Thursday, August 29, 2013

No Album Left Behind

As usual, I don't have time for a full write-up, but I want to put this out there on the off chance other forty-something, eighties/nineties alternative rock fans might be interested. I've made some very pleasant music listening this year by going back to albums I had dismissed when they were originally released. These were records by some favorite artists (Depeche Mode, New Order, and R.E.M., for example), which somehow didn't measure up--and which, in turn, I didn't pay much attention to because I was wrapped up in other new music. Maybe these albums struck me as sell-outs (New Order's Technique), pandering (Depeche Mode's Music for the Masses), or simply sub-par efforts from bands I loved (R.E.M.'s New Adventures in Hi-Fi). In any case, I'm sure I missed others.

So, with the full understanding that many fans weren't as fickle (or, more likely, as committed to finding the obscure and undiscovered out on the cutting edge--which makes it sound as lame as it probably was), I'll list a few albums I dismissed at the time but which I suspect might yield up some unexpected joy years later:

1. U2's Zooropa - I tried hard to like this one, but it felt wildly inconsistent and made for a poor follow-up to Achtung Baby--which, itself, took a few lunges in directions I didn't like.

2. The Cure's Wish - This album didn't bother me so much as it struck me as a pale echo of Disintegration. This album has three great songs I still love and listen to from time to time ("Doing the Unstuck," "Friday I'm in Love," and "A Letter to Elise"), but I bet there's more to be found here.

3. New Model Army's Strange Brotherhood - NMA released this when I was more or less disengaged from the music world. I had left a career in arts & entertainment journalism largely out of disgust with the shoddy way I was treated after breaking up with my newspaper's advertising director, whom I had dated for all of nine months. (Those publishers knew who buttered their bread.) Anyway, by 1998 I was fully engaged in a meditation practice, flying out to L.A. for teachings by the Dalai Lama, and becoming a special education teacher. And after the hit-and-miss album For the Love of Hopeless Causes, I wasn't sure NMA had much left in the tank. I was wrong, and their albums this century have proven consistently strong. I'm betting Strange Brotherhood will be my favorite from this list. Just a hunch.

4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' The Boatman's Call - A couple songs ("Into My Arms" and "People Ain't No Good") stuck with me, but for some reason I didn't engage with the rest of this quiet album. In the ruthless and regrettable practice of culling my collection, I eventually traded in the CD, but I regret letting this one go. I read a review somewhere recently that named this one of the Bad Seeds' best. I should probably double-check.

5. New Order's Republic - Yes, by this time I had entirely tuned out, my interest in New Order was gone. If I played Republic even once, all the way through, I don't remember it now. I wasn't even listening to the older stuff in the mid-nineties, aside from the occasional encounter with Low-Life on long car rides. My hopes aren't high for this one, but I bet there's a track or two or three that I'll appreciate (re)discovering.

And finally, dear reader, a question: What are your left-behind albums--the ones you once ignored but which you've gone back to years later and found treasures you overlooked the first time through? 

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Last Few Minutes before the Bomb

Hot off the digital presses, my chapbook, The Last Few Minutes Before the Bomb, can now be downloaded to your Kindle, your phone, your computer, your whatever. If my first book functions as a debut album of sorts then this one's the follow-up EP. It contains ten stories, eight of which are flash fictions. Some are as recent as this year, and one comes from the late 1990's. There's also a story told entirely in dialogue ("Black Cat Leaves White Balloon") and a longer (but not terribly long) short story--the one that gives this little book its title. For now it's listed at $2.99, probably through the end of the year. Then we'll set the price at $5.

We're also now selling the story "Plantlife" on its own for 99 cents. It first appeared in Magnificent Mistakes then in the Pink Narcissus Press anthology of feminist science fiction, Daughters of Icarus. I'm especially excited about the cover image Matthew Kaney (one of my favorite people!) put together for "Plantlife" (on the right). He and I have worked off and on to make a graphic-novel-style adaptation of the story, but our schedules haven't aligned. He's done several great drawings and even a cool storyboard for the project, so it felt not quite right that we never saw it through. Seeing his cover on this little e-book makes me smile.

So that's it: new chapbook, new/old single story, cool cover. Just thought you should know.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

10 Tips for Following a Vegetarian Diet

These are some foods that are not dead animals.
Due to my desire to avoid killing animals and/or paying other people to kill animals on my behalf just so I can eat them (the killed animals, not the people--though I suppose either applies), I have eaten a vegetarian diet for almost twenty years. Well, OK, I admit I ate some pieces of dead animal as recently as Christmas 2000, because my then-wife did not want me to make her parents feel bad about serving dead animal. And she was right! Why should they feel bad for serving me so-called food I find both immoral and repulsive? I should feel ashamed for even thinking of not shoveling pieces of that dead bird into my mouth. Those poor people!

Anyway, over the years, I've learned a great deal about how to maintain a vegetarian diet. For those who might just be starting out, here are ten well worn, battle tested tips that have proven useful for maintaining my vegetarian diet:

1. Don't eat chicken. 

2. Sidestep sausage.

3. Flee from fish.

4. Bypass bacon. 

5. Steer clear of steak. 

6. Eschew escargot.

7. Hold off on ham. 

8. Duck duck.

9. Circumlocute clams.

10. Desist devouring dead animals. 

When in doubt, that tenth tip is key. Just ask yourself, "Did this dead animal used to be a living animal?" If the answer is "yes," don't eat it. If the answer is "no, this is not a dead animal," and whatever "this" is looks and smells tasty, go ahead and eat it.

If you have questions, please ask, and do come back to let me know how your vegetarian diet is going. Good luck, and stay healthy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Use Your Words

I made a new flyer for the OU Write Club open mic:

If you're a writer (or just a fan of locally grown poetry, fiction, etc.) within striking distance of Norman, Oklahoma, you should join us at OU Write Club's open mic. We'll have a poetry slam some time this fall, and possibly another in the spring. Off the top of my head, I know our featured readers will include superstar performance poet Melissa May, a book release party for Susan Kates, and (fingers crossed) a return visit from the woman who should be Oklahoma's poet laureate, Lauren Zuniga.

Check out the OU Write Club Facebook page for more details.


For your viewing pleasure and edification: 

New NMA Single, Album, Tour and Documentary

One of my favorite bands, New Model Army, has a new song out this week, paving the way for an album and tour this fall and a documentary about the band due in 2014. (Visit the New Model Army site for details.) But "paving the way" gets something wrong. Clearing a path, maybe. Justin Sullivan, the singer, songwriter, guitarist, and heart and soul of the band, occupies a mad-luddite-prophet-shaped space in my imagination, and I can't imagine this world without him. Well, I suppose I could, but he's vital, and his songs have played a big role in expanding my worldview.

Here's the new single, in all its glory:

It's good, but I don't think it's a great song. I love the bass and drums, and the lyric and melody are solid. Yet the song feels like it wants to build to a catharsis as the final minute just rolls along then fades away. I suspect I'll appreciate "March in September" more in the context of the album, when that arrives. In any case, I could do without the repetitious whoo-whoo backing vocals. Still, the song is classic New Model Army, in the sense that its sounds effectively revisit the eras that the video evokes.

Speaking of which, the clip consists of excerpts from the documentary coming in 2014. For a lifelong fan, these are treasures. Now if only there were a tour coming close enough to Oklahoma to justify donning my original Thunder and Consolation Tour T-shirt and heading out to a show...

Thank you, Justin, wherever you are, for everything.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

White Folks' Blood

I've been a bad blogger. While working, then traveling/working, then returning and writing, I nearly forgot I had a blog at all. (Much less two or three, but this is the only one with posts in 2012 or 2013.) And I'm working on a new book, so I'm unlikely to get back to active blogging any time soon. Good for me.

If I had the time, though, I'd write a post or an essay about how this obscure song from the late eighties, by the brilliant and all but forgotten band House of Freaks, captures something essential that I feel Rilla Askew's great new novel, Kind of Kin, is all about. First, the song: House of Freaks, "White Folks Blood." (Youtube won't let me find the video within the Blogger search function that restricts video content. Not sure how to get around it, other than to link to it and ask you to open it in another tab and let it roll. It's a great song. I promise.)

Askew's novel takes a slightly more sympathetic approach (but no less Southern Gothic, if I understand the term correctly--which I very well may not) to the subject of white people stupidly (ignorantly, even) perpetuating the crimes of our genocidal, slaveholding ancestors. Anyway, no time to elaborate on this connection and on the book's affect on me. It's a great, surprisingly entertaining, deeply moving read, and I recommend it.

I'm reading Toni Morrison's Beloved now, finally, and it's line about how "There is no bad luck in this world but whitefolks" has me thinking about all of this all over again. Synapses fire. Connections spark. Questions and memories rise up and echo. The way House of Freaks' singer, songwriter and guitarist Bryan Harvey was murdered with his wife and daughters, in their home, pierces through these thoughts and tints my reaction to all of it.

OK, I've convinced myself I ought to go write that essay.