Friday, July 29, 2011

Hugo ballot

I sent in my Hugo ballot today. It's been a long time since I could last say that. If you add "... electronically" to the first sentence, this is the first time ever. True, I haven't had much of a chance lately - this year's is only the third Worldcon I've belonged to in the last decade - but in truth I hadn't given much thought to Hugo voting since I was last the awards' administrator. That was 15 years ago, and then my thoughts were - quite properly - more with counting the votes than in choosing favorite candidates.

What changed my mind this year was a now-regular feature of the Hugos that's nevertheless new, I think, since my previous Worldcon: the downloadable electronic database of nominees for the voters' perusal. (There was a precursor to this in CD-ROM form in 1993, but issued commercially, not by the convention.) Even then I might not have paid much attention until I noticed that many of the texts are in epub format, which is the default for my Nook e-reader. (The Nook can also read PDFs and Word files, but not so conveniently.) This was lucky, because while I'm not totally enamored of reading new (to me) fiction on the Nook, it's still more comfy than trying to read it on my desktop computer, bolt upright in my desk chair.

It was only a couple weeks ago that it really struck me that I could do this, and not have to hunt down the nominees individually. This didn't leave me any time to read full novels, so I'm begging off Best Novel and any other categories dependent on knowing novels (Long Form Editor, the Campbell), but I did read all the short fiction in fairly quick order. I'll save my comments on individual stories until after the awards, but I was pleased with the general quality of most of these. They all require close attention in the opening pages, because not one author is going to give out with a clear expository lump to orient the reader, but only two or three of the 14 stories didn't quickly grab my interest enough to keep me going. This is a lot higher rate than when I was last reading award-nominated SF, so even though there was nothing that screamed "instant classic!" either, it looks good for the field.

With the help of that and some previous knowledge - the only category in which I already knew all the nominees was Fan Writer - that's one more voter that the Hugos wouldn't have gotten without this electronic service. That's satisfying. And I was pleased to see that the ballot is still using essentially the same "How to Vote" advice text that I wrote for it in 1993. That's satisfying too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

concert review: Music@Menlo

All right. Introductions over (see below), here's a substantive post.

The annual Music@Menlo chamber festival is under way, so I'm spending a fair amount of my time there. I got sent on review assignment to cover a big honking wad of Brahms piano music (and some other music). And I've heard two of the preview concerts. At one, Schubert's Grand Rondeau for four-hand piano, D.951, was cheerful and enjoyable, but Schumann's Piano Quintet was frustratingly below par: it lacked tension and liquidity. At the other, Brahms's Variations on a Theme by Schumann from the same four-handed pianists was solid and satisfactory, and his Quintet for the same forces but different players was delightfully done, with an eerie off-kilter flavor to it, as if the string players were using the entirely opposite bowing from everybody else who plays the piece (which they might well have been, for all I would know without checking).

More to come.

welcome to the new home

Good morning. LiveJournal, at which I've been blogging since 2004, seems to be undergoing terminal technical meltdown, and to some extent seems to be taking its offshoot Dreamwidth with it. (Anyway, I've never been at ease with Dreamwidth, which seems to me to fall into the uncanny valley of simultaneous close similarity to and disconcerting difference from LJ.)

I feel very sorry for the noble Russian dissidents who form a large part of the LJ user base and who are the targets of the DOS attacks that are causing LJ's problems, and who apparently have nowhere else to go, but I see no need to demonstrate my solidarity by refraining from posting somewhere else. It's frustrating, for, as I recently wrote there, I'd prefer to stay on LJ, but I need a platform that, like, works.

For several reasons I decline to go to Facebook, the currently fashionable perch of many of my friends. Its appalling corporate disregard for its users' privacy is sufficient reason by itself, but there are others which predated that in my concern. Its platform is designed to encourage frequent very short posts, which I find distracting and irritating to read in large bulk. My mind is not equipped to flit among people at such rates, however much I want to keep up with what they're doing or saying. FB is largely inaccessible to readers who are not themselves FB members, while I have always had readers (and commenters) who are not LJ members. And FB seems not to keep archives, while the primary value of my own posts for my own use has always been as a diary and aide-memoire of my past concert-going and other activities.

And so I turn to Blogger or Blogspot or whatever this is called, which several of my friends have been on for some years, so I am trusting that they like it. I regret the absence of aggregation, which was the feature that initially appealed to me about LJ, but I can live without that. I hope that my friends will find this new blog, read it if they like, and even comment on it. My intention is, as it was on LJ, to write posts of up to a few hundred words, usually no more often than once a day, and not always that often.

Lastly, this offers me an opportunity to use the preferred spelling of my username, Kalimac, which was unavailable when I joined LJ. Kalimac Brandagamba, as explained in notes buried deep in the last appendix to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, was the "untranslated" "genuine Hobbitish" name of Merry Brandybuck, the character I most closely identify with. He's a practical fellow who can take care of himself, but he's also a stuffy little pedant who spends all his time in Rivendell looking at maps. That's me. Early in my online days I sometimes used Meriadoc, his full name in the story, as a handle on bulletin boards where anonymity was desirable, but every time I did so, I found that others were desperately eager to inform me that they knew where the name come from. I tired of this and decided that I hadn't been obscure enough. Hence Kalimac.