Friday, August 28, 2015

Kindle Scout Campaign Starts!

Amazon has posted the Kindle Scout page for Frequently Asked Questions About Being Dead!  It has a nice chunk of an excerpt from the book, a goofy picture of me, and a short interview with me.  It can be found at  If you like what you read, then please vote for it, so they will publish it.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions About Frequently Asked Questions About Being Dead

Last year, I announced that I had a new novel finished.  Unlike my first two, I did not serialize it before publishing it in its entirety.  I want to explore some other publishing options.  I have sent it out to a few literary agents.  I even applied for a grant.  The latest news is that I have entered it in some Amazon Kindle contest where readers vote on novels they would like to read and Amazon will publish them itself.  So the publication of the novel is in the works.  You might see it as early as this year, and, provided I am still living and the creek doesn't rise blah blah blah, only as late as 2017.  In the meantime, you can read a big chunk of the beginning, about 12 pages or so, once Amazon posts it in their contest, which I think is tomorrow.  I'll announce it here once it is live.  Please feel free to vote for it and any other novels that you want to read.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Go Back To School Like It Is 1982!

With the depressing and dismal antics of another presidential election looming, you may find yourself nostalgic for the innocence of an earlier time.  If so, transport yourself back there, at least for lunchtime, with one of these fine vintage lunchboxes.  And don't forget a drink (though you may need something stronger than milk as the election season moans on)!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dandelions Aren't Cancer

I read a horrible advertisement yesterday.  To illustrate a medical approach that roots out cancer by targeting specific genes, the ad's creators chose a graphic analogy of a dandelion being uprooted from a lawn.  As a public service in response, I should point out that, unlike cancer, dandelions will not kill you.  They're actually quite useful; they're even edible.  If they were less common, more people probably would even view their flowers as pretty (more precisely,  the flowers are flowerheads, composed of thousands of tiny flowers).   Unless one is obsessed by achieving the monocultural, chemically dependent industrial lawn that looks like a carpet of grass, dandelions are a rather welcome addition to a yard.

Ironically, the chemicals that power the industrial lawn may give one cancer. Maybe the ad's creators should have used a picture of Roundup instead.  The most cynical among us might think that the institution being advertised, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, might want people to keep dumping chemicals on the lawn so as to keep new cases of cancer flowing in for treatment.  That's probably going too far though.  More likely, some advertising agency just was ignorant and desperate for an analogy.

As William Niering once noted, "There's nothing wrong with dandelions; there's something wrong with people."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cities Return To Wilderness

I recently read "Rus In Urbe Redux", an interesting article in The Economist.  The writer discusses how some cities are losing population and how they are responding to it.  While some cities try various schemes to reverse the trend (few of which seem to work), some have accepted their reduced size and embraced it.  One of the most interesting ways to embrace it is to just let parts of the city return to nature and stop wasting effort to maintain the area.  That appears to be what Dessau-Rosslau, a city in Germany, has done, demolishing buildings and converting them into meadows.  The meadows apparently get mowed once a year or whatnot, so they do not become forests.  I would skip the mowing myself and go all the way back to wilderness, but I suppose the city's caretakers do not want to have to uproot a forest in case they decide to do something with the land later.

I have seen sections of Cleveland, Ohio USA return to wilderness.  I even saw a pack of wild dogs once near Cedar Road close to downtown a few years ago.  Cleveland probably hasn't reached the state of Detroit, Michigan USA yet where trees grow in old schools, as beautifully documented in the book Detroit Disassembled, since the city seems to be at least attempting to manage its decay, but one can find sections of the city becoming wilderness, or postcivilization.  I suppose that there is no true return to wilderness due to all the remnants of human activity from buildings left standing to chemicals left in the ground, but it is an interesting process.

Not everyone agrees, however.  Nevertheless, given all a city's problems, grass and other plants growing as they naturally do, should rank low on the list, but the next time you see a plant growing out of a crack in a sidewalk recognize it as a foreshadowing of what probably awaits all cities given enough time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fences And Front Yards

An Ohio city wants to ban fences from more parts of the yard. The city, Middleburg Heights, already bans fences in the front yard.  The stated reason is to give passersby better views of the lawn and home.

At least the city doesn't bother with the pretense of a safety excuse and goes right for the aesthetic truth of the legislation.

However,it is amazing that this sort of intrusion into the preferences of an individual homeowner is regarded as normal, as opposed to laughable, but that is life in America where the lawn is concerned.

A prominent exception is the very rich, who typically remove their lawns and homes from public view by setting the homes back far from the road and blocking the view with trees or a fence.  It is interesting to drive some roads in Cleveland.  Starting from downtown and heading east to Hunting Valley where some of the people who own Cleveland live, one will notice a curious phenomenon.  In the poor and working class areas, not much attention is paid to the lawn.  Some vacant lots seem as if they are returning to nature, and some people have fenced off their lawns, perhaps for security reasons.  Moving into the nicer parts of the city and the start of the suburbs, the lawn mania begins.  Typically, there will be no fences, so, in the typical American way, the passerby can enjoy the view of private homes, the lawns all linking together to create the illusion of a public park.  This will continue until one hits the outer suburbs, then one will notice fences starting to appear.  At first, they will be split rail or just a string of bushes, permitting a view of the lawns and homes.  As one gets closer to the home of the very rich, the lawn and the home begins to disappear from view, either behind a string of tall trees or a tall fence.

There likely are variations, but I would not be surprised if this phenomenon could be found in nearly every large American metropolitan area.  I would be pleased to hear from people who try this experiment in their areas.   The middle class folks of Middleburg Heights may believe in democracy, even as they practice lawn fascism, and think that we are all in it together, but the rich usually know better and remove their lands from eyes that may become too envious. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Yip!*: The Mekons Live

I saw The Mekons live last night for what I think is the fourth time.  They were great as usual.  It was sort of a greatest hits set since their new album hasn't been released yet (indeed, it hasn't been recorded yet since they are planning to do it live in one take next week).  I also got the sense from Jon Langford's remarks at the end thanking Cleveland venues that the band has played over the years that this tour may be a victory lap/final tour.  The band is older and spread out geographically, so it may be difficult for them to keep going.  That would be a shame but understandable.  I hope that last night was the not the last time I will ever see them, but anyone who does get to see them live while one still can is in for a treat! 

*Yips are good things!