truepenny: photo of the keyboard and raised lid of a 1911 Bluethner grand piano; the inside of the lid has inlaid brass letters reading BLUETHNER LEIPZIG (bluethner 1911)
[personal profile] truepenny
So this year, after a gap of twenty-five years, I started taking piano lessons again, focusing--because I'm an adult and get to choose for myself--on ragtime. There's a bunch of stuff around this decision that does not need to be explored at this juncture, because what I want to talk about is one of the biggest fucking paradigm shifts I've ever experienced.

I learned piano very much in the traditional you-learn-pieces-and-perform-them-at-recitals-and-they-get-progressively-harder mode (also traditional is the nice Lutheran lady teaching piano in her living room), and one of the reasons I started again was that I could work with somebody who went to UW-Madison for music--somebody, in other words, who's been exposed to the theoretical underpinnings not just of music, but of teaching.

Dude rocks my fucking world, I tell you what.

Partly, this is because I'm an adult and I've been exposed to the theoretical underpinnings of teaching (I always know when a teacher is using a particular pedagogical technique on me--which interestingly doesn't always make it less effective). I learn differently now and with a different understanding of what "learning" is. This is the place where Csikszentmihalyi has been extremely helpful to me, because I can recognize how a successful learning engagement works. ("Learning experience" would be a better phrase, but it already has connotations that are really kind of the opposite of what I mean.) And the pressure to learn pieces for recitals is mercifully off, which helps, too. But partly it's because this guy approaches music completely differently, bottom up instead of top down.

But the thing that has changed my relationship with my piano is something my teacher said (and I can't for the life of me remember what it was) that made me understand--quite literally for the first time in my life--that fingerings aren't arbitrary and they aren't just put in music so that teachers can judge whether students are obeying them or not. Here's where playing the piano is exactly like rock climbing:

The notes in the score are like the hand, finger, foot, and toe holds used to set a route in a climbing gym. You work the fingerings out yourself, the same way that a climber works out her own solution to how to get to the top of the wall using the holds available. And he said, "This music is for playing." A weirdass chord progression or run is like a difficult sequence in a route; it's a game, a puzzle that a musician who's been dead for 100 years set for all the pianists who came after him to solve. You work out the fingerings (4-5-3-5 WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK) so that you don't hang yourself out to dry, the same way that a climber works out her holds so that when she has only her right hand free, the next hold isn't three feet to her left. When you make a mistake, you laugh and pick yourself back up and go up the wall again, because it isn't a pass/fail test. It's a game. You have a sense of glee that you share with the route setter about solving this incredibly intricate puzzle almost--in a weird way--together.

What that means is, (1) playing piano, which I have always loved, is now infused with a sense of fun that it truly has never had; (2) I know what I'm learning--not just "music" but the route up the wall, the game that underlies the performance; (3) when I'm fumbling through a new chunk of music, I know why I'm fumbling. It's not because I'm stupid or the music is stupid; it's because my brain is trying to process so much new information that it gets overwhelmed. That's why I miss easy chords and consistently play that damn C-sharp when the piece is written in G. Because THAT'S WHAT THE LEARNING PROCESS LOOKS LIKE.

But honest to god the idea of music as a game being played between composer and performer, and not a game like tennis, but a game like riddling--riddle set and riddle answered--is a seismic paradigm shift for me. Everything looks different now.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Dear Senator Johnson:

Thank you for speaking out against Senator McConnell's methodology, which looks suspiciously more like tyranny than democracy. I hope that you will publicly refuse to vote to repeal the ACA with nothing lined up to take its place. McConnell's plan is catastrophic and could only be put forward by someone who neither knows nor cares anything about the healthcare needs of his constituents. I am strongly in favor of bipartisan reform for the ACA, and I hope that you will reach out to your Democratic colleagues to make that happen.

I know I will never persuade you that you are wrong about the effect of the free market, but, because I choose to believe that you are acting in good faith, I have to--in good faith--try again:

The problem with the free market is that it erodes ethics. Free-market capitalism says that ethics are irrelevant--if they're not actually a liability, making you less able to compete. This is why it is crucial that the government regulate corporations. The government doesn't need to worry about corporations making money. They'll take care of that part themselves. The government needs to ensure that they don't run roughshod over employees and consumers in the process. Deregulating everything and trusting to the free market to solve the problem is like opening all the cages and trusting the tigers to solve the food supply problem. Corporations, like tigers, will solve the problem for themselves. We need the government to make sure the problem is solved for everyone.

This is why we need government. This is why government should never be run on the corporate model. It is not a corporation, and if it is to succeed in providing justice for all citizens, it cannot be a corporation. It has to be the balance to the corporations, to keep their untrammeled free market competition from literally poisoning everything they touch. In the past fifty years, America has proved repeatedly that deregulation is not the answer. Deregulation only and always makes things worse, because--hey, wait for it--our country is not a corporation. Treating it like one merely destroys it.

This is why ethics are not something that can be discarded. Because without ethics, you get the Trump administration, and I have to tell you that, no matter how it looks from where you are, from where I am, all I see are tigers.



There's also email to Governor Walker about why isn't he one of the governors speaking out against ACA repeal?

Book Recs, Signings, and Stuff

Jul. 17th, 2017 07:54 am
marthawells: (Reading)
[personal profile] marthawells
Signings and Stuff


* Here are some photos of me and Rachel Caine at our signing at Murder by the Book: https://marthawells.tumblr.com/post/163060728297/my-friend-tooks-some-photos-of-me-and-rachel-caine We had a good crowd, even though it was pouring rain and there were tornado warnings.

* Here's a post from me on Writers Read: https://whatarewritersreading.blogspot.com/2017/07/martha-wells.html about what I'm reading now (actually what I was reading when I wrote the post)

* And I'm not in this article but I know all these people: https://www.austinchronicle.com/arts/2017-07-14/writing-science-fiction-fantasy-and-horror-in-austin/



***

Books


(If you've been following my book rec and new book listing posts for a while, you may have noticed this already, but while most book lists emphasize books by popular straight white men, this one emphasizes everybody else. I include books by straight white men, but in about the same percentage that other book lists include everybody else. I also try to highlight books that are less well known.)

(I only link to one retail outlet in the book's listing, but most books are available at multiple outlets, like Kobo, iBooks, international Amazons, Barnes & Noble, etc. The short stories are usually on free online magazines.)


* Short Story: Children of Thorns, Children of Water by Aliette de Bodard


* Stranglehold by Rene Sears
Morgan Tenpenny has retreated from her painful, magical past, choosing to live quietly as a guardian of one of the gates between worlds. But her sister Gwen is married to a lord of the High Court of Faerie-and when Gwen asks her to protect her nieces, it's time for Morgan to emerge from her seclusion. The gates to Faerie have inexplicably closed, and no one knows why...


* Revision by Andrea Phillips
Mira is a trust fund baby playing at making it on her own as a Brooklyn barista. When Benji, her tech startup boyfriend, dumps her out of the blue, she decides a little revenge vandalism is in order. Mira updates his entry on Verity, Benji’s Wikipedia-style news aggregator, to say the two have become engaged. Hours later, he shows up at her place with an engagement ring. Chalk it up to coincidence, right? Soon after, Benji’s long-vanished co-founder Chandra shows up asking for Mira’s help. She claims Verity can nudge unlikely events into really happening — even change someone’s mind. And Chandra insists that Verity — and Mira’s newly minted fiance — can’t be trusted.


* Short Story: Waiting on a Bright Moon by JY Yang


* Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy (Laksa Anthology Series: Speculative Fiction Book 3) edited by Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak


* All Things Violent by Nikki Dolson
Soon the ambitious Simon introduces her to Frank Joyce, a man who would teach her how to become a stone-cold professional killer. Laura learns her deadly trade and earns her money. Twenty-six years old and she thinks she’s found her happily ever after. Sadly it all falls apart when Simon leaves her for another. Now some other woman, blonde and polished, all shiny and new, is living Laura’s happy life.


* Telling the Map by Christopher Rowe
There are ten stories here including one readers have waited ten long years for: in new novel-la The Border State Rowe revisits the world of his much-lauded story The Voluntary State.

Swag!

Jul. 12th, 2017 09:28 am
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
[personal profile] marthawells
Raksura stickers and buttons


This is the first time I’ve been able to afford actual swag for a signing. These are stickers with art by Pentapoda, and I also have buttons. I’ll have them at the Murder by the Book (in Houston) signing with Rachel Caine on 7/15/2017 at 4:30 (if you can’t come, you can order our signed and personalized books to ship to you at http://www.murderbooks.com/event/wells-caine ) and at ArmadilloCon http://armadillocon.org/d39/#/ and World Fantasy 2017 http://wfc2017.org/wfc2017/

Tuesday Post

Jul. 11th, 2017 07:57 am
marthawells: (Stargate)
[personal profile] marthawells
My post on the Barnes & Noble blog: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/8-books-blend-science-magic-minus-fantasy-tropes/ Fantasies that Blend Magic and Science

I also somehow missed that there was a Publishers Weekly review for The Harbors of the Sun: https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-59780-891-0

I removed the one mildy spoilery bit:

The beautiful fifth Raksura fantasy begins immediately after the events of The Edge of Worlds, tracing the various journeys of Moon, Jade, and the rest of the now-scattered Raksuran archaeological expedition.... Having done the heavy lifting of characterization in earlier books in the series, Wells is able to focus here on exploring how the Raksura fit into the wider world, dealing with the prejudices that result from their previous isolation, their shape-shifting ability and other magic, and their biological connection to the predatory Fell. The Fell themselves give rise to some of the more intriguing social explorations, as more is revealed about the half-Fell/half-Raksurans who were raised among the predators. Wells’s worldbuilding strengths are on display, and she knows just what to explain and what to imply, making this volume accessible to newcomers as well as longtime readers.


Now I'm going back to my aerobics class and hope I don't have any trouble from my back, my hands, my feet or any of the other bits of me that are falling off.

Monday

Jul. 10th, 2017 07:33 am
marthawells: (SGA Team)
[personal profile] marthawells
I keep wanting to write more here, but I keep forgetting to, and then forgetting what I was going to write about. I've been busy trying to do promo stuff for The Harbors of the Sun and I had a bunch of guest posts to write, and I've been working on the fourth Murderbot novella. (Which basically means I write half of it, decide it's going in completely the wrong direction, and start over.)

I need to start up Martha's Guide to TV Mysteries again because I have a lot to add to it. In particular Witnesses, which is a French series available on Netflix with subtitles, with a woman main character dealing with very creepy mysteries. (The first series starts with the discovery that someone is digging up corpses and arranging them like they're a family in model show homes in real estate developments.)

Now I went back and looked at my old mystery guide posts and now I can't remember what else I was going to write. So basically, stress, distraction, stress, is how things are going.


Oh, standard begging: If you enjoyed The Harbors of the Sun, please consider leaving a review somewhere like Amazon or GoodReads. Amazon won't include the book in its promotion system until it gets 50 reviews/ratings (Or so we think, I'm not sure if anyone knows for sure), so reviews and ratings really do help a huge amount and writers really appreciate them.

Also, if you want to get the book at your local library and they don't have it, remember that you can request that they buy it for their collection. And a lot of libraries are offering ebook lending, too, now.


And I'm doing a signing at Murder by the Book in Houston this weekend (July 15, 4:30) with Rachel Caine, and if you can't come you can get our signed and personalized books shipped to you from here: http://www.murderbooks.com/event/wells-caine Signed books make great gifts!

Also coming up is ArmadilloCon is Austin http://armadillocon.org/d39/#/ on August 4-6.

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