Thursday, December 27, 2007

What I've Been Up To

So, I thought I'd start listing the books, movies and albums I've been enjoying so I can look back after a year and see whatever it was that took up all of my time. I may say something about the listings or maybe rate it (four-stars rating system) or just post a picture without comment.

Here is what I've been watching, reading or listening to over the past week:

Actually Using My Brain

I received an interesting e-mail yesterday from someone looking for help in settling a bet. She wanted to know if Raymond Carver could be considered a noir writer. My answer is below:

Wow. Thanks for thinking of me. As for classifying Carver as noir, it would take a very loose interpretation of the genre to do so. However, I believe noir at times goes beyond its traditional crime fiction roots. Books like "Mildred Pierce" and "Day of the Locust" would fall into this loose definition. (One has to remember that despite the murder in the film version, James M. Cain's "Pierce" doesn't contain a crime at all.) Another novel that qualifies is "They Shoot Horses Don't They?", while it does have a murder trial at the center of the book, the focus is more on the desperate lives of its main characters.

I'm more inclined to classify any dark and tragic story (at least with a modern - or dystopic - setting) as noir or at least containing shades of noir. And I think that's where Carver's stories are, in the shadows of genre.

You will have to forgive me, but my knowledge of Carver is limited to about 15 or so of his stories and Robert Altman's film. I really don't remember the titles of the stories, but hopefully you'll know which stories I'm talking about.

My favorite definition of noir was given to me by a mentor who said that noir fiction is working class tragedy, which could describe Carver's stories. They are very solemn indeed. My favorite of his is the one with the yard sale and record player and the woman who dances - sorry I can't remember the title - but that story is very tragic.

Another story that could be considered noir is "The Train" (I think that's the title), which was a continuation of John Cheever's "Five Forty-Eight", which I consider to be a crime story. The extension of that story that examines a woman who nearly kills her ex-lover is a portrayal of a wouldbe killer; however not the immoral monster that often populate crime fiction, just an ordinary woman brought to the edge.

Many people mistake the hardboiled prose of Raymond Chandler as a necessity for noir fiction, which it is not. Dashiell Hammett's language was very sparse, employing the technique of simple language to express complex subtext - which Carver famously came to perfect and he is best known for. A recent example of using minimalism in noir fiction is the work of Irish crime writer Ken Bruen who is simply a master of sparse language and an appropriate successor to Carver. I've used the techinque myself with satisfying results. Bleak situations that expose emotions so raw and naked cry out for prose that doesn't hide beneath ornate language and description - sometimes it requires writing that lays it bare. So, again, the hardboiled language of Chandler and Mikey Spillaine is not a requirement.

Carver may not find a solid footing among Ross MacDonald or Lawrence Block on the crime fiction shelf, but I don't believe he is far away. Classifications of literature is a funny thing that many people see as absolutes; they think stories must fit in one category only, which is a foolsih notion- however one that is endorsed by booksellers in this country (European bookstores tend to shelf crime fiction with literary fiction. I'm not sure about other genres like sci-fi and romance.)

So, to answer your question, I would tend to say that Carver's writing leans toward noir with the only thing stopping the majority of people from embracing the idea is the presence of crime. Carver could easily incorporate criminals and criminality without loosing an ounce of his power.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Does Santa Dream of Electric Sheep?

I got a glimpse of what Santa's bringing me this year. And it even comes with a toy!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Man, Kanye Has Really Let Himself Go

Dear Noirfuck,

Just want to get people up to speed with your ignorant temper tantrums aimed toward my friend Lyman before I repeat my advice to you. You first sent hate mail to him after his incredible story The Switch was published in Thuglit accusing him of stealing a sacred spot that you for some reason thought was reserved for you. You blamed him for your shortcomings. I responded to your asinine suggestions then.

Flash forward a couple of months: Lyman gets nominated for a Spinetingler Award for the same story you deem inferior, and you poke your ignorant face out again to criticize not only Lyman but the whole crime publishing world. Lyman responded, as is his custom to not back down from a fight and defend himself. However this time you draw more attention to your dimwit ideas, along with exposing more people to Lyman's story; a great boost for Lyman since the awards are done by popular vote. Real smart move, dickwad. I think that's called the Bill O'Reilly bump, which drove Al Fraken to the #1 spot on the NYTimes Bestseller list.

Now, noirfuck, in the middle of all of this discussion, I offered you some advice, which you didn't respond to. Maybe because it hit a little too close to home. But I want you to think about it, so I'm reposting it here. I hope you'll take my advice, noirfuck.

OK, fuckhead. The sheer fact that you're talking about strict guidelines within genres only proves that you have no clue. Let's talk about these idiot polluters who mess with the genre lines, I mean real assholes, like Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Charlie Huston, Duane Swierczynski, Walter Mosley, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Jorge Luis Borges, Caleb Carr, Scott Phillips, Sara Gran, Richard Russo - I mean, the world is full of ignorant people that you're going to need to educate. How will you ever find the time?

Now Mr. BFA, oh, I'm sorry, Mr. sophmore year BFA, you don't know what the hell you are talking about. You seemed to find it OK to mess around with a guy who knows more about genre theory than you do about that small stump between your thighs that you like to call a dick. Yeah, I'm thinking a couple of MFA's trump your three semesters as a "writer."

I'm having a real bad week and guess what, you've just become my whipping boy. What I want you to think about tonight when you crawl into bed and grab hold of your tiny prick, before you start jerking off to pictures from the Sears Wishbook, I want you to think about all those stories that are crowding your desk drawer, or your computer's hard drive; you know the ones, those stories that aren't being published; think about all the rejections. They aren't worth it, are they? You know deep inside that the tap tap tap that your fingers type out only lead to third-rate material that wouldn't entertain the world's most ignorant Seventh grader. Then think about whatever pathetic writing group that would have you as a member, imagine all those people reading your shitty manuscripts, giving you "constructive" criticism. You've sat there and compared yourself to them, rating each one as better or worse than you, trying to figure out who the best writer of the group is; I'm thinking that you're not at the top. Now, I'm going to tell you something: these peers don't like your writing. They hate your stuff. They force themselves to skim over your material and scrawl half-ass, benign comments in the margins. You know those notes that don't make any sense, that make it so obvious that the reader didn't even read the manuscript. These peers sit in bed and read certain sentences aloud to their wives, boyfriends, dogs and then laugh; their wives, boyfriends and dogs laughing right with them. If anything, you've made a couple of people feel better about their own talent because they see what the "competition" is like.

I mean, come on, if someone whose work you absolutely hate can get published in places that you've only been rejected, what kind of self comment is that? You don't think your writing is that good. Every time you turn a corner, there's a brick wall; you can't find a way out of this maze. And guess what? There isn't one for you. That little voice that tells you that you're no good and should give up is right. Abandon that pathetic dream of ever becoming a writer. Hurry up and switch your major before you waste another three-and-a-half years.

Oh, and do you know what else you can do? You can lick my hairy ball sack, you ignorant douche bag. Go fuck yourself.

Now go on now and leave the adults alone, you fucking dickwad.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Can't Sleep

I'm in one of the saddest places on Earth: a pediatric ICU. Almost all of the doors have signs asking for no visitors, or that masks be worn. You can hear the kids crying and screaming, including my own little girl. I don't want to be here.

It breaks your heart to catch a glimpse of a child, bald from chemo, sitting Indian-style on their bed, staring at some cartoon while their parent or grandparent look off into some dimension of sorrow, confusion and loss that only they can see. I don't mean to look into these rooms, but I do. The hospital staff try to make this place friendly and inviting. There is a Christmas tree behind me and the play area is filled with numerous toys, including a life-size Spider-Man. There are many comforts here, but it cannot mask what this place ultimately is.

What is it like to be conforted with such horrid illnesses at such a young age. I faced the uncertainty of seizures and a brain tumor at 17, much older than most of the kids here, so I don't think I can really relate.

My little girl is doing better. Her situation is no where near as dire as a lot of these children. We're still monitoring her and will be over the next few days, which means we'll be here until at least Wednesday. Hopefully the scare is worse than the ultimate cause.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

All Work and No Play Makes Stevie...

a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. Paul is dead. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy. All work and no play makes Stevie a dull boy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

He Always Knows Just What to Say

"At the State of the Union I addressed the issue of steroids. The reason I did so, is I because I understand the impact that professional athletes can have on our nation's youth. I just urge those in the public spotlight, particularly athletes, to understand that when they violate their bodies they sending a terrible message to America's young".

- George W. Bush on the Mitchell Report.

I hate watching players violating their bodies.

Watch the video.

I Feel the Tears Watering My Eyes

Roger Clemens and Andy Pittette were among the players mentioned yesterday in George Mitchell's steroids in baseball report. I can't tell you how sad I am for these mean American heroes.

It was like Mitchell as Oprah: You get an asterix. And you get an asterix. And you get an asterix.

Who Said Literary Criticism is Dead?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Let's Dissect the Golden Globes

Even though I haven't seen every movie or TV show nominated, I'm here to give my take on the Golden Globe nominations. Who will win and who should win. Are you ready?

Best Picture Drama: This is a tough year with quite a few good movies and no clear front runner, plus there are seven nominees rather than the traditional five, meaning the nomination process had to have been tight to begin with; but let's give it a shot.

Will win: Atonement
Should win: No Country for Old Men

Best Actress - Drama: Oh Jodie Foster, love of my life, I'm afraid there is no Globe for you this year. The question is whether they celebrate a vetern actor or a fresh(er) face.

Will win: Julie Christie
Should win: Jodie should always win.

Best Actor - Drama: The Hollywood Foreign Press is notorious for sucking up to the big stars, so it's a question of whether Denzel or Clooney wins this year.

Will win: Clooney
Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Picture - Comedy: Should Charlie Wilson's War be here? Anyway, there's no ignoring the Sweeney Todd buzz, and the HFP loves buzz.

Will: Sweeney Todd
Should: Juno

Best Actress - Comedy: Basically four (relatively) newcomers and Helena Bonham Carter. Unlike the Oscars, the Globe likes to reward newcomers in the best actress category rather than best supporting.

Will: Amy Adams
Should: Ellen Page

Best Actor - Comedy: It's between Johnny Depp and Johnny Depp. I wonder who it will be.

Will: Depp
Should: Depp

Best Animated Film: I love that it isn't best animated motion picture, but best feature film. Is there a difference?

Will: Ratatouille
Should: Ratatouille

Best Foreign Language Film: I guess Persepolis is too serious for the cartoon category.

Will: The Kite Runner
Should: Persepolis

Best Supporting Actress: Here is another big star versus talent category. Not that Julia Roberts isn't talented, but her star power is more important here.

Will: Julia Roberts
Should: Amy Ryan

Best Supporting Actror: I don't know if Travolta's star power is strong enough to pull off a win here, so it will have to be the most talented.

Will: Javier Bardem
Should: Bardem

Best Director: Atonement has received the most nominations, but is that any indication of how this category will go? I don't think so.

Will: Tim Burton
Should: The Coen Brothers (Love that they're both named)

Best Screenplay: The HFP doesn't bother splitting scripts between original and adapted. Is that good or bad?

Will: Diablo Cody (Juno)
Should Cody

Best Score: Now here's an interesting category. Clint Eastwood is nominated for scoring a movie he has no other connection to. Is this novelty enough for a win?

Will: Atonement
Should: Eastwood (Grace Is Gone)

Best Song: Usually the lamest category for the Globes and the Oscars, but the same novelty mentioned in the previous category applies here as well.

Will: Eddie Vedder for "Guaranteed" (Into the Wild
Should: "Walk Hard" (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) [Even if "Let's Duet" is a better song.]

Best TV Series - Drama: Where's The Sopranos? Was the HFP as disappointed with the finale as the rest of the world?

Will: House
Should: Mad Men

Best Actress - TV Series Drama: Seven nominations, which means a free-for-all. The snub of The Sopranos probably means Edie Falco is shit out of luck this year.

Will: Kyra Sedgwick
Should: Glenn Close

Best Actor - TV Series Drama: I love Hugh Laurie in just about everything, even that terrible remake of The Flight of the Phoenix, but does the HFP? I think so. However, I think he should be nominated for best comedy actor.

Will: Laurie
Should: Laurie

Best TV Series - Comedy: Four of the five nominees have something to do with the entertainment industry, but that the HFPs bread and butter. However, will those four split the vote?

Will: 30 Rock
Should: Pushing Daisies

Best Actress - TV Series Comedy: Samanatha Who? No, really what is this? I assume it's a TV series? Why do I think most of the HFP sit around and make catty comments while watching Ugly Betty almost everyday?

Will: America Ferrera
Should: Tina Fey

Best Actor - TV Series Comedy: Will that whole "rude little pig" thing derail Alec Baldwin from a Globe? Ha! It's the Hollywood Foreign Press, they don't give a shit.

Will: Baldwin
Should Carell

Best Mini-Series or TV Movie: I know so little about all of these nominations that I'm going with the Indian one, because how many Indian (feather, not dot) movies are there?

Will: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Should: Same

Best Actress - TV miniseries or movie: What's with all the goddamn TV acting categories? Couldn't they have at least one TV writing category? Well, let's pick a straw.

Will: Debra Messing
Should: Bryce Dallas Howard

Best Actor - TV miniseries or movie: Again, isn't this like the thirtieth acting Gloden Globe category? WTF?

Will: Jim Broadbent
Should: Adam Beach

Best Supporting Actress - TV: See, at least in the Supporting Acting categories they bunch everything together. Mini-series versus regular series versus TV movie, and it doesn't matter if it's drama or comedy. It's like Thunderdome. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dying time's here.

Will: Katherine Heigl
Should: Jaime Pressley

Best Supporting Actor: Hasn't Shatner won every award three times for playing himself in every episode of Boston Legal? It's like awarding a Golden Retriever for chewing up the carpet and humping your leg. However, I think that's Jeremy Piven's complete performance in Entourage. Is that show still on?

Will: Shatner
Should: Ted Danson

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Perfect Holiday Gift

I Can't Believe I Missed This Anniversary

The Commodore 64 turned 25 on Monday. I feel like there should be some national holiday or something. I wrote my first stories on my Commodore - stories lost to history on some 5 1/4" floppies that are probably rotting away in some landfill. So, the world won't really suffer without such horrid pieces of fiction, and no, the dot matrix printouts didn't survive either. I guess there are some sites online where you can still play ZORK, of which I completed just about every game, and One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird.

Wow. Look at those awesome graphics.

World of Warcraft can never compete with the greatness of ZORK.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Here Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Tis the season for a bunch of lists, so let me add to the mess. Here are some of the things that I've enjoyed over the past year, or at least I think it was over the past year. I can't really remember and all of this is off the top of my head without looking up anything, which means there is a lot that's missing here, as well as some stuff that I probably enjoyed last Fall. But what the hell? Let's do this anyway.

Notes of a Scandal - Awesome, complex film with wonderful performances.

Little Children - Better than the book, which is saying something. Plus: Kate Winslet naked!

It's Always Sunny in Philadelpia - My gut always hurts after watching this show.

New England Sports: Red Sox Win World Series/Patriots Undefeated/ Celtics, the best in the NBA/ Bruins doing pretty good - Perhaps there is a god

Strangers in Paradise - The entire run of the independent comic is now available. It's probably one of the best series ever.

Slide - Funny, savage and funny again. I can't wait for the third book from Bruen and Starr.

The Killer Inside Me - A great book that I'm ashamed to say I hadn't read until about four months ago.

Transformers - Surprisingly entertaining. Michael Bay may not be the devil after all - at least not until Pearl Harbor 2.

Grindhouse - Best movie of the year, but some dumbass out there refuses to put it on DVD. Sure we get the two movies seperately, but that isn't what I want. I want the whole experience, you fucking bastards.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Futuristic, geeky goodness.

Flight of the Conchords - Best show of New Zealand's "fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo."

Pushing Daisies - Barry Sonnenfeld's beautifully imagined (and slightly skewered) sense of humor come to life.

The Colbert Report/The Daily Show/Real Time with Bill Maher - Sadly, the best and most insightful journalism on TV.

Fell - Warren Ellis's wonderfully realized crime comic. He must publish more.

Robot Chicken - You can pick almost any episode of this Adult Swim show and get a winner, but the Star Wars episode was brilliant.

A Storm of Swords - Book Three of George R. R. Martin's The Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series is simply wicked. Martin is so good at throwing readers for a loop that it borders on sadism. And with thousands of characters to keep track of, I'm so greatful for Wikipedia.

An Accidental American - Sybil's...ahem...I mean Alex Carr's intricately well-researched book reads like a guilty pleasure, but without the guilt.

Gone, Baby, Gone - Ben Affleck finally lives up to that Oscar. Dark, disturbing and gut-wrenching; but in a good way.

The Boys - There are other superhero parady comics out there, but none as filthy or as funny as Garth Ennis's series.

Live Free or Die Hard - Despite the awful title and bland villain, the fourth installment is way way way better than it should have been. Easily the best one since the original.

Veronica Mars - How can I not mention this show without thinking of Kristen Bell... naked, showering, soapy lather, Barry White playing in the background, witty banter, champaign and strawberries... the wedding ring on my finger - oh damn! Also, Piz sucks, Veronica belongs with Logan.

Anyway, that's just a taste of what I've enjoyed over the last year. Let me know if you agree or disagree.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's the Rush?

I've come to the realization that I'm not going to finish anything substantial for quite some time, but at the same time I've come to accept it. Why rush it? A part of me thinks I should continue to push my limits with the small amount of success I've achieved so far before the momentum ends, but that success is pretty miniscule compared to a lot of other people. I've published a few short stories and quite a few flash pieces, and picked up some (dare I say it?) fans, but in the scheme of things my writing career is in its infancy. Full-time employment on top of full-time parenting doesn't leave much in terms of time or energy for writing. I do a little here and there as I find the opportunity. It's December 10 and my short-range goal of finishing a full-length novel manuscript by the end of the year has become an impossible achievement. There's certainly no way I'm going to do it during the holiday season. It's time to get rid of my anxiety of reaching some illusionary deadline. Why take the stress? I'm relatively young - in writers' years I'm about 12 - so I have plenty of time. No more daily word counts. No more reading certain books in a certain amount of time. No more panicking when others seem to publish more often than I do. Perhaps allowing myself some relief I'll create a better creative environment. Jesus, I hope so.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Intelligent Intelligence

This pretty much sums up my opinion of the latest intelligent assessment about Iran. But why is Bush still rattling the sabers? He wants to know what they did in the past or else? WTF? Granted, the Iranian government isn't all roses and puppy dogs but why the push to extend the war? Hopefully this assessment becoming public will curb what seemed to be inevitible just a few weeks ago. I don't think I really believe the administration when they say this comes as a surprise to them and that they only read the assessment last week. Please.

How much longer?

So Cool

Amazon is streaming three prequels to The Wire.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Can I Take a Nap Now?

Very little sleep last night. I got caught up in the Patriots/Ravens game, which was incredibly awesome... for New England, not so much for Baltimore. Man, the Pats really didn't deserve that win last night; Baltimore basically won it for them with all their screw-ups in the last minute and a half. And then they were two yards away from a winning touchdown with an incredible Hail Mary pass with two seconds left in the game!

But I was so toked after watching that game (I woke everyone in the house up three or four times with all the yelling) that I wasn't able to fall asleep until I went out to the living room to watch episodes of GHOST IN THE SHELL STAND ALONE COMPLEX and then drifted off from the white noise at about 3:30. I even tried to write some, but I just stared at the keyboard for fifteen minutes without even a word being typed. Pathetic.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Snow Day - For or Against?

So, supposedly we're getting about a foot of snow starting in a few hours and lasting throughout the day and into tomorrow night. This is good and bad, depending on a few things. If the University cancels classes tomorrow morning, then I get to sleep in, at least a little bit; this also means I'll have some time to maybe, possibly do some actual writing this week. I would love to finish this damn book by the end of the month; it may be a tad ambitious, but it's doable. However, since I have to shovel the driveway (which always looks a hell of a lot longer in the winter), that's going to take some time out of my writing schedule. And even if the University doesn't cancel classes, I still have to shovel. Man, I hate winter.

Best quote of the week:

"I love being the goddamn Batman." - Issue 5, All-Star Batman and Robin by Frank Miller

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ferris Bueller, You're My Hero

Congratulations to Jay Leno and Taylor Hicks offspring, Lyman Feero on being shortlisted for the Spinetingler Magazine's Best Short Story Award. The Switch was originally published in ThugLit. Now, due to my modest nature I don't want to take credit for critiquing the story and pushing him to submit it or anything; but I will. Two words for Lyman: You're welcome.

Oh OK, so I really didn't have much to do with the story being so good, I guess that was all him.

Remember to check out the short lists and vote before Dec. 30.



Love Child

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Allowing Certain Words

Recently, while surfing some comics sites, I came upon an interesting critique of Garth Ennis's work. In this piece, the writer, an American black man, wrote that Ennis, a white (Northern) Irishman, didn't have the right to use (and I'll pause here for those who do not like the N word, this is your chance to stop reading because I'll probably use it once or twice during this post) the word nigger. The use in question appears in issue 12 of Ennis's The Boys when a Russian character, not black, refers to another character, also not black, as "my nigger".

I think this brings up an appropriate topic for writers to discuss: are there any words in which we are not allowed to use? Are there certain words that can only be used by certain people? My answer is no.

First, let's differentiate between the use of the word by the writer and the use of the word by a character. If the word is coming directly from the writer's own perspective, then he or she deserve every bit of criticism that comes his/her way. But I still don't think one should be censored. Here's an example: recently someone I know came upon a dilemma regarding another person's submission for a workshop. The submission in question was quite awful to begin with, however it was also incredibly offensive and down right racist. Now the piece was not from a character point of view, but from the writer's own opinion. The question raised was whether the material should be allowed in the workshop at all. My answer was that it should be allowed, and that the participants had the responsibility to tell him or her that it was a racist piece of shit. I mean really dish it out.

The usage of the word in the comic however appears because it is what this character, one kind of familiar with American vernacular through rap music and some movies (the most obvious one being Training Day), would say to someone. Granted, the character comes from the mind of the writer, but does that limit the writer from writing this type of character? One needs to write him truthfully. That is the job of the writer, no matter his or her race.

The criticism of Ennis's work states that a white writer doesn't have the right to use the word, but it's OK for someone who's black. I can understand someone being offended by the word and not liking it used in any variation by anyone, but does the argument stand when certain people are allowed and others are not? By this logic would I be allowed to write prairie nigger since I'm Indian?

For better or worse, nigger is a part of the modern American vernacular, used by some as a form of comraderie and others as a racist slur, depending on how it's pronounced. (However, if you have a Maine accent and all of your R's sound like A's it's hard to tell which way you intend it.) To deny a writer a part of that vernacular is to cripple him from finding any type of truth in life and turn all writing into superficial gunk. Granted, The Boys will not bring any kind of incredible insight into the human condition, but it will give us a clue of what a certain character is like.

Now, I'm not so completely daft as to not realize racism is a problem in this country. Believe me, I come across plenty of people during my day who have zero clue that what they say to me is offensive, as if contacting an office that deals with Indian issues gives them free range on expressing their ignorant views. But I'm not about to stop a writer from using terms like redskin (if I did I'd have a Hell of time with Sports pages during this time of year).

I think censoring writers is just a way of ignoring reality. If we prevent someone (and does it matter what the writer's race is?) from reflecting the truth, what are we accomplishing? It won't make the problems of racism go away, it would probably have an opposite effect.

Here endth the rant.

Monday, November 12, 2007


The death of Norman Mailer over the weekend has left a hole. Yes, he was a great writer, but I'm not talking about his contribution to American literature, no, what I'm talking about is the massive persona that was Mailer. Mailer was equally known for his lifestyle as much as for his writing. Of course, it helped that Mailer was frequently in the limelight for other endevours, such as running for mayor of New York, biting off a piece of Rip Torn's ear and stabbing his wife. I mean, is there a writer alive who even comes close to filling Mailer's legend, or is the culture of the celebrity writer dead as well?

Has the fascination of characters like Mailer turned to empty shells like Paris Hilton? What does that say about America when we choose to focus on the exploits of the intellectually bankrupt (no, not bankrupt; that insinuates there were some brains to begin with; more like just enough mental power to walk and breath) rather than the bad behavior of someone who has at least a thought or two, no matter if you may agree with those thoughts or not? And if there aren't any intellectual bad boys (or girls) out there, perhaps we should invent some. If the mass media can make Nicole Richie a household name, surely they can exaggerate the exploits of some writer out there. (OK, you have your James Freys and J.T. Leroys; but how about someone with talent who actually makes meaningful contributions to American letters?)

Mailer once said that the novel was on its way out, which is perhaps a forced polemic of a egotistical man whose books were never the universally accepted darlings he thought they should be; but there may be some truth in there in regards to the literary environment. There are no big personalities anymore. Sure, there are well-known writers, but not one of them can capture our imagination like Mailer. Which of today's writers are willing to resort to fistfighting with just a hint of provocation? Isn't there some dark part of you that would love to hear about Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon getting into a wrestling match at some National Book Awards party?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Let's Shuffle

I was electrocuted yesterday. I just finished a test in Criminology. Time for brainless activity. What's playing on the iPod?

Foo Fighters "Miracle", In Your Honor

Mary Chapin Carpenter "Dreamland", Party Doll & Other Favorites

Bruce Springsteen "Light of Day", In Concert

Radiohead "Knives Out", Amnesiac

Pearl Jam "Glorified G", Vs.

Sugar Ray "Fly (Acoustic)", WBCN Naked

Bjork "Army of Me", Tank Girl Soundtrack (I love this soundtrack. I also love the movie, too.)

Bjork "5 Years", Homogenic

Metallica "Bleeding Me", Load (You gotta love the sperm and blood artwork on the cover.)

Red Hot Chili Peppers "Johnny, Kick a Hole in the Sky", Mother's Milk (One of my favorite albums. Definitely a desert island choice. But I guess with iPods nowadays you can bring everything with you on a desert island)

Prince "Purple Rain", The Hits/The B-Sides (Great song, bad movie)

The Beastie Boys "Shambala", Ill Communication

Rage Against the Machine "Testify", The Battle of Los Angeles

The Beastie Boys "Jimmy James", Check Your Head

Guns N' Roses "Dust N' Bones", Use Your Illusion I

Thievery Corporation "Lebanese Blonde", Garden State Soundtrack

Avril Lavigne "He Wasn't", Under My Skin (What? You gotta problem that? Yeah, I like Avril, what of it?)

INXS "Suicide Blonde", X

Public Enemy with Anthrax "Bring Tha Noize" Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black

Paul McCartney & Wings "Jet", Wings Greatest

The Who "See Me, Hear Me", Tommy (Another desert island album)

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy "You and Me and the Bottle Makes 3 (Baby)", Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Bill Withers "Who is He (And What is He to You?)", Jackie Brown soundtrack

Eddie Izzard "Jesus and the Dinosaurs", Circle

Bruce Springsteen "The River" The River (One of the best songs ever. I listen to it whenever I need some inspiration.)

Bob Woodward "Track 06 of Disc 06", State of Denial (Whoops. Tough to dance to.)

Percy Sledge "It Tears Me Up", Hard Revolution (They should demand Pelecanos create a complition promo CD for all of his books)

Bob Woodward "Track 04 of Disc 02", State of Denial (WTF?)

Led Zepplin "Ramble On", Led Zepplin II (Greatest reference to Gollum in heavy metal history)

Well, I suppose I've had enough fun. Wouldn't want to get too excited here.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Maine Literary Festival and Me

I don't belong here. That was my primary thought on the first night of the Maine Literary Festival; and to tell you the truth, it was my primary thought throughout the entire weekend. I felt like an outcast with absolutely no peers. Most in attendance were wealthy and older, while those closer to my age were among the authors featured, and all of them were much more successful than I am.

The festival was held in Camden, Maine, which, if you’re not familiar with it, is a town with a slightly higher income per capita than the rest of the state. OK, greatly higher. To tell you the truth there aren't many true Mainers who live in Camden; few of us can afford it. Most residents are from away. This distinction has a few degrees of categorization: 1) Very nice, 2) Benign, but annoying, 3) Complete douche bag. Unfortunately for category 1 people, it is category 3 people who tend to stick in our minds and sully our attitudes; even though Cat 3's are usually the minority. What can I say? You throw a douche bag into the mix, the flavor changes. Anyway…

There were some interesting topics, especially the last day, which focused on the mystery genre. The mystery panel even touched upon the current debate started by Rickards on the status of the genre, thanks to yours truly who supplied the question. The general consensus was that the genre isn't in a rut and didn't need a shot in the arm. I disagree somewhat, not that I would have been able to express this opinion. Questions were written down on cards, which took away a lot of the spontaneity and intimacy of an intellectual exchange between panelists and audience members. And you had to be quick in writing down those questions because there were only so many minutes allotted for Q&A. I actually wrote the Rickards question before the panel started.

And that was my biggest pet peeve of the conference: the strict time schedule. The woman "in charge" was a tyrant with a stopwatch. The schedule was more important than content. She made sure every panel was done promptly as the itinerary dictated - to the minute. She was like some fascist's wet dream. You could actually see the power going to her head as she dictated the entire weekend. It was like watching that psychology experiment where they observed people who got off on shocking others, only without the electricity. However, if she could have found some frayed wires, I think most of us would have been fucked.

There were some interesting people there: Tess Gerritsen, Matthew Pearl, Sarah Langan, Kate Flora, Joe Hill, Owen King, etc. Most of whom I talked to, at least briefly. But to demonstrate what kind of a dork I am, I didn’t talk with Tess Gerritsen for two reasons: I know that Tess is not her real first name, it’s actually Terry (it’s kind of funny to listen while some people call her Tess and some people call her Terry), so I had this fear that if I called her Terry it would be too familiar and she would look at me like I was one of those deranged fans who’s about ten seconds away from handing her their pancreas in a jar. The second reason is I have met her a few times and talked with her, but I also know from her blog that she can’t remember faces and names (don’t ask me how I can remember that, I just do.), so I didn’t want to come up to her like she should recognize me, but I also didn’t want to come up to her like we’ve never met before and have her say, “Hey, you’re the guy with the pancreas.” So, like the incredible introvert that I am, I didn’t talk with her for two of the stupidest reasons imaginable. BTW - Tess is a Cat 1.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Life of the Party

The Life of the Party, a new flash fiction piece, is up at DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash. It's sort of John Cheever meets Sam Peckinpah.

To tell you the truth I totally forgot about it until I received an e-mail this morning. It's neat to have a story that's been gone from your mind for so long that you're able to enjoy it somewhat objectively. I hope you like.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Every once and awhile I get kinda bored with crime fiction. It usually happens after I finish a mediocre, or worse, absolutely horrible, crime fiction novel. It seems that all the good books are unique, but the mediocre ones are all the same. While I'm sure it won't take me long to get out of this funk, this latest crisis of faith (OK, that's a bit exaggerated, but you get the idea) has taken me to the point where I'm tired of defending the lowest common denominator in our genre so that the best writers get a little bit of respect.

I come from an MFA background. Rather than starting from scratch by myself, I went to school to learn how to write - if anyone can really learn how to write, but I digress. Being a genre writer in an MFA program is fucking hard because you need to constantly defend genre writing. You can't let on that you think there is plenty of horrible shit sitting on the mystery and speculative fiction (or alternative fiction) shelves because that will only give these nimrod idiots grounds to prove their prejudices. Well, if you think it's crap, why should I even care? I think this is where I should mention that most of the literary fiction MFA students out there are complete dolts who are so lacking in their reading knowledge that it isn't funny. They can be quite ignorant.

Now you're saying to yourself, but Steve didn't you come from the only MFA program in the country with a popular fiction track? Why yes I did, in fact The Atlantic even pointed out the uniqueness of this particular program; but just because one of the leading magazines in the country managed to focus on this characteristic doesn't necessarily mean that the majority of students from the other genres, some of the faculty or the administration understands and appreciates this.

So why am I in this funk? Two reasons that happened to intersect over the past couple of days. The first was reading, well not a bad book, but a plainly average one. It had all the elements of good mystery/crime/thriller books from the past, but it just didn't do it for me. I finally sped read through the last third of the book to finish it. After I put it back on the shelf, I went to find another book, but I didn't want to discover another average book. (I finally read through the first 30 pages of Don Delillo's Underworld, which had been sitting on the shelf since it was published 10 years ago.)

This reading misadventure came on top of the perennial pop fiction student push to hire useful faculty for the MFA program I attended. Now you're thinking, why must the pop fic student body continually suggest and push for appropriate faculty while the other genres are taken care of? Good question. They shouldn't. That should be up to the people who actually run the damn thing, because that's their fucking job. The task of finding faculty and recruiting them has constantly been deferred to the pop fic students and the pop fic faculty. Truthfully, if any influence outside of the administration whose responsibilty it is to suggest and push for pop fic faculty it is the alumni, of which I am apart of, however almost all the popfic alumni have been so burned by the administration while we were students doing exactly the same thing current students are doing, that there is a part of us that doesn't really give a fuck. Well, that's not entirely true - we care about the current students getting a good education, we care that the faculty may be rundown by the struggle and we care about the reputation of the program, if only as a selfish consideration of the worth of our degrees.

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of the current director of the program (however, I am a fan of most of the faculty who do an incredible job), but it's not because I'm an asshole, despite what other alums have called me because of my vocal criticism (this is usually from the ones dangling out of the director's ass anyway). This reason for my displeasure is that I can see what this program can become. It is the only pop fiction MFA out there. Can you imagine what it would be under the right guidence? This could be the place where genre fiction scholars and teachers could congregate and push popular fiction into an incredible new direction. Imagine a truly academic pursuit of genre writing. But that's being squandered, actually it's being completely ignored. After The Atlantic pointed out that this was the only pop fic program in the country, and was what made our MFA program standout from the rest, do you know how many references the administrations made to the article? How many ads were created to promote this? How many e-mails went out to students and alumni and donators? ZERO. None. Nil.

So, instead of continually fighting the unwinable fight of proving that genre writing is worthy of study by defending all genre writing, I'm going to revert to a much higher ground. Instead of saying that all genre writing is deserving (it's not), I'm going to call a spade a spade. I'm going to promote my idea of good genre writing and stop letting others push me into deferring to the lowest sludge when I talk about it. There are some in genre writing who will disagree with me, and that's OK, but I can't stop myself from saying what is good, what is bad and what isn't deserving of academic or artistic respect.

I have no idea if what I wrote makes any sense, and I'm too busy taking care of a semi-sick kid to go back and review it; but I hope you get my meaning.

Here endith the rant.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Censor Me, Censor You

Will there ever be a time when the arts won't be under fire from "concerned" citizens who think they are the arbitrators of what people should and should not see, review and read? A school in Guilford, Connecticut has forced an English teacher to resign after he gave one of his students a copy of Daniel Clowes's excellent Eightball. The book was consider obscene for its depiction of graphic sex and violence - none of which actually appears on the page. The teacher also faced possible criminal charges as the Guilford Police Department investigated the matter, but the Connecticut state's attorney's office refused to prosecute. What the fuck?

Why is it that the only conversation in this country regarding literature concerns people trying to get certain books banned? With fewer people actually reading (that includes these "guardians of good taste" actually reading the books they are trying to ban) and society in general becoming more and more ignorant of arts and culture, shouldn't the national conversation turn toward the glories of books and reading rather than the "evils" with which the written word is trying to corrupt the world? Shouldn't these righteous idiots who trash Harry Potter for its "satanic" messages be happy that their children are showing an interest in reading? Besides, doesn't Harry celebrate Christmas in the books? The parents in the middle of this Guildford controversy should have encouraged their child when she showed some interest in a book. The reason the teacher gave her Clowes's book in the first place was he thought a graphic novel would help get her excited about (or at least mildly aware of) the joy of reading after she failed to read any of the books assigned to her over the summer. Again, what the fuck? I guess ignorance is preferable to the possibility of corrupting our children's souls. Give me a break.

By the way, If you don't know Clowes's work, he is arguably one of the best graphic novelists of our time, having written the classic Ghost World, required reading for any serious graphic novel reader. Hell, any serious reader should check out Clowes's work.

A similar controversy erupted here in Maine last year when "concerned" citizens wanted Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted removed from a local high school's curriculum. Thankfully there were enough sensible parents and school committee members who defended the educational merits of the book and made sure it remained in the school.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I just wanted everyone to know that I will be wearing my Varitek jersey tonight (and every night through the series) and - very importantly - I haven't washed it. I'm sorry that I forgot to wear the jersey during games 2, 3 and 4 of the ALCS - my bad.

CBS Sportsline has Boston as the heavy favorite tonight.

Oh, and one more message for the Yankees:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What Goes Through Every Writer's Head


A total of 360 lousy words today, or rather yesterday; but for the past three days that averages out to about 700. Nothing spectacular, but at least I keep going.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bangor Book Festival

The weekend before last I attended a few events of the Bangor Book Festival. This was a small festival that included about twenty different talks and readings, and was a sort of companion event to the Maine Festival of the Book held in Portland during the summer. The authors that participated were all local and offered a mostly Maine-centered percpective on writing. The most interesting event was called "The Mean Streets of Bangor, Past and Present", which included insight from mystery writer Gerry Boyle, author of the Jack McMurrow series; Ardeana Hamlin, who wrote an interesting book titled "Pink Chimneys" about prostitution in Bangor during the 19th century; and moderated by Dick Shaw, a former reporter for the Bangor Daily News. The discussion was timely because the city was reenacting the famous 1937 shoot out with the Brady gang the next day.

This was the first year of the book festival, but I hope they continue with it.

But there is one thing I have to say, and this pertains to all writing events, I am not a fan of readings. Discuss the books. Why did you choose the subject? Why this character? What are your influences? What is going on in the world of fiction? My mind tends to wander during readings, no matter who is doing it. During my MFA, students were required to attend faculty readings, which I found asinine - I hadn't had a teacher read to me since elementary school, why do I need this in grad school? I guess some people enjoy it, both writers and readers/listeners, and it has become a major part of the book culture, but I'm just not one of them. I can read a book, I've had that ability for quite a few years; what I want is to meet the writer and learn what makes him/her tick. What are your thoughts on readings?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bob Woodward

A couple of fridays ago I saw Bob Woodward and former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen give two talks on Watergate and the current Iraq War at the University of Maine. I'm a total geek when it comes to the Watergate story. Loved the book, loved the movie; in fact the night before I started my short career as a real-life reporter, I watched All the President's Men. For those of you who aren't as familiar with the story as I am, Bill Cohen was a freshman Congressman from Maine in 1974 when he became the first Republican to turn away from Nixon - gutsy move. I'm assuming that most people know what Woodward's role was in Watergate.

(Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)

Growing up in Maine, I've come to really respect Cohen for his individuality and bi-partisonship (not only did he serve as the only Republican in Clinton's cabinet, he also co-wrote a spy novel with Gary Hart). And I think that's another reason I like Cohen, he's a writer - publishing both poetry and books, spy novels in fact.

The talk on Watergate, given in the afternoon (the Iraq War lecture was that evening), was an intriguing insight into that historical event given by two of the main participants. But what was really interesting was that the talk on Watergate only instigated discussion on the current administration, which John Dean, another important figure in Watergate, has referred to as worse than Nixon's own.

A smaller but still telling detail that I picked up during the afternoon discussion was that Woodward kept saying Deep Throat rather than referring to Mark Felt by name. Perhaps all those years of keeping Felt's name a secret has somehow effected Woodward enough that he is unable to reveal the name even though Deep Throat's identity has been known publically for over two years now.

The second talk given by Woodward was, like I said before, on the Iraq War, specifically focused on Woodward's own impression of the President after interviewing him over two days about the increasing unpopular war. Without a wall of objectivity or the watchfulness of tv cameras, Woodward expressed his own opinions about the situation and his thoughts on Bush - which were not favorable, but still far from the outrage that a personality from Air America may express. Instead, Woodward stated his uneasiness of Bush's aims, saying that the language that Bush used during the interviews demonstrated a man with unwavering resolve, which is not necessarily a good thing.

The one statement from Bush that Woodward focused on was the now well-known answer to the question of whether or not he consulted his father about going to war with Iraq. Bush said that he asked a "higher father" instead. As Woodward pointed out, Bush failed to seek advice from one of the most knowledgeable people on foreign affairs (say what you will about 41, he was excellent when it came to foreign policy) as well as the only President to have gone to war with Saddam Hussein. Woodward really showed his disbelief when recounting this exchange.

Both talks were fantastic, but I really wished they had done some sort of book signing with the both of them. Cohen's latest spy novel came out a few months ago, and the third book in Woodward's Iraq War series was just released in paperback. Maybe if I had snuck into the VIP dinner I could have cornered them both, but I wasn't sneaky enough to grabbed any tickets for that event. Oh well.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Could You Pass This Test?

The United States Immigration Services has updated the civics test immigrants must pass to become a US citizen. You can take the test (and check your answers) here. I'm proud to say that I got all 100 questions right, which proves that a BA degree in Political Science is good for something.

Kudos to the government for adding a couple of questions about indians.

What a Douche Bag

Ok, I rarely read the reviews on, but this one for Knocked Up really caught my eye. Almost as funny as the movie. Plus, I love how he derides Hollywood for its immoral views on violence, and his fucking avatar is Wolverine! What the hell do you think he does with those sharp claws, open letters?

(Helpful hint: When doing a Google Image search for "douche" and "knocked up", make sure the search filter is on. Yuck.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday Movie Suggestion: Things Change

Who knew David Mamet had such a soft side? Released in 1988, Things Change wasn't necessarily a departure from Mamet's cement strong stories, only a less cynical attitude his work was, and still is, known for; an attitude that was most likely influenced by Mamet's co-writer, Shel Silverstein. This is one of the best movies about friendship ever made.

The film stars Don Ameche as a sweet shoemaker who agrees to confess to a crime committed by someone who looks like him. For his time in jail, he will receive a large amount of money from the Chicago mob. Joe Mantegna plays a mob soldier in charge of watching Ameche the weekend before the shoemaker appears in court. Mantegna, an indepent minded mobster in frequent trouble with his bosses, decides to take Ameche to Lake Tahoe for a good time before the old man goes to jail. When they arrive, Ameche is immediately mistaken for a big time mafia boss. As high concept as the plot sounds, the film never reverts to a typical Hollywood movie; this story could have easily been made into a glossy, mistaken idenity comedy starring someone like Eddie Murphy. Thankfully for film lovers, Mamet constructs a film with great subtlety in emotion, atmosphere and comedy.

Watch the Siskel & Ebert review here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Think the 1st Amend is the One Getting Fucked

The college newspaper of Colorado State University is under fire for publishing a two-word editorial criticizing Bush and the recent tasering of a college student at another university. The editorial, titled "Taser This..." , simply reads, "Fuck Bush." The editorial has since cost the newspaper $30,000 in lost advertisements, as well as a 10 perscent reduction in its operating budget (all reasonable reactions to such a controvertial piece); but the saddest result is the investigation into "the decision-making process" that lead to the editorial publication. The editor-in-chief, who also wrote a a letter defending the newspaper's decision, now faces possible termination. Yeah, this is what we should be teaching in college: don't express your political beliefs or you'll face punishment. What a wonderful time we live in.

Friday, September 21, 2007


The iPod is about halfway full, so let's hit shuffle and see what comes up:

Smashing Pumpkins, Mayonaise Siamese Dreams

Guns 'n Roses, Rocket Queen Appetite for Destruction (According to a recent Rolling Stone article on the 20th anniversary of the release of Appetite - can you believe the album is 20 years old? - the sex sounds in the background are real. Axl supposedly screwed the drummer's girlfriend in the recording studio. Classy.)

Someone needs a little manscaping

Mary Chapin Carpenter, Passionate Kisses, Party Doll & Other Favorites

Curtis Mayfield, Do Do Wap Is Strong In Here, The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield

Michael Andrews, Mad World, Donnie Darkko Soundtrack

Dan Zanes, Shining Star, House Party

White Zombie, Electric Head: The Ecstasy (Pt.2), Astro-Creep: 2000

Letters to Cleo, Jennifer, Wholesale Meats and Fishes

Roger Waters, Run Like Hell, The Wall Live in Berlin

Bob Dylan, Someday Baby, Modern Times

Cracker, Get Off This, Get on with It: The Best of Cracker

Talking Heads, I Zimbra, Sand in the Vaseline: Talking Heads Popular Favorites

Barenaked Ladies, Fight the Power, Coneheads Soundtrack

Natalie Merchant, Seven Years, Tigerlilly

Pearl Jam, Not for You, Vitalogy

Barenaked Ladies, Life, In a Nutshell, Rock Spectacle (Live)

Nirvana, Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam (Demo), With the Lights Out

Moxy Fruvous, My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors, Live Noise

Pink Floyd, Hey You, The Wall

Beastie Boys, Intergalactic, Hello Nasty

Stereophonics, Dakota, Dakota

Stephen Lynch, Gay, A Little Bit Special

Aretha Franklin, Think, Live on Letterman: Music From the Late Show

Living Colour, Love Rears Its Ugly Head, Time's Up

Garbage, Silence is Golden, Beautiful

Phish, Piper, Farmhouse

Rage Against the Machine Guerilla Radio, The Battle of Los Angeles

Avril Lavigne Forgotten, Under My Skin

TV On the Radio, Staring at the Sun, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes

P.M. Dawn, You Got Me Floatin', Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix

Louis Prima I Wanna Be Like You, The Jungle Book

Kelly Clarkson Breakaway, Breakaway (Yeah, yeah, I know)

Lil Jon & The East Side Boys, Get Low, Kings of Crunk (I remember a woman testifying to Congress about decency in music lyrics describing what the lyrics "skeet skeet" meant. Hilarious.)

Dropkick Murphys, Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced, Blackout

Wu-Tang Clan, Reunited, Legend of the Wu-Tang

So that should give you some idea of my taste in music.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Non-Oprah Book Club: On the Road

There's been quite a lot written about Kerouac's iconic book, On the Road, over the past few weeks in commemoration of the novel's 50th anniversary; all of it proclaiming its importance in American literature, and I have to agree that the novel is great; but will it continue as such a noted piece of work? I don't think it will. At 50, the novel is really starting to show its age. The revolutionary stream of conscious prose seems quite ordinary today, its influence dissipated so much into future works of fiction that it no longer holds its original power for modern readers. As those who first related to the novel grow older and die, the effect of the novel seems to age along with them. The Beat Generation after World War II is going the way of the Lost Generation of World War I. Does Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise or Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises hold their immediate impact? Not really. Both are powerful books, but reaction to these books are related more to the story, prose and characters than to their importance as societal commentary.

Having said that, On the Road is, as I said above, a great novel filled with wonderfully memorable characters, especially the protagonist's constant companion on his various journeys, Dean Moriarty, who is based on Kerouac's real life friend, Neal Cassady.

Cassady, forever attached as one of the pillars of the Beat Generation, would also become a member of Timothy Leary's Merry Pranksters and the hippie generation. But the Cassady connection is not the only real life similarities in On the Road as the entire book in just a slightly fictionalized memoir with people's names changed. One of the more interesting characters for me is Old Bull Lee, Kerouac's alias for William S. Burroughs.

If you've never read On the Road, or know anything about it, there really isn't much to tell about the plot as there really isn't one. Basically we follow Kerouac's alter-ego, Sal Paradise, as he travels back and forth across the United States over the course of a few years. If you're looking for a straight forward plot, then look elsewhere. The best way to enjoy On the Road is just go along for the ride.

The original scroll on which Kerouac wrote the first draft is on display at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts through the first week in October. Part of me wants to go see it, but then again, do I really want to travel to see a roll of paper? Not very Kerouac of me, I know, but I'm part of the Generation X Slacker culture.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This Disgusts Me

This video was taken at a University of Florida event with John Kerry. The student was asking why Kerry hadn't called for the impeachment of Bush.

"Freedom of speech is freedom of death. We've got to fight the powers that be." - Chuck D

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tuesday Morning Movie Suggestion: Dead Alive

I started a movie suggestion post a while ago (I have no idea if I did it on Tuesday or not), but I figured I'd try to get back in the habit of doing some of the things I promised I would put on this blog; which means a return of the Sunday Interview and the Non-Oprah Book Club. So, let's get to this week's selection: Dead Alive.

I first watched Peter Jackson's horror masterpiece on a bit of a lark. I found the video for cheap and the cover looked a little weird: a woman's mouth stretched out to reveal a zombied skull. So, I brought it home and watched it with my sister. Within five minutes we were rolling on the floor laughing our asses off. It was so good that we rewound the tape and watched it again.

If you've never seen the film, the plot revolves around a meek guy named Lionel whose mother is an overbearing she-beast who rules over him, never allowing him to have a life of his own. When he takes the daughter of a local grocer on a date to the local zoo, the mother follows them, determined to stop the budding romance. However, while she's hiding in the bushes, a stange rat monkey bites her arm. She cries out for Lionel and he is forced to leave his date to tend to his mother's injury. Despite Lionel's treatment of the arm, it worsens until the bite finally kills the mother. But instead of remaining dead, she comes back as a hideous zombie. Not knowing what to do, Lionel keeps his mother until she infects more folks in their small New Zealand town. One thing leads to another and soon just about every other person is a member of the undead.

The thing that makes Dead Alive such a great film is its sense of humor - it's sick and twisted sense of humor. The use of the zombie kid, born from the unholy union of an undead nurse and zombie priest, is so goddamn funny. If you like dark humor and gory movies, this is the film for you. I think it's the goriest, blood-soaked movie I've ever seen. Rent it, buy it, steal it; but definitely see it.

Another note on the film: I wrote a paper in college regarding the Fruedian themes throughout Dead Alive. I got an A.

Scenes from Dead Alive: (Warning: if you don't like blood and guts, you probably shouldn't watch. OK, you could watch the first clip - no blood or guts.)


Word, glorious Word. That wonderful piece of software has returned to me and I have celebrated with 1205 words of a new story by 2:00 AM. Of course, the damn enclosure I ordered for the old hard drive didn't come with the right connection wire (USB 2.0), so I had to special order an adapter; which means the novel is still trapped inside a seemingly usless piece of metal at the moment. But at least I was able to prodice a respectable word count in the first few hours of installing Microsoft Office on the new mac - as well as continuing on stuffing the new ipod with evey CD I own.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Can't Blog, Too Busy

So, my computer finally came last week and I've been playing ever since - mostly filling up the new ipod that came with the imac. However, there are a few snags. The hard drive enclosure I bought for the HD I took from the gut of the last mac disn't come with the right connector cable and I had to special order an adapter so it will fit a USB port. And I discovered that I can't find my copy of Microsoft office, so even if I could get to my old files, I wouldn't be able to do anything with them. So, no writing this weekend, again. I'm really really itchy to get back at it. Hopefully I'll take off like a rocket when I'm finally able to write again. In the meantime I have 30 GBs to fill up.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Howdy Party People

So, I'm a bit drunk (had to write that a couple of times because I kept on writing butt drunk and I am not butt drunk) and I thought I'd say how do. Well, ordered a new computer, which is on its way from Shanghai right now. And I got a 30G video ipod, which is cool - even though Apple is announcing an even cooler ipod on Tuesday - the bastards! Anyway, got the other imac in pieces in my office trying to take the hard drive out and put it in a seperate enclosure, but unlike the instructions that Apple shows you on line, my mac opens the wrong way. The front comes off, not the back; and I'm stumped as to how to get to the fucking HD now. Pissed, boy was I pissed. So, I decided to cool down by returning a movie that I foolishly bought at WalMart. Can I say how much i dislike WalMart? I had to return the DVD (300, 2-disc special edition) because it came with two of the same disc. Anyway, I feel like my IQ drops about fifty or sixty points as soon as I drive onto the lot of a Walmart. I look around and wonder where these people come from, and then hope like hell that they don't vote, but considering the shitheads we elect to office, it looks like these troglodytes are just lining up at the voting booths. Anyway, so, I take the damn movie back, and even get a replacement right there at customer service, only the clerk CAN'T FUCKIKNG TELL THAT IT'S THE SAME FUCKING MOVIE! Now, there's nothing different on the cover or back of either case, so a somewhat thinking individual could make a reasonable decision that perhaps they were the same movie - I'm just thinking. But no, the movies had to be verified but not one, not two, but three of WalMart's best employees. It took close to a half-hour for this whole process to play out. WTF?

And then (actually, I discovered this last part earlier in the day, but someone just reminded me of it),I noticed in the latest issue of Poets and Writers that the obligated ad for my MFA program (I'm pretty sure all MFA programs need to advertise in Poets and Writers as part of their accreditation), but instead of promoting the instructors or its unique feature of offering a pop fiction as a genre (a fact that the Atlantic seemed to pick out in its recent fcition issue - which, funny enough, the administration of the program seemed to ignore, even when the fact was pointed out to them), so instead of advertising the program, they decide to advertise a fucking party in NYC with a reading by some fucking friend of the director. I can't understand why people would think I'd have a problem with the administration with intelligent decisionmaking like that going on.

So, I decided to drink some beer - Gritty McDuff's Best Bitter, which is very fine indeed. And my lovely wife has been so kind as to go get nachos. Beer, nachos, 300 and Reno:911 Miami! At least my day is ending much better than the late afternoon would have left it.

Oh, and I got to ride on a choo-choo train this morning. My son liked it for the most part, but he was a little reved up (Whoa, deja vu major; I think I wrote that line before - wait, I didn't did I? ANyway, I get deja vu quite often. Could be something with the brian tumor, as they say tumors supposedly give one psychic powers or something). ANyway, even though he was a little rambunctious, it was a lot of fun to watch him and his sister.

So, what's up with you guys?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's Like a Brickwall

Last week our computer shit the bed. The logic board is gone, but thankfully the hard drive is fine - otherwise I would be absolutly going insane right now since everything is on it. But this means the strides I had been making in my writing, accomplishing an average of 1200 words a day, have come to a standstill. We won't be able to buy a new computer for a couple of more weeks, so in the meantime I can't get much done. Oh well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's Funny Because It's True