Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Audience Participation

Still working. And so, clearly, the only way to keep us both amused is to make you talk.

Here's a quote from Steven Weinberg.

"With or without [religion], you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."



I haven't been visible here much, have I?

It's that working-two-jobs thing. I'm writing the novel, and I'm doing the Other Job that I can't talk about (yet). It focuses the time budget wonderfully. I simply ignore everything that I'm not being paid to do.

Which includes blogging, unfortunately.

Yet Kathy and I managed to drag ourselves away for a few hours for a concert by Kitka. Who are a Balkan women's chorus, though they seem not to actually be from the Balkans. They're mostly American singers who were attracted by the vocal style, which involves a full-bore chest voice projected over, say, seven or eight leagues.

Some samples of the music may be found here.

It wasn't merely a concert, it was a sort of intense musical theater, with a series of musical dramas taking place, with a bare stage, some very effective lighting, and a minimum of props. The nine singers were ably supported by two cellists and percussionist Loren Mach, who was freakin' brilliant.

Songs were from the Rusalka Cycle, a series involving rusalki, who are the spirits of women who die before their time and who, like Greek water-nymphs, have been known to lure swimmers to their doom.

The music was very effective, not least because of the astounding volume of the nine singers blasting away in such a small space. The drama was intense. The acting was good. I really wanted to know what was happening.

But I didn't know. The singing was all in Ukranian or Bulgarian, except for the one song in German, and a few humorous anecdotes in English about the sort of adventures you have in Ukraine collecting folk songs.

I made my best guesses as to what was happening onstage, though. "Okay, the woman's killed herself, possibly because her boyfriend jilted her, although I'm not sure because that happened several songs ago. All the other rusalki are really pissed, though since they're already dead I don't know why."

The production ended with an intensely dramatic rendition of what I can only call "Music from the Balkan Spoon-Dropping Festival."

I talked with other members of the audience afterwards, and they were as confused as I was. Even the guy who spoke Ukranian didn't know what he'd just seen.

To which I can only say, Hey, program notes are good things.

I'm an intelligent viewer, and a pretty good listener, but if you're going to stage a musical drama in a foreign language, I need a little help. I ask you to meet me, if not halfway, at least a little way. One little mimeographed sheet of notes would be all it would take.

If you want me to take away everything from a song that these very talented performers are putting into it, tell me what the song is freakin' about.

How hard is that?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Roswell? Moi?

Not sure how I got talked into this, but I'm appearing on Clear Image Radio on Sunday, January 20, at 10pm EST.

The subject: Roswell.

Of which I actually know some fairly arcane stuff, but still.

I don't know what I've let myself in for here, but I believe they stream their broadcasts. And if anyone wants to call in and comment, feel free.

I have a feeling their regular audience isn't going to much like what I'm going to say.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Eat It and Like It

A shout-out to Making Light for pointing me in this direction.

Here's a foreign cooking show that won't be turning up in a U.S. version anytime soon.

We have a host in studded leather named "Hard Gay." Small children. Pelvic thrusts. Suggestive food. Suggestive suggestions. More small children. And disco.

Yes. Hard Gay makes them eat it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

This Week's Poll

So here I am in L.A., totally surrounded by people much more informed than I am.

Or maybe they're just more loudly opinionated. We'll see.

But in any case, I'm too busy to post anything particularly profound right now, so I think I'll just let y'all talk.

Here's a question that came up on one of my listserves.

If you could have your lost love(s) back, would you?

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I'm off to Los Angeles, to participate in this.

No, really. That's me.

I'm a recent and very junior member of this thing.

Or, as Jon Stewart remarked, "thinking of exciting, new, Nebula Award-winning ways to die screaming."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

They're baaaaack . . .

The new Wild Cards book will be out any second now.
(Damn! Nice cover!)
This is (1) the eighteenth book in the series, but one that (2) begins a new continuity, so you can start with this one without having read any of the others.
I'm not actually present in this volume, but many of my friends are, so check it out.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Attack of the Psycho Commie Roof Zombies

Can I just remark that today really sucked?

On a sunny morning, we set off to Home Depot to rent a 10-foot stepladder, an act made more complicated by the fact that we are the only family in Valencia County not to own a pickup truck. Strapping the ladder to the roof of Kathy's Subaru was but the beginning of an adventure.

All this was necessary because the roof panel over the hot tub in the breezeway was beginning to fall down, and since it was a twelve-foot ceiling we needed a bigger ladder than we had on the premises.

In the event, the ladder turned out to be useless. It sprawled so much that I couldn't get near any of the areas where I needed to work, so I ended up using smaller ladders and/or balancing precariously on the edge of the hot tub, hoping I wouldn't accidentally step through the styrofoam cover and land in the tub.

On top of all that, the weather began to deteriorate. A hard wind began to blow, the sun went away, the temperature dropped about fifteen degrees, and rain began to come down in buckets.

Since I was after all beneath a roof the rain wasn't a problem (except when it came to returning the ladder to Home Depot), but the wind was still biting.

On top of that, I had to hammer in long ringed nails more or less directly over my head. It was difficult to hammer straight in those conditions, and every time I thwacked away, bits of paint and plaster rained down in my face. If I missed the nailhead, I put a big dent or hole in the roof panel.

So here I am in my final outfit. A red-and-white plaid scarf is muffling my neck, I'm wearing my swank Danier jacket, and I've donned a sterile mask and goggles to keep bits of plaster from falling in my eyes, nose, and mouth. To keep my head and ears warm I'm wearing a rabbit-fur-lined winter hat from the People's Liberation Army.

In the end, the job was done. Not prettily, but done.

Watch out, you lot. I've got a hammer, and I know how to use it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

This Year's Edge Question

This year, the Edge Institute's question is, "What have you changed your mind about?"

They asked this question of 164 people, from Alan Alda to Anton Zeilinger. A few science fiction writers are also in the mix.

Here are the results. The essays cover physics, psychology, social sciences, linguistics, art, even science fiction.

It's far too much to absorb all at once, but I'm trying to cover a few essays every day, hoping that at least some of these ideas, or their antitheses, will settle into my brain.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Philosophers' Dinner

It's back-to-work time here at the Williams ranchero, the difference being that I never actually left work during the holidays, except for Christmas dinner at the Denning/Rogers manse, and for a party we threw on the 30th. The rest of the time I was concentrating on my deadlines, which abound.

The party last Sunday was a hoot and a half, not least because it was the first time since my hospitalization that we've had a party. We used to throw parties more often, but back in 2006 we were over-scheduled--- and so we were in 2007, come to think about it.

At any rate, a bunch of our friends descended on our home and consumed a staggering amount of food and drink. We had practically no leftovers--- a few beers, two half-bags of chips, and about one serving of cheese.

At one point, Pat and Scott mentioned that they were invited to a New Year's party the next night, and that it was a concept party. Each invitee was supposed to bring a dish that reflected the life or work of a philosopher. I pitched in with some mostly lame ideas--- bear in mind that I figured I was being a good sport for helping people out with a party that I wasn't invited to--- but here's the list that got assembled.

Gurdjieff Gumbo
David Hume-us
Sufi Sushi
Jean-Paul's Tarts
(Meat Course) John Donne's No Man is an Eye-Round
Santayana Sangria
Swedenborg Smorgasbord
Bergson Burgers (a Vitalist Victual)
Bertrand Russet Potatoes
de Chardin Chardonnay
Philosopher's Stone Soup
Immanuel Kantaloup Balls
Sir Isaac's Fig Newtons
Hegel Bagels (served with Lockes)
Socrates Tea (easy on the spices)

My own principal contribution was the following (a drum roll please):

Jean-Paul Sartre's Beans and Nothingness!!!

Can you think of any additions to the feast?