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Things you need to know:
  • Some posts, or the links they contain, are NSFW. This is your only warning.
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Sunday, December 31, 2006

1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?
Got paid for something I wrote.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions and will you make more for next year?
Sort of, and yes.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Depends what close means.

5. What countries did you visit?
In person--none.

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?
More weapons training.

7. What date from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
December 5th--that's when I officially became a published writer making taxable income.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
See #7

9. What was your biggest failure?
There ONLY being one paid publication in 2006.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was out sick a couple of days.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My 2GB video/mp3 player. I don't know how I ever got along with a 128MB music-only piece of crap. Oh well, it's still handy as a flash drive, I suppose.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My patient, long-suffering wife's.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I don't want to go into that here. It'd appall and depress me.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Action bills.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
See #7.

16. What song will always remind you of 2006?
"Feel" by Chicago

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder? happier
ii. thinner or fatter? fatter
iii. richer or poorer? richer--there's actually a small pittance sitting in a savings account.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Developing my kung-fu style.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Struggling to find someplace similar to my beloved Donkey to hang out.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent X-Mas with the mother-in-law.

21. Did you fall in love in 2006?
Well, duh.

22. How many one-night stands?
Hello--married here.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Tie between BOSTON LEGAL and MONARCH OF THE GLEN. Oh, I liked DOCTOR WHO of course, but it just wasn't the same as the last series.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I thoroughly detest someone I merely thought of with contempt last year. Does that count?

25. What was the best book you read?
Raymond Carver's collection, WHERE I'M CALLING FROM.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson

27. What did you want and get?
A job at the Big Red School on the Hill

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
JET LI'S FEARLESS

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Not much and XXXIII.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Finishing the three pieces I haven't finished yet.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?
Metrosexual geek chic.

32. What kept you sane?
(a) The wife, (b) a full-time job with benefits, and (c) more or less liking said job.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Cassandra Wilson. But then, I say that all the time.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Getting the country moved back toward the center.

35. Who did you miss?
Everyone I left in Ohio in 2005.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
All the folks I work with now.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006:
The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If the writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ODE TO A GRECIAN URN is worth any number of old ladies.
-William Falkner
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
'Cause I got great expectations
I've got family and friends
I got satisfying work
I got a back that bends
For every breath
For every day of living
This is my thanksgiving

-Don Henley, "My Thanksgiving"
Goals for 2007

The main goal (among many I haven't figured out yet): 20 new pieces in circulation by December 31, 2007.

See y'all next year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

This week, I find myself rearranging and reorganizing for the New Year. Usually, I have someone nagging at me to do this, but I find that the habit finally took. Over the past few days, I've been slowly going through and clearing out all the things cluttering up my psychic RAM. Here's one of them.

During last Turkey Day's trip to Clevesburg, we stopped at a brand new, redesigned Dunkin Donuts. I'd love to show you just how it's different, but alas...

donut espionage

This is one of those things you kind of understand, but still question at a deep level. Trade secrets are one thing, but exactly what do they have to hide? See, now the paranoia about potential hidden weapons of mass destruction starts to become just a touch more relatable.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

You thought because of the holidays, I was too busy to rip off Nick Hornby's playbook. You were wrong (though I didn't think I was going to post this before today). Last week, I read...
  • Fritz Lieber, "Gonna Roll the Bones"
  • Robert J. Sawyer, "Biding Time"
  • J. Robert Lennon, "Dead Roads," "Election," "The Current Event," "Claim," "Opening," "Copycats," "Town Life," "Rivalry," "Get Over It," "Composure," "Silence," "The Pipeline," and "Leaves"
  • Susanna Clarke, "John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner"
  • M. Rickert, "The Christmas Witch"
I just had to read something seasonal but I viewed the title "The Christmas Witch" with the same trepidation as last year's DOCTOR WHO special "The Christmas Invasion." Of course, I liked WHO better, but this story wasn't so bad. Not at all what the title or even the cover of the issue of F&SF it came in would imply. It was an engaging novelette but stories that try to keep you ostensibly guessing tend to wear me out. The ones that tell you such and such a character or situation is supernatural...possibly. I liked another tale from that issue much better, Susanna Clarke's "John Uskglass..." and I know next to nothing about her JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL. It's definitely on my reading list for 2007--yes, 2007: The Year I Go Back to Reading Novels...Maybe.

The more I read from the SLIPSTREAM anthology, the less of it I like. I can't argue with the plot and pacing Sawyer's "Biding Time." It's a short, easy-to-follow detective story, solved by the end whereupon the bad guy is on his way to getting his just desserts. Only, I found that I couldn't care less about any of it. I never doubted for an instant that the detective would succeed.

I have to read more Fritz Leiber because "Gonna Roll the Bones" rocked. Like everything else in DANGEROUS VISIONS, there's so much more to it than the typical "gambling with the Devil/Death/Boogeyman" storyline. I'm definitely giving it a second read sometime soon.

I mentioned before that I purchased the collection PIECES FOR THE LEFT HAND by J. Robert Lennon. The thing was imported from the UK since it hasn't been published in the U.S. of A. as of yet. The bookstore wanted a little more for it and rightly so. Luckily, I chose to buy it on the day the store was giving a 10% discount off of any book with five or more words in the title. I would've (reluctantly) paid full price, so you know...gift horses and all that. And, it's certainly been a gift. --waitaminute, I guess I almost did pay full price, damn New York sales taxes! Doesn't matter. Needless to say I've been enthralled by the pieces I've read so far. A lot of them could provide endless fodder for the debate on whether short-shorts are too short to be short stories. From the first section, I'd say Lennon succeeds more often than not. Plus, well, I live in the same area he does so a lot of his "anecdotes" from the "Town & Country" section absolutely resonated.

PASSAGE OF THE WEEK
As Joe lowered hs gaze all the way and looked directly down, his eyes barely over the table, he got the crazy notion that it went down all the way through the world, so that the diamonds were the stars on the other side, visible despite the sunlight there...and so that if a cleaned-out gambler, dizzy with defeat, toppled forward into it, he'd fall forever, toward the bottommost bottom, be it Hell or some black galaxy.

-Fritz Leiber, "Gonna Roll the Bones"
Next Week: Now, where'd I put that Cheever collection...?
Me, that's who.


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You're Avante Garde Indie. You listen to abstract music like free-jazz and Krautrock. You drink too much coffee and you scare the fuck out of the rest of us. We're afraid to call you pretentious because we know that we all just don't get it. There are few of you out there, and most of you will probably die soon.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Soul Icon James Brown Dies at 73
by Renée Montagne

Morning Edition, December 25, 2006 · Singer James Brown -- one of the most influential popular musicians of the past 50 years -- has died at 73. He had been hospitalized over the weekend in Atlanta, suffering from pneumonia.
Current Music: James Brown, "The Big Payback"

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Elmira Correctional Facility in upstate New York wants to wish you all a happy holiday season!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Simultaneously supported a local bookstore and a local author.

I can now feel good about being a consumer at the height of the season of consumerism.

We'll be away for the next two days. Back Monday (maybe). Merry Christmakwanzahannukah and try to be nice to one another. Except if a stranger rudely rolls up on your table and starts messing with your stuff. That person needs to learn a lesson via ass-whipping.
What the hell possesses people to walk up to a stranger's table--a stranger with earphones and surrounded by books, papers, and a laptop thereby giving a reasonable impression of being busy-- and ask "What're you working on?" while picking up a random book from said table?

And, unsatisfied with my initial response "Stuff," acting like HE'S being put off when he got the response "Personal stuff" to his second query in a tone that basically says, "Who are you, stranger that I don't know from Adam, and why the hell are you talking to me?"

At least he found someone else to accosted at the table behind mine. He's lucky he didn't get a smack upside the head. True, violence may be an inappropriate response to bad manners, but we all know intuitively that people with that much gaul probably won't respond to anything else.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Here's my Christmas gift to all my friends and instant gratification readers.



Ho, ho, ho!!
I've been meaning to get to this for months.

This is part three of this saga, and a fitting end, too.

Part One was something utterly strange and beyond comprehension. Part Two was a little more understandable.

NASCAR lettuce NASCAR potatoes

But with Part Three, the world once again makes sense...

NASCAR dogs

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I take a break from my day at the Diamond Mines to bring you what's running through that new mp3 player of mine. We've got the 80s AOR, two of the best modern jazz musicians around, and some indie stuff.

frazy.comfrazy.comfrazy.com
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powered by frazy.com
Apologies to whoever I ganked this from...

Do you snore?
I never used to, but ever since I spent two years in Appalachian Ohio, all of a sudden I'm sawing logs on a nightly basis :(.

Are you a lover or a fighter?
I'm a lover until someone pisses me off.

What's your worst fear?
The clowns coming out of the mirror.

As a kid, were you a Lego Maniac?
Maniac was the operative word. Comments were made about how I'd build vehicles and robots around their imaginary weapons systems.

What do you think of reality tv?
To quote Blackadder, "Utter crap."

Do you chew on your straws?
Nope.

Were you a cute baby?
I smiled all the time, I'm told. My winningest feature: the "999" birthmark on my scalp.

What color is your keyboard?
Black.

Do you sing in the shower?
Not anymore, come to think of it. And I don't know why, either.

Have you ever bungee jumped?
I wish.

Any secret talents?
I can hum along, note for note, with every horn soli from every Chicago album.

What's your ideal vacation spot?
Anywhere with wi-fi access and my mp3 player.

Can you swim?
I spent 1/4 of my 8th year of life in a swimming pool.

Have you seen the movie Donnie Darko?
Not the whole thing.

Do you give a damn about the ozone?
Sort of, yeah.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
It takes no licks for Chuck Norris!

Can you sing the alphabet backwards?
No.

Do you prefer electric or manual pencil sharpener?
Electric.

What's your stand on hunting?
Just don't waste anything, and for pete's sake you don't need to go around with RPGs. I respect anyone who'll go out with a bow and arrow.

Do you like your handwriting?
I'm told it looks like Thomas Jefferson's at its neatest.

What are you allergic to?
Undue effort based on a cost/benefit analysis.

When was the last time you said, I love you?
Sometime this morning.

Do you cry at weddings?
Only my own.

How do you like your eggs?
Depends on the day. But, generous amounts of cooking oil are usually involved.

Are blondes dumb?
Blonds are like any other group of people: a few winners, but a whole lot of losers.

Where does the other sock end up?
In yesterday's shoes.

Do you have a nickname?
Not currently. I have been called "The Last Don," "Don the Dragon," "The Last Dragon," and "Master P" in the past.

Is McDonalds disgusting?
Right after my first viewing of SUPERSIZE ME, I had a Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

When was the last time you were in a car?
This morning.

Do you prefer baths or showers?
Showers.

Is Santa Claus real?
Yes.

Do you like to have your neck kissed?
But of course!

Are you afraid of the dark?
Only after watching THE EXORCIST.

What are you addicted to?
Coffee with espresso shots.

Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
Crunchy.

Can you crack your neck?
Yup.

Have you ever ridden in an ambulance?
I have this vague memory of doing so once, but I can't remember the details...hm...

Is drug free the way to be?
Depends how you define caffeine.

Are you a heavy sleeper?
Once I get going.

What color are your eyes?
Brown.

Do you like your life?
For once, yes.

Are you psychic?
I knew you were going to ask that.

Have you read Catcher in the Rye?
In high school.

Do you play any instruments?
The trumpet. Ah, the ol' glory days.

Have you ever stolen money?
Depends what your definition of "is" is.

Can you snowboard?
Hell no. And, I'd never try, either.

Do you like camping?
Not particularly.

Do you snort when you laugh?
No.

Do you believe in magic?
If you mean dark, Stygian, eldritch sorcery--yes.

Are dogs a man's best friend?
I guess.

Do you believe in divorce?
Only when tasteful.

Can you do the Moonwalk?
I was listening to Huey Lewis & the News when everyone else was trying to learn. And I feel justified because Huey was never accused of child molestation.

Do you make a lot of mistakes?
The last one I made was about a year ago when I thought I was wrong.

Is it cold outside today?
Not for December.

What was the last thing you ate?
Something's flesh.

Do you wear nail polish?
Only when I'm fronting my Culture Club tribute band called Yes, I Really Want to Hurt You.

What's the most annoying tv commercial?
That commercial where a bunch of girlfriends are out brunching somewhere or at some trendy bar, and trying to non-chalantly discuss treatment options for the Human papillomavirus.

Do you shop at American Eagle?
A 30+ year old man trolling thru American Eagle is about as appealing as a 30+ year old man trolling through a college bar. So, yes.

Favorite song at the moment?
"Runaway" by Bill Champlin.

Who are you tagging?
No one. That's the point of a Bandwidth Conservation Post.

Monday, December 18, 2006

...everyone who made this possible.



(Jeezus H. Christ...)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I really, really didn't want people over last night. Of course, I changed my mind and my feelings about it as soon as they got there. It was fun as always! But, I'll tell you, after these past few weeks at the Diamond Mines (for a variety of reasons), I've been needing a place to hide and recover every day. Even my usual haunts were useless, between the holiday shopping season and finals week at the Big Red School on the Hill.

It taught me a lesson, though. One of our guests was a man I've been envious of lately. He keeps a strangle-hold on his sleep schedule. Although I'd probably never be able to keep his hours (Bed by 8 and up by 3:30), I liked how he handled things when it was time for him to go....

What...you thought I learned something about balance or somesuch?
I re-read through Nick Hornby's playbook more thoroughly, so as to more thoroughly rip it off. Last week, I read:
  • Raymond Carver, "I Could See the Smallest Things"
  • Raymond Carver, "Sacks"
  • Raymond Carver, "The Bath"
  • Raymond Carver, "Tell the Women We're Going"
  • Larry Niven, "The Jigsaw Man"
All those stories came out of two books: Carver's collection WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT LOVE and Ellison's DANGEROUS VISIONS. I said last week that I was in a Carver mood. I wasn't so far gone that I delved too deeply into some Bukowski, though. No, Carver's stuff provided fit last week's malaise just right, I think. Sometimes, I think I take to Carver's stories the same way early teen emo-goth girls take to Sylvia Plaith. I think I can relate to the pain of some of the characters, though not necessarily the characters themselves: The wife caught in her grim reality ("I Could See..."), the son who sees conveniently past his own sins to look down his nose at his deadbeat dad ("Sacks"), or the husband and wife who forgets about obligations when more important things come up ("The Bath").

I confess that I read "Tell the Women We're Going" earlier this year as part of the SHORT CUTS collection. (I still haven't gotten around to seeing the movie.) I understand the lives of the characters in what is, hands-down, my favorite Carver story. The ending that I didn't see coming is what blew me away the first time. It really was the first example I read of a story with an ending that was "unexpected, but inevitable."

It's either coincidence, mental gymnastics on my part, or the application of universal truths scattered through all literature, no matter the genre, but the truth of the lives in Carver's stories dovetail with some writers' visions of future society, DANGEROUS or otherwise. Take a close enough look at the lives of the folks in Carver's world, hell the lives of the people around you for that matter. Think of what society has done in the past to try to escape. I'm not talking about the blatant escapism, either--vice and such. I'm talking about societal readjustment that often comes at someone's expense. Folks of a particular race. Or religion. Or sub-religion. Or sub-culture. People who might otherwise be left alone until someone decides they need to bear the burden for another group's comfort and/or security. That's what we see in "The Jigsaw Man." I won't spoil it here, but I'll leave you a quote by Niven in his afterward. He said, "It's only an accident of history that Red Cross blood banks aren't supplied by the death house."

Passage of the Week
A big moon was laid over the mountains that went around the city. It was a white moon and covered with scars. Any damn fool could imagine a face there.

-Raymond Carver, "I Could See the Smallest Things"
Next week: It's genre time again, I think. Maybe some bits from my backlog of F&SF issues.
I've heard it said (but never to my face), "God, why can't you people...I mean, people...let that 'Little Brown Brother' stuff go?"

Because we're always two-and-a-half steps away from stuff like this happening in real life...
"The Terror Alert Levels: A Brown Person's Guide"
by RT Sehgal
Oh, you don't think so? Wait 'til the first Filipino comes along who does something stupid, looking for his 72 virgins.
You paid attention during 86% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
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Friday, December 15, 2006

Per the editor...
So American Nerd's just going to sit as a static site now (and it
actually still gets a surprising amount of traffic for something that
hasn't been updated for months-- people just want to read about
Chicago and beading, I guess)
.
I understand that this is the way of things, but it's still sad.

EDIT: The spawn of AmNerd lives on: Raketenwerfer!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

...how racist Mel is? Does anybody really care? If so, I can't imagine why...

No, I'm kidding. I do.

I haven't seen APOCALYPTO yet. Truth to tell, I'm generally turned off by movies (read: the theater-going experience) nowadays, anyway. But I didn't decide to not see Mel's movie because of anything he said during his rant. Sure, that's easy for me to say. My people have only been stepped on for just shy of 1,000 years, i.e. it didn't go back to "B.C."

But when I look at this issue in this light, I'm even less convinced that I need to get all up in arms...
Then, of course, there is the issue of Mel’s rant. How could I go see his movie after something like that? Simple. I watched the news and tabloids carefully for the last month, looking for any hint that someone came forward saying that they had experienced racism or bigotry at Gibson’s hands. People get big money, exposure, and personal vindication from such accusations, even if untrue. And I saw nothing. Not a single person among the thousands he has worked with and lived with over the decades came forward. Not even anonymously.
Once again, Steven Barnes says it, so I don't have to. Now, does that mean the slate's clean? Nope. But, is he an unpardonable sinner?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I just found out that I won lottery entitling me to purchase a gently used, five-or-so year-old Dell Inspiron 8000 laptop for $50 from the IT department of my place of work.

But the choice: Keep it for myself as a backup server (Hey, 20GB of hard drive and 900mHz processing is nothing to scoff at) or give it (docking station and all) to my computer-less sister.

Or, sell it to one of the five people at work who've made me offers and gouge the hell out of 'em...?

Monday, December 11, 2006



I wish I could say my hazy memory of Paul Hardcastle's "19" resurfaced when I heard this NPR report. But it didn't. It pops in and out of my head at random, but it finally stuck after I heard...
Soldiers Say Army Ignores, Punishes Mental Anguish
by Daniel Zwerdling

All Things Considered, December 4, 2006 · Army studies show that at least 20 percent to 25 percent of the soldiers who have served in Iraq display symptoms of serious mental-health problems, including depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Administration officials say there are extensive programs to heal soldiers both at home and in Iraq.

But an NPR investigation at Colorado's Ft. Carson has found that even those who feel desperate can have trouble getting the help they need. In fact, evidence suggests that officers at Ft. Carson punish soldiers who need help, and even kick them out of the Army.
What've we learned? I'd say two things: jack and shit.
It looks like The Wife's income is going to get cut in half next semester at The Other School on the Hill. I'll tell you, she didn't waste to much time. She's on the hustle, even now, looking at leads.

We're not gonna starve or anything, not even close (at least not for a couple of months). We may have to do without new high-end consumer electronics after the new year, but still...

EDIT: What is it with all these people conducting their business off-hours? When E got the email informing her about her one section being closed, it was dated Saturday afternoon. What, the dude was chilling out on his couch when he realized, "Ooh, damn...I knew I forgot something?"

And just now, well after business hours, she gets an email about a potential lead? I mean, I do freelance stuff, so I understand emailing at all hours, but jeez.
Thanks to Blogger beta, I...
  • Got tags on posts going back to late '05. Still got a lot to go.
  • Edited some tags
  • Got updated versions of all the widgets I had on my old template
What can I say? It's some nifty stuff they got on here, now. I've had to slap my hand away from all the full length del.icio.us and YouTube widgets I could potentially cram into my sidebar.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I have to admit, I was about to give up blogging. Not necessarily because I ran out of things to talk about. But, I needed to make this thing useful again, a means through which I can take care of my bid'ness.

After three years, it became pretty useless as a means of storing and linking information for me or anyone else to review later, unless you wanted to troll through the archive pages. Seriously, I was dreading putting anything potentially valuable on this thing for fear it'd just get lost...

...until Blogger in Beta came along.

Now, I almost don't need del.icio.us or Backpack anymore. Between effortlessly integrating third-party apps, manipulating the template, and organizing the output however I might want it with the labels feature...well, I might actually come here more often. This is my 146th post for '06. Look at those past years. Yeah, provided this thing helps me the way I want it to, I'll definitely be updating more often.

So, yes...there's a new look, new features, and all sorts of idiocy to be documented and catalogued. Eh, who needs WordPress, anyway?

Caveat Emptor:
  1. I turned comment moderation on--sorry.
  2. Be aware that the categories listed don't yet cover every single post.
  3. Your browser's mileage my vary.
I gotta get to bed. I've got a long, early day tomorrow.
I admit it. This week I didn't even crack Nick Hornby's playbook open. I'm just winging it.

Last week, I read:
  • Alan Dean Foster, "Venting"
  • Isaac Szpindel, "From Gehenna"
  • Brian W. Aldiss, "The Night That All Time Broke Out"
  • Me, "The Evil of the Recidivist"
  • Howard Rodman, "The Man Who Went to the Moon--Twice"
  • Philip K. Dick, "Faith of Our Fathers
A few weeks ago, I shelled out $7.99 for a paperback anthology, SLIPSTREAMS, edited by Martin H. Greenberg & John Helfers. I was aquainted with some of the stories in the more "literary" end of the style, so I thought this would be a chance to see some things that were decidedly closer to the genre end.

The first tale I read, "Venting," was very straightforward and complete, if simple. The little I know about the main character is everything I need to. I didn't care much for "From Gehenna," but that wasn't Szpindel's fault. True, I saw the ending coming a mile away (especially with the "subtle" blurb on the back cover). But after last week's double shot of Jack the Ripper stories from DANGEROUS VISIONS by Bloch and Ellison, I was worn out.

Honestly, I'm not too thrilled about what I've read so far, but I'm only two stories in. The only reason the book interested me in the first place is because I'm interested in exploring the whole Slipstream style. Hence, the attempt that was made in "The Evil of the Recidivist." Though you could say that it failed to the extent that the story could be labeled strictly "sci-fi."

Maybe it was the week. It was hellish at work. Chalk it up to the inevitable atmosphere of an Ivy League school during finals week. That could be why "All Time Broke Out" was another one I didn't "get." Yes, I understood the plot, especially after reading the forward and afterward. But I really wasn't in the mood for a story about temporal physics gone awry.

"Went to the Moon" was my favorite of the bunch. The sci-fi element wasn't obvious until near the end, but that just goes to show how a compelling story can sometimes outweigh other considerations in the hands of a master.

"Faith of Our Fathers" is by far the most interesting "What If the Wrong Side Won the Cold War" stories I've ever read. The truth I took away from it concerns how, then and now, politics is sometimes the least of our problems.

PASSAGE OF THE WEEK
"Ugh glumph hum herm morm glug humk," the woman muttered.

Which means, roughly translated from the Old Stone, "Why the heck does this always happen to mankind just when he's on the goddam point of getting civilised again?"


-Brian Aldiss, "The Night That All Time Broke Out"
Next week: I've been in a Charles Bukowski/Raymond Carver mood this past week. It's time to indulge, I think.
Formerly Known As "My Weekly Personality Analysis," thanks to the new labels feature.


With which great bass player do you most identify?

Jaco Pastorius

Early career backing the Temptations and Supremes. Moved on to work with Pat Metheny and Weather Report. Probably the best technician ever to play the bass.

Personality Test Results

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no longer exists. Oh, I'll still be doing weekly memes and they'll be available wherever you see the personality analysis label.
I made the switch to Blogger beta. I'll be exploring and fiddling, so forgive any mess that might ensue.

EDIT: I went back and tagged/labeled most of "My Weekly Personality Analysis" posts. But that's as far as I'm gonna go.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dusting off, but not opening, choosing to go strictly by my fogged, hazy memories of Nick Hornby's playbook, I give you last week's reads.

When I was with the family over the Turkey Day holiday, E and I made the trip to Half-Price Books. There are a fair amount of used bookstores in Ithaca, some that really do re-sell books at half-off. But a lot of the prices at HPB are more than half-off, which is always nice on the wallet. Aside from an audiobook copy of Robert McKee's STORY, I picked up copies of Harlan Ellison's infamous anthologies DANGEROUS VISIONS and AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS. I was actually going to pick up a trade paperback copy of the former, but E suggested I pick up the hardback version with "the swanky cover," so I figured I might as well pick up the second one, too.



Anyway, everything last week came from DANGEROUS VISIONS, which I've been reading pretty much in order so far, except for having temporarily skipped the novella "Riders of the Purple Wage" by Philip José Farmer. Thus...
  • Lester del Rey, "Evensong"
  • Robert Silverberg, "Flies"
  • Frederik Pohl, "The Day After the Day the Martians Came"
  • Miriam Allen deFord, "The Malley System"
  • Robert Bloch, "A Toy for Juliette"
  • Harlan Ellison, "The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World"
I know a lot of humanist-types who'd really get a kick out of the story "Evensong," the plot of which could be interpreted as showing the ultimate expression of the human potential. The spiritually-minded, however, could interpret that same plot as a caution of the consequences of the same.

"Flies" is undoubtedly the best human-altered-by-aliens story I've ever read, bar none. The elements are pretty shocking for something written in the sixties (which was the point of the anthology). I won't even describe them; you'll have to read it to believe it. I'd almost describe it as a horror story, but no one in the tale is as horrified as the reader.

What if, as Pohl wrote in his story's afterward (each story except for one has a forward by Ellison and an afterward by the author), sci-fi really can make all men to think of each other as brothers, "at least in the face of a very large universe which is very likely to contain creatures who are not men at all"? Don't be fooled, though. "The Day After the Day the Martians Came" doesn't convey that message directly. Rather, it clearly and succinctly illustrates the ugliness of man's often negative reactions to "the other."

It was refreshing to see a 40 year-old story written by a female (Remember: these stories were written in the 60s. You think sci-fi's dominated by males now, consider 1967.) that, in a graphic and pointed way, dealt with the "softer" sciences. This is exactly the sort of story that found the resurgence expressed in THE HARD SCI-FI RENAISSANCE. It's my favorite story of the lot, so far.

"A Toy for Juliette" was written at Ellison's behest as a sequel to a story Bloch wrote in 1943 called "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper." Ellison then responsed with a story that picked up where Bloch left off, "The Prolwer in the City..." which is a perfect example of the sort of "conversation" that today's writers like Link or Doctorow write about (pardon me for being too lazy to Google various examples).

PASSAGE OF THE WEEK:
I offer two, having failed to add one last time. First, in this week's reading...
The city was a complex artery, the people were the blood that flowed icily through the artery. They were a gestalt with one another, forming a unified whole. it was a city shining in permanence, eternal in concept, flinging itself up in a formed and molded statement of exaltation; most modern of all modern structures, conceived as the pluperfect residence for the perfect people. The final end-result of all sociological blueprints aimed at Utopia.

-Harlan Ellison, "The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World"
Typically, I offer these snippets without comment, but in this case I just have to note that it's a description as succinctly written as that by Garc&iactute;a-Márquez in the opening of "Big Mama's Funeral," even if the styles are different. What I mean to say is, that same magic is there.

The second is from last week's "Guy de Maupassant" by Isaac Babel, his most popular quote, in context:
I began to speak of style, of the army of words, of the army in which all kinds of weapons may come into play. No iron can stab the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place. She listened with her head down and her painted lips half open. In her hair, pressed smooth, divided by a parting and looking like patent leather, shone a dark gleam. Her legs in tight-fitting stockings, with their strong soft calves, were planted wide apart on the carpet.
Next week: More from DANGEROUS VISIONS with maybe one or two other things mixed in.
1
All of my electronics have now moved into the 21st century. I can backup my laptop five times over. And I can plug a total of 8 USB devices into it, including my video/mp3/FM radio player.

I don't know how I ever got by with that 128MB piece of crap player I had. This thing has been my saving grace in a crowded space with the family during Turkey Day, on bus rides with stressed out students from the Big Red School on the Hill, not to mention zoo-like grocery stores.

2
Nonfiction audiobooks...I'm now addicted.

3
There's a nearby group, apparently (I may have mentioned this before) who apparently work out at a local facility with sticks and wearing sarongs. My co-worker who works out there approached them and told them about someone who might be interested (namely me). They tried, it seemed, to put him off first, probably thinking I was someone from "Kim's Ninja School" at the mall or something. They lightened up a bit when he told them I was someone who had a bit of experience with what they were doing. Anyway, they were supposed to give my co-worker information to give me, but on the night they were going to do that, they blew him off.

Eh, screw it. I work with someone who knows this guy and who offered to put in a word for me. He's in Cortland, but that's not too, too far away.

4
This next week, I'm told, will absolutely suck at work. That's okay, though. Like I always say, that's why they call it work.

5
Steven Barnes already said it, so I don't have to...
I don’t know about Michael Richard’s actions, aside from doing something that has probably damaged his life and career. He may be an actual raving racist…but in my experience, most real racists are more careful with their speech. They believe they are walking in enemy territory, where the Jews run the media, using Blacks as footsoldiers. They don’t openly rant like that. Of course, maybe he’s just a STUPID racist. My mind is open to possibilities.
6
There is NOOOO...number 6.

7
They all laughed at me after Timothy Treadwell and they thought what happened to Steve Irwin was a mere accident. But I've said it before and I'll say it again--the animals are rising up!
Orca returns to S.D. tank after attack
By ALLISON HOFFMAN, Associated Press Writer Thu Nov 30, 6:36 PM ET

SAN DIEGO - Some days, killer whales just wake up on the wrong side of the pool. A 2 1/2-ton orca that dragged a trainer underwater during a show at SeaWorld may have been put out by a spat with another whale, grumpy because of the weather or just irritable from a stomach ache, according to marine mammal experts.
Or, maybe it's letting us know just how close the revolution is.
I only lie for the sake of consistency. Anyway...


You are the Hanged Man


Self-sacrifice, Sacrifice, Devotion, Bound.


With the Hanged man there is often a sense of fatalism, waiting for something to happen. Or a fear of loss from a situation, rather than gain.


The Hanged Man is perhaps the most fascinating card in the deck. It reflects the story of Odin who offered himself as a sacrifice in order to gain knowledge. Hanging from the world tree, wounded by a spear, given no bread or mead, he hung for nine days. On the last day, he saw on the ground runes that had fallen from the tree, understood their meaning, and, coming down, scooped them up for his own. All knowledge is to be found in these runes.


The Hanged Man, in similar fashion, is a card about suspension, not life or death. It signifies selflessness, sacrifice and prophecy. You make yourself vulnerable and in doing so, gain illumination. You see the world differently, with almost mystical insights.


What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

You'll forgive me if my weekly copying/butchering of Nick Hornby's playbook is a little sparse this week with the holiday and all.

This year I'll spare all of you the sarcasm about the celebration of colonial White oppression. No rants on the great U.S. of A.'s foundations on the principles of rejected religious extremists. No, not even "Happy Thanksgiving--have a blanket!" jokes. Just last week's reads:
  • Isaac Babel, "My First Goose"
  • Orson Scott Card, "A Cross-Country Trip to Kill Richard Nixon"
  • Carrie Richerson, "...With By Good Intentions"
  • Isaac Babel, "Guy de Maupassant"
Two Book Sales ago, I got an old edition of Isaac Babel's COLLECTED STORIES. This was back when I got hooked on Raymond Carver, someone who worshipped Babel. It all seemed beyond me at first and it wasn't until I read Lessing's "Homage to Isaac Babel" last week that I had a context in which to finally open up one of Babel's story and actually get it. It's not for nothing that folks often quote "No iron can stab the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place." from Babel's "Guy de Maupassant."

Back on the skiffy/fantasy tip, I dug out another one from Card's MAPS IN A MIRROR anthology. Even a casual reader could look at the title "A Cross-Country Trip to Kill Richard Nixon" and dread the hundred-and-one different things that could go wrong with a story with that premise. Thing is that any problems the story had, IMO, didn't have much to do with the premise. Just things that seemed unlikely to me, even in a fantasy tale.

The one thing that "Nixon" and the story "...With By Good Intentions" from the Oct/Nov F&SF had in common were the simple plots and premises drawn into simple, crafted tales. One might debate whether they were good or bad--I liked them both. But I'll be damned if Card and Richerson made it look so damn easy it almost made me sick.

Next week: probably some stuff from Harlan Ellison's DANGEROUS VISIONS anthology.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

ITEM ONE
It's taken a couple of years, but The Wife and I seem to have achieved a semblance of financial stability. Of course, it has to happen right before the holidays. We're simultaneously overjoyed and dismayed to find ourselves in a new consumer bracket, one that includes small pieces of antique (but functional) furniture, home appliances, and consumer electronics. Namely, a MacBook Pro for her and a 250GB external drive for me.

We're still close enough to our previous austere life to feel apprehensive shelling out considerable sums of money for things other than utilities. But when you've been working with old and busted second hand computers for as long as she has, or when you've already suffered near-catastrophic data failure like I have, all of a sudden these things really do start looking like investments, especially when our dreams and goals basically revolve around producing things as efficiently as possible. In the 21st century, you just can't do that with crap.

It's just a wierd feeling, is all.

ITEM TWO
Because, I'm just not used to being able to buy enough storage to backup my laptop six times over and be able to pick up a couple of cool CDs at the same time.

frazy.comfrazy.com
powered by frazy.com
Shamelessly copying from Nick Hornby's playbook, and doing a botched job at that, I give you last week's reads:
  • Carol Emshwiller, "Killers"
  • Joyce Carol Oates, "Thanksgiving"
  • Harlan Ellison, "The Few, the Proud"
  • Jonathan Lethem, "Access Fantasy"
  • Doris Lessing, "Outside the Ministry"
  • Doris Lessing, "Homage for Isaac Babel"
I loved "Killers" from the Oct/Nov issue of F&SF. After reading it, though, I have a better understanding of the arguments of those who bemoan the fact that some stories that make their way into the mags nowadays don't have clear fantasy/sci-fi elements. You had to read between the lines of "Killer" to make out what those elements are and they're vague enough that you might be mistaken. My personal feeling is that it takes skill to do that, but that's just me.

It was the same with "Thanksgiving" by Joyce Carol Oates. I didn't plan to read it because of the upcoming holiday. It really was the next one on tap from her collection HAUNTED: TALES OF THE GROTESQUE. And it so happened that this was another story of some kind of possibly post-apocalyptic world featuring characters with all sorts of fears that seem reasonable to them, but go unexplained to us.

Needed something "manly," I read some Ellison. But I had no way of knowing what "The Few, the Proud" was about until I started reading. Sure, I guess some right-wing nut could label this story as anti-military propaganda, but the events in the tale are the sorts of things one intuits as having a ring of truth about them.

One thing I've learned about Jonathan Lethem's stories is that, IMO, you can't worry about the plot holes or you'll miss the payoff. This story is a perfect example of that. Most folks would go "WTF?" if I just tried to simply outline the plot. But then they'd end up missing the point of the protagonist's predicament, not to mention Lethem's opinions about the direction of society.

I was fed up with the Doris Lessing story I had been reading, but because I've continued to promise to read one, I went through her collection STORIES to pick out a shorter story. I read two short ones instead, the four-page "Homage for Isaac Babel" and "Outside the Ministry" which came after it. I didn't much care for the latter, between the confusing political intrigue and the fact that the story consisted of four men talking over the course of a half-hour. But the story gave me a valuable lesson on time when contrasted with "Homage," which was half the length, yet took place over the course of a week.

PASSAGE OF THE WEEK
No explanation, no context. Just the writing that grabbed me.
...and so they went down below the Undermall to the underground corridors, long echoey halls of tile, not so glamorous as upstairs, not nice at all really, the lengths apartment people went never to have to step out onto the street and see car people being really appalling sometimes.

Jonathan Lethem, "Access Fantasy"
Next week: I need me some Card and some Link, I think. And maybe something from out there on the world wide internets.
Hot damn, who'da thunk? This was forwarded to me from the offices of AMERICAN NERD.
I enjoyed your article in defense of 80s Chicago. I could have written it myself. I'm almost done with a doctorate in music composition (all but dissertation) and I've always appreciated all eras of Chicago, early, eighties, and even recent. I think the misunderstanding about the "jazz-rock band that sold out" meme is that they were never devoted to the "jazz-rock" hybridization like Blood, Sweat and Tears or 70s fusion bands in the first place.

To me, they're a "craft band." Every song they record is an expression of musical craft. There is as much craft in "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" as there is in "If You Leave Me Now," and, as you point out, "Hard Habit to Break." The fact that they shifted idioms from jazz to pop rock in order to express their musical craftsmanship
is only secondary.

Bravo on a well-written and pointed article about a misunderstood and vastly underappreciated band.

Robert
[redacted]
This was a brand-new experience. I'm simultaneously thrilled and apprehensive. For where there's fan mail, hate mail is always a possibility.
I never claimed to be Honest Abe.

You Are A Little Honest


Sometimes you do the right thing, but not often
You prefer to look out for yourself most of the time
But sometimes honesty does get the better of you
Here's hoping you answered this quiz honestly

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Once again, bastardizing Nick Hornby's playbook, I give you the stuff I read last week
  • John Cheever, "The Enormous Radio"
  • Joyce Carol Oates, "Poor Bibi"
  • Cory Doctorow, "Return to Pleasure Island"
  • Alison Lurie, "Counting Sheep"
  • Kelly Link, "Some Zombie Contingency Plans"
I know what I said and I have been reading some Doris Lessing this week. I just couldn't git 'r' done, unfortunately.

I was off to a good start with Cheever's "The Enormous Radio," the first of his work that I've read (at least I can't recall if I have before). "Chekhov of the suburbs" is right. I picked it because it's referred to in a few places as an example of magical realism. It's not García-Márquez (it's not meant to be) but it does use those elements to deliver an uncomfortable truth or two.

If two weeks ago, I had the experience of finding the story I now love the most, then this week I found the story I loathe. Hey, not every story will click with folks. I know this and Alison Lurie and Joyce Carol Oates certainly understand this. "Counting Sheep" was solid, and ironically, is the story that has my Passage of the Week. But when I got to the end, I found myself asking, "Are you serious?" That's not the story I loathe, though. By the end of "Poor Bibi," I felt that I just got my chain jerked. It was a case of when you think you've figured out the ending of a story and you're given clues to indicate that you're probably wrong, but then you find out you were right all along.

I'm not 100% sure what "Pleasure Island" was about. Oh, I understood the plot (I think). And, I definitely like the way Doctorow seamlessly wove in disparate, unexplained sci-fi and fantasy elements into his story. Seriously, if I tried listing these elements separately, you'd think it was something he bogarted from Timothy Leary. But I can't say I got it on the first read. I'm not exactly sure when I'll get around to giving it a second one.

Kelly Link, as always, didn't let me down. There's nothing I can say about this story that I haven't said about her writing in general, already. Yet again, I was left with the feeling of "Why the fcuk do I bother?" One thing I will say about "Some Zombie Contingency Plans" is that the shoe that finally drops isn't necessarily the one you're expecting and I loved the way she pulled it off.

PASSAGE OF THE WEEK:
Whenever you tried to go for a walk or a picnic in the Lake District, the sheep had always got there first. Anywhere you might want to sit down, the turf had been churned by their muddy hooves and littered with their droppings, like greasy brown bunches of grapes.

-Alison Lurie, "Counting Sheep"
Next week: that freaking Lessing story already. Probably some Ellison, too.
Ed Bradley's passing was sad. Hearing about Jack Palance was sad, too; this was a piece of my childhood gone this time (If I saw THE EXORCIST at 8, you don't think I would've seen SHANE?). But, now Gerald?? "Casanova" pretty much defined my love life in the late 80s.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Have you voted yet? Go on, go. I'll wait.

Last week was the work week from hell (So far it's better this week, thanks for asking) that started off badly when I got some bad news from the Old Neighborhood. Yeah, that whole youthful I'm Gonna Live Forever vibe? Gone. Oh, it'd been slowly wearing away anyhow, what with drinking herbal tea, listening to Satanic smooth jazz, and bitching about local tax rates. Let's just say that when someone your own age passes away, someone with more to live for than I do (and I've got a LOT), it definitely puts things into perspective. Which is why, during what is hopefully my first in a long line of annual physical exams, I got the sort of exam that they say guys in their thirties need to start having. Not to mention getting a cholesterol test. I shudder at the possible results. What can I say, I'm from Cleveland, Land of perogis and smoked meats.

So, last weekend I caved and went to a local NaNoWriMo meetup and started something that I eventually titled EXPERIMENTAL PHASES. I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to keep going with it, though. My Writer side (the side that's the antithesis of everything NaNoWriMo stands for) has been pestering me with, "You've got two shorts to finish and one you haven't submitted yet! Get to it, NOW!" I got the submission in. But, instead of finishing the shorts, I'm blogging before work. Hey, baby steps, right?

Anyway, I've got my plans, I've got my time mapped out and...oh geez, 10 minutes before work, apparently.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Again, borrowing--then crossing out lines with a black Sharpie, writing notes on the side, and adding my own rules to--Nick Hornby's playbook, I give you what I read last week.
  • Sarah Zettel, "Kinds of Strangers"
  • Jonathan Lethem, "The Dystopianist, Thinking of His Rival, Is Interrupted by a Knock on the Door"
  • Harlan Ellison, "Chatting With Anubis"
  • Neil Gaiman, "The Daughter of Owls"
  • Neil Gaiman "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar"
  • Gabriel García-Márquez, "Big Mama's Funeral"
  • Orson Scott Card, "Unaccompanied Sonata"
I hadn't heard of Sarah Zettel except through my copy of THE HARD SCI-FI RENAISSANCE. Her story was a solid example of everything that compilation stands for. It's a straightforward genre plot about a ship in deep space but the emphasis isn't so much on the science of space travel as much as the science of psychology.

"The Dystopianist" is your typical Lethem fare (that's not an insult, btw). It's a simple well-written story with one theme being, basically, about self-examination.

I got two Gaiman stories in because they were short and followed one another. I'd call "The Daughter of Owls" pleasantly grisly (Note to self: I think there's a comic adaptation of this around somewhere that I should check out). "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar," yes, refers to that Shoggoth and is set in Innsmouth. Truth be told, they were written as well as Gaiman's usual, but the stories were...well, okay.

Ellison's "Chatting With Anubis" and Card's "Unaccompanied Sonata" had some pretty straightforward plots as well. In them, the protagonists go through some pretty profound changes and not necessarily for the better. True, most like stories where a hero acts heroic and wins big. Some like the hero to lose, but still be a hero; more people can identify with a hero like that. But stories where the hero loses himself? Those stories, stories like these, can be a little harder for some people to stomach.

The story that blew me away was "Big Mama's Funeral." This is now, hands down, my favorite short story. The mechanics are nearly flawless and the language (at least insofar as the translation) is beautiful. García-Márquez's attitude toward the subject matter, i.e. his truth, isn't readily apparent until near the end, though reading it makes the last line of my choice for Passage of the Week more relevant.

PASSAGE OF THE WEEK
Now that the nation, which was shaken to its vitals, has recovered its balance; now that the bagpipers of San Jacinto, the smugglers of Guajira, the rice planters of Sinú, the prostitutes of Caucamayal, the wizards of Sierpe, the banana workers of Aracataca have folded up their tents to recover from the exhausting vigil and have regained their serenity, and the President of the Republic and his Ministers and all those who represented the public and supernatural powers on the most magnificent funeral occasion recorded in the annals of history have regained control of their estates; now that the Holy Pontiff has risen up to Heaven in body and soul; and now that it is impossible to walk around in Macondo because of the empty bottles, the cigarette butts, the gnawed bones, the cans and rags and excrement that the crowd which came to the burial left behind; now is the time to lean a stool against the front door and relate from the beginning the details of this national commotion, before the historians have a chance to get at it.

Gabriel García-Márquez, "Big Mama's Funeral"
This was only one of about five that I could've chosen. I still get shivers.

Next time: Maybe some of that Doris Lessing I promised last time and possibly a comment or two about Satrapi's PERSEPOLIS, should I decide to include comics in my weekly reading list.
See? That's twice in a row, so it's weekly again. (Well, at least for now.)

You know, I put my counseling/mental health books away a long time ago, but from what I remember, these results don't seem right. Then again, a cold-reading from a psychic hotline often produces better results than one of these online things.

Maslow Inventory Results
Physiological Needs (34%) you appear to have everything you need to survive physically.
Safety Needs (44%) you appear to have an adequately secure environment.
Love Needs (50%) you appear to be semi-content with the quality of your social connections.
Esteem Needs (50%) you appear to have a medium level of skill competence.
Self-Actualization (60%) you appear to have an average level of individual development.
Take Free Maslow Inventory Test
personality tests by similarminds.com

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Writer Steven Barnes suggests that that you should read ten times as much as you write. Given that I should be writing every day and that I average about 2 pages (approximately 500 words) per day, and guestimating that the average short story is about 5,000 words, I've made it my business to read one piece of short fiction per day. (Non-fic doesn't count but I wonder if I should include comics.) Anyway, I've managed to do this every day for the past two weeks, religiously. What, you think I just buy all these books and never crack them open?

So, to put my money where my mouth is and make myself publically accountable, I'm modifying a page out of Nick Hornby's playbook and giving you Last Week's Reads:
  • Orson Scott Card, "In the Doghouse"
  • Gabriel García-Márquez, "Artificial Roses"
  • Alison Lurie, "The Highboy"
  • Swapna Kishore, "Reclaiming Lucy"
  • Kelly Link, "Stone Animals"
  • Harlan Ellison, "The Lingering Scent of Woodsmoke"
  • Harlan Ellison, "Go Into the Light"
Three of these stories, "Doghouse," "The Highboy," and "Go Into the Light" had plots that I believed were predictable. Actually, they were in the sense that I was able to predict the general outcome of the plot. But these writers had to know I would, so they wrote in a such a way as to me care more about the journey than the destination. But, it's a tricky business, that. Knowing where the plot was going almost turned me off each time. This is where name recognition comes in handy, though. I mean, it's Card and Ellison, for pete's sake. I might not have liked the story by the time I got to the end, but I was confident it wouldn't suck in any case being who they were, so I stuck with them.

Lurie's story I liked least of the three, but I think that's partly because the collection it's from, WOMEN AND GHOSTS (at least the edition I have) is made to look like some sort of horror thing, but it isn't. It can't be, when some of the stories had previously appeared in VOGUE, REDBOOK, and HARPER'S BAZAAR. But even for what it was, "The Highboy" was IMO a good example of what Orson Scott Card calls "the millieu story" and it made clearer to me something about the sort of changes a protagonist in a story can go through--but that's a rant for another time.

I read "Reclaiming Lucy"--a very nice, straightforward short horror piece--because I keep running into the author's name as I pore through various online mags looking for new markets. The quality of her writing (at least the two or three stories I've read so far) seems to have a consistency that I'm trying to develop. I really need to go back through and put all of the links to her stories into del.icio.us.

Link's "Stone Animals" gave me my passage of the week (see below). She can be an acquired taste, I've heard, and I can see why (although I knew I loved her stuff the moment I first read STRANGER THINGS HAPPEN). Most of her stories have a plot, no doubt. It might not be completely understandable, and it resists examination from a "big picture" point of view, but it's there. But to examine a story for the plot misses the point of some of her stuff. Her writing is beautiful. Clever, but not for its own sake. It follows, to use Alice Sebold's term in her review, dream-logic. Like a dream, Link's words make perfect sense in the moment, as you read them.

Yes, I liked Link's story this week better than "Artificial Roses" by the original master of the ethereal story. That's not to say that García-Márquez didn't blow me away, as usual. The further I get into his COLLECTED STORIES (and this could be for 101 different reasons), the more I'm able to get his stories. Granted, I'm reading translations but if they're at all accurate, then I'd say his stories are as dream-like as Link's--except his dreams are more vivid. His stories are the dreams you have that make you swear you're 100% awake.

PASSAGE OF THE WEEK
No explanation, no context. This is just the writing that stuck out to me this week.
She said, "If you don't like it, then I'll keep it. Look at you, look at those sleeves. You look like the emperor of Japan."

They had already colonized the bedroom, making it full of things that belonged to them.

-Kelly Link, "Stone Animals"
Next week: a whole new crop of stories, most likely some Jonathan Lethem and maybe some Doris Lessing.
Ganked from somewhere, partially in honor of the Very Short Stories--six-word pieces from some top sci-fi authors--that ran in WIRED, I give you the Two-Word Meme, where each of the questions below is answered with two words.

1. Explain what ended your last relationship? Partial meltdown.
2. When was the last time you shaved? Monday morning.
3. What were you doing this morning at 8 a.m.? Soundly sleeping.
4. What were you doing 15 minutes ago? Starting this.
5. Are you any good at math? Sort of.
6. Your prom night? Which one?
7. Do you have any famous ancestors? Infamous, maybe.
8. Have you had to take a loan out for school? Of course.
9. Do you know the words to the song on your myspace profile? No song.
10. Last thing received in the mail? Action bills.
11. How many different beverages have you had today? Both caffeinated.
12. Do you ever leave messages on people's answering machine? On occasion.
13. Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to? Depeche Mode.
14. Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach? Hardly go.
15. What's the most painful dental procedure you've had? Some drillin'.
16. What is out your back door? The patio.
17. Any plans for Friday night? Staying quiet.
18. Do you like what the ocean does to your hair? Never cared.
19. Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns? One time.
20. Have you ever been to a planetarium? Long ago.
21. Do you re-use towels after you shower? Too often.
22. Some things you are excited about? Having written.
23. What is your favorite flavor of JELLO? NyQuil Green ;).
24. Describe your keychain(s)? Too heavy.
25. Where do you keep your change? My pocket.
26. When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people? Office party.
27. What kind of winter coat do you own? Gray wool.
28. What was the weather like on your graduation day? Don't remember.
29. Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed? Slightly ajar.

Saturday, October 21, 2006



No, I haven't decided to, yet. Haven't decided not to either, though I did swear it off last year. There are so many damn reasons not to, not the least of which is the need to write more stuff that'll sell.
Not.

I got this stuff (and these are just the fiction books) last week at the Tompkins Country Friends of the Library Book Sale (N.B. I couldn't include Alison Lurie's WOMEN AND GHOSTS in the layout, here). I still hadn't gone through the backlog of last spring's books.

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So, I've decided that the only way I'm going to get through them all is a pre-planned rotation. Don't forget that I've still got these in the mix as well (including HAUNTED: TALES OF THE GROTESQUE by Joyce Carol Oates).

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Okay, I'm cheating--two of the books up in that last set were new. But the point is, the plan is one story per day, which is completely doable, and actually has been for the past 7 days.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


(Make one)

But at least I'm not contagious.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


(Make one)

Ah, the joys of working in university health care.
My Life: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  • Opening Credits: Chicago, "Aire"
  • Waking Up: Air, "Ce Matin La"
  • Average Day: Doobie Brothers, "Takin' It To the Streets"
  • Falling In Love: Helen Merril, "'S Wonderful"
  • Love Scene: Casandra Wilson, "Poet"
  • Death of a Loved One: Queen, "Who Wants to Live Forever"
  • Bad Love: Michael McDonald, "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)"
  • Sad Love: Doobie Brothers, "What a Fool Believes"
  • Break Up: Jimmy Ruffin, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted"
  • Reunion: Chris Botti feat. Jonatha Brooke, "Forgiven"
  • Fight Scene: The Roots, "Thought@Work"
  • After the Fight: The Geto Boys, "Damn, It Feels Good To Be a Gangster"
  • Adultery: Squeeze, "Tempted"
  • Guilt: Chicago, "Sonny Think Twice"
  • Bad Day: Black Crowes, "Thorn in My Pride"
  • But Life's Okay: Sons of Champlin, "Misery Isn't Free"
  • Deep In Thought: Don Henley, "The Heart of the Matter"
  • Secret Love: Atlantic Starr, "Secret Lovers"
  • Party: Sheila E, "The Glamorous Life"
  • Dance Scene: Yvonne Elliman, "If I Can't Have You"
  • Crying Scene: Peter Cetera, "No Explanation"
  • Breakdown: Cousteau, "The Last Good Day of the Year"
  • Driving: Styx, "Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)"
  • Flashback: Night Ranger, "When You Close Your Eyes"
  • Regret: Flaming Lips, "Fight Test"
  • Long Night All Alone: Cat Stevens, "Wild World"
  • Death Scene: Eric Clapton, "Layla (piano exit)"
  • End Credits: Johnny Cash, "The Man Comes Around"
Well, sort of weekly. Look, stop...stop yelling at me. I'm ill, leave me alone!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

If sitting in with a jazz quartet for $10 and the two times I got paid union rates for a couple of trumpet gigs technically made me a professional musician, then I guess I'm now, technically, a professional writer. I got word last night that a webzine wanted to buy one of my stories. It came on the heels of another rejection, so needless to say I feel pretty good.

I'll put the link up when it's up, which should be sometime next month. That's when I'll send the inevitable mass email rather than making it a "Bandwidth Conservation Post."

For those keeping score, that's:
1 sale
4 in circulation
3 withdrawn
Okay, actually that was more for me to see where I stood.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I've been posting today from the coffee shop that I once believed could serve as my home away from home the way this place used to. It's not quite there. I've finally had to accept the fact that, as counter-intuitive as it would seem moving to I-town, there just isn't a place where I could work like I did in A-town.

It's times like these, like at any other "job," where there's nothing else for it but to just get to fcuking work, unfocused or not.

I did get one thing accomplished. I subbed another tale to the place that just rejected me. That's something, right? One thing. One thing I can point to that, even if I end up jerking off for the rest of the day, I can say I got done.

Please, no comments about how ostensibly hard I'm being on myself. This isn't about being hard on myself or a potential cautionary tale about work/life balance. This is about one of those many instances where the rubber needs to meet the road in order to do what you set out to do.

Because, as the gentleman on the left says, What you're supposed to do is act like a fucking professional.

I think I need to get some reading done. I suspect that's been part of my problem lately: not enough creative input to fuel the creative output.
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I've finally taken the amazon.com plunge and discovered its crack-like ease of addiction. I guess there goes my devotion to local book stores(?). Anyway, it enabled my financially-challenged @ss to get two writing books that are worth a good 75% of the writing books I have so far.

Ursula K. LeGuin's STEERING THE CRAFT is a series of ten exercises on the writing craft that can be done alone or in a group. It's a book that I can always go back to (and have at the local library several times) whenever I feel like I just don't have siht.

I have no real interest in writing plays (at least for now), but when I borrowed TO BE A PLAYWRIGHT by Janet Neipris and saw some of the general writing advice she had, it was too good not to eventually buy. I can see why a lot of writers (especially comic book writers, believe it or not) are influenced by playwrights.

Go ahead, discover how easy it is, if you haven't already. You can start with my wishlist icon over to the right. You know you want to.
"Yeah, weekly--whatever," I hear you say. I don't blame you. But, here's something. Via DISContent, among other places, I give you...

My Top 25 TV Characters

The rules are:
  • No puppets or cartoons, otherwise Kermit and Homer would definitely be on this list.
  • No mini-series, otherwise I'd definitely include Philip Marlow from THE SINGING DETECTIVE.
  • No reality show people, otherwise Matt Kennedy Gould from THE JOE SCHMO SHOW would be on here.
  • All characters must be regulars on the show.
Okay, so here we go.

The Doctor, DOCTOR WHO - Even before Travis Bickle, here was a character who brooks absolutely no crap from anyone, in all of space and time!

Kwai-Chang Caine, KUNG FU - Too bad we no longer live like in the Old West where one could just wander the earth with no identification, mind your own business, and kick the crap out of anyone who tried to screw with you. Yeah, you better believe that no one tried to make him build a railroad, either. He'd have shoved his foot up their white...but, I digress.

Archie Bunker, ALL IN THE FAMILY - See, if only all small-minded bigots were like him. In fact, most of the small-minded bigots I ever knew were just like him. They'd more or less keep it at home, toss out a few of their outdated views over dinner with their inner circle, and then could at least treat my minority ass with a modicum of politeness even when they let something slip that they maybe shouldn't.

George Jefferson, THE JEFFERSONS - See "Archie Bunker," except add cash!

Kerr Avon, BLAKE'S 7 - "Underneath that cold exterior beats a heart of pure stone," says one of his crewmates on the battlecruiser Liberator. Even if you don't buy the political allegories of B7 or even just don't like it because it's a cheap British 70s sci-fi show, the show does manage (unintentionally) to chronicle one man's slow decent into paranoia and psychosis.

Gareth Blackstock, CHEF - I'd love to be enough of an expert on something to be able to heap mounds of verbal abuse on people, and just have them take it because they want to be around you and learn your stuff.

Cmdr. John Koenig, SPACE: 1999 - As the episode "The Exiles" shows, Koenig has no compunctions about kicking a btich out the airlock (literally!) to save his command.

Capt. Benjamin Sisko, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE - His character was definitely no throwback to Captain Kirk, but he was no wussified "diplomat" captain on a luxury liner, either.

Det. Lennie Brisco, LAW & ORDER - I'd love the ability to be at a gruesome crime scene and make snarky remarks about the victims.

EDA Benjamin Stone, LAW & ORDER - He's a model on how to professionally display utter contempt for someone, like the scum he questions on the witness stand.

EDA Jack McCoy, LAW & ORDER - I love watching his self-righteousness override any sense of compassion. He doesn't care, he doesn't give a fcuk, and he just doesn't wanna hear whatever you have to say that would get in the way of how he prosecutes a case.

Det. Robert Goren, LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT - Those mannerisms are just too fun. Creepy, but fun, especially the way he always bends over to one side when he's interrogating a suspect. Plus, what kind of cop carries around a leather portfolio? I always think he looks like an insurance salesman with that thing.

ADA Ron Carver, LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT - He may be quiet and soft-spoken, but he's basically Shaft with a law degree.

Col. Eli McNulty, E-RING - I dunno, I just like the way Dennis Hopper would say one of two lines almost every episode: Either, "Let's go get those sons of btiches!" or "Let's bring our boys home!"

Richard Fish, ALLY MCBEAL - Because I respect any man who can declare: New firm policy, listen up! Anybody who sues this firm or me, personally, we all drop whatever cases we are working on. We devote all of our intellectual and creative efforts to ruining that person's life. Are we clear? I don't want to stop short with just getting even. Retribution is not strong enough. Ruin, that is the goal. Irreversible, irreptutable, irrational ruin! New firm policy!

Remington Steele, REMINGTON STEELE - Because he taught me what a metrosexual was before there was even a word for it.

Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries, ARE YOU BEING SERVED - The quintessential stereotypical gay man...or is he? Maybe he's unisex?

Henry MacNeil, GOOD VS. EVIL - He's a proud Brother with a 'fro and an orange Volvo, kicking Morlock ass, and saving souls with weapons soaked in the blood of an innocent.

Dave Lister, RED DWARF - What do you do when you're the last human being alive stuck 3,000,000 years in the future? You tough it out and make the best of it, that's what. You learn and you grow, but basically stay the same sort of person.

Spock, STAR TREK - Yes, he's all kinds of cool. But we share something. We're both more comfortable with being the second-in-command, taking charge once in awhile when we have to, than the head honcho.

MacGyver, MACGYVER - Proof that a Swiss Army knife and some duct tape can make you all kinds of cool, even when you're rocking a mullet.

René Artois, 'ALLO 'ALLO - All he wants to do is run his cafe and keep his affairs with his two waitresses secret from each other and his wife. He manages it, even though he's got Nazi's on one side, the French Resistance on the other, and downed British airmen in the cellar. See, that's called poise.

Quark, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE - Yes, a greedy, manipulative criminal from an alien race devoted solely to the making of profit. But, he's also the sort who would sell food to oppressed aliens at cost which makes him, in terms of cultural relativism, kind.

Denny Crane, BOSTON LEGAL - You can't tell me that this guy isn't cooler than Captain Kirk. I love whack-job characters who can get away with things like brandishing a loaded rifle in a courtroom in Boston, Mass.

Donald Ulysses MacDonald, MONARCH OF THE GLEN - See "Denny Crane," except replace Captain Kirk with Doctor Who.
Is this 25? I didn't even count, to be honest.
I've been feeling very ADD lately and I've got too much stuff in my brain, so today I'm just going to dump it all out as I go about my business so I can get some fcuking work done!

And yeah, I turned the comments off. You know why?? Well, no reason really. Just felt like it.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

(Via one of the many mailing lists I have to sort through)
Police: Nurse, 51, kills intruder with bare hands

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) -- A nurse returning from work discovered an intruder armed with a hammer in her home and strangled him with her bare hands, police said.

Susan Kuhnhausen, 51, ran to a neighbor's house after the confrontation Wednesday night. Police found the body of Edward Dalton Haffey 59, a convicted felon with a long police record....

Under Oregon law people can use reasonable deadly force when defending themselves against an intruder or burglar in their homes. Kuhnhausen was treated and released for minor injuries at Providence.

Haffey, about 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, had convictions including conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, robbery, drug charges and possession of burglary tools. Neighbors said Kuhnhausen's size -- 5-foot-7 and 260 pounds -- may have given her an advantage.
So, the next time comedian Mo'Nique says to show a big girl some respect, you better listen. Or, it could mean your @ss.

Friday, September 08, 2006

This article seemed to acknowledge all the caveats with the experiment. That doesn't stop the implications from beng disturbing.
'Vegetative' Woman's Brain Shows Surprising Activity

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 8, 2006; Page A01

According to all the tests, the young woman was deep in a "vegetative state" -- completely unresponsive and unaware of her surroundings. But then a team of scientists decided to do an unprecedented experiment, employing sophisticated technology to try to peer behind the veil of her brain injury for any signs of conscious awareness.

Without any hint that she might have a sense of what was happening, the researchers put the woman in a scanner that detects brain activity and told her that in a few minutes they would say the word "tennis," signaling her to imagine she was serving, volleying and chasing down balls. When they did, the neurologists were shocked to see her brain "light up" exactly as an uninjured person's would. It happened again and again. And the doctors got the same result when they repeatedly cued her to picture herself wandering, room to room, through her own home.
Whatever this does to the quality-of-life debate, whichever side proves more capable of co-opting this research to their argument's advantage, imagine the possibility of knowing, scientifically, that the person you're talking around and about is more than likely listening to and processing what you're saying.

Maybe it's time to take a second look at that living will. Most (but not all) people I've ever talked with generate one on the premise that they'll be an utter vegetable, unable to even know what's going on around them. But what if we're not?
*Okay, not really. This would imply that I'm submitting at a rate that would get me a weekly rejection, which I'm not--yet.

After a scathing but fair critique of my latest submission, the silver lining read:
As noted above, the quality of your prose is quite good and we
appreciate the fact you sent this story our way.
Of course, it's another plus that the mag bothered to critique it at all. So, what to send next...