Friday, January 08, 2010

This is posted as solidarity with those being attacked by radical Muslims for drawing/publishing a cartoon. Viva free speech!

There are articles about the latest attacks here and here.
I just finished Man of Constant Sorrow by Ralph Stanley and Eddie Dean.

It's obvious from reading it that it is really Eddie Dean writing up and connecting together stories told to him by Dr. Stanley. At times, there are sentences or pieces of stories repeated in different chapters but 0ther than that, he does a very good job of weaving the stories together into a coherent narrative.

Like all autobiographies, this book can be a little too self serving. Ralph clearly sees himself as someone who says it the way he sees it, and he has a lot of regard for himself as a musician and a "living legend". It also has some holes that you wouldn't find in a more objective biography - there is only a single sentence mentioning his first marriage and his son, Ralph Stanley II, is only mentioned briefly in the last chapter.

I am a huge fan of the Stanley Brothers -- they are my favourite bluegrass band, by far -- so the earlier parts of the books were very interesting to me. Learning where some of their songs came from, and about the hard times they lived through, even up to and past Carter's death, as well as a lot of other facts about their lives, probably wouldn't suit some audiences but it was perfect for me.

Most of the other original bluegrass stars, like Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, and Jimmy Martin, are gone and it is a shame we don't have a record of their stories as told by them. It is a great thing for bluegrass that at least one of them went on the record and told it like they saw it.

Highly recommended for bluegrass fans.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Yesterday I finished Rimrunners by C. J. Cherryh.

I haven't read any Cherryh in a long time, and didn't remember liking her all that much, but I enjoyed this book.

It follows Elizabeth "Bet" Yeager as she tries to get a job on a ship, not really caring where it goes, as long as it is away from the station she is trapped on with no prospects and no money. Eventually, she finds a birth on a ship, forms some friendships, gets into trouble and then helps fend off an attack. All this is made much more difficult because she is a former Marine with the opposing military, something she tries to conceal from her new crew mates.

The book starts off slowly, with her stuck on the station and dealing with other reprobates and getting more and more despondent. The situation only gets slightly less grim as she gets a job on a ship where there are massive crew problems, including violence. The grim tone is a little off putting as well. But the book picks up as it goes along and has a strong conclusion.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Last night I finished Revelation Space, the debut novel of Alastair Reynolds.

Revelation Space has a "space opera" feel, but with more of a hard science fiction background. For example, there is no faster than light travel here but there is aggressive nanotechnology and other exotic science ideas.

It's quite an enjoyable book, once it gets going, and a surprisingly good debut. At the beginning, the multiple story lines were a big bewildering, particularly because they moved around in time in unclear ways. Leaving things un-explained at the start is a common SF writing style, but if not done carefully, it can be very off putting. Once you get past that, and the stories start to flow individually, and then come together, the novel improves a lot. The end also has some flaws, as the amount of exposition increases almost exponentially, pulling away from the story/characters at times but necessary to explain what is going on.

The story itself is pretty complex, starting with an archaeological find, an assasin and a spaceship needing a crew replacement. Later there are coup's on colonies, clones revealed, battles between AIs for people's minds, aliens that turn out to be different than what they appear and a final decision that needs to be made.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Last night we say the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience at the Freight & Salvage.

It was a great show, by a great group of local musicians - David Grisman, Keith Little, Jim Nunally, Chad Manning and Sam Grisman. They did two sets mixed between bluegrass standards and Grisman originals.

I've seen other shows of DGBX but this was the best one so far. In addition, it was good to see the new Freight full. I've seen two other shows there with very small crowds, but this one was sold out.

The new Freight is a great place to see music. I liked the old Freight because of the great acts they got, but I never liked the sound there. The new Freight is not only very nice to look at, but has excellent sound.