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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Some serious bass on these...

...Courtesy of my favorite music blog, Voodoo Funk:

(Click on the name, Tex Soul & the Bayonets, to get taken to their Soundcloud page. Then click the "Play" arrow)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dont't Open That Door! #3: Missile to the Moon

This week's column over at covers a movie that's close to my heart: 1959's Missile to the Moon, which is a particularly ridiculous remake of 1953's Cat-Women of the Moon -- did it really need to be remade so soon? Anyway, Missile features all manner of extraordinary elements, like a James Dean wannabe and a bevy of lunar maidens played by "former beauty contest winners." (Can't beat that.) The story is suitably ludicrous and the laughs just keep coming. Here's my first paragraph:

"Wacky home-school advocate and part-time scientist Dirk Green has a dream: to be the first arch-conservative in space. To make his dream come true, he must overcome numerous obstacles, including an intrusive US government (keen to keep space exploration for itself) and a pair of even more intrusive juvenile delinquents Gary and Lon (keen to keep other peoples’ cars for themselves). When these delinquents break out of jail and take refuge in the spaceship that Dirk’s got cluttering up his backyard, hilarity ensues—or all hell breaks loose, depending on your point of view. Meanwhile, those nanny-state Feds want Dirk to quell his cosmic aspirations, but when he grabs his NRA-approved personal firearm and goes stalking off into the night, it seems like he might have other plans."
Read the rest here, and do me a favor: Like it on Facebook, Tweet about it on Twitter, +1 it on G+ or Reddit or StumbleUpon or whatever you'd like. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Where Writers Write on TNBBC

Hey, the supernaturally-energetic Lori over at The Next Best Book Club has included me ina feature called "Where Writers Write." I sent her a 90-second video about my (ahem) work space, as well as a few comments. Ironically, I'm set to be departing this particular space before long, so this is just about obsolete even as it goes online, but what the heck... It's where I've spent some time polishing up An Age of Madness as well as some other stuff, so take a look.

And by all means, check out the rest of the blog as well, read a review or two, leave a comment, but a T-shirt, and support independent authors and people (like Lori) who read and promote them.

BTW, this is the same Lori who has set up reading events for my in NYC this September -- at Book Thug Nation in Brooklyn on Sept 14 and KGB Lit Bar on the 16th. She is truly a friend to writers and deserves your support, so check out the blog!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I love Hiroshige

Actually, that's a misleading title for this post. I'm not going to try to explain why I love Hiroshige. I just do.

Yesterday, Uzee and I went to the Honolulu Academy of Arts, which is hosting an exhibition of Hiroshige prints taken from his series "53 Stations of the Tokaido." We saw multiple examples of numerous prints from this series, including the ones pictured here. They're gorgeous, and far more striking in person, of course.

Hiroshige's prints were made from wood blocks, so they could be reproduced and sold in book form. This means that there are tones of them floating around -- they aren't one-of-a-kind objects like, say, Picasso paintings or something. But it also means that the quality varies from print to print, as do the colors, the quality of the lines and so forth.

Someday (sigh) I hope to have one or two of his prints hanging in my house. (Yeah, someday I'll have a house, too.) In the meantime, it's great to be able to walk into a museum and just be surrounded by scenes like this.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mehdi Hassan RIP

Mehdi Hassan was one of Pakistan's greatest singers of ghazals, a form of poetry that goes back for centuries. He was a big favorite of my father-in-law, who knew him, and also of Uzee's. He passed on away on June 13.

This is my favorite song of his. "Rafta Rafta Woh Meri hast" means something like, "Slowly slowly she became a part of me" or "she became my reason to live." It's a beautiful song, even if your Urdu is a little rusty.

One translastion, as provided by the person (lolfrompak) who uploaded this YouTube link:

Rafta rafta woh meri hasti ka saamaan ho gaye,
Subtly and gradually, she became the reason for my existence

Pehlay jaan, phir jaan-e-jaan, phir jaan-e-jaana ho gaye
First my life, then the love of my life, finally she became the beloved of my life

Din-b-din badti gehin is husn ki raaniyaan.
Day by day, her beauties gracefulness increased

Pehlay Gul, phir gul-badan, phir gul-badamaan ho gaye
First she smelt like a rose, then she transformed into a rose, finally she became the greatest rose

Aap to nazdeek say nazdeek-tar aatay gahey
You kept coming closer and closer to me

Pehlay dil, phir dilruba, phir dil kay mehmaan ho gaye
First my heart, then my sweetheart, finally she took abode in my heart

Rafta rafta woh meri hasti ka saamaan ho gaye
Subtly and gradually, she became the reason for my existence

Pyar jab Hadd se badha saare Taqaloof mith gaye
When love transcended its limit, all formalities were erased

Aap se phir tum huay phir tu ka Khunwaan hogaye
First we were formal, then we became informal, finally we became one.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mark your calendars...

Some more events lined up for this fall, as I do publicity for my new book, An Age of Madness:

I will be appearing at Book Thug Nation in Brooklyn, NY, on Friday, September 14. This will be either 7pm or 7:30, not sure which. BTN is a used book store in Brooklyn which regularly hosts events, and they have kindly consented to let me sell the new book there. So if you're in the area, stop on by.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, I've been ivited to read at Wordstock, a big book/literary festival in Portland, OR. This makes me mighty happy, as Portland is pretty much my favorite city in the USA. I'm not sure exactly when I'll be there, but the festival runs from October 11 - 14.

There are tentative plans for me to read at The Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle around that same time as well, and also some places in California. I will post those dates as they become firm.

There is also the event at KGB Lit Bar in Manhattan on Sunday, September 16, as well as Millrace Book Shop in Farmington, CT on the following Sunday (the 23rd). So I hope that anyone interested can manage to stop by one of these places. My publicist and myself are still trying to line up more events, so if these don't work for you, stay tuned.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I will miss this.

File under cruel ironies: as Uzee and I gear up to leave Honolulu, the flowers on our patio are going berserk.

We've had mixed success with orchids during the four years we've been here, but since moving to our new place in 2010, there have been more successes than filures. And a couple of the plants, in particular, have really loved it here.

Now, the healthy plants are going nuts. It's safe to say that there won't be a lot of flowers like this where we're heading. Sure, there will be plenty of flowers... just not too many orchids growing wild on the front porch.

Even our cactus is blooming. How often does that happen?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Don't Open That Door! Bride of the Gorilla

Yowza, the second installment of my weekly column over at, Don't Open That Door!, is up and running. This week's entry is the 1951 opus Bride of the Gorilla, starring raymond Burr, who would go on to TV glory as Perry Mason and Ironsides (and who would appear in the American version of Japan's 1956 monster-fest Godzilla). It's an oddly hilarious movie. To quote myself:

"Bodacious blonde Dina van Gelder is married to elderly, unsatisfying Klaas van Gelder and tucked away in a remote rubber plantation somewhere in the Amazon. (Hmm, “Gelder” sounds a lot like “gelding,” meaning “one who’s been castrated.”) Dina is bored and sweaty in the jungle and gets easily distracted by things like Klaas’s foreman, Barney, who is doing his best to create an love triangle of Amazonian proportions. (Hmm, “Barney” sounds a lot like “Barney,” meaning “purple dinosaur who loves children.”) What he doesn’t realize is that friendly Dr Viet also has a burning (though Platonic, we think) love for Dina—making this love triangle into a love quadrangle—while svelte serving girl Larina is hot for Barney. So it’s actually a love quintangle. (Quintangle, indeed.) Everybody keeping up? Spooky jungle-witch woman Al-long occupies herself by keeping an eye on things, which is probably just as well, seeing as how there’s all this drama and nobody’s even turned into a gorilla yet."

You can read the whole article here here, and you really should. Don't forget to Like it on Facebook, share the link, Tweet about it, +1 it on G+ or whatever it is you do tp spread the word about happy things. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Ana Tijoux tune

New tune from Chilean rapper.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Obama continues to murder more people; nobody cares

Please take a moment to read this article on Obama's ongoing drone attacks in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, written by Vijay Prashad over at Counterpunch.

The article covers a lot of ground, including a lot of material that many of Obama's apologists would prefer not to hear but need to hear anyway. For me, the most appalling piece of hypocrisy concerns Obama's drone-strike policy, which has killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan (where I used to live) and elsewhere. A particularly Orwellian point:

"As a result of the failure to target the alleged terrorists better, the Obama team has now come up with a unique method to define the kill zone. The administration “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants,” note Becker and Shane, “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” This is a remarkable standard. Anyone near an alleged terrorist is now a terrorist. The only way to know if they are terrorists or not is after they are dead. It is because of this that the Obama team accepts very low numbers for civilian deaths (as collateral damage)."

This is why the government can report, straight-faced, that it killed X number of terrorists in the latest drone strike: because anyone who gets killed is, by definition, a terrorist.

If this doesn't scare the shit out of you, you're not paying attention. Obama has decided that anyone old enough to be a terrorist is, therefore, a terrorist, and the only way you can prove you are not is by being killed. This is psycho stuff by any measure. Imagine if this were John McCain's policy, or Bush's or Mitt Romney's. All the Democratic herd-followers would be out there protesting. But it's done by O-bomb-ya, so everybody shuts up and falls in line.

I despair for my country, and for the people in it who claim to be "progressive" and "liberal." What's new.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Something to kickstart your week...

...Alice Cooper singing Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." Not really sure what to say about it, but here it is. He sort of phones it in, but what the heck, it's Alice, he's about 80 years old and still rocking.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A manly Father's Day weekend post....

...featuring an article from The Art of Manliness!

I've never been to this site before but I find it funny in a tongue-in-cheek (I hope) way. This article, which is written by a Manly Guest Contributor, is called "How to Use a [BUSTED] Cell Phone to Meet 5 Basic Survival Needs." If that doesn't get your attention, I can't help you.

First paragraph below, link to the whole article afterward:

"Last week we talked about the many survival uses of the tampon. But unless he specifically packed one in a bag or car, a man’s unlikely to have one on him in a pinch. So today we’re going to explore the survival uses of an everyday item you’re much more likely to have with you in an emergency: your cell phone."

The pictures accompanying the article are enlightening also. And yes, I'm curious about that tampon article too.

Read the whole cell-phone article here. And then go take off hiking in the woods or something. Just... be careful.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Don't Open That Door! The Brain From Planet Arous

The first installment of my weekly column Don't Open That Door! has just gone live on I'm describing the series as a "weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them." This week's appreciation/skewering features the John Agar vehicle, The Brain From Planet Arous.

"Physicists Steve and Dan are baffled by radioactivity readings coming from over there on Mystery Mountain—that’s right, Mystery Mountain, “the most godforsaken spot in the desert.” The boys grab something that looks supiciously like a large hair dryer and hustle out to investigate, despite the reservations of Steve’s fiancee Sally and her eagle-beaked dad, John. Out in the desert, the two intrepid scientists discover a cave, a glowing light, and one heap big radiation. They also find a floating transparent alien brain that takes over Steve’s consciousness. Oops! Should’ve listened to Sally, for once."

There's much more to the column, including an in-depth but mostly spoiler-free synopsis, lists of positives and negatives, video clips, suggestions for party games, and much much more. Oh and there's also some honest-to-God trivia and genuine information, if you like that sort of thing.

Check out the feature here, and do me a favor: Tweet about it, Facebook it, G+ it and all the rest. The more people we can get to click on this thing, the longer they'll let me do it...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Welcome to my life, or at least, an unsavory part of it...

Good review of a book about toiling in the depths of adjunct-faculty hell. Don't know how great the book itself is, but as somsone who got paid a pittance to teach freshman comp over the past four years, as tuition continues to go up and up, I can attest that this is an educational scandal of national proportions. The adjuncts are suffering, overworked and underpaid as they are, the students certainly are not benefiting from the experience as much as they ought to be, considering the debt loads they are carrying.

The review, by Sarah Boslaugh on PopMatters, discusses In the Basement of the Ivory Tower, written by someone calling him- or herself "Professor X." The review begins:

"Americans have a schizophrenic relationship with education in general and higher education in particular. On the one hand, we worship education in the abstract as an equalizing force giving everyone in our supposedly mobile society a chance to make it on their own merits, and we tend to think that not only individuals, but also our larger society, benefits from more students enrolled in more formal education. On the other hand, we love to attack teachers, students, and the whole education system for being wasteful, dishonest, incompetent, out of touch with the real world… you name the insult, and an educator has probably heard it at one time or another."

Read the rest of the review here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is materialism dead?

Recently I found myself faced with the task of sorting through piles of CDs, stacks of books and comics, and heaps of DVDs that have accumulated over the past few years of reviewing and compulsive consumption. Not surprisingly, I find myself somewhat overwhelmed, but pushed on with it anyway. I figured, it would take some doing to list everything I want to get rid of—a couple dozen DVDs, a couple hundred CDs, God knows how many books—but the good thing is, there’s always someone somewhere who will want them. Right?

Mm—hold that thought.

I did what any normal person does who wants to shift a big bunch of units: I put an ad on Craigslist. It did not escape me that many other people have apparently had this thought as well. In fact, there’s a whole category on CL for selling cd/dvd/vhs, and another category for selling books. And there were plenty of ads up already.

Still, I didn’t sweat it too much. I figured I had really good stuff, and new besides, and I was asking very little, just $4 or $5 for a new DVD, and a lot less per disc for multi-disc sets. CDs are $3 ech, 4 for $10. I hoped I’d be able to withstand the barrage of phone calls. The books I figured I’d do later, once the initial frenzy had died down.

You can see where this is going. No one has called. Meanwhile, more ads are going up on CL every day.

All of which has gotten me to wondering: have people become less materialistic? It seems hard to believe, but… at least in this way, in the obsessive collecting-of-media way that was so prevalent when I was in, say, college—when people hoarded records and books, and VHS wasn’t even invented yet, never mind DVD or blu-ray? Does this newest generation of consumers, the ones growing up on downloaded tunes and movies and TV shows and Kindle, have no need for physical, tangible, material objects in order to focus their attention? (Games too, I guess, though I don't have much experience with or attention for games.) And if so, is this a good thing, or does the loss of the tangible object somehow represent a lessening of involvement with the song/movie/book it represents?

I remember buying records—or later, CDs—and poring over the cover art, the inserts, the liner notes. A DVD would have production info on the back cover, plus a few choice stills, and if you were luck, a nifty booklet inside with some nugget of trivia. A book, well, a book had a cover, and pages, and everything. And you never had to worry about its battery running down or its software becoming out of date.

I don’t mean to be an old fart who bemoans the artefacts of his past. Life moves on, I get it. Last year I independently published a fantasy eBook, and I’ve downloaded my share of songs from Amazon and instant-view movies from netflix and Hulu. But I still like stuff. I like things I can hold. I like comic books I can spread open before me and a CD insert I can linger over while listening to the song. Apart from making me seem horribly old-fashioned and out of touch, I wonder if this also makes me shallowly materialistic compared to people who have found a way, like Buddha, to jettison those desires.

Then again maybe not. Maybe they’re just as grasping as I am, just for different things. I don’t care about the latest phone or the nicest car or the trendiest clothes. Plenty of people do. Maybe we all share the impulse to acquire; it’s just the details of what we’re acquuiring that have shifted a bit in my lifetime.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Don't Open That Door!

The fine, fine folks over at have given the green light for a project that I’ve been pursuing for years, namely, an ongoing appreciation/skewering of 1950’s monster and sci-fi movies called Don’t Open That Door!. Originally I conceived this as a big, coffee-table type book—and who knows, we may get there yet—but for now it’s going to be a weekly column on the PopMatters web site, and it should get under way within the next week or two.

Basically, each week I’ll be unearthing a little nugget of 1950s monster kitsch, summarizing the plot and bringing to light some of its more worthwhile—or maybe just its giggle-inducing—elements. I love these movies, so I’m not out to just make fun of them, MST3K style. I want to talk about what they have going for them, what they do well, the ways in which they are surprisingly effective—and then make fun of them. I also want to try to inspire some people to see them, whether revisiting stuff they’ve caught on cable over the years, or else trying something new. In this age of Avatar-esque digital special effects, I find the simple guy-in-a-monster-suit approach to be oddly endearing and sincere. Ditto the stop-motion, Ray Harryhausen-inspired monsters on the rampage.

This is all very much in the planning stages, but some of the early entries in this series are likely to include:

The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) – John Agar is a scientist whose mind is taken over by a malevolent, transparent brain from a planet called – you guessed it – Arous. The aforementioned brain develops a not-entirely-wholesome interest in John Agar’s girlfriend. Maybe they should have spelled "Arous" with an e. Hilarity ensues.

Bride of the Gorilla (1951) – Raymond Burr, who would later go on to TV fame in Perry Mason and Ironside, stars as a guy named Barney who turns into a gorilla under the malevolent witchery of a Hungarian gypsy. This stuff writes itself! Best line of dialogue: “White people shouldn’t stay too long in the jungle.” This is certainly true for the people who made this movie.

The Manster (1959) – Part man – part monster! Get it? An American businessman runs afoul of a Japanese mad scientist, and this is what happens. Also, body parts begin sprouting out of unexpected places. I will leave your twisted imagination to fill in the gaps.

Prehistoric Women (1950) – In which we offered a compelling glimpse of life in the Jurassic. Nah, just kidding. Monsters include a flying chicken-dragon thing and an elephant who appears to have wandered in from the lot of a circus movie. Best line of narration: “Strangely enough, the swan dive was invented before the swan.” Don't laugh--life was tough! Even the hair care products were primitive back then. (See below)

And there is so very much more! Stay tuned for details – I will post here as the series goes online. Trust me, this is just the good time you’ve been looking for, without even realizing how much you were missing it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

10 Reasons why Game of Thrones is the best show ever aired.

Game of Thrones has just wrapped up its second season, and is clearly the best ongoing television series ever produced. Don’t believe me? Here are ten reasons why.

1.       It’s never been done before.

Take a minute to list all the ongoing fantasy television series you’ve ever seen. It’s okay, I’ll wait. Now take another minute and try to think of some more. Pretty short list, right? Apart from the occasional sitcom with fantastical elements (I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched) or anthology series like The Twilight Zone, there has never been an ongoing fantasy series on the scale of Game of Thrones. Science fiction, of course, has had a long and storied (and sometimes awful) history. Fantasy—with its magic and dragons and swordplay and meticulously detailed alternate worlds—not so much. As in, never.

The Wire was agreat show too, epic in scope, with terrific performances. But it was still a cop show, and cop shows have had decades to get better and learn their craft and engage people. Ditto with Breaking BadThe Sopranos or whatever other show you care to name. Game of Thrones not only does all that, but it does it right out of the gate, with no ancestry to call upon.

None of this would matter, of course, if this attempt at creating a fantasy world was unsuccessful. But Game of Thrones is far from unsuccessful, which brings us to…

2.       The level of detail is stupendous.

There are how many separate kingdoms, continents, noble houses involved in this thing? Each with its own topography, customs, costumes, religions and superstitions, and linguistic turns of phrase (“What is dead can never die!” in the Iron Isles; “It is known” among the Dothraki, “Winter is coming” for the Starks). The cinematgraphy reinforces this, as different kingdoms and regions are filmed using differing color palettes to set the tone. (It helps that the series is filmed in Northern Ireland, in Croatia, and in Iceland, which again testifies to the level of commitment that has gone into this.) An establishing shot of just a moment or two is enough to convey whether we are in Winterfell or Harrenhall, Qarth or the Eyrie. And by the way, the architecture of all those grand castles, keeps and holdfasts is never short of stunning.

3.       The casting is perfect.

One could argue a lot of things about this show, but it’s tough to argue that Peter Dinklage is anything other than magnificent in his role as Tyrion Lannister, or that Lena headley isn’t perfect as his sister, or that Maisie Williams doesn’t steal every scene she’s in, except maybe the ones with Charles Dance, and they they’re all trying to keep up with Michelle Fairley's Catelyn Stark. Sean Bean and Mark Addy, of course, absolutely knock it out of the park as Ned Stark and Robert Barathian, while across the Narrow Sea, Jason Momoa and Emilia Clarke keep things lively as Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targarian, an odd couple if there ever was one. Special mention, though, must go to the aforementioned Maisie Williams as well as Isaac Hempstead Wright, who play Arya and Bran Stark. Which bring us to…

4.       The child actors are fantastic.

When was the last time you said that about a TV show? Not that that the kids were cute, or cheeky, or whatever, but that they were really good actors? Bran and Arya are a couple of the most compelling characters in the show—no small feat there—and they never play their scenes the cloying cuteness or loudmouthed brattiness that passes for charm in kids these days. They are terrific characters, wonderfully acted, who happen to be ten or twelve years old.

In a related note, Arya the girl is every bit as important to the story as Bran the boy. To some degree, Game of Thrones tries to make its female characters as active and self-determining as its men—although to be honest, the men still are the ones, more often than not, who are making decisions and going around conquering the world and so on. Daenerys is an exception to this, though, and there are plenty of coniving, Lady Macbeth-type men as well.

5.       There are dire wolves and dragons.

Not much more need be said. But just in case: the dragons are terrific, fiesty little critters who breathe fire and spit like pissed-off cats, while the dire wolves are big loping lugs with hearts of gold. Sometimes these beasts charge in to save the day, ometimes not. Oh and there are other things too, zombies and white walkers and rumors, at least, of spiders the size of houses. Can’t wait!

6.       The characters’ morality is endlessly fluid.

A character who appears awful in one scene does something unexpectedly thoughtful in another. Someone who appears one-dimensionally bad (or good) turns out to have complicated reasons for acting as they do. Kings and queens, noblemen and soldiers, witches and whores all turn out to have backstories that make their actions, if not acceptable, then at least comprehensible. With very few exceptions (and yeah, there are exceptions, at least so far), characters are not portrayed as being solely noble or solely villainous. Everybody has a chance to tell his or her story.

7.       There is a surprising amount of thematic resonance.

We’re used to seeing themes illustrated in a good novel or in a movie. In a TV show, not so much. But Game of Thrones offers plenty. Here’s just one example: in the first two seasons, we see three characters executed in the same way (by being beheaded). In the first episode, Ned Stark does so, explaining to his son that “The man who passes sentence should wield the sword.” Later in the season, someone else is executed—wrongly—and it’s significant that in that case, the man who demanded the execution did not wield the sword. Midway through Season 2, another man is executed, this time by a character who makes a complete botch of it, hacking repeatedly at the man’s neck and finally kicking the head off. It was gut-wrenching, but more importantly, it shows this person trying to be a noble character but revealing through his ineptitude that he is anything but.

Another show would have simply hit these deaths as climactic moments of plot, but Game of Thrones uses them as something more—as a means of demonstrating important elements of character. It shows an attention to detail that is rare indeed in a TV show (or in many movies or books, sad to say).

8.       It’s funny.

Sure, it’s grim as shit, and people do tend to get their heads chopped off. But it’s also really funny, especially any scene involving Peter Dinklage, but also some of the stuff up at Castle Black and the Wall. There are any number of characters who get a pithy one-liner now and then (Jamie Lannister, Petyr Baelish, Robert Barathian, Bronn) and even a character or two who just make you laugh out loud because you hate them so much you want to wring their scrawny little necks (Joffery, I'm lookin' at you). Nobody will ever confuse Game of Thrones for a sitcom, and that’s just fine, but the writers are smart enough to know that even in this muddy medieval world, there need to be a few laughs now and then to break up the tension.

9.       The opening title sequence rules.

How can you not love it? The drums pound, the marching music fires up, and the map unrolls to get you into the right frame of mind. Each episode’s intro shows you where the action is going to take place, and new castles and cities are introduced as they enter the stream of events. It’s a fiendishly clever way of priming the viewer for a new locale, and on tgp of it all there’s the cool clockwork-style castles that come twisting up out of the ground. You may think I’m superficial to put such stock in a non-storytelling part of the show, but these sequences are part of the story, and part of the television-watching experience as well.

10.   Hodor.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Uzee's blog, revamped

The lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan has radically redesigned her blog, and I invite to you jog on over there and take a look. While you're at it, why not become a member? Her posts are always interesting (I know, I'm biased) and make for worthwhile reading.

Uzee also has some big developments coming up regarding her next book, so that's something to keep an eye out for as well.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of links, book covers from around the world (she has far more international editions than I do), reviews and articles to pore over. Unlike me, she has written a good amount of non-fiction, often on topics involving Pakistan and the larger Muslim world, and/or America's stance toward that part of the of the world, and/or art. There's plenty to chew on over there, so by all means take a nibble.

Friday, June 8, 2012

KGB Bar & Lit Journal details

Here's a link to the KGB Bar & Lit Journal calendar, with a little more information about my reading there in September. Apparently I'll be reading along with someone named Kathleen Alcott, whose web site can be found here and whose forthcoming novel (her first I think) is pictured below. You can find a description of it here.

Should be a lively evening! Also, there's beer.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury RIP

Ray Bradbury wrote The Martian Chronicles and that's enough for him to be my hero forever. Of course, he wrote a lot of other great stuff too, much of which I read in high school and beyond -- Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Summer, The Illustrated Man, and tons and tons of short stories. Not all of it was science fiction, and non of it was "science fiction" the way most people understood that term, with ray guns and monster aliens and invaders from space. In Ray's stories, especially in The Martian Chronicles, the aliens were us.

I have a special fondness for his story "The Fog Horn," about a prehistoric dinosaur who wakes up in the modern day, roused by the lowing of a fog horn that he thinks is a mating call from one of his fellows. This little scene got expanded and incorporated into the terrific 1953 Ray Harryhausen movie, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. As in a lot of those movies, the monster is actually a somewhat sympathetic character, and that sympathy has its roots in Bradbury's original story.

Anyway, I must have read The Martian Chronicles a dozen times and I'm confident I'll read it again. It's a book about the colonization of Mars, but putting it that way is like saying that Macbeth is a story where some bad stuff happens. Bradbury riffs on Martian colonization as a way to address ideas about colonialism, about racism, about consumption and carelessness and simple lack of respect for anything outside of ourselves and our own tiny little immediate needs. It's a mighty serious book dressed up as a rollicking good yarn, and it has both terrific writing on the sentence level and an irresistible, episodic structure. If you haven't read it, please do so, soon. Killer ending too.

I guess Ray was 91 when he died on Tuesday, so you can't really say, "Oh, he was taken before his time." But still, I'll miss him. He was one of these old guys who was always around, ever since I was old enough to be aware of anything at all.

Thanks for the stories, Ray.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Great band goes in a new direction

Regular readers of this blog may remember my championing of Brooklyn-based duo The Mast almost exactly a year ago -- their debut Wild Poppies  remains one of my favorite albums of 2011. A two-piece built around guitarist/singer Haale Gafori and percussionist Matt Kilmer, The Mast transcended their self-imposed limtations and, like other successful duo acts (Viva Voce, The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Pretty Lightning) managed to create something startling and great.

Now they have moved in a decidedly different direction, as the video below suggests. Utilizing a much stronger palette of electronic sounds, their new single "Up Up Up" offers a different vibe. It kind of reminds me of Garmarna, when they went electro with their Hildegard Von Bingen record, if that rings any bells. (No? Just me? Okay then.) Anyway, if you like it, check out their Bandcamp page for 5 other remixes, and a chance to download the whole set.

By the way, this song is the lead single from the new album, so stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Age of Madness cover!

Forthcoming from Red Hen Press in September 2012:

Pretty sweet, eh? You can pre-order it here from Amazon, if you are so inclined...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Reading in Seattle in the fall

File this one under whispers and rumors, kids: there's a mighty fine possibility that I will be reading at the Elliot Bay Book Co. ("Seattle's Legendary Independent Bookstore") this fall, probably in October and possibly in tandem with another author or two. Details are hazy as yet so I don't want to say too much about it, but I hope it comes to pass as I do looove Seattle and, specifically, the EB bookstore, where Uzee and I spent a couple of happy hours back in May 2011.

Stay tuned for (I hope) confirmation.

Another fun thing about Elliot Bay: they have a nifty cafe, and while sitting there sipping coffee and muiching on a scone, the radio played Viva Voce's "Wrecking Ball," which is an awesome song. I am now a fan. So there's that too.

This event is in addition to the confirmed readings/signings happening at Millrace Book Shop in Farmington, CT, and KGB Lit Bar in Noo Yawk, NY in September. (See my entry below for details.)