Perth Airport 31 July 2009

The reason you can’t contact me is because I’m not HERE, I’m THERE. QF642 is waiting at Gate 2 and I’ll be in Sydney in five hours or so, I guess. Stuck in the ‘travel time’ limbo. Should be great seeing everyone today, but a weird time.

I will *try* to post info and photos about the trip, but I warn you that I always fail in this. I’ll mostly be offline till Sunday. See you then!

Anticipation – My WorldCon Schedule

When: Thu 15:30
Location: P-516D
Title: 2009: The Year in Short Fiction
Session ID: 625
All Participants: Adrienne Martini, Ellen Datlow, Jonathan Strahan, Sheila Williams, Bill Fawcett
Moderator: Adrienne Martini
Description: Our panel of experts tell you about the must-reads of the year.

When: Fri 17:00
Location: P-516AB
Title: Handicapping the Hugos II: The Short Fiction
Session ID: 590
All Participants: Ann VanderMeer, Jonathan Strahan, Karen Burnham, Niall Harrison, Bill Fawcett
Moderator: Ann VanderMeer
Description: Our panellists survey the Hugo-nominated short stories, novelettes, and novellas: they tell us what they want to win, what will win, and why.

When: Sat 10:00
Location: P-521A
Title: Kaffee Klatch Jonathan Strahan
Session ID: 1062All Participants: Jonathan StrahanModerator:
Description: A chance to ask one of your favourite authors those burning questions.
When: Sun 14:00

When: Sun 14:00
Location: P-516AB
Title: Charles N. Brown: a Tribute
Session ID: 1693
All Participants: David Hartwell, Ellen Datlow, Jonathan Strahan, Robert Silverberg, Gary K. Wolfe, Connie Willis, Anthony Lewis, Gardner Dozois, Liza Trombi
Moderator: Gardner Dozois
Description: Charles N. Brown, the creator of the newszine Locus, the winner of the most Hugo Awards, and a tireless promoter of the science fiction field died suddenly last month at the age of 72. Join Charles’s friends in remembering him. Hawaiian shirts encouraged. Aloha, Charles.

When: Sun 17:00
Location: P-517D
Title: The New Space Opera 2
Session ID: 1702
All Participants: Bill Willingham, Cory Doctorow, James Patrick Kelly, Jay Lake, John C. Wright, Jonathan Strahan, Mike Resnick, Robert Charles Wilson, Robert Silverberg, Walter Jon Williams, Tom Clegg, John Scalzi, Peter Watts, Gardner Dozois
Description: Meet the editors and authors of both the first and second The New Space Opera anthologies. Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois and Tom Clegg will attend the entire event and will be available for autographing. Other New Space Opera writers may drop by

Women in music: Cowboy Junkies and The Trinity Sessions

Part way through Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, Trent Reznor, who compiled the soundtrack, drops the needle on one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. A slow bass comes in and over the top of it the beautiful, soulful voice of Margo Timmins fronting the Cowboy Junkies, singing a deep and slow version of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane”.

The version is so true and so perfect that Lou Reed himself described it as “the best and most authentic version I have ever heard” .  I’d not heard of the Cowboy Junkies or Margo Timmins, but I walked out of that movie theatre wanting more.  I went to a music store near where I lived at the time looking for compilation that would give me an overview of the band, as well as a copy of that extraordinary song.

Fortunately the only album I could find was The Trinity Sessions. I was reluctant to buy it because it sounded like it must be demos and it wasn’t an overview of the band.  Stupid, stupid me.  I bought it and stumbled into one of the most wonderful albums I’ve ever heard.  An entrancing mix of originals and covers, it opens with Timmins singing an acapella version of the traditional miner’s ballad “Mining For Gold”. The moment I heard it I knew the album was something special, something different.  The album continues through a revisited version of “Blue Moon” (appropriately subtitled ‘Song for Elvis’ – Timmins sometimes sound like some magical female Elvis singing the blues) and more.

They say that great art takes time. The stunning thing about The Trinity Sessions is that it didn’t take much time at all. Apparently, planning time aside, Timmins and the other Junkies recorded the album in a single night, 27 November 1987, at Ontario’s Church of the Holy Trinity with just a single microphone.  Well, not one night. They had to go back and finish one track during the Symphony’s lunch break later that week, but the point holds.  Perfect, spontaneous, and soulful it’s one of my favorite albums of all time.

Saturday and the Clouds of Steam

Today has been a bit mixed, to say the least. Marianne and I went out to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (a solidly adequate piece of entertainment that had me laughing out loud a couple times), and got to bed a bit late. That, in turn, has meant we’ve both been a bit tired today, as the young ones don’t sleep in when we do.  I had lots to do to get ready for heading o/s next week, so I was up and out early.  I finished in record time, had enough time to sneak in a sidetrip to JB and was feeling a bit smug about it, when the cooling system in the aged Camry died.  A major puff of steam clued me, and I just made it home before it was done and dusted.  sigh.  It’s been towed away, will be repaired, but no car till Tuesday probably, which leaves us mildly inconvenienced.  We have some help coming, but the afternoon plans were set aside and we ended up having a stroll in the park before heading home.  Family movie night beckons.

I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’m unprepared for the trip next week. This might be because I am unprepared, but mostly seems because I like to do this kind of thing to myself.

Women in Music: Aimee Mann and Bachelor No. 2

The late, great Miles Davis is quoted as once having said that “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”.  The quote has been attributed to several other people, but the point that it makes stands up. Music is something you listen to, that you feel, and that mostly bypasses your intellectual filters.  When you try to write about it you end up either describing flat technical details that don’t communicate much, or speaking in personal, emotive terms that are only really meaningful to the individual.

Still, it’s FAM over at GJ’s, and she suggested that I say something about someone that I’ve been listening to for years, and who deserves a mention now.  I first heard Aimee Mann’s voice when she was fronting Til Tuesday, a short-lived new wave pop group that had one major hit, ‘Voices Carry’, back in the mid-80s. Even then her clear, brittle voice was captivating and the song pulled you in.  The group released three albums, but pretty much disappeared. I think it was because of the ‘Big Hair’.

I was vaguely aware that Mann had gone on to release a few critically-acclaimed solo albums that left behind the whole ‘new wave’ thing and moved into an introspective kind of folk-acoustic pop, but I didn’t stop to search them out.  Then in 2000 she wrote four gorgeous songs that ended up on the soundtrack to the Paul Thomas Anderson movie, Magnolia. These were richly melodic pieces of perfectly-crafted acoustic pop. They were clever and perceptive, gentle and yet tough.   Songs like “Save Me” (which was nominated for an Academy Award and was one of the best song performances on the Oscars ever), “Driving Sideways”, “Build That Wall”, and “Momentum”.

Those songs were added to her utterly brilliant album, Bachelor No. 2, or the last remains of the dodo, which is one of my favorite records ever.  The thirteen songs on it at are all terrific, and rightly described by All-Music as matching her “literate, mildly self-deprecating, clever, melancholy, melodic style”.  If you have a taste for intimate, introspective pop, then there are very few better albums around. Mann’s voice is gorgeous, her lyrics intelligent, and the accompaniment is perfect.

Mann has released some strong albums since Bachelor No. 2, but it’s the place you should start, I think. You can all search her on YouTube (I hate embedding those things,  so I’ll leave it to you and your SearchFu to do it) and you’ll see what I mean. I was really disappointed to hear she’s touring OZ in a few months and not making it to Perth. sigh.