International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day

Jo Walton has created a new holiday, International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, as a way of turning crass idiocy on its head. Today is a day to post professional quality work online in celebration of our “technopeasanthood.”

What this means in practical terms is an opportunity to check out lots of artists’ work for free before buying a book that may or may not be a good match for your tastes. Go. Read. Revel.

In honor of the day, I’m posting my story, “The End of Eternity,” on my web site. I hope you enjoy it.

Perfectly Happy

I’ve written here about a movie and music experiences that have disappointed me. I’ll do it again, because it helps me understand where the artist/audience contract broke down. I don’t want to repeat the mistakes myself. However, when something makes me really happy, I want to share that, too.

I’ve picked up two albums in the last couple of months that just keep making me happier. (Really, I downloaded them off iTunes, but at least I didn’t call them records.) The first is The Killers’ Sam’s Town, which I wasn’t too sure about the first time I heard it. It isn’t quite like anything else I’ve heard. Every time I think I know where it’s going, it doesn’t. But the more I listen to it and take it on it’s own terms, the more I love it, because that unexpected choice is always right. I liked their first big album, but this blows that out of the water. If you like your music instantly accessible, this isn’t for you. If you like things a bit more complicated, give it a try–or two or three.

My most recent acquisition is Cat Empire’s Two Shoes. It’s a…uh…well, it…. Okay, look; it combines ska, hip hop, Cuban funk, and Aussie punk attitude–generally all in the same song. I was listening this morning on the way to work, and I just grinned like an idiot. The scratching and the trumpet combined soooo beautifully. It was all wrong and completely right. This one you’ll have to listen to on your own to decide whether you’ll love it or be driven insane by it. But by all means, listen.

If you like it, I recommend Madness’s “Swan Lake,” Royal Crown Revue’s “Barflys on the Beach,” and the Insane Clown Posse cover of “Let’s Go All the Way.” No, really. And if you think all this means I like weird music…oh, yeah.

The Egg, of Course

There are things we say without thinking about or knowing what they mean. “I could care less.” (Really. Then why do you sound so scornful?) “Penultimate.” (You know a prefix changes the meaning of a word, right?)

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Grr.

This one’s bugged me for years. I grew up in the midst of dinosaur mania. I’ve seen the fossilized eggs. I knew what birds descended from. The second I stopped to think about it, I knew which came first. Whatever the first chicken’s parents were, they hatched from and laid eggs. That chicken had to wait in line.

It all seemed so transparent that anytime I heard somebody ask the well-worn question, I had to check whether I was dealing with a closet creationist.

Turns out I was wrong. Sort of. We didn’t know until recently. So, to everyone I’ve looked at funny over the years, I’m sorry. I was making assumptions I had no right to make. Please accept my humble apology.

But can we stop saying it now?

Generic Books

sdn, over on her lj, asks the following:


my inflammatory comment of the day: why do books that are clearly generic ripoffs of other books (a) get ridiculous deals, (b) sell in large quantities to actual, presumably intelligent readers, and (c) get good reviews from established sources? is everyone high? this applies to all age ranges/categories/genres of books, by the way, not just books in my particular world(s).

Since LiveJournal hates me, I’ll answer here.

I think the phenomenon in question has more to do with the good books they’re ripping off than it does with the bad books. Really good books are often good because they make us uncomfortable, challenge us while offering us enough in the way of story and language to keep us moving through our discomfort. They stick with us because they changed us. Sometimes I’m too tired to put myself through that again.

A generic version of the same book repackages the story without the discomfort. Those who read the original can read the weak carbon and be reminded of their experience with a good book without undergoing the trauma. And since the new book is generic, it can have that kind of resonance for several good books–and lots of readers. Hence the sales. Hence the deals.

It doesn’t explain the reviews, but I’ve never claimed those were explicable.

The Boys in the Band

I went to see a bunch of very good musicians on Saturday. It’s a band I’ve liked for a long time, playing material I love, and I was deeply disappointed.

Okay, so some of it may have been due to the car breaking down in the middle of the street earlier that day, or a disappointing dinner someplace that serves its beer 20 degrees too cold and dripping down the outside of the mug (and onto my jeans), or the scent of patchouli hitting me in the face when I walked in the door. But I think there was more to it.

The lineup of the band has changed since the last time I saw and enjoyed them. (I saw them once in the transition process–WAY too many musicians who hadn’t rehearsed together. Highly annoying.) Their lead singer and guitarist has been replaced by two people. They’re both hugely talented. Their original fiddle player has returned to the fold. He’s not the virtuoso their interim fiddler was, but he’s perfectly competent. They’d even rehearsed.

So why was I getting more disgusted by the minute?

First there was the lack of energy. These are killer tunes that in the past have had me dancing so long and so hard I could barely move the next day. Saturday there were pauses to tune and discuss in between each song. The fiddle player was under amped, so every time he took over, momentum dropped off. And the lead singer kept “jazzing” up the lyrics by singing them with no regard for the beat. You just can’t do that and keep your audience stamping their feet.

Every time he sang one of my favorite songs, I wanted to throttle him, but I’m not sure he would have cared. He might have viewed it as his chance to stop singing that song forever.

When they played a new song and the energy of the place jumped, I figured out the problem. Their lead singer wasn’t having a good time. He was bored with the music he’d written fifteen years ago (the first time he was with the band), and the fact that we liked it didn’t matter. He wasn’t playing for us. He didn’t care whether I had a good time. Somewhere along the way, he’d lost the realization that I’m not paying him to sit on a stage and tootle a tin whistle; I’m paying him to entertain me.

The last guy was a bit of a showoff. He was at least as talented as this new guy, and he did some silly stuff on stage to keep himself from getting bored. But he always brought it back to the songs, and he always took his audience with him for the ride. To me, that means he met the bigger challenge, one the band was failing Saturday night.

Heh

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Drama Nerd

You sure do love the spotlight and probably have a very out-going and loud personality. Or not. That’s just a stereotype, of course. Participation in the theatre is something to be very proud of. Whether you have a great voice for musicals, or astounding skills for dramas/comedies; keep up the good work. We need more entertainment these days that isn’t television and video games (not that these things are bad, necessarily.)

Science/Math Nerd

Literature Nerd

Social Nerd

Artistic Nerd

Gamer/Computer Nerd

Anime Nerd

Musician

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace

It has some trouble differentiating between historical and current geekery. It’s been eighteen years since I was last on the stage. And interestingly, singing is not musicianship. My choir director might have had something to say about that.