hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for June, 2015

My First WP Post Anniversary

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 20, 2015

Today is my fourth anniversary of my first WordPress blog post! Yay! I migrated over from Xanga to WordPress, a little unsure of things, but eventually found my way around and the rest is history. I’m going to post my first post from June 20, 2011. It’s short.

 

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Hello world!

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 20, 2011

Hi there! My name is Scott Holstad. I’ve been blogging on Xanga since February 2004, and while I am still there, I have decided to try a new, different blog over here on WordPress.

Let’s see … what should I say about myself? I was born in Boston and have lived in several states and two countries. I have moved roughly 26 times. My favorite place I have lived has been Los Angeles. I’m now living in the Chattanooga TN area. (I moved up here from an island I was living on. By the beach. Across the street from the bar I frequented every night. Sweet living. Good times….)

I’m a professional student and teacher. Thirteen years of college at six academic institutions, resulting in three (underused) degrees. Taught at three academic institutions.

More importantly, I’m a professional writer and editor, with decades of experience to my credit. I have experience in the newspaper, magazine (print and online), and book publishing industries. While I have authored 15 published poetry collections over the years, I have generally supported myself through technical writing and editing, project and program management, and consulting.

I am currently serving as the poetry editor for Ray’s Road Review, an excellent online literary journal founded by a fantastic fiction writer named Chris Duncan. He is also serving as the fiction editor. Please stop by the site and read. If inspired to do so, submit as well. We’re eager and open to submissions.

I guess that’s enough for now. If anyone stumbles across my new blog and wants to say hi, please leave some comment telling me about yourself. It’d be greatly appreciated. Cheers!

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There! That was it. Not very impressive, was it? Still, my first effort. My first effort on Xanga back in 2004 was even worse. My next effort was better. I might reprint that in another day or so. Thanks for reading.

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A Review of Nothing’ to Lose: The Making of KISS

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 17, 2015

Nothin' to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975)Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS by Ken Sharp

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, this was a fascinating book! It’s a behind the scenes look at the creation of KISS and their rise to fame, circa 1972-1975. It’s co-authored by two band members, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, so you see a lot more of their viewpoints than others, but they have good stuff to share, so it works out. It’s interestingly presented in that it’s 99% interviews. The primary author, Ken Sharp, sets up a chapter or section with a brief paragraph and then there is page after page of interviews with band members, managers, record company owners and employees, producers, DJs, fans, concert attendees, and other bands, some of whom liked KISS and some of whom hated them. Very interesting.

KISS got its start in Queens with Gene and Paul wanting to start a band. They found Peter Criss, their drummer, through a newspaper/magazine ad, and I think they found Ace by guitarists trying out and him standing out to them. The band started out named Wicked Lester and they only played at the Coventry. Apparently, in the early ’70s, there were only three clubs in all of NYC that would take bands playing original music — all of the rest wanted covers. KISS wasn’t about covers. KISS was about heavy metal partying. They were about girls and love and lust and life. Nothing subtle. Nothing to think about. Not your thinking man’s band. But they played the hell out of the Coventry. Then they got a gig at a club in Amnityville, out on Long Island. Yep, that Amnityville. And by this time, they were wearing early versions of their makeup, although Paul was just wearing red lipstick and rouge. (Even after reading this book, it still isn’t clear to me who came up with the kubuki makeup thing. It happened early. It was obviously a gimmick. I just don’t know.) Glam was popular at the time, and KISS wanted to out-glam all of them. They found a manager and then started doing gigs at an old hotel in NYC, a place where other decent bands had played, but was run down. By then, several people had heard of them and were started to come see their shows. Their manager sent them on the road. To tiny little places no one’s ever heard of to play at places like high school cafeterias and barns. I’m not kidding. And they went all out, pretending they were at Madison Square Garden every time. They thought they owed it to the audience and they were trying to build an audience one person at a time. They went on a three city Canadian tour and froze their pants off. Again, they played in odd places. They were glad to get home.

A fellow came into their lives named Neil Bogart, who was a record company owner. He loved KISS and could envision big things for them, so he started a new company called Casablanca, aligned it with Warner, and signed KISS. KISS made a record. The record didn’t sell. They continued to tour. They opened for just about anyone. They opened for folk artists. They opened for comedians. They opened for Manfred Mann, who hated them. They opened for ZZ Top. They opened for Slade. They opened for Black Oak Arkansas, which was a strange combo. They hated each other. They opened for Black Sabbath. Sabbath hated them and dropped them from the tour midway through. Still, they soldiered on.

By this time, their show had gotten big. They had their makeup and costumes. Gene was breathing fire and spitting blood. They had huge amps and could blow the sound of just about anyone off the stage. They had drums on risers. It was pretty professional, especially for an opening act. It got to the point where not many bands wanted KISS to open for them cause they were concerned about being upstaged.

A side note. The band were not partiers. Gene and Paul didn’t drink or do drugs. Ace drank a lot, but kept to himself. Peter enjoyed the girls. They all enjoyed the girls, actually. The rumors about the groupies are apparently true. Lines and lines of girls waiting to be let into the hotel rooms of these guys just for a quickie. Bizarre. I’ve never understood groupies. Still, they didn’t trash hotel rooms or do crazy things like Zeppelin did and other bands.

A second album came out. Sold about the same amount as the first. Not much. They couldn’t get radio airplay. They weren’t a singles band. They also couldn’t get press. Rolling Stone detested them. About the only magazine to cover them was Creem, based in Detroit, the city KISS made their home. They considered themselves to be a blue collar rock and roll band playing gritty, real life stuff and they thought they would appeal to blue collar workers who had shitty jobs who would like to bang heads for a few hours. And they were right.

Sometime along the way, Neil cut ties with Warner because he didn’t think they were promoting KISS sufficiently, so he took a big gamble and mortgaged his house and maxed out his credit cards. KISS was losing money like crazy. Still, everyone thought they’d make it. Big. It was just a matter of time. There were more and more fans. The shows were getting sold out. You’d see t-shirts and posters. People would call up radio stations and ask for KISS.

Third album — Dressed to Kill. Had “Rock and Roll All Nite” on it. Didn’t chart. They couldn’t buy radio airtime. It did sell better than the first two albums, but not enough to generate enough money so that they’d go into the black. What to do?

Someone came up with the idea to capture the intensity of their live shows on an album, because they just didn’t think it was happening with the albums they had put out so far. So Alive was born. It was a double live album and had a great cover shot of the band and it sold — in the millions! And “Rock and Roll All Nite” (live) made the top 20. All of a sudden, they were international stars. Someone in middle America, a schoolboy, decided to start the KISS Army, to which I belonged as a kid, and it grew to become huge. All of a sudden, they were headliners. Pre-Steve Perry Journey opened for them. Rush opened for them. Rush and KISS came out about the same time, KISS perhaps a year or two earlier, so they could each relate to how things were going for each other. KISS loved Rush and Rush loved KISS. They had nothing but great things to say about each other in this book. Some kids at a high school in the midwest wrote KISS to ask if they’d come to their homecoming and they did! The whole town came out for it. Everyone dressed as a KISS member, babies and old people. The mayor gave them the key to the city. This, after the local clergy had taken him to task for allowing them to come to town. Hah! It was fun to read about.

One of the great things about this book is all of the pictures. There are hundreds of pictures of KISS, of liner notes, scrawled lyrics, fliers from early shows, etc. Real collector item stuff. The reason I’m giving this book four stars instead of five, however, is the incredible redundancy. The author would raise an issue, there would be an interview quote about it and then something like 10-15 more just like it. It’s like he was beating you over the head with it. It really ticked me off. Just give us a few. Some of these interview quotes were completely unnecessary. Did he have a page count he had to make? It just went on and on. The book gets a five for the photos and a three for the redundancy and a four plus for the story, so a solid four overall. Recommended.

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A Review of On Basilisk Station

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 14, 2015

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1)On Basilisk Station by David Weber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Flawed, but entertaining.

Honor Harrington, newly-promoted Captain in the Queen’s Royal Manticoran Navy, has taken command of her first space cruiser, Fearless, and she is elated. She’s worked for this moment for years. Unfortunately, an enemy has seen to it that she and her ship is deployed to Basilisk Station and its planet, Medusa, a low-status assignment that basically entails acting as customs agents. Morale is low. Morale creeps lower when the higher ranking officer in the system, Admiral Young, takes his ship home for refitting, leaving Honor and her ship alone to police the entire system with their light cruiser that has been retrofitted and had armaments taken from it. The worst part is the neighboring system of Haven is planning on invading Manticore and taking over Medusa by way of the wormhole junction terminus at Basilisk Station. It’s enough to make one pull one’s hair out!

This is a pretty good sci fi novel. There are aliens, on Medusa, fights between spaceships, political goings on, battles between Marines and aliens, spies, plots, etc. Through it all, Honor keeps her cool and does everything perfectly. And that’s one of my problems with the book. She’s too perfect. One could not be any more perfect than she is. She knows the exact right things to say at the exact right times and the exact right things to do at the exact right times and she toys with the lives of her crew, which costs the lives of over 100 of her crew members, by playing guessing games with a Haven warship captain, assuming he’ll do this and do that, which of course he does. And so she defeats him, at great cost to herself and her crew. She has a temper too, but only once does she display it and it’s in private, after her parents have been threatened by the richest tyrant in the system. Another thing that bugged me about this novel was her exec. He resented Honor, but Weber beat this to freakin’ death! They didn’t develop the right relationship. There wasn’t mutual trust. He wasn’t working with her. What was wrong with him? Why didn’t he meet her halfway? OMG. Over and over again. I wanted to kill the guy, or Honor, or both. And you knew he would come around and they would become best buds, which is exactly what happened halfway through the book. Duh! Weber, come on! And then there were the long, drawn out discussions of technical details, which I could have done without, and so could tons of other people if you go by the other reviews out there. One occurred during a tense action scene. An eight page discussion of FTL travel interrupted this action sequence at the most inopportune time and you just have to wonder what the hell the author was thinking when he wrote that. Oh well.

Even with all of my bitching, I enjoyed the book. There was a lot of mystery, a lot of intrigue, a lot of action, and it was nice to see a primary female SF protagonist who was in command because of her brains, not because she was hot. The inner monologue was sometimes overlong, but it was also good to see Honor step through her options as she thought through things. And of course, she saved Manticore from Haven and was rewarded for it, so that was a nice ending. This is the first book in a series and I’ll probably read more. I have one other book in it, although it’s not the next one. I’d like to read the next one next, so maybe I’ll just go ahead and get that. If you like good, entertaining sci fi, I’d say I’d have to recommend this one.

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A Review of Alistair MacLean’s Death Train

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 13, 2015

Alistair MacLean's Death TrainAlistair MacLean’s Death Train by Alastair MacNeill

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Bad. Stupid. Dumb. Poorly conceived and poorly written. It started off rather clumsily, but I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and continue. And at times I was glad I did. At other times, I wanted to chew my own head off. I can’t believe I finished this trash. Alistair MacLean was a master. Alastair MacNeill is an imbecile. I don’t know how much of the book MacLean had written at the time of his death, but I’m willing to bet MacNeill wrote about 95%+ of this. MacLean couldn’t possibly have written such junk.

It’s a new world calling for new types of security, a type involving world cooperation. Thus, UNACO is born. The United Nations Anti-Crime Agency is known only at the top levels of the United Nations and has unlimited powers and funding and it pulls in its agents from the top intelligence agencies around the world.

Enter George, Sabrina, and CW. These are our heroes. They’re sent to Europe to look for six kegs allegedly containing weapons grade plutonium on a train. They’re to find the kegs, and find out who’s behind this nefarious plot. CW goes to Germany where it seems the plutonium originated from. He poses as a journalist and is met by the PR director of a big nuclear plant who is, of course, hot and who blows his cover on day one. But oh no — she’s trapped and in trouble and her office is bugged! She needs saving. Someone follows them and attacks her. Someone is after CW. What will happen?

Meanwhile Sabrina and George get on the train. George is a gruff asshole who hates Sabrina because she’s a rich, hottie princess who, he thinks, got the job through her father. However, she’s the best shot in UNACO and that’s how she got the job, and she’s a sweetie who we all fall in love with. Sickened yet? On the train, George meets someone who has constructed a game that he agrees to play. It involves putting your hand in constraints that contain electrical voltage and putting your hand on the board, the voltage increases and the first person to move their hand away loses. How stupid is that? So Sabrina sees an old ex of hers who’s a world renown billionaire on the train with some losers and starts talking to them. One of the losers is an assassin and tells this rich guy that this was the woman who killed one of his henchmen earlier. So they plan to snatch her. And they do. And she gets arrested and thrown into a Swiss jail, where she’s booked on a murder charge. And UNACO gets her off and puts her on the train again, via helicopter. George has been joined by a Russian KGB agent working for UNACO dressed as a priest and soon they’re joined by Sabrina, who’s dressed as a nun. Forgive me if my memory falters, but I think George and Sabrina are captured once again and escape once again and are put on the train once again. But I could be wrong.

Meanwhile, CW is making headway in Germany. The head of product testing is trying to kill him and CW confronts him and he’s taken into custody. Pleased that things are working out so well there, he’s prepared to leave to go back to NYC when he gets a frantic call from the PR lady with a man telling him to go to the nuclear plant immediately, so he does. When he gets there, he’s disarmed and taken to a place in the plant with a large pool of water, where he’s taken up a ladder onto a catwalk. Only to be met by the PR woman with his gun pointed at him. Huge.Shock. Never saw that coming. Yeah. He kills her. Spoiler, sorry.

The train makes it to Italy, but the car carrying the kegs is missing and so are the bad guys. Turns out they’re headed for Libya, by way of another African country. George and Sabrina take off, Berretas in hand. This author really should be a salesman for Berreta. They’re taken to the rich guy’s plant by helicopter, disable a guard, go in a warehouse and see the bad guys. They’ve been instructed to assassinate them. As Sabrina gets ready to go for the kill shot, she hears something and discovers it’s a rat. So the poor, stupid, pathetic girl shrieks and falls to the floor, dropping her gun, resulting in the bad guys shooting at them and capturing them once again. *shakes head* So they’re going to be killed, right? How? George is going to put his hand back in that game and play a death match with one of their men, who has never lost. So how will Sabrina die? We’re never told. While George is struggling with his pain, Sabrina is cutting her bonds loose with broken glass and then frees George. A guard comes back and announces he’s to kill them and George twists his neck and kills him. Just like that. Easy as pie. And so the chase continues. The rich guy has the detonator for the plutonium. He presses it as they’re killing him, spoiler — sorry — and nothing happens. All the bad guys get killed, the good guys win, they go back to NYC to celebrate, George asks Sabrina out on a date and the KGB chief in charge of all of this is placed under arrest, but apparently chooses to kill himself first. Book over.

There are so many stereotypes. And so many foreshadowed moments you just see coming. And so little character development. And such a stupid plot. And UNACO is all powerful. Must be nice, right? This will undoubtedly be the only Alastair MacNeill book I read. Definitely not recommended.

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A Review of Ambient

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 7, 2015

AmbientAmbient by Jack Womack

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant! Ambient is a 1987 (publication date) update of A Clockwork Orange with some additional ultraviolence and a new language thrown in. The author even pays tribute to A Clockwork Orange early in the book.

In this book, we follow O’Malley, a bodyguard for a dysfunctional CEO of a major company in a 21st century dystopian New York City. Avalon is Mister Dryden, his boss’s, mistress/concubine. She’s very young and very hot and has a thing for wigs. And O’Malley is in love with her.

O’Malley has another side to him. His sister is an “ambient,” or a genetically modified mutant living amongst each other who have their own language-within-a-language and who tend to be pretty violent. But hey, everyone in this book is violent. Rapes, muggings, murders, etc., are commonly seen and passed on by. O’Malley lives with Enid, his sister, in a run down nightmare of a place where no sane non-ambient would go. He’s accepted there because of her. Oh, and in addition to naturally occurring mutants, there are those who wish to join them and become ambients. Enid is one of these. She’s 6’3″ tall and has spikes sticking out of her head, pointed sides out. She’s also had her breasts cut off. She has a girlfriend who’s a psychopathic midget. Normal, right?

The army is fighting another army on Long Island and boys are being chewed up left and right. It’s your duty to serve, unless you can get a sweet gig like O’Malley has. The army boys are always shooting at people, into crowds, on buses and trains, raping girls in the streets — they’re insane.

Meanwhile, Mister Dryden’s father, who worships Elvis, owns the corporation and seems to be wanting to re-take control of what he’s given his son. He views his son as unstable. His son views him as unstable. Something’s got to give, right? Well, Mister Dryden convinces O’Malley to put a bomb under his father’s desk next time they’re visiting his estate, so he does. And he and Avalon finally hook up. Mister Dryden tells O’Malley he’ll have to get out of the country for awhile until the coast is clear, so he makes plans to do so. He and Avalon decide to go together, so after the bomb is set, they take off. And encounter some problems. People are out to get them. But why? Turns out Avalon knew about the plan, knew where the bomb was and went into the office and changed the time for it to go off when both Mister Dryden AND his father would be in there. However, they don’t know if it went off, or if it did, if the men were in there. So, they don’t know if there’s a manhunt on for them or not. And apparently there is.

O’Malley takes Avalon to his place in the Ambient part of town to hide out. The next morning, there’s a car outside, waiting. So they take off. And a chase ensues. They wind up down in the subway tunnels and come across a religious service the ambients are having, who do not like being interrupted. Just as they’re about to be killed, Enid intervenes and saves their hides. She and her girlfriend then take them through the sewers to a safe house. Tired, they fall asleep. When O’Malley wakes, he finds Avalon gone with a left for him note saying, “You’re next.” He’s both frightened and livid. He figures Mister Dryden has done it, so he goes after him. Then he goes after his father. He’s introduced to Alice, a monster computer that knows just about everything and is reunited with Avalon, who appears to have betrayed him to Mister Dryden’s father. He can’t believe it. And then … what? Do you actually think I’m going to tell you the ending? No way! It’s a great book and you’ll have to get it and read it and find out for yourself what happens. Apparently, this book is part of a series, perhaps the first one. If so, I want the others. It’s kind of cyberpunk, but not really. It’s kind of sci fi, but more just dystopian, so if you want to classify that as sci fi, have at it. It was a hard book to read because of all of the violence, and I’ve seen and read more than my fair share. At some times, it felt like a nightmare. I was honestly glad when it was over and I had finished. But I loved it. It was really original and really awesome. The characters were great, the plot was great, the dialogue was insane. Good stuff. Five stars. Strongly recommended, if you can stomach it.

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Barry Manilow Concert

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 5, 2015

Last night, we went to Atlanta to see Barry Manilow in concert. Yeah, not someone I would normally see, but my wife’s a lifelong fan and has never seen him, so I got her tickets for Christmas. It’s been agonizing waiting a half year to see him, but she said it was worth it.

We somehow made it through the crazy Atlanta traffic to the Gwinnett Center, where we saw The Who (another Christmas present) two months ago. We waited and let everyone else go in before entering. We went to the bathroom and bought drinks and then stood in line so Gretchen could get a tour t-shirt. And stood in line. And stood in line. It was horrible. Finally she got her t-shirt, put it on immediately, and we found our seats. I was a little nervous about how the seats would be. I got us great seats for The Who, but even though I tried to get pre-sale tickets for this show the minute they went on sale, I couldn’t get good seats and had to settle. So we were pleasantly surprised when we found we were in section 106, row AA. That meant we were against the wall on the bottom level. No one behind us to kick us in the back and spill stuff on us. And a walk way in front of us so we could stretch out our legs. And it was raised, so our sight line was awesome. It was a little higher than I would have preferred, but considering what I thought we would be getting, these were pretty awesome.

Let me tell you — I’ve never seen so many old people at a concert in my life before! It was hilarious. People in wheelchairs, using walkers and canes. White hair, if any at all. I felt young. In fairness, there were people of all ages there, but it was mostly an older crowd, and no surprise here, mostly a female crowd. Still, there were a lot of husbands there with their wives, so I didn’t feel like I stuck out too much.

The opener was a smooth jazz musician named Dave Koz. I’m not a big fan of smooth jazz, but he had a lot of energy and seemed pretty excited to be there, and he did a fine job, so it wasn’t too bad.

Then Barry came on. The crowd went apeshit nuts! I’ve never seen such a crowd so crazed over a performer before. I was wondering when the bras and panties were going to be flung up onto the stage. It was crazy. Everyone had glow sticks, which they had handed out, and they were waving everywhere. Gretchen was the first one standing, waving her glow sticks, cheering, singing, and dancing. She had a ball! That made me very happy. I didn’t know that many of the songs, but it was enjoyable. He was quite the showman. Really knows how to charm an audience. Seemed really authentic too. The crowd went nuts when he sang “Mandy.” Other songs were equally appreciated.

I guess due to the older nature of the audience members, the show ended fairly early (it started early), and we made it back to our hotel in good time. We went to a nearby tavern for a nightcap and so that Gretchen could calm down. She was psyched.  She’s wearing her concert t-shirt again today. Heh. Will probably be wearing it for a week. So, we’re back from Atlanta now, having braved the damn traffic once more and we’re happy to be home. We missed the kitties. But we had a good time and Gretchen was very happy and those are the things that count. Some pics:

 

Us, waiting to get into the Barry Manilow concert

Us, waiting to get into the Barry Manilow concert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gretchen in her new Manilow concert tour t-shirt

Gretchen in her new Manilow concert tour t-shirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arena glow sticks

Arena glow sticks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lights

Lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow

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