Sunday, January 15, 2012

A New Record

Yesterday I scattered some safflower seed on the lower patio. In the afternoon, I counted 20 juncos feeding on that and the thistle seed fallen below the goldfinch feeders. A new record!

Music In

Man, how can I get so far behind on music in? I guess it's because with books, as soon as you finish it, you can normally review it. Whereas music you have to live with a while to give it a chance to sink in. Anyway, going back to October:
  • "Biophilia", by Bjork. Ms. Guttmunsdottir, the world's greatest living composer, hits it out of the park again. Plus, lots of songs that express the wonder and awe of science, on topics like dark matter, evolution, viruses. 4 stars.
  • "Ceremonials", by Florence + The Machine. Another very strong offering, although I like it a little less than her prior. 3 stars.
  • "Realistic", by Ivy, 1995. I am such a sucker for sappy Europop (actually a NYC band with a French lead singer) like this. 4 stars.
  • "Innervisions", by Stevie Wonder, 1973. $5.00 special from Amazon. The body of work that Stevie produced in the early 70's is completely excellent and represented a huge advance in pop and R&B music. 4 stars.
  • "Highway 61 Revisited", by Bob Dylan, 1965. $5.00 special from Amazon. Set the wayback machine for 1965. Great stuff. 3 stars, 4 for "Highway 61 Revisited", and "Ballad of a Thin Man". "Because something is happening here, but you don't know what it is. Do you, Mister Jones?"
  • "50 Words For Snow", by Kate Bush. Ethereal arrangements, haunting lyrics. 4 stars.
  • "In The Clear", by Ivy. Filling out their discography. This 2005 effort sounds a little tired, maybe they're ready for a change. 3 stars, I think, still unrated. I still have to try their latest, which came out just last year.
The next 5 albums I got from the Rolling Stone Top 50 Albums of 2011. I think Josh at Azur pointed me at that. I thought about doing my own Top 10 list for 2011, but when I'm pulling from someone else's list, that seems like cheating. 4 of these I also gifted electronically to my NYC daughter for Solstice -- they should not take up too much space in her tiny Brooklyn apartment.
  • "Thank You, Happy Birthday", by Cage The Elephant. A Bowling Green, KY band no less. Some of it is a little too punkish for me, but some great tunes. 3 stars.
  • "So Beautiful Or So What", by Paul Simon. I'm not that big a Simon fan, but there were some great tunes here. A nice (short) instrumental too, you forget that this guy's been a pretty good guitarist for 50 years. 4 stars.
  • "W H O K I L L", by Tune-Yards. Wow, that a vocal range Merrill Garbus has! And what catchy grooves! 4 stars.
  • "Nine Types Of Light", by TV On The Radio. Nice tunes, very consistent. 3 stars.
  • "Ritual Union", by Little Dragon. Swedish techno R&B. Makes sense to me. Killer grooves. 4 stars.
Finally, two albums downloaded as a result of watching "The Royal Tenenbaums" with my daughter Erica when she was home for solstice. Both oldies.
  • "Chelsea Girl", by Nico, 1967. I think her first solo album after her Velvet Underground / Andy Warhol gig. Kind of the prototypical Europop/trash female lounge singer. Surprisingly good. 3 stars.
  • "V.U.", by The Velvet Underground, 1985. That date is suspect, this was a compilation album, but a lot of the tracks don't appear to be anywhere else. Again, surprisingly good. "Stephanie Says" is the track in the movie. 3 stars.
That brings us into 2012. BTW, Happy New Year!

More Reading

After my last post, I had that nagging feeling I had forgotten something. And I had: "Postsingular", by Rudy Rucker. I missed it because the paperback had been on my shelf for a while, and so didn't show up in my Kindle downloads listing. I really feel like, given his normal subject matter and background (computer science professor and Louisville native), I should like his stuff, but, he is just not a very good writer. "Postsingular" winds up being "Jack and the Beanstalk" anchored in quantum mechanics??? I really can't recommend it. I still have a reissue of his Ware tetralogy, of which I think I have read the first two, "Software" and "Wetware", on my to-read shelf. That will definitely be saved for a rainy day.

More recently, I read "Twenty Palaces: A Prequel", by Harry Connolly. This is apparently the last book in this series -- I think I read on Connolly's blog or twitter feed that his publisher was not going to publish any more of these. Too bad, I have enjoyed them. The protagonist, an ex-con who works as a thug for a mystical society that ruthlessly wipes out magic users, is a great noir character, a cheap detective of the old school.

Finally, I read "The Quantum Thief", the first novel of Hannu Rajaniemi. I tweeted: "80s: Neuromancer; 90s: Snow Crash; 00s: Accelerando; 10s: The Quantum Thief." I was really impressed. Just when you think that visions of future computing, cyberspace, and virtual reality are totally passe, here comes a new vision that blows you away. Rataniemi jumps on the privacy issues that are now coming to the forefront in social media with both feet. Highly recommended.

I also yesterday bought my first ebooks from a local bookstore: Carmichael's, Louisville's Oldest Independent Bookstore, owned by my old friend Michael Boggs and his wife Carol Bosse. I knew Michael from the Louisville computing scene in the mid-80s. Had a very pleasant lunch with him a few Sundays ago. Anyway, he told me I could buy Google eBooks from their website, same price as Amazon. You download them to the IndieBound Reader app on the iPad or iPhone. The books in this app look more like real books in their page layout than either the Apple or Kindle readers. The only downside so far is that I can't figure out how to get books from within the app, I have to go to the Carmichael's website, purchase and download. They have told me that I can designate Carmichael's as my store within the app, and then work from within the app, but I haven't figured out how yet.

Meanwhile tho, I would rather give business to local bookstores than to sweatshop master Amazon. The people who work in their warehouses (there is a large one in Lexington) are all hired as temps, minimal benefits, get sick and you're fired. Definitely a workforce that needs to unionize.

I have loved the convenience of buying from Amazon, but if the low prices come as a result of worker abuse, I will take my business elsewhere (whenever possible). Now I need a good alternative for buying music.