Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Just in time for spring.

I have always considered myself something of a stoic. I don't really get worked up about things either positive or negative, an even keel being my persistent goal. I did find myself laughing out loud when watching Rome and hearing the line “You’ll not turn to drink, will you? You stoic types often do when disappointed in life.”

The American Heritage def of 'stoic' give s us a bit on where the word comes from:

[Middle English Stoic, a Stoic, from Latin Stōicus, from Greek Stōikos, from stoā (poikilē), (Painted) Porch, where Zeno taught; see stā- in Indo-European roots.]

That's right -- the Stoics were the original porchers.

Monday, March 17, 2008

And another

Well look who started a blog. Frequent commenter John has opened http://maltirish.blogspot.com
for business. Get over there.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Must... post.... to blog....

A hearty thanks to Garv for spearheading what is sure to become the most definitive movement in the first half of the 21st century, and congrats to all who have managed to post every day. I mean, I got into a fight with an author, bought a laptop, started playing Second Life, and shaved my head to keep things interesting.

For the record, Nanowrimo started with just 21 participants. We've got that beat! I did send Garv a note of thanks today, which can be viewed here.

Just in case a "wow, we did it" post doesn't count, I'll continue.

Apparently, Jules Verne is trying to talk to me from beyond the grave. Or maybe just from the grave. Either way, he wants to chat. He just keeps coming up. Several times in bufblopofo (tieing with Tupac, I believe). Went to a lecture on the Darwin Martin house (apparently, we are those people), and was told the Courier Express claimed that Jules Verne must have moved to Buffalo, since the style was so odd.

What do you have to say to me, Monsieur? Are you encouraging my latest writing project? Angry with me for detesting The Clipper in the Clouds? Whatever it is, I'll try to get my hands on a ouija board. See you soon.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

75% Less Hippie

Just an FYI, BufBloPoFo MoFo's Scheduled outage at 5:00PM PDT.

BufBloPoFo Topic for Day 13: When the writer’s return kicks back in and all the good TV comes back, what’s your viewing list going to be?

Let's play a MadLib. TV Shows: Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Journeyman, Boston Legal.

"I keep watching ___(show)___, even though it's not good."

The one show I can honestly say I want to see come back is Mad Men. Start watching this show. Yes, they smoke and drink all the time, and no that's not the reason I like it. Not the only reason.

Sure, Jess drools all over the couch every time the main character shows his Brylcreamy head. It's worth it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Buddenbrooks is everywhere.

Yes, another post about LibraryThing.


This is a group which catalogs the libraries of of dead people. As an LT member, I can compare my collection with theirs. I assume it will come as little surprise that I don't have any books in common with Tupac Shakur*, but I was astonished to find how many I have in common with Hemingway. Gladdening to see I don't share any with Dreiser, depressing I have none with Joyce. 21 books in common with Walker Percy? Really?

Can you tell anything about someone from their library? How much? Somewhere between "where they came from" and "who they wanted to be", I'd say.

*Yes, that's two Tupac references this fortnight. Didn't see that comin', didja?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One-and-a-half Life

Second Life intrigues me. Millions of people gadding about, creating whatever they want and doing as they please in a completely user-maintained environment. No shooting, no competition, just wandering around.

Maybe it's the similarities with the Metaverse from Snow Crash (a fave). Maybe it's my HR-geek sensibilities, since companies all over use it. Whatever it is, I want to know more.

Now that I am the proud owner of the star-blessed lappy-so-happy, I am actually able to run Second Life (albeit with limited graphics). I set myself up a character, skimmed the orientation stuff, played dress-up, and got to it.

But, got to what? What the heck do people do on this thing? My initial wanderings produced nothing to maintain my interest. One of the sites I reference from time to time in my steamjournalism is The Heliograph and this guy talks a lot about a steampunk locale in Second Life. I figured I'd swing by.

Okay, so Victorian-style buildings, Victorian-style clothes... by this point I still haven't figured out the draw. By happenstance I come across a library. Someone has built a library, making public domain Vic Lit available to read in-game. I pull up a chair and start on some Jules Verne.

In other words, I end up doing EXACTLY WHAT I DO IN REAL LIFE.

Alex in real life:

Alex in Second Life:

Apparently, the way I live my Primary Life is pretty well-suited to me. Even in a fantasy world, I end up holed up somewhere with my nose in a century-old book.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Having been to New Orleans all of once (not nearly enough to start referring to it as either Nola or The Big Easy), I cannot claim to be an authority. I spent a few days in the French Quarter, venturing out to an A&P in a collegey area once or twice. Nonetheless, I feel perfectly comfortable making the following observation.

The bars in the French Quarter do not favor the colors green or purple. Even during my obligatory walk down Bourbon Street I saw neither color in any large amount. Why, then, do bars in Buffalo insist on decorating like the Joker when they try to go all New Orleans?

As you can tell, I went to Chippewa's latest destination for skeeviness, Bayou, recently. Some multiple office happy hour thing. Nothing quite like seeing scores of business-casual, fifty-something suburbanites forced to suffer in a bar designed for nineteen-year-olds. As I remember, though, Ya Ya's had a similar design approach.

Where did this come from? Are green and purple the official Mardi Gras colors? I know green is for Ordinary Time and purple is for Lent -- is that it?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I say, Holmes. How Do You Do It?

I'm realizing I didn't really flesh this out yesterday, so allow me to expand. One of things I was really into as a kid was Victorian adventure literature. Yes, I know this makes me a weirdo.

From the best I can remember, it started with Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped!. After getting a taste, I went on to devour the more accessible titles in the genre. The complete Sherlock Holmes, much of Poe, the biggies from Wells and Stevenson, even a smattering of Verne.

It's difficult to figure what drew me to these books. Why didn't I read, say, Star Wars novels or what little young adult fiction existed at the time? Why century-old books?

I maintain that the written English word reached the zenith of its grammatical quality in the late 1800's. After that, the modernists came in and stripped it of all complexity, applying the factory-manager's tenets to literature. Streamline it, do more with less, function before form. Imagine if poor Tennyson had been born in 1930.

A combination of the challenging language and the exciting subject matter made this stuff perfect for a young Alex. And did it affect who I am as a person. Take a look at my apartment and you can tell me.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Fifty Per Cent

A bit of housekeeping today.

Apparently BufBloPoFo has been enough of a success to date that our compatriots simply cannot resist starting blogs. Please welcome Greg at the Wannabe Outdoorsman and Amanda at Popcorn to the rewarding world of blogging.

I have been horribly remiss in responding to this week's comments. I bought and HP, not a Toshiba. I have not seen Interstellar 5555 -- I always assumed Daft Punk took an existing movie and re-cut it to fit their song, which is much cooler than what they actually did. Vista still sucks, though some of the features are pretty all right. I just wish it would stop clicking on things unasked.

1: I started this blog to get more practice writing. I'm not sure if the previous sentence is grammatically correct.
2: The best gift I have ever received was a combo -- my dictionary and thesaurus, which are dope.
3: Things that went right today -- It's snowy enough to not do anything. Rad.
4: Play me in a movie. Depending on the type of movie, David Duchovny or James Marsden. Play Garv, Broderick.
5: Etiquette - already covered.
6: Stuff I was into as a kid: Star Wars, GI Joe, Victorian adventure literature, Voltron, Atari.
7: In my wallet. Standards.
8: Current music. The endless mix of post-medieval church music and suicide rock that Jess plays. And Rock It by Gorillaz. Hate the video, like the song.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Well, I'm bald. I participated in Bald For Bucks, a fundraiser for Roswell, and now have zero hair.

Now, what is wrong with the people I work with? Nobody called me Lex Luthor. Nobody called me Charles Xavier. No Destro, no Lobot. I did hear Jason Statham, though, which is tough to be unhappy about.

I'll tell you this -- my head is cold.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Another Open Letter

Dear Windows -

It's about Vista. If I had wanted a Mac, I would have shelled out the dough to add one to my list of fashionable accessories*. As it turns out, I want a PC. You'll note the use of the present tense "want".

I was an Apple guy once, back when you needed to know what to put after a C prompt to make an IBM-clone do anything other than blink at you mockingly. I used to say 'an Apple is a tool, and a PC is a hobby'. Used my tried and true Macintosh SE through college without issue. Then I grew up and got a job.

So, you hooked me. I left the world of smiling icons to enter one of deadly blue screens, happy to spend hours of my life watching Scandisk try to undo whatever horrible thing I had done to my PC (simply by trying to use it). My lifelong obsession with videogames reached new heights, and I came to love the accessibility of every aspect of a PC's function offered by Windows 98 as I tweaked and tweaked, desperate to improve framerate.

Having become a willing devotee of Uncle Bill, I came to detest the Macolytes. Why pay so much for a pretty case wrapped around a machine that wouldn't let you mess with it? They were useless from a business standpoint and had precisely crapola for games. Yet friends and family, people I care about, fell to the lure of the quick and easy path of Mac ownership.

And now, having carried the torch for these many years, I am slapped in the face with this new Mac-like OS. Why don't you just replace the Start menu with the Finder and move the X to the other side of the window while you're at it?

With unflagging love,


* This list is very, very short.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lappy So Happy

I blog to you now from the new laptop. I'm not going to tell you that Alanna's recommendation of astrologyzone.com led to the purchase, but I will say that apparently one twelfth of the world's population would do well to buy an electronic device in March according to the stars.

It is an indisputable fact of modern life that Best Buy's 20-something staffers will try desperately to upsell you a bunch of stuff you don't need. This is despicable, as they normally use the coarsest of scare tactics to get the ill-informed to make poor decisions with their money. Want to shut them up? I suggest the following:

BB - What are you using this computer for?
AL - Wireless internet and word processing.
BB - Are you familiar with Vista?
AL - Yes. (Technically not true, but assume our definitions of 'familiar' differ in this context.)
BB - Well, it doesn't come with a word processor like...
AL - Not to worry. I use open source software for that.

At this point, the poor fellow blinked several times. 'Open source' is the blue-polo-shirt equivalent of 'Rumplestiltskin'.

BB - Well, what do you use for security? Viruses...
AL - I use open source for that, too.
BB - (now sweating) How about a service plan? You know batteries for these things can cost up to BLANK (where BLANK is half the cost of the laptop). We can (three minutes of pathetic blathering).
AL - No thanks.
BB - Well, here you go, Have a nice day.
AL - That's right, bitch. I know your secret. I am geekier than you pretend to be, and your three-card-monte bullshit doesn't work. Now try to sell me a pre-order of Madden 2015. I dare you.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Officially sanctioned

While I was on my safari in the Buffalo Central Library on the hunt for that Japan book, I found myself with plenty of time to look at the bulletin boards. It was then that I learned of the Buffalo News short fiction contest. They were looking for super-short stories set in Buffalo, so I re-tooled a piece I had (unsuccessfully) submitted to the Artvoice for their flash fiction purposes and sent it to the provided email address.

No response. Not a "thank you for submitting", not a "we got yer thingy", nothing.

The winners were posted recently, including some runners-up. Obviously there was some mistake. My piece is simply filled with quality. Sure, the Artvoice guy didn't recognize it, but perhaps he has some kind of bias. (When I get my Nobel, he'll rue the day he overlooked what was so clear to everyone else.) The News must not have received the complex gem of modern literature I offered them.

So, I emailed again today. A very polite and respectful note congratulating the winners and asking -- just out of curiosity -- for confirmation. Not confirmation for myself as a writer, of course (though an "oh, yours was simply magnificent but didn't really meet requirement X, have you considered The Atlantic?" wasn't outside of the realm of imaginable possibility) but simply confirmation that my opus had been received.

Sorry, but we read 500 stories and can’t confirm receipt" came the reply. No lead-in, no "yours", nothing but that sentence. And this not two hours after I sent my inquiry.

Now, I've received my share of rejection letters, and this one struck me as unusually rude. One might point out that if I had received a simple "thank you for your entry" I would not have been troubling them at this late date, or that a greeting and signature are normally considered the minimum acceptable etiquette, but these reminders would most certainly fall on ears deafened by the immense responsibility of being paid to read 250,000 words for the only paper in town.

So there you have it, Garvemus: a post on etiquette and protocol. Rejected-writer rage!!!

Monday, March 03, 2008

It's fate.

Dear MTV -

You must have heard I called in sick today. Why else would you play a straight hour of animated videos in the middle of the day?

You should know that all in all, I was satisfied with your choices. Daft Punk's "One More Time" and "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits are the obvious historical choices, and you did well to include them. "Move Your Feet" maintains its hilarity and "Breaking the Habit" will never cease to be awesome.

That being stated, why two Gorillaz videos? And why was neither of them 19/2000? Also, that Tupac video is awful. I am literally filled with awe at how bad it is.

My only additions might have been "Paranoid Android" (though its like seventy minutes long, weird, and only important to Radiohead freaks, so maybe "Pyramid Song"), Matthew Sweet's "Girlfriend" in place of the Daft Punk thing, and lego-tastic "Fell in Love with a Girl".


Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Question of Usage

"Youtube it!"

I overheard this imperative the other day. We all know you can google, fedex, and xerox, but does youtube merit a verb form?

I'm leaning towards no. The trouble is, one can search for videos on youtube as well as post them. So, does "youtube it" mean "look for that video on youtube" or "post that video on youtube"?

It could be argued that context would be the deciding factor between the two meanings,
but take for example the following conversation:

"Where did you get this video?"
"I youtubed it."
"Oh, you posted it to youtube?"
"No, I found it on youtube."
"I say. This would be easier if 'youtube' were not a verb."
"Quite right, sir; quite right."

Saturday, March 01, 2008

By This I Stand

As you may remember, I participate in Librarything's Early Reviewers program. The latest book I received, The 13th Reality, makes two books I've received and two books I really did not like. My review of the book was downright mean -- it actually made me angry to read this thing, and I opted to shelve my trademark diplomatic demeanor and have at it.

Apparently, the author wasn't so keen on that. His response is here, at the bottom of the page. I would have preferred something more along the lines of "shut up, you prick", but instead it looks as if I actually hurt the guy. Guilt, oh yes I feel it.

I must respond in some fashion, but I certainly will not retract my statements. It would appear most readers disagree with me, as the average rating is 3.78 out of 4 on LT and 5 out of 5 on Amazon, so I assume he can take some solace in that.

My forays into Young Adult fiction have been fairly limited, but I get the sense that most readers are grown-ups who forgive poor writing because the target audience is teenagers. I suppose my problem is that I expect everything to be good, that I rank books on a universal scale rather than one limited to genre or intent. Perhaps an approach closer to "it's OK, if you like that kind of thing" would be a better.