Sunday, May 27, 2007

Weekend Bummer

I didn't realize until several hours after we got home from Six-Flags that my cell phone was in my pocket during one of the water rides. It's one of those rides that completely soak you...and your phone.

Okay, here's the question for those of you with tech expertise: I've got a Motorola RAZR V3 (with Cingular service). I removed the cover, the battery and the SIM card, wiped away a little corrosion and put everything back in place. The phone will turn on (as you can see from the photo); I can turn the phone on and off with the keypad, but that's the only keypad function that will work. I can also receive calls. (Cindy called to check - We even talked on the phone, so that function works.) I had the phone on vibrate before the accident and it still vibrates when I get a call. I can receive calls, but not send them. The screen tells me I've got voicemail messages - I just can't retrieve them.

So apparently some parts of the phone work. I just want to avoid buying another one if at all possible. No, I didn't get insurance. Yes, I'm an idiot for forgetting I had my phone in my pocket during a water ride.

And did I mention the AC in our house went out yesterday?

But at least my friend Doug had an outstanding wedding yesterday. And my good friend George returned safely from New Zealand.

Let me know what you think the phone's chances are.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Anniversary Weekend

Despite a disappointing trip to Six Flags America, our 11th wedding anniversary weekend is off to a good start. Cindy and I have lived here in Maryland for nearly seven years and have yet to go to Six Flags, about 20 minutes from our house. I'm glad we went, but we won't go back. Four of the rides - Two-Face, Batwing, Mind Eraser and one of the raft rides shut down while we were in line. (Some of them left people stranded ON the rides.) Several of the rides/shows/etc. weren't even open. Sure, it's early in the season, but the park has been open weekends only for the past six weeks. A pretty big disappointment. Still, we had fun, especially on The Joker ride.


Cindy bailed on the third season of Lost several weeks ago, but I've been pretty faithful despite suspicions that the show may be tanking. I must say that the season finale was not what I expected, especially the big revelation at the end. This changes everything. There's certainly the potential for something special in Season Four. We shall see.


Really enjoying The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. More on that one when I'm finihsed.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

How Does It Feel?

As all music fans (and people with a heightened cultural awareness) already know, today is Bob Dylan's birthday, always a cause for celebration. (Bob turns 66 today, for those of you keeping score.)

So you ask, "How can I celebrate Bob's birthday?"

There are several ways. Here are but a few. Yet, if you feel a bit more daring, you might try one of these:

Walk up to a stranger and snarl, "How does it feeeeeeeel?"

Hang out on Highway 61. (This, of course, depends largely upon your geographical area.)

Dress up like Shakespeare and stand in an alley, any alley.

Depending on the weather in your area, stand in the middle of a clear, sunny spot and exclaim "A hard rain's a-gonna fall." (Sackcloth and ashes optional.)

Dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.

If you're in the Washington DC area, go visit the Masters of War and sing any or all of the song. (Prepare for at least one night in the slammer, depending on the intensity of your performance.)

Get stranded in Mobile.

Rehearse with tuba players around the flagpole.

Look for places with music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air.

Hang out with a trainload of fools bogged down in a magnetic field (one of my all-time favorite Dylan lines).

Serve somebody. (You gotta do it, you know.)

The possibilities are endless. Enjoy.

Happy Birthday, Bob!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Goodbye, Veronica

That's it. After three seasons, Veronica Mars is done. And, yes, I'm a little sad.

Now I've never seen a single episode as it aired, but I rented Season One and thought it was great - definitely good enough to buy, which I did. I rented Season Two, and while I enjoyed it, I thought the quality of the writing slipped quite a bit from Season One. I haven't seen any of Season Three.

There's a lot to like about Veronica Mars. It's funny, sassy, class conscious, often exciting, and (especially during Season One) smart. The acting is generally very good, especially Kristen Bell. I can't imagine anyone else in the lead role. Consequently, I can't imagine Bell being able to fit into any other role so well. (Of course she can - she's talented. But I saw her in a couple of episodes of Deadwood Season One and kept thinking, "Cool! It's Veronica Mars in the Old West!")

If this show had aired when I was a teenager, I'd probably have been in love with Veronica Mars. I'd definitely have wanted to hang out with her. She's smart, funny compassionate, tough, and would kick your butt if you got out of line. She comes from a broken home, but doesn't use that (or anything else) as an excuse. She's focused, driven, tenacious. Plus she's got a cool dog.

But three good years isn't a bad thing. It's a lot better than three good years and two lousy ones. And as my friend John is fond of saying (I'm paraphrasing a bit, John), "When you've told all the story you have, the show's over."

And now it is over.

Goodbye, Veronica. It was fun.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this, but I take a certain sort of weird delight in "upgrading" my books. By upgrading, I mean finding and buying a better copy of a book I already have. Yesterday I found a very nice first edition hardcover copy of Jeffrey Ford's The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, which will replace my old ex-library copy. I also found a first edition hardcover of Steven Millhauser's In the Penny Arcade. (Only to find when I got home that it's got a remainder mark along the bottom edge.) My other copy is a trade paperback.

Will I keep my old copies of these books? Well...yeah.... I'd like a nice copy of the Ford because it's a book I really like and maybe I can get Jeff to sign it the next time I see him. And it's nice to have the other as a reading copy. The Millhauser? I haven't even read the thing! But from what I've heard, I'll probably like it. So there.

I know. I understand that concepts of space and time are limited. If I owned a reading copy and a "collector's" copy of every book I own, I'd have to buy another house (or two). And with all the books I have (and I sure as heck keep getting more of 'em), I'll probably never read them all. Plus, when I have gone the way of all flesh, what's going to happen to my precious "collector's" first editions (as well as the "reading" copies)? I've heard that you can't take this stuff with you. Man... That sure presents a problem.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Playing Favorites, Installment # 5

Installment #5 – "Blue Orchid" (Jack White III, Meg White) – White Stripes (2005)

"Blue Orchid" is the type of song that, as Stephen King says, would've "turned my dials all the way up to 10" in high school. To someone now in his 40's, it still provides a pretty good kick.

The song is raw, unrefined, driving, loud, hard to ignore. And simple. I don't say this in a derogatory way, only to note that when you isolate the song's elements, you've got Jack White's falsetto vocal, distorted guitar riffs (not even chords) and drums. That's it. (To my less-than-expert hearing it appears that White has added a second guitar that's just slightly behind the other track, adding a little more power and energy.)

I haven't listened to all the White Stripes albums (although I'd like to), but from what I have heard, Jack and Meg do a masterful job of writing fairly simple melodies that stay in your head for days after you hear them. Not many people can do that, and even fewer can do it on a consistent basis. Several days ago I played "Seven Nation Army" (from Elephant) for this friend of mine and he was humming it the rest of the day. The same thing happened to me after hearing the opening riff in "Blue Orchid."

While the music may be somewhat simple, the lyrics are a very different story. Although "Blue Orchid" opens the album Get Behind Me Satan, and the words "get behind me" are in the song, Satan is never specifically mentioned. So is Jack singing about Satan or about a really wicked woman? It would seem that whoever it is, he or she has the power/ability to screw up (with pretty malicious intentions) something that was once good:

You got a reaction
You got a reaction didn't you?
You took a white orchid
You took a white orchid turned it blue

Something better than nothing
Something better than nothing, it's giving up
You need to do something
Try keep the truth from showing up

How dare you
How old are you now, anyway?
How dare you
How old are you now, anyway?

White has commented that he sees the entire record as an exploration of "characters and the ideal of truth."

Interesting stuff. Then you watch the video.... (You can see it here.) Man. A dilapidated house, a red-head wearing lace and impossibly high heels, Jack and a piano with its guts ripped out, a white apple, Meg drumming on stacks of dishes, a white horse, and Jack's cane that becomes....well, just watch. David Lynch would be proud.

As weird as the video seems, it does give a more dismal interpretation to the song. Here are things ruined, degraded, coming apart, fallen. And what can you do besides ask "How dare you?"

"Blue Orchid" appears on the album Get Behind Me Satan.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Know You're Not Supposed to Do This, But...

I did it anyway. After reading the first several stories in Brian Evenson's Altmann's Tongue, I read the author's afterword. I didn't want to find out about the stories as much as I wanted to find out about Evenson.

Why? Because the first several stories in the collection (maybe all of them) deal with killing, not in a typical murder/slasher/psycho sort of way, but in a detached, unemotional, yet oddly disturbing manner. Says Evenson,

So violence is depicted but then superseded by style operating as a kind of violence toward the reader: the two working sometimes concertedly, sometimes in tension, to create a world that feels at once stark and yet stylized, in slant relation to the actual world.

Would you guess that Evenson was a Mormon? Not only that, he taught at BYU and got in a lot of hot water over this book. Read it and you'll understand why. But it's great stuff filled with stories that demand a second (or third) read. In fact, a little later in the Afterword, Evenson states,

Altmann's Tongue is meant to be a challenging book, is postulated as a challenge to the reader. The stories in it are meant to function beyond their initial reading, in the way readers choose over time to process the reading experience and supply their own moral response to the absence of response within the text proper. A sort of virus, as it were.

Can't wait to finish this one, then read it again.


Started a new story this morning - only got a couple of hundred words down, but I'll have time to think about it while I'm in the dentist's chair later today. Wish me luck. (For my teeth and the story.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Vampire plus a Little Story News

I ran across a hardcover edition of this book yesterday (no dust jacket) and saw simply The Vampire (with no subtitle) on the spine, thinking it was a horror novel or maybe even a look at vampires in film or literature. Not so.

Rather than an examination of the vampire in film or literature, The Vampire: A Casebook is a scholarly work dedicated to traditional legends and folklore associated (for the most part) with eastern Europe. The book is published by the University of Wisconsin (Now I know what you guys are really doing up there, Trent.) and includes essays by eleven academic scholars. Some of the essay titles are:

The History of the Word Vampire

The Romanian Folkloric Vampire

South Slavic Countermeasures against Vampires

The Killing of a Vampire

Forensic Pathology and the European Vampire

The Vampire as Bloodthirsty Revenant: A Psychoanalytic Post Mordem

Very interesting stuff. This one will soon be at the top of my "To Read/Non-Fiction" list.


On the story front, this past weekend I was contacted by an editor who expressed an interest in publishing one of my stories and has asked for a revision of the ending, so that's been my recent focus. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

April Books Bought and Read

For once, I actually read more books than I bought...but just barely. The first three books bought were either ex-library copies or thrift store purchases, so I didn't spend much for them. The rest of the books were purchased on my recent Texas trip.

I hadn't realized that April was such a month for mysteries - I read three of them. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries. I've read them all, but it's been two years since I read one. I'm taking my time, reading them in the order they were published. If you haven't read any of the Nero Wolfe novels, I'd recommend trying one of the collections of novellas. (You can see the complete list here.)

As always, highly recommended books from "Books Read" are linked.


The Ragamuffin Gospel (NF 1990) - Brennan Manning

Duel: Terror Stories (collection 2003) - Richard Matheson

H.P. Lovecraft Tales (Library of America 2005)

Altmann's Tongue: Stories and a Novella (1994) - Brian Evenson

The Bride of Hell & Other Stories (1949/2006)- Marjorie Bowen

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories (1998) - Aimee Bender

The Haunted Hotel & Other Stories (1941/2006)- Wilkie Collins

Microcosmic God: Volume 2 of the Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon (1995)

The Green Glass Sea (YA 2006) - Ellen Klages

Invitation to a Beheading (1959)- Vladimir Nabokov

The World of Nabokov's Stories (NF 1999) - Maxim D. Shrayer


Seven Money Mantras for a Richer Life (NF 2004) – Michelle Singletary

The Door Within (Juv. 2005) – Wayne Thomas Batson

Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture (NF 2006) – Walt Mueller

Fledgling (2005) – Octavia E. Butler

Art & Fear (NF 1993) – David Bayles and Ted Orland

Heart-Shaped Box (2007) – Joe Hill

Marley & Me (NF 2005) – John Grogan

Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories (2007) – Elizabeth Hand

School Days (2005) – Robert B. Parker

The Ragamuffin Gospel (NF 1990) – Brennan Manning

The Silent Speaker (1946) – Rex Stout

Baltimore Blues (1997) – Laura Lippman

And there you have it.