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Category: Culture

Apple Music

I’ve bought into the Apple ecosystem, so obviously.

In the interests of testing the scope of music available, I travelled back to the best music critic on the Internet, glenn mcdonald. His final formal music review post is an eloquent exploration of the best music of 2012, ranging from Taylor Swift to European avant garde death metal. It finishes up with a Ylvis song, years before you wondered what the fox says. Bona fides enough.

He has 123 songs on his list. At the time, he constructed playlists on both Spotify and Rdio. Spotify had 93 songs; Rdio had 94. My Apple Music playlist has 96. Pretty much no difference.

It’s seven hours of great music, by the by.

Fantasia 2015

Still not the singer or Disney movie. Man, has it really been nine years since I went to the best genre film festival in North America? Too long! Thus I am going this year, for sure, because Susan and I have plane tickets and a hotel. Directly thereafter we’re going to Gencon. If we seem delirious at the latter, you’ll know why.

Fantasia just announced the initial wave of films. I want to see all of these, of course, but some of them look particularly interesting. In no particular order: Jeruzalem looks potentially insane and cool; Big Match could be the kind of high-gloss South Korean action film I dig; Deathgasm um we’ll see; The Demolisher seems like it has potential; I’m all over anything to do with Milgram, more for the myth of the experiment than the reality, so Experimenter yes (plus nice cast); The Golden Cane Warrior looks awesome; and They Look Like People has gotten very good reviews.

Booyah! Very excited. And as you know, Montreal is within driving range of Boston.

Hugo Did What?

The Hugo Awards have very few nominators and no barrier to entry to becoming a nominator other than money, which creates room for an engaged fan base to get just about anything on the ballot. This is not news. We’ve seen Doctor Who dominate the short-form dramatic presentation ballot for half a decade. We’ve also seen an acceptance speech get nominated for short-form dramatic presentation. That went relatively well because people liked the guy who gave the speech. This year, unlikeable people got nominated.

This doesn’t mean there’s a significant chunk of right-wingers rising up to retake SF fandom, despite what Vox Day would like to think. Let’s look at the numbers. References: the LoneStarCon 3 stats for the 2013 Hugos (PDF) and this year’s nominations. Also, the 2013 Hugos had 1,343 nominations.

This year, there were 1,595 nominations for Best Novel. Last year, there were 1,113 nominations. That’s 43% more nominations. This year, there were 728 nominations for Best Novelette. Last year, there were 616 nominations. 18% more nominations.

The Winter 2013 LoneStarCon 3 Progress Report lists 1,773 members as of November 22, 2012. The December 2013 Loncon 3 Progress report says they had 4,282 members as of November 18th, 2013. That’s 141% more memberships. The Hugo nomination campaigning probably isn’t the reason why more people submitted nominations; the increase in memberships purchased more than explains it. I’m not going to assume that the 100+ increase in Best Novelette nominations was all Day/Correia voters.

It took 38 nominations to get on the Best Novelette ballot last year. Apply the 18% adjustment: it probably took between 44 and 45 nominations to get on the Best Novelette ballot this year. That’s not block voting, that’s a mild wave in a fairly shallow wave pool.

(For any kind of rigor I would go back and perform a similar analysis for the last ten years or so, to see if membership purchase rates and nomination rates ever track well together.)

Edit: Liz notes that it took 69 nominations to get on the Best Novelette ballot this year. So much for rigor. Thanks!

Desert Island Directors

In Filmspotting’s most recent episode, the hosts went through their top five directors whose movies you’d want on a desert island. In other words, if you were stuck on a desert island with a TV and a DVD player, which five directors’ complete works would you want? This is a fun game and an interesting twist so I played along.

On the whole I was closer to David Gordon Green’s choices than to those of the hosts. He’s not listed at the link above, but he chose John Landis, Alan Parker, Robert Altman, John Ford, and Stanley Kubrick. I think Alan Parker in particular is a brilliant choice.

I’d start with Steven Soderbergh. He has huge range: this gives me everything from classic indie movies to weird experimental stuff to blockbusters, and all of it is beautiful. I could rewatch any of these movies again and again. He’s also directed 40 or so movies, so there’s a lot of watching there.

Next: Kathryn Bigelow. She’s only got nine movies under her belt, so I lose all the ground I gained with Soderbergh. Doesn’t matter. I’d probably have her on the list if she’d only directed Near Dark, Strange Days, and The Hurt Locker. Her movies are consuming, and I want that if I’m stuck on this island.

Third is the Coen Brothers. Like Soderbergh, but even more so, their movies will reward repeat viewing. They’re also where I’m getting most of my comedies — dark, cynical, sometimes sad comedies, but nonetheless you have to laugh somehow.

From there we’ll go international and pick up Kar Wai Wong. This feels like cheating since I’m also getting a ton of Christopher Doyle cinematography. If it’s cheating, I have no regrets. I couldn’t live without someone from Asian cinema and preferably Hong Kong, and while John Woo might be more accessible, Kar Wai Wong will be better. Plus I still get a couple of good martial arts flicks.

Finally, and stolen from Adam Kempenaar’s list, Howard Hawks. Since I am a poor excuse for a film student, I didn’t think of him at once, but he’s an obvious choice. He worked in every genre, he made a huge number of great films, and he provides a superb window into earlier film. This also means I get some lighthearted movies. A win all around.

Savage Steve Holland does not make my list.

Sports Night, Season 3

Well, nah, but this does give me a pleasing frisson down the spine. For those of us who are not obsessive fans of Sorkin’s early (or even his later) work, Josh Charles played Dan Rydell on Sports Night as inspired by Keith Olbermann. Thus, putting them together on Olbermann’s current show is funny. Or it was funny before I explained it. Maybe I should have skipped that bit.

“You think?”

Jimmy Fallon Has The Best Job Ever

Not that I’m saying Billy Joel is one of the best artists of all time, but he’s a guy who can write songs and sing them and he cares about his work. Also important: Jimmy Fallon is completely sincere about the things he loves, which turns out to be what I wanted out of late night talk shows on the rare occasion that I watch them.

Streaming Media Alert

Many of us 80s children have fond memories of the first two Savage Steve Holland opuses, Better Off Dead… and One Crazy Summer. John Cusack’s amiable everyman teen demeanor was the perfect foil for Holland’s insane vision. His third movie, How I Got Into College had no John Cusack and generated few fond memories.

But it’s on HBO Go until May 1st. Corey Parker, Lara Flynn Boyle, and a pretty crappy script. Savage Steve didn’t write this one. Philip Baker Hall in a bit part? Nora Dunn and Phil Hartman cameo?

It does explain why Savage Steve Holland never directed another movie. (It’s OK, he has a career in kid’s television.) This is the real, actual, projected onto movie screens trailer that ran in cinema palaces across the nation back in 1989.

When I said “alert,” I meant “warning.”

Anais Mitchell: Hadestown

Yo, Unknown USA people! Were you aware of Anais Mitchell’s folk opera, Hadestown? It’s just a folk opera retelling of the Orpheus myth set in a post-apocalyptic version of the Great Depression, no big deal. Justin Vernon and Ani DiFranco are part of the cast.

I may be the last person to know about this.

Novels You Should Have Read Since Chicon 7

Quick notes from the 1 PM Novels You Should Have Read Since Chicon 7 panel. Any errors are wholly mine. Panelists: Elizabeth Bear (moderator), Willie Siros, and Jess Nevins.

  • Any really outstanding books?
    • Siros: Sea Change, S. M. Wheeler
      • fairy tale fable, internal logic, compared to The Last Unicorn
    • Nevins: Brian Catling's The Vorrh
      • fantasy that avoids the usual fantasy tropes
    • Bear: Cassandra Rose Clark, The Mad Scientist's Daughter
      • SF, robot civil rights, riff on “Bicentennial Man”
      • issues of climate change, peak oil, global cultural change as background elements
  • Siros: Iain Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata
  • Nevins: Selvedin Avdic, Seven Terrors
    • Horror, post-war Bosnia
  • Bear: Toh EnJoe, The Self-Reference Engine
    • picaresque novel – vignettes revealing greater story
  • Siros: Shaman, Kim Stanley Robinson
    • In dealer's room – Larry Smith
  • Bear: The Drowning Girl
    • last year, but still good
  • Nevins: Nick Harkaway, Angelmaker
  • Siros: Peter Hamilton, The Great North Road
    • Tighter than other recent Hamilton
  • Bear: new Tales of the Beanworld hardcover, Larry Marder
    • makes a good entry point into the series
  • Nevins: Anna Tambour's Crandolin
    • medieval cookbook novel?
  • Bear: Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January series
    • Good Man Friday
    • historical detective novels
  • Siros: Karen Joy Fowler: We Were Completely Beside Ourselves
    • mainstream/slipstream
  • Bear: American Elsewhere, Robert Jackson Bennett
    • weird small town with small things going on that add up to something bigger
    • Austin writer, writes books that are hard to summarize
  • Nevins: Lauren Beukes, Shining Girls
    • time travel, serial killer
  • Bear: Ian Tregillis has finished his Milkweed trilogy
    • Bitter Seeds, Coldest War, Necessary Evil
    • alternate WW2, Nazis create super soldiers and UK turns to necromancy
  • Siros: Neal Gaiman, Ocean At The End Of The Lane
  • Bear: Karen Lord, Best Of All Possible Worlds
    • planetary romance, not plot-driven, reminds Bear of Bradbury
    • “a very relaxing book”
  • Nevins: Koji Suzuki's Edge
    • quantum horror about California falling into the sea, Greg Egan-esque
  • Bear:
    • Seanan McGuire's cryptid books
      • lighthearted fun
    • Jim C. Hines Libriomancer and Codex Born
      • magicians who can pull things out of books they're written in
      • some books are locked off… the One Ring
  • Nevins: The Last Policeman, Ben Winters
    • policeman doing his job in a small town before the meteor hits
  • Nevins: Deb Taber, Necessary Ill
  • Siros: Devon Monk, Cold Steel and sequels
    • steampunk Wild West, brothers who are lycanthropes
  • Bear: Merrie Haskell's Handbook for Dragon Slayers, middle school
    • to write a handbook for dragon slayers, one must slay a dragon…
  • Bear: Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson
    • far future post-apocalyptic YA, set in Brazil
  • Siros: Brandon Sanderson, Rithmatist
    • math based magic, YA
  • Bear last thoughts:
    • Wesley Chu, The Lives of Tao
    • Ramez Naan, Nexus and Crux
    • The Incrementalists, Skyler White and Steven Brust
      • coming in September
    • Max Gladstone, Three Parts Dead
      • epic fantasy constructed like an urban fantasy which is a courtroom drama
  • Siros last thoughts:
    • Steven Gould, Impulse
      • next in Jumper series
    • The Thousand Names, Django Wexler
      • historical fantasy/alternate world
    • Evening's Empire, Paul McAuley
  • Nevins last thoughts:
    • Hannu Rajaniemi, The Fractal Prince
  • Audience
    • Mira Grant, Blackout (Newsflesh trilogy)
    • Lois McMaster Bujold, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
    • David Levithan, Every Day, YA
    • Daryl Gregory, Raising Stony Mayhall, YA zombie POV
    • James S. A. Corey, Abaddon's Gate, third in the Expanse series
    • Allen Steele, Apollo's Outcast, compared to Heinlein's juveniles
    • Anthology: Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination, John Joseph Adams edited
    • Paul Cornell's London Falling, London urban fantasy verging on horror
    • Year Zero, Rob Reed, humor
    • The Golem And The Jinni, Helene Wecker, literary fiction set in 1899 NYC
    • The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, sequel to The Long Earth