Widget and the New Discworld

FYI Weird Al offered his Twitter community a widget, so I plugged it in to see what it did. It’s on the right side of the page. Feel free to play with it, I’m not sure how long it’ll be there.

I gave in and bought the new Terry Pratchett book, Unseen Academicals, today. I was nervous because as I understand it, this is the first book he will have written through an assistant (I believe his name is Rob) after announcing that he has Alzheimer’s (Pratchett, not Rob). The warm and twinkling spirit I am accustomed to in Discworld books is a very important part of the writing, and I have been concerned about whether it will be maintained with an intermediary involved. I’m 25 pages in and it’s hard to tell so far. All the major elements seem to be intact but I feel a distance I’m not accustomed to. Is it in the text or in my head? Impossible to tell at this point. I’ll have a better opinion when I’m done. I’ll keep you posted.

This is a fear I feel more justified in having about And Another Thing by whatshisname, the new Hitchhiker’s book. I’ve leafed through several pages in the bookstore and I really don’t feel the vibe in the new guy’s writing. Partly I suppose it’s that I thought Mostly Harmless was an acceptable resolution to the series, and a sixth book seems to me like digging up an intellectual property in repose and forcing it to dance for money. Douglas Adams defined English writing for me for a long time, and probably influenced my own writing more than anyone. I identify so closely with that voice that when I first heard the audiobooks read by Adams himself, which were based on the British text, I was relieved to hear the original version of passages that had bothered me for ages in the American editions. To put a story I felt was finished, by a writer with a hugely distinctive style, into someone else’s hands for a new book, just seems like a doomed experiment. I will, of course, read it eventually, because I like to have my own opinions, even if they’re negative, but I need more time to get used to the idea of the book before I can accept reading it.

On a totally different note, I spoke to someone on Facebook chat tonight that I’ve had trouble emailing for a while, which was a great relief. I really do appreciate Facebook for being a bridge between me and my correspondents. As silly as many of its features are, and as annoyed as I get sometimes with the….oops. Dog throwing up. Be right back.

So anyway, Facebook makes me a more conscientious friend, which I appreciate because I am notorious for losing touch with people once they exit my daily life. Plus, much of the social science research I’ve heard lately suggests that it reinforces the way people maintain connections naturally, so I feel less weird about friending people I know I won’t talk to every day.

Link Party

I’ve discovered a few things this week that are awesome, and I need to work some more with the blog software to understand its features, so this post is going to be a series of links (‘tubes’ if you will), to share as much of what I love about the internet as possible with you.

First of all, people.

I’ve long been a fan of Weird Al Yankovic and I couldn’t be more impressed that he remains relevant and productive; as he points out, his career has now outlasted many of the chart-topping “serious” artists whose songs he has spoofed. Even more exciting is the fact that now, for the first time in my life, there are more than one or two other comedy musicians worth listening to. Thanks to the huge expansion of technology into everyone’s pockets, many of these newer artists are usually able to produce videos as well. Best known is probably Andy Samberg of The Lonely Island and Saturday Night Live fame. Someone gave me Incredibad for my birthday and it is definitely the first Weird Al-like experience I’ve ever had with a full album.

New to me (as in, like, today) is Jon Lajoie, a Montreal-based creative person who must be a genius because he provoked that “Ohmigod I want to do that too” response from me when I saw the 12 MCs video on TBT. And then again when I saw his website.

Wil Wheaton, actor-turned-writer-turned-writer-who-acts, first known to me through his roles in Stand By Me and Star Trek The Next Generation, recently took part in an event called w00tstock in California. Listening to a recording of the event from someone’s iPhone (it was, in a more-hippy-than-the-original tribute to Woodstock, not formally recorded or filmed for distribution) I discovered a couple more acts who deserve mention. Apparently the event was principally organized by Paul and Storm, who performed a few hilarious pieces.

Also impressing me mightily at w00tstock were Hard & Phirm, another musical duo. Thanks to their blog, I am reminded to mention Flight of the Conchords of New Zealand, whose show I never followed but whose album I covet.

Looking at my list, I am doubly amazed by Weird Al simply because he launched his career alone, in a field which clearly caters to the two-man act. Yes, I said two MAN. Unfortunately, I don’t know of many female comedic musicians who really “work” for me in the same way, but  Molly Lewis, also from w00tstock, deserves mention not only for being funny, but for rocking a ukelele in her work. Also Felicia Day, brilliant mind behind The Guild, must be recognized for Do You Wanna Date My Avatar, a nerd music explosion. Musically, she is more impressive in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which was not only the best thing to come out of the big Hollywood writer strike but in fact the best thing out of Hollywood that year, period.

As I mentioned, Wil Wheaton has been a huge influence on me lately. He’s been self-publishing some fantastic books, and he treats his audiobook recordings as a new step in the creative process, not just an obligation to increase sales. I have to say, painful though it may have been, the decline of his acting career was the best thing that ever happened to my audio library. You know how sometimes you get excited about a book, so you buy it in hardcover, then you see it 6 months later in paperback with all this extra content? It’s like that, but with headphones. His new project, Memories Of The Future, is described as being like going over ST:TNG as if it were a yearbook, reminiscing and discovering new meaning in the old episodes while laughing uproariously over the silly parts.

Neil Gaiman is fabulously successful as a writer of a certain genre, but what I’ve found by following him on Twitter is that he’s also really funny. Not everyone naturally adapts to the 140-character format, but it seems pretty comfortable to him.

zefrank is someone I discovered through TED, and he’s the kind of creative web presence that makes you feel as though you’re wasting the internet by using it for consumption rather than distribution.

Penn Jillette has found a new voice via his Penn Says series, which I value for being challenging. Like Penn & Teller’s BS! on Showtime, I don’t necessarily agree with him. But he usually has an interesting enough opinion, or at least an interesting enough reason for his opinion, to make me test my own convictions.

Anthony Bourdain wrote Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour, and he currently enjoys his Travel channel show No Reservations. His books are excellent, his audio versions are self-read with a delivery which completely elevates the writing, and his No Reservations blog is actually pretty good for a hypercommercial show-promoting website. Oh, and apparently he’s developing an animated web-series. Neat.

Honorable mention: Alton Brown, host of Good Eats and Iron Chef America. I’m crazy about Alton’s shows and his books, and he seems very tech-savvy, but I have yet to find a really good internet resource by or about the man. He has a website, but honestly it’s pretty generic, which continues to shock me.

I was going to do this in multiple sections, for people, photos, videos, games, blogs, tools, webcomics, etc. but clearly I found plenty to say already with just people, so I’m going to tie it off. Maybe I’ll make this a regular thing. Would you like that? Or is a giant blur of links just too confusing? Let me know.