Sunday, July 3, 2022

Writing thoughts

I think I have a pretty good book about growing up in the 1970's inside me -- sort of like Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine," only centered around my favorite music as a trigger to old memories.

The problem is, I've written about my younger days so much here -- and especially on Facebook -- that I feel like I've worn out all of my best old stories. I'm used to them now. Almost bored with them.

The key is if I can bring something new to them.

I have something in the works that I've been slowly writing for months. But I can't bring it alive in the way I want to if I can't bring something new to it, something alive, some sense of discovery.

Just collecting all my old posts about growing up isn't going to cut it.


Saturday, July 2, 2022

Lately

So, "enjoying" my retirement?

I have maybe half the energy I used to. I'm definitely not 55 anymore.

But I "musicked-out" twice in the past week, more than usual lately. Recently I've been playing two or three hours of music maybe once a month, if that often.

Last music session yesterday was mostly new-to-me or overlooked stuff on CD.

Previous session was mostly recently-purchased 45rpm singles I'd recently tracked down -- but eventually I got to a first listen to Stevie Wonder's 1973 album "Innervisions," which I found to be pretty great. Seven of its nine songs were well worth hearing, and the new ones that especially grabbed me were "All in Love is Fair" and "Golden Lady."

Of course "Higher Ground" has always been great, and I've loved "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" ever since I first heard it way back in 1974. I hadn't heard "Living for the City" in *years,* and had forgotten how passionately Stevie sang it. And I'd never heard the long version before.

But for me, "All in Love is Fair" and "Golden Lady" were the standouts. When Stevie gets into a groove he's really amazing.

Of course I should have known all this already, but there are many gaps in my listening. I've loved many of Stevie's hits over the years and have three of his studio albums and a couple of best-of's in the house. But I sure haven't heard everything.

Anyway, "Innervisions" is the best thing I've heard in awhile.

Awhile back I also heard Harmonium's 1977 album "The Five Seasons" -- very nice melodic progressive rock from Canada, very pretty. Nice moods, and parts were exuberant enough to make me laugh -- even if I couldn't tell what the guys were singing. They sang in French, because they were from Quebec.

These days I'm doing good if I can get through three albums in a sitting. After that, my mind starts to wander or I'm worn out.

Awhile back I went on a sort of crusade with old Van Morrison albums after I found his "Best of Volume 2" CD and was charmed despite the old-fashionedness of some of it.

Think I did five Van albums in a row -- most were only average. "Inarticulate Speech of the Heart," "Beautiful Vision," "Into the Music," "A Period of Transition" -- "Wavelength" was the best of these. Most of the albums had maybe one good track and a lot of filler. OK, pleasant, decent, but nothing stunning. Mood music at best. Linda said it was like Van just couldn't do it anymore -- "it" being the magical spell he weaved on "St. Dominic's Preview," "Moondance" and "Tupelo Honey" -- and on "Best of Volume 2," even though to me the jury was out for a long time on that one until he finally convinced me with the brief "Coney Island" and the live "Rave On, John Donne."

My mind wandering has been an issue with reading fiction lately, too. I can read a few short stories and then I get bored with fiction. I can't remember the last novel I made it all the way through. Best short stories I've read lately are Joyce Carol Oates's brilliant and spooky "Six Hypotheses" and Dan Simmons' dark and creepy "My Personal Memoirs of the Hoffer Stigmata Epidemic" -- both cosmic-horror short stories.

I've been reading a lot of non-fiction -- for months now -- but I don't have that much new non-fiction in the house, so have mostly been re-reading old stuff. Was on a binge of science fiction writers' autobiographies and biographies for awhile -- Alec Nevala-Lee's "Astounding," Julie Phillips' great biography of SF writer James Tiptree Jr., Robert Silverberg's "Other Places, Other Times," Damon Knight's excellent history of "The Futurians," "Hell's Cartographers," stuff like that. But there isn't enough of it. SF-author bios and autobios didn't become "a thing" until recent years, unfortunately.

Have been doing a little bit of writing, though of course I should be doing more. Wrote an entire 2,500-word ghost story a couple of weeks ago, but have held off going back to re-read it until it "cools off" a little. Started another science-fiction story the next day, and got down some ideas for a third new story a few days ago, but I don't seem to have much drive to finish any of them.

Added a couple scenes over the last couple days to a trashy '80s/'90s-style horror novel I originally had the idea to write a couple of years ago. I wrote maybe 7,500 words of it in a few days right after I first had the idea a couple years back, then backed away from it because -- although the words were coming out way easily -- it meant nothing to me personally. It was just a thing I was doing, it didn't actually involve me.

A couple mornings ago it occurred to me that if the words were coming and it was fun to do, why not just continue on with it? Writing used to be fun for me, so why not roll with it as long as I'm having a good time and not having to force it?

So we'll see where that goes.

Otherwise, I don't feel terrible, but my energy level comes and goes. On cloudy, rainy days it feels like I never really wake up. Each winter seems to get longer. This is a problem for me because the first 80-degree day we had here in western Washington was in the last week of June. The first 70-degree day we had was sometime in early May.

Some days it takes an act of Congress to get me out of the house, even if the sun is out.

What bothers me is, sometimes Linda feels the same way. And usually she was the one who got me to get up and get out even if I didn't want to. Now we both have to make an effort to get something rolling.

Did go see my daughter in Seattle for Father's Day, which was a real step out of my comfort zone. Visiting somewhere new? Riding a ferry across Puget Sound? Braving the Seattle traffic? Actually sort of getting lost for a bit? Pretty daring, for me. But my daughter was awesome as usual, and I got to meet her boyfriend and see their cute, tiny apartment, and had a wonderful couple of hours. So it was all good.

And that's what's been going on lately. More soon.


Banned in Boston -- and everywhere else!

So, I just got banned from Facebook for 24 hours because I joked that I wanted to launch my neighbor out of a cannon.

This isn't the first time I've been banned. I got a fact-check warning a couple years ago for posting an obvious satire about Donald Trump making a campaign stop in Boise and being so drunk he fell off the stage while making a speech full of gibberish. It made a pretty funny story too. But Facebook doesn't like it when you make stuff up -- sometimes.

Before that, I was given another 24-hour ban for "hate speech" -- because I dared to suggest that some white men can be pretty dang dense sometimes.

Interesting that FB should go after me for these things when they allow people to spread right-wing conspiracies, coronavirus vaccine misinformation, and massive conspiracy theories implying that Donald Trump will be returned to the presidency -- not to mention the usual racism and misogyny, and specific threats to specific people. But those all seem to be OK.

But let's get back to my neighbor. I don't even know who he is, but I have this neighbor a couple houses away who has a cannon he sets off around Independence Day ... or whenever the Seattle Seahawks win a football game, or at 2am, or whenever he damn well feels like it. There'll be the usual neighborhood near-silence and then ka-BOOOOOOM! This is what led me to say I'd like to launch him out of his own cannon. And that's what FB banned me for.

A couple years ago, back when we had a dog, the fireworks around July 4th used to send our dog to hide in the bedroom closet. And the sound of the cannon made him start shaking. I saw that shaking lead to convulsions. Foaming at the mouth, eyes rolled back in the head, the whole bit.

And our dog was scared of nothing else.

But that's OK FB, keep patrolling your pages and making the world safe by shutting up people who dare to say that things aren't all hunky-dory with their neighbors. I get that I was banned because I (jokingly) made a specific (joking) threat of (technically impossible) bodily harm against somebody. Even if I don't know specifically who it is.

But I was joking. And Facebook's bots don't get that. They have no concept of "context." They can't tell if someone's joking.

I'll be OK without FB for 24 hours. But I'm sure the QAnon folks and the vaccine deniers and the "election was stolen!" people will be allowed to continue peddling their BS -- along with the racists and fascists and women-haters and gun-rubbers. Really an ugly bunch to be hanging out with, to be honest.

I get why FB doesn't like talk of violence, especially these days. But I was just joking. I wasn't really gonna launch my neighbor out of his cannon. I'd never be able to squeeze him into it, for starters. I never meant ... aw, forget it.

There is one upside. My getting banned at FB forced me to write my first post here in eight months. So that's got to be a good thing.

Hoping you are the same....


Monday, November 1, 2021

Recently heard

Heard all of these in a four-hour musicking-out session a week ago and have yet to report on them here:

* Henry Cow with Slapp Happy: "In Praise of Learning" (1975) -- Loud, screechy, sometimes annoying, but not completely terrible. One track, "Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army With Banners" actually gets its political message across in a compelling portrait of The End Times. Most annoying thing about this band is Dagmar Krause's sing-song vocals, like some kind of German music-hall. Occasional nice piano, screechy guitar, wayward horns, but overall not too far from National Health or Hatfield and the North. I might even keep it.

* Badfinger: "Straight Up" (1972) -- "Perfection" is the hidden gem on this album, but even so it doesn't measure up to the awesome "Baby Blue" and the gorgeous "Day After Day," or even "Name of the Game" -- a stronger version of which is included on Apple's Badfinger best-of. The best of this is pleasant enough, but it comes nowhere near hitting as hard as the two hit singles.

* David Bowie: "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" (1972) -- Heard this once or twice before over the years and always thought it sounded cramped, pinched, uncomfortable. Listened to the whole thing from start to finish this time around, relaxed and enjoyed all of it, was no longer distracted by whatever Bowie was up to. Nor did I feel a need to connect the dots to make it all "make sense." Maybe I've finally gotten used to him?

* Bruce Springsteen: "Born to Run" (1975) -- I've loved the title hit since back in '75. I was the only person I knew who bought the single back in the day. But I'd never heard the whole album, so.... The title song's a classic of course, and I loved "She's the One." "Thunder Road"'s a good, solid opener and "Meeting Across the River" is a nice moody change of pace. But I admit I was starting to drift a bit by the time I got to "Backstreets" ... or whatever it was.

I also finished listening to Mott the Hoople's first album and "Brain Capers," both feature good, solid stuff on their Side 2's, but I admit the surprise and enjoyment I experienced when first hearing their early work awhile back has since worn off a little.

More soon!


Sunday, October 31, 2021

New additions

Picked up during yesterday's trip to my favorite used-record store in the world, Hi-Voltage Records in Tacoma, Washington:

* Fanny's first album and "Mother's Pride."

* Family's "Old Songs, New Songs."

* David Sancious's solo-piano-jazz "The Bridge."

* Stevie Wonder's "Innervisions."

* Spirit's "Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus." I sold this off a few years back when money got tight, and I missed it.

* Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bayou Country."

* The Association's first album "And Then, Along Comes...."

* The Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream."

* Wall of Voodoo's "Call of the West."

* John Denver's "Farewell Andromeda."

* K-Tel's "20 Explosive Original Hits" by various artists, from around 1970.

Overall, an average visit to Hi-Voltage, nothing too shocking or surprising. I'll be reporting on all of these here, eventually....


Saturday, October 30, 2021

Addicted to feedback

Hey there, I'm still winding down after my books-and-CD's-scanning job came to an end last Tuesday morning. My boss, who had been running a selling-books-and-CD's-on-line business for the last 18 months, suddenly realized he couldn't make enough money at it to keep it going plus cover his overhead and pay his three employees.

So I am now Officially Retired.

I dunno, it SHOULD have worked. My boss said a change in policies at Amazon regarding warehousing space and buying books from us was part of what put him into negative income. He hadn't paid himself in two months.

So I'm mildly bummed. I liked the job and I learned a lot -- it seemed like a perfect retirement job for me, just a little something to keep a few $$$'s coming in. But it did beat me up a bit, physically. I'm not 55 anymore.

Anyway, I'm now hoping to write more, read more, listen to music more. Musicked-out for four hours last weekend, my first serious music session in a month. Am watching a lot more movies in the evenings -- God knows I have a lot to catch up on there.

Read three long stories by fantasist Tom Reamy yesterday afternoon, all horror stories -- "Twilla," "The Detweiler Boy" and "Insects in Amber." Reamy, who died way back in 1977, was certainly no stylist, but his stories work. He won a Nebula Award for his 1975 novelette "San Diego Lightfoot Sue," a story I read more than 40 years ago, but maybe it's time for a re-read because I didn't really "get it" the first time around.

Hoping to find some more good short stories to get into before trying to read another novel. These days my mind seems to wander with long fiction. But I had no trouble reading Reamy's chillers yesterday.

Despite what I posted here previously, I am still posting on Facebook. I'm addicted to the quick feedback there, which is way more than I get here. Maybe I'll post the obvious stuff there and the more personal stuff here, who knows?

That's all for now. Hope you all are well.


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Disappearing act

Tim O'Brien's "In the Lake of the Woods" (1994) is a murder mystery. Maybe.

It's also so hypnotic and compelling that I read the whole 300-page book yesterday morning -- the first time in ages that I've read straight through a novel.

In it, a guy running for U.S. senator gets stomped after the media learn that he'd witnessed an atrocity in Vietnam back in 1968. He never told anyone about it, including his wife. He'd even gone to some lengths to erase the fact that he'd ever been there.

He and his wife retreat to a cabin at the Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota after the election, in an attempt to repair their marriage.

That's where the murder happens. Maybe.

O'Brien's pretty tricky about this from the start. "Maybe" is the word used most often in the novel, and most of the last half of the book is purely speculative -- what may have happened to the guy and his wife at the cabin in the woods, and after.

The only problem is that the murder scene is much more compelling and believable than the other chapters that speculate about what happened to the man and his wife, both of whom end up disappearing.

I never doubted for a second that the wife was murdered. The husband does, though -- at one point he dives into the lake to search for her ... but he looks in the wrong place, and some part of him must realize this. Then he pulls his own disappearing act.

In terms of its grip on the reader, this is one of the best Vietnam-aftermath novels I've ever read -- right up there with Peter Straub's "Koko." O'Brien not only gets inside his characters, he also reminds us that human motivation is often a complete mystery -- just as Straub often does.

But if you're looking for a novel where everything is resolved, and all your questions are answered at the end, you won't find that here. As O'Brien reminds us, sometimes the mystery at the heart of the story is what keeps us interested.

I have two other O'Brien novels in the house -- the Vietnam novels "The Things They Carried" and "Going After Cacciato." I'll be checking them out.


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Recently read and heard

Before we go any further, here's a list of new-to-me stuff I've been reading and listening to lately. This list covers my music and book intake back to June. Funny, I thought there was more:

BOOKS:

* Paul Theroux -- Figures in a Landscape. Theroux's third collection of essays, covering everything from a profile of Robin Williams to slabs of family history and autobiography. Theroux claims he'll never write a full autobiography or memoir, but he's already written at least one -- the brilliant history of a friendship "Sir Vidia's Shadow."

* The Best of Rolling Stone. This 400-page collection of nonfiction pieces was originally published as a special issue of the magazine back in 1992. There's some great stuff here (all cut for space), but the writers' introductions are the best part. Daisann McLane's awesome "The Girl in the Tweed Jacket" is maybe the best, most personal peek behind the scenes, but I wish McLane's wonderful 1979 portrait of Fleetwood Mac, "Five Not-So-Easy Pieces," had been included.

* Gene Sculatti and others -- The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the '60s/'70s/'80s/90s. Dull, unsurprising and full of errors, this low-budget rush-job series was a big disappointment. The only surprises come from learning what kind of crap music most people buy. Gene Sculatti's a good rock critic, but the editors gave him no room to write, and the editing and proofreading are hideous. Avoid.

* Michael Lesy -- Wisconsin Death Trip, The Forbidden Zone. "Forbidden Zone" is about people who deal with death every day -- homicide detectives, undertakers, pathologists, etc. Some of them are such odd characters that they deserved to be in a book. "Wisconsin Death Trip" is about what happened in a small rural Wisconsin town between 1890 and 1910, when an agricultural failure and depression followed outbreaks of diphtheria, dysentery, smallpox and more. People went crazy. Eerie, odd, depressing, one of a kind.

* David Leigh and Luke Harding -- WikiLeaks. Covers the frantic early days of the WikiLeaks classified-information-leak site, but for the rest of the story you'll have to consult Wikipedia.

* Judy Pasternak -- Yellow Dirt. Follows what happens when Navajos start mining uranium on their reservation in Arizona, and the U.S. government stonewalls the tribe about the effects of uranium exposure and radiation for the next 60 years....

* Barbara Moran -- The Day We Lost the H-Bomb. Recounts how the U.S. Air Force accidentally dropped three unactivated atomic bombs on a small town in southern Spain back in 1966. A fourth bomb fell into the Mediterranean Sea and took two months to find.

* Nicholas A. Basbane -- A Gentle Madness. About *extreme* book-collectors. One great long chapter is about a man who stole more than 5,000 rare books from libraries and universities over a 20-year period. Most of the schools never realized the books were missing.

* Six science fiction writers -- Hell's Cartographers. Writers like Robert Silverberg, Frederik Pohl, Brian Aldiss and Alfred Bester talk about what got them hooked on reading and writing science fiction.

* Nine more science fiction writers -- Fantastic Lives. This is more scattershot than "Hell's Cartographers" and much less interesting. Still, some good stuff by Barry Malzberg, Norman Spinrad, R.A. Lafferty.

* James Gunn -- The Listeners. This 1972 science-fiction novel has a great idea at its center, and the first chapter's pretty good. Then the absurd and insignificant "human drama" gets more and more in the way and the book gets sillier and sillier. Gave up halfway through.


MUSIC:

* Mott the Hoople -- first album, side 1. Brain Capers, side 1. Rock and Roll Queen early-best-of. "Rock and Roll Queen" sucked me in. Early Mott was great when they roared. Side 1 of their first album is mostly a great Bob Dylan impersonation. Side 1 of "Brain Capers" features more greatness. I'll be getting back to these guys soon.

* Funkadelic -- Maggot Brain. Loud and chaotic, with an awesome Hendrixy 10-minute guitar solo on the title track. Some throwback R&B-type cuts in the middle, leading to the crazed "Super Stupid" and the sound collage "Wars of Armageddon" -- which along with a steady beat includes protests, chanting, screaming, a mooing cow, and cosmic farts. "Revolution 9" should have sounded like this.

* Tim Buckley -- Happy Sad. Perfect music for lounging around all day in bed with your Significant Other.

* Amazing Blondel -- Evensong. Cute fake-15th-Century English folk music, but nowhere near as good as their later "Fantasia Lindum" and "England."

* The Kinks -- Arthur. Each song turns into real basic bash-it-out English rock'n'roll, and thank God. Includes the glorious "Shangri-La" and rockin' "Victoria," and nice bits like the hilarious "Yes Sir, No Sir" and "She Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina."

* Three songs from Magazine's "Real Life." More listening required.

More soon!


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

I'm back.

Hey there.

Facebook has become a toilet. Jokes and outrage get the biggest reactions, constant unavoidable advertisements crowd out the "real" content (if there is any), and the platform's multi-millions of users have become the product that Facebook is selling.

And that's not even counting the racists and conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers and political crazies.

So I'm back here.

Nice to see ya.

I posted more than 350 music and book reviews and nostalgia pieces on FB over the past three and a half years, and at one point I had more than 200 friends and other folks following me. But I've slowed down recently. I don't have as much to say, and I don't have as much energy as I did three years ago.

Plus, maybe I've gotten a little stale for folks over there. Recently I posted a book review there that I spent a couple of hours on, trying to get the words right, trying to get the message and meaning of a challenging book across without turning anyone off.

Only two people noticed.

Plus I seem to have lost a lot of my sense of humor lately. Or at least what I think of as humor doesn't match the silly crap I see on FB.

Most of all, I'm tired of the silly, pointless arguing. I started dropping "friends" when I realized some of them just wanted to argue, that they only commented on something when they wanted to play "devil's advocate" on some political post I passed along. And who the hell needs that?

Some folks out there just make it really hard for me to stay in the 1972 fantasy world I'd prefer.

Enough whining. Some good news: I'm working, have been working since last December after an unintended year off. Am helping sort used books, CD's and DVD's for a guy who re-sells items on eBay and Amazon. It's only 20 hours a week, and that's fine, because I'm 62 years old now and more and more often I think about retiring.

In terms of my interests, it's a perfect job for me. Most of the time it doesn't require much of a brain or even much attention. But there's some physical labor, and my year off didn't do me any good. The repetitive motions of digging through a huge box of books or media often has my back talking to me by lunchtime, and often by the end of my four-hour work day I have to sit for a bit and let my body rest. I truly am not 55 anymore.

But I remind myself that jobs don't get any easier than this one, and I keep going. If I get fired for being too slow I'll likely retire. That's my plan right now, anyway.

Obviously I'm still writing, and I haven't given up trying to find good music and books that are new to me. I spend much more time reading than listening these days, though.

I don't think I'm "written out" yet and there's a lot more I'd like to write about -- I have a list -- and that writing will likely happen here, where I don't have to worry so much about the length of these essays.

I will warn anyone reading this that if you think I leaned toward being nostalgic and overly personal here in the past, I've done nothing but get more nostalgic and more personal in the last three years.

It should be interesting to see how many people actually read this post. I figure anything more than the two blogging regulars who always used to comment here is a bonus.

Feel free to comment below. More soon.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

I'm back! Sort of....

Hello there. Been awhile.
I've been hanging out over at Facebook for the last couple years. It ain't always pretty over there. Got a few friends, a few people who follow me and seem to like what I do -- but there's a lot of petty, stupid BS over there, too.
So I'm posting this to see if anyone notices. Maybe it's time for this blog to make a comeback.
Things have changed. I'm no longer working, been unemployed since last November, before the coronavirus crisis. They worked me to death at my old job, to the point where my legs and feet were cramping up every night. Every day for three months, I complained that I needed more help, that nobody was doing their job, that everybody left all their work for me.
Finally, I came in on a Monday evening to discover that the place was a wreck, that nothing had been done during my weekend off. I had a screaming meltdown for about five minutes. Then I did my usual evening's work, putting the place back together from scratch.
I was fired the next day, after 16 years at the store. It came as sort of a relief.
My request for unemployment compensation was denied. It took the unemployment folks two months to make a decision. My appeal was also denied. My former employers didn't even bother to show up for the appeal hearing.
I started sending out resumes the first day after getting fired, but there wasn't much out there. Then the coronavirus hit and jobs practically disappeared.
There's been a slight bounceback since mid-May, when the economy started opening back up again, but there still isn't much out there. I sort of went into shock when corona hit, but since then have been fairly optimistic about future job possibilities.
I'm just grateful I had a little money stashed away when I was fired.
Know anybody who could use a decent reporter-editor-proofreader-photographer with 20 years of experience? How about a retail-sales cashier and customer-service rep with 21 years of experience? If so, let me know below. I could use a good job, even part-time. Not truly desperate yet, but getting there.
Still reading lots and listening to music some. I have maybe half the energy I did five years ago, so I'm afraid that book I was planning to write about Really Bad Prog is most likely never going to get finished.
I have a couple other book projects in the works, however. Am currently 8,000 words into a cheezy B-movie-style horror novel. God knows if I'll get it done, either. But my next completed book will go to a legitimate print publisher. My experience with selling e-books has not been good.
I am hanging in. Wish I had some more positive news to pass on.
My girlfriend had a heart pacemaker installed back in December after some fairly scary health-related stuff happened, and though she feels way better than she did before, neither of us are planning to run any marathons. I'm grateful she's around to take care of me. I do my best to take care of her.
If anybody's out there, drop me a line in the comments below. Let me know what you've been up to. We'll see if this blog is worth getting rolling again.