Saturday, March 31, 2007
I couldn't go due to scheduling problems, and by scheduling problems I mean Christine said I couldn't. (To be fair, she didn't say I couldn't, she just wants to go several other places this year and I got to go to Austin with Wayne in the fall.)
Anyway Wayne is sending me periodic dipatches from a pay-by-the-second computer. They are thus brief dispatches.
So far he's reported running into Joe Lansdale and his daughter Kasey, who is an up and coming country singer. Joe is the Grand Master winner for this year.
Wayne and I each bought Kasey's album when we ran into Joe at World Fantasy in Austin when he was hanging out at Scott Cupp's table in the dealer's room. (Ed Bryant once dubbed Scott the Salman Rushdie of Texas because of his story "13 Days of Glory" in Razored Saddles.)
Casey's CD is a great collection of tunes. You can listen to more tunes on her website linked from her name above, so you don't have to take my word for it.
Wayne also reported that he was about to go to the autograph party last night to John Hancock a few copies of his book Fiends by Torchlight.
Wayne might find some free wireless using Larry Santoro's laptop. If I get more I'll post more.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Citing its desire to get ahead of consumer trends, Burger King has adopted new purchasing policies, buying eggs and pork from manufactures that do not "confine their animals in cages and crates," according to The New York Times.
Burger King won't use the move in marketing but feels that consumers are becoming more attuned to social responsibility, so they're acting accordingly.
Business is following politics, it would appear. Various state and national candidates including former Maryland Governor Bob Erlich were unseated last fall when campaigns were launched against them because of their animal welfare positions or the lack of.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
I realized I've always thought of Lew Archer's California as a lot more sun-bleached and Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe's California as darker.
There are several factors at play for the Archer perception:
A.) No brainer: it's Californ-i-a.
2.) Many of the editions I own are from the '70s, and the artwork generally looks sunny.
iii.) Ross MacDonald does for sunny what Charles was talking about Robert E. Howard doing for black a while back in this post about the color of writing. Charles observed that Howard used the color black frequently, ultimately adding a dark mood to his work.
Many chapters in The Moving Target begin with mentions of the sun. Often it's setting but it's there, a lot, and I suspect upon examination it's mentioned in most of the Archer novels. He's always taken to tennis courts and beach houses, swimming pools and canyons in his investigations.
There's a scene that's always haunted me a bit in MacDonald's Sleeping Beauty. Archer sees sad-eyed children peering out the back window of a car with a bumper sticker that reads "Honk if you love Jesus." He queries: "Was this the promised land?"
I can't recall if he notes the car travelling in bright sunlight but that's the way I've always pictured it. Perhaps by that point, he didn't need to mention it at all because the work was already done.
I guess that's an affirmation of Charles' lesson if not a new point for writers, a testament to the power of subtle repition in creating an overall -- and lasting-- tone whether it be black, gray, sunny or something set beneath a waning gibbous moon.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The event, a discussion of Ross MacDonald's The Moving Target, the first Lew Archer novel, is at 6 p.m. SL Time tonight, and it's sponsored by Info Island, one of the first libraries to provide Second Life programming.
I'm hopeful that it will be a good experience to add to a list of several positive SL visits I've had over the last few days.
I dropped by the Book Mooch group's picnic on Sunday which included virtual coffee, pizza and some general book talk plus some valuable info for me on where to visit on the grid to talk about books, writing etc.
One of the Book Mooch members directed me to a nice in-world coffee shop, where I chatted with some nice people.
I did not make it to the "Blue Angel's" open mic poetry event but that's a regular activity that I'll try to catch, maybe even read a poem or two though it's been a while since I've picked up a quill.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
That involved assembling the boxes, interlocking cedar planks with old-fashioned pegs that hold them in place. I felt a little like an Anabaptist putting those into place. I just needed one of those black, wide-brimmed hats like Harrison Ford wore in Witness.
Once those were ready we put up some metal arches from which we will string netting for tomato plants to climb. Alleviates the need for staking. I'm sure it's better in some way and has been discussed extensively on PBS.
Next came the mixing of the various kinds of compost with vermiculite. I wasn't really sure what vermiculite was before this project, but it's basically those little white, nearly weightless pellets that're always mixed in with potting soil. It's considered a mineral and I think it is basically a soil conditioner. I don't know what that means but I read it somewhere.
You have to wear a mask when you're initially dealing with it so you don't inhale any dust. I don't like things that require me to wear a mask. Some people are scared of snakes.
I once did a newspaper series on asbestos. I'm scared of particulates.
I felt distinctly more industrial than "back to the land" during that portion of the endeavor.
After we had the vermiculite mixed in and dampened, I allowed myself to inhale again.
And it was time to shovel the mix into the cedar plant boxes.
I pretended I was Van Helsing unearthing one of the brides of Dracula. Made it more interesting.
Finally it was all done and I draped a tarp over the effort lest Oliver Littlechap our indoor/outdoor kitty think I'd constructed two new litter boxes for his convenience. So far he's taken little interest. I've decided to take that as a good omen.
We gardeners are big into things like omens. And almanacs. Must remember to get an almanac.
The plants arrive from the antiquarian plant dealers in about a week.
Purple tomatos will be here before you know it.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Which phone company does Chad work for? That's where repition comes in.
But sometimes you get one shot.
According to stats on Compete.com, the CareerBuilder Super Bowl ads proved memorable both in plot and product name retention.
That is, people seemed to remember the spots, featuring office workers in a literal jungle, and they also remembered the message was bascially "Go to CareerBuilder To Get out of the Jungle."
Interesting since the spots didn't score high in a U.S.A. Today poularity poll, leading CareerBuilder to call for an agency review for the spot creators, Cramer-Krasselt.
I guess the message is popularity contests don't really matter in art, advertising or high school?
Friday, March 23, 2007
It's one of those happy occasions where a rejection led to other things.
I sent a story I recently finished to Blood Moon Rising Magazine, which I discovered while browsing at Shocklines.
That story was too long, but the editor mentioned their werewolf publication which accepts stories up to 4,000 words.
I wrote "Lync" probably in the early '90s and it was just sitting in my files, so I plucked it out and started re-reading.
Several of my fellow bloggers including Kate and Charles have discussed issues related to likable characters and digging deeper with stories.
Well as I reread the first version of "Lync" I discovered, in hindsight, my protagonist was well... What a bitch.
I gave her a complete overhaul, a new motivation and massaged the plot just a little, distancing the tale from the original news story on which it was based.
In the process I hope the total effect is a better metaphor and a better myth. Time will tell. I'll post a reminder come July.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
My quest to aquire better hair continued as did my effort to generally modify my off-the-rack "Urban Chic" avatar. (Hey, best I could find, OK? The choices were: boy-next-door-in-a-tight tee-shirt-and-jeans or lounge-lizard-in-black-jumpsuit. Or a fox or something. I'm not ready to be a "Furry." Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
Modifying your appearances is not as easy as you'd think.
You can right-click on your computer self and modify your look a little by using sliders. Click on a slider and make hair longer or shorter, your nose bigger and more narrow, your beard thiner or bushier.
You can also modify your clothing. In the snapshot I took, I'm wearing a jacket I modified from a small white overshirt. It looks a little like a Nehru jacket with a longer tail. I like it. I'm wearing a red shirt under it and I got free jeans in a shop to replace my avatar's original knee-shorts.
So now I look roughly like a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Society.
I got free hair in one shop but it was red and the original black hair stayed when I put it on so I walked around looking kind of goofy until I figured out how to fix that.
After a little Goo Diligence, I discovered there are volunteers on Help Island, one of the many places to which you can teleport to in SL. (It's kind of like web surfing only in a 3-D environment in which you jump to places on your search results.)
So on Help Island, for the first time in-world, I struck up a conversation with a girl sitting on a bridge railing near the landing pad. I think people sit around there because they're volunteers.
Don't worry about a job yet, she said. Look around for freebies. Go and talk to people. Talk to everyone.
"Everywhere I go seems to be empty," I typed, my avatar mimin the keystrokes.
"Click on the map and go where there are a lot of people."
About then my computer froze up and when I got back in-world she was talking to some other people and I couldn't seem to get back into the conversation. And, you know, my feelings were kinda hurt. ?! It's weird. It feels like the real world in that respect.
Another girl was sitting on the other side of the railing so I walked over and tried talking to her.
"Do you know much about SL?" I asked, figuring she was hanging out there as a volunteer also. That seems to be the protocol on Help Island.
She said something involving LOL and and I got the impression she was giggling at the stupid newbie. Evidently I'm socially awkward in-world too. (Psychological research on all this is going on, I'm sure, or to come. Perhaps it will give me a glimpse through a different pane of the Johari Window.)
So I clicked on the map and looked for spots with lots of green dots and teleported.
And I landed on some guy's virtual patio and set off a security alarm. Just like my feelings were hurt by the conversation issue, I started to panic when it started to warn me I had 10 seconds (or some SL equivalent of time) to get off the patio.
Only thing is the message box that popped up with the warning meant I couldn't click anything like the teleport options because it had choices that required clicking didn't seem contextually relevant.
So while I was trying to figure out how to make good my escape, the security system said in effect: "Time's up Dirtbag, you are being physically ejected."
And I went flying through the air. You can fly in SL, and crash landings do not seem to invoke any system of damage points. Fortunately.
I went to the search option and typed free hair. That got me to the place pictured above. They , heavy sigh, seemed to have women's hair only.
A few other map quests got me into a club or two including some rather interesting Goth places and a few other empty malls with no hair extentions.
No Linden bucks, bad hair and I was snubbed by a cartoon character. It may take me a while to get the hang of this.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Fortunately I don't have the time to get immersed on say the level of Rona Jaffe's Mazes and Monsters.
There's cable TV and Christine's desire to have me paint rooms and pursue square foot gardening to keep me safely grounded in reality.
Plus there's my attention span. Racking up enough Linden bucks to say buy land and open a casino or anything appears to require a lot of time and attention.
But if I were so inclined, hmmm -- wiggle your computer so it looks like there are ripples on the screen and imagine some harp strings being strummed...
Once I got the avatar customization figured out, I'd open a little bar called Dark Mortum on some appropriate fake avenue. (Thanks to "My Goth Name" from Gothic Style for the name inspiration)
- Drinks with Goth-sounding names
- Flash fiction readings
- Dark poetry slams
- A corner booth for Charles, Wayne, Kate S., Etain, Stewart, Cliff and all of my other blog pals.
I guess that's my fantasy fantasy life. I'll probably just wander around a while there and see if I can ever get my hair right.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Hesitantly I took a few steps and information screens began to appear, and upon experimentation I discovered I had control over them just not control in the way I was familiar.
I moved a little further, past more strange people into a spot where several pavilions were set up with artwork and games and other displays.
I began to stroll through the pavilions and suddenly my pace accelerated and I was not in the pavilions any longer but somehow over a vast blue sea. I was walking on water.
I'd been meaning to get around to Second Life for a while, but since I knew there'd be some assembly required in the form of an account and computer tweaks I kept putting it off.
Then I got an e-mail that Dean Koontz would be putting in an appearance and thought what the heck.
I couldn't create an account that night, some system malfunction but I decided to try a second time.
I had to get new drivers for my graphics card and upgrade to a .net platform with new numbers in it, but wow once I finally got it working ...
This avatar living is kind of wild. I've been meaning to read Snowcrash for ages and even had an idea for a thriller using avatars that my agent didn't sell, but the cyberpunk world is here.
It's kind of fabulous just walking around the Second Life environments where blue men hover in meditation and kids with flaming hair swish past with winged shoes. It's like being inside a science fiction novel.
I dropped by the book shop where Koontz did his reading and the currently empty space where Book Mooch has gatherings, visited some clubs and Festival Island. So far loads of fun.
Word has it there's going to be a lot of marketing done in Second Life, so I figured I better get a handle on that for my first life job.
Ironically, I have had trouble getting my hair to look decent in Second Life also. Some things you can't change even in Quicktime.
Friday, March 16, 2007
John W is The Groom Reaper, who is probably a little more like House of Mystery's host Cain than Secrets' Able but bears a bit of resemblance to the Cryptkeeper, I suppose.
He introductes dramatized--or in the online case--illustrated tales of marriages gone wrong.
The comic is a lot of fun, building up to a cliffhanger to be resolved on the March 19 series debut, though readers are challenged to vote for which spouse they think is the killer in the meantime. ("She killed him" was pulling ahead of "he killed her") when I voted.
The comic features several great panels of artwork including a stunner of a page in which the husband of the tale, an undertaker, does his wife's makeup, in the morgue.
Clips of the show suggest a bit of "Tales from the Crypt" flavor.
It's a brilliant bit of online promotion for a series with a twist.
The show's website had a bit more about the show including some script samples and video clips. All of it is a nice flourish on a proliferating genre. I'm DVRing it.
Check out the comic at www.courttv.com/comic/
It's also an interesting opportunity to play "name that character actor." Clearly David Fincher's casting budget allowed him to draw on the cream of the supporting player crop, so if you go to the movie, see if you can spot:
- The guy who played the library cop in Seinfeld.
- The guy who played the priest in The Sopranos.
- The guy who played the original Hannibal Lecter. (The original original, not Anthony Hopkins who was replaced by Gaspard Ulliel)
- That guy from ER.
- That guy who shot House.
- That guy who played Drew Carey's brother.
- That girl who was the cop on Heroes.
- Chandler's crazy replacement roommate from Friends.
- Ernie from My Three Sons.
- The guy from Young Guns who wasn't Kiefer Sutherland or Lou Diamond Phillips.
- The guy who had small pox in Deadwood.
- That guy who was Carvelli in Welcome Back, Kotter.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
I enjoyed Population 436, which I'd place in the small-town-where-something-is-a-little-off genre. I supposed it's also a bit of a metaphor for conformity and imposition of values.
I think I enjoyed it most because it reminded me of the now-ancient ABC movies of the week such as the delightfully frightening Crowhaven Farm and the more modestly chilling Dr. Cook's Garden, from an Ira Levin stage play.
I don't know if we really have census takers anymore but P436 stars Jeremy Sisto as civil servant for the bureau assigned to check out the small town of Rockwell Falls, population you guessed it.
The population has remained constant for just about forever in fact.
Sisto as Steve Kady enjoys some of the local pie and color and over about 45 minutes begins to peel away secret layers. Along the way he also befriends a surprisingly atypical small town deputy, a milquetoast against type Fred Durst (!?).
The plot advances to satisfying intensity with expected but appropriate twists and an alternate ending in the special features that basically lets you choose happy vs. sad outcome.
Maybe it's a wait for cable depending on your free time, but overall not a terrible 90 minutes.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I can't help but think the "firing of the client" was a good idea. It's certainly generated a lot of buzz and discussion in advertising trade publications such as Advertising Age and Ad Week.
Everybody knows now--if they didn't already--that Cramer-Krasselt helped Careerbuilder surpass Monster in popularity using their chimp ads, viral e-mails and other clever techniques, not to mention coming up with those Abe Lincoln and the beaver ads for another client. Somehow I suspect they'll take up the slack.
And those "jungle" ads such as "Darts" are great.
Monday, March 12, 2007
I can speak to the notion that generally newsrooms are a lot more cluttered than those depicted in the film. (That occurred to me upon reading an article by a current S.F. Chronicle reporter here.)
Ours was always a mess, though it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of the editors and administration.
Our employee handbook read that nothing was supposed to be on your desk but what you were working on at the moment.
Bawahhaaaaaaahaaaaaaahaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaa! Coffee through the nose, ROTFL and all that.
A.) You were always working on 20 things at once.
B.)Journalists don't generally play by the rule books.
There were, of course, people with sick, twisted minds, who had neater desks than others, but there were plenty of desks with piles instead of files. There were also plenty who defied the "no personal pictures" on your desk order.
My desk was among the messiest but I had rivals.
One Sunday when I pretty much maintained the newsroom on my own, the city editor came in and spied the desk of a fellow reporter.
Apparently he'd ordered him to clean his desk the previous Friday.
The reporter had defiantly concentrated on writing news stories instead of developing a new filing system.
Infuriated the editor first nabbed one of the staff cameras and snapped pictures of the desk.
Then he took all of the files including governmental workbooks, manuals, budget printouts and various and sundry other pieces of material. These he stacked behind his own desk so that the reporter would have to come through him to get it all back.
When the reporter arrived the following day to discover the situation, he said: "Fine, if he wants the stuff, he can keep it."
Yeah, it was a day everyone went home happy - we had fewer mistakes and gramatical errors that day, we unearthed more graft and corruption that day, we wrote more stories that changed lives that day.
No wait, I think that's a logical fallacy isn't it? I think we just did all that anyway and they guy's desk being neater didn't have any impact, except it was the biggest morale booste short of the time they decided to post all style errors on the bulletin board.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
I was watching the new Andy Richter sitcom Andy Barker P.I. online. Because I can - there's a real sense of power watching a network show before it airs, and I'm a sucker for private eye stories.
It was a touch of social commentary that really made me chuckle, though.
"Don't park in front of the Christian bookstore unless you want to get towed," warned Andy's strip-mall neighbor. Ah, the observation in that simple joke. Sometimes there's just a disconnect between tenet and practice, between grace and legalism.
Several memories of encounters with irate faithful flooded back to me.
I will post some other time about adventures with a newspaper's wire desk, those often sullen, passive agressive folk who put pages together and write headlines that contradict your copy.
Once upon a time, some wire desk type on the paper at which I worked swaped the quotes associated with the Dr. Billy Graham and Dr. Lawrence Lamb head shots on their columns. It was probably a wrong keystroke.
Instead of clarifying some New Testament nuance, Dr. Graham had a quote about uterine bleeding.
To Dr. Lamb was attributed perhaps a point about Simon of Cyrene.
In addition to their other talents, wire deskites usually wern't around when the complaints came in. They did their best damage at night.
I got the old lady politely pointing out the technical faux paux on the phone.
"You idiots put this quote about you-tree-un bleedin' next to Dr. Graham's quote!" she shouted. "I cain't believe this!"
"I'm sure we'll run a correction," I said.
"This is terrible. I hope Dr. Graham sues you all!"
There was not much more to say to that than: "Thank you for pointing out the mistake. Have a blessed day."
Friday, March 09, 2007
I've been worried a few days that my modem might be burning out.
I had connectivity problems several days back, and those seemed to coincide with a smell in my home office vaguely like frying components.
I checked all of my connections first, not wanting to lose my Geek Card. Then I got worried some dust might have gathered inside my PC.
So I got out my vacuum cleaner and opened my box up and made sure there were no motes of the dust variety.
Connectivity improved but the smell persisted.
I checked the power supply on my printer and my printer and my spike bar, looking for any spots dust might get to electricity.
Still--the smell. Would that I come up with an olfactory rival for tintinnabulation to describe the smell.
Finally I decided I'd just wait out the modem, which had no dust in it. Let it run its course, connect me to the world then upon its death be replaced.
Yesterday at work, an IT guy came over because my DVD drive would not open and he put in a new one.
To celebrate this morning, when my buddy Robert, the photographer extraordinaire, brought a binder of photos over I plopped one into the new DVD drive.
And I started smelling the smell.
Once I'd convinced myself it wasn't a brain tumor, I stuck my nose in the DVD drive. (I don’t really recommend it.) Dust sneaked in on the new drive, I decided.
And I proceeded to look at Robert's photos. And I smelled the smell some more.
Eventually I started to notice I smelled the smell when I opened the binder Robert had brought. It contained proof sheets and plastic CD sleeves.
Plastic CD sleeves share an uncanny resemblance to the smell of frying electronic components.
And so, I’ve discovered, does the plastic mat in my home office that I bought a few weeks ago.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I ran across the notion of tresspassing as a hobby, aka urban exploring, while researching my on-the-shelf-at-the-moment novel Zoe's Missing--which includes scenes set in an abandoned building. I was excited to see David Morrell of Rambo and The Totem fame had written a novel on that passtime. It's called Creepers and appears to be a chilling thriller. Got it in a Book Mooch swap for the exorcism thriller Come Closer.
Then I didn't get any requests for a while, though I earned the right to mooch L.A. Banks' Minion by having enough books in my inventory.
I added a few more books over the weekend and already have two more requests:
- Green Girls by Michael Kimball. It's an offbeat thriller, quite a good novel
- The Stone King by Alan Grant, a Justice League novel with a Batman emphasis
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Wayne's got a pic on his blog of what the Reaper might find.
Along with keys, change and a few other odds and ends this is what he'd get with me.
I tend to like casual slacks with extra pockets on the legs these days. Allows for easier toting of the iPod, cell and digital camera.
I refuse to wear my cell phone on my belt as a matter of personal preferance.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Either it was accidently shipped to the contractor from Roswell, or it's one of those "Tommyknockers" things and I rewired it in my sleep, enhancing its factory presets.
I came to this conclusion not when it threw sparks off frozen diced bellpepper I thaw periodically for omlets, but while I was attempting to get a taco shell crisp without searing a hole through it tonight. Anything above twenty seconds and a taco shell is ashes.
It's the most powerful microwave I've ever owned, and it's particularly annoying with these new 100 calorie bags of microwave popcorn I bought by mistake. Christine said I have to use them all before I can buy more.
I can't seem to get all of the kernels popped before my microwave burns a hole in the side of the bag, though. I probably could use a half-power setting or something, but I don't like figuring out how to make it cook at half power. I hate when frozen dinners demand that you do that, while reminding me my food will be hot once its microwaved. "Don't come running us if you get a steam burn," they admonish me.
If I have to go to all the trouble to figure out how to set it to half power, I think I need to see if I can harness its capabilities.
Maybe I can use it to leverage world peace. I'll get back to you as soon as I figure this all out.