Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ebook Ebdeavors: Writing Books, Author Interviews

REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle




BLOG DESCRIPTION: E-publishing basics, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and blogging to sell your books.

MY REVIEW: Lindsay Buroker is the author of Flash Gold, The Emperor's Edge, and Encrypted. So she knows whereof she speaks in this blog about writing, and helping other authors to publicize their work.

This blog is of interest not only to prospective authors but also to their prospective readers as well. Check it out!

Sample post:
Tips For Interviewing Authors
One of the perks of running a blog is that it gives you a place to post author interviews.

Whether you’re a book blogger or you’re a writer yourself, if you’ve spent time building up your site (i.e. getting folks to find it and follow it), you might have the perfect place for authors to “visit.” And an interview is a great excuse to interrogate question your favorite writers. You can ask them about their books, themselves, their plans to take over the world with words, and other fun stuff.

But how do you approach an author? How many blog readers do you need to entice someone to take the time to answer questions? What should you ask if you do get an author to agree to an interview?

I can’t speak for all authors, but I’ll attempt to answer some of these questions.

How do you approach an author for an interview?

In this day and age, most authors have websites, and many will have blogs where they post regularly. If you surf around the site, you’ll probably find an email address or a contact form.

It can be harder with authors who got their start in the pre-internet age. Some of those guys jumped right on board and learned about promoting on the web, but others may never have gotten that involved with the internet and social media. You can always try getting in touch with these folks through their publisher. You might check Facebook and Twitter, too, since authors who aren’t sure about the ins and outs of buying a domain name and building a website might settle for a Facebook page.

Will popular authors agree to interviews on blogs?

One of the truths of being an author is that emails asking questions or requesting help increase as an author becomes well known. I’m a small fry, and even I’ve experienced this more of late. I can only imagine how it is for a bestselling author.

These folks may not have the time to do interviews, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. You never know. You might catch them on a slow day, or something about the theme of your questions (more on that further down) might pique their interest.

An alternative way to snag the popular guys is to find out what their conference/convention schedule is for the year (many SF/F authors in particular are active with conventions) and see if they have a few minutes to answer questions at a local event (make sure to take a recording device — you can transcribe the answer for your blog later or you can simply post the audio file). I’ve seen podcasters in my genre have a lot of luck getting bestselling authors to sit down and answer questions.

Remember, the more popular your blog, the more enticing it’s going to be for an author to appear there, so keep working on building it up and increasing traffic.

How popular does your blog need to be, anyway?

This is going to depend on the person. Some new authors just want to be interviewed and will agree to appear anywhere, but you’ll probably want to wait until you’ve built up a readership and are getting regular blog comments before approaching people.

If you have a fairly popular blog, use that as a selling point when you ask for an interview. Don’t be afraid to say, “I have 5,000 mystery readers who stop by each month and a newsletter with 500 subscribers” or whatever the case may be. If you install something like Google Analytics, you can share exact numbers and even some demographic information about your visitors.

If you don’t have many readers yet, don’t mention that. Some authors don’t really know how to figure that stuff out, so you might get lucky!

What interview questions should you ask authors?

There aren’t any rules here, but you may want to avoid some of the common questions that writers get asked all the time. Authors get a lot of “tell us about yourself” and “what first made you decide to become a writer?” There’s nothing wrong with these questions, but they aren’t always that interesting for the author to answer, and readers who aren’t familiar with the author probably won’t care.

Think of questions that might reward current readers and entice new ones. For example, I recently had a lot of fun answering questions that weren’t about me at all. They were about one of my core characters. The interview was about my assassin, Sicarius, and is up at a reader’s blog. I think the questions are fun for readers of my series, but they might also intrigue someone who hasn’t read the books (authors are always hoping to find new readers!).

Interviews with a theme can be a nice draw as well. If you share the interview on Twitter and Facebook, you need it to grab folks with nothing more than the title. What sounds more interesting to you? Interview with Jane Doe? or Jane Doe Offers Tips on Writing Psychopaths, Serial Killers, and Assassins?

If you have a writing blog instead of a book blog, it may make more sense to pick a theme that will appeal to other authors (i.e. an interview about writing or publishing or book promotion) as opposed to something that talks about the author’s books. Any extra visibility is good visibility for an author, and you’ll probably find that folks are willing to answer questions on a variety of topics related to their work.

Is there any sort of interviewer etiquette you need to keep in mind?

My first tip would be to respect the author’s time. It can take an hour or two to answer questions, especially if they’re thoughtful ones.

When I’m doing interviews, I usually only send five or six questions myself. I’d recommend you send no more than ten and make sure some of those ten are on the type where the response can be on the shorter side. Authors like to write, yes, but they’re busy working on the next book too!

Next, make sure to customize your questions for that author. I’ve had folks send me thirty generic questions and ask me to pick ten that I wanted to answer. Granted, that was early on and for a book blog tour where the blogger hadn’t read my stuff, but I definitely had an “Uhmmm, okay….” response.

If an author agrees to an interview for your site, he or she is probably doing it for book promotion purposes. It’ll be very much appreciated if you include links to the author’s website as well as their most recent book. That way readers can easily click through for more information or to download ebook sample chapters without having to head over to Google.

Many bloggers will schedule the interviews to post on a certain day. It’s good if you can let the author know the day in advance, but do yourself a favor and remind him or her when the post goes online (you’ll need to wait until it’s actually up to send the link anyway). That way, the author can help you with promotion. Social-media-savvy writers will post links on Twitter and Facebook so their fans can check out the interview.

That’s it for my suggestions on interviewing authors. If you have any comments or tips to add, please let us know below!

--Tips for interviewing authors
-- Tips for Interviewing Authors
--Cut Scene from Deadly Games
-- How Editing Works for Independent (Self-Published) Authors
--10,000 Ebooks Sold and Encrypted Mentioned in RT Book Reviews
--Story Updates and Why My Ebooks Aren’t in the Amazon Prime Lending Library
Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Check out my kindle BOOKS!:
Whose Body, by Dorothy Sayers (the Annotated Edition)
The Coldest Equations (science fiction)
Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
The Lady and the Tiger...Moth

Friday, December 30, 2011

Grief and Grieving - A mother's perspective on death of a child

REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle

MY RECOMMENDATION: Yes, with reservations

AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Grief and Grieving - A mother's perspective on death of a child


BLOG DESCRIPTION: I lost my 18 year old son on February 14, 2010, from synovial sarcoma 5 months after diagnosis. This blog is my accounting of life after death and the long road of healing.

MY REVIEW: This is an excellent blog for those who want to share fellow feelings by reading about other people who have lost loved ones. Unfortunately, the author only posts once every couple of months or so. But at only 99 cents a month, why not subscribe?

Sample post
Just a quick thing to ponder. A friend of mine mentioned this to me when telling me of another family whose child passed away from cancer recently. If a person loses their spouse, they are a widow/widower. If a child loses their parent, they are an orphan. There is no word to label when a parent loses a child. Maybe because it is an unnatural order to what we should expect. I would like to give us fellow survivors of this loss a name - warriors. We fight the battle daily to not just give up and give in to what sometimes feels like unsurmountable desire to check out of life. We fight the battle daily to keep our memories alive and current in our hearts. We fight the battle daily to not give up on God and turn our backs on the one who has our precious cargo in his keeping. We fight the battle daily not to feel guilty about every little thing that we did, are doing, and will do. We fight the battle daily not to feel ashamed that we did not die instead. We fight the battle daily to go on with what is left when the battle feels like it has destroyed everything. Yes, we are warriors. We may appear shabby and tattered... but we haven't left the war. My hats off to all the fellow fighters I know and don't know. I have to think that God has made a special sort of armor for our battle that we can still stand despite all the odds.

--Fear (posted Dec 11, 2011)
--Compassion (September 21, 2011)
--No title (June 12, 2011)
--No title (March 38, 2011)

Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Check out my kindle BOOKS!:
Whose Body, by Dorothy Sayers (the Annotated Edition)
The Coldest Equations (science fiction)
Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure HuntersThe Lady and the Tiger...Moth

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Retro Review #29: How To Choose a Feng Shui Consultant


MY RECOMMENDATION: YES, with reservations

AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION PAGE: How to Choose a Feng Shui Consultant


BLOG DESCRIPTION: How to choose a Feng Shui Consultant by Dr. Anna Maria Prezio
In selecting a Feng Shui Consultant, make sure that the person you choose is qualified. Here are some typical questions to ask of your prospective consultant.

1. Do they practice classical or traditional Feng Shui?
2. What do they need to assess your home or office?
3. What tools will they use to assess your home or office?
4. What kind of remedies do you use?
5. What can I expect from an assessment?
6. What kind of remedies do you use?
7. What can I expect from an assessment?
8. How much does a Feng Shui assessment cost?
9. Where did they get their training? Who did they study with? How many places have they assessed?
10. How long does this process take?

MY REVIEW: Not knowing anything about Feng shui, I am going to assume that my house is out of order and my karma is out of whack. And, I just learned that I need to move to the Northwest sector of my house. (I wonder how my husband will feel about our bedroom being in the kitchen - after all that will bring harmony to our love life.) Seriously, I am out of my league here. But that is why we have blogs written by experts.
Dr. Prezio is an expert -with her book Confessions of a Feng Shui Ghost Buster and in her blog she recommends other books and catalogs on the subject and gives explanations to the in and outs of Feng Shui for those of us who have yet to sway our feng - but we working on it. And, thanks to her, the secrets are revealed.

I am concerned about the frequency of posts. After her post of December 1, it was February 1, before she post again, then several times in the next 2 weeks. perhaps 2010, the Chinese year of the White Metal Tiger will be more prolific.

  • Happy Valentines Day
  • Sex, Romance, and Feng Shui
  • Predictions and Placement for 2010
  • Change your Chi, Change your Life
  • Transformational Gifts

Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of
and also, Silver Pieces: The Strange and

Monday, December 26, 2011

RetroReview #28: InfoCult





BLOG DESCRIPTION: Infocult is devoted to exploring the world from an information-centric perspective. This means looking at the shifting admixture of information in print, in digital formats, in minds. Information drives us to topics: cyber culture, intellectual property, computer games, the history of information, education, and anything else that rethinking the world information-centrically requires.

MY REVIEW: This is the blog you need to read every morning if you want some interesting story to bring up around the water cooler. In reading many of the posts, I really had to question if the whole thing was a hoax, but there are links to actual reputable news outlets that discuss the happenings. Although the links are in each article, not being able to access the links when reading this blog on the Kindle does not diminish the experience. (There are a few posts that rely solely on a video feed but they are infrequent.) And, there are pictures to bring further credence to the stories.
The posts are frequent. Because of the links, I encourage you to try the 14 Day Free Trial Amazon offers and see if you need the links to enjoy the blog.

THE GOOD: Frequent interesting unique querky posts.

THE BAD: I have some concern about the number of links contained in the posts and how much that will limit the Blog to Kindle readers.

--School laptop spycams
--Scary urls
--Debunking technofear - Bell in Slate
--Cold War Gothic- Soviet Secret Town Sold
--The fish that shouts apocalypse

Ann Currie publishes:
My Life a Bit South of Normal/
Strange and Peculiar Silver

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Regular blog postings begin on DECEMBER 26, Monday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Retro Review #27: The Elmo Wallpaper





BLOG DESCRIPTION: An Ivy League-educated, thirtysomething mother of three young boys survives motherhood in suburbia. Just barely.

MY REVIEW: A blog of honest emotion by a mother struggling with daily domestic life with her three young sons. Her posts, unlike those of many mothers, are not cute or coy. She is right up front, not bitter, but truthful. She questions her life and what woman hasn't has some point? How did I get here - I did everything right - I went to the right school, did well, fell in love, married a bright guy. Here I am listening to the Wiggles, spending part of my valetine's evening in Border's, and treating goose eggs. There have been many times when I could have related to this lament. But it is not negative, it is well worth the read and well written. You want to offer her your support, cheer her on, and follow her vicariously. She comes through with strength and humor. She posts several times a week.

  • If you are needing catharsis today . . .
  • Other peoples pictures

  • Ask me anything
  • Why I am wound:
  • My graceful friend

Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of Normal
and also, Silver Pieces: The Strange and

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Everything Dinosaurs

REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle




BLOG DESCRIPTION: Everything about dinosaurs!

MY REVIEW: I love this blog, and any fan of dinosaurs - from the toys to the movies to the real thing, will love it too. The main emphasis is on models of dinosaurs.

Sample post
Dolichorhynchops – Monster from the Western Interior Seaway
With the mysterious decline in Ichthyosaur numbers towards the end of the Cretaceous, a new type of marine reptile evolved to take their place as a predator of fish, squid and octopi in the shallow sea that covered much of North America. This sea is known as the Western Interior Seaway and at its greatest extent is effectively split the United States into two. Fossils of Dolichorhynchops have been found at a number of locations, but the most famous fossils and the holotype material come from Kansas.

This short-necked Plesiosaur is represented by a new model (CollectA) which will be available next year. A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commmented that although there had been one or two delays at the factory, the “Dollies” as they are affectionately called are going to be shipped into the Everything Dinosaur warehouse probably in February.

It is an interesting pose, scientists remain unsure as to whether this stiff-limbed, Plesiosaur could haul itself onto land like modern turtles. Or did this animal, which could grow to over five metres long spend its entire life in the water?

The jaws seemed to be lined with a lot of sharp, pointed teeth, just what is needed when you live on a diet of slippery marine creatures. We are not sure wherther Dolichorhynchops genera had this many teeth (perhaps as many as forty in the jaws) – we will have to “bone up” on this Late Cretaceous vertebrate.

--Mapusaurus Enters the Fray
--Neanderthal Figures from CollectA
--Kosmoceratops – Amazing Horned Dinosaur
--A Reminder about Christmas Posting Dates [posting as in mailing]
--Dolichorhynchops – Monster from the Western Interior Seaway
--Knocking T. rex of[f] its Perch

Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Check out my kindle BOOKS!:
Whose Body, by Dorothy Sayers (the Annotated Edition)
The Coldest Equations (science fiction)
Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
The Lady and the Tiger...Moth

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Retro Review #26: Full Figure Plus





BLOG DESCRIPTION: Full Figure Plus is dedicated to posting news, links, and relevant information for plus size women and big and tall men.

MY REVIEW: This a full-size blog for the millions of full size women out there. The posts are full of shopping information as well tips on dressing and styles. The posts are updated regularly.

There are some links that cannot be accessed on the Kindle but the entries are not dependent on those links and the valuable content is in the posts. One of the more valuable assets of this blog is its references to and reviews of retailers that offer fashions for this audience. It is refreshing to see a positive fashion blog for the full size woman.

  • Full Figured Weekly Question
  • Trendy Plus Size Fashion from Elvi
  • Charming Shoppes introduces one stop shopping for plus sizes
  • 10 steps to reducing your frustration level when shopping
  • Plus Size Maxi Dresses Just In Time For Spring

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Time Keeps On Slipping Into the Future

Sorry for the dearth of posts recently...I've been working on a project, wanted to devote all my time to it, and kept telling'll be done today so I can get back to blogging here tomorrow.

The next day it was... okay, it's definitely going to get done today....

Well, today it is done... so back to posting here on a daily basis tomorrow. (With the first post appearing tomorrow afternoon while I'm watching football!)

Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 (Tintin)

REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle




BLOG DESCRIPTION: The Tintin Blog is a fan site dedicated to Tintin and his friends. It is my goal to write original posts, and to present edited versions of news and gossip that exists about Hergé’s most famous creation. I hope to offer the most relevant, though-provoking, and interesting information about the characters and stories that make up The Adventures of Tintin.

MY REVIEW: I have been a fan of Tintin for twenty years. Tintin, if you don't know him, is a boy reporter who travels the world having adventures. It's all good clean fun.

Tintin was first created in the 1930s, by the Belgian Herge (Georges Remi), and continued through until Herge's death in the 1980s.

I think he's always been more popular in Europe than in the US, although that may change once the Spielberg movie debuts here. (For my part I'm not too happy about how they changed Tintin's facial appearance, but..I'm willing to suspend judgement until I see the film.)

If you're a fan of Tintin, or looking for a new character to become a fan of, check out this blog.

--Tintin on Sale – Save 20-35% All Day
--Autographed by the Dalai Lami, Tintin in Tibet up for Auction
--New Tintin Merchandise!
--Toronto Draws Tintin
--Tintin Movie on Cover of TIME

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sea Turtle Restoration Project (Marine biology)

REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle




BLOG DESCRIPTION: The Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s Mission: To protect and restore endangered sea turtles and marine biodiversity worldwide in ways that incorporate the ecological needs of marine species and the economic needs of local communities, both of which share our common marine environment. We accomplish our mission through grassroots and policy-maker education, consumer empowerment, strategic litigation and by promoting sustainable local, national and international marine policies.

MY REVIEW: Animals "have no voices", so it is up to human beings to speak for them. While I have little sympathy with activists putting a whole town out of work to save an insignificant thing like a snail darter, or a type of flower that's about to go extinct, I do have a great deal of sympathy for the bigger, more sentient creatures whom we share this planet with - lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and in the ocean sea turtles (as well as dolphins, whales and yes, even sharks.)

Sea Turtle Restoration Project speaks out for the sea turtle.

Check out their blog.

Sample post:
Taking Action to End Sea Turtle Drownings by Shrimp Trawls in the Gulf of Mexico
Posted by Eileen Nalley, STRP Intern on November 15th, 2011

As the newest intern for the Sea Turtle Restoration project, I am excited to be a part of the campaign to demand that NMFS enforces the proper use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fisheries. A New Orleans native recently transplanted to the Bay Area, this issue hits particularly close to home for me.

Although the Gulf of Mexico region has been devastated repeatedly by man made disasters ranging from broken levees to oil inundation, we cannot use those tragedies as blinders to ignore the ongoing and flagrant violation of a 25 year old federal law mandating the use of TEDs by shrimp trawlers in the region. Having eaten as much fried shrimp growing up in bayou country as any other self-respecting y’at, I am growing increasingly aware of the unconscionable cost of this delicacy.

With no scientific data supporting the argument that TEDs significantly reduce the amount of shrimp caught by fishermen, there is no base to the argument against them. Though TEDs are a requirement on trawl nets, they are not yet required on the skimmer nets so often used in the Gulf of Mexico, creating yet another loophole for turtle bycatch to slip through.

Deeply rooted in a unique culture, desperately attempting to survive against the odds in a habitat where water represents more than recreation, but rather a way of life, Louisiana fishermen and law makers, along with the National Marine Fisheries Service overseeing regulation enforcement, need to realize that the only means of persistence is to adapt. If I achieve one goal with this internship, I hope that I manage to successfully convey the message to my beloved home state that progress necessitates change, and in this instance, everyone involved, including the commercial fishing industry, stands to benefit from proper use of TEDs.

If we allow this travesty to continue, it may reach a point of no return, a point where mutually cooperative policy no longer remains an option. We cannot allow ourselves to reach a point where the policies needed to protect the five species of endangered and threatened sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico necessitate drastic reductions in the fishing industry that sustains so much of the life and culture of my dearly beloved Cajun Country.

STRP has compiled a list of concerned scientists, fisheries managers, and industry representatives who support the call for action by NMFS. So come on Louisiana, work with me and the Sea Turtle Restoration Project to demand that our government agencies enforce the long standing federal law requiring the protection of our ancient, ailing sea turtles with no negative consequences for the shrimp fisheries of the Gulf Coast.

--Chevron runs roughshod over Australian Aboriginals at Wheatstone project
--Sea turtle guru tells all in Outside
--Taking Action to End Sea Turtle Drownings by Shrimp Trawls in the Gulf of Mexico
--News, Videos, and Fundraising Expeditions Bolster Leatherback Watch Program
--Farallones Expedition Trip Report for Leatherback Watch Program

Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Check out my kindle BOOKS!:Whose Body, by Dorothy Sayers (the Annotated Edition)The Coldest Equations (science fiction)Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure HuntersThe Lady and the Tiger...Moth

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Da Vinci's Blog

REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle




BLOG DESCRIPTION: Daily Research Updates from The Da Vinci Code Research Lab from the Authors of “The Da Vinci Code – The Facts Behind The Fiction”

MY REVIEW: This blog has not been updated in 5 years - it has entries for 3 months in 2006, presumably when the movie The Da Vinci Code came out. But these three months worth of posts are there, and they are pretty interesting from a religious standpoint.

The plot of The Da Vinci Code, if you recall, was that Jesus did get married to Mary Magdalen and have a son.

The blog makes for interesting reading. Check it out.

-- If Jesus Were Indeed Married To Mary Magdalene, Does His Bloodline Still Exist?
--Did The Church Evolve From Pagan Religions?
--Why are three so many Mary’s in the bible
--The Last Supper and it’s clues!
--How Many Gospels Were There?
--What Is The Quest Of The Grail?
--Does The Priory Of Sion Really Exist?
--Can you name the five major religions?
--Alex Tracey Spotted This!
-- What Was The Role Of The Freemasons?

Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Check out my kindle BOOKS!:
Whose Body, by Dorothy Sayers (the Annotated Edition)
The Coldest Equations (science fiction)
Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
The Lady and the Tiger...Moth

Monday, November 28, 2011

Retro Review #25: The Kindle Taproom





BLOG DESCRIPTION: Friendly, entertaining bar chat on all manner of topics, but especially great stuff on Kindle.

MY REVIEW: The author, Joe Menta, posts on average a couple of times a day (the Sample posts below are his first posts on each day, not all the posts on one day). He'll review a book available on Kindle, or a movie, tell a joke, and so on. Because of the great amount of content, I highly recommend the blog.

He writes well, he's amusing (when he makes his posts, I actually don't find the jokes he shares amusing, but then I never have cared for jokes) and he articulates his reviews well. He's a friendly guy, I think you'll like sharing time with him in the Taproom.

Following up on my post of a few days back, we did end up seeing Shutter Island over the past weekend. Despite my fears, the movie was not an overblown special effects extravaganza (as the trailer seem to indicate), but a well-crafted, moody, slow-burn psychological drama that keeps viewers involved from beginning to end. I should have trusted Mr. Scorsese more. The big special effects scenes in the trailer, by the way, are mostly associated with hallucinatory scenes in the movie, scenes that are used sparingly and effectiviely.

There are definitely big, lurid moments and instances of underlined melodrama in the film, accompanied by disturbing blasts from the none-to-subtle musical score, but it all serves Scorsese's aim to emulate the psychological dramas of the 50's, which were at the same time overstated and artfully done. Kind of like those old 50's paperbacks, which sported lurid covers of violence and heaving bosoms, but very often subtle, well-done stories once you got past the covers.

In any event, the lurid (I love that word) and more subtle aspects of Shutter Island work together to deliver a decent movie, one that we both liked a lot.

-Pretty Good King (review of Stephen King's Blaze) (Feb 24, 2010)
-At the movies (review of Shutter Island) (Feb 23, 2010)
-Spirited try falls short (review of The Spirit movie) (Feb 22, 2010)
-One fine Sunday in the local pub (a joke) (Feb 21, 2001)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Cubicle Rebel (business, humor)

REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle




BLOG DESCRIPTION: Jennifer Kley is a reluctant cubicle dweller who plots her escape every waking moment. She resents CubicleVille and all of its trappings. She types 85 wpm with few mistakes and loathes paper cuts. She keeps snacks in her desk drawer because she believes the vending machine is part of a grand conspiracy to make and keep workers fat and lethargic and therefore underpaid.

Kley is the author of the book “Cubicle Rebel: Ramblings of a Tragic Employee”, a memoir of sorts of her hilarious and quite painful jobs from age 11 to mid-adulthood. She’s a rebel for only pretending to conform and she’s tragic for her failed efforts. Kley is a self-described comedy writer who infuses mental shortcomings and right-brain driven mishaps into her musings. She resides in the Washington, D.C. area, she avoids traffic like shootouts, thinks SUVs are increasingly evil, plans to get a dog soon, is far too often hormonal and is perpetually ornery.

Her photo isn’t included because she doesn’t want the thumbnail to end up on a Russian web site advertising “dynamic, feisty American frumpy women for dating and good times.” Actually, she doesn’t want her current Establishment to discover that she writes about them in books and on the web. (Shhhhhhhhhh!!!)

Also…(now I’ll speak in the first-person):

I’m a lifelong Cubicle Rebel.

I run from office environments.

They make me itch.

And plotz.

And kvetch.

I was always a tragic employee. Always…from the actual swivel chair to the beige or gray partitions surrounding me from 8-4 or 9-5 or 8-4:30 or whatever daily time period I’ve been sentenced to until whenever I decide that I can really truly live off of the land.


And all others.

MY REVIEW: This is an enjoyable, funny blog, written by the author of the book, The Cubicle Rebel. Workers, especially those in cubicles, will enjoy this it.

Sample post:
Ladies and Gentlemen:


I repeat:


Your chosen Establishment is a ways to a means; a way for you to pay for your housing, your car, ridiculous gas prices, potato chips, chewing gum, maxi pads, shaving cream, newer shoes, batteries, whole grain bread, Starbucks cult elixir, new underwear when the elastic boings out of the old ones…You get the picture.

But your Establishment is NOT a place for your mind to be taken over.

You must remain in control of your journey.

You must protect yourself from becoming viscerally one of them.

When you hear words and phrases too often such as:

“The Team”



“Associates”–particularly “Our Associates…”

“Together we can…”


Be wary. Be very wary.

This is cult speak. Companies, organizations, your chosen Establishment is out for mind control. They want you to believe that the oganization you work for needs you but not as much as you need them. They want you to think that they care about you, even your family. They want you to believe that what they are paying you is enough, especially before taxes. They want you to play nice and not revolt and subserviently ignore that you will never ever have a seat by a window. EVER. They want you to believe that your squeaky “ergonomic” chair is perfect for your frame even when you spill over it.

They want you to eat microwavable meals for twenty years and use the same water fountain they do to wash down miscellaneous noodles.

They want you to disclose personal information about your health so that they’ll know how to–ahem–insure you adequately. They want you to eat leftover muffins and previously fondled donuts that The Executives flown in from the midwest didn’t want. They want you to be a Follower, regardless of the ongoing “educational” training they offer to keep you feeling auspicious about your career path there.

It’s all a game. And if you’re losing it’s because your first mistake was to trust them with your next twenty years.

First rule of thumb:

Bring your own Kool-Aid.

--I Mean, It’s Your Butt
--Short Work Week
--Illegal Interview Questions?
--The Evil Vending Machine
--Cult-Like Speak

Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Check out my kindle BOOKS!:
Whose Body, by Dorothy Sayers (the Annotated Edition)
The Coldest Equations (science fiction)
Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
The Lady and the Tiger...Moth

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

3 woman pilot blogs

I'll share a few of these every now and again: Toria Flies: Thoughts of a red-headed Aviatrix
I'm slowly but surely learning my way about the world and becoming the woman I'm destined to be. I'm eclectic, I'm passionate, I'm a giver. I'm an always dreamin', airplane flyin', avid crocheter. I'm a girl who loves to be on a "mission" whether it's organizing a fundraiser or seeing how many turtles I can catch in the lake in a day. I don't like raisins, but love raisinets and yogurt covered raisins. I don't like purple grapes, but love the green ones. I hate blueberries except if they are in muffins. That about sums up the way my brain works.

I'm an instrument rated commercial pilot and work as a sales assistant for Aviation Insurance Resources. I am a co-host of the aviation podcast, the StuckMic AvCast. I am an active member of the Sugarloaf chapter of the Ninety-Nines, a VIP member of Women of Aviation Week and a member of Women in Aviation International and the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association. I also organize the Women Fly it Forward event in Frederick, MD. Aviation wit and wisdom
(Danielle Gibeault is a CFI, CFII, and MEI for those in the know. To the rest of us, that translates to Certificated Flight Instructor, Instrument Instructor, and Multi Engine Instructor. I also hold a Ground Instructor Certificate, Advanced and Instrument. That’s right, the FAA trusts me to spend my days getting into airplanes with people who don’t know how to fly them! I’ve been a pilot for 13 years and a flight instructor for more than 5. I started my aviation career on my 18th birthday driving fuel trucks, parking airplanes, and doing all the rest of that glamorous grunt work that keeps the airplanes flying. Haven’t looked back since.)

The blog below hasn't been updated in a year, as she completed her goal, but the archives are there and make for interesting and fun reading. Flying Wisconsin
Who is this person who loves “flying Wisconsin?” I’m a general aviation and airport advocate who appreciates the beauty of my home state. My first flight lesson was at Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport (ISW) in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, on my 30th birthday, a few years ago. I haven’t lost the passion yet - it helps that my husband, John, a 9000-hour pilot, loves it as much as I do! Me, I was out of currency for a while, concentrating on life’s other responsibilities since getting my private pilot certificate in 1992 and instrument rating 10-years later. But at this time in my life I’m closing in on 500 hours and flying more than ever. I’m lovin’ it!

This blog begins with the adventurous goal my husband and I are accomplishing in the summer of 2010: Flying to all 60 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties that have a public-use airport – in four flights. Several people have suggested that we share this story online, so here it is! Once we reach that goal, I’ll add new pages, sprinkling in some aviation memories, goals, and current projects I’m working on.

I’m a mom to two adult children and they, along with my husband, are the wind beneath my wings. My daughter, Sister Maria Caeli, is a Dominican Sister and middle school teacher, and my son, Luke, is a student at UW-Stout and one of the best motorcycle hillclimbers and off-road action sports videographers in the Midwest. Check out his work at and (Yeah, I’m proud of their accomplishments.)

As the owner of SkyWord Communications, LLC, I offer writing, marketing, and consulting services to aviation businesses, airports, and organizations. As president of the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame and editor of its quarterly magazine, Forward in Flight, I lead an effort to collect, preserve, and share Wisconsin aviation history, and honor those who made it. I’ve worked as an editor at EAA and have written dozens of aviation articles for various online and print publications, and even won a few awards for it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Startng Wednesday I *WILL* keep to a schedule

I know I seem to have promised that every other week... I really mean it this time!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rertro Review #24:





BLOG DESCRIPTION: Follow a direct descendant of John Brown as she researches and documents her family history

MY REVIEW: I am more interested in the Civil War time period itself (the military battles) rather than the time period leading up to it, when diplomacy ultimately failed and "cold iron" was necessary to settle the question. Nevertheless, it's fascinating to read about the people of that time period, and what they were willing to sacrfice for their beliefs.

This is a well-written blog, with an author who knows her stuff. Obviously, since she is a descendant of John Brown. Anyone with an interest to the time period leading up to the Civil War, and anyone interested in genealogy, will find this blog of interest.

At the John Brown Remembered Academic Symposium held at Harpers Ferry, WV in October 2009, I had the pleasure of meeting Ian Barford. Ian is an actor, documentary film maker, and the proud father of twins! Last week, Ian traveled to Texas to do interviews for the documentary he is currently working on about John Brown. He traveled to Austin first to interview my good friend Evan Carton, author of Patriotic Treason. He then drove up to Allen to interview me. While he was here I showed him my prized family artifact - Oliver Brown's Bible that he carried throughout his years in Kansas.

The Bible is small, 2 1/2 inches x 3 1/2 inches and just over an inch thick. Just the right size to be carried in an inside pocket of a wool overcoat. The cover is black leather embossed with an ornate design. On the spine, the words Holy Bible are embossed in gold. For a book that is over one hundred sixty years old, the binding is realitively tight, the cover only slightly torn.

On the inside back cover the following is written in pencil, in an ornate old-timey script:
This Bible was carried all through the Kansas troubles by Oliver Brown.
On the left hand inside back page is written the name of the original owner of the Bible, Oliver Brown, in ink and in a beautiful calligraphic hand.

But it is what can be found on the front inside cover that makes this Bible so valuable to me personally -- in pencil, written over and over again, in the handwriting of a young girl perfecting her signature, is the name Annie Brown. It makes me smile to think of young Annie, my great-great grandmother, scrounging around for a piece of paper to practice her penmanship on, and noticing a clean white space inside the cover of big brother's Bible. The temptation was more than she could resist. I imagine that she got into a great deal of trouble when it was discovered that she used the inside cover of the Lord's word for her penmanship practice.

Annie had the Bible in her possession when she moved to California in 1863, and it is one of the items that escaped the fire that distroyed her house and most of her belonging in 1896. Annie passed the Bible to her granddaughter Beatrice Cook Keesey, my grandmother.

-Join Me at the 2010 DFW Writer's Conference in April (FEb 19, 2010)
-2010 Winter GeneaBloggers Olymics Update (Awarding herself medals of appropriate colors for things she's accomplished on her blog - very amusing!) (Feb 18 2010)
-Tarantino to Free the Slaves Next? (Not happy about Tarantino's plan to film a movie about John Brown, given his penchant for violence in his films) (Feb 18, 2010)
-Letter from CORE - Letter to Gov to save John Brown Farm (Feb 17, 2010)
-Winter 2010 GeneaBloggers Olympic Games (Participating in the "Olympics' with other geneolocgical bloggers (Feb 14, 2010)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Retro Review #22: Breast Cancer? But Doctor, I Hate Pink



AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION PAGE: Breast Cancer? But Doctor, I Hate Pink


BLOG DESCRIPTION: With an humor and intelligence, Ann Silberman, breast-cancer "ass-kicker," describes her life since diagnosis. She found her lump in May 2009 and was diagnosed in early September. She is sharing her journey through surgeries and chemo as they happen. A must-read for anybody who either has cancer or has a family member with this disease. Ann writes with wit and energy in her blog: Breast Cancer? But Doctor ... I hate pink.

MY REVIEW: The author of this blog, Ann, found out she had breast cancer in August, 2009. This blog tells the story of her fight against the disease. It is very moving, very affecting, the more so because she does indeed manage to be funny and heroic at the same time. (Yes, there are heroes who, in a split second, risk their lives for others, such as our soldiers, and police and firemen and just regular people, and then there are people who have chronic illnesses in which they suffer every day and have to rise to that challenge every day. They are just as heroic.)

If you have just been diagnosed with breast cancer, or have a friend or loved one who has been - this is an excellent resource for you to know what the future holds. There are photos, there's talk of the various drugs and the chemotherapy and so on. If you're just interested in how people live their lives when faced by chronic illness, you will find this blog uplifing as well.

A few paragraphs from a sample post:
I am a small person with bird bones. My wrist is five inches around; I wear a size 4 1/2 ring. I can't purchase a watch without a picture of Hannah Montana on it, and I buy bracelets to use as anklets.

I have correspondingly small veins. Watching people draw my blood has always amused me, because I have a strong sadistic streak and no needle phobia whatsoever. I like seeing sweat on the brow of the phlebotomist responsible for getting blood out of me and into that vial. It just doesn't happen without hard work.

Typically, the way it goes is the first tech pokes around a while, moving the needle in and out, muttering about tiny veins until she either pops one or freaks out. She then calls the specialist with the butterfly needle who has the finesse to start the flow. Even when I try to make it easy - drink lots of water and wear warm clothing to "plump the veins," it's never enough to get the well pumping.

I'm so dry if I was Bella, Edward would leave me. [Is this a Twlight reference? KBR ed]

- Chemo Angel (Feb 21, 2010)
- Vampire Diaries (Feb 20, 2010)
- Did I mention before, that I hate leukine? (Feb 19, 2010)
- Chemo number...oh I can't remember (Feb 18, 2010)
- Chemotherapy-induced anemia (Feb 17, 2010)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Retro Review #21: Tales from the administrative minefield



AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION PAGE: Tales From The Administrative Minefield


BLOG DESCRIPTION: I am a seasoned executive adminstrative assistant with over fifteen years experience who loves her job. Very few other employment opportunites exist that allow me to manage people, events, and offices to my heart's content, then go home and have a life.

My many years of employment have given me plenty of opportunities to scratch my head and wonder what my employers and co-workers were thinking. As a consumate professional, I have just kept a smile on my face, done my job, and listened to my gut for the next opportunity.

Welcome to my world and I hope you enjoy the ride.

MY REVIEW: As a former administrative assistant, I know where this author is coming from. Very little gets done in an office in an efficent manner unless the admin assistant is herself (or himself) efficient. And yet they get so little credit for keeping the machine running smoothly.

This blog tells the story of one such admin assistant, and her adventures in the world of business.

Here's a few paragraphs from an entry on that ever-present evil - outsourcing work overseas [more often than not to the detriment of the business, costing them more money than they save, in loss of good will if nothing else!, IMHO]

Nothing seems to be safe anymore in today’s employment climate. Gone is security of generations gone by. Very few people can stick with one company for their entire career. If they manage to do that, they have to reinvent themselves to stay ahead of the latest management model that leans toward automation, downsizing or out-sourcing.

I realize that there are many processes that can be outsourced, off-shored, and just plain automated. When all these cost cutting measures are taking place, what happens to the actual employee, who helped build the company? The general morale? The principles that built the company? More importantly the corporate history?

While the government gives lip-service to keeping jobs in the country, more and more companies are sending department functions overseas. Why? ‘Because it can be done cheaper elsewhere’. Sure, there are binding contracts that impose penalties if things are not done to the SLA’s (service level agreements) of the corporation, but what happens to the customer service interface? There are no guarantees that expectations will be met.

To be frank the customer wants to interface with employees they feel confident will fulfill their needs. Not third-party vendors that have no clue as to why the company even exists

This blog is well-written, by a "soldier on the battlefield." Admin Assistants - the good ones, anyway, know what is going on in the office. Know how things are done and why they are done in that way. Aspiring admin assistants, and the people who have them, should read this blog!

I would like a bit more grounding for the blog, however. If not the specific business she works for, at least a general sense of what the company does.

-Melting the Myth [of perfection]
-On the Cheap [outsourcing]
-Valuable Resources [admin assistant's role in the work place]
-Upon Your Actions
-Follow Instructions [sales people, especially!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Retro Review #20: Foodie Momma

REVIEW BY: Ann Currie




BLOG DESCRIPTION: Teaches you how to save money, streamline ingredients and save time and stress at dinnertime. Dinner becomes a breeze with Foodiemama.

MY REVIEW: A food blog, that lists easy family friendly recipes. Tips and advice are offered and each recipe is tagged with the "Feeding by Age" to help Moms and Dads) chose meals that will appeal to the kids. Each recipe has a short introduction and comment followed by the ingredients and directions which are clearly given. Entries are only posted every 7 or 8 days and 2 recipes are included in each post.

The recipes are ok, but the posts are infrequent. There is nothing unique or entertaining about the text. If you want a good basic Mom friendly food blog this is one of many.

--Easy Ham Barbque Biscuits
--Honey Mustard Salmon
--Butternut Squash Gnocchi
--Soft Caramel Popcorn
--Party Food for Tots

Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of Normal> and Silver Pieces: The Strange and Peculiar

Monday, November 14, 2011

Retro Review #19: evie s.





BLOG DESCRIPTION: A design, craft, and beauty blog by graphic designer Evie Shaffer. Highlighting art, DIY projects, and beautiful design.

This blog is tied to her etsy shop. She posts about crafts for your wardrobe and home she has done with before and after pictures. Most posts refer to items that can be purchased from her shop. She posts interviews she has conducted with artists. And, there are some DIY (Do It Yourself) projects. 

One interesting personal project are the pictorial posts that follow the progression of her second pregnancy. If you are interested in crafts, some DIY projects, and evie s.' store, then this blog will probably interest you. I found it more of an extension of her shop, than a blog, but there are many like that on the web.

  • Finally painting again
  • Last minute valentine's ideas
  • A beautiful idea - Artists changing the world
  • Winter Beauty
  • Yet another wardrobe refashion
  • Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Retro Review #18: Fragrant Liar

    REVIEWED BY: Ann Currie




    BLOG DESCRIPTION: An irreverent woman's witty rants, raves, reflections, and ROFL.

    OUR REVIEW: Although I wouldn’t say it exactly like the blog author does, and I am on my first - and hopefully only husband (it’s hard enough to get used to one, why change in mid-stream) - I can relate to much of what she is writing about. She is irreverent and wickedly funny. Most of all, she is a survivor – of a lot.

    The author posts several days a week about her kids (grown and gone), her “coupla husbands”, the house, and anything else that pops in her head. What woman wouldn’t be thrilled at the idea of complete control of the remote? This is a good blog, that stays on track and is not only entertaining but is reliable and consistent.

    Men may not share the humor, however!

    --Wee wisdom
    --Sadly, I'm frigid
    --The chicken or the leg
    --All by myself

    Ann Currie publishes
    My Life a Bit South of Normal
    Strange and Peculiar Silver

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Mummy Whisperer (parenting and couples with kids)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle




    BLOG DESCRIPTION: As a 'Mummy Whisperer' my priority is to help the Mum, because when she is happy and contented either her family tends to settle around her, or she rediscovers her own natural instinct to help her family deal with it's daily challenges.

    I'm not here to tell you what to do, or offer another one-size fits all parenting technique which can't possibly work for all the shapes and sizes of family.

    Instead I teach skills that adapt as the family grows and I use techniques that help Mums clear the stress, fear, guilt and brain noise from their lives. The aim is to boost your self-belief and increase the contentment, sparkle and closeness in your family’s life; as you are the expert on your own family, sometimes you might just need reminding of how fabulous you are!

    MY REVIEW: This is both a parenting blog, and a blog for couples who still want to keep the excitement and romance in their own personal lives while also raising children.

    The author is British so Americans will have to get used to some British-isms, but of course that's not a difficulty.

    A very interesting blog - check it out.

    Sample post:
    Men, did you miss an opportunity for sex with your wife?
    At the weekend I was pointed to a blog by a guy called ‘Athol Kay’ about making sure you still get sex as a married man by the Daily Mail; yes I admit it, sometimes I skim the front page of the mail’s website for fun or annoyance. I’m so going to have to blog about this guys site loads, because it was full of all sorts of ‘you must be kidding’, ‘really?’, ‘thats so true’ and ‘seriously no ones going to believe that are they?’. In general though, its a pretty good blog, very much written from a blokes perspective and in that bloke language that they keep hidden from us, if wise.

    So it had me thinking? How many blokes were out there this weekend complaining that their wife doesn’t give them sex, who were so involved in the complaining that they didn’t take the opportunity that the Royal Wedding afforded? I bet there were tonnes who wouldn’t know an opportunity if it slapped them in the face.

    Let’s run through all the opportunities that there were, especially if they went to one of the hundreds of royal wedding parties …

    - Compliments: Tell her how pretty she is when she comes down the stairs in her outfit for the party. Compliments might not get you sex, but they will definitely get a warmer wife. Bear in mind though that they need to be accompanied by the right tone of voice and a fond/amorous look. Plus it’s not the same as telling her she looks hot in her underwear. She knows your a bloke, so that is kind of a given.

    - Make her feel appreciated: At the party, unless it’s an out and out lie, tell her how lucky you are to be with her and how pretty/beautifully dressed/gorgeous/’most true compliment you can find’, in comparison to all the other wives there. She needs to know that you appreciate her and know how lucky you are to have her.

    - Cuddle up: sitting next to her during the ceremony and cuddling up would be bound to give extra bonus points. Plus being in physical contact, kind of makes being in contact later more likely. This doesn’t work from across the room with a drink in hand and all the other blokes making ‘guffaw we’re not very interested in all this girly stuff noises’.

    - Talking to her: reminiscing about your own wedding, feeling nervous on the day, the honey moon, joking light heartedly about the stresses (unless they were so bad they should never ever be mentioned again), will give her that warm romantic feeling.

    - Kissing: Athol’s blog recommends a 10 second kiss, and as a big fan of kissing I’m in total agreement with him. Any guy who didn’t make sure he got a kiss in soon after the balcony scene was totally missing a trick.

    - Looking after the kids: If your wife was really enjoying the wedding, then keeping an eye on the kids for her is bound to be seen as a big gold star. Plus a harassed, ‘been running around after the kids all day at a party’ kind of wife, is much less likely to fancy you later on.

    - Buying her something: Some husbands might have even seen the opportunity to treat their wives to a new dress for the party, or some flowers, or a little something that reminded you of your own wedding.

    Any husband who hit all or some of these was then bound to be seen in the light of a romantic royal prince, and be rewarded with a honeymoon night to remember (unless after all that he drank too much beer and passed out on the sofa, or managed to mess it up in some obvious way). Bear in mind you have to translate them to your wife’s language as well, so into what she likes doing or having; but they would be a good start!

    So to the guys now hitting their heads and going ‘Doh’; don’t worry, but stop complaining and keep your eyes open as there are bound to be other romantic sure thing options at some point. There’ll be another wedding at some point in the next ten years I’m sure! I’m kidding. The lesson is to look out for opportunities, and to be really caring. Ironically, just as in other things in life, if you don’t really care about your wife and it is all about the ulterior motives, she is going to smell a rat and it won’t work. So the final important thing is that you really care about making her feel good!

    I’d love to know from the Mums out there, what do you think? Would any of the above have worked on you?

    --What makes a Man sexy?
    --Amazing Competition: For a Radio Flyer!
    --Men, did you miss an opportunity for sex with your wife?
    --How David Tennant Made My Day
    --Question Corner: What would you advise a husband whose wife doesn't want to sleep with him

    Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    Check out my kindle BOOKS!:
    Whose Body, by Dorothy Sayers (the Annotated Edition)
    The Coldest Equations (science fiction)
    The Lady and the Tiger...Moth

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Retro Review #17: Twig and Thistle

    REVIEWED BY: Ann Currie




    BLOG'S DESCRIPTION: Daily Inspiration For Home & Life

    MY REVIEW: This is an updated blog that is more arts and crafts. Each post has at least one idea of how to make an item – a gift, a goodie, something for your home. The recipe or instructions are always included (or a link is) and a picture.

    The author is quick to give credit to friends and colleagues for their contributions. She is always upbeat and positive. (She is one of those folks whom you wonder if she ever has a bad day!)

    The blog is full of pictures of items she has found, shops and resteraunts she has visited. It is inspirational, but you draw the inspiration from her. I am not an “a&c” person, but this is an excellent blog.

    And, let me explain myself here, when I say arts and crafts, I am not talking about simple “let’s glue these 2 sticks together and wrap them in colorful pipe cleaners” crafts. I’m talking about very sophisicated and impressive work that takes talent. And, some of it is clever. A great blog. Upbeat and creative, she shares and gives credit.

    • Alt Love No. 1
    • Love posters by Ty Mattson
    • Say it with jam and Nomination
    • Valentine’s day round up
    • Rita’s living room

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    Retro Reviews #16: Eyes for Lies: The Blog of the Human Lie Detector

    REVIEWED BY: Ann Currie


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION PAGE: Eyes for Lies: The Blog of the Human Lie Detector.


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Scientists have identified 50 individuals who are able to spot deception with great accuracy after testing. More than 15,000 people. Eyes for Lies is one of the 50 people.

    MY REVIEW: This one caught my eye. In one post she reviews the video of Josh Powell concerning the disappearance of his wife. She uses her special "skills" to determine if he is guilty by watching his video. Then she dissects the interview piece by piece and describes what she sees and how she interprets it. Each post deals with a prominent criminal case in the news.

    Some of the posts can get almost a little sensational, but that is the nature of the beast. The blog is interesting (I have always loved mysteries). She posts everyday.

    • Sam Thompson
    • Diena Thompson talks to Chris Cuomo
    • Alex Martin is Nick Francisco
    • LA Times: Edwards is Engaged
    • Perhaps its not Jarred Harrell

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    The Dao of Dragon Ball (manga, TV)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: The Dao of Dragon Ball


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: The true history and connections between Dragon Ball and ancient cultures, divine beliefs and the martial arts of the spiritual warrior have never been unveiled. Until now.

    Finally, a blog that reveals the secrets of Dragon Ball.

    MY REVIEW: If you like Dragon Ball, you'll love this blog. For those of you who have never heard of Dragon Ball:
    Dragon Ball is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama. It was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1984 to 1995; later the 519 individual chapters were published into 42 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha. Dragon Ball was inspired by the classical Chinese novel Journey to the West. It follows the adventures of Son Goku from his childhood through adulthood as he trains in martial arts and explores the world in search of the seven mystical orbs known as the Dragon Balls, which can summon a wish-granting dragon when gathered. Along his journey, Goku makes several friends and battles a wide variety of villains, many of whom also seek the Dragon Balls for their own desires.

    Since its release, Dragon Ball has become one of the most successful manga and anime series of all time. The manga's 42 volumes have sold over 152 million copies in Japan and more than 200 million copies worldwide. Reviewers have praised the art, characterization, and humor of the story. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest manga series ever made, with many manga artists citing Dragon Ball as a source of inspiration for their own now popular works. The anime, particularly Dragon Ball Z, is also highly popular in various countries and was arguably one of the most influential in greatly boosting the popularity of Japanese animation in Western culture.

    The author of this blog is something of an experton the subject, and indeed is working on a book on the subject, also called The Dao of Dragon Ball.

    Here's a bit more of the author's bio:
    Padula is a website developer, private Shaolin Gong Fu martial arts instructor, video game designer and owner of Young Forest Games, where he creates "Games with Meaning" for PC and consoles, and is also a journalist for the Epoch Times Newspaper.

    Derek has been a fan of Dragon Ball since the first two seasons of Dragon Ball Z aired on television in America over a decade ago (1997), and has been watching the anime and reading the manga ever since. He majored in East Asian Studies and saw a lot of correlations between Buddhism, Daoism, and Japanese culture within Dragon Ball and his daily life. This led him to write The Dao of Dragon Ball.

    Derek is also a Falun Dafa practitioner and believes strongly in it's Fa (Law).

    He holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies with a minor in Chinese from Western Michigan University.

    He has contributed to the following video games:
    -"Tony Hawk Under Ground (T.H.U.G.)"
    -"Pitfall: The Lost Expedition"
    -"James Bond: 007: From Russia With Love"
    -"The SIMS 2: Holiday Pack"
    -"Puzzles of Life"
    -"The Sopranos"
    He is a board member of the Westwood College Student Advisory Board Game Design Curriculum of Los Angeles and is on standby at ITT Technical Institute Torrance campus as an Adjunct Professor of Multimedia.

    Check out this blog!

    Sample post:

    Goku’s Simple Life
    Goku lives a simple life.

    Like a wandering pilgrim, Goku’s only possessions are a martial arts uniform and occasionally the nyoi bo staff.

    Goku is almost single mindedly focused on his martial arts cultivation.

    Chi-Chi handles all of the domestic affairs, including the caring of their house, the monetary concerns, and the raising of children.

    This reminded me of my own life and how it is a bit too complicated.

    By an average person’s standard my life may seem rather simple: An average guy with an apartment and some stuff. There are also career, family, social relationships, time, personal projects, and trying to achieve many things simultaneously. Perhaps too many.

    In regard to physical stuff in particular, at times all of the external content can feel a little heavy, because each one of those items is connected to my emotions. Each material item, when picked up, transports my memory back 5, 10, in some cases even 15 years. They all carry emotional weight. An outsider cannot see or feel this.

    I recently read a book called The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta, and it emphasized the importance of simplifying our lives.

    I also read a blog post on Man vs. Debt that presented the idea of taking inventory of all the items in your possession, one by one, and the benefit of the process.

    So that’s what I did.

    Taking Stock and Letting Go
    I counted every single item in my home and car: Every spoon, every pencil, every piece of clothing, and every game, miniature and cable.

    They were recorded by hand and then entered into a spreadsheet (here). It was an exhausting process.

    The end result was 1,706 items.

    The number was surprising. How could I own so much?

    When I looked at the spreadsheet of all the items from a zoomed out perspective, it seemed to almost amount to the culmination of my external worth. As if this was the entirety of my life.

    But I knew this wasn’t true.

    What would I be without all of these things? Would I still be me?

    Yes. And perhaps even more so.

    During the taking of inventory I threw some items away and designated others for donation. I donated three bags of clothes, electronics, and other items to Goodwill.

    As time goes on, unwanted books and other items will be sold or donated. Why keep what has already been utilized?

    There’s a story from Buddhism that states that once you’ve ridden your hand crafted boat to the other shore of nirvana, it is important to remember not to be attached to the boat. It was a beautiful boat and served you well. It was the vehicle that made your journey across the ocean possible. But now that you’ve made it this far, it’s time to let that vehicle go. Otherwise you cannot move forward.

    Some items were easy to let go, while others were difficult. For example, my DBZ t-shirts, which I had worn since high school.

    It was hard to look at each item practically, and ask if I really needed it or would use it in the future. Often I discovered that the item had been with me all these years for purely sentimental reasons.

    Ultimately it is the attachment to the items that matter. Not the physical items themselves. Without attachments, anything can be let go if it’s no longer needed. Likewise, without attachments, the amount or value of material items isn’t important. Ideally, everything we own can be made of gold, yet we are not attached.

    The entire process was liberating, as it allowed me to take stock of life, internally as well as externally. It was empowering to realize what I have available, and to control things, rather than have things control me.

    To gain, one must lose. Because there is more empty space, I feel freed up and lighter in spirit.

    Imagine how it must feel to be like Goku, as described in the final episode of Dragon Ball GT:

    Full of joy and care free.

    Gentle, with a good heart.

    I recommend that you try this activity for yourself. Begin with a single section of a room and expand from there.

    Tackle life with as much energy as Goku, and you’ll be sure to succeed.

    --Gen Fukunaga Hints at More DBZ
    --Dragon Ball Cosplay at Anime Expo 2011
    --Dragonball Book Review – The Dragonball Z Legend: The Quest Continues
    --Dragonball Book Review – Pojo’s Unofficial Dragonball Z Cards Simplified: A Player’s Guide
    --Dragonball Book Review – Dragonball Z: An Unauthorized Guide
    --Dragonball Book Review – Dragonball Z Extreme
    --Dragonball Book Review – Pojo’s Unofficial Total Dragonball Z

    Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    Check out my kindle BOOKS!:
    Whose Body, by Dorothy Sayers (the Annotated Edition)The Coldest Equations (science fiction)
    The Lady and the Tiger...Moth

    Sunday, October 30, 2011

    The Thing on the Fourble Board (arts and entertainment, OTR, audio books reviews)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: The Thing on the Fourble Board


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: eviews of audio books in the mystery and science fiction genres, and in nonfiction - historical, biographical, scientific. I review the quality of the narrator(s), as well as the books.

    I also review and synopsize old time radio programs - The Shadow, The Saint, The Jack Benny Show, Dragnet, X Minus One.

    I also review soundtracks to selected theatre productions and motion pictures.

    If you're a fan of the theatre of the mind, I think you'll enjoy this blog.

    Updated twice a week.

    MY REVIEW: When I was young, I scoffed at the idea of listening to books on tape. I could (and can) read a book in three hours that it would take a narrator eight hours to get through.

    But I hadn't fully thought my criticisms through. I now listen to audio books in the car, and make time for at least half an hour before lights out. With a good book and, just as importantly, a good narrator, audio books are fun to listen to.

    My OTR experience is limited to The Shadow - and I'm still waiting for those synopsis to show up on the blog, but it's a relatively new blog, we've been promised the Shadow, so I'm sure it will come.

    Highly recommended.

    Sample post:
    The Art Thief, by Noah Charney, 2007
    8 Audio CDs (about 8 hours listening time)
    Interestingly, if you look on, The Art Thief, by Noah Charney, has only a 2-annd-a-half out of 5 star rating. A lot of people (at least, a lot of people who post their opinions on Amazon) don't seem to like it.

    I do.

    When listening to an audio book, it doesn't matter how good the book itself is, if the narrator is lousy. A few weeks ago I checked out a Clive Cussler audio book. Can't remember the title now, or the name of the narrator, but in any event I could only listen to a couple of minutes of it before I gave up on it - the narrator's reading was that bad. No attempt to change voices depending on what character was talking, no intonation changes at all, just a dull monotone.

    Simon Vance has all this stuff down pat. The Art Thief is a bit wordy, but because Vance uses intonation and inflection all the time, it's not hard to listen to - it's easy to concentrate on it.

    He also does various voices...although I did find it distracting that the voices his characters use when speaking, and the voices he used when that same character was just internalizing thought, were not the same.

    Anyway...what you get with The Art Thief is a very complex story, and a lot of information on art. Some of the negative reviewers on Amazon got tired of all that art info (especially since several characters would have their own point of view on the same piece of art, so we'd hear the same information several times, just articulated differently. But, the way I looked at, hearing it repeated so many times allowed me to learn and remember what was being said - and since I'm interested in art as well as in a good mystery, I enjoyed it.

    This book isn't a howdunit, more of a whodunit and eventually a whydunit. (In other words, we never learn exactly how all the artwork managed to be stolen, but we learn who did it and why they did it.)

    If you're interested in art at all - how it affects the human psyche - and mystery, and like listening to a good narrator, I think you'll enjoy this book.

    The characters may be stereotypical, and there isn't much character development, but they're interesting and sympathetic. ANd the author has a good sense of dialog and sense of humor.

    So give it a listen. You may turn it off...but I guarantee it won't be in the first five minutes!

    Noah Charney bio from Wikipedia:
    Noah Charney (born November 27, 1979) is an American art historian and novelist. He is the author of The Art Thief, a mystery novel about a series of thefts from European museums and churches, and is the founder of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art.

    Early life and education
    Charney was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1979. His parents, a psychiatrist and a professor of French Literature at Yale University were, in his words, “of the class of Americans who idealize Europe”, and as a youth he spent most of his summers in France.

    He attended Choate Rosemary Hall, and received his undergraduate education at Colby College in Maine, where he majored in Art History and English Literature. During this period, he spent two years on exchange programs in Paris and London. Also while at Colby, he founded the Colby Film Society and wrote several plays, one of which won the Horizons New Young Playwrights Competition in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2002, the year of his graduation.

    After graduating, he moved to London, where he studied at the Courtauld Institute and received a Masters for his work on seventeenth century sculpture in Rome. He subsequently attended Cambridge University, St. John's College, where he received a second Masters in History of Art writing on Bronzino's London Allegory, and began a PhD.

    Current and Recent Projects
    In 2006 Charney took a leave of absence from his studies at Cambridge to focus on other projects. Notable among these was writing. During the previous year he had written his first novel, The Art Thief which was published by Atria, a division of Simon and Schuster, New York,in September 2007. It has been published in 13 languages and was a best seller in Spain, Slovenia, Canada and The Netherlands. As he researched his novel he found that there was little scholarly material on the subject of art crime.

    So he organized a conference on the subject in Cambridge in 2006, which attracted the heads of the art crime divisions of the FBI, Scotland Yard, and the Italian Carabinieri and was the subject of an article in the New York Times Magazine. In 2007 he joined with them, along with academics and others interested in the field, to form the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA). ARCA is a non-profit think tank based in Rome, dedicated to helping to prevent and prosecute art thefts, and to establishing the study of art crime as an academic subject.

    Mr. Charney taught at Cambridge University's summer program and at Miami Dade College's program in Florence. In 2009 he taught a seminar on Art Crime at Yale University, New Haven. He is currently Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University in Rome. He has also been a visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana, Slovenia .

    He is the editor of Art and Crime, a collection of original essays by experts in the field, published by Praeger Press in the Spring of 2009[11]. In February 2010, geoPlaneta published a series of four museum guidebooks by Charney in Spanish and English. Called "Museum Time" (De Museos) the first books in the series provide guided tours to highlights of the collections of the leading museums of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, and the Basque Country.

    His non-fiction work on the many thefts of the Ghent Altarpiece, called Stealing the Mystic Lamb, was published in October 2010 by Public Affairs. He is currently working on a second novel and other non-fiction projects.

    ARCA offered its first Masters level course in art crime and security in the summer of 2009—a 12 week course in the town of Amelia, Italy. The program has been quite successful and was featured in the New York Times. Mr. Charney also edits The Journal of Art Crime, a scholarly publication on Art Crime and Security that comes out twice a year.

    --Paul Temple Radio Serials: An Overview
    --Theatre Music: The 39 Steps
    --Audio Book: The Art Thief, narrated by Simon Vance
    --OTR: The Shadow
    --The Joy Of Audio Books

    Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    Check out my kindle BOOKS!:
    Whose Body, by Dorothy Sayers (the Annotated Edition)
    The Coldest Equations (science fiction)
    The Lady and the Tiger...Moth