Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lianne La Havas

I was listening to 4 star and up in iTunes (~4200 tracks) and this song came up. What a beautiful song, I made it 5 stars in my iTunes - 5 star count is now 126.

I tweeted, which posted through to Facebook. Got 0 attention either place. But I have more to say about the song and artist, so I will say it here.

That tasty guitar lick has only 5 chords. For those of you keeping score, they are Cmaj7 C6 G Gmaj7 C#7. I recorded the lick. Unusual to be playing on only the bottom 3 strings.

The song gobsmacked me. I must have listened to it 20 times. I kind of obsessed on this artist last week. Lots of good videos. Her guitar playing is distinctive and lyrical. Her band is excellent, and the live performances have great engineering, as seems to be the norm now.

I watched one interview of her where she talked about this song. She is from London. The song is about the heritage she got from her parents. Her mother is Jamaican, "Green & Gold" are the colors of the Jamaican flag. Her father is Greek, "ancient stone" is a reference to the classical Greek ruins.

I assumed that like most songs this was a love song. These lines seemed inappropriate in that context:

Those eyes you gave to me
that let me see
where I come from.
But the "you" in the first line is her parents. So a touching tribute. It really is a personal song, it would seem odd to cover it, but I'm sure that won't stop people

England, and in particular London, has lately given us some great female singers: this woman, Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, Corinne Bailey Rae, Adele, Rainy Milo. The US doesn't seem to producing anyone comparable. My friend Michael Boggs likes Pink, I have listened to some of her stuff, nothing struck me. The new Beyoncé album has gotten rave reviews, I sampled a few tracks and was not getting much. I will probably get the album and see if it will burn in.

We do have Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Janelle Monáe, and all the great Brooklyn bands. But it still seems like we are mostly missing the nuevo-Motown singers, who somehow seem to have all wound up in London.

Monday, May 09, 2016

The Traitor Baru Cormorant

Yes, I know, I should have been reading something worthwhile and economical, but, I don't know, I liked the title of this book.

"The Traitor Baru Cormorant" is the 1st novel of Seth Dickinson. I have tagged it as fantasy, although it has no fantastical elements (magic, dragons, etc) other then being set in an alternate earth or other world. It is well written, with several new words to look up, and well paced. The plot twists are anxiety-producing, which I would say is a good thing. As seems to be becoming increasingly popular, gender roles are fluid compared to what you would expect in your standard medieval setting.

The book left me feeling uncomfortable. It kind of gives you 2 world models to choose from, both of which suck. You can have your traditional medieval or Polynesian Iron Age culture, perhaps with odd breeding models. Or you can have an empire that apparently has some modernish science, medicine, accounting - and a superior military - but with brutal repression of all but the atomic family breeding model with heterosexuals; a comprehensive eugenics program; and mind control and reprogramming techniques. So, feudal primitivism, or Nazi efficiency? Hard choice.

The novel's heroine juggles this choice, and seems ultimately to choose the path that maximizes her personal power. It looks like we will learn what she does with that power in the next novel, currently being written.

I guess I should recommend this book, it seems to be fairly plugged into the current zeitgeist. It was a diverting read. But still, I can't describe it as edgy, or uplifting. Being made to feel uncomfortable by a book can be a good thing, but I guess my overall optimistic outlook on things wants there to be good answers to problems, and this book doesn't seem to offer any.

Ahhh, the exocortex delivers again! I think the empire of this book reminded me of S.M. Stirling's "The Domination", which I blogged here, in December 2004. That series involves ultra-Nazi protagonists, and after I was done with it, I kind of wished I hadn't read it - bad memes. So I think I got a little of that slimy, nasty feeling here - not even vaguely as bad as the Stirling though.

Ha ha, I wonder, as I become increasingly demented, if going back and rereading this blog will help me remember myself? I guess we'll see ...

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Bad Writing

I recently read "Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2015". This is a collection of the free stories they published at their website. It is a free download, yay!

I blogged on the 2014 version of this here. I blogged about the 150 story 5 year release they did here and here.

All those posts listed stories that stood out, that I really liked. This latest volume, the overall quality was very good, but nothing jumped out at me.

Coming at this from the other end of the quality spectrum, I was halfway through the stories when I had the thought, "Man, no bad stories so far". But, there wound up being two stories that were doing OK, but then did something that I think definitely qualifies as "bad writing": they ended the story with a 1 sentence, "gotcha" paragraph. That just seems totally ... amateurish, cheap? ... to me. The offending stories were "Tear Tracks", by Makla Older, and "Schrödinger's Gun", by Ray Wood. The second one was a really interesting quantum physics story, so the ending was definitely and disappointingly unfortunate.

I have been paying more attention to figuring out what triggers my "this is bad writing" reflex, mostly because of a book review I wrote where I stated the author was a bad writer - although she did get better as the book wore on. I guess it is my engineer's mindset - don't just complain about something, figure out what is wrong, and fix it. We'll see how that goes. I am dragging my feet on reading that author's 2nd book and, if the "bad writing" flag gets tripped, figuring out why.

So, again, to be snarky, the collection was definitely worth the price. It is nice of Tor to do these, and I'm sure a good way to give their authors some more exposure.