Tag Archives: Amazon

Michael Lee Brown: Way It Used To Be (Music EP)

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of both Dear Evan Hansen and Matthew James Thomas. It’s no surprise that I’m enjoying the new EP of 3 original songs from Michael Lee Brown, currently the alternate Evan Hansen on Broadway. Matthew James Thomas is the producer, and he’s been tweeting about the project. The EP was released today, so I purchased the download from Amazon after listening to it on Soundcloud. (You can also get it at CDBaby, since it’s nice to support the independents.) Brown’s songs are acoustic and unabashedly optimistic. Give them a listen!

(Be sure to leave a review like I did!)

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Filed under Actors, Music, Theatre

Books on Kindle

This week, I have been forced to stop ignoring the Kindle.  I’ve resisted electronic book readers for several reasons:

1. I can drop a book from any height onto any surface, and it still won’t break.

2. I can loan a book to a friend after I’ve read it.

3. I like page numbers.  It’s not the same knowing I’ve read 37% of a book.

Reason number 4 used to be that I couldn’t use a Kindle for library books, but that’s no longer true here in San Francisco.  I don’t understand why I still have to be on a wait list for an ebook, but that’s a discussion for later!

I finally decided to give the Kindle a try, so I borrowed one from a friend to read Dragon Solstice by Nance Crawford.  Now, my friend’s Kindle is really old.  I think it’s one of the first ones, so perhaps it’s not fair to judge all electronic readers based on this version.  I don’t like how often I have to hit the ‘next page’ button, even after setting the font as small as I can comfortably read.  I also don’t like how the screen goes black while the page reloads, which is hard on my eyes.  Perhaps these problems have been fixed in newer versions.  I’m hoping someone here will fill me in.

In spite of my issues with the Kindle, I really enjoyed Dragon Solstice.  It’s a fairy tale adventure about a misunderstood dragon and a feisty little girl who get a bit lost in the forest and end up…no, sorry, I don’t do plot spoilers.  It’s a charming story, suitable for children but with plenty of wry humor for older readers.  It would make a good bedtime story read in chapters, since it’s not scary or violent.  At least, I think it would, since I don’t have any kids to try it out on.  If I did have children, I wouldn’t stop reading to them after they graduated from picture books.  I have great memories of my mother reading us books we could have read by ourselves, especially Roald Dahl’s James and The Giant Peach.  It would have given me the creepy-crawlies on my own, but having my mother read it made it tolerable.  I still love a good adventure, but I definitely prefer friendly dragons to giant bugs.  Dragon Solstice is at Amazon for Kindle and in paperback, and you can visit the author at www.NanceCrawford.com.

The Chatto & Windus hardback and the Vintage paperback

the Chatto & Windus hardback and the Vintage paperback

While I was browsing books at Amazon this morning, I decided to check the listing for 18 Folgate Street: The Tale of a House in Spitalfields.  It was written by my uncle, Dennis Severs, and I did the photography (not the illustrations—Amazon has that wrong).  It’s been out of print for years, so I occasionally look at the prices on used copies.  Today I found a copy of the Vintage paperback selling for $999.00.  The real surprise was discovering that the book is now available in a Kindle edition.  Nobody told me!  Hopefully the color photographs will look okay on an electronic screen.

sorting slides at Random House

sorting slides at Random House

I still find myself wishing I hadn’t been so naive when I submitted my collection of slides to the publishers.  I assumed that the photos that I thought were the best would be the ones they would pick.  Instead, a number of dark, fuzzy photos were chosen along with some of my favorites.  An experienced photographer would have known to leave out the not-so-good ones.  Once I turned in my photographs and signed the contract, I didn’t have anything to do with the publishing process.  The editor sent me proofs and sample covers, so I did get to see how the book was progressing.  Just visiting Random House UK was amazing.  Everyone I met there was delightful, starting with Jeanette in reception.  The best part?  Visiting the editors and leaving with as many free books as I could carry.  All I had to do was gaze longingly at the shelves of new titles, and they’d invite me to take some.  It was a book lover’s heaven.

Should you download 18 Folgate Street to your Kindle¹?  I’ll be honest.  There are some wonderful things in the book, but it’s quirky.  My uncle’s strong personality comes through in his writing.  He was a born storyteller who avoided the written word due to severe dyslexia, until he decided to write his book.  He worked for years writing and revising, trying to find the best way to express his ideas on paper.  Sadly, he died before the book was published.  I think his prologue is the best chapter.  As for my photographs, some of them are terrific.  Some of them are not.  One of them is a complete mystery to me.  The color image on page 24 (firewood in baskets with a broom on the stairs) is a flash photograph, and it’s not mine.  All my photographs were taken using available light.  I don’t know where that one came from, and it’s been bugging me for ten years.  It’s great having my own blog, so I can get that off my chest!

To read more about my uncle and see photos of him and his house, click on his name in the category cloud or in the tags above.

¹Or iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, PC or Mac


Filed under Literature, Photography

The Enation Tutorial

A beginner’s guide and 12 step program for becoming a fan of the indie band Enation.

1.  Watch General Hospital and become intrigued by Lucky Spencer and Jonathan Jackson.  (This first step can be swapped with many others, such as watch One Tree Hill, watch Saved By The Bell: The New Class, eat at Galeotti’s Restaurant, hear about this band from a friend, etc.)

2.  Visit the official Enation website.  Follow the link to CD Baby to check out the music.  Listen to the music samples.  Order three of the CDs because you can’t resist a good sale, but don’t tell anyone because it’s embarrassing to buy three CDs before you’ve heard a full song.

3.  Receive your three CDs in the mail and start playing them constantly.  Find a small problem with one of the CDs and feel delighted, because it means you get to send the band an email.  Get a response to your email and feel stupidly excited.

4.  Go to Ustream and watch the archived live concert, live rehearsal and live interview.  Find the answer to the question, what does the name Enation mean?  Then go to YouTube and watch the videos on EnationMusic’s channel, Daniel Sweatt’s channel (which are the funniest!), Jonathan Jackson’s channel, and then check out the fan videos.

5.  Go to facebook and “like” Enation’s fan page, and while you’re at it, “like” Jonathan Jackson’s page and Richard Lee Jackson’s page.  

6.  Go to twitter and “follow” Enation, Jonathan Jackson, Richard Lee Jackson, and Daniel Sweatt.  Add their twitter feeds to your Google Reader.

7.  Go back to the Enation official website and join Enation Army.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for your first “monthly” newsletter. 

8.  Go to the band’s Myspace page, if you can remember how, just because it’s there and you’re obsessed now.   Find some other fans online to chat with about the band, because you’re starting to annoy your friends and co-workers.

9.  Go to Amazon.com and order your first mp3 player so you can buy the Enation albums at CD Baby that are only available as downloads. 

10.  Go back to the official Enation website, order an autographed Enation photo from the band’s store.  Feel a little bit of disappointment when the photo arrives because it doesn’t have Luke Galeotti’s autograph on it.  Then see it as an opportunity to get it autographed when you finally see the band perform live.  Print out a small photo of Luke, because you’ve downloaded hundreds of photos off the internet, then stick it on the band photo and pretend he’s in the picture.

11.  Start buying lottery tickets, and hold off planning your vacation until the band announces another set of tour dates.

12.  Wait patiently (or impatiently) for the next concert, the next CD, the next tee shirt, the next tweet, the next DVD, the next book of poetry, the next video, the next monthly(?) newsletter…because now you’re hooked.

Enation (click to see big and even bigger)



Filed under Actors, Music, Television, The Internet

Bookends (2)

There’s nothing like a bout of flu to help you catch up on your reading!  I read three interesting books in the last few days.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is a debut novel about a 68-year-old widower living in a small village in Essex, England.  His life is quiet and rather lonely until he becomes involved with the 58-year-old Pakistani widow who owns the village shop.   Feelings between them grow, but everything gets complicated by family obligations and duties, not to mention the bossy village ladies who rope both Major Pettigrew and Mrs Ali into helping with a disastrous country club dance.  I really enjoyed the dry humor and warm heart of this novel.  The climax seemed a little too much like a Bollywood melodrama, but I’m pretty sure it was deliberate.  I hope the author has another good one in the works.

Operation Mincemeat by Ben McIntyre is the true story of a top secret plot in 1943 that successfully misdirected the Nazis into believing that the Allies would invade Greece instead of Sicily.   British Intelligence took the corpse of an itinerant Welshman who died of phosphorus poisoning, dressed it as a British officer, attached a briefcase filled with false papers, and then had a submarine float the body onto a beach in Southern Spain.  They hoped the Spanish would leak the false papers to the Germans, leading them to believe an invasion of Greece was the next big Allied target.  This is not the first book published about Operation Mincemeat, but it’s the most complete story, since it incorporates official secrets which were only recently made public.  Parts of the story are very funny, others macabre, and it all makes for a fascinating read.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann is about the explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon in 1925 while searching for a lost civilization deep in the rainforest.  It’s one of those enduring mysteries of history, like Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, that has captured the imagination of generations.  Grann himself went into the Amazon to try to find out what happened to Fawcett.  His adventures are interwoven with the story of Fawcett’s expedition and subsequent rescue attempts over the years.  To tell you what Grann found, or didn’t find, would spoil the book,  so read it yourself!

Strange fact:  in three of the last five books I’ve read, howler monkeys are mentioned.  What’s the deal with howler monkeys?  Why are howler monkeys suddenly so popular?

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Octogenarian Teenage Sleuths

Nancy Drew turned 80 years old this week.  I have a worn collection of the blue cover mysteries on my shelf and a whole bunch of memories to go with them.

I started reading Nancy Drew mysteries the summer I was eight.  My family was going through a very difficult time, so escaping into a good book wasn’t just fun, it was a way of surviving.  I didn’t so much read the books as devour them.  I was borrowing them from a neighbor, but it wasn’t long before I finished her collection and had to search for more.  It was tough for a kid in the 1970s, without Amazon and with only a couple of used bookstores within walking distance.  The public library didn’t have Nancy Drew mysteries, probably because the librarians always thought they were rubbish. 

Nancy Drew mystery cover

One of my Nancy Drew books

I still managed to collect many copies of Nancy Drew.  Even as a kid I felt the older blue cover editions were the only ones worth keeping.  (Today the books themselves aren’t worth nearly as much as the dustcovers.  Naturally I own none of these.)  I was constantly selling off my newer yellow cover versions so I could buy other titles, but I always saved the old ones.  The differences were significant.  The original books were longer, with more quirky details and character development.  Some of those details became dated and charming, like Nancy’s roadster, but the publishers obviously wanted to keep Nancy Drew modern for later generations of readers.   

The feminist in me is embarrassed to admit that as soon as I discovered The Hardy Boys, I abandoned Nancy.  I preferred the boys’ rough and tumble adventures, and I adored it when one or both brothers got knocked out by the bad guys.  To this day, I don’t know what was so appealing about unconsciousness.  The best variation happened in The Crisscross Shadow; Frank and Joe both got knocked out with lacrosse sticks.  Brilliant!

I collected and saved the oldest versions of The Hardy Boys, published first in 1927, keeping the brown textured covers and dumping the newer blue covers.  My favorite old version is The Great Airport Mystery, when Frank and Joe actually graduate from high school!  It was obviously a mistake, and right away they matriculated backwards.  The mystery begins with this conversation between Frank and Joe:

Hardy Boys cover

My favorite Hardy Boys mystery

“I wish we could go up in an airplane some time.”

“Wouldn’t you be scared?”

“Me?  Would you?”


“Then I wouldn’t be scared either.  Look at the record holders!  Where would they be now if they’d been afraid to go up in an airplane?”

“That’s right,” said Frank.  “Airplanes are pretty safe nowadays.  Almost as safe as this car of ours.”

No discussion of Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and the 1970s is complete without mentioning the television series with Pamela Sue Martin, Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson.  Oh, it was dreadful!  I watched every painful episode, and like most girls my age I thought the boys were cute.  I recognized that the show had traded the vintage charm of the books for feathered hair, tight pants and satin jackets.   The 1950s serial version on The Mickey Mouse Club was much more successful.  It starred Tommy Kirk and Tim Considine, and happily this is now available on DVD. 

The problem behind all attempts to dramatize the mysteries, both Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, is whether to leave them in the 1930s or bring them forward to modern times.  This was cleverly addressed in the recent Nancy Drew movie with Emma Roberts.  All the other kids are completely modern, but Nancy is deliberately old-fashioned.  It sounds stupid, but it works.

In the 1980s a new series of books was issued, called The Hardy Boys Casefiles.  I tried to read #1-Dead on Target.  In the first chapter, Iola Morton (Joe’s girlfriend) gets blown up by a car bomb.  I was horrified and returned to my classics.

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Filed under Literature, Television