Changing notes

iPod speakers

I admit it — I’ve been dragging the technology chain. While many in my community are discussing which ebook reader to acquire (and oh, the temptation there!), I’ve only just entered the mp3 age. My first acquisition: an iPod Classic, black, 160Gb. That should hold the silence at bay! (But let us not forget, sometimes, silence is indeed golden.)

Why now? It was time, I figured. Time to stop carting CDs around the country, or relying on the paltry 100-song capacity of my voice recorder for emergency relief on aircraft. Time to overcome the jamming, jumping, slowly fritzing stacker in the boot of the car, and the bland if not annoying, repetitive, often facile radio. Time for something that offers the right music for the right moment, at the touch of a button.

But what to put on it? Everything! But no, let’s prioritise. Favourites, clearly; and now, alphabetically: Android Lust, yes; Bryan Adams, maybe not. Choices, choices… My, how our tastes have changed, and how, yet, we can’t quite let go of the old stuff, the formative stuff, the aural milestones on the musical journey to now.

It comes with a moment of mourning for artwork: from LP gatefolds to CDs and now to postage-stamp sized jpegs. Still pretty as the flick across the iPod screen, but not so much art as guidepost, now. The fanboy in me wants a cover to be signed; it wants liner notes. I know it’s all about the tunes, not the packaging, and my ear can’t really pick up the quality loss from file compression (though they say this AAC stuff is almost as good…), but still: can you sign my iPod mister?

And then there’s the accessories. A protective sleeve for the so-slim iPod, speakers for overnight on the road (aren’t these cute? small, light, bass boost, iPod recharging while you play: tick, tick, tick and tick).

You’d think this is the kind of stuff shop assistants would try to sell you when you were buying the original unit, but no: much more important to chat to your mate on the phone, reluctantly cradling him away on one shoulder for the time it takes to ring up the transaction, let alone show the customer some options. I don’t much need the value-adding at food counters, but when you’re buying tech, yeah, a little bit of effort would go a long way to helping the customer complete the set. But the dude saved me money because I found the gear I needed elsewhere and cheaper, so hey, cheers for that.

So now it’s back to the A-Z, that cycle of choose-burn-add-eject-artwork-choose, with one avaricious eye on the ebook readers: Kobo, BeBook, dare I say iPad…?

Benatar? Hell yes; but which? Or all? Choices, choices…

Vampirefest, or, how I spent World Goth Day

kirstyn mcdermott reading at vampirefest

Yesterday was World Goth Day (appointed by goths, for goths), so it was appropriate that I donned my Nosferatu t-shirt and headed out to the Melbourne Science Fiction Club’s annual mini-con, this year branded Vampirefest!

The mini-con wasn’t all about the Undead: there was a Tardis and a light-sabre and a tricky standee of Dr Who who kept staring at you, no matter where you were standing in the church hall, and a Stormtrooper made an appearance. There were booksellers and fan groups and interest groups and it was all good, especially once the sun started to come through the windows and warm the winter chill – hooray for the coffee pot! No Twilight shirts in the audience that I saw, but there were a few “And then Buffy killed Edward: the end” ones — clearly, this was a gathering of true believers.

I was chuffed at the attention paid to my talk about the evolving nature of the vampire, and how cool was it to see the young readers in the front row showing discernment in their vampire literature. There is hope for the monster yet!

Unfortunately, that message didn’t quite make it through the debate, where my team failed in our bid to overturn the premise that ‘vampires should just lay down and die’. But again, I took heart from the youth vote!

The Dr Who club had the invidious task of opening proceedings with a presentation of vampires depicted in the TV series; they didn’t quite get the attention they deserved due to stalls still being set up and general greeting chit-chat, but I enjoyed the snippets they showed, and found it interesting that the Time Lords had an edict to kill or be killed should they encounter any bloodsuckers. The vampire mythos, it seems, is truly universal!

I utterly failed at the trivia contest, managed to keep my hands in my pockets during the auction, and got to revel (even if she did go on to kick our butt in the debate) in Kirstyn’s first public reading (from behind the vampire balloons!) from her forthcoming Madigan Mine (not a vampire story, but a Gothic one, with blood and obsession and maybe-ghosts).

All in all, a fine day, further enhanced by lunch with a pal from Brissie and after-con drinks with another Queenslander and her gal pals.

Nix, Kobo and the evolving delivery of the book

crammed book shelves

Syncronicity or what? Last night, I was at a do at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre, where four speakers presented diverse insights into the way in which technology is spreading the written word. And afterwards, at dinner, a text arrived saying someone’s hubby had just bought a Kobo reader — I can feel the pressure mounting to take the weight from the shelves and go digital (this photo shows why — those are the DISCARD shelves).

And this morning — here’s the syncronicity bit — a pal has pointed out this transcript of a speech by Aussie author Garth Nix at a Kobo launch, in which he has insightful and reassuring things to say about books made of paper, and books delivered by other means.

With further, affordable choices in eReaders becoming available to Australian readers, the e-branch of bookselling has to expand. If this means easier access to a wider audience, with remuneration, naturally, this has to be a good thing. Good enough to have this old fossil not only contemplating the wild world of eReaders, but golly gosh, one of them mp3 players as well. Not that I won’t still buy CDs — as with books, I like to feel and unfold and admire on the shelf — but it sure will reduce the luggage when I travel.

The vampires are rising

flier for MSFC Vampirefest mini-con

Great news from the Melbourne Science Fiction Club: we have reinforcements! Foz Meadows, Mary Borsellino and George Ivanoff have joined the coterie of guests at the club’s annual mini-con on May 22, this year billed as Vampirefest!! It’s going to be very cool to compare (bloody) notes with these guys.

Kirstyn McDermott and I will be facing off in a debate about whether vampires should just “lay down and die”, and Kirstyn will be revealing her debut novel, Madigan Mine (due out in August).

There’s also a talk about vampires in Dr Who — was it just me, or did the most recent episode about ‘vampires’ in Venice kind of suck? — and an auction. A whole bunch of Melbourne’s fan clubs are piling in under the one roof, and there’s a call for attendees to wear costume.

That Vampirefest is being conducted in a church hall is the icing on the cake!

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

alan garner's weirdstone of brisingamen

“So it was agreed; they walked swiftly, and carefully, close together, and the swords were naked.”

Isn’t this a great line? It gave me chills, last night, as I was revisiting one of my favourite childhood reads, Alan Garner’s Weirdstone of Brisingamen.

The book was first published in 1960, and follows the adventures of Susan and her brother Colin when they are caught up in a mythic battle between the forces of good and evil. It’s a road story, set in quite a small patch of Cheshire, as the pair, with allies, seek to unite a magical talisman with its rightful keeper to stave off a looming apocalypse. I’d been dying to revisit Garner’s work, and Susan Cooper’s too, ever since reading Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay, a gorgeous tale which landed me firmly back in memories of those beautiful stories that marry myth and the modern age.

It’s not without hesitation that we revisit such favoured tales, for fear that they have lost their power with the years, both ours and theirs. Fortunately, no such disappointment awaited, and Garner’s magic still runs strong. Off to revisit Moon of Gomrath, to see who of Brisingamen’s cast pop up!

Here’s a lovely piece from the Guardian, marking the book’s 50th anniversary. (In an aside, it’s also 30 years since Ian Curtis died, the Joy Division singer being a native of Macclesfield, in the environs of which Brisingamen takes place.)

Remembering Ian Curtis

It’s thirty years ago today that Joy Division singer Ian Curtis took his own life. So sad, and such a waste. To mark the anniversary of a great songwriter and performer, one whose music has affected me deeply, here’s a tribute video pulled from the interwebs, set to a suitable anniversary song, New Dawn Fades:

Could be a good night for a Twenty-Four Hour Party People/Control double – two exceptional films, the first about Factory Records and their artists, the second an amazing biopic.