Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Search for Equals

There are, one assumes, people who have it all. A happy childhood and a loving family that always gets along; true friends who'd come help them bury a body; a job they love that pays outrageously well; a life partner who is their soul mate. They are in great shape physically and emotionally, have attained a deep spiritual peace, and are at one with their environment, beloved by neighborhood dogs and cats, and they recycle. 

(One also assumes that if these folks decided to have a convention, it could probably be held in a phone booth, with room left over for Clark Kent to change clothes ...)

The rest of us? Probably we are either seekers still looking, or folks who never went that way, or who quit along the path. Like the T-shirt from long ago I saw: "I've Given Up the Search for Truth; I'm Willing to Settle for a Cheap Fantasy ..."

Um. So what's your point here, Steve?

Part of it for me is what it is that drives the seekers. Yeah, there are the obvious things I've rattled off above, but there is another I believe drives adult relationships: The search for equals. The desire to find one's tribe, that group of souls with whom there is a deep and ready resonance. Somebody you meet and within minutes, you feel as if you have known them your whole life.

Those folks are not easy to find. If you are intellectually-bright, there is a tendency to use that as your filter, and the monkey brain only takes you so far. Instant judgement based on sharpness of wit as your main criterion? You miss a lot of good and kind people that way. 

At our house, we call this living from the neck up; you apply your mind to all things, and in so doing, you miss those matters of the heart.

(You can also live from the waist down, and that's as bad. Both are, in my view, shallow ways to live. Yeah, your hoo-hoo will get you into trouble, but so will your brain.)

The balance is to live as a whole being, in the moment. Be here now.

How simple that is. 

How absolutely not-easy that also is. 

I'm just bringing it up as a topic; don't look at me for the answers as to how to do it. I'm working on solving that one, but I ain't there yet. "If you do the best you can, nothing else matters worth a damn." is, for me, true. But some days, the best I can do comes up lame ...

Last Train to Clarksville

They called them the Prefab Four, the Monkees, a TV group that cashed in on the Beatles mop-top image in the mid-sixties. Actors who were hired to do a comedy show: Micky Dolenz, Michael NesmithPeter Tork, and Davy Jones

Davy was the cute one.

The show took off, and there was a string of top forty hits spawned by it. Nesmith could play guitar and Tork had some keyboard skills. Dolenz (cast as the drummer) didn't play. Jones had been a singer in Britain. The music director/producer Don Kirshner didn't think they had the wherewithal to actually lay down instrumental tracks on their records, so he hired studio musicians (see my post on The Wrecking Crew), over which the four sang. 

The songs were bubblegum-ish, but they had a beat, and they were part of the sixties soundtrack: "Last Train to Clarksville", "I'm A Believer", "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone", "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "Daydream Believer" Sold millions and millions of records, and for a while, Daydream Believer was in my guitar repertoire. So sue me. 

Eventually, Nesmith forced a showdown, demanding that they be allowed to play their own instruments. Kirshner was fired; Dolenz learned drums, and the others tuned up their game to do just that. They toured at the end of the show's run, and broke up, got back together, some of them, for the reunion tour(s) and were still going at that when Jones died today from an apparent heart attack while visiting his horses at a ranch in Florida. 

Adios, Davy. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Set Piece

There is in writing a term, "set piece," which is a self-contained passage–usually a scene, sometimes two or three. Such a module can be dropped into a book or screenplay here or there, or likewise, removed and replaced elsewhere, without greatly affecting the story. Generally, I use these to thicken character, or as an action sequence. The Twelfth Birthday is one I like: What was your character doing on his or her twelfth birthday? This can go a long way to establishing who they are, and I tend to show a pivotal event that starts them down the road they are on when the book begins.

Tooling along, and bap! a flashback, and there's Our Hero or Our Villain, on the day he/she (or as I've used it in my most recent novel, the term for somebody of indeterminate gender, "zhe") is having his/her ("hir") birthday and Something Important happens ...

Likewise, there will be an action sequence I know needs to happen–a sword hanging on the wall in the first act needs to come down and be unsheathed eventually; a build-up of the hero's and villain's antagonism needs a payoff; a new toy I have gotten needs a showcase. I know I will need one of these, but I'm not sure quite where, and better to write it when it pops up in my thoughts than not. Like waking up in the middle of the night with a great idea and being sure you'll remember it in the morning? Sometimes you won't. But if you write it down with enough tags to jog your memory, chances are better that you will.

If you are writing a scene in a white heat and it's going like gangbusters, don't stop to feed the dog, check your mail, or mow the lawn. You'll be sorry. When you get back to that sequence, it won't be the same. 

One of my favorite set-pieces was in my first Star Wars novel. I wanted to have a scene wherein the droids, Threepio and Artoo flew the Millennium Falcon. I thought it would be hilarious. 

My editors didn't want me to do it. 

Can't have those two as VP characters, they said impedimently. 

I can finesse that, I retorted confidently. 

Naw, maybe not, they observed obstructively. 

Please! I'll do it as set-piece. If it doesn't work for you, I can pull it out and replace it! I begged Heepishly. 

Well. Okay. But we can tell you right now we aren't going to like it, they opined unconvincedly.

Came the phone call:

That piece with the droids flying the ship?

Yeah ... ?

Can you make it longer ... ?

Yes! I blurted fist-pumpedly ...

And of course, if they hadn't loved it, I wouldn't be telling you this story. (Although they wouldn't let me have the scene of the Falcon's crew at a gas station waiting to use the phone behind some alien guy talking to his girlfriend. In retrospect, I have to agree with that one. Too much.)

Um. Anyway, the point of all this: In my most recent novel for Ace, I had occasion along the way to do several set-pieces. I stuck these bits into a folder, and when I came to a place wherein it seemed there would be a space, I unshipped them, dusted 'em off, and shoe-horned them into the manuscript. 

If you are lucky, you can do this without having to adjust the intro or outro at all. Sometimes, you have to rejigger a few lines, add or drop a players, whatever, because when you wrote it, you didn't know for sure who'd be there when you got to the scene. As you write, characters you thought you knew about at the beginning usually change along the way and become somebody else. And they had better change, or you are missing a bet.

Or a character might get killed in Chapter Eleven, which makes it hard for him to be there when the set-piece gets lit at the end of Chapter Seventeen ...

So I finished the novel, sent to off to Ace, my editor said, "Good work." and that was that.

Except that I managed to leave out one of the nicely-crafted set pieces I did. Just missed it, somehow. Couple-three thousand words worth.

It wasn't necessary for the plot, though it did advance the characterization of a couple of the players. Probably most readers won't miss it. I only found out when I went back into the ms looking for a reference and couldn't find it. 

Being that one of the first things you learn as a writer is to never throw anything away because you never know when it might come in handy, I still have the scene. And since I am writing two more books using the same characters? That piece will show up in the next novel for Ace. And it's a day's work I won't have to do.

Never throw anything you write away. Because you never know when it will come in handy ...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Arm Candy

When you go to silat class, sometimes you bang away hard enough to raise bruises.

Actually, pretty much every time you go that happens, not just "sometimes." And the one on my knee is just as pretty ...

Fortunately, we have balur, the Indonesian-style coconut-oil-based liniment for such contusions. Of course, application of such is more painful than the impact that caused the injury in the first place, but, hey, man up or step off ...

I'm working on the last of the two bottles of balur I got from Mushtaq Ali, with a new bottle from Todd and Tiel's pharmacy standing by once the other is empty ...

Censorship - Another Slippery Slope

Got a long note from Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords–me and probably several hundred thousand other people–regarding a policy change for publications there. It seems that PayPal, through which Smashwords channels its money, coming and going, is asking them to eliminate certain books from their list.

Here's the gist from Coker, in regard to PayPal's concerns:

"Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica."

PayPal swings a big and heavy stick, and Smashwords doesn't want to be whacked.

"Your ebook Your Way" might have to be altered to "Your ebook Our Way ..."

I'm not the guy to stand up and argue for any of these taboos. And if you are writing such, you won't get many sympathetic ears when Smashwords starts pulling those books from its list, but–and you knew there was a "but"–that line is going to be drawn by somebody. There will be obvious offenders, and easy targets. 

There will almost certainly be many shades of murk, where vision won't be so clear.

If you have a rape scene in your book, who decides if it is done for dramatic reasons or titillation? If somebody mentions in passing that the bad guy probably buggers sheep, will that be enough to get a book pulled? If, as in a book I wrote long ago, the villain is a child-molestor who dies a horrible death? True, there wasn't anything graphic nor intended to titillate in that character's actions, and in the end, the villain was duped by somebody pretending to be something she wasn't; still, it's a new can of worms, and I expect there will be some noise made. 

As Smashwords reaches countries all over the world, and as moves a lot of books worldwide, social mores in Africa or India or the Middle East start to come into play. At the very least, it is going to be like the Chinese curse: If you are a writer, the times are going to be interesting. 

Stay tuned.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tis the Season

So, the crocuses have poked their heads up, and things are starting to blossom around the neighborhood. Dogwoods, Rhoddies, like that.

And my gum tree out front? Why, it has almost stopped dropping last fall's leaves. 



Observe Newton's Third Law in action ...

The vid is a bit long, and after the first five minutes, you can shut it off, but there are some doozies here. My favorite is about 2:25 in, but the rocket launcher failure is pretty interesting.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Had to post this image: A Krispy Kreme donut cheeseburger ... Note the bacon and fried egg, just in case you want to stop up all your arteries. It is to die for. Or maybe murder somebody with ...

Book Carver

Never seen anything like this. A man who carves up old books. Amazing stuff. Go look.

Apparently, he positions a book, open or closed, seals it with acrylic, and then carves into it, using various tools. Nothing is added or rearranged, only cut away. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fat Tuesday

Had our party last night. Got the house cleaned up, champagne cold, food prepped, and everybody came in costume for our Mardi Gras get-together. We had fried catfish, jambalaya, red beans, pickled this and that–and as the evening went on, the pickled this and that included us, since we had four bottles of champagne and then a couple more of still wine with dinner ...

Before dessert–King Cake, with the baby included–Blind Whitebread Perry brought out the guitar and did a few songs. Which was fun on a couple of levels. I had several Louisiana-songs, plus couple of funny ones. Did "Little Egypt," "Woke Up Dead Blues," "St. James Infirmary," "Louisiana, 1927," and "House of the Risin' Sun."

The playing was okay, I didn't screw up too bad. But what was more interesting were the crowd reactions. 

Understand, that this group of folks–there were nine of us last night, and four more who couldn't make it–gets together a couple-three times a year for dinner here or there, and we've been doing it for probably twenty-five years in the current configuration. Some of them go back longer than that. And while me playing the guitar ought not to have been a surprise to them, since we've talked about it since I got more serious with it, none of them outside my wife had ever heard me play or sing. Probably would have stayed that way, save that my wife urged me to do it and I didn't resist too hard.

My favorite response was from Dave, who leaned over to my wife and said, "Are you fucking kidding me? How come I didn't know he could do this?!"

I loved it. 

A fine time was had by all. We cleaned up, fell into bed, and I slept like a rock for nine hours.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Wrecking Crew

If you grew up listening to rock and roll records, back where there still were records, there is a phenomenon about which you might not know: Studio musicians.

All the major recording studios used them. These were players, usually local, usually men, who were adept enough at their instruments that you could just assemble a bunch of 'em in a room, give them lead sheets and chord charts, and lay down professional-sounding tracks in short order, didn't matter what style of music. Rock? No problem. Blues? Easy, Country? Jazz? No sweat. Three songs in three hours? Got you covered.

Mostly, they were only known in the industry. A few of them stepped up to star status: Glenn Campbell, Leon Russell, Dr. John, like that, but most were anonymous. You heard their work, but you never saw them. Didn't even know such things existed. Uh, you mean that wasn't the Byrds on Mr. Tambourine Man? Except for McGuinn? Nope. 

Motown had the Funk Brothers; New York City had its Crew; Memphis had the Nashville Cats, Muscle Shoals, Alabama had the Swampers. In Los Angeles, the loosely-knit association of studio guys (and one well-known woman) was called The Wrecking Crew.

If you listened to any pop or rock or movie music coming out of L.A. in the sixties or seventies, you heard them. They played on virtually everybody's records, and usually without credit. That piano behind Simon & Garfunkel on Bridge? The guitars and basses and drums behind everybody from Nancy Sinatra and her old man Frank, to the Beach Boys, to John Denver, to the Carpenters, the Byrds, Nat King Cole, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound? Studio guys.

Sometimes, there was a band that went on the road to do touring gigs, and an entirely different crew in the studio making the records. Groups that were good enough to play live, but not good enough to hit the marks for a record? More than a couple of those, and not just the Prefab Four, the Monkees ...

There was no formal group, the name apparently came from the top session drummer, Hal Blaine, and the membership shifted as people came and went, scores, even hundreds. But if you heard a record produced in L.A. from the doo-wop years up until the singer-songwriters, and sometimes even then, chances are your favorite licks were done by a studio musician you never heard of and still don't know about. 

Bass player behind some of the hits by Sonny & Cher, Joe Cocker, Beach Boys, Sammy Davis, Jr., Monkees, the Doors? Carol Kaye. Her credit list runs for pages. And that was after she shifted from guitar to bass–she had a slew of hits on guitar, too.

But wait: Don't forget the TV and moive themes she played on: M*A*S*H, Mission Impossible, Ironside, Kojak, Hawaii 5-0, Cosby, It Takes a Thief, Wonder Woman, ER, Lost in Space, Love Boat, Kill Bill, The West Wing, to rattle off fewer than half of 'em.

There was a film done about these folks, directed by Denny Tedesco, the son of one of the hot session guitarists, but apparently so many song rights tangled up in it that it never got a commercial release; it was shown at festivals and whatnot. They are still working to get it out.

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best Kept Secret, by Kent Hartman, a local guy, is just out, and if you like the behind the scenes stuff underpinning hit records, you'll probably enjoy this. Hartman interviewed a lot of folks, the credits at the end run for pages and pages, and probably you'll find out something you didn't know; certainly I did. 

Not a lot about who was sleeping with whom or what their favorite recreation chems were, but I found it fascinating. And man, could these folks play ...

Basketball Fans Weep in Portland

So, the Portland Trailblazers played the L.A. Lakers last night. Second time this season. Portland beat L.A. at home the first game, but last night?  

O last night!

Dan Moran is a Lakers fan. Yesterday before the game, I gave him some shit about the Lakers being beaten by bad teams ...

Portland did not, um, do well last evening, no, they did not.

Dan and I exchanged emails this morning. Here's the gist:


"Watching the Lakers get beat by bad teams is a little rough, I admit. But even in a down year there are compensations -- just yesterday, the Lakers played this one team? The score was 37-7 at the nine minute mark of the second quarter. That means, this other team I'm talking about, they scored seven points in a little more than 15 minutes of game time -- about .46 points per minute over that 15 minute stretch, which might not be a record but probably should be. It was really even worse than that because these guys, they hit a 3 to start the game? So then they got outscored 37-4 ... that sort of stuff must make their fans' testicles shrivel a bit.

Boy, I'm glad I'm a Lakers fan."


"Lowest first quarter in the franchise history. Lowest halftime score this year. (At the half, I went to Safeway and got a dozen paper bags, cut out eyeholes, and Federal Expressed them to L.A., so the Blazers could sneak home without getting tarred and feathered. Almost had to get a new TV, too, from throwing remotes at mine. Scared the dogs to hear me calling out the names of the Lord and His Son, and adding in an anglo-saxon middle name to junior's monicker.)

I should have known better than to say anything to you about the Lakers. Worst way to jinx a foul shooter is to allow how good he is when he gets to the line. Steve Nash is up, and he never misses a -- oops, would you look at that?

Seven fucking points. From guys getting paid tens of millions of dollars a year to play a game. A junior high girls team could have gotten seven points, using bricks. Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammad all wept. I might take up watching golf. "

It was a rough night to be a Blazers fan. And these guys are going to have to live with that record. "Hey, a terrible night for the ___________." says the first announcer. 

"Yeah, but nothing like that Blazer game with L.A. back in 2012, is it ... ?"


Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Gras in Beaverton

Being from southeast Louisiana, I know all about Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday. Not being a Catholic, I grew up celebrating it in a secular fashion, i.e., the parades, the beads, the food and drink, the party aspects. We'd go to New Orleans, which is a complete mad house during the season; or to New Roads, or other small towns where there were lesser parades and fewer people, but just as much cajun and creole food, and beer ...

Not a big deal up here in Oregon, although there is a miniature float parade in Portland. And by "miniature," I mean shoebox-sized, but this year, we decided to have a few friends over–it's our turn for the dinner anyhow. We'll cook some traditional food–jambalaya, fried shrimp and catfish, maybe even some fried okra–and raise a glass or two.

Laissez le bon temps rouler: Let the good times roll.

Of course, the house will smell like frying oil for three days, but, hey, that's the price you pay. Latest rumor is, if you use really high-quality vegetable oil, it's not bad for your heart to eat fried food. Bad for your waistline, but not your ticker ...

Dial up the Zydeco, with a side order of Blues ...

Friday, February 17, 2012

eStory Economics

I mentioned that I stuck a couple stories up on and Smashwords. I did this for a couple reasons, neither of which is to make money–at least not directly. I don't expect that either will add much to the family coffers.

A fair price for a short story, at least in my mind, is $.99. That seems to be the going rate, and the royalty on such things, set by the seller, is about a third of that, plus or minus. (I didn't bother to send these to Dan, and that's just because I know it's more hassle for him than it's worth. He gives me a much higher royalty than anybody else, and his cut on something like this is like a dime. I mean, really, he has to track the things for a dime each?)

You have to sell a whole lot of stories earning thirty-five cents a pop to make enough to do anything. Ten of them pay your parking at a meter for a couple hours; A hundred might let you take the grandkids to Mickey D's for burgers and fries; a thousand of them is what? Part of a car note? And probably about what you get if you sold it to a magazine or anthology.

Chances of me selling a thousand of either title in the next, oh, couple years? 

Approaching zero. They aren't bad stories, but that's how the market goes.

And yes, there are folks who offer an entire novel on for $.99 and get rich. There are also folks who get struck by lightning or eaten by sharks, and chances of you doing any of these are probably in the same ball park. You could win the lottery, too. 

So why do it?

Two reasons: One is for my hardcore fans who might find it interesting. Doesn't cost them much, and there you go.

Second is, like a snowball rolling down a hill, there is a certain amount of inertia added when readers have more things from which to choose. They log on, see the list, and if they like some of it, they might be willing to risk buying more of it. 

When I find a writer I like, I tend to buy everything they have available, then drum my fingers waiting for them to get off their ass and write some new stuff. (And yes, if somebody is going to point that finger at me, I acknowledge it–we're a lazy bunch, us writers.)

Just so you know ...

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Tarzan Meets La of Opar, by Frazetta

Speaking of visually-impressive, check out Frazetta's painting, "Tarzan Meets La of Opar."

In it, for those of you at work where erotica might not be good, Tarzan, being held by two amazonian nudes, faces a very naked La, Queen of Opar. What is more fun, is that in the original painting, Tarzan was mightily aroused at the sight of the Queen's charms, with one of the guard girls looking down at his major wood as it lifted his loin cloth. Alex Acevedo, the owner of a NYC art gallery, wanted the painting, but due to the pornographic nature of it, Frazetta wouldn't sell it to him, it was a visual joke he'd done to amuse himself. This was in 1944, and Acevedo was willing to pay $45,000 for the painting, which was a goodly sum back then. (How goodly? Inflation would make that somewhere around half a million in today's dollars.)

Frazetta would only sell it if Acevedo agree to alterations, and he reluctantly did agree. Frazetta whipped out some paint, scraped the willie off, and touched up the loin cloth and the guard's eyes, and sold it. 

Acevedo thought it was criminal, but Frazetta allowed that he could always paint another one. Apparently, he never did, unless it's in a private collection somewhere ...

Read about it here: The Day Frazetta Took Away Tarzan's Erection ...

Old Short Story

I put up my martial arts erotica story, "Tigers in the Rain." Link to Amazon should be live today or tomorrow.

I did stick "Tigers," and "Jolly Roger" up on Smashwords, but it won't make their "Premium" status–they want formatting I don't like, and an ISBN, which I don't do for short stories, so if you want to download it from them, you'll have to do it manually. Shouldn't be a problem, just pick your format and click.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Smoker Beware

Trying to quit smoking? Thinking you can add one of those cute electronic cigarettes to your nicotine gum and patches and beat the nasty habit?

Might want to reconsider that idea:

"A Florida man trying to kick the smoking habit was puffing on an electronic cigarette when a faulty battery caused it to explode in his mouth, taking out some of his front teeth and a chunk of his tongue and severely burning his face, fire officials said Wednesday.

"The best analogy is like it was trying to hold a bottle rocket in your mouth when it went off," said Joseph Parker, division chief for the North Bay Fire Department. "The battery flew out of the tube and set the closet on fire."

Rest of the story is here.

Could inspire a new song: Don't Bogart that Bomb, My Friend ...


Lest you think I'm totally against the notion of modern art, after my previous post on the subject, I confess I've always liked Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase," above. I suspect anybody who has done psychedelic drugs could look at that, nod and get it. Yeah, sure, the trails, man, the trails ...

Quite the scandal when it was first shown. Teddy Roosevelt nearly had a heart-attack he was hurrying so fast to tell people it wasn't art ...

Of course, I still believe that Ramos' "Nude Descending a Staircase (below) is, while not so avant-garde, more, um ... fun ...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Once Upon a Secret


New book out by a woman who was a nineteen-year-old intern at the White House when Jack Kennedy was the Prez, says they had an affair. Lasted for eighteen months, even once she went back to college. Last time she saw him was a couple of weeks before he was assassinated.

Once Upon a Secret, by Mimi Alford.

Do I believe her? Oh, yes. Jack was ever the horn dog, and from the passages quoted, it sounds like he didn't lose any time. She was a pretty girl, to look at her picture from 1961:

Still is a good-looking woman today at nearly seventy, (below):

Back then, he took her into Jackie's bedroom four days after she arrived and worked his charm upon her virginal body, Hey, hey, baby, welcome to D.C.!

Long been known that power is a major aphrodisiac. 

Why'd she wait almost fifty years to write the book? She says she planned to keep it a secret, told only close family and a couple of friends, but a few years back, she was outed by somebody poking around. She woke up one morning and there was her story in the New York Daily News, and oh, shit!

I won't buy the book. I don't need confirmation that Kennedy was a pussy hound–there is ample evidence of that already made public; plus it sounds as if it's a sad story–she was young, bowled over by the most powerful man on the planet, and while she went along willingly, even down a couple of roads that must have seemed very risque at the time, it messed her up. 

She says it drove her divorce, put her into therapy, and resulted in long-running guilt, and the tone of the excerpts show that. 

Of course, she was only one of a fairly long list of Jack's partners, several of whom were also White House staffers. I wonder if that mitigates it–or makes it worse?

No wonder the man had a bad back. The Tiger Woods of Presidents. Makes you wonder if the guy on the grassy knoll might have been a jealous husband ...

Some tawdry stuff–Hey, my friend Dave (Powers) here is tense, can you, uh, take care of him? and Mimi nodded, and gave the guy a blowjob while Jack watched, right there in the White House swimming pool.

Wonder if the Secret Service got pictures? And where they might be?

Liked Amyl Nitrate poppers, Jack apparently did, though Mimi didn't care for the experience.

Always called him "Mr. President," she said. Never "John" or "Jack."

Um. For those folks who thought Camelot was shining and bright, the revelations after Kennedy's death must have been disheartening. Sad when your golden idols turn out to have feet of clay. 

Nibbling Ducks, Falling Dominoes

When it comes to staying in shape, I believe inertia is the biggest obstacle. That first step is the hardest. Once you get to the gym or the pool or the ball court, whatever, once you start your warm-up, you are good. It might be hard, you might be tired, but generally, my experience is, that far, you will go for it, and after you are done, you'll be glad you did.

But, ah, that first step. That's where fitness gets made or broken.

In lifting, they tell you that if you take care of the big muscles, the little ones take care of themselves. It seems to be true, but sometimes, the little stuff is what trips you up. 

There's a Safeway store about a block from my house. Three-four minute walk, counting the two intersections you have to cross, you hit them right. (And best you cross those quickly. The narrower one gives you eighteen seconds protected in the crosswalk; the wider one, you have twenty-three seconds. I walk fairly fast, and it takes me twelve seconds to make the narrower one, and seventeen across the wider street. People who move much slower have to dodge traffic given back the green light. I've seen folks take thirty-five seconds to amble across, and this is a busy four-lane street, speed limit going from 4o mph to 45 in the next block.)

Today, I needed to run by the store to get some milk for the cat. It was gray, drizzly, about forty, and as I stepped outside, I thought, "Hmm, maybe I'll just take the car."

For a round-trip under two blocks, and not really any faster in the automobile, time you crank it up, make the block and lights, park, get into the store and then do it the other way to get home.

I was tempted. 

I decided to walk.

I think that's how physical decline sneaks up on you. Well, you think, it's cold and nasty out, I'll just drive over, no big deal. And it's not a big deal, but once you default to taking the car instead of hoofing it, then some other small choice will pop up, and having folded once, it is easier to fold the next time. You'll eat too much of something you really don't need. Skip a workout because you feel a little under the weather. Put off doing your exercise routine until tomorrow. No big deal.

Then you find yourself having a third beer and chowing down half a bag of Fritos, and wondering how come your pants have shrunk so much in the wash, why your belt needs a new notch, and how come you get winded going to collect the mail ... ?

Friends, rust never sleeps, and entropy is always hiding in the bushes waiting to pounce. You need to pay attention to them or they will get you. (Well, to be honest, they will get you anyway, eventually. But you can delay it some ...)

Gator Got Yore Grammy

Watched the Grammys last night. There was the usual bespangled and bedecked crowd of singers, dancers, musicians, actors, producers, A&R guys, ranging from children to Tony Bennett. Geezers doing rock, from Springsteen to McCartney, with a Beach Boy reunion, a tribute to Glenn Campbell, who has Alzheimer's, and Glenn himself, doing "Rhinestone Cowboy."

The usual good, the bad, and the ugly.

Rather than a listing of who won what, who I thought the real winners and losers were.

Best Presenters: Folk/Country duo Civil Wars, who introduced Taylor Swift. They sang a couple of verses of their Grammy winner "Barton Hollow," just them and a guitar, and it was terrific. And of course, Taylor is cute as a ladybug.

Best Costume: You could barely see them it was so dark, but the dancers backing girlfriend-beater Chris Brown for his rap with L'il Wayne, with the Foo Fighters and Dangermau5, in the tent, wore what appeared to be spandex about as thick as spray paint.

Best James Brown Re-incarnation: Bruno Mars, right down to the drop-split and bounce up.

Best Tribute to Whitney Houston: Jennifer Hudson. Woman has a voice on her.

Best Line in an Acceptance Speech: Adele, for "Oops, a bit of snot," when collecting the Best Album Grammy.

Best Hair: Bonnie Raitt, of course.

Best Plastic Surgery: Gwyneth Paltrow. Also Least Necessary Plastic Surgery.

Best Impression of a Cylon and Gort the Robot: Dangermau5. I must be way out of the loop. I'd heard of this guy, but the only way that electronic head does it is if you are maybe on good-quality psychedelics. I mean, really, kids? A DJ in a mouse-head?

Worst Dressed Male Performer: Jason Aldean, who wore a black tuxedo with a shirt unbuttoned to his sternum, with cowboy boots and a thirty-gallon hat that looked as if it had been airbrushed to look like a desert and sprayed with shellac. 

Worst Dressed Female Performer: Nicki Minaj, who also wins Worst Overall Performance for that hideous mash-up of The Exorcist and ... whatever else it was. 

Worst Rock Jam: I hate to say this, because I love the songs and the performers, but the McCartney medley, "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight," and "The End," was way too choppy. I mean, Sir Paul had Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Joe Walsh to switch off leads with, and he was pointing to them and giving them all of six or eight bars before moving to the next player. I know the show was running long–it always runs long–but Geez Louise, couldn't they have eliminated one of Chris Brown's numbers? The one where he did gymnastics all over a disco-lit hill of boxes, but you couldn't hear him singing? 

I'm sorry Whitney Houston died. The tragedy, of course, unfolded over several years, drugs, bad marriage, booze, and being found face-down in a hotel bathtub is just the final fall. Accident, suicide, murder? The coroner will get back to us, and one can never be sure guessing in advance, but I'd guess an OD is not a bad bet if you want to make it. Her ghost haunted the show this year, even when Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt came out to do their tribute to Etta James, they had to mention it, and it sounded tacked-on. 

I wonder why somebody didn't step in and do something for Houston when she was alive. It would have mattered a lot more.

Um. Anyway. So another Grammy show goes ...

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Got a message on Facebook from a writer/editor I know earlier today, putting together a theme-anthology with another writer and editor, and would I be interested in doing a story? (Or at least would I indicate that I would be interested in doing one, to help sell the idea.)

Original anthologies are tough sales, and one of the ways to help make it go forward is to have a list of writers who have enough fans to tempt a publisher. My name doesn't carry much weight, but if you could get a couple of Neil Gaimans or China MiƩvilles or Connie Willises to sign up, that would probably be enough to interest a publisher.

These days, I'd guess the chances are much better that it will go as an ebook instead of treeware, but you never know.

No money up front, but if it sells, the writers split the pie, usually a pro rata share based on story length, and probably about what you'd get if you wrote it for a treeware 'zine.

Um. Anyway, I was asked, and I said "Sure." The gimmick is, there is an opening line that everybody will use, and then sky off in our own directions with it. This is usually a fun thing, because of how different those directions tend to be when you ask a bunch of writers to take a line and run with it. 

Back in the day, some of the magazines used to do a variation on this by showing a picture and then asking writers to do a story based on it. Those invitation were usually more limited, a handful, but it's still an interesting trigger. 

I dunno if the project will go, and I can't talk about it in detail yet, but the opening line was intriguing enough that it immediately bought a scene to mind, so I thought, Huh, I'll just write that down. 

Which I did. 

And then the scene moved into the next scene, and the next, and in an hour or so, I had a story. Less than 1800 words, and I dunno if the editor will like it, but hey, it's done.

I had no idea where it was going when I started, just that one short scene, but halfway through the second page, a light bulb lit and I knew who the main character was, and then I just followed him to see what road he'd lead me down. Flowed like warm oil down a clean glass pane. 

Sometimes it happens like that, and it's always magic when it does, because you lose track of everything save the tale, entering into the state known as Flow.

Click, start. Click, done. No sense of elapsed time. 

If the anthology doesn't get picked up, I'll probably eventually stick the story up somewhere. I can tell you my working title: A Few Minutes in the Kitchen and Dining Room of Hamelin's Restaurant.

And now, back to the novel ...

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I decided to go with a leather book-style case for the iPad, for several reasons. So, TwelveSouth's BookBook.

First, because it carries the thing safely and is likely to protect it from an accidental fall. You can zip it shut and I suspect an edge-on drop won't do much from any height from which I am apt to drop it. It's padded fore and aft, too.

Second, because I like the appearance of distressed leather books and that's what it looks like. 

Third, because I already had it, and that makes it my cheapest option, too. It's what I used until I got the late, lamented Grove Bamboo case.

The drawbacks are that it is bulkier than a smart cover and shell, and that standing it up, either in portrait or landscape modes is a tad more involved than simply rolling the smart cover into a triangle. Very low-tech, though. There's a leather string and a button, and you just wrap one around the other and voila! 

Mine is an old one, for the original iPad, so it doesn't come with the cut-out for the camera lens. Not that the camera is all that good, but I can auger out a slot for that. The new ones come with it. 

It doesn't have a smart cover, either, which for those of you who don't have a clue about which I am blathering, that's a cover that, when you close it, puts the notebook to sleep, and when you open it, wakes it up. Uses an embedded magnet to toggle the system. Saves a lot of wear and tear on the mechanical switch. 

However, being the clever lad that I am, I realized I could tape one of those tiny rare earth magnets, (taken out of an old electric toothbrush head,) inside the front cover of the case at the right spot, and voila! again, a do-it-yourself smart cover.

Piece of black tape and an itty bitty magnet. More low tech, have a look:

It'll make a good knock-around case for local use. If I'm going on the road, I have a Zagg Bluetooth keyboard case

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Modern Art

I consider myself relatively unsophisticated–lot of stuff just blows right past me, some of which is modern art. Guy sticks a vacuum cleaner under a plexiglas case, I get it that the idea of it, and the presentation is, um, art, sorta, but c'mon, if somebody is willing to pony up a couple hundred grand for that? 

Somebody's got a screw loose.

I mean, sure, Picasso painted stuff like this:

But Picasso could also paint like this:

So it wasn't as if he was just slapping oils on a canvas every which way because he didn't know any better.

This next one is also beyond me, but maybe I might could see something in it. Some kind of dynamic symbolism embodying the fractured forces of nature at the beginning of creation ...

Uh huh ...

But this?

A black square. Too bad we can't get a better view of the museum-goers' faces.

Um ... ? What ... ?