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A few things….

Posted by Mike on June 9, 2009

Jack Vance fans like myself are eagerly awaiting the Songs from the Dying Earth collection at Subterranean Press, a collection edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois and featuring dozens of some of the finest spec fic writers out there paying tribute to one of the classic “science fantasy” milieus (somewhere between Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique stories and Gene Wolfe’s Urth quintet) . They’ve just put on line Lucius Shepard’s “Sylgarmo’s Proclamation” as a teaser and it’s a pitch perfect tribute in every way, with a knowledge of the Vance lexicon that goes as deep as the subtle humor and worldbuilding, yet kind of a different take on a tale of Cugel that has some nice Shepard coloring at work as well. I got incredible deja-vu reading this, like I was rereading a Vance story I’d forgotten. Highly recommended, if the rest of the stories are only half this perfect this should be a real treasure chest. Tributes are rarely about one insanely talented writer paying tribute to another insanely talented writer, but this one is.

Looks like I will be part-time contributing to a new music blog created by my long-time friend and Gnosis co-creator Tom Hayes at:

http://unencumberedmusicreviews.blogspot.com/

Tom and I are both at the “no hassle” stage of music reviewing, basically wanting to write only about things we have passion to write about, which generally means this won’t be a blog that covers a lot of new music or is up to date or comprehensive. It’ll also be intermittent, which works for our up and down schedules, and it means I probably won’t post a lot, but I’m looking forward to getting the bug again. This also means that Outer Music Diary, while still available as archives (thanks to Mike Borella!) will basically be ending its run formally.

And a heavy shout out for CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, which is possibly the best and funniest sitcom since Seinfeld. I’m not a huge fan of this genre but BBT’s look into geek culture with a cast who have insanely good chemistry and a comic genius in the works with Jim Parsons’ Sheldon is well worth looking into for anyone who has had experience with these types of personalities and quirks (progressive rock fans, TV fans, science fiction etc etc).

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Music, Outer Music, Progressive Music, etc.

Posted by Mike on August 18, 2008

I’ve had this intense feeling I’ve been juggling too many balls in the air at once. Most of this is due to Olfactory Rescue Service and the site’s growing success in the incense community, which has basically reduced this blog to tumbleweeds since I moved the incense to ORS (making Prattle the perfect venue for this sort of ramble). To say the least, my experience in incense has been something of an exercise of comparing and contrasting with my experience in the music fields.

In ten years, my musical outlook and tastes have vastly changed. In the 90s I was involved with several progressive rock magazines: Expose, Audion, Melodie e Dissonanze. In the last 90s/early 00s I was coresponsible for starting the Gnosis project. But it always felt like as soon as I created something in the music field, my tastes had already changed to the point where I never felt part of the audience these projects were aimed at. I’ve always felt more comfortable in areas where people had more multiplicity and breadth in their musical tastes and have always felt that certain musical communities were quite insular and navel gazing. That is, I think it’s possible to like something without the act of that like becoming an implicit dislike of something else.

Overall, I don’t have the musical appetite that I used to and think that perhaps some of this interest has just transferred to my passion over incense. WIth music, I generally feel satisfied with what I’ve collected and feel very rarely that when I add something new to the pile that it sufficiently enhances it. For years I’ve had that idea that trying to appreciate something outside your tastes enhances your life and while it does, it has the exact opposite effect on your pocketbook. The major event for me was “cracking” the Grateful Dead. Never liked them much growing up, but around 2000-2001, I figured I’d give them the benefit of the doubt, started playing Europe 72, broke through my hesitancy and became a fan. But what it did for me most importantly was realize how much pleasure I could get out of one band. And learning this, along with some other influences, more or less ended the “need to hear everything” mentality I picked up from progressive rock. I find more satisfaction in trying to get to know something better than I do in trying to get to know something new.

Another aspect of this was retiring from Expose. As a writer you stay up on everything and are generally aware of almost everything remotely connected to the genre that comes out. All other issues aside, leaving the magazine was a relief in that hours of listening to promos you’d rather not could be used for something else. Being fully in control of what you listen to means you gravitate more and more to what you naturally like, passionate listening rather than intellectual. And overall, I think I’ve found I just generally like late 60s and early 70s music above all else, no matter if it’s rock, jazz, funk, soul or anything else. My respect for the avant garde is almost entirely intellectual or mental, never particularly passionate.

All of these questions are sort of hanging over me in a very Virgo-like way, as I consider hanging up musical activities. I sometimes have to resist the urge to make clean breaks. At the moment I don’t have a particular urge or desire to return to music writing of any sort. Not only have my tastes moved away from progressive rock but it’s a genre without any intellectual/academic dialogue while being tailor-made for it. Like the entire political landscape of the day, facts aren’t facts anymore, it’s a matter of how you feel and who yells the loudest. The genre’s greatest strength, its eclecticism, has now just become another competing idealogy with those who think its greatest strength is melodrama.

So, if you’re here wondering why I’m taking a (probably permanent) sabbatical from music forums and writing activities, this is generally where my head’s at. I honestly don’t feel like the world of progressive rock is going to miss my voice much at all, after all it’s not a voice much representative of the genre or its fans anymore (if it ever really was). And remember, I’m saying that as a progressive rock fan in love with its eclecticism not its melodrama. It’s not a statement fishing for someone to convince me otherwise, just someone who sees the art of criticism as opening a dialogue rather than digging a trench, while seeing the landscape of progressive music as a map of trenches where the dominant aesthetic is to lob grenades at each other. I’ve had grenades lobbed at me in the incense world as well, the difference there is that your fellow soldiers will deliver the A-bomb back, where in progressive rock they’ll blame you for the war.

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Update

Posted by Mike on February 12, 2008

Been spending quite a bit of time on my other blog of late, Outer Music Diary, so posting here will be quiet for the next week or so. OM survives collaboratively based on how we coordinate and encourage our writing streaks and we’re kind of fortunate that things are very good on that end for both Tom and I at this point, so we’re going to keep the flame going while it lasts. I think we’re about a month ahead at this point. Should be back with the February Incense Top 10 in a week or two.

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Books/CDs Received; Nancy Kress – “The Flowers of Aulit Prison;”

Posted by Mike on November 7, 2006

Books: 

  • H. P. Lovecraft – The Dunwich Horror & Other Stories
  • Joe Hill – 20th Century Ghosts
  • Tim Lebbon – The Nature of Balance
  • Tim Lebbon – Changing of Faces
  • Deborah Layne/Jay Lake, Ed. – Polyphony 4
  • The John Varley Reader
  • Robert E. Howard – Kull: Exile of Atlantis
  • Datlow/Windling ed. – Salon Fantastique
  • Peter Watts – Blindsight
  • Brian Keene – The Rising
  • Richard Laymon – The Travelling Vampire Show

CDs:

  • Joe Henderson – Power to the People
  • Ron Carter – Uptown Conversation
  • Cryptopsy – Once Was Not
  • Koenjihyakkei – Angherr Shisspa
  • Behold…The Arctopus – Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning

The first five books and all the CDs were procured in San Francisco, the former at Borderlands Books, the latter at Amoeba on Haight. Borderlands is as cool as I would have expected, a speculative fiction bookstore with tons of small press hardbacks and the like, it would have been easy to plunk 100s of dollars down but in only 40 minutes I could barely think of what I needed. Amoeba is probably much worse, a supermarket of a record store where it would take probably an entire day to go through all the racks. My money felt like it was trying to hurl itself from my wallet at the counter.

Been busy enough not to really get a lot of reading done lately, although I did manage to finish the Nancy Kress novelette. In reading her Probability trilogy, I realized about 60 pages into the first book that the novelette predates the series, so I stopped in order to catch up. I don’t know for sure, but it seems like the events in the novelette might happen later than the trilogy itself. The premise of both story and trilogy, or at least one of them, is that this alien race all share the same reality viewpoint and that those outside this viewpoint are not considered “real.” Once the planet is visited by aliens (including humans), it seems the population has a hard time considering any of them real. In the novelette, one of these aliens who is not considered “real” due to a crime being committed is sent to a prison that includes all aliens in order to be an informer on a Terran prisoner.

Hoping to get a lot of reading time for this (three-day) weekend. I started a cool collection called “The Sons of Noah & Other Stories” by Jack Cady, the first of the two stories I read was superb (the title story), the second a bit too ambiguous to work for me, but I’m pretty enthused about it nonetheless. Hopefully I’ll have more to talk about after this.

And I should mention my review of the Alice Coltrane show, which I posted at Outer Music (link on right). It felt like more than just a concert, but something of an adventure.

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Books/CDs Received; Poul Anderson “The Sharing of Flesh;” Harlan Ellison “The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World;” Samuel R. Delany “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones;” Neil Gaiman – The Sandman Volume 3 The Dream Country; The Sandman Volume 4 Season of Mists; Richard McKenna “The Secret Place;” Lucius Shepard “The Exercise of Faith,” “The Black-Clay Boy”

Posted by Mike on September 11, 2006

  • Neil Gaiman – The Sandman Volume 4: Season of Mists
  • Grant Morrison – The Invisibles Volume 3: Entropy in the U.K.
  • Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1
  • Frank Miller with Klaus Janson & Lynn Varley – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons – Watchmen

CDs (first order in aeons)

  • Between – And the Waters Opened
  • Between – Einsteig (both reissue/remasters)
  • NeBeLNeST – ZePTO
  • Cincinatto – Cincinatto
  • Hero – Hero (both reissue/remasters)
  • Nucleus – Hemispheres

Not sure I can remember the details of half of what I’ve read but I’ll give it a whirl. The first three stories listed are the last three in the big book of Hugo Winners Vols 1 and 2, which has taken me several years to get through. The Anderson story is a neat one on cannibalism, possibly the most readable piece I’ve read by the author, someone I can’t say I’m much of a fan of. But weaving the story of the degenerated human tribe with the death of the protagonist’s loved one gave it an immediacy that kept me wanting to know what happened. I think it’s actually the second time I’ve read the Ellison story, but I was probably as impressed as I was the first time, when I went and promptly forgot about it. I like a lot of classic Ellison stories, but not really this one. The Delany I barely remember, but it reminded me of Morgan’s Altered Carbon a bit, a future world with a bit of the private detective involved.

The Sandman series gets better with every volume, the 3rd probably the most human story so far, while the 4th seems to be almost entirely about the entities that inhabit the universe. It’s hard to know what to say without spoiling anything (well at least for those who aren’t 20 years behind like me), but Gaiman’s interweaving of several mythologies (mythoses? :)) and reworking of others brings a cosmic scope to the project that begins to add serious, sublime depth to everything. Great stuff.

The McKenna award won the Nebula, the second year the award was around, but I can’t remember it at all at the moment without having the book around to jog the memory. The two Shepard stories are both strong, the first a story about a preacher of sorts, the second something of a voodoo story as a woman in the twilight of a life gone wrong tries to get revenge on those that hassle her. Both are probably good examples of how good a writer can be if this is their middle of the line work. But few of any of the shorts here really grabbed me too hard.

Starting to post a little at Outer Music again, when I get the time and inclination, so link on over on your right if you haven’t checked in in a while. It even has a new look!

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Random musings

Posted by Mike on May 27, 2006

Starting to feel like I'm on the right side of the parabola this week and want to thank my friends for phone calls, PMs and e-mails of support of late. I so wish I could be far less cryptic with the part of the story that sings with synchronicity, because there's been a pretty amazing side to the recent clusterfuck that I so wish I could go into, because it makes my 23 sightings seem like they came from a random number generator. But I don't think I can type that much. One thing is for sure, heavy anxiety and stress seems to be more rampant than ever, I heard from two good friends who are also taking major knocks on the chin of late. All very Saturnian.

The best part of being human again is being able to concentrate on reading fiction, and I'm head deep in two really great books, David Madsen's Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf and Angela Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffmann. The former is a bawdy romp during Medici-ruled Italy during the reign of Pope Leo X, alternatively hysterical and poignant, while the latter is a surreal, prose-intense literary work that is dazzling with imagination. I'm also spending a little time finishing off a Joe Lansdale collection called Electric Gumbo, which happens to include The Drive-In novel, and most of the stories in the High Cotton collection, leaving me with an intro, two essays and two novelettes I hadn't previously read. The essays were fairly interesting, and I'll get to the novelettes as soon as I'm done with the second one. I also started reading the first book in Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, which seems quite amazing so far. Anyway, so much for trying to finish a bunch of books before I started new ones, I think I've about doubled the pile.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get back to Outer Music posting pretty soon, and starting to listen to CDs people have sent me to review or rate, including Stangefish, Eccentric Orbit and (np) the new Underground Railroad. I've also been asked to do liner notes for a certain reissue, so I may not be able to stay away from music writing after all…

Posted in Books, Esoteric, Music, Outer Music Diary, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Outer Music Diary update

Posted by Mike on April 12, 2006

I'll be taking an indefinite sabbatical from OM until I get the fever again. I'm dissipating a little energy even wondering when I'm going to find time to post again and I'm not really listening to a lot of music or buying any, all signs of wear, tear and total burn out (I've been in this situation before but perhaps not to this degree). Anyway that may address why it's been so quiet there lately and why it'll probably be quiet for some time yet. Doing OM for fun is great, as a duty it's a drag, so I'm gonna keep that line drawn. And for now see if that passion comes back.

Posted in Outer Music Diary | 2 Comments »

Outer Music Diary update

Posted by Mike on March 23, 2006

Both the recent creative surge and some new policies being implemented at work will be changing (and putting a hold on) my Outer Music Diary posting patterns, although it comes at a time where my attention to music is down and creativity and workload are up.

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Outer Music Diary updated

Posted by Mike on February 22, 2006

I’ve added categories to the site and nearly caught up with all my posts today.

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