Friday, March 31, 2006

Tyrants Review Books for Sudafed

Nat White was an illustrator with a special gift for drawing kids who looked like they couldn't wait to grow into the big, strong dictators who get to eat real-live entrails. Via Plan 59, more here and at their Gallery of Demonic Tots.

Reading this back, I feel like I'm in my Lileks phase. Oh well. Onward.

Despite recent crankyness, there's good news, too, that I want to mention:

A few days ago was the first time I really heard the birds singing like crazy. The weather is balmy. The trees are in blossom. I've come up with a graphic novel concept that stretches into multiple books. Strangely, one of my disappearing agents actually asked me if I wrote graphic novels. Then, I didn't. Now I've got one to work up. I'll write it in script form, but I'm also going to try to bang the rust off my drawing to do some character sketches at minimum. Behind on laundry duty, I'm also enjoying the summery feeling of wearing a bathing suit as underwear.

1) Via Publius Pundit: Though Charles Taylor, the fiend of Liberia, is in custody to face trial for his atrocities, Fidel Castro is still alive, despite overly optimistic recent reports of a "biological solution" to Cuba's catastrophes.

2) The Combat Meth Act, inserted into the re-upped Patriot Act, will put all pseudoephedrine and ephedrine-bearing OTC medications behind the counter where you'll need ID to get them and have to sign a log book of purchases. The consumer and public health arguments both obvious and less so against this odiously intrusive act are made well here. 80% of the illegal meth is produced in giant western labs who don't go to the Walgreen's for supplies. Millions of people use these products regulary and safely to treat ongoing conditions, but the CMA doesn't exempt even the forms of the drug that can't be made into Tina. Terrible law. Won't help.

The drug legalization types are beginning to get my ear. Great Odin's ghost knows we've spent enough on all these prohibitions without much improvement to show except a super-violent subculture and a convenient cash funnel for psychos like Hugo Chavez. Now, we'll have new brand new shiny Sudafed logbooks to audit, because government bureauocracy does such an awesome job tracking important things like illegal drivers, fraudulent businesses, identity theft, skipped parolees, dangerous folks with expired visas...

I'm agin addiction, period, but couldn't we just do late night 15-second ads with meth teeth and meth acne and people trying to get the creepy crawlies off them or punding (compulsively repetitive mechanical behaviors)? It would be cheaper, and perhaps more effective, to buy tiny spots during American Idol than all this interdiction.

3) I'm reviewing a book I didn't love. Again. But looking up the author's website for career background, I find he seems like a cool, hard-working guy. I also found he has a kid with a serious health issue which his family is coping with and rustling up serious research donations to cure. Yikes. I would always rather find books to love than things to dislike, but we make promises to review certain books, so I can't avoid doing it and I won't lie.

I don't want to whitewash or trash anyone, so I wish people would just write and publish enjoyable books without exception. However, in my perspective, that's not happening, and it's a plain fact that bad reviews are more entertaining and funnier- like Michael Dibdin's for The Righteous Men, which the original newspaper employing the conspiracy thriller's journalist-cum-author refused to run.

Dibdin's review: This could have resulted in a study of hard moral ambiguities in the John le CarrĂ© manner, but instead the the novel’s spinal column dissolves in a puddle of chicken fat.
It's all good.

But how convenient is it that Jonathan Freedland was allowed to quash the orginal review in his own paper? The Guardian did eventually, perhaps self-defensively, publish a review by Matilda Lisle that wasn't much more affectionate than Dibdin's earlier attempt. And apparently, since Freedland's literary interests remained inadequately lathered by having anyone else suffer through his book, he was allowed later to pen a pointless fluff promo on how he chose his pseudonym. Riveting. More background- if you can stand it- on the obvious back-scratching here.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I'm Working on It, AL !

Via Tim Worstall, make your own inspiration here.

I'm still horribly crabby for a soul with few lasting troubles. Taxes were bad, but not nearly as bad as they could've been. I won't have to prostitute the puppies to perverts. Count that in the Win column.

This morning, however, I spent longer than it took to file the taxes getting the wireless internet back up. My connection sees new connections, gets confused and crowded out. It's always fulfilling to thrash for hours just to get yourself back to where you were at bedtime yesterday. However, in a high-density rental building in a go-go town, one lives in constant, interdependent flux. Enough with cross-planet butterfly monsoons, when someone moves a coffee cup, my apartment explodes. Vigilant repairing and rejiggering is the unceasing adaptation required of hive-dwellers. Did I mention the ongoing pounding of the hammers overhead and the early morning hissing?

Here's some stuff. I'm still unloading some accumulated links You'll be interested or entertained by something. Probably.

1) How the exposure of Preble's not rare or unique mouse got one Rob Roy tossed as a museum curator, inhibits property owners, shuttered small businesses, and costs the state of Colorado millions in building tunnels so the little dears don't have to scurry around ponds, all of which makes people resistant to protecting truly endangered species.

2) To be a good ghostwriter, one must be as intimate as a confessor and as wary as a PR flak.

3) Could a heart transplant from a talented artist change the recipient's clumsy stick figures to skillful draftsmanship?

4) Australian thieves steal crocodile, because the koala was too vicious.

5) Via the Scrivener, insane Connecticut cat under house arrest.

6) This link will let you choreograph your own Dancing Doughboy. Robot and Running Man Lovin' from the Oven.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Eclipse is in Aries, Not Cancer. Why the Crabbiness?

Image like you might have seen in Turkey as part of this archaeological tour.

This is not today's eclipse. I've had trouble finding anything but video as of yet. They probably all look fairly similar from this perspective, but it's the principle. Technical info from NASA here.

According to an astrological expert, this eclipse in Aries is supposed to be moneyriffic for me. Well, I'm going in to get the taxes done this afternoon, and if not too much is owed, I'll consider that windfall enough.

I'm not supercharged. I'm momentarily expended. I've been doing a lot of pimping and contacting and e-mailing lately, trying to stir up some activity with my second manuscript. And it's too soon to know if it's worked, but I have an overhanging anxiety. See, agents with whom I have had extended, face-to-face conversations where they specifically request samples don't respond after receiving them. Nor to the follow-up e-mail. Someone who requested the entire manuscript last year still hasn't responded either, despite multiple follow-up e-mails and the fact that Publisher's Marketplace shows she's back from maternity leave and doing deals. Of the blind queries I sent out last time, a full third never came back in any form.

I know that junior staffs are overwhelmed, overworked, and turn over frequently resulting in erratic mail handling. Thus my follow-up. I know that people are very busy with higher priority things, i.e things that imminently pay the bills. I try to be unfailingly understanding and polite about that in correspondence, though it excuses rudeness that I wouldn't feel comfortable dishing out to anyone but a telemarketer- and I'm even kind to them if I feel they're wasting their potential. It's one thing when I blitz someone with a blind query, the surplus entreaty they never wanted. It's another when we meet, chat, and they request some or all of my work. In that case, surely it must be standard (if not simply humane) to let the scribe know of the unacceptable suckitude in some platitudinous form letter at least.

But that's grousing about an otherwise pretty great life, so I'll stop.

2) Okay, just a little more. Getting sleepy in a 24-hour Wal-Mart for less than two days is not only "brilliant" but merits this kid agency and/or a movie deal? What could he possibly have learned in that drowsy odyssey of the soul that you and I couldn't guess?

3) From Lee Goldberg's blog, anecdotes about aspiring writers:

"Don't try to write what's selling," I said. "Write what you enjoy. Write the story you want to tell."

"The thing is, I don't know how to tell stories," he said. "But I write killer dialogue. Is a story really necessary?"

"Yes," I said.

"You people in Hollywood don't make it easy, do you? That's the problem with the Industry. They are constantly creating obstacles so people can't get in."

Read them all. At least I can claim to have a clue, if no better results.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Immigrant Lark Borrows Criminal Trouble

This is a Meadow Lark via Friends of Adams Farm. I can do AM as required, but I am not this excited about it.

1) This Sun-Times article by David J. Montgomery of the Crime Fiction Dossier blog and Mystery Ink includes nice verbiage on a few authors I knew from Chicago. It's good to see they're all rocking along, even if it makes me passing envious. They've all been working hard at it for years, and for the cop-authors who used to (and I'm sure still do) generously provide law enforcement facts for other writers, I'm pleased to see them doing well. Congrats Dave Case on your debut! Sounds good, and I'll have to check it out. Add it to my teetering tower of the To-Be-Read.

2) President Bill Clinton was recently assigned a chauffeur wanted for deportation since 2000. No problem with INS recordkeeping and follow-up. Really.

3) I was talking with a woman recently who was slightly perturbed the mother of a deceased acquaintance from high school wasn't forthcoming enough with the circumstances of his death to satisfy her curiosity. But how important should that be to a mother who's lost her son? It reminded me of a common current phenomenon where people borrow tangential tragedy as if it's happened to them as an additional badge of victimhood. These people claim the horrors of any acquaintance's life as something happening in their own life, affecting them incredibly deeply. Perhaps. Sometimes. However, Jonathan Yardley properly dismisses the borrowed angst and cultivated trauma of relatives who happen also to be- shudder- memoirists.

4) I am no lark. But as one who spent the first classes of every high-school day in sticky-eyed pain, I applaud this post via The Education Wonks and The Quick and The Ed about the utility of moving HS first period to later in the morning even if it does deprioritize afternoon athletics in favor of academic curriculum.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Don't Know How This Happened

Poopie Pete doesn't share my self-loathing. See item 3 for more about him and his shameless pals.

With a single, classy exception, today's total post is regrettably turd-related. How far I have fallen. I've got to take a shower and slap some sense into myself.

1) There is a new Carnival of Couture at Style Tribe today, and the question was provocative: What was your most significant, personally meaningful fashion purchase? There were a lot of ways to go with it and the answers are great, but I couldn't pick one thing in my mind or understand why. Fiftyrx3 conveys some of my issues:

Hmmm, I am feeling as though I have way too many clothes stuffed in my little closet to pick one thing that was most significant. In some ways it is like asking a world traveler to pick their favorite destination. There are many good answers for a variety of reasons. Is it the pareo I wore almost every day, ten different ways while sailing one summer? Or that bias cut little black linen dress that has been with me to the mountain tops of Oaxaca, Caribbean beaches and rooftop dinners in Barcelona? I have personally bonded with those items, but, while they were versatile, I couldn't really say they were pivotal. Or is it one of those gifts from a special person, your boyfriend's t-shirt or the securtiy [security-sic] blanket aspect of the favorite sweatshirt I am wearing right now? So, you see, I found this task a little daunting.

Read the rest of the thoughtful answers, too, reading here NO FURTHER if the scatological is disharmonious with your disposition or constitution.

2) To show the insufficiency of current cleaning in his facility, in December, the NHS blog doctor put a plastic dog turd under his desk. It's still there, but thank goodness there are expensive computer training programs for cleaning crew and risk tiers to assign levels of acceptable filth.

3) Artist Anna Chambers not only has a blog, with photos of her doodies out and about, but also an online shop for her custom-crafted plush poops with lovingly-appliqued corn-kernel smiles. See to believe.

4) R.I.P. to Buck Owens who with Roy Clark formed the Rowan & Martin of Hee Haw, though with infinitely more musical talent. However, I also keep remembering how a friend often unattractively compared Mr. Owens (and crooner Andy Williams) to "turds with eyes." You know who you are, friend. Thanks for ruining an otherwise respectful mental tribute.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

To Drink, You Ask? Allow Me to Consult My Flip Chart...

Images via BGP site. And, if these graphics don't make it all clear as mud, there's no hope for ye. Just print for reference, and tuck next to your food pyramid, deal-a-meal, and calorie calculator.

Yes, there is another new and bossy org in town, the amazingly named Beverage Guidance Panel. Yes, they're finger-pointing at you, fatty. Yes, they've created more Byzantine schema to provide what they view as long-needed guidance. And yes, they'd simply love to be allowed to oversee- and dare I suggest-dictate what you drink.
From Jon Robison's TCS article on the subject (emphases mine):

As with all externally prescribed diets, this one is long on "less ofs" "shouldn'ts" and "don'ts." Using a graphic of a pitcher instead of the Food Guide Pyramid, the BGS lays out a six-tiered, color-coded, prescriptive approach to determining the daily intake of beverages for Americans... Interestingly, the experts are okay with up to 24 ounces of beer a day for men; considerably more than the permitted 16 ounces of skim milk; and three times the permitted amount of fruit juice allowed...

There are six different levels of beverages. Appropriate quantities for individuals are based not only on their color code, but also on recommended portion sizes. And these portion sizes are based on each individual's percentage of daily caloric requirements (10-15% of total calories). Furthermore, the liberal recommendations for tea and coffee consumption have to be tempered by the amount of caffeine ingested (no more than 400 milligrams per day). Finally, to make matters even more complex, there are actually two sets of guidelines (two separate pitchers) one for suggested beverage consumption and one for acceptable beverage consumption, each with different recommendations for the various levels...

Perhaps one solution the government should consider is mandating that the new BGS be installed on all refrigerators sold to the public. All liquids would be dispensed from an onboard, factory-installed, carefully monitored and computer-controlled central brain. Consumers could either punch in their projected caloric intake for the day or have it implanted in radio frequency identification devices in their hands that would communicate their biometrics to the refrigerator in order to make specific beverage requests...

At lunch, your [you-sic] might ask for a tall glass of milk with your sandwich, and your fridge could respond: "Sorry, (dear), you already used up half your milk quota with your cereal this morning. How about a tall glass of water, or perhaps a can of beer?"

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wonders Natural and Otherwise

Via April. You can see this premature foal named Dove is mighty small, even for a miniature horse. Read about her and see more pics here, but look out for the musical accompaniment.

1) Via Reason, the Silent Penultimate Panel (SPP) Comic Watch. Matt tracks the pregnant pause before the punchsquare in comic strips. Once you've noticed it, you can't stop noticing it. A numbingly small thing to obsess upon? Perhaps. But remember, little things are the hinges of the universe.

2) Via Elgin Tyrell, behold the glories of mudbug season. Mudbugs are those odd crustaceans which some of us call crayfish, crawfish, or in my case, crawdaddies, which we used to be able to fish up almost by the handful in properly muddy Texas shallows. It's one of those things you politely call a local delicacy if you didn't grow up sucking the heads. Like smelt season beginning April 1 in Chicago, where fishermen with barrels will stake out the city's urban harbors for these teeny tiny fish.

3) The NY city animal control has manged to tranquilize a careful coyote who'd been hunting in Central Park. The bridges and tunnels limit their migration to plunder plentiful Manhattan, but in Chicago, where priarie access is wide open, thousands of coyotes live in the city. Even downtown, if you're up late enough, you'll see them slinking around.

4) An enormous, forgotten cache of survival supplies dating from the Cold War has been found beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

5) Via Tim Worstall who got it himself from Normblog, it turns out that radon gas levels spike with the phases of the moon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Three Miss Marples Comically Juggle India and Nigeria

Image sites here, here, and here.

Re: Jury duty. Best possible outcome for my current circumstances. I got into a voir dire situation for a civil case I really can't be impartial about given my past employment and personal background. After explaining to judge and counsel, they sent me back to the jury pool only to find happily they were setting us all free after one day- not three- since there weren't any other new trials beginning this week. The NY state practice is three days or one trial- whichever's longer- then you're immune for 6 years. Since I only did one day, I got a letter to spare me for two years. That's enough time to get today's important to-do's done. So there.

1) Many people prefer Joan Hickson as Miss Marple to the newest Geraldine McEwan version. I like them both for different reasons. Hickson was stolid and very authentically ancient, but I remember her with an occasional sleepiness that sometimes lost me. She was even older than Agatha Christie's Miss M when some of them were made, and according to stories, was tapped as a younger actress by Christie herself as a perfect future Miss M. Geraldine McEwan is, no doubt, spryer than some would like for the role. They keep her slightly more contemporary in appearance than some would like, I'm also sure. The conversion of characters' genders and predilections to please current appetites as well as the backstory of Jane as WWI adulteress is awkward. However, the settings are gorgeously depicted, and there remains a beauty and charm despite the "updates." I even find McEwan's lively, somewhat mischevious intelligence to be an aspect I'm enjoying. Of course, for some, only Margaret Rutherford will do. And you may now have her as well.

2) Why does India still love P.G. Wodehouse, even after so many of Wodehouse's countrymen have moved on?

3) Roger Kimball's idea of the best five comic novels.

4) We've gotten past this month's lunar eclipse, but a solar eclipse is coming March 29th which will appear total in six states of Nigeria. During such events previously, Nigeria has had problems with people rioting and blaming evil actors for the event. The government is taking preemptive action this time to make sure citizens understand what's coming and not to panic when the sun disappears.

5) Via Bonnie, in this video clip Chris Bliss juggles in fascinating choreography to the Beatles. Launch it, get the gist, then go to the last 2 1/2 minutes for max boffo.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

Image via Flak Magazine. I'm sure my attys won't be like Sam Waterson either.

On this day in 1841, Edgar Allen Poe's seminal detective story, Murders in the Rue Morgue, was published. Around this time, many other authors were playing with the form, so there's occasional debate among purists as to who "invented" it first, though Poe must always be acknowledged as the one who made it popular.

However, what's not debatable is that lawyerAbraham Lincoln was a fan, and that his short 1843 story, The Trailor Murder Mystery, was inspired by his own enthusiasm for the form.

Would Abe have ever become President Lincoln had his own writing become successful on its own? Would he or Poe ever have written a blessed thing if they were forced to be up near dawn by the demands of citizenship? Had they been undemocratically herded and manhandled and reduced to the contents of a printed card before serving on modern Jury Duty?

We may never know. I, my friends, am off, praying to survive the oh-so-fine-and-langorously slow grinding of the wheels of Justice.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof Is On Fire!

This dancing firebug courtesy of Brad Templeton's photos from Burning Man.

So not the roof exactly. The vacant apartment on the floor above mine. Why? Because a contracting tool forgot to turn off his sanding tool after knocking off for the night. By seven, the burned-out motor ignited a small fire which, since my own hovel shares a bathroom vent with the one above, filled the apartment with the haze of smoke.

The smell came first. Wiring then burning leaves, the sander motor igniting then the splinter-garden parquet veneer, I assume. I smelled it while on the phone with a friend from Chicago, whom I confidently assured it was one of those odd, fleeting annoyances, like the sirens I hear from other people's tragedies. I was wrong. Our building, our fire. Our floor's hallway was as usual, though I heard clomping on the stairs. I got the dogs and myself to skeedaddle down the 28-floors of stairwells, but when I opened my apt. door again, an 8-foot tall fireman told me and my neighbors whose heads had also poked out to stay where we were. This because it was a very small fire. Comforting that.

In a surreal scene provided to us high-density and high-altitude dwellers, I went out onto my balcony and watched the gradual reduction of smoke billowing from the apartment windows directly above my own. No water shooting out or anything more dramatic. Just gray clouds of smoke snuffed down to nothing.

A friend, stuck down in the lobby after coming home from work, told me that about a hundred residents were massed there and weren't being allowed back up. Firemen blocked the elevators. But within ten minutes of his call, I saw four firefighters waiting in my hallway for a ride down, and it seemed like things were wrapping up. They told me the about the sander motor overheating. Something like that had seemed a distinct possibility given the endless grinding and banging noise coming from that unit daily. I must briefly give my friend in Chicago credit for presciently declaring "Contractor Negligence" before hanging up to allow me to investigate the smell. This was before the facts were known. Before we knew how far the fire would go. Nowhere, thankfully.

My biggest bummer is that I've been living under the sanders and pounding for more than a week, and if I have any skills, they're at dealing with this kind of racket though I don't love it. From my time here (and during a lengthy condo rehab in Chicago), I've learned to work and drowse through the cacophany of Hephaestus' forge, but now, with the fire damage, set the clock right back to zero on the project upstairs. New York's everlasting construction and rental rehab is best for people with regular jobs who get home after things get quiet. I'd get one myself, but my friend reported one of his office's ventilation fans blew out this morning, too, leaving the whole place reeking like an arson at The Little Mermaid's. Incinerated, cubicular fishiness.

Happy St. Paddy's Day, ya'll. May we all survive it, and may I grab my share of corned beef before the streets of my neighborhood are hot and cold running drunks. Slainte!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Brown's Tranny Widow Dogs Real Estate Market

I forgot to mention that Ephemera Now is officially Plan 59, and they no longer require you to be a beret-wearing art director to browse. This is my dream house, provided it compacts itself down to suitcase size so I can throw it in the trunk and skeedaddle during monsoon season. Still...item 4 for extended ranting.

Thursday Means Yummy Pot Luck!

1) I haven't thought that the Dan Brown trial would amount to much, but I am interested that his hitherto uncredited wife Blythe, conveniently an art historian, seems to be the engine behind much of the research and content of the Da Vinci Code. Perhaps she prefers anonymity, but if D.B. later finds a 23-year old Associate Editor who really "understands him," she may regret her low profile.

2) Many widows feel better in 6 months. It's astounding how many years it's taken for people with decent coping skills and an appreciation for the good they've gotten from life to convince the psychological profession they aren't unfeeling monsters or in dangerous denial.

3) A lovable pooch helps swing the sale of a house and stays with the new owners. I consider my own dogs property-pushing cute, but I rent.

4) Finishing the MSNBC real estate links, here's a story about what a million will buy housewise in various parts of the country. In the Northeast, Manhattan is only second to Suffolk County in price bloat. Here, property prices have risen 53% in the last three years and people at local median income can't afford about 90% of the property. Here's the 5,000 square foot tropical manse you can still get in South Florida for a cool stick. In Manhattan, here's the 2-bed/2-bath with parquet veneer and motel-style HVAC you can get for the same, but it has a bonus terrace and a $2400 monthly maintenance. Such a deal.

5) The incandescent Simon Doonan remembers when being a tranny was a good time. I remember when lots of stuff in today's diagnosis-laden, hypergrim, smell-my-victimhood chic was fun and funny. Nowadays, it seems people can't be outrageous at all without pitifully self-destructing. How I've mourned the lingering Death of Eccentricity.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Latest Book Review and Other Linkage

When I think links, I think pork. I wants me this Loosiana Porkpie. See Hats of Meat photo gallery.

1) My latest book review, for Charlie Huston's Caught Stealing, is probably posted over at Mystery BookSpot, although major site revamping is underway which may cause hiccups. It will eventually show up as a link on the front page, too, but you can easily search by author, title, or Henway (associate reviewer) to find it right away if you're crawling out of your skin in anticipation.

At NY Comic-Con, which Huston attended in support of the Marvel comic series Moon Knight he's also writing, I asked him which novel he wanted me to read and review for Bookspot. His first was the one he chose. I hope that doesn't mean he's slacking, because my next read from him will be his latest, a vampire P.I. series debut. I'll finish that one off right before I buttonhole him for a Bookspot interview that will-no doubt-help him elucidate the overlapping themes and intentions of his genre-straddling to our eager readership. Fair warning, Huston, get all charming and voluble.

2) And you'll have to read my review, if you want to know how it relates to this surreal musical produced by a North Korean who funded it using his left kidney as collateral with a loan shark.

3) Of course, via the apostropher, my new review has nothing to do with the most unexpected-looking twins since Schwarzenegger and DeVito.

4) Nor with James Patterson, who Time reports is unrepentantly content as a clockwork machine of commercial fiction collaboration. I envy more than judge, JP.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cutting Loose Today's Must Have Accessory

Images from here and here

Considering the topic of the "must have" accessory for the upcoming seasons, the first thought that occurred to me seems risky given the latest Carnival of the Couture is hosted by the eminent Bag Snob.

My necessity is an anti-accessory that I will wield in the cause of health, beauty, and freedom. I must have a pair of pocket snippers sharp enough to cut away the blight of gigundous bags currently weighing down natural loveliness all over the borough. As creators and consumers wallow deeper and deeper into a trend, some inevitably reach the outer extremes which are also invariably ridiculous. Remember the mutton chop sleeves so propped with starchy facing as to block one's earholes and grant young beauties the profiles of glitter-plaid vultures?

As if I needed to be reminded how boringly "done" so much of the current look is, I just watched the 1978 hit movie Foul Play. In it, Goldie Hawn wore the floppy long bangs, the peasant-style dress, capelet wrap with fabric flowers, halter dress, and printed skirts. She played a librarian, so these were toned-down, movie-stylist versions. Not too offensive really, and usually cute on her. The only big difference was that unlike today's desire for several visible, lacy layers of foundation, beneath her diaphanous fabrics, at least on top Goldie was girly commando. Rocking the pertness old-school.

Goldie carried a hobo bag, too, but it was sensibly sized. Probably the last one that existed. I expect the warmer seasons of 2006 to bring more (yawn) derivative boho, and ever-increasing bloat of the busy, bedazzled, studded, multi-flapped, draw-stringed, chain-linked, and dangling object-bedecked suitcases that are already dragging down delicate arms, giving nubile youth a deluxe sneak preview into sagging shoulders and arthritic elbows.

The mass of bags, slings, and packs have gotten too darned big, ya'll. I'd happily employ a pleasant hovering robot to carry my stuff while I perambulate and skip between destinations, as light in heart as my loafers. But I'm not shlepping the entire contents of a desk, closet, and vanity on my back or forearm. Perhaps that's just my super Kung Fu talking. After all, I routinely dare the hardships of urban Manhattan for hours with merely a wallet and lip gloss.

On today's colossal accessories, ornamental metal armaments are clanking hazards, bruising the owner and fellow travelers on the sidewalks and subways, and the gals can't find merde in the cavernous recesses. Half the time, the narrow shapes in stilettos I see struggling under them are already as unsteady as Lucy in a showgirl's headdress. This isn't elegant liberation, it's subservience. If you are lucky enough not to have to haul water or food for miles for daily subsistence, please rejoice. Carrying even a very expensive potato sack makes you look like an overworked peasant doomed to die young of the consumption.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Aw G, What Luddite Doesn't Get That?

Image via KT's Cartoons

Via LGF, here's the Sci-Tech Today article with the scoop:

The upshot is that "Do No Evil" Google, who feels righteous about helping China censor its people from even searching for bummer words like "democracy" or "Falun Gong" (much less organizing) is simultaneously helping those rad boys at Al Queda recruit new non-Arab blood. At the many Bin Laden message boards on Orkut, a service owned and run by the Big G, you can view footage of terrorist carnage for which posters claim responsiblity and get the whole sales pitch for the matching team shirts and targeting innocents for murder.

Well, who can't understand that? It's as no-evilley and hypocrisy-free as can be. The terrorist market is too big a market niche to ignore. Ditto the Communists. I hope perhaps Google Satellite will add a service where Castro and Mugabe can actually see the locations of dissidents from the sky, so they can more efficiently pinpoint who to torture.

Sure, I'm a capitalistic, progress-friendly, libertarian-leaner. But as such, I suppose I feel a little defensive of the principles of freedom of thought and action, maybe especially in parts of the world that don't have such assurances bolstered by culture and law. Perhaps that's the reason why I misguidedly think that regressive, misogynist thugs shouldn't get to take advantage of the best stuff developed within free, progressive societies to send us all back to the Dark Ages?

My Bad, Google.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Who's Fakin' It? Not Eye.

Before and After from Top to Bottom. See item 5 for links to Eric Grohe's transformative murals.

UPDATE: Thanks, apostropher, for linking and highlighting to a bigger crowd the coolness of Grohe.

Although I have always admired trompe l'oeil, contrary to my memory, Blogger search says I haven't posted on it. To fix my insufficiency and provide the eye candy:

1) If you haven't seen this sidewalk art bouncing round the blogosphere over the last couple days, here's the fun, poppy work of Julian Beever via Impact Lab who labels it 3D Art to make the idea seem brand new, I guess.

2) Because she's an art history gal, Martha of Your Daily Art, isn't be fooled by any new-fangled name for a tradition dating back to the Greek and Romans. Recently, she posted William Harnett's work from 1888, titled Mr. Hulings' Picture Rack.

3) Another 19th century pictorial pretender was John Frederick Peto.

4) It looks like the Italy's Pictor Academy teaches three-year studies in the form. Going down the list of students, clicking on the starry bombs next to the names reveals examples. There are traditional and even funny ones including monsters or cartoon ghosts. Of course, including too much that looks frozen or caricatured can blow the effect. One I think particularly nice is by Teresa Figliola, mostly because the landscape beyond the arches is well done. (I'm guessing it was misfiled since it's the last bomb next to Claudia De Figueiredo's name. How administrative ineptitude foils greatness.) My all-around favorite was Cristina Longo's half-open, wooden window.

5) Another great artist who I've been meaning to highlight works in enormous scale. Eric Grohe reconceives entire facades of multi-story buildings with incredible skill and detail. His whole gallery is nice to browse, and his style has the monumental, Americana feel of a State or even World's Fair installation. In the project above, he actually had 80 local citizens pose for the smaller human figures within this promenade. And check out the permanently sun-soaked revelry now happening in this Ohio alley.

Now, I've got genuine chapter editing to do and a couple of reviews to write. My own fraud is posturing like I'm creating a lot of original content, when I'm just crosslinking like a mad thing. Expect more short-shrift posts with links to my other articles in the days to come. Gotcha!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ego Surfing or Just Finding Myself?

When I myself am territorially ego surfing, besides this financial system consultant and questionable online P.I. series, I also land on outdoor furniture and Norm Gabrowski's apparently legendary, macked-out C-Cab "Henway" truck. At last, I am rocked.

I'll freely admit to getting this idea from the occasional search string postings (which I couldn't find today) by Samantha Burns. Maybe next, I'll copy her by infiltrating the nation to my south for overthrow, too.

Anyhoo, one of the joys of a mixed bag of blog is creating so many paths to my door. Below are recent searches from the last 100 entities who found Sense of Soot. Asterisks represent multiple searches on the same topic, and I'll also highlight the perennial favorites in purple. If you want to see the posts, plug the text string into your favorite engine and browse on, ya'll.

Understandable Confusion
STARS Soot Trap
Soot Decomposition
Soot Joke
Do it Myself Wash Clothes from Soot

Wild World of Wonders
Nile Monitor Lizard in Sanibel Florida
Over 27 million Bedbugs
Iceburg Melting
Nutria Dam Boring

Human Science
Ravens Test *
Pictures of Parts of the Human Body Which Contain H2O
Spontaneous Sex Change
Transvestite Adolescence Problem
Post Electrocution Syndrome
Gender of Text
Canadians Pronouciation [of] Sorry

Cult of Personality
Eugenides Cape Cod Room (author Jeffrey who likes eating at Chicago's Drake Hotel)
J.A. Konrath (author and blogger)
PundyHouse (blogs of blook author)
Jasmin Shokrian (clothing designer)
Eolo Perfido (photographer)
Walter Kirn Slate (author serializing online)
Jenni Kayne * (clothing designer)
Thomas Kincade * ("Painter of Light")

and Tobias Buckell (who actually commented on last Wednesday's post and offered me a book to review, thus confirming everything I said about how on-top-of-this-stuff he is)

News, Culture, and Who Knows What?
Waterboy Shots 3 Pointers
Transparent Dress*
Vocation Obsession
Storm Novena
Examples of Sassy
Funny Viewable Manuscripts
Scary Differences
Competitive Eating (always yields hits- thanks, Larry)
Indian Midget Wrestlers African Lion (this popular hoax is evergreen)

But the no-contest, biggest search generator of hits here every week -hits which I'd be happy to forfeit, since I know the searchers must inevitably be disappointed- is the name of the blonde teen who went missing from a Dutch-governed island. I misspelled it in a post, not as Gnat-a-Lea Haul-A-Way, but making a far more predictable error. The tide rolled in. And rolled. And trickles even today.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What's Working for the Scribes of the Revolution?

Via BookLust, Hadas Leviner's photos of these gorgeous towers of books from The Israel Museum's Beauty and the Book exhibition.

Online P.R. megaphones, viral marketing, serials, e-Readers with downloadable content, Print-on-Demand, blooks? What, if anything's, working for fiction authors trying to get read?

Starting backwards, blooks are blog entries which get edited (we hope) and collected and perhaps paired with images before being printed in hardcopy as books. is one place to do this, and others are also listed in this Times article via Grumpy Old Bookman. But also spreading today are online serialized novels which may later- the author must hope- get picked up for hardcopy publication such as the one Publisher's Lunch recently announced:

Starting next week, Slate will serialize an online novel, being written and posted in "real time," by Walter Kirn. Portions of THE UNBINDING, "a dark comedy set in the near future, is a compilation of "found documents"-online diary entries, e-mails, surveillance reports," will appear about twice week, through June. Kirn retains print rights.

An e-innovator, Stephen King posted downloadable story installments of The Plant online in 2000, but not enough people (75% target) contributed the dollar per chapter he intially requested, so he changed his terms, and finally the experiment was halted after 6 chapters. The Slashdot article's author, Jon Katz, also notes:

Lost in the Net hysteria is the fact that non-virtual books are a powerful technology themselves. They are easy to buy, and don't require tech support, batteries or upgrades. You can read them in toto, anywhere you want, even when the power goes out, and they are impervious to viruses and other tech bugs. They can be passed along to others and last a long time. Those are strong selling points.

SIDETRACK ON E-READERS: I'd add that in addition to robustness, the problem of illustrations hasn't ever been well-handled, and many of us care about covers and pictures and font choices as part of the overall experience. A $400 book reader is significantly less lendable and sharable (totally unsuitable for bookcrossing). And with the traditional book form, unlike most modern electronic technology, even partial destruction doesn't cripple the function. Torn covers and smudged pages don't impact a book's essential utility, and even major destruction can be easily augmented from another copy without diminshing either one- photocopy, tape, and the intellectual content is largely restored.

We're remastering the earliest audio tapes to make sure we don't lose the content to the media's limitations, and you'll have trouble finding a working player for your thirty year-old 8-tracks, but we're still reading papyri from 5 millenia ago. Attempting overthrow of such a tenacious and beautiful technology, especially for the developing world, is a lousy idea. But augmentation, well, that's something different. For example, I'd love for doctors in remote locations to have a gigantic, updated medical library right in their hands. For extensive reference in a small package, the e-reader is a brilliant idea. But without the tangible, varied, and evocative aesthetics of real books, e-readers won't be communicating via their spines and covers, triggering conversations on the train or in the office, and they won't serve as items of decor or collection or artistic craftsmanship. SIDETRACK ENDED.

Much more recently, also via GOB, I came across this story of the author Bill Liversidge who actually offers an award for people providing reviews of blooks, including but not necessarily his own. He now calls his online-launched novel "the most expensive book ever written."

Via Miss Snark, this author, understandably masking her identity as POD-dy Mouth, made a year-long project of reading tons of POD books to establish their general quality or lack of same. Read her detailed stats here, and reviews, too, if you're braver.

Another of the new trends uses online networking mainly as a promotional tool for a traditional book. Here, I'll mention Tobias Buckell, who I met at the Pajamas Media launch, who was that day leveraging the opportunity to find every futurist and/or scifi fan as a potential reviewer for his book Crystal Rain. I was not asked, but I'm choosing to believe it was because of the punyness of the SOS soapbox (I wasn't with Bookspot then) rather then any intrinsic unworthiness.

To his credit and with much attention and energy I'm sure, he built his own blog up to 1,000+ readers/day, and the kind words and crosslinking from bigger sites must help sales, too. He also posts excerpts online, but I believe for a debut, Tor must be thrilled that he's getting so much positive attention. After joining Bookspot, site admin Damon said that although he'd never heard of Buckell, many of the reviewers had been interested in being assigned the book and he didn't know why. Because this promotion was happening in varied, not purely scifi/fantasy sites, Damon probably wouldn't have seen all the instances. As an interested spectator, I saw a ton of friendly mentions and believe this will pay off for him (if the story supports it) in royalties, foreign rights, and future book deals.

There seems to be an ever-growing list of not-yet famous authors who are blogging about their experiences with publishing. It's a service to other authors and of interest to existing fans, but must also provide warm, acquainted feelings for potential readers. It does for me. Or perhaps, instead of running your own site, you might use AmazonConnect like this guy to build your audience and link to your other work.

Oh, it's not electronic, but what about the humble bookseller who can be responsible for suggesting (hand selling) heaps of titles that he or she likes from authors they like. The Independent's advice in this, as in all interpersonal interactions even faceless electronic ones, is BE NICE.

Some of these strategies will work for some of those authors using them, and it's an undoubted boon for people who are most mobile in electrons for purposes of networking and promotion. Still, I think the eye of the electronic needle is as small as the old-fashioned one after all, and although niches get easier to find, it's the content and the fates that will make big successes not the format.

As for me? I'm going to keep doing whatever writing makes the most sense to me at the moment, become involved in whatever revolution seems like the most fun for the long haul, pray for the blessings of luck and talent, and Tx to Bonnie, give myself a Virtual High Five.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Taliban or Nazi? Whatsa Matzo?

Image from Black Table, a matzo ball soup guaranteed to make the "bubbes kvell and the shiksas plotz".

Quickie today- on my way out.

You may have been reading about the Big Taliban on Campus at Yale. If not, juicy and comprehensive background here.

Sure, he left behind his wife and 4 or 5 children in Afghanistan and we haven't heard boo about how they're doing. Sure, there might be other entrants with more than a fourth-grade education and high school equivalency who've actually taken the SATs. (I don't begrudge the talented if their unconventional CVs don't measure up, but they eventually ought to prove their intellectual fitness somewhere measurable.) Sure, there were doubtless other eager candidates who were not endorsed, traveling spokesmen for a female-stoning-and-finger-chopping and suicide-inducing/gay-crushing/Buddha-destroying regime of regressive sadists, but what's a little unrepentance and ongoing apologetics between friends. 2 things I find interesting:

- SNL hasn't done a skit on it yet, and I hope they don't puss out on the glorious opportunity. Horatio, I'm already hearing your lousy MidEast accent in my heart.

- Rahmatullah now especially likes to eat at the Jewish Center, an edifice that under Taliban rule would be a smoking crater posthaste.

Further reading this about how various prison gangs like NeoNazis are openly scamming as orthodox Jews for Kosher mealtimes, there's only one conclusion possible:

Whether you're a medieval fascist or modern-style hater, you still gotta bow down to the mad skills of the Jewish nanas poultrywise. Matzo ball or noodles?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Painter of Light or Pee-er of Spite?

I do find art like this craptastic, but then how do I defend my affection for Currier and Ives?

From the LA Times Via ALDaily : He may be a bad business partner, and I feel sympathy for the bankrupted, but I refuse to believe I'm the only one laughing my flaps off at the thought of Thomas Kincade, "Painter of Light," territorially urinating on Winnie the Pooh and drunkenly disrupting a Sigfried and Roy show by repeatedly yelling "Codpiece, codpiece!"

Friday, March 03, 2006

I Hope You Get the Chance to See Vito After

Image of Detective Vito Friscia via Dreamslate Productions site.

Perhaps you're not sure you're ready for a documentary with 9/11 at its heart. I wasn't completely sure, but I thought I might be. So, I went to the sneak preview of Vito After held especially for Mystery Writers of America, and I was really glad. Vito After deals with tough subjects, but with a light touch. I thought it was absolutely terrific, very high quality, and I hope it will be picked up somewhere for national distribution. People will be fascinated.

Detective Vito Friscia is a Brooklyn homicide detective who scrambled to the WTC on 9/11 and then spent months at Fresh Kills landfill frantically looking for remains and personal items in an attempt to provide concrete identification of victims for their families. After such intense, lengthy exposure to toxic debris, he's developed what cops nicknamed the WTC cough, but he's not pointing fingers. In fact, he and his brother cops are exactly what you imagine and want them to be: wisecracking, stoic, and loyal. Friscia's sister-in-law, Maria Pusateri, is the filmmaker following him over two years as he takes up his normal life interspersed with physicals he doesn't want to learn about consequences he'd rather ignore.

There's a hilarious scene where he's filling out a medical questionnaire at light speed, answering "Not At All" to every impairment from mental to respiratory to sexual. Pusateri asks him if he thinks all the cops answer the same way. "Yeah," he says, implying "of course." If the doctors want to show something's wrong with him, they'll have to prove it with a chest X-ray. He's not offering them any sob story, and his approach is typical of many of the heroes of that day. We see inside his family life, where the humor and love for them that Vito uses to cope is on display along with his mental toughness and willingness to trust fate. The portrayal of his psychological journey is strong, but the physical issues so many are suffering quietly is the revelation of the film.

All of NYC's 7,000+ detectives rotated through Fresh Kills sometime during the I.D. phase. All September and October, there were no days off, and often after Vito's 12-hour shifts, he'd volunteer to stay for an extra 8. He was not the only one. What makes the impact of his current circumstances even stronger is the documentary's simple, clear focus on Vito's specific story and its lack of easy conclusions or accusations. The country was subjected to a previously undreamed horror on September 11th. Vito and others who lived and worked around the debris were also in unimagined territory. Despite lingering symptoms that don't seem to improve with time and which are slowly debilitating some of his fellow cops, Vito doesn't regret the way he spent his days after 9/11. "....I would do it again. I would do it a hundred times if I had to do it, if I felt I could give anybody closure in their life."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Ultimate Dinner Party is Starved for Hats

For images not linked within post, see here, here, and the fantastic Knotts shrine at World of Cheese.

Verbal Croquis' topic for the latest Carnival of Couture: You are throwing a little dinner party in your apartment featuring fashion glitterati, past or present, dead or alive.

At this tear-stained moment, I would invite Sir Don Knotts, Sir Darrin McGavin, and Sir Dennis Weaver (who I'm posthumously knighting) to join me for a very casual supper on a mild night outside on the palazzo where they might discuss as men and actors the importance of headcoverings to characterization in an environment where we all might wear a favorite hat.

Perhaps it's because we've lost such iconic television personages recently. Perhaps it was my previous fashion post referencing Lemmy's hat while making the point about choosing not to treat fine apparel as disposable. I now realize I missed a couple of arguments.

1) My disappointments in the current scene of high-end garment consumers are not just about disregarding craftsmanship or failing to maximize worthy successes through repetition. It is simply that for the wearer, today fashion and style can often be mutually exclusive. Gadfly fashion-switching can't be done by anyone wishing to be considered to have style, because style always reflects a consistent assertion of choice. Anyone ditching their looks daily and wheedling from whatever designer's handy can't hope to create a style. What's hot (or even haute) may never be worn by someone of well-regarded, signature style, but style and not trend is what makes a legend. The styles above are singular, but do you think of them as fashion?

2) There are so many current instances of accessory abuse. Petite, young faces behind Harry Carey windshields of sunglass, tramp's bags festooned with knots and fishooks dragging off their arms while slender legs slog around in wooly mammoth stumps. But other than the rappers who- sorry- frequently look worn by their pimp outfits not vice versa, what has happened to the vocabulary of the fine topper? In the modern era, it's almost a joke, witness the Oliver Twist and endless baseball caps. But why should it be? Has the sun ceased to shine or the rain to fall? All of the men above became famous for signature roles defined, at least in part, by their hats. From McCloud to Kolchak to Barney Fife. The Incredible Mr. Limpet, in a DVD which I heartbreakingly and presciently purchased a couple of weeks age, wears two different sweet chapeau. If Mr. Furley sports a toupee, it's at least a headcovering, and it certainly conveys much about the wearer.

Having grown up in Texas, when buying a cowboy hat, I know that every choice was conscious and meant something. Felt or leather, flat or creased crown, the bend in the brim, what color and material of banding, not to mention after-market feathers and/or pins. The hat was made to last, to reflect and reinforce its wearer, and it telegraphs lots of information to those who read the language. Via Tim Blair, if you want to read about artistry, read about the painstaking detail involved in crafting a reproduction of Kolchak's hat, the Nightstalker.

In the old movies, front brims up indicated youth or goofiness. Guys tilted their brims down to avoid someone, pushed them up in surprise, removed or refused to remove their lids as an indication of how they felt about their company, slammed them on their heads in determination, crushed and threw them around in nervousness and jubilation and rage. Women's hats had veils and feathers. Nora Charles' became the source of jokes in The Thin Man movies. Katherine Hepburn's was functional but bedraggled, telling the hard story of The African Queen. All that fantastic body English and potential for style and expression is gone. Impossible now, when the total picture's forgotten. The camera simply zooms in for extreme close-up while someone blinks. No wonder the canny Madonna's wearing mink eyelashes.