Monday, October 16, 2006

Best Song of 2006?

Yeah, there's a bit more than two months left, and up until yesterday I was figuring that (for me) it was going to be "See the World" by Gomez, a beautiful song from How We Operate that makes my heart soar.

And then yesterday I purchased The Crane Wife by The Decemberists. It's an amazing album, with lyrics by the most literate and literary songwriter working today (that would be Colin Meloy, also the lead singer). The opening track, "The Crane Wife 3" (interestingly, numbers 1 and 2 come near the end of the CD) is remarkable, a piece that builds and builds and builds to drag along the listener, ecstatic to be in the moment. Their last album, Picaresque, is also worth seeking out (I believe I've mentioned it here before), but this one is just a knockout. Go. Buy it now.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Soundtrack of Your Life

This comes to me via Bill Shunn. If your life was a movie, what would the soundtrack be? The rules are:

  1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
  2. Put it on shuffle
  3. Press play
  4. For every question, type the song that's playing
  5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
  6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...
Opening Credits
"Texture" by The Catherine Wheel, from Ferment

Waking Up
"You Must Be Evil" by Chris Rea, from The Road to Hell

First Day at School
"Condi, Condi" by Steve Earle, from The Revolution Starts Now

Falling in Love
"Tempted" by Squeeze, from Singles 45's and Under

Fight Song
"Atlantic City" by Bruce Springsteen, from Love, Tears and Mystery (Disc 10), a bootleg

Breaking Up
"Hey, Johnny Park!" by The Foo Fighters, from The Colour and the Shape

"Does the Bus Stop at 82nd Street" by Bruce Springsteen, from Love, Tears and Mystery (Disc 9)

Life Is Good
"A Simple Desultory Phillippic" by Simon & Garfunkel, from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Mental Breakdown
"Just Woke Up" by Kirsty MacColl, from Titanic Days

"When Will You Come Back Home" by Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, from Cold Roses (Disc 1)

"Deeper Water" by Paul Kelly, from Deeper Water

Getting Back Together
"Since the Last Time" by Lyle Lovett, from Joshua Judges Ruth

"Midnight Rain" by Paul Kelly, from ...Nothing But a Dream

Paying the Dues
"Too Much of Anything" by The Who, from Who's Next

The Night Before the War
"Black Cowboys" by Bruce Springsteen, from Love, Tears and Mystery (Disc 8)

Final Battle
"Do Ya" by Matthew Sweet, from Rarities (another bootleg)

Moment of Triumph
"Rudy" by Supertramp, from Retrospectacle

Death Scene
"Wasted Time" by The Eagles, from Hotel California

Funeral Song
"Love Comes Love Goes" by Poco, from Legend

End Credits
"Life in the Fast Lane" by The Eagles, from Hotel California

My, there are some surprises on that list. Now, I haven't gone bananas like Bill has, and probably I have about 15% of the music he has, digital-wise. But that's still almost 5000 songs to choose from, many of which are not the Eagles or Paul Kelly or Bruce Springsteen. I too am surprised that no jazz reared up. Pleased with some of the appropriate choices, though.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hype (Or: Out of the Loop)

Guy Kay sent me an email today pointing me to a post he's written (today, October 3) on his "Ysabel Journal" at Brightweavings, his official website. My goodness, I've been so wrapped up in fallout from some SFWA issues that I was completely unaware that any of this was happening (Guy points to here as a good place to get the complete rundown). Hell, I was completely unaware of a whole bunch of these blogs, and yet I already read too many damned blogs every day.

I'm not telling secrets out of school by stating that Guy isn't much of a chest-thumper. Early on in this post he even mentions his "ambivalence to the marketing process." But he has been working hard with his publishers to find new and innovative ways to market Ysabel, the upcoming novel. Some of those ways have to do with the web, of course; an online presence seems to be required these days, be it in the form of reviews or in a voice for the author.

But what constitutes new and innovative? Yeah, these locations are new when viewed through the lens of history, but is anything really new? Words are written, words are read. About the only difference is that there is no extra cost for putting more of those words down on the screen, as opposed to how much it costs to print extra pages.

The ease of pumping out this verbosity also democratizes this business. Anybody and his dog can review books and stories. Of course, in many instances, "democratizes" means the same thing as "dumbs down." If anybody can have an opinion, everybody will. And while they're welcome to that opinion, it doesn't mean that I have to pay attention to it. The signal to noise ratio means that I can't even wade through the chaff to get to the wheat, but rather, I have to decide which pile of chaff to attempt.

If you've looked at the links supplied above, you'll see that this started with an accusation of bribery. There are some who would interpret that as mere hyperbole itself, and I suppose it could be so, but I'm firmly in the camp that the editor wasn't paying close attention and that those words should not have appeared in the first place. For sure, the appearance of a spiffy ARC is enough to make the heart race and the nipples get hard, but after that, the story itself still has to do the job.

But this is where this democratization comes into play again. Many people who review (both on the net and in print) refuse to review books they don't like, and will often not even finish those books. And of course, with so many people willing to review, you're also bound to find plenty of people who will like just about anything they read. There are people in this community who would read the phone book if dragons were listed in the white pages and if the yellow pages included listings for rocket ship repairs. Much of what people like this write becomes essentially meaningless the more they pile up the non-critical verbiage.

But who should care? All it means is that publishers and authors should be careful about where they send their books for attention. Toby Buckell and John Scalzi have both received favorable mention from Instapundit, which did create a pretty meaningful blip in their sales. And that's just a mention, not a review. I'm doubtful that any online review created as big a swing. Conversely, silly negative publicity can often be helpful to an author (and not that I'm recommending this to Guy, of course). I wonder if Scott Lynch has seen an increase in sales over this. It's my understanding that negative reviews (and the webstorm that followed) of Canadian author Janine Cross's Touched By Venom (including fixation on the phrase "venom cock") seem to have helped sales along quite nicely, thank you.

In the end, I don't think there are any real alternatives to honest hard work. If you're in the boat where you need to get attention, it helps to work your butt off, to be polite, to be a good conversationalist and make eye contact, and to maybe do like L.E Modesitt, Jr., who has told me that there's one particular bookstore in Salt Lake where he brings the staff treats like donuts every time he visits, which results in more hand sales. So yeah, maybe bribery is involved, but in a way that seems more sensible to me.

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