Sunday, February 17, 2013

Boskone 50 - Saturday - A bit of George R.R. Martin

The Boskone schedule had this item listed as taking place in Dragonslair (the children's corner) at 4pm today:
Something Art-y: Bring your Imagination! Join John Picacio, Official Artist of Boskone 47, for this art project.
That sounded exciting, so I went downstairs to participate in that with my daughter. Some weird conceptual art piece, it sounded like.

Instead there were a few children playing with cardboard and pipe cleaners. John Picacio showed up and asked the head of Dragonslair what he was supposed to do. There wasn't a lot of clear direction. My husband showed up and said hi. I found some construction paper and asked Mr Picacio, Do you want to draw something?

"I don't think the kids would be all that interested," came the reply.

My husband made some folded thing out of a light blue sheet of paper.

"What's that?"

"A mask." He showed me.

Mr. Picacio and the kids started to collaborate on a creation made from strips of paper. My daughter made a pretty cool mask out of pink paper and pipe cleaners.

I went upstairs to a panel. It wasn't very interesting. I left.

I looked at the schedule again.

There was a George RR Martin reading. I haven't read his stuff. We're too cheap to get HBO. But I've always heard good things about him, and it is interesting to hear how successful authors read, so I went in.

He was describing a battle scene. He read with a very good voice. He knew his stuff.

Then came the question period.

Someone asked if his story was a parallel to the War of the Roses. He said he stole from lots of different interesting bits of history. He quoted: "If you steal from 1 source, it's plagiarism. If you steal from many, it's research."

Another question led to him recounting how he has received letters from fans who have tried to explain about the seasons on his planet by complicated descriptions of the planetary orbits. His response:
I've thought not at all about the planetary orbits. It's a fantasy book, not a science fiction book....Obviously, science fiction fans have stumbled into the wrong tent.
Someone asked, "Do you feel guilty when you kill your characters?" He replied,
I do feel guilty. Yes, they're like my children....The red wedding until 3 [is that what he said?] was the hardest thing I ever wrote.....Sometimes I say I don't kill them--the other characters do....Death is a part of life. Part of all our lives. Fiction should treat it...When a character dies, you should feel it as you do when one of your loved ones dies....It is important to show death in the cost of war.
When asked about Metal bands using his motifs he said that Rock music influenced him to write Armageddon Rock when he was younger and that all art interacts. He added that he was more of a Simon and Garfunkel fan.

Someone asked if he felt bad that people were only paying attention to the Thrones books, not his many earlier works and he said yeah, he would like it if he could get his readers to read the other books. He said that Stephen Donaldson discovered after writing other books that he had many more Thomas Covenant fans than Stephen Donaldson fans. He said that J.K.Rowling was finding that her many Harry Potter fans weren't coming over to her new adult book. He added that since she now had "more money than the Queen", she could sit in her castle, be waited upon by "the entire cast of Dowton Abbey", write whatever she wants, and if three people buy the book then that's fine.

OK, so I first heard about George RR Martin while watching the old TV show Beauty and the Beast. My boyfriend at the time saw the credits and said, "Oh, George R.R. Martin, he's a big science fiction writer." Which goes to show how long Mr Martin has been on my I-gotta-get-around-to-reading-him-someday list.

The question I would have liked to ask would have been along the lines of, "What book of yours would you recommend to someone who doesn't want to commit to a long series?" But I don't know, I think it might be rude to say to a famous author that you haven't read any of his books.

So, to change the subject for a second or two off of Game of Thrones, I raised my hand and recounted how that TV show was the only one I can remember where I would watch at the beginning to see who had written the episode, and if it was by George RR Martin or David Peckinpah, then I knew it would be a good episode. If not, well the way I phrased it was that other episodes were often written with a different philosophy. The word I was reaching for was closer to schmaltzy, cloying, icky, overly sentimental. That show skated on the edge of icky and too often fell in. Some of the writers were icky and others were cool.

George RR Martin's face seemed to freeze in a way that made me think the subtext was "I am responding in a diplomatic fashion to your question because it would not be good to repeat anything nasty about my friends in television." That could just be my imagination, of course.  I may have made a mistake in praising Peckinpah. Martin said that his own stories were more of the fantasy mystical magical bent, while Peckinpah was more into gritty urban tales. He said that it was a great show to write for because the writers were given a lot of freedom.

When asked about his attitude towards his works being adapted, he mentioned the "truckloads of money" that writers are offered for such adaptations, and that the time to negotiate what happens to your work is before you take the truckloads of money. He said J.K.Rowling could negotiate very good terms because there were many who wanted to make movies from her books. He said that he turned down the first truckload of money that backed up in front of his door, because it was an offer to make a single movie out of his hours and hours of stories. He said that the current deal allows him certain amounts of creative control and that he is satisfied with it. He said that complaining about what happens to your work after you have accepted the truckloads of money is like after you've sold your house complaining about the furniture that the people who bought your house are using.

He talked about how Ireland was a great place to film the show because it saves them money, Ireland even gives them money (and they generate a great deal of money for them in return) and also that it gives them access to an excellent cast of classically trained Irish and British actors.

In response to another question he said that the character Osha was rather colorless in the book, but that  Natalia Tena, who plays her, gives a mesmerizing performance, that would likely influence him if he writes more about Osha in future work. He said her performance was mesmerizing even before she took off her clothes for the role, and even more mesmerizing after.

Someone asked if the plot ever had to change because, for example, an actor wanted to leave the show. He said absolutely, when Linda Hamilton decided to quit Beauty and the Beast they had to write her out. They decided to kill her, but then it was Beauty and the Beast without a beauty. So they introduced another Beauty, but the show only lasted for 6 months after that. He said it was because they had built up the love between the two characters as being such a Great Romance that the audience wouldn't accept a substitute. You can't have Romeo and Juliet and then say, oh no, what I meant was Romeo and Harriet.

That is not what I remember as going wrong with the show. As I said, the show was always on the edge of ickiness. The way they killed off Hamilton's character was kind of icky, but actually, I didn't really like Hamilton's character very much. I liked the new character they brought in to replace her much better. One of the mistakes they made in the writing was to have the boss of the killed character retroactively have been in love with her. They had to give him an icky love motivation instead of just a righteous wanting to find the killer of his respected employee and friend.

It reminded me of the Remington Steele mistake made way too early in the show where they take the character who is supposed to be the female lead's male best friend and reliable brother type character and have him fall in love with her. It is not our fantasy to have our friends in love with us, because then we can't rely on them as friends, and also we feel sorry for them and guilty and pressured and just, ick.

Right. So I was feeling a little guilty about bringing up Beauty and the Beast, wondering if Mr Martin would have mentioned a Thrones example otherwise, for that would have made the audience much happier.

He did complain about how there can be loads of different James Bonds and Charlie Chans etc, but that  TV audiences just won't accept the re-casting for a TV character. He said it does make him want to shake the TV audiences and tell them, "You know these people are f-ing actors. They're not the real people."

When asked whether he had favorites for the Hugos he recommended The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham for Fantasy, and Caliban's War for Science Fiction. He also mentioned books and artists related to his show, for example, a cookbook written by some people from Boston. He said,
I don't think a cookbook has ever won a Hugo before, but it's certainly eligible for it.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Boskone 50 - Friday night - Lost phone and Heather Dale Singing Workshop

First off, why do they start on Friday and have so many interesting panels before we can ever show up? It is a three-day weekend. Most of us have Monday off. Why not start on Saturday and spill into Monday?

Anyway, we missed the space panels Friday afternoon. My husband was collecting children and couldn't make it at all. I got a ride to a T station from a kind coworker who lives in the Fenway, but I left my phone in his car. At least I hope it's in his car. It could be on the streets of Boston or picked up by someone nefarious, but anyway, my watch battery was dead and the phone was gone so I didn't know the time and there are no public clocks in the hotel, at least not on the second floor where the panels are being held. After I picked up my badge I guessed that it was some time after 8, so wandered and saw an open door, which helped me decide between two options. It turned out to be an interesting voice workshop given by Heather Dale.

First we learned to stand with our knees "not locked" and take deep breaths and not worry about yawning. We learned about the importance of breathing. We learned about the adrenaline affects and fight-or-flight response that can occur with stage fright. We practiced pushing against a wall to burn off some of the need for a flight response.

Heather said that we could mark a score with where we needed to breathe and practice the breaths along with the song.

She talked about interval training. I had heard about ear-training for intervals when I took a music theory class some years back. Now I learned that singers train themselves to sing intervals. This training was a solution to a problem that one of the filk singers in the workshop brought up early on when he said that he had a tendency to start the second verse in a slightly different key than the first. The solution to this is to learn the interval from the last note of the previous verse to the first note of the next verse and practice it.

Heather said there were many resources for interval training and that we could Google to find them. One interesting mnemonic method is to use known intervals in songs that we all know quite well.
For example, in  My Bonnie lies over the ocean, the interval between "my" and "bon" is a sixth. The interval between "Oh" and "Tan" in "Oh Tannenbaum.." is a 4th. Heather said we could Google to find lists of songs and their intervals, both standard and with sharps and flats.

We practiced singing "do ray me fa soh" up and down and back and jumping from "do" to "son" to learn 4ths. She suggested that this was something we could practice in the car or in the shower. I have a long commute and I'm always looking for something to practice in the car, so it was good to know.

Someone said that she used her piano to help her with interval training. I said mine was too out of tune to trust. Someone else said electric pianos or piano apps would work. I thought, finally, some use for that tiny piano app I downloaded for my Android phone. Assuming I get my Android phone back, of course.

Someone else said that she knows someone who marks her scores with different colors on each line so that she doesn't get lost. That's a good tip.

Heather quoted a Toastmasters saying about performance jitters, which goes as follows:
It's not about banishing the butterflies in your stomach. It's about learning to make them fly in formation.
After that, I went downstairs to the "Art Reception". There was a very long line for food. The food looked appealing but not worth waiting in line, so I grabbed a slice of bread from the line-free Con Suite area and then walked around the art exhibit. After the line went away, I grabbed some desert. Not worth waiting in line for, so just as well. A jazz band was set up in a corner. Around when I was ready to leave, the trumpeter was playing a great solo. I stood there with my coat on but couldn't leave while the trumpeter was playing. He finally did finish, thank goodness. I had no trouble walking out on the electric guitar.

I strolled over to the World Trade Center Silver Line T Station, caught the Silver bus not too long after, caught the subway to Park Street without a very long wait, and read one of the SF books I'd picked up on the freebies table. Stephen Donaldson's The Real Story. I read that to the Newton Highlands stop then walked around snowbanks over to where we were staying. My husband was there. He'd called my cell phone earlier. I could have gotten a ride if I'd had the phone.

Oh well.

It was an interestingly amusingly told story. At least the beginning.

Do you know there's a prejudice against adverbs? I love using them because of that. So there.

Amazon won't just let me give it 5 stars

First they send me an email asking how many stars I'd give my recent purchase. After I click on the link, they error out telling me that I need to enter words as well.

I'm not a music critic. Different people like different music. That's what I've noticed in life. I did like this MP3 CD.

So, what can I write in their box?

The last time I bought music for myself was when we drove down to Nashua for the Borders going-out-of-business sale. I bought the Ziggy Stardust CD.

I'm generally a radio person. I like the spontaneity, the happiness when an unexpected song I like comes on.

Last summer, whenever the Avett Brothers' Live or Die came on it made me happy. It is hard to be sad when a banjo starts to play. This song I liked a lot. I liked its ability to cheer me up. I would sing it in the car along with the radio. I would come home and look it up on YouTube. My daughters liked it too; we would dance to it in the kitchen. I thought it would be a great CD to send to my sister, who was in the dark recovering from eye-surgery, but the CD wasn't out yet. I bought her another CD, and Amazon gave me a $1 credit towards the purchase of any MP3.

I spent months wondering which of my favorite songs to spend it on. Should I get the Avett Brothers song I like? Or spend the dollar credit on Tangled Up In Blue, and buy the entire Avett Brothers CD?
When the credit was about to expire I looked on the Amazon MP3 store and came to the obvious conclusion that the $1 could just be a dollar off on the album price.

The only thing I've done with the last physical CD I bought was put in into our old iMac to generate the MP3, which I then copied to my iPod and to other computers used to listen to music. The CD player in the Subaru and in the living room has broken. So there was no reason to buy another CD when I'm only going to turn it into an MP3s.

Still the question as to whether to buy the song or the CD's collection of songs. Purchased individually they would cost more than the collection. I listened to the excerpts on Amazon and decided that I would  like the whole album, so bought the collection.

I have been listening to the album over and over on my iPod at work. It has improved my mood at work, and likely saved me from some instances when I would have reached for chocolate.
There is sufficient variety of music in the different songs. One of them has a catchy chorus with the clever line, "You say you wouldn't know me now, but I didn't even know you then."

Still, all five stars? Originally, I thought yes, because I'm very happy with it. But now I think that five should be perfection, or at least reserved for the greats--the albums for the ages, that withstand the test of time. So David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust is five stars, and this wonderful Avett Brothers album a proud four. Let's wait a decade to see how they progress. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Who to follow on Twitter?

A friend of mine posted this question on facebook:
I just joined Twitter. It's bizarre. Anyone have any good suggestions for people to follow?
Do I?! While I'm collecting them, I may as well save them here. My main reason for Twitter is laughter. Thus:

Most Reliably Funny:


  • @GeneHunt
  • @RexHuppke
  • @JerryThomas
  • @adamisacson
  • @BestAt
  • @pourmecoffee
  • @comediansaransh
  • @bobfish1973
  • @duplicitron
  • @TheOnion
  • @BorowitzReport
  • @StephenAtHome (Stephen Colbert)
  • @snarkmonger
  • @JRehling
  • @missingblakes
  • @sixthformpoet
  • @rayadverb
  • @SoVeryBritish



  • @onthemedia
  • @NickKristof

Good for Links:

Mars Guys etc

Oh yes, and me! @pargery.
Sorry I didn't finish adding all the links. It's tedious.
One way to find out who to follow is to see who other people you like are following.
Another way is to click on the profile of a re-tweeted tweet that you liked, and read the other tweets that person tweeted. If those tweets are something you'd like to see more of, then you have found someone else to follow. I have followed people found through a chain of two or three or more retweets. That is, an interesting tweet, followed to a profile of tweets, among which I found another interesting tweet, so clicked on that profile, etc.
And then you can start playing hash tag games...

Related post: #tweet-types

Saturday, February 09, 2013

I miss you dad

It was my first year at McGill. My sisters had chipped in to buy me a huge red parka. We lived in Massachusetts, but I was going way up North. After all, a cold winter wind in Boston is known as the Montreal Express.
One morning, my dad calls me on the phone. I tell him about this huge snowstorm we're having up in Canada. I rave on and on.
My father's description of the Blizzard of '78 were these four words:
We had snow too.