Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: You Were Awesome, Smell Ya Later

Well, Blogger's pushing me to switch to their new version by hobbling the old one, and I'll be forced into it. Even posting this holiday-themed photo of the skyline from our balcony has been a nightmare. I'll conform. Tomorrow. But posting today, for the last time this year, I'm using my Christmas laptop for the first time! Surprisingly, my five year-old one doesn't really stink, but this new one is much more mobile and cleanly designed, with a better set of capabilties and horsepower. I look forward to being able to do much more multimedia-- like posting videos and audio podcasts-- next year.

2006 was actually a pretty great year, feeble in personal woes and strong in progress. I hope it's been so for you, but if not, it's over. Onward and upward. I'm going to try to continue to get narrow and deep, like the Marianas Trench, merging my disparate activites into more central places where they can all feed each other. I'm looking forward to new audiences and playing around with enhanced bells and whistles, especially since my regular readers all have new machines that simply gobble up the higher bandwidth goodies. I expect to revise a bunch of things, migrate some to a different web site, and get a little more frequent, if a little more focused, in my posting. Oddities will remain, however. What's life without wonder?

Also, in the last couple of days, as a sort of late Xmas gift (yet certainly before Three Kings Day), I finally got an idea (THE IDEA) for my next stand-alone suspense novel. It's a tremendous Whew. Now that an agent's repping the first, a prospective publisher might want another in a similar vein, or at least might consider one with the same sort of tone and approach. My agent asked me what else I had or thought might be next. Well.... uh.... What do you think they'd like? I had nothing. Sure, I have my comic/absurdist/mystery thing I'm working on, something I love but which is weird enough that it'll have to sell itself after completion, and I might need a pseudonym depending upon how distracting to my non-existent career it's considered. Problematically, it's also not easily prepackaged or even explained, but I think if I don't disappoint myself and take my time (simple enough since nobody wants it), it could be fantastically entertaining and I'd be very proud to see that. However, every time until last Friday that I thought about writing a follow-up thriller, I just felt a hollow bonging in my skull. To feel barren of ideas is anxiety-making in the extreme for someone who's supposed to be full of 'em, but I tried to stay calm while waiting for something to happen. And a notion did emerge, in the manner it does for me, almost fully formed.

A few years ago, the manuscript-now-for-sale's plot came up over lunch at Bennigan's with my Ideal Reader, and after bullet-proofing the motives and action through the back-and-forth tennis of "What if?", I wrote up a chapter-by-chapter outline that evening, just a paragraph of the important stuff in each one so I wouldn't forget. Over the course of writing and revision, things changed and were added and refined, but if you read that outline today, the eventual novel's storyline is unmistakeable, and all the juiciest surprises would be wrecked for you.

So last Friday night over steak with my previous plot collaborator, into existence sprang a new idea, starting with a simple solution to one basic problem. Since I'm no law enforcement/emergency procedure/medical/legal expert, if I set the next book in Manhattan versus anywhere else, how do I keep a story of dramatic content including death (deaths?) from being quickly swept into one giant institutional flow or another about which I can't and don't wish to write? And I conceived an answer based on circumstances which have always felt to me as magical as they are dangerous. Perhaps greatest of all, the story also includes another theme/setting that I had seriously intended to use a year or two ago and had therefore researched with great interest, even developing highly-regarded and knowledgeable contacts in that industry as resources. Then, I had some characters rattling around in my mind, but I couldn't ever spark the story into independent motion. Discouragingly, the bones of the storyline never soldified, and it never jumped to its feet and sprinted. At a certain point, for me, the story I want to tell has to start leaping ahead with possibilities faster than I can keep up. I'll imagine conversations, lines of observations, flashes of scenes that overlap and begin interlinking as they pop into being, all jockeying for position in my final scheme.

In my experience, if ever a story "writes itself", it's now. Once my ideal plan exists and is documented, the work of making sure my Wren cathedral blueprint doesn't finally manifest itself as an outhouse is sheer, arduous labor. That's why I have to love the idea so much, because writing it purely sucks. That's my process, different than other people's and I daily wish I sat scribbling like them with joy in my heart, but this is how my deal works. And it does eventually work, no matter how gruesomely my sausages are made. Anyway, that fabulous compunding, metastasizing story effect happened to me Friday night, and the additions and enhancements have continued through today, like a rock sugar crystal that's added elegant structures and strength every time I think to look at it.

If you don't care about all my personally blathery B.S., enjoy Dave Barry's year-end wrap-up as ye may.
Long link form to copy-and-paste instead of nifty short form (or color or bold) since Blogger's pulling the old carpet runner out on me.

Next year, the look of things here will be new, if I can't guarantee they'll be improved. My affections toward you, dear pals, are nothing new and cannot be improved upon. To a cheery 2007!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nogs and Logs

Just a few more items that won't wait:

1) The story behind one of my favorite new-old chestnuts, The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth sung by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. I'm with Bowie. The inane, nonsensical repetition of the original starts to make me feel deranged by the second verse, but this version I like.

2) A manly man and his dreamy, homemade Christmas wreaths. Got a problem with that?

3) Think your family's holiday customs are weird? Think Festivus is wacky and way-out? Well, this image of a sh*tt*ng Santa comes from this site, which includes another translated explanation of the phenomenon covered in this article. At this time of year, Catalonia in Spain goes absolutely poop-crazy, believing it to be a symbol of fertility and prosoperity. Besides the turd candy and toys, you can get defecating figures (with lucky piles of sewage) for your nativity scene. They come in many personages: scubadivers, babies, bride and groom, doctors, executives, Pope Benedict 16, King Juan Carlos... Browse for your favorite.

I might be ashamed to dwell on such an unattractive (if culturally authentic) topic, if I hadn't simultaneously conferred such good fortune and wonderful well-wishes upon you all.
Poops up, peeps!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

For Christmas: A Cat in the Pants

Not specifically festive, but I liked this Daily Kitten picture, because I'd forgotten that lots of cats do this, as you'll read in the DK comments.

1) This once happened to me at an acquaintance's house. The cat had sneaked into the bathroom behind me, then entangled itself between my ankles while I was preoccupied. Not knowing the cat, I was leery of picking it up to hoist it away from the vicinity of my nethers, but it bore the relocation placidly. Not the first time, I suppose, since the owner later told me this was standard feline operating procedure at their house. As this season of parties and guests and visiting swings into action, that's exactly the kind of thing about which you might wish to forewarn visitors. Just my tip, hospitality-wise.

2) In other holiday-related animalia, a virgin dragon will give birth this holiday season. Well, actually her eggs will hatch, and this ability, while not observed among female Komodos before this year, is well-known among other reptile species. Still, don't depend on a journalist to spoil a great lede with overmuch clarity.

3) In other things weird and wonderful, a Canadian meteorite has been found to be older than the sun. Cool, I want to buy it and put it on a pedestal in the garden. Maybe on a mantelpiece. Or I'll break it into nuggets to sell as fashion jewelry. I mean, after they've sampled enough to study the origins of the universe, of course.

4) Australian Cougar Arts teach a variety of Man-skillz embodied currently in a fantastic organ soundtrack and a mustachioed idol. Dong the Gong in the man skillz test. You must see and hear to love enough. When they ask if you're over 18 and awesome at Kung Fu, click YES, or you'll get an alcohol awareness education, since apparently Cougar Spirits underwrites the International Fence Busting Affiliated Organisation.

Founded by Brian "The Guru" Watson in 1968, The Cougar Arts Federation became known for its unique philosophy - "Don't try to get away with anything too big at first, and then try a bit harder and gradually you'll probably get somewhere."

Barry "The Cougar" Dawson is now Head Instructor at the school. He is a Black Belt Master and an exponent of "Man-Skills" - a set of powerful techniques including "Mind Control" "Speediness" and "Invisible-ness".

5) I know they say this is a New York thing, and it makes sense given most people's habitations. But I was aware of it as a child in Texas and California, I recall. And this year, we even have a choice of classically crusty or slickly modern televised Yule Logs.

May you, too, blaze on, my pals, and enjoy the season!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Not Feeling Holly Jolly Towards Chase Visa

This Scrooge image once appeared somewhere in the Bear Valley News. Metaphorically, it represents not only the droopy dunce cap that finally broke the hat rack of my tolerance, but also shows my intensity of contempt. That's me...hating you, Chase Visa.

For years, we've been paying extra for membership to a credit card that gives us airline miles (usefulish) and extended warranties that we haven't used as well as supposed concierge services and other discounts we haven't found particularly handy either. In the past, when the CV Co. is afraid there's fraud-- like anytime (frankly, every time) we're on vacation-- store clerks end up giving us their patented lugubrious expressions of We Regret The Necessity/Are You Broke?, and haul us towards the shop phone to verify our identities and geneology on our mother's sides. We get temporarily annoyed, and forget to do anything about it after arriving back home.

Obviously, it's a frustratingly repeated inconvenience for those (us) whom we assume are regarded as good customers. We put significant dollars through this card annually, so whether or not we carry a balance, they're paid by merchant fees on every charge plus our member fees and any specialty transaction fees for cash advances, checks, etc. If they increased the intelligence put toward examining the pattern of purchase types and vendors rather than simply location, such analysis might reveal that the roving charges are likely from us, because whether home or abroad, we always go to TCBY or Frankenstein Nail Spas (or wherever). Not a crime specialist, it still seems unlikely to me that garden-variety thieves are mainly using our hot plastic for fine dinners and non-transferrable hotel room charges, but whatever.

When we do happen to buy something criminally fungible like a pricey new winter coat or electronics, we're also likely to have our charges held for verification. Believe it or not, this once happened when buying a large batch of socks. I don't know about you, but I don't usually ration purchases of black and brown dress socks, and buy up bunches at a go rather than pacing myself. Because the CV Co. phone lines were jammed (an overload of incisive fraud checking?), we couldn't even call through for verification, and had to use another card. This is all simply the CV Co. protecting us, right? Well, no. It's them protecting themselves since they're on the hook for fake charges in excess of $50, provided we report them in a timely fashion. Lately, the companies have all gone preemptive. Don't wait for the customer to notice, jump in and assist! Ideally, this would be handled so it feels like it's us and CV Co. working against bad guys, but it doesn't feel like that at all. And today was the dunce cap that broke the hat rack.

My very own Santa purchased my Christmas present yesterday from a place where many other people enjoy shopping, too, because of their cool, but entirely distinctive, stuff. (DANGER, thinks the CV Co. Popular places are mostly frequented by lowlifes!) After receiving two phone messages this morning alone, I knew CV Co.'s onslaught of concern must've been triggered by yesterday's Xmas purchase. So, I contacted my personal Santa to make the confirmation call such that my surprise--now wrapped and beribboned beneath our tree-- wouldn't be ruined. Unfortunately, when my Santa verified the charge from yesterday, CV Co. also wanted to go back in history and check other recent charges, too. Just for thoroughness, of course. After all, who'd be doing more and more varied shopping than usual near Christmas? However (wouldn't you know it?), I'd also recently purchased an Xmas present online. This one happened to be for the other holder of our card from a merchant's website which is basically like

In order to walk down memory lane, transaction-style, with CV Co, I had to be conferenced in to illuminate the more elusive mysteries. Though, before I joined the call, my own Santa specifically asked that they not repeat the location of the charge for my gift yesterday, here's how it actually played out:

CV Co. employee has both of us on the line, and asks:
"Other than the charge at [screamingly obvious name of the vendor of my own gift], can you verify the charge at [screamingly obvious place where I purchased gift]?"

We were both quiet for a second until I thanked the fine Fraud Protection Specialist for ruining Christmas.

Most of our friends suggest Amex, because for the membership price (should you wish their add'l services), the service is supposed to be way better. It's even reported they don't treat customers like morons or like we're the persistent problem with their business.

Kiss us goodbye, Chase Visa, you low-rent, tone-deaf, killjoy, picayune, idiot army of Scrooge-y Douchebaggingtons.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Snootful of the Overdue and Bookish

I'm taking a vacation from my hiatus, and have, at long last, posted a new review at Mystery Book Spot. As I put it in a post to the multi-Book-Spot pals, I've just grabbed my machete and lopped off a couple of tentacles grabbing my time, so I can be more attentive to my reading, writing, and reviewing. Sometimes, things have long since become a no-fun, no-point, buzz-kill before I think to dump them. But now that I have, my innards feel all floaty and sweet.

My reviewing reprise is Julia Pomeroy's very good debut novel, The Dark End of Town. It was released in hardcover early in 2006, and I have finally written it up a woeful number of months after receiving it this summer from the author her-darned-self. However, the trade paperback is due out in March, 2007, so you will have plenty of opportunity to get your fisties around a copy.

Besides being a delightful dinner companion (I note this, should you happen to find yourself her table neighbor as I did), Julia Pomeroy's got history in Japan, Libya, Somalia, and Italy. After landing in America, she worked as a screen actor, translator, and restauranteur in upstate New York. She doesn't volunteer all this immediately via personal data dump (as I certainly would if I'd ever been interesting), but actually converses, so we'll reference the web for bonus material about her pet baboon.

Here's her interview with Illinois' own Rick the Librarian.
Here's another from the wonderful Julia Buckley's site, Mysterious Musings.

In other news bookish:
2) Douglas Dutton's suggestions for holiday bookgiving.

3) Should novelists be allowed near the screenplay adaptations of their work? The horribly Hollywoody saga of Clive Cussler's Sahara. If I could've been paid like one of those screenwriters without the burden of having my name permanently attached... Oh, boy. For the record, as action-adventure yarns go, I didn't think this popcorn-cruncher was so tragic on film.

4) Radar Reviews Dictator Style: Lifestyles of the World's Most Colorful Despots.
Feast your eyes on details of the idiosycratic strongmen's tales of alien abduction and astrology, not to mention their hunger for teens and cadres of virginal bodyguards, armed and chaste and eager to die for their wackos-in-chief.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Blogging, Again?

This image is uncredited and unrelated to anything. I just liked thinking the greyhound track's pace bunny and this knackered squirrel might be commiserating over a break. You can almost sense the ciggie butt dangling just out of view from the squirrel's left paw.

I know. You'll soon be overwhelmed with the frequency. Because 3 of my occasional readers have scored new computers, I'm going to post a threesome of video links in honor of their enhanced media functionality.

1) This 8-plus minute performance by Jerome Murat is surely the Stairway to Heaven of modern-artsy French pantomime.

2) Richard Simmons's ubiquitous tank top and shorts were borderline ick decades ago. However, now that he's 103, I must give him props not only for his tone but his cool head when confronted with exploding appliances.

3) Via April: Dolphins "see" underwater and bats at night by sonar, analyzing the bouncing of sound around them to detect objects and obstacles. A boy whose eyes were removed due to cancer when he was a toddler has developed human echolocation. This blind teenager streetskates, plays foosball, accurately whips pillows at his friends, and even plays video games against his little brother. See his amazing skillz yourself. (Also explore the Human Marvels site for info on the furred Sacred Family of Burma and a man who smokes through his eyes.)

4) If you have a dusty old blog you're not using anymore, proud Euronihilist Tim Worstall wants it.

5) It's a special kind of low-rent spunkload who fakes retardation for 20 years to steal the gov't checks.

6) Although others are reporting this, too, I found the story my own darn self, and will credit no one- hear me? Many bathrooms have candles to help dissipate certain antisocial happenings. However, on a plane, even those with embarassing personal conditions can't go striking matches willy-nilly. Might I suggest activated-charcoal-lined undies and a less-than-3-ounce bottle of Febreze?

7) Even a finger sandwich's worth of John Waters provides several quotable and tasty morsels.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Digging on the Nice

It's been sooo long, I know. All is well and active, and I'll assume you've been too busy to notice the lapse on my part.

Today is the birthday of Ranier Maria Rilke (1875-1926), a German poet I first read in college and whose work figures prominently in the manuscript I HAVE AN AGENT to represent!

In honor of all nice things, because I'm generally feeling nice-ish these days, here is the list of Baskin-Robbins original 31 Flavors and this awesome picture of a unicorn.

Banana Nut Fudge, Black Walnut, Burgundy Cherry, Butter Pecan, Butterscotch Ribbon, Chocolate, Chocolate Almond, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Fudge, Chocolate Ribbon, Coffee, Coffee Candy, Date Nut, Egg Nog, French Vanilla, Green Mint, Lemon Crisp, Lemon Custard, Lemon Sherbet, Maple Walnut, Orange Sherbet, Peach, Peppermint Fudge, Peppermint Stick, Pineap ple Sherbet, Pistachio Nut, Raspberry Sherbet, Rocky Road, Strawberry, Vanilla, and Vanilla Burnt Almond.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gobble, Gobbledygook

Color image site here. For b/w image link (and punchline) see item 5.

What is there to swamp my attention despite the sludge-bound shallows of bad art? Plenty.

1) The Brazilian lady who thought her cat had given birth to puppies has been disproved by gene testing. If such a thing could happen, it probably would have already, given the hordes of stray and fertile domestic animals roaming around. Her generous kitty probably took three abondoned puppies to nurse, something not at all uncommon in history. For her cat to save three tiny lives rather than proving herself a floozy to one Fido makes this a triumphant outcome, right?

2) Via the Grumpy Old Bookman, the Publishing Contrarian lists examples of cringe-worthy book jacket copy for some well-known, award-winning books. She points out that this is, in itself, an art form at which many practicians stink up the joint.

3) Fret not, fans of the fuzzy. When informed in media reports that the creatures would be extinct in 25 years, biologists who study polar bears were surprised, too. Especially since their data largely show stable, even expanding populations.

4) Demanding respect and recognition as Britain's 4th largest religion? Jedi Knights.

5) Has the face of London's infamous Jack the Ripper been revealed? Using the 118-year-old statements of 13 witnesses, a Metropolitan Police analyst created an image of what the prostitute-killer is believed to have looked like. However, scientists still need to explain to my satisfaction the space-time continuum that makes it possible for 19th-century murders to have been committed by 20th-century rock icon Freddie Mercury.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

My Intermittent Art Bash

See item 3 for image link to Graydon Parrish's Cycle of Terror.

I'm all about the art today. I've been accumulating stories, and now, BLAT... here they are.

1) In delightful art news, two paintings by Renaissance master Fra Angelico were found behind a bedroom door in Oxford. These were commissioned by the de Medici family and later lost when Napoleon invaded Italy.

2) In another house where it's easy to lose things among all the magnificent closetry, at the Queen's Hampton Court palace, a spare Caravaggio which had been thought to be a mere copy, has turned out to be the genuine article.

3) I enjoy the upsurge of painters developing representational work using traditional techniques. Not least because it requires an admirable level of technical skill, far above your average, MFA-degreed tampon-collagist. However, it's possible to travel too far up one's allegorical and monumental cloaca. For example, referring to the undeniably gifted Graydon Carter's Cycle of Terror, a wall-sized piece of Classical Realism, James Panero blogs:

To my eyes, Parrish's work is yet another tragedy of 9/11. It is literal if not didactic. It is a machine for illustrating technical skill, far more than it is a moving memorial to September 11. When you visit New Britain, the museum front desk hands you a four-page cheat sheet on the meaning of all the allegories Parrish has built into his canvas. This document says things like "just to the right of the two central male figures are three female figures representing the three fates, or three mourning women. These figures are not wearing blindfolds. They are no longer innocent but completely knowing. An unusual aspect of these three fates is that two of them are handcuffed together, like the wives or husbands of many of the victims of 9/11 who suddenly found themselves 'bound' to one another, to a new community of victims, and to their fate" And: "Note: also near the old man is a skull, a traditional symbol of tragedy and death."

This explanation is so dense, you need a cheat sheet for the cheat sheet. Any work of art that requires a four page explanation to "get it" is going to leave you pretty cold.

4) However, much as I dislike intellectual pomposity, I find it much more tolerable among the talented. In another story, an art student's work was removed from a museum's walls after 18 hours, because of the charged nature of the work. I agree with the removal, but it has nothing to do with any offense on my part that the work is called The Fat is in the Fire and composed of deep-fried American flags. What offends me is the utter bankruptcy of content or or creativity or skill.

On the flags, *artist* (read * as disdainful air quotes) William Gentry imprinted slogans such as,"Poor people are obese because they eat poorly." A lot of these lowly, knuckle-dragging ignoramuses you hold in such contempt going to see student art exhibitions, William? In case his cleverness had eluded you and you weren't yet feeling concussed by the bludgeon of his observations, he included "more than 40 smaller flags fried in peanut oil, egg batter, flour and black pepper."

Get it now? Some people are fat! And it's the sacred obligation of every nannified, simplistic nincompoop in art school to shake a bossy finger at you and tell you what your waistband and GP apparently won't: If you don't eat well, you won't be as healthy. It's so trangressive and innovative, I can barely stand the rush of Gentry's get-real juice to my overfed, undernourished brain.

Predictably, there are always those who claim censorship blah-blah, but I only claim superior sensibilities. One presumably unhappy patron said "the museum shouldn't restrict the free speech of an artist based on public response."

What clearer call could there be for Citizenry Refresher number 15,257? You have the right to say what you'd like and produce whatever craptacular art you choose, but no other individual or entity is required to promote it for you. Museums are allowed to choose what they wish to display. While it is a discouraging sign that this one agreed to display the dreck in the first place, however, without a paid contract, the artist's position is more one of sufferance than suffrage. Widepread Distribution and Marketing of your concept, products, and/or career are not actually guaranteed by the Constitution.

The unhappy patron further opined, "The museum is obligated to the citizens of the community to present art, and it totally failed in that regard."

I agree that they're failing to present art, but I probably mean it differently than the griper. Adult Education guidelines indicate 7 to 21 instances of repetition will solidify new concepts. The fact that this gent couldn't phrase his compaint to be less inviting of punch lines means, to me, that he may be of appropriate intellect to walk up to fried flag #22 before the thematic revelation hits him. Of course, I prefer to believe that his ambiguous wording is a Freudian cry for help, the deepest yearning of a starved soul for something of transcendent aesthetic merit and lasting significance.

Gentry, who had to publicly display his work for a senior project at Austin Peay State University, said he hoped people would get past the flag imagery and address the health issue. "I hope they are upset, but I hope they don't miss the point," he said.

I'd go so far as to say for those standing upright with operating brain stems, it's practically impossible.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Own Monkey Tuesday

Image borrowed from Penn Jillette's site, where I hope tomorrow there'll be posted a new episode of his often intoxicatingly amusing feature, Monkey Tuesday.

I'm back from the New England Crime Bake. I did have fun, although the drive to Lowell, MA from NYC took 5 1/2 hours and two almost accidents: a chain-reaction rear collision before a tunnel in Connecticut which concluded with the car in front of me, and a tire blow-out and subsequent spin-out onto the shoulder and into the opposite direction just two car-lengths ahead of me. For some reason, that whole trip was marked by high-speed traffic suddenly accreting and slamming on the brakes. It was unsettling and scary, again and again. By the time I arrived, almost late for my first session, the muscles running down my neck and into my shoulders were tighter than piano wires. However, the trip back only took 3 1/2 hours, and other than some rain, was pleasant and relatively stress-free.

I'm still hammering out the last dimples in this last painful bit of manuscript editing. I don't know why I bother to feel that way, as if it's a real finish line. Should somebody want to print the thing, I'll have to go through this all again with an editor. Fortunately, there's always something more interesting than my pathetic self to discuss.

1) Like this story-
Under New South Wales state law, if a car owner signs a sworn statement that they were not driving the vehicle when an offense was committed, they can avoid paying speed camera fines, which arrive by mail, and parking tickets left under windshield wipers.

238 fine Australians have blamed the same two guys by name, one of them deceased. Conclusion: We're only asking for trouble if we don't buy zombies their own cars. Imagine the messy residue they must leave on borrowed seats.

2) From the Magistrate's Blog, a list of unacceptable language in the workplace, which, in addition to lots of other epithets including "British" (?!), also discourages specification of age and usually gender. I hope this catches on, so if one's workplace happens to be a medical practice with an obstetrician, pediatrician, and gerontologist, you can happily categorize patients as "broads, geezers, and ankle-biters" which aren't specifically discouraged.

3) Via apostropher, don't go to this site unless you want to see awful pictures and read horrible accounts of the wounds inflicted by pet monkeys.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lobsters in Hancuffs, You Say? Count Me In!

Sadly, this isn't a rescue mission. It's foreplay. Image via Details below.

Thank Jah and Java, very late last night, I reached the approximate end of another, entirely hairy-legged manuscript process, and I rewarded myself by watching the Addams Family movie (with cupcake accompaniment). Raul Julia is so adorable as Gomez, and even though Angelica Huston's upper lip seemed to have a lipstick migration issue, I just adore the ambiance, attitude, and visual sensibility.

"Let's play Wake the Dead!....Great aunt Lavinia was beheaded by her own children! Yayyyyy!"

However, let's say your bag runs to lobsters in handcuffs. Why you'll be envious to know I'm racing to get on my way here! Let's see, is there anything more I can share with a fire at my hinders?

Of course, I've got it. Thanks to April, it's only the best and worst news story ever-
Just because this Russian tournament involves rafting on inflatable sex dolls doesn't mean there aren't rules. Oh, Igor, noooooo....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Elections or Psychic, Lovelorn Europeans?

It's no contest. You know what you really prefer. 31 days of Tweedlesketches by Michael Fleming.

Another Election Day in America, and you may care or not. I even care, but I'm still past ready for it all to be over. So, let's refresh ourselves with what's going on elsewhere.

1) Uri Geller's climbed from the rubble of obscurity, along with a Brazilian psychic, to claim credit for having located Saddam Hussein's spiderhole through paranormal methods. Do not think I'm dubious, but I wonder if this has anything to do with the $25 million-dollar reward? Too bad none of these phenoms have taken up James Randi's challenge. That's a cool mil for the asking- easy-peasy for someone who can pinpoint a tyrant's ditch in a country the size of California.

2) You may not have heard that this weekend, Europe suffered its worst blackout in three decades, affecting 10 million people across Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Fortunately, it was relatively brief and appears to have been more inconvenient than injurious.

We have similarly entangled power grids here of inconsistent condition, and have had similarly cascading situations. This is an ongoing problem in modern, connected nations. But what's tre European, it seems to me, is that Germany's suffering a brain drain due to economic conditions/taxation for highly-skilled workers, and, according to the Independent's coverage, "The European Commission is investigating the structure of the EU's power market and whether the Continent's giant firms need to be broken up to encourage greater competition." However, the reaction to this situation is not better technological information sharing or standardization of communication mechanisms to allow swift management at functional levels across borders. Oh, No. The answer is the cozy, woolly sweater of Another Centralized Bureaucracy where each country may argue about funding shares and war for internecine dominance.

I'm sure that'll prove to be as credible, efficient, and nimble a system as the one self-inflicted upon the beleaguered Airbus A380, whose EU subsidies mean that politically the construction contracts get parceled in chunks to four different EU countries, and the disaparate parts work together worse than Frankenstein's.

3) But what, you ask, what if you're a lonely U.K freakazoid who just wants love? The London Review of Books aims to serve with personal ads guaranteed to make you laugh and feel better about yourself.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Not So Much Lazy As Preoccupied- Nice, Huh?

This Bionic Bigfoot toy ties in the children and Sasquatch and even Chicago, thanks to the Left Behind Child blog which notes sightings in Seneca, Illinois reported in the Trib from 2005. To tie in my last theme, you'll just have to imagine this action figure, from the era of joyfully hazardous products, wreathed in happy flames.

There are exciting things in the works with which I've been alternately busy and giddily unproductive. I hope to have concrete announcements soon, but until then, here's the normal casserole that I hope will temporarily give you a cozy feeling of familiar comfort, even though I've been wearing higher heels and bringing home people for you to call "Uncle."

1) Discussion in the Grauniad of why celebrities write children's books. I make some exception for Jamie Lee Curtis, whose books I hear are good, and for Julie Andrews, who, because of her legacy I'm willing to extend some credit, sight unseen. I believe, inclusive of self-aggrandizing or financial motives, it happens because writing a book for adults seems a lot tougher and is, undoubtedly, more time-consuming. The simplicity and length of kids' fare convinces many it's a piece of cake to do well. However, it'sssssssnot.

2) There's been a tragic run of fires this at historic, Louis Sullivan-designed buildings. Preservation Chicago has the scoop on the decimated Pilgrim Baptist (important for much more than architecture), the Dexter Building, and now, the Harvey House, likely the last wooden Adler & Sullivan structure standing after two other cottages were lost in Katrina. PC also explains the kind of incautious "repairs" which keep torching edifices of import. Is it a bad-luck trio that's now completed, or is some architecture-hating brownie just getting started?

3) When you're the lone professor studying Bigfoot, even if you're trying to perform serious anatomical research, life in academia can get lonely. But with all the new and assumed-extinct species we keep finding in the deep oceans and artic climes, why couldn't there be marvels yet to be discovered atop mountainous crags, within impenetrable forests, or beneath the jungle canopies? Worry not, Professor Meldrum. I'm sure neither Copernicus nor Galileo were invited to share coffee in the faculty lounge either.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Citified Halloween to You

Kitty Potter, Count Chihuacula, and Darth Pug courtesy of e-mail pals.

If you spent an American childhood in residential neighborhoods of mostly one or couple-family homes, your Halloweens (like mine) were different than what happens here. In my more rural postings, we even had small, neglected graveyards to visit and dark open fields to run through, scaring ourselves silly.

As I'm not sure I've ever described it, here's New York's Upper East Side Halloween scene:

I live in an entirely urban area with clustered highrises and multi-unit walkups. The street level on 2nd Avenue is primarily retail and restaurants with the occasional, marble apartment lobby thrown in. On either side of sundown, as it is cusping just this moment, adorably masquerading tots in strollers, or led by parents' hands, and much larger kids in packs displaying lazier pagaentry are trick-or-treating at businesses. At my nearby Barnes & Noble, I waited in line while pint-sized superheroes found the candy cave in the back of the children's section, sucking down mini ice cream cones from their last stop. Outside Mustang Bar & Grill, a tequila-and-cigar-infused meat market after midnight, were posing adult superheroes in fancy rental costumes, taking pictures with kids as well as doling out the goodies. One of the highrises had a detailed landscape of creepery set up in the lobby, also suitable for memory-making. From the Go Sushi to the GNC, from bagelry to drug store, the owners and operators were dolled-up and stocked-up with the handouts.

I must admit, it does enliven the walk around my neighborhood with an unusual whimsy and welcome festivity, and in lower Manhattan, there'll be a big parade at 8. But it is, nonetheless, a little like trick-or-treating in a mall, which I'm also sure must happen among the safety-first suburban set.

Thanks to all who've sent me pumpkin art and animals in costume. You know my vices and weaknesses, even if I haven't posted them here yet. Enjoy the above few as I say Boo! To you!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Whipping Wife's Moustache and Legal Bull

Jurgen Burkhardt is a frequent Imperial or Kaiser class winner. See item 6.

1) My pal April and I will surely miss the noble Taurus line now that Ford's stopping production. We both had well-traveled, well-loved versions that gave yoeman service. Ave Atque Vale-

2) This story about a prosecutor removed from a case that's too similar to her recent, self-published novel, and the politically-motivated extraction of juicy bits from aspiring Senator Jim Webb's military thrillers are making me think about the hazards to reality-based careers of one's fictional imaginings. I'm not saying it should be a hindrance. Even Honest Abe turned his hand to the mystery form. This article has a great, if not up-to-this-moment, history of the legal thriller, most often written by lawyers for obvious reasons. However, if Webb really does identify himself as a "writer first", does that connote to the same set of skills expected from an effective politician? Based on myself and the fictioneers I know, I'm not so sure.

I think Lori Andrews may have the best combination of these careers. Be a professor, not directly accountable to public opinion, retaining access to the latest papers and experts, and perhaps able to take a sabbatical if the writing's going poorly. Of course, CVs can't tell you whether the book will be good.

3) I'm afraid it might be bad karma to bag on things I don't like. And I'd prefer to point to the wonderful. But not long ago, I finished reading such a topically-related book from my Bouchercon freebie bag. It's a legal thriller with a distinct POV on the death penalty (anti). Okey-dokey. This author was originally with a much smaller press, and this manuscript got picked up by St. Martins, very big wheels in crime fiction. The advance copy's got lavish praise blurbed on front and back covers as well as inner-page love letters from people who want me to know that this guy is the NEXT BIG THING. So I read it. I found it strikingly, remarkably poor both in characterization and plotting. By the end, it had turned into such a convoluted mess, I was actually angry about how bad it was.

It started ine with the events leading to the actual case in question, but then kept flashing back to the childhood of a character I hadn't met yet, so I sure as shootin' didn't care to be repeatedly derailed from the exciting stuff. You might then assume that this childhood stuff would distinctly impact the later events. Maybe, sort of. But it's main purpose was only to explain connections between characters which could've been done better in real time. To me, it was all expendable. A major character in the second half shows up as if we'd know she was a major player in the childhood scenes. But she's barely there. Odd for a "best friend." But then again, this book's relationships are melodramatic and overstated in general. As in, declarations of love usually mean someone's about to get shot. That transparent device actually happens more than once. The characters ping back and forth between thin motivations designed purely to advance improbable plot lines, and by killing the main sympathetic character halfway through (although remaining hazy on whether he's a borderline retarded railroadee or a saintly, love interest-eeks), the author also executes our reason for following the story.

For the writer, a lawyer himself, the most fascinating tale's probably the rich lawyer with an ethical crusade who shacks up with an entire posse on a rented ranch, transported by bulletproofed Benz costing more than $100k. Now, he's using his accumulated wealth and connections to squeeze the powerful fat cats for the right reasons. I found his machinations simplistic and tiresome. And his portrayal as a lonely moral actor after apparently spending an entire career with his conscience on mute wasn't convincing as much as wishful aggrandizement. This author's not alone. Other such writers also tend to regard their hero lawyer as messianic, regardless of how their actions and personalities might tarnish the halo in the eyes of someone who didn't pass the bar. To me, the story's always about the characters who readers feel most strongly about. The handsome, fit, well-sexed multi-millionaire might be the one I'm supposed to care about because of a misassigned nickname that doesn't fit. But he's soggy cardboard, his girlfriend's vapor, his herd of acolytes weirdly devoted, and no amount of flashback can change it. If this thing becomes an enormous hit, I'll rant against it by name and title.

Until then, I shake my shame-shame finger at St. Martins, and say that no matter how compelling one's expertise, a novel still flops if it neglects the basics of storytelling.

4) Additionally, despite relevant backgrounds and all their research, novelists may still get their real murders wrong, such as now convicted wife-killer Michael Peterson, who's declared bankruptcy (boo-hoo) and failed in his latest appeal.

5) If you're a drunk or depressed, could a strenuous spanking be all you need?

6) I'm delighted that the Handlebar Moustache Club simply exists, much less thrives.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

No Pithy Title Comes to Mind- Suggestions?

See last item for image link.

Apple picking in Warwick, NY: lovely. Turning foliage vividness: optimal. First apple pie: accomplished last night to good reviews. Despite my crust worries, the pastry was great. However, the filling was more liquid than I'd hoped. I dusted the slices with flour, obviously not enough, because the apples didn't set up properly until I'd removed the first slice, and dumped out the scrumptious but pooling juices within. Fortunately, that was the test pie, deliciously edible if imperfect. Next pie: the Nirvana of which all ripe apples dream while swaying from their leafy hammocks.

As happens fairly often, someone's filming around here again. Across the street from my aerie, Be Kind, Rewind starring Jack Black, Mos Def, and Danny Glover will be on site Thursday. They've posted promo flyers along with No Parking signs. I like these actors, and I think the concept of amateurs remaking famous movies for a demented old woman is an idea that could be very entertaining. However, NYers will put up with a lot of inconveniences to support their claims of superiority, and this will be also a big pain, as usual. Last week, the water was off two different days for maintenance. Or there's a parade, or a strike, or the elevators are down, or the train's sidelined. Or something. This city is so interlinked, and operating constantly at the limits of its capacity, that it's inherently unstable. The sites of chaos bloom like pesky mildew until they're banished to reappear somewhere else. To even the nobles of Trump Island, such disturbances happens with relative frequency. Tomorrow, simply walking down a neighboring street will be enough to get you yelled at by some Production Assistant in a canvas chair to Shut Up, Tourist, because all cosmopolitan NYers understand that fake lives outrank real ones.

Though we're making exciting leaps ahead in teleportation and invisibility, it's no reason to lose our senses, to shun the personal loveliness embodied in that marriage of art and craft, the fine timepiece. One may adapt and assimilate rather than simply abandon.

Both are awful, but I can imagine there are people who'd be more humiliated and haunted by the latter than the former. Would you rather be caught behind the wheel, stoned and naked after killing a pedestrian who was a former prosecutor for the District Attorney's office? Or, would you prefer to be the man who's picture's been publicized across Britain as a serial train defecator?

I loved Bookgasm's review with examples from Craig Damrauer's New Math: Equations For Living. You might easily resuse the above formula for more than Modern Art. For example, try swapping in Standing Next to Rock Guitarist at Concert = ...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Heart Like A Wheel- I'm Rolling On

So sue me, today I'm going apple-picking. Possibly pumpkin-picking, too. And I hear the Hudson Valley wines have some fun to offer as well. And, as if by magical prearrangement, the brilliant folks at Plan59 have just opened a new venture, Box of Apples, showcasing the art of the fruit and produce crates from the 20th century. Forget those oversaturated French ads (I've got a few, too, don't be sensitive), but there's an equally fantastic array of much less-sung art work, and they'll make high quality repros.

I picked the Winged Wheel since soon I'll be rolling on out of here and upstate in the new ride, ya'll. However, if fruit's not your bag, what about the Gallery of Wrestling Stars? How did the artist feel, I wonder, while rendering each hair on the chesticular rugs?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Be the Tigress of Civilization You Choose

I had trouble getting the images out of my e-mail, so I cadged from this blog, which has the same story I do.

I wrote about this tigress with piglets in June, opining that a tiger's nose is perfectly capable of differentiating the porcine from the feline, and noting that this Thai tiger had been raised around pigs since cubhood, so the whole California-zoo-grief story isn't true.

But additional pictures are making the electronic rounds- two kind souls sent them to me- so the myth persists, even gains momentum. People seem to want to believe that this is just love overpowering an encoded prey relationship. It is not. What it does represent is the power (occasionally perverse where Sriracha's concerned) of domestication and civilization in controlling baser instincts. With a full belly and lots of exposure/training since birth, a tiger can be convinced that piggies are welcome parts of the extended family. However, I don't like to think what could occur if the keeper bringing lunch is absent too often, as I predict the same vile results should I drop over dead and my pooches go undiscovered for a long time.

Speaking of e-mails making the rounds, this spam was so insidiously, breathtakingly mean, I laughed aloud and had to share.

From: Mark
Subject: Dieting

This is not meant to be an insult or anything but people are talking at work about your weight. I thought you should know. I know it would upset you if you knew but I know some friends here and outside work that have used a program that worked within weeks. I am not pushing anything on you but thought it wouldn't hurt if you looked at it. I also think I am doing you a favor as it's always nice when people talk about how much better you look than how much you've been putting on. I hope I am not intruding, just trying to help out...
Thanks for listening.

Lucky I don't work with a Mark, or I'd really feel like a flabby, lousy mess.

A Dress A Day has today's affirmative antidote: You don't HAVE to be pretty. I agree completely that it's no duty or requirement, though I personally enjoy my choice to delight as a walking sonnet, and I don't like Mark's intimation I'm carrying a couple extra stanzas.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Coins, Comets, Cyclops! (and Walruses, of course)

Image credit Vincent Jannink/EPA, story in item 6.

1) Thanks April, but even the one of this Aussie celeb couple who's supposed to be able to sing sounds like an adenoidal wreck. His wife is excrutiating. Couldn't they start a fitness craze or dog salon instead?

2) If a skid row bum in L.A. offers you his last, valuable possession in exchange for booze money (a bargain for an exceedingly rare coin held in his family for generations), and you accept his last treasure for $20, you deserve to be ripped off.

3) These days, there's always someone on the streetcorner predicting a giant comet to hit earth near Halloween. No one else astronomical seems to be jumping on his bandwagon, but the "I told you so" is sweeter when you've been the cheese standing alone. I guess.

4) Pravda also has another series of pictures. Absolutely the most cyclopean and two-headed animals I've ever seen in one place.

5) Tim Blair provides the highlights of North Korea's hit parade: Songs of Korea, volume 98.

6) Also via TB: Look at the walrus not peeking at his birthday cake. Are there fonts bid enough for the size of AWwwww this requires? Perhaps a banner.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Yummy Thirteens

Quick post, just 'cause I love this day. Triskaidekaphobic, me? Heck, no. I consider this an informal, rolling holiday.
Wooo- and freakin- Hoo to you all!

More about Friday the 13th's history here and here and here. Did you know in Spain and Greece, it's Tuesdays that are dreaded?

Apparently, The End, Lemony Snicket's 13th in his Series of Unfortunate Events is being released today, just like Black Sabbath's first album in 1970. Don't read this if you don't want a big, fat Snickety spoiler. Is your tongue out, and are you giving me the pinky and forefinger salute? Right back atcha.

Since my spooky manuscript takes place on a stormy Friday in October, I think it's fitting or even auspicious that today I will send the whole thing out for the agent's read. May he love it and tremble.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Upper East Side Doings

This is a slightly fuzzy picture (blame my fuddling with the manual settings) of the sunset looking west from my balcony last week. It doesn't include our best view of the Empire State and Chysler buildings, but it is a more peaceful, beautiful view than today's.

As some of you may know, I live roughly 1/2 mile from the site of this afternoon's small plane crash in Manhattan at 72nd Street and York Avenue. But in fact, even with my balcony door open to catch the fresh air, I didn't hear any major impact (or I didn't notice), and the sirens weren't in quantity or style unusual to my ears. I learned about the crash when someone (and then another kind someone) called to see how I was.

I went up to our roof, basically the 33rd floor, where we have a great 360-degree view, but today is overcast and getting rainy. I could easily see that 2nd Ave., where I live and two avenues west of York, was blocked up with brake lights and had cruisers with their sirens flashing every few intersections. I don't believe I could see the building as it was obstructed along my sightline by others, but I'll analyze more closely the photos I took just in case. Some neighbors of mine also standing on the roof pointed to a thin column of rising smoke as being from the accident, but it looked like a very pale and organized expulsion to me, more like typical white heating spume than smoke from a fire. (Update: Now that I see news footage from the Brooklyn side of the East River, I can see the source of the smoke I saw is definitely a thin stack tower at least a couple streets north of the action. So, I didn't even see that. I'm not sorry, just noting that this was a very quickly contained event.)

One thing I can report with certainty is that the sky is droning with helicopters, both NYPD and news organizations. The swarm of their rotating headlights blinking through the mist make them seem like unwieldy fireflies, dangerously close to collision themselves. From the news updates playing behind me, it seems like this will be judged a very sad accident of someone perhaps flying a small, fast plane along the East River and changing directions with disastrous results. Terrible and tragic and deadly, but not as awful as what we might have imagined. Resquiat in pace.

I might have been too absorbed to notice anything as it happened because of a new personal development, proving what narcissistic tunnel-vision I can achieve. And to those of you non-New Yorkers, not suffering the trauma of immediate physical and emotional deja vu which some people are reporting today, perhaps my change of subject won't seem so grotesque.

If you read my Bermuda Triangle post among other miscellaneous whines, you know I've been feeling star-crossed by the inexplicable lack of response to my manuscript from various nice and professional types I've met who've asked me for submissions. Yesterday, one of these agents called me, and apologized for somehow losing track of my submission since I sent it in May. But he just relocated it. And he read the first twenty pages. And he wants to see the rest of the manuscript.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Prehistoric Pooch and Cold-Blooded Bunnies

No, it's not mid- sacrifice to a python, that's the drowsy ecstasy of a lagomorph, per item 1.

Today's a big dump of the odd and largely animal, along with an update on a topic I've become known for adoring: competitive eating for cash and glory.

1) Sheverb dodges giant spiders in favor of yawning bunnies who, unfortunately, look less cuddly than tormented.

2) If your collection of ball pythons goes up in a house fire, how you gonna pay your student loans? Perhaps becoming the Cobra-kissing champion has financial upside?

3) In just two weeks of fieldwork in the Svalbard Islands of the Arctic, researchers found a treasure trove of prehistoric marine fossils, including the first complete skeleton of the Nessie-looking sea reptile, the plesiosaur, which was the size of a bus with teeth the size of cucumbers. In addition, there were 21 other long-necked plesiosaurs, a short-necked one, and 6 ichthyosaurs.

4) I did love the 700 hoboes project where multiple artists created illustrations to go with the collected names. This is different, but similar. Via Drawn! , the Dog Days of Animation blog shows the tremendous variety of artistic perspectives generated from one photo of a "mopey pooch."

5) Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, a well-known name in the field, was less than ten behind, but winner Richard LeFevre ate 247 jalapenos in eight minutes.

Monday, October 09, 2006

As the Globe and the Tide Turn

Speaking of the unusual as we will be, this 4 week-old kitten is a sphynx, the only cat breed once available for highly allergic fanciers, courtesy of Canada's Pretty Bald cattery- be prepared for Twilight Zone soundtrack- I despise unprompted audio launch. See bottom of this post to learn why such blue-chip baldies are looking like absolute bargains these days.

While conferences, conventions, creative critique groups (with which I've been solidly preoccupied recently) may provide great suggestions and motivation, they can also fertilize one's sense of being overwhelmed, uneasy, and lost. In the wake of other fine authors' latest and greatest work, one may feel one's own specialty is plenty saturated, and even fear it's becoming yesterday's chilean sea bass. But can anything more suffocate joy and freshness than a newspaper article declaring one's own bailiwick the Next Big Thing? Thank Jah, it's the Boston Globe and not a New York paper, but it's quite bad enough. By the time something's called the Next Big Thing, many more titles are in production, destined to flood the markets over the next year or two, most of which (as is the way of books) will sink, thus convincing every business/acquisition type that the notion wasn't so hot anyway. By 2009, a legit publishing date should my novel get representation and a contract, this conceptual genre could be as poisonous to avid shoppers as harvest gold kitchen appliances.

The kind of lit-ruh-chure under discussion, which the Globe labels "New Wave Fabulism" while I shudder in revulsion, has been something I've always read and always loved when executed by talented writers. It's also principally what I write, without claims to adequate talent. Cory Doctorow is quoted as calling it "contemporary fantasy." Less horrible, I suppose, but not as descriptive. I particularly enjoy when an alternate universe we're exploring is close enough to our own that our daily knowledge and lingua franca clearly apply, and then don't. I'm also tickled by strangeness, mystery, and absurdity. Toss in farce, and I'm done for. My own writing's aims and prose exist on the less experimental edge of style, probably because I'm a shallow hack incapable of surgical-silky subtlety. Hyper-alliteration, I've got covered.

When the Next Big Thing takes the shop next door to your similar-ish little business, it can either boost your enterprise as demand overflows supply at NBT Incorporated, or you can become overshadowed and obsolete with the speed of FTL (faster-than-light in geek-speak). The vanguard of this "movement" will be fine. They're the authors deservedly mentioned in the article, and their quality and innovation and primacy will carry them beyond the life of the trend. But for those lesser beings who now must hope to coattail-ride, it probably helps to be already established among practitioners of the field, someone Kelly Link might cite as an unrecognized but gifted writer who she enjoys reading. (This is the Any-more-like-you-at-home? phenomenon to create rapid marketplace congestion with also-ran crapfests which will be largely responsible for the target readership's fatigued disdain, resulting inevitably in the demise of the aforementioned NBT which will eventually reincorporate with a new logo and brand strategy.)

I am not known. I have a manuscript I'm trying to sell that's odd and dark and Gothic: a tight suspense of misfortune and body thievery over 36-hours. It examines more the implications of believing in myth than myth itself. I have another I'm currently writing that's frankly surreal but also comic. Most normal people (known for liking a laugh as relief from the pressures of the day) are shocked to learn how deathly is the publishing business' view of the comic novel and how low the sales numbers can be. Still, both of my current literary ventures are "weird sh!t," to employ another characterization in the Globe article. But I may be sitting in my dinghy on the sand as what once felt like an incoming tide has, in fact, already turned and begun receding. Good thing I'm also working on an urban fantasy/horror comic. That's bucking the fads, for sure.

Via April, a hypoallergenic cat costing $3900 (extra $1000 for shipping and handling) with over a year-long waiting list. But that's the fur premium.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I'm a Profoundly Affected Provincial

Had a good time at Bouchercon, met some wonderful new entities, reaquainted with others, and cribbed a couple leads on agents. But I've been too sozzled to post until today. I just finished sending a manscript sample to Jah-knows-who, and have other blurbage due by Thursday, so I'll be briefish.

While I was traveling, as a mental break from crime fiction and for-review books, I read Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy's Affected Provincial's Companion: Volume 1. I can report with excessive delight that it's elevated, witty, life-altering, and intermittently naughty besides. Read the New York Times review, though it doesn't emphasize enough for me the lovely textural and graphic qualities of the book, from its spring-green and gilded hardcover and slim, pocket-size to the ambitious charting of what some lowly minds might consider undiagrammable concepts. Deliciously coherent in appearance and content, which is sadly a rarity in much of today's book world, Whimsy deserves credit for first self-publishing this opus. (If I may wax blatheriffic, though something exceptional often faces more difficulties in finding a fit perch, I have to believe the vividness of its plumage will inevitably show itself, and it will be regarded as all the more glorious for being uncompromised.) In addition to the obvious fastidiousness in the text's substance and appearance, each internal element from title scrolls to endpapers has been executed with taste and care, like Lord Whimsy's own manifestation, I must assume. Half a year before this release, I discovered him through his blog (general website here), which among other goodies contains PDF instructions for tying various ties and folding pocket squares. That's the charm of his noblesse oblige, 21st century style. Viva Whimsy!

And, via Eric, if you're not feeling particularly erudite, here's a quickie link to MONK-E-mail. It's addictive fun. Send your own monkey today!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Astronauts in Toe Tags until Saturday

This afternoon, I'll be on my way to Bouchercon, the annual international mystery convention that few have heard of, though that's slightly more than today have heard of influential critic and author Anthony Boucher who posthumously lent it his name. It's smaller in attendee numbers than the big scifi or comic cons (even though Boucher edited the early Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, so props, geeks!), but it'll still amount to thousands of mystery fans and authors and associated industry types.

Under pseudonym H.H. Holmes, which some ghouls may recognize as the name of arguably America's first serial killer, Boucher originally published the novel pictured. It's a locked room mystery starring nun Sister Ursula as an amateur detective helping out the cops, and it boasts perhaps the most awesome cross-genre title ever. Scroll down these reader reviews if you want to learn which of Boucher's pals, the golden-era L.A. scifi authors (including L.Ron H.) he lampoons in the book. Crime and the fantastic once frolicked hand in hand. Why now the estrangement? Ah well, I'll keep my bullhorn handy for conversions. For now, luxuriate in the pulpy coolness.

Due to the widespread and scandalous difficulties in finding hotel rooms, I'll only be in Madison, Wisconsin through Saturday afternoon, missing the awards banquet Saturday night and the wraparound panels Sunday morning. Still, during my brief stint, I'll be volunteering a couple places and attending parties both formal and cozy. I'll be gladhanding like a congressman and doing the Agent Rhumba like mad, trying to find someone receptive to and enthusiastic about my most recent complete manuscript. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tikis and Hoboes and Sherpas, Fer Cry-eye!

Artistic indulgence of inner tiki via Shag's Benevolent Idol.

I'm not tying them all together, forget that, but they will all be present, which is a darn sight further than anyone else has ever delivered on this hydra-headed subject, I'll wager.

Via Arts and Letters Daily, read the history of America's faux-Polynesian movement, a mental Xanadu of the mid-century, still much-beloved by me and known to the world as TIKI!
Note to visitors: Despite the waitresses' thematic bikini tops and hula skirts, Waikiki Wally's cement walls and floors either make it feel authentically like a basement bar, or chilly and

Via That Girl Who Writes Stuff, I found the blog Vonnegut's Asshole where Eric describes why one should not compare the taste of the wine to hobo balls. Read it in its delightful entirety, and then award yourself with the following bonus post. He feels about nefarious and crafty Sherpas the way I feel about the threat from wily Canadians.

The guy who plays the PC in the Mac ads- thankless butt-whupping, right?- is Johnathan Hodgman, and he's written a compendium of all worthy knowledge called The Areas of My Expertise. This pertains, because he includes 700 genuine hobo names like Fatneck Runt and Trixie of the East. Hodgman reads them aloud here with accompaniment, and cartoonists have submitted (multiple) illustrations for all the names at the 700 Hoboes Project at E-hobo.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Sniffly, Sketchy Sawbuck's Worth

The equine sawbuck's from Cowboy Heaven with details on how to outfit for a backcountry packtrip.
Seeing the paper kind, I'm still startled by the new orange.

It's happened again. I've collected so much dross that I have no recourse but a good ole fashioned link dump. Imagining myself reading the blue like a speeding auctioneer, here we go:

1) Via April, exercise your artsiness with Sketch Swap. There's a little pencil you drag around to draw, and after submitting your masterwork, you get one back atcha. The lizard I saw was way cooler than the test mess I submitted.

2) All things sniffly, via Willam Saletan's always-interesting Human Nature column in Slate. Page down through his link-rich environment to find news about cancer-sniffing dogs (perform great), bomb-sniffing pooches (decently), and bomb-sniffing wasps (read it yourself, lazybones).

3) George Washington, Martin Luther King, Pope John Paul II, and Jerry Lewis? Proving why people ought to mock Congress' priorities.

4) Just when we've begun healing over Pluto's lost planetary status, 300 astronomers rip off the scab. These petition signatories disagree vigorously, and hope to bring the subject back up for the IAU's next general meeting in three years. How will closure ever be possible while the parasite of hope yet lives?

5) A scientist provides his explanation for the evolutionary development of superstition, using a murderer's cardigan.

6) I forgot to follow-up here before, but Mayor Daley of Chicago isssued his first veto in seventeen years against the embarrasingly ridiculous big-box minimum wage/benefit ordinance voted by aldermen. There wasn't enough subsequent support to overturn the veto, some aldermen having had second thoughts due to, I assume, the earfulls from their constituencies as well as shellackings by economists and the national media.

7) Another friend forwarded me of an e-mail purporting to be a victim of sharia law enforcement, an 8 year-old having his arm run over by a truck for stealing bread. The pictures were shocking, but didn't look quite right to me, the kid's age seemed off for one thing, and I've become dubious of so much. Anyway, turns out it's a circulating fraud from pictures of a mid-eastern magic act, which was one of my guesses.

9) Still, there are plenty of authentic tragedies at the hands of the anti-modern, anti-civil extremists, such as the sad killing of an Afghan woman who was an outspoken advocate and organizer of women's education and enterprise programs. She was not given bodyguards or physical protection, though she requested them against the many violent threats she received, but she persisted in her work and the Taliban now take proud credit for assassinating Safia Amajan. If societies truly want to see greater opportunity and human rights advancements, they (we) have to take care of the bravest people doing the advancing.

10) I avoid all these meme tag things that propogate like chicken pox in a playground. I won't forward chain e-mails either, no matter how sincere. My view is that some of my best well-wishing for those I know is manifested in my respect for their time and for their own predilections about what to do with it. Still, when Tim Worstall got tagged, I'll admit to being convinced why everything I'll ever want to know can be gleaned from The DaVinci Code.

And this isn't even the whole landfill's worth. I've got at least another latrinefull for tomorrow.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Triangle, Be Damned!

Map image from Mysteries Zone. Good debunks, but also many, nice links to the entertainingly full of bunk.

Can it be the worm has turned? That the months of career silence have just been the warm-up for a building roar? Maybe not, but a couple nice things have happened.

First, I got a rejection from a magazine to which I'd submitted a short story. How's that nice, you ask? First, it came quickly, so I can get on the stick rewriting and/or resubmitting. And, they actually responded with grammatically correct, courteous words on official letterhead, flourished with a human's signature at the bottom. Unbelievable.

It's become the laughable norm that. for some reason, I seem to get blown off completely by people with prestigious professional careers in publishing. We meet, I say please and thank you, we seem to be getting along fine, I send the query package, then my SASE's get harvested for postage (I suspect), and I never hear from them again. Ever. Not after polite follow-ups. Never. I'm treated like an invisible non-entity, undeserving of even a photocopied rejection stub or an e-mail with those three little words: Not For Me. This Bermuda Triangle treatment, sadly, has been common even from nice-seeming people to whom I've been personally introduced, people with whom I've conversed at length about my manuscripts, who asked pertintent follow-up questions and specifically asked me for chapters and everything.

To get a prompt, professional rejection is at least an acknowledgement of receipt (and my existence), and also means I didn't waste the stamp on that SASE at least. I'm going to keep buying copies and will submit to that magazine again. I like the cut of their jib, I do.

In the second nice thing, and this is more obvious, I've finally been published online in an e-literary journal. I announced a while ago that this site had accepted a flash fiction piece of mine, but before it appeared, the site went dormant. For several months. Reverse Bermuda Triangle this time: I didn't disappear, they did. However, surfing today, I discovered the site's been enlivened with two fresh issues, and has also included my little effort.

The second issue of The Angler had a suggested theme of Hallucination. My few hundred words are from the perspective of a trustafarian, or the kind of young celebrity better known for her appearance and ubiquity than substantive talent. It's called Lunch at the Hotel.

And it turns out to be true that late is way better than never. Thanks much, Donovan.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Burgers and Black Tattoos

1) Another review of mine posted at Fantasy Bookspot, this time of Sam Enthoven's young adult novel, The Black Tattoo.

2) Forget the self-serving hype, people know what crap is and is not. Largely (ha!), they want the real junk from their fast food purveyors (bolding mine):

Hassan Ahmed, the manager of the Burger King on Martineau Way in Birmingham, said that his customers were not interested in using the restaurant to pursue the “healthy, balanced diet” endorsed on the company’s website. “We buy in three cases of salad each week. I only order them in because I have to. But we bin most of them at the end of the week because they don't sell... A new generation of “indulgent offerings” for the hungrier American has culminated in the Burger King Stacker Quad: four beef patties, four slices of cheese, four strips of bacon and no vegetables in a bun. It contains 1,000 calories and as much saturated fats as one person should consume in a day and a half, according to US government recomendations...

We listened to consumers who said they wanted to eat fresh fruit,” a spokesman for Wendy’s, an American burger chain, said. “Apparently they lied.”

IMO, Hardee's is the place to go if you really want Suicide on a Bun. May I suggest beating that wimpy BK Quad into submission with a Monster Thickburger? 2/3 pounds off the hoof, heaped with bacon and cheese. We're talking 2740 mgs of sodium and 45 grams of saturated fat. John Wayne's colon will have nothing on you. Coincidence that the Monster was voted City Search's best burger of 2005? I think not. My last huge Hardee's cheeseburger came topped with an extra pile of luscious, onioney cheesesteak. MMMmmm. If only they'd batter-dipped and fried it.

3) People's soft, podgy kids want the crap, too. Not just tastier, but often cheaper than the filings from the cafeteria ladies' nails. Outrage abounds in the comments section.