Daily Archives: October 1, 2011

Karr on Tone Deafness

Karr is apparently one of those really tone deaf people.

Some people can’t make out melodies at all. But others enjoy music, understand relative pitch, but just can’t quite tell the difference between “vocally close to on key” and “really on key”. It’s apparently a much more subtle problem than I realized, especially since these folks can make out the pattern of tones in human speech perfectly fine. (One of those neural things that shows how song is processed differently than speech, in the brain.) However, even if this is a genetic problem, it raises the possibility that someday some kind of therapeutic brain workaround can be figured out, possibly through the linguistic brain connections that are working on all cylinders. Maybe not essential for life, but still it would be nice for people.

(Real tone deafness — as opposed to people who are casually called “tone deaf” because they don’t know how to make their voice match pitches or have a physical throat disability, but who can clearly make out the difference between what their voices are doing and what they should be doing. People who just have problems controlling their vocal apparatus can often learn how to sing well; they just need a lot of patience and determination. Some voice teachers and speech therapists are very good at helping such people.)

She has some definite ideas about the cruelty of those first few episodes of the reality talent search shows, where they usually find some poor person to make fun of.

A lot of people wonder why some people try out, why they think they’re good, and why their families encourage them and think they’re good singers if they’re clearly not. (As opposed to nervous people singing badly once, or people with bad song or stylistic choices.) The secret may be this: tone deafness is not only genetic, but runs in families. 39% of the first-degree relatives of tone deaf people are tone deaf themselves. So these shows really are preying on the innocently ignorant, in many cases.

A Science Daily article on amusia (a-musi-a, that is). Lots of interesting related stories are linked there.


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Phyllis Ann Karr

One of the more unusual fantasy writers of the Eighties was Phyllis Ann Karr.

She wrote Idylls of the Queen, possibly the world’s first mystery novel set in King Arthur’s court, drawing directly from Malory’s tale of how Queen Guinevere was accused of poisoning an unfortunate knight. (Except with a fair-play mystery plot, which of course Malory didn’t think he needed.) It’s one of those fantasies that’s really unlike anything else.

She also wrote two sword and sorcery tales with female heroes, Frostflower and Thorn and its sequel Frostflower and Windbourne; and the story of a goddess exiled among mortals, Wildraith’s Last Battle. There’s also At Amberleaf Fair, an unusual story of wizards that I missed somehow its first go-round. All of these are available in reprint.

She sorta disappeared for a while (the fate of many good novelists who just didn’t sell quite enough for publishers to keep them in hard times), and then in the late Nineties and onward, she did small press publishing with Wildside and Green Knight (an imprint of Paizo, I think).

In addition to the useful reference The Arthurian Companion (a reissue of The King Arthur Companion, I think), she also wrote a new Arthurian novel for Paizo: <a href="She also wrote a new Arthurian novel for Paizo: The Follies of Sir Harald. This one was a touching and funny story of a not-very-courtly knight, looking for love in all the wrong damsels.

So now, she is yet another author taking good advantage of Kindle and other ebook formats.

The Gallows in the Greenwood (which was mentioned obliquely on History Channel, if I recall correctly) is a story of Robin Hood, except asking what would have happened if a woman had been hereditary Sheriff of Nottingham. The Kindle edition is 3 bucks – such a deal!

(Female hereditary sheriffs could and did happen. Also, one of the medieval sheriffs of Nottingham married a hereditary sheriff woman, the formidable Nicola de la Hay, who’s now a recurring character in those Templar Knight mystery novels by Maureen Ash.)

Amazon also lists several old Regency romances by her from the old Coventry Romances imprint: Perola, My Lady Quixote, The Elopement, and Meadow-Song. She apparently wrote up Austen’s unfinished Lady Susan as a complete novel back in 1980, which I also didn’t know about. She also wrote a couple of Oz things: The Gardener’s Boy of Oz, and Bucketheads in Oz, as well as helping out on some kind of Oz tabletop roleplaying game. (And a ton of short stories in various anthologies, mostly Marion Zimmer Bradley’s.) So she has a much more extensive body of work than I thought.

She doesn’t have a website at present, as it disappeared without notice while Karr was dealing with her mother’s stroke; and she hasn’t posted on her blog in the last few months. But go buy some books, and I’m sure she’ll take it as love! 🙂

(Btw, I’ve never had any Amazon affiliate thing going; so if you want to throw some money somebody’s way, you might want to get this stuff through an affiliate’s webpage. And I don’t know if she’s got ebooks on iTunes or Nook or whatever, so you might want to look.)


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Bah, I Hate the Change of Seasons.

Yucky ol’ weather from up in Alberta, cold gray skies and mist all day, and of course it’s not time for the building heat to come on yet. I bowed to the inevitable and broke out the electric blanket last night, which is cozy but generally ends in me waking up sweating in the morning. (For some reason, these fall days, my body temperature rises _a lot_ around six in the morning. Weird sort of alarm clock.)

I went out to breakfast just to force myself to emerge from the cocoon, went to the bank, and came back and did laundry today. Not very exciting, but on a gray day you may as well be down in the laundry room. Oh, yeah, and I updated my laptop’s drivers. (Maintenance again.)

So now I’m pretty tired. It’s not even six and I feel like going to bed. Probably will.

Oh, and about breakfast — I went out to the local Steak n Shake. They’ve had breakfast all summer, but I’m not the sort who is particularly energetic in the morning. They had a nice little breakfast they called the “Panwich”: a sort of omelet sheet of egg and a sausage patty between two pancakes, with little hashbrown cakes and syrup on the side. They weren’t super-big pancakes; but it was just the right amount of food in the morning, and it kept me filled up for about six hours.

Those of you with picky kid eaters might do this with silver dollar pancakes, I suppose. (I was kind of afraid to trust the tensile strength of the full-size pancakes by picking it up instead of eating it with a fork. I suppose I could have put the syrup inside, though.)

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DIY First Response

That man whose car fell off a cliff into a canyon, who was missing for six days?

His family found him, because processing their search request through the authorities was going to take too long to start. While the request was processing, they just started doing detective work and legwork.

However, it’s also true that the father in this story was a pretty self-reliant guy himself, because he managed to forage a little for himself from the creek area, despite being unable to get out of the deep canyon ravine he was in. He drank creek water and ate leaves and ants. Tough family.

Creepily enough, there was another guy down there, dead in another car from an earlier fall. They believe him now to have been Mr. Melvin Gelfand, an 88 year old who went missing on September 14. He may not have been well before the fall and crash. The cause of his death is unknown, but it was probably the crash that killed him. I mean, two guys in two wrecks are not both going to land safely after crashing 200 feet down into a creekbed. Just doesn’t happen. But at least now his family knows his fate.


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