Friday Photo Blogging: the bag-head blues

Well, you know musicians and their propensity for keerrrrrrazy highjinx. Somehow last Sunday (for reasons now forgotten) my bandmate Phil ended up playing some evolving little riff for about ten minutes with a tote bag[1] on his head.

Jammin' those bag-head blues

I’d like to be able to claim we were using some Eno-esque oblique strategies to come up with new ideas, but it would be more honest to confess we were mostly just mucking around…


Writing about music

We’re nearly back up to full throttle at TDP, so I’ve been writing more reviews. This year so far has seen an unprecedented number of submissions from unsigned bands, which is excellent – people getting off their arses instead of waiting for a label to come knocking is great news. However, some of them would be much better off working on their music beforehand…

Those of you among the Twitterati may have noticed that I’m now contributing #SoundBytes – 140-character album reviews – to Outshine, Jetse De Vries‘ Tweetmag. This is, incidentally, my first pro (and paid!) column of any sort, so I’m rather chuffed about it! My reviews go out every Tuesday evening (European time), so do tune in.

Jetse has managed to convince no less a luminary than Lucius Shepard for the movie reviews column on the Thursday slot; that’s one hell of a name to share a masthead with, I reckon. 🙂

Album of the week

Nothing particularly award-worthy reviewed this week (though the best of the rest would be Chickenhawk‘s eponymous début of stoner-spazzcore), so I’m going to recommend an old favourite in the form of Devin Townsend‘s Terria, one of the man’s more thoughtful solo side-project efforts. Because, sometimes, all you need is a bipolar be-skulleted Canadian guitar wizard.

Townsend seems to be one of those artists you either love or hate; I’m happy to fit into the former camp, having seen him perform live both as himself (i.e. fronting The Devin Townsend Band) and as frontman for the ridiculously heavy and unhinged Strapping Young Lad. If you’re into metal and you’ve not tried his stuff before, follow those links to Last FM and have a listen. I defy you to be indifferent.

Writing about books

Ah, the magic of procrastination! Having reached a particularly tricky bit of my Mind Over Ship review, I engaged the displacement engines and battered out a little review of Ehsin Masood’s Science & Islam, a History. In summary: decent little introductory text to a subject that’s much bigger than you may realise.

A little breathing space in the reading schedule has seen me start off on Kay Kenyon’s Bright of the Sky. Enjoying it so far, though Kenyon moves POV in mid-scene from time to time – although it’s always clearly signposted, it’s not a style I encounter often, and as such it can be a bit jarring. But so far it’s a strong story with a good premise, blending a sort of Greg Bear meets Greg Egan sf future with a science fantasy world set in the dimension next door; promises to get more interesting very quickly.

Freelance

The first fortnight of freelancing has been staggeringly unglamorous, largely involving clearing down a backlog of administrivia and catching up on daily tasks disrupted by my jaunt Northwards last week. But things are limbering up, and the daily schedule is starting to look a lot more manageable as I whittle away at it all. Now, if I could just mend my sleep-deprived[2] bodyclock and get up at the same time every morning, I’d be rocking in the free world…

Now there’s a bit of temporal space, I can start on a few of those ‘someday soon’ tasks that have been sat in my Remember The Milk inbox for months… things like skinning my portfolio site and making it something more than a newly-installed honey-jar for spam-bots, f’rinstance.

Futurismic

I’m pretty happy with things at Futurismic at the moment. The increase in output over the last few weeks (facilitated by a new approach to pre-planning posts the day before) is showing traffic dividends already, which is great news.

My interview with Bruce Sterling went up to much less fanfare than I had hoped, but seems to have been well-received by those who read it. It’ll still stand out as a golden fanboy moment for me, though… at least until the day I get to meet Sterling in person[3].

We’ve got a new story in the purchase process, too; another sober piece, but one I think folk are going to like, so keep ’em peeled. In the meantime, Marissa Lingen‘s “Erasing the Map” is short, smart and thought-provoking, so why not take a ten-minute break and read it now, eh?

Creative writing

Oooh, look, a new FPB section! As much to keep myself informed as for the benefit of you lot, I figure I’ll keep a vague record of my non-work related writing output here as well. And as such I can report that, while story writing has not yet been achieved (thanks to the aforementioned bodyclock wreckage), I’ve probably written more poetry in the last month than I did in the preceding year. That’s not to say it’s good poetry, of course, but it feels nice to get the engines turning again, and it comes a little easier every time.

I’m wondering how much it has helped that I restarted journalling at the beginning of the year – just scribbling down an account of the day in a Moleskine before I go to sleep. It seems to have the effect of making me remember the ephemera of things a little more clearly, and enables me to map my thinking-over-time a little better.

That said, it’s all banal so far (with occasional flashes where something grabs my mind and runs off with the pen); the downside is it can reveal just how much of your time you spend doing effectively nothing. Hmm. The unexamined life, and all that.

Books and magazines seen

Another mailout from the BSFA appeared last week, including the first issue of Vector not to feature a review by me for quite some time, if memory serves. Still plenty of other good stuff in there, though, most of which (along with Focus) I have yet to read the bulk of.

The last fortnight has seen the arrival of the mass-market paperback of Iain M Banks’ Matter (bringing my total to four different editions, only the promo ARC of which has actually been read), and the final bound ARC version of Toby Litt‘s generation ship story Journey Into Space (no, I still haven’t gotten round to the spiral-bound galley they sent a while back; it’s in the TBR queue).

Genuinely new titles appearing in the last fortnight include the arrival of a new title from Icon Books (literally the day after the Science & Islam review, which felt a little spooky). This one’s a lot more beefy – Atomic: the First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb 1939-49 by Jim Baggott.

Jim Baggott - Atomic: the First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb

Looks fascinating; also looks immense (550 pages plus, medium font). So many books, so little time… a sentiment that applies equally to this week’s other new arrival in the form of a limited edition (#204 of 555) ARC of China Mieville‘s new title, The City & The City:

China Mieville - The City & The City

You can all be jealous now. The time will be found to read that book very soon, I can assure you. 🙂

Coda

So, yeah; a busy fortnight that included a four-day jag to Manchester by train (miraculously avoiding any snow-based snarl-ups), the ordering of a kick-arse new computer (which has yet to arrive – guessing on Monday) and purchasing of a second-hand Wacom Bamboo tablet (cheers, Jasper), one pub quiz, two band rehearsals, one live gig (The Confederate Dead at The Cellars in Eastney; one of our better local bands), a lot of hours at the keyboard, and a distinct lack of opportunity to sit and panic about the future. Which strikes me as a pretty decent start to this whole freelance malarkey… though it is only a start, and I need to be building up momentum sooner rather than later. Onward and upwards, eh?

Anyway, the weekend’s here and I’ve got stuff to do – and I’ll bet you have, as well. So let’s bid each other a good weekend and get to it, shall we? Yeah, why not!

Take care, folks.


[ 1 – The tote bag in question is used by our bassplayer to carry his pedal board. That’s just how rock and roll we are, yo. ]

[ 2 – The ongoing upstairs neighbour issues are, er, ongoing. ]

[ 3 – This will no doubt be a horrible melange of fawning and gibbering on my part, despite my hopes that I’d be calm, erudite and incisive. Looking at how Sterling made my emailed questions sound naive without even trying to, however, I can confidently predict that, face-to-face, he’ll make me seem (and feel) about two foot tall should the opportunity ever arise. ]

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