midweek music: “For the Longest Time”

Here’s another one from the Billy Joel concert I went to at Madison Square Garden earlier this month: “For the Longest Time,” the a capella classic, for which Joel warmed up with a nifty little bit from “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

a nice review of Breakdowns

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Over on Twitter, Justin Oser — among other things, the co-host of the Literary Treks podcast — has been reviewing the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers collections. Originally published from 2000-2007 as a monthly series of eBooks, the S.C.E. series was co-created and edited by me, and it’s my second proudest editorial achievement in my career on that side of the desk (right after the Marvel novels).

In 2001, David Mack wrote Wildfire, which was a major upheaval of the status quo, with many character deaths, including one of the main characters. The next four eBooks dealt with the immediate aftermath of that event, focusing on individual characters, ending with Breakdowns, my look at the two primary characters in the series, Captain David Gold (an original character created for the series, and I admit my favorite Starfleet captain) and Commander Sonya Gomez (a character who first appeared as an ensign on The Next Generation, in the episodes “Q Who” and “Samaritan Snare”).

Justin just reviewed the collection that includes all four of the aftermath stories I mentioned, and here’s what he had to say about Breakdowns:

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Justin! This seriously made my morning………………

Monday music: “Only the Good Die Young”

There are several albums that I associate with being a little kid, mostly because I played them, um, a lot when I was a pre-teen. In fact, I wore these albums out (they were vinyl, you could do that): Teaser & the Firecat by Cat Stevens, WarChild by Jethro Tull, Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, and The Stranger by Billy Joel were a few of them.

Last week, thanks to the good graces of my dear friend ToniAnn, I got to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden. He’s 70 now, bald with a white goatée, and dressed very smartly in a suit. His voice couldn’t always quite do what it used to do, but those hands can still make a piano sing like nobody’s business.

Here he is doing “Only the Good Die Young,” a song that several members of Cardinal Spellman High School’s Class of 1986 adopted as our theme song back in the day……

you can still support my crowdfund for new Precinct & Cassie stories!

So cool thing about Indie Go Go — if your project funds on time, then they let you continue to take pledges after the funding period ends. Which is awesome, especially since every time I do one of these, somebody says, “Oh no, I missed this!” even though I’d been talking about it online for a month.

But that’s not an issue here! If you want to support “The Gorvangin Rampages: A Dragon Precinct Story” (about an event that happened in the year between Gryphon Precinct and Mermaid Precinct) and “Ragnarok and a Hard Place: A Tale of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet” (in which Loki and Odin make a surprise return to Key West and bring the end of the world with them), you still can!

Just click this link and support it! All the perks save for the tuckerizations (which were all bought up before the funding period ended) are still available, too!

Short Treks: “The Girl Who Made the Stars” and “Ephraim and Dot”

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For the first time in 45 years, we have new animated Star Trek stories! Debuting on Short Treks are two animated shorts that tie in to Discovery, “The Girl Who Made the Stars,” starring Michael Burnham as a little kid, and “Ephraim and Dot,” featuring a tardigrade and a maintenance robot. All three of them are adorable, too. My take at the link….

An excerpt:

The creation myths of the peoples of the Kalahari Desert were told to explain why the world was the way it was. They explained the stars in the night sky by telling of a girl who threw embers into the air in order to provide light during the night, so people could navigate. The girl was lonely and wanted to visit other people.

But the version that the elder Burnham tells his daughter, who is frightened of the dark and can’t sleep, is both the same and different.

For starters, Burnham has adjusted the story to a more 23rd century sensibility. And so the girl of the story is inspired to light up the night sky, not by loneliness, but by encountering an alien life form, who assures her that they’re not alone in their little valley. The girl’s people have not gone beyond their home because it would take more than a day to get there and the night is completely dark and would destroy them. But the girl illuminates the night with stars by which one can navigate, inspired by meeting the strange alien.

4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Shazam!

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Call him Captain Marvel, call him Shazam, call him Billy Batson, call him Captain Sparklefingers — whoever he is, he’s got his own movie starring Zachary Levi and Mark Strong. Holy moley! The great superhero movie rewatch takes a look at Shazam!

An excerpt:

Zachary Levi does a phenomenal job playing a teenager who finds himself thrust into an adult body. The problem is, the teenager he’s playing bears absolutely no resemblance to the teenager being played by Asher Angel for the rest of the movie. Angel’s Billy Batson is a bitter, closed-off, cynical kid who has a lot of emotional walls that need taking down. Levi’s Shazam sounds precisely nothing like the kid Angel is playing—in fact, he sounds more like Jack Dylan Grazer’s magnificently nerdy Freddy than he does Billy.

It’s a failure of scripting, directing, and acting, as the character voice for Shazam doesn’t match the character voice for Billy. Normally, when you’re doing a superhero—particularly one who has a secret identity of some sort—having the secret ID and the hero have different voices is a good thing. You don’t (necessarily) want Bruce Wayne to sound like Batman or Clark Kent to sound like Superman.

But Billy and Shazam are the same person, and he’s brand-new to it. While Shazam’s attempts to sound adult are hilariously labored, they don’t sound like Billy, who is actually pretty good at communicating with adults when he locks two cops in a pawn shop or talks with the social worker.

midweek music: “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”

Here’s another bit from the concert that was made into the album and movie The Last Waltz: “King Harvest (Has Surely Come),” one of The Band’s classics from their self-titled 1969 album. It was never on any of the recordings, whether LP, CD, or feature film, and seeing this video explains why — looks like there were some sound issues. But I’m showing it anyhow, ’cause it’s awesome. Below that is the original from the 50-year-old album.

 

talkin’ Bruce Springsteen with Set Lusting Bruce

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The Set Lusting Bruce podcast, hosted by Jesse Jackson, is a podcast about All Things Springsteen, and the latest episode is an interview with me! Check out me talking about my lifelong love of Bruce Springsteen, some of the great live shows I’ve seen, and why “Cadillac Ranch” makes me think of my late grandfather, plus lots more.

my Sunday feeling (written on Monday)

Yesterday was a truly frabjous day (calloo callay). First I ran an errand for a very grateful friend, then picked up Matthew at a friend’s house where he’d spent the night, then picked up The Mom and The Infomancer and the five of us all drove down to SoHo for a magical afternoon.

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I put on one of my nice sweaters for the occasion…

Our first stop was Lombardi’s Pizza, which is generally considered the first pizza place in the United States, having opened in 1905. It takes up all of the corner of Mott and Prince Streets, and has expanded out to several other spots in the area, depending on how crowded it gets. They only take cash, they only take reservations for six or more people, and they have some of the best pizza you will ever eat in your life. Added bonus: you can get an genuine Italian raspberry soda, complete with whipped cream, which is to die for.

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After that, we went across the street to Rice to Riches, which only does rice pudding. Now, mind you, I dislike rice pudding intensely, but everyone else with me loves it, and I love going there just because they have the most entertaining signage. The place is worth going to just to read the silly signs….

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We had time before the concert we were going downtown to see to start — we left a lot of time to be seated at Lombardi’s, which we figured would take forever, but we got seated right away, amazingly enough — so we traipsed over to Harney & Sons for tea. H&S has some great teas, and Wrenn is particularly addicted to their cherry blossom green tea, so we got to refill that.

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Finally, we went to the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral for a lovely concert by Amor Artis, a magnificent choral group. They did a beautiful Christmas concert filled with beautiful renditions of many songs of the season, from classical to baroque to modern and back again, opening with a gorgeous medley of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and continued through to a bunch of lovely songs.

The main reason why we wanted to see this concert in particular is that the daughter of one of The Mom and The Infomancer’s fellow library students at Columbia University back in the early 1970s, Sarah Nelson Craft, is one of Amor Artis’s featured singers, and she did a powerful rendition of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” an early-20th-century song in the style of Negro spirituals (and which Mahalia Jackson did a particularly stunning version of).

The show ended with “Auld Lang Syne,” plus an encore of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” It was beautiful, with great music, and excellent use of the spectacular church acoustics.

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And then we went home, filled with pizza, tea, rice pudding, and music.

 

Monday music: “All Along the Watchtower” by many people

Having done Playing for Change’s across-the-world version of “The Weight” last week, now we have a similarly done version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” by a variety of musicians from all over the world. I particularly like the early bit that mixes Chicago blues harmonica by Billy Branch with Lakota singers and dancers. And it fucking works. Check it out.