Another Piece in the Audio Puzzle: The Marantz CD6006

maratntzCD6006

While being very happy with the sound of my recently purchased stereo system there was an obvious weak link in the chain; It centered on my old and reliable Sony Blu-ray player. There was nothing overtly bad about it and since I was unaware of the difference a good DAC can make I’d have been content to leave things as they were.

However, following a look at various YouTube videos (sadly, very little “real” content on the Marantz CD6006) and researching various reviews of a number of systems I thought I’d “gamble” on the Marantz. It was a logical choice to pair it with the Marantz PM6006 amplifier I had bought. To my mind, I thought it only logical that the Marantz engineers would have built the two units with the idea of joining them in concert as it were (pardon the obvious pun).

So to the question, does a dedicated CD player provide better sound than a Blu-ray player? Well, in the case of my older Sony Blu-ray and the 2016 Marantz CD6006 the answer is an unqualified yes!

It’s quite surprising the difference in quality – but it’s there and you can definitely tell. Many years ago when DVD’s began replacing VHS tapes a skeptical friend came over and asked to see the new technology I had purchased. Basically, he expected to be underwhelmed and ready with a “I knew it was all snake oil”. But, he was genuinely impressed. He could see the improvement himself.

While admittedly less dramatic than the jump from VHS to DVD video quality the audio equivalent is apropos.  You can hear the difference! Now, I am the first to admit that my system is far removed from the crème de la crème of high-end fidelity BUT it certainly qualifies as a solid entry level system to the world of high-fidelity. I am more than satisfied.

whathifi

Highest marks earned from What HI-FI? and a 2016 Award winning product

Head over to What Hi-Fi? for a more technical and detailed review of the CD6006

The first CD baptised in the new system was the 2017 Mono mix that came as part of the 50th Anniversary Sgt. Pepper Deluxe Edition. I always play the Beatles first whenever I am about to break in a new sound system… and it’s always the Beatles (or a John Lennon solo tune) that I like to play as the first song I hear to greet a new year.

The bass and overall audio presence was raised more than a few notches with the improved performance brought in by the CD6006. I followed up the Beatles with Klaatu’s 3:47 E.S.T. 40th Anniversary Edition, The Cure’s Greatest Hits, The Yes Album (remastered), Who’s Next, and Abbey Road. My age places me comfortably in the Classic Rock period and it is that genre of music that most frequently finds its way onto my CD player.

Pepper6

Two ends of the production spectrum – the lovingly (reverently) remixed Sgt. Pepper (2017) and 1989’s The Ventures All-Time Greatest Hits. The Marantz CD6006 serves them both well. 

For fun, I threw on a cheap discount CD just to see if the Marantz could make something of it. I chose for this purpose The Ventures All-Time Greatest Hits (released on CD in 1989).  Even here, I could hear the separation of the instruments and enjoy the straightforward production afforded their 1960s recordings.

My son is purchasing the Fleet Foxes new album,  “Crack-Up” released yesterday so later today I’ll reluctantly turn control of my system over to him for a few hours.

Finally, I should add that I purchased all the components and wires for my setup from Victoria, BC’s venerable Sound Hounds. I have bought all my very best gear from them since the 1980s. Their customer service and product line is first-rate. I recommend them as Vancouver Island’s “go-to” hi-fidelity source.

Thanks as always, Sound Hounds team 🙂

soundhounds

Sound Hounds @ 1532 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8R 1A8 (courtesy of Google Streetview)

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Everything OLD is NEW again – A return to the venerable COMPACT DISC

stereo

Neither expansive nor exhaustive a review I simply wanted to acknowledge a renewed interest in collecting CDs for my listening pleasure. With a resurgence of vinyl and the now mainstream accessibility of digital downloads the poor old Compact Disk seems destined for the historic trash heap. Nonetheless, the CD medium seems perfectly suited for my own needs.

In the 1980s I first caught the audiophile bug and pushed (as far as my limited budget would allow) for a quality music system, the cornerstone of which were my Boston Acoustic A150 floor speakers.

A divorce at the millennium’s turn and many years later the desire for a return to some quality sound prompted me to purchase a pair of Book Shelf Speakers; the speaker size dependent upon and dictated by a smaller room setting.

I settled upon a pair of ELAC B6 Debut Series 6.5″ Bookshelf Speakers by Andrew Jones. To power them I purchased a Marantz PM6006 amplifier. Finally, in lieu of a dedicated CD player I just hooked up my Sony Blue-Ray player circa 2002. I bought a pair of Sony MDR-RF985 Wireless Stereo Headphones. However, I was a bit underwhelmed by them. Back in the day I owned a pair of Koss HV/1’s that I loved and so searching about the net I stumbled upon Grado’s line of headphones and purchased a pair of SR125e’s.

Check out each of these components as there is lots of information on the net and the reviews are generally quite favorable.

Being an old timey classic rock gal my first new CD purchase was the Beatles CD remasters box set in stereo. Wow! This set represents the crown jewel in my growing music collection. The sound quality is phenomenal and the packaging quality of the overall product irreproachable. Some may question my choice of Stereo over Mono since the Beatles’ catalog was initially released in Mono with the Stereo recordings considered a mere after-thought. But for me the versions of the Albums I am most familiar with are the stereo recordings and so I am eminently satisfied with my purchase. I have never heard the Beatles sound as good as they do in this collection.

beatles-box

After the Beatles I began picking up the 2014 Jimmy Page remasters of the Zeppelin studio releases. Audiophile, Ron Beaudry has panned them mercilessly. Ron is a vinyl guy and has a number of fun and informative reviews of youtube. He is definitely worth checking out. However, I am very satisfied with the 2014 remasters and the sound quality is great. Of course, all of this is subjective so you may find yourself strongly disagreeing with me; No worries, for as the old saying goes “your mileage may vary.”

led-zeppelin-albums

The last CD collection I wanted to mention is YES – The Studio Albums 1969-1987 Remastered & Expanded CD BOX SET. This collection arrived at my door today via Amazon and it prompted me to do a review; initially just about the Yes collection, but then I thought it more useful to discuss CD’s in general and a return to collecting music in this format.

yes-box1

The Yes set presents the Rhino remasters from 2003 and I am “very” happy with the sound quality here. The packaging is “okayyyy” but not great. It comes in a nifty little box that looks good (Roger Dean good) but hampers my access to the CD’s. So I keep the box out and displayed for aesthetic purposes but I have removed the CD’s and have them stored for easy access guaranteeing that they’ll be played more; which undeniably is what it’s all about.

Clearly, digital access to music is the most efficient when it comes to muss and fuss. Most of us can get a quick musical fix by logging onto YouTube and hearing essentially anything we want (Bob Dylan being a notable exception). Vinyl is great and the ultimate nostalgic fix for an aging baby boomer. But in all honesty, I’ve been spoiled by the easy access afforded by the digital age. Admittedly, LP’s are one of the greatest OCD experiences you could possibly hope for — cleaning the record’s surface with a lint free brush or cloth —swinging the tonearm over and gently lowering the stylus to your song of choice really can’t be matched by any other medium.

However, CD’s still afford the collector the ability to hold in his or her hands old familiar Albums (albeit in reduced scale) and see Marc Bolan and David Bowie looking eternally young in top hat and Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt. Compact Discs afford the consumer the reward of physical ownership of a property they can actually call their own — and there is something nicely cathartic in all that.

bowie-marc

 

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Lorne Greene (no, not “that” Lorne Greene) and the birth of British Rock n’ Roll

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Lorne Greene at my sister’s place in Port Alberni, August 30 2016

This past summer I had the opportunity to visit with my bio-mom and siblings up at Port Alberni. For those that don’t know, I was adopted at 2 weeks old and through a combination of DNA and good old fashioned detective work I was able to find both my birth mother (still living) and learn the identity of my biological father, Louis Joseph Lee 1926-2004. For those interested in all that feel free to check out my Genealogy blog at: Williams – Thomas – Doran : A Genealogy Page.

But I digress, (as I often do). While there, I was introduced to Lorne Greene (born December 24, 1938 in Port Alberni), a family friend and a man with a very interesting musical pedigree. Lorne had the good fortune to find himself in London, England just as the English Rock n’ Roll scene was taking off in the early 1960s.

don-reynolds

Lorne at left as one of Donn Reynolds’ “Boys” 1958

He is, by his own admission, first and foremost — a country music lover-player. Above, closer to his roots, Lorne toured with fellow Canadian and country music star Donn Reynolds in 1958. However, his chosen instrument of guitar made him a highly sought after commodity in London’s  burgeoning  1960s pop and rock music scene. He soon found himself in the company of a number of soon to be famous rock legends.

the-dukes

Lorne at left pulling duties as guitarist for “The Dukes” in 1958

Lorne played with a number of folks that were well known in the UK but much less so in North America. I found a very brief mention of Lorne on a page dedicated to early English Rockabilly artist, Terry Wayne:

terry

Terry Wayne circa 1960, Source: http://www.rockabillyhall.com/terrywayne.html

In 1959, Terry appeared twice on the popular BBC Light Program radio show, “Saturday Club” with his band, the Dukes, featuring a whole host of rock and roll favourites including “She’s Mine”, “Mighty Mighty Man”, “Boppin’ the Blues” and “Just Because”. These live recordings can be heard on the aforementioned Rollercoaster CD “The Terrific Terry Wayne” (RCCD 3030) available from Rollercoaster Records, Rock House, St. Mary’s, Chalford, Gloucestershire, England, GL6 8PU or visit the website http://www.RollercoasterRecords.com. Terry also recorded some private sessions for Bernie Andrews, the show’s engineer. Bernie was taken with Terry’s guitarist Lorne Green[e] when he realised they had a mutual interest in Chet Atkins. [emphasis mine] These recordings can also be heard on the Rollercoaster CD. The bass player with the Dukes was Lennie Harrison whom Terry met on the “Jerry Lee” tour. Lennie was playing with Chas McDevitt at the time but joined Terry later in 1959. At last, Terry had an authentic sound with Lennie’s upright bass and Lorne’s appreciation of Chet Atkins shining through on guitar. 

Reference: The “Terrific” Terry Wayne (Terry was best man at Lorne and Ina’s wedding)

chet-atkins

Chet Atkins at the Devonshire Hotel, London 1962 (Trying out Lorne’s Gretsch)

Chet Atkins remains Lorne’s favourite guitarist and like so many of his contemporaries, Lorne made it a mission to obtain a Gretsch guitar. Lorne recalls that during a recording session at the BBC studios in 1962 one of his band mates told him that some guys had entered the studio and had cracked open his precious Gretsch guitar case. Alarmed, Lorne arrived to see his Gretsch in the hands of four young men who were admiring it. As you might have guessed, these “four young men”turned out to be the Beatles! Like Lorne, George Harrison was also enamoured of  Chet Atkins and so the lure of Lorne’s Gretsch must have proved too much for the young Beatle.

beatles62

The Beatles -pre mop-top but as they must have looked when Lorne caught them admiring his Gretsch guitar

Lorne also found work with the legendary, Billy Fury. He appears on one of the early promotional posters for the 1962 film, “Play it Cool” with black Gretsch in hand. The period from 1961 to 1962 was a particularly productive time for Lorne as he also played and recorded with the Outlaws, and Carter-Lewis and the Southerners.

eddie-calvert

Lorne 2nd from left performing with Eddie Calvert (1922-1978) in 1963

In a recent phone conversation I had with Lorne he states that he played first with Carter Lewis and the Southerners prior to his stint with the Outlaws. He also spent time with an outfit called the “Night-Riders” featuring fellow guitarist, Ken Allen. Other performers Lorne lent his guitar skills to included notable horn player, Eddie Calvert as well as Johnny Duncan, and Terry Kennedy.

nightriders

The Night-Riders in Hamburg 1962 (Lorne at far right)

One quirky fact regarding Lorne’s career is that following his departure from the Outlaws he was replaced by Ritchie Blackmore and after leaving Carter-Lewis and the Southerners he was replaced by Jimmy Page! Both artists are hailed as being amongst the very best of their generation.

page-blackmore

Left- Ritchie Blackmore legendary guitarist for Deep Purple and Rainbow, and at Right, rock-god, Jimmy Page co-founder of Led Zeppelin

At some point during 1963, Lorne had grown homesick for his native Canada. He and his newlywed Scottish bride, Ina, made their way to Canada where the couple raised their family.

outlaws1962

The Outlaws 1962 (Lorne at far right)

Lorne is a quiet and humble guy. His obvious talent (he still plays guitar) would have carried him far had he remained in the UK. However, he has no regrets. His profile might have been raised somewhat had not fellow Canadian and television-recording star Lorne Greene eclipsed him so completely by virtue of their shared name.

helen1963

Helen Shapiro showing some decent “Footie” form as Lorne (rear left) looks on approvingly.  Photo taken at Great Yarmouth 1963

And so I  created this brief biographical entry on this Lorne Greene- a Canadian guitarist present at and an active participant in the birth of British Rock n Roll. I feel strongly that Lorne’s contributions should not be forgotten.

lorne-john-wayne

L-R John Williams, Lorne and Wayne Price August 30 2016

Above, Lorne indulged my son (also a Chet Atkins fan) with a turn on Lorne’s White Falcon Gretsch. Lorne’s frequent musical partner, Wayne Price, has a great voice and is a fair guitarist in his own right.

I’d also like to express my sincere appreciation to Lorne and Ina for sharing some of these amazing photos from their private collection with me. They are published here with their express permission.

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The Welcome Death of Marvel Comics

 

Red_Skull

The Red Skull providing a politically conservative take on the “Refugee Crisis”

It’s a comfort to know that comic books no longer hold the mass appeal that they did in an earlier age. For the most-part, you need to travel to a specialist shop as they are no longer available off the rack at the local drug store. Sales are dropping and I think the reasons are pretty obvious.

Trite plot-lines and themes taken out of a politically left agenda tend to alienate the majority of readers. My love for Marvel’s universe stemmed from first rate characterization and originality that birthed and denoted what we now call the Silver-age of comics. All that has taken a backseat to gimmicky, paper-thin, politically driven pap that fails to inspire and ignite the imagination.

None of this is new of course. On some level, Marvel and its chief rival Brand Echhh … er., DC Comics have always addressed some measure of social justice and related causes… drug addiction, racism, and alienation were tackled as long ago as 1963 when the Fantastic Four defeated “The Hate Monger” an evil despot who turned out to be Adolf Hitler! Oops! forgot to add in the spoiler alert 😉 Later in the decade it was Peter Parker’s pal, Harry Osborn getting hooked on pills and the Green Arrow’s side-kick, “Speedy” getting hooked on heroin.

In an effort to bow before the twin idols of tolerance and diversity Marvel has been tweaking and reinventing familiar characters. Basically the formula has been to highlight a character’s sexual orientation or identity, change their sex (more often than not symbolically rather than literally i.e., have a female don the costume and mantle) and to change their ethnicity so that they are no longer Caucasian but a visible minority of one stripe or the other. All this is rather predictable as the movie representations merge with their comic book counterparts.

One particularly egregious example stems from a new series called  “Captain America: Steve Rogers”. In the first issue  Cap’s longtime enemy the WW2 Nazi super criminal Red Skull appears reciting the standard politically conservative opposition to unchecked immigration.

The problems with the above depiction are numerous to say the least. Simply put, it is erroneous to equate legitimate concerns Westerners have with regards to large-scale Muslim immigration and the Nazis of WW2.

As a conservative minded Westerner it’s a bit disconcerting to have the Red Skull become Marvel’s representative for people like myself. It’s beyond twisted of course but that’s the result when Marvel hires a former politician to pen a comic book. Nick Spencer is the mind behind this disposable trash and yes you can “Google” him.

By the way, and this is a spoiler…..

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

oh what the hell….

It turns out Steve Rogers has been a servant of Hydra for years and that he has internalized conservative values i.e., Nazi values. So I guess I can take some solace in the fact that the personification of America’s fighting spirit is as guilty and fundamentally evil as I am.

I honestly debated even writing this article. I mean what’s the point… it’s pretty much pissing into the wind. But it’s a slow moving Friday….

I am obviously not alone in my criticism of Marvel’s PC branding. Here’s a few choice quotes from other industry observers:

bigbang

On the sorry state of the industry

From Comic Book creator, Matt Battaglia:

Back in the desert, a group of presumably illegal immigrants are crossing the border, and the Sons of the Serpent arrive [ a 1960s created Avengers villain organization fueled by racist ideology] .

Some lines from the Serpents: “By invading this sovereign land, you defy the laws of God, nature, and the United States Constitution… until the mighty wall is built, you come here for employment that is rightfully ours! And if denied it, you seek welfare paid for by our tax dollars! … look who it is, y’all! Captain Socialism … apologizing for our country’s greatness that you have time to come down here and flout still more of our laws…”

Seriously, this is what the villains are espousing. It’s a lot of conservative buzzwords given a murderous edge, and that’s that. Together with the overall tone and narration of the issue, conservatives have every right to be angry.

Going back to Captain America’s earlier observation that “this country is a divided as it’s ever been,” we agree. Mainly because one side of the argument unilaterally paints the other side as racist, murderous monsters who are “spouting intolerance and fear” and “drowning out common sense.” 

See: http://thefederalist.com/2015/10/21/its-true-captain-america-is-now-captain-leftist/

And the headline says it all from an article by Douglas Ernst of the Washington Times:

‘Captain America’ comic likens critics of Syrian refugee programs to Nazis

See: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/may/23/captain-america-comic-likens-critics-of-syrian-ref/

And finally the aptly titled: “Why Comic Books Suck” blog (love the title)

See: http://whycomicbookssuck.blogspot.ca/

It’s comforting to know that the sinking ship called Marvel Comics may finally go the way of the dinosaur. The fact that both DC and Marvel have tried to reboot their anemic franchises every few years is tacit admission that their relevance is lost and they are culturally moribund.

My advice? Collect Marvel Masterworks… the company’s brilliant Silver-age output and remember what was.

 

 

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Book Review: The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

In the early years of my transition from male to female I was a daily participant on a few select gender identity boards; notably the Transgender Canada Forum and the apparently defunct “GID forum” based in the U.S. I also flirted with “Twitter” and although my account is all but dormant these days (for the morbidly curious I post as CanadaGirl58) it did afford me the opportunity to connect with Jules Vilmur. Under the name of “@Laurustina”, Jules allowed some of us on Twitter to view selections from a book she hoped to publish one day. That book of course turned out to be “The Complicated Geography of Alice”.

Jules’ memoir of her daughter, Alice’s own journey from male to female is a harrowing, out-of-control ride into the depths of drug abuse and chronic addiction. You’ll want a pharmaceutical lexicon to keep track of the seemingly endless list of chemicals young Alice managed to consume. The book is brilliantly written and Jules’ struggle to understand her daughter’s conflicted, and decidedly complex psyche becomes the reader’s own.  There’s a real temptation to try and “fix” Alice and the author’s frustrations with a chronically ill-informed medical profession shackled by assumptions and prejudices too numerous to mention will have you shaking your head.

Despite opposition from various quarters— including members of their own family, Jules and Alice find a measure of support, (some of it simply outstanding) from members of the GBLTQ community. Religious prejudice plays a role here but the author rises above it and treats “spiritual” opposition to her daughter’s transition with a notable lack of rancor and a healthy dose of grace. The book features a colorful cast of supporting characters but at the center of it all is the person of Alice.

Fortunately, you cannot help but love the cocky, stubborn, willful— yet sensitive and fun-loving, mercurial mix of iron and clay that is, Alice. The author masterfully communicates her roller-coaster emotions of rising hope and optimism followed by gut-wrenching fear, concern, and despair.

This is an intensely personal book but one that will resonate strongly with people from all walks of life by virtue of its fundamental humanity. Its essential truth reveals a story fueled by a mother’s unquenchable love for her child. I smiled, I winced and I cried… a lot… but the book is compelling; and yes it will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

A modern tale of a modern family that manages to transcend by far the boundaries of Transgender biography. 

Available for purchase at Amazon.com

TITLE: The Complicated Geography of Alice

Product Details
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1503021769
ISBN-13: 978-1503021761
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

Follow Jules Vilmur on Twitter @Laurustina and on Facebook: Laurustina.com

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A Review of “Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett

"Full Circle: A Father's Journey with a Transgender Child" by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett.

“Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett.

As a post-operative transsexual woman, myself, and as someone who counts Nicole Rundlett amongst her personal friends I can hardly enter a review of “Full Circle” as an unbiased observer. However, Nicole knows me well enough to know that I am lavish on praise where it is due and overtly critical of actions and opinions where they lack merit or validity. See my article on “Passing 101 or The Emperor’s New Clothes (REVISITED)” as an example of my critical edge.

( https://chrysalid58.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/passing-101-or-the-emperors-new-clothes-revisited/ )

I first met Nicole in Montreal at Dr. Pierre Brassard’s  Clinique de chirurgie plastique et esthétique in early November 2009. She was there for SRS (sex reassignment surgery) supported by her then girlfriend, and now, wife,  Arlene (Ar) and I was there for brow work, rhinoplasty, and breast augmentation by Dr. Eric Bensimon. A year earlier I had undergone SRS myself under the skilled hands of Dr. Brassard.

Full Circle is set apart from most other books on the subject as it is told largely by Derry Rundlett— Nicki’s father. The book is in essence a love letter between father and child. Derry chronicles the evolution of his relationship with Nicole from conception through to the birth of son, Nick, and the rebirth of Nick into Nicole. It is at once both moving and profound as the author tackles the issue of his son’s transition from male to female head-on.

Male-to-Female transsexuals can easily fall into the trap of seeing themselves less objectively than the world around them may view them. It was refreshing for me and more importantly, critical to Nicki’s well-being that she largely avoided that common pitfall in the course of her transitioning from male to female.

Both Nicki and her father were keenly aware that Nicole was seen as something “other” during the early phase of her transition. Derry recites an incident where Nicole’s gender was openly questioned. It is generally a difficult period for most male-to-female transsexuals — (I was no exception) and public scrutiny can be intense.

Derry recounts the struggle that both he and other members of the family (both immediate and extended) had in coming to terms with “Nicole”. Some relationships were indeed interrupted if not lost altogether and Nicki’s transition proved the undoing of his first marriage.

There was undeniable confusion and pain for all involved — Nicole included. Derry answers many of the questions raised by those opposed to sex-changes, transgender rights, and the like. A self-identified Christian, Derry recounts the difficulty of trying to apply stereotypical Christian methods of coping to his agnostic/atheist child ( in fairness, I am not sure about Nicki’s stance on the issue of religion).

Many close family and friends of the Rundlett’s are practicing Christians and they are treated with respect and love by Derry despite witnessing many of them failing to embrace Nicole’s new identity.

There are no rose colored glasses here despite an all-encompassing love of a father for his child that trumps any and all arguments that may be leveled against Nicole.

The author is also aware of the high number of suicides committed by gender variant individuals and the book opens and closes with an acknowledgement of that grim fact. No less a personage than Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan is afforded the book’s “Afterword” on the subject.

Full Circle is a fast-easy read despite the subject matter. There is plenty of humor to be found amidst the often controversial subjects of sex and sexuality. The book is especially recommended for parents and other family members coming to grips with the reality of having a gender variant child. Both Nicki and Derry express their shared hope that this book may actually save lives. Their concern is not overstated.

From the publisher’s website:

He had to grieve the loss of a son & welcome the addition of a daughter only to come full circle and find out, in the end, he never lost anything. The essence of his child was still the same person she’d always been.

“Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett can be ordered via aBASK Publishing:

http://www.abaskpublishing.com/full_circle_a_fathers_journey_with_a_transgender_child_by_derry_rundlett__nicole_rundlett_click_here-1

or through Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Full-Circle-Fathers-Journey-Transgender/dp/0996239901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432627761&sr=8-1&keywords=full+circle+derry+rundlett

Also from the Publisher:

This is a 216 page tradepaper, perfect-bound 5.25″x8″ book with photos in living color. The Foreword is by Wayne Maines whose daughter won the highest transgender rights case in the history of Maine. The Afterword is by Jennifer Finney Boylan, reprinted with permission, “How to Save Your Life.”

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Jane Foster… You’ve Come a Long Way Baby!

Thor Issue #8

Thor Issue #8

It’s really no secret at this point since anyone with any real interest in all this will know by now that Jane Foster has been revealed as the new Thor. However, I thought it would be worth commenting on and providing some personal insight into the latest goings ons in the world of Thor and Marvel Entertainment in general.

On some level I’m quite comfortable with Jane assuming the mantle of Thor. Admittedly, the execution of it all is lacking somewhat, for as other’s have pointed out, Thor is the given name of the Odinson and so Jane’s incarnation should have been handled along the lines of Walt Simsonson’s Beta Ray Bill… The power, the mantle is his but not the name.

Interestingly enough, Marvel had Jane assume the Thor identity back in 1978 when she appeared as the goddess of thunder in one of the “What If?” titles, (issue #10 to be exact).

What If Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor

In this “imaginary” story Jane decided to call herself Thordis and performed admirably as a female incarnation of the Mighty Thor. Since, the story was clearly a fantasy and not meant to be seen as part of the Thor canon no one seemed to take umbrage over this representation of Thor (And no, the irony of it being an imaginary tale within an imaginary universe is not lost on me).

However, old timer’s like myself will hearken back a decade earlier still when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby finally resolved the Thor-Jane Foster relationship by granting her the powers of an Asgardian goddess! Yet, within the very pages of that memorable issue, they had her fail so miserably so, irrevocably, that poor Jane was forcibly removed from the cast of Thor’s main supporting characters and immediately replaced with the goddess Sif.

The Mighty Thor #136

The Mighty Thor #136

The transition was awkward and abrupt and not even Kirby’s amazing pencils or Stan’s eloquence could blunt the jolting impact of such a major change in the direction of their golden haired protagonist. It was definitely heavy handed, but fortunately, Sif proved an interesting character in her own right, and her courage, fearlessness, and innate character as a goddess born stood in stark contrast to the timid, gentle, and decidedly human, Jane Foster.

Not Cut-out for God Duty

Not Cut-out for God Duty

But like the old Virginia Slims cigarette ads once noted… “You’ve come a long way baby!” The current Jane Foster not only has become The Goddess of Thunder but in her human form is currently battling breast cancer. Either way, this Jane Foster is a definite bad-ass and possessed of an indomitable spirit.

In many ways the character of Jane Foster is symptomatic of the wider Marvel push for diversity. Canon iterations  (whether as part of the Cinematic or Comic Book Universe) of an Afro-American, Captain America, Nick Fury, and Human Torch among others have become the status-quo. Expect to see further steps in this direction. Certainly, GBLTQ characters are gaining more press and it won’t be long before we see one or more 1st tier characters coming out as gay or representing some other sexual minority.

Thor writer, Jason Aaron may had some creative fun at his critics’ expense when he had Jane/Thor go up against old school villain, Crusher Creel AKA The Absorbing Man is issue #5. The choice of villain was deliberate. Creel is overtly male, bestial, guttural, and to no one’s surprise, misogynistic in the extreme. In facing our female protagonist for the first time he screams out at her:

“Thor? Are you kidding me? I’m supposed to call you Thor? Damn feminists are ruining everything,” he says. “You wanna be a chick superhero? Fine. Who the hell cares? But get your own identity. Thor’s a dude. One of the last manly dudes still left. What’d you do, send him to sensitivity training so he’d stop calling Earth girls ‘wenches’?”

Thor retaliates by breaking his jaw.

“That’s for saying ‘feminist’ like it’s a four-letter word, creep,”

Creel’s scathing contempt echoes many of the sentiments felt by critics of the new Thor and I’m sure Jason Aaron was smiling to himself as he put together this artful and clearly symbolic contest between himself and his critics 🙂

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