All posts by bradbirzer

By day, I'm a father of seven and husband of one. By night, I'm an author, a biographer, and a prog rocker. Interests: Rush, progressive rock, cultural criticisms, the Rocky Mountains, individual liberty, history, hiking, and science fiction.

Beyond Tenebrae: Christian Humanism in the Twilight of the West: Bradley J. Birzer: 9781621384977: Amazon.com: Books

Beyond Tenebrae: Christian Humanism in the Twilight of the West [Bradley J. Birzer] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Beyond Tenebrae is about Christian humanism in all its breadth and depth, and the persons and groups best embodying it (quite apart from any particular social or political stance) in the last century and a half. Modern readers who sense the greatness of the “Republic of Letters” that commenced with the wisdom of the ancient Greeks and has endured for over two millennia will benefit from being introduced to the great men and women presented in these pages
— Read on www.amazon.com/dp/1621384977/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1

All That Is Beautiful & Terrible: The Feast of Saint Cecilia ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Much to my regret, I never asked my grandfather about Aunt Cecelia, and my grandmother never knew her. The events of her life are now completely lost, outside of her tragic death which seems to have defined her very existence. I have visited Aunt Cecelia’s grave many times in my life; frankly, it’s one of my favorite spots in the known universe. She rests under a gravestone with her oval picture embedded in it. Though the porcelain containing the picture is cracked and chipped, the image intrigues me. Despite the distance from her to me, her eyes reveal much. She looks at me with penetrating intelligence and with more than a bit mischievousness. Aunt Cecelia has even visited me a time or two in my dreams, but she is always merely playful. She’s never spoken to me, even under the drug of Morpheus. Her grave faces east in the windswept and dramatic valley of Pfeifer, Kansas, under the shadow of the gothic church built stone by stone by my ancestors, Heilige Kreuz.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/11/all-beautiful-terrible-feast-saint-cecilia-timeless-bradley-birzer.html

Color e-paper is being tested by some big name companies

It will be very interesting to see the first wave of products that use the new color e-paper. I would say Amazon or Kobo stand the best chance to be first to the market, simply because they have large engineering divisions and can afford to take the time to get a product right. How nice would it be to browse the Kindle or Kobo store and have all of the cover art in full and vibrant colors? The GoodReads experience on the Kindle would be superb, you would actually be able to see the avatar photos people use, instead of them just being in black and white. Non-fiction books would benefit from this, you would actually be able to see the insert photos, as they were intended.
— Read on goodereader.com/blog/e-paper/color-e-paper-is-being-tested-by-some-big-name-companies

Another Miracle: The Flower Kings at 25

Interior art, Flower Kings, WAITING FOR MIRACLES (Sony/Inside Out, 2019).

Looking death straight in the eye

You will never feel that much alive

—Roine Stolt

For anyone in the prog world, Roine Stolt is a grand and solid name, a trusted master of the craft and a man as honest about his opinions as anyone ever has been in the rock world. From The Flower Kings to Transatlantic to Anderson-Stolt to Steve Hackett’s band, Stolt is anywhere and everywhere excellence is. 

Simply put, when I think of Stolt, I imagine that other master of amazing things, Tom Bombadil. And, yes, that means Goldberry is nearby. “He is.”

The new Flower Kings, WAITING FOR MIRACLES, is a thing of beauty, delicate yet everlasting.  Sounding a bit like FLOWER POWER and SPACE REVOLVER, the new album has everything a fan loves: mystery, lingering, soaring, contemplating, undulation.

This is glorious and mighty prog.

The album opens with the fragile and compelling “House of Cards,” moving immediately into the Tennyson-esque rage against fate, “Black Flag.” Followed by ten-minute “Miracles for America,” a plea for the future of the free world, and then another ten-minute track, “Vertigo,” disk one is nothing if not dizzying.  If there’s a rock anthem on the album, it’s track no. five, “The Bridge,” which might very well have topped the rock charts in 1983, with its reminder of the theme of the album, “waiting for miracles.” “Ascending to the Stars,” track six of disk one, gives us a mysterious and dark Flower King, an instrumental and orchestra joy somewhat reminiscent of Kansas in its heyday. Despite its name, “Wicked Old Symphony” is the poppiest of the tracks on disk one, a track that hints at the Beatles as well as early 1970’s America. “The Rebel Circus,” track eight, is another wildly wacky and infectious instrumental, followed by the intense and aptly-named, “Sleeping with the Enemy.” The final track of disk one, “The Crowning of Greed,” is a poem, at once reflective in theme, and progressive in tone.

Disk two is much shorter than disk one, and I have no idea if it’s meant to be a “bonus disk” or a continuation of the album. That track one of disk two is a reprise of track one of disk one does nothing to answer my confusion about all of this. Track two, “Spirals,” is a feast of electronica and reminds us once again of the theme of the album: “Call on miracles—For America.” “Steampunk,” the third track of disk two, seems to take us back into the world of adventures. If “Black Flag” followed the voyages of Ulysses, “Steampunk” has us follow Aeneas. The final full track of the album, “We Were Always Here,” is a rather beautiful rock song, reminding us of life and its unending beauties. “It’s so simple in its purities/All that genius—life energies/like forgotten springs of melody.” Disk two ends with the 52-second long bluesy circus piece, “Busking at Brobank.”

Overall, WAITING FOR MIRACLES, is a joy.  It’s not just a joy as a Flower Kings album, it’s a joy as a rock album. Anyone serious about his or her rock music should add this to the collection. One final note—while I’m not wild about the cover art (too political for my tastes), I absolutely love the interior art, making a physical purchase of WAITING a must.

P.S. I proudly bought my copy from my favorite store, Burning Shed.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Leaf by Niggle” ~ The Imaginative Conservative

One very late night or early morning in 1939, J.R.R. Tolkien awoke, a full story ready to burst from his already imaginatively feverish brain. Contrary to his normal hesitation and typical obsessive writing and rewriting, Tolkien’s short story, “Leaf by Niggle” emerged “virtually complete in my head. It took only a few hours to get down, and then copy out.”[1] If Tolkien had ever toyed with the ideas found in the novel—in terms of setting, character, or plot—he had no recollection of them or of any of it. Like Athena emerging whole out of the head of Zeus, “Leaf by Niggle” simply appeared on paper that very late evening or early morning in 1939, just prior to the beginning of the Second World War. Sometime in 1940, he read the story—presumably to an approving audience—to the Inklings. Again, the story just emerged, and Tolkien never even edited it after his initial copying it down. It was, he remembered fondly, “the only thing I have ever done which cost me absolutely no pains at all.”[2]
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/11/leaf-by-niggle-jrr-tolkien-bradley-birzer.html

When Giants Roamed the Earth: Elbow

GIANTS OF ALL SIZES. Musical perfection.

When Elbow writes a pop song, they do it right. And, not merely right, but “just right.” Every note, every lyric, every silence, every beat matters.

When Elbow produces an album, the band gets everything not merely perfect, but “just perfect.”

While I have enjoyed every album and EP the band has released, the new album, GIANTS OF ALL SIZES is the band’s best since 2011’s BUILD A ROCKET BOYS.

Indeed, anything and everything you want from an Elbow album is here: the achingly clever lyrics; the smooth and relentless hooks; and the never compromised and earnest vocals. Yet, there’s more with GIANTS OF ALL SIZES: female choruses; weird proggy keyboards; and an Abbey Road-style flow.

At this point, I love every song, but I especially love “Empires”–with it Thomas Dolby-esque (think, “One of Our Submarines”) thought-provoking lyrics–and “On Deronda Road”–with its Steve Howe guitar opening and “Fragile”-esque vocals.

Though I would never label GIANTS OF ALL SIZES a prog album, I’d be utterly foolish not to categorize it as “art rock” at its finest and best. Whatever genre one wants to assign it, we can and should be able to agree on at least one absolute: GIANTS OF ALL SIZES is a thing of sheer excellence.

Perelandra: Preventing the Fall ~ The Imaginative Conservative

It would be no exaggeration to claim that C.S. Lewis’s “Perelandra”—arguably the least read and least remembered part of his “Space Trilogy”—is nothing short of a masterpiece. In it, the author ably blends science fiction and theology, giving us a gripping thriller, steeped in thought, adventure, and myth… (essay by Bradley J. Birzer)
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/11/perelandra-preventing-fall-bradley-birzer.html