As is becoming a bit of a tradition, I’m rounding out the year with a couple of posts looking at some of my favorite things from the year. Some are spy related, some are not but all were memorable experiences. I’ll be breaking this up over two posts with the first focusing on some things that I did and the second looking at some things I read or saw that I recommend.
So without any further ado and in no particular order, here we go.
Meeting with fellow spy fans
The interesting thing about online communities is that you can have many interactions with folks yet never meet them in person. Last year I had the privilege of meeting Shane Whaley, host of Spybrary, and several other spybrarians at the John le Carré lecture in London. This year I again was able to meet in person with two more spybrarians I’d only known via a computer, Matthew Bradford and John Koenig. Matthew runs the excellent Double O Section blog and amazes with his spy knowledge. John’s blog Stuff I Like posts reviews of an eclectic mix of books that he’s read, on exercise and on healthy eating. and his background in writing about collecting reveals some fascinating stories.
I was lucky that Matthew let me tag along to some of his regular LA bookstore stomping grounds. We didn’t even fight over any books! It also gave us the opportunity to record an in person podcast on the Red Sparrow trilogy, which was a lot of fun.
Time with John was shorter but led to conversations on his background in writing about collecting and revealed some fascinating stories. I look forward to connecting again on his next visit to the Chicago area.
Kid Koala Concert
Chicago was lucky to enough to finally have the DJ Kid Koala return. Not your typical DJ, his music is more melodic and tends to tell a story more than what you might think of with that type of artist.
He brought his Satellite Turntable Orchestra performance to the Art Institute of Chicago in its beautiful reconstruction of the original Chicago Board of Trade room. The concept is that each couple people have their own mini record players and records that at various times they will be able to control to change the pitch, tone and volume just as a regular DJ would do. That Kid Koala has managed to create an interactive DJ experience that adds to the music he is making while also being practically fool proof for 100 laymen is pretty extraordinary. Hearing the sound coming not just from speakers in the front but rising up from 50 little turntables that surround you leads to a pretty powerful experience. In addition to the music performance, “chemical puppeteer” Karina Bleau created beautiful, dreamy, outer space-like projections in real time using a paint and water tanks.
If he brings this performance to a town near you, it’s a must see.
Mick Herron reread
This past year I undertook a major project for the blog – a reread of all of Mick Herron’s Slough House novels. It was great fun to read them in relatively quick succession and find the links between books and explore the growth (and death) of characters. I posted on each of the books, even the novellas and Nobody Walks, looking at the characters, plot, locations and collecting information. Since I was already keeping track of it I decided to also create a glossary of various terms and people from the novels. Finally Mick Herron was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions on the series. All due respect to Mick’s website, but I’d say that SpyWrite is now the place with the most comprehensive look at the Slough House series.
All in all, it has me eagerly awaiting the sixth book in the series.
Mail order comics
I had been a big comics buyer in years past, making the weekly trek to the comics store to get the latest issues. Eventually I due to lack of funds and comic fatigue I gave it up. However, I’ve recently found that publishers still do mail order comics direct to readers. Even better, they are available at a discount and if keep an eye out they run regular sales and can be had for even cheaper. Although it’s a smaller selection than what you’d find at your local comics shop, it’s brought the joy of weekly comics back and I recommend giving it a try.
Posting something every week
It was tough to make the deadline of every Wednesday and I’ll admit I missed it on occasion. However, coming up on the end of the year with 52 posts completed does feel good. Not all of them were home runs (Smiley limerick post anyone?) but it felt like around once a month I was putting out something I was really happy with. If I hadn’t been keeping up I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened. I don’t know if I can sustain it forever, but I’ll give it a shot.
I’ll return next week for Part Two.