Vienna Teng in Central Park and at Williams College

May 5th, 2008 at 8:25 pm by Michael

Vienna Teng in Central Park

Back on April 20th, Jenn and I were in the city for NY Comic Con, and we were therefore lucky enough to have the chance to catch Vienna Teng’s set at the Green Apple Festival in Central Park. She was on at noon, as the first act of the day, and there was definitely a contingent of Vienna’s fans out there among the people who were just there to get a good spot for the rest of the afternoon’s entertainment. With Alex Wong backing her up, she did six or seven songs, including some of those I think of as almost her standards and her cover of Radiohead’s “Idioteque” (which was a definite crowd pleaser). I think she may have won over a few new fans, and it was nice to both hear her play and then have time to say hi afterwards before we headed downtown for another engagement.

Looking at Vienna’s tour schedule we didn’t think we’d have a chance to see her play again for a while, but early last week a May 2nd concert at Williams College was announced. I was already seriously considering making the trek out to far northwestern Massachusetts, and then I asked Vienna if she planned on playing any of her newer songs (which I had yet to hear). When she replied that indeed she was going to be playing some of the new material, I decided that I was definitely making the long drive out to Williamstown.

It wasn’t hard to convince Jenn to go too (all I had to do was tell her about the show), so this past Friday we made the long drive out. We stopped on the way at the Lhasa Cafe in Northampton for some tasty Tibetan food, and then got stuck behind a tractor trailer on the steep climb up the Mohawk Trail, but we still managed to make it to Baxter Hall at Williams College in time to get pretty good seats for the concert. It was a free performance held in what was basically the open great hall of the college’s student center, which was perhaps not the ideal location (especially when the staff decided they needed to run the vacuum nearby in the middle of one of the songs), but there was a pretty impressive turnout. The sound from the PA system was about what you’d expect from an event like this, sort of muddy and with a bit too much low end, but it was a great show despite that. I even managed to keep a set list:

Gravity
Whatever You Want
In Another Life*
Stray Italian Greyhound*
The Tower
Antebellum* [co-written with Alex Wong]
Kansas*
City Hall [earlier in the set than planned, by request]
Augustine*
Decade and One
Transcontinental, 1:30am
1br/1ba
Grandmothers Song* [not sure of the name on this one]
Recessional
Harbor

* indicates a new song

That’s right, we got six new songs! I thought they were all good, with the standouts for me being “Antebellum” and “Augustine.” Vienna’s hoping to have her next album out in 2009, so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for both of those making it onto the CD. All in all, it was a great show, and I was glad we’d made the trek out to hear it.

After she was done, Vienna did plenty of signing, and even played “Soon Love Soon” through the monitor for a few fans who’d wanted the chance to sing along with that. Then she asked Jenn and I if we’d like to join her for some late-night food, and we headed out with her and a couple of other folks to find what we could in Williamstown. The tavern we ended up at may have served me the single worst piece of pecan pie I’ve ever had, but it was still a fun time, and we lingered until the place was about to shut down. That meant a long, rainy, foggy, late night drive back, but we survived it intact, so I’d definitely say that it was well worth it.

April Books

May 5th, 2008 at 12:49 pm by Jennifer

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

That’s published already, that is.

Guess I just had too many clients with manuscripts due in April.

Check back next month to see if that status has changed….

March Books

April 13th, 2008 at 3:21 pm by Jennifer

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld : Given the buzz for this series, I was worried it wouldn’t live up to all the praise. But I was wrong to be concerned in this case. This was a really intriguing book with a lot of compelling character detail and a way to look at societal perceptions from a refreshing angle. I’m looking forward to reading the next one.

No Control by Shannon K. Butcher : I read Shannon’s first book last summer and enjoyed it. This one also did not disappoint. Full of adventure. Can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case that Launched Forensic Science by Colin Beavan : My token non-fiction book on the history of crime detection and the first case in the U.K. that used fingerprints to solve a murder. My interest in forensic science was satisfied with this book, and I found the discourse between the anthropomorphic mode vs. the fingerprinting system for criminal identification particularly interesting in its development. The author did have a tendency to wander from the topic somewhat which was luckily saved by the fact that the tangents were also historically interesting.

Vengeance in Death and Holiday in Death by J.D. Robb : Books 6 and 7 in the bestselling series about Eve Dallas, the sexiest and most determined cop of the future and her gazillionaire husband, the super-sexy Irish-born Roarke. Once again, I enjoyed these and I’m thankful to Lou for loaning them to me. I have two more in the queue now, though I’m not sure when I’m going to get the chance to read them. I do have to admit that I felt like Eve’s and Roarke’s relationship has begun to feel a little bit stale, and though the mysteries are well-done, the overall pattern of the plot, particularly the inevitable confrontation between Eve and the criminal near the end, are also starting to feel a little too familiar. I hope she does something to shake things up in the next couple books. Still, they’re fun.

The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson : The science in this was intriguing, and conceptually I was fully engaged by the story. I have to admit, though, that the ending felt a little too manipulative for my taste, and though I thought Scott was an intriguing character, Sue didn’t quite work for me, so her fate didn’t leave me feeling as involved as it was likely intended to. But it’s a New York Times Notable Book and got a starred review in PW, so what do I know. Heh.

Snake Agent: A Detective Inspector Chen Novel by Liz Williams : I adored Chen and also poor Zhu Irzh. The world-building in this one is very original and, of course, makes the mystery element work in a unique way. I enjoyed the cultural aspects of this one too.

Given the current backlog of manuscripts, I doubt I’ll report any already-published books finished in the month of April, but I am occasionally still reading stories in Paper Cities here and there.

March movies

April 2nd, 2008 at 10:09 pm by Michael

Becoming Jane [2/5] [Amazon]

I found the film adaptations of both Sense and Sensibility and Emma to be charming enough, but this account of the life of Jane Austen herself was just tedious.

His Girl Friday [4/5] [Amazon]

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell trading great dialogue make this classic screwball comedy a must-see, even if the DVD transfer definitely left something to be desired.

No Country for Old Men [5/5] [Amazon]

Wow. This was just amazing, and in my opinion it more than deserved all four of its Oscars. It’s an astonishing piece of work, with a feel that’s all its own, and an ending that was perfectly suited to the rest of the film. I also think it may have been the first time that Tommy Lee Jones gave a performance I actually liked. See it!

Enchanted [4/5] [Amazon]

While Enchanted was gently poking fun at Disney fairy tales it was a lot of fun, and Amy Adams was excellent in the starring role. Then toward the end the movie began to take itself too seriously, which made it less fun. I also didn’t find Patrick Dempsey to be the best choice for the love interest/straight man. Overall though, it’s a good time.

Paper Cities

April 1st, 2008 at 8:47 pm by Michael

Today is the release date for Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, edited by Ekaterina Sedia. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy a few weeks ago, and I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

Paper Cities is an eclectic collection of fantastic stories that are about, obviously enough, cities. While that makes them urban fantasy, these stories don’t fall within that part of the genre most recently popularized by writers like Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison or Kelley Armstrong. Instead, they use a broader definition of the term that results in some wildly different settings and a variety of writing styles.

There are outstanding stories from some of my favorite writers, such as Jay Lake’s “Promises: A Tale of the City Imperishable” (a story set in the City Imperishable from his novel Trial of Flowers) and Hal Duncan’s “The Tower of Morning’s Bones” (a story using the mythology of Vellum and Ink), excellent work from notables like Ben Peek (“The Funeral, Ruined”) and Forrest Aguirre (“Andretto Walks the King’s Way”), and great efforts from authors I’d never read before, including “Sammarynda Deep” by Cat Sparks and “They Would Only Be Roads” by Darin C. Bradley.

Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy is sure to find it’s way onto plenty of “Best of” lists for 2008, and I highly recommend it.