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Athena Scalzi

A Look At Loki: Episodes 1-3

It’s been almost a decade since The Avengers (2012) came out, and since that fateful day little thirteen year old me saw it in theaters, Loki has been my favorite Marvel character. Now, Marvel has finally put out a show all about the god of mischief himself, and I am so amped.

Before we continue, I must give you your OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING. Got it? Okay, good.

I had no idea what to expect from this show. I didn’t know what it would be about, what it would entail, or which characters would be involved. So when I found out that the entire premise is time travel-related, my excitement for the show plummeted. If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s that I hate time travel, especially in regards to Marvel and DC. I also hate multiverses! So, yeah, bit of a bummer that the entire premise revolves around a time-authority-organization that uses time travel to prevent multiverses from happening.

However, I stuck it out, because my love for Loki knows no bounds. And honestly, I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far! Despite not liking the premise and the idea of The Timekeepers as a whole, the characters, humor, cinematography, choreography of fight scenes, and use of color are so fun and engaging.

Loki is a fantastic character as is, but what’s special about him in Loki is that it seems like the writers are finally writing him for the audience he has rather than the audience he was initially aimed at. What do I mean by this? It feels to me like the Loki from The Avengers was someone written for edgy teenage boys, sort of like a Joker-type character that makes you “really think about society.” The Loki that is portrayed in Loki is more like a fun, chaotic, and sometimes downright silly ball of mischief and charm. He’s written more for the villain-loving Millennial girls who wrote fanfiction on Wattpad in their youth (definitely NOT speaking from experience).

Everyone knows the only thing better than one Loki is two Lokis! However, Sylvie is honestly pretty different from Loki, and seeing a new take on a character that’s been around for the past decade is super interesting. Watching her and Loki interact is also really neat; seeing them trying to outsmart each other, out-fight each other, be more “Loki” than the other. The interestingness of their dynamic only grows when they actually start to get along and learn more about each other. Watching them open up to one another and getting more of Loki’s backstory, about how his mother used to make fireworks over the water, seeing Loki sing, and Loki being confirmed as the beautiful bi boy he is was so awesome.

And then we have Mobius. Mobius is interesting because he kept wanting to give Loki chances when no one else would. He saved Loki from being reset, and continued to vouch for him even after Loki did a bunch of stuff wrong, like stalling the mission in the 1980s. Why would he keep sticking his neck out for Loki, someone who is notorious for lying and stabbing people in the back? Sure, Loki proves useful now and again, like how he discovered that the variant was hiding in catastrophes. But is his cleverness enough of a reason to keep him around for all the trouble he causes?

I think Mobius sees in Loki what no other character does. He isn’t really a villain. Mobius knew that Loki didn’t actually like hurting people, that Loki has a heart underneath all that mischief and trickiness. Sure, he’s a bit of a bastard most of the time, and he’s done some bad stuff (okay, a lot of bad stuff), but he isn’t truly evil.

His biggest issue throughout the Marvel movies is that he believes he is “burdened with glorious purpose”. But Loki knocks him off his high horse in the very first episode. Once Loki sees his death, he realizes the whole “glorious purpose” thing was ridiculous, and reassesses his goals and decisions. I think seeing his own death fundamentally changed him as a whole. I also think that Loki seeing all the Infinity Stones at the TVA gave him perspective and made him realize that the TVA is no joke, and there are bigger things in this universe than him and his plans.

Aside from Loki himself, the show has great humor. It’s very reminiscent of Thor: Ragnarok. In my opinion, Thor: Ragnarok, while funny, has a bit too much bathos in it, but Loki hasn’t seem to run into that problem yet. Loki has always been a funny character, or at least witty, but what really makes Loki funny in Loki is his reaction to situations rather than any intention to actually be clever or witty.

The first three episodes were a bit slow, if we’re being honest, but I have high hopes for the rest of the series now that they’ve got the info-dumping and premise-set-up out of the way. This line of thinking is supported by the fact that episode three was definitely the best yet. Plus, there’s nothing like a catastrophic-world-ending cliffhanger to keep you watching!

Other than that, I don’t have a whole lot to say about the show since it’s only the first three episodes, but I can’t wait to see what direction they decide to take the show in. I’ve really been enjoying it so far! If Marvel kills Loki ONE MORE TIME I SWEAR-

Anyways, are you a fan of Loki? What do you think of the show so far? Do you think Loki will eventually be able to meet The Timekeepers? Do you think Sylvie is the new and improved version of Loki or can nothing beat the original? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

-AMS

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Charlie: A Bad Good Dog or a Good Bad Dog

This tweet explains why.

Upon examination the wallet was old, torn and empty, suggesting it had been abandoned to the trash or that the neighbors gave it to their own dog as a chew toy, but still. It was a bit of a shock to see Charlie wander up onto the deck with a wallet.

For the record the wallet has been returned to the neighbors, along with a rubber carrot that Charlie pilfered earlier this morning. Fortunately our neighbors like Charlie and seem unlikely to press charges. Also, on our last dog toy purchasing spree, we bought some toys for Buckley (the neighbor dog) as compensation for the toys Charlie has “borrowed” and shredded. We pay for her criminality, is what I’m saying.

— JS

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Athena Scalzi

TokyoTreat July Box Review

Welcome, everyone, to a special edition of me trying Japanese snacks! As you might have been able to tell from the title, I’m not trying a Sakuraco box today (like I did in my last four snack box posts), but a TokyoTreat one instead! The nice people at Sakuraco reached out to me after my latest Sakuraco post and said they would love to send me a TokyoTreat box in exchange for an honest review on this blog.

So, just to make that clear for everyone, I was gifted this TokyoTreat box in exchange for a post. Of course, this in no way affects how I’m going to write about the box. I will still be a hundred percent honest in my thoughts about the box and the snacks inside.

Now that that’s cleared up, let me tell you a little bit about TokyoTreat if you don’t already know what it is.

TokyoTreat is a subscription box that is chock-full of popular Japanese snacks, candies, and features Japanese exclusive flavors of popular brands like Pocky, Kit-Kat, and Hi-Chew. Not only do they have a wide variety of snacks and sweets, but drinks as well!

It’s important to note that you only get the drink with the Premium Box. The Premium Box also has five more snacks in it than the Classic Box does. I am grateful to have been sent the Premium Box so I could try everything, including the drink!

I would also like to talk a bit about how this box is different from the Sakuraco boxes. The Sakuraco boxes feature more authentic style Japanese tea time goods and snacks, and always include a home good item, like a plate or bowl. The TokyoTreat boxes are more geared towards popular, trendy snacks and pop culture, and include fun things like special anime snacks or party packs of snacks that you can share with your friends (or enjoy all by yourself because you deserve it!). Both are fun in their own way, it’s more just a question if you prefer fun and whacky popular snacks, or more traditional and unique types of flavors.

With all that being said, let’s get into the stuff inside! I tried everything with one of my friends, so I’ll be including some of their thoughts as well! (Also, I took all the photos myself in my lightbox, so they’re not as pretty as the more professionally staged photos you’ll find on the website.)

So, this isn’t exactly what it looked like when I opened it, but I tried to arrange it in a way that would display a lot of the snacks or at least a good variety of the contents.

Upon first opening it, I was impressed with how much fit inside the box! There were quite a few items to unpack.

The first thing I tried was the drink, Fujiya Nectar Peach:

The description said that this juice is made by straining white peaches, and let me tell you, it is insanely peachy! It really tastes like you’re taking a bite right out of an actual peach. It was kind of on the thick side, like syrupy almost, but not in a gross way. It was a very concentrated peach flavor, but refreshing! My friend and I both gave it an 8/10.

After the drink, I grabbed a random snack out of the box and got these Porickey German Potato Flavor.

Porickey sticks are basically like these thin little breadstick things that come in a variety of flavors. This pack was “German Potato Flavor”. While they were perfectly crunchy and tasted good overall, I wouldn’t say they really conveyed that potato flavor. They were a little salty and pleasant enough, so I gave them an 8/10. My friend is not a fan of the breadstick style snack, so they gave it a 5/10.

Next up is the Bubbly Taiyaki Chocolate Flavor:

The packaging is super cute, so I was pleased to find that the real thing is pretty accurate to the picture:

Every time that I’ve had taiyaki in the past, it’s been red bean flavored, so this chocolate flavored one was both a surprise and a delight. The outside part was a perfectly crispy monaka wafer, and the chocolate inside had tons of bubbles in it, which made it wonderfully light and airy. Also, for being a single serving snack, it was a decent size! This was definitely a favorite of ours, and while my friend gave it a 9/10, I went ahead and gave it a full 10/10.

Going back to something salty, we have the Lucky Corn Tasty Salt Flavor:

The description says that these are an addicting snack, and I can attest to that! These were surprisingly sweet little corn puffs, with a mild flavor. They kind of had a salty/sweet thing going on, but they were very delicate and sort of melted in your mouth instead of being overly crunchy. They were quite good, and I gave them an 8.5/10, while my friend settled on a solid 7/10.

Up next is this adorable Melon Pandaro Butter Cookie!

This super cute snack was absolutely packed with melon flavor. It was intense, but also had a very fresh kind of flavor to it. In terms of texture, it was soft and buttery, and didn’t crumble apart at all! Honestly, the flavor was a little bit lotion-y, like an overly fragranced skin product, but that was really only in the aftertaste. So, I went with a 6/10 for this one, but my friend said it deserved a 7/10.

Sixthly, we have the Yamato Turtle Crackers:

As you can see from the photo, there was only a handful of these little crackers in the bag. These things were insanely crunchy, like overly crunchy, and tasted a little like burnt popcorn. These were definitely on the “meh” side of the snacks, so my friend and I gave them a 3/10. Probably our least favorite item in the box.

If you like Bugles, you’re sure to like these Tongari Corn Salted Vanilla Flavor!

I would’ve never thought to make a crunchy snack ice cream flavored, but somehow it works beautifully! The package these came in was huge, so there was a ton of them which is good because they are very addicting. They were the perfect blend of salty and sweet, and had that nice mild vanilla flavor. I really enjoyed these, and gave them an 8/10, and my friend gave them a 6/10.

Following that, we have the New Mochi Taro:

Here we have another little puffed sort of cracker; this snack was pleasantly crispy, mildly salty, but honestly pretty plain overall, nothing special. They’re fine to munch on but aren’t like mind-blowing or anything. Very simple, earned itself a 7/10 from me and a 6/10 from my friend.

Ninthly, we have the Full Moon Pon Salty Flavor:

I obviously did not read the description well enough, because I was under the impression that this was a sugar-cookie-like snack, but it is a salty cracker type. Honestly, it was pretty bland, and just sort of a plain cracker. But, it was light and crunchy which was nice. It was another one on the “meh” side so it only got a 5.5/10 from me and a 4/10 from my friend. The packaging is super cute though.

Up next was the Yakisoba Shop Taro Snacks:

These remind me so much of the La Choy Rice Noodles that you, like, top salads with! They’re kinda funky looking, but they had a really nice umami flavor and were crispy, so not bad overall. They got a 6/10 from me, and a 7/10 from my friend.

Following that, we had Caramel Corn Lemon Squash Flavor:

I was skeptical to try something that advertised itself as a caramel corn and as a lemon flavored snack, but my skepticism vanished upon trying it, because it was so delicious! This snack was unexpectedly mind-blowing. It was light and puffy, zingy and tangy, sweet and lemony, and honestly the best lemon flavored snack I’ve ever had. My friend agreed that it was definitely the best lemon flavored item ever. Easily a 9.5/10 for both of us. I could eat bags and bags of this stuff.

Twelfthly, we have the Umaibo Sugar Rusk:

Unfortunately, I couldn’t really get a good picture of this one because it was broken in half upon opening it, so definitely not my best shot, but basically it looks like a big, long cheese puff kind of snack. So, I definitely expected it to be that kind of flavor, but it was actually super sweet! It tasted just like a butter cookie or a shortbread, but also kind of like a really nice caramel flavor. It was very airy and light, and super duper good overall. I thought it was worthy of a 9.5/10, and my friend gave it an 8/10.

Funny enough, the next one I tried was the Umaibo Seaweed Salt:

This one had the exact same texture and shape as the sugary one before it, but was completely different in the flavor department. It was seaweed flavored, as you might guess from the specks of green throughout it. It was very salty, as one can expect with any nori snack, but kind of funky in terms of taste. It was also pretty dry, so the sugary one definitely beats this seaweed one by a longshot. This one did not score very high, with a 4/10 from me and a 2/10 from my friend.

One of the best things about this box is the inclusion of a summer exclusive flavor from Pocky, the Mint Choco flavor:

I have had my fair share of Pocky from stores like Hot Topic and F.Y.E., but this pack takes the cake. Not only were the sticks bigger and thicker than the ones I’ve had in the past, but the flavor was so great. The mint was not overpowering at all, and it was well balanced with the chocolate. This is easily the best Pocky I’ve ever tried, not to mention it wasn’t waxy at all, unlike the kinds I’ve had before. I don’t know why it’s so vastly different from the kinds I’ve tried before, but I’m glad for it! This is easily a 10/10 for me, and my friend saw fit to give it a 9/10.

Up next, the Yaokin Fugashi:

This was by far the most bizarre snack in the whole box. Not only was the inside texture like eating packing peanuts, but the outside texture was almost even stranger. My friend said it felt like eating TV static, which is an apt description. It almost feels like you shouldn’t be eating it, like it’s not really food or even edible. However, the flavor is totally fine, and actually kind of good. It tastes a lot like brown sugar or some sort of caramelized sugar. I would eat it again just for the novelty of it. This was a 6.5/10 for me, and a 5/10 from my friend.

Nearing the end, we have this Pudding Daifuku:

This little marshmallow was such a neat little treat. I’ve never had a marshmallow that has a filling inside before, so I thought that was cool. The filling was like sweet custard, and the marshmallow was chewy and soft. Overall, it was a pleasant little sweet bite that was deserving of a 9/10 in my book, though my friend doesn’t really like marshmallows much, so it only got a 6/10.

For the grand finale, we have Japan exclusive Pudding KitKats:

This big bag actually contained twelve mini KitKats:

And here’s what they look like individually:

When I say this is the best KitKat I’ve ever had, I mean it. This new exclusive flavor is to die for. It’s intensely sweet, probably because not only is the chocolate on the outside caramel pudding flavor, but the cream between the wafers is also caramel flavor. It probably helps that KitKat is one of my all-time favorite candies, but this was the only time my friend gave out a 10/10 if that says anything about how amazing these are. Of course, I also gave it a 10/10.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this box. Again, I’m happy to have gotten the Premium Box, because if I had only gotten the Classic, I wouldn’t have been able to try the drink, the marshmallow, the ice cream flavored corn snack, the melon panda, or the pudding KitKats.

If you’re interested in subscribing, you can check out the pricing options for the Premium or Classic box here. The Classic is only $25 a month, which I think is definitely worth it. The Premium is ten dollars more, but honestly if you can spare it, I would totally say to go for the Premium. Also, it’s cheaper if you subscribe for more than one month, but like I said you can check out the pricing page for yourself and decide what plan you think is best!

Personally, when I subscribe to new boxes I haven’t tried before, I always go for the three-month option. I actually went for the three-month option when I first discovered Sakuraco. I generally choose three-month because I think it’s a long enough period of time that you can really get a feel for the boxes and what exactly the company is going for. It’s also not a huge commitment like six months or a year is, three months feels like a lot less pressure than half a year or more, so like I said it’s generally what I choose.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this post, I certainly enjoyed writing it, and again want to say “thank you” to the Sakuraco and TokyoTreat team for this opportunity! It was fun, and I hope you all liked hearing about it! Have a great day.

-AMS

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Here, Have a Cover Reveal

Pretty cool. There’s a whole story about it, including a little more detail about the story, over at Tor.com right now.

— JS

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Weekend Update

We’re having fun. We just had milkshakes for dinner. I regret nothing. Hope you’ve been having a lovely weekend too.

— JS

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New Books and ARCs, 6/25/21

Baen Books sent me a ton of stuff recently, so, guess what? It’s an (almost) Baen exclusive stack of new books and ARCs this week! Anything here catching your eye? Talk about it in the comments.

— JS

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Here’s Something I Haven’t Used in a While

No, not the ukulele. I use that all the time. The travel bag! Krissy and I are doing a weekend getaway, and in doing so it’ll be the first time in (counts) at least fifteen months that I will have traveled more than 15 miles from my house. I hardly know what to do with myself!

No, I’m actually serious about that, it’s been a really long time since I’ve seen people who aren’t actually family members. We will see if I can still, you know, socialize. Don’t worry, we are vaccinated, as is everyone we’re planning to spend time with. I’m not worried about catching things. I’m worried about making small talk.

How about you? Any travel planned? Are you ready to deal with people again?

— JS

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Hey Kids! There’s a New Journey Song!

“Kids,” of course, being shorthand for “People between the ages of 65 and 40 who remember when Album Oriented Rock roamed the FM airwaves.” Isn’t that what “kids” is commonly understood to mean? No? Well, whatever, I think the dictionary will back me on this, probably.

The song itself: It’s okay! It sounds like a perfectly serviceable outtake from the heyday years, something you might find on a b-side when they used to have b-sides. Who doesn’t like b-sides? The kids love ’em! And also, I’m a fan of new material from older bands. I like that they’re open to the possibility of playing more than the same dozen songs in concert, whenever it is we all get to go back to concerts. It’s their first new song in a decade, so I’ll take it for what it is and enjoy it. Hope you enjoy it, too, if this is the sort of thing you like.

— JS

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Back to DragonCon!

So, here’s an FYI for you:

Yes, that’s right, I am the DragonCon literary guest of honor for 2021.

“But, Scalzi,” you say, “Weren’t you the DragonCon literary guest of honor in 2020?”

Indeed I was! It was online, and this year (cross fingers, knock on wood) there will be a substantial in-person component. This could change, I suppose, if another wave of COVID sweeps the nation, so for this reason among many other better reasons, please get your shots, folks, I want to go to Atlanta this September.

As to what I’ll be doing at DragonCon: The usual mix of panels, readings, and such. Maybe they’ll let me do a dance again! We’ll see. I will say that if/when I do a reading, it will include a bit from my upcoming novel The Kaiju Preservation Society. Since I don’t have any public appearances scheduled between now and DragonCon, it will be the world premiere reading from that particular novel.

More details as they come available. I’m looking forwarding to seeing folks! Live! In person! Really there! Etc!

— JS

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In Conversation with Jenny Lawson at Lithub

Jenny Lawson is one of my favorite writers and humorists, and also a pal, and couple of months ago Literary Hub asked me to do an interview/conversation with her, talking a bit about her New York Times-bestselling memoir Broken (in the best possible way). Well, I was happy to, and we chatted over the course of a couple of months in email.

That interview/conversation is now up, and I encourage you to click through and check it out. We talk about books (obviously), the art of (still) keeping blogs, dealing with readers who are both wonderful and have expectations, and other things as well. I really like it, and I hope you enjoy it, too.

— JS

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Tonight’s Sunset, 6/22/21

Lovely, in a mellow sort of way.

— JS

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Big Idea

The Big Idea: Jen Karner

Events can change you — and in her novel Cinders of Yesterday, author Jen Karner posits that this change can go more than just skin deep. In this Big Idea, Karner explores how we react to these events, and how we carry their marks moving forward.

JEN KARNER:

Gaslighting is insidious. It’s worse when it convinces you magic doesn’t exist, and that your mom was crazy. What if you could talk to ghosts but no one believed you? Worse. What if your memories of magic were stolen, timed with a traumatic event that could have caused retrograde amnesia. What would that do to a person? These questions led to the understanding this was a ghost story wrapped in generational trauma, a place where magic and grief intermingle so that you can’t extricate one from the other. It’s messy, because surviving is rarely something cut and dry. That was the seed that would grow over the course of many years to become Cinders of Yesterday. It’s a ghost story that revolves around generational trauma and the ways we hurt ourselves and the people we love in grief and fear.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way that people react differently to similar circumstances. Just look at siblings in a family, the way one might withdraw from a trauma while the other explodes. At the same time I was drawn to magic, ghosts, the paranormal, and the way that occultism swept through America in the early 1900s. When you combine the way that women in particular were demonized and institutionalized for hysteria, while being told they weren’t experiencing what they were, it’s impossible to pretend that trauma on a cultural level isn’t baked into our experience of society.

I just went one step further.

Trauma, and the way we react to it, changes us. If it’s big enough, and terrible enough, it can change our brain chemistry and leave epigenetic traces in our DNA. I wanted to explore the root of generational trauma using magic as a mechanism to do it, allowing my characters the kind of catharsis that most survivors never get. Breaking those chains, deciding to stand your ground instead of running, or leave your hometown instead of succumbing to it, requires a certain kind of fortitude. It’s not easy. It’s messy and complicated, and in the real world, there is rarely something so cut and dry as a murderous necromancer who has been hunting you that you can blame.

Cinders of Yesterday is the first book in the Legacy of Shadows series, and it’s about confronting the trauma that created you. It’s about facing your past and your decisions, even when they were hard. Even when you didn’t make the right choice. I didn’t start the novel with a theme of trauma, but it’s impossible to miss once you start reading because it’s woven through the actions of all the main cast.

Emilie and Dani are tied together by a shared source of abuse and trauma. However, they don’t deal the same at all and they become mirrors of each other and the way that people move through grief after a traumatic event. Internal and external, angry and anxious, slowly processing and lashing out.

Both of them are damaged by what they’ve survived, but they are more than those circumstances. Being a survivor isn’t always about putting on a brave face. Sometimes it is about having a drink where no one can see, about letting yourself sob and spiral, and finding your equilibrium again. The story and the characters are messy, because trauma is messy. There is no cut and dry answer as to how you learn to keep moving after it has derailed your life. There’s just knowing that after today is tomorrow, and then the next day. Even after you get the closure you wanted, or the answers you needed, the scars remain.

Cinders of Yesterday is a story that is unmistakably about trauma – The ones we survive, the ones we run from, and how no two people deal with the same hand of cards in quite the same way.

—-
Cinders of Yesterday: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple Books  | Google Play
Follow the author’s website. Follow them on Twitter or IG.

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A Reminder to Worldcon Members

The room block at the hotel is open! Go get a room!

(And yes, I reserved a room, and yes, at this point, I do plan to attend. I am a Hugo nominee this year, after all. And also, the idea of a holiday-timed Worldcon is charming to me.)

— JS

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Athena Scalzi

I Am Truly A Great Daughter

Buying gifts for my dad, whether it be for his birthday, Christmas, or Father’s Day, is a challenging feat. This is mainly because, as many of you have seen from his ridiculous musical acquirements, he buys himself whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Gift giving goes out the window when the person just gets themselves anything and everything they could ever want or need.

However, this Father’s Day, I’ve really outdone myself.

Salty licorice from Ikea! That’s it, I’ve decided that I’m the perfect daughter, no question.

On a more serious note, I hope everyone reading this has a pleasant Father’s Day, and if you don’t celebrate today, then I hope you have a very nice Sunday.

Unrelated, I’m leaving tomorrow morning to go to Virginia for a friend’s wedding (I’m in the wedding!), and I will be gone pretty much all week, so you shan’t be hearing from me for a bit.

Fare thee well!

-AMS

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More Learning the DAW

How I spent my Fathers’ Day: In my musical man cave, trying to figure out how to make all the stuff I bought work. And the results were — well, pleasantly productive! I figured out how to play guitar and bass directly in my DAW, apply effects, chop up loops and beats and fiddle with their various values, like volume, and generally move a step up from just staring into my computer with a furrowed brow wondering how to make the damn thing function. Progress!

As evidence of this progress, this track, which, while I hasten to add is not particularly good (it’ll be a while before “good” is a thing I can say about my musical fiddling about), is nonetheless a substantial step forward in my ability to use my music equipment. For example, with the exception of the drum tracks, I actually played all the musical instruments on the track: Guitar, bass and keyboards. Those parts aren’t complicated, but they’re me, and this is the first time I’ve actually multitracked myself playing instruments. There is some irony in me using drum programming when that is the instrument that I am actually competent on, but look, my drum set is too far away from the preamp to be easy to plug in at the moment. I stand by my musical choices, such as they are.

https://whatever.scalzi.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/ltd02.wav

Hope you all had a fine Father’s Day, if that’s a thing you celebrate.

— JS

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Juneteenth Thoughts

Today is the first day Juneteenth is a national holiday in the United States (for federal workers it was observed yesterday because today is the weekend), and I was asked in email what thoughts I had about it and how I might be celebrating it. Well:

1. I think it’s a fine idea as a national holiday, and I support its inclusion on the holiday calendar (and even if I didn’t it’s there now anyway, so).

2. As a white person, I’ve never celebrated it and I have no idea how to celebrate it, because fundamentally it’s not about me (except in an incidental and not exactly positive way), and other than knowing it exists, I’ve not actively engaged with it before. So, as a matter of prudence, and not wanting to make an ass of myself, I want to take my cues about it from those who have celebrated it all along, which is to say, Black Americans.

The original Juneteenth commemorated the day in 1865 that slaves in Galveston, Texas learned they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation — which, it should be noted, had been issued three years before, so this was not a great look on the white folks who had been keeping that news in their pocket. Juneteenth started being celebrated informally by Black Texans the next year, and over time it’s been recognized by various states, and then this year was made a formal national holiday after unanimous consent in the Senate and by the vast majority of the House, not counting 14 Representatives who seemed bound and determined to make a show out of being racist assholes. And here we are.

I think having Juneteenth as a national holiday is a good thing, but I’m also aware that its elevation to that stature does not come without criticism. As others have noted, the irony of elevating Juneteenth while the Republicans are actively stripping Black people of their ability to vote in a manner unseen since Jim Crow, and banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory (which is almost never taught in elementary or secondary schools, and would almost certainly be unconstitutional to ban at the university level, so this is pure racist pandering), among all the other things systemic racism inflicts on Black Americans, is pronounced. Juneteenth as a national holiday is progress, sure, but it’s progress against a concerted and deeply racist undertow of current Republican politics. The GOP doesn’t get to point to its Juneteenth vote to suggest it’s not the party of white supremacy in this country; the Democrats don’t get to point to it to suggest they’ve done enough.

Likewise for most white folks! At the Black blog The Root, writer Michael Harriot offered up “The Caucasians’ Guide to Celebrating Juneteenth,” which is both amusingly exasperated and deadly seriously caustic about how white people should approach a celebration that is not theirs and is not about them, which has now been made into a national holiday. I suggest reading it because it’s a good read and because it makes points worth making about what Juneteenth is and is not, with specific reference to white folks. It’s useful, if not especially hand-holdy, but it’s not Harriot’s job to hold your (or my) hand on this stuff.

So how am I celebrating Juneteenth this year? Well, I’m not going to try to angle an invite to a cookout, and I’m not going to pretend this means we’ve gotten over racism, so let’s all hug. I’m going to mark Juneteenth by using it as a day of contemplation on what Black Americans have been telling us about white supremacy in the United States, and by thinking about what I need to do to make the United States today better and more equitable for Black Americans specifically and non-white folks generally (and then, you know, doing that, on more than just Juneteenth). I’m going to use it as a day of learning and listening and generally opposing white supremacy. That seems an appropriate way to note the holiday for me.

As for the future, let’s see how it evolves, under the direction of those who have celebrated it all along.

— JS

 

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New Books and ARCs, 6/18/21

Ready for another stack of new books and ARCs? Because ready or not, here it comes! What in this stack would make for excellent summer reading? Share your thoughts in the comments.

— JS

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Krissy’s Anniversary Gift

A couple weeks ago I took a picture of Krissy with my bass, just for fun, and she remarked — wrong-handedness aside — that she liked the feel and weight of the bass; it felt like an instrument she could get into. Well, I didn’t need much encouragement from that point; I snuck online when she wasn’t looking and picked up a left-handed bass for her as an anniversary gift, and arranged with a bassist friend of ours to give her a few lessons. If everything works out, Krissy and I will have our own punk band very very soon.

— JS

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Off the Musical Deep End, Part III: Programageddeon

“Hey, Scalzi,” you ask, “any more choice thoughts about your new little basement studio?” Why, yes, I have a couple!

* First, folks, I’m sooooooo in over my head right now. I know I’ve said that before, but let me reiterate that I’ve really overcommitted. I’ve, like, bought all the software (to go along with all the hardware, which I also bought), and while buying all that stuff was fun in a retail therapy sort of way, now I actually have to learn all of it. And that’s also fun? But also kind of like work? But if I don’t do it I’ve literally spent a whole basket of money on nothing?

Mind you, I absolutely plan on learning all this stuff. But at the moment I’m at the very bottom of the learning curve looking up and going, yuuuuup, this is gonna take a bit. The good news is, while I can’t guarantee at the end of it that any of the songs I might write will be any good, if I learn this stuff like I want to, at least they will sound good. This will be the aural equivalent of making terrible food but plating it spectacularly. We work with what we have.

* I do think at this point I’m pretty much maxxed out on hardware and software, however, at least for the rest of 2021. More accurate, and per the point above, I have enough on hand that adding more just means I won’t get to it anytime soon, and even if I did I wouldn’t necessarily know what to do with it. So again: Time to work with what I have, and then see after a while if there’s anything else that’s useful and/or necessary.

And here the musicians snicker, and, well: Fair. But I’m gonna try to hold this line for now. Don’t mock me! Okay, mock me a little.

* The most recent major purchase for the room: A friggin’ chair, because I temporarily used a dining room table chair for a couple of days and it almost wrecked my lower back. I forgot I was old and my body is looking for any excuse to fall apart. The studio chair is not as swanky as my office chair, but it’s more than good enough, and when I sit in it I don’t feel my vertebrae trying to slip sideways out of my back. Also it matches the carpet and The Beast, and that’s nice.

* Finally, I’m discovering the drawbacks to having the studio in the basement. The first is that this is where we keep the cat boxes, so there’s the faint smell of, shall we say, “cat business” about. It was always there but I wasn’t in the basement for hours on end, and now I am. So, that’s not great. I expect I’ll be cleaning out the cat boxes more frequently than I currently do, which is probably for the best anyway.

More pressing, however, is that the basement is damn cold. Which makes sense: Cold air sinks, and the basement is underground and largely windowless. But also: Brrrrr. I’ve taken to leaving a hoodie and thick socks down there as part of the studio basic equipment. This gives me an excuse to play my drums to warm myself up.

So, yeah. The easy part of buying stuff is mostly over. Now comes the hard part of learning stuff. Let’s see where it goes from here.

— JS

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26 Years!

I’m 52, and today is the 26th anniversary of me and Krissy getting married, which means, if I haven’t entirely lost my ability to do math, I’ve been married to Krissy for almost exactly half my life, and have had her in my life for an even larger percentage. Not gonna lie, looking to increase those percentages quite a bit before it’s all said and done. She’s terrific.

I hope you have a great Scalzi Anniversary; we plan to.

— JS

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