bunrab: (me)

So when we last met, I had mentioned that I was going to attempt to read one of the volumes in Daniel Abraham's current series; two chapters of that disabused me of the notion. It's definitely complicated enough that one would have to start at the beginning. And given the size of each volume - fatter than the volumes of Game of Thrones, for comparison - it would be far more than I want to take on at this time. So back it went to the library, unfinished.

lengthy book stuff )

Now under way: another Patricia Briggs, but this time a series I haven't read before, or even noticed existed before, which appears to include dragons, maybe - at the moment, at the beginning of the book, the dragons appear to be extinct. So that will be the next one I report on.

Also read a graphic novel that sort of counts as fantasy: Beasts of Burden Volume: Animal Rites - cute, not terribly deep, but the dog characters and the cat are sort of cool.

Other things: took the euphonium to a Browningsville rehearsal and played it for about half the time, and there were moments when I didn't make a fool of myself. And saw "A Million Ways to Die in the West" with Larry, speaking of the West, and Seth MacFarlane's West is probably almost as fantastical as the books above, and from the first couple of measures of the score during the opening credits I was laughing, and I think I enjoyed it so much because so much of the humor was audio in one way or another, which is what I was paying attention to rather than the gross and tasteless poop jokes. From the snippets of Copland in the score, to "Mila Kunis" by way of "People die at the fair" and not forgetting the uncredited cameo by Bill Maher, I laughed a lot. I'll probably buy the soundtrack album.
bunrab: (Default)
and now they go past yours via Twitter:

  • 21:58 vanity plate: SCANS #
  • 23:27 major accident on I-95 south of exit 35 a couple miles; most emergency veh. are on southbound but a few are on left ln of northb. #
  • 23:28 at least 3 fire. 2 ambulance. 2 hwy patol on our side (north) and 4 or more hwt ptrl on south side. South traffic major delay. #
  • 23:30 glimpsed one veh. in median ditch, appeared to be SUV, right side up - but there must be more to warrant that turnout. #
  • 23:31 for random T readers, the preceding refers to I-95 in Maryland. Prince Georges Cty near Laurel #
  • 23:36 thankful for 20 yrs rehearsing w/ Dick Floyd in Austin - sometimes at rehearsals here, one can tell that S & I are only ones watching co ... #
  • 23:37 too long? THAT WAS: thankful for rehearsal habits Dick Floyd/ ASB drilled into us over 20 yrs. #
  • 23:39 this eve, S & I *only* ones who noticed tempo change at 1 point. #
  • 23:41 I am getting better still at reading bass clef bassoon parts; STILL cant transpose tenor clef parts on the fly, though. #
  • 15:57 dynamic sign: Use caution caution/ Road work ahead. #
  • 15:59 Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave. #
  • 16:24 well, we are finally past the roadwork, the everybody-out-of-the-way for a cavalcase, amd the major accident closing 2 of 3 lanes. #
  • 16:24 we certainly won't make the 4:15 pm recital #
  • 19:33 The Trombone Workshop seems much more orchestra-oriented than the Tuba conference. #
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bunrab: (soprano_sax)
Sunday the Montgomery Village Community Band played at Falcon's Landing, a large Air Force retirement community in Sterling, VA. It went well - Wednesday's dress rehearsal had been awful, but the concert went much, much better. There are still a couple percussion players who can't tell the difference between 6/8 and 2/4, but what can you do? The audience outnumbered the band, always a goal for community bands, and the facility also broadcast the concert over their CCTV to the people in the assisted living and nursing home areas who couldn't come to the community rooms. On the way home, we went looking for local food for a late lunch, and happened upon a newish Persian Restaurant there in Sterling, which turned out to be wonderful food and nice people - the place was empty except for us, so we chatted with the owners for a bit, stuff like that. (Rainy Sunday afternoon, and too new to have its name on the shopping center signboard out at the street, and 4:30 p.m. isn't a heavy traffic hour for restaurants anyway.)

Monday is Bel Air band rehearsal. The youngest of our tenor saxes wasn't at rehearsal - 2 of his best friends at VA Tech, one of them dead, the other one of the critically injured. So he had other stuff to think about besides rehearsal.

The 4 tenor saxes, it's odd how we pretty much span 4 generations - Bob's 80, a "Greatest Generation" type; I'm "Baby Boomer", Alicia's Gen X (mid-thirties), and John is 20. Besides the tenor, I am also using my bari in one piece, to cover a contra-alto clarinet part in a new piece, where the composer wrote in way more bass parts than most community bands can cover. No, the range on the bari isn't quite the same, but it sounds a lot more like a contra-alto than a tuba does, and besides, we need the tubas to cover the string bass and contra-bass clarinet parts as well as tuba, and there's only 3 of them. I like getting more practice at switching between instruments.

Sunday the 22nd, we leave for Austin. Monday evening we're having supper with band friends; Tuesday evening we'll probably stop by ASB rehearsal. Wednesday we're eating lunch with Steve's dad, and possibly a couple of his other relatives (there's not many left). Saturday evening is the Austin Symphonic Band's Silver Anniversary concert, followed by a big party, which we're going to - and then, way too soon on Sunday the 29th a.m., we climb back on a plane so we get back here by 1 p.m., which gives us time to nap and change clothes and be in Perry Hall before 7 p.m. to play a concert with the Baltimore Symphonic Band. (And looking only slightly more into the future, the following Sunday, May 6, is the Bel Air band's spring concert.)

Anyway, the reason I mention the details of when we're eating with whom is so that those of you I hope to visit with (Sam, Anita, Liz...), can be ready to tell me when would be a good time, working around what we're already doing, to stop by, say hi, possibly eat a meal or at least chat, when I call, probably this Thursday evening. We'll be staying with Jerry & Kathy, which is a fairly convenient in-town location (and thank you so much, guys, for the room - Steve's dad is having problems getting enough water for even one person out there in Oak Hill!)

Our sump pump worked fairly steadily today. It's stopped raining now. There are downed trees all over the place from the winds. All the traffic lights on Frederick Road (Catonsville's main street) were out of power, and a bunch of ones on roads parallel to it as well. Which didn't help the crowd around the post office. The wait today was only about half an hour; tomorrow will be MUCH worse. So I'm glad we got that done today. Last year, paying 2005 taxes, we didn't owe much to MD as partial-year residents, but for 2006, since we were residents all year, we owed state and city taxes, which of course aren't withheld from our Texas pensions. Oh well, we really can see that we get some services for our tax money here, so it's not like we shouldn't do our part.

I'm not going to bother watching CSI:Miami any more; it's become all Hummer and no cattle, if I may mix my metaphors.

Snow news

Feb. 15th, 2007 04:38 pm
bunrab: (alien reading)
Yesterday's rehearsal was cancelled due to ice, as were most of the Valentine's Day plans of most of the county - many restaurants were closed all day. Our street didn't get plowed till late this afternoon, after pretty much every person on the block had called the streets dept. and complained. So we got plowed and salted about half an hour ago.

Meanwhile, not exactly a rant, but sort of a lecture; I've said parts of this before, I think. Our topic for today is: Why do I like some books and not others?

One of the few things my late mother and I were ever able to agree on was what factors are important in determining whether a fiction book is any good. We didn't always agree on the relative weights of those factors, nor did we rate a given book the same under each factor, but at least it helped us discuss books in terms where we could make some comparisons and give some clear examples of what we liked. So, the three factors we agreed on were:
1. Good writing - not just spelling and grammar, although those are important, but elegant turns of phrase, literary allusions, wit and humor, and other things that indicate that the author him or herself is well-read and is aiming at an audience who appreciates the written word.
2. Plot and character - some people might choose to separate these, but we lumped them together, because character development is one kind of plot. There should be something happening in a book, some movement, a goal. Even if that goal is only the character's realization that his or her life has been wasted. There's a bit of overlap with good writing here in that the characters should have different enough personalities that when there's a conversation, we can tell who is talking; the characters shouldn't all sound identical. (Later Heinlein, for example, fails this test spectacularly - the only way to tell who is talking is to count back even or odd lines until you reach a point where a name was mentioned.)
3. Interesting presentation of novel ideas. This one's especially important in science fiction, but it matters in other stuff too - murder mysteries should not be identical plots with the names changes, or just the location changed. There might be new takes on political ideas, and it's possible to put old wine in new bottles and make it look interesting, too. So novel ideas doesn't have to mean new inventions - it just means something that makes me think about something in a way that I haven't thought about it before, or that makes me think about something I haven't bothered thinking about before.

Now, for a book to be good enough to bother to finish, roughly, it should be at least "average" - as measured by "all the other books I've ever read before" - on at least two of those factors; for a book to be *good* it should be at least average on two of them and well above average on at least one of them.

It's that "all the other books I've ever read before" that varies from person to person, of course, and that makes every person's evaluation of the three criteria slightly different. But, it also gives us a talking point for explaining why we give a certain weight to one of the factors. We can give examples in that category from the book we're discussing, and then give examples for comparison from other books. Without these defined criteria, we would find it difficult to say why we like one book better than another.

Some examples of how particular books get weighed:
Take Jack Chalker, who frequently complains in his introductions that he is something like the world's most popular unrecognized science fiction writer. Well, I can tell you something about why that might be. He's not actually a very good writer. While his spelling and grammar are adequate, his sentences are nonetheless clunky, and his dialogue unrealistic. Why do people keep buying his books, then? Because of criteria 2 & 3: his plots move right along, something happening every minute. Even if the characters are sorta cardboard, or stereotypes, or never learn, at least they're always doing something. And his ideas - Well World, for example - are novel enough, and new things pop up in the descriptions of them often enough, to reach a satisfactory score on that count. So even though he scores rather low, though not abysmal, on criterion #1, he scores adequately on 2 and 3, so his books are worth finishing if one happens to pick them up. Now, you might disagree on whether there are enough novel ideas to reach an adequate weight on #3, because you've read a different set of other books than I have, so you might conclude Chalker isn't worth reading. And that's fine, for you. At least, though, we know why we disagree, and we each know something more than we knew before about what books to recommend to each other and what not to.

Or how about Margaret Frazer's Sister Frevisse mysteries? Some people see those as just rip-offs of Peters' Brother Cadfael, and so don't bother to read them. For me, however, they reach adequate or better on all three criteria. I consider the writing to be somewhat better than Ellis Peters' - and that may simply be a matter of personal taste. As far as plot goes, both series have adequate plots and lots of interesting characters, and at least 2 or 3 characters in every book have distinct enough personalities to be worth investing some time reading about them. To my way of thinking, Frazer's books have fewer cardboard background characters than Peters' - some of the other monks in the Cadfael series never do become anything more than a name and a vague job duty. OTOH, the saintly Sister Thomasine character in Frazer's books bugs me - too good to be true. As far as novel ideas/interesting presentation goes, we hit an interesting comparison there. The Cadfael books certainly are novel, in that most of us know nothing about that time period, and so everything we read is new and different. However, some of it is alien enough from our own understanding of how people work, how they are motivated, that I just can't sympathize with them or believe that they'd act as they do. Even if it's probably accurate, I can't understand it. The Frevisse mysteries are set about 3 centuries later - early 1400's - and that puts us just enough closer to the modern world that things are more understandable. More people are literate, there's a middle class, I've heard of the kings and queens mentioned - and that's just enough familiarity that when something I'm NOT familiar with gets introduced, I have a framework to fit it into, and can add it to my understanding. With the Cadfael books, I don't have enough edge pieces to make a framework for getting the middle jigsaw pieces together very well, and even when I do, I know I'm still missing something. With Frevisse, I have more of the edge pieces, so when I get additional jigsaw pieces, I get a clearer picture. In other words, I can understand the new ideas better because I have more old ideas to hang them on.

See how having those three criteria makes it easier to talk about "what I like about this book" ? Feel free to appropriate this method and pass it on. I think if more people did their "book reviews" using this, we'd all get a lot better idea of what to read next, she says modestly.
bunrab: (saxophone)
Today's magazine in the mail: Ladies Home Journal.
Today's catalog, yes, only one: Mary Maxim (inexpensive needlecrafts)
Today's supper: canned tuna that's supposedly smoked and marinated in ginger, but didn't taste like it, and a rice-quinoa mix in a bag. Total time to microwave: 3 minutes.

Yep, that's about as exciting as it gets. Rehearsal cancelled due to 1" of snow.
bunrab: (saxophone)
I got to play my soprano sax at rehearsal last night, for one number, a march. Most of the pieces we're playing don't have soprano sax parts. It turns out to be easier to switch between bari and soprano in one rehearsal, than between bari and tenor, because they're far enough apart that there's no confusion or "almost" about the embouchure. That was fun!


bunrab: (Default)

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