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review 2016-09-10 09:15
WHAT THE EYE HEARS: A HISTORY OF TAP DANCING by Brian Siebert
What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing - Brian Seibert

WHAT THE EYE HEARS: A HISTORY OF TAP DANCING

Brian Siebert

Hardcover, 624 pages
Published November 17th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 0865479534 (ISBN13: 9780865479531)

also available for Kindle and ebook.

 

Seibert has magnificently researched Tap;  starting with original steps brought in with Irish Jigs, African Drums, and Appalachian Clogging in very early American society, then through Thomas Jefferson's plantation, Charles Dicken's visit to the Five Pointes Dance Hall, and more. He wonderfully brings us through the minstrelsy, the jazz age, to Taps comeback with television, then movies and Broadway. Seibert leaves nothing out, making this a long book (624 pages). He includes some great photos throughout. the book is definitely an entertaining read while giving us, the readers, a remarkable view at a true piece of American history. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who dances, enjoys music, and wants to learn more.

****I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in exchange for a fair review.****

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text 2016-05-09 00:00
Book 33/100: The End - 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That You Should Know About ... Before It's Too Late by Laura Barcella
The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About...Before It's Too Late - Laura Barcella

If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic/apocalyptic stories, make sure to have your TBR and TBW (to-be-watched) lists handy -- plus Google if you want to check into any of the non-book/movie suggestions featured in this book.

Despite being a long-time fan of the genre, there were tons of books and movies I either had never heard of, or had heard of but didn't know exactly what they were about. The format is the same for every entry -- it sets up the plot/scenario, and then includes notes about how likely such an apocalypse is, what impact the work had on the culture/later works, and what inspired the creator. The tone is casual and slightly ironic, clearly written by an enthusiast of the genre. Although mostly featuring books and movies, there are also some apocalyptic visions from artwork, theater, and music included. (The theater ones bummed me out a little because it's the hardest to get a hold of -- but now that I know these apocalyptic plays exist, I'll keep my eyes open for whether they are ever performed near me.)

It would be easy to criticize this book for all the stuff it left OUT, but one of its strengths is that it creates a somewhat manageable collection of apocalyptic visions, unlike the "1001 ..." book series that is pretty much overhwelming (which is why I guess you get "until you die" as the deadline). This book could serve as a handy guide to someone who is just getting into the post-apocalyptic genre, or a current enthusiast who might want to fill in the gaps. It also gave me a sense for why some of the books/movies in the genre became such classics.

The book reinforces the fact that there really aren't a ton of scenarios that have been explored for the world ending -- pretty much every piece in the book falls into one of the following categories: nuclear war, alien invasion, asteroid from space, zombies (zombies seemed a bit overrepresented), climate change, and plague. It's in the way these themes are rendered that you might glimpse something new.

Readers should be warned that this book is totally ruthless about spoilers -- it looks at each work as a whole, which usually includes giving away how the story ends. So if you are very anti-spoiler, you might want to skip entries for pieces you haven't read/seen or just read the first couple paragraphs. I have so many things on my to-watch/to-read list that I figure I'll forget the spoilers by the time I get to them, anyway. :p

This is not a long book, but I found it to be best enjoyed reading just a couple entries at a time -- otherwise, they start to blend together a bit.

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review 2016-03-14 00:00
Dad Magazine: America's #1 Magazine for "Pop" Culture
Dad Magazine: America's #1 Magazine for ... Dad Magazine: America's #1 Magazine for "Pop" Culture - NOT A BOOK My husband & giggled so hard we occasionally snorted.
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review 2016-02-27 01:22
Different than what I had expected
Flood - S. Alexander Reed,Philip Sandifer

I had multiple issues with this book: the design of the book is nice, smaller books that delve into one record each, but the words were smaller and felt more crammed together and the paper was that blinding white that I really don't prefer.  (I didn't count this towards my star rating, however, as they were minor complaints.   Maybe I should have as I doubt I'll buy these in paperback for myself, but I didn't.)

 

Furthermore, I'd read that there were issues with this series in general.   See, each one is written by a different author, or even co-written, and this makes this series hit and miss for some people.   The review I'm thinking of said that there were either varying quality or interest levels; I'm fairly sure it was quality, but I have not found that to be so - yet.   I've only read three of these, however, and I would argue that interest level does vary for me.   The Bowie book on Low?   I've read that twice and was fascinated throughout.   The one on the Beach Boys?   That was enlightening, terrifying, sobering, but was another book I would gladly reread.   This book was different.   Maybe it's because I read the other two as e-books and had a little more control over the things that annoyed me.   (Text size, line spacing, margins, and brightness on my Kindle Paperwhite.)

 

I have a feeling I would have been almost as annoyed reading this as an e-book, however. See, I came into it with a certain set of expectations.   The two books I've already read mixed the personal with factional; it was a biography of the artists, although with such little space, it had an economy to the biographical aspect.   Everything led back to that one particular somehow, someway.   The personal wasn't so much about the authors but about the authors themselves; it made the artists feel more real to me in ways that other non-fiction has not.   Perhaps it's the fact that the authors clearly loved their subjects, and that shone through.   They were not blindly adoring of their subjects, particularly the Bowie biography.   There was no way to make his drug addiction, his feverish hallucinations, his at times extremely bizarre behavior anything other than it was, and the author didn't even attempt to do so.   He reported this factually, in an unbiased as possible way, as he did when he spoke of how the record was recorded.   The love came through when he spoke of the music, however, and it bled onto the page.   There was something honest and deep that could only come from repeated listenings to that record, and from massive amounts of time, thought and energy poured into those songs.   

 

Look, I'm not saying this book wasn't well written.   It was.   It was factual, in-depth, and the authors had at least limited access to the two Johns who make up They May Be Giants.   (There was at least one in person interview.)   The problem isn't that they aren't fans of the music, or that they didn't think about this music, or that they don't have smart, opinionated things to say about the music.   The problem is it was... dry.    Very dry.   While the biographical element was limited, that may be because They May Be Giants guard their privacy.   (I'm not saying that they're wrong to do so, but rather that because of this, it may be harder to write a heavily biographical piece.   Fair.   I'm not so much faulting this book for that as for the actual tack it did take.)

 

But the charm of the other two books was the personal and it was lacking from this book.   It was either straight factual biography, or interpretation.    It felt like a long paper on the was to interpret They Might Be Giants' songs.   The problem I had was I was expecting something else, and well, I got bored.  

 

It didn't help that there hints of something more interesting, like when the authors talk about how unsexy the music is.   (Not as a trash talking bit, but rather acknowledging that They Might Be Giants don't really sing about sex.)   There's this funny story about one of their college mack out sessions on which this album, Flood, comes on his girlfriends CD shuffler.   Knowing that it would kill the mood, he injures himself trying to turn it off.   It was funny, yes, but more than that, it spoke to how the music spoke to him.   It was a shy little moment, letting the reader in on not only what he liked about the music, but how it didn't work.   It made the authors seems like genuine fans rather than sycophants, and all I can think is that this moment sticks out in my head.   It did more than charm me, it disarmed me.   See, folks, we're willing to have a laugh at this album and ourselves.  

 

Unfortunately there weren't that many moments like that, and the few that are there make it obvious that there could have been more of that in this.   I certainly don't regret reading this, and I did kinda fly through it in two or so days.   That being said, while I found it fascinating, enlightening, with detailed research and a tight writing style, it lacked the balance in some of the other books.   It also showed what it could have been and the only regret I have is that I didn't get more of those moments.  

 

I'd love to read another of these guys books, though, either together or solo.   Like I said, I saw some really great moments of potential and I'd give another book a try to see if that potential is followed through on in later writings.   

 

I may need a break from these, though, so I'm finishing The Magician's Elephant before I delve into my next 33 1/3.

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review 2016-02-26 03:58
Review: Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
Kill the Boy Band - Goldy Moldavsky

Initial reaction: This is one of those books that could go easily either way: love or hate. I thought some moments were pure gold for dark comedy, and I was even laughing while I read this on my commutes. However, it had some issues pulling off the explanations for events. Plus, some moments in humored context didn't always work for me.

Full review:

"Kill the Boy Band" is a very interesting book I bought on a whim when I saw it in the book store. For one, the title screams "BUY ME!" The book jacket has the black background with pink lettering, while if you take the jacket off, it's a pink cover with black lettering that could pass for a fangirl's notebook. I was totally stoked about this being a dark humored parody of fandom culture. Even the blurb suggests that a group of girls encountering the least popular member of a popular boyband (The Ruperts, who you might as well say are a parody band of One Direction) goes in an absolutely horrible - and unintended- direction.

I would say after the entire reading experience that the execution of this is made of both great things...and not so great things. Dark humor can be difficult to execute well, because on one hand it has the potential to point out contradictions and ironies (which yes, this book did in several notations), but at the same time it may unintentionally be offensive depending on how it's expanded upon. The closest I can say this book comes with respect to its brand of humor is the Fox TV series "Scream Queens." If you've ever seen that series with its brand of horror comedy, that's exactly what you'll get in "Kill the Boy Band". Some iconic one-liners with some self-aware critiques and examinations included. Libba Bray's "Beauty Queens" did this as well, but I think "Beauty Queens" went over better for me as a whole because it covered a lot of ground and I clicked with it a little more (especially in Bray's own narration; that remains one of my favorite YA audio experiences.)

That's not to say that I didn't identify in spaces with "Kill the Boy Band." I've been a part of various fandom cultures for many years (yes, I've had the interesting experience of reading several RPFs.) Musical group fan culture isn't new to me, what with my love for certain J-pop/J-rock/K-pop groups. Ye Gods, I've been a part of that culture for a long time, it's kind of fascinating being able to reminisce about it. My experiences with Laruku included (I still faintly think HYDE could be the embodiment of a living vampire. His role in Moonchild with Gackt did not help dispel this theory back when I first watched the film in all its fandubbed glory. But I digress.)

So, the protagonist of this book - who often takes on the moniker of several 80s referenced heroines - is a part of a group of girls who are obssessed with the Brit boy band "The Ruperts". "The Ruperts" are all named that way because their first names are "Rupert" (designated from each other only by the first letter of their last name and their odd quirks. One of them doesn't even really sing, he just juggles during their live performances). They met on a reality show, a.k.a parody of One Direction. I'll admit that made me laugh with some of the details given for the band and how the protagonist profiled each of her friends and their various stats within partaking with the fandom.

Among the protagonist's friends are the curvy Chinese girl Apple (Oh bless Apple's fangirl heart that she frequently wanted to jump the bones of the Rupert she liked the most during a good part of this book - though the overt sexual humor really surprised me in places), Isabel (frequently curses in Spanish, she's Dominican), and Erin, the MC's best friend who has a really, really dark streak.

The four of them end up going to an exclusive event at the hotel which is rumored to be where the Ruperts are staying. Things go terribly wrong when Apple bumrushes one of the members of the band as he's at a vending machine, knocking him out. (My reaction: OMG!) Then she proceeds to drag him back to the girls' hotel room, where things quickly get complicated, including tying up the Rupert so that he won't "panic" when he wakes up (but of course he does), and things go downhill from there.

I could totally see this scenario happening in an anime series (*fangirl runs up to favorite boybander* "I LOOOOOOVE YOU" *smack* "CRAAAAAAP!"). And that's exactly how it plays out, in an over the top manner, but while the narrative has some decidedly lighthearted moments and snappy one-liners, it gets dark very quickly. Very, very dark. There were times I was laughing at the interactions, while others I was like "GIRL/DUDE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

The characters are quite stereotypical, sometimes in ways that I think both work with and undermine some of the self-aware and pondering humor that could be taken for plays on morality and spot commentary in awareness of fandom culture. Some of the humor is offensive, including notations on race, sexuality, body type, and disability - which is why I had mixed feelings on the novel because some of it I could feel/see the intention, but others I was like "Nah...that's really not cool in the way that it was shown." It's one of those novels that I could definitely see people either loving or hating it for the mere execution of it. I still think (and am a little sad that) this book didn't quite go in more fun and open directions given its awesome premise, but it has moments where it shines. I appreciated the bit references I could pull from, plus some of the banter between the girls and boys. I don't think there's really a single character that comes out of this scenario as likable because they're all inherently flawed and OTT. The way the book goes in terms of the plot (including how one of the Ruperts ends up dead, but who didn't see that coming?) has some interesting points, but I think it struggled to get to answering those questions in places. I actually kind of appreciated the ending, because it's an interesting punctuation and notation to fandom writing culture. I don't know if it really goes as far as it could have or is as keen as it put itself off to be, but I took it for what it was.

Still, this left me on the fence for the experience. I definitely liked parts of it, but others I really wish I had more takeaway. It wasn't the *hold my sides, laughing until I had tears in my eyes* experience that I was hoping for.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

 

End Note: Laruku is the fan name for the Japanese band L'arc~en~Ciel, in case anyone doesn't get that reference. :)

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