Sunday, June 9, 2019

What I Read: May 2019

I like books about music

A friend posted a recent photo of him attending a bookstore event where the guest was James Ellroy. I was a little jealous, as I've spent much of my reading time this year absorbing his collected works. Then again, Ellroy, by his own admission, hasn't been the nicest or most approachable guy in the world so I don't know if I'd just up at the chance to attend such an event--what the hell, I've already got three signed copies of his books!

Who am I kidding--of course I'd go. I'm a junkie for book events, and Ellroy has got some interesting things to say about writing. I don't always enjoy readings, but I'd love to hear him read from some of the later works I've just consumed

I read these in May:

1. Hollywood Nocturnes
2. American Tabloid
3. The Cold Six Thousand 
4. Crime Wave
5. My Dark Places

Yes, I'm a little out of order. Why? I read some of these on business trips, and the trades paperbacks fit better (and weight less) in my carry-on bag. 

I'll write about the fiction when I've finished all of it, but a few words on his harrowing memoir My Dark Places. Ellroy's mother was murdered when he was ten years old, and the case was never solved. Sometimes there isn't always a direct correlation between one's chosen themes, style, and genre and one's upbringing, but Ellroy's life in Los Angeles clearly informed every word. Sometimes directly--he writes about which of his books draw directly from life experience.

We don't always get this much biographical information regarding someone who writes the contemporary fiction we find entertaining, and as I moved on to the final volume in the U.S.A. Underworld Trilogy, Blood's A Rover, I was trying to determine how my newfound knowledge of Ellroy's life was altering my emotional and aesthetic reactions to his fiction. Ultimately, I believe I would recommend someone picking up Ellroy for the first time to start with My Dark Places. It is an unforgettable book, somehow managing to be both an indictment and an elegy for his parents (and for himself?) It is at times excoriating, painful, and shocking, especially in the pages where Ellroy mercilessly paints an ugly and unromantic self portrait of the person he was before he began writing seriously. 

I'd recommend you start with My Dark Places, but I would also warn you--you might not want to read any of his fiction after finishing. And that would be a shame, because he's a singular artist who, in my opinion, has contributed to and expanded the boundaries of noir fiction.

Just two comic books this month:

6. Tomb of Dracula,  vol. 1 Gaah this series was so awesome, and the trade paperback edition I have really lets the art pop. My comic obsession started in the seventies, and I somehow missed most of this brilliant run the first time around. I only had so many quarters (these were all 20 cents originally!), and back then my first choices were always the team superhero books--The Avengers, The Defenders, Fantastic Four, Justice League, Legion of Superheroes. I'm kind of glad, though, because I appreciate these more today than I would have when I was a kid. Scary and beautiful.
7. Batman: Master Race I love a great deal of Frank Miller's work, and have ever since rushing to the local pharmacy to buy the latest Daredevil off the white wire spinner rack (that's how we did it back in the days, kids. It was glorious). I still think Ronin is one of the greatest graphic novels of all-time, but I  have found his post Dark Knight work hit or miss. The art is always great, there's usually some clever social commentary and comments on the artform itself, but the stories themselves haven't always landed the right way with me. I used to love the trick of bringing in a favorite or overlooked character--especially a rebooted one-- for a cameo or for a few pages or even for an entire arc (one-armed Green Arrow in Dark Knight, for example). I think Miller may have helped invent that trope, but I see it so often now it doesn't thrill me as much. I finished this one wishing I'd liked it more than I did.

Some nonfiction:
8. Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality Dawson Church and Dr. Joe Dispenza
Mmm I'm not entirely sure this one qualifies as non-fiction, although there were a number of interesting ideas and theories in the book--but maybe that is just my brain trying to create reality, material or otherwise. Although a skeptic, I'm a sucker for books like this--anything that purports to give the reader a mental edge, a more efficient brain or body, or access to natural or supernatural powers.
9. Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth David Brown
Many years ago, part of my job duties included calling customers who had services performed at their homes or businesses by one of the businesses that I managed to make sure they received excellent customer service. One day I was making these calls and noticed the next customer was listed as "Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon".

No way, I thought, eagerly dialing the number for the first time ever while making those stupid intrusive calls.

I got an answering machine--and it wasn't even one of their voices on the recording--but it still felt a minor thrill as I'd been a gigantic Sonic Youth fan since high school--Daydream Nation still feels like an essential part of the soundtrack of my freshman year of college, and others--The Destroyed Room and The Eternal (and much of Moore's solo work) loomed large later in life.. I was a little disappointed this book was written before Moore and Gordon split (and initially I wrote "Thurston and Kim", because that's how personal they as artists and there art felt to me. I've read Gordon's book but would not mind some third-party insight as to what happened and how Sonic Youth is still able to conduct business--a "new" live album of an old concert came out this week, and there was a release of demos I think last year, so like Hendrix, Sonic Youth may be dead but they are still mad prolific.

Despite being written while the band was still very much alive (and before a couple of my favorite records of theirs) I still enjoyed the book greatly, especially as I read it while listening to some Sonic Youth related music I'd also picked up (What I Heard: May 2019 coming to soon!!!). 

I bought the book at one of my favorite records stores, which happens to be in the very town I called many years ago, the one where M--ah heck with it--Thurston and Kim lived. I'm sorry I never got to speak to them, but really, what would I have done if either had answered, "You know, I really did not receive excellent customer service, so I'm really glad you called."

After I bought the book and a few CDs we went out to dinner and I snapped this photo of a giant strawberry with crows' wings:

I should not exist

Daydream Nation has a song inspired by the works of William Gibson, the lucky guy. I don't think any of the books below have directly inspired any music--although there were like three or four songs released after Generation Dead with that same title--and there's a brilliant Bear McCreary soundtrack to the film I Still See You which is based on Break My Heart 1,000 Times but for the record to any musicians out there feel free to peruse anything below for song material.   HERE

"For the record"--see what I did there?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

QE Results for May and the Three Energies of Creative Production Theory

Feet firmly planted on Beale St.

In January I wrote a blog post entitled Queer Eye, My Daughter, and I where I related some of the experience and pleasure I had binge-watching the two season of the show with my daughter over the holiday break, and in doing so basically laid out a self-improvement (or self assessment, at least) plan for the year.  The plan involves taking an honest inventory of where am in life with regards to five categories, as I see them, as exemplified by the men on the Netflix show Queer Eye.  And so, an honest assessment on my performance for May in the five QE categories:

KARAMO: "Culture, Confidence, Put yourself out there". 4.5 stars. I wrote 200 pages, with more of a day to day, week to week balance than I had with April's photo finish. I did not write enough fiction, I am afraid, and blaming it on my two lengthy business trips would be a little disingenuous, although I have this "Three Energies" theory when it comes to creative production. In short, I believe there are three different types of energy you need to have to be able to successfully perform your chosen art:

Activation Energy: This is the energy required to generate a new idea and actually get started on bringing it to life--writing the first page, getting the first notes recorded, making some marks on the canvass. I have this in spades; I've got dozens of story ideas supported by outlines, notes, and the first twenty or so manuscript pages. They are stacked up in my mind and my hard drive like airplanes awaiting clearance for takeoff

Sustaining Energy: This is the energy required to just put your head down and keep working toward the finish line even when every page is more like slogging through a dismal swamp than it is like skipping through a lush garden as it often is during the activation energy phase. This is the form of creative energy, for myself, anyway, that is most likely to be drained away like your cellphone's charge when you are out of network and surfing the web by the vagaries of life. The bad day at work, the routine broken, the unpleasant news, the glance at a finished project so much better than your WIP--all can suck that spirit right out of you. My sustaining energy does take a hit when the non-writing work and travel amp up, but I've been at the game long enough to figure out ways to compensate for this.

Finishing Energy: This is the energy--some would say the moral fortitude--to actually finish off a project and pronounce it done (which isn't at all the same thing as being fully satisfied with the project; frankly that never happens). Getting through those last twenty pages, writing your last line, completing the draft, etc. I've got this one in spades, too--and I'm thankful for that, because I actually think this is the energy many creative people struggle with the most.

One of my trips brought me to Memphis, and I was overjoyed to have a night to myself which almost never happens for work trips. I made the most of it with a sunny stroll down Beale Street and visited a couple of my favorite haunts there.

Despite my dearth of sustaining energy writing-wise, I did get out quite a bit this month--I joined my friend and HWA Mentor award-winning JG Faherty in a beautiful part of New York on a torrentially rainy night for the Rockland Teen Library Association's book launch party for Scrawl, a student anthology that Greg and I helped edit. I got to give a speech and I gave every one of the students that had a story in Scrawl a free copy of Generation Dead. It was a fun night.

Two smooth guys. JG Faherty and I

Kim and I went to an opera at the Garde Arts Centre--Verdi's Don Carlo, our first. I loved the music; we were seated in the first row so I could see every draw of the bow on the strings. 

I also started going out to the movies weekly with my father...more on that in the upcoming What I Watched: May blog. I've eaten more popcorn in the past month than I have in the previous year, easily. And I like popcorn.

This came out. Translation: The Curse. There's no curses in the movie or the about a red herring! 

TAN: "Make an effort with your personal appearance". A raise to 3. I've been going out more and have gotten better at dressing accordingly; the concert t-shirts are now relegated mostly for lounge-around-the-house wear. I'm putting all of my new slimmer fitting clothes to actual use.

Me making an effort with my personal appearance at Tater Red's. I'm well aware I'm cenobite-esque, thank you very much

BOBBY: "Create and maintain a physical environment that promotes productivity, creativity and inner harmony". I'm keeping it at 3.5, mostly because of more work on the yard and a quick tidying of my home office. I also got the pool opened up--and the pool is huge in promoting "productivity, creativity, and inner harmony" but I'm having a little trouble getting the chemistry of it just right, which has never happened before.

ANTONI: "Make nutrition healthy and enjoyable, cook for others". 2.5 still. Kim and I hosted the family for a Memorial Day cookout and I made potato salad and manned the grill--rather pedestrian, just burgers and dogs but I will say they were cooked perfectly and according to taste. Stuck to my diet but wasn't irrationally rigid about it either.

JONATHAN: "Take care of yourself physically" Staying at a 4.  I ran 118.6 miles, making May my fifth consecutive +100 month, a feat I'm certain I've never done before in my life. In five months, I've eclipsed my totals for the entire years of 2018, 2016, 2015, 2013, and 2012. I started keeping track of such things in 2011, the year I set my personal best, and now only that and 2017 (I beat 2014 on the first day of June!) stand in my way for a new yearly record. 

Some lifting, but not as consistent as I'd like to be. But the results are starting to show...

 17.5 my high but with only one bump in one category. Progress is progress, though.

Reading/watching/listening posts will soon follow.

I combine reading and listening, and writing, in my novel Aural History, which you can find HERE, along with my other ghost/zombie/human/punk/metal/sporto novels below...

Saturday, May 18, 2019

What I Watched: April 2019

Who watches the watchman watching the watchers?

Ramped up my TV/Movie watching in April! Whooooohoooo! Sort of.  A little vacation time and my son returning home helped out considerably.

1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Episodes 9 and 10

Loved this show so much I'd watch it again. Such an interesting period of American history captured so well (I think, I wasn't alive). I loved the scenes in the Catskills and the scenes in the clubs; Alex Borstein's portrayal of Susie Myerson is delightful, and I'm apparently at the right age to completely identify with Tony Shalhoub's Abe Weissman despite having many, many differences (wish I had been a college professor, though). Luke Kirby's Lenny Bruce appearances amp the show up several notches. Sunny and bright (yet with threads of darkness lurking) and socially sharp, I can't recommend the show enough. I can't decide which season I enjoy more so I'll just consider them both necessary pieces of a unified whole.

2. Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Day Time Ended (Season Twelve)
3. Mystery Science Theater 3000, Killer Fish (Season Twelve)
4. Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Final Conflict (Season Nine)

Cormac was home from college and we had a bit of a marathon. I think I watched most of Killer Fish (Not to be confused with Season Nine's Devil Fish) by myself, which instantly put me in the groove to watch more. I've seen almost all of MST3Ks run but hadn't yet gotten around to watching the newest Netflix season. I was not disappointed. Killer Fish is a as pure a document of seventies entertainment as you will find, starring Lee Majors, Karen Black, and poor doomed Margaux Hemingway in an adventure with a sunken treasure in a reservoir filled with piranha. Brilliant. The Day Time Ended is a 1980 sf laff riot set on an Arizona horse farm with lots of reptilian stop-motion action and lasers. Cormac watched maybe half of that one, and then I encouraged him to watch one of my favorite MST3Ks of all time, The Final Conflict. He fell in love with the hilarious "heroism" of Zap Rowsdower as deeply as I did, I think, which gives me hope for humanity.

5. Long Lost

Tickets to this show at the wonderful Garde Arts Center, a birthday present from my brother. Interesting indie film shot and produced here in Connecticut by a very youthful team of creators. There was an insightful Q&A after the show, I asked a question: "Did the shooting script change much during the filming and production?"

6. A Star Is Born

I saw this with Kim on vacation in Florida via pay-per-view. Cooper and Gaga were both great and I love them in just about everything I've seen them in and I suppose this film deserved everything it achieved.

By the way, the greatest heavy metal cover of a pop song of all time? Arthemis's cover of Lady Gaga's Paparazzi, narrowly edging out Anthrax's cover of Joe Jackson's Got the Time. You can download it for free off the band's website.

7. Aquaman

Kim didn't make it through this one despite all the Momoa. It sure looked pretty (the movie, and yeah, Momoa) especially when the action went underwater. But maybe super hero movies have jumped the shark? Don't forget to tip your waitress!

8. The Romanovs Season 1 Episodes 1-3

After Maisel, Kim and I wanted to dive into this one as we're relentless Mad Men fans. This one is quite different tonally from Mad Men and...just about anything else I've ever watched. Will reserve judgement and more detailed commentary until we've watched it through. Nice, though, to see Mad Men alumni.

Wow! That's a lot of viewing for me, and one of the entertainments listed above required me to leave the house.

My books can be found HERE for pennies a page.
None of these is a television show. Yet.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

What I Read: April 2019

Another eclectic month of reading for me, lighter on comics/graphic novels than typical, heavier on non-fiction.

I finished reading James Ellroy's "Hollywood Quartet":

1. The Big Nowhere
2. L.A. Confidential
3. White Jazz

Ellroy is a very interesting cat to me as a writer. In the "quartet" books, and some of the others, he employs a three "protagonist" structure--"protagonist" in quotes because some of these protagonists are as scuzzy as the more conventional bad guys they are up against--and in some of the books each of those protagonists has a foil or enemy, with all six of the threads weaving in and out. It is a pattern he's kept with the next book and linked quartet I started in May, American Tabloid. His energy and cadence is unique, and he does some very experimental stylistic things as the series progresses, especially in White Jazz, where I think he's trying to reinvent the form of the traditional Hollywood detective novel.

The dark journey continues

As subgenres go, Hollywood Detective is one of my favorites.

4. James Warren: Empire of Monsters, Bill Schelly

Pure joy reading this one, although per usual with books combining biography, business, and beloved artforms I'm left wanting more of all three. I've have in my own vault of horror most of the early issues of Creepy  and Eerie, and was really looking forward to any information on how those were started and how they grew, and also anything on the great artists and writers featured within. Spoiler Alert: Schelly reveals that Warren himself is working on autobiography, so without his direct input one wonders if choice anecdotes, stories, and details are held in reserve. Though he clearly loves his subject and the things he created, Schelly's work isn't hagiography and my guess any students/fans/practitioners of the genres Warren worked in would benefit from reading both this book and the one Warren is working on.

I was inspired enough after reading the book to buy the newest issue of The Creeps, a Warren-style magazine on newsstands today. I loved it!

5. Top Secret Non-Fiction Book, Top Secret

Research for a novel I'm working on; fantastic book and perfect for what I needed out of it.

6. Animal Man Vol. 5: The Meaning of Flesh, Tom Veitch, Steve Dillon, et al.

I have to confess I'm not connecting with this run as much as I did with Morrison's run, but that is probably my fault.

7. Spirit of Hawkwind, Nik Turner and Dave Thompson

My love of Hawkwind is well-documented, and readers of my earlier blog entry this week  What I Heard: April 2019 know the main score of the month was the RSD Hawkwind release of the month. Listening to the concert made me curious to read more about the band, whose evolution of sound and membership has continued over a fifty year span. This documents the earlier years when Nik was a member, from the band's inception up through 1976's Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music. Clearly only one viewpoint among dozens essential to the Hawkwind story, but a singular and very entertaining one at that. While reading I started listening to the Hawkwind studio releases in oder and I'm up to PXR5.

8. Dare to Lead, Brene Brown

An average year will see me reading six to ten business books. this one was more interesting and entertaining than most.

Like reading? Read one of these and support my efforts at the DANIEL WATERS SUPERSTORE:
Which is your favorite? Buy 'em all and I'll tell you mine

Thursday, May 9, 2019

What I Heard: April 2019

I've only got five new recordings to report on, which might be the fewest I've acquired in a month in...ten years??? Historically, I've added ten to fifteen full-length recordings a month to my collection, so to see only four is somewhat unnerving. But here's what I got:

1. Hellripper, Coagulating Darkness 

I'd received two tracks from this album when I was reviewing music for Metal Express Radio and the opening track  "Bastard of Hades" is a real scorcher I'd included in my most intense running setlist. The rest of the album is similarly energetic.

2. Sun Ra, Fate in a Pleasant Mood
3. Sun Ra, Marshall Allen presents Sun Ra and His Arkestra: In the Orbit of Ra

One of the reasons my monthly recording acquisitions number is so low is that I have ended my long-standing relationship with eMusic. It gives me no joy to write that sentence. I was a member for over twelve years and many times my monthly credits weren't enough to cover all of the new music I wanted and I'd eagerly buy "booster packs"; alas, eMusic's selection--which once included most major as well as indie labels--has declined to the point I found it to be a struggle to find anything. I'd had about twenty records in the "Save for Later" bucket and overnight eighteen of those were no longer available.

They do have a pretty good Sun Ra selection, an artist I hold in the highest regard.

Listen. Read. Leave the planet.

4. PROG 96, High Hopes

Every so often I'll buy a music magazine with a CD, usually MOJO or PROG. This one had articles of David Gilmour and Hawklords, who sadly are not included on the disc. None of the ten songs really jumped out at me but sometimes these things take time.

5. Hawkwind, The 1999 Party

My Record Store Day Purchase. There have been a few times I've really got caught up in the fervor of Record Store Day, but this year's adventure was a little strange. I wasn't even going to go but read through the online release list and saw The 1999 Party and realized that although I own 53 Hawkwind recordings (and another thirty "Hawkwind Family" recordings--Hawklords, Hawkwind Light Orchestra, Space Ritual, solo projects, etc. Does not include Motorhead) I did not own this one in any format. And this one had  Lemmy, Nik Turner, and Robert Calvert, so it promised to be an eclectic, high energy set.

Usually when I "do" RSD, I get to the local independent record store before it opens and wait, but this time I waffled about even going and so things were already in full swing by the time I got there. The tiny cluttered store was packed and cramped with people: it was like a game of human Tetris. I walked in, turned to the bin to my immediate left, flipped three records, and there it was...The 1999 Party. I grabbed it, and joined the cashier line which was already eight people deep without looking at anything else. The two guys--my age, maybe even older--ahead of me in line spent over a thousand dollars combined!

I felt a little strange driving home without a big bag o'stuff on a RSD, but I also felt an odd thrill of pride for being so focused. When I got home I went for a run, showered, and then queued up the record while looking through the jacket photos and liner notes. This was my favorite photo from the inside jacket:

I doubt Lemmy was the DM
Can anyone identify what they are playing? I don't think it is D&D, but D&D came out in 1974 and the concert on this record was recorded in March of that year. Can you imagine playing D&D with Hawkwind? With Sun Ra as the Dungeon Master???

I did. And I spent the rest of the afternoon listening and working on my current novel.

I wrote a novel called Aural History about a musician who sees ghosts of other musicians. You can buy it HERE

Cover Intentionally DIY

Saturday, May 4, 2019

QE Results for April 2019

In January I wrote a blog post entitled Queer Eye, My Daughter, and I where I related some of the experience and pleasure I had binge-watching the two season of the show with my daughter over the holiday break, and in doing so basically laid out a self-improvement (or self assessment, at least) plan for the year.  The plan involves taking an honest inventory of where am in life with regards to five categories, as I see them, as exemplified by the men on the Netflix show Queer Eye.  And so, an honest assessment on my performance for April in the five QE categories:

KARAMO: "Culture, Confidence, Put yourself out there". 4.5 stars. I wrote 202 pages, and once again I had to grind it out in the stretch, managing to write 56 pages the last three days of the month--a Pyrrhic victory, really, because those pages are largely crap and few of them are usable fiction. But three cheers for determination.

I made considerable progress on one of the three projects I mentioned last month.

Kim and I had a short vacation in Florida, where I snapped the photo above. We went to the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, and dumb luck would have us there on the only day it poured. We met some old friends for dinner and generally had a nice time.

Also, Hachette sent me some copies of the French edition of Brak My Heart 1,000 Times aka I Still See You
Merci Beaucoup!

TAN: "Make an effort with your personal appearance". A raise to 2.5. I bought more clothes on vacation and am generally making an effort more to look presentable when Kim and I go out. I kind of have to though, because I have lost so much weight most of my normal clothes make me look like I am caught in the deflating shreds of a popped hot air balloon. My very sizable love handles have been reduced to love pull tabs, making most of my pants, even beloved blue jeans, into clown pants.

BOBBY: "Create and maintain a physical environment that promotes productivity, creativity and inner harmony". I'm giving myself a raise to 3.5  I did a fair amount of yard work in April--I have a fairly sizable yard. My grandfather Zepherin, and his family before him, was a farmer in the town I know live in--a few years ago I went with my uncle, father, brother and son to see the land where his farm once stood but no longer does. It's less than two miles from my house. In later life he went as far metaphorically from farming as he could by becoming a manager at the plastics plant (which also is no more). He was the most gentle, kind man I ever knew, and I think of him every time I "work the soil"--trimming, clearing, seeding, raking, planting, fertilizing, watering. Watching the birds.

I love yardwork. I phrase I'd never thought I would write or say. When I was a young homeowner I absolutely hated it because I foolishly thought that every minute I spent in the yard was a moment away from writing. Years of experience have taught me that every moment spent in the yard helps encourage growth in the mind as well as in the environment.

We revere corn here. My favorite headline ever...feel the horror!

ANTONI: "Make nutrition healthy and enjoyable, cook for others". I'll take back the half point I lost last month for a 2.5. I'll keep it here. Did a lot of the meal prep but the meals I prepped were fairly pedestrian. Also, I had considerably more adult beverages than in the first three months of the year, most of them on vacation. I started keeping track of how much I drank this year, and in keeping track, it has made me turn the corner from drinking "just because" totruly enjoying adult beverages--I didn't really realize it, but I was drinking quite a bit last year, and probably the couple years before that. Counting the drinks has been instrumental in keeping indulgence under control, and no doubt has facilitated the incredible boost in exercise ability and weight loss. I've never felt better, and now consciously check myself to ask if having a drink or a bag of chips or whatever will add or subtract to that general feeling.

 I'm still adhering to a slightly relaxed form of Austerity (see Secrets of Weight Loss, Revealed), which at this point might mean it is now a lifestyle habit as opposed to a time-bound change.

JONATHAN: "Take care of yourself physically" I'm going to 4.  I ran 143 miles, making April my fourth consecutive +100 month, a feat I'm certain I've never done before in my life. In four months, I've eclipsed my totals for the entire years 2018, 2012, and 2013. I started keeping track of such things in 2011, the year I set my personal best, and I'm on pace to decimate that. I'd say fifty is the new thirty, but I was a fat oaf at 30. 

I've been lifting more, too. I won't make the cut for anyone's powerlifting club, but I'm trying to be consistent and conscious of what I'm doing and I think the upper body stuff is contributing greatly to the overall.

Wow! 17, with gains in three categories in the shortened month. Can self-actualization be very far away???.

Reading/watching/listening posts will soon follow--crazily, especially as April contains Record Store Day, I had far more watching than listening for the month. Factors I'll mention later make me think this will be a continuing trend.

I combine reading and listening, and writing, in my novel Aural History, which you can find HERE, along with my other ghost/zombie/human/punk/metal/sporto novels below...
Thanks fer yer bizness!