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Archive for the ‘End of the World’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: June 23, 2022] Yuanyuan’s Bubbles

This is the fourth of sixteen graphic novels based on Cixin’s Liu’s stories.  This story, originally called 圆圆的肥皂泡, is the most straightforward one yet.

It is full of hope and shows that play is just as important as other scholarly pursuits.

When Yuanyuan was born, the one thing that made her happy was bubbles.  Her mother was a scientist and rather serious.  While her father often chided her mother for being too straight-faced.  But her mother had serious work to do.

Their city–Silk Road City was having severe drought.  If nothing could be done about it, the whole city would have to be abandoned.  Yuanyuan’s mother’s idea was to drop ice bombs with plants in them from a plane.  The project worked–the water helped to keep the seedlings alive.

However, in a rather dramatic early moment, the plane went down and Yuanyuan’s mother was killed.  Yuanyuan’s father was affected by the death of his wife and insisted that Yuanyuan grow up to be just like her mother–serious and thoughtful.  But Yuanyuan had other ideas.  She was still obsessed with bubbles.

Even her teachers noticed her attitude.  But her grades were excellent. Indeed, one of her teachers explained to Yuanyuan’s father that “in this new era, being a  little more relaxed and carefree isn’t a weakness.”

Her father still wants her to take things more seriously, but in the meantime, Yuanyuan has discovered a formula for creating the largest bubble in the world–it’s breaks the world record!

Yuanyuan becomes very successful–her formulas for creating elasticity in bubbles is greatly in demand.  Ultimately, her father asks her for a loan to help keep part of their old city alive.  But she says she cannot.  She is using her funds for her next project–a bubble that can envelope a city.

That’s actually not what she intended, but the bubble does settle onto the city, forcing everyone to figure out how to survive with their oxygen being cut off.  Everyone is furious at Yuanyuan, but she only sees the possibilities–what is she made bubbles that could carry water from he sea to their desiccated city?

No one thinks she can do it.  People make fun of her.  Even her father is disappointed in her.  But she won’t give up.

As with most of these graphic novels, I feel like the story suffers a but from being truncated (I assume it was truncated a lot).  And yet the general tone and tenets of the story come through clearly.  And it’s very cool.  It was translated by Nicholas Blackburn Smith and then written for this book by Valérie Mangin.

The story was illustrated by Steven Dupré and he does a great job creating the images of the bubbles.

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 2022] The Village Teacher

This book came to my work and it was quite a challenge to catalog.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese science fiction writer.  These are graphic novel adaptations of his short stories.  But he did not write the graphic novels.  However, I wanted them linked together because there are going to be sixteen of them and they should all go together.  If you put them under Liu, then they go into the Chinese authors section.  But these are American books created for American audiences.  (I wound up making it an American series under Liu’s name).

Anyhow, I had never heard of him before, but these books are blurbed by none other than Barack Obama.

So I decided to take a look at them.

This book is also called The Rural Teacher in translated form.

After the complex intensity that was The Wandering Earth, this story is much more simple.  But it is not less intense.

There are two storylines.  I’m not sure if in the written work it’s less clear that the story lines are at the same time.  It felt like for a powerful effect, they would not be obviously simultaneous, but I’m not sure how he could have done that.

The story starts on a school in a rural village.  The teacher is teaching the kids about outer space. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 2022] The Wandering Earth

This book came to my work and it was quite a challenge to catalog.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese science fiction writer.  These are graphic novel adaptations of his short stories.  But he did not write the graphic novels.  However, I wanted them linked together because there are going to be sixteen of them and they should all go together.  If you put them under Liu, then they go into the Chinese authors section.  But these are American books created for American audiences.  (I wound up making it an American series under Liu’s name).

Anyhow, I had never heard of him before, but these books are blurbed by none other than Barack Obama.

So I decided to take a look at them.

This second one is also a dark story about the destruction of the earth (actually, all three are).

The story is also more complicated with a lengthy timespan and a few surprises thrown in.

As the story opens we learn that three hundred years ago scientists discovered that our sun was using up its hydrogen and converting it to helium–it was going to explode.  So the scientists began a plan.  Using rockets, they would stop the earth’s rotation and then using those same rockets, they would propel the earth into a habitable part of the galaxy.

Obviously, this would take many generations and would result in the destruction of the earth as we know it.

The book begins with a baby born on the day that the earth had stopped rotating.  We quickly jump to the boy in school learning about everything that happened (a great way of doing exposition).  These students are high-tech and scientifically very smart.  Art and philosophy and everything like it have basically been done with because it’s all hands on deck for saving the planet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 2022] Sea of Dreams

This book came to my work and it was quite a challenge to catalog.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese science fiction writer.  These are graphic novel adaptations of his short stories.  But he did not write the graphic novels.  However, I wanted them linked together because there are going to be sixteen of them and they should all go together.  If you put them under Liu, then they go into the Chinese authors section.  But these are American books created for American audiences.  (I wound up making it an American series under Liu’s name).

Anyhow, I had never heard of him before, but these books are blurbed by none other than Barack Obama.

So I decided to take a look at them.

This first one is a dark story about the destruction of the earth (actually, all three are).

The story opens on an Ice & Snow Arts Festival.  The artist Yan Dong is completely wrapped up in his sculpture which is abstract and wild unlike every other one.  While people are looking at the art, a giant ball comes out of the sky and hovers above the ground.  The creature calls itself a Low Temperature Artist.  It states that only art matters in the universe–everything else is trivial.

It scoffs at the realistic art pieces and says that only Dong’s is worth considering.

Then it says that it will create the greatest ice-based art.  And it slowly begins sucking up all of the water from the earth.  It freezes the water and begins preparations for its installation which will remain in space protected by a membrane that will prevent the ice from melting.

Pretty cool.  Except of course, that soon, the planet is completely dried out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 15, 2021] The Prox Transmissions

I had recently seen Starset live and decided to check out lead singer Dustin Bates’ books (which I had gotten for my son for his birthday and I think he hasn’t read).

All of the CDs have a theme and the story of the Prox Transmissions is meant to tie into the album called Transmission.

My understanding was that the graphic novel was an adaptation of the novel.  I couldn’t find the novel in his room, but I did see the graphic novel, so I started with that (even though I’m sure it would have ben smarter to read the novel first).

The most impressive thing about this to me was that it was published by Marvel.  Not because I’m a Marvel fan boy but because I just assumed it was self published.  That being said, I think a thing or two was lost in the abridgement.

There are double crosses and possibly triple crosses and seemingly minor characters come to have major roles without a very satisfying explanation.  Basically it feels like a story that has has a lot removed (which it is).

The actual story line is pretty cool though. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: Summer 2021] The Light Fantastic

After finishing the cliffhanger ending Colour of Magic, I quickly started book two.

Unlike the previous book, this one feels like a full novel–one story about the coming end of the Discworld.

Rincewind and Twoflower (with the luggage) have just fallen of off of the Disc.  The one wonderfully convenient thing about writing about wizards and magic and such is that you can have pretty much anything happen.

We learned early in book one that Rincewind had read a spell from the Octavo–the most powerful book of magic (so powerful that it was locked up and it had been assumed that no one would ever open it)–nice job Rincewind.  The spell then became lodged in Rincewind’s mind.  It has tried on occasion to get out (bit thankfully it never has).  It has also prevented Rincewind from learning any other spells–but that’s his problem. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: August 2021] World Piece 1

I saw this book at work and thought it looked really intriguing.  I liked Agroshka’s drawing style immediately and then the story really captured me,

It opens in a basketball game. Lucas Densen is a decent (but not great) player for his high school team (the Pulsars).  He makes a nice block, but he threw a terrible brick.  However, he’s really cute and quite popular with the ladies.

However, he’d really rather be spending time at his mother’s archaeological dig.  They haven’t found much stuff in this dig, but while Lucas is there the crew has a small discovery.  Lucas’ mother tells him not to touch anything, but when he sees something, he can’t help but grab it which sends him through a portal to another world where he is left holding the earth like it’s a basketball. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: mafmadmaf“Rapture” (SXSW Online 2021).

I never intend to go to SXSW–I find the whole thing a bit much.  But I also appreciate it for the way it gives unknown bands a place to showcase themselves. NPR featured a half dozen artists online this year with this note:

This year, the South by Southwest music festival that takes over Austin, Texas every spring happened online. Couch By Couchwest, as I like to call it, was an on-screen festival, with 289 acts performing roughly 15-minute pre-recorded sets across five days in March.

This list was curated by Bob Boilen.  He also notes:

 I didn’t enjoy hearing loud, brash music while sitting on a couch the way I would in a club filled with people and volume, so I found myself engaging in more reflective music instead.

I’m going in reverse order, so mafmadmaf is next.

mafmadmaf is a Chinese modular synthesizer artist. I’m not sure I ever saw his face onscreen, but it didn’t matter: This seductive and spellbinding set was perfect in my living room. Seeing his modular synthesizer and its many patch cables set up in a beautiful garden was more entertaining than simply watching some knob-turning on its own. Artfully done.

Anyone who knows Bob knows he loves modular synths.  I really have no sense of how they work, so this is all a mystery to me.  But I agree that the setting is wonderful.  And the music is very cool.

This piece is 13 minutes long and while it is mostly washes of synth sounds, there’s some melodies (synthesized sounds of water drops and chimes).

The song morphs in interesting ways, especially after 4 and a half minutes when the musicians enters the screen and you start to see him do something to his setup.  This adds new sounds and even a pulsing almost-beat.

At around ten minutes things slow way down.

[READ: July 15, 2021] Naturalist

I saw this book in the library and grabbed it because I love Jim Ottaviani’s work.  He has written and illustrated a number of non-fiction graphic novels and they have all been terrific.  I love his drawing style–very clean lines and excellent detail.  I also love his ability to compact big ideas into small digestible chunks.

But I had never heard of Edward O. Wilson, which, after reading this, surprises me. He is not only a Pulitzer prize winning author, an innovator in the field of biology and a writer of a massive book about ants, he is also controversial (as we see later on) and a devoted environmentalist.

The book opens with a young Wilson growing up in Alabama.  From when he was little he was obsessed with ants.  There were lots of fire ants where he grew up and there are few things more fascinating than fire ants (the book is chock full of all of the scientific names for all of these ants).

When he was still young, playing around in nature, he went fishing and when he pulled a fish out of the water its spines poked him in the eye giving him a traumatic cataract–he wound up with full sight in one eye only.   But this seemed to get him to focus more minutely on smaller things–ants.

Staring in fourth grade  his father was shuffled around the country a lot so Edward made his home in many places around the south, eventually settling in Florida.

There he met a friend who was obsessed with butterflies–they were two budding entomologists. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ART D’ECCO “Angst in My Pants” (2021).

I saw Art D’ecco open a show a few years ago and I’ve become mildly obsessed with hi.  I’m delighted to see that he’s getting some promotion and success.

His new album In Standard Definition is a great synth pop retro dance infusion.  But in addition to that he has released two standalone covers.

Art D’ecco covering Sparks is a pretty natural decision.  as his label puts it.

The glam rocker premiered his cover of Sparks’ ‘Angst In My Pants’ via FLOOD Magazine earlier today. Art recalls, “Before making my last record I jokingly said to my band, if one more person or media outlet says I sound like Sparks I’m gonna cover them”.

This is a really faithful to the original, including the strained an jocular vocals in the verses.   And the great emphases in the chorus.  It’s modernized with new sounds and production but overall this is faithful and fun cover.  If it introduces fans of one band to the other, then it has done its job.

[READ: June 1, 2021] Colony

After reading Rob Grant’s Red Dwarf books, I discovered that he has written a number of novels in addition.

  • Colony (2000), a science fiction story about a colony that has long since lost its way.
  • Incompetence (2003), a wry detective story set in the near future where it is illegal to discriminate for any reason, even incompetence.
  • Fat (2006), a darkly comic novel about how the media portrays obesity and its effects on today’s society.
  • The Quanderhorn Xperimentations (2018) [based on a radio show that Grant wrote].

So Colony was his first.  It’s interesting how much it connects to Red Dwarf without having anything to do with Red Dwarf.  It’s a sci-fi novel, set millions of years in outer space, with the fate of the human race in the balance.

But barring that, it’s really quite different.  In this book the human race is aware that it is on the verge of extinction, and it is planning for it.  They are loading the best people on to a space ship (the Willflower) that will fly them millions of miles away to a habitable planet.  Those people will have offspring on the ship and several generations later the human race will survive on the new planet. 

But the book starts off by following Eddie O’Hare, a man NOT meant to be on this ship.  He is not one of earth’s best and brightest.  In fact, he is one of the unluckiest men around.  A computer glitch has caused him to lose millions of pounds for the company he works for.  The company believes he stole it.  And they have sent a couple of thugs to retrieve it.

In fact, the thugs just came to his room with the intent of throwing him out the window to his death.  But when they mention something that seems incorrect, they realize that they have the wrong man.  Eddie assumes he’s on that list, he’s just not next on the list–that would be the man in the room next door.  The hit men are darkly comic until they become just dark.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ART D’ECCO-“That’s Entertainment” (2021).

I saw Art D’ecco open a show a few years ago and I’ve become mildly obsessed with hi.  I’m delighted to see that he’s getting some promotion and success.

His new album In Standard Definition is a great synth pop retro dance infusion.  But in addition to that he has released two standalone covers.

This one, a cover of The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” was a little concerning for me.  This song is one of my all time favorite songs and I’m always nervous when a song like this gets covered.

But Art D’ecco does a great job.  There’s acoustic guitars, a grooving bass line, cool harmony vocals and, best of all, he keeps the way the chorus offers the short “That’s” and the stretched out “en ter tain ment.”  He even does the falsetto note (of course).

But what’s most enlightening about is cover is D’ecco’s voice. He seems to be stretching out of his comfort zone a little and it really shows off how good a singer her really is.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Last Human

I’m not sure what got me on my recent Red Dwarf reading kick (finding out that they had just released a new series was certainly a spark).  I was sure I had read all of these books before and yet none of them were familiar to me at all.

The Grant Naylor team wrote two books and the second one ended on a cliffhanger.

Then for reasons I’m not willing to dig into, both Rob Grant and Doug Naylor each wrote a sequel to that book.  But neither book is like the other and they both go in very different directions.  Naylor’s book was really dark and very violent.  Grant’s was also dark and very violent, but in very different ways.

The previous book ended with an old Lister being sent to a planet where everything goes backwards so that he can de-age to about the same age he was when he was on the series.  They plan to meet him 36 years later at Niagara Falls.

In this book Naylor has the crew place Kochanski’s ashes on the planet Kochanski so she came back to life and she and Lister were able to live their lives backwards together for some thirty years.

But this book opens much further back–to the birth of the first humanoid. (more…)

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