those students. He chided them gently, “So you all have been writing a lot of small poems about small things. I would like for you to try something larger.” He assigned one class to write elegies to the 20th century. He made space for students to probe big questions with utter seriousness and depth. The course titles speak for themselves: The Imagination and Its Enemies. End of the Century, End of the World. Memory and Oblivion. Poetry and Doubt.

Here’s another fine obituary without a paywall.

He preferred to use traditional free verse (“Rhymes actually irritate me, a bit like the bell calling you to kneel in church”) and avoided poetic experimentations as his focus was on communication and understanding, yet still engaging in “a dialogue with the imagination”. He demanded that poetry tell the truth (“we write to understand the world,” he claimed), and once wryly concluded that “some French poets say Polish poetry is just journalism, because you can understand it”.

As an aside, I’m depressed at how expensive poetry books are. Apparently if you sign on with a prestige publisher, the price of your ebooks stay above $10. Who on earth has the dough to pay that much!? I have bought a few expensive poetry books in my day — usually they are collected poems, not individual titles. I remember that at grad school I paid $20 for a collected works of Richard Wilbur and another for Howard Nemerov. Also, one for Elizabeth Bishop. More recently, I paid $10 for a collection by Paul Otrembra, a young Houston poet who died recently. I suppose you could say that I’ve paid a handsome price for a nice bilingual collection of sonnets by Petrarch, a collection of Bhartrahari poems and Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry : From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century by Burton Watson. Maybe if the poet is extremely well known and beloved, I could justify paying 9 dollars, but even then I bitch about how expensive it is.

Literary Audio /Multimedia

U. Penn has an incredible website of poets on audio. Notable poets included here are Gertrude Stein, John Ashbery, Ezra Pound, Donald Hall, HD, Kenneth Rexroth, Ferlinghetti, Jorie Graham. Lots of names I don’t recognize, looks like there’s a NY/New England bias, but still just an incredible number of names here!

Personville Press Giveaways and Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. You can buy DRM-free copies of ebooks from Smashwords (and often at a substantial discount over the ebook’s price on Amazon). Alternatively, you can buy ebooks from GoogleAmazonBNApple and Kobo. In May 2021 you can sign up for the Personville Press mailing lists to stay informed about upcoming sales and publications.


Social Media Dump: April 1-15

See also: March 17-31 and April 16-30

How well do over-the-counter food allergy test kits? Not well, reports several doctors and a medical group.

Wow, funny, just realized that I am saving a lot of links on twitter instead of in my browser (or my blog!).

Immigration and Border issues are becoming big political issues again. Here’s an Atlantic piece about it:

Here’s a shocking but compelling story about the time Cicero defended a powerful man against the crime of assaulting an actress (thanks to Mark Oliver for writing this one up):

She lived with that memory to the end.

It was a cruel reminder that, no matter how much horror a man put her through, nobody would do anything to protect her.

But she’d done something. There’s no way she could have understood the significance of what she did, but she’d changed history.

Countless Roman actresses went through what she’d endured before her, and countless more suffered through it long after she died. But her story is the oldest one we’ve found of a woman like her standing up to a man like Plancius.

She didn’t get justice, but she lived to have her story told, and history remembers that she said no.

At the moment I have spent almost all day prepping my computer for a Windows Update. I’ve been trying for weeks to apply updates, but they’ve been failing. I kept delaying these updates until a convenient time. I actually spent a few hours updating a backup laptop which I used just in case my main PC fails to start.

Wish me luck! See you on the other side!

Whew! I’m back. Lessons from the whole updating experience:

  1. Windows is basically forcing your hand by not letting you choose which updates to apply. The only tool you have is pausing the Update temporarily and choosing not to do the optional updates.
  2. Some of the updates for the previous build just never worked. Then after I did the feature update to 20H2, all the other updates ran perfectly.
  3. The Update History panel has improved by breaking down Updates into several categories: Feature Updates, Quality Updates, Driver Updates, Definition Updates (for MS Defender) and Other Updates. Bravo, MS, well done.

For some reason, my computer would not sleep at all after the update. That is a big problem because it turns my bedroom into a heatbox. Aside from that, the noise is really really distracting for me. When the PC goes to sleep, my blood pressure literally goes down 10 points — even if I have music playing.

There’s a lot of outdated information on the web about how to solve sleep/power issues, but the short answer is that you run powercfg -requests in a Windows command window in Administrator mode; that will show what process is keeping you from sleeping. In my case, it was Windows Search; apparently something about the update forced a reindexing of all the files. All I had to do was to wait for this to finish (6-8 hours), and then everything worked peachy.

Another thing I accomplished: buying a webcam and a USB microphone. The webcam was a good-but-not-great Logitech; the microphone I chose was Razer Seiren Mini USB Streaming Microphone (Amazon) which some youtube guys raved about.



Social Media Dump 2021: March 17-31

See also: March 1-16 2021 and April 1-15

Wow, that’s a first. I ended up moving a portion of this linkdump into a separate post. (See below). But what do I fill up the rest of my space with?

I’ll be getting my first COVID shot today. That’s worth a sentence (or two!).

US COVID DEATH RATE BY AGE: When compared to the risk of people 5-17 years of age, 18-29 years old are 15x more likely to die from COVID; 30-39 years old are 45x more likely to die; 40-49 years old are 130x more likely to die; people 50-64 years old are 400x more likely to die; people 65-74 years old are 1100 more likely to die; people 75-84 years old are 2800x more likely to die and people 85+ years old are 7900x more likely to die. What’s interesting is that the likelihood of getting COVID does not vary that much by age group; people 18-29 years old are 3x more LIKELY to get COVID than people 5-17 years of age; for all the other age groups, the risk of getting COVID is twice as high when compared to 5-17 year olds. (Data from Feb 2021)

I get my COVID shot Wednesday (first dose!) I’m excited. From NYT, here’s an interesting story about parosmia — losing one’s smell or experiencing phantom smells or awful smells while having COVID. Related but not the same: A long Brooke Jarvis piece about the Mysteries of Smell A long investigation and meditation about smell and what it means to us as humans. Jarvis is a science writer whose other pieces are here.

“KING OF THE HILL” RETURNS?!: BRENT FORRESTER, A TV writer & former producer for KING OF THE HILL tv show announced today (unofficially on a REDDIT AMA) that a sequel is in the works. QUOTE: “I am sure Greg Daniels and Mike Judge will murder me for sharing this but… HELL YES. They are in hot negotiations to bring back King of the Hill. The Trump administration made it suddenly very relevant again. The characters have all aged 15 years. The project is sooooo good. Okay I’ve said too much 🙂 ” My interpretation is that the project has not yet been greenlit but there is serious interest.

Speaking of which, I’ve heard rumors that Frasier might be coming back in some form. Also, I’m hoping — praying that they come up with that Community movie — or else I’ll be stuck watching reruns for the rest of my life.

This interesting analysis by anthropologist Jason Hickel suggests that using GDP to measure wealth and poverty in pre-20th century times is misleading. This leads to an excellent response to Stephen Pinker (who wrote the book, Better Angels which portrayed a generally optimistic vision of the current world in history).

My favorite quora topic: Why doesn’t Captain Janeway have to specify the temperature of her coffee, like Picard does with his tea?

I’m a little obsessed with the NBC Community show on Netflix. Here are some zany compilation clips on youtube: Annie’s gasping, Annie awwing and Community characters freaking out — here’s one of Annie freaking out. Here’s a compilation clip of “Anne Perkins” from Parks and Recreation.

Rothko Chapel documentary. It’s a little dull, but part of it is indeed the point (great external shots of Houston btw). For those who don’t know, Rothko Chapel is a great hidden secret in Houston; it’s next to Menil Museum and is a small meditation chapel which is nondenominational and based on Rothko’s dark solid color portraits. I’ve visited there several times; it’s a nice place to relax and be alone with your thoughts. I’ve also seen some small performances inside the building and some larger events outside — a Peace-oriented event with several Nobel Peace winners, Jimmy Carter and others…


Chevron vs. Donziger…. (continued)

This 11 minute video from 2019 talks about how CHEVRON/TEXACO got away with not paying for a 9 billion dollar judgment against it for polluting Ecuador and never cleaning it up. The human rights lawyer who narrates this piece has been under house arrest by a NY federal judge for 1.5 years — despite protests from Amnesty International, 55 Nobel laureates, and Marty Garbus (the lawyer who argued for Nelson Mandela’s freedom, defended Ellsberg, Andrei Sakharov, Cesar Chafez) etc.

From a recent interview with the head of Amazon watch:

“The real thing that’s going on here is Chevron is attempting to literally criminalize a human rights lawyer who beat them. He’s never been accused, let alone convicted, of a crime anywhere. And now Chevron’s machinations by Lewis Kaplan, this federal judge, and Preska, the judge that he has appointed, are on the cusp of turning him into a criminal because he didn’t comply with Kaplan’s outrageous contempt of court orders.”

And so, Steven Donziger, for Chevron, is a tactic. It’s a tactic for them to avoid talking about what they actually did, and have the world not look at what they actually did in the Ecuadorian Amazon. And what we want, as the human rights and environmental justice community, is for this new administration to check the corporate power that has manipulated the judicial system to turn Steven Donziger into an example of what will happen if you stand up to corporate power in the United States. And it’s a seriously chilling one.

Democracy Now interview, March 15 2021

An Intercept piece gives the full sordid history in the case.

“On the basis of (Judge) Kaplan saying, ‘I believe this witness; I find Donziger guilty of the crime of bribery of the judge’ — on the basis of that, he’s been destroyed. That is the pinnacle element of all of the other claims against him. And if you take that one out, the rest of them — they’re just not there,” said Charles Nesson, an attorney and Harvard Law School professor. “He has effectively been convicted of bribery by the finding of a single judge in a case in which bribery wasn’t even the charge,” Nesson said of Donziger. “I teach evidence, that you have to prove what you assert. But the proof in this case is the thinnest.”

Charles Nesson, Harvard law professor,

I’ve looked at some of the briefs on both sides and the various judgments. The bribery/RICO charges seem wild and incredible; also, it seems ludicrous to apply RICO to a case where a lawyer is trying to fund a lawsuit by promising to the law firm a percent of the amount recovered.

Leaving aside the case of Donziger’s arrest, several things about the case have been shocking:

  • Chevron’s attempt to change the venue from US and Ecuador and then after they lose after multiple appeals in Ecuador, they try to vacate the judgment through US courts:
  • The amount of money Chevron has paid in legal fees — and the legal tricks they have employed to drain the funds of the litigants and their attorneys. I saw one estimate that the amount of legal fees spent by Chevron to be over a billion dollars.
  • Kaplan’s judgement was shocking; but also shocking was that the judgment was upheld on appeal, and when it was appealed en banc to the 2nd circuit court of appeals, it was unanimously denied. Later, the appeal to the Supreme Court to grant certiori was denied.
  • After reading the evidence on both sides, I remain very skeptical that Donziger’s team was involved in any way in bribing the original judge in Ecuador. If anything, there was information sharing (sharing documents and undoubtedly copying and pasting parts of legal briefs). That is insufficient to establish a case of bribery, RICO and fraud. Donziger once said that sharing MS Word files was commonly done in Ecuador when drafting judgments. The Ecuadorian judge (who was actually well-respected in his home country and flown in to testify in the NY courtroom about how he made the decision) said that the case was gigantic and overwhelming, but he and his secretary did manage to draft the judgment without outside influence — though there was cutting and pasting where applicable.

I have a small personal connection to the case. My dad worked for Texaco in the 1960s and 1970s, and once my dad bought me 2 shares of Texaco stock as a way to help me learn about the stock market. Interestingly I remember periodically receiving a glossy stockholder portfolio containing corporate information and financial disclosures. I didn’t really understand it, but I clearly remember that the brochure includes photos of oil drilling in Ecuador several times. In the 1980s my dad (who had become a lawyer) and I were both filing the Penzoil vs. Texaco case which Texaco ended up losing a 10 billion judgment for not honoring a contract between Penzoil and Getty. Texas was egregiously in the wrong, and in fact their legal defense team was incompetent as well (for not disputing the damage claim).

In the 1970s Texaco was making a ton of money — and so were its competitors, but Texaco seemed to be the least law-abiding of the majors.

Last Christmas I listened to an amazing podcast series Drilled, where a podcaster tried to follow the long history of the case and interview the major actors. I know a lot of this already (following this case was almost an obsession with me over the last 20 years), but the thing that surprised me the most was an interview with an expert on multilateral arbitration about how awful it is and how easily corporations can avoid the civil and criminal courts on the country level. (See this great interview on S5 E 4 “THE SECRET TRIBUNAL” Oct 16 2020 corporate wrongdoers evade enforcement and how it makes enforcement of environmental lawsuits practically impossible. It even grants to corporations remediation by the government for changing their laws about multinational corporations. Wow, how convenient.


Social Media Dump 2021: March 1-16

See also: Feb 15-28, March 17-31

Outrageous! Emily Holden reports that gas companies in Texas have steered municipal power companies in San Antonio and Austin towards more reliance on natural gas and slower implementation of decarbonization plans. Climate change Emily Atkins wrote a column praising Holden’s articles, and I agree.

Thejuicemedia is an Australian-based video agitprop company which make “Honest Government Ads” — videos resembling corporate or official announcements. In fact these “press people” are in fact delivering cynical/condescending/paternalistic messages that make clear that the office is in fact pure evil. Everything is supposed to be satire, and this anti-Trump video . Also, you have why conservatives are incompetent at managing the economy. (Hint: it has to do with spending cuts, tax cuts and more subsidies for fossil fuel development).

There are a lot of Australian-themed ads (which is only logical and occasionally interesting to Americans — see this takedown of Kyoto carbon credits — wow! Recently they have been making revisionist history disguised as satirical tourist ads — See the ones for Puerto Rico, Hawaii and E. Timor.

Actually alongside these satirical ads are interview podcasts on Youtube with well-known liberals.

A GREAT REPUBLICAN! Sen. Bob Dole announced his presidential campaign on Letterman. David Letterman invited him back to the show a few days after he lost. Here he was relaxed, gracious, self-deprecating and very respectful both to Clinton and the institution of the presidency. Here is a man with class. He also is extremely funny too!) About a decade later, I happened upon a humor book edited and written by Bob Dole. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to.

COMING 2 AMERICA — FRIDAY ON PRIME! I am genuinely excited that the sequel to Coming to America will go on Amazon Prime this Friday…. It’s a nice and silly fairy tale with lots of great lines and comic performances. This sequel should be great as well.

Hadley Freeman writes a much-needed defense of Woody Allen after the release of the “true crime” style documentary of his alleged child abuse. I kept an open mind about the subject until the last time the scandal eeked out again 5-10 years ago. Then I read all the related documents in a single day. The investigation in the 1990s established that there was no evidence of child abuse, that at worst, Allen was a strange/neurotic (but loving) father, and that there was a good chance that Farrow was “poisoning the well” in her children’s minds. I’m sure Dylan believes that she was abused (and chivalrously, Ronan Farrow has come to her defense), but the film presents no new evidence, and I’m more inclined to trust the doctors and judges and investigators closer to the time of the event. What is true is that Mia’s charges have already wrecked a director’s movie career even if they were poppycock. I’m not that much of a fan of Woody Allen’s films (so I am not personally invested in whether he did it). But his account of events remains highly plausible to me — while Dylan as an adult seems to have adopted an unprovable claim which only hurts herself and her adoptive father in the long run. Ultimately to me the case doesn’t seem to be about sexual molestation than the use of an inflammatory accusation to pressure the court to refuse child custody to Allen. (Lawyer Alan Dershowitz was probably responsible for such scorched earth tactics).

Here is a long interview from Sun Yi Previn in 2018 . It criticizes many things about Mia Farrow’s parenting skills; and even if Sun Yi’s version of events includes a degree of self-interest, it’s hard to read it without concluding that Mia Farrow was a bit of a nut job herself and a bit too obsessed with children and adoption.

MOVIE RECOMMENDATION: Totally loved the COMING 2 AMERICA sequel (which premiered on AMAZON PRIME yesterday). It was exactly what I expected; a big Hollywood film with most of the original cast and lots of celebrity cameos. Jokes and snide references to the original movie were everywhere. The pagaentry was a feast for the eyes: great costumes and choreography and extravagant silliness. The soundtrack also could not be beat — a mixture of 80s classics and recent funk and comic songs. (like this song).

REVISITING SPINAL TAP: Here’s new footage of Spinal Tap which was used to promote it on SNL. Here’s video of Tony Hendra (who played the group’s music manager) about what it was like to be in the movie. Hendra — who was a British comedian with lots of experience had several major failures and letdowns before showing up at the set — and he found Spinal Tap so relaxing, so easy to improvise for, calling it “practically a documentary” of Heavy Metal fans who expected that kind of music to take over the world. Here’s a Moth story by Hendra about being a teenage Catholic boy seduced by an older woman.

Ebook /Technology blogger Nate Hoffelder has lots of “power user” tips for using gmail. Funny I’d been using gmail for a long time and hadn’t heard of many of them. RELATED: Nate rags on a new Dell laptop which gave him lots of grief.

I’ve been enjoying Ezra Klein’s NYT podcast . Some good interviews with environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert (Feb 9) and productivity expert Cal Newport (March 5).

Speaking of which, someday I should write a post about my productivity habits.

BERNIE SANDERS AT THE MALL: You may already know that when Bernie was mayor of Burlington, VT in the 1980s, he used to take a camera crew out and ask random people about their outlook on life and put it on Public Access TV. Here’s a fun (and actually insightful) interview with 2 punk students at a shopping mall. Perhaps Bernie’s true calling would have been a talk show host in the spirit of Donahue or Oprah. According to Wikipedia, after the Department of State forbade unsanctioned contacts between US dipolmats/businessmen/journalists with USSR, Sanders set up a “sister city” program between a Russian city and his own.


Musical Discoveries March 2021 #3

See also: Feb 2021 and April 2021 (View all)

Many people don’t realize this, but many public libraries have a service called FREEGAL, which lets you download 3-5 albums per week for free. Their selection isn’t great and they often don’t let you download tracks longer than 10 minutes,

For Saint Patrick’s Day, I relistened to some albums by the Cranberries — and realized that I hadn’t heard their last few albums.

Capsule Reviews of my Collection

Here is an extremely pleasant and upbeat collection of Panamanian tunes from the 1960s and 1970s with an awesome and jamming accordion. I’m assuming that Espino plays the accordion and sings. The female singer is also lots of fun.

Musical Mystery Meat

Last month I mentioned how I regularly download this gigantic stash of audio tracks by all sorts of musicians who perform for South by Southwest. I was bowled over by Nigerian Afropop sensation Yemi Alade; here’s an infectious song bumbum (she also sings in English and Nigerian language), and almost all her songs have well-made vids. These songs are just about dancing as they are about the melodies. All the songs have a joyous — get off your feet quality.

Articles about Music

I have noted early about my love for the Ukrainian electronic-folk band Onuka who did this dynamite debut as the “interval act” during Eurovision. Here’s a nice interview of the lead singer Nata Zhzhchenko in a Kiev publication and a profile in Odessa Review. Lots to chew on in both articles, but delighted to learn that her husband’s band Maneka is on the same label, and the two frequently collaborate. Here’s a nice live concert (with a popin from Nata in the middle).

Maybe you already know this, but the song You Light Up My Life was written by a serial rapist named Joseph Brooks, and Debby Boone ended up having to re-record the song after the original singer for the movie soundtrack (Kasey Cisyk) refused to sleep with him, and Brooks wanted to take revenge. It got pretty sordid. Cisyk’s singing of the song was nominated for an Oscar for best song and won, but Brooks instead had Debby Boone perform it at the Oscar ceremony and removed Cisyk from the song credits in the movie and album. (She later sued and won. 3 decades later, NYC indicted Brooks for 90 charges of rape, and he killed himself before he got to trial). Strangely Debby Boone was in the dark about all this — and admitted that she was told simply to copy the original singer’s performance for the recording, and she sang it as if it were a religious song.

Here’s Cisyk’s version . It’s an excellent version and not very different from what Boone did. Although this was a definite low point in her career, she did a lot of singing in US commercials — and recorded a lot of Ukrainian folk albums in the 80s before dying of breast cancer. But you have to wonder, what would have happened if the version with the original singer was released and not Debby Boone’s version. For the record, my sister loved this song when we were growing up… and I couldn’t stand it….

Emusic Purchases

  1. Blow Up by Television. 6.99, 13 tracks, 82 minutes.
  2. Sale% by the Maneken. 61 minutes, 6.49, 14 tracks. On the Vidlik label (the same label that produces Onuka). Maneken is married to the lead singer of Onuka and kind of runs that band. Here he is doing Bruno Mars like pop stuff.
  3. Lost Art of Longing by BT. I have downloaded several BT albums. Great EDM stuff — very frenetic and energetic. This one feels slower, more relaxing, more like Robert Miles’ dream trance. This is great stuff to listen while taking a nap — never too intense or harsh — well, the remixes are somewhat more intense
  4. Sketches in D Minor by Hardy Tree, 99 cents
  5. Summer by Iorie
  6. Fiesta by Chick Corea. 99 cents, 5 tracks, 34 minutes.
  7. Gran Riserva by Dzihan & Kamien
  8. Singing through the Hard Time: Tribute to Utah Phillips. 39 tracks, 6.49 130 minutes. Nice performers of songs for an acclaimed writer of folk songs.
  9. Slugger by Sad13. 35 minutes, 11 tracks for 6.49. (BC page).
  10. Several releases from Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records: Make it Beautiful by Sara Lee (10 tracks, 48 minutes, 5$), Dilate by Ani DiFranco (same), Knuckle Down by Ani DiFranco and Binary (4.99, 11 minutes, 49 minutes). Will buy some more of that label later.

Bandcamp Purchases

  1. Tough Love by Hamell on Trial. (BC, Pay What You want), Songs with an Attitude. Actually about half of his albums are PWYW. I really love the guitar jamming; these are real bluesy rock songs! Update: Ok, there’s some bluesy rock, but there’s also punk a la Violent Femmes. Versatile, never know what to expect.

Freegal Downloads & Library CDs

  1. Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple. Grammy winner.
  2. Bubba by Kaytranada. EDM Grammy winner
  3. Afro-Peruvian Classics. Great compilation.
  4. Roses by Cranberries — an album released shortly before Delores O’Riordan’s death.
  5. Revolutionary Love by Ani DiFranco. Hey I bought a few other DiFranco albums, I deserve this freebie!

Robert’s Roundup #17 (March 2021 Edition)

View the Roundup series || View Raves & Reviews || Mike’s Likes ||  Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section || Commercial Disclosures

View Previous Roundup and Next Roundup. (View All)

Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.


3/7/21. The 1 week Smashwords sale starts today so I’ll do a quick search of quality titles and list them ASAP. I’ll add other non-Smashword titles as I go along. 4/1 I’m leaving the titles discovered on the sales even though most probably snapped back to the “normal” price by now.

Indie Author Spotlight

Paul Hina is a prolific author and poet who has been producing quality fiction and poetry for over 2 decades. My review of Other Shore is below. It’s hard to categorize an author on the basis of one book, but I think he inhabits the genre of short “pensive romances.” I already grabbed his Lavender Haze: Three Stories of Flirting with an Affair and Golden Boat. By some crazy coincidence, Hina lives in the same city as Jack Matthews (the author my Personville Press has been publishing). His ebooks are discounted semi-regularly on Smashwords and stay in the budget category on other ebook distributors.

(Read about indie authors profiled in previous months).

Smashwords Sales

First, Smashwords lets you search/sort by Publisher, which is really helpful. Here are the most interesting presses I’ve seen so far on Smashwords: Unsolicited Press | Fomite Press | Whitepoint Press | OpenBooks (interesting but overrpriced?), Bold Venture Press (republishes classic, pulp and genre fiction | Lethe Press | ReAnimus Press (established scifi press which republishes lots of things) | LDB Press | Black Opal Books | Propertius Press (too expensive though) | Atthis Arts | Leaf Garden Press (mainly poetry — see here). Also I would be remiss if I didn’t link to my own Personville Press titles — great stuff — all discounted!

I haven’t checked all these presses yet, but after superficial browsing, it appears that all of Unsolicited Press titles are heavily discounted. They publish mainly literary fiction and poetry, all of it great. Below are some interesting titles I haven’t seen or bought before. Keep in mind that I’ve recommended some other Unsolicited titles in previous roundups — see here and here. I’m guessing that these titles are also discounted.

  • Anne Leigh Parrish, What Nell Dreams, (Author website). Parrish is one of the literary stars on Smashwords and one of my favorite discoveries. The 3 other titles on SW are good also, but several other titles are Amazon only.
  • Tin Can House and Other Stories by Susan Pepper Robbins. Actually her earlier collection Nothing but the Weather has 2x as many words, so it must be twice as better — right?! Here’s an interview and a published story.
  • Biography of a Body by Lizz Schumer. (Author Website) Schumer is a young “Jackie of all Trades” writer who writes a lot of nonfiction for well-known publications and (according to her bio) does fiction and poetry as well (not yet published). Book excerpt and short video
  • And Yes She Was by Tsipi Keller. Keller is a Prague-born author and translator who lived in Israel and now Florida. No home page, but her fictionaut page lists a lot of fiction titles, books and bio (she lists a lot of European titles as faves). This title — the only one on SW — is about a disintegrating marriage.
  • Bread and Salt by Valerie Miner (author website). Story collection by a prolific author and Stanford prof of feminist studies. By the way, SW only has one of Miner’s books (1.99 this week). I just wanted to point out that Open Road Media promotes all her other books, so despite the high sticker price, her other ebooks gets regularly discounted to 1.99. Miner is a regular guest on podcasts (see here) , so you can see and hear her in several places. Here’s a page collecting reviews of her ebooks. Here’s one review of Bread and Salt: “she deftly moves readers across the seas with lush prose and razor-sharp insight. The collection’s stories celebrate the musical complexity of language while addressing real world themes of immigration, suicide, gun violence, and state terrorism.”
  • The Minors by Chris Ludovici , a novel about baseball (presumably the minor leagues). Here’s an author interview and a nice book review:
    “This is a character-driven story, and Sam and Nick and the others have the nuance and beauty that comes from genuine affection on the part of the author. Such writerly love is infectious; it only took a few pages for me to care about Nick and Sam. The story’s premise about the nature of people and adulthood is fundamentally compassionate; people aren’t bad, Nick contends, they’re “just stupid.” They make mistakes and stumble through their relationships. In The Minors, coming of age is the acknowledgment that no one has really made it out of “the minors,” that everyone is trying their hardest and there are good moments and bad moments to life.

I raved about Paul Hina‘s “literary romance” title (see book review below). He’s still been writing poetry and fiction, and his Smashwords titles are free this week.

Ever since I discovered Harvey Havel on SW, I’ve been interviewing him, writing book reviews and ultimately maintaining an active correspondence. His books are mostly free now this week on Smashwords.

Moskowitz Code by Joel Bresler (Humor book).

Ebooks published by Amazon imprints.

Some of the Amazon imprints produce very inexpensive ebooks of varying quality. Some titles though are superb — and you should check previous roundups for my recommendations — I frankly ignore most of the genre stuff and focus on the international authors and biographies. Follow this link to see which titles are 99 cents for the month.  (check previous columns herehere and here), so maybe my recs will be sparser than usual. All are KU APUB, (but not lendable!).

Under the Radar

Sorrows of Young Mike (KU, LE, 0.99 ), by John Zelazny (FB Page) Several years ago Zelazny wrote a modern retelling of Goethe’s Werther, using instead a horny college student travelling around the world. Intriguing premise — hopefully with a different ending than the original Goethe! He’s a music journalist who also published Past Deadline, his reporting one year from the Aspen Music Beat festival.

Lisette Brodey (author website) is a prolific California author born in Philadelphia who is also a super-blogger. To my amazement, she has 17 pages worth of interviews with other authors (several authors per page!) — which is quite a feat. (I can’t wait to browse through them). Lisette’s Book Page is here, and prices range from 0.99 to 2.99 on Amazon (LE, KU). In addition to writing a YA Paranormal series, she has written several ebooks for adults which are periodically discounted. I grabbed Crooked Moon about two friends who grew up in Philadelphia meet again 20 year later. Here’s an interview she did with blogger/author Deborah Nam-Krane about her story collection Hotel Obscure. Quote: “..(B)ecause I think that most of us have misconceptions/stereotypes about groups of people, no matter what the common denominator, I wanted to focus on this small population of people, bring them out of obscurity, and let their individuality shine. Too many people are hidden away in real life and categorized as someone or something very different from who they genuinely are.” Also interesting: Squalor, New Mexico (a mother refuses to talk about her sister around her daughter) and Sum of Our Sorrows, a tale of how a family tragedy affects one of the daughters.

Brodey worked in communications and acting both in NYC and California, so she probably met a lot of interesting people along the way. Almost forgot: Brodey produced a collection of her mother’s poetry, My Way To Anywhere by Jean Lisette Brodey.

Geek who Came from the Cold: Surviving the Post-USSR Era on a Hollywood Diet (Free!, KU, LE) by Leon Kaminsky

True Porn Clerk Stories by Ali Davis (99 cents, KU, LE). Hilarious first person tale of a young female comedy writer and performer who worked at a porn store in the 1990s. I read this a decade ago and laughed really hard. More recently, she’s been interviewed on Soundcloud . Highly recommended!

Built to Fail: The Inside Story of Blockbuster’s Inevitable Bust by Allan Payne. (99 cents, LE). In the 1990s Payne managed the San Antonio HEB video stores (called “Video Central” ) and later was hired by Blockbuster to turn around failing Blockbuster stores. This price probably won’t last, but I have people who worked at both stores in the 1990s.

Coldness of Objects by Panayotis Cacoyannis. (99 cent sale, KU, LE). (author website). I’ve corresponded briefly with this Cypress-born UK author — who is related to the famous Greek director. He’s written several acclaimed literary novels, and I can’t wait to read them (and dang, PC just released another one). This one is a Kafkaesque post-Covid political satire

Seeing the Grocery Store through Seinfeld Eyes by R. Scott Murphy. I definitely get the sense that humorist Murphy is trying to hang on Seinfeld’s fame by putting his name on the titles, but this is an earnest book of humous observations.

Blink and It’s Gone Sales

(books which go temporarily on sale for a day and then jump back to regular price; to hear about them, you generally need to set up price alerts on ereaderiq).

Edge of Reason by Julian Baggini (author website). He is the author of the readable classic Pig who wants to be eaten (which was used skillfully by a high school teacher I observed to get students into philosophical questions)

Apropos of Nothing by Woody Allen. 1.99 I bought it because I knew it would be a brooding but entertaining read.

Eros of Everyday Life: Essays on Ecology, Gender and Society by Susan Griffin (1.99). A feminist philosopher, whose book I read in the 1990s. She’s written several

Quirky: Remarkable Story of the Traits, Foibles and Genius of Breakthrough Innovators by Melissa A. Schilling. A great 99 cent bargain business book. Without even trying I’d read the first two chapters about Musk and Einstein.. There’s general insights here, but the lives depicted here are so iconic that it’s worth revisiting.

Writer’s Library: Authors you love on the books that changed their lives by Nancy Pearl, etc. 1.99 Why am I such a sucker for these books?

Creative Commons — Academic — Public Domain

Nothing here yet

Once in a Lifetime Deals

None this time

Indie Titles/Other ebook distributors

None this time

Review Copies Received

None this time

Library Books & Printed books bought (Better World Books, Amazon, etc)

I bought all of these books at bargain prices!

Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science Deniers by John Cook. Book is a brilliant mind behind Skepticalscience.com which is used to fight conservative misinformation about climate change. He’s a great science communicator, as this video shows.

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge EO WILSON BIOLOGICAL GENIUS

Calculated Risks: How To Know When Numbers Deceive You by Gerd Gigerenzer. GOOD BOOK ON STATS

The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems ROBERT HASS — FAMOUS POET. Also, Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry by the same poet.

New Frontiers: A Collection of Tales About the Past, the Present, and the Future (BEN BOVA) I’ve always wanted to read more sci fi.

The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World by Carl Safina, ZOOLOGIST AND MACARTHUR GENIUS WRITES ABOUT NATURE — I READ HIS OTHER BOOK, BEYOND WORDS.

Unknown Masterpieces: Writers Rediscover Literature’s Hidden Classics (New York Review Books Classics)



Levee by Paul Otremba. HOUSTON POET WHO DIED IN HIS 30s 2 YEARS AGO.. read library copy – thought it was terrific

Ebook Reviews

Other Shore by Paul Hina (book cover)
I love this book!

Other Shore by Paul Hina (Author home page and twitter account)

In the novella “The Other Shore” Paul Hina captures romance and domestic drama with psychological nuance. He writes incredibly well and with tenderness about unique relationship situations and flawed but complex characters. The first novella in the volume is remarkable: a son of a famous poet returns home to mend his relationship with his dying dad and deal with his sexual attractions to a grad student at his dad’s department while dealing with his own rocky marriage. The story may have ended in a predictable place, but I really enjoyed getting to know all the people. My only “complaint” (maybe it’s a lament?) is that everybody is so rational and well-spoken that it’s hard to imagine them really fighting for long. This book is a beautifully told tale; it’s both a multi-faceted love story and an exploration of the protagonist’s ambivalence about marriage. Compare to DH Lawrence or possibly some realistic writer like Anne Tyler or Somerset Maugham.

Literary Articles and Essays

Salon’s Laura Miller interviewed Norton Juster about Phantom Tollbooth. (Juster died a few days ago, and remains one of my favorite authors).

Remember those wonderful Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) novels for kids. There have been many attempts to recreate the magic of those novels in ebook form — without much success. By accident I stumbled upon the Choice of Games website. Apparently some developers built a software platform and a programming language to make it easier to display CYOA games. These guys have been around for almost a decade; they publish CYOAs as mobile apps — selling them for about 5 dollars. Alternately you can create one of your own and host it on the User-made Games portion of the site. All apps are free for download, and you are allowed to read 3 chapters before they prompt you to buy the whole thing. I downloaded one CYOA and thought it was very well written. (I’m actually playing with the idea of writing one myself)..

Lauren Gross on the forgotten genius of Nancy Hale.

Nancy Hale’s voice has become a quiet and internal intelligence that over the past months I have begun to rely on; finishing the book gives me a gentle, bittersweet tang. She once said, according to her granddaughter Norah Hardin Lind, that the work of a great writer makes it feel as though we are “sitting on some cosmic front porch together, rocking, exchanging long, gratifying accounts of our happy or unhappy lives. At any moment the writer is trying to make it seem that the reader can break in upon the writer’s stream of discourse crying, Why, that is just the way it was with me!” Many times in reading for this volume, I had that same slippery sense of connection with a keen and perceptive mind that saw pieces of my life more clearly than I could. A small, ignoble part of me even wants to keep her as my own brilliant friend without having to share her with the rest of the world; a joy held secretly within the heart can illuminate a dark time or a difficult day, and there have been plenty of these for all of us in recent months.

Here’s an interview with author Joy Castro whom I briefly knew at Trinity University where we studied together. Here’s an interview with author Joy Castro whom I briefly knew while at Trinity University. She mentions taking an English course on Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, and Lawrence Durrell where classes met each week at a different bar. Wow, that’s a class I must have missed! (and besides, by that time, I was too preoccupied with European fiction to deign to read anything written by Americans — though those 3 did travel a lot….) Castro has written fiction — which I have not read, but would probably be interesting. She’s written several essay collections and several memoirs (including Truth Book, which was a harrowing tale about growing up in a chaotic Jehovah’s Witness family.

Literary Audio/Multimedia

If you have been reading this blog, you will know that I am working tirelessly to digitize a lost classic by Pulitzer-prize winning author Robert Hillyer (1895-1961). I can promise you, publication is less than a month away! Hillyer is mostly known for his poetry, but I never in my wildest dreams expecting to come across audio files of Hillyer reciting poetry at poetry events. Apparently U. of Delaware has hours of audio from his last decade of life. Hillyer reads a combination of famous poetry and his own. He also introduces his good friend Robert Frost to a poetry reading, which also is a treat.

Here’s a great TV interview with Katherine Anne Porter for a short-lived Day at Night TV show run SUNY in the 1970s. The interview show only lasted a year, but it had a nice guest list: Norman Lear, Irving Howe, Ray Bradbury, Christopher Isherwood, etc (too lazy to make the links)

Personville Press Giveaways and Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. You can buy DRM-free copies of ebooks from Smashwords (and often at a substantial discount over the ebook’s price on Amazon). Alternatively, you can buy ebooks from Google, Amazon, BN, Apple and Kobo. In May 2021 you can sign up for the Personville Press mailing lists to stay informed about upcoming sales and publications.


Social Media Dump 2021: Feb 15-28

See also: Feb 1-14 March 1-15, 2021

Glad to be with power again — whew! Out for 2 1/2 days. I know the snow and low temperature is not that unusual, but I was surprised at how long it took to get online. I spent most of the time reading, checking twitter, napping and counting the minutes (and the charge on my cell phone)……

“If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be antifa pretending to be a duck to make ducks look bad.” (random sarcastic political tweet found on Twitter)

I watched the nice documentary, FRAMING BRITNEY SPEARS (which I recommend). Spears had some great moments doing SNL comedy sketches such as this one. She was referenced in the most recent Saturday’s SNL sketch (played by Chloe Fineman here ).

Speaking of which, I was truly moved by Craig Ferguson’s 2007 defense of Britney Spears and reflection on the nature of “mean jokes.” Ferguson is really one of the funniest, smartest and flirtiest talk show hosts. He has his schtick and apparently all the leading ladies enjoy him.

Kids tell jokes on the David Letterman Show. “Is Mom tired all the time?” Here’s Dave with a 4 year old toothpaste “expert.” Here’s a hilarious Letterman sketch where he visits a letter writer to be weird.

PILE ON TIME? I’m no fan of Ted Cruz (in fact I disagree with him about on just about everything), but it’s crazy and humorous that people from all sides are getting on Cruz’s case about flying to Mexico during the subfreezing power outage. Don’t we have more important things to worry about?

I’ll go into detail later, but I am totally obsessed with the TV show Community which is on Netflix. More lately.

5 Trump Amendments has made to the constitution.

NETFLIX RECOMMENDATION: I’m not usually a fan of Judd Apatow’s movies or TV shows, but I’ve been loving the Netflix show called “LOVE” starring Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust. Both as a dramedy and a look into the underclass in Los Angeles. (Gilian Jacobs was a hilarious cast member in Community, but in this role she plays a toxic/addictive and sad personality).Apparently it was not renewed for a 4th season, but the first 2 seasons seem interesting, light-hearted and occasionally profound.

HILARIOUS SKETCH ABOUT AUTHORS (5 minutes): Here’s a brilliant sketch written and performed by Merrill Markoe — former head writer for the David Letterman Show (also an author herself). Here’s another live performance of a dog sketch which is one of my favorites.


Robert’s Roundup #16 (Feb 2021 Edition)

View the Roundup series || View Raves & Reviews || Mike’s Likes ||  Read how I compile this list. || How to Submit Smashword deals || How to Submit your own Ebook Deals in the Comment Section || Commercial Disclosures

View Previous Roundup and Next Roundup. (View All)

Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.


I am creating this post at the start of the month and add to it over time. So for the first half of the month at least, this post seems fairly empty. By month’s end, there’s a lot more there. When I list a price, that means that I was able to buy it at that price, but if you are reading it days or weeks later, there’s a good chance that the price is no longer valid on Amazon or other places. But sale prices do return periodically; that’s why I set up Amazon price alerts on ereaderiq. They will email you when the price on a book reaches a certain price.

Indie Author Spotlight

(Read about indie authors profiled in previous months).

This month’s spotlight is on translator Chris Wen Chao Li (author website) who wrote an entertaining, scholarly and irreverent translation of the Analects of Confucius (1.99). I do a brief book review at the bottom of this blogpost. I provide a link to Smashwords, but actually What Confucius Really Said is available everywhere for the same price.

Sales on Smashwords

Wow, just noticed that Don Q Public by John Opsand Sutherland (author website) is now free. I blogged about this before — recommended!

Ebooks published by Amazon imprints

Some of the Amazon imprints produce very inexpensive ebooks of varying quality. Some titles though are superb — and you should check previous roundups for my recommendations — I frankly ignore most of the genre stuff and focus on the international authors and biographies. Follow this link to see which titles are 99 cents for the month.  (check previous columns herehere and here), so maybe my recs will be sparser than usual. All are KU APUB, (but not lendable!).

Halsey Street (0.99, APUB, KU) by Naima Coster (author website) is a

Under the Radar

Kapka Kassabova (author website) is a Bulgarian-born poet and travel writer who has written a lot about the Balkans (even though she writes in English and has traveled to many countries around the world. Bulgaria was always one of my favorite countries to visit (it was close to Albania where I lived, and I traveled there several times). I’m sure it’s gotten commercialized by now, but the vacation resort of Nesebar was very scenic and beautiful. I bought Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria at 1.99, but the other creative books also look interesting (alas, no discount)

Back at Poetry Parnassus, I discovered that the poet from Turkmenistan Ak Welsapar
lives in Sweden, and Nikola Madzirov, the poet from Macedonia lives, in his own
words, out of a suitcase. The poet from Australia, John Kinsella, is so opposed to
nationhood that he once asked for a Red Cross passport (he was denied it). When I
asked Christodoulos Makris, the poet from Cyprus who lives in Ireland, how he felt
about the Olympic thing, he said: Well, I could equally be representing Ireland, or
Britain. Many poets of course lived in their original homelands and wrote in their first
language. The point is, this Parnassian gathering was a mini-nation in itself: a nation
of Poetry. I was among my people – those for whom poetry is more important than
other things. I felt at home, because home, as the poet Christian Morgenstern said, is
where they understand you.

On the question of home, here is a haiku by the 17th century poet Basho:

‘Even when I am in Kyoto
When I hear the call of the cuckoo
I miss Kyoto.’

I’ve never been to Kyoto, but I miss Kyoto too, because this haiku is not a patriot’s
song, it’s a spiritual incantation. A yearning for the union of the material – which is
not enough – with the imagined. Kyoto chiming with the idea of Kyoto.

Paradise High by William Henning (99 cents)

War of the Roses by Warren Adler (Author Website) (99 cents) This novel was later adapted into a comedy film.

Rainbow like You by Andréa Fehsenfeld (author website and blog)

Blood and Wine by Katie O’Rourke. (author website and blog) 99 cents, LE, Arizona-based author whose books are about family melodramas, sagas, etc. 5 books so far, this one is about a runaway (good first chapter).

Blink and it’s Gone Sales

(books which go temporarily on sale for a day and then jump back to regular price; to hear about them, you generally need to set up price alerts on ereaderiq).

If you follow the literary world, you certainly know who Bradford Morrow (website) is. He’s a Bard professor who edits the long running litmag Conjunctions. He’s also a pretty good fiction writer — I’ve read things here and there and have a few BM novels on my tablet. I subscribed to Conjunctions about 20 years ago — used to love reading it. (Update: I think I might have subscribed to it in 1990 or 1991 when the mag was first coming out) The issues were not chronological, but just fat issues released 2x a year around a theme. The art was beautiful, and it was chock full of poetry too. Occasionally it published lots of theme issues (fiction around a certain theme — Exile, Other Aliens, Radical Shadows, New Wave Fabulists). Then the Internet happened and everything changed.

A few years ago Conjunctions started digitizing their issues and selling them as ebooks on Amazon. Price was typically 7.99, but 1)most of their issues are also on Kindle Unlimited and 2)they regularly are discounted to 1.99. (Conjunctions has been using Open Road Media to promote their issues). I basically set an author alert on Amazon and everytime something reaches $2 I buy it. This issues are gigantic (500 pages) and contain a nice mixture of contributions of grad students and well known names who were presumably solicited or offered by agents or publishers. In terms of value, I also recommend buying these — and really who cares when they were originally published? Most of the time, litmags are fascinating time capsules into the imagination of a certain generation.

Allison Lurie (who died last year at the age of 94) has written many fine books, and I’ve read two of them so far. Many of her ebooks are discounted often, and I just chose Imaginary Friends (2.99), which is about sociologists who infiltrate a cult for the purpose of research. Here’s the author website.

Creative Commons — Academic — Public Domain

None this time?

Once in a Lifetime Deals

None this time?

Indie Titles/Other Ebook Distributors

HUMBLE BUNDLE: I’m not entirely comfortable with comic books, but this $25 bundle of comics from indie artists sounds amazing. Some are sci fi, some are fantasy, some are adaptations of classic literature. Here’s how to view these things on your devices. Apparently the CBZ files are about 1/3 of file size of epub/PDF, and all the CBZ files are between 25-30 MB. For that reason Humble Bundle recommends adding them to your SD card on your tablet instead of uploading them. (Either you use Moon+ or Adobe Digital Editions to read).

Review Copies Received

Two Books by Clay Reynolds

Library Books & Printed books bought (Better World Books, Amazon, etc)

Tune In

EBook Review: What Confucius Really Said

What Confucius Really Said, Translated by Chris Wen Chao Li, 1.99 ebook, 2019, (Available on Smashwords, GPB, Amazon, etc).

Summary: A brilliant, inventive and original translation using contemporary idioms

I’d read bits and pieces of Analects in college, but found it dry and not as provocative as other classic texts like Chuang Tzu (for example). Then I encountered this wonderful and clever translation. It’s one of the most original and delightful translations of a literary work I have ever encountered. Here’s the conceit. Chris Wen-chao Li, recognizing that English-speaking readers might not understand the historical context of Analects, decides to translates all the aphorisms using U.S. slang and American pop culture references — as though Confucius were some hip comedian making snarky remarks about Obama or California on his Twitter feed. At first it sounds strange and almost irreverent, but after a while you get used to it and even enjoy it. After all, if Confucius were alive today, why WOULDN’T he be all over Twitter? I read a large chunk of this book on an airline trip and chuckled aloud multiple times. It’s hilarious! I’m sure Chris Wen-chao Li took tremendous liberties here, but the book provides ample footnotes about what the original text was like and what the original cultural references were. I cannot comment on the textual accuracy of the translations (though I did compare certain passages with David Hinton and others and saw nothing seriously amiss). But the English phrases are elegant, compact and always fun.

This was easily one of my favorite reads of 2019. It brings Confucius to life in unexpected and readable ways; it combines the best of both worlds: solid scholarship with a highly readable (and entertaining) text. The Confucius in this translation jumps off the page and seems more relevant than ever to adventurous readers.

Literary Articles and Essays

Must read books set in Los Angeles. If you haven’t seen it, Andrew Dansby wrote a great Best of Texas fiction column a few months ago (More titled toward recent titles, but still a good list).

Interview with Valerie Trueblood by Roxanne Gay. (Maybe I blogged about her before, one of my fave authors). Trueblood’s books are all at Counterpoint.

John Barth is 90; a former student reflects on his fiction and laments that his later novels have been ignored. (FYI, I studied under Barth at the JHU Writing workshop. I had a picture taken of me at a picnic with Stephen Dixon and John Barth. I remember I was wearing an extremely tacky shirt, but alas, I lost the photograph. I confess I haven’t read enough about Barth. Here’s a Lannon interview video with Barth.

Kafka Translator Stanley Corngold on Kafka:

Seven years later he died a terrible death from tuberculosis of the larynx. But he is a man of many contrarieties. For many years he visited brothels, swam robustly, climbed steep hills, and rode around the countryside on a motorcycle. He spent his mature days as a competent, highly valued in-house lawyer at a partly state-run institute for workmen’s compensation. There, he innovated safety devices for Bohemian factories and advocated the founding of a hospital for shell-shocked war veterans, which was a novelty. He had many interests, including gardening and reading Platonic dialogues with friends, but also social work, especially on behalf of war refugees from Eastern Europe.

Personville Press Giveaways and Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. All the titles are discounted on Smashwords for less that price — and usually under $1.50. Pay attention to any 100% coupon codes which I occasionally list below — they can be redeemed only a small number of times, so first come, first serve. Smashwords only sells epub versions of these titles, but you can easily convert them to Amazon’s mobi format by using Kindle Previewer or Calibre.


Musical Discoveries Feb 2021 #2

See also: Jan 2021 and March 2021 (View all)

One of the funniest scenes from Schitt’s Creek was Alexis’ Rose wacky audition for a musical with her “hit song.” Here’s a live performance of her hit song with another Texas singer named Kelley. Even better is a folk-acoustic duet version starring Noah Reid (who also is an actor from the show).

Recently I’ve fallen in love with Brandi Carlile, especially the song Stranger at my Door. How about these lyrics!

I have seen the fire watcher’s daughter
Watching fires burn from smoke to black
There’s nothing she won’t burn
From Styrofoam to urns, to someone else’s ashes in a sack
You can scorch the metal, you can even melt the glass
You can pass the time here, fire lives into the past
An all-consuming flame, that refines and new begins
It’ll take your family heirlooms,
But it can take your darkest sins
It’s a good ol’ bedtime story, give you nightmares ’til you die
And the ones that love to tell it, hide the mischief in their eyes
Condemn their sons to Hades
And Gehenna is full of guys, alive and well
But there ain’t no hell for a fire-watchers daughter
We exercise the demons of the things we used to know
The gnashing of the teeth become the remnants of our homes
We think we’re moving on, from materials we long
To forget we ever sold our souls to own
There’s a chilling absolution that we’re given from our birth
A powerful delusion and a plague upon the earth
But nothing scares me more
Then the stranger at my door
Who I fail to give shelter, time, and worth
Let the good ol’ bedtime story, give you nightmares ’til you die
And the ones that love to tell it, hide the mischief in their eyes
Condemn their sons to Hades
And Gehenna is full of guys, alive and well
But there ain’t no hell for a fire-watchers daughter..

I don’t pay much attention to lyrics, but sometimes it’s fun to look up an English translation of lyrics to see what the hell the song is about. There’s an amazing Ukrainian song by a Ukrainian group Время и Стекло (Time and Glass). I looked up the lyrics online to find that the song was called Love.net (pronounced Love.nyet!)

No love dot net, no love and it is our final point
The curtains are drawn and light is switched off
no love dot net, I am not waiting for a call
I do not believe in love, no love dot net

For Franco’s song, sometimes the song has a very specific meaning: the outstanding song Azda is simply the music to a car commercial. Another song — the moving Kinshasa Mboka Ya Makambo (Kinshasa Town of Problems) is about friends who betray him. A rough translation online:

The same friends i used to work with want hurt me because they’ve lost their medals.
Please, authorities , grant them a medal so they won’t try to hurt me anymore .

(Musicians had been spreading lies about Franco’s life and career after his success). Franco’s guitar solos in both of these songs are just incredible!

Good live acoustic version of Sheryl Crow singing Love is a Good Thing. The yell isn’t as piercing, but it’s still cool and that song is just so dazzling — love that harmonica solo! Her voice is so versatile and expressive! Other Crow live versions: Gasoline/Gimme Shelter

Here’s a song by Japanese punk group Otoboke Beaver which can’t be unseen. Here’s another from these scream queens.

I’ve been listening to songs from a gigantic stash of songs from the South By Southwest bit torrent — the heroic collection and distribution of 1000s of songs by musicians who perform at that Austin festival. But 2020 was an anomaly. We had the torrent, but none of the musicians showed up! I’ve been collecting all 15 years, and I generally try to rank songs on a 1-5 scale. I delete the 1s immediately, but I keep the rest. After I finish rating all the tracks, I relisten to the 3s to decide if I want to increase their rating. The reason I do this is when I create playlists, I use only 4s and 5s — sometimes only 5s!

By far the hardest part about rating everything is listening to every single rap/hip hop song. That’s not my genre admittedly, but the average rating for the rap tracks is pretty low; it is painful to listen to all 150-200 rap songs every year. Some styles (the so called “Trap rap”) is choppy and more playing on sounds than the meaning of words. Sometimes the bass is really heavy and sometimes these rappers rely too much on autotuneAlso, some songs are laced with obscenities, expressions of violence or anger. I mean, a little of that is okay — especially if there’s a social message here, but sometimes it seems gratuitous or just hammy. That said, I do identify some rap songs deserving of a 5; I end up becoming a superfan of these artists. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Musical Spreadsheet

In 2014 I decided to start a simple spreadsheet of albums I liked. I created a simple Google form which allowed space for a short review. I ripped/downloaded and listened to so much music that I needed to keep track. I haven’t been super-conscientious about filling it in or even writing trenchant criticism, but so far I have 416 reviews. This is just a small fraction of music I have listened to (and even loved), but generally I’ve hit the main discoveries since that time. The simple fact is that it’s hard to keep names and albums in my head — especially for indie albums or instrumentals.

Filling out the form has been useful. It has forced me to try to assign categories to music and to look up basic information (such as when I downloaded it and reviewed it). Actually, the biggest challenge has been to describe the music in a memorable way. For a classroom exercise for English learners, I would play mysterious pieces for students and ask them to describe it metaphorically – using familiar language. I provided helpful vocabulary, but I realized at the time how hard it was to do this. For a nonmusical type who hasn’t studied music in any way, you can’t throw in musical terms (and maybe you don’t recognize what a chord progression is or even what instrument is even playing). Even lyrics can be hard to decipher or understand the meaning of (Luckily there are multiple lyric songs and lyric translation sites…not to mention Google Translate). But I’ll be honest; I don’t pay all that much attention to lyrics whose language I actually understand. While living overseas, I realized that the best thing about country music was that you actually could understand and appreciate the lyrics. That’s not nothing.

Reviewing albums is hard, and frankly I don’t see how Robert Christgau or the writers at Pitchfork do it.

Brief Reviews of my Collection

Morskaya (Nautical) by Mummiy Troll (1997): Quirky, fun and Russian rock album by a goofy singer who looks like Mick Jagger but sings strange/nonsense lyrics in a relaxed /sarcastic way like David Byrne. Mummiy Troll has survived the Russian music scene for 20+ years, but this album has staying power — esp with Utekay and Zabavy. The rock band’s arrangements keep it lively and rocking — with certain effects — like the guitar reverb for the refrain of Zabavy. This album doesn’t impress at first, but I’ve keep coming back to this 1997 album.

Laurie Anderson’s Homeland (2010): Another series of great fine poetic songs for a hybrid-avante pop album. Melodies still have occasional pop resonances (Bodies in Motion), albeit with subversive political messages (Only an expert) and Eastern spirituality. There’s a lot of stillness, long pauses, subdued violins and slow-motion chanting — with occasional gongs to mark time. Despite the vocals, the energy comes from the violins and eerie reverberations from god-knows-what. Songs are soothing, but troubled and dissonant. The only song my ears couldn’t tolerate was a slow-moving 11 minute chant-story with sound effects (and sung with a deeper voice). The songs keep returning to the decline of America and civilization(Dark Time in Revolution). Novices to Anderson’s oeuvre might find the songs plodding, but I found  them intense and all-enveloping. I don’t think anyone is doing this kind of thing in the pop world (maybe Suzanne Vega or Yo Lo Tengo), but I am finding echoes of Brian Eno, Philip Glass and John Cage.

Law of the Playground by Boy Least Likely To. These upbeat lyrical songs seem lovely, deliberately insubstantial, with the simple hummable melodies you’d find on a kid’s show. Underneath that are sophisticated arrangements with banjos, electronic toots, , an emphasis on concrete images from childhood (balloon, butterflies, worm, lemonade). The vocals seem a little too airy and muttering (and possibly monotonous?). Group with Mike Viola or Eliot Smith.

Firewatcher’s Daughter by Brandi Carlile (2015). Lovely mix of upbeat country rock and lilting ballads. It’s melancholy and wistful. That pounding energy reminds one of Johnny Cash (especially STRANGER AT MY DOOR which is chilling and very poetic — also BEGINNING TO FEEL THE YEARS). The band knows how to belt out some tunes, and the singer feels country at times (Allison Moorer) and at other times more contemporary (like Sheryl Crow or Bonnie Raitt). As a song lyricist, Carlile’s talent is unsurpassed (somewhat introspective, but more cautionary and story-oriented), and all of the tracks are unadorned enough that they’d probably sound even better as live performances.

How Can We Be Silent by BarlowGirl (2007). BarlowGirl sing epic Christian progrock with soaring electric guitars and heavy metal drums. It has the full symphonic sound of a Boston or Metallica, feisty chick energy (Heart) and generally upbeat song lyrics. The vocal harmonies emphasize the power and unity of the message, and there’s enough slow lyrical parts to showcase the great singing chops of Alyssa and Lauren Barlow. Despite the limitations of Christian message music, these songs are refreshingly original, would definitely appeal to teens of all persuasions and the studio arrangements are divine. I have to wonder how these would sound in a pared down performance. Update: It needs to be said that I love almost every BarlowGirl album — but that group has long since disbanded.


Sorry to hear that jazz great Chick Corea has passed away. Unfortunately it reminds me of the time in the early 1990s when I won free concert tickets from a radio station. After I picked up the Chick Corea tickets, I asked a girl I had recently met at a college mixer to come along. She said yes and we agreed to meet at a cafe so we could drive together to the concert. As it happens, on the evening of the concert, the girl “forgot” and wasn’t home to hear my phone message asking where the hell she was. So no Chick Corea concert for me. That night I learned a valuable dating lesson: if you are asking someone on a date to a concert, you should ALWAYS meet them at the concert venue so if the woman ends up flaking, you can still enjoy the concert! Here’s a Tiny Desk concert from 2016.

Emusic Purchases

Okay, even though I know that browsing through emusic is a pain in the neck, I’ve decided to pay for another $200 credit (costing $75) to keep downloading away. I rationalize it by saying that there are a few quality labels still there that if worse comes to worse, I can just buy out their inventory.

  1. Journey into the Sun Within by Travellers. 5.49, 6 tracks, 52 minutes. (review) Outstanding prog-rock from the Polish Metal Mind label. Wojtek Szadkowski from Satellite formed this amazing one-time band.
  2. Nostalgia by Satellite. 7 tracks, 57 minutes, 2.99. More from Wojtek’s original band.
  3. Live by Alpes, 4 tracks, 20 minutes 99 cents.
  4. Whoop Dee Do by Muffs, 6.49, 37 minutes, 12 tracks. Muffs are a great punk bad led by Kim Shattuck (who died in late 2019). Released in 2014 (after they had their moment in the sun and also after Shattuck finished her 6 month stint with the Pixies), this well-received album stays lively and silly — and yes, there’s a lot of screaming. This was their last album, but it feels as fresh as what they were pumping out in the 1990s


Social Media Dump 2021: Feb 1-Feb 14

See also: Jan 15-31, 2021 Feb 15-28, 2021

A longish profile of author Water Tevis who wrote Queen’s Gambit. I have all his books, but have only read Man who Fell to Earth which Michael Dirda described as a “brilliant tale of loneliness, alcohol dependency and despair.” I’m sure his other books were excellent. Curiously, the main author I publish — Jack Matthews taught at the same creative writing program along with author Daniel Keyes. (I talked briefly with Matthews about that fact, but didn’t mention anything else because I felt that both were less interesting authors than Matthews.

Here’s a fun game to guess the language. I got 3 out of 4 right on this one. They include subtitles — but don’t reveal the language spoken until the end… The next three videos are a LOT harder (and more interesting), and all the guessers are language teachers or multilingual. For these three I only averaged 1 per video (if I were lucky!) 

Here’s a fascinating video essay by Vox about the history of the peacock wicker chair.

AMAZON PRIME TV Recommendation: UPLOAD (trailer) is a futuristic TV comedy series about a young man who dies and whose uploaded consciousness is uploaded to a massively multiplayer HEAVEN which (for a hefty fee) he is allowed to keep playing and keep in touch with people in meatspace (who may or may not want to keep in touch). As it happens, the avatar falls in love with his “angel” (actually a young overworked & underpaid woman in the real world assigned to resolve customer service issues with avatar inhabitants). The story is great fun (in the spirit of THE GOOD PLACE), loaded with special effects and fun interactions between the living one and virtual one. A few years ago, the San Junipero episode in Black Mirror used this basic plot as a profound meditation about the afterlife and the preservation of loved ones in virtual worlds. Eventually this plot will grow tiresome, but UPLOAD provides ample opportunity to bathe the story in semi-realistic computer special effects while confronting social issues (there are several tiers of heaven, depending on ability of survivors to pay). What is revolutionary here is that a Non-player character (NPC) is allowed to have feelings and goals, providing to viewers a pleasant deception of free will. Contrary to a metaphysical fairy tale like the GOOD PLACE, this theoretical world is both plausible and cynical. Philosophers have argued about whether the universe is actually a gigantic simulation. What no one seems to have thought about is whether the “real” universe could eventually turn into a simulation once the population of videogame avatars outnumber the world of the living. UPLOAD is just a smart silly show, but it’s all the more disturbing because it tries to imagine a virtual world which disappears once the survivors stop paying or an upgrade fails and no one knows how to reboot it.

Dem Impeachment manager Jamie Raskin:

FIRE DAMAGE: “The incitement to violence is of course not protected by the First Amendment. That’s why most Americans have dismissed Donald Trump’s First Amendment rhetoric simply by referring to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ handy phrase, “You can’t shout fire in a crowded theater.” But even that time honored principle doesn’t begin to capture how off base the argument is. This case is much worse than someone who falsely shouts fire in a crowded theater. It’s more like a case where the town fire chief who’s paid to put out fires sends a mob. Not to yell fire in a crowded theater, but to actually set the theater on fire. And who then, when the fire alarms go off and the calls start flooding into the fire department asking for help, does nothing, but sit back, encourage the mob to continue its rampage, and watch the fire spread on TV with glee and delight. So then we say this fire chief should never be allowed to hold this public job again. And you’re fired and you’re permanently disqualified. And he objects. And he says we’re violating his free speech rights just because he’s pro-mob or pro-fire or whatever it might be. Come on. I mean, you really don’t need to go to law school to figure out what’s wrong with that argument. Here’s the key. Undoubtedly, a private person can run around on the street expressing his or her support for the enemies of the United States and advocating the overthrow of the United States government. You’ve got a right to do that under the First Amendment. But if the president spent all of his days doing that, uttering the exact same words, expressing support for the enemies of the United States and for overthrowing the government, is there anyone here who doubts that this would be a violation of his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and that he or she could be impeached for doing that? Look, if you’re President of the United States, you’ve chosen a side with your oath of office. And if you break it, we can impeach, convict, remove, and disqualify you permanently from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States. As Justice Scalia once said, memorably, “You can’t ride with the cops and root for the robbers.” And if you become inciter in chief to the insurrection, you can’t expect to be on the payroll as commander chief for the union.”

MY TAKE: Probably the most interesting and revealing about this impeachment is that despite the overwhelming evidence of guilt, Republican senators seem unlikely to vote for impeachment. This failure will sound a LOUD and CLEAR message to Americans and the rest of the world that Republicans lack political courage to stand up to demagogues.

“Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” (Voltaire, quoted during the impeachment trial).


Musical Discoveries January 2021 #1

See also: Feb 2021 (View all)

Why didn’t I think of doing posts about music before? I’ll try doing it once per month — see how that goes. This will be an ongoing post, which means that I’ll post it immediately and keep adding to it until the month is over. That means I’ll no longer be including them in my social media dump. At the bottom I’ll include a list of music acquisitions/purchases from Bandcamp, emusic and For completeness I’ll reproduce what I’ve already posted.

Some jazz from Ecuador: Here are 2 nice numbers by a Tropical band Alleguez Son.

Here’s a nice uplifting religious song by two African-American women. Here’s a video of the two actually singing at church (WIllie Mae is the singer, and Sister Fleeta Mitchell is playing piano and also blind ) (The SATAN recording comes from ART OF FIELD RECORDING VOLUME 1 which you can hear in its entirety on bandcamp.

4 fave albums when I was 14: Close Encounters, Are We Not Men?, Tusk, Breakfast in America

4 ALBUM CHALLENGE (faves when I was 14 years old) I always loved Supertramp’s masterpiece Breakfast in America (and not just “Logical Song” — which contained a sampled sound from a handheld football game every boy my age played). DEVO’s Are We Not Men? was the first album to completely blow my mind in the early 1980s — dadaistic, nihilistic, stupid rock (my god, “jocko homo!”). Fleetwood Mac’s TUSK was a very IMPERFECT album by a band I already knew and loved. It had Buckingham’s rowdy rock (What makes you think you’re the one?) and Stevie Nick’s mysticism (Sara, Beautiful Child). Like WHITE ALBUM, it was stylistically all over the map — an amalgam of personal styles that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Finally, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND soundtrack was an amazing soundtrack I first listened to in its entirety in the 2000s — I knew the music already well, but I had never listened to it start to finish before. Strangely this John Williams soundtrack was nominated for (but did not win) the 1978 Oscar for “Best original score” — losing instead to the soundtrack of Star Wars by — you guessed it, John Williams.

Other albums high on my list: Blondie’s Parallel Lines, Billy Joel’s 52nd Street (It was no “Stranger” but still excellent), Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack (loved Yvonne Ellman and those supercool instrumentals by David Shire), Soundtrack to FM Movie (this 2 record set of pop songs was perfect — and I listened to it 1000s of times). Also, the comedy album, WILD AND CRAZY GUY by Steve Martin, which all jokesters at my age could recite verbatim. I actually started buying albums in 1977 or so; I could only afford TUSK, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and FM and (unfortunately) Bee Gee’s SPIRITS HAVE FLOWN and the Bee Gee’s soundtrack of Sergeant Pepper Lonely Heart’s Club Band movie (will defend it to the death!). Later in 1980-3 high school friends lent me heavy metal albums, Led Zeppelin, Blondie, Police.. **

BLONDIE LIVE! While diving into musical nostalgia, I found a great live 1979 performance of Blondie singing this milestone song Atomic. . Sound quality is not great, but you can hear her vocals very well. “Atomic” seems to be one of those songs that sounds great in the studio, but it is a challenge to sing well in a live performance — indeed, when when she tried singing it live in the 1990s and 2000s, the performance was less than adequate — and sometimes even terrible. But she absolutely nails it here.. Enjoy!

Here’s another very good live performance from 1980 (with excellent sound quality, good vocals, and some amazing embellishments by the band… **

Still catching up on fave music links. First, I highly recommend this Out of Obscurity podcast managed by two US music fans — one of whom lives in Thailand. (Here’s a subreddit devoted to it). The Thailand dweller (Julian Lee) is all over several music forums — especially emusic — and speaks Mandarin, so has a special expertise in Asian music. It’s more chatty than previewing music, and by the way, I might be a guest on this show! (see my one page blog about unusual finds on emusic, bandcamp and freegal). Hmm, now that I think of it, I should start doing posts exclusively about my music discoveries. (I’ve spent years cramming my music discoveries I may start doing that in a month or so (stay tuned).

From this podcast, Dekalb Fucking City by Demons. (free download)

Readers may find this hard to believe, but I’m a huge fan of country music — especially stuff that has a more folk sound. Here’s a great live performance by Leona Williams. (website) from a decade ago.

Here’s a great live performance of British electronic pop band Fenech-Soler singing “Somebody.” (hey, they gotta work on that name!)

Music & Compensation (Chart):

Source: 2019 IFPI Global Music Report Annual Report (PDF)

Also, according to a 2018 Citi analysis summarized by Rolling Stone, total music revenues in the USA are $43 per year, and artists take home $5 billion (i.e., 12%)

To my amazement, video footage of a live performance of the Shaggs is now on youtube. A music critic on youtube has done a video about the “worst album of the world” . Ultimately you should read the original Susan Orleans profile in the New Yorker about the band. (more about Susan Orlean). I could have sworn that I had at least one essay collection by her, but alas, no.

It’s done — a text file listing every single album folder in my Music folder (15,500+ albums worth, 277,660 audio files, 1.42 TB). Here’s the magic Windows command:

C:\Users\idiot>dir /AD /B /ON /S Music* >> robert-music.txt

Here’s a gorgeous song by one of my favorite bands, Many Birthdays (whom I once called the “New Asparagus.” ). You can even download it for pay what you want on bandcamp. John Dixon and Sarah Luce are the duo that creates this lovely ethereal music:

Sun coming up over the mountain
not gonna lie, it’s been a tough year
been a long night, been a long season
sun coming up over the mountain

Bandcamp, Sun Coming Up by Many Birthdays.

I came across Dixon randomly on the Internet and have been following this band since 2003(!). (I tracked Dixon down and had lunch with him and caught him at a Houston concert. I check in every year or few months to see what’s going on with them. Every time I do, I’m happily surprised. John has been writing compositions for movies under the name Bass Earth Sun. I would put this music in the category of Avante-pop with some Japanese mischievousness thrown in (John and his girlfriend lived in Japan for a while). You could put them in the same category as Black Moth Super Rainbow or another British Triphop group I love, Haelos.

I really should posting my Youtube playlists. I don’t belong to a streaming service anymore, so most of my playlists are on Youtube:

  • Dreamy Chillout & Trip Hop from 90s and Beyond
  • Latest Hot Stuff for the World — random non-US recent vids with a power pop/Dance vibe. The more insanely visual, the better! (also, lots of Eurovision songs)
  • Dora’s Love-Disco Rollercoaster — really fun and dance-disco stuff from the 70s or so.
  • KPM Music Gems — KPM was a mysterious treasure trove of “library music” (background tracks owned by labels and lent to TV, radio, film projects and porn), but generally unavailable to the public. KPM has started to be distributed on streaming music channels, so now is the time to discover these things. Generally they sound funky and jazzy, but they are divided by mood and intended use. Look for the Keith Mansfield stuff, which is incredible. BTW, if you have Freegal, they carry almost all the albums for download.
  • Star Band de Dakar. — I found this incredible Senegal band from the 1970s and 1980s. Ostinato Records put out an incredible compilation album called Psicodelia Afro-Cubana de Senegal, but apparently this group has released other albums (great, but not as incredible as the one I just mentioned). Every time I find a new track from this band, I include it here.
  • Intro to Philip Glass. I made this playlist for an immigrant friend who had never heard of this composer
  • Zany/offbeat Eurovision songs. I love everything about Eurovision and the music is even great too. I’ve been collecting lots of favorite songs and performances from previous years.
  • Big Short Soundtrack. Big Short is one of my alltime fave movies, and the music is great too.
  • 1965 was a very good year. I’ve been collecting songs from my birthyear.
  • Pure Poetry in Music Vids. This is more about the music vids than the music itself, but the songs are pretty awesome too.
  • Songs with “Robert” or “Bobby” in the title.
  • CMJ Compilations. In the 1990s my musical tastes emerged from the complimentary CD included with issues of CMJ. Here’s #38 October 1996, #44 April 1997, #46 June 1997. All of these are great compilations.

I actually have posted a lot of things about music on my Emusic purchase page and I keep a Google Docs spreadsheet of occasional reviews I write of albums. Also, I maintain — (seriously!) a text file containing every single text file I have a copy of (coming soon).

Emusic/Bandcamp/etc Acquisitions

  1. Nahoko by Andrew Abboushi. 5 tracks, 99 cents, 17 minutes.
  2. Capim-Cidreira by Rael, 10 tracks. 10 tracks, 34 minutes, 99 cents,
  3. Gloria by Indee , 9 tracks. 99 cents, 29 minutes.
  4. s/t by Drik Barbosa. 11 tracks. 99 cents, 39 minutes
  5. 50 Best Hits by Charlie Rich, 50 tracks, 7 dollars, 124 minutes.
  6. Estado de Poesia by Chico Cesar. 14 tracks, 67 minutes, 99 cents.
  7. Doozicabraba e a Revolução Silenciosa by Emcida featuring Rael, 10 tracks, 99 cents, 33 minutes.
  8. Gente Bonita by Fióti feat. Anelis Assumpção. 6 tracks. 99 cents, 22 minutes
  9. MM3 by Metá Metá. 9 tracks. 99 cents, 40 minutes.
  10. MetaL MetaL by Metá Metá. 9 tracks. 99 cents, 40 minutes.
  11. s/t by Metá Metá, 10 tracks. 99 cents, 43 minutes.
  12. Encarnado by Juçara Marçal. 99 cents, 40 minutes, 12 tracks.
  13. Przypływ by Jazzpospolita 3.49, 50 minutes, 8 tracks.
  14. Mobius Omega by Spice, 8 tracks, 3.49, 37 minutes
  15. X by Merchan, 16 tracks, 113 minutes, 99 minutes
  16. s/t by Nichole Rubira, 5 tracks, 99 cents, 17 minutes.
  17. Matavitela by Juanze, 10 tracks. 4.49, 42 minutes
  18. Narcotic Boys by Winter Boys, 6 tracks, 99 cents, 31 minutes


Social Media Dump 2021: Jan 16 to Jan 31

See also: 2021 Jan 1-15 and 2021 Feb 1-14

Still catching up on fave music links. First, I highly recommend this Out of Obscurity podcast managed by two US music fans — one of whom lives in Thailand. (Here’s a subreddit devoted to it). The Thailand dweller (Julian Lee) is all over several music forums — especially emusic — and speaks Mandarin, so has a special expertise in Asian music. It’s more chatty than previewing music, and by the way, I might be a guest on this show! (see my one page blog about unusual finds on emusic, bandcamp and freegal). Hmm, now that I think of it, I should start doing posts exclusively about my music discoveries. (I’ve spent years cramming my music discoveries I may start doing that in a month or so (stay tuned).

Great article about why the natural gas industry is pushing hydrogen fuel.

The concept of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to a point in the future when renewable energy is economically viable is over; renewable energy is already often cheaper than natural gas. Research and analyses continue to reveal natural gas as a dirty fuel, raising pressure on the industry. Now, the European gas lobby Eurogas has begun talking up blue hydrogen — derived from methane and relying on pricey and largely undeveloped carbon capture technology — as the new bridge fuel.

The natural gas industry has been a victim of its own success, producing record amounts of gas but losing massive amounts of money in the process. Fracking has helped unleash huge amounts of methane, and oil and gas companies continue to discover more natural gas that they need to sell — because their continued existence is based on discovering and selling more oil and gas. But the reality is that much of that natural gas will remain in the ground as stranded assets because there won’t be willing buyers unless the industry can convert its current infrastructure to use methane-derived hydrogen to create a new market for methane.

On the generations page for Wikipedia, there is a great graphic differentiating each US generation by nickname (Baby Boomer, Generation X, etc). The graphic is here. The article itself very interestingly describe how other countries refer to generations. The “Strawberry Generation” refers to Taiwanese people born in the 1980s who are “easily bruised.” has the “Post-80s” The Children of Perestroika generation refers to children born with no memories of communist control. I like the “MTV Generation” which — despite behind a commercial tagline — accurately groups the people who grew up with MTV.

Wow, here’s an even more interesting graphic: a comparison of relative population size. Strangely, for Generation X, the number of people born in that cohort is less than the number who live in USA who belong in that cohort (I’m assuming immigration is responsible for that — or maybe someone has invented a cloning machine without telling anybody!).

Source: Wikipedia

Here’s a fascinating media criticism of the host entrance scenes in the Price is Right. It’s 25 minutes long (!) but is a fascinating analysis about the subtle ways game shows and talk shows manipulate you with clever sets and camera shots. Related: Here’s a short film (Perfect Bid: The Contestant who knew too much) about the best contestant ever for the Price is Right. It’s an amazing story and really fun to watch. **

Here’s a fun Southern dude wax poetic about bidets. Here’s a sequel where he praises to the heavens the “rolls-royce of bidets”. **

“Narcissism begets narcissism. Trump’s narcissism will create more narcissism in American society. Trump is not the end. Trump is the manifestation of problems that have been brewing for years. With respect to the impact that narcissism has had on America and is going to have, Trump is just the beginning. We have to be concerned about this. Narcissism is an epidemic, and we cannot let it dictate the course of history. The problem that we have now is that all the people who really believe that the election was stolen and that it is time for an insurrection — they really believe that — they are ready to kill people; they are ready to invade the capitol and foster a coup — because they believe they are right. That is the thing that a lot of people who are normal — whose perceptions of the world is based in reality and facts and things which can be tested — we can barely comprehend how delusional these people are and we underestimate them for that reason. The problem that we have in America now — that we have been fostering for 30-40 years in the name of profit — is that the delusional people are FUCKING ARMED. ” (New Yorker reporter & videographer Luke Mogelson — who personally videotaped the Trump extremists as they stormed around the Senate floor). Here’s another commentary by Mogelson. **

Classic comedy improvisation sketch from 13 years ago — and wait for the surprise near the end.

I SMELL A NEW OBSESSION: Watching reruns of Love Connection (a very cheesy dating show from the 80s and 90s). I’ve been watching old Dating Game episodes for a while now. The show itself isn’t that interesting (the question time is really short, and it seems very staged), but for a while every major celebrity and potential celebrity ran through it including Michael Jackson, the Carpenter siblings, Farah Fawcett, Andy Kaufman, Maureen McCormick (aka Marcia Brady) and lots more (including a serial killer). My faves have to be Don Rickles (asking questions on behalf of a young woman) and John Ritter (at the tender age of 19). **

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’ve been moonlighting as a stunt car driver for several Hollywood studios. Here’s me as a fanatic of extreme sports and running software teams. **

Tom Tomorrow 1/25/2021

I cannot tell you how much I look forward to the weekly Tom Tomorrow cartoon every Monday morning. Love the Ted Cruz/Monty Python reference: “Indeed, let us not bicker about who did or did not incite a murderous mob.” Ok, I shouldn’t have swiped the comic, but I’m finally going to subscribe (and pay for) Sparky’s List newsletter. A few observations about Tom Tomorrow’s comics:

  • Try to grab one of the printed collection of strips. You really get to appreciate the color and shapes of everything.
  • Believe it or not, though the topical references seem to fade, it’s still delightful to read these strip decades later.
  • It’s a dense comic, and you need to unpack it — and often subtleties can be missed the first time.
  • It’s hard to capture political absurdities with an image, but Tom Tomorrow sometimes hit the bull’s eye (such as the Invisible Hand — it gives me joy every time he makes another appearance).
  • Apart from the visual style and humor, you could view his comics as a lesson in bad logic and actually bad-faith logic

BEST PICTURE: Every year before nominations are announced and without having seen any of the movies, I predict which movie will win the Oscar for Best Picture. This year my pick is NOMADLAND. (My guesses are based on superficial criteria, film buzz and awards, the trailer and that indescribable wholesomeness + “indie-ness.” I’ve also heard wonderful things about Minari — and have actually seen “Trial of the Chicago 7” at home…)

RIP Jessica Campbell who died of indeterminate causes a week ago. Campbell had a supporting role in the 1999 Election film. She played a gay sister of the class jock who ran for class president just as a prank. But she stole the show with a speech she gave before the assembly. The actress later became a doctor, but this scene ensures her place in cinematic history.

I’m a big fan of Daily Show with Trevor Noah, which does a comic and informative perspective on politics and social policy. Here’s a light-hearted look at Cahoots, a first responder organization based in Eugene Oregon that handles nonemergency phone calls. Apparently the nonconfrontational strategy of deescalation is more effective and saves the city money as well. (It’s a 2 million dollar program in a city with a police budget of 70 million; the the clinical administrator says that program is estimated to save the taxpayer about $20 million per year.

TRUMP COURT BLESSES TRUMP…. AGAIN! I am depressed that the Supreme Court struck down the lawsuits about Trump’s emoluments by claiming it’s moot for an ex-president. The Supreme Court has a nasty habit of letting bad actors keep filing unending motions of appeal to delay the making and enforcing of a judgment. Meanwhile aggrieved parties wait for the court system actually to do its job. The emoluments lawsuits involved complex questions of standing and probably deserved at least one appeal. But it’s beginning to seem like the Supreme Court is employing a tactic of continuous delay. Similarly the matter of releasing tax returns to investigations has been delayed so long that it has basically made it impossible for the voter to make an informed decision about Trump. I don’t consider this judicial restraint; it seems like the judicial system is giving free reign to tyrants (and to the destructive force of global warming). By failing to take action against gerrymandering, the court is basically destroying the concept of one man, one vote — instead letting legislatures to manipulate voting all it wants. It is setting the stage for US democracy to transform into a tyranny (and making itself irrelevant in the process).

Many court decisions have left me disillusioned. Perhaps it started at Citizens United, but I couldn’t believe that it rejected intervening in the Chevron vs. Ecuador lawsuit


Social Media Dump 2021: Jan 1 to Jan 15

View other Social Media Dumps: 2020 Jan 16-31

“Like looking both ways before crossing the street and then getting hit by a submarine.” (said by 9 year old Clark Smith, when asked for a word or phrase to describe the year 2020).

Here’s a new Robert’s Roundup for Smashwords’ December ebook sale. (Still cleaning it up).

SNL Playlist: I’ve put together 55 of my favorite SNL sketches — with some Christmas ones thrown in for good measure. (ONLY VIEWABLE BY USA AUDIENCES)

MY RESOLUTIONS FOR THE YEAR 2021: 1. Don’t get covid. 2. Get the #$#$#$ vaccine. (32,000 new positive COVID cases in Texas yesterday — a new record. Sure, it’s just catching up with Christmas cases, but wow! — California set a one day record of 50,000 two days ago as well).) **

Fun facts about Edge Browser. Did you know that Edge was based on the Chromium code? Me neither. **

Historians on reddit discuss the problem of heteronormativity/handling the “was he/she gay?” about historical figures.

I binge-watched the Community TV show on Netflix — wait for my post about that. Am thrilled that there are some “webisodes” about the show. **

To my amazement, there was a 1977 TV special of the Adams Family TV show. It was called Halloween with the New Adams Family featured ALL of the original actors, was 90 minutes long and was in color. Also, a laugh track (ugh!). Fun Fact: Uncle Fester (aka Jackie Coogan) when he was a kid, starred in a movie with Charlie Chaplin. Here’s a outtake of Coogan dancing with Chaplin

Something also sweet: Comic actress Melissa Hunter does a web-miniseries called Adult Wednesday Addams. Lots of fun with Ashley Addams encountering the vagaries of modern life. **

Watching the TV, I’m seeing a lot of Texas flags on the protesters who have forcibly entered (and sometimes even gone inside) the Capitol building…. (UPDATE: and a number of Confederate flags, and a cap for University of Texas — gotta show team spirit!). **

I know many things are shocking about today, but I’m particularly incensed that it took Trump over an hour to activate the National Guard to protect the Capitol. As a CNN reporter described it, Trump was elected to be the commander-in-chief; now he is merely the TV watcher in chief (ME: and also the instigator in chief).

PROPAGANDA IS EVERYWHERE! PROPAGANDA IS EVERYWHERE! Probably the most remarkable thing about yesterday’s insurrection is how easily Americans can be misled and emotionally manipulated about political events — by media, politicians, social media & political ads. I blame many things: money in politics, polarization inspired by gerrymandering, the gutting of the journalistic profession and the weakening of voting rights. I also blame the increasing adoration of gun rights, dehumanization of certain categories of people and — frankly the tendency to demonize normal government functions (apparently calling something “socialist” is sufficient reason to condemn anything you want). We need to call out politicians and media figures who use specious circular arguments to amplify controversy. We also need to be more careful not to dismiss so easily the dangers of demagoguery. **

Since Texas has played such an oversized role in facilitating Trumpist extremism, it’s probably fair to cite Patricia Roberts Miller on demagoguery (she’s a Texas-based expert on political rhetoric. I’ve read her book, Rhetoric and Demagoguery.

What people call “right-wing” politics should be called reactionary toxic populist nationalism. It isn’t conservative. Conservativism is a political ideology that, although I disagree with it, even I will say is generally internally coherent and principled. Pro-Trump politics isn’t internally coherent or principled—it’s irrational factionalism. Using a private server is terrible, unless it’s a Trump family member. Pornography is terrible, unless it’s a Trump family member. A problematic charity is terrible, unless it’s Trump’s. There are no principles that are applied consistently across groups.

A puzzling/absurdist 3 minute comedy sketch by Julie Nolke (who is most famous for doing comedy sketches such as Explaining the Pandemic to my Past Self. If Samuel Becket were alive today, imagine the Youtube videos he would be making! (Related: Charlie Rose by Samuel Beckett on youtube)

Sad to read about director Michael Apted’s death. He directed the magnificent documentary series, called UP SERIES. Seeing 63 UP at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts was one the highlights of my year (Never available for DVD or streaming, it showed for exactly one day in March, and the Museum shut down because of COVID). Apted has directed a lot of quality movies, but my favorite has to be a 1993 thriller called BLINK. ** (Obits also in NYT, Washington Post).

Director Michael Apted, with 3 of his documentary participants for 21 Up. (Source: Granada TV via NYT).

SHOULD TRUMP RESIGN? “Hey, Vladimir, this is your good friend Don. I got a deal for you. I got tons of valuable information about Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and White House IT security protocols to help you do what want to that fake president, Joe Biden. All I ask in return is 50 million dollars to pay off my Russian debt, licenses to let me open a Trump Tower in Moscow and St. Petersburg and a written guarantee never to extradite me and my family back to USA. Need more? Don’t worry. I got amazing intelligence about Ukraine and EU and all kinds of military secrets — I’m still the president! –I got the best people who could get me anything I ask for in minutes. Do we have a deal?” **

POLITICAL RHETORIC: I hate it when anyone — politicians, pundits, officials, friends, family — uses the word “strongly.” It is a pretentious way of asserting you are are powerful and must be listened to. Whenever I hear someone use the word “STRONGLY” I ALWAYS substitute it in my head with “STUPIDLY.” **

Timothy Snyder on American Abyss (NYT) (Snyder is the brilliant historian whose massive book about WW2, Bloodlands, is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read):

Informed observers inside and outside government agree that right-wing white supremacism is the greatest terrorist threat to the United States. Gun sales in 2020 hit an astonishing high. History shows that political violence follows when prominent leaders of major political parties openly embrace paranoia.

Our big lie is typically American, wrapped in our odd electoral system, depending upon our particular traditions of racism. Yet our big lie is also structurally fascist, with its extreme mendacity, its conspiratorial thinking, its reversal of perpetrators and victims and its implication that the world is divided into us and them. To keep it going for four years courts terrorism and assassination.

In the Atlantic , Caitlan Flanagan wrote a caustic review of the Trump insurrectionists:

It seems as though they hadn’t expected to gain entrance with such ease—an ease that becomes more suspicious as the hours pass—and once there they didn’t know what to do, exactly. One patriot made it all the way to Nancy Pelosi’s office, where (per his own gleefully repeated description) he sat at her desk, scratched his balls, left a note—“Nancy, Bigo was here, you bitch”—and grabbed a trophy: an envelope stamped with her name. Soon enough he’d trotted back outside to show it off, the victor in a one-man panty raid. He was an envelope guy in an email world, but suddenly he was taking control of his destiny.

A man in a Viking helmet and the kind of face paint not often seen outside sporting venues held a sign reading Hold the Line Patriots, which made you wonder if he was just a misguided New England fan. Who can make sense of the new football schedule? Inside, he ran around issuing guttural cries and climbing the furniture, like someone who had been thawed out from a 1995 Robert Bly retreat. (Bly was part of the movement that coined the term toxic manhood, the toxicity being office work and too much time around bossy women, and the antidote being a return to the original state of dude nature: roaring, beating drums.) This was not a low-T group. This was not a group that had been robbed and diminished by radical feminism. And they proved it by defecating on the floors and tracking their own filth through the hallways. They were dazed by power and limited in their conception of what to do with it. Some rioters left the building in the charged, happy way people exit the Dive Devil ride at Magic Mountain: single file, grinning, and not really sure what just happened. They cried out for beer, they pumped their fists in triumph, they went looking for Mom and money for curly fries. **

Pre-insurrection, here’s a piece by Ben Collins , We Need to Learn How to talk to and about accidental conspiracists.

Because at some point in these next few months, you’re going to return to the honest-to-goodness, real-life social world. You’re going to be standing next to another parent at soccer practice, watching your kid fail to kick a ball for the first time in 14 months, and that dad is going to lean over to you and, in the most clarion, measured tone, he is going to say the most insane thing you have ever heard. It won’t even be that you’ll disagree with him. You will simply have no idea who or what he’s talking about.

This guy will look normal. You probably knew him and talked about the NBA salary cap with him before COVID. But now he’ll be speaking about scary political actors and evil companies and probably some private citizens like Ruby Freeman as if you’re both living in the same YouTube morass only he had accidentally slipped into. He’ll be talking with the same voice that might otherwise talk about James Harden trade rumors, which will be the spookiest part.

I have encountered quite a few of these types — mostly retired people who are decent enough on the outside, but stubbornly cling to myths about Antifa, Soros, Hunter Biden and China they picked up from Fox. My strategy has been simply to point out that relying on one source for your political news is dangerous and even poisonous. **

WORD OF THE DAY: Retrumplican.

(More to come)


New — Social Media Posts

Happy 2021! Starting this year I’ll try to repost my social media posts from social media here on my blog. I’ve tried doing this before, but somehow I always forget to update things, or it’s too much of a bother. I’m going to try something different this time.

  1. Make a post for every 2 week period.
  2. I’ll make the post at the beginning of the period, and then add new social media posts from then until the end of the two week period. In other words, I’ll publish immediately and add new things over time until the two week period is over.
  3. When I want to indicate that the post is still open-ended (i.e., possibly to add more things), I’ll put two asterisks at the end — like this **.

In the past I’ve tried to collect posts every 2 or 3 months or whenever I think of it. Never kept with it. I’ve played around with the idea of using plugins to grab posts from Facebook or Google Plus, but then never seemed to work well enough to justify the effort.

Let’s face it though: some of my posted content is not particularly topical — though interesting to me. I’m actually a news junkie and have strong opinions, but posting topical things on FB is fraught with dangers. First, most people don’t give a shit about my opinions (or anybody’s opinions for that matter). Second, I’m almost toning down my thoughts and rhetoric in order not to sound too pissy. Also — and I don’t do often — I occasionally like to use cuss words or vulgarities in some of my obiter dicta and sometimes worry about what former teachers and elderly relatives on FB might think of me. Here on my blog, I’m less reticent.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t worry about writing profound thoughts or finding obscure knowledge. I just wanted a place to record/store my favorite discoveries so I could reference it later on. Later, whenever I had an itch to scratch, I turned it into a blogpost — sometimes a very long one. I never have blogged regularly even though I’ve always finding things to report or say. Posting on facebook saps that momentum. I don’t go out of my way to blog, but occasionally throw something up. Despite the lack of posts, I regularly add things to previous posts — hidden from the view of watchful readers. (like my music purchases and book reviews (which — yikes! — I need to update). I also post elsewhere on forums and stack exchanges and subreddits.

I’m started to admire Richard Stallman’s political notes (not really a blog, but very easy to read and relevant). Perversely, when I’m on my tablet I like to follow a subset of twitter accounts of journalists which keeps me informed of what people are working on. I’ve also started to read key newsletters: Will Bunch’s newsletter (he’s a great columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Release Notes (Dwight Silverman’s weekly technology letter). Emily Atkin’s Heated climate change substack (she is great!)

I try not to post to things behind paywalls, although that’s becoming harder these days (especially since a college friend D.T. gifted me a subscription to the Atlantic last Christmas). I’ll write about supporting media and paywalls sometime later.