Tuesday, January 23, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the birth of Dungeons & Dragons


Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the birth of Dungeons & Dragons
Michael Witwer

Michael Witwer's Empire of Imagination tells Gygax’s story from cradle to grave. Gygax (it's a Swiss surname, in case you're curious) grew up on Chicago's north side before his family moved to his mother's home town of Lake Geneva. This Wisconsin town had provided an escape for Chicagoans since the Prohibition days. It was here in this placid small town that young Gary was free to explore the underground tunnels and buildings of an abandoned sanitarium with his friends. As a young man he become an avid war gammer, which used the small figurines now synonymous with the game he would some day help create. Gygax was a stickler for gaming rules, and not the greatest business man which created no small bit of tension with his partners and employees of TSR the game publishing company he started with Dave Arneson and his childhood friend Don Kaye.

Friday, January 12, 2018

RECORD REVIEW: Max Hall, Abstractithica

Abstractithica

Max Hall
[Evil Hoodoo]

Abstractithica is a 45 minute collage of field recordings meticulously culled from anywhere and everywhere, around the world, and in the UK in particular. Hall used a stereo field recorder to grab bits of conversations, street noises and anything else of aural interest to him. It took him a year to put the pieces together and the result is an interesting and mildly hypnotic recording. I found it quite pleasant to listen to whilst concentrating on other things, like writing reviews for example. Smatterings of applause pop up as does traffic noise, even snatches of a Manu Chao song reveal themselves at unexpected times. It’s like taking a walk down the street while blindfolded. A sensory stimulation and a out of body simulation. Public transportation and some circus or carnival music jars you out of the trances. This is a very limited edition run of 250 vinyl LPs that is worth investigating if you are into experimental music, sound collages and the like.

Always read Reglar Wiglar!

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Lou Reed: A Life

Lou Reed: A LifeAnthony DeCurtis
[Little, Brown & Company]

Lou Reed had a complicated career. He lead a complicated life—complicated by design, perhaps. His music—his entire persona, seemed intended to antagonize. The Velvet Underground, a band Reed co-founded in 1964, was itself a big FU to the peace and love of the Flower Power movement and his solo work could alternate between abrasive and oppressively dreary.