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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year/Decade That Was

Well, it's that time of year again, when we trot out endless "Best of" lists and try to make sense of the cavalcade of pop culture and insanity that we are literally drowning in every year. This year has an additional element, though, because it is also the end of a decade so the lists have to be more expansive and philosophical and stuff.

Rather than try and come up with a "Best of" list that would entertain y'all I'll just offer you a list of "Best of" lists.

For starters here is Hannah Miet, a poet from NYC, ruminating on the meaning of resolutions and offering some of her own anti-resolutions in her brilliant, flowing poetry/prose. While you're there take some time to peruse her other posts. She's a great writer.

Time gets the award for the broadest Top Ten list: The Top 10 Everything of 2009.
The New Yorker's got the Best Films of the decade here.
Paste deigns to choose the Best Albums of the "Naughties" here.
Natch Rolling Stone has to add their two cents here.

If websites are more your thing then Time lists the 50 Best of 2009 here. I'm not on the list...I already checked.

Salon takes a stab at choosing the Best Books of the decade.
So does the Guardian UK.

The AV Club focuses on TV here.
And Variety here.

Alright...that's' enough. Find your own darn "Best of" lists people! See y'all in 2010. Be safe and have a good time ringing in the new year/decade. It's gonna be a good one...I can feel it.

Word of the Day!

presage [pres-ij; pri-seyj]
1. An indication or warning of a future event; an omen.
2. A feeling or intuition of what the future holds.
3. Prophetic significance.
4. Archaic: A prediction; a prognostication.transitive
1. To indicate or warn of beforehand; to foreshadow.
2. To have a presentiment of.
3. To predict; to foretell.
-intransitive verb
To make or utter a prediction.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Magical Mystery Tour: A Beatles Odyssey

As most of you probably know by now The Beatles recently released two massive collections that have quickly become must-haves for any Beatles fan. The first is the fully remastered stereo recordings for all 13 studio albums released between 1963 and 1970. This includes:

Please Please Me
With The Beatles
A Hard Days Night
Beatles For Sale
Rubber Soul
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Magical Mystery Tour
The White Album
Yellow Submarine
Abbey Road
Let It Be

Plus Past Masters Volume I and II which includes every non-album single released during the same period. So effectively this collection includes a remastered stereo version of just about every note The Beatles put on record and released in the 1960s.

Word of the Day!

largess [lar-zhes; lar-jes; lar-jes]
also largesse
1. Generous giving (as of gifts or money), often accompanied by condescension.
2. Gifts, money, or other valuables so given.
3. Generosity; liberality.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Writing Guide

Here's a cool blog from Craig Gaines, a freelance editor and writer in LA with more than 10 years' experience in the business of making words do what they're intended to do, i.e. convey meaning. He doesn't post all that regularly* but when he does the subjects he tackles are always interesting and informative.

You can check out the blog here.

*Compared to me, at least.

Word of the Day!

diaphanous [dy-af-uh-nuhs]
1. Of such fine texture as to allow light to pass through; translucent or transparent.
2. Vague; insubstantial.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Song of the Moment: Girl From the North Country

Bob Dylan is one of the most prolific songwriters in the history of modern popular music and so it is easy to lapse into superlatives when trying to describe any of the hundreds of great songs he’s written through the years but, all reservations aside, none of his songs have affected me quite so fundamentally as “The Girl From the North Country.” Written in 1962 during Dylan’s first trip to England the song is classic Dylan, sad, world-weary, and irrepressibly gorgeous.

Featured on Dylan’s second studio album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, “Girl From the North Country” has lingered for years as a sort of peripheral track, never widely praised on its own yet used often to buoy the reputation of Dylan’s dynamic repertoire. While nowhere near as famous as it’s Freewheelin’ set-mates (“Blowin in the Wind”, “A Hard Rain’s A’Gonna Fall”, etc.) “Girl” resides in the twilit nether region of album cuts which rather than drag down the overall composition instead become part of the milieu that makes a good album great.

Word of the Day!

embonpoint [ahn-bohn-pwan]
Plumpness of person; stoutness.

What a relaxing holiday!

Hey everybody, I hope you had a wonderful holiday and are rested and relaxed. I used the time to catch up with my rapidly increasing family and spend some well-deserved time with my baby. Now it's time to get back to the grindstone.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Care to join me for a Shelfari?

I was recently turned onto a totally awesome website for book readers*. It's called Shelfari and it is totally free and easy to join. Once you're signed up you can catalog just about every book you've ever read, tell when you read it, what you thought of it, and network with other book readers who share your tastes. Plus every book has its own site, which is open for members to post their favorite lines, parts, and various arcanum. Basically the site is the ultimate in Book Nerddom. Finally the Readers get their due.

To check out the site click here.

You can visit my personal page on Shelfari here**. Sign up and become my friend. I don't bite.

*Thanks very much due to my lovely wife.
**I haven't even scratched the tip of the iceberg w/r/t logging all the books I've read, but I've got my All-Time Favs (House of Leaves, Infinite Jest, Lord of the Rings, Stephen King's It), Hemingway, and Stephen King in there for starters.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pocket Book Review: A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces
By John Kennedy Toole

In 1969 after going on a two-month whirlwind trip across the country, and nearly 6 years after finishing his masterwork, John Kennedy Toole stopped in Biloxi, Mississippi and killed himself, leaving his only two novels, A Confederacy of Dunces and The Neon Bible, unpublished. Several years later his mother, Thelma Toole, discovered the manuscript for Dunces and put it in the hands of author Walker Percy who was so blown away by the novel that he personally guided the manuscript to publication. A Confederacy of Dunces was published in 1980; over 10 years after Toole’s death, and the following year it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The machinations that went into the publishing, and ensuing canonization, of A Confederacy of Dunces is important because it is one of the few modern examples of a literary genius being posthumously recognized. Similar to Emily Dickenson’s poetry, John Kennedy Toole’s comedic masterpiece was misunderstood and subsequently rejected during its own time*, only to be resurrected in the most unlikely manner. Furthermore there is a certain inherent irony in A Confederacy of Dunces, which is predominantly concerned with a man and his domineering mother, only being brought to fruition because of the actions of the deceased author’s supposedly domineering mother.

Word of the Day!

gallimaufry [gal-uh-maw-free]
A hodgepodge; jumble; confused medley.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday's So Cold

By Tres Crow

Go home
You’re not wanted here
I said hold on
I think I’m in love here
Or maybe it’s just something I feel

Where did I get the notion
Sunday’s can be so cold?

Who told?
I thought I’d hid it well
I was young but never innocent
Like that note
I gave you on the last day of school

Just like the ghost books
I’d read
You disappeared without a trace

All my thoughts
Always come back to you
You hold on
Like the last fallen leaf
And evenings spent
Were all in your name

And if I could
Have spoken to you
And told you what I should

Dear Rachel, I’d always thought such a pretty name

Word of the Day!

cogitate [koj-uh-tayt]
-intransitive verb
1. To think deeply or intently; to ponder; to meditate.
2. To think about; to ponder on; to meditate upon; to plan or plot.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Word of the Day!

paroxysm [pair-uhk-siz-uhm]
1. (Medicine) A sudden attack, intensification, or recurrence of a disease.
2. Any sudden and violent emotion or action; an outburst; a fit.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sketch #14

By Tres Crow

It was a heated debate
Both sides were right
They argued for borders
They argued for nothing

If there’s another way
I’ll buy it
I see no other way
Except through buying

There was a heated debate
Both sides spoke through visionaries
They wanted their borders
To reflect their bodies

Word of the Day!

plenary [plee-nuh-ree; plen-uh-ree]
1. Full in all respects; complete; absolute; as, plenary authority.
2. Fully attended by all qualified members.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Refuge of Delayed Souls

There are myriad ways that authors are using the internet, and blogging specifically, to get their work out there, but up to this point, this is one of the most interesting. Fiction author Miladysa has/is created(-ing) a generation-spanning story on her blog Refuge of Delayed Souls where she has been spinning out the yarn over two years, one blog post at a time. Don't be deterred by the head start she's gotten, she only posts every other day, so start at the beginning and before you know it, you'll be caught up in no time.

Bravo, Miladysa. Keep up the good work.

Word of the Day!

descry [dih-skry]
-transitive verb
1. To catch sight of, especially something distant or obscure; to discern.
2. To discover by observation; to detect.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Word of the Day! Test

You know the drill: five questions all pertaining to past WOTDs. Tell the world how you did in the comments section.

1. A beginner in learning; a novice.
A. tyro
B. lambent
C. toothsome
D. gregarious

2. Protean means readily assuming different shapes or forms.
A. True
B. False

3. Is chary used correctly in the following sentence? He was a chary man, always dancing about and spending his money frivolously.
A. True
B. False

4. A person who pries into or meddles in the affairs of others.
A. obloquy
B. peccadillo
C. prolix
D. busybody

5. To howl, as a dog or a wolf; to wail; as, ululating jackals.
A. busybody
B. ululate
C. fecund
D. irony

Word of the Day!

myrmidon [mur-muh-don; -duhn]
1. (Capitalized) A member of a warlike Thessalian people who followed Achilles on the expedition against Troy.
2. A loyal follower, especially one who executes orders without question.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Word of the Day!

numinous [noo-min-us; nyoo-]
1. Of or pertaining to a numen; supernatural.
2. Filled with or characterized by a sense of a supernatural presence.
3. Inspiring awe and reverence; spiritual.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Word of the Day!

confrere [kon-frair]
A fellow member of a fraternity or profession; a colleague; a comrade; an intimate associate.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The letters of Van Gogh

Once a great artist (literary/musical/visual) dies the interior life of that artist, that which produced the magic of their art, effectively dies with them. All that is left then is the hard evidence of their life: the art, the letters, the photographs. Like a paint-splattered imprint from a stencil these artifacts can help piece together the moments and memories that, when filtered through that artist's specific mind, created the masterpieces we know and love today.

I've lately begun to despair a bit for my generation's general lack of hard evidence. Most of our lives we exist in a virtual world of e-mail, jpgs, mp3s, and websites all of which can be erased with one swift gesture. Think of the e-mails I wrote during college, much of which I would very much like to peruse today, yet all of them were lost when I left college and the University of Michigan shut down my e-mail account. Now, I'm not equating myself to a Hemingway or Steinbeck or Tolkein, but imagine if there was this 5 year gap in hard evidence from any of those author's lives. What if all we had were the books themselves? Wouldn't we be missing a huge amount of information about their interior lives during one the most formidable parts of their careers?*

It occurred to me recently that for many of the artists who will emerge from my generation and afterwards the only evidence of their interior life will be that which was published or mass produced, for everything else (their e-mails, websites, AIM convos) will likely be erased. It seems strange to me then that future artists may die even more unknown than those of the past. Future Van Gogh's may literally die amid a cloud of confusion, half-truths, and outright misrepresentations as historians are left a disjointed and ambiguous electronic "papertrail" to piece together.

Fortunatelty for us the real Vincent Van Gogh left about 1000 letters and sketches and musings behind for us to read and discuss. And you can see those letters here. Much thanks to the folks at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for making these public and free.

*This line of reasoning has lead me to wondering whether I should start writing more letters to people. When I become a famous and admired author, it would probably be wise to have as many of my brilliant ruminations on paper as possible. I mean, imagine Da Vinci's reputation without all those awesome skethes.

Word of the Day!

sacrosanct [sak-roh-sankt]
1. Extremely sacred or inviolable.
2. Not to be entered or trespassed upon.
3. Above or beyond criticism, change, or interference.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Word of the Day!

epigone [ep-uh-gohn]
An inferior imitator, especially of some distinguished writer, artist, musician, or philosopher.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Typo of the Day

Librarians are strange people. Not only are they interested in books and reading, but they are also interested in cataloguing, neither subject necessarily inspires the average person’s blood to boil. The nexus of these two obsessions leads to this, a massive list of the words that are most likely to be misspelled in library databases. I like this blog not only because of its arcane subject matter but also because it uses the misspelling as an excuse for illumination. Check it out and be lit with the spark of knowledge.

Word of the Day!

malleable [mal-ee-uh-buhl]
1. Capable of being extended or shaped by beating with a hammer, or by the pressure of rollers; -- applied to metals.
2. Capable of being altered or controlled by outside forces; easily influenced.
3. Capable of adjusting to changing circumstances; adaptable.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Writer Spotlight: Misopogon

Misopogon hails from the desolation that is Detroit, MI and yet his writing contains none of the fatalism that usually accompanies writers from that region of the country. On the contrary Misopogon's writing is optimistic, open, and sincere to a point that almost seems like a throwback to a far-gone time when writers were more interested in telling stories than being hip. In short, Misopgon's writing is refreshing.

I have known Misopogon for nearly a decade, ever since our time together at University of Michigan and since those earliest days he has been the consummate journalist, studying the world around him and honestly reporting what he sees. As of late his writing has focused particularly on the world of sports and most of the time he can be found at the extremely popular Michigan sports blog MGoBlog where he has carved out a niche with his incisive wit and total lack of pretense. Even while running intellectual circles around the reader, his distinctive voice always remains approachable and friendly. In the world of sports journalism that is saying something indeed.

For an exhaustive list of his musing on MGoBlog click here.

And here is one of his short stories, which is, as of late, unpublished:

"The Sweetest Sound" - A hard-working father receives a surprise text from his teenage daughter, which changes both of their lives. Written largely as text message between the father and daughter, "The Sweetest Sound" is both believable and extraordinarily touching.

Word of the Day!

couture [koo-toor]
1.The business of designing, making, and selling highly fashionable, usually custom-made clothing for women.
2.Dressmakers and fashion designers considered as a group.
3.The high-fashion clothing created by designers.
1.Created or produced by a fashion designer.
2.Being, having, or suggesting the style, quality, etc., of a fashion designer; very fashionable.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Twitter Lit

Much has been made about the current state of the publishing industry: that sales are down, no one reads print media anymore, etc. And yet, despite the difficulties of the major publishing houses, or maybe because of the difficulties, there has arisen some interesting ways of supplying the modern consumer with literary options.

In searching for new markets to place my fiction I stumbled across the heretofore unknown to me subset of the publishing industry, Twitter Lit. Essentially a subgenre of flash fiction, Twitter Lit requires that the author tell an entire story in 140 characters or fewer. For those of you who have ever tried to write good flash fiction you will recognize how incredibly difficult it is to write short shorts, let alone something under 140 characters*.

Some may argue that this is all just one more symptom of our ADD society and that no one has the attention span to write, let alone read, great American fiction anymore, but I say bullocks to that. If you can move me in 140 characters or fewer you, sir or madam, are a damn fine writer. Cheers!

For more information and some good examples of Twitter Lit go here or here or here.

*For a taste of how difficult this is, this post is approx. 927 characters long.

Word of the Day!

connubial [kuh-noo-bee-ul; -nyoo-]
Of or pertaining to marriage, or the marriage state; conjugal; nuptial.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Road

About a third of the way into The Road, the Father turns to his Son and says, “I will kill anyone who touches you because that’s my job,” and that grim sentiment lies at the heart of John Hillcoat’s (The Proposition) horrifying but powerful vision of fatherhood. Based on Cormac McCarthy’s (No Country For Old Men) lyrical, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Road is by turns complex, appalling, beautiful, and deeply moving.

Set in a bleak and cold landscape, the movie takes as its focus a Man and a Boy as they trek along a road, bound for the coast and hopefully warmer climes. The cause of the apocalypse is never explained, just as the characters remain nameless, and it is one of the film’s great triumphs that neither of these choices disrupts the emotions that sit heavily at the center of this harrowing story. This is a film about fathers and sons and about family and good and evil; names and causes have no role to play, other than as a catalyst for stripping the world down to it’s barest, ice cold, wrinkled skin. There is only a Man (Viggo Mortensen) and a Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee*) and whatever they can collect to survive on the road south. And there is also hope, even if it is quickly fading.

The Road is not an easy film to watch. Slavishly devoted to McCarthy’s equally bleak novel, the film is all grays and blacks with only brief flares of fire to break up the darkness. There is screaming, guns and arrows, starvation, grunting and persistent coughs, and at least one horrible (even if it isn’t particularly graphic) depiction of cannibalism. Yet for all of the darkness the glory and beauty resonant in the Man and Boy’s relationship as they cling to one another against the impossibility of survival, makes for one of the most moving filmic experiences of the year. This is not darkness for darkness’ sake; it is a treatise on what remains in men’s hearts once everything else is gone, love, hope, food, warmth.

And the answer that The Road compellingly posits is that what remains in most men’s hearts is nothing more than animalistic need, a cold, detached frenzy that can only be quenched by death. But in some men there remains a flame that endures and must be passed on if humanity, not just people but that which makes men human, is to survive. Thus the film relentlessly juxtaposes the inherent difficulties in choosing to carry that flame. The Man and Boy are besieged by roving bands of cannibals, are forced to decamp in whatever shelter they can find, and spend much of everyday scavenging for something, anything to eat.

It is a vision of humanity that leaves very little room for happiness, or even hope, and yet there are moments in this film of such sublime joy that Hillcoat almost tips his hand, belies the fact that this is not a mean-spirited depiction of the evil of men. No, this is a film about the elemental quality of the relationship between a father and his son. This is a film about the flame that parents pass to their children, about the urgency of that exchange and about the power and selflessness inherent in parenthood.

Essentially this is a film about love. And it is one of the best of year.

*Smit-McPhee, it should most definitely be noted, turns in one of the most natural and amazing performances by a child I have ever seen in my life. There isn't a single moment in the film where you doubt he is the Man's son, never any of those "That kid is trying too hard" moments. He is brilliant. On a second note it is funny to me that 2009 should produce two of the best child performances ever (Max Records in Where the Wild Things Are and Smit-McPhee in The Road). Are we to expect great performances from children now? Perhaps we are.

Word of the Day!

mephitic [muh-fit-ik]
1. Offensive to the smell; as, mephitic odors.
2. Poisonous; noxious.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Noble Three featured by AOL Music

Noble Three, a musical side-project of mine with singer-songwriter Patrick Rickelton, will be featured on the main page of AOL Music for the entire month of December. This has been made possible through AOL Music's partnership with and since Noble Three has been really very successful on OurStage, we seemed a good fit for the feature.

To check us out at AOL Music click here.

Raymond Carver

One of my all-time favorite authors, Stephen King, wrote an insightful and thoughtful review of Carol Sklenicka’s Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life for the New York Times last week and I thought I would share it with y'all if you didn't read it already. Raymond Carver was an incredible short story writer who was credited with helping revitalize the short story as a popular medium. This article is a multi-leveled treat because not only is it an engaging piece about what sounds like a great biography about a great author, but it also is a pretty interesting peek into the potentially toxic relationship an over-eager author can have with a domineering editor*. Much is made about the importance of a good editor on the success of a good writer (think about a really interesting bush that just needs the right gardener to prune the bush into something of superlative beauty) but there has been much less written about the opposite, the editor who abuses their relative position of authority to bully the writer into becoming a creature of the editor's creation. In this article King uses the review of Sklenicka's book to launch into just such an investigation. Well worth the read.

To read the article click here.

*As well as it is an excuse to read about 4000 words of Stephen King's prose. I am convinced that, even if his originality is beginning to dry up a bit, King gets wiser, more incisive, and downright wittier as he turns into an old prune. For more hilarity from Uncle Stevie check out his series of random columns he writes for Entertainment Weekly.

Word of the Day!

vagary [vay-guh-ree; vuh-ger-ee]
An extravagant, erratic, or unpredictable notion, action, or occurrence.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Writer's Block: Five Sure-Fire Ways to Smash the Block

Ahh, writer's block, the great mythical specter that haunts every writer's dreams, and turns beautiful gilded story ideas to festering, poisonous mush. Writer's block has been around as long as there have been writers, and it has stymied many a literary vision. As with other ubiquitous calamities, like the common cold, there are nearly as many cures for writer's block as there are books starring teenage vampires.

As a reader of, and subscriber to, about 4 million writing blogs, magazines, and newspapers I have heard just about everything imaginable when it comes to "smashing the block", and yet, strangely, nearly every solution is targeted at the symptom and not the root cause of the blockage.

Word of the Day!

renege [rih-nig; -neg]
-intransitive verb
To go back on a promise or commitment.

Monday, November 30, 2009

NY Times Book Review Top 100 of 2009

The New York Times Book review recently released thier choices for 100 Best Books of 2009. It's a bit of a misnomer since the books were actually chosen from all of the books reviewed between 7 December, 2008 and 29 November, 2009 but you get the idea. I haven't read a single book on the list, but I'm sure they are all really good books. If you've read any of them let me know because I'm curious what non-New York Times book reviewers think.

To see the list click here.

Vonnegut: Funny, even in wartime

Here is a post on the always interesting "Letters of Note" blog, which is noteworthy on my own esteemed blog because it is about the incredible author Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut, as you may remember from High School English class, is the author of Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, and Breakfast of Champions. When he was a young man he was taken as a POW by the Germans in WWII and was subsequently caught in the firebombing of Dresden, the horror of which is the subject of this letter he wrote home immediately after being saved by the Russians. Note that even after going through the horrors he describes he never loses one whit of his wit.

You can check out the letter here. Pay no attention to the eerie similarities between this blog and my own.

Word of the Day!

impregnable [im-preg-nuh-buhl]
1. Not capable of being stormed or taken by assault; unconquerable; as, an impregnable fortress.
2. Difficult or impossible to overcome or refute successfully; beyond question or criticism; as, an impregnable argument.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Word of the Day!

comity [kom-uh-tee]
1. A state of mutual harmony, friendship, and respect, especially between or among nations or people; civility.
2. The courteous recognition by one nation of the laws and institutions of another.
3. The group of nations observing international comity.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pocket Book Review: Thanksgiving Edition

By Nathaniel Philbrick

It’s all the rage these days for American historians to plunder our collective American myths in order to sell copy. McCullough did this successfully with 1776, Newt Gingrich less so with all his history-themed novels, but regardless it has become something of a fad to take new, deeper looks at well-known historical myths. Some may call it revisionist, but some stories are so well worn that they practically beg to be looked at from a different angle. So into the fray jumps Nathanial Philbrick with his at times tedious, but always sincere, Mayflower.

Mayflower tells the tale of, you guessed it, the Pilgrims and their journey across the Atlantic to settle in the New World, and the difficulties they faced once they were there. While Philbrick’s book is well-researched, thorough, and far more sympathetic to the Indians than other books about the period, there is a decisive lack of narrative tension which normally wouldn’t be a black mark against a history text, but in this case is apt because Philbrick seems so intent on engaging the reader on a literary, rather than scholarly, level. For instance, throughout the chapter describing the build-up to and carrying out of King Phillip’s War, Philbrick insists on describing the events as if the reader didn’t already know how it ends, a style choice that becomes distracting during later chapters.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a well-written, and well-plotted book with more than enough new information to keep the average history buff interested. But unlike McCullough’s highly interesting and literary tomes, Mayflower is not likely to spread to a general audience. It’s just not interesting enough.

Verdict: Well-written and thorough, but not likely to win any converts to the cult of Plymouth.

Word of the Day!

listless [list-lis]
Having no desire or inclination; indifferent; heedless; spiritless.
-adverb, listlessly
-noun, listlessness

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Word of the Day!

verdant [vur-dnt]
1. Green with vegetation; covered with green growth.
2. Green.
3. Lacking experience or sophistication; naive.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Word of the Day!

avarice [av-uh-ris]
An excessive desire of gain; greediness after wealth; covetousness; cupidity.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Burning Girl

By Tres Crow

This burning girl
And me a water sink
Is where I draw
All my strength
It’s going to be a perfect day

The boneyard gates
Seem like open arms
It’s going to be a perfect day

Your arms feel
More like those gates
It’s going to be a perfect day

{happy, cheerful
and always enthusiastic

My tongue
Shot through
Can’t talk
Can’t talk}

Word of the Day!

tyro [ty-roh]
A beginner in learning; a novice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guess whose birthday is today?

Friday, November 20, 2009

On the Plains of Marathon

This section is currently under construction while The Crow searches for some way to get the jogging train back on the tracks.

It's Official!

An army of bears would beat an army of gorillas.

But the real question is: given a water level that would allow a shark to swim without keeping a bear from its characteristically deft maneuvering, which would win in a fight--a bear or a shark?

A: Bachelder

Word of the Day!

ratiocination [rash-ee-ah-suh-nay-shun; rash-ee-oh-]
The process of reasoning.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Picks of the Week

Week Twelve

Well, I did well for my picks this week but there were only five of them so they didn’t help my over-all totals a whole lot. I am now at 47 for 78, or 60%.

There is very little going on this week. Since most every conference has their divisional and/or conference champs figured out, what’s left is a whole lot of pride games. Look to the Big 10 and the PAC 10 for some interesting games between teams that still have a lot to prove.

No. 10 Ohio State at Michigan
The Grandaddy of them all! The Big Game! The Great Rivalry! Unfortunately Michigan kind of sucks this year and Ohio State has inexplicably turned a loss to unranked Purdue into a Big 10 championship season. So, it would seem that the Buckeyes have an easy win over the Wolverines, but with a chance to spoil the Buckeyes season a little and salvage a bowl berth look to Michigan to come at OSU hard. I think on paper the Buckeyes should have an easy time Michigan, but rivalry games change everything. I’m going out on a long, skinny limb here, folks.
Michigan 42 Ohio State 38

No. 8 LSU at Mississippi
The SEC West is already decided; ‘Bama punched their ticket for Atlanta two weeks ago, but there is still a lot left to play for, and games like this are fertile territory for upsets. LSU is considered the 8th best team in the country and Ole Miss has had a disappointing season, but there isn’t much separating these two teams and if McCluster has even half the game he did last week against Tennessee LSU might have their work cut out for them. Because I have nothing to lose at this point, I’m rooting for the underdog.
Mississippi 28 LSU 24

No. 14 Penn State at Michigan State
Penn State can’t win the Big 10. Michigan State can’t either, but MSU would love another notch in their belt and signature win to send them to a better bowl than where they’re going currently. And I think Dantonio’s Spartans can do it too as long as they don’t self-destruct. Playing at home should help…but not enough.
Penn State 24 Michigan State 17

No. 16 Wisconsin at Northwestern
This is another pride game in the Big 10. Northwestern is coming off two big wins in a row and would love to scrabble passed Wisconsin for a better bowl game and more respect in the B10. Wisconsin has shown they are capable of losing to worse teams and Northwestern has finally started to put it all together. I think the Wildcats might be able to win out.
Northwestern 35 Wisconsin 28

No. 25 California at No. 17 Stanford
This is probably the game of the week since Stanford is pretty much neck in neck with Oregon for the PAC 10 title (and Stanford has the tie-breaker). Stanford can do nothing but keep winning and keep their fingers crossed for another Ducks loss. And both teams have a tough road ahead of them: Stanford has to play Cal and then Notre Dame, and Oregon has Arizona and Oregon State. Given the way the two programs have been playing recently I think Stanford has a better chance of winning out. I think Gerhart will steamroll another 200 yards this game, and put Golden Bears out of their misery.
Stanford 52 California 32

No. 11 Oregon at Arizona
This is the other big game in the PAC 10. Oregon has to win out in order to solidify their PAC 10 title, so I’m sure they will be feeling the heat at their backs the next two weeks. Arizona is a good team but I think it will be next week’s game that trips up the Ducks.
Oregon 45 Arizona 28

Sketch #6

By Tres Crow

One time
I would like to see the trees wilt in my direction
Then all the books
I’ve read over so many years could finally
Come to use and I’d be well understood

All times
It goes just the way it was meant to

Word of the Day!

obloquy [ob-luh-kwee]
1. Strongly condemnatory or abusive language or utterance.
2. The condition of disgrace suffered as a result of public blame, abuse, or condemnation; ill repute.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Militant Grammarians Unite!

And now for another grammatical question that popped up the other day: What is the plural of impetus?

I found the answer from my trusty friends over at The plural of impetus is impetuses. However, the general rule for words ending in -us is to drop the -us and add -i.

Other words that end awkwardly so that pluralizing becomes fraught with uncertainty and self-doubt?

Syllabus - The plural can either be syllabuses or syllabi.
Hippopotamus - The plural can either be hippopotamuses or hippopotami.
Truss - The plural is trusses. Words that end is -s are pluralized by adding -es generally.
Sheep - The plural is sheep. This belongs to the bizarro group that the singular and plural are the same.
Goose - The plural is geese. Ditto to sheep.

Word of the Day!

forlorn [fur-lorn; for-]
1. Sad and lonely because deserted, abandoned, or lost.
2. Bereft; forsaken.
3. Wretched or pitiful in appearance or condition.
4. Almost hopeless; desperate.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Little Crow's Links

Here's a very interesting article from New Geography about the prospect for urban renewal in Detroit. It is by far the most optimistic look at Detroit that I've read in years*. Very refreshing.

Check it out here.

*By years, I mean five months.

Word of the Day!

peccadillo [peck-uh-dil-oh]
A slight offense; a petty fault.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Writer Spotlight: Elliot Krop

From time to time I will highlight an author whose work I particularly enjoy, and this week I want to draw your attention to a wonderful Atlanta writer named Elliot Krop. He comes to the Dirrty by way of Chicago where he lived for several years honing his special brand of wit and ole' fashioned storytelling. By day he is a Math professor, by night he is a mad genius of wordsmithery, crafting short stories that are heady mixtures of surrealism, impressionism, and postmodern mash-ups.

Over the last year he has had several stories published in reputable on-line markets, and I can honestly say these stories are phenomenal. There are links to three of them below.

"Uncle Doubt" - A young teacher opens his front door to a long-lost family member only to find he's opened his life to far more than that. Originally published in Prick of the Spindle in June, 2008.

"Rat Dance" - Set in the slums of Chicago where races and lives and ideas can sometimes smash violently into one another, "Rat Dance" tells the story of a young soldier with a hidden past, who strikes up a powerful relationship with his blind roommate. Originally published in Joyland in November, 2009

"Dirge For a Moment's Loss" - An impressionistic beat poem that tells the story of a love's blossoming and ending. Passionately written and filled with subtle heartbreak, this story is a gorgeous eulogy to a lost love. Orginally published in Underground Voices in June, 2008.

Word of the Day Test!

Now that there are enough WOTD's out there, I figured I'd start testing y'all's knowledge. Every test will be a mixture of Multiple Choice and True or False questions. The answer to each question will be embedded in the question. Enjoy, and let me know how you did in the comments section.

1. One pledged to entire abstinence from all intoxicating drinks.
A. clerisy
B. teetotaler
C. hector
D. arcanum

2. A patrician is an accomplished and presumably irreversible deed or fact.
A. True
B. False

3. To use ambiguous or unclear expressions, usually to avoid commitment or in order to mislead; prevaricate or hedge.
A. teetotaler
B. eldritch
C. equivocate
D. chary

4. Kismet is fate or destiny.
A. True
B. False

5. Producing or capable of producing offspring, fruit, vegetation, etc., in abundance; prolific; fruitful.
A. puissant
B. kismet
C. busybody
D. fecund

Word of the Day!

prolix [pro-liks; pro-liks]
1. Extending to a great length; unnecessarily long; wordy.
2. Tending to speak or write at excessive length.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On the Plains of Marathon: Epic Fail

Week Ten
Goal: 14 miles

Actual Miles Run: 0

Endnotes: Yes, you read that right. I didn't run a single mile this week for reasons too myriad to list here, but let's just say that my prediction that I would run a 12-miler this weekend is most definitely not going to happen. So, for the next week I just need to get the train back on the tracks so that the following weekend I can try for the half-marathon.

Week Eleven
Goal: 24 miles with a 10 mile run

Duotrope: The Greatest Writing Resource Ever!

The other day a writing friend of mine sent me the link to, which is an online database of just about every online and print magazine, publisher, agent, etc. After only a few days of messing with it, let me tell you, this is the most incredible thing I've come across as long as I've been professionally writing. Signing up is free and once you have your profile set up you can save searches, upload your writing, create ignore/best lists, and track where you've sent your stories and whether they were accepted or not. I have spent hours upon hours updating Xcel spreadsheets with all the information that Duotrope has now put at my fingertips.

So, for all you aspiring writers out there, go to for the only submission database you will ever need. Seriously.

To visit click here.

Word of the Day!

ululate [ul-yuh-layt; yool-]
-intransitive verb
To howl, as a dog or a wolf; to wail; as, ululating jackals.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Picks of the Week

Week Eleven

Sheesh! After two good weeks of picks, I got blasted this week. I went 3 for 8, to drop my total to 43 for 73, or 60%. Sad face, sad face, but how was I supposed to know that nearly every good team was going to get upset this weekend?

This coming week only has a couple of games that matter since the SEC, Big 12, and ACC are at least partially decided, and there is little that’s happening in those conferences this weekend. In the SEC it will be a Florida/Alabama rematch for the title; in the Big 12 Texas will be facing either Kansas St. or Nebraska in the championship; and in the ACC, incredibly, it looks like Clemson has gone a good length toward solidifying an Atlantic Division slot against Georgia Tech.

No. 25 West Virginia at No. 5 Cincinnati
While it still looks like Cinci and Pitt are destined for a showdown for the Big East title, Cincinnati can’t get caught looking passed the Mountaineers this weekend or else this could be a three-way tie between West Virginia, Pitt, and Cinci.I don’t know if Pike will be starting for the Bearcats but I think they will still be able to handle a sputtering WVU at home.
Cincinnati 28 West Virginia 17

Michigan at No. 20 Wisconsin
This game only matters to Michigan. Wisconsin has already gotten into a bowl game and there is no way they can win the Big Ten, but for Michigan this is the last seemingly “winnable”* game before they head into the gut punch that will be the Ohio State game. If Michigan is going to salvage this season in anyway it has to happen this weekend. While I really don’t think that the Michigan team that’s been playing the last few weeks has any chance of beating the Badgers in Madison I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the team that showed up against Iowa and Notre Dame is going to be on the field on Saturday.
Michigan 35 Wisconsin 33

No. 10 Iowa at No. 11 Ohio State
Well, this game is basically the Big Ten Championship game since both of these teams have wins over the only other two contenders, Wisconsin and Penn State. Iowa lost last week to Northwestern and lost their starting QB, while Ohio State is definitely on the upswing. As much as I hate to say it, I think the Buckeyes will be cruising into their 6th Big Ten Championship…unless of course a certain underdog Wolverine team can somehow bite them next weekend.
Ohio State 24 Iowa 10

Auburn at Georgia
This game matters to no one outside of Alabama and Georgia but it is a rivalry game and almost every season it is a hard fought game. I think the Bulldogs are better and will use the home field advantage to good effect.
Georgia 28 Auburn 17

No. 16 Utah at No. 4 TCU
This is really the biggest game of the weekend since it has both conference and BCS ramifications. A win for Utah means they win the Mountain West and will probably get a boost into the Top Ten, but a win for TCU means that they are assured a BCS slot and possibly a shot at the National Championship if something terrible happens to Texas, Florida, or Alabama. I think that TCU is playing really good right now and the way they dismantled BYU a few weeks ago suggests they might be the real deal.
TCU 21 Utah 17

*And honestly even this game isn't winnable the way Michigan's been playing the last five weeks. But the talent is there to beat the Badgers and I am hoping against hope that the talent will show and the defense will hold.

Sketch #4

By Tres Crow

Mine said I could go to the bathroom
Pissing on the children
Down the hall and to the right
Why oh why oh why do you cry?
But I’m happy…happy…happy…

Word of the Day!

avoirdupois [av-uhr-duh-poiz; av-uhr-duh-poiz]
1. Avoirdupois weight, a system of weights based on a pound containing 16 ounces or 7,000 grains (453.59 grams).
2. Weight; heaviness; as, a person of much avoirdupois.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hammy the Porcupine Saves the Day!

This is a children's book I wrote about a year ago. I can't explain exactly where it came from, but I just woke up one morning and the entire story had just sort of fallen into my head. So I wrote it down and that's where it sat for a few months until my friend, Patrick's*, wife Erin** offered to do some illustrations for it. What she came up with was so inspiring and gorgeous that I decided I had to send this to some publishers to get their feedback.

As of right now none of them have bitten on the story, but I will resume sending it out again shortly, so I will let you all know how it turns out.

Hammy the Porcupine Saves the Day! tells the story of lonely Hammy the Porcupine living in the Wide Wood. He has no friends so one day he decides to venture out and find some, but what he discovers in the end is far more important than even friendship.

For a PDF file of the story with illustrations click here.

*Patrick Rickelton of Greenland, Noble Three, and Prattle On, Rick. fame.
**She is an incredible artist. She did the illustrations for Hammy the Porcupine in water color. I love especially her characterization of Fergie the Frog, Moppy the Muskrat, and Hammy himself.

Word of the Day!

perdurable [pur-dur-uh-bul; pur-dyur-]
Very durable; lasting; continuing long.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Word of the Day!

termagant [tur-muh-guhnt]
A scolding, nagging, bad-tempered woman; a shrew.
Overbearing; shrewish; scolding.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Word of the Day!

toothsome [tooth-suhm]
1. Pleasing to the taste; delicious; as, "a toothsome pie."
2. Agreeable; attractive; as, "a toothsome offer."
3. Sexually attractive.

Friday, November 6, 2009

On the Plains of Marathon

Week Nine
Goal: 25 miles with a 10 mile jog

Actual Miles Run: 25!

Endnotes: It's only taken me nine weeks but I've finally managed to actually achieve my weekly running goal! Clap on the back for me! Twice Fortuna tried to derail my efforts but ultimately I was able to get around the roadblocks she placed in my way. The first was a doctor's appointment Wednesday that lasted about 2 hours too long and the second was some impromptu mechanical tapdancing by my automobile, yet in both cases I strapped my shoes to my feet and pounded the pavement anyway. That's the sort of sticktoitiveness it takes to run marathons, and I'm awfully proud of my achievement. So for any of you haters out there I make it like Kandi* and fly above y'all.

As a second endnote I figured I should maybe elaborate as to why I feel blogging about running is somehow relevant to writing. My primary reason for this is that running long distances is very similar to writing a novel. Both take long-term, concerted and passionate, solitary effort that, in the end, produces a positive result only for the runner/writer. Sure in both cases one could be enormously successful and win races and get novels on bestseller lists, but for the vast amount of us regular folks we strive to run those races or write those books because we have some internal thing that we are struggling to get out of us, not for an external positive result.

I write not because it is fun, or will win me adulation, or because it's sexy, although writing is all of those things. No, I write because I have to, because there are stories inside of me that I simply can't hold in any longer, because if I try to keep them tucked safely away in the dark corners of my mind and heart they will fester like some rotten thing and threaten to strangle me. I write because I yearn to be creative and I have been given this gift and it is my expression of my little strand of humanity. I write because it's what I do, and if I didn't do it, I don't know what I'd do.

And in this way writing is a lot like running, because after you run long enough you start to feel wrong if you don't. It starts to become a part of you that you may not even recognize is there until you try to not go for a run, and then suddenly you start to feel antsy and uncomfortable until eventually it's like there is this little monster inside of you that has to get exercise everyday or it will threaten to go berserk inside your head.

So, for those of you who are runners or writers, if someone ever has the audacity to ask you why you do what you do simply look them straight in the eyes and say, "I do this because I have to, because if I don't the little monster will eat me up".

I'm setting my goals really low this coming week because I don't expect to be getting any good long distances in. Therefore, a few three and four mile runs will be just fine with me to maintain until week eleven when I attempt a 12-miler.

Week Ten
Goal: 14 miles

Noble Three wins songwriting prize

In August my on again/off again musical project*, Noble Three, had the good fortune** of winning the Indie Rock category on for our song, "Shipwrecked", a song which was penned by Yours Truly. For our winnings we received a $100 gift card for Amazon and a good, healthy clap on the back. This makes my total earnings in the Music Industry somewhere around $400 over 10 years, or $40/year. Not quite enough to raise a family on, but still a heck of a lot better than nothing, right?

It's curious to me that Noble Three, which was really only ever a small (if inspired) side-project for my Greenland compatriot, Patrick, and me, has somehow yielded far more promising results than any other group I've ever been a part of. As of this date Noble Three has been featured on NPR twice, in an as-yet-unreleased-but-soon-to-be-Indie-smash movie, Sneakers and Soul, and has won this award as well as the interest of several companies who place songs in ads and TV shows.

Strange the way these things go.

*A lot more off again since I moved to Atlanta and Patrick stayed in Nashville. But since we are/were primarily a studio group it wouldn't take very much to start releasing some new music.
**By fortune, I mean an uncanny amount of luck for a group that hasn't played a show or released any new music in almost a year. The internet is a strange and wonderful thing the way ideas and images and music can profligate to the most amazingly unintended places.

Word of the Day!

lambent [lam-buhnt]
1. Playing lightly on or over a surface; flickering; as, "a lambent flame; lambent shadows."
2. Softly bright or radiant; luminous; as, "a lambent light."
3. Light and brilliant; as, "a lambent style; lambent wit."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Picks of the Week

Week Ten

Alright, if it hadn’t have been for my Bulldogs and Wolverines I would have gone 100% this weekend, but as it was I went 6 for 8 to bring my total up to 40 for 65, or 62%. Last weekend decided a few things: Oregon pretty much has the Pac 10 sewn up and made a heck of a statement with a solid thumping of USC, Florida proved that they can actually play offense when it matters, and Texas proved they are the team to beat in the Big 12, and will likely be heading to the National Championship game barring a major stumble in the coming weeks.

While this weekend is not quite as dramatic, there are several key match-ups to watch, specifically the grudge matches in Tuscaloosa and Happy Valley. Whomever emerges from these two games with the W will have a good shot at their conference championships.

Northwestern at No. 4 Iowa
I don’t know if this is a trap game or not, but Iowa had to work awfully hard in the 4th quarter to bump off a decent Indiana team, and it doesn’t look like the Hawkeyes will have much of a week off with the Wildcats coming to town. After nine wins Iowa has a pretty solid body of work to suggest that this one will be close, but ultimately Iowa will emerge on top. What Iowa needs is a win here and a Penn State victory over Ohio State to more or less clinch the Big 10 championship. Look for a lot of Blue and White fans in Iowa City this weekend.
Iowa 28 Northwestern 14

Purdue at Michigan
Why, oh why do you torture me so, Big Blue? All Michigan needed was a victory over a majorly struggling Illinois team on Saturday but what the Wolverines came with was more of the same: turnover central, and a lackluster defensive effort. With only three games left on the schedule, and two of them being hard conference matches against Wisconsin and Ohio State, this game looks like the Wolverines’ last chance to reach the all-important sixth win to earn a bowl berth. Purdue is no Penn St. so look for Michigan to be feeling the Forcier in the Big House and come up with a Big Win. Plus there's a good chance I wil actually be in the stadium to watch this game, so I'm sure word will spread to all the Wolverine players that the venerable Tres Crow is there and they will obligingly play at their greatest potential, lest they let me down. Or at elast that's what I'm hoping for.
Michigan 35 Purdue 28

No. 9 LSU at No. 3 Alabama
This is it. Florida has clinched the SEC East and this game essentially solidifies the West. ‘Bama clearly has the advantage with the game being played in Tuscaloosa, but LSU has had a way of shocking teams all season. After LSU’s slug match with Georgia a few weeks back and Alabama’s grind fest with Tennessee I imagine this will not be an offensive showcase, but a classic one-yard-at-a-time nail-biter. I think Alabama has a more complete team and as long as they can find a way to pass effectively, eventually LSU will make a mistake. I think ‘Bama and Florida have a date with destiny in Atlanta.
Alabama 17 LSU 14

No. 8 Oregon at Stanford
On paper Oregon should seriously thump Stanford, but coming off a big win against USC it’s possible the Ducks will be a little hung-over and get caught looking to the post-season with Stanford…or they will kick the Cardinals all over the field and keep their steamroll a’rollin’. I think it’ll probably be the latter.
Oregon 45 Stanford 17

Wake Forest at No. 10 Georgia Tech
The Demon Deacons of Wake Forest managed to bump off a reeling Virginia Tech last weekend but I don’t think they will find the same welcome mat in Atlanta. Georgia Tech is hands down the favorite to win the ACC and they are playing on all cylinders. They can see the finish line and I doubt they are gonna let a few sacrilegious pastors get in their way.
Georgia Tech 45 Wake Forest 21

No. 16 Ohio State at No. 11 Penn State
While both of these teams need Iowa to lose twice in order to win the Big 10, this is still a major pride game for both the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes. There are also some BCS implications for Penn State if they win; it is possible they could get themselves in a BCS game if they win out, since their only loss would have come at the hands of a dominant Iowa team. I think Penn State are finally firing at all cylinders and will get a boost from the white out of Happy Valley.
Penn State 28 Ohio State 14

Connecticut at No. 5 Cincinnati
I’m very sorry for UConn’s loss but I don’t think Cincinnati is going to let up just because their collective heart is bleeding. The Bearcats are stomping everyone that gets in their way and with BCS title hopes glinting in their eyes I think the Huskies will just be more fodder for their touchdown machinery.
Cincinnati 33 Connecticut 17

No. 12 USC at Arizona State
Arizona State is better than their record suggests and USC has nothing really to play for since losing to Oregon. So, will this be a big upset for the Sun Devils? No. USC will go to Tempe and take their lunch money and give them a wedgie just because they are pissed about losing to Oregon.
USC 35 Arizona State 14

No. 24 Oklahoma at Nebraska
Although this game practically means nothing at this point, I think this should still be a good game as the Cornhuskers try to pull out of their nosedive and Oklahoma simply tries to keep their heads above water and get into a good bowl game. Even without Bradford Nebraska can’t keep up with the Sooners on Offense so their only hope is stopping Oklahoma on Defense. Otherwise this one could get out of hand.
Oklahoma 35 Nebraska 17

National Novel Writing Month

While I personally have no intention of participating in this, I still find it amazingly awesome that there is such a thing as National Novel Writing Month. I currently have waaaay too much on my plate writing-wise to think about starting and completing a novel in one month, but anything that calls attention to the difficulties inherent in committing 70K+ words to the page is supercool in my book. Having written one novel already* I am well aware of the monumental achievement writing one is, even if it's bad. My hat's off to anyone who participates and finishes a novel this month.

Here I am sending you Sparkle-Novel-Writing-Fingers ~~~~~~~>

*I wrote the first in a series of three novels over the last three years (about 100K words), then revised (i.e. rewrote) it, then scrapped it, deciding that I am simply not experienced enough, life-wise, to write the book properly (I may post a few chapters for y'all to peruse at some future date). Currently I have about 5 short stories in various stages of unfinishedness, a commissioned project for the venerable Prattle On, Rick, as well as two novellas and a new novel that is just beginning to gestate in the chambers of my mind.

Word of the Day!

sang-froid [sang-frwah]
Freedom from agitation or excitement of mind; coolness in trying circumstances; calmness.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sketch #1

My house is like
my house in 6H
warden doors
scratching fingers

Word of the Day!

protean [pro-tee-un; pro-tee-un]
1. Displaying considerable variety or diversity.
2. Readily assuming different shapes or forms.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Little Crow's Links: *sad face*

In honor of Beardo's impending trip to the Big D this weekend I thought I would post some Detroit-inspired links...

...and it gets worse and worse and worse.

This lovely 4 bedroom, 2 and a half bath home, set on a wooded lot and a beautiful tree-lined street with plenty of privacy, could be yours for the unbelievable price of $6! Act now before someone else snatches it up!

Word of the Day!

gregarious [grih-gair-ee-us]
1. Tending to form a group with others of the same kind.
2. Seeking and enjoying the company of others.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Mastodon Beard

This is a post I did for as my part of Vince Neilstein and my site-swap last week. It's a review* of Mastodon's latest album Crack the Skye which takes a few artistic licenses as it progresses. There are parts of the review that are true, parts that are maybe a little bit on the not so true side. Let's see if you can figure out which ones are which.

So, without further ado, I give you "The Mastodon Beard".

*I call it a review because there is really nothing else to call it. The original title for the piece was "How Mastodon Makes Me, Like, Feel, Ya Know?", which I sort of think is a more apt title than the one I chose. It really is more a description of all of the images my mind conjured when I listened to the album.

Weekly Top Five

I won't be doing the WT5 this week so I can focus on the multiple writing projects that have suddenly popped up over the weekend. Stay tuned for some news on those projects.

Word of the Day!

hector [hek-tur]
A bully.
-transitive verb
To intimidate or harass in a blustering way; to bully.
-intransitive verb
To play the bully; to bluster.

Friday, October 30, 2009

On the Plains of Marathon

Week Eight
Goal: 24 miles with a 9 mile jog.

Actual Miles Run: 20

Endnotes: I was on such a roll this week--I was at 15 miles by Monday--but then everything unraveled and I ended up only able to go on one more 5-mile run for the rest of the week. Oh well. The good news is I was able to complete a 9.5-mile run, which shows tremendous progress.

Despite my protestations just a few weeks ago about not running in an organized marathon, I'm starting to lean toward joining my sister in the Music City Marathon in Nashville in April. Not sure yet, but I think it might be fun to do, and I assume that by April I should be in marathon shape.

To finish this week I guess I will fill y'all in on where the term marathon comes from. According to legend a Greek messenger named Pheidippides was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon. Apparently he ran the whole way and when he arrived he burst into the assembly, announced that the Greeks had won, and then collapsed dead.

The distance from Marathon to Athens is approximately the same length of a marathon today.

For more information on everything marathons click here.

Week Nine
Goal: 25 miles, with a 10 mile run

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring: Gunnar Hansen

Beyond a doubt nothing has ever scared the living crap out of me quite like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I watched this film for the first time on Halloween when I was 13 years old* and from the opening shot of a dead armadillo on the side of the road I knew that there was something different, something terrible about this movie. Supposedly based on a true story** director Tobe Hooper enhances the realism by filming the whole thing in a documentary style, which for a 13-year-old boy only made the experience that much more terrifying.

While the film met mixed critical reception upon release it has since gained a reputation as one of the most influential horror films of all time, primarily because it both invented and eschewed simultaneously several of horror’s greatest clichés. Much of the film centers on chainsaw-wielding maniac, Leatherface, chasing various horny teenagers around the torched Texas countryside, which would seem clichéd if it weren’t for the fact that Hooper practically invented this scenario. On top of that, by having so much of the action take place in broad daylight, the sense of realistic dread is only reinforced. I mean, who can say that they didn’t jump out of their pants when Kirk walks into the abandoned house and Leatherface jumps out of nowhere and hacks him to pieces? There weren’t even any soundtrack cues for the impending doom. It just happened. And never mind Sally’s cringe-worthy torture scenes.

All in all, even after several additional viewings, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the most terrifying movie I have ever seen. Hands down.

5. Pumpkinhead
4. Aliens
3. The Ring
2. The Orphanage
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

*As you can see 12-13 was a big year for watching horror movies for me.
**No doubt this was about 98% of what drew me to the movie in the first place, the sense that I was watching something actually happen.

Word of the Day!

arcanum [ar-kay-nuhm]
1. A secret; a mystery.
2. Specialized or mysterious knowledge, language, or information that is not accessible to the average person (generally used in the plural).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Picks of the Week

Week Nine

I’m not sure whether I am choosing obvious games, getting beter at predicting the winners, or if predicting just gets easier as one learns more about the teams, but regardless I did darn good this past weekend, going 7 for 9 and lifting my totals to 34 for 57, or 60%. My only stumbles were a biased pick of Michigan over Penn St* and an apparently misguided South Florida over Pitt.

Now for this week, what it’s lacking in quantity it more than makes up with quality; this week is really only about three games: Georgia/Florida, Texas/Ok St., and USC/Oregon. Essentially all or half of three major conference championships are being decided in these games. In Jacksonville, UGA has the chance to confuse things in the SEC East with a win over archrivals Florida. In the Big 12 Texas will all but shore up their spot in the conference championship with a victory over Ok St. And in the PAC 10 USC and the Ducks are playing for a de facto conference championship. This is a very big weekend.

Indiana at No. 4 Iowa
I’m only including this game because I need to have more than 3 or 4 games for my Picks of the Week. Also, since Iowa seems content to play up or down to whatever level their competition is, Indiana could end up being a much tougher opponent than people are giving them credit for. If Iowa continues to let every game come down to last second drives and field goals they won’t stay undefeated for much longer. Still, I think the Hawkeyes make a statement at home.
Iowa 28 Indiana 10

No. 25 Mississippi at Auburn
Why Ole Miss is ranked at all is beyond me, but since they are its all the better for Auburn to knock ‘em down a peg. There’s nothing teams in the SEC on a downward slide like to do more than drag other teams down with them. I think the War Eagle will be flying on Saturday.
Auburn 17 Mississippi 14

Georgia vs. No. 1 Florida
This is a tough one for me because I really think UGA has the goods to beat this Florida team, but it all depends on which team shows up. If it’s the porous defense and can’t-score offense, the Gators will run away with it, but if perchance the team that fought South Carolina and Arkansas so hard in past weeks shows up, then I think Florida will fall. This is a rivalry game, and anything can happen. I’ll err on the side of emotion.
Georgia 28 Florida 24

No. 24 California at Arizona State
Even though the conference championship is more or less out of the question for both of these teams, Cal and AZ St. still have a lot to play for, most notably pride. Cal wants to prove they are a top tier team and the Sundevils want to join their in-state rivals, Arizona, in the Top 25. I don’t think it will happen though. With Cal passed all the really hard guys, they will come out strong.
California 35 Arizona State 21

Michigan at Illinois
This should be the Wolverines mystical sixth win, the win that sends them to a bowl game, and the win that justifies that they are making progress despite an abysmal start to the Rodriguez era last year. In theory Michigan should have no problem with the Illini who are simply trying to win a game in the Big 10, but if the Wolverines continue to commit 4 turnovers a game, this one won’t be easy.
Michigan 35 Illinois 14

No. 22 South Carolina at Tennessee
Tennessee has been through too much this season, and showed too much heart to finish less than #2 in the SEC East. I don’t think they will let a better-than-average Gamecocks team come into Neyland Stadium and pull off a W. Look for Crompton to try to avenge his robbery from last week with a big passing game.
Tennessee 28 South Carolina 17

No. 3 Texas at No. 14 Oklahoma State
This game could more or less decide who is going to the Big 12 Championship game…assuming Texas wins. If Ok St. pulls off the upset they still have to get passed Oklahoma, which is by no means certain. But, judging from the Longhorns’ easy dispatching of Mizzou on the road I think Texas will keep the win streak alive.
Texas 17 Oklahoma State 10

No. 5 USC at No. 10 Oregon

As far as I’m concerned this is the PAC 10 championship. Both teams could leapfrog into the Top 5 with a win here and a significant loss to one of the top teams, so with a conference championship and possible BCS implications look for this to be a tough game. I think USC’s defense will be the key and if they hold up Barkley will score enough points for them. But I think the Ducks are on a roll and will use the home field advantage to…well, their advantage.
Oregon 42 USC 35

*And we would have won too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids. **grumble grumble grumble**

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

2. The Orphanage
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring Belen Rueda

The Orphanage is Spanish-language horror film by first time director Juan Antonio Bayona, which was produced by the now-ubiquitous Guillermo del Toro, is one of the tensest and saddest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Centering on a woman, Laura, who moves her husband and young son to the orphanage where she grew up in order to open a home for handicapped children. But as the movie progresses, Laura’s son begins to have conversations with a new “friend” culminating in a game of hide and seek which leads to her son’s disappearance.

The remainder of the movie is one part supernatural thriller, and two parts meditation on faith and love, in which Laura, convinced her son is still alive tries desperately to find any clue as to his whereabouts, even if her quest leads her into the realm of the dead.

Based loosely on Peter Pan, this film doesn’t “scare” in the traditional sense*, but creates a pervasive sense of mounting dread as each of Laura’s theories are systematically debunked, leading her with no other option but to believe that the spirits in the house have kidnapped her son. The lengths this mother will go to save her son, and the unflappable belief in her son’s survival, give the tension a level of realistic horror that sets this movie way apart from it’s peers.

And above all the ending is simply devastating.

5. Pumpkinhead
4. Aliens
3. The Ring
2. The Orphanage

*For those of you who don’t make a regular habit of watching horror movies in a language that is not native to you, I would suggest trying it occasionally. While the experience of watching a horror movie is generally a visceral experience, reading subtitles has the effect of forcing you to use your mind instead of your body for absorbing the images. It makes the experience less physically stimulating but over-all can make for a much more overwhelming experience, because you have had to use your mind and body.

Little Crow's Links

For those of you who are either interested in photography, history, or truth, this seven part essay in the New York Times should be as fascinating for you as it was for me. Who knew taking pictures was so darn complicated?

Word of the Day!

dulcet [duhl-sit]
1. Pleasing to the ear; melodious; harmonious.
2. Generally pleasing, soothing, or agreeable.
3. (Archaic) Sweet to the taste.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

3. The Ring
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring: Naomi Watts

I know, I know, the original Japanese version is better, but I saw this one, the American version of The Ring, first and I think it was the first time I can say as an adult I was legitimately creeped out by a movie. The way it builds the tension for nearly a third of the movie before showing you the short film at the heart of the murders* is just brilliant. And the ending…whoo! Who knew it was a morality tale the whole time? Not only is this a good horror film but it’s just a good film in general.

5. Pumpkinhead
4. Aliens
3. The Ring

*and then the short film totally delivers on first class creepiness.

Key West: Trinkets in the Sun

Part Five
Click here for Part One
Click here for Part Two
Click here for Part Three
Click here for Part Four

“I just want one of those drinks that like come in a pineapple and have a little umbrella in it”: Part 2

My head was swimming from drink and over-exertion and copious amounts of sweating as we sped off down the profane glitter of Duval St. I kept imagining that if only I could take like this big arm and wipe away the lights and bars and drunken frat boys I might be able to see what was underneath, feel what had drawn all these pirates and profiteers and drug runners to the island in the first place. I was scanning the sidewalks, imagining all the people wiped away like dust on the surface of dining room table.

Then I saw it. There, written in almost indecipherable script on a chalkboard out front of some tiny, alleyway bar: Fresh Pineapple Drinks.

Word of the Day!

panjandrum [pan-jan-druhm]
An important personage or pretentious official.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

4. Aliens
Directed by James Cameron
Starring Sigourney Weaver

When I was about eight years old I stayed up without my parents realizing it and watched Aliens on VHS. Without a doubt this movie scared the crap out of me. From the harrowing claustrophobia of the sets to the drab cinematography the whole thing just got under my skin in a way I never would have been able to articulate at that age. And by the end when that robot guy gets spliced in half by the mother alien and acid spews out of his chest like blood, I was too terrified to turn the TV off and go to sleep. I stayed up half the night with horrible nightmares of aliens chasing me through mechanical tunnels and stinging me with their tails.

I’ve seen the movie since then and while it still is a cinematic masterpiece, nothing can quite match that first time when childish misunderstanding and scary movies meet to create a boogeyman so vivid that one can almost reach out and touch it. Brilliant. Just brilliant. Thank you James Cameron, I mean it.

5. Pumpkinhead
4. Aliens

Universal Authorship

Apparently in the future everyone will be an author. I wonder what that means for me?

Word of the Day!

ken [ken]
1. Perception; understanding; knowledge.
2. The range of vision.
3. View; sight.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

First, I would like to thank Vince Neilstein again for the site-swap last week. I think it was a great success, and a lot of fun.

Now for this week: staying in the vein of Halloween this week is dedicated to the five movies that have most scared the living bejeesus out of me. They may not be scary to you, but something about them sure got to me.

5. Pumpkinhead
Directed by: Stan Winston
Starring: Lance Henricksen

Pumpkinhead has been horribly overlooked through the years primarily because it had a spotty theatrical release when the company that produced it went belly up right before its release. However, I came across this gem when I was the ripe age of 12 and everything from the dark color palette to the pathos of a father driven to desperate lengths to seek revenge for the death of his son affected me tremendously. I have seen the movie multiple times since that first time and every time the movie holds up. It’s one of those rare slasher flicks that strive to be something more than a vehicle for gory deaths. It is a morality tale about the cost of revenge with an ending that leaves the viewer stunned. This is a must see for anyone who enjoys not only horror films, but films in general.

Word of the Day!

chimera [ky-mir-uh]
1. (Capitalized) A fire-breathing she-monster represented as having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail.
2. Any imaginary monster made up of grotesquely incongruous parts.
3. An illusion or mental fabrication; a grotesque product of the imagination.
4. An individual, organ, or part consisting of tissues of diverse genetic constitution, produced as a result of organ transplant, grafting, or genetic engineering.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Weekly Top Five Edition!

This week continues the October Halloween theme by taking a decidedly gorier turn. We all know that metal, blood, and Halloween have a long and storied history, so for this week's WT5 I've turned to my good friend at, Vince Neilstein, to help me decide the Top 5 Goriest Metal Album Covers.

Also, FYI, all this week I will be blacking out the album cover on the post but providing a link for you to view it. All of the covers are Parental Guidance Suggested, so if you are, or have young children who might be offended by gruesome depictions of death...probably steer clear of clicking those links.

5. Cattle Decapitation, Humanure

While San Diego grindsters Cattle Decapitation may have a false reputation as militant vegans (they're actually just peaceful vegetarians), their music most certainly does protest the mistreatment and consumption of animals and it does so in a brutally violent but often hilarious, mocking way. While the cover of 2002's To Serve Man may have put the band on the censorship map, 2004's follow-up Humanure has the absolute brutalest of all brutal Cattle Decapitation album covers. A cow sh**ting bloody, digested human remains? You can't beat that. The cover outraged retailers so much so that it became difficult to buy Humanure anywhere but on the Internet... not that your local Best Buy would've been likely to stock an album with songs called "Bukkake Tsunami" and "Applied Human Defragmentation" anyway.

Cattle Decap never fail to deliver with disturbing cover pieces -- their latest offering, 2009's The Harvest Floor, features humans being corralled into a slaughterhouse for execution, packaging and consumption.

About that hamburger... umm, no thanks, I'll pass.

-Vince Neilstein

4. Cannibal Corpse, Tomb of the Mutilated

No discussion of gory album covers would be complete without Cannibal Corpse, and no discussion about Cannibal Corpse would be complete without the cover of 1992's Tomb of the Mutilated. Cannibal Corpse practically invented gore metal and their album covers have always been downright disturbing, sparking the band's record label to issue alternate covers for use in PC retail establishments. Drawn by longtime CC album artist Vincent Locke, Tomb of the Mutilated is disturbing (and awesome!) in all sorts of ways. Almost as brutal as the album cover are the names of the songs on Mutilated. Here's the track-listing:

  1. "Hammer Smashed Face" – 4:04
  2. "I C*m Blood" – 3:41
  3. "Addicted to Vaginal Skin" – 3:31
  4. "Split Wide Open" – 3:02
  5. "Necropedophile" – 4:05
  6. "The Cryptic Stench" – 3:57
  7. "Entrails Ripped from a Virgin's C*nt" – 4:15
  8. "Post Mortal Ejaculation" – 3:37
  9. "Beyond the Cemetery" – 4:53
"Hammer Smashed Face" is of course one of the band's most famous songs, having been performed by the band in a scene in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

The censored cover version of the album didn't even list the song titles on the back -- you had to open up the liner notes to see those. Germany's government deemed Tomb of the Mutilated so gory that it banned this and the band's prior two albums between 1992 and 2006. When asked for comment, the German government declined to issue a statement on the irony of the use of death chambers during World War II.

-Vince Neilstein

3. Iron Maiden, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

Iron Maiden aren't particularly known as much for the gore-factor of their album covers as they are the sheer awesomeness of their album covers, each featuring the band's long-time mascot Eddie. But with 1988's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Maiden took a page out of the gore book by depicting a robotified Eddie torso holding his presumably still-beating heart in his hand. What's more, it looks like the heart has a little "O" face on the top of it, and with little outstretched arms... almost like there's a little dude trapped inside of that heart, trying to escape. Gory!

The album was the last to feature longtime guitarist Adrian Smith, who would later rejoin the band for 2000's comeback Brave New World. It was something of a concept album, exploring topics of good vs. evil, mysticism, prophetic vision, reincarnation and the afterlife. With the departure of Smith, Seventh Son was also the last worthwhile Maiden album the band released for quite some time. After Bruce Dickinson left a couple of albums later, it was all over until both came back for the aforementioned Brave New World.

-Vince Neilstein

2. Pantera, Far Beyond Driven

Nothing says "metal up your ass" like a drill up an ass, quite literally. That's what the original album cover of Pantera's 1994 landmark Far Beyond Driven depicted. Even the PC version, which had the drill bit penetrating a skull instead of an anus, is pretty f'n brutal. I can imagine how quickly the suits at Pantera's record label -- which was a major -- turned down this gory display of violence. The original cover is out there on eBay and such but fetches a pretty penny... if you have one, you're one of a lucky few.

-Vince Neilstein

1. Cannibal Corpse, Butchered at Birth

Come on, you didn't really think I'd let this one slip by just because I already chose a different Cannibal Corpse album cover, did you?

I don't think it will ever be possible to out-gore the cover of "Butchered At Birth." There's nothing more ghastly and terrifying than killing babies, and the way Vincent Locke depicted it here it just perfect. It's so disturbing.The only way this cover could possibly be any more gory/disturbing/brutal than it already is would be if the babies and/or mother had cancer. 'Cause cancer jokes are just absolutely off-limits, no matter what. But how could you even depict that? You can't. So yeah, this album cover wins the "goriest ever" award for the past, present and eternity.

-Vince Neilstein