Saturday, June 03, 2006

Notes From the Weirdo

Some lady called me a “weirdo” at the grocery store today. I really could have lost my cool, but I chose to ignore the comment. It’s fortuitous for the lady and her friend, who were hogging up the space in the self-checkout line, because I seriously doubt they would have been able to defend themselves had I chosen to engage them in a verbal battle of wits.

I’m notorious for lacking the ability to pull my punches.

Once a former co-worker, who I thought was a little slow, was bragging about how much running and working out he had been doing. “What are you training for, Mike?” I asked him, “The Special Olympics?”

Oh, he was mad… but I still think it’s a good burn. If someone said that to me, I would have laughed my head off…then wrote it down for later use.

As for the “special” ladies in the checkout counter…why should I be bothered? Obviously if they’re not aware that it’s really stupid to call a guy, especially one who can kick your ass, a “weirdo” to his face, then they’re not going to amount to much in this world anyway.

What is that? Were they so secure in their own manner and being that they felt they could say whatever they please, no matter how rude or provocative? If they recognized I was a weirdo, did it not occur to them that I might be a weirdo who just might take offense to be called a “weirdo?” What if I did something really weird, like elbowed her in the ribs and jabbed her throat (which I hear is quite impossible, by the way)? Would she be pleased that she had pegged me so well? I doubt it. (I wouldn’t do that, of course, but if she keeps calling people names, some weirdo might.)

You might chalk this one up to the death of common courtesy. I’d just say it was another example of blatant stupidity.

To The Moon

I caught some of Tommy on TV the other day and went on a little Who kick. It has nothing to do with Pete Townsend or Roger Daltry's Olympian god looks, or even the mind blowing psychedelic experience of Tommy itself.

Nope, it was Keith Moon.

Keith was one of the first to start playing the dual-bass set-up shown above. It's a significant development, considering that both of his feet were on the bass drums rather than the hi-hat. Now it's de rigeur in heavy metal drumming. Imagine Slayer or Pantera without the double bass kick drum. It just wouldn't happen.

As for his playing style, Moon was a lot like Gene Krupa. He didn't play the drums like they were there just to keep rhythm. He played them like a lead instrument, and his flamboyance (on display full bore in Tommy) allowed him to pull it off.

Take the solo from Won't Get Fooled Again. If you listen closely, you'll hear Moon setting the tone at the very beginning, layering the space between Townsend's power chords with drum fills before picking up the rhythm again a few bars later and launching into simultaneous guitar-drum solos.

The Who was known for this kind of thing, and it's why even a guy like me, who was still just a babe in swaddles when Moon OD'd, is still listening to them, some thirty years later.

Dogs and Cats Living Together - Mass Hysteria

More on gay marriage:

The NY Times points out that even some conservatives aren’t buying the Bush push on gay marriage. They’re attacking the president from another angle, because they sincerely want a gay marriage ban and think that Bush only pushes it when he needs votes from social conservatives.
"It was so central in the 2004 election," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative research group, said of same-sex marriage. "And the day after, the president began a crusade to reform Social Security and it went nowhere. Why not put energy into something that's vital for our society and our country?"
Hmm, something vital for our society and our country? Like banning gay marriage?

Can social conservatives really be that dumb, or do their leaders just think they are? Do they sincerely believe that the biggest problems facing our country right now are gay people getting married and flag burners? Surely they can’t, but if they do, perhaps we should ignore those people rather than pander to them.

What about Iraq? What about congressional corruption? What about the oil crisis? What about a hundred other more important issues, real issues that we deal with every day rather than the silly ones Pastor bitches about on Sunday? (You gotta admit…Pastor is a little weird.)

The whole argument from the religious right reminds me of that scene in Ghostbusters where Bill Murray and the others warn the mayor of a disaster of biblical proportions.
Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.
Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes...
The dead rising from the grave.
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.
Only in Ghostbusters, they were joking.

George Bush and Gay Marriage

It’s an election year, so again we’re hearing about gay marriage. Bush is getting on the bandwagon again, urging passage of an amendment “defining marriage.”

Don’t worry, though, it won’t pass. I think most rational people, even homophobes afraid of Adam and Steve’s nuptials, realize that amending the Constitution with an explicit definition of marriage is retarded. It’s unnecessary, inappropriate, and wrong.

Once upon a time, Republicans used to be against Washington telling you what to do with your life. It’s ironic that many of them are in such a hurry to dictate who you can and can’t marry.

You want irony? In his statement pushing the gay marriage ban, Bush said this:
"As this debate goes forward, we must remember that every American deserves to be treated with tolerance, respect and dignity," he said. "All of us have a duty to conduct this discussion with civility and decency toward one another, and all people deserve to have their voices heard."
That’s right, as we debate making millions of Americans de facto second class citizens by writing discrimination into the Constitution, let’s do it with civility and decency.

Is this guy just a shining paragon of political leadership or what?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dirk Sinks 50

Nowitzki proves white men can jump by scoring 50 points. Of course, he looks ridiculous doing it, but so what?

Shoulda watched the game...

Blogging about Writing, But Not Writing about Blogging

So I’ve been reading Mario Acevedo’s Nymphos of Rocky Flats as well as contemplating taking his class through the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, but I have to say, now I’m thinking about talking the class only to tell him to his face that I didn’t like his book.  It’s not a bad book, per se, and perhaps may be a victim of my heightened interest.  The thing is, the book that I’m writing, even though it’s only currently 87 manuscript pages and in the first draft stage, is so much better.

And I’m not saying that because I have this huge ego.  My book has better characters, a better plot, more humor, more believability.  I won’t say it’s better written, because I think we’re about even in that department.  Mario’s sentences have the benefit of being honed (and published) whereas mine are still raw, many just starting points for some gem to be discovered in the rewrite.

But there are too many silly things in Mario’s book.  The vampire keeps taking out his contacts and putting them back in so he can use vampire hypnosis.  As someone who wears contacts, this is something that can’t easily be done without a handful of saline solution, a relatively sterile environment, and a mirror.  Yes, he’s a vampire, but why the repetitive contacts gag?  It hits a false note every time.

Also the flirtation between the main character, Felix Gomez, and the love interest, Wendy, who is also supernatural (she’s a wood sprite or some kind of fairy or something), just doesn’t ring true.  She’s an aggressive love interest, but some of her come-on lines wouldn’t past muster in a porno movie.  They sound like something a man wants to hear from a woman he desires, rather than something a woman would say to a man she desires.

Here’s another problem I have with the book:  Felix Gomez, vampire, refuses to drink human blood because of guilt over mistakenly killing an Iraqi girl.  It’s a tacked on character trait which only comes up when he’s slathering his tacos with goat blood.  He’s not tormented by this at any other time and it doesn’t seem to influence any decision he makes besides what he eats.  If you’re going to use that guilt as one of your horses (a technical term derived from Palahniuk that basically refers to something you keep coming back to, a sentence, or in this case, an idea), why not integrate it into the story line?  

The biggest problem though is the plot.  Gomez is hired by someone in the Department of Energy (a friend, but still a DOE official) to investigate an outbreak of nymphomania.  Yes, my friends, he’s hired to actually investigate nymphomania.  

If I were writing Mario’s book, I would have hired Gomez to investigate some weird goings on, perhaps a disappearance, or a murder or something else, and then allowed him to discover an outbreak of nymphomania.  Who investigates nymphomania?  And wouldn’t sex counselors, as opposed to a private detective, be the appropriate personnel to call for that?

It’s not a bad book, but like I said, I think mine is better, and that gives me heart.  Mario got himself a three book deal off the strength of Nymphos, his first novel.  I’m sure he wasn’t paid much, but it’s not like I want to cash in for big money.  I want the three book deal.  And I’ll work cheap, hell.  Give me three year’s salary, I’ll give you three books.

As for the prospects for Poets Row, who knows, man?  I’m not going to start pushing it until it’s finished, but I’m liking what I’ve got so far, and I’m liking where I’m going.  I think I’ve got something unique and new, and better than that, readable, but what I’ve got now is only a start.

There are many scenes that just aren’t fleshed out that well, some dialogue that doesn’t work.  There’s a lot of shaky passages that need complete renovation, and others that might get the axe eventually.  But there’s something there.  It just needs a bit of work.

I’ve been toying with the idea of abandoning the traditional chapter format.  I’ve been feeling constrained by it lately, like there’s so many breaks within the chapters that I need something big, some major shift in scene or tone, to justify a new chapter.  It’s not working out for me, so I think I’m going to convert the next draft into a looser format.  Maybe each break will get a number.  Maybe there won’t be any chapters, just these breaks.

I just want to write, man.  Some scenes take a long time to develop, some are short.  Why bother trying to fit it all into a chapter?  Of course, if I make this decision, I have to commit to it throughout the whole series.  It doesn’t scare me.  I think it might become part of the way Max tells his story.

As for the loyal readers used to reading it in semi-regular chapter installments, I’ll keep that up.  We’ll still call them “chapters” but really they’ll just be the latest chunks.  That way I can flesh some of this stuff out without conforming to the chapter and verse format.

Of course, I admit some laziness in this department.  Up until now, most of the book has been told in real time, basically forty-eight hours.  Max gets hired by Abby, recruits Micah, has dinner with his wife.  The next day, he argues with Karen, then goes to the show.  

Only, now it’s Sunday.  And nothing really pertinent to the story happens on Sunday.  A whole day of nothing to fill.  So I could do one of three things:  1)  make a short mention of it in the next chapter, then move on to the action Monday morning, 2) somehow craft a chapter around basically a day that means nothing, hopefully finding some way to make it mean something, or 3) skip it completely.

Or I could do 4.  Forget the chapters, make it episodic, and not have to worry about such trivial matters.

NBA Playoffs

I watched the first half of the Pistons-Heat game last night.  I haven’t really paid that much attention to the post-season after the Nuggets bowed out, but now I’m pulling for the Pistons.  It’s an old loyalty thing.  Chauncey Billups, local sports hero, and Antonio McDyess are both on the team, and they both used to play for the Nuggets.  (Chauncey’s Denver roots go way back.)  Rip Hamilton, he of the mask, was kicking ass, too.

Of course, the bad thing is that the Pistons are facing elimination if they lose one more game.  (They’re down 3-2 in the series.)  Game Six is tomorrow night and it might be worth watching.  It just might be the last time you see those guys in action this year.

Poets Row - Chapter Six

After making some progress in the yard, last night I turned to another endeavor that I had left somewhat neglected for a few days as I enjoyed the holiday weekend:  my book.

Chapter Six of Poets Row is now up.  Enjoy or hate…whichever you prefer.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Alpine Slide

This weekend we went to Heritage Square to ride the alpine slide. You ride the ski-lift up, which is the part I hate. Maybe that's why I don't ski. Ski-lifts freak me out, especially when they stop. But the ride down the mountain? That's a friggin' blast!

You ride little skids along a concrete track that winds it's way down the mountain. There are a few dips along the way, which are the best part, and some tight turns, but nothing too dangerous. They want you to ride again, after all. We rode three times in all, me, my brother Jason, Scott, and Justin.

Since these pictures don't really do the track justice, check out this video. It takes you down the whole thing.

Check out this view. The town you see before you is Golden, that's right, home of the Silver Bullet. Ah, home: "cool mountain streams, clear blue skies and all that is inspiring about the Rocky Mountain West."

Landscaping Magic

Here's a semi-before pic of the work I'm doing on my yard. This was where I left off yesterday, with the concrete rings sunk into the lawn, creating separation between the green part and the dead part. It's no coincidence that the rings are placed where they are. Imagine the dirt area being infested with weeds and the occasional sprout of grass, despite being amended and seeded last year. I'm giving up on having lawn there.

Here's what it looks like where I left it today. I got some of the plastic I'm using as weed barrier down, before I ran out of it and the garden staples I used to hold it down. I also managed to get a few loads (a trashcan and a few bins at a time) of mulch before the great Denver Mulch Giveaway closed for the day.

The Mulch Giveaway is actually a pretty cool program. The city allows residents (and technically, I'm not one) to dispose of Christmas trees and other assorted branches and such, and the city then mulches it and leaves it in piles for the public to come and take. I suppose I could pay for it, and get some super rich industrial mulch, but mulch is mulch. I have a lot of area to cover, and free is good enough for me.

I also planted a few shrubs, pictured here in the shadows my neighbor's tree. I have more to sink into the ground, and will probably pick up more tomorrow on my supply run. They're $2.50 a piece, don't need much water, and they bloom, too. Give me plant life!

Splurging, I got some perennial flowers for one of the raised beds I installed today. If I baby them for a month or so, they should come back year after year. The yellow flower in back is a Columbine, Colorado's state flower.

In the other raised beds, I put in two Rose of Sharyn bushes. Looking at this picture, I might need a third to take up some of that area. These should flower too, giving my yard a much-needed burst of color.

Now I'm going to fire up the BBQ, and rest my weary back. I'm debating if I should go back to the store tonight to resupply, or wait till morning. I have time...but do I have the energy?

Random Blog

While I was working in the yard, my neighbor from two doors down stopped by to introduce himself.  He’s an old guy, walks around with a limp and a pronounced hunch, but he’s still getting around, still taking care of himself.  Turns out Fred has an interesting history.  He served four years in the Navy as a radioman during WWII and as he put it in the phrase he’s probably been using for decades, “No one shot at me and I didn’t shoot at anyone, so that was alright..”  

Afterwards, he came home and worked for the Ford Motor Company for 30 years, retiring on April 1, 1977 at the age of 54.  A few months later, they voted to raise the retirement age to 55.  “I’ve been retired for almost 30 years now and I’m just now getting used to it,” Fred says.  They bought their house on the end of my block when it was new in 1948 (back when the neighborhood was a Levitttown style suburb) and have made it their home ever since.  They raised two daughters (the youngest of which is 54) and seem to take care of themselves quite well for a couple in their 80s.  

And to think, Fred and his family have seen the entire fifty year history of my block from their front window.

As for the yard work, I will continue today.  I wrote about my problems with water restrictions and my lawn before, including thinking about Xeriscaping.  Instead, I’m cordoning off the dead parts of my front yard and creating a landscaped paradise, ala the Ghetto Garden.

I was interrupted by a lack of materials this weekend (the great Denver Mulch Giveaway down by the Wilderness was closed), then the rain delayed me yesterday.  Today I should be able to finish it up.  I’ll post a pic when it’s purdy, but unfortunately I don’t have a before pic to get the comparison.  

Note to self:  Get a before pic next time.

I’m starting to wonder why I do not have the ability to crack an ice tray without sending at least one ice cube shooting out onto the floor.  You’d think after all the ice trays I’ve cracked, that’s a skill I would have learned by now.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story about the reporters being amongst those blown up in Iraq over the weekend.  Last I heard, there were over fifty people killed (one for every state in the Union) in bombings and assassinations and other assorted things insurgents do in their “last throes.”  The reporters seem to be the only ones with names, though, because it’s their story you hear.  

I watched Baghdad ER.  I saw what those IEDs can do.  Kimberly Dozier and the other soldiers who were injured are fucked up.  They’ll never be the same.  It’s haunting me.  (And it could have been Lara.)

Also on Iraq, I saw a story the other day about the Witmer family from Wisconsin.  Three daughters, serving in Iraq.  Only two returned.  Their father’s blog is heartbreaking.  If you need a good cry, you’ll get it.

I hear ABC is hoping that their new prime-time spelling bee show is going to be like American Idol.  Don’t count on it.  I can’t see the masses rallying behind a bunch of kids spelling words no one can define.  Oh, it was cute when that kid passed out.  And with all those movies about spelling bees, I guess some folks are really into spelling bees, but to aspire to American Idol numbers by televising them?  That’s ridiculous.

Saw the new X-Men this weekend, too.  What can I say that won’t spoil it for you?  I could say I didn’t really like it that much, which would be true, but telling you why just might ruin it.  The script sucked.  Vinnie Jones was good as the Juggernaut, but whose idea was it to put him that silly suit?  A lot of pertinent stuff happened off screen, and what you did see took place on bad Hollywood sets (I’m talking specifically about Jean Grey’s neighborhood and the final laboratory scene at Alcatraz).  Okay, okay, I will say no more.  Go see it if you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Day at The Zoo

My fellow blogger Chelene over at Bliss and Bile went to the Bronx zoo the other day. It reminded me of my own renowned admiration for zoos, as well as a little movie I made a couple of years ago.

It's basically a glorified home movie, but it has mass appeal. If you dig animals, that is.

For some reason, my coding is allowing this video to autostart (well, for me anyway). I'm sure that's quite annoying for my loyal readers, so I'm unembedding the video. You can still see it here.

The New Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, but I didn’t go to the cemetery.  I didn’t say a silent prayer for our fallen, or the Pledge of Allegiance.  I didn’t wave the flag, nor did I burn it.  I planted some tomatoes and I read some blogs, and in doing so, I learned that maybe I’m not such a good American.

Patriotism is the new PC.

And although Instapundit made me feel guilty for not waving the flag and belting out the Star Spangled Banner today, he did turn me onto a new show is doing called Amazon Fishbowl or something, hosted by Bill Maher.  Maher is great as always, even with all the wink-wink “non-political” jokes, and there’s an interview with Stephen King.

The internet is the new TV.