The party goes global...

Free counters!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Upcoming UConn reading event

First of all, yesterday was my birthday, so hooray me.

Secondly, I will be reading at the Co-op Bookstore at The University of Connecticut in scenic and lovely Storrs, CT on Tuesday, Dec 4 at 4:00pm. There is more info on this page here. Anyone in the area who wants to stop by and say howdy, please do!

And for you students there in Storrs... Hey, my father went to UConn, as did my brother and any number of people I knew in high school. So I'm, you could say, connected. Want to come over and ask me a question about writing or the writing industry? I'm there, dudes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another terrific interview

Heard of The Short Me neither. However, today they're running an excellent interview with Uzma Aslam Khan, which is lively and entertaining and not to be missed. Much like Ms Khan herself.

Hey, don't forget my reading down at UConn just one week from today. I'll post details in a day or two in case they have become misplaced in all the holiday shananigans. Hope to see you there...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The funniest video I ever saw on YouTube

Africa raises funds and awareness for those poor people in Norway. Gotta love it.

During the 2004 US presidential election, when the fiasco in Florida was requiring recounts and court orders and God knows what, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe offered to send election monitors to the US to ensure free and fair and transparent elections. Had to love that, too.

Thanks to the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cover for Thinner Than Skin Canada / India editions

First off, I hope everybody had a cheery Thanksgiving.

Secondly, I hope we can keep the Black Friday insanity to a minimum (see below).

Thirdly, the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan got her books in the mail from her Canadian and Indian publishers this week. They're sharing a cover, and it's a doozy, to wit: 

If that doesn't look like a terrific book, hey, I don't know what to tell you.

Interested Canadians can check it out here.

Readers in India and South Asia generally can look here, or look here, or if you prefer, look here.

And of course, American readers can see it on its Amazon page and elsewhere.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why I despise Black Friday

I was born on Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving not just for this reason but because it represents something that runs counter to the American ideal, something that could even be described as profoundly un-American: being satisfied with what you've got. Thanksgiving is, at its core, an exercise in, yes, giving thanks, which is to say, feeling appreciation for what we have been given and have worked for in our lives. Family? Career? Lots of shoes? Whatever--take a day off from the daily pursuit of more more more, and sit back for an afternoon and just feel grateful. It's a holiday unlike any other that I know of, in any other part of the world. Sure, there's probably something like it somewhere--Slovakia or Guinea-Bissau or someplace--but I don't know about it. And what matters to me, as I say, is that the whole impulse is so profoundly counter to what this nation often foists upon us. We can stop yearning after more, if even for a day, and that's great. Crack open a beer or bottle of wine or 7-Up, dig into the turkey or salmon steak or plate of tofu, and hang out with some people you like and may or may not be related to. Tell some funny stories, maybe watch some football, go to bed early. Nice.

Now, what happened when I was out of the country for 13 years was that this other thing, this anti-Thanksgiving, grew from some little statistical anomoly--hey, lots of people go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving--into a repulsive orgy of consumer frenzy. Black Friday is gross--there's just no other word to describe people pushing and shoving and fighting and, Christ, sometimes shooting each other for that extra-cheap, extra-widescreen TV. But what takes it from being just repugnant to actually infuriating is its juxtaposition with Thanksgiving. Its as if some asshole somewhere said to himself, "Well, let's see, Americans are actually kind of humble and grateful and decent for a day... So what we can we do to appeal to their basest, most grasping, most selfish nature? Oh wait, I know. Eighty dollar TVs at Wal-Mart, but you have to get there at 3a.m. and there's only one in store. Great!"

Thanksgiving is very close to being lost, and that's a fucking shame.

Thanksgiving is probably the day I like my country the most, but the pimps who run the show have decided that a day of thoughtfulness and gratitude cannot be allowed to stand without a corresponding day of greed and cynicism. Already, Black Friday is a bigger deal to some people than Thanksgiving Day itself. Many of the people I work with, who tend to be a good deal younger than I am, look forward to it with a glee that borders on frenzy. In many places, Black Friday sales actually begin on Thanksgiving Day itself, which is even more infuriating. Within a few more years I don't doubt that Thanksgiving will be the afterthought; the real holiday, the real reason to celebrate, will be the day that you can get up at two in the morning and rush to the store to fight the other suckers to buy shit.

Now, that may be a more accurate representation of American values than the urge to sit quietly for an hour being thankful, but I still can't help feeling that something will have been lost.

So listen: I'm officially resisting. I'm staying home on Friday, not going out unless it's to go out for a walk or a swim or something. I invite you to join me. Don't buy anything this Friday--don't even buy food (you've got leftovers, right?) or gas (where do you need to go, anyway?). Just stay home, or go to work if you need to. But don't go to a store, for God's sake. We all have enough crap already, don't we? Let's just be grateful for what we've got. For a second day in a row. We've got the whole rest of the year to sit around wishing we had more.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Please see this movie.

It's called 5 Broken Cameras and it's made by Emad Burnat, a Palestinian whose village was cut in half by the Israeli apartheid wall back in 2005. He had a camera at the time, so he started filming what was going on, as the village began a series of nonviolent protests in the face of the IDF's increasingly militant interventions. Inevitably, people get killed, and it ain't the soldiers with the guns and tanks who die. Whatever you may know or think you know about politics in the Middle East, please seek out this film and watch it.

There are clips on YouTube, along with interviews with the director and so on. Favorite YouTube comment: "Israel takes IRONY to a whole new level." That just about sums it up.

The movie will be available on Amazon on January 15, 2013.

It will also be available on Netflix.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Would have liked to see this

Some arena rock bombast to get your week rolling...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

TV thoughts

So here I am, wading throughall 56 episodes of SyFy channel's TV series Sanctuary, which ran for four years from 2008 to 2011. I'd never heard of it before reuesting it for review over on PopMatters, but the synopsis on Amazon sounded like it had potential, and I do love me a cheesy sci-fi TV show now and then, so what the heck. I requested it and it arrived soon after, all 18 DVDs' worth, and now I'm about halfway through. It's okay. It's fine. It's a bit silly, and there's too much CGI for my taste, but it's not horrible by any stretch.

The thing is, watching this has got me thinking about TV in general, and how far it's come in some ways since I was a kid, and how little it's changed, too. And I started thinking about my favorite shows. So here's my top five, for what it's worth.

(For the record, I never got into The Sopranos, or Mad Men, so they're not on here. I've never seen True Blood or Deadwood either.)

#1. Game of Thrones

A while back I wrote up a fun little blurb on Game of Thrones, which easily ranks as the most popular post I've ever written for this blog. Over 4500 people have read it so far, accounting for something like 10% of all the hits I have ever gotten on this blog. Which is sobering in a way... but then I figure it's because Game of Thrones is the best TV show ever made, and I feel better.

So then. An incredibly intricate fantasy world, terrific acting, snappy dialogue, great visuals and intelligently rendered themes. Yup, plenty here to like, and not much to dislike (though maybe some of the nudity gets gratuitous. No, really).

#2. The Wire

A close second would be The Wire, which I think is still the #1 choice for plenty of people, including my lovely and discerning spouse. It's hard to think of a show more unlike Game of Thrones: after all, The Wire is gritty and grimly realistic, with its thematic concerns firmly rooted in the criminal world of Baltimore, Maryland. King's Landing this ain't! Yet there are similarities too, namely excellent scripting spiced with mordant wit and numerous "oh shit!" moments, plus a terrific ensemble cast of mainly unknown actors who manage to inhabit these diverse characters and bring them to life.

And yeah, Omar is the coolest character in the history of TV. Cooler than Tyrion Lannister? You betcha.

#3. Breaking Bad

While the first two shows were sprawling ensemble pieces, featuring maybe a dozen or more significnt characters and nearly as many storylines at any given time, Breakign Bad is a show that stays focused on its twin protagonists of Walter and Jesse. The story chronicles the downfall of high school chemistry teacher Walter White, who learns that he has terminal cancer and decides to posthumously provide for his family by making a pile of cash in hurry by cooking anf selling crystal meth. Hilarity ensues. Except that really, it doesn't, and everything just goes to shit, inexorably.

It's pretty much impossible to stop watching once you've started. Great acting, riveting performnces, etc.

#4. Battlestar Galactica

Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, and probably not as objectively good as the above shows--I mean it's about killer robots from outer space, what do you want? But it creates a terrifically effective visual feeling of claustrophobia and doom--which is probably a fairly accurate representation of what it would be like, running for your life in outer space--while at the same time keeping the storyline (mostly) compelling. The show pretty much runs off the rails in its final season, but until then it's pretty compulsive viewing. Edward James Olmos oozes gravitas as the commander of the fleet, which almost makes up for the watery performances of some of his supporting players.

Shakeapeare it's not, but a good time nevertheless.

#5. Spartacus

And while we're on the subject of guilty pleasures, here's mine. Plenty of greased-up Roman gladiators? Check. Plenty of horny Roman nobles? Check. Plenty of over-the-top, ludicrous violence? Check. A storyline that, ludicrous or not, still manages to get its hooks in you? Check.

If you're not afraid to be seen enjoying something like this, then you owe it to yourself to check it out. Oh and the first two or three episodes of the first season are lame. Get through them and things get better. Promise. Oh and in case the above clip doesn't make it clear enough, this show really isn't for kids.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Uzma Aslam Khan: Thinner Than Skin

Here are some photos from last night's rocking reading by Uzma Aslam Khan, who read an excerpt from Thinner Than Skin to an appreciative audience at Booklink in Northampton:

As you can see, the turnout was solid -- roughly 20 to 25 people, which was a very nice crowd for such a tiny shop, also considering the wretchedness of the weather outside (not visible in thes pictures, alas, so use your imagination).

A fair number of local college students were in the mix, which was nice to see. I mean, I assume they were local, and hadn't been bussed in from like Wisconsin or something.

Uzma's uber-cool publisher at Interlink, Michel Moushabeck, provided a brief introduction and even pounded away briefly on his Middle Eastern tabla in order to get everyone in the mood. It worked.

After reading, Uzma shmoozed and signed books. A fine time was had by all.

Thanks to all the folks who gave me permission to use their pictures publicly on this blog!

As mentioned previously in this space, I myself will be giving a reading at the University of Connecticut Co-Op Bookstore in Storrs, CT on December 4 (Tuesday) at 4:00pm. I can't guarantee that it will be as lively and engaging as this event last night, but I can guarantee that I'll do everything in my power to make it so. So please, if you're interested and in the area, drop on by.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Uzma Aslam Khan reading in Northampton Nov. 8

The lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan will be reading from Thinner than Skin, her new novel published by Interlink Books, on Thursday, Nov 8. This is short notice (sorry about that) but I really hope that anyone interested will be able to come out and hear her. For those of you who never have -- she reads very well indeed, and Thinner Than Skin is a terrific book.

The readind is at Booklink in Northampon at 6:30pm, so if you need yet another incentive to hear her, you can come enjoy the lively scene of Noho before and after the event. So, if you're free Thursday evening, swing on by and check it out. And ask a question! And of course, Uzee will sign your book, etc.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reading event at the UConn Co-op Bookstore

Continuing my whirlwind, sometimes-successful-sometimes-not-so-much publicity tour for An Age of Madness, I will be reading at the University of Connecticut Co-op Bookstore on December 4--that's a Tuesday--at 4:00pm. Here are the details.

Considering that I'm a Connecticut product, I'm very happy indeed to be doing something down in my home state. So far I've done events in Noo Yawk and Massachusetts, but nothing in between. In fact I haven't done CT events at all since reading from Fallen back in 2005. So I think I'm overdue.

If you're in the area (which translates, pretty much, as "anyplace in Connecticut"), please stop by and say howdy. I'll of course be taking questions and signing books after the reading.With any luck we'll get a few college students asking me stuff, and we'll just have a good time generally. Cheers.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Don't Open That Door! #20: Teenage Cave Man (1958)

Yo folks, I am asking y'all right this very second to shuffle on over to my PopMatters column, Don't Open That Door! and hit the ever-popular Facebook Like button for the most recent entry: 1958's epic (in its own modest way) Roger Corman extravaganza, Teenage Cave Man. Never mind for a moment that Corman later said "I never directed a film called Teenage Cave Man." It's great anyway--trust me! And so is my writeup. trust me on that one too. It stars Robert Vaughn, who would go on to fame as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and who was not even remotely close to being a teenager at the time this movie was made. Ah, Hollywood!

It's helpful to me to get as many Likes and Tweets and so forth for these columns as possible. The more I get, the more likely I am to be able to keep on writing up these old movies, which I love. So please, do me a favor and keep spreading the word.

Okay, enough groveling. Ahem. On to this week's column, which begins thus:

"Hear me, O my people! The Law commands that none of our clan cross the river, for lo, death lurks there in the form of hideous monsters and pools of quicksand! And besides, our tribe has bodacious babes a-plenty in snugly-fitting outfits, so why bother? Unfortunely, the old geezers running the tribe are a little cracked, leaving our youngsters, such as Teenage Hero Boy, to wander past the river and into the Forbidden Lands, seeking sustenance and so forth."

There's much more in this vein, and it's all a good time. So as I say, take a gander at the piece and pass it on. There will of course be another one next week (The Unearthly aka House of Monsters) and, if you're new to this, there are 19 earlier incarnations for you to enjoy...