Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Minimalism vs. Possession Obsession

I have too much stuff. And not just books (which there's a shitload) but trinkets, notebooks, files, etc. Items that I rarely look at but feel the need to possess. Stacked up everywhere, spreading like a contagion. Reminds me that d and I occasionally talk about the time we lived in Virginia in a one-bedroom apartment with absolutely no furniture save two lawn chairs that we dragged inside from the third-floor balcony when company arrived. Bedroom had a mattress, lamp, and zero other furnishings. Now our happiest time will always be when our daughter entered the frame but occasionally we recall the earlier era when we had next to no possessions. Life seemed a lot more, say, manageable.

So I was drawn to Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things directed by Matt D'Avell and featuring minimalists who believe in more happiness through less clutter. Here's the trailer for you. Now, I'm not sure I could ever scale it back as far as the minimalists do because I like a lot of books surrounding me and couldn't imagine Joyce's Ulysses orphaned on the shelf. (Though if I could only have one novel, what would it be?) But after viewing Minimalism on Netflix, I scoured through a few containers inspired by not just the film but my previous lifestyle and tossed away old newspapers, magazines, and papers guilt free. It felt damn good... and hardly made a dent. Still, like my hero Sisyphus, never give up. I'm going to try again today.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Voices of the Dead: In Memories and Literary Prose

When the family reserve has been let down by the indie publishing, I go back to the daily security grind which takes me here and there, until the coffers are no longer on life support. So, there I was, at 4:30 a.m., shuffling into the Holiday Inn dining nook in Warrenton, Virginia—preparing my bolstering dose of English breakfast tea—when I noticed the woman I had exchanged pleasantries with the previous morning was unhinged. "Be careful out there," she warned. "There's been a murder at the CVS and the police told us to lock the doors. So, if you go out, you’ll have to knock or call to get back in." That deposited an image of me...

*For more, and I certainly hope I've stoked your interest, please click here for the rest of my article.

Never-Before-Seen Event: 'Kilonova'

The Verge: "For the first time, astronomers detect gravitational waves from two neutron stars colliding." Wow! Incredible news and this comes a mere two years after gravitational waves were first detected confirming a prediction by Einstein. In addition:
In the wake of the collision, the churning residue forged gold, silver, platinum and a smattering of other heavy elements such as uranium. 
What a time to be involved in science, or, like me, a dedicated aficionado. Fantasy: to have witnessed this mind-blowing neutron 'duel' from a protective distance, maybe aboard the TARDIS. A cosmic spectacle for which the words stellar and awesome were invented.

The Naked Time (1967)

On a dying planet, the Enterprise crew discovers a research team frozen dead in bizarre positions: one member was fully clothed taking a shower and another sits at a control panel like nothing was amiss. Mr Spock and Lt. Tormolen split up to investigate when Tormolen is unknowingly contaminated by a red liquid and then by domino effect inflicts the rest of the crew. Soon, because no one is at the helm, the ship's orbit is compromised and the Enterprise begins to plunge toward the planet. McCoy eventually saves the day with a vaccine and Spock proposes an untested theory of time and antimatter. With options depleted, they time travel for the first time going back before the events that nearly crippled them.

Easily one of the ten best episodes of the original series because of the crew 'drunk' and behaving widely erratic with Mr Sulu imagining himself a swashbuckler, Riley locking himself in engineering and promoting himself to captain, and Nurse Chapel professing her love for Spock. As a kid, this episode along with "Shore Leave" were my favorites because of the out of their element detours. And I had such a kick watching The Naked Time" again, I'm going to add more time tripping adventures to the Cranmer queue. Slingshotting next with "Tomorrow is Yesterday" when the crew finds themselves in that strange era known as the 1960's.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

How Sci-Fi Writers Imagine Iraq’s Future

The Atlantic: In a new speculative-fiction anthology series, Iraqi authors consider their country’s tumultuous present as they envision how it could look in the year 2103.

The Paradoxical Politics of Literary Criticism

New Republic: How did literary scholarship take a leftward turn during the 1970s, when neoliberalism and austerity were ascendant?

Who Was Mata Hari?

Exotic dancing and espionage are the twin peaks that come to mind when the name Mata Hari is mentioned. But what is her full, true story? Lost to time and blurred in key passages, for sure. Fact and fiction began cross-pollinating quite early, furthered in great part by her own exaggerations in efforts to hype her lascivious career. Journalists lapped it up for purple prose lines like, “so feline, extremely feminine, majestically tragic, the thousand curves and movements of her body trembling in a thousand rhythms.” Today's Hollywood publicists have nothing on Ms. Hari when it comes to self-promotion and aggrandizement. She discovered early in her stage career that the more outlandish a rumor reported by the press, the more people paid to see her dance.
My full article can be found at Macmillan's Criminal Element.

Thelonious Monk - Straight, No Chaser (HD FULL ALBUM)

The Abyss by Oliver Sacks

Saturday's used bookstore haul included The Best American Science Writing 2008 edited by Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind. First article I read was "The Abyss" by Oliver Sacks that spotlighted Clive Wearing who has chronic anterograde and retrograde amnesia. He only retains memories from anywhere from seven to thirty seconds. In a journal he attempted to keep, he would repeatedly write entries like “I am awake” or “I am conscious” over and over again. Damn, can you imagine being trapped in that loop? And yet, he can play the piano with little issue and remembers his wife's face. I recommended the read or this video I found on YouTube. Fascinating, thought-provoking.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mitch at War

We’ve been celebrating one hundred years of Robert Mitchum, having already looked back at his noir and Western films. Another genre he dominated was war movies, often projecting the great inner strength of tight-lipped heroes who fought the good fight, usually against staggering odds. Here are several of the best.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Trilogies Get Better but Movie Trilogies...

Movie Trilogies Get Worse with Each Film. Book Trilogies Get Better.

Fear and Desire

Here's a curio: Fear and Desire (1953) directed by Stanley Kubrick, his first feature. At 62 minutes, it plays like an art house film cross-pollinated with The Twilight Zone. Open narration sets it up:
There is a war in this forest. Not a war that has been fought, nor one that will be, but any war. And the enemies who struggle here do not exist unless we call them into being. This forest then, and all that happens now is outside history. Only the unchanging shapes of fear and doubt and death are from our world. These soldiers that you see keep our language and our time, but have no other country but the mind.
It shows Kubrik's theme of dehumanization was already set in place and if you have some time, it is well worth the view.

Nik Morton's Dark Echoes

Nik: Reading my western Coffin for Cash, you might think there is the odd echo or two from some of Edgar Allan Poe’s work. And you’d be right.

The Guardian: The Rub of Time by Martin Amis Review

Guardian: Insight vies with self-regard in this anthology of essays on everything from poker to porn.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

About That Trailer

In 1977, at seven-years-old, I saw Star Wars at a drive-in movie theater and it charged my imagination like no movie before—I remember days afterward still buzzing with the andrenline high. Then came The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. Not the same shot in the arm but damn near close. The pitiful prequels followed that had their moments and if you closed one eye and squinted you could almost relive the magic. I liked aspects of The Force Awakens and forgave it for being the plot to the first movie and holy hell it was sure great to see Han and Chewie again. But on a second viewing, a few months later, I was completely bored and fast forwarded through chunks of stale dialogue, same old action. Rogue One was a step-up though I felt no emotional connection between the hero and her father because the opening moved too swift, lack of character development. Still, it's obvious these individual stand alones (Han Solo is next) have a much needed fresh package seal.

Now, earlier today, I posted the new trailer because I guess (pleading Pavlov's dog syndrome) thats what I am suppose to do. And I did as trained though I was underwhelmed to the max by my first glimpse of The Last Jedi. I liked seeing Luke Skywalker but have zero interest in Rey's journey of enlightenment. Because that was Luke's original journey and well it was completed in 1983 with the death of Vader and the Empire in ruins but fandom demanded it all keeps going so here we are again... and will be again until sales at some distant point fade. As if that's posssible, right? Yes, bah umbug! I'm old, ewoks. Though many of my friends on Twitter within the same ten years of decreptitude are way excited, looking to decipher every frame of this trailer and the seven-year-old kid in me is wanting the same level of excitement. I just can't give it to him.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Trailer (Official)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Travels and Adventures of Little Baron Trump and His Wonderful Dog Bulger

Trump Is the Star of These Bizarre Victorian Novels. Different Trump... or is it?!?

Cranmer Family Bake Off

Ava held a family bake off. It was me against Little d. Ingredients: sugar and 🍎's. I sliced an 🍎. Layered pieces with peanut butter/marshmallow creme. Yeah, I lost badly.

Walden Wasn’t Thoreau’s Masterpiece

For the record, I never thought it was. The Atlantic: "In his 2-million-word journal, the transcendentalist discovered how to balance poetic wonder and scientific rigor as he explored the natural world."

I'm Taking Baby Steps

Last week, on Twitter, I lamented that writing feels like I'm carving Mount Rushmore with toothpicks. And the more I thought about it, crafting new sentences has been a chore for about a month. I don't have the mean reds over lack of flow because what I'm laying down, I'm satisfied with. Case in point, yesterday, I conjured five sentences for an introduction to the Tom Paine book I'm finishing. Not brilliant but serviceable. Now, I will polish them off and see if I can turn the dial a bit farther. Like Bill Murray in What About Bob, I'm taking baby steps. It's working.

An Oral History of Batman: The Animated Series

Vulture: The show that defined the Dark Knight for a generation, in the words of its creators and stars.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Infiltrations of the Surreal

From 2015, my article on Julio Cortázar. Besides thinking I did a fairly decent job with this piece, I've become a convert to Cortázar's body of work and just recently started  reading his short stories again. Hope you don't mind me sharing again.

First Poll

Click over to Twitter to vote in my first poll to decide which book series (007, Reacher, Holmes, or Poirot) I review next.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Traveling Wilburys - End Of The Line

Vegas Horror

Woke to news of the mass shooting horror on the Las Vegas Strip. Can't begin to convey how my heart aches for the families of the murdered. And yes this is terrorism, and YES it is the time to talk about ways to prevent it. We can mourn the dead and also be active in our response.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Monty Hall, RIP

Mention Monty Hall and my mind jumps to a classic probability puzzle and the movie 21 that I reviewed for CE.

Usual Foes

Reading morning papers. Seemingly perpetual bombardment of the usual foes—fascism, prejudice, totalitarianism.

Attacking An Enemy Combatant... In Style

Once again, researching Tom Paine for an upcoming project. Admire the following way he goes after  an anathematic cretin that had slandered him.
I have seen thy soliloquy and despise it. Remember thou hast thrown me the glove, Cato, and either thee or I must tire. I fear not the field of fair debate, but thou hast stepped aside and made it personal. Thou hast tauntingly called on me by name; and if I cease to hunt thee from every lane and lurking hole of mischief, and bring thee not a trembling culprit before the public bar, then brand me with reproach, by naming me in the list of your confederates.

Handbook for Mortals Fallout

The Making (and Unmaking) of a 23-Hour New York Times Best Seller

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Thomas Paine, Heavy Metal

Researching for my soon to be released book on Paine, I discovered the founding father's preference in music. 😉
A GUNBOAT, carrying heavy metal, is a movable fortification; and there is no mode or system of defense the United States can go into for coasts and harbors or ports, that will be so effectual as by gun-boats. —Thomas Paine, Miscellaneous Letters and Essays of Thomas Paine, London, 1819

Told You So

I'm not saying the King is wrong after reading, "Why 'The Dark Tower' movie failed, according to Stephen King," but I'm feeling I nailed it with my LitReactor article that appeared ahead of the film's lackluster opening.

Blade Runner — Constructing a Future Noir

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

11:04 a.m.

Polishing article for LitReactor on real corpses vs. how writers present them in stories and my experience with the 💀 as a soldier in Haiti.

Yes! IT: Chapter Two Release Date

'IT: Chapter Two' gets release date and people want to know who plays who.

Banned Books

Why are illustrated books being challenged more than ever?

Batman Noir

May take a closer look at Batman gets a noir makeover in new Turner Classic Movies comic book. I've always considered Bruce Wayne's alter-ego a detective first with very strong noir overtones. Has potential to be right up my bat-cave.

Maron

Just completed season 4 of the reenergized, vital MARON. Off the rails greatness. If you want something different in your viewing diet, this is for you.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Facing Unpleasant Facts And Engulfed In Flames

Finished George Orwell's "Looking Back on the Spanish War" essay from Facing Unpleasant Facts (2008) compiled by George Packer. Agree with the late Christopher Hitchens that Orwell was right on "three great subjects of the 20th century ... imperialism, fascism and Stalinism." Always close an Orwell book thinking long and hard on his points.
Now turning back to more lighter fare with my David Sedaris collection, When You Are Engulfed In Flames. Enjoying it immensely though I wouldn't say its laugh out loud funny but definitely entertaining and perfecto before shut-eye.

Strange Continuity: Why Our Brains Don't Explode at Film Cuts

Sunday, September 24, 2017

6:48 p.m.

Little d played a clever game of backgammon with just enough derring-do and luck to beat me by one solitary blot. I enjoy the close ones and don't mind losing a hard fought, close battle. And then all three of us coconuts, at the urging of the youngest charmer, went for a walk where we collected yesterday's mail. Now I'm settling down to read When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris with a Jack & Coke at the ready.

Dorothy On Writing

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”—Dorothy Parker

Autonomous Author Predicts

How to Write a Novel Set More Than 125 Years in the Future.

Thelonious Monk - Solo Monk (HD FULL ALBUM)

At This Moment...

Morning shards: into homestretch on my Margaretha Zelle article. Then bracing black tea ahead of the Sunday papers. Music: 65's Solo Monk.

80 Years Later: The Hobbit

What J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit still has to offer, 80 years after its publication

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Liking Trans

Always spirit-lifting to see positive reviews for a project you worked on for many months. In this case, Transgemination by Glenn Gray.

Guardian Amis Rub

It seems The Guardian (piece by Anne Enright) finds a lot to like about this new collection of essays from Martin Amis though apparently with some reservations. Of course, as you know, I'm an aficionado of Kingsley's son and will buy straightaway.

Lillian Ross

Ms. Ross was a legendary journalist with over 500 pieces published by The New Yorker. Don't click here or else you will go down the rabbit hole, like I did, of astounding talent.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Light In Darkness

A daily pitstop for me is Pat's Blog that is dedicated to all things mathematics. Today, he posted a  Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky quote that in a current reality many have felt has gone mad is optimistic:
Mankind will not remain on the earth forever, but, in search of light and space, will at first timidly penetrate beyond the limits of the atmosphere and then finally conquer the spaces of the solar system.
Not a fan of math? Maybe my Movies + Math article can help make a minor dent in your life-long cynicism. Deal? 👍

Wandering Spirit


John le Carré Interview

Just got around to watching the 60 Minutes interview with John le Carré. I've read his books since the 1980's when I first saw Alec Guinness play George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People. Steve Kroft does a fine job of getting the famed author to reveal a little bit more about his past than I've seen in other such presentations. Worth your time if you appreciate his work or a writers creative process. Also, if you are a bit more intrigued with George Smiley, I've done a recap of his career at Macmillan's Criminal Element blog.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rest In Peace, Stanislav Petrov

The man who stopped nuclear catastrophe in 1983 has passed away. If you are not aware of his history, I recommend clicking over to learn more about Mr. Petrov who deserves a monument in both Russia and the United States.

Concealed Carry, Alt-Right, And Hive Mind

Merriam Webster has expanded their essential dictionary with 250 new words. Here's the link to immerse yourself with the likes of froyo, Saigon Cinnamon, and my favorite... schneid. Oh, and I guess I was being a bit mischievous with the header to this post knowing it would bring in some traffic—but those have also been added. You don't feel cheated, right? Talking words is so much more enlightening.

Happy Birthday, Lexicographer

"Dull: Not exhilaterating (sic); not delightful; as, to make dictionaries is dull work." And Samuel Johnson would know. Happy 308th, sir.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Frank Bullitt Is The Name

This: ‘Bullitt’: A Suspense-Packed Thriller that Introduced a New Kind of Action Films. And hat tip to Andrew Nette for bringing this percipient article to my attention. Thought I knew most everything about this movie and realize I hardly had a clue.

Lonely As Hell

In a Lonely Place (1950) features one of the finest Humphrey Bogart performances equaled by the lovely Gloria Grahame as his doomed lover. And a very astute line, my favorite, comes when Bogart as a cynical Hollywood screenwriter named Dixon Steele says, "It was his story against mine, but of course, I told my story better." And another more tragic gem, "I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me." How great is that, right?

Such poignant, flawless writing was adapted from the Dorothy B. Hughes novel of the same name. Considered by some to be the greatest noir, I disagree there, but it would easily be in the top five, with numero uno being Out of the Past. I watched Lonely Place earlier today and am thinking it needs to be part of my yearly rotation. A film of such immense, staggering depth is bound to elicit more treasures on repeated dives.

Worth The Wait? Dune (1984)

I have a sister that speaks well of the Dune books and even likes the 1984 movie though I know there are other fans who view this David Lynch science fiction extravaganza as a major misfire. So after 34 years, and a being a fan of both director Lynch and actor Kyle MacLachlan, I decided to take a look this early Sunday morning. Here's my ultra pithy, in the moment, thoughts:

Dune's special effects are dated so the movie has to survive on its narrative merits and though it's a bit long-winded it has tons of complex, interweaved story threads to maintain interest. As I said earlier on Twitter, it triumphed in me wanting to read the Herbert novels on which this production was based. Gripes: too many character inner voiceovers and though it's no fault of their own, I look at Patrick Stewart and think Captain Picard and Sting as that rock and roller with The Police. They are fine actors, that's just my visual hang-up, and you may not have such issues.

I would give Dune a non-committal 2 1/2 ✨ out of four. Far from a stinker like many have suggested but it just needed a little more wind in those sand infested sails.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Worth The Wait? Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

No it wasn't. As a matter of fact I could barely finish this mirthless time traveling adventure. I recall Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) was stratosphere popular when I was 19. It seemed like everyone loved it and many of the silly catchphrases ("Bogus!") were in constant rotation. Maybe, I'm the wrong age for it now, perhaps, then again I don't think I would have enjoyed it any more back in the day. Huge fan of George Carlin and even those interludes seemed to lack focus and didn't register on the laugh-o-meter.

Next up, in movies I've missed until now, is David Lynch's Dune. Never read the book and have only seen a few parts of the movie. 

The Old Man and the Sea (1999)


Top hand-painted animation! From Alexander Petrov's adaptation of Hemingway's classic.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Motherhood & Creativity

The Atlantic: "How Motherhood Affects Creativity. Cultural messages tell women that making art and having children are incompatible pursuits. But..."

Best In Detective Fiction

Ross Macdonald, True Detective: The '50s noir novelist investigated sources of rot in the American grain.

Tweet, Tweet

I'm on Twitter and below is a few of my last tweets. I'm usually over there several times a day if you wish to connect beyond Blogger.

Heartening to follow Cassini's pioneering descent into Saturn—humans succeeding at something other than political squabbling, war. 

Co-worker retold my droll story, weeks later, as if it was his own. Harmless, but what stings, is the laugh-o-meter spiked on his version.

Finished book I'm reviewing and—bless the author—no "narrowed eyes" anywhere in 250 pages. Respite from that unrelenting, histrionic gaze!

Removing this etiolated mainframe of middle-aged bones away from the desk—off for a walk before rigor mortis develops.

I'm bringing back the word "devilry" that Merriam places in the low 30% of usage. Slipped into two colloquies in one week—no one blinked.

I try to remember every individual's totality is vast, complex, often with many tortured dead ends.

Read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960) to my daughter for the umpteenth time and not bored—what rhythm Seuss conjured.

Crossing the Rubicon with Julius Caesar, 49 BC, is on my time travel bucket list. Not the strongest swimmer, will bring an adult floatie.

Such an impulsive drive to write. If I don't—miserable.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sammy

Sammy came into my life in 2000 and I brought him from Virginia to New York where he eventually lived with my mom and dad. When dad passed away in 2005, Sam was someone for my mom to take care of even though she wasn't a pet person. However, there was no doubt that six years later when they were separated a mutual bond had developed. Mom, in her eighties, had a hard time hearing Sam at the door ready to come in, so he would climb onto the roof to the side of mom's front door and leap down onto the air conditioner causing a loud enough din for her to go open the door and let him in. Also amusing, when it was getting dark and she was ready for him to come inside, she would call in a loud, vociferous shout, "SAM! SAM! HERE, SAM!" Like she was calling a person. It worked. And we all loved that chemistry.

My nephew Kyle took care of him next, though as with my mom, looking back, maybe it was Sammy taking care of him. Not a cat person either, he also fell to Sammy's charms. Once my sister Meta stopped by to see her son, looked through a window, and saw Sammy sleeping while wrapped around Kyle's neck as my nephew typed away on his computer. I treasure that image. For the last several years, my niece Kayla and her husband Kevin took extraordinary care of this kind soul and gave him tons of loving attention with all the comforts that I'm eternally grateful for. She called me today to say Sammy was on his way out. Though, seventeen years is a good, long time for a cat, I can't help feel profound sadness over this wonderful creature who made a difference in our lives.

Goodbye, and love you, old friend.

Five D's

Here are some words I have used in some recent or upcoming projects. All definitions are from Merriam Webster.

Deviltries is an archaic variant of devilry. Wickedness, mischief.  I said on Twitter earlier today: I'm bringing back the word "devilry" that Merriam places in the low 30% of usage. Slipped into two colloquies in one week—no one blinked.

Disport means sport, pastime. A recent Merriam Webster Word of the Day.

Discursive is digressing from subject to subject.

Dissolute. From the bottom 30% of deviltries to the top 30% with dissolute which means more or less lax morals.

Dragooned has become a quick favorite which means to coerce someone into doing something. Click on the link for another essential word of the day.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Drone King: A Newly Discovered Kurt Vonnegut Short Story

The Atlantic has "The Drone King" by Kurt Vonnegut.

I'm Reading...

Valuing again, the inverted (at times discordant) panache of Times's Arrow by Martin Amis. In the top five of his best with Money, London Fields, The Information, and The Zone of Interest. And what is your current read?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Despair

Conversations with Vladimir Nabokov collects 28 interviews with the author of Pale Fire, Lolita, etc. A must for me. And, in case you missed it, one of my most read articles was
Vladimir Nabokov’s Hidden Noir: Despair. You know me, always return to that noir thumping heart no matter the genre.

The Longest Word in the Dictionary - Merriam-Webster Ask the Editor (Not Antidisestablishmentarianism)

Blinders

That nettlesome sporadic occurrence filling in a number, in the daily sudoku, when that very number is present in the grid. Fleeting 'blindness' of sorts, occupational hazard.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Honorable Killer

Working like mad on the fifth novella (there was a fourth called Blood Moon not pictured above) in The Lawyer Western series. Following in the footsteps of Wayne and Eric is daunting but I'm feeling I got a fairly good handle on what I'm calling The Honorable Killer. For starters, much more backstory featuring J.D. Miller's (The Lawyer) past and how he came to be on his retribution trail. It is looking like an early 2018 release. Wish me luck! Back to the keyboard.

Happy 25th Anniversary! Top 10 Best Batman: The Animated Series Episodes

V'ger

I remember when Voyager I (and later 2) blasted off forty years ago today. As a kid the image of our technology leaving the galaxy was jaw-dropping to comprehend. Theoretical physicist, Lawrence M. Krauss has a splendid article touching on the historic event and what the future may hold for humanity and the Voyagers. By the way, any Star Trek fans? Whenever I think upon Voyager I, can't help recalling The Motion Picture (1979) and the Enterprise crew meeting up with our history.

Missing Pieces

Kudos to Matthew Olson for enumerating the logical (i.e., most beneficial) way to savor Twin Peaks. At this stage, I'm just interested in watching The Missing Pieces (2014) and reading "The Secret History of Twin Peaks" by Mark Frost (2016). And if you don't want to lose interest in Olson's approach, I recommend, after Laura's murderer is revealed just leapfrog to the last episode of season 2. That way you can avoid meandering narratives that really weigh down the overall enjoyment.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

Just A Little More Rhythm

I turned my final Twin Peaks article around in less than twelve hours which is a little too fast for my tastes–I like to polish for a few days to develop more rhythm. Still, if you are interested in my two-cents click over to Criminal Element, and, more importantly I'm interested in hearing from you.

Peaks has been a joy to watch, a bright spot in the fickle TV landscape. What next? I've heard Westworld is returning. Maybe I will hold out for that sci-fi Western. In the meantime, I will continue to play backgammon against Demon Seed. There's always backgammon.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Reelin' In The Years

Chimera, Tulpa

I have written about Richard Burton at LitReactor and follow 'him' on Twitter. An entry from his August 19, 1980 diary: "Last night the audience was a phantom, now with you, now gone, a chimera of wrong responses." Merriam Webster defines: "1. a fire-breathing female monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail. 2. a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve." (Note to self: It would be a shame to not make use of this word soon.)

In Twin Peaks: The Return, FBI Agent, Tammy Preston mentioned the word tulpa (I was not familiar) which is an imaginary thing made real through individual visualization or group conjuring. The show I'm recapping for Criminal Element makes good use of several tulpas and the conclusion of this subversive gem ends tonight. Going to hate like hell to see it go, in a sea of banal balderdash passing for entertainment, David Lynch brought progressive, thought-provoking film-making.

George Orwell: A Life in Pictures Full Documentary (High Quality)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Noxious Is Harmful

Definition of noxious from Merriam Webster: "physically harmful or destructive to living beings noxious waste noxious fumes." Some of the synonyms of noxious: poisonous, toxic, deadly, harmful, dangerous, pernicious, damaging, and destructive.
Glad there's a reporter there in Crosby, Texas to question such an obvious divergent technique from this chemical company spokesman.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Smiley's Legacy

I've long been a fan of fictional master spy George Smiley ever since seeing Alec Guinness in the legendary Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People. Read all the books at least twice and have compiled a handy refresher course over at Macmillan's Criminal Element. The reason for my look back is that there's a new Smiley out this week by John le Carré called A Legacy of Spies. 

Thelonious Monk - Solo Monk (HD FULL ALBUM)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Clear-Headed Act

“However great a man’s fear of life,” Doctor Magiot said, “suicide remains the courageous act, the clear-headed act of a mathematician. The suicide has judged by the laws of chance—so many odds against one that to live will be more miserable than to die. His sense of mathematics is greater than his sense of survival. But think how a sense of survival must clamour to be heard at the last moment, what excuses it must present of a totally unscientific nature.” Graham Greene's The Comedians (1966)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Beach Essentials

We were at Colonial Beach, Virginia yesterday. These were my beach essentials.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Seven Words For David

I carry this blue notebook around, filling it up with words and definitions that I've never heard before or want to use in a story or article. Once the book is bursting with knowledge, I buy a new one. All definitions come from Merriam Webster except convivial that I found at Dictionary.

Arbitrage - the nearly simultaneous purchase and sale of securities or foreign exchange in different markets in order to profit from price discrepancies. First known use: 1875.

Rive - to wrench open or tear apart or to pieces. First known use: 14th century. Just used this palabra in my latest article at LitReactor.

En prise - of a chess piece; exposed to capture. First known use 1825.

Triumphalism - an attitude or feeling of victory or superiority. First known use 1964.

Convivial - friendly; agreeable. First known use 1660-1670.

Abrogate - to abolish by authoritative action. First known use circa 1520.

Specious - having deceptive attraction or allure; having a false look of truth or genuineness. First known use: 1513.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I May Get Some Flak...



I may get some flak for this one but its an issue that has been needling me for a while:
Book vs. Television: What TV's Sheriff Longmire Is Doing Wrong article is live at LitReactor.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Don't Try This At The Gas Station

Man fueling his car on the other side of the pump climbed back inside his vehicle and began to text. He finished what he was writing and forgot what he was doing there in the first place and pulled away ripping the hose clean off the pump. He jumped out, startled, asking me, "should I tell somebody?" I looked at him with narrowed eyes (yes, those narrowed eyes) and said, "yeah, good idea." Darndest thing.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Transgemination

I had such a kick working with Glenn on Transgemination. The kind of book still giving me chuckles on the third pass. Science fiction, horror, thrills, and lots of humor. It is now available in print and for the kindle. Here's what its all about:
What would YOU do if you stumbled upon a mysterious simmering gooey thing in your backyard? Farm boys Karl and Stew are forced to answer this question when they happen upon an otherworldly blob thing in their cornfield. Before they know it, their normally tranquil farm is transformed into a chaotic, surreal nightmare of sorts, and quickly becomes the epicenter of national attention. Follow Karl and Stew as they struggle to maintain their sanity in this humorous, sometimes outlandish but thought provoking sci-fi novella, replete with bizarre creatures, explosions and even a love story. A must read for fans of retro sci-fi/horror B movies, woven with real science, as only Glenn Gray can do. Buckle up for a fun, yet harrowing ride.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Robert Mitchum at 100

Mitch would have turned 100 today. I've written three articles for Criminal Element celebrating the actor's centennial. In the first, I take a look at his Westerns. A sample:

Innovative Western artfully directed by Raoul Walsh that noir historian Jake Hinkson (The Big Ugly, The Posthumous Man) calls, “… one of the premier examples of Neurosis In The West.” Controversial topics like repressed memory, hallucinations, and a passing hint of incest are broached in this cutting-edge production. 
Both Montgomery Cliff and Kirk Douglas were considered and rejected for the role. Mitchum, known as “the soul of film noir” for classics like Out of the Past (1947), took the dark, tortured outsider and easily adapted it to the Old West while hardly missing his fedora and trench coat.

Damn Good Coffee

I'm enjoying a "damn good" cup of coffee (bypassing usual morning tea) as I prepare tomorrow's Twin Peaks 11-13 episode recap for Criminal Element. Check here for my last write up on the offbeat, subversive revival.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Making Old New

Scene: a few days ago at a hotel in Virginia. Me: ridiculously happy contemplating how to best preserve this forty-year-old backgammon board my sister Sharon gave to me. It's in rather good condition though needs some glue in a few spots where the felt is coming undone but what should I use for the latches that are rusty and worn with age?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The End Has Arrived

After ten months of journeying toward The Dark Tower, I have reached the pinnacle with a small but loyal ka-tet. I originally started my read of King's magnum opus in the 1980's, broke off for a couple of decades, and have now finished it. Here's my last dispatch from on top and what we found behind that final door. Spoilers, my friends, spoilers.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Passing of Sam Shepard

Sorry to hear that Sam Shepard has died. Many top films in a stellar career but one that I immediately think of is Blackthorn from 2011. I reviewed it in my Under Burning Skies: Best of 21st Western Movies article.

Rest in peace, sir.

An Uneasy Evening

A great memory from Eddie Muller: An Uneasy Evening with the Noir Legend.

Richard's Storyville

I enjoy reading whatever Richard Thomas writes including his recent column at LitReactor: Storyville: Adding Diversity to Your Fiction.

Whole Lotta Writers

Open Culture brought this to my attention: 1,500 hours of audio & video featuring 2,200 writers.

Morning Read: Microsoft Is Hustling Us With...

Microsoft Is Hustling Us With "White Spaces" by Susan Crawford.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Influences... And Yours?

I'm back at LitReactor with a new article. Please share, stop by there/leave a comment, write home to mom, etc. Here's a sample:
Like many writers, I was reared on a never-ending veneration for big guns such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. Authors who’ve passed some ‘immortal’ litmus test for stuffy academic types to get overly excited about. Harsh? Perhaps, because most of the top tier lit club have deservedly earned their marks. But along the path I’ve learned some of the best prose originates from sources other than these writing titans. Here are two actors—who apparently fancied putting pen to paper over starring roles—and one journalist that I would stack up with the best of the best and have returned to often for inspiration.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Royal Excursions

We stopped at the charming Royal Oak Bookshop where I picked up the eclectic trio of Visiting Mrs. Nabokov (1993) by Martin Amis, The Backgammon Book (1970) by Oswald Jacoby and John R. Crawford, and a math book on Algebra. We also went to a nearby park where we enjoyed about an hour until the sun heated things up a little too much. Still, a fun excursion.
Royal Oak Bookshop in Front Royal, Virginia.

Bookstore's Simone making Ava feel welcomed.

At a nearby park heading off for other worlds.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Interrogation

I'm publishing Glenn Gray's next book Transgemination and he talks about that and a lot more in this interview with S.W. Lauden.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Subversive, Expressionistic, and Harrowing


“Gotta Light” is a subversive, expressionistic, and harrowing episode with prolonged scenes—even by Lynch standards—of no dialogue. “As soon as you put things in words, no one ever sees the film the same way,” he was quoted as saying in The New Yorker. The sobering result: we hear the eerie, discordant “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” by Penderecki as we bear witness to the first atomic bomb test at White Sands, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, and are pulled into the mushroom cloud among the swirling atoms of hellfire and destruction.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

13 Is Who's Lucky Number

I'm not familiar with her work but have heard that Jodi Whittaker is a fine actor. I'm looking forward to her portrayal but more importantly a fresh direction to the series that I thought had become very stale last year. If you haven't already seen it, here's the big reveal that sent shock waves through the universe. Your thoughts? And not long ago, I rated my Time Lords in this order:

Matt Smith
Tom Baker
David Tennant
Patrick Troughton
Jon Pertwee
Peter Davison
Christopher Eccleston
Paul McGann
Peter Capaldi
William Hartnell
Sylvester McCoy
Colin Baker

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Our Visit To Luray Caverns

Drapery formation, about 1/8 inch thick.

Dream Lake.

Water reflection of stalactites.

Speleothems of stalactites, and columns.

The wishing well.

Did You Hear The One About...

I have a dry sense of humor and in conversation can be witty if “I’m on” but note to self: no more joke telling. For god’s sake, just stop! Yesterday a humorous number died a painful death as soon as it left my lips, and the drive-by expression on the recipient’s face, well, it’s a look I’ve never got used to seeing. Now that I’m closing in on the half-century mark, it’s time to throw in the towel and just accept the fact that I should never begin any conversation with the words, “Hey, did you hear the one about …”

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Cranmers At The Park

Our daughter snapped this photo of little d and me at the park, today, playing backgammon. We were under the pavilion where a nice breeze kept us comfortable ... a pleasant break from the ninety degree temps with humidity. I brought two books to read, The Dark Tower and Orwell's Facing Unpleasant Facts, but much more enjoyed gammon with the mrs and going for a walk with the photographer.

Hope you are all having a top weekend.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Books Acquired, Manners Lost

We were at McKay’s in Gainesville, Virginia, enjoying the atmosphere among the stacks of secondhand books with a swirl of all sorts of people devouring a common passion. Ava and d headed toward the kid’s section where they hit a motherlode of ‘Junie B. Jones’ which has totally enamored our daughter. Me, being in an essay and memoir frame of mind, I bought Roger Ebert’s Life Itself, E.L. Doctorow’s Creationists, Sloane Crosley’s How Did You Get This Number, and Facing Unpleasant Facts by George Orwell. I read so many fictional books as a freelancer that I find myself more and more in the non-fiction section for entertainment.

Small observation: it used to be when someone passed in front of you in an aisle there would be a polite, “Excuse me.” That was the norm … or at least it’s how I seem to remember it. Look, I’m not someone who longs for the good old days. I know people are people and remain largely unchanged, but I don’t believe I’m mistaken that common courtesies in libraries and bookstores were the standard and only occasionally would someone fail to live up to it. Agree? Disagree?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Love you, d

And a happy anniversary to this lovely lady. We are celebrating ten years. Love you, d

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hooch

Met a truck driver today, in passing, who travels with a one-year-old conure parrot. The bird, Hooch, sat in a cage next to the driver, Turner, in the cab. No need to feel sorry for Hooch being in a cage though, the clever bird knows how to open the door any time he pleases, as he much prefers being perched on Turner’s shoulder. When Turner gave Hooch a playful toss in the air, the bird flew up then landed on my shoulder! And Hooch kept saying “aye,” Turner explained that the bird’s way of telling him that he wants food. These two are good friends and meeting them was a unique, inspiring experience. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

72 (This Highway's Mean)

Becoming Cary Grant

Do you enjoy documentaries? I do and can watch just about anything on any topic as long as it is done well. In the case of Becoming Cary Grant (2016), I very much admire the subject and director Mark Kidel has crafted an evocative film that uses Grant's home movies, interviews with relatives, and words from an unpublished autobiography. The Showtime presentation is currently available on Amazon Prime and here's a NY Times review that sums it up quite well.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Low-Key Fun

Is everyone having a super 4th? I hope so because the Cranmer's are kicking it albeit a bit low-key... the way we like it. We went to two different parks for the little one and had a blast at the swimming pool too. I brought along a book—Thomas Paine: A Political Life—and manage to squeeze out a backgammon win against Little d. Very satisfying because she puts up a mighty fight. And now for some fireworks!

*You on Twitter? Today is a perfect day to follow The Quotable Paine that I contribute to almost daily. Radical Paine's Common Sense (1775-1776) is the pamphlet that convinced the rebels to start this whole American experiment.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Where The Breakers Are

I am putting together my next write-up on Stephen King's THE DARK TOWER VII that will appear on Macmillan's Criminal Element blog around noon tomorrow. For the most part a solid section that includes our heroes preparing their next move.
"We go through the door to Thunderclap station," Roland said, "and from the station to where the Breakers are kept. And there ..." He looked at each of his ka-tet in turn, then raised his finger and made a dryly expressive shooting gesture.
"There'll be guards," Eddie said. "Maybe a lot of them. What if we're outnumbered?"
"It won't be the first time," Roland said.
Our passages for the week included Part Two, I: The Devar-Tete – VII: Ka-Shume and I hope you will join us to discuss or just stop by and listen to our palaver. A lot transpired including the return of Randall Flagg, Mordred Deschain hunting Roland and company, and our team wandering through the eerie chamber where the now quieted remains of the wolves of the Calla are suspended. 

And the Tower looms...

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Gram Parsons - Return Of The Grievous Angel

Immutable And Ineluctable

Richard Burton. Say the name and Elizabeth Taylor jumps to mind. But there was so much more to the man besides Liz & Dick, scandal, and great acting chops that were highlighted in movies like The Spy Who Came in from The Cold, Where Eagles Dare, and 1984. He was a damn fine writer and he's included in an upcoming article I'm putting together over this holiday weekend. Here's an except from his life-long journal that was published in 2012:
The more I read about man and his maniacal ruthlessness and his murdering envious scatological soul the more I realize that he will never change. Our stupidity is immortal, nothing will change it. The same mistakes, the same prejudices, the same injustice, the same lusts wheel endlessly around the parade-ground of the centuries. Immutable and ineluctable. I wish I could believe in a God of some kind but I simply cannot. My intelligence is too muscular and my imagination stops at the horizon, and I have an idea that the last sound to be heard on this lovely planet will be a man screaming.
How sobering is that, right? And there's many more entries like that in The Richard Burton Diaries. And the dead live again, Richard's words are featured daily on Twitter which I regularly check. Burton ... fascinating guy. Back to work I go on a piece I'm calling My Unlikely Writing Influences.

The Doctor Falls

I haven’t remarked too much on Doctor Who this season because I thought it was a lackluster ride. The actors were ready but the scripts, for the most part (besides a stout debut), were meandering, lifeless. Not so with the climatic “The Doctor Falls” that had plenty of action, heartfelt emotion, and one helluva final surprise that I won’t spoil here. Most poignant scene was a solo Twelve (Peter Capaldi) preparing to do battle with an outnumbered enemy (anyone for an upgrade?) saying that he goes, “Without hope… Without witness… Without reward.” Refreshing in this age when humanity seems to be all about winning as opposed to doing the right thing. Mention is, appropriately, made to the leader of the free world.

It would seem we have said goodbye to Bill (Pearl Mackie) for the time being. I thought she was excellent but like the idea of companions with shorter duration's. That being acknowledged, I don’t want to see Nardole (Matt Lucas) disappear just yet. He was a superb foil for Twelve with just the right amount of snarky wit. Back to that conclusion. Wouldn’t it be awesome if that older gentleman ended up being a companion to Twelve in the Christmas episode and for a few episodes into the next season. Yeah, here’s hoping.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ada

At a used bookstore today, I ran across The Calculating Passion of Ada Byron by Joan Baum. Long been enthralled with Ada (1815-1852) known as the first computer programmer. Here's an excerpt from the book:
She had also dared to dream, to imagine what computers might do with their power to repeat and loop and change course in midstream. And she had exercised her imagination when time and place were against her, when women were excluded from the halls of learning and generally dissuaded from pursuing subjects like mathematics, even in the drawing rooms.
Never heard of Ada? Here's a fun, short documentary, narrated by Hannah Fry, that spotlights this remarkable 19th century mathematician.

In 1977, When Voyager 1 And 2 Blasted Off, I was...

I was seven years old, in '77, and fascinated with the space program especially the Voyager missions. Of particular interest to that early me was the gold-plated audio-visual disc on both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 that contained the sights and sounds of our world intended for intelligent life. From The Atlantic is a fascinating article about one reporter's attempt at Solving the Mystery of Whose Laughter Is On the Golden Record.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The June That Was

I'm hoping you all had a great month of June, I did. Our daughter graduated from kindergarten which, as you can imagine, was the highlight. She loves school and told us today she can't wait until summer vacation is over to go backfingers crossed that attitude stays through 12th grade, right?

Beyond that I released Nik Morton's Continuity Girl through BEAT to a PULP books and published a final short story from the late William E. Wallace. Also, I continued to work on a Thomas Paine project (I help run The Quotable Paine on Twitter) and am nearing completion on Glenn Gray's Transgemination. That novella is "a must read for fans of retro sci-fi/horror B movies, woven with real science, as only Glenn Gray can do.

I expanded my reach as a freelance writer with an article appearing at LitReactor. As I've mentioned before this is a big deal for me because I've respected the top tier quality that appears there, especially the work of Keith Rawson.

Okay, on to July ...

Duolingo's New Approach To A Difficult Language

I may look into this: Duolingo invented a new way to teach one of the most difficult languages to learn.

Haruki Murakami: Hardboiled, Surreal, and Bewitching

My article: Hardboiled, Surreal, and Bewitching: 3 Haruki Murakami Short Stories

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Tower Looms

We begin our reread of The Dark Tower VII at Criminal Element. An excerpt:
The Dark Tower is very close, but our ka-tet is spread far and wide. Roland and Eddie are in 1977 where they have just finished meeting with the author Stephen King. In 1999, Father Callahan and Jake are about to storm The Dixie Pig lounge where Susannah is being held along with Mia, who is about to give birth to an unholy demon: this child has the DNA combo of Roland and Susannah and a “co-father” in the Crimson King. So, we are very close to our destination, the stakes are high, and it’s anybody’s guess who will live to see The Dark Tower. 
The Dark Tower looms on the horizon for both our ka-tet and you, our loyal readers, as we count down the days to the premiere of The Dark Tower film. The plan is to finish the series on the Tuesday before the premiere, so we'll be splitting The Dark Tower into four sections (about 200 pages each) and meeting here at our usual time (Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET) to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions.

Subliminal Advertising

Book Cover Has Some Extremely Clever Subliminal Advertising.

Eight Writers On Why They Run

Peter Hessler, Joyce Carol Oates, Malcolm Gladwell, and others weigh in about finding inspiration on the trails.

I Before E Except After C: Uh, Maybe Not

Nathan Cunningham: i before e except after...w?