A Giftmas Suggestion (Not Book Related)

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You know how jazz of 50+ years ago was vibrant, complex, commercial art? You know how modern jazz is a kind of high art designed to please knowledgeable aficionados but not the average listener?

While I was on vacation in Lisbon, I found out about an album called Once Upon a Time in Portugal, which is just now available on iTunes.

What it is: complex, vibrant, accessible music aimed at a general audience and played by really great musicians. Basically, it’s excellent commercial art.

Play the previews, for real. For me, I think this music perfectly suits a certain mood. Check it out.

Randomness for 7/24

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1. The Hot Tub Hammock.

2) If The Moon Were Only One Pixel: a tediously accurate scale model of the solar system.

3) Some kitchen gadgets are all about the NOPE.

4) Like selfies? Like toast? Now you can get your own selfie toast.

5) Keyboard shortcuts for novelists.

6) Sure, whites are privileged, but not me personally!

7) The Artisinal Landlord Price Hike Sale.

Randomness for 7/13

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1) Why do people go bald? Video

2) A conversation between graffiti artists and removers.

3) Fearless girl rips out own tooth with a slingbow. ::faints::

4) The names of ten fireworks effects.

5) Assigned to write an essay about a “leader” a group of teens decide to stand out from the pack and contact gangster Whitey Bulger in prison. He wrote back.

6) Ten Paintings of Guy Fieri as a Renaissance Baby.

7) The Detective As Speech. “An early letter I received after publishing my first book, Indemnity Only, came from a woman who wanted to know why V. I. Warshawski was allowed to “talk back” to men without being punished. The writer wasn’t seeking help in learning to talk back herself; she was criticizing V. I. for behaving in a way that was neither right nor natural.” h/t James Nicoll

Twelve years from hobbyist to pro

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Want to check out an excellent post for people who a) like cool artwork and b) want to be a professional in a creative field? Well, here you go:

How I Became an Artist: The 12 year journey of my art thus far.

Takeaway: At the start, he wasn’t much better than me. Maybe a little better. At the end, he’s creating art so cool that it’s downright spooky.

But there’s no mention of the word talent–except once, in quote marks. All he talks about is hard work, and education. When he was starting out, he found a useful community for mutual support and critique. As he continued, he took classes, worked on techniques to improve the places he felt weak, continued to strengthen his strong points, and he practiced like whoa.

It’s a reflection of the growth mindset discussed in (among many others) this Atlantic article: Don’t Call Kids Smart. The way to find success is to force yourself to grow and improve, and to expect it to take a long time and a lot of work.

This is important. Too many people would look at the art at the bottom of that page, think how talented! and assume his ability to create that artwork comes from some spooky inborn trait. It doesn’t. It’s just hard work and self-education.

This is something I’m trying to impart to my son. It doesn’t have to be art; it can be anything. You suck at things when you start out, and you get better over time. With extra effort, you get really good. That’ what it takes.

Massive Failures of Copyright and Capitalism

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One of the supposed benefits of the copyright system we have is that people with a monopoly over intellectual property will have a market incentive to keep that IP going. There’s money to be made selling copies, they’re the only ones with the right to make copies, so copies will be available.

Obviously, this doesn’t really work. We have numerous examples of IP that have fallen out of print, which can not be legally acquired without paying ruinous prices for used goods.

And if you though THE FUTURE would change all of that with digital distribution, nope. FOR EXAMPLE:

ONE:

TWO:

Hopefully, those images show up, but if they don’t, the links take you to the Amazon page for the film soundtrack pages for THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING/THE TWO TOWERS – THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS, respectively. If you want to buy either one you have to pay (at the time I’m writing this) $250/$800 used, or $500/$1300 new.

Of course, if you want to buy The Complete Recordings of Howard Shores’s Return of the King soundtrack, that’s on iTunes.

Why is the third one available for digital download but the first two are not? Good question! You’d think they would be leaving money on the table. So I emailed Warner music about it. The message I sent was lost in the contact form, but it basically reiterated what I said above, along with a request that someone put digital copies on sale. The response:

Hello Harry,

Thank you for contacting us! We do not have current plans for this release, but thank you for your email and your input. We will forward your message to our suggestion box.

Okay. I’m in the suggestion box. For whatever that’s worth.

So, here is some art work–and not obscure art work, either, it’s the complete record of an Oscar- and Grammy-winning musical score–that can only be legally acquired at ridiculous prices.

It’s ridiculous.

Look, I’m in favor of copyright. I pay my bills with the money I earn because of copyright law. And when I see something I can’t afford, I don’t try to get hold of it another way. That’s how I choose to live.

But this is a ludicrous situation to be in.

Randomness for 6/23

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1) Peanuts comics with Game of Thrones quotes.

2) The Tumblr I Work At A Public Library.

3) One of GRRM’s fans made a (spoiler-free) series of maps showing the history of Westeros before the events of the books.

4) Energy harnessed from humidity can power small devices. Cool.

5) If JK Rowling had written the Harry Potter books from Voldemort’s point of view.

6) Remove cat before takeoff. Video.

7) Six SF/F authors who hated their legacy. Quick note to the universe: I don’t know if I would grow to hate a book of mine that became wildly successful, but I’m willing to risk it.

Randomness for 6/16

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1) One-bedroom home for sale in Minneapolis: $150K. Every picture is weirder than the one before it.

2) Eight of the best D&D modules of all time. Warning: gallery.

3) I have 227 browser tabs open, and my computer runs fine. Here’s my secret.

4) Things to never order at a fast food restaurant.

5) Beautiful hand-carved skateboards from Mumbai.

6) Like movies and reading screenplays? Simon Barrett’s shooting scripts for the films THE GUEST and YOU’RE NEXT are online.

7) The worst fucking shoes on the planet: Cowboy sandal boots.

Randomness for 6/5

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1) Grippy not Sticky: Stanford engineers develop a material that sticks without getting stuck.

2) Modern superhero comics done in a Golden Age style.

3) KITE FIGHT, a five minute documentary about the sport of soltar pipas, popular in the favelas in Rio. Video.

4) Segmented Glass Sculptures, via Marc Laidlaw

5) Boy Wonders. ::sniffle::

6) A plea for culinary modernism. Being honest about the way people *used* to eat.

7) Taylor Swifties.

Randomness for 5/28

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1) Darpa successfully tests the first bullet that can be steered after it was fired.

2) Geologists grill up stakes with lava… and ruin them.

3) Richard Prince Selling Other People’s Instagram Shots Without Permission for $100K Whenever I feel cynical about publishing, I think about fine arts and give my oil-painter wife a hug. (Of course, if he was skimming other people’s work from reddit, I wouldn’t be surprised…)

4) Feces rained down on outdoor Sweet 16 party. Dumped from a plane, obviously. Stranger than fiction

5) Nothing about this toy makes sense. Video. Don’t watch that without the sound.

6) Law & Order: Daredevil. Video. Also requires sound.

7) A Kickstarter for a horror video game about a blind woman. Cool.

Randomness for 5/17

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1) 16-Year-Old Invents $5 Cell Phone Bike Charger And Shares The Instructions For Free.

2) Seven legendary artists drawing The Hobbit, imagined.

3) Sweden employs the “gay sailor” defense against Russian subs that encroach on their waters.

4) Chinese audiences stymied by Age of Ultron translated subtitles.

5) Animators use Grand Theft Auto: V animations to create a tribute to BREAKING BAD. Video. Pretty amazing.

6) Special gloves that you can’t take off… because the inside is covered with thorns.

7) What would a four-year-old girl like to see Wonder Woman do? This made me laugh with delight.