Housekeeping

It’s past time to do a little bit of housekeeping for the blog, so hopefully I’ll get most of that settled with post.

So the first thing obviously has been my lack of an online presence.  I’ve said before that it’s for two reasons, the first is that I’m still reading The Wheel of Time (as of writing this I have about 100 pages left in book 13, I’ll probably start book 14 this weekend).  These are all huge books, and they’re taking me a while to get through.  The second is because I still haven’t made myself find some time to fit my blog into my now much busier schedule.  I’m almost done with The Wheel of Time, and I think I’m going to start reading some smaller books after reading the most massive book series I’ve ever seen.  And for the second, I’ll just have to make more time, maybe I’ll start setting up a schedule to blog on certain days every week.  I’ve enjoyed all of the conversations that have come from blogging, and I’m definitely going to continue it.

And now for the second item of housekeeping, today is the 2 year anniversary of my blog.  Yep, two years ago today I started my blog with a review of Peter V. Brett’s book The Warded Man.  From those humble beginnings of having one review up, my blog has gone on strong with reviews for somewhere around 180-190 books, along with another 150ish posts about whatever I felt like rambling on about on that given day.

liebster-award2So what am I going to do to celebrate my two year blogiversary?  (Is that even a word?  It should be.)  I’m going to answer a series of questions posed to me by Terri over at Starlight Book Reviews.  Why those questions specifically, because Terri gave me the Liebster Award.  So without any further ado, here we go with the questions.

(Also, I’m going against the rules of the Liebster award, mostly because at the moment I don’t have time to go through and search for 11 other blogs, if you’re looking for more blogs to read I highly suggest any of the blogs listed in my links on the left hand sidebar, as well as any of the fine commenters who have stopped by my blog in the past.)

  • 1. Describe a piece of art that moved you. – It depends largely upon what you specifically mean by a piece of art?  Are we talking about only visual art?  Or are we including all art forms?  I’m going to assume that we’re including all art forms.  So for my piece of art that moved me, I’m going to talk about the movie The Shawshank Redemption.  This is easily my favorite movie and I consider it to be the best movie ever made.  It’s moving in large part because it takes it’s time.  You feel like you really know the characters, and then when something happens to them it feels like it’s happening to a friend.  The first time I watched the movie I cried like a baby in the middle of the movie with Brooks (not spoiling what happened) and then again at the end of the movie.  In every way it’s a perfect movie, and I’ve watched it at least 10 times and it’s always perfect.
  • 2. What is your favorite book? – Favorite book is a hard question, for one because how do you measure it?  If you’re looking about just how good a book is, I’ve given a 10/10 to about 20 of the books that I’ve read while I’ve had my blog.  I’m going to slightly sidestep this question and simply say that my two favorite book series are the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, and The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and finished by Brandon Sanderson).  They’re both wonderful series that I’ve read multiple times and will read again in the future.
  • 3. Why do you blog? – I started to blog because I wanted to have a place to talk about the books that I read.  It’s kind of hard to find people who live around me who read a lot and who also like the same kinds of books that I like.  Starting this blog has given me an opportunity to find many of those people as well as meet a lot of other interesting people with different interests.
  • 4. Do you have one best friend or a “tier” of best friends?  How did you meet them? – I would say I have a group of best friends, and the way I met all of them is simple, I met them through bowling. Prior to bowling with them on leagues, I didn’t know any of my teammates from the 4 leagues that I bowl on, or the people that I’m traveling down to the USBC National tournament in Reno with.  Now I consider them all to be very good friends.
  • 5. Who is your favorite band or musical artist and why? – Probably Barenaked Ladies.  I like them for several reasons.  For one, they’re very skilled musicians.  I don’t care for bands who have to go through so much post-production to get them to sound good that when you hear a live performance of them it doesn’t even sound like the same song.  Secondly, they have a wide variety of music so it doesn’t sound like you’re listening to the same song every time you hear them.
  • 6. Where is “home” for you? – The obvious answer is where I live in Ohio.  But I’m going to come up with a different definition.  I’m going to define “home” as wherever you’re most comfortable.  And for me that’s anywhere that I can sit down with a good book and several hours to tear through a couple hundred pages.
  • 7. What’s your favorite movie? – Hmm, maybe I should have looked through the rest of the questions before I started writing out my answers.  Oh well, see question number 1 for the answer to this.  But since it’s a different question, I’ll just throw out a couple of my other favorite movies.  Pan’s Labyrinth is amazing, a wonderful story told in a unique way.  Mirrormask is a very original movie, well over 2/3 of the movie was made with a green screen and they had quite a few different people working on the different scenes, it’s a visual treat to watch.  I’m also going to throw out a few anime movies, Perfect Blue is a great psychological thriller, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is an amazing movie, Howl’s Moving Castle is another movie that I love as well.  So there you go, a few of the movies that I’ll watch any time I don’t have anything else to do.
  • 8. If you could go anywhere on vacation for a week, all expenses paid, where would you go and why? – Probably Rome, or just traveling across Europe in general.  I would love to see all of the ancient architecture, there’s just something special about many of the structures that the Greeks and Romans made and I’ve always been interested in ancient Greek and Roman culture.
  • 9. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? – This one I’m going to break into two parts, the first was when I stopped going to college after attending classes for 3 1/2 years.  My last semester before I stopped going I only took 2 classes which totaled 5 credit hours, I wasn’t even considered a part time student.  The only reason I took those two classes is because I was afraid that if I stopped completely I wouldn’t go back at all, but I had no idea what I wanted to study, so I was just wasting my time and money.  After that last semester I took a year and a half off from school, and here is the second part, going back to school.  It was very strange to go back back to school after taking that much time off.  Especially when I started back into freshman level courses.  Although she never directly mentioned it, I’m fairly certain that I was older than my Introduction to Psychology professor (she was a grad-student).  I’m not using my degree at the moment, but even without using it I’m glad that I took the time to go back and get it.
  • 10. Have you ever been in love? – Yes, I would say twice, unfortunately neither ended as well as I could have hoped for, some odd circumstances and many bad decisions by myself as well as my girlfriends.
  • 11.  How do you feel about “The Big Bang Theory”?  (The television show, not the origin theory of the universe) – I’m a nerd, but I’ve never watched the show.  I’ve heard a lot of people say that it’s a really funny show, but I’ve also heard several people say that the show is more laughing “at” the nerds as opposed to laughing “with” the nerds.  Parts of it sound interesting, but I’ve got too much other media that I have to go through before I could even start watching Big Bang Theory.

Some Changes and a Warning

When going through the list of blogs I follow, I came upon this post by Morgan over at The First Gates.  He relates the story of a blogger who was sued for use of an image on her blog.  This leads to a very big question and gets into some questionable copyright lingo.  The biggest question as it relates to this blog is what qualifies as fair use when posting an image to a blog?  The answer is tricky.

The basic ideas behind the fair use exemption to copyright law can be found here at Wikipedia.  The problem with this is that it’s very fuzzy as to what qualifies as fair use.  But the most troubling problem from what I’ve read is that there is no set standard for any particular type of media, each case can be looked at individually.

Here’s where that becomes a problem, and how it relates to this blog.  I post pictures of the covers for every book I review.  I’ve obtained all of these images by doing a simple Google search.  When I first started the blog, it was a fairly minor issue.  I only had a couple of reviews up, and very few images.  The problem now comes from the fact that I’ve got somewhere around 160 different book reviews up – all of them with images of the book attached to the post.

My very vague understanding of the copyright and fair use laws means that this could end up being a problem.  If you figure there are 160 book reviews, that amounts to quite a few different authors, artists, publishing companies, graphic designers, etc. who could possibly raise a fuss about the images being on my blog.  Now, my blog has a fairly small audience, and the thought of it getting notice from a major publisher and then being pursued by them beyond a simple DMCA notice and being asked to remove the image is admittedly quite small.  However, the odds of it occurring increase with each review that I post and each image that I attach to those reviews.

So what does that mean?  Well, for starters it means I’m going to go through and remove every image that I have attached to my blog at the moment.  I’ve received no warning about this, but the last thing I need is some new lawyer who just passed the Bar trying to win an easy case by going after my blog.  All of the content of my blog other than the pictures will remain unchanged as I spend the next several days going through my history and editing out the pictures.

One thing that I learned fairly early on in the creation of my blog is that posts look better with an image included.  It’s gives you something to look at as opposed to just staring at a wall of text, and displaces some of the monotony of constantly looking through a series of posts.  I’ll continue to try and include images, but in the future I’ll make sure that they’re all either in the public domain or they have a Creative Commons license that allows them to be shared.

I understand that the actions that I’m taking are a little extreme (just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you), and I’m not suggesting that everyone follow the same course of action.  I am however suggesting that you read Morgan’s post as well as those he links to and take what they say into consideration.  I know that personally I do this because I enjoy talking about the books that I read (or whatever else crosses my mind) and I like the interaction that I get with people through this blog.  However, the potential (however unlikely) legal and financial ramifications of this is something that I can’t overlook.  I’ll still be blogging, but as regards to using images in my posts I’ll be a lot more careful about what I use.

A Barenaked Appreciation

The vast majority of my posts on my blog have been about books.  That was really the central idea behind my even starting the blog a little over a year ago.  From time to time I have ventured into other categories ranging from video games to movies to my own goal of losing some weight over the summer.  One thing that I don’t think I’ve ever discussed on this blog is music, and that’s really kind of strange.

The main reason it’s kind of strange is because I was a music education major when I first went to college.  I got away from music because I realized that it wasn’t for me, at least not at the time that I was studying it.  I haven’t even played any instrument at all for a couple of years now, which is kind of sad some times, but I’ve replaced it with other things in my life (most notably bowling).

I listen to music all the time, my iPod is never far from me no matter where I am.  I also have a very eclectic taste when it comes to music.  There are some bands that are popular now that I like, but I really do prefer a lot of the music from the late 90’s and early 2000’s to the music that is coming out today (basically the music from when I was in high school).

So I’ve got a fairly long introduction to this post, and now I’m going to talk about part of the reason that I haven’t finished Hard Magic yet.  The first part is that I’ve been playing Final Fantasy X recently, but in playing it I’ve been doing a lot of the extra stuff that doesn’t cover the main storyline of the game.  So while I’m playing I’ve been listening to a lot of music from what I consider to be the most criminally under-appreciated band of the last 20 years: Barenaked Ladies.

Like a lot of people, I really first heard of them when their song One Week came out in the late 90’s.  It was the band’s single biggest hit in the US although they had been huge in Canada for years.  Their album Stunt was a fantastic cd, every song on it was a lot of fun and it really epitomizes what they really are as a band, a very talented group that plays a lot of fun songs.

Having been a musician for years, one thing that has bothered me for a long time is when bands use a lot of post-production to make their music sound good.  This is also why I don’t like listening to live recordings of bands, because they sound so poor compared to the quality of the song on the cd.  I’ve seen BNL live and they were great, they sound just as good live as they do on their cds.

Guitarist Ed Robertson showed exactly how talented they really are in a series of videos that he recorded and put up on youtube.  He went into the bathroom of his house and recorded a lot of his songs using just the camera and audio recording on his computer, and the songs still sound great.  If you go on youtube and search for The Bathroom Sessions you’ll find a long list of their songs being performed.  In quite a few of the comments people say that they like these acoustic recordings just as much as the album versions.  (I’m going to link to some of my favorites later in the post, but they’re all great and worth listening to.)

Another thing that you see from watching the Bathroom Sessions is just how good of a guitar player Ed is.  When most people think of great guitar players they’re going to bring up John Petrucci (of Dream Theater fame), Alex Lifeson (Rush), or others such as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani (who are part of G3, a concert tour featuring great guitarists).  While all of those players are incredibly skilled, I find it too hard to focus on what they’re playing half the time simply because they’re playing far too fast.  Ed Robertson on the other hand has a very unique style that is in many ways just as difficult as guitar players who ‘shred’ all the time but much easier to listen to for an extended time.  Again, watching the Bathroom Sessions shows just how skilled he really is.

The last thing I’m going to bring up about BNL right now is a video for their song Every Subway Car off their newest album All In Good Time.  When I first purchased the album I listened through all of the songs, and Every Subway Car was not one of the songs that really stood out to me as being one of the better tracks.  A couple of days ago I watched the music video for it (once again on youtube) and I was blown away.  Obviously music videos are still a big deal (although I don’t know where you can actually watch them other than online anymore) and this is one of my favorites that I’ve ever seen.

In a lot of music videos, they try to tell a simple story through the 4 minutes or so that the video takes.  In the video for Every Subway Car they took it to a level that I haven’t seen done in recent years.  The song is decent by itself, but the video shows you exactly what they are talking about in the song, and it’s wonderful.  I won’t say exactly what the song is about, but the video for it works perfectly.

So there is my longish rambling about a band that I love.  In a world where so much of the music sounds exactly the same, they really have a very unique sound and are a lot of fun to listen to.  If you haven’t listened to much of their music, hopefully you’ll check some of it out now.  And if you haven’t listened to them for a while, they’re still awesome.

I’ve got a variety of songs up there.  One Week is obviously their biggest US hit and probably the most recognizable.  He Makes Me Want Her Again and For You are just beautiful songs.  Easy is a good look at Ed’s unique style of guitar playing on a song that he even admits is hard to play.  Some Fantastic and Falling For The First Time really do a good job of showing the energy and fun that they bring to a lot of their songs.  And then of course the video for Every Subway Car that I talked about in my post.