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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Publication is mine...finally!

The folks over at Camroc Press Review published my shorty short, "Baby's Gonna Be A Rock Star" the other day and I want you all to read it if you have a chance. It's a sad story.

Here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Picks of the Week

So, yeah, that's the second week I forgot to do this post. But, you know what? I'm nothing if not persistent, so I'm getting back on the horse today. There are not a lot of great games this weekend, but the ones that are, are really great.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Picks of the Week

Last week could've gotten really ugly if I had thought to predict more games. Something like 5 of the top fifteen teams got beaten by lower ranked teams. It was hard out there for a pimp. As it was, the only game I got wrong was my Wolverines getting their asses handed to them by the Spartans, so my total only went down to 76%.

This weekend continues the trend of horribly boring match-ups. The SEC has a couple sleeper games that might end up interesting, and the Big Ten and Pac 12 have some key conference matches.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Picks of the Week

BAM! I went 7 for 7 last week for a straight 1 double 0, to bring my total up to 73%. What we learned is that all of the big boys are legit. This week we don't get a lot of action except a whole lot of questionable teams get legitimate shots to prove their worth. In the Big Ten Michigan and Michigan State battle it out for the Paul Bunyon trophy and the frontrunner status in the Legend Division. In the Big 12 both Texas A&M and Oklahoma State are trying to stay neck and neck with Oklahoma. And in the Pac 12, Oregon needs a win over AZ St to nip at the heels of Stanford.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Year of the Novel Meets National Novel Writing Month

So, it begins again, sort of. Next month is National Novel Writing Month and the curious thing is that I will actually probably maybe be finishing the novel some time next month. Or rather, that is the goal. I'm going to hit the ground running this month and hopefully I will have enough of a head of steam that I will be able to cruise to the finish line with this behemoth of a book.

At this point I have finished just about all the main storylines, except the one about the two main characters. I would say, i have about 40K-50K more words to write which may seem like a crap ton of words, but if I really work hard, that is totally doable for me. All that will be left will then be to comb through the various storylines for terrible inconsistencies and grammatical problems. Then I will need to tie everything together in a satisfactory way and re-edit it. At that point it will have a "finished" manuscript.

So much work. But I'm really very satisfied with what is emerging. More info as we get there.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Neo-Sentimentalists

Again, piggy-backing off a post I had a while back that is now sort of, more or less, coming true*, I recently read this great post by Tony Woodlief about contemporary authors being tasked with stripping away all the bullshit of postmodernism and post-postmodernism and getting back to what is real about being a human being on this planet. David Foster Wallace talked about this in his amazing essay "E Unibus Pluram,"** in which he said that the next vanguard of authors will have to battle the circular logic of postmodernism in order to get to something real, or else the future of letters could be at stake. He suspected that the next vanguard of avant gard authors would be what he called Neo-sentimentalists who would be unafraid to be honest and earnest and who would leave irony by the wayside and speak directly and truthfully. That is happening now. The internet is filled with new authors who are not ironic, and if they use irony they use it in order to better facilitate the truth-telling. Whether this movement has legs or not, time will tell. Maybe American Letters have already died too much to be fully revived, or have any major impact on the larger culture. But I'm proud of these new authors, who are unafraid to be honest. Who are unafraid to be talk of love without flinching.


*This was actually an interview with the brilliant neo-sentimentalist, xTx. I think my long-winded "question" in which I lay out my theory about neo-sentimentalism is around question #7. For other neo-sentimentalists see Roxane Gay, Matt Bell, Ethel Rohan, me, Jason Jordan, Alan Stewart Carl, etc.

**Seriously, take the time and read this thing. It's brilliant.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why I will never win a Nobel Prize for Literature

Basically, I'll never win one because I'm a white American male*. Ok, maybe that's a simplification of the argument in the aforelinked article. But, I gotta admit, my first reaction to something like this is, how is a foreign-born immigrant writing about the experience of being a foreign-born immigrant any less solipsistic than a middle-class bourgeois white guy writing about the experience of being a middle class white guy? Essentially, what this article is saying is that it's not that American writers don't win the Nobel Prize because they "write what they know," but rather they don't win because no one cares anymore about what American's know. That's probably a valid argument. The world is bigger and more inclusive than it used to be, but please don't cloak that argument in the pretension that American writers are somehow more self-involved than writers of other nationalities. Writers are self-involved. We're only ever writing about ourselves. Let's just be honest about this.

Case in point, Roberto Bolano is probably one of the best examples of the type of Globally-minded, expansive, non-American writer that they're talking about, yet Bolano's last and greatest novel is basically about how tough it was for him to write that last and greatest novel. In fact, throughout his body of work Bolano referenced himself more than George Lucas. He basically was a literary movement unto himself.

The Nobel peeps are free to give their prize to whomever they wish, and I'm sure that person will be really great and all, but let's not disguise the truth. Americans don't win the Nobel Prize because we are just one country and there is a whole world out there now. Only one person out of millions of published authors can win. The world isn't a small pond anymore, even big fish can get lost.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Picks of the Week

So, we figured some stuff out last weekend, didn't we? Wisconsin, Alabama, and Clemson all emerged as legitimate National title teams. I went 4 for 7 to bring my total percentage down to 61%. I have been going out on more limbs this year and some aren't paying off. I called the Pitt win correctly, but whiffed big time for being so high on Baylor and Ohio State.

This week is fairly calm, aside from some key match-ups for middling teams in the big conferences. The weekend is dominated by Oklahoma/Texas and Florida/LSU so those are the two games to watch.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Anonymous

This is the second time I've had occasion to write about the hacker group Anonymous.* The last time I was far more critical of the group because it seemed that they were just a petty, mean-spirited group of nincumpoops. But lately they have grown bolder and more organized, turning into something more closely resembling an actual insurgency in techno-sheep clothing. I must admit that every time one of these YouTube threats come online I get the feeling that this is a movie, or that I've seen this before. Certainly there is something vaguely deja-vuish about the group's use of the Guy Fawkes masks from V For Vendetta; there are discussions to be had about the post-postmodernness of all of this. The comic book creates an iconic re-imagining of a historical character in order to represent the rebellious animus, and at the same time creates a definitive anarchist anti-hero, whose masked visage is both frightening and strangely comforting. Then, partly inspired by the rebellious spirit of the comic book, protest groups around the world don the now-classic mask in order to conjure the same terror/comfort dual animus that drove the comic book anti-hero's lust for rebellious destruction in the first place, all the while struggling against the very sort of military-industrial pseudo-fascist corporate regime against which the comic book anti-hero was also struggling against.

There are two ways to look at this: either this is a perfect example of reality feeding art which feeds reality which feeds art which feeds reality, or Alan Moore was just a genius and he truly saw the future for what it was, a growing battle between the haves and have-nots and provided the perfect icon for the future struggle.

Either way, Anonymous plans on erasing the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) from the internet on October 10.



*I gotta admit, after re-reading that post, I'm a little struck by how prescient it seems, given the recent Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring stuff going on.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Statues of Famous Authors

Flavorwire has a great compendium of photos of various authors' sculptures from around the world.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Story Idea

If this doesn't get your brain waves firing, I don't know what could. Scientists at Berkeley have managed to turn brain waves into images. using YouTube. This is truly one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. Ethan Zuckerman has more about it here, and ties it into a little known movie from the 1970's.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Picks of the Week

Last week I went out on a limb with a few of my picks and none of them worked out. I went 4 for 6, to bring my percentage up to 65% on the year.

This week is conference-amaggedon. There are several interesting match-ups that should do some clarifying in major conferences.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Picks of the Week

So, I, um, like, forgot to post last week with my picks, but let's just assume I got 100%, because, you know, I'm awesome. Through three weeks I am not doing that great, though, going 64% in my picks. This week brings some super awesome matches all across the board. Let's get to 'em.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Picks of the Week

Week One delivered little in the way of surprises, but it was still a fairly illuminating week of college football. The West half of the SEC proved they are too be feared, with LSU ripping off Oregon’s face and Mississippi State and Alabama hanging forty+ points on their opponents. It’s still too early to tell if Ole Miss should be embarrassed about losing to BYU, but Auburn dropped out of the Top 25 with their barely-face-saving performance against Utah State. Notre Dame dropped a deuce in their collective pants against ND alumni, Skip Holtz, and his South Florida Bulls. Texas A&M did their best to show the Big 12 why they’ll be missed when they jet for the SEC. Michigan played 2 and half quarters and still won by 24 points.

This week is all about clarification. Was that just first-game jitters from the Auburn Tigers or are they a middling team this year? Is this Mark Richt’s last year at Georgia? Can Miss State make a push for the SEC West or are they pretenders? These questions will be partially answered this week. See below.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/11 and the difficulty of depicting mass tragedy

Adam Kirsch at the Wall Street Journal (yes, you read that right) had a great article today about the limits of literature in depicting modern tragedies. This is obviously yet another response to the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, but it is still interesting that ten years on, we still don't have a satisfactory method for dealing with the horrible senselessness of the tragedy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thursday Football Picks!

It’s that time again, folks, when I waste your precious time trying to predict the unpredictable. College football has supposedly been rocked by various scandals, but it’s the same ole’ game to me, always will be, no matter how many super conferences or playoffs try to screw around with the formula. In the end you have two teams try to beat each other. It’s as simple as that.

Week One doesn’t have too much intrigue. It’s your normal slate of baby seal clubbing. Except for a few uber-match-ups the big dogs have largely avoided having to do more than field a team. Regardless, here are the top picks of Week One of the 2011 College Football season.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Obligatory DFW Post

I can't stand The Decemberists. But this video very well might change that.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tuesday Writing Links

This one has been making the round lately about Danielewski's House of Leaves and how to teach it in college lit courses. This will make no sense if you haven't read the book, but there are some interesting ideas here if you have. If you haven't, then you are seriously missing out on one of the most intense literary experiences of the last twenty years.

And here is your obligatory DFW link, this time from the New York Times. I'm not sure I agree with the author's stance, but it's still a good article.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Year of the Novel

Alrighty-do! I am that much closer to being done. After taking over a week off because of my trip to the Great Lakes State, I hit the ground running earlier this week and finished up the second character's story. That makes two of the four story lines sewn up. Only, obviously, two more to go. One of them should be pretty easy because the characters don't have that much more to their story. The other storyline, though, is the biggie. Three of the main characters reside in this storyline and they are pretty darn important to the overall scheme of the novel. They are sort of the yin and yang of the story and it's important I get them right. That's why I'm saving them for last. I feel like if I have everything else figured out then it will be easier to slide the last section into the bosom of the rest.

So, that's the update. I'm in the homestretch, and I can feel it. Pray for me, my friends.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Backyard Reclamation Project

It's been awhile, but I mentioned earlier that I would give you all a glimpse into my backyard project. While, many of these pictures are sort of anathema now due to the various diseases and calamities that have befallen my precious veggies, the pictures are still nice. They show my backyard garden in a simpler time, when dreams and hopes were planted and the pain of the future had not yet come to pass. So, without further ado, here you go.




 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Whodathunk!?

Who would have thought that the sanest, most reasonable reaction to the riots in England would have come from none other than Russell Brand...yes, that Russell Brand.

Here ya go.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Off to the Mitten

I'm going to Michigan to visit my family for the next week, so blogging should be light for the next week...LOL! As if that'll be any different than the last few months.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Backyard Reclamation Project

The garden is a disaster. My peas got root rot. My green beans died inexplicably. My lettuce went to seed. My broccoli is being eaten up by bugs. The only thing growing are the carrots but they are growing slowly and fitfully so I'm worried they'll find some crazy disease to die of.

So, I tore everything up and planted again. The great thing about hobbies like gardening and writing is that you can always start over. As long as the will and the joy is there you can always pull it up and begin again, no worse for the experience. We'll see how this batch goes, and hopefully soon i will have some pictures of awesome carrots for you all to ogle.

As far as the rest of the backyard goes, I've started the mulch pile and so I should have glorious new dirt in a few months. I'm waiting for the late summer specials on swingsets for Lil' Man and once we have the set installed I can build the pathways and all the other doodads I plan on adding to the yard. I'm thinking everything'll be done by the winter...but then again houses are a lot like gardening and writing too, they're never really complete.

I'll post some pictures soon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers

Moby Dick by Herman Melville - I have been trying to read this book for about a year but the rigidly Romantic prose and the overly long start kept me from getting too far, but about a month ago I decided to buckle down and finish the damn thing. I'm over 100 pages into the Dick and it's really starting to grow on me. It's florid, sure, and prone to bizarre flights of whimsy and academic naturalism, but there is a sense of foreboding and discomfort that is palpable and reading an author who immersed himself so intensely in his subject matter is instructive. I'll let you know how this goes.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver [+Digital Booklet]- Good Lord this dude is blowing my mind. My wifey decided to buy Bon Iver's newest record (self-titled) based on the recommendation of a friend, and from the first few bars of the first song I got the chills and knew that this record was going to latch onto my heart and shake me loose. It's gorgeous and billowing like a chilly Midwestern November wind, standing in the snow and looking through a frosted window at a warm fire and an empty room.

I liked Bon Iver so much that I immediately went out* and bought his first record, For Emma, Forever Ago, and haven't stopped listening to these two albums back to back to back for the last month and a half. They've so monumentally dug themselves into my consciousness that they have become my entire writing playlist, displacing almost everything else except Sigur Ros, choice Dylan, and The National. The long and short of it, buy both of these records. Now.

Mumford and Sons, Sigh No More - Poor Mumford and his poor, poor sons. If it wasn't for their broken-hearted soul-brother to the North, Bon Iver, this album would be the only thing I was raving about. Unfortunately Bon is too awesome to be second place, and so Mumford waits in the wings, perpetually the bridesmaid, never the bride. But this album is so great, from start to finish. I've heard this band labeled as freak folk and that tag suits me. It's like a mishmash of every folk genre, with a heavy dose of bluegrass and tied together with Irish punk vocals. It's a bizarre mix but it's earnest and cool and beautiful at all the right times.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Random kindnesses

This is completely unrelated to writing, but I found this in my neighborhood on a recent run and it tickled me enough that I thought I'd snap a picture and show it to y'all. This tree has so many figs on it, I was really tempted to grab a few but I had no pockets and I was only half way done with the run, so I let it be. But I'll be back. Oh yes, I'll be back.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Lament for Borders

I read this piece in the Wall Street Journal and while I no longer have the fight left to bemoan the euthanizing of the world's bookstores* I did feel a brief moment of heartbreak at the hometown connection in the story. Being a graduate of the University of Michigan I used this store often. It was a staple of my college experience, and, being a bibliophile, it had a certain special place in my heart. I don't know if Borders was a badly-run corporation or what, but they employed 5000 people in the town I grew to love and call my own and that is no small thing.

Godspeed Borders, and may that location at the corner of Liberty and Maynard stay classy.


*I'll say only this: I think we will see a resurgence in book-making in our lifetimes. The writing, making, distribution, selling, and reading of books has been the staple of human civilization for at least a millennium, and the willingness of our generation to so readily toss 3/5 of this equation out the window seems short-sighted and terribly arrogant. I think it will come back to bite us in the ass.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Misopogon Talks About Harry Potter

So, not sure whether this is making the rounds or if I'm just really excited to see HP 7 and 1/2, but Mister Booze sent this blog to me about the possible annual tuition at Hogwarts and I thought, "Oh golly, isn't that cute." But the irrepressible Misopogon read this and decided that the author was an idiot and that the question of tuition at Hogwarts warranted about 5K words. This is his response. As always Miso digs deeper than anyone ever thought to go, and comes out with something entertaining, thoughtful, and brilliant.

Scottish Alamo: The Historical and Economic Realities of Harry Potter's World

By Misopogon

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Year of the Novel

I'm just going to stop starting these updates with some form of an apology. At this point I don't think anyone really expects more than sporadic "pop-ins" from me here at DECW. I've been working my booty off on the novel and it is going swimmingly. Thus so little time for blogging.

I am now fully engaged in Operation-Separate-all-the-Characters-and-Write-Their-Parts-Individually, and I've already finished one of the main character's section, totalling about 60K words from start to finish. His storyline dovetails with four others so by finishing him I've more or less created a good skeleton for the remainder of the book, since all action save the epilogue needs to happen before his "cathartic moment." This is huge progress for me and I'm proud of the work I've done already. So, cheers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Publication is Mine, Finally! After What Feels Like a Billion Years!

The good folks over at Full of Crow have taken on the admirable task of ushering my short story, "Lil' Smokey" to publication. It's a violent, cathartic, and very much NSFW little gem that took awhile to find a home, but I couldn't be happier with the one it found. This is my second piece in Full of Crow. I'm beginning to wonder if the name has anything to do with why they keep taking me on.

You can read the story here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Writing Links!

Let's start this off right! Obligatory DFW interview from way back...like back when he was alive.
Money Quote:
"For someone like me who grew up in the sixties at the height of the Cold War and whose consciousness was formed by, “we are the good guy and there’s one great looming dark enemy and that’s the Soviet Union,” the idea of waking up to the fact that in today’s world very possibly we are the villain, we are the dark force, to begin to see ourselves a little bit through the eyes of people in other countries—you can imagine how difficult that is for Americans to do. Nevertheless, with a lot of the people that I know that’s slowly starting to happen."

The Millions brings the heat with a great article about Philip K. Dick.

I met the author of this book the other day and she is the nicest person ever. It's cool to meet people who are a little further along the path to super-stardom than me.

Speaking of superstars, if you haven't bought xtx's Normally Special then you're a certified idiot.

I'm thinking about reading James Joyce's Ulysses after finishing The Help. Does this make me a crazy person? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Language of Dissent

 "The Language of Dissent" is one of the only songs I ever wrote completely wasted that actually turned out half-way decent. It was late at night and I was in the basement that Oblivion practiced in, sitting on the nasty cement floor and strumming some simple chords that required about zero in the way of ability to move my fingers, which at the time was not something I could do all that well. Something in those chords, though, tickled something in my heart and it vibrated and it vibrated and I started to sing about all sorts of things that were weighing heavily on me at the time.

I was growing concerned with my penchant for writing obtuse music that, while interesting in a mental masturbation kinda way, was not doing a particularly good job of letting anyone know my true heart. This song was supposed to start turning the tide. It was supposed to let the listener know that I knew I was an over-educated little twit and that it was causing me as much pain as them. That this song would end up smack in the middle of all the lyrical pretension of The Garden in the Machine is probably ironic, since I'm not sure I understood the juxtaposition at the time, but I just wanted to be honest.

The music featured a whole lot of truly stellar performances by everyone in the band. Jason played the hell out of the piano and Ben probably laid down one of his best ever guitar solos. It's lyrical and epic and gorgeous. There's also french horns and trumpets that were arranged by some U of M students who came up with it and played it for free, and who had to deal with me nervously hovering over them throughout the entire process even though they had more classical music proficiency in their thumbs than I had in my entire body. The whole, overblown mess of this song is still so enjoyable for me to listen to. I didn't realize it was too big for its own good at the time. And now that I'm seven years older I don't care. It's like an old VHS film of yourself as a child pretending to wear your parents' clothes. For awhile it's embarrassing, and then it's sort of cute, and in the end you wind up finding out a lot about yourself.

Who am I dissenting against? Myself, of course. Always myself.


The Language of Dissent
Music and Words by  Tres Crow

All those dreams I had when I was too young to notice that they’re never coming true
All those beliefs I had when I was too young to notice the machinery
Took a stand if only for a moment to lift my lips to sweetness
And I traded my clean robe for some nice new clothes
and I’ve hidden in corners with metaphors for way too long

this world is underway
what’s past is over

all those dreams I had when I was too young to notice the machinery
all those ghosts I trusted so deeply now they are merely mist
and I traded my best parts for a good entrance
and I’ve hidden in corners with metaphors for way too long

this world is underway
what’s past is over
 
Lyrics reprinted by permission of Shire Reckoning Publishing House 


Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Writing Links!

Yes, kids, you too can have a children's book smash hit.

Bolano.

Obligatory DFW link: Movie posters from the films of James O. Incandenza.

Roald Dahl was a douchebag. But, damn! Those stories. Those stories.

The Millions has another classic, this time about short stories.

And I'd be a jerk if I didn't link to Mr. Canavan's latest project. Here it is, he can explain it better than I can.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mergers and Acquisitions

Not so many acquisitions these past few weeks, my friends. But there are some definite mergers that are kicking my ass.

The Weepies - This cute little musical duo has been kicking around my WMP for about two years. Their song "Keep It There" has been a staple of my "Writing" mix for the entire writing of this novel-in-progress. But recently I decided to look a little bit more into their oeuvre and I found that they are the greatest thing ever!!! Their album Say I Am You is basically the sound that I was trying to achieve for about three of the last five years of my musical career. Absolutely beautiful and brilliant in a "Yesterday" kind of way. It's like that tune you wake up humming and don't know where you heard it from. It's from the middle of you. That pace that will always be eleven years old, no matter how many times the dagger gets stabbed in.

The Tree of Life - If you are familiar with Terrence Malick's work and have already decided you don't like his films then stay far far away from this one. This is the most "Malick" he's ever been, but I can't even begin to explain how beautiful this movie is. He sets out to make a movie about no less than the entire scale of life in this universe and...well, he actually succeeds. Brad Pitt is devastating. The cinematography is devastating. This won't win Best Picture because the Academy is a lifeless zombie addicted to cheese whiz but in a perfect world this movie would be the only one nominated. Four days later I'm still thinking about this*. Four days from now, I probably still will be.

Queen - Yes, that Queen. They are so over-the-top amazing that my face becomes an elongated banana grin every time I hear the classic opener "I'm just a poor boy..." I don't even care that Adam Levine and co. butchered the Royal catalog on NBC's early-summer "smash" The Voice, this music is so much a part of me that sometimes I just wanna put on my spandex body suit and grab a hairbrush and chase after some fat-bottomed girls. Cuz, you know, they make the world go round.

X-Men: First Class - Best one yet. Simply put. In fact, it'd be the best comic book movie ever made if it wasn't for that pesky Brit Christoper Nolan. For an interesting take on the film that in no way takes away from its filmic awesomeness, go here.


*For those of you who go to see it, there is about a forty-five second sequence in which the beginnings of Sean Penn's character's life are shown, which basically summed up the last two years of my life. I cried. I really did. It was so perfect and beautiful. If you have kids you'll know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Apocalypse Watch

This was a great day for bizarro news from around this great nation of ours. American exceptionalism is alive and strong on this, the tenth day of June in the year of Our Lord two thousand and eleven, my friends. here's a small collection of greatest hits from two papers of record.
The question reads: The stock market swoons, but are we in for an all-out pass-out?

Infrastructure? We don't need no stinkin' infrastructure. Detroit opts for air-conditioning au-naturel.

Arizona on fire...again. I'm sure it's all because of illegal immigrantion.

A large pack of dogs is killing livestock in Washington...yes you read that right.

Chicago is preparing for more "flash mobs," and not the cuddly kind that dance on YouTube.

But don't worry, everyone, Texas is here to save the day. That is, as long as you pay no attention to the accounting tricks behind the balanced budget.

On a related note, my little garden is doing wonderful. I have beans a growing. I have broccoli a sprouting. And home gardening has become such a thing* that it even now has corporate sponsorship. Who knew Triscuits were made on small farms in backyards all across American suburbia? Strange times we live in, folks.


*Seriously though, just about every adult I know with one or more kids is growing at least one vegetable in their backyard. I thought I was a weirdo when I started this until I started talking to everyone else. I think this is a legitimate "thing" now. Is it because of the economy? A general unease with the future of this country? A desire for something real amongst all the lies? All three for me. I dunno about everyone else.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Year of the Novel: The Great Disappearo!

Yup, I know, I know. I'm well aware that I now have the uncomfortable habit of disappearing off the face of the planet and then reappearing in a fit of blog posts weeks later. The reason for this is simple: I can't blog at work. That means I have to blog at home, but the problem is that I can't actually justify spending good writing time blogging when I'm 60% done with a novel that I've spent over a year on already. So, I guess what I'm saying is, get used to the new normal, people.

On the novel front, I am now officially working on the longest piece of continuous fiction I've ever written in my life. Last I checked it's around 112K words or something like that. I am very proud of myself for continuing my writing routine as best I could even after starting the new job, but lately I've encountered a fearsome and unexpected beast: I'm a little burnt out. I think I worked so hard during my 8-day hiatus that now that I'm back into a normal routine of working 9+ hours and writing when I find time, I'm finding it difficult to muster the energy to do so. But it's more troubling than that, really. Because it's not that I don't know where to go with the story, it's that I don't actually feel much like writing. That's the sort of writer's block they don't talk about. It's a little frightening, actually.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Marty

The kettle started to shriek and Marty snapped the book shut and grunted out of the chair. He went to the stove and removed the kettle from the stove, pouring the steaming water into a coffee mug with a picture of a cartoon bear on it. The mug said Yosemite National Park on it in script that wrapped around the picture of the bear. His sister had bought him this mug when her and her husband and her brood of kids went to the park. She was always going places. She lived currently in Galveston, TX where her husband worked as an accountant or an actuary or a gravedigger.

Marty reached in the cupboard for a box of tea bags. There were two of them in the cupboard: a yellow box for the morning and a blue one for the evening. He grabbed the blue box and pulled the last tea bag from the box and soaked it in his mug.

“I’ll need to go to the store tomorrow,” he said and nodded his head in agreement as he bobbed the bag in the water. Vapor condensed on his wrist.

He thought about his sister and the places she’d gone. He didn’t understand her, never had, not even as kids. One day she’d called to him and told him to follow her, and when he rounded the house he saw her standing over a spot on the lawn and looking down at something in the lawn. He walked up to her, reaching for her hand as he always did at that age. On the ground was a tiny bird and it opened and closed its beak in silent suffering.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Year of the Novel: Vacation Blues...JK! Vacation Awesome! Writing Staycation, 2011!

So, as it turns out, not having a job is really very good for writing novels. I put my two weeks in at the bank about eight business days ago and, as is common in the banking industry, I was immediately terminated. Don't worry, y'all, me and the bank are still cool but they just didn't want me stealing trade secrets or customer info or whatnot. At any rate, since I wasn't starting the new job until after Memorial Day, I decided to pretend that I was a real professional writer and get some serious work done on the manuscript.

I found out a few things about my writing self during the eight business days of writing staycation, 2011.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Swear the Bear's Head Looked Too Small Last Year: Thoughts on Bear vs Shark and Bear v Shark

During my time in bands I played with a great many artists that would later be fairly successful artists, not in a Rolling Stones kind of way, but in an able to make a living off of music for a few years kind of way, which is a big freaking deal in the modern musical market. At one point I played with these guys, and this girl, and these guys, and these guys too (in fact they ended Oblivion's ten-win winning streak in battle of the bands in Southeast Michigan, no small feat, I tell you), and some guys who later went on to make this. While all of these bands and artists are very talented, I rarely went to see any of them unless my band was on the bill with them.

Only one "local" band ever had the distinction of making Tres Crow a huge freaking fan of theres. That band was Bear vs. Shark from Ypsilanti, MI. I was introduced to these guys when Ben and I were freezing our asses off trying to tape flyers for an Oblivion show to cold streetlights, and we kept seeing BVS flyers everywhere. We covered most of them up because it was a dog eat crow world in the U of Michigan music scene circa 2001and clean streetlamp real estate was hard to come by. Anyway, we were in the midst of covering up one of these BVS flyers when someone walked by and told us we sucked balls and that Bear vs. Shark was better than our shitty band. This person actually said that to us. We looked at each other, then shrugged and kept flyering, but from then on I started to pay attention to BVS because I hated them because they had at least one fan more than we (Oblivion) had. I was jealous back then, a lot.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dragonfly

Like all albums, no matter how good, there are usually songs that are there primarily to fill space. Of course the author doesn't tell the song that at the time. It's kind of like a girl or a boy that you don't date for very long. You say nice things and smile and make out and stuff but deep down you know things ain't gonna work out. Some songs are like that.

"Dragonfly" is like that. I swear I meant it when I said I loved this song as Oblivion sweated away in the basement of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, building each verse and chorus just the way we liked it, and building up so much animosity among the frat bros that we would practically be forced at gunpoint out the back door three months later*. I swear I wasn't lying as we added the awesome guitar breakdown toward the end. I swear I wasn't faking it when I belted that big "yeah" before the last chorus.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why We All Felt Like It Mattered So Much

I know that the timing of this post is a bit awkward given the light-speed of the news cycle, but something about the killing of Osama bin Laden and the subsequent national outpouring of hysterical excitement has really not sat well with me. On the surface (and for much of the passing week) I've assumed this is because I have never had a comfy relationship with violence of any sort. Perhaps it is a hair-trigger empathy gag reflex or something, but I have never been able to glory in death or violence perpetrated on anyone, whether they had it coming or not. This is why I don't watch torture-porn, or overly violent movies. I am literally unable to not place myself in the victim's shoes. Surely this reflex has a great deal with why I felt sick to my stomach watching people celebrating in the streets and waving American flags after finding out that yet another human being had been killed in this ridiculous decades-long blood-letting.

But in the last day or so I've begun to suspect that maybe there was something else going on, in both my reaction to the death and celebration, and also the celebration itself. For those born after 1970 it would seem that there has been very little for the US to celebrate. We've witnessed a great deal of amazing things, earth-shattering things, but very few of them have been celebratory. We've seen the embarrassing defeat of our military in Vietnam, the endless parade of failed nation-building exercises, the destruction of the banking industry...twice, a space shuttle explode, a president (nearly) brought down by a blowjob, the bursting of the only employment bubble of our lifetimes, two hazy wars, 9/11, decreased job prospects, lower wages, race riots, the explosion of wealth inequality to levels never seen in the history of this country, and the destruction of trust at all levels of the social contract. Yes, we've seen a whole lot of really big, fascinating shit, but nothing to get all happy feet about.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Writing Links!

Tony Perrottet of the New York Times gives a little insight into the long and interesting history of literary marketing (authorial whoring?). I guess I don't feel so bad now.

The Millions, as always, has an excellent article on the difficulty of writing novels in the face of the rising tide of electronic inundation.

Short Round over at Alternative 1985 has some truly interesting/bizarre things to say about a recent study that found people became frightened when a prosthetic third arm was threatened with a knife. I love this man's mind. I must admit this.

China Mieville manages to blow my mind in a single sentence. As a parent of a two year old I see anthropomorphs constantly and yet I've never thought critically about the very real (il)logical boundaries placed on anthropomorphism. China, you the man.

As usual, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows has yet another amazing new word for you writers to use.

aoyaoia

n. a musical flavor found in electric guitar solos that compels you to snarl, squint and bend your spine like a longbow being drawn back to fire a warning shot to your distant ancestors, so they may know that your domestication will not go unavenged.
And, lastly, another awesome article from the NY Times about the powers of social persuasion in determining successful commodities in the cultural marketplace.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Year of the Gosh-Darn Novel, Ya'll

Not too shabby of a week at all, my friends. I actually completed over 3K words and am nearly half-way complete with Chapter Two of Part Two, in which our heroes actually meet each other and realize they still have no idea why the hell they are where they are. The angels aren't really helpful, because honestly they don't know either. They have stories, but their stories don't match up. So goes life in the bureaucracy.

I've decided that since Part Two is called "The Midway" each chapter will be named after a different circus midway staple. The first chapter is tentatively called "The Fattest Man In The World," though I'm not entirely sold that that is the proper name for that chapter. Maybe "The Carnival Barker" since the chapter is really the entrance to the second Part. Hmm, that might be a good one. That way I can save "TFMITW" for a later chapter that involves a lot more emotionally heavy stuff.

"The Bearded Woman" is definitely reserved for my fav character Katrina. She's a bad ass, emotional wreck. Beard indeed.

I'll update next week with some garden stuff. I need to take some pictures first so you will be able to see how beautiful my little babies are. My green beans have little beanlets growing off them. I'm so proud. I wonder if now's a good time to have "the talk" with them about using protection.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Initiation in the Freak Parade

I had my first reading of my writing career last night. I was invited by the good people at Loose Change to join them for part of a Wonderroot/Loose Change open mic mash-up, tangentially celebrating Cinco de Mayo, but really just celebrating being alive. It went late into the night. I'm really tired right now.

During my decade as a musician I went to a hell of a lot of open mic nights, and almost all of them were soul-sucking affairs in which everyone swam around the bar eating each other for that highly unlikely chance someone of any importance was there. Perhaps I went to far too many open mics in the insanely competitive city of music, Nashville, but I was entirely unprepared for the bizarro love-fest that Wonderroot threw last night.

Hosted by Cameron ? (I actually never got his last name) in full-on Andy Kaufman mode, the event featured some forty+ poets, songwriters, electronic musicians, rappers, spoken word slam artists, novelists, and one ukulele player named Jesse, all packed into a 10x10 basement with a few folding chairs and cracked-out couches. At some point this guy and his buddies told us all to shout that we "lived for this shit" and we did and it was glorious. At another point a girl named Anna played two heartbreakingly beautiful songs with her back turned to us, stopping at least three times per song to moan "Oh God" into the microphone in horrifed dejection, as if the very act of singing these songs was some form of Draconian torture. It was awesome.

I read about 1/108th of my novel-in-progress at around 12:43am, after spending four hours with all these strangers who now seemed really very familiar to me, when I had to work only six hours later, in my polo shirt and flip flops, having not got the memo about the dress-code and the suspenders and the short skirts and the horn-rimmed glasses. I read as best I could but knew I was rushing the words that I'd spent so much time tearing out of me. I knew I was strangling them with my stage fright and my blurry eyes and my paranoia of reading over-long and boring everyone. But when it was done and I wandered away to take my seat, the applause was just as genuine as it had been for everyone else, and I realized I was among brothers. We all had ugly facial scars and knock knees and it was all good that I had on a damn polo. In a room full of freaks, it's fine to not fit in. It's impossible. To fit in, I mean.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm officially a PAID Amateur!

So, I just received my first official payment for my writerly services the other day. The fine folks over at Psuedopod saw fit to pay me a small fee for my short story "A Murder of Crows," which will be featured sometime this Fall.

I could have saved this money for a rainy day, but I've decided instead to spend it on some Tiny Hardcore Press products, the most electrifying literary events of the year! Seems fitting, I guess, to spend my writing money on reading material. Once I get the books, I'm sure I'll do a little write up on 'em. Get psyched, Fifi, get psyched!

Friday, April 29, 2011

My First Reading

My good friends over at Loose Change will be hosting an Open Mic/reading to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this Monday, May 2nd, in the great city of Atlanta, GA. Furthermore, they've invited me to read a little somethin somethin for everybody, so if you're in the Atlanta Metro area and feel like hearing me "err" and "umm" my way through a small section of my novel-in-progress, I'd love to see your beautiful faces.

Loose Change is a great new 'zine, and anytime you get a chance to support local literature, it's always a good thing, like petting puppies or not talking about Fight Club.

Here're the dets:

Monday, May 2nd, 2011 @ 9pm
Wonderroot Community Arts Center
982 Memorial Dr. SE
Atlanta, GA 30316

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Year of the Novel: ...

Bah humbug. No time, no inspiration, distractions e'rwhere. There is a light on the horizon that tells me I just might be able to get back on track, though. Maybe. Just maybe. I'll keep looking into that light. Maybe...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Fiction over at DECM

Adetokunbo Abiola brings us a harrowing look into African street politics in "Initiation."

You can read his story here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Completely Beatles!

The fine gentlemen over at Beatles Complete on Ukulele have again asked me to write a little somethin somethin about a Beatles song. This time they asked me to write about my favorite Beatles song, so this one is extra special. You can read my words here. Thanks to Dave for continuing to trust me with his crazy vision of a world filled with ukulele.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Year of the Novel: In The Trenches

I finished Chapter One of Part Two in a Panera Bread this week. It would have been better if I hadn't forgotten my headphones, but it felt good to finish the chapter. I feel like I've sorted some of the crap out in my head and can make a smoother road through the rest of this section. Some things emerged in the story that I wasn't expecting. That happens sometimes. Stephen King once said that writing a novel is like archaeology, in that you start with a bone sticking out of the ground and you start to dig and then sometimes it's just a bone, but other times you dig out a fucking Brontosaurus. That's both the horror and the adventure of writing. It's also a secret of the book biz. Writers usually don't know what the hell they're writing until they're writing it. At least I don't. 

The last half of Chapter One was a pretty classic moment in Tres Crow writing history. I started writing this whole series of events for a character named Katrina, which I didn't know was going to happen when I sat down to write, and then mid-way through writing it I started getting hives because I thought I was wasting the reader's time and was just stalling because I didn't know where to go next. I sat like this for a week feeling bad about my novel and about my writing ability. But then I thought about what was happening to this character, and where she was going to go later on, and it clicked that what I was writing was actually a pretty perfect book end to what happens to her later, and in fact foreshadows those events. Not to mention it gives the archangel Gabriel a chance to kick some ass. So then I felt awesome about what I was writing and I went to Panera and I wrote like a madman and then I was done with the chapter.

Classic Tres.

The rest of Part Two should go a little bit smoother because the characters are starting to arrive at the training camp for G-d's army and all sorts of funny business will ensue once they are there. It's a strange thing to have expectations; they do something to people. Let's see what expectations do to my characters.

Also, Earth is pretty much gonna go to hell in a hand basket during this section. These should all be fun things to write.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New Fiction over at DECM

G. David Schwartz graces us with a surreal look at the various ways Genies can be treated in his flash piece, "How To Treat Genies."

You can read it here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Writing Links!: DFW Edition

The Millions has a kick-ass review of DFW's new novel The Pale King.

The Guardian UK has a kick-ass interview with DFW's widow about helping shape the latest novel and how she's coped with the loss and subsequent canonization of her husband, lover, and friend.

Michael Pietsch, DFW's longtime editor, writes about the massive task of taking David's unfinished manuscript and assembling it into something that could be published.

The New York Times sort of writes a review-thing about the novel here.

And lastly, if you haven't done it already, buy Infinite Jest and read it while studying this website. It will seriously change your life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cold Light

Part of the reason I was so eager to divest myself of Oblivion in our last year was that I felt divorced from the concept of the band itself. Oblivion was a hard rock band with (what we thought was) intellect and soul, but I no longer listened to heavy music. My personal tastes were doing a 360 and peeling back to those groups that had gotten me into music in the first place: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Oasis, Weezer, Radiohead. I was also listening to a ton of Sigur Ros. All of these bands put melody and songwriting ahead of brashness and intensity, and most of the songwriting I was doing at the time was just as quiet and introspective.

Not seeing much of an outlet for these new songs within Oblivion's playlist, I decided that I would team up with Ben Began (the producer of Oblivion's second LP) to make a small EP that would showcase the new direction I was heading into. The idea for the EP wouldn't come to fruition until a year later when I took the jumbled ends of this session and re-recorded two of the songs to create what would become the Maine EP. But in the Spring of 2004 it was me and Ben doing the best we could with a drum machine, some studio musicians and myself. "Cold Light" was the only fully-formed track that made it to the final EP, and that is largely to do with its spare arrangement. Not much needed to be added to it. It pretty much ended up on record exactly as I had imagined it. A tiny prayer whispered to the stars.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gabriel

Gabriel didn’t sleep, not in any way that could be understood by humans, but he did rest then. It was nothing that could do him any good. It was a catnap stolen by a soldier standing in a trench, the sounds of war exploding all around him, the sound of his own tortured heart echoing within. Gabriel saw faces. He heard voices. He felt G-d burning on his cheeks and the back of his neck. Millions of faces folded on one another until they became one face, the face of the girl, the face of the girl, but which girl? Which one? It didn’t matter. Both girls. One girl. Both girls.

He heard his own voice quietly whisper the prayer,“אלוהים, מברך את הילד הזה שאני שואל אותך לקבל לתוך החן מהמלכותשלך.” Lord, protect this child as she prepares to do your bidding. It was a simple prayer, general and clichéd but it was all he could think to say as he stared down at the girl in her bed, as she clutched at her bed sheets and tried to not cry at the burden they hoisted on her.

She asked only one thing, “Is there no other?”

She’d been fourteen. Too young for this.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mergers and Acquisitions

For a primer on what the above title means, click here.

This was a relatively slow week for cultural consumption and takeover, but here goes.

Mergers
(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me (2004 Digital Remaster) - Most everybody knows the Naked Eyes version of this song, but I recently found out that a chica by the name of Sandie Shaw recorded a version of this way back in 1964, and it's AWESOME! It starts out with this bossa nova groove and then explodes into pure girl-group pop awesomeness by the chorus. I've been listening to this on repeat for about a week now. I'm a nerd. Also, this song has a pretty ridiculously storied past. It was written by Burt Bachrach and Hal Johnson and was demoed by Dionne Warwick. It ended up charting in the Top 100 in the US three separate times over thirty years. Wow. Just wow. Talk about a song having legs.

The Known World - A friend told me this book was awesome, and then followed that up by letting me borrow this awesome book, which was in and of itself awesome. And then I started reading it and, like, the darn thing is totally awesome! I'm only a quarter of the way through, but a story about a black man in antebellum North Carolina who owns slaves himself is too good of a premise to screw up. And to think, this thing is sort of based on true events.

Acquisitions
Mod 60's: The British Invasion - I bought this at Target for $5. It's one of those collections of rare tracks from the 1960's, and by rare I mean they are the crappy songs that no one wants...except for me. This was a super-awesome purchase. It has the afore-mentioned Sandie Shaw version of "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me," but it also has the only other two Zombies songs you'd want to own outside of Odessey And Oracle. It has some Hollies, some Donovan, some Lulu, and Dusty Springfield. It gives me chills just listing all these names. This was a damn good purchase.

Mystic River - I found this on the street in Brooklyn. It looks like someone crapped on the back third of it, but it was free, and now it's mine. I'm happy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Writing Links!

The Millions bring the awesomeness as always. A great article about the 40th anniversary of Fear And Loathing.

I am not unique in calling anyone's attention to this (Thanks Mister Booze and Gerry Canavan), but it is still one of the better DFW articles I've read recently. It's ambitious. Like DFW himself.

China Mieville unleashes a rejected proposal for a new comic hero. You have to read this, especially if you're interested in the woes of the Rust Belt. It starts off sounding cliched, and ends sounding absolutely brilliant because of its cliches. Read it here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Year of the Novel: Where O Where Have The Days Gone?

Seriously, where have they gone? I feel like I blinked and suddenly three weeks had passed and I hadn't written a damn sentence. Various things conspired to keep me from my keyboard, among them are child-rearing, lethargy, laziness, working for a living, a trip to NYC, and writer's block. I'll talk only about the last and the second, since they feed into one another.

I can tell you that any number of distractions are easy to get over if you know where you are going in your story and your'e excited about it. However, if you are unsure of the shape of your story and aimless, then it can be equally easy to just not get up early in the morning or watch that extra TV show. That has been my last three weeks. After the glorious triumph of finishing Part One, I sat down at the computer to begin the next section and realized, horribly, I hadn't the foggiest idea where to go next. Well, that's not entirely correct, I have a foggy idea, but fogginess is only ok for future chapters that you haven't gotten to yet, not for chapters that are staring at you from a blank word document. So, I did the only thing any uber-distracted writer with writer's block does, I procrastinated and stopped working on the novel.

Now here's the part where I don't lose heart and turn this into a woe-is-me-I'm-quitting-this-crap post. I have been doing this long enough to know that sometimes, especially after large benchmarks like finishing parts of a book, you need a little space, and pushing through only makes for a lot of revision later on. Creative inspiration is not a well that can merely be pumped and voila! out shoots awesomeness. No, it's something that takes time sometimes. It's good that I've grown slightly more patient in my old age because I was able to realize I needed a little space from the story, and focused on any number of other things I needed to do, until the beginnings of Part Two started to coalesce in my mind.

This week I started up again and made a lot of headway. I've written almost 2700 words with four more days left in the week, and I'm starting to see the shape of Part Two more clearly, which will help significantly in the coming months. I don't doubt that I will be stricken again with the lazies, but with any luck I will be able to get my word count back on track and still have this thing done by the end of the year. Either way, though, I think I'll have a better manuscript because of the time off than I would have if I'd just berzerker'd my way through the writer's block.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pocket Book Review: 2666

I'm not really certain how I can do a pocket review of this massive book. At 900 pages, 2666 pretty much kicks its readers' asses the entire way through. It took me about six months to read it, partly because it wasn't all that fun the entire time, and partly because it takes me a long time to read books, which is itself partly to do with my limited reading time and also my slow reading ability.

2666 is really five inter-connected novellas that span the globe from the UK, Spain, Mexico, the US, Germany, the USSR, Italy, and France. Each novella swirls in some way around the fictional city Santa Teresa on the Mexico-US border (and based on Ciudad Juarez), where hundreds of women have been found raped and murdered in the desert, picking up bit characters and detritus and grime as the story blows through these countries, and these people. Despite each novella being inter-connected*, they really have their own unique character and pacing and depth, designed for different purposes, to tell different stories about the character of brotherhood and violence in our modern world.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Talkin New York City Lyrics

"Half of the time we're gone
but we don't know where,
and we don't know where.

Tom, get your plane right on time
I know you've been eager to fly now.
Hey let your honesty shine, shine, shine.
Da-n-da-n-da-n-da-n-da
The only living boy in New York.
The only living boy in New York.

Here I am..."

-Paul Simon, "The Only Living Boy in New York" from Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mergers and Aquisitions

In these heady economic times, there are a great many changes occurring. No neighborhood is immune from the devastation. Mine is no different. Most of my neighborhood was built in the mid-1960's as a bedroom community for those who wanted to escape the hub bub and bustle of Atlanta. If most of those first time homebuyers were in their twenties, and the 1960's were almost fifty years ago, you can imagine what is happening to those first time homebuyers. They're dying. In droves. This is bad for them, but really good for me, because it means that basically every weekend there is a really kick ass estate sale. Estate sales usually mean a whole lot of interesting antiquey furniture, bad shoes and clothes, and books galore.

Judging from the books at the latest estate sales I've gone to I can make a few guesses about what this neighborhood must have been like in the 60's. Either it was the type of neighborhood where the parents got together and had key parties and got wasted on martinis and foreign beers and spent most of their adult lives having interesting convos about politics and race relations and stuff. It was like that, or it was the most boring place on Earth and their kids spent their teenage years reading awesome books to escape the boredom of their lives, and eventually left home never to return, leaving behind their awesome book cache.

I don't care which it was, just that I keep finding amazing deals on paperbacks at these things.

So, all of this is to basically segue into a new post series I'll do occasionally when I feel like it: Mergers and Aquisitions. By merger, I mean things that are knocking me out for whatever reason. I'm waaaaaay behind the times so it'll prolly be stuff that y'all thought was cool like back in tenth grade, and I'm just now getting around to. Aquisitions is all the stuff I pick up at these estate sales.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The New "The" Bands

What the hell is up with bands named "Blank the Blank"? I mean, right now the radio is populated by bands like Young The Giant, Portugal The Man, Cage The Elephant, Foster The People. Was there some indie-rock conference where these sorts of things are decided, or is it further evidence of the pervasive hive-mind of American culture? Not only are these stupid names*, but any novelty that might have been derived from them has been completely obliterated by there being a billion other bands with the same darn naming structure. Instead of being the one crazy bunch of guys at the party wearing panda suits, there's, like, half the party in panda suits and everyone's just standing around shuffling their feet and mumbling about it sounding better when they were stoned, or something like that.

For what it's worth, Cage The Elephant is the best name of the bunch because it's evocative and can possibly spark some conversation about what the "elephant" is and why it should be caged. Foster The People is a stupid name because the band doesn't sound even remotely as revolutionary as the name would suggest. They're basically warmed over Peter, Bjorn, And John. But Young The Giant's song "My Body" has been playing on constant rotation in my head for about two weeks, and Portugal The Man has a song that's preety alright too.


*Mainly because they're awkward to say, and hard to remember, which are two of the cardinal sins of band naming. Yes, I am aware that Oblivion is a stupid name. We knew it at the time, but were loathe to change something we'd spent years building into a mini-brand.

Pocket Review: Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream

In the mid-1990's three respected architects (Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck of DPZ Architectural Firm) who had been influential in building the Congress of New Urbanism, decided to write down all the aspects of suburban sprawl which made it such a wasteful and psychologically damaging way to build, and contrast that with the ways in which traditional neighborhood structures correct for these mistakes. Those writings would eventually become the book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, a comprehensive guide to the evils of sprawl and the common beauty of traditional neighborhoods.

Originally published in 2000 to a skeptical architectural community, Suburban Nation has taken a long and winding journey from outsider manifesto to growing acceptance to canonization in the latter part of the last decade. Now, ten years after its first print, the book has been reproduced in a nice 10th Anniversary edition with new forewards by the authors. Largely written by Speck, from the ideas and principals pioneered by Duany and Plater-Zyberk, the prose is easy and concise and filled to the brim with snarky honesty. Speck takes full aim at the main purveyors of sprawl and pulls no punches in explaining how ugly and dysfunctional modern American design is. No one is immune from his pen, architects, designers, zoning boards, politicians, everyday consumers, and developers all get their moment under the heat lamp.

But this is no dry, political manifesto, this is a field guide for a revolution, with pictures, diagrams, and plenty of suggestions for what each an every one of us can do to affect change in our neighborhoods, and cities, and regions. What I liked so much about this book was exactly that, that it didn't simply bemoan the ways that sprawl is ugly and dysfunctional and terrifying, but devoted nearly two thirds of its pages to ways in which traditional design can be fashionable, forward-thinking, beautiful, and profitable.

This is necessary reading for anyone whose spent an hour in traffic, gazing out over the sea of cars and wondering how the hell we got here as a nation. This book is for anyone whose ever wished they could just walk to the supermarket, or walk their child to the playground, or grab a beer with friends without worrying about car accidents and DUI's and blood on the highway. This is the future, if we choose to grab it and make it our own.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Publication is Mine!

So, Patrick and Amber and all the other beautiful people over at Emprise Review saw fit to publish my zombie-but-not-really story "Stillborn" in their totally rad magazine. Not only that (which would have been enough), but they also featured the darn thing on the front page of their newly-renovated website. I'm tickled. I really am.

You can read the story here*. And make sure to peruse the rest of the magazine. It's really awesome.


*FYI, the story has some swear words in it and has zombies and stuff, but otherwise it's a touching look at the inner workings of a marriage. I promise.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring has Sprung!

I have lots of little sproutlets growing in my greenhouse now and I'm so excited. About half the broccoli plants have poked their little green heads out of the soil, but almost all of the iceberg lettuce plants are peepin. The green beans are keeping it coy, but I planted them about 1 1/2" inches deep so I imagine it'll take longer for them to find their way to the surface.

Anyway, the next week is gonna be mostly focused on clearing out the backyard of all that god-forsaken ivy and getting things set up for the garden and my son's playground. It's gonna be an exciting week, folks.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Writing Links!

The Times has a neato essay about Michel de Montaigne as the first blogger. I've never read Montaigne, but I've heard many times I should. Maybe I will now.

This story comes via Alan Stewart Carl, who suggested it as a must-read. I agree. The Collagist pretty consistently publishes great work like this, so if you aren't checking it out every month, you're missing out.

Not really writing news, but awesome nonetheless. The Military ranks of the British Invasion (via Gerry Canavan).

Obligatory DFW Link: The First Sentence of DFW's posthumous novel, The Pale King, set for release next month. New DFW!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Fever Dreams of the Postmodern Mind

I found this post from The Retroist (and accompanying video) to be very interesting not only for the subject matter but also for what it says about our TV-saturated culture. It's terrifying to me that whole groups of people can have the same half-submerged memory of trauma that never existed except as a television fantasy. Everyday we are inundated with millions of images of sex and violence and bizarre juxtapositions that tantalize and demonize and horrify, and then when we wake up the whole churning mess starts again, leaving us wondering if what happened the day before really happened at all or if we dreamed the nightmare up. The turning over of images and ideas in the cultural landscape is like a compost heap, old images break down and disappear and become part of the morass of memories and nightmares, even as new images are tossed on the pile and shuffled in.

I wonder how many things I remember that never happened. I wonder how many nightmares of Hollywood writers became my nightmares. And I wonder how many of them are now yours, like a copy of a copy of a copy of a picture of the chupacabra. I wonder what all this amounts to, or if, like the roar of a stadium full of cheering fanatics, the endless stream of garbage is good only for cheering the players on the field as they punt the ball over and over and over again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Fiction over at Dog Eat Crow Magazine

I just posted a new flash piece by the enigma that is Ron Koppelberger. This is the third piece I've published by him and I still don't understand a word he writes. But it's gorgeous stuff, and as long as he keeps sending me these beautiful amuse bouches of craziness I'll keep publishing 'em.

Enjoy it here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Part One is Done!

So, after all my rambling about how difficult it would be to finish the last chapter of Part One because of all the info I had to stuff into the chapter without things getting overwrought and lame, I managed to sit down in one night and rattle the whole thing off. I'm satisfied with it. With first drafts all I'm hoping for is to get the ideas down on paper. I can fiddle with execution later on. Part One is now done and Part Two can begin.

Now that it's done, I need to adjust my figures a little. Part One ended up clocking in at around 70K words, so that means the final book could be closer to 190K-210K words. That is slightly less intimidating.

The next section is a lot more chaotic. The characters will now start to dance with each other a little. It'll be interesting to see how they like each other.   

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Writing Links!

The New York Times has a good little essay about abandoned novels. Being an author who has an abandoned novel sitting on his hard drive shivering in the cold and wondering what it did wrong, I can fully understand the need to address this issue. The reason I abandoned my novel is simple, I'd spent waaaaaay too long on it, and it got shoved aside by a new, shinier novel which suited my 30-year-old self a whole lot better than the one I started when I was 25. Is that fair? Probably not, but in the cutthroat world of the Crow's brain, only the newest, sexiest ideas get through the door.

The New York Times also had a very small blurb about the need for the novella to stay sexy and interesting and not get a lot of attention so it can stay sexy and interesting. There's definitely something about this blurb that smacks of insider complaining, but I still found it interesting. You might too.

Obligatory DFW link: The New York Review has a cool article on the David Foster Wallace industry.

Also, the coolest thing ever! A hand-drawn poster detailing the history of Science Fiction from "Fear" and "Wonder" to modern Space Operas. Just awesome. (via Gerry Canavan)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's Planting Time

The time has finally come to put my newly cleaned out greenhouse to good use. I decided to go with six veggies in order to get a good idea of what I'm good at and what I'm not good at. I'm going with broccoli, green beans, peas, iceberg lettuce, carrots, and summer squash. The squash, peas, and carrots have to be planted directly into the ground a week after the chance of ground freeze has passed, so I'll wait until the greenhouse plants are ready to be planted and then plant all six in the garden together. This is probably for the best since it means I only have to focus on three plants while I finish cleaning out the backyard. I'm probably super over-killing here, but I planted about 18 seeds of each veggie (lettuce, beans, and broccoli) assuming I will find a way to kill at least half the plants. Right now my main paranoia is that I will drown the seeds with all the water I poured over them, but everything I read called for a good, solid soaking at the outset, so hopefully my paranoia is unfounded. I think there will probably be a lot of unfounded paranoia throughout this process. I think I'm just beginning to realize what farming means: waiting a long time for less-than-obvious results. If there is a better physical embodiment of patience, I don't know what it is.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Year of the Novel: Everybody's Working for the Weekend

This was the first difficult week of the YotN project. I managed to finish only 850 words. Ouch. This was partly due to the fact that I only managed to carve out a few hours to write because of my work schedule and sick children and various other distractions. It's also partly to do with the chapter I'm working on.

This is a keystone chapter, in which a lot of important information needs to be doled out, but it needs to be given in such a manner that I don't give away the whole farm. I need to tread lightly. I need to be coy. I don't do coy very well, so this chapter is taking me a little longer than normal. Also, the whole thing is told from the perspective of an angel, and I'm still having a little trouble resolving their relationship to Earth and God and all that. I can feel what it's like to be an angel when I close my eyes, but for some reason I'm having a tough time putting it into words satisfactorily right now.

In a version of this post I just removed about three seconds ago I told ya'll all about the cosmological workings of this novel, but then I re-read the post and got extraordinarily paranoid about saying so much when I have at least a year left before submitting this work to agents and publishers. Not that I don't trust you, but when you spend this much time on something you get a little paranoid about anything spoiling it. And the internet is just so vast.

So, let's just say that writing all this down really helped clear my mind and that I think it'll help with the writing of this chapter. Thanks for listening, even if you didn't really get a chance to...you know...actually listen.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Writing Links!

Here's a Metafilter post about an independent author named Amanda Hocking who has apparently sold over 100K copies of her supernatural love thrillers entirely through on-line channels like Kindle and iTunes. I'll avoid my obvious inclination toward snarky backbiting* and just say bravo to her and keep this in the back of my mind as a possible back-up plan if my attempts at getting properly published fail spectacularly, as they probably will.

Speaking of DFW**, the man has new fiction in The New Yorker. My God, this dude writes better stuff as a dead man than I'll ever put on the page, alive or dead.

The Millions has a very good article about writing from the perspective of the opposite gender. I can seriously relate to this, since there is a female character in my novel that is also a different race from myself. Talk about stepping outside your comfort zone.

The New York Times has a hard-hitting piece of journalism that asks the tough question, "Is reading hurting our spines?"


*Like maybe the irrational exuberance over such an incredible success should be tempered a little by considering the good fortune of Ms. Hocking's chosen genre and delivery channel (i.e. supernatural romance thrillers ala Twilight and the Internet). The obvious next question is: "Would something hardcore literary like Infinite Jest^ have a snowball's chance in Hades of selling 100K copies without massive promotional support from the established publishing mechanism?" Sure, one can sell a bajillion copies of vampire romance novels to Internet-literate Tweens, but what are the ramifications for the wider publishing industry?
^Actually, with it's insane amount of footnotes, Infinite Jest would probably make a crazy good e-book since all the footnotes could be turned into hyperlinks, thus eliminating the need to flip back and forth constantly from the front to the back of the book. Although that would completely destroy the reason for all those footnotes. DFW himself said that he started putting footnotes in his writing so that the reader would have to flip back and forth, thus reminding them that they were reading a book and not a website or a magazine. He wanted the reader to be conscious of the format. Very meta, Dave.
**Of course, if you haven't read the first footnote and footnote to a footnote, you wouldn't know that I have already spoken about DFW. Shame on you for not reading my footnotes. I work hard on these footnotes, and occasionally there's actually some useful information in them. *smiley face smiley face*  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Backyard Reclamation Project: Update

Well, after nearly a month of work, I've finally finished the greenhouse. Just in time for planting season, too. I replaced and cleaned all the panes of glass, tossed out about 20 5-gallon buckets that were gathering spiderwebs, and raked out the pebble floor and spread out a couple more bags of pebbles to make the floor even. I have to admit, the place looks remarkable compared to how it looked before. I broke a few panes of glass and had to create make-shift replacements for them, but those panes are primarily hidden behind hedges so they're hardly noticeable, and, judging by the temperature in the greenhouse this weekend, they aren't effecting the greenhouse's functionality.

Next weekend I'll start planting the veggies, though I haven't officially decided just what I'm going to plant. I'm gonna grow green beans and squash for sure because those are O's and C's fav veggies respectively, but as far as the rest, I'm torn. I think peas would be good, or spinach...maybe tomatoes? I'm open to any suggestions. It would probably be best for me to focus on something that is easy to store and not too hard to grow.

I'm going to start by putting the seeds in these nifty things--



--and let the seeds germinate inside the greenhouse until early April when it should be properly rainy and sunny and the little plants sufficiently strong to withstand any weather disturbances. Therefore I have to finish the backyard in the next six weeks or else I won't have nowhere to put the little guys.

As far as the garden goes, I waffle back and forth between buying a pre-fab garden square, or buying the lumber and building it myself. I mean, it's just a square of wood, how hard could it be? I'll probably do that. It'll probably be cheaper in the long run too.

So, basically, things are going well and are coming according to plan. I'm getting all the infrastructure completed to get my family just a little lower carbon and have an awesome backyard for entertaining and playing alike. If any of you have experience growing stuff, leave your tips in the comments section, or write me directly.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More Beatles Completely Ukulele-d Out, Man

I had so much fun recording the cover of "Paperback Writer" that I went back and asked David at Beatles Complete on Ukulele if he needed help in the essay department. Turns out he did. This is what I came up with for the song "I'll Cry Instead" from A Hard Day's Night.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Year of the Novel Update: Y2K edition

Ole' Crow hit a few technological snags this week as I sat down to make some stories. My wife was set to go out of town for a few days on biznass so I was chuckling mischievously and rubbing my hands salaciously together at the prospect of several nights of boredom-induced writing time. But then,on the first night of writing I found out--to my great dismay--that my laptop cord had a short in it and would no longer keep my 'puter charged. I went through all the stages of loss while I spent twenty good writing minutes (as well as the correlative battery minutes) trying to beg and plead the cord to work. Eventually I gave up and used a few more battery minutes rush ordering a cord from Amazon* so that I would be able to salvage the last day of writing time**.
So, basically, all that's to say that I didn't get nearly as much as I was hoping to get done. But I did finish off the chapter I was working on, which leaves only one more chapter left in Part One. I hope to finish that this week or next.


*As I stated before, here's a shameless plug for Amazon.

**I spent the night without a working computer catching up on my latest bizarre hobby, whittling. I've been working on a walking stick for the last few weeks and got a few more inches of it done, so that was nice.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Writing Links!

The New York Times published a piece Tuesday that deconstructs the influence of copyright law on the explosion of artistic talent that emerged in the late 16th century. Naturally there's a moral: artists should be relatively certain of receiving the financial benefits of their hardwork, because art life is the cornerstone of great cultures. Read it here.

The Great Gatsby for NES.

And a Russian writer published a retelling of the Lord of the Rings trilogy from the perspective of Mordor around 15 years ago and now it has been translated into English. Umm, yes please. You can download the book, titled The Last Ringbearer, for free here.

Since Shakespeare's works are not exactly subject to copyright law anymore, MIT has put every darn word he ever wrote on the internets. Here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Year of the Novel: The Update

Three weeks in and I have been sticking to my belated New Year's resolution. It's the second week of February, so I suppose that is a victory in and of itself. Here are some numbers and esoterica from my last three weeks.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Call Me Somehow

I'm posting this today, on Valentine's Day, because "Call Me Somehow" is probably the simplest, most honest love song I've ever written. It was written for a friend's wedding, and it was written about my wife. It's about as "Valentine's" as they come.

It was also the last recording Noble Three ever did, and as such it exhibits all of the best and worst things about Patrick and my's pairing. On the one hand, I think it's one of the best songs we ever recorded. I laid down a solid enough vocal, and Patrick's subtle, understated instrumentation is perfect for the track and keeps it from sounding twee. On the other hand, we barely recorded this song together. I came in, laid down the guitar and my two vocal tracks, and then I left. And then over the next few weeks Patrick added all the stuff that make the track great, electric guitar, keyboards, piano, backing vocals, the awesome Beach Boys breakdown at the end.

I was a few weeks away from moving to Atlanta from Nashville when we did this recording, so it holds that interesting position, literally the last song I wrote and recorded...probably ever. That's pretty strange for me to wrap my head around, even now, two years later.