Monday, July 27, 2009


Krakatoa: Simon Winchester -This is another of the histories where you can get lost in the back story and the side stories. Basically, here's what you need to know: in 1883, the volcanic island of Krakatoa near Jakarta exploded. It killed twenty-thousand people, affected the weather all over the world and quite possibly set in motion some of the political problems we have in that part of the world. Krakatoa is an example of what happens when green house gases and dust are released in large amounts into the atmosphere and has at least colored some of the green movement's policies and ideas.

It was a big event and Winchester goes into achingly deep detail about the region, what was going on around the area when it happened and even why things happened the way they did. It's an informative read, but the thoroughness can get irritating at points.

The Good Humor Man: Andrew Fox -I'm trying to work in more novels again and this one is plain weird, involving a Dystopian future where government-endorsed and brutal Good Humor Men burn candy bars and sugary snacks while revoking the health insurance cards of those who covet such things. The nation is on weird anorexic kick and the world is about to end, thanks to a engineered gene accidentally released into the wild that raises every one's basal metabolic rate. Even the deer are getting thin. There's a huge plot about a liposuctioned Elvis fat, Muslim secret agents from the Caliphate and outsourced FBI agents.

It all sounds like it could be a very funny book... like something by Bill Fitzhugh or even Chuck Palahniuk...only, it's not. It's more of a Philip K. Dick approach with shades of Corey Doctorow -- a little light satire mixed with an attempt to see the future based on magazine headlines. It's not a bad sort of psychedelic thriller. I'd have just like it more if there was more humor in The Good Humor Man.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cash Money

A couple of setbacks today. Anybody who follows the blog even casually probably gets the idea that idea that I stay broke. The math has always been against me. It's worse since the economy went south and the utility rates went north. I'm also not getting the kind of hours I need at the radio station. They made some schedule adjustments that have pretty much cut me out of picking up too many extra shifts. It's not like they meant to cut me off. It just happened that way. They're going to somebody else now.

So, I've been looking for a second job again and looking into other means to secure funding to support my third world kind of life.

My two best options of late... selling blood (which doesn't pay a lot, but wouldn't take much time) has pretty much fallen through. The documents they need to fill out their paperwork have gone missing. I can replace them, but it will take time and of course, nobody seems particularly enthusiastic about me bleeding for money.

The other option is pulling the sandman shift as a dorm desk clerk at UC, working 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.. This would mostly entail me watching students sneak their girlfriends and beer into their dorm rooms. This one pays 7.25 an hour and I'd get 25 hours a week. The upside is it wouldn't interfere with my wife's night classes or my day job The downside, naturally, is I'd be the living dead and would have to work for college housing administrators. It's also limited to the school year and clearly, I have little but contempt for the job even before I fill out the application.

So... it's probably not a good fit.

Of course, all my worldly financial problems could be solved if I could just sell my book, but still, nobody is biting.

Monday, July 20, 2009


This month is going pretty well and I've lucked out on a couple of finds.

Time and Tilting Earth: Miller Williams - As a poet, Williams took a few pages for me to warm to. The father of Lucinda Williams and a very likely friend of Bill (He read a poem at Clinton's second inauguration), he came sort of recommended, but his verse seemed a little sing-songy: He rhymed. Jeez... and I thought that was practically forbidden these days.

But his poems grew on me, though I think he's definitely in the Emily Dickinson camp as far as his approach (whom, I don't much care for). I liked the way he carved up little slices of truth and really came to enjoy what he was doing.

Let The Right One In: John Ajvide Linqvist -I really love movies. In particular, I loved this one: a weirdly hopeful vampire movie from Sweden. Let me put this out there. The Swedes aren't best known for vampires or for hopeful movies, but this one got to me.

The book is a good read, fun and weird.

Let The Right One In is the story of Eli (a vampire, who looks to be about 12) and Oskar, a fat and very much bullied school boy roughly the same age. The two are incredibly lonely. Eli has been kicking around for about 200 years and his only company has been mostly the usual cretins attracted to 12 year-olds. Oskar is bright, socially inept, but, quite possibly, also a blossoming sociopath. He steals, fantasizes about murder and keeps a scrapbook of violent crimes reported in the paper.

The book is far more graphic and gory than the movie. As expected, the characters are more rounded, though the comparative difference isn't as startling as in some American books and their adapted films.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


It's important to stay in the moment. Looking too far ahead, hoping and planning, is mostly self-destructive. You build up what you hope will happen and when it doesn't, you're crushed. This is my experience.

Still, without much effort, next summer is trying to shape up into something. The All Good Festival was sort of a failure for me this year. Next year, it might not be. I'm certainly considering how to approach it again.

I'm also getting into shape. I've dropped a few pounds --not a lot of weight, but enough to feel much, much better. Project Captain America By Christmas is starting to show results (though really, I have no plans to get a pair of tights or a shield to carry around --just get as healthy as I can). So, it might be possible for me to do something physically competitive next year. I'm still researching events, looking for something that seems kind of fun and offbeat.

Meanwhile, I think I've come up with a particularly diabolical way to make money (legally) and potentially get paid for writing about it. It's absolutely appalling in a ghoulish sort of way.

The money could be the means to afford an actual vacation, a little excursion somewhere --next year. There will be no vacations this year, campers. The piggy bank was turned into sausage back into June.

Anyway, I'm staying in the moment, but considering that my next summer might have some promise.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

42, 41

Two this week.

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: Dee Brown -I got the suggestion to read this one from musician Steve Earle, who was told to read it by Townes Van Zant.

I'm not a hundred percent sure how I feel about the book. On the one hand, I do believe much of what Brown writes and "chronicles" about the plains Indians, their contact and subsequent mistreatment by the American government and white people in general. Based on other readings, initial contacts with the Cheyenne, the Apache and the Arapaho were probably reasonably peaceful. For instance, the tribes tended to be very nice to the Spanish explorers who visited (largely, I think, because they were frightened of them, their horses and their guns. They weren't so nice to the Spaniards who wound up away from the pack), but I have a hard time swallowing the always innocent Indian routine.

However, they got screwed and the book at least points out it wasn't their fault.

One of the positive sides, is it gives an insight to how the government and business is still playing the same zero sum game of fucking over the weak or disorganized in favor of the wealthy and motivated. It might be the Indians of today are the hillbillies of rural America who get shafted with Mountain Top removal, toxic dump sites and medical waste disposal areas.

Shutter Island: Dennis Lehane -I don't read as much fiction as I used to. Partly, this has to do with discovery process of finding new authors to read. As much as I read, I toss quite a few back as annoying or uninteresting.

I picked this one up because I saw the trailer for the upcoming film and because I read Mystic River. The trailer was spooky and the book is every bit as creepy, dark and even heart breaking.

In 1954, U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels goes to Shutter Island, a facility for the criminally insane, to search for a patient who has mysteriously vanished. Shutter Island houses the worst of the worst: violent and delusional people who've murdered, maimed and raped. Daniels comes to the island with an agenda, to find the man he believes is responsible for the death of his wife and to get the goods on the facility which may or may not be practicing illegal medical experiments on some of the patients.

It's a full-blown page turner, though not "high art" by any means. The writing is so-so. The dialogue tends toward the average noir, but it's got a hell of a plot. I burned through it in two sittings. While I sort of figured out the disposition of the ending about halfway through, the book managed to keep up enough ambiguity to make me wonder if I really had it all the way to the end. And truly, the ending was agony.

I can't give any comparisons for fear of spoiling what could be a pretty decent film. The movie will be out soon. Martin Scorcese directs and Leo DiCaprio stars. And naturally, it's a great summer read.

Monday, July 6, 2009

45,44, 43

Three this week.

Dismantling The Hills: Michael McGriff -Really interesting post-industrial poetry. It captures a lot of the restlessness and feelings of loss as the steady working class society before the Reagan era dissolved. McGriff's economy and ability to turn a phrase is remarkable. I need to find more of his work.

I enjoy poetry, though I don't write much myself. I lack a soul and have a low tolerance for my own pretentiousness. Still, I enjoy picking them apart. Part of the joy of a poem, for me, is the awe in appreciating the energy and force of will that often goes into creating them. The struggle to fit a lot of passion, a lot of poison, into neat, little lines is inspiring and reminds me to pay attention to my own writing.

The U.S. Navy Seal Workout: Andrew Flach -A no-nonsense approach to fitness and health that basically says if you want to get in shape, there isn't a shortcut. Some good ideas and tips for the average joe, including stretches and how much time to dedicate to the process. It's very basic, short on the usual hand-holding and self-esteem building and big on vision. If you can devote an hour to two hours a day and you're not afraid to sweat, the book promises you can turn yourself into something extraordinary.

As Project Captain America is underway, I'm buying into this hook, line and sinker. I'll be doubling my workout times from 25-30 minutes to right at an hour with the hopes of getting them up to two hours eventually. Will this actually happen? Who knows? I'm going to do it anyway. The recent photos of me as in Lederhosen, while a hoot, also reminded me the reaper (don't fear the reaper, right?) is working the drive-thru.

Anyway, we're trying and the book has me thinking about fitness in a positive way.

Salmonella Men On Planet Porno: Yasutaka Tsutsui -More proof that reading foreigners during this hundred book challenge is asking for punishment. Slow moving, strange, but occasionally spell-binding, Tsutsui writes some curious tales, largely about conformity. The translation feels like it's a bit off, but it still works well enough to get the point across.

I like Asian books. At least, to me, it seems riskier than mainstream. I also like the slightly askew cultural imprint. The rules of storytelling are a little different, which can take the story in unusual places. Haruki Murakami is a favorite and I'm willing to read more by Tsutsu --just not right now. It's rewarding, but slow-going.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Eek... another slow week. I'm falling behind.
Much of this is my own fault. I've picked up a couple of books that are not quick, easy reads. On my honor, I promise to fill my head with nothing but mush through most of July and all of August. That should catch me up.

50/50: Secrets I learned running 50 marathons in 50 days and how you can achieve super endurance! : Dean Karnazes - Well, what can I say about this one? I didn't much like it. The secrets Dean learned could be gleaned from a random copy of Runner's World found at a dental office. Nothing really of note and not even a lot of drama, just a pretty dry story about a guy who convinced North Face to sponsor a promotional run in 50 states in 50 days and how at the end of it, he ran from New York to Indiana just because.

Improving my fitness has been one of my goals for years and lately, I've been giving it a try. I'm eating better, getting to the gym a couple of times a week and trying to get a few hours of sleep a night. I call this the Captain America by Christmas plan --the idea being I'll be in comic book superhero shape in roughly six months. It's laughable, which makes it fun.

Dean almost seems like a normal guy, but obviously he isn't. Normal people do not run a hundred miles in a day or do ultra marathons on a regular basis for fun. Normal people watch C.S.I.: Fresno, eat cookie dough out of a plastic sack then jerk off to the weather report before nodding off.

The perception is because I thought he was one of the common people, he'd have some answers, some ideas. The only idea he had was the same one I have, which is just to get moving. Kind of a let down. I should have kicked this one to the curb, but I was too far in by the time I realized it was going nowhere.


As was pointed out to me, the planned stage and awning thing at Haddad Riverfront Park looks awfully familiar.

I, for one, welcome the alien slavers who will bring jobs, opportunities for service and eventually Kurt Russell (or the dude from MacGyver) to my little corner of the universe. Huzzah!