Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Congratulations! We've Never heard of You



On top of all my school work, I'm trying to smooth out the last few wrinkles in my submission letter. Hopefully, this time I'll be able to attract some attention from an agent or publisher instead of just another vague form-rejection letter.

This is the hard part of writing.

It's not that the rejection letters I've received thus far have been negative. It's that they've been neutral and impersonal. I'd almost prefer to read, "You must be kidding if you think this is publishable. Instead of sending your MS back I've decided to save the world the misery induced by your writing and have burned it. Enclosed you will find the ashes. Fuck you very much."

This would at least mean they read the sample chapters.

But instead I get vague responses of, "We're not interested in your work at this time." Does that mean try again later? Keep trying, just not here? What?

The most aggravating rejection letter so far was the one that said they weren't interested in even reading my MS because I wasn't a best selling author and thus would not make them lots and lots of money but if I happened to become a best selling author they'd be happy to look over my next MS. Sort of that whole publishing catch-22: We won't be your agent because you aren't already published but you can't get published without an agent.

The indie publishers I've sent queries to, the ones who don't require agented middlemen, haven't bothered to write back at all.

But am I discouraged? Yeah, slightly. But I press on, just the same.

Monday, September 29, 2003

No More Shushing, This is a Free speech Zone



John Ashcroft; or as I affectionately like to call him, Crisco Johnny, is pissing off librarians with the Patriot Act, specifically provision 2115 which requires them to hand over user records at the drop of a hat. But the librarians are fighting back.

See, people forget how important librarians are. We know where the books you want are located. If you have information needs, we have the information. That article on microfiche? I have it. And if you want it, then you'd better not step on my toes, Mr. Attorney General. Or suddenly, you might not have the legal briefs you nee to prosecute Tommy Chong for making glass pipes. "Oops, sorry, I don't know where that law went, Mr. Ashcroft."

Don't fuck with Librarians. We know what you read.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

A Simple Question, Late At Night



OK, I understand why Heather Has Two Mommies is on the list of 100 most banned books (at number 9). I don't approve of it, or banning books in general but I can grasp why some people (bigots) would want to ban that one. But will someone please explain to me why Where's Waldo is on the list? Sure it's number 87 but why is there at all? And by having it at 87 does that mean it's not as banned as, say, A Wrinkle in Time (23)? And is it really wose than Little Black Sambo (90)?

Still Singing




So, we were there all afternoon, in that shadowy room, and it was one of the finest afternoons I've ever spent, and definitely the worst interview I've ever done. We hardly talked. This is how he's choosing to communicate, I realised. By singing. Which from a singer is not unreasonable - in fact it's possibly more right, more true, than answering interview questions. Also - I turned the tape recorder off. Why? A one-on-one personal Johnny Cash concert on the sofa and you turned the tape off? Why? Answer: because I knew this was not something which could be repeated. Couldn't be, shouldn't be.

He did say one thing I remember: "You have to be what you are. Whatever you are, you gotta be it."

And I came out realising that I didn't want to be a journalist any more.

Although it was journalism that had given me this extraordinary day, I didn't want to be the person oohing and aahing on paper about Kris Kristofferson, John Steinbeck and Johnny Cash. I wanted to be the person writing and making the stuff that makes the other people ooh and ahh. Cash loving Kristofferson's song; Kristofferson loving the way he sang it, both of them loving Steinbeck's book. I wanted to be one of them.


Louisa Young wrote this about a "failed" interview with Johhny Cash. It's over at The Guradian. Read it. Then go be what you are.

Cobra Commander for President



I realized that a few of my readers may not know what I mean when I refer to the PNAC Platoon. As a budding Librarian, I am more than happy to address the needs of my users:


The Project for the New American Century [PNAC] is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to a few fundamental propositions: that American leadership is good both for America and for the world; that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle; and that too few political leaders today are making the case for global leadership.


This is from the front page of the PNAC website and was penned by none other than William Kristol, chairman of PNAC and editor of the Weekly Standard.

Personally, I'm bothered by the statement, "American leadership is good both for America and for the world; that such leadership requires military strength..." since this seems to me to boil down to good old fashioned World Domination. Think I'm exaggerating? Go read this letter concerning our need to invade Iraq. It was addressed to president Bill Clinton, on Janurary 26, 1998. Notice also that half of the names at the bottom of the letter belong to current members of the Bush administration.

These People, now in office, wanted to invade Iraq 5 years ago, using the same faulty judgment and questionable evidence presented to us by President Bush back in March. For those of you keeping track, thatís 3 years before 9/11, which sort of shoots down that whole idea of Saddam being even remotely responsible for that event, an idea that is faulty in so many ways Iím not going to even bother to dignify it by deconstructing it.

So this is the PNAC Platoon. The people who currently control our government. I don't know about you but I'd prefer Cobra Commander to these jackasses. At least with the Commander, you know where you stood.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

An Antidote to Lies



I just finished reading Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them this morning. And I have to say I want more. It was witty, inciteful and well researched. The thing that impressed me most was that Al Franken and his research assistants, TeamFranken, managed to keep a steady, even handed tone the whole way through. Sure, he called Anne Caulter and Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity names but well, they deserve it. And you can be sure he did it "On the Square" and not with even an ounce of the venom and hatred that the aforementioned pundits have heaped on him and Bill Clinton, little old Ladies and the survivors of the WTC disaster.

What also impressed me was that even though he was pointing out the most damnable and despicable lies and corruption, the book inspired me to reinitiate my own activism in getting the PNAC Platoon out of office. If you want to help, read Lies, then go to MoveOn.org. You'll feel better, trust me.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

That Dewey and His Decimal System



Who knew that the Dewy Decimal system was copyrighted? Not I. Neither did I know that there is a hotel in New York that uses the DDS to organize it's rooms, at least not until I read about it on Neil Gaiman's journal. Of course, they're being sued for copyright violation because, as we all know, if just anybody were to start using the DDS, civilization as we know it would crumble. But the remains would be very well organized.

Too Much Oil in the Hummus



While waiting for our plane last Friday, I started reading After the Quake by Haruki Murakami. The six stories all center on the emotional and intellectual aftermath of the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan. My favorite of the six stories was ìSuper-Frog Saves Tokyoî in which a man who is put upon by his family and his job but who does so gladly is asked to help prevent an even worse earthquake by a giant talking frog. The frog needs him to simply believe in him so that he can go underground and fight Worm who will cause the earthquake. Itís a strange and very touching story and like the others, deals with the helplessness that people feel after horrible yet unavoidable natural catastrophes upset our daily lives. The fact that I was reading this during th eaftermath of a hurricane didnít even strike me until just now. How weird is that?

Iíve just started reading Al Frankenís book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them which Iím sure will add another pound of psychic tension to Bill OíReilly. Maybe if enough people read Frankenís book Bill will have an episode on TV and they can finally ship him off to a nice quiet retirement village for overwrought, mentally undernourished talking heads.

Lies is even better than I had heard. Really. Itís that witty, informed and just plain accessible. Franken takes the lies these right wing hacks spew on a daily basis and deconstructs them one at a time, offering level headed discourse and most important of all, facts to counter the bile. The book should be required reading in every Public School Government class in the country. Do they still teach Government in High School? Or are they calling it Civics again? Or do they just watch Fox News for an hour and call that Being Informed?

Normally Iíd go on a little rant here about the Neocons and their attempt to create an under educated class of surfs. But after reading the first part of Lies Iím not feeling the anger. Itís not just that Al Frankenís book makes taking the lies palatable but it gives me courage and a feeling that we can beet these asshats, not by stooping to their level but by simply and calmly staying informed and standing up. It also helps that President Chimpís approval ratings have fallen bellow %50. Just a few more points to go before he hits the unelectable lower forties. So do your part. Go out and read Lies right now.

***
By the way, chapters 2 and 3 of The Tragic Circus are up. Take ëem for a spin. Kick the tires. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Staggering in Through the Front Door, Winded

Blown off course by the hurricane, I find myself at a wedding in Boston. It's OK though, I've been invited. My wife and I had fun, though I'm swearing off single malt, 17 year old scotch for the foreseeable future. I think I'm still hung over.

Barring 150 mile per hour winds, I'll have something interesting to post tomorrow. So batten down the hatches til then.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Over at Quizilla, you can find out which Greek God you are.

I'm

Morpheus
Morpheus


?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
brought to you by Quizilla

I have to say, this kicks ass, since I'm a huge Sandman fan.
Rant O Matic

No, it's not me ranting today, but Steve Almond, guest blogging over at Bookslut. He's managed to articulate concisely everything I've been feeling about the Neoconservatives for the last three years. Go ahead. Give it a read. You'll feel better.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

The Tragic Circus

Sometime in the next week or so I'll be putting up the first chapter of my novel, The Tragic Circus. There's a link over on the right, beneath the links to other sites. Don't click on it just yet. There's nothing there. I'll let everyone know when it will be up though.

Update: Ok, now you can read it.
An Information Rich Environment

AMC is showing Much More Movies: movies in widescreen with a banners on the bottom, offering insight into the behind the scenes information of the Movie. It's quite fascinating. I'm watching Planet of the Apes right now, one of my favorite movies. Already I've found out some interesting bits. Like I didn't know that Rod Sterling of the Twighlight Zone, wrote the first version of the screenplay.

Next Saturday they're doing Saturday Night Fever. I'm not as excited about that one for some reason.
Shadows on the Wall

So last night, I went to see Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

Now my wife and I have discerned four types of movies:

1. The Movies you will never ever watch, not in a million years and will probably go out of your way not to see. This constitutes about 75% of films made these days. Iíd give examples but that would take forever.

2. The movies that look like theyíd be fun to watch but youíll wait for them to come out on DVD. They arenít great cinema, or Oscar contenders. Just an amusing way to spend two hours. Now, in the past, we might have been inclined to go to a matinee, just for the visceral fun of sitting in a theater and watching a fun film; a peculiar sort of fun, to be sure but if youíre as big film geeks as my wife and I, you know what Iím talking about. But with the rising prices of movie tickets, even matinees, it simply costs too much to have that little fun.
For us, this is usually those oh so fun romantic comedies my wife enjoys and for me, the sci-fi fiascos that never quite fulfill their promises. But for $3 bucks to rent, thatís a cheep date.

3. Interesting films that look like they are thoughtful, intimate creations by genuine artists of the medium, possibly foreign. Given the economic investment in going to see a movie these days ($16 minimum, and thatís without popcorn and a soda, which is simply an uncivilized manner to view a film) we might like to see these in the theater but are willing to wait three months for them to come out on DVD. That way, we can rent them for $3 and if we like them enough, buy it for our collection for about $20 or less. Rarely there will be a film by a favorite director of ours that weíll buy unseen and never regret it. Thatís how we saw Frida. Given that we can then see the film as often as we like, anytime we like, this is a bargain. Now, Iíd like to be able to support Indie films by seeing them in the theater but somehow the thought of trying to enjoy a nuanced film experience while babies are crying and cell phones are ringing, isnít that appealing. Besides my living room is far more quiet.

4. Then there are the films that simply have to be seen in the theater. Epic films that must be seen on a giant screen with the sound turned up too loud because you know they will be a joy to see, even if the occasional baby cries or cell phone rings. These days, this is extremely rare, and not just because of the prohibitive cost of spending $20 bucks to see a film we know we then spend another $20+ to buy, but because there simply arenít that many films that are simply that spectacular, even though every film that comes out, from Dumb and Dumber on up is sold to us as the greatest film ever. This week. Though some films genuinely live up to the hype, like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But these films are all too rare.

The fact that the majority of films these days fall into category 1 instead of category 3 or 4 is due in no small part to the pervasive monster, advertising. Film companies spend millions a year trying to sell product to teenagers, not to tell stories or express a creative urge.

So where does Once Upon a Time in Mexico fall? Normally, Iíd say category 2. While I like El Mariache and Desperado they arenít the greatest movies of all time. Though I did realize something while sitting there, watching the first scene: Robert Rodriguez has constructed a series of action fairy tales. Like the Arthurian legends or Snow White, The El Mariache trilogy are remixes of the same basic story. The same characters make appearances, and time moves forward and back, reality gives way to fantasy and there are similar reversals, changes and progression in character traits. Sometimes the versions donít quite jive, factually but thatís not the point. The point is the theme of the story, in this case, the conflict between love and the desire for revenge. And the movie has a life, that's fir sure, evoking grander things than the mere happenstance of plot. Sure, the action takes presedent at times but that can be said for a lot fo great filmic versions of legends, like Excalibur where the score of Carmina Burana sweeps over the battle scenes like a force of nature. So maybe Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a category 3 film instead. Or maybe, we should enjoy movies for what they make us feel and think instead of trying to analyze the hell out of them, looking for validation in a few hundred feet of silver nitrate and pixels.

Friday, September 12, 2003

A Silent Moment That Will Last Forever

R.I.P, Johnny Cash.

from News 24:


Nashville, Tennessee - Johnny Cash, a towering figure in American music spanning country, rock and folk and known worldwide as "The Man in Black", died on Friday, his manager said. He was 71.


I saw Johnny Cash play back in, oh I guess it was, 1986 or 87. I was only 9 or 10. Believe it or not, it was in GTMO, Cuba. Back then, the base was operational as just another overseas post, not the concentration camp it is today. My father worked for the DoD and we were down there for three years. This was in the days before the world was completely wired and at the time there was very little entertainment to be had. So The Man in Black came down to sing a few songs to the troops and the civilians. It was probably the first concert I ever went to and if not, it is the first I remember attending, and so is just as good as the first.


Folsom Prison Blues

I hear the train a comin'; it's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when.
I'm stuck at Folsom Prison and time keeps draggin' on.
But that train keeps rollin' on down to San Antone.

When I was just a baby, my mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy; don't ever play with guns."
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
When I hear that whistle blowin' I hang my head and cry.

I bet there's rich folk eatin' in a fancy dining car.
They're prob'ly drinkin' coffee and smokin' big cigars,
But I know I had it comin', I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a movin', and that's what tortures me.

Well, if they freed me from this prison, if that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move on over a little farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison, that's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away.


I don't know why but this is my favorite song of his. I'm not a gun fighter. I don't even own a gun. Heck, I'm pretty much a pacifist. But we've all done things we aren't proud of. Mostly, we try to forget them, pretend they don't happen. Johnny talked about them. He let us know that it's OK to be week and fearful and brave and strong and everything else. That's what it means to be human.

Johnny Cash is dead, but his voice will haunt us for as long as their are people with ears to hear.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A New Wave of Mutilation

My wife just E-mailed this to me and I thought it was important enough to share. Via MTV News:


In April, the legendary Pixies will reunite for the first time in over a decade. The notoriously quarrelsome quartet have buried the hatchet, clearing the way for all four original members to hop onstage together for a world tour, according to a spokesperson for the band.

If all goes as planned, the triumphant return of one of the most influential rock bands of the late '80s might also be followed by a new studio album, the source said.


Thatís right, The Pixies, back together. Could World Peace, a publisher for my novel and a Democrat in the White House be far behind?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

So for my Information Use class, I have to keep a blog. I've heard of those things but I don't know if I'm savy enough to pull it off but, hay, college is all about trying new things, right?

So at least once a week I'll have a post up about my observations on uses of Information. It might be a tad more technical than my usual musings about books and politics and writing and such but not too technical. For that, you'll have to visit my Blog on the intricacies of theories of Information Structure. A word of advice: don't stare at the diagrams for too long. You'll go blind.
The Demise of the Will

So I watched the first 45 minutes of the DC 9/11 flick Sunday. That's about as much pro Neocon propaganda I could stomach.

And speaking of propaganda, Leni Riefenstahl is dead, at the age of 101. George Bush must be inconsoleable. I hear he wanted her to film his reinaguration spectacular.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

The Movie Baghdad DOESN'T Want You to See!

Tonight, for your edification, gratification and general knowledge, Showtime presents: DC 9/11: Time of Crisis. It's at 8 PM. So all you true blue Americans, turn your dials and tune in. It promisses to be a blast!

Friday, September 05, 2003

What with the omnipresent stress of Grad School and all, Posting for the forseable future might be a bit light. I'll try to put something fun up at least once a week, with little blathering interludes scattered in at least thrice weekly.

The Black Doll is officially going into the garage for an overhaul. It's not that I think the story is bad, it just feels incomplete... I have a bunch of ideas to expand it though and will have something up on that soon.

I Also promissed a word or two about Lullaby and currently, whan not reading fascinating chapters on the Orgonization of Information, I'm reading The Amazing Adverntures of Cavalier and Clay and thouroughly enjoying it. So there's stuff to look forward to.
Well, This Is a Library, Right?

Over in the right hand column I've started to compile a list of links to author's sites and archives of writings. There's only a few now but the list will be growing weekly. At the moment it's just divided into Fiction and Nonfiction lists but soon I'll be branching out into political commentary and current events, multimedia links (to movies and music sites) and maybe a few others. If you have any sugestions for links, e mail me the urls.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Spoons and Spinoza

Thereís a lot of talk about the Ultimate Meaning of the Matrix movies, over at The Matrix Essays site and others. So I thought Iíd add my two cents:

The basic structure of the Matrix follows Gnostic Christian Eschatology. It begins with a war in heaven between the Seraphim, the Angelic host created by God as servants (the Machines) and the Elohim (humans). The Elohim were old Pagan Gods, downgraded to the status of Demons, (referred to also as the pre-Adamic people, which is how Cain, when he was expelled form Eden found a wife. She was not made in the image of the God of Eden but in the image of another god. The First commandment says you shall have no other God before Me, not that there arenít others. Anyway...) The result of this war was a schism in the cosmos. As punishment, the defeated Elohim (humans) are imprisoned in the Physical World (the Matrix), which is a construct created and controlled by a Blind Idiot Demiurge who, in his ignorance and greed for power and adoration, believes himself to be the creator of the whole universe (The Architect). The true Creator God Force, has a female counterpart (sometimes called his wife), Sophia. Sophia (Persephone) slips into the world (Matrix) in order to nudge the Elohim (humans) into evolving and rebellion, so that they will cause the imperfect physical world (Matrix) to collapse and thus rejoin the Seraphim (which I imagine resembles sort of like what happens to the Elders and the Skeksies at the end of The Dark Crystal). The way this happens is that enough humans are Illuminated and slip into the underworld (Zion), a part of the really real world where escaped they can gather to plot. Since they are basically out of control of the Blind Demiurge (The Architect) they have to be prevented from escaping or subdued once they return to the Matrix (as Enlightened beings, Saints, Bodhisattvas, etc.) by the Serephim (machines) lest they wake everyone up. This explains why the Architect has the elaborate plan at the end of Reloaded to try to convince Neo to reboot the Matrix and start Zion over with 23 individuals, to keep their numbers low and controllable. But Neo chooses not to. Heís more than just the One now (as the Architect tells him their were five other Oneís, similar to Buddhist cosmology where each aeon is ruled by a different Buddha) but he is more Christ-like, choosing to accept the consequences of his love for humanity. And since the humans are helped by Sophia (Persephone) they are destined to succeed, as any Oracle will tell you.

So in regards to the Matrix revolutions, I predict that Neo (Christ) will return to the Matrix and wake everyone up, including Smith and the Merovingian to the fact that humans and machines are both Intelligences, both being controlled by the Architect, that they are all basically slaves. Only programs like the Merovingian and Smith are Princes of Hell while the humans are simply fuel for the flames. The Revolution will be against the controls of the Architect. And in the end, the Machines and Humans will set about to rebuild the world together, to turn it into a paradise where they cooperate, which is the point of the Matrix all along: to teach understanding of the inherent divinity of all Intelligent creatures, to encourage them to work together to muddle through the deterministic parts and respect one another during the times when they have free will.

Thatís my theory anyway, extrapolating from what I know about the source material.

Now there are quite a few layers of symbolism in the movies, from the names of the characters to little details like license plates that refer to Bible passages and literary influences (most notably the reoccurring Alice in Wonderland references). At the Matrix Essays site they go into extensive detail, which means lots of fun for mythology and folklore geeks like me. I recommend it.

The Matrix movies arenít everyoneís cup of tea, of course. My friend Jason found the movies disappointing when held in comparison to books that deal with the same ideas, Like Philip K. Dickís Valis trilogy and Illuminatus!. But hay, itís a mainstream big budget movie, from the Warner Bros., No less. So in this regards itís something special that will maybe lead to a few people finding the works of Phil Dick and Robert Anton Wilson who otherwise wouldnít have.

Finding Enlightenment though is a whole other matter.
The Center of Creativity

I havenít written much on this Blog about comics and graphic novels, certainly not nearly as much as they deserve. I could go on and on about Frank, Krazy Kat, Sandman, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Ghost World... But they all step aside when Dave McKeanís Cages walks through the room.

For anyone who ever doubted that a comic book could have the depth of a ìrealî novel, Cages is the one that will change your mind.

The story centers around a cat; a guy who falls out of the sky; a controversial author who has everything in his life that he loves taken away from him, one piece at a time by some very odd men; an artist blocked by doubt; a musician who hears rocks sing and a woman who has in her possession the worlds most extensive pigeon related sayings. But itís more than all this of course.

Itís a meditation on creativity but unlike the sort of gushing verbose decree to create one gets reading Ray Bradbury (which is a great kick in the pants for any writer), this is more sublime. Itís introspective to a degree that few writers are genuinely capable. Thereís a bit of a desire when writing a story to keep your self at arms length from the subject matter, no matter hjow personal.

Reading Cages though, you get the feeling the painter is really Dave McKean. Sure, nothing new here. Isnít the main character of every novel just a thinly veiled avatar of the author? Well, sort of but this is different.

See, the painter, the musician, the nameless fellow who fell from the sky, theyíre not just aspects of Dave McKean. Theyíre everyone whoís ever felt the need to express something form inside but not known just how to go about doing it. So you fumble, you struggle, you find a theme, and pursue it, even if it is dangerous. You look for meaning and hope that thereís some sort of rhythm and structure. Then you fall out of the sky and make love to your neighbor and a cat talks to someoneís personal God and everything folds in on itself. But thatís OK because in the end you realize that youíve made something, an artifact for inspiring thought and creation. And that ultimately, thereís nothing better you can do with your life than that.