Queen music is all over TV these days

Have you noticed? The Queen songs in loads of UK TV advertisements. Almost to the point where you notice advertisements that don’t have a Queen song in them!

I’m sure some people think this is selling out. And that the current Queen & Adam Lambert tour is as well. I don’t. These songs need to be heard. Having them on TV via advertisements keeps the songs in people’s thoughts, and introduces new listeners to the great tracks.

Similarly, the Queen & Adam Lambert tour gives people a chance to hear the songs live. And Queen songs deserve to be heard live by all.

 

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Culture Consumed 6

Films, books and other media consumed since the last list on 25th January. As ever, hat tip to the Galactic Suburbia podcast for the idea. BTW: they are back from their Christmas holidays hiatus. A new episode was posted on 4th February. Go listen :)

Dimension of Miracles  – Robert Sheckley. I read this as it was mentioned in Jem Roberts excellent Douglas Adams biography and account of the production of the HHGTTG and Dirk Gently books. Dimension of Miracles started off well. But ultimately I found it a bit unsatisfying. Seemed to be a series of unconnected vignettes rather than a coherent novel. Entertaining, and contains some good philosophising on the nature of things. But not as good as HHGTTG.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Continuing my recent Jennifer Lawrence movie trend. This was okay. Standard fare blockbuster stuff. Entertaining, but not a film I’d watch multiple times.

Kingsman: The Secret Service – This was a surprise. The trailers looked good. They don’t do it justice. A tongue in cheek spy story. With a suitable over the top villain, brilliantly played by Samuel L. Jackson, who has an outlandish plan for the world. And a secret lair in a mountain. What more could you ask for. The story is good. The actors are good. Plus the plot twists in surprising ways. Cartoon violent. With lots of Matrix like bullet time action. I loved it.

Winter’s Bone – Dark. Bleak. Harrowing. And that’s just the backdrop upon which this story is told. Set in a poor white American mountain community. Starring Jennifer Lawrence as Ree, it tells of her searching for her missing father in and around the community. He is a minor criminal who is out on bail. His bail bond was the house and land that Ree, her mother and two younger siblings live in. If the father doesn’t turn up for a court hearing, they lose the land and house. To say I enjoyed this would be to use the wrong verb. It’s harrowing in places, and certainly not a light film. Jennifer Lawrence was Oscar nominated for her role as Ree. She is literally in every scene of the film. I think this performance is a better one than the one she won the Oscar for in Silver Linings Playbook.

Jupiter Ascending – I managed to avoid all the early release reviews of Jupiter Ascending. I couldn’t avoid the general sense that leaked out, from those who had seen it, that it was not very good. So as I sat in the cinema I wondering what I was in for. I’ve only ever considered walking out early from two films. The Constant Gardener and Interstellar. Would Jupiter Ascending join that list? No. The film is fine. It’s bombastic, wide, space opera. With homages to lots of other films. Only one bit I’d cut out. A very Brazil or HHGTTG like section. Also I’d shorten fight and action scenes. The music is fabulous. I’ll be buying the soundtrack album. The acting is good. The visuals are stunning. Story as good as many other big Sci-fi films. I enjoyed it. I felt good after watching it. Can’t ask for more that that from a film. It’s getting very mixed reviews. And indeed some heavy handed slating. To paraphrase Freddie Mercury from the 1982 Milton Keynes Bowl concert (I was there!) talking about the Hot Space album: ‘It’s only a bloody film. People get so excited about these things’. Go see Jupiter Ascending. Let it wash over you. Enjoy :)

Zombieland – I’ve never really been into the whole Zombie thing. Obviously I like Shaun of the Dead. Who doesn’t! But the wider Zombie thing has passed me by. Mostly by choice. Zombieland was on Film 4 in UK last week and  I recorded it. Watched it on Saturday. It was fun. Basically a road trip movie with killing zombies as a backdrop. I liked it. Bill Murray’s cameo was good.

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Culture Consumed 5

Culture consumed since the last list on 11th December.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – The final film in The Hobbit trilogy. Too long. Cartoon battle scenes. Didn’t like it. I was going to write more, but Adam Roberts has put it better than I could. Read his review here.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Missed this when it was in cinemas. Everyone said it was brilliant. So watched it on AppleTV over the holidays. It was good. Escapist fun. Not as good as everyone was saying in my opinion, but certainly fun for a few hours. 

Get Started In: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy – new how-to book on writing Science Fiction & Fantasy. Contains good advice for anyone writing in any genre. Should be in your library of writing books. If you have such a thing. Which you should!

Forest Gump – I didn’t really get this film when it came out in the 1990’s. But the more I see it, the more I like. Caught it on Film 4 over the holidays. 

Divergent – Post apocalypse story set in a partially ruined Chicago. Weak characters. Weak plot. No real back story. It’s not a patch on The Hunger Games. 

The Hunger Games 1,2 & 3 – Again. Read the 3 books from start to finish. Finally got past the first person present style. Watched the three films again too. Looking forward to Mockinjay film hitting iTunes Store in March. I still think the films are the best format to tell this story.

Beyond – British science fiction story about a couple trying to find their son. He was with his grandparents when aliens invaded the Earth. Not in a good way. Turns out this is a relationship story, rather than a story about the aliens. Which would be fine if it went to a conclusion. But it doesn’t. Did they run out of money?

Ex Machina – Now this is good. Just opened so no spoilers. Suffice to say that this is a smart story about artificial intelligence. Go see it.  New Scientist review is largely spooler free and worth a read.

Ascension – New 3-part sci-fi series being shown in the UK on Sky 1. Have seen parts 1 & 2 so far. Have to admin that I nearly stopped watching this during the first hour of part 1. To much telling between characters to explain backstory. And some dubious acting. Mad Men in space I dubbed it on Twitter. However it picks up in the last 30 minutes of Part 1. Guessed the twist in the plot about 5 minutes before it was revealed. Not going to be a classic of the genre, but worth a watch. Just get past the first hour without bailing.

My Cousin Vinny – Love this film. Bought it on iTunes a few years go. Story about a Brooklyn based lawyer and his fiancee coming to the aide of his young cousin and friend when they are falsely accused of murder in the deep south. It’s a comedy. A subtle one. Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for here performance in this film. Rightly so. She’s wonderful in it.

Silver Linings Playbook – I’ve decided to watch the other films that Jennifer Lawrence is in. Based on her performances in The Hunger Games films. May as well start with the one she won an Oscar for. Story is a romantic comedy about a man (Pat) who has bipolar condition, who loses it when he finds his wife in the shower with a work colleague. After 8 months in a psychiatric hospital as part of a plea bargain when he beat up the man he found with his wife, he gets out and meets up with police widow (Tiffany) played by Jennifer Lawrence. She has her own issues as a result of the death of her husband. Pat wants to get back with his wife, and Tiffany agrees to help him in return for him becoming her partner in the annual christmas holiday dance competition. It tells of the changing relationship between than and how it affects those around them. I really like this. Great story played well by all the characters. 

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Books I want to read in 2015

I buy too many books. From the large selection I have, and haven’t read, I’ve picked those in list below to read in 2015. One every two weeks on average. I don’t expect to get through them all. Got to set goals! Some I’ve started and got sidetracked. They won’t be read in the order listed. I’ll pick next one to read when I finish a book. And, add new ones as the year progresses. Turns out :)

Finished

  • The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
  • Dimension of Miracles – Robert Sheckley
  • Geek Girl – Holly Smale
  • Model Misfit (Geek Girl 2) – Holly Smale
  • Picture Perfect (Geek Girl 3) – Holly Smale
  • Geek Drama (Geek Girl Novelette) – Holly Smale 
  • All That Glitters (Geek Girl 4) – Holy Smale
  • Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel


Currently Reading

  • The Sense of Style – Steven Pinker
  • What Is Chemistry – Peter Atkins


To Read (in no particular order)

  • The Insiders Guide to Technical Writing – Krista Van Laan
  • The Incredible Unlikneness of Being – Alice Roberts
  • Bête – Adam Roberts
  • Twenty Trillion Leagues Under The Sea (Audiobook) – Adam Roberts
  • Wonderbook – Jeff Vandermeer
  • Human Universe – Brian Cox & Andrew Cohen
  • Mostly Harmless – Kate Russell
  • Blue Remembered Earth – Alastair Reynolds
  • Sibulant Fricative – Adam Roberts
  • The Seven Basic Plots – Christopher Booker
  • The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day – Ian Stewart, Terry Pratchett & Jack Cohen
  • The Long Mars (Audiobook) – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • I Soddit – Adam Roberts
  • Carry On Jeeves – P. G. Wodehouse
  • Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
  • The Frood – Jem Roberts
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith (née J. K. Rowling)
  • Travelling to Work. Diaries: 1988-1998 – Michael Palin
  • Reading Like a Writer – Francine Prose
  • How Not To Write A Novel – Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynn Truss
  • Introducing Meterorology – Jon Shonk
  • What We Know About Climate Change – Kerry Emanuel
  • The Particle at the End of the Universe – Sean Carroll
  • Wizards, Aliens & Starships – Charles L. Adler
  • Extremes – Kevin Fong

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Favourite tracks from 2014

I usually do an album of the year post around this time. Decided to do favourite tracks this year instead. Just to shake things up a bit. So here are the five favourite music tracks from those I’ve bought this year. Not in any order. With links to Spotify and iTunes.

The Hanging Tree – Jennifer Lawrence. This pick won’t be a surprise if you follow me on Twitter. Sung by Jennifer Lawrence within “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1″ film. Apparently she doesn’t think she can sing, and cried on set before the filming of the scene the song is in. Tried to get the director to allow her to lip sync to Lorde singing the song. Thankfully he refused. She can sing. [Spotify Link – iTunes Link].

Froot – Marina and The Diamonds  Another one that won’t surprise many. I love Marina Diamandis’s voice. She is in a group of three artists that I’ve specifically gone to England to see live. The other two being Queen and Kate Bush. Good company! The new song Froot is the eponymous track from her forthcoming album. It’s being released a track per month from now until April 2015. With the full album getting a release then. [Spotify Link – iTunes Link].

Long Year – The Anchoress. Self styled as revenge pop, The Anchoress is the new project from Catherine Anne Davies. There have been 2 EP’s this year and an album due in 2015. This years releases have been great, but Long Year is the standout track for me. I love the discordant chaos it builds to. The vocal and guitar are define. I met Catherine at a Kate Bush concert in September. She’s awesome, and going to be huge.  [Spotify Link – iTunes Link].

All Dark Places – CMG & Nina Kinert. There a few musicians from whom I buy new releases unheard. Nina Kinert is one of those musicians. She’s been doing a lot of collaborations recently. Has a new solo album in the works. Earlier this year she collaborated with Carl Malmgren on a six track EP. The eponymous track is my favourite. But the whole EP is good. [Spotify Link – iTunes Link].

Air Raid Drill – James Newton Howard. I love lots of orchestral music. All of the modern music of this type that I get exposed to is from film scores. From the original Star Wars score and onwards. The music for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1″ is fantastic. It’s great as a stand alone piece of music in its own right. The Air Raid Drill track is a joy.  [Spotify Link – iTunes Link].

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Culture Consumed 4

What culture have I consumed since the last list on 25th October?

Human Universe – The latest BBC science series presented by Professor Brian Cox. This one looked at the place of humans in the Universe. It touched on whether we are alone, or if there are other technological civilisations in our Galaxy or beyond. Fabulous stuff, The  monologue at the end of the final episode is magnificent. 

The Time Traveller’s Wife – Film version of Audrey Niffenegger book of the same name. About a man who uncontrollably travels backwards and forwards in time. And his relationship with his wife. Whom he met when time travelling. I’ve seen this a few times now. I really like it.

Forever – Continuing to watch the Forever TV show. Continuing to love it. 

The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire & The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – In anticipation of the November 20th release of the third film in The Hunger Games series, I bought the previous two on iTunes. Then watched them before going to see the third in the cinema. All three are fabulous. Modern classics in my opinion. I’ve been to see Mockingjay three times so far. There is no guarantee I won’t go see it again before it gets an iTunes release.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay book – After seeing the Mockingjay film three times, I didn’t want to wait until November 2015 to find out what happens. So I bought and read the last book in the trilogy. It’s going to be very interesting to see how they handle the later stages of the story in the final film. No spoilers until this time next year! The films are a better telling of the story than the books I think. I don’t like the first person present tense that the books use. I understand why it’s done that way. But I don’t like it.

Enigma – Caught this film set in Bletchley Park during the second world war. It had a few strange plot twists. But overall I liked it. 

Interstellar – The science fiction film that everyone and their dog had been talking about for the last few months. It was going to be the best, most realistic space film ever. I hated it. It’s not just that I didn’t think it was any good. No, about an hour into it I started to resent the film makers for wasting my time. It’s awful. The visuals are okay. But they don’t redeem the poor story or plot. Also, it’s about a year too long!

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First chapters of Intervention

I’ve taken this down. Going to finish it and share with a few beta readers, rather than in public. Contact me if you want to be a beta reader

As promised in a previous post, I’ve made the first release of the serialisation of a story I’m working on. It’s called Intervention, and is a first contact story. An idea that has been mined extensively for centuries now, but I wanted to do my take in it.

It shares a name with one of my favourite authors books on the same subject. Intervention by Julian May. My take on the topic will be quite different, and certainly not as good as hers.

I plan to release more chapters every week. The book is comprised of three sections. It’ll be one book with three sections, not a trilogy ;) At present there are two chapters from Part 1 – The Watchers available. Here are links for iBooks ePub and Kindle Mobi downloads. There is a link in the sidebar to the right that goes to a page with the latest release, and release notes. Check there to see if you have the latest edition in future. Bookmark that page. You know you want to. Subscribe via RSS links to get latest posts as well.

The cover image is temporary. Although it’s growing on me.

Comments on the story, grammar, typos, or anything else welcome. Get me on Twitter or via email using the Contact links in the sidebar.

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Filtering the news

Everyone knows a certain subject reasonably well. It’s a different subject for everyone of course. Someone might know a lot about IT for example. Another person might be well versed on any number of other subjects.

Let’s assume you do know quite a lot about a certain subject. It doesn’t matter what it is. Could be anything. What do you think when you hear the subject discussed in the news media. Either broadcast or print news media. Do you often shake your head at the glaring mistakes, or shallow discussions, that passes for reporting of the subject?

I do.

There are lots of subjects that I don’t know much about. Lots, and lots. When I’m consuming news about subjects that I don’t know much about, I try to remember how they report on subjects I do know about. It’s likely that the reporting on those subjects I’m unfamiliar with is a shallow, or even as wrong, as the reporting on subjects I’m familiar with.

So how do we counter this? I think the only defence against being fed shallow or incorrect news, is to consume a wide swathe of sources. Including sources you don’t agree with, and then come to your own conclusions.

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Further salvos in the Spotify and Taylor Swift war

Taylor Swift albums
From Ars Technica:

Taylor Swift has struck back in her ideological battle with streaming music service Spotify by releasing the amount of money that she’s earned from its customers in the last 12 months: less than $500,000 across hundreds of millions of plays.

Get the popcorn…

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It’s Amazing That The Old Record Industry Existed In The First Place

Another take on making money in the music industry. As an artist.

But here’s the thing.
Those who made a killing from the record business of yesteryear, should count their lucky stars that it ever happened in the first place.

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New business models for musicians

We live in interesting times. Did you know that the Chinese proverb along those lines is actually a curse? Well, if it was ever said at all. No original Chinese source has ever been found

Anyway, from a music business point of view, we do live in interesting times. After CD sales dropped off a metaphorical cliff a while back, sales have recovered thanks to iTunes. Now it seems that iTunes downloads are on the decline. How are musicians going to make money from their recordings? Lets ignore touring and live revenue streams for the sake of this post.

Common wisdom has it that the reason that iTunes downloads are declining, is due to the rise in popularity of streaming services. The head of Spotify doesn’t agree. In a blog post today he addresses some ideas that are held up as facts by many people when discussing Spotify. Myself included it has to be said. I’ve articulated that Spotify doesn’t pay enough to the artists a lot over the last few years. They have paid out $2 Billion to the rights holders. With half of that in the last year. So the payments are accelerating. If there is a delay in that money getting to the artists, or not getting to them at all, that’s a separate issue and not Spotify’s fault. I have to say the argument in the blog post is compelling. There may be a future where musicians can get a decent revenue return from streaming. Here’s hoping. I won’t be as negative about Spotify in future. 

It’s still the case that the maximum revenue a musician can get is from people buying their music¹. And there are novel ways to get people to pay for your music. I got an email today on the Marina and the Diamonds mailing list about her new album. A quote from the email:

My album is made up of 6 colours, each representing a different “Froot”.
I’ve come up with an idea that I hope you’ll love and want to experience together… It’s called “Froot of the Month”. 
When you pre-order “FROOT”, I will send you a new track every month up until the album release. So, 6 new “FROOTS” will be dropping in to your inbox over the next 6 months.
Each “Froot of the Month” has it’s own colour, visual world and “Scratch ’N Sniff” scents to explore.

That’s a great idea. Get people to pay up front for the album and send them a track each month for half a year. It builds buzz, and lets fans feel as if they are part of something bigger. I’ll be pre-ordering. The title track is fantastic.

There are other ways to get people to pay for music. Kickstarter has been successful for over 1000 UK based musicians. I backed just one. I’ll back more in future. Some musicians are producing packages around their CD or Vinyl² releases. For example, The Anchoress  whose current release comes with selection of other items, like a romance novel, tied into the subject matter of the song. 

I could go on. But I won’t. Bottom line. I hope that musicians can find a way to make money from their art. We all benefit when they do and can focus their efforts on producing more music for us to consume. Pay for your favourite songs. If you don’t you might be cheating your future self out of some great music. And future you might regret it.

Notes:
1. Unless their music gets a ridiculous number of streams on Spotify.
2. Yes Vinyl. No, it doesn’t sound better. Sort your life out!

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Throwing stuff out into the world

In November 2011 I completed NaNoWriMo for the 2nd time. Ended up with just over 50,000 words of a novel at the end of the month. I’ve added about 5000 more words since then. This year I decided to use November to add another 50,000 words to the story. I added just under 4000 last weekend. During that writing I decided that I needed to take a step back, and do some more detailed timeline planning for the story.

Thinking about that this week I had the idea to serialise the story. As David Gerrold, and many others, have said:

Your first million words are for practice. They don’t count. Remember that.

So why not practice in public? To that end I’m going to start posting segments of the story here as a serial. At least one per month. It’ll be interesting to get feedback on the story, as it progresses and grows. I’ll also get to experiment with Vellum, when creating eBook versions of the story. 

It’s difficult getting something out into the world. Whether it’s a book, a song, an app, or anything else creative. It’s very easy to fail to ship. Serialising a project makes it easier to get something out the door. Once that’s done other creative projects should be easier to finish and deliver. Hopefully.

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Apple in the Enterprise

Today was an interesting one for anyone advocating for the use of Apple devices in business. Two announcements that will make it easier.

First up. Microsoft changed the licensing required to use Microsoft Office apps on iOS. Previously an Office 365 subscription, or an in app purchase, was required to enable the creation of new Office documents, or the editing of existing ones. That requirement was removed today. Now it is possible to create new Office documents, or edit documents on iOS, just by having a free Microsoft account. Dropbox is now available as an intigrated Cloud storage solution too. I like the way the new Microsoft is going. They are back on a path of having their software and services available everywhere. As they say themselves: The world has changed. The Microsoft announcement is on their Blog

Next. Apple and IBM announced the first fruits of their Enterprise partnership. Namely, AppleCare for Enterprise. It seems to have the things that businesses need from a vendor: Named Account Manager, 24/7 coverage with 1-hour response for priority issues, helpdesk offloading for Apple related issues, next business day onsite support, device replacement for 10% of devices in costs. Businesses that use over 100 Apple devices will be very interested in this I think.

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Human Universe

Just finished watching the last episode of BBC Human Universe. It was a fabulous advertisement for rationalism, Humanism and Enlightenment values. Professor Brian Cox is a great host for these types of programmes. I’ve seen comments saying that he isn’t as good as predecessors such as Carl Sagan or James Burke. I disagree. I watched both of those presenters back in the day. They were great. So is Brian Cox. He is as good as them. He’s also operating in a world were there are a lot more channels competing for peoples attention. So the presentation has to grab people. It’s well worth watching Human Universe on iPlayer if you missed it. 

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Golden age for Female Vocalists

Was listening to some new music from one of my favourite female vocalists recently and it struck me that we are in a golden age of women vocalists. Maybe it was always the case, but the thought just struck me. I might do a list some time!

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