The human whack-a-mole!

*Pops up!*

I have a guest post at The Readventurer today. (Thanks Flann, Catie, and Tatiana!)

Here’s another particularly lovely review. (Thank you K and Wendy!)

*Pops down!*


Last week of summer break

And I’m suddenly noticing all the things I’ve left undone. I have errands to run before my son starts school again (to say nothing of postponed fun to cram in! We haven’t done the PNE yet, and we’ve barely swum at all), so posting will be light for the next week or so.

Of course, there are bloggy things I haven’t gotten to yet, but they’re going to have to wait a bit longer. I have some fan art to post! (Confidential to M: I haven’t forgotten!) I was going to just stick it in a blog entry, but then my husband (who is more astute about such things than I am) said, “Um, that picture has spoilers.” Oops. So I’m going to put it in its own space, with spoiler warnings — when I get to it. Which I will. But not this week.

So much stuff! And things! More to do than I have corresponding brain cells with which to do it, to say nothing of hands. I could probably use some extra feet too, while we’re wishing, although that makes me an octopus in short order.

Enjoy the last of the nice weather, my dears (or the last of the awful weather, depending how you feel about that terrifying orb up in the sky). You may picture me running around like a chicken with its head cut off, unless that’s too gross, in which case you’re on your own for the metaphor. I haven’t got time to come up with a better one.


Who wants crepes?

Well you’re in luck! Tri Yann have a great recipe for you, if you speak French:

Even if you don’t speak French, have a listen. You won’t hear a more charmingly sung recipe anywhere.


No one’s likely to care about this but me

But here is the first of a five-article series on prog rock that went up recently at Slate. If you’re interested in the history of the genre (particularly the “excessive” performances), it’s pretty interesting. If you actually like the music, it’s a little bit irritating. The writer professes to like prog but mostly seems embarrassed by that fact.

As someone who only discovered prog rock twenty years after it “died”, and is still discovering it even now, I enjoy getting context. That’s all new to me, and he provides some insights into why the genre is generally reviled (something I never quite understood). But I dunno. I thought it was too much emphasis on ELP and “Tales From Topographic Oceans” and very little discussion of what was actually good in the music.

Then again, I suspect I am one of the few people in the world who actually likes “Tales From Topographic Oceans” — even the boring parts – so what do I know?


One lovely review, and some thoughts on the blues

It has gotten to the point where I can’t read all the reviews, let alone keep them remotely separate in my mind. I’ve mostly given up looking — it’s just too much information! — but one at Fantasy Literature did catch my eye today. Thank you for that, Bill.

In other news: I’ve been thinking about the blues. Not because I have the blues, particularly, but because my son has just started learning to play “Wish You Were Here” on guitar, and it has a very bluesy start. I say that as one who doesn’t know much about the blues, so if anyone wants to leap in and educate me at any time, I’d be more than happy.

What interests me, particularly, is the use of the pentatonic scale in blues. Growing up with classical music, the pentatonic scale was a little bit ignored (although there are certainly classical pieces that employ it; it was never particularly pointed out to me). Pentatonic scales, insofar as I knew anything about them, supposedly sounded East Asian — and, to be fair, are found in a number of different musics (but not all of them, and in several variants) from that part of the world.

I knew about the modes of hepatonic scales, of course. For those who are unfamiliar with modes: if you only play the white keys of the piano, you can play a major scale or a minor scale, depending which note you start on. Those are just two of the seven possible modes, though; there’s one for each possible starting note. Similarly — but I’d never really thought about it — there are five possible pentatonic modes, a couple of which sound minor, and can be used for the blues.

I love sitting in on my son’s guitar lesson because I often learn something new. It turns out the guitar, in its standard tuning, is optimized for pentatonic scales: you can play a very easy one involving all the open strings. In fact, that seems to be why there’s that weird B string, tuned to a third when everything else is tuned in fourths. I believe that tuning pre-dates the blues (note to self: look up history of guitar tuning), but I’m not sure about that. Certainly it makes the pentatonic scale so easy as to seem almost inevitable in hindsight.

I hasten to add that not all blues is pentatonic. In fact, a lot of it (I have read) involves a special hexatonic scale – a modified pentatonic with an extra note.

Still, B has been playing a variety of riffs on the pentatonic scale, and it’s super exciting (yes I have an odd idea of excitement) to hear it in Pink Floyd as well. I’m thinking the blues are something I ought to dig a bit deeper into; my listening base is mostly classical, prog rock, and Celtic (which employs some interesting modes itself!). Anyone have some good recommendations for an old dog who loves new tricks?


I’m trying not to waste time

But that doesn’t mean I can’t waste your time, right? You’re dying to procrastinate, I can tell. Well, I’m here to help, because I’m thoughtful like that!

At my son’s guitar lesson last week, his teacher showed him something called a “step sequencer”. Here’s a website with one you can use. Click on the squares and listen to the interesting results.

This keeps my boy busy for… well, for as long as I’m willing to let him play with it. Which is sometimes, I confess, probably longer than I should. But it’s fascinating, right? No matter what you do, it comes out sounding like music, and that gets one thinking about music. What is music, exactly? Why is this randomness (or not, depending how you approach your note selection) so musical?

Part of the answer is the regular rhythm. Part of it is the fact that they’re using a pentatonic scale, so none of the notes really clash. But part of it is, I think, the tendency of our brains to want to make sense of things, to gravitate toward patterns and find meaning in them.

My son enjoys drawing pictures and writing words with the squares. The result is the Smiley-Face Song, or the Sound of Hello. As intently as he listens, I sometimes wonder whether he’s trying to see if he can tell what the word or picture must be by listening, extrapolating backwards from the sound. I wonder whether that’s even possible.

Did I say I’m trying not to waste time? Apparently I can waste time without even trying!


A fine day in Seattle

I went down to Seattle for a day to have an interview with Nancy Pearl, the famous librarian host of Book Lust. I think it went well. I had an excellent time, anyway, as evinced by my talking her ear off. That should air in September. I’ll link to it when it becomes available online.

I also had lunch with Amazon folks and dinner with booksellers and librarians (I can recommend a couple excellent restaurants in Seattle!). Fearless rep Deanna took me around to sign stock, and I got to have coffee with book blogger Flannery from The Readventurer. All in all a lovely, busy day.

The one question everyone asked me: when’s the sequel coming out? Ah, yes. Back to work!


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