Allyn Gibson

Allyn as a Southpark character

On Not Being a Nationals Blogger

On Twitter two days ago, I was called “a Nationals blogger.”  By Nationals, meaning the Washington Nationals, of course.

I am not a Nationals blogger.  Don’t think of myself that way at all.  But I was also thrilled that someone else would think of me in that way.  Nationals blogger.

I have, however, made some fanposts at Federal Baseball, the SB Nation website devoted to the Nationals this year.  Of those posts, two were promoted as “Recommended Posts,” and one more was promoted to the main story stream.  So, in regard, maybe I am a Nationals blogger.

My posts have been mainly about the Harrisburg Senators, the Nationals’ AA minor league team in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Here’s what I’ve written thus far this season:

May 26: My First Harrisburg Senators Game
June 13: An Oasis of Natitude Along the Banks of the Susquehanna
June 18: Received Today, a Senators Strasburg Jersey
July 18: Meet Octavio Martinez, Nationals Bullpen Catcher
July 18: Hey Senators!

On the Radio Free Albemuth Kickstarter

When I was in college, I did a “binge read” of Philip K. Dick.

A “binge read” involved taking an author and, for a semester, reading as much of his work as I could get my hands on.  One semester I did a binge read of Larry Niven.  The next semester was Orson Scott Card.  And then there was the semester that I did a binge read of PKD.

I don’t know how I settled on PKD.  Niven was easy — I wanted to read Ringworld, it made sense to read all of his other Known Space work, and it made sense to go on from there.  (I also had the vague idea that I could write a Man-Kzin Wars story.) Orson Scott Card — I had read Card’s Foundation story “The Originist,” I wanted to read Ender’s Game, and it made sense to keep going.

I think I saw a PKD book in Barnes & Noble in Charlottesville.  Yes, I think that was it — I was intrigued by the cover copy on Vintage’s edition of VALIS.  But it wasn’t VALIS I read first.  No, that honor went to The Man in the High Castle, and I read it because I had read Robert Harris’ Fatherland and I wanted to read another World War II alternate history.

I don’t remember what I thought of The Man in the High Castle at the time, but I liked it enough to give VALIS a try.  (It also inspired a Grendel Tales outline — an Elseworlds-esque tale of SS Sturmbannführer Hunter Rose in Nazi-occupied Manhattan.  I wonder what I did with that outline.)

My path through Philip K. Dick went through the mystical stuff from the end of his life, then through the pulp sci-fi of the 60s, with the short story collections coming as I could get them.  I don’t know how many books I read that semester, at least a dozen, maybe even twenty.  I don’t recommend reading that much PKD in that compressed a timeframe; it will do things to your mind.

Not long after I read the misnamed VALIS Trilogy I read Radio Free Albemuth.

Albemuth, when I read it, was very familiar, though at the time I didn’t know why.  Albemuth, published posthumously, was Dick’s early draft of VALIS.  It contains some of the same ideas — that there’s a entity out in space that’s trying to contact humans and awaken them to reality — and some of the same characters (both novels, for instance, have Dick as a major character), but it works with them in a very different way than VALIS.  If VALIS is a semi-autobiographical novel set in the real world, Albemuth is a dystopian novel that has more in common in 1984 and V for Vendetta than it does with autobiography.

The core of the stories Albemuth and VALIS is an experience that Dick called “2-3-74.”  One day, in February 1974, a woman knocked on his door and, when he went to answer it, he felt a pink laser light strike him in the head.  After this experience, Dick began to write something we call “the Exegesis,” a long, rambling philosophical discource that attempted to make sense of the universe — and what the pink light was that led him to these philosophical explorations.  Dick, as a science fiction writer, came up with a science-fictional explanation — there was an alien intelligence in deep space, the Vast Active Living Intelligence System, and it was trying to get through to someone on Earth so that people would know that they were trapped in a Black Iron Prison and that they could achieve awareness and enlightenment.

Albemuth treats that experience within a dystopian setting while VALIS treats that experience autobiographically as Dick’s stand-in Horselover Fat tries to make sense of the 2-3-74 experience.  And if I remember correctly, there’s a point in VALIS where the characters go to a movie that’s based on Albemuth, tying the two works together.

A few years ago a film adaptation of Radio Free Albemuth was produced.  Alanis Morissette stars as Sylvia, along with Jonathan Scarfe as Nick Brady (the story’s protagonist) and Shea Whigham as Philip K. Dick (a record store clerk).

Albemuth has more in common with Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta than it does with previous PKD film adaptations which have tended toward big-budget action spectaculars.  Albemuth is a story in which paranoid President Ferris F. Fremont is trying to stamp out the resistence to his four-term governance, a resistance that may have something to do with VALIS.  It’s a story of ideas, of despair, of resistance, and ultimately even of hope.

The film has made the circuit at festivals, but it has yet to see wide release.

To bring the film to a wider audience, The producers have launched a Kickstarter to fund a self-distribution of the film.  “Despite great reviews and enthusiastic response at screenings, traditional companies simply haven’t offered us the kind of distribution that would connect to the audience we believe is out there for Radio Free Albemuth.  That’s why we’re going the self-distribution (DIY) route and reaching out to you on Kickstarter.”

It’s a tough road to climb, but everything about this film has been a tough road.  They put it this way on the Kickstarter page: “This one’s personal.  A passion project.  Labor of love by John Alan Simon and the team of actors and filmmakers that’s taken years to realize.  All the performers worked for guild minimum scale.  None of the producers or the director have taken any fees — not even reimbursement for the film rights cost of the novel.”  They put a lot of love into this film to make something that was true to the ideas of PKD’s work, and it would be a shame if this film stayed on the shelf and was little seen.

If you have interest in Philip K. Dick’s work or dystopian fiction, if you’re interested in DIY filmmaking, check out Radio Free Albemuth‘s website and help support the Kickstarter.

And no, I haven’t seen the film.  Just a fan of Philip K. Dick.  Because I want to see the film, I made a contribution to the Kickstarter.  I hope you will, too.

On Gun Manufacturers and Criminal Prosecution

The story of the 2 year-old girl in Kentucky, who was shot and killed by her 5 year-old brother with a rifle he was given as a present, has been preying on my mind much of the week.  I think about the little girl, I imagine that just a few days ago she was a giggling, happy child who liked flowers and dresses and dolls and ice cream and now she’s dead, and I get teary and I get angry and I get teary again and I cannot imagine how we can live in a world that thinks a five year-old boy, who probably still needs his mom to tie his shoes before he goes to kindergarten, is old enough and mature enough and responsible enough to have a gun.

Gun manufacturers are immune from negligence and wrongful death lawsuits.  In 2005, the NRA, sensing that the gun industry would be the next Big Tobacco, prodded Congress to pass a law giving gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits arising from the use and misuse of their products.

The two year-old girl’s parents could be prosecuted, I suppose, for child endangerment.  I don’t know what value would come from that, to be honest.  They had a two year-old daughter in their lives.  She laughed at things.  She doesn’t laugh any more.

Mitt Romney said “Corporations are people, my friend.”  The Supreme Court said over a century ago that corporations are also people.

If corporations are people, then perhaps it’s time we start to criminally prosecute the gun manufacturers for reckless endangerment, depraved indifference, accessory to murder, and so forth, when their products are used to make little girls not laugh any more.  A gun manufacturer recklessly endangered a little girl’s life.  A gun manufacturer was indifferent to how their product would end a little girl’s life.  A gun manufacturer was an accessory to ending that little girl’s life.

I don’t know that it would make a difference.  If these felony laws didn’t codify that they referred to living, breathing human beings and not conceptual people as corporations are, they would be quickly changed if there were any chance, any chance at all, that a prosecution of a gun manufacturer for reckless endangerment would come close to succeeding.

A two year-old girl laughed at things.  She doesn’t laugh any more.

For her sake, I hope someone tries.

(Note: Originally posted on Facebook and DailyKos with slight variations.  The Facebook post linked to this article from The American Prospect.)

On Doctor Who Casting News

The news has broken on casting for November’s Doctor Who anniversary special — in addition to John Hurt, the special will also guest star David Tennant and Billie Piper.

Fandom, naturally, is sharply divided.

There is wailing that there’s no Eccleston from the new series.  Classic Doctor Who fans are wailing that the pre-new series Doctors aren’t represented.  “Doctor Who is fifty years old!  Why is the special limiting itself to the last ten?”

There is wailing that it’s Tennant.  “We’ll be treated to hyperactive gurning!”

There is wailing that it’s Piper.  “We’ll be inflicted with wubby dubby Wose!”

And I can’t entirely say that any of these wailings are wrong.  My immediate reaction to the news this morning was, “Really?  No, really?  Really?”

You have to remember, I didn’t really want a multi-Doctor story for the anniversary.  But if we had to have one, I wanted something that broke the mold.

That said, I’m not opposed to David Tennant and Billie Piper in the anniversary special.  And if that’s all the kisses to the past that appear, I believe there will be a reason for it.

Tennant in the special doesn’t bother me.

First, in Steven Moffat’s four scripts for the tenth Doctor (five if you count “Time Crash”), he never wrote Tennant’s Doctor aS the hyperactive caricature of fan memory.

Second, in the anniversary special, Tennant wouldn’t be the lead Doctor, and he would have a new aspect of his character to play — how does he react to his future self?  How does he react when he confronted by a situation when he’s not the smartest guy in the room?  “Silence in the Library” actually gives us a clue; the tenth Doctor is stupidly thick when it comes to River Song.

Nor does Piper in the special bother me.

First, I don’t think Moffat will make the same mistake Russell T. Davies made in the fourth season where Davies thought that the emotional climax of the season rested with Rose, not Donna.  I don’t expect that the climax of the Anniversary Special will revolve around Rose, basically.

Second, look at “The Girl in the Fireplace.”  Moffat had no interest in writing the wubby dubby Wose.  Hell, it’s even arguable that, based on “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances,” Moffat had no interest in writing for Rose at all.

Thus, I’m not expecting a tenth Doctor/Rose-centric story for the Anniversary Special.  They will be in it.  They will do things.  But sixty minutes is not a lot of time, and he’ll have to keep the incumbent Doctor central.

Moffat’s not stupid.  He knows that 2006 is not where the series is today, and the audience today doesn’t want to see a lost episode from that era to replace “Fear Her.”

No, let’s speculate on John Hurt.

Could he be Borusa?  The Doctor’s father?  A pre-Hartnell Doctor?

Or maybe he’s someone that the Doctor saved as a child from a [Insert Monster Here] in London 1963, and the Doctor has periodically checked in on the child as he grew into adulthood and old age.  Though that might be too derivative of Paul Cornell’s short story, “The Hopes and Fears of All the Years,” a charming little story of the tenth Doctor and a boy named Tom.

Enough about the future!  There’s new Doctor Who tonight.  Let’s focus on that, and stop worrying about a special that’s still eight months away. :h2g2:

On Antonin Scalia and the Hugo and Nebula Ballots

For the historical record, because I want to lay claim to this idea, a Facebook post

Serious question time. Would Antonin Scalia’s written decisions in the Prop 8 case and the DOMA case be eligible for the Hugo and Nebula Awards? These decisions will be so divorced from reality that they would be fantasy fiction, after all. And there would be a lot of worldbuilding in these decisions as Scalia tries to communicate to the world what’s inside his mind. So could the science fiction community vote to put these on the ballot for their major awards? Could the science fiction community say, “Hey, here’s what we think of your so-called ‘decision’ — it’s such a piece of fantasy that we couldn’t not nominate it so we could mock it”? These are thing things I wonder…

Yes, I would feel bad for the serious novelist whose work was left off the ballot so that Scalia’s decision could be remembered forever as a Nebula Award nominee. But at the same time, Scalia’s decision would be remembered forever as a Nebula Award nominee.

On the Counterfactual Decade

The tenth anniversary of the Iraq War has been on the minds of many in the past two weeks.  Some who supported the war at the time have said that they were deeply wrong.  Some who supported the war at the time fail to recognize that it was a collosal, world historical mistake.

Last week I wrote an e-mail to Andrew Sullivan.  He was one of those who supported the war in 2002 and 2003, and who turned against the war when it dragged on and the reasons for the war were shown to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Sullian wrote: “In the summer of 2000, when I foolishly found myself wanting Al Gore to lose (Excelsior!), it was not a strong emotion. In the campaign, Gore was the advocate for a larger defense budget and [George W.] Bush was all about being a ‘humble’ nation. I figured there wasn’t much difference between them (and I still think Gore would have launched the Iraq War as well).”

I have to ask.  What would the causus belli have been for Gore in this alternate history?

That’s not an idle question.  I’ve seen others make the same argument — that there would have been an Iraq War under President Gore (as I recall, The American Prospect ran an article on the very thing at the time) — but no one ever stops to explain how they get from Point A (President Gore) to Point Z (Iraq War).  It’s simply accepted.

But it’s unlikely.

True, it’s difficult to argue the counter-factual, Niall Ferguson’s attempts to argue history by counter-factual be damned.  But there is evidence in the behaviors of the early Bush administration that led us to Iraq in 2003 that simply wouldn’t have been present in a Gore administration.

Gore wouldn’t have been surrounded at the highest levels of his administration with the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz cabal.  These players would have been at the same level as they were in the late Clinton administration when they sent Clinton a letter demanding military action in Iraq.  In other words, they would have been nothing more than pundits looking for an outlet for their aggressions.

Gore wouldn’t have dismissed the plans developed by Clinton to retaliate against al-Qaeda after the USS Cole bombing.  Clinton had a plan drawn up.  The plan was given to the incoming Bush administration because Clinton did not want to gift his successor an ongoing military operation in the same way that he had been “gifted” Somalia by his predecessor.  The plan was subsequently dismissed by the Bush administration and never implemented.

Gore wouldn’t have shifted the national security focus in early 2001 from terrorism to the Russians as Bush did.  Richard Clarke wouldn’t have been shoved to the side as he was in the Bush administration, where counter-terrorism efforts were shunted aside in favor of nuclear missile defense and repudiating the ABM treaty.

Gore, if given a Presidential Daily Briefing titled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US,” would not have been likely to then tell his briefer that he had “covered [his] ass.”  Gore had been through the first World Trade Center bombing as part of the Clinton administration.  Gore had first-hand knowledge that terrorism was the threat facing the country.

In short, Gore would have made vastly different decisions in the crucial months of early 2001.  I don’t think it’s too far to argue that a strike on al-Qaeda in early 2001 in retaliation for the Cole would have rattled the leadership.

I would even argue that 9/11 wouldn’t have happened in a Gore administration.  I’m on shakier ground here, I admit, but a Gore administration would have kept the pressure on al-Qaeda instead of giving al-Qaeda room to breathe in those early months of 2001.

In my mind, Bush v. Gore proves Leibniz wrong.  We don’t live in the best of all possible worlds.  A world without 9/11, a world with Afghanistan and Iraq is a better world, a far preferable world than this one.

I wonder if the five justices who installed Bush in the Oval Office with Bush v. Gore, especially Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, have ever recognized that they have the blood of the last decade on their hands.

Somehow, I doubt it.

ETA: And it turns out I blogged about this very subject a year and a half ago.  I wasn’t sure if I had or not.

On Shamrock Fest 2013

To get to Shamrock Fest, I had to navigate a phalanx of Bible-thumpers.

Shamrock Fest is an Irish and Celtic music festival held annually at RFK Stadium, and the organizers recommend that people take the DC Metro to reach the music festival.  You take the Blue or Orange line, disembark at the Stadium-Armory stop, climb the steps, and walk about two blocks to reach Shamrock Fest.  The past years, as you stepped off the Metro stairs and onto the street, you would be assaulted by street vendors hocking t-shirts, hats, sunglasses, all sorts of stuff St. Patrick’s Day related.  My first year I bought a Dropkick Murphys t-shirt from the street vendors for about ten dollars.

This year, the street vendors were joined by a church.

There were people reading from the Bible.  There were people handing out tracts.  There were people preaching the evils of drinking and fornication.  Every few feet, you would be assailed on one side by a street vendor and his St. Patrick’s Day wares, and on the other side by “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

The dichotomy was amazing.  And amusing.  My probability of drinking was 100% (even at the brutal alcohol prices of Shamrock Fest), my probability of fornication, like my probability of buying anything from the street vendors, was 0%.

Of course, to reach the point of running the gauntlet I had to get to RFK.  And the trick there was in deciding what to wear.

It was snowing in Pennsylvania when I woke.  I checked the weather forecast for DC, and they were calling for mid-50s and a 70% chance of rain.  I would want something rainproof, then.  I opted for something heavier, a ski jacket I had picked up on clearance at Wal-Mart last month, because my other rainproof jacket isn’t at all warm.

And, of course, I went as the Batman of Ireland.

Well, no, not really.  There isn’t a Batman of Ireland in the Batmen of Many Nations and Batman, Inc.

Graphitti Designs sold a “Celtic Batman Symbol” t-shirt a few years ago.  And for inexplicable reasons (because I really don’t need more t-shirts), I bought it.  The shirt seemed appropriate; I don’t own anything green, and my only St. Patrick’s Day-specific apparel are my St. Patrick’s Day Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals baseball caps.

Thus, I was outfitted.

I made better time than I thought I would, and I was through the gate at 1:30.

There were four bands I wanted to see.  In order, they were:

  1. Carbon Leaf
  2. Murder the Stout
  3. Barleyjuice
  4. The Mahones

Plus, I wanted to catch several other acts, like Baltimore’s Gaelic Mishap.  But those were the main four.  However, Murder the Stout and Barleyjuice overlapped by half an hour, and The Mahones were closing out the festival and whether or not I saw them was going to depend on the weather and how I was feeling.

The band schedule didn’t seem as packed as previous years, with several local-ish bands not on the schedule.

I caught bits of most of the Irish music sets, even though that meant a lot of walking from the Guinness Irish Village stage to the Miller Lite/Angry Orchard stages.  I saw none of the alt rock sets on the GoCity and Marathon stages.

The sun came out about two o’clock, and I’d say it reached the low 60s.  I took the jacket off and tied the arms around my waist.  It wasn’t the prettiest looking way of wearing it, but it was easier than carrying it.  And when it started raining later and the temperature dropped, I put the jacket back on and didn’t take it off.

The two sets I saw all of were Murder the Stout and Carbon Leaf.

I’m not sure when or how I heard of Murder the Stout, but I bought their self-titled 2006 CD (physical) and their new EP (digital) last year, and I was looking forward to seeing them.  I decided to skip most of the Barleyjuice set (since I’ve seen them several times now) to catch all of the Murder the Stout set, and I was glad I did.  At their merchandise table, they were selling a set of the new EP and frontman Hugh Morrison’s CD, Robbie Burns Rocks, for ten dollars, so I picked up both.  The thing was, I wasn’t sure if the EP I bought yesterday was the same thing as the EP I bought digitally last year.  I didn’t know until I got home last night and was able to compare.  A little while later, after the Carbon Leaf set, Murder the Stout was hanging out at their merchandise table, and the entire band autographed the CD slipcase for me.

Silly me should have asked Hugh to autograph Robbie Burns Rocks.  Ah, hindsight.

After Murder the Stout, I went down to the Miller Lite/Angry Orchard stages and caught the end of the Barleyjuice set and found a good place for the Carbon Leaf set.  (These two stages were adjacent so that while one back was performing, another band could set up for their set on the other stage.  And one didn’t really need to move to see both stages.)

Carbon Leaf is a band that I’ve followed since I was a student at the University of Richmond; they played a Kappa Alpha party in the autumn of 1997 (where I bought their first album, Meander), and they played the Cellar, the Richmond campus bar, about once a month (where their lead singer, Barry, gave me a copy of their second album, Shadows in the Banquet Hall, because I enthusiastically applauded their cover of John Denver’s “Country Roads”).  After I left Richmond, I didn’t see them live again I moved to Raleigh and they played a free concert downtown after the release of their fifth studio album, Indian Summer.

Carbon Leaf’s set was weighted toward their new album, Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle, plus they played old favorites like “Life Less Ordinary” from Indian Summer, “Shine,” “The Boxer,” and “Desperation song” from Echo Echo and “Home” and “American Tale” from Ether-Electrified Porch Music.  It was a tight and energetic set, and the audience was enthusiastic.  The sky clouded over during the set and it started to rain during “Desperation Song” (which was ironic, because there’s a line in the song about “will you stay through the pouring rain”).  There was crowd surfing and there was slam dancing in the crowd, two things that until I saw them last year I never, ever would have expected at a Carbon Leaf gig.

As I did last year, I bought a soundboard recording of the set on a USB stick from the band’s merchandise table.  The sound mix could have been better balanced (the vocals are mixed down, while the drums and bass are mixed up), but it’s a nice artifact to have. :)

After a beer, I wandered back down to the Miller Lite/Angry Orchard area, and I saw that the band was signing autographs.  While I didn’t need any Carbon Leaf CDs, not even Ghost Dragon (I have one of the autographed limited editions the band sold through their website), I did ask them if they would autograph Celtic Pink Ribbon II, a compilation of Celtic-inspired music and bands that raises money for breast cancer awareness and cure.  And they did.  I high-fived guitarist Terry Clark.  I shook singer Barry Privett’s hand.  It was a fun little moment.

And then I had my third and final beer of Shamrock Fest.  As I’ve mentioned in years past, at Shamrock Fest you buy beer tickets.  The first year I attended, beer tickets for four for twenty.  Last year and this year, they were three for twenty.  Yes, nearly seven dollars for a beer in a plastic cup.  On the plus side, that limits consumption; no one is going to want to spend forty dollars for six beers.  On the minus side, that also limits consumption; maybe I wanted four beers and not three.

Last year there were beer lines.  (That is, lines to get beer.) This year, I didn’t notice any.

Actually, this year I would say that attendence was down significantly from last year and the year before.  The weather didn’t keep people away last year.  I don’t know if the lack of a “name” band like Dropkick Murphys this year was a determining factor.  Or it could be the prices; prices on tickets ratchet up as the festival approaches, so what someone might do at $25 dollars will be out of their price range at $40.  Honestly, though, I don’t know why attendence was down.  It just felt like a noticeably smaller crowd this year.

I watched a little of the next few acts — the Screaming Orphans (an Irish four-piece who remind me of The Corrs), Celkilt (a French band), and the Fighting Jamesons (a Virginia-based Celtic rock band).

The sun went down during the Celkilt set.

I did not, however, stay for the Mahones.

The rain stopped shortly after the Carbon Leaf set.  However, after the rain came high winds and plunging temperatures.  Even in the heavier ski jacket, I was cold and my feet and lower back hurt.  The sun had gone down, and I left at 7:30.

Like last year, I snagged the commemorative cup as I left.  People who buy the higher-priced VIP ticket receive a special plastic commemorative cup.  As the crowd thinned out, people left them behind.  Maybe they dropped them on the ground and didn’t bother picking them up.  Maybe they tossed them in the garbage.  Maybe they got stomped on by the crowd in front of the stages.  In any case, they were there for the picking.  I only intended to pick up one.  I ended up taking home three.  And yes, I washed them thoroughly when I got home; total strangers had used two of them to drink.  (The second one I picked up, frankly, appeared not to have been used at all.)

I had a fun time.  I felt a little sunburned.

I’ll go again next year. :)

On an Unwanted Credit Card Application

I received a credit card offer in the mail yesterday.

I receive these from time to time.  I’ll open the letters, read them, study the terms, and then recycle them.  It’s a good system, it serves me well.

Today, though, I responded to one.

It’s for an offer from CreditOne Bank.

The terms were rediculous.  An insanely high APR, plus an annual fee of $99.  I’d call it usurious, but that would be an insult to loan sharks everywhere.

I cut up the application and the sample credit card they sent and put it in the postage paid envelope.  Along with the following note:

Thank you for the offer, but I have to decline.  Your terms amount of a financial rectal probe and someone would have to be a hapless moron to accept them.

Therefore, I am wasting your time (since you’re reading this) and your money (since you so kindly sent me a prepaid envelope) just so I can say that I don’t want your fiscal colonoscopy.


All the best,


P.S.  Thanks for throwing this away for me.  I really appreciate it.

I realize that some hapless form processor in El Paso, Texas will get this at the end of the week and my message of defiance will go unheard.

But sometimes you just have to say the things that go unheard.

On Carbon Leaf’s Free Sampler

It’s been too long since Carbon Leaf’s last album.

How do you count their last album?  Their last release was 2011′s Live, Acoustic, and In Cinemascope!, which, as you can tell from the title, is an acoustic live album.  How the West Was One and Christmas Child, both 2010, were longer than EPs but shorter than LPs.  I guess that makes 2009′s Nothing Rhymes With Woman the last full length album.

Well, this week they released Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle.  They had announced another title for the album, “The Lord of the Rings of the Trees,” but this new album is that.

And it’s very, very good.  I love it.

Ghost Dragon hearkens back to their earlier sound.  On Twitter I’ve seen it compared to their third album, Ether-Electified Porch Music, but I’m reminded far more of 2001′s Echo Echo.  Either way, the album has more of a Celtic/folky feel and less of the alt-indie feel that recent albums have had.

Also this week, the band released a free sampler through NoiseTrade.  The NoiseTrade Sampler has 18 tracks — two from Ghost Dragon, Echo Echo‘s “The Boxer,” a couple of tracks from How the West Was One, and a veritable slew of live tracks ranging from Live, Acoustic to rare, unreleased live cuts.  And it’s free.

Did I mention that it’s free? :)

Carbon Leaf is a band that’s been a part of my life since college, quite literally.  The first time I saw them was at a KA party at the University of Richmond.  I bought their first album there, and the band actually gave me the second during a gig at The Cellar, Richmond’s on campus bar.  In the last decade I’ve only seen them live three times (soon to be four — they’re performing at Shamrock Fest next month).  I love the music.

And if you want to know where my short story “Make-Believe” came from, download the sampler — Carbon Leaf’s song “November (Make Believe)” was an influence.

Give the sampler a try.  It’s free, and you’re sure to like it. :)

What are you still reading this for?  Go!  Download!

On Sherlock Holmes and Swapping Scripts

As people who follow me on Twitter know, I watch Elementary, CBS’s “Sherlock Holmes in present day New York City” series.  I’ve gone from liking it (and calling it “House with murders”) to really enjoying it.

There are people who won’t watch it because they think it’s a Sherlock rip-off or because they cast Lucy Liu as Watson or because it’s set in New York or because it isn’t really Sherlock Holmes.

Is it a Sherlock rip-off?  I’d argue that it’s not; Sherlock gave CBS proof that the concept of “Sherlock Holmes in the present day” works, they tried to buy the concept from Steven Moffat, but CBS had also commissioned several scripts for a “Sherlock Holmes in the present day” series in the past decade that never made it to pilot.

Lucy Liu?  She plays an interesting character who happens to be named Watson and was a doctor, but otherwise she’s not very Watsonesque.  The character is interesting, however.  There’s backstory there, and I hope the series explores it.

New York City?  Sherlock Holmes always loved America.  Something like a quarter of the stories in the Canon have an American connection.

Sherlock Holmes himself?  I find Jonny Lee Miller’s character recognizeable as Holmes.  The personality traits of Arthur Conan Doyle’s character are there in Miller’s portrayal.  He veers more toward the eccentric side of the character (like Robert Downey Jr.’s version in the Guy Ritchie films) and has better social skills than Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes or Hugh Laurie’s House.  Miller’s Holmes is still an insensitive jerk, but in his default state he’s not an outright asshole.

All of that said, I’m not going to get into a Sherlock vs. Elementary fight.  Such a fight honestly doesn’t interest me. :)

However, the last few episodes of Elementary planted an interesting idea in my head.

It will never, ever happen, but I would love to see Steven Moffat’s Sherlock and Rob Doherty’s Elementary do a script swap.

Back in the 50s and 60s, American television was filled with westerns.  It wasn’t unusual for a script for one series to be recycled and shot, largely unchanged, for an entirely different series.  Names would be changed, settings would be updated, the script would be made to fit the new series.  I don’t know why westerns did this.  Maybe it was because the premises were similar.  Maybe it was for economic reasons, maybe it was cheaper to rewritng an existing script than to write a new script from the ground up.  Whatever the reason, I’ve always thought it was interesting that television scripts were swapped around in this way.

Sherlock and Elementary have similar premises — Sherlock Holmes is alive and active in the present day.  Their scripts would be “swappable.”  The cities would have to be changed, obviously.  A Sherlock script would lose Lestrade and add Gregson as it made the trans-Atlantic crossing to Elementary and vice versa.  Some things wouldn’t carry over, like Joan Watson’s sober companion routine, and Lestrade’s associates would be compressed down into Detective Bell most likely.  Scripts were swapped, they weren’t unchanged.

Suffice it to say, I’d love to see Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman tackle, say, “The Red Team” on Sherlock or Jonny Lee Miller deal with “A Scandal in Belgravia” on Elementary.  Okay, maybe “Belgravia” wouldn’t work on Elementary because the two series have divergent views on Irene Adler, but as I said, the scripts wouldn’t be shot for the other series unchanged.  Cumberbatch would be able to play the character work that Miller is getting on Elementary, Liu would find new facets to Watson that she’s not getting currently as a sober companion.

It won’t happen, I know.  It’s a silly idea, I freely admit it.

But my, wouldn’t it be fun? :)

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