The Shadow of the Wind

Badger sent me this article on Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s novel The Shadow of the Wind. I knew that it was a word of mouth bestseller in Spain and Germany, but apparently it is working its magic in England as well. I’m reading it right now and I like it a lot. Explaining why is a bit more difficult. It is not a heavy read, the writing is good but not great (I will blame the translation by default), and the main character is even a tiny bit hokey (I didn’t speak that way when I was twelve). The book is wonderful despite all this. The characters are all interesting and there are enough weird digressions and odd episodes to keep me interested. It manages to be atmospheric without assaulting you with place details.

I wouldn’t call it “literary”, at least not all the way. There are elements of mystery, romance, and even thriller. It is paced like a bestseller without seeming plastic or hodge-podge. The Borgesian conceit of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books is a nice touch, but the Borges parallels stop there (at least thus far). I’ll give the final verdict when I finish.

From the article:

Three years after it was first published in Spain it is still topping bestseller lists, and is the most popular piece of Spanish fiction ever published after the classics.

Kirsty Dunseath, editorial director of the British publisher Phoenix, snapped it up as soon as she read it in the original Spanish. She is convinced it has the same potential as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières, which became a multimillion-pound hit on the strength of personal recommendations. “It’s what you hope for as an editor. It’s got everything; a really strong plot, it’s commercial, but it’s also literary. It has thriller elements and history thrown in. It defies genre,” she said.

Yet it had everything going against it, according to publishing lore. As Scott Pack, the buyer for Waterstone’s, explained: “It’s debut fiction and it’s in translation and it’s literary. Everyone is saying how difficult it is to sell literary books, and debut works and anything in translation. What more could you do to convince the great British public not to buy it? But it’s the best book I’ve read in years.”


I have been on vacation for the past few days and I couldn’t remember my password… God Bless Cookies.

Anywho, I took the opportunity that 12 hour drives give to pop into a few bookstores. I finally bought Eco’s On Literature, but since I have already read the most interesting essays, this is not very exciting. I also found an Advance Reader Copy of Eco’s The Island of the Day Before complete with promotional jigsaw puzzle. Too cool. This makes my Eco collection almost complete… I lack only A Theory of Semiotics, The History of Beauty, and the forthcoming fifth novel before I have everything that has been translated. The next step is upgrading to first editions, signed copies, and limiteds.


Badger asked me to comment on This is an old article, probably one of the frist ones that showed up on Interenet about the rock scene in my former country. It looks like a history paper more than anything else. When you look closely, basically the only source about the rock music that she quotes is three Petar Janjatovic’s articles in Billboard. That’s a bit onesided – but Janjatovic is an okay guy. Perhaps a passionate Yugo rock record collector who actually heard all these bands that are mentioned would make a better article. So there was this country, politically balancing between Western and Eastern blocks, and music was important to the young people there, radio was good and a interesting rock scene emerged. Yugoslavs like to pride themselves in having the richest rock scene after England and USA, but in fact, they just never heard any Australian, Dutch and South American bands, so we kinda like to lull ourselves to be more important than we really are. But the history of Yugoslav rock is definitely rich enough that even after I thought I knew everything about it I discover some new stuff that sounds cool. What I kinda like about Yugoslavia and it’s rock’n’roll history is that the whole thing slowly turns into a myth as the new post-war generations grow up. It’s fun! Eh, instead of talking about these things let’s hear a nice simple power pop tune about the girl who has 95-52-95 measurments (in centimeters). It was a radio hit when I was in highschool.

Nesalomivi (Untouchables) – 95/52/95

More Louisiana rock stuff

Damien asked our friend Melanie if she could rememeber more, and while some of this is already covered in that Offbeat article, most of it is not. Anything in italics is from me.

“There was a band called “Uncle Stan and Auntie Vera” which had Elizabeth Armstrong playing sax and an English guy who used to sing; i cannot remember his name. I used to go see them play. Babs (Barbara Menendez of the Cold) had another band called Apartment B, and Vance (DeGeneres, also of the Cold) had a band called The Backbeats (which turns out to have two guys from Cowboy Mouth.) I used to go see them too. There was a band that Ben’s bassist was in called The Generics which did some originals but some covers of like old Joe Jackson and other pop but sort of up stuff.

Ben and Carlo’s (Nuccio) band was “Outside Children”. Frank Asunto had a band called The Dukes at one time and then another band which my band used to play with and I cannot remember the name. You should ask Carlo (Nuccio). the Continental Drifters had group that played with Multiple Places and some national bands like “the 3 o’clocks” and some others at one of the early MTV mardi gras things at Jimmy’s. My cousin Caroline played drums and sang in Odd Fellow’s Rest at the end of the 80s and her friend Greg used to play in band that use to draw pretty well back in the days of the Rock ‘n’ Dot… ask Jack, he would remember their name too.

There was a band called the Bullets from LaPlace too that ranks as “popular” as Exit (what a joke) which is about a -.25 in a list. Exit should be removed.

Kevin from Exit played with Joe Tullis from LaPlace in a band called Big Sun in the late 80s.”

Yes. i’m still on this mad quest, but i haven’t messed with Google and these names yet.

Y chromosomes, not artifacts

The concept of tracing human migration through the male Y chromosome is a useful one, but i read a similiar article in Discover magazine that tries to cap human presence at 20,000 years ago, because that’s what the genes say. The stock split from Central Asia no further back than that. Odd that they try to use that as proof, yet can see that a single man, presumably Genghis Khan, can spread his genes all through Eurasia 1,000 years ago. If a single man can pull that off, wouldn’t this Central Asia gene that arrives in the New World 20,000 years ago only the result of a very successful migration wave reproducing very quickly? I missed any mention the possibility of any other lines of Y-chromosomes in the New World in either article.

The article says, “The most recent common ancestor of all extant Y- chromosomes lived in Africa between 50,000 and 150,000 years ago,” but then follow the line with, “It is likely that there were many more humans alive at this time. That he is our most recent common ancestor simply implies that all other Y-lineages have since become extinct.”

Dwarfs in Flores mythology

More on the Reba Ruek (aka Flores Man) in local folklore, “Come and join us, because we are brothers.” I find it a little curious that this tale features a flying, glowing globe. The same thing gets attributed to many of the weirder Bigfoot sightings, only they are interpreted as UFOs. It’s probably just human nature to embellish a story that they feels needs another strange detail with a flying, glowing globe, but it’s still interesting.

Dancing Cigarettes

I downloaded these guys blind, seeing that the owner had a bunch of Hyped 2 Death stuff. They are not on, but they have their own site. I don’t know whether to pigeonhole them into new wave, no wave, or some other kind of post punk. One moment they’re spewing freaky atonal noise, then they swing into a pop groove. There’s something deeply nerdy about it, like the Talking Heads, but out of Indiana, and existing just four short years in seeming obscurity. Why haven’t i heard of this band before?

Dancing Cigarettes “Puppies in a Sack”

Dancing Cigarettes “Pop Doormat”

Dancing Cigarettes “Simple Machines”

Dancing Cigarettes “Poignant”

Texan space rock

A few years ago, Magnet did a feature on the Texas space rock scene, which apparently was centered around Denton, Dallas, and Fort Worth. That was my intro, and my friends were simultaneously plunging into a little space-rock madness (only to plunge back into pop-psych months later) I only managed to snag two albums via mail order before i became distracted with the next great discovery, and i’m kicking myself, as it looks like much of this stuff is out of print. (It won’t be lost, but i want immediate gratification.) Aural Innovations did a profile of the movement back in 1999.

At the time, i was more excited about Mazinga Phaser, simply because i had a childish infatuation with the name Mazinga. I had a cast metal Shogun Warrior when i was little of Mazinger, and he was my favorite robot. Mazinga Phaser is okay for bar band space rock, but a bit too generically dreamy and smooth for me. I also remembered that i have a major prejudice against female voices going la la la all swoony…. blech. Male either, now that i think about it. Not as sexist as i first suspected myself. Hippy dippy bullshit, but i still admire the loopiness of starting a space rock band in Central Texas. I don’t really recommend these. Just want to give an idea of what they sound like… maybe this is someone ele’s cup of tea.

Mazinga Phaser “Japanese Space Opera”

Mazinga Phaser “Sterno Sky”

Vas Deferens Organization are something more odd. I’m quite excited to see that they are still around! On this album, they didn’t waste time on vocals, and got down to the business of creating odd, trippy music. Aural Innovations did a full profile just on this band.

Vas Deferens Organization “Whirling Dervish”

Vas Deferens Organization “Modular Squad”

Vas Deferens Organization “Alpine Gamelan”

Stupid Blue Laws

Although i do happen to have today off from work, it’ll be my last day off that falls on a weekend until Christmas. That’s what i get for working in retail. However, these same bastards who don’t seem to care that i’m working on a Sunday when they come in to browse in their fancy church duds have yet to repeal the blue laws that keep me from buying anything but beer on a Sunday.

Lou & i tried to buy cider earlier. We couldn’t buy even that. Only barley swill is available on Sunday. If their god does not frown on them forcing me to work on Sunday, then why would their god continue to keep me from buying anything but watery beer on a day that’s not even the historical sabbath? No, not even wine is allowed. The inconsistency of these damned blue laws drives me crazy. I’m not a drinker, so this ban is no great hardship, but the hypocrisy drives me insane. Why is hard liquor more sinful than working on their sabbath?