Wednesday, September 28, 2011

News of the Day: Quiet Time

Those of you who read this blog may have noticed a sudden absence of posts here. Well, there are a couple of reasons for that.

1) I started a job with an insurance agency and have been learning the ins and outs the past couple of weeks. It's only a temporary thing, basically doing some dirty work for a large company, making sure people with life insurance are receiving their benefits. But getting up at 6:30 in the morning and going to bed before midnight is very strange and is something I'm only starting to get used to.

2) I've been working on several Johnny Gorgeous stories, trying to piece together a series of interlinked stories from the loveable post-apocalyptic slacker.

3) I've also started the *gasp* novel. I won't say much about it right now, but, assuming that things go as well as they have been writing-wise I may start posting it as a serial on this blog. As of right now, however, it is in unrevised, serious first-draft form, though I'm having fun with the narrative voices and the world I've set the characters in.

4) Tin Tin Can is hard at work finishing the record. Tonight, as a matter of fact, we'll be adding more background vocals; and, though I can't be there, this weekend a small choir is coming over to add some really cool stuff. On @tintincamusic Pierce has been posting sneak peaks so keep yourself updated with what we're doing. I'm sure there'll be more to come this weekend.

5) In other related news, I sold two stories. One is about the residents of a crumbling island and some very nasty beasts; the other is a zombie TV reality show. More details to come.

6) Tony, our orb-weaving spider, is doing well. He has caught many small insects and spins his web nightly. He's laid off the clubs for awhile, I think. Detox, you know?

Anyway, I may be quiet here for a bit longer as some of these things take shape. But fear not: I will return -with Books & Music Part Two soon, a "Favorite Records of 2011" post, as well as "Favorite Books," a few book reviews (including last year's Zoo City by Lauren Beukes), and posts about participating in NaNoWriMo again this November. God speed!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Orb-Weaver's Story

I'm fairly certain the spider who has made his home in the upper right-hand corner of my kitchen window is an orb-weaver. Of course, I'm basing this conclusion from various pictures on google images, but he seems to have the stripes in the right places. He is an ugly thing - and by "ugly" I mean "beautiful." I've named him Jean-Luc Picard, but his nickname is Tony. Each night, Tony puts on his best shoes and hits the clubs. He's a fan of Red Label and, from the way he mopes about during the day, seems to hit the stuff a little too hard sometimes. It's okay, Tony. We all go through a party phase - mine last 10 years.

Tony's writing a novel too. No, it isn't about the plight of spiders or anything as serious as that. It's about a group of people who live in the forest surrounding Makanda, IL. One of them - a blind woman with salt-white hair down to the small of her back - wanders into town one day and, at an antique shop, discovers a water clock and a cobwebbed wheel from a Model-T. Well, you can probably guess where it goes from there, but Tony has asked me to give you a hint. In Tony's words: There is a showdown atop Devil's Stand-table and, later, a snowy car crash along the wine trail.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Recently, Part One: Books & Music

It's that time again for me to tell you (whether you want me to or not) about the most recent books and music I've read and listened to, enjoyed or sorely loathed. A couple of books this year have really stood out (if you're a regular reader of this blog then you'll know I loved, loved, loved Genevieve Valentine's Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti) and some others that I'd hoped would stand out that, for various reasons, didn't (sorry, TV on the Radio and Quantum Thief*). I've talked about most of these in recent posts, so let's see what's new, shall we?

The Golden Age by Czech writer Michal Ajvaz is one of the books that you must read and then must read again. This is a once or twice a year read. There are very few books I can say have that kind of power. Middlesex is perhaps another, and Jesus' Son. Anyway, Golden Age is a nonlinear, plotless novel that is sort of about a mysterious island and this island's Book - both a fictitious and historical account of the island written by its residents, who make no distinction between an object and its representation. The prose is lyrical, visceral, yet also unadorned and grounded (credit here also goes to the translator Andrew Oakland). Many of the images have stuck with me after finishing the book - some so much that I still dream about the vicious fish in jelly.

Sue Townsend's The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 is another plotless story, though it is completely linear, it being a diary of every day for over year in Adrian Mole's life. It's also really funny. Though he considers himself a genius hampered by the constraints of society, Adrian is really a scared, under-confident teen with some pretty big hangups: his best friend is dating the girl he likes, he's got to take care of a crazy old man, his parents' marriage is falling apart and he is in the middle of it, and, worst of all, the BBC continues to reject his poetry! If that doesn't sound like you at that age then I don't know what planet you came from because that totally sounds like me at 13. You might think reading a diary entry from almost every day for something like 14 months would get monotonous, but it doesn't. Townsend's got enough humor and heartbreak to go around.

Girls' Father, Son, Holy Ghost is about as good as it gets. Classic deep-fried guitar solo? Gospel choir? Check. Crooning? Check. Pathetically mopey lyrics? Check. Organ? Check. All in one song? Check. Girls wear their influences on their sleeves - as many reviewers are like to say - and it's true: naysayers of the band will point to such and such part sounding just like this Beach Boys song or that T. Rex or whatever. The thing about Girls is that, though a lot of what they do is pastiche, they do it in an interesting and, damn it I will argue this to death, original way. Especially on their sophomore LP, Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Here, styles and periods of music clash and clang about - not from song to song, as it did on their debut, Album - but in the course of a song itself. Opener, "Honey Bunny" is first a no-brainer surf rock song, but it's middle becomes tinged with country-western. That first bit up there with all the "checks" is the huge anthem "Vomit." The songs are longer, too, and jammier. It's not what you expected from these fellows but it's damned good and is a contender for the best record released this year.

Sometimes I just need a noirish-spy thriller type of book and either Elmore Leonard or John le Carre will fill that gap. I finished le Carre's The Mission Song not long ago and, though I expected a breezy read, le Carre delivered a thought-provoking novel of the deepest kind of misunderstanding. The story concerns Bruno Salvador, ("Salvo to his friends, and his enemies too"), "son of an Irish missionary and a Congolese woman," and interpreter of many Eastern Congolese languages, who gets caught up in some pretty serious shit between war-torn Congo and various outside sources making a play for the riches in the land there. Le Carre illuminates not only the problem of foreign governmental interference and its consequences but also of beauracratic greed in general.

After the bombast and "big-ness" of their debut, Cymbals Eat Guitars' follow-up, Lenses Alien, is still arguably as explosive, but to me, feels contained and perhaps a little too post-punkish for my tastes. There is at least one good song here, though: opener, "Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)" is fantastic eight and a half minute opus. Everything else is fairly short and feels almost juvenile compared to the thick-walled monsters of Why There Are Mountains.

We'll finish up with more books and music this weekend in Recently, Part Two.

*Though I will say, as I peruse Hannu Rajaniemi's debut in preparation for a reread in late October the "messy narrative" I complain about in the book doesn't seem as "messy." I still maintain the characters are not as developed as they could have been, though.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Post-Carbondale: Day 9

There has been some excitement over the last couple of weeks, most of it getting to know my new orb-weaving resident (more on him in an upcoming blog). Some other things of note:

Over the weekend, Moddang and I went to Griffith's "Rock 'n' Rails" Fest. Griffith, IN, boasts - apparently - of having the most intersecting train tracks at one point. I think there are five. Anyway, we went to the festival - the third annually - and ate some good food from the Pepe's kiosk. We would've stayed for the band that was set up but huge dark clouds rolled in and, shortly after we arrived, strong gusts and heavy rain cut the festivities short. We got a free comic book out of it though.

I've had a couple interviews for various positions in downtown Chicago.

Every time we take Moddang's car in to the repair shop to get something fixed (be it Indiana emissions testing, wheel bearings, fuel pump, what have you) something else invariably goes wrong. I'm beginning to suspect mechanic tomfoolery.

We have begun the initial packing for Moddang's return to Thailand in December. That will be a surreal month.

I sold a story to Shimmer Magazine. I will blog and facebook this later too, so expect bombardment!

It seems as though the heat has finally let up and, even now as I write, beautiful fall-looking clouds (all gray and purplish) dot the sky outside my window. It looks as though a nice breeze is ruffling the branches of the trees too. I think this is walking weather.

Last night, I found a liquor store that sells Arrogant Bastard - my favorite of the Stone Brewing Co. beers and something of a phatom round these parts - for only $5 a bottle. That may seem expensive but I assure you it is well worth it.

Today I finished reading the first half of Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun, including the novels The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator. I enjoyed them (and have begun the second half), though I thought it had its flaws.

I finished watching "Carlos: Miniseries" the other day. It is a fictionialized account of the international terrorist, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, aka Carlos the Jackal, mostly known for leading the raid on OPEC in Vienna in 1975. I thought the film, which is 5 1/2 hours, was downright fantastic and an interesting in-depth portrait of a person whose ideals and obsessions (skewed as they may be) are sidetracked by his celebrity. Before the film begins, a note mentions that quite a few liberties were taken with the various relationships and roles Carlos took part in, so who knows how much of it is accurate, but for me, accuracy of actual events wasn't the point. It was a There Will Be Blood kind of film: descent into chaos and madness. (Maybe I'll write more on this later.)

In the meantime - that walk I mentioned? I think it's due.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Spider Time

Hello, friend. What are you doing hanging outside my window, eh?