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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Best of 2013

Here's my not-very-scientific acknowledgment of some stuff I enjoyed a lot (or didn't) in 2013. Definitive? Hell no.

Best book I read this year (fiction): Probably was Susan Steinberg's Spectacle, an odd assortment of short stories that are quite unconventional, in a good way (I think). I reviewed it for PopMatters so here you go. Sometimes I think the stories are mighty thin, sometimes I think they're brilliant. Probably a bit of both.

Most thought-provoking foreign films on DVD: It's a tie this year, with Germany's neo-Nazi drama Combat Girls going neck-and-neck with the film adaptation of Yasmina Khadra's terrific novel The Attack. There were some pretty major changes made to that book in its translation to film, but it's still a fairly riveting experience to watch. Meanwhile, Combat Girls is a very tough, very powerful movie that deserves a large audience IMO.



Album most likely to rekindle your faith in human nature: Brushy One-String's Destiny is filled with powerful performances from this husky-voiced Jamaican singer. Sure, his guitar's only got one string, but this ain't no gimmick. Brushy's the real deal, kids.



Most effective Afro-Western collaboration: Last year we had The Toure-Raichel Collective's Tel Aviv Sessions; this year we have the JuJu album In Trance. Smoking-hot guitar work plays off of tradition djembe (African violin) with a rock-solid percussion section keeping everything lively. If this doesn't make you jump up and down, there's not much I can do for you.



Best film documentary: I have to go with 20 Feet From Stardom, the movie about backup singers (mostly black women) who make the music superstars they work for (mostly white men) sound so much better. With performances by Merry Clayton, Darlene Love, Judith Hill and Tata Vega, among others, there's just too much awesomeness, not to mention joy, to resist here. BUT, a big shout-out also goes to the scathing documentary Blackfish, which pretty much blows the lid off of Sea World's systemic exploitation and abuse of not only orcas but also the human trainers who work with them. Both these movies are well worth catching on DVD if you haven't seen them already.

Guiltiest pleasure, DVD division: DaVinci's Demons, a Starz TV show that just takes the loony and runs with it. Leonardo as a sort of Renaissance-Man secret agent fighting against the Pope and vampires? Sure, why not? Runner-up: Spartacus: War of the Damned.



Most effective use of guitar distortion: Bardo Pond's Peace on Venus is pretty much what I want my imaginary band, The Non-Dairy Creamers, to sound like. Imagine Crazy Horse after a couple bottles of cough syrup.



Lamest post-apocalyptic movie of the summer: After Earth. I had high hopes going into this one, but it was just... lame. I don't mean to pick on Will Smith's kid, who starred in it, but he is a sorta charisma vacuum. Also, the monsters sucked.

Best TV show: Game of Thrones, OF COURSE.

(WARNING: Season 3 spoilers below, sort of)

Friday, December 13, 2013

No, I haven't been abducted by aliens.

I've been absent from this blog for something like a month and a half, due to a perfect storm of external circumstances, including hectic-ness at work, the teaching semester coming to a close, the holidays, my forty-tenth birthday (gulp), and various other factors too mundane to mention here. Happily, much of the craziness is now in my rearview mirror, meaning that I will perhaps have a bit more time to tend to this rather desolate-of-late blog address.

On the upside, here's a bit of vacuous-but-fun tuneage to take your mind off the wintry snowscape outside your window:


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thinner Than Skin nominated for DSC Prize

Hey, this is a fairly huge deal.

The lovely an talented Uzma Aslam Khan has had her latest novel, Thinner Than Skin, nominated for the India-based DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The Prize is affiliated in some way with Germany's Geothe-Institut (I'm not sure exactly how) and it awards a hefty sum to the winner. Just as importantly, though, it's nice to see Uzee's fine fine book getting more of the attention it deserves.


It's also nice to see it up there with books by big shots like Nilinjana Roy, Nadeem Aslam and Mohsin Hamid. It's a great book. I recommend it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I know it's a cliche

...but what the hell, it's a true cliché. To wit: fall sure is beautiful in New England. I took these pictures while walking a few days ago.




I'm glad I'm from here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Clearly this was rigged

So, a few days ago I went to the Greenfield Blues and BBQ Festival, an annual event up in Greenfield, Mass that hosts numerous good bands, plenty of tasty food (or so I suppose, being a non-meat-eater and therefore sort of out of it when it comes to BBQ) and--who knew?--a mustache contest. That's right, a mustache contest. I had no idea, but when they made the announcement, I felt the need to step up. Many are called, but few are et cetera. So I made my way to the clearing in front of the stage and there I met me competition. To wit:


So, I figured I had a shot. There were three categories: Best In Show, Best Curl and Most Disturbing. I figured the guy holding the puppy would get Best In Show, and so he did. Seriously, a puppy? Why not just hold up a big sign that says "I'm a starving orphan with no legs, please be nice to me"? But a puppy is what he had, and he won, so there's nothing more to be said.


The guy in the blue shirt to my right (your left) won for Best Curl, and that was fine, as my mustache doesn't Curl so much as Droop. But I definitely thought I was in with a sniff as far as most Disturbing went, so imagine my bitterness when that prize went to the twerp two guys to my right (your left) in the blue T-shirt and goatee. Despite the fact that the rules clearly state "no beards" (yes, there were rules, and yes, they said this), this guy shows up with a beard-mustache combo which is hardly disturbing at all and walks away with the rather snazzy gift package. Which included: a T-shirt, pint glass, hat and metal bucket (not sure what the bucket is for, but whatever). So you can understand why I'm bitter.

Fortunately, this mustache of mine isn't going anywhere. And there's always next year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

My "Would You Rather" interview over at TNBBC

The ever-lively Lori over at The Next Best Book Club blog has been running a series of author interviews called "Would You Rather," which feature questions like:  "Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?" and "Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?"

As you can see, Lori isn't interested in asking the same old questions, which is all good. I did my best to answer them honestly but entertainingly, which wasn't always easy.

Next up: Lori asks us writers to donate a recipe for the coming fall/winter. I ought to be able to come up with something... stay tuned.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Don'T Open That Door! #55: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

The latest installment of my ongoing column for PopMatters.com, Don't Open That Door!, is up and running. This weeks it's the 1959 kitsch-fest Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, starring Allison Hayes and Yvette Vickers.


For those of you unfamiliar with the plot: Allison Hayes plays a woman who grows to fifty feet tall. That's about it, although there's a good deal of other melodrama worked in around the fringes of this basic plot. It's all kind of hilarious, in certain moods.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Better late than never

So there we were, sitting in the Foundry coffee shop in Northampton following our blowout anniversary dinner on Sunday, when this kickass instrumental tune came on over the radio (Radio Paradise from Canada, in case anyone's wondering). I did some digging around, and found it: the song was called "La Femme d'Argent" and it's by a French band called Air. It came out in 1998, hence the title of this post. But in my defense, in 1998 I was living in Morocco and Pakistan, and wasn't totally up to date with the latest developments in the French ambient music scene.

Anyway, I love the song, and the video too, so, happy September 17:


Sunday, September 15, 2013

It was twenty years ago today...


There were no cell phones, no computers in every home, no flatscreen TVs. CDs were still kind of new. Bill Clinton had been President for almost a year, Facebook didn't exist, Amazon was just a river. The hottest show on TV was Seinfeld, and nobody had heard of--or probably even thought of--The Sopranos, Lost, Mad Men or Breaking Bad. John Paul II was Pope. No one in the USA knew who the Taliban were except a few people who paid attention to such things. The biggest rock bands in the world were Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and Kurt Cobain was still alive.

Uzee and I were living in Tucson, AZ, and on September 15, 1993, we got married.

This was our civil ceremony. In 1994 we would get married two more times, once in Pakistan and once in the US. This one was legally binding, though, so it counts. We trundled down to the city courthouse in the early afternoon, signed some papers, swore before the judge that we weren't cousins--I'm not even kidding, folks--and bam! We were hitched. A couple friends took pictures. We split a wine cooler instead of champagne and some kind of whole-grain cookie in place of wedding cake, and there you go. We both wore vests, and Uzee wore a thin red leather tie that had been my father's. I wore his hat.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Another Romanian interview/review for Trespassing

Uzma Aslam Khan's Romanian edition of Trespassing has engendered yet another Romanian-language interview, which I once again fail to understand whatsoever. it's probably pretty nice, right?

Here is the sum total of things I know about Romania:

1. Nadia Comenici (not sure if I spelled that right)

That's it. Still, if I'm going to know only one thing about your country, it might as well be an astonishing gymnast who scored perfect 10s at the Olympics.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

More new neighbors; or, the thing I possibly missed the most while living overseas all those years


Maybe not the most obvious thing, but there it is. I love hummingbirds. As in, loooove them. The affair started in Tucson, AZ, where Uzee and I put out a feeder and had tons feeding there (and saw tons more at other places besides our front porch). All kinds too: purple-beaked and ivory-bileld and whatnot. Hummingbirds migrate, and most species go hang out in South America during our winter, then come up to Texas and the southwest when it gets warm again. 

Since leaving Arizona in (gulp) 1995, we've had to rely on memories, as there are no hummingbirds outside of the Americas, and we were in Morocco, Pakistan and Hawaii. (There were sunbirds, which are very cool and are a relative to hummingbirds; they're small,  colorful, creepery things with long curved bills that slurp nectar out of flowers. but they're not quite the same.) Now, however, we're back, and having moved to our terrific new house with horses in the back yard and bunnies scampering across the lawn, we dusted off our feeder, hung it out, and presto! More hummingbirds than you can believe.


We don't get the variety here in MA that we got in the southwest; the only species that makes it this far north is the ruby-throat. But still, that's cooler than words can adequately describe, so there you go. For some reason we seem to get about 10 females to every male, but whatever.

Of course, they can be tricky to photograph, as they tend to move pretty quick. Personally, I like this action shot the best:


And for those of you NOT prone to motion sickness, here's a little video I took out the window of my study, which appears to have been captured in the midst of an earthquake although it was not. This is a multi-bird melee that was going on one afternoon on our back stoop. I was twitchy because I was trying to film everywhere at once, and because, well, I'm kind of twitchy. But if you can get through it, it gives a pretty good idea of the kind of hummingbird mayhem we're experiencing here.

video

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Don't Open That Door! is back...

After a brief hiatus of a couple weeks, wherein I recharged my batteries and generally took a break from certain things, my PopMatters column Don't Open That Door! is back with installment #51. This week we're focusing on 1951's The Thing From Another World, aka one of the best movies of the decade, no kidding.


Kenneth Tobey and James Arness lead the way, but really this is an ensemble piece that crackles with great dialogue, moody lighting and atmospheric sets. John Carpenter would remake it in 1986 with a lot more blood and gore; it's an okay attempt but lacks the charm of the original.

So take a peek at the column, and do me a favor and Tweet about it, Like it on Facebook and so forth. If people say they like it, I'll be able to do more and more, which is what I'm hoping for...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Attention, Romanian speakers!

The lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan was recently interviewed for a Romanian web site site in honor of the recent release of the Romanian edition of her terrific book, Trespassing. (Her 15th edition? 16th? I can't keep up.)

Here's the cover of the new edition, which is pretty sweet, featuring as it does silkworm butterflies in the act of mating.


If you read the book, you'll see that both concepts -- silkworms, and mating in its various forms -- are both crucial to the storyline as well as the bigger themes. So, the cover designer was pretty clever here.

Here's an extract from the interview:

Aşteptarea virează către cititor, căutăm ce nu cunoaştem şi încercăm să ne punem în locul celuilalt. Încă o diferenţă se referă la faptul că în imaginarul vestic există adeseori preconcepţii, generate de media, despre cum ar trebui să arate Orientul, în special cu referire la femei, care, de cele mai multe ori sînt văzute ca nişte fiinţe ascunse, fără voce, obligate să se mărite.

Okay, no idea what's going on in that first sentence. The second has words like "diferenta" and "imaginarul" that are temptingly close to words that I do know, along with the nifty phrase "preconceptii, generate de media." Plus I'm willing to go to bat that I know what "Orientul" is getting at. So okay, I think we're doing all right, as long as that first sentence isn't saying something like, "Milk sure has gotten expensive these days, but at least you can freeze it!"

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Interesting blog review of An Age of Madness

Okay so it's not a rave by any means, although the reviewer does say some nice things along the lines of

"I was worried about a male author writing a convincing female lead, and I think Mr. Maine has done a great job with that"

as well as

"while I normally don't like unreliable narrators, I understand why he did it, and I think he pulled it off very well"

But she also has some reservations about the tone of the book -- ie, it's too depressing -- as well as the back cover copy, which she feels misrepresents the story. As far as tone goes, yeah, this is probably my most depressing book. Guilty as charged. It's a pretty dark story about some pretty dark stuff, and once I went there, I wasn't about to get out of it too easily. So okay, if that's not your thing, then I can understand that.

I actually find her criticism of the cover copy more interesting, as she makes the claim that

"unlike the back cover copy, I am not going to intentionally mislead you in order to not give away a spoiler. Don't read that copy. It's bad in that you will think you're about to read a very different kind of book"

I find this interesting because I helped to write the copy (most writers do, I think), and thought I did an okay job. Apart from a series of questions that sketch out the basic parameters of the main character, Regina, the copy pretty much consists of one sentence: "An Age of Madness peels back the layers of Regina's psyche in a voice that is brash, bitter, and blackly humorous, laying bare her vulnerabilities while drawing the reader unnervingly close to this memorable heroine."

I can understand the reservation someone might have about the word "heroine;" Regina is many things but she is probably nobody's idea of a heroine. But she is the novel's main character and narrator, so it seems fair enough to characterize her in this way. Someone else might say the book is too grim to be considered "humorous," even if it's "blackly humorous." But I don't think so; there any number of passages that make me giggle, or even laugh out loud, and I've given enough readings to know that audiences tend to respond the same way.

This brings us to the blurbs from other writers -- Stuart Archer Cohen, Natalie Danford and Jincy Willett, all of whom were kind enough to read the manuscript and commit their praise to print. Everybody says very kind things and they say them memorably. Maybe Stuart's final comment, that the novel is "intriguing and uplifting," would throw some people. I do think there's a good deal of resolution and forward movement by the end of the story, but I can understand why some readers would not find the book "uplifting." It's a pretty sad story, I'll cop to that, and I do my best to avoid pat answers and by-the-numbers "redemption," which has been a buzzword for years now that basically indicates a happy ending.

Anyway I find the blogger's comments interesting, because they raise all kinds of questions about our expectations of a book, and of the description of the book that -- like it or not -- most of us still use in determining whether or not we're going to read something. This is the first time a reviewer has ever commented on the jacket copy of one of my stories, and it makes me wonder about books that I've read that perhaps didn't mesh with the expectations that I had. Were my expectations fed by the jacket description? Quite likely.

No great conclusions here, just food for thought.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Meet the new neighbors

And I do mean "Neigh"-bors...

Sorry. Really, really sorry. I just can't help myself sometimes.

So then, Jasper and Sundance. Two horses who live in the barn behind our new house and whose paddock is more or less our back yard. The landlord who rents the house also rents the barn and yard, so these guys are our neighbors for the duration, which is fine with us.


Jasper is on the left, Sundance on the right with the white blotch and blond mane. I admit, I never knew much about horses--they actually kind of freak me out--but these guys are real characters, very playful and curious and unthreatening. They're also very responsive to both me and Uzee, which is sweet, as they come trotting over whenever we're in the vicinity in order to see what's going on:


So, we already pretty much love them.

Those things on their faces are fly guards, by the way. They look opaque but they're not, they just keep the bugs out of their eyes, which keeps the fellas happy.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Been moving. Been busy.

Been out of touch with this blog. Not much more to say, really. Except this: now that the moving is just about done (hooray!), I'll strive to be more regular about this whole blog thing, again.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I have seen the SHARKNADO...

... And I am speechless. But in a good way.


If you missed it--and really, you owe it to yourself to see this--it airs again on Thursday at 7pm EST on SyFy.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Okay, weirdest diet experience ever. But it's working.

I'm not a guy who ever obsessed much about his weight, but I do come from a family of people who think about it a lot. When my father was my age he was 300 pounds, and various siblings have struggled to maintain their fitness over the years. I was always the skinny one who never had to think about it much.

About five years ago I crept very close to the 200-pound mark, which freaked me out a bit. I was always someone who weighed in the 180-185 range, but apparently the move from Lahore back to the USA caused me to gain some pounds. (I know, big surprise.) So, like a lot of people, I started to look more closely at what I ate, I cut out the snacks and crap desserts, kept a log of my intake and so forth. The upshot was that I lost 17 pounds within a few months, returning to my more-or-less standard 181-182. However, it took a lot of work, and a lot of maintenance.

It will surprise few people that I didn't maintain. I'm in my late 40s now, perilously close to 50, and I'm not as wired or active as I used to be. My metabolism is slowing down, I think, and I have a pretty sedentary life--I write, I teach sometimes, I work at a group home at nights, which involves a lot of sitting. Sure, I still get up and out and I go for walks and all that, but it's not enough to keep the weight from creeping back. Last January I was in the mid-190s again, and it was depressing.

So I started the whole cycle and again got to the mid-180s, but that was about it. After a couple months I stabilized and didn't drop any more, and I got tired of life without nuts or desserts. I more or less resigned myself to being in the mid-to-upper 180s, at best, from here on out.

By chance I came across an article on Yahoo about something called the "East Fast" diet. It's also sometimes called the 5:2 diet, and a book about the same is apparently a hot seller on Amazon, but the principles are simple enough to outline here: Five days out of the week, you eat whatever you want. Two days, you limit yourself to 600 calories for men, 500 for women. The two "fasting" days should not be consecutive. (Mine are Sunday and Wednesday.) If something comes up and you can't keep a fast day, make it up later--the next day, or the day after that.

Sounds bogus, I know. But I've been doing this for three weeks and I've lost six pounds.

Last week Uzee and I went to Provincetown. From Monday through Friday I ate, literally anything I wanted, and there's plenty to eat in P-town. Starting with elaborate breakfasts at the B&B, followed by lunches with beer and/or dessert and/or both, followed by afternoon snacks consisting of green tea and (usually) some sort of cookie or pastry. Dinner would come later, usually significantly large and heavy and also usually containing beer and/or dessert.

This went on for five days, from Monday through Friday. Friday night while driving back I helped myself to some takeout fish and chips and a chocolate shake. It was that kind of week.

Then yesterday I had a fasting day of 600 calories, and this morning, dreading to see how much I had gained, I stepped on the scale. It read 180.5. Yup--after all that bingeing, I had lost half a pound in a week.

Now, it's true that we did a lot of walking during the week, but come on. It wasn't rigorous, vigorous hiking through the woods, it was strolling along Commercial Street poking around jewelry and T-shirt shops. There was a museum or two and a few art galleries and any number of funky outlets selling "contemporary gifts," and one lovely day at the beach where we walked for an hour or so and sat staring at the waves for thirty minutes. But there were no hardcore workouts, no hiking or biking or swimming at all. It was very, very mellow. And I ate like a horse and lost half a pound.

So I'm officially a believer. This diet, whatever it's doing, is doing something. My plan is to keep at it till I weigh 175 pounds, which is what I weighed 20 years ago when I lived in Arizona and rode a bike 6 miles to work every day. If I can do that, now, without a regular exercise regimen, just through diet and a moderately healthy lifestyle (don't drive when I can walk, try to do something active a few times per week), then I'll be a believer for good.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Congratulations to my buddy Julia...

...Who has just gotten married this week. I have yet to meet the guy, who's named John and is Canadian, but who is apparently the bee's knees, as they say. So I'm happy for them both, especially Julia, who's been through some shit and deserves contentment.

We go back quite a ways--to the summer of 1980 in fact. Here's a picture from 1982 or 83 (can't remember which, but I think it's '83), when we were both counselors at an "art camp" called the Center for Creative Youth at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. It was as students at this camp that Julia and I had met in 1980... Anyway in this picture she is laughing about the balloons obscuring her face and I'm being the college-aged geek that I was.


Yup, some blackmail material here. And the cropped close-up doesn't make things any better:


I spent much of life at that time trying to be cool but there's only so cool you can look when wearing a T-shirt that says "Ask Me," and to my credit I think I knew that even then. Good times, sort of.

Congratulations again, Julia. And you too John.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Vieux Farka Toure rules. But then you knew that already. Right?

Uzee and I saw Vieux Farka Toure play at the Iron Horse last night in Northampton. It was awesome, as in, it generated a feeling of awe within me. For several reasons: first, the guy can play like nobody's business. Second, his set was so fluid and effortless, he just rolled from one song into the next, creating this groove that never stopped even when he took a few minutes to chat between songs. Third, his backing musicians (bass, acoustic guitar, kalabash) were so tight within him it was like they were a single organism.

I wish I had a video from the show but I don't, so this will have to do. Here's Vieux playing "Ay Bakoy," a song from his new record Mon Pays, which he played last night:



If you ever get the chance to see him... take it.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Age of Madness now on Kindle

For all you technophiles out there, An Age of Madness has now been released on Kindle. And it's a fair bit cheaper that way than buying the paper-and-ink version of the book, so there you go.


I don't own a Kindle... but I know a number of people who do. Will I ever make the leap? I kind of doubt it, but you know, never say never and all that.

For those of you still without these little plastic devices, but who do own an iPad or tablet or even just a computer, you can download the Kindle app from Amazon, which effectively means you can turn whatever it is you have into an e-reader (even your phone, if that's your thing).

Anyway it's a great book, if I say so myself, so take a look. And thanks.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Uzma's new essay on CounterPunch

The lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan has written a new essay on the ongoing violence in Pakistan, which has spread to the mountainous northern areas. This is distressing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that these areas are historically some of the most tolerant--and beautiful--in the whole subcontinent.

We traveled there in 1996. I looked upon Nanga Parbat ("Naked Mountain") many times. Now I would think twice about going back, and then think again.

Please read this. Thanks.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Teaching at Smith College

I will be teaching an Intermediate Writing Workshop over at Smith College in Northampton this fall, beginning in September. Woo-hoo! as the kids are all saying these days. The class will be small (12 people) and, I'm sure, filled with highly motivated, hardworking students.

It's been a year since I was teaching anywhere and man oh man, I'm looking forward to it.


My Greek's a little rusty, so I'm not clear on the slogan. But I'll work on it.

ANNNND, big thanks to those people who said a nice thing or two about me as my references, in order for me to land this gig. You know who you are, and I couldn't have landed this gig without you.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Not your typical Metal Blade band

Metal Blade is a label, for those of you who didn't know. They sign all kinds of metal bands, and also other bands, like Purson here, who play guitar righteously and rock out.

I'm a sucker for this stuff.



They have a new record recently released and I like it quite a lot.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Some new reviews over at Spectrum Culture

So I've been writing about one review per week at SpectrumCulture.com -- mainly music reviews but also the occasional graphic novel as well. Here's a selection:

Two-album compilation of Kenyan Afro-funk from the 1970s and 80s. Great stuff.

Album review of Fain, the latest from compelling electro-folkie outfit Wolf People.

Collection of 1950s EC horror comics by Jack Davis, master illustrator. Not for the squeamish!

Oversized Prince Valiant Sunday comics collection from the 1940s? What's not to like?

Savannah's progressive metalheads Kylesa get their latest offering, Ultraviolet, reviewed here.

And there's much more to come! The bulk of my reviews and columns are still over at PopMatters.com, but hey, I'm branching out. SpectrumCulture is a fun site in general and they try to do some different things (restaurant reviews? Why not?), so come take a look.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Don't Open That Door! recent and upcoming columns

Ho there! Summer has officially arrived. It was in the 80s yesterday and is supposed to be so again this afternoon and tomorrow.

Condolences to the folks in Oklahoma, who are struggling with the onset of summer storm season in a terrible way.

Meanwhile, my excellent column Don't Open That Door! over at PopMatter continues to trundle along. It was about this time last year that we got started, so, in the spirit of anniversaries and so on, here's a recap of recent events and a peek at things to come:

Don't Open That Door! #42: Devil Girl From Mars (1954): Leather-clad space dominatrix invades Scotland, of all places. Locals respond by drinking copiously. What's not to like?
http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/171301-dont-open-that-door-42-devil-girl-from-mars-1954/

Don't Open That Door! #41: Terror is a Man (1959): Shipwrecked sailor discovers evil is afoot--literally--in this moody ripoff of The Island of Dr. Moreau. Four legs good, two legs better!
http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/171272-dont-open-that-door-41-terror-is-a-man-1959/

Don't Open That Door! #40: Invisible Invaders (1959): They're invisible, but they're invading, and we don't have much time to figure out what to do next. John Agar and John Carradine? Sign me up!
http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/170850-dont-open-that-door-40-invisible-invaders-1959/ 

Don't Open That Door! #39: The Day the World Ended (1955): Roger Corman's first movie, concerning a small band of survivors of the end of the world. Also: a monster! Maybe more than one.
http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/170546-dont-open-that-door-39-the-day-the-world-ended-1955/

And don't miss these upcoming thrillers!

Don't Open That Door! #43: THEM! (1954)

Don't Open That Door! #44: The Mummy (1959)

Don't Open That Door! #45: The Mysterians (1957)

Don't Open That Door! #46: The Amazing Transparent Man (1959)

Don't Open That Door! #47: Varan, the Unbelievable (1958)

Don't Open That Door! #48: The Fly (1958)

Hey, that's a pretty good few weeks! Don't miss these columns, and remember to hit that Facebook Like button and spread the word... The more hits the pages get, the better off for everybody. (Well, especially me. You know what I mean.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rochester Lilacs

As promised, a few shots from the 2013 Rochester Lilac Festival:




We tried going on Monday but it was, like, 45 degrees and rainy and miserable. Tried again yesterday (Tuesday) with much better results... The sun was even shining. Woo-hoo!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Cool song, kind of a dumb video

But hey, it's got nekkid girls in it! Drawings of them anyway. So there's that. Also the lyrics are fairly incomprehensible, which is always a plus. Mostly though, the song is pretty great. Sort of a molten, dirge-y Alice in Chains vibe, which is fine with me, without being a direct copy, which is even better.



We're here in Rochester for the Lilac Festival. Some pictures in the next couple days, promise.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Greetings from Albany. NY

...home of the annual Tulip Festival. To wit:





This afternoon it's on to Rochester and the annual Lilac Extravaganza. (Dunno if that's what it's really called, but it should be.)

And hey, to anyone who's feeling it: Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Circulation Soup

It snowed yesterday. Yep. Snow.

As promised, here's the recipe for a mighty nice soup that will help keep your blood flowing and (hopefully) keep the chill at bay:

Ingredients:

2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbs chopped garlic
1 Tbs minced ginger
pinch cayenne
1 Tsp salt
3 or 4 nice-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
7 cups vegetable stock
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup green peas
2 cups chopped watercress
1 cup chopped cilantro
Salt & pepper

In a large soup pot, fry the onion, garlic and ginger in the olive oil on medium heat for a few minutes, till the onion starts to brown. Add the cayenne and salt and cook for a minute, then stir in the sweet potato. Let it cook a few minutes to absorb the flavors. Then add the stock and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, till the potatoes get soft.

Take everything off the heat, add the cinnamon stick and let the pot cool for 15 minutes or so.

When it's cool enough to handle, run the mixture through a blender and puree till it's velvety smooth. You'll probably need to do this in batches. Rinse out the soup pot and pour the puree back in. Put it on very low heat.

Whip the yogurt till it's smooth and creamy and stir it in. Add the peas, watercress and cilantro. Heat everything gently for a few minutes till it's all warmed through. You don't want to boil the yogurt though.

Add salt and pepper to taste. You probably won't need much.

Serve with corn bread or some kind of crusty baguette. Nice. Feel the warmth.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Place marking

So, astute readers f this blog will notice that I haven't written anything here for a while--eleven days, in fact. Perhaps you suspect that I've been busy with the exciting life of being a writer and overnight staff at a group home. Hah! While I have been working at the group home, it's true, there's nothing much else happening of note. Hence the silence.

I mean, I've been busy enough. I did my taxes, which is always a lengthy and anxiety-provoking process. (Good news: I'm done for another eleven months.) I've been reviewing stuff over at PopMatters, and to a lesser degree at Spectrum Culture. I've been watching Game of Thrones (duh) and my other guilty pleasures, Survivor and The Voice. And I invented a killer recipe for what I call Circulation Soup, which contains tons of stuff that's supposed to help get your blood moving. (Sweet potatoes, ginger, garlic, cayenne, watercress etc.) It's actually fairly awesome. Maybe I'll post the recipe soon, if I can remember it.

And, lo, I've been keeping at it with Don't Open That Door!, my truly awesome column for PopMatters, which I still hope might--someday--make its way into the world in book form. Maybe not, but, it's worth clinging to the dream.


But in terms of actual, you know, writing books and stuff, there's been a minimum of that since moving to sunny (sometimes) and cold (often) Massachusetts. Mostly I'm doing stuff like working and buying groceries and trying to keep the house relatively clean and watching DVDs of dumb movies that I'm going to review. I will say that my agent has evinced a recent flicker of interest about my next book, so maybe he's putting together a strategy to get it out there. With luck, I'll have something more substantial to announce in the next few months. Meanwhile, here's this.


It's relevant, trust me.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring? Spring!

Okay, it's been a while getting here, but I have good reason to believe that sring may finally be just around the corner..


The above photo is of the crocuses I planted in September--I put in dozens of them:


I love how they bloom right there in the snow. They're like, "Screw you, winter."

They were supposed to be a mix of colors--white, yellow and purple. All the evidence so far points to their being only yellow, but whatever. I'll take what I can get, at this point.


Above are a couple of tulips, which are sprouting at an alarming rate along the front of the house. This is great, especially as we face north and so get virtually no direct sunshine along there. I was afraid I had planted in vain, but... so far so good. Also, there are daffodils mixed in there. Maybe they're the red things sprouting in back? I'm not sure. Not a huge fan of daffodils, myself, but supposedly they prevent the squirrels from eating the bulbs.

I also put in a few along the sunny edge of our parking spot:


With any luck, these will bloom just fine.

So: winter is in retreat, spring is on its way, but will we have flowers? Stay tuned.

Friday, March 29, 2013

My first couple of contributions over at Spectrum Culture

Spectrum Culture is a lively web site covering music, movies, books and--hey presto!--food, and I've been invited to contribute. Being congenitally unable to say no, I have signed on to write some graphic novel reviews (ie, comics) and will also drop the occasional record review as well.

My first two contrbutions went up last week and this, the first being a review of the the new Black Rebel Motorcycle Club album, and the seconf being my contribution to the site's Monthly Mixtape, in which writers say a few words about recent songs that they think deserve some attention. I dug up a live version of Red Baraat's "Shruggy Ji," but all the tunes on the list have soem merit, and I invite you the check 'em out. (Red Baraat shows up on page 3 of the list, btw.)

There's a lot going on on this site, so bookmark it and check back once in a while. Right now new content seems to go up every Friday, but I have a feeling that schedule is going to start accelerating soon...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Don't Open That Door! #35: Teenagers From Outer Space

Ohhh, this is a good one, kids! The latest entry into my ongoing PopMatters column, Don't Open That Door!, is a little 1959 quasi-masterpiece entitled Teenagers From Outer Space. I can hear you asking right now: "Wait--you mean there are other kinds?"


The movie features teenagers from--wait for it--outer space, who land on earth intending to take over the place for, um, some reason that I can't remember right now but I'm sure seems very importnt to them. There's a flying saucer and death-ray guns and giant lobster-like monsters and all manner of mayhem. But that's not the weirdest thing about the movie. The weirdest thing is this:

Against all odds, this movie doesn't totally suck.


Here's the first paragraph of the column:

"A flying saucer arrives on Earth carrying a load of teenagers with names like Thor and Derek, plus their lantern-jawed captain, who appears related to Ed O’Neill of Married With Children. These interplantary white supremacists (there is much talk of “our supreme race”) decide that Earth is a perfect grazing ground for their herds of giant, flesh-eating Gargons, and the presence of human beings is of little concern. Only sensitive Derek, who busily reads from a forbidden book of Pablo Neruda poems in his spare time, has qualms. He’s quickly outvoted, so he runs off from his heartless companions, one of whom is dispatched to catch him while the others return to their home planet to pick up the Gargon fleet and conduct it to Earth. The race is on."

And things just go downhill from there.

Do me a favor and trot over to the column and check it out. The more hits the page gets, the better for me. And then click on the Facebook Like button and/or the Tweet button and send this little masterpieces out into the internetosphere, or whatever we're calling it these days. The more hits and the more popularity, the longer they'll let me continue with this column, which is something I enjoy a great deal. Thanks.



Next week it's The Deadly Mantis, another favorite from years gone by. Be sure to check that one out, too...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pretty much done with winter. Right?

So, last weekend my tulips and daffodils and crocuses began poking their noses up out of the cold heart ground, and I found myself fluched with enthusiasm for, y'know, spring and life and renewal and color and all that. Then on Monday night it snowed, a lot, and it kept up on Tuesday. We got the better part ofn eight inches, and I'm officially Pretty Sick of Winter. Then I did my taxes yesterday, and believe me that didn't make me Any Less Sick.

So what's a guy to do to keep his spirits alive? Well, I reviewed the excellent Mars Attacks book for Spectrum Media, and it should be up online in a week or ten days. And I've been gulping down previews for season 3 of Game of Thrones like there's no tomorrow. Lame, I know. But helpful nonetheless. As I've said more than once on this blog, it's the best. Show. Ever.

If and when any surviving crocuses/tulips dare to raise their heads above ground, I promise I'll let you know. The way this winter is dragging, I'm thinking May. Mid-May. Or maybe June.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spectrum Culture blog is well worth a look (and I'll soon be writing for it)

Take a look at this nifty web site, Spectrum Culture, which a small but mighty site dedicated to books, movies, music and food. I have been invited to write for it, and I will be doing so, concentrating mainly on comics and maybe a little music from time to time.

This will of course not interfere with my PopMatters writing in any way, especially my ongoing column, Don't Open That Door!. I have way too much fun writing all that stuff, and it will remain my first priority. (After my own books, of course.)

Nothing there that I've written as of yet, but there are some good reviews and plenty of fun features, so stop by and check it out...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

AWP 2013 was a party and a half


I had never been to AWP before, and I have still never been to the MLA conference, so I really didn't know what to expect. But the Bookfair part of AWP, at least, was hugely fun and a little bit overwhelming.


I signed books for an hour, along with some fellow Red Hen Press writers, and got the chance to shmooze with a few peole who were genuinely interested in what I do. This was gratifying to say the least. I also met with tons of Red Hen press people, who were without exception enthusiastic and vociferous in their love of books in general and An Age of Madness in particular. So that was mighty exciting also.



Sorry about the blurry pics. It was indoors and these shots were taken with a phone (thanks Uzee!). Plus, y'know, I'm sort of jittery and dont stand still much.

More important is Red Hen's unique take on book promotion, to wit:


That's right, it's a candy bar. The David Maine An Age of Madness candy bar to be exact. Buy a book, get a candy bar. Red Hen does this for every new release and I have to say, it's a stoke of genius. And also tasty. And also popular. how popular? Well, I got the last one, so there you go.

Plus as a SPECIAL BONUS for making the trip to Boston, I was able to meet up afterward with the lovely and rather frighteningly brilliant Fizzah Sajjad, a former student of mine (from 10th grade!) who is now a Fulbright scholar getting her Master's at MIT. Holy shit. There was a time, once, when I could say with confidence that I knew more things than this person, but those days have long since passed.


It's been eleven years since we'd last met, so it was quite the reunion. Fizzah joined me, Uzee, and Uzee's editor, the lovely and talented Hilary from Clockroot Books, for lunch at a Greek place in Boston near Newbury Street. (See photo below, in which we are toasting our day with empty water glasses. This was my idea and it made sense at the time.) We then strolled Newbury Street to the quite awesome Trident Bookstore, which besides selling books also has a pretty killer restaurant offering a quite tasty (ahem) apple cobbler. A fine time was had by all, trust me. No pics of the cobbler, unfortunately. But I highly recommend the shop.


So, a great big SHOUT OUT to Red Hen Press for being such a great publisher with such a lively stable of talented and compelling authors, and also for takign the time to ask me to appear at AWP. It was, frankly, loads more fun than I had anticipated (much less stuffy and "academic" than I'd feared).

And I haven't even mentioned Traveling Marla -- but will do so soon. Promise.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Off to AWP in 20 minutes!

Hey, it's Saturday, which means the Bookfair part of the conference is free to the public! So go take a look, and stop by to say hi.

It's a beautiful cloudless day here in western Mass., and I believe Boston is the same. It's a terrific day to get out of the house and work off some of that cabin fever. Hynes Center in Boston (Copley Square next to the Sheraton, on Boylston Street). I'm signing books from 12:30 to 1:30 at Booth 304.

See you there... And if not, I'll try to put some pictures up tomorrow, provided my camera behaves.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Another blogger says nice things about me & my book. Shucks.

Take a gander at the wryly-titled blog In Which Our Hero, which ran this very nice review of An Age of Madness back in February but which I only noticed yesterday.

Obviously a discerning reader possessed of fine critical taste, the elusive "Keith," who is reputed to be a librarian in Los Angeles, has many fine things to say about the book. To wit:

"Maine's characters are the novel's strong suit. Regina has a sharp and distinctive voice, and Maine's not afraid to let her be unlikable. The principal supporting characters, Anna and Russell ... are equally well drawn, and Maine is very good at letting us see them through Regina's eyes in ways that let us understand how that view might be distorting things."

Told you he was discerning...

In all seriousness, a big thanks to Keith out there in LA for taking the time to read the book and write up something about it. It's much appreciated!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Hindu (Indian newspaper) loves Thinner Than Skin

Here's link to a terrific interview/review with Uzee in The Hindu, one of India's biggest newspapers, as she talkes about Thinner Than Skin, the writing process in general, and a whole pile of other stuff:

A vivid contouring of politics, geography, relationships and “fragments that never extended far enough into history books but lingered in the air”, of vastness and intimacy, [Thinner Than] Skin is a story of lovers, exiles, dreamers, wanderers, set flush with a backdrop that’s as mythic as it is spectacular: Pakistan’s Kaghan Valley, the Karakoram and Pamir Mountains, forests of deodar and pine watched by owls, rivers and lakes born of “mating of glaciers” and violence of wind-blown rumour. Destinies as sinuous, entwined and varied as the ancient trading routes along the Silk Road fill out Skin, perspectives shape-shift like snowmelt in mountainous passes where “China encroaches and Pakistanis, Uzbeks, Russians, Chinese, and Afghans all come together to trade”. Inhabiting this world, Skin dwells on dispossession, the rent in silken connections, the drift when love is “like a Pakistani glacier. It was difficult to say if it was growing or retreating”.

It's quite a long article and there's a lot more to it, so take a look. Oh and the book is great too, if you haven't checked it out already.

IN OTHER NEWS: Just three days till AWP in Boston. I'll be there at the Red Hen Booth from 12:30 to 1:30pm on Saturday afternoon, so stop by and say howdy if you're near the Hynes Convention Center.