Book Reviews: A Higher Call & Dreamsongs I

I like to read. My genres of choice are history and science fiction. I tend to alternate, reading a book of each, then switching. So here are reviews of each type, sort of.

A Higher Call is about two World War II pilots, during and after the war. An American bomber was spared its doom by a compassionate German pilot who had it in his sites over European skies.

George R. R. Martin wrote many books and short stories before his blockbusting Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones). Dreamsongs I is the first of two anthologies of his short stories and novellas.

My Interview with Trump Airlines

I: So you want to be a pilot? What experience do you have? 
B: Well, I’ve never flown an airplane, but I have insulted a lot of pilots. 
I: OK. Do you know anything about the business? 
B: Well, I used to drive a bus. As a matter of fact, I drove a number of them into a ditch. 
I: Good. Anything else? 
B: Sometimes I’d take passengers’ money, then not drive them anywhere. It was hilarious.
I: Naturally, you’d have a crew on an airliner. Are you good with people?  
B: Oh, I love stewardesses the most. I just grab them by the pussy. 
I: You’re hired!


I had always found musical theater to be annoying. Indie rock, trained composerly pretenses aside, I'm really just a pop-rock guy. The singing style of actors always seemed too "fabulous" for me. Too much vibrato and melodrama. At some point I realized that many musicals' core songs could be very good, if just sung in a different style.
Alexander Hamilton
That led me to actually make my own rock and roll musical, In Dog's Country. I have since been told that it's not a "proper" musical because the songs don't "advance the story". While I'd argue that a few of them do, I admit that several regular songs were just stuck between dialogue.
As you've probably heard, Hamilton gets it right. The cast sings more in the style of hip hop and soul, so that appeases my resistance to the traditional theatrical fabulousness. The songs advance the story, in a big way.
And everyone loves it! Its newsworthiness began with the casting of people of color for most of the major characters. As you may recall, the Founding Fathers were predominantly white men. A black George Washington turns heads. ("Here comes the general!") But it makes sense as a modern interpretation of the American experience, especially Hamiton himself: Hungry immigrant seeks to better himself in a new land, changes the world. Many recurring and memorable musical themes parallel the conceptual themes throughout. Hey, were it not for Innocent Sin, I would declare the Hamilton sountrack the best album of 2015.*
This music hits me really hard, really fast. A minute into the first song, I'm weepily heaving with emotion. And it's not even a sad song! This happens to a lot of people. So my first question is:

What is it that evokes such strong feelings?

Most music does not have this effect on me, or other people, to such a degree. Most answer that it's just good music. Well, no duh. But what specifically about it pushes my buttons? I understand I'm a history buff, so that may make me more susceptible. I read Chernow's book that inspired Miranda to write the play. But it can't just be that. Does it just tap into our American identity so strongly that we all can't help but swell with emotion? That leads me to my second question:

Do non-Americans love Hamilton as much as we do?

If its power rests in recasting our trials and tribulations into a modern context, do people from other lands feel it like we do? It could be yes, because it's such a strong immigrant tale, and everyone in the world has the potential to be a stranger in  this strange land. And/or the music is just that strong. Or, maybe the rest of the world can't relate, because they haven't lived here. So you tell me.

* OK, I've thought it over. Because of its historical significance, I'll let Hamilton be the best. I concede to second place.


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Billy D TV

Billy's music videos and performances. A playlist.

The Bill & Frantz Show

A casual talk show, with frequent deviations into informal creativity. Featured guests, live music, madness.


Frantz wrote a script called "Shattered", starring me as a crazy man who likes to yell at his wife, Helen. On The Bill & Frantz Show (episode 406), he interviews me as self-satisfied French actor, Guillaume Dechand.