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Monday, July 30, 2012

Our last day in Hawai'i

Well, that was kind of  tough title to write.

Uzee and I are flying out of Honolulu tomorrow, after four sometimes-great, sometimes-frustrating years. I prefer to dwell on the positives--like the islands' beauty, the ocean, the sea life, the turtles, and especially my many fine students--rather thn the negatives, which pretty much amount to all the reasons we are leaving. To our friends here: thanks. You know who you are.

Anyway, the exciting news is that we're heading for western Massachusetts, home of apple cider, intensely beautiful fall colors, and a thriving music scene (yay!) as well as unpleasant winters (boo!) which we'll both just have to (re)learn to live with. We're actually both pretty excited and ready for the move; it feels like the right thing to do.

"Right" isn't the same thing as "easy," though. It's an especially beautiful day today, whicj just makes it tug a little more. Life, however, trundles on, and will not be denied. The thing to dwell on, I guess, is not that we're leaving, but that we were here in the first place, with four years more than most people ever get.

In honor of our leaving, here's the very first picture we took of our new home back in 2008, as we were flying in to Oahu.

Aloha, and mahalo.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Uzee's new book out in October!

The lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan, to whom I have the great good fortune of being married, has just received the almost-final-we-think version of the cover for her forthcoming book, Thinner Than Skin. Behold:

Pretty awesome, eh? The book is due in early October from Interlink Books, and you can read more about it there, or proceed directly to Amazon, where you can pre-order it.

I've had the happy opportunity to read the book already, and trust me it's a corker, so check it out. And for you indie-supporting types (you know who you are), Interlink Books (and its fiction imprint, Clockroot) is a consistently interesting publisher who put out a lot of unusual books by a wide variety of international writers. So they're worth a look as well.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book Thug Nation, Brooklyn NY, 9/14

Many thanks to Lori over at The Next Best Book Club for creating this fine piece of advertising:

Love the reminder "Books for sale // Bring cash." Hey, books will be just $10, so grab 'em while you can.

As you are probably aware, September 14 is National Cream Filled Doughnut Day, so the event will really be something special. Maybe people will bring cream-filled doughnuts. Or maybe I will. Anything could happen, really. It's that kind of holiday.
Also, for those who can't make it on Friday, I'll be over at KGB Lit Bar on Sunday 9/16, reading along with Kathleen Alcott. Of course--and I know you know this already as well--September 16 is Mexico's Independence Day, which opens up all kinds of possibilities for the KGB event as well.

Friday, July 20, 2012

New tune from The Mast over on Bandcamp

Longtime readers of this blog (that's right--both of you!) will recall my fondness for Brooklyn-based pop duo The Mast, whose first album I reviewed for PopMatters (read it here) and who have lately been uploading new songs for free over at Bandcamp. Their latest, "Seas Across Your Mind" is available for free right here, or you can just click on the video (not really a video, but it does play the song).

If you're interested in seeing what the singer, Haale Gafori, looks like when she's walking around and smiling, take a look at this other video, released late last year:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Don't Open That Door! #5: El Vampiro aka The Vampire (1957)

Who knew that Mexican horror flicks from the 1950s could be so good? Okay, lots of people knew, but never mind that -- the point is that this weeks column over at PopMatters features 1957 Mexican vampire movie El Vampiro, known to us gringos as The Vampire. It's pretty great, and I had a grand old time writing it up for my series, Don't Open That Door! To wit:

"Good natured Marta returns to her home in Mexico’s remote Sierra Negra mountains to visit her sick aunt Eloise; circumstance throws her in with Enrique, a fellow traveler on the same road. Oddly, no one is there to meet her at the station, so she and Enrique bum a lift partway, then go on by foot. Little do they realize that they’re being trailed by a statuesque, black-clad woman who possesses unusual skills such as blinking in and out of existence and raising strong winds just by standing around. When Marta arrives at the house, things get even weirder when it becomes evident that Aunt Eloisa isn’t as sick as originally thought. Heck, she looks better than she has in years! But the real shocker is that Marta’s other beloved aunt, Maria Teresa, is in fact freshly dead and buried. Of course, around here, being “freshly dead and buried” means something slightly different from where the rest of us come from, but that’s another story. Or, hmm, maybe it isn’t."

You can read
the whole column here, and you really should, as there are a couple of clips to watch that give a nice feeling for the eerie spookiness (or is it the spooky eerieness?) of the whole enterprise. Plus of course a few jokes and giggles.

As ever, if you find yourself enjoying yourself, please hit the Facebook Like icon, and/or Tweet it or G+ it etc. The more this kind of thing happens, the longer I'll be allowed to play in the sandbox, which is all I ever really wanted to do anyway.

Someday I'll  sit down and try to figure out why iexactly vampires are so perennially popular. It's kind of a mystery to me. As far as movie monsters go, they're probably my least favorite, but obviously, their appeal is widespread and long-lasting. Any thoughts on this are welcome.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wooden Shjips in-studio live performance

KEXP, Seattle, August 2011. Old guys rule!

Don't ask me about the spelling, though.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"A touchingly human reminder that scar tissue isn't always visible"

Sorry I haven't been posting these last couple days. I've been--you guessed it--packing.

Meanwhile, the reviewers over at Publishers Weekly were kind enough to read An Age of Madness, and then kind enough to write a review that makes it sound like it might be worth reading--but they weren't quite kind enough to avoid the old sting-in-the-tail method of dropping in a last-minute comment to the effect of, "Oh, and it also kind of sucks." To wit:

"Psychiatrist Regina Moss comes on strong in this compassionate, imperfect novel of the surprising, halting ways that the heart and mind heal after tragedy."

(That sounds pretty good, doesn't it? "Surprising" is always nice, and "halting," under the right circumstances, can be mighty effective.)

"Regina works at a 'holding tank for public-sector mentally ill' in a Massachusetts hospital where the afflicted patients’ suffering and symptoms mirror her own troubles, despite her strenuous efforts to keep the effects of personal tragedy at bay through mordant wit and a clinical remove."

(All promising so far. "Mordant wit and clinical remove" ? Sign me up!)

"Regina’s relationship with her college-age daughter is frayed, and the defenses she’s built up allow her to function, if not flourish, years after a terrible personal loss. Two things finally crack Regina open to further waves of grief: her role as dutiful daughter to an ailing father reaches a critical point, and a tenuous affair with a younger subordinate."

(Okay, family tension, I can roll with that. Not a lot of car chases in this book, it doesn't sound like, but that's not always a bad thing.)

"In the deftly sketched Regina, Maine has created a touchingly human reminder that scar tissue isn’t always visible..."


"...but unwittingly shows how an uneven story can fail to measure up to a well-drawn character."


Things were going so well, too, right up to that nasty last sentence. Last half-sentence, even.

Oh well. At least they read it, and maybe people will pay attention to the "compassionate" and "surprising" bits about the ""deftly sketched" and "touchingly human reminder that scar tissue isn't always visible." That all sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Books at NYC events just $10

First of all, I hope everyone got through Friday the 13th all right. We managed to be safe at this end, and I even scored a job interview for early August and had a decent workout at the gym, so there you go. Nothing scary at all. Well, the interview might be...

Meanwhile I'm finalizing arrangements with my publisher about selling An Age of Madness at the two events in New York, on the 14th at Book Thug Nation used bookstore in Brooklyn and on the 16th at KGB Lit Bar in Manhattan. Neither of these places usually sells new books, which mean I'm responsiible for it, which means I can decide the price. And the price I've decided on is just ten bucks a book. This is a significant reduction over the list price, and I'm doing it as a way to say thanks to the people who make the effort to come hear me read at those two places. (Unfortunately, the other events I have lined up are sponsored by new book stores, meaning they will decide the price, and lacking the author discount I get, they will probably have to set it higher.)

So stop on by, listen to whatever I'm reading that night, and grab a copy of the book if you like it. If you don't, well, I'm sure there will be something to grab your interest at Book Thug Nation. And over at KGB, there will be plenty of booze to drown your sorrows and revitalize your hopes. So it's a win-win for everybody!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Don't Open That Door! #4: The Black Scorpion (1957)

Hey, column #4 is up on PopMatters right now! Take a look.

This might be the most outlandish one yet... and I mean that in a good way, of course. Set in Mexico for no apparent reason, this movie features extensive miniature work supervised by Willis O'Brien, the guy who did the trick with 1933's King Kong. Needless to say, the model work is pretty good, and there's also plenty of it.

The human actors, on the other hand...

Here's the start of the column:

"Unprecendented earthquakes are raining destruction—not to mention ash and lava—down onto Mexico, and it’s up to heroic geologists Dr. Scott (you can tell he’s a scientist by his pipe) and Dr. Ramos to visit the benighted area and offer what help they can. Soon they start finding wrecked homes, smashed cars and dead bodies; the town of San Lorenzo is thick with rumors of devil bulls and missing people. Stranger still is the mysterious Senorita Alvarez, a planation owner whose Mexican accent keeps cropping up and then disappearing (and is gone completely after the first half hour). There’s nothing to be done, of course, except to stand around wondering what the heck’s going on, which everyone does for far too long. Especially once the little kid shows up..."

Read the rest here. And of course, Facebook Likes and shared links are much appreciated, as are Tweets and Google+ +1s and everything else. Thanks folks!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Age of Madness page on Facebook

Hey, the busy folks over at Red Hen Press have give me my very own Facebook page for An Age of Madness, and I ivite you to trot on over there and take a look. It would be mighty nice of you to Like the page, share the link, and spread the word about the new book, which is now--can this be true?--only about six and a half weeks away from launching.

The Facebook page also has a link to my Red Hen page, which in turn takes you to their other authors and books, as well as upcoming events, book signings, and reviews. It's all well worth a look, maybe more than one. Cheers!

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Kora Rocks" by Ba Cissoko

Yes. it does.

In keeping with my promise to try to post things that are more interesting than photographs of packing boxes, I invite you to enjoy this utterly stomping vid of Guinean kora maestro Ba Cissoko and his band. I love the electrified, wah-wah kora that solos toward the end (and can be heard early on too). Holy smoke this thing cooks.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I wouldn't lie to ya.

Well, not about this, anyway. About other stuff? Well, yes, definitely.

Yup--I've been packing. Still have plenty to do, but my books/records/desk stuff are all pretty much contained in those boxes. Next up, living room. Later on: clothes and kitchen. Also, Uzee's stuff. You get the idea.

I will strive to make my blog entries for the coming month more interesting than, "Hey, look at these boxes of stuff waiting to be taken away." But I can't promise anything. This is more or less what's going on with us for the time being...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy (Algerian) Independence Day

50 years ago today, Algeria gained independence from France after a long and violent struggle. A couple of films worth watching on the subject are The Battle of Algiers (great movie, 1967, black and white, terrific performances) and Outside the Law (2010, also good performances somewhat controversial, nominated for an Academy Award).

Many self-appointed experts like to blather on about how Arabs, or Muslims in general, lack either the will to fight for freedom or the good sense to even want it. "A strong hand is the only thing they understand," is the sort of thing you hear on Fox News, but unfortunately you hear it a lot of other places too, generally spoken by someone who has never set foot un a Muslim country, much less lived in one. The experience of Algeria, along with Iran in the 1950s (when Mossadegh won an election, only to be removed by the US and UK at the behest of the oil companies), Pakistan under its various military rulers and Iraq right this very fucking second show this complacent and self-congratulatory Western mindset to be the bullshit that it is. Not to mention: Bangladesh in 1971, Turkey in the 1920s, Palestine since 1948, Kashmir, Indonesia, Egypt, Syria, etc.

It's also great that French filmmakers and producers have been able to look at their unsavory role in Algeria with some measure of balance and self-awareness. One day, maybe, Americans will be able to do the same with Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm not holding my breath, but maybe eventually... Hey, I can dream.

Monday, July 2, 2012

25 years in, still going strong...

It was 1988 or 89 that I first heard the Cowboy Junkies Trinity Session, while a grad student in Arizona, and like many people, I was knocked out. (I did have one friend refer to it as "boring," but in an almost apologetic way, as if she knew that hers was an unpopular minority opinion, at least among my circle.) "Sweet Jane" was/is a killer song, of course, but I grew to love a lot of the record just as much, with songs like "Walking After Midnight" and "Misguided Angel." I gave a copy to Uzee -- a casette! Remember those? --  as we were just starting to date, and she loved it too.

Subsequently we bought a few more records, with mixed results. I really like Miles From Our Home and Pale Sun Crescent Moon, but am much less crazy about Open. Somehow I managed to altogether miss Lay It Down, which -- according to Amazon commenters anyway -- seems to be widely regarded as their best album.

I bring up the Junkies because we've just bought a 5-disc set called The Nomad Series, which is available on Amazon for a ridiculously low price, and because Uzee and I are scheduled to see them in Northampton, at the Iron Horse, about a week after we relocate to Massachusetts. (Things like this will, we hope, make our adieu from Hawaii a little easier than it might otherwise be.) The Nomad series is a set of four albums released over 18 months, which is a prodigious amount of work by anyone's standards, and the kind of output you more commonly see from fresh young bands just starting out rather than rock & roll veterans who might be expected to rest on their accomplishments. The accompanying booklet explains that the band, not ablt to decide which direction to move in for their next album, instead decided to release four albums, and imposed the 18-month limit on themsleves in order to prevent the project from just meandering away.


I've listened to three of the five abums so far (there a bonus disc of "extras" thrown into the package) and they're terrific. I particularly like Demons, a set of songs by Vic Chestnutt (whom I knew nothing about before thise), and Sing in My Meadow, which is pretty fuzzy and grungy and raucous.

Taken together, this set is pretty inspiring. As a writer, I've been in print for something like eight years. These guys have been recording and releasing records for three times that long, and they appear to be a long way from running out of ideas. So thanks, guys. I appreciate your verve.

And we'll see you at The Iron Horse.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

More events lining up... (maybe)

File under Possible False Alarms But I Hope Not:

The Wordstock Festival, which I'll be attending in October in Portland, OR (aka "The Microbrew Capital of America") may or may not be asking me to host a writing seminar. This would be about an hour and 15 minutes. The topic I have submitted for their consideration is "Stories as Trains, Stories as Mosaics." Catchy, huh? We'll see if they go for it.

And... The Bookstore Co-Op at the University of Connecticut in scenic Storrs, CT, has asked me to do a reading there as well. Hooray for homegrown support! This will in all likelihood happen in November, after both the west coast events in Oct and the other NYC/CT events in September. Listen, at some point everythin will be finalized and I'll, I don't know, put up a schedule or something. But this is just a heads-up...

In other news: Happy July! June saw the largest total of monthly posts on this blog by far. I have been rewarded by a good number of new visitors daily as well as a steady stream of returnees. Thanks! I will strive to keep the news and entertainment forthcoming, to make it worth your while to return here often.