Friday, December 30, 2011

Free Ink Squiggles on Smashed Wood Pulp

The generous souls at Ravenna Press headquarters in New York or Paris or Spokane or wherever are giving away a brand new, free, unscribbled-upon-by-small-children copy of my book, Magnificent Mistakes, via Goodreads. If you want in on this action, click here, then find the "enter to win" button somewhere around the middle of the page. (While you're there, would you please add my book as one you want to read? Thanks. You're a peach.) Or, if you'd rather cut to the chase and buy a copy, you can make your purchase at Ravenna Press or Amazon. Come to think of it, skip the corporate big guy and go straight to Ravenna Press. As I said, they are generous souls. They deserve material rewards. Plus, I get a bigger slice that way, too. And you get a book! We all win.

Or, for a signed copy of Magnificent Mistakes, send me an email and we'll work out the details. I've gotten pretty Paypal savvy in the past few months. I also take good, old fashioned paper checks. Happy reading in the new year! Thanks for supporting a small, independent press and one of its authors.

The Birds of Leaving Call

It's official. I'm quitting Facebook and fantasy football, as of this weekend. This has been a long time coming. One year ago tomorrow, on the verge of leaving Facebook, I conjured up what turned out to be a fantastic project. It arose from a discussion with my friend Axton, probably here on this blog (which was largely abandoned as a result of the project). So I launched a Facebook group called "P.I.G.S.T.Y.2011," or the Project for the InterGenerational Swapping of Tunes in the Year 2011. I invited some friends. Axton did too. Our friends invited more. The group grew to around 120 members by year's end, yet the project stayed manageable. The sheer volume of songs posted in the group overwhelmed some members (and, I suspect, they considered many to be lesser-quality songs), but I found it a warm and engaging conversation about music past and present. Anyway, I imagine this makes fascinating reading for precisely no one but me, so I'll move on.

Suffice it to say that P.I.G.S.T.Y.2011 enabled my already established Facebook addiction. I could rationalize Facebook visits in the name of sharing music. Inevitably, though, I got sucked into reading friends' status updates or clicking on interesting news links, and following the endless stream of clever, viral, sloganeering graphics. Oh, and I am hooked on the little red boxes that flash when anyone clicks "Like" on one of my posts or comments. You know the drill. Facebook is addictive.

This is not news to me. Here I am, a couple years ago, talking about the same things, yet apparently not ready to quit:


Around the time I joined the book of face, I also got hooked on fantasy football. For those not in the know, it's a stats-based game in which each player picks a team of all-stars and lesser stars from around the NFL. Each league typically has ten or twelve teams, and the manager whose all-star team performs the best wins. Usually. This game appealed to my inner sports geek. Hell, it brought that geek roaring back to life. As a child, I collected and traded baseball cards, followed the Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers religiously (seriously--they were the closest thing to religion in my life, back then), and tracked league leaders in batting average, passing yardage, etc. Though I've heard rumors that fantasy baseball can be even more fun, I stuck with football. And, competitive as I am, I really got into it. I started tracking NFL news five, six, seven days a week. In year two, I joined nine leagues. (Nine!) Last year I scaled back to three. This season, two. And in the past two years I've won three of five leagues and finished second in another. I'm a fantasy champ. Hooray for me.



Over the course of four years, I devoted countless hours to that stupid game. I saw grown men engage in flame wars that occasionally escalated into full-on cyber-bullying. In some leagues, arguments broke out over the dumbest things. I didn't do any flaming or bullying, but I sometimes got as angry as the next guy. And, as I said, I threw myself fully into the competition. At times, the first thought in my head when I woke was something like this: What can I do, right now, to strengthen my fantasy team? I'd hop out of bed before dawn just to scour the news sites and player pools for an edge. I cringe to think what I might have accomplished if I had devoted that time and energy to, say, my own writing. Or to reading books. Or to meditation. Or to reducing clutter around my house. Or to making money. Or to reducing world hunger.


Plus, there's the whole worshipping-false-idols angle. Sports stars tend to be, by and large, out-of-touch, rich, spoiled jerks. Sure, there must be many exceptions. No doubt a lot of them set up charities and do socially constructive work. But, generally speaking, professional jocks do not seem to be the kind of people I'd want to hang out with. Nor do I look up to them. Nor would I want them running the world in which I live. Here, for instance, is LaDainian Tomlinson's answer when asked whether he would play another season for the New York Jets at the league minimum salary for a veteran:
"I've got kids, man," he said with a laugh. "I mean, I don't know. It would be hard for me to do that. It's never been about the money for me. It really hasn't."
It's not about the money? Then why scoff at $925,000 for a single season's work?! I've got kids, too, and I make fairly near the median income in my state. It would take fifteen or twenty years for me to earn what Tomlinson could make as a second-string player on a team he seems to enjoy. And his attitude is typical of pro jocks. So why follow their careers so closely? Why give a damn about whether Tomlinson or Marion Barber or Ricky Williams or whoever might revive his season the right matchup? I have given way too much of my life to professional sports. It's sickening.



So, near the top of my list of New Year's resolutions, I vow to quit Facebook, cold turkey, for a minimum of three months. After that, I hope I will have the will to stay away. And--though the actual decision looms months in the future--I'm vowing now to take a pass on fantasy football in 2012 and beyond.

If I'm wise, I'll never look and back.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to Argue for Occupy Wall Street

When G.O.P. strategist and wordsmith-in-chief Frank Luntz advises Republicans, I listen. Why? Because every piece of advice he gives them reveals the winning arguments that he (and they) fear most. In this case, it's especially interesting, because, rather than giving anti-Democratic talking points, he's giving anti-Occupy Wall Street talking points.

Yahoo News just published a list of Luntz's tips to the Republican Governors' Association on how to talk about Occupy Wall Street. You can click through and read those, of course. Luntz and the Republicans in power have a lot on their minds. Here I'll flip Luntz's points on their heads to identify the perhaps obvious but effective rhetorical strategies one can use in Favor of the Occupy Wall Street movement:


1. Talk about "capitalism." As Luntz says, the public still prefers capitalism to socialism, but people generally believe that capitalism is immoral. It is.

2. Argue for "taxing the rich." It's the right thing to do, and it's fair. Luntz would have us believe a just tax rate for those who can afford to pay more amounts to theft. If anything, they are the thieves, and they have gotten away with it for far too long.

3. Fight for the "middle class." That's a fight Republicans know they can't win, which is why Luntz wants to change the subject to "hard-working taxpayers."

4. Talk about jobs. Luntz says Republicans shouldn't talk about "jobs" because people don't want jobs--they want careers. And in some narrow sense he may be right. So why not talk about careers, too? Employment is a lose/lose topic for Occupy Wall Street's opponents.

5. Talk about the value of a social safety net. Luntz would have everyone believe that government does nothing but waste taxpayers' hard-earned money. Emphasize the humane potential of a system where everyone could have access to health care, food, and career opportunites--you know, like most people do in the rest of the industrialized world.

6. Don't give in. In this instance, Luntz advises Republicans not to talk about "compromise," because it's seen as selling out and giving up. And on this, he may be right. Occupy Wall Street does not need to compromise with Wall Street. Why would anyone accept a "compromise" in a call for justice and fairness?

7. When a Republican says, "I get it," don't believe her. She favors G.O.P. policies in response to the problems highlighted by Occupy Wall Street. Those policies got us here in the first place. They're not suddenly the solution.

8. Talk about entrepreneurs, big business, and corporate fat cats. They're the ones with the most to fear from a movement toward economic justice; and they're the ones widely viewed as exploiting the rest of us.

9. Emphasize sacrifice. We have all made sacrifices in this economy--well, almost all of us. Wall Street firms still report record profits. CEO's still rake in massive salaries and bonuses that send executives around the world into fits of envy. The big boss at Wal-Mart allegedly makes $16,000 per hour. It's time for the 1%--especially the top tenth of that one percent--to share in the sacrifice.

10. Keep the focus on Wall Street. When Republicans try to change the subject to Washington and the Obama administration, remind people who pulls Washington's strings.


Sound good? It should, because this list is exactly what Frank Luntz does not want people to hear.

-----

And while you're here, please support my small business. It's so small, in fact, that it's just me and my friend George.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ten Reasons to Occupy this Shirt

A lightning bolt of inspiration struck my friend George recently, and he conjured up this shirt. In turn, he had about fifty of them made. They exist. Now we want to sell them. That's where you come in. Here are ten reasons to buy this T-shirt:


1. An inexpensive Oscar Wilde shirt makes the perfect gift for that one-of-a-kind literary hipster who strongly prefers not to wear a shirt likely to be seen on anyone else, anywhere, ever. (CAUTION: This hipster undoubtedly dislikes the term "hipster." Be judicious in your use of it. Don't toss "hipster" around all willy-nilly if you don't want any hurt feelings around the holidays. If you do, well, then bombs away!) Seriously, we have only a handful of these shirts on hand--fewer than 100--and we're not likely to produce many (or any) more.

2. Perhaps you or someone you love admires Oscar Wilde. The shirt offers a clever way to announce that love to the world. Alternately, you could go through life saying, "Hi, I admire Oscar Wilde. I truly admire Oscar Wilde. Oh how I admire Oscar Wilde." That works, too, though not as charmingly as this shirt.

3. The shirt's design also parodies the logo of a famous hot-dog and lunch-meat brand by infiltrating the logo with the name of someone who has nothing whatsoever to do with hot dogs or lunch meats. How's that for post-modern visual wit?

4. Perhaps you're a card-carrying, vegetarian PETA member, and you want the world to know that meat is murder and Oscar Wilde is not. (Trust us: the world knows that Oscar Wilde is not murder. But since when has stating the obvious counted as a strike against a good T-shirt?)

5. And perhaps someone you care about is a Morrissey fanatic with the love of Wilde on his or her side. This shirt makes the perfect armor for adversarial encounters in cemetries with people who may ally themselves with Keats and Yeats.

6. You believe in covering your body when you go out in public. We do, too.

7. You don't believe in giving your money to big corporations. Especially not now. You're excited by the Occupy Wall Street movement. You moved your savings from a bank to a credit union. You sent mittens to Manhattan to keep those occupiers warm. But, of course, those holiday gifts have to come from somewhere. Why not buy from the little guys? We're as little as guys come. So to speak.

8. I forget what eight was for.

9. You've never before had a word to describe reminiscing about the greatest sex of your life, and now you can say you're feeling lustalgic. (You're welcome.)

10. You or someone you know is a vegetarian literary hipster who loves Oscar Wilde and Morrissey, gets a kick out of tweaking large corporations whenever possible, believes in supporting small businesses, ponies up for PETA year in and year out, wears clothes, and enjoys remembering awesome sex.


So take a walk on the Wilde side. Order a shirt. And, if you'd like, we will gladly bundle a signed copy of my book of short stories (published this year by a small, independent press) with the shirt for $20, including shipping.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Challenge to Every Reporter in America


In light of recent police violence against nonviolent protesters across the country, it is time for our journalists to do their civic duty and act in the public interest.

This week, every reporter at every television station and newspaper in America (including--no, especially--student newspapers) should investigate how thoroughly armed their local, public police forces are. 

Will the police show up to peaceful rallies and demonstrations in full riot gear? If so, why? What weapons will they carry, and why? What exactly are these forces' policies and regulations regarding how they may respond to nonviolent (and even violent) protests by unarmed civilians? Are local police required to give their names and ranks to anyone who asks? If not, why not? When protestors are arrested, will they be treated humanely? Will they be given prompt medical care? 

And where are the good cops on this one? Why aren't our police forces policing themselves?

The American people have the right and need to know. We also have a responsibility to hold these publicly funded militias accountable. 

-----

As a citizen of the land of the free and the home of the brave, I feel proud of those enacting nonviolent civil disobedience for the cause of economic justice. And I fear for them in the face of thugs who cloak their abuses in blue uniforms, flak jackets, and helmets with plastic shields.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy: Police Violence Against Peaceful Protesters

I don't go to church, but I spent the sabbath putting together this...sermon?...propaganda...music video:



The song is U2's version of Woody Guthrie's "Jesus Christ." Please share.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dick Gregory's Do-It-Yourself Acceptance Speech

We stand tonight at the threshold of opportunity, ready as a party and as loyal Americans to carry the bride of promise over the threshold. As [substitute Democrats or Republicans] we realize that the vital issues confronting our country and our conscience are much greater than party labels and more important than partisan concerns. We have seen the terrible price that must be paid for giving partisanship a higher priority than patriotism under the leadership of the [substitute Democrat or Republican] Party.

But we also know that deep within the soul of every true American resides an instinct for freedom, for justice, for equality of opportunity, and for the inherent right of free men to determine their own destinies. From this moment on, let the word go forth and let us make it perfectly clear that it will be the untiring endeavor of the [substitute Democrat or Republican] Party to tap that reservoir of American conscience, so that our nation--indeed, the entire world and now even outer space--will be flooded with a tidal wave of honesty, justice, and freedom.

The task which faces us tonight is no easy endeavor. It requires nothing less than the total dedication and undivided determination of every man, woman, and child who loves liberty, who pursues justice, and who, as we know, is registered in the [substitute Democrat or Republican] Party.

You have bestowed upon me the great honor of leading this [substitute Democrat or Republican] crusade for freedom. It is an awesome responsibility, but one which no true American could refuse to willingly, and humbly, receive both as a duty and a challenge. I therefore accept your nomination.

-----

[Plucked from the obscurity of the printed book.]

Gregory, Dick. Dick Gregory's Political Primer. First. New York: Harper & Row, 1972. Print.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Magnificent Mistake

Whether we're talking birds or mistakes, there's an abundance of magnificence around here. Have some. My short story collection, Magnificent Mistakes, finally comes out next month, from Ravenna Press. You can pre-order it now.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cowboys and Indians and Theme Parks

A dream fulfilled: I made a Western.

Which is to say, I recently rummaged through hours of footage in my grandfather's home movie collection for clips from various times and places that I could assemble (using Final Cut Express, for the record) into a personal reflection on genocide and cultural misappropriation, while passing it off as my second music video for my favorite Norman band, Magnificent Bird.

But it's easier just to say I made a Western.

In any case, I offer it up here somewhat belatedly, as it premiered on youtube and facebook a full ten days ago. I've slipped back into neglecting this blog, but I anticipate a return to semi-frequent posting soon. My short story collection is finally ready to come out from Ravenna Press. (The delays were entirely mine.) That should arrive in late September. No doubt I'll be hawking the thing every chance I get. It's a small press without a substantial promotional budget, so the project's success depends almost entirely on word of mouth.

As does the success of your awesome local indie band. So, world, I'm telling you now: Magnificent Bird is great. They make slightly nerdy, orchestral, indie rock--though I have no idea how the band would prefer to have its music described. Listen for yourself. This one evokes Ennio Morricone.


I included an earlier Magnificent Bird song along with my video for it in the previous blog post. And here is the Magnificent Bird youtube channel. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Magnificent Bird "Superdark" (video)

Last week I made this video for Magnificent Bird's song "Superdark." Click the HD option for the best sound quality.
 
Magnificent Bird is a local band, from Norman, Oklahoma. We're friends. The footage comes from family movies of my mother's childhood. Click through to youtube for more information, and please share the video if you like it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"My Mother Received a Wound"

I forgot to post this here when I uploaded it a couple weeks ago. This is my first non-student short film:



I love the colors, but film costs too much. This project approached $2,000, a decade ago. All the other projects I've done on digital video, combined, haven't cost nearly that much. If I had the money, though, the quality would be well worth it. Enjoy.

The Home Stretch

I can't count the number of times I have set and reset deadlines, for myself, for the completion of this book. It was essentially publishable when Ravenna Press accepted it back in, oh, 2007. Here I am, four years later, still tinkering to get the words right. Every story has gone through multiple drafts meant to tighten and improve and make consistent the writing style of stories begun as early as 1999 and as recently as 2007. Half the stories are flash fictions that clock in under 1,000 words (with one as short as 150), and half are longer (from 1,000 to about 5,500). I have been tempted to divide the stories into sections based on length: medium first (800-1,800 words), then the short-shorts (150-800 words), and closing with the longer ones. But that would mess things up thematically and prevent me from closing the book with the story I know in my bones belongs at the end.

Choosing the first story is difficult. For several months, I have planned on opening with the book's longest (and probably best) story. Now, though, I think it kinder to the reader to precede that long one with something smaller. As I see it, those first two stories not only have to stand on their own; they must prepare the reader for what's in store in the rest of the book. My stories range from consensus realism to the fantastic. I want to say that some of the stories are lighthearted, but that's true for only one. Most are dark. I make a few departures from reality as we communally agree to understand it, but only a few. And there's a surprising (to me, anyway) and sustained focus on gender, sex, and sexuality. It's a lot for a reader to take in, and the first two stories should give the reader both a sense of focus and a sense of the range contained within the rest of the book. It's a tall order.

And here I am, blogging when I should get back to work on the text. Of twenty stories, I've finished eight (update: fourteen). I'm polishing the flash fictions today, and I hope to go to bed with twelve or thirteen stories done. All my delays were about getting the words right. I probably won't make my current self-imposed deadline (Friday at five), but I have a decent shot at wrapping up this book on Monday or Tuesday.

Don't wish me luck. Wish me focus.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Flash Fiction Publication

Sometimes a story takes forever to find a home. Once in a great while, it happens in just a few days. This one went out last week, and it's up this week: "Old Bells, Young Mountains."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In Your Wake, Inc.

(I'm back! And with my second apocalyptic post in a row, no less!)

Dear Christian Friends Anticipating the Rapture:


I am here to provide any and all post-Rapture services you may desire, at highly affordable rates. Sending letters to friends, walking your dogs, speaking highly of you and your accomplishments when you're gone, kicking someone's ass on your behalf--you name it, you pay for it, I guarantee it will get done. Call me! Email! Friend me on Facebook! Tweet me!


And God bless! No, really, GOD BLESS.


Sincerely,
Your left-behind friend,
Eric


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pigs Will Fly

WARNING: In the unlikely event that humans and pigs would open negotiations over the pigs' right to fly helicopters, do not--I repeat, DO NOT--appoint my son as lead human negotiator. Believe me, he may talk tough, but at the first squeal of objection he will suddenly and sweetly cave, in the name of "sharing." And our skies will be filled with pig-piloted choppers. And no one will be safe.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Painfully Overextended

I feel like I haven't one minute to type this post. But I will, anyway. I'll give it three, in fact.

I am going through one of those periods when everything--and I mean everything--on my schedule collides. Snow days early in the semester forced my second round of conferences to happen on this side of Spring Break. Now they have spilled over into a second week, and they are keeping me from doing the work I must do on a study abroad course proposal. Add to that the fact that I just started teaching an introductory creative nonfiction course at the senior learning center, and I'm maxed out. Oh, and well over half the seniors aren't beginning writers at all. Not sure what I was thinking there. It's a blessing, really. And all of this leaves me...

...out of time. Back to work.

Here's the song playing on my iTunes right now, for what it's worth (a lot--it's brilliant):

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rilke Week Redux?

I'm mulling over hosting another Rilke Week here on the blog. That would be the "second annual Rilke Week," and I imagine it could become a rich tradition. Or it could snowball into an obligation I struggle to meet. I could go into every Spring Break for the rest of forever dreading the work I need to do when I ought to be working on my own material or taking a vacation. Or worse: I might grow to feel like I shouldn't travel at all for Spring Break, because I would not want to break the tradition. And, no doubt, tens of thousands of readers are out there waiting to see if Rilke Week makes a comeback.

Needless to say, I'm feeling ambivalent, but I could sure use a close encounter with Rainer Maria Rilke right about now. I have found more than once that the close reading of poetry (well, not too close) sparks my imagination and focuses my thoughts. And these days, if I must change my life, then I must bend this life toward a more single-minded devotion to writing fiction. Seven years ago, family life dragged me away from the writing life. (Oh, woe am I.) Now it's time to drag myself back.

It's all so inspiring, no?

Rilke Week is on. Or not. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 28, 2011

"The Color of Sound": An Interview with Lisa Gerrard

Once or twice a year I plumb the depths of Google to see if anything new turns up with my name in it, and just now (deep, deep down there) I found the last piece of music journalism I published professionally: an interview with Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, called "The Color of Sound," in Minneapolis City Pages. Though it happened fifteen years ago, I remember the publication well. My home newspaper had unceremoniously dumped me when I broke up with its ad director. Apparently her seeing me on a daily basis somehow threatened the paper's bottom line, despite the fact that the editor and publisher had just told me they were grooming me to take over the paper a year or two down the line. But I'm not bitter. No, not at all.

Anyway, I left town to visit my uncle and an old friend in Minnesota. I had with me a tape recording of a phone interview I had conducted with Gerrard on my last day at the old paper. I stopped by the office of City Pages and asked for arts editor Will Hermes. I pitched the interview with an eye toward an upcoming concert by Gerrard, and he approved it. I sat down, transcribed the interview in half an hour, and wrote the whole article within the hour. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Humm....


I don't know that there's anything especially worth passing along, but here's the copy anyway:

The Color of Sound, October 11, 1995
DON'T TELL LISA Gerrard of Dead Can Dance her music sounds Gothic. Ignore the shadowy hordes of black-clad fans who, weaned on Anne Rice novels and still mourning the demise of Bela Lugosi, crawl up through the cracks when Dead Can Dance drift into town. Gerrard, the yin half of DCD whose debut solo album The Mirror Pool saw the light in September on the 4AD label, insists her songs have been misunderstood.

"For one thing, I'm not Goth," she says by phone from Bremen, Germany, where she and her band (mostly members of DCD, minus her main collaborator, Brendan Perry) are wrapping up the European leg of their tour. "When I look at some of the things that are written I just think, 'Darling, give me a break.' That's why I wrote my press release myself."

The single-page autobiography sent out by 4AD recounts her 15-year collaboration with Perry, whom she met while working in an Indian restaurant in Australia. The declining energy of punk rock sent the pair digging for inspiration through Perry's field recordings of African music.

There, and in the traditions of the East and the Middle East, Gerrard found her voice: a raw, passionate, unself-conscious spirituality sung in a language she invents as she goes along. The music, meanwhile, utilizes acoustic instruments from around the world in conjunction with synthesizers and guitars to make something that's not quite world beat, not quite trance-like, and not at all rock & roll.

Composed of outtakes from DCD albums (some of which turned up on the recent live album Toward the Within), The Mirror Pool explores more of Gerrard's gentle side, and combines symphonic soundscapes with the international scope of her influences. But Gerrard avoids talk of influences, labels or even specific instruments. Grounded in the moment ("I'm in bed in a hotel room eating an apple, talking to you") and concerned with moods captured within her music, the singer says, "Every sound has a color. This is the architecture, the dresses of the work, and the dress points to what's inside, don't you think? It's what's inside the dress that matters."

And though she won't define the term, she sees spirituality as commonplace in every music. "It exists in integration with people," she says. "It's the kindling of spirits, the kindling that takes place when you create a playground of sound. I feel that my work comes from human experience, and when people are confronted by the work, endeared to it or warmed by it, those are the practical things within the work."

Gerrard's musical education began with a piano accordion when she was a child. "It's so amazing, when you start off playing music you feel that bell ringing, it's your calling, 'I love this.' In this concert, I'm playing one of the songs I wrote when I was 11 years old. I was in Brendan's church (his home is in Ireland) and I picked up this dusty piano accordion that hadn't been played for years, and I knew, I just knew that this is why I've endured ridicule and why I've subjected myself to the past 18 years. It's because of this love of music! You start off knowing everything, and it's like you throw yourself into a hole and then you spend the next 18 years trying to crawl out of it. It's like I've come full-circle," she says.

This solo project doesn't signal the end of Dead Can Dance. Gerrard is touring with several musicians who backed DCD in 1993. Brendan Perry's album will be released in late '96, only after DCD complete another album and a five-month world tour. "I've been working with Brendan for seven months and we've just gone into the studio to do some [DCD] recordings," she says. "The new music is very percussive, and it has a lot of voices, but I'm not going to tell you more. I want it to be a secret."

For now, Gerrard's work walks the line between the darkness of the band's early 4AD recordings and the epiphanies of recent albums. She already regards the recorded version of The Mirror Pool as a thing of the past, and sees this tour as an opportunity for her and the band to enjoy themselves with the material and explore it further, along with a number of new songs.

"This concert is just gorgeous, really," she affirms. "You paint the things you sense more than the things you see. Do you know what I mean?"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lia Ices, "Daphne"

I'm still trying to make heads or tails of Lia Ices, and this strange video (though lovely) doesn't help me sort things out:



Not much, anyway.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Wow, this town is horrible. I wish I could find some way of escaping."

I just discovered this essential piece of rock history in the form of an elaborate, high-end puppet show:

A Brief History of XTC


I would critique it, but, really, if anything were ever beyond comment...

And, to cleanse your palate, here's the hit single from that album:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blink Once if God, Twice if No God

I feel a strong and earnest (oh so earnest!) desire to knock the previous post off the top spot. This blog deserves better, as do you. With that in mind, dear reader, I will confess that it has taken several months for me to find my way into Joanna Newsom's most recent album, Have One on Me. Or was it the other way around? Yes, perhaps the music took its sweet time to find its way into me. Now that these songs have entered my bloodstream, I'm not sure what the hold up was all about. I posted my favorite song a few weeks ago, and here's another:



And here is Newsom performing "On a Good Day" and being a good sport on Letterman:



I also want to sound a note of sympathy for the long-suffering Newsom, as she apparently lives from day to day with a psychological affliction of the worst kind:
Deeply unfortunately, the song Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile, from Annie, has been lodged in my head for 20 years. It’s there permanently. No matter what’s happening it is softly playing in the back of my mind and one fifteenth of my mind is singing along. It is a nightmare.
 May she find peace in this lifetime. Oh, and may she never find this blog post to remind her of that song.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Elgar Cello Concerto vs. The Energies of Dullness


Here's Elgar's haunting cello concerto, performed by Jaqueline Du Pre and conducted by Daniel Barenboim, interspersed with selected, obnoxious right-wing TV commercials. I must grant that the deck is stacked and the referee is biased. And I have no doubt this battle to the death amounts to some sort of sacrilege, but I can live with that.

















Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wednesday Miscellany: Blogging, Writing, Songs, and Stories

Three weeks ago I had the grand idea that I'd start blogging again. But then I started a facebook group devoted to the exchange of good, new, and old "alternative" music (we don't really use that term), and that group simply took over my online life. It has been rewarding beyond anything I expected when I opened the group and invited a dozen or so friends on New Year's Day. I've discovered great new music, shared some great old music, and come to know some very good bands I had overlooked in the eighties and nineties. If you like the songs I've posted on the blog and you're serious about music, by all means, join us. You should be able to search for the group name: "P.I.G.S.T.Y.2011" (that's the Project for InterGenerational Swapping of Tunes in the Year 2011) and request to join. If you can't find the PIGSTY on facebook, email me. We'll work something out.

And, by the way, the PIGSTY has inspired me to pick up my guitar and rediscover that I'm bored by my rudimentary guitar-playing. I can write lyrics. I can sing. I'm interested in seeking a songwriting collaborator with the hope of recording music together. I'm not all that interested in performing out (though performance comes easily to me) but I'd love to put some songs on record.

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Anyway, I've probably neglected to post links here to the stories I published in 2010. This indicates poor self-promotion, perhaps. There weren't many stories, and all were very short, but here you go (listed in the order I like them best, because I'm kind of a jerk):

1. "Mallard" at Wigleaf

2. "From the Canyon to the Driveway" in Night Train

3. "The Spoils" in The Collagist

4. "Trinkets" in Corium

I feel good about each one, and it seems silly now to see "Trinkets" in last place. But I won't delete the list to avoid looking dorky. On the contrary, I know who and what I am.

Oh, and there were two more things worth mentioning: this "postcard" in Wigleaf (the journal has a tradition of publishing little notes from its stories authors, and often the notes are just as good as the stories) and this FlashFiction.net reprint and analysis of "Onion Ring" (originally published in Snow Monkey a few years ago). That's four flash fiction publications proper, plus two other items, bringing the 2010 grand total to six--which is six more than 2007, 2008, and 2009 combined. This writer's back in business.

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And, speaking of facebook, I'm thrilled to have made arrangements to block my access to that site from work. Though the I.T. department here said they couldn't do it, I asked my wife to change my facebook password. It's saved on my home computer, but not here at the office. So far this has felt liberating. I don't have an addictive personality, but I'm easily distracted. Facebook has been a drain on my fiction writing, I will admit, for the better part of two and a half years. And I do 95% of my writing here at the office.

And I'll go even further with this confession: sometimes I fear I'm a better facebooker than writer.

In any case, maybe the lack of access to facebook will lead to a wee bit more blogging. I'd feel good about that.

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Here, have a song--one of the great hidden gems of rock history: "The Dolphins & The Sharks" by Crime & the City Solution (sorry, "embedding disabled by request").

("That's what she said.")