I am starting to get into a better recording swing for Librivox. I recently completed the first Buck Rogers story, a short novel from Amazing Magazine, March 1929. I am currently working on the second novel, and will post when I complete it.
After almost two years away from creating any recordings for LibriVox, I am happy to say that I have gotten back into two of my favorite hobbies: talking, and listening to myself talk! I have completed my newest solo recording, the second volume of the Fantômas series, The Exploits of Juve.
Fantômas was a creation of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. They published 32 Fantômas novels between 1911 and 1913. Fantômas followed the evolution from the detective novels, to the lovable rogues, such as Raffles and Arsène Lupin. Rather than be a lovable criminal who stole from the rich with many a quip or bon mot, Fantômas was a ruthless killer. His anarchic attitude captured the imagination of the French avant-garde movement.
For the first time, Librivox is asking for donations. It is a finite fundraiser, i.e. they wish to raise $20,000 for some specific upgrades. Information is below. If you are a fan of Librivox, please consider sending them something to let them know you support them. Here is the letter from Hugh, creator of Librivox.
For four-and-a-half years, LibriVox volunteers have been making audiobooks for the world to enjoy, and giving them away for free. We’ve made thousands of free audiobooks that have been downloaded by millions of people; our site gets 400,000 visitors every month. To date, all our costs have been borne by a few individuals, with some generous donations and support from partners. However, these costs have become too big.
For the first time (and hopefully for the last time for at least another four-and-a-half years) we're asking for your support, for a $20,000 fund-raising campaign.
Audible.com had a $4.95 sale on the first book of several series, one of which was Into the Storm: Destroyermen, Book I by Taylor Anderson, an Alternative History novel in which a WWI vintage destroyer, out of date and running from the Japanese in the early days of the WWII Pacific theater, gets sucked into an alternative world which is physically the same as the one they left, but on which different life forms have evolved.
While interesting, what really caught my eye, from the publisher's description was that, on this version of earth, two different intelligences had evolved and are at war, the humans "have the means to turn a primitive war into a genocidal Armageddon, one thing becomes clear: They must decide whose side they're on. Because whoever they choose to side with is the winner."
The book is solidly, if unexceptionally, written. As the destroyer is part of a fleet that is trying to escape the Japanese, a chance is had for the ship to pick up some additional people, besides the crew. There are a couple of pilots (gotta be able to fly on the alternate world), some nurses (gotta have some women), and an Australian jack-of-all-trades scientist (who can be knowledgeable and/or ignorant, as needed.) They even rescue a Japanese sailor who got sucked through the squall into this world along with them. A Japanese sailor on a US Navy ship, now that's conflict! (Fortunately, he was educated in the US, speaks English, and wasn't too gung-ho about the Pearl Harbor attack. Wouldn't want to have to actually deal with conflicting viewpoints.) While these are fairly formulaic, they are not hard to swallow in the context of making the cast of characters more interesting, and creating some potential plot conflicts.
The battle descriptions are very good. The ship's abilities are discussed, and the battle tactics are described, well, but without so much jargon that it becomes incomprehensible. The captain, whose viewpoint rightly dominates the book, is a reasonably interesting character. Most of the other characters are right out of central casting.
My problems with the books start to appear as the crew meets the first alien (to them) race, one descended from lemurs. I was looking forward to the ethical dilemma of choosing sides, but this dilemma disappears almost immediately, as these nice furry people are under attack by a race descended from raptors, who have no redeeming social qualities, and also have big teeth. While a paragraph or two is spent on the captain hemming and hawing over stepping in, he quickly decides to help the beleaguered "cat-monkeys" and the dilemma is over before it has a chance to begin.
I was also annoyed by the fact that this alternate world was supposed to be as old as the earth, and yet the races on it are far behind humans in technology. No explanation is given as to why they are so far behind, it just makes for a better story.
The book moves along well enough that until it is an enjoyable read/listen, but afterward I realized that it was mostly a waste.
The kids and I the new Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie at Christmas, and it was fun. Not great, but a lot of fun. RDJ was quite unconvincing as Holmes, but Jude Law was an excellent Watson, the sets were wonderful, and the movie was a lot of fun. But this post isn't about the movie.
One of the side effects of the studio pumping millions into promoting "Sherlock Holmes" is that a number of other products piggybacked on that advertising.
The Sherlock Holmes Collection is a collection of episodes from a 60's series that I had not heard of before. It stars Peter Cushing, who was a very respectable Holmes in Hammer Films' Hound of the Baskervilles, and does a very good job here also. Nigel Stock is a bit old for Watson (the influence of the Nigel Bruce portrayal, one supposes) but handles the character well.
Another excellent BBC series that was released this fall was The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: Set 1 (Set 2 will be available in April). This early 70's series presents stories based on stories of other contemporary detectives, such as Martin Hewitt, Max Carrados and Dr. Thorndyke, and has a number of actors that we saw much more of later, such as Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Irons and John Neville. For a mystery fan like me, this is a gold mine!
For a nice range of Holmes movies at a reasonable price, The Sherlock Holmes Collection has three solid movies, the Hammer Hound of the Baskervilles, the excellent, Billy Wilder directed Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, and the hilarious Without a Clue with Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley.
TCM showed the restored version of the 1922 silent Sherlock Holmes, based on the William Gillette play, and this version should be available soon for hardcore Sherlockians like me.
With the Holmes books in the public domain, Barnes & Noble and Amazon have new editions available for a reasonable price, including several versions for the Kindle. My favorite new edition of a Holmes book has to be Hard Case Crime's version of The Valley of Fear (cover shot below) which it lists as by "A. C. Doyle", and is "Based on a True Story", which is true, if a bit stretched. I am pretty sure that I don't remember "The Bodymaster" my previous readings of the novel. (You have to love the subtle placement of the "V"!)
Well, it has been a busy month for me, recording wise. I finished recording Jules Verne's Dr. Ox's Experiment, and I am about 2/3 of the way through with Fantomas. You can connect to these through my audiobook page.
I wanted to make it easier for people to sort through the many excellent mystery audiobooks that Librivox has to offer, so I have created a Librivox Mystery Bookshelf. This site sorts the various books by their time period and/or style. It also shows books that are recommended reading according to a couple of excellent sources. It was a fun project to work on, but took some serious time to create the 400+ links.
I have to admit something...I love Christmas. According to the AFA, I am supposed to be making war on it, but I must be a backslider. I hear a lot about how hard the holidays are on some people, and I do not doubt that this is true. Having to get together with a dysfunctional extended family, or be alone cannot be fun. For some it is the oft-forced Christmas cheer, especially in some office settings, or the incessant playing of the same 20 Christmas songs. Happily, none of these is a problem for me.
I enjoy the pagan parts of the season, the secular parts, and even, to some extent, the spiritual parts. I don't handle the preaching well, but that can be avoided reasonably well. My workplace does not have any massive after hours Christmas party that anyone is forced to attend. My floor has a carry in (must remember to get the Andouille and the tasso out of the freezer this weekend, I am bringing jambalaya.) As I am a one man department, it is nice to be included in a larger group, as a one person carry-in is simply brown bagging. Last year, my boss took the three people under him out for dinner, but there wasn't any politicking, just good food and company.
My wife and I get along pretty well with both sides of our families. There are in-laws that I don't share a lot of interests with, but no-one particularly obnoxious (well, almost, but it is a relaxed season and I can generally just ignore him.) Certainly none of the cat-fighting and back-biting I hear about from others. This year the travel for the family get-togethers is pretty light and the timing for them is pretty good, so all is good on the family side.
I hear people complain about the crowds in the malls, and about how nasty people are when shopping, but I have experienced very little of this. I understand that lines will be longer, that at least one person in the line ahead of me will have completely forgotten how to exchange money for products, but I go in with that assumption and don't let it bother me. I find that if you go to the malls in a nasty mood, you will notice the others in the same mood. I tend to go in a good mood, and I usually meet other people who smile and joke about things. Sometimes I really believe that one can choose their mood, so I choose to have fun.
There is certainly some godawful Christmas music out there, and I was hearing in the first weekend of November, which was annoying. My advantage is that I don't listen to the radio, so I don't care if all the stations have switched to Christmas must a month ago. I play CDs, so I can choose what I listen to. When I do decide to listen to Christmas music, I pick the music I listen to. At work I have about 11 hours of seasonal music on my PC. I hit shuffle, and between answering calls, leaving the office to fix this or that, I can get through the month without hearing any song more than 3 or 4 times, unless I choose to (never get enough of Blues Traveler's Christmas, or No Doubt's Oi to the World. )
Now to the best parts of Christmas. I enjoy the music, and when we go to a larger event, I can even sing aloud without anyone throwing things or calling for the police. I enjoy the secular music, I enjoy the traditional music, I enjoy, in small doses, the novelty songs, I enjoy the edgy and/or slightly bitter songs. I have Celtic songs, blues songs, jazz songs. My mix includes the Chieftains, Nat King Cole, Dr. John, Jethro Tull. Good stuff all!
There are favorite Christmas movies. We only watch a few, so we don't get over-saturated with the various awful TV and movie presentations. (Always remember Sturgeon's Law: "90 percent of everything is crud.") We love to watch the Alistair Sims' version of A Christmas Carol, love to hear Boris Karloff in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to see Edmund Gwynn in the original Miracle on 34th Street (admittedly, there are very few things I do not enjoy Gwynn in) and It's a Wonderful Life, while it got played to death when it was in the public domain for a while, is still a great movie, with a wonderful message, if a bit cloying. (OK, I realize that three of these are in black and white, but what's wrong with that, you $#@# whippersnappers! Get off my lawn!)
Food. A big word in just four letters. DeBrand's chocolates. Macadamia nuts. Pistachio nuts. Nuts. Attacking assorted nuts with nutcracker and picks, fun for both the nuts and the memories. Pies. Pumpkin. Blueberry. Mince meat. Rolls. Honey baked hams. Another turkey, just for the heck of it. Sweet potatoes. Some green beans, just to make Jill happy. Aaah. This year may even include some home brewed beer, which I haven't had for several years.
Memories. Listening to our kids going through their stockings, not realizing that we could hear them from our bedroom through the heating ducts. When your kids are about 3, and they get so excited by each present that they have to show everyone in the room and don't want to open the next present because this one is so cool. The few times when I actually got it right with one of Jill's presents. You know the times. When it isn't on her list, but is something truly special. OK, I didn't manage it often, that's why the memories of those times is so special. Coming back from Thanksgiving and putting in the Christmas music for the first time in the season and singing for hours on the way home...each in their own key.
So in the end, to reiterate, I love Christmas. I know that it was a pagan holiday that was converted to Christian holiday was transformed during the Victorian era into what we think of a traditional Christmas and has become a marketing tool. I know all that, but I still love it, so to steal from the lyrics of Jackson Browne's The Rebel Jesus:
So I bid you pleasure And I bid you cheer From a heathen and a pagan On the side of the rebel Jesus