Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy 2016 & Cool Yule!

I hope that we have a cool Yule and a Happy 2016!  I will be marking down the days using my Keith Knight calendar.  Last year, it was Mutts, which was fitting for a year in which I spent a lot of time with a cat and a dog.  I am excited to see what the next year will bring.  I have a few fun projects in the works.  I hope that you do as well.  Cheers! 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Crazy Carl Meets An Emu!

If you have ever wondered what happens when one of America's great underground writers meets one of Australia's great flightless birds, then the following video is for you.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Good Grief! The Cleveland Charlie Browns!

I was selling some old stuff on eBay recently (feel free to buy it here) when I found in the box an old Youngstown Vindicator from 2004 wrapping up some glassware or whatnot.  I glanced over it and enjoyed reading an article in which a sports columnist advises The Cleveland Browns on whom to draft.  He advises them not to draft Ben Roethlisberger because "they're not in a position where they can waste a No 1 pick on a project.  In addition, I think it would be a major public relations disaster if the Browns took the Miami (Ohio) signal caller.  Even though, he's a local kid, somewhat, Browns fans are astute enough to realize there are more pressing needs on this team."

The Browns apparently listened to the advice of the sports columnist since they picked Kellen Winslow II instead of Roethlisberger, which in hindsight I think we can all agree was probably not the best choice as Roethlisberger has, of course, gone on to play in three Super Bowls, winning two of them, meanwhile The Browns have gone through 21 different starting quarterbacks and 10 losing seasons since Roethlisberger started playing for The Pittsburgh Steelers.  In fact, just yesterday, I watched The Browns get destroyed (see a picture above courtesy of my pal Nick) while Roethlisberger led The Steelers to an easy victory.

I hope that The Browns don't listen to that sports columnist's advice for this year's draft!  I would suggest that they just give up trying to guess whom will or will not be a good prospect since they are terrible at it for the most part and just draft anyone whose last name is Brown.  Conceptually, having a team composed of players whose last name is Brown would be kind of fun.  After all, the two greatest football legends associated with the team are arguably Paul and Jim Brown, so why not double down on the name?  The results couldn't be much worse than this year's, could they?  Good grief!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

New Pop Lit In Print!

My old pal King Wenclas has been publishing an online litzine, New Pop Lit, for a bit, but now he's expanded into print with a literary journal of the same name.  Given our shared Underground Literary Alliance background, I figured the print version of NPL would be a scruffy zine.  Since I love scruffy zines, I was quite okay to be published in yet another one, so I sent him a new Harold Grumblebunny story called "30 Women In 30 Days".  To my surprise, when a copy showed up in the mail last week, it was like a book.  Yowza!  This thing could be on the shelves at Barnes & Noble with the other literary journals, though the fantastic cover probably would indicate that this journal isn't quite like the others.  In any case, it looks great, and I am excited to read it!  It also features work from my old Perpetual Motion Roadshow pal Jessica Disobedience, now going under the name Jessie Lynn McMains, so that makes it even cooler!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Dead Milkmen Special!

Many years ago, I helped produce a special on The Dead Milkmen for my college radio station.  Joe Jack Talcum has included the special as this month's "Bootleg Of The Month" on his website.  You can check it out here:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Help Michael Grover

One of my old Underground Literary Alliance buddies, Michael Grover, has run into some financial and health difficulties, so some friends are trying to help him out. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sorority Sisters Vs. Sasquatch Is Out!

Sorority Sisters Vs. Sasquatch is out!  The movie is a hoot!  So is the back copy on the DVD!  Mark Justice, the director, did a great job, especially given what he had to work with, such as a novice actor named Wred Fright.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thank You Smokers And Voters!

I was not surprised that the arts tax was renewed since voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio USA seem to love taxes, but I thank them all the same, and doubly so if it eventually puts money in my pocket.  Even if it doesn't, I will get a warm feeling inside every time I see someone throw a cigarette butt out a car window in the county instead of just a bit of rage against the litterbug.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Keep On Smoking And Taxing

A few years back, Cuyahoga County Ohio USA voters jacked up prices on cigarettes and funneled the smoke funds to the arts.  This resulted years later in an application for a Creative Workforce Fellowship from me.  I don't know if I'll get it, but if people don't vote to renew the cigarette tax by voting for Issue 8, then I do know that I will be more irate when smokers litter their butts on the ground.  At least now I know they're probably subsidizing my ticket price when I attend a play in Cuyahoga County, which is vaguely soothing.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

New Trailer For Sorority Sisters Vs. Sasquatch

Here's the latest trailer.  Sadly, none of my character's epic fight against Sasquatch made the cut.  I hope it's in the movie, as it was a lot of fun to film!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sorority Sisters Vs. Sasquatch Poster!

My buddy Mark Justice has unveiled the poster for his new movie.  I play a college professor leading a field trip that blunders into Squatch territory.  I am excited to see how the movie came out!

Thank You Though Amazon Said Nope!

Thanks to everyone who voted for Frequently Asked Questions About Being Dead during the Amazon Kindle Scout campaign.  Either Amazon thought the book stunk or not enough of you voted for it, but the end result is the same and Amazon won't be publishing the novel.  If it did come down to social networking muscle, then I suspect that authors with thousands of "friends" are going to be published by Amazon before an author who isn't even on Facebook is.  I've always been more of the "Read this if you want to; if not, plenty of other good books are out there" author, so I am not surprised.  Amazon wants to sell books after all, so if a thousand people already want to buy a book, then that's the one that they'll publish.  They probably don't want to muck around with a weird book and convince people to give it a try and put a lot of work in just to achieve the same amount of sales as something that's ready to go ka-ching.  Ah, well . . ., the grand publishing experiment continues.  I'll keep trying some literary agents for the remainder of the year and see if the grant came through.  Next year, I'll work some indie presses before just self-publishing the novel in 2017.  Patience please, as the book will be published at some point.

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!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Marvel And DC Announce That Every Issue Will Be #1 From Now On

I was not surprised to see that Marvel was rebooting its comics and starting with all-new #1s since DC had done that a few years back with good commercial results, albeit horrible comics.  However, I was surprised to learn that both comic book companies would be publishing nothing but #1 issues from now on. 

Apparently, every month will see the respective comics universes reborn and the same stories from the 1940s and 1960s retold with updated computer-generated art and a few nods to the changing times such as making Superman a fruitarian and The Man-Thing a lesbian.  In a joint announcement, the Chief Funnybook Officers of DC and Marvel stated, "This way, we can add even more editors to a single comic.  We're aiming at about ten editors per writer or artist.  We're pretty sure that most people who buy these things don't even read them and those that do don't seem to care much if it's bad since they keep buying it when it is.  See that continuity stuff was too hard to keep track of, so we figured with all the multiverse stuff we've been doing that makes no narrative sense, why not do the same on the publishing side and put out a #1 for every series every month and sell some more copies to the collectors as well?   Sure, it'll be a little confusing but if fans can keep track of 15 Batman and 15 Spider-Man titles every month, we figure they can handle this.  In any case, we're just intellectual property farms for the cinema now anyway, so, like, who cares?"

When asked for a comment, John Fanboy, owner of the comic shop Hey Kids, It's Graphic Novels!, said, "I was really looking forward to reading issue 9 of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, so this is a disappointment, but I guess they know what they're doing.  I'll have some customers upset that their favorite series are stopping without finishing the current stories, but, in any case, it's not like I can boycott DC and Marvel and just survive selling Archie."

When informed that Archie had also just started over with new number ones, Fanboy said that he hadn't noticed, then whimpered and crawled into a corner, pulling a box of unsold Image Comics from 1993 over him.

I quietly left the store.

It was awkward, but I am looking forward to the #1s of Sam Wilson, Captain America, Ant-Man, Howard The Duck, and The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl, so I will be back.  I hope he has recovered by then.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New More Or Les EP

Over a decade ago, I toured on the Perpetual Motion Roadshow with rapper More Or Les.  It was a lot of fun.  I'm glad to see that he is still out there making music.  His latest release is an ep called Post Millennium Tension.

Monday, July 13, 2015

"The First Rose Of The Year"

Red Fez has published another poem of mine.  It's called "The First Rose Of The Year".

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Another Red Fez Poem Of The Week!

Another poem of mine, "Cheats For Common Moral Dilemmas", has been chosen as "Poem Of The Week" by Red Fez.  Thanks, Fezzers!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Red Stripe, The Taste Of Latrobe

Every summer, I get a hankering for some reggae and Red Stripe.  I was puzzled to discover with my latest purchase of the beer that, though long associated with Jamaica, the Red Stripe for sale in the USA appears to no longer be brewed there (though Canadians and some others can still get the Jamaican stuff straight from the source).  In fact, Red Stripe appears to be now from Latrobe, Pennsylvania USA.  I visited that brewery when Rolling Rock was made there.  So the glass lined tanks of old Latrobe now are filled with Red Stripe.  It would be fitting if Rolling Rock were made in Jamaica, but it is now made in New Jersey.  The beer industry must have its reasons for what it does, but it is all a bit puzzling to me.  From now on, when I reach for a Red Stripe, I guess I will listen to Donnie Iris instead of Bob Marley.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Jay Koivu Zine Prophet

I was reading an old issue of Mr. Peebody's Soiled Trousers And Other Delights and came across an eerie line.  Published by Jay Koivu, Peebody's was a fun perzine that usually was in the form of daily journal entries.  This issue documented Jay's life as he had moved once again to Los Angeles in 2001.  The issue was published in May 2001 or so.  In the entry dated April 14, Jay writes, "Why do I feel like something really bad is gonna happen before this year is over?"

Now, something really bad happens every day to somebody, or many somebodies, and Jay's thought is a very openended and general statement, but given that this issue was published in early 2001, a few months before September 11th, it's still eerie to read.  I probably last read this issue shortly after it came out and didn't much note that line.  Rereading the zine, and that line, in 2015, knowing what was coming later in 2001 made for a creepy experience.

Maybe Jay should become a tarot reader or something.  On at least one occasion, his feeling about the future was on target.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lawn Fascism?

A woman in Missouri is being forced to get rid of the front yard that she turned into a sandbox.  Instead of being able to pursue her particular form of front yard happiness (no mowing and the local alley cats have no trouble finding a litter box), her community has decided that she must conform in what I suppose we can label lawn fascism.  The woman apparently still plans to resist by putting asphalt over the sand.  It's a good thing that she doesn't live in Ohio. America loves freedom and the individual except when it comes to the lawn apparently.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cleveland Bologna

I always thought Cleveland Bologna was when someone tells me that next year The Browns are going to the Super Bowl, but apparently it actually is a form of meat.  They like it thick-sliced around here.  The next time that someone tells me that The Browns are going to the Super Bowl, I will point her or him to the deli counter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Strawberry Season!

I've been letting strawberries grow on my yard, and this year I am getting quite a crop!  The strawberries are small but tasty.  I usually just eat them straight from the plant.  As the strawberries end, the blackberries should kick in.  I have a yummy yard!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

America Is The Land Of Freedom Unless You Want To Park In Your Front Yard

I have developed a mild fascination with America's nutty obsession with lawns.  I came across the following article recently and got a chuckle out of it.  If you don't want to click on the link, then I will recap it for you.  Basically, a city wants to limit the amount of paving in a front yard because right now, gasp!, there is no law to prevent someone from paving the front yard and turning it into a parking lot.  The hilarious justification is that someone could park enough cars in a driveway so that the view of an intersection could be blocked, which would affect safety. 

Please note that the legislation is not therefore so narrowly crafted as to prohibit owners of corner lots from doing this, but affects everyone, even those living in the middle of a block with no intersection nearby.  As a result, I suspect the legislation has more to do with some people not liking other people possibly chucking their lawns for more parking.  It's a free country until it comes to the lawn.  Then your pursuit of happiness must give way to your neighbor's fixation with the vegetation on your property.  It will be interesting to see which American icon wins:  the automobile or the lawn. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

"September Sunflowers"

I have a poem called "September Sunflowers" on page 34 of the new issue of Inscape.  You can find it here (28.2 MB PDF) or in print on the campus of Ursuline College.  Unfortunately, the typesetting has to be very exact for this poem, and the Inscape version is off a bit.  The correct version is in the above image, though you may need to click on it to make it legible.

Friday, June 12, 2015

License To Speed?

I received a letter inviting me to become a booster for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio.  For $20, I can get a sticker, which presumably I can slap on my car.  I have seen cars with those stickers before.  They are almost invariably being driven badly.  Since I have been told that I drive like a grandmother (though I can drive Mad Max style when needed, such as in New York City), I doubt that I need a sticker to get me out of traffic violations, which presumably is the point of the sticker, though I suspect everyone involved would deny that.  $20 is pretty cheap though for what might be a license to speed.  It's certainly cheaper than a speeding ticket.  It's still kind of creepy though.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

New Pop Lit Goes Pop In Print!

The litsite New Pop Lit is expanding into print!  The first issue will be released at this year's Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Michigan USA.  I have a story, "30 Women In 30 Days: A Harold Grumblebunny Adventure" in the issue.  Longtime readers of my work will be happy that the character Harold Grumblebunny will be making his first appearance in about a decade.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sorority Sisters Vs. Sasquatch!

My pal Mark Justice has drafted me to appear in his next film.  This one is entitled Sorority Sisters Vs. Sasquatch. I play a college professor who takes a group of students into the woods on a research trip where we find Sasquatch. He has already completed some filming and put together a trailer:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Working Stiff

I am happy to announce that a few things that I have written will appear in Working Stiff:  An Anthology Of Professional Wrestling Themed Literature & Art, an upcoming book that Josh Olsen is putting together.  I was alerted to the project by my pal Leopold McGinnis, who knew it was my kind of literary anthology.  I wrote a poem, "Wrestlemania Sonnet", just for the anthology and some excerpts from Blog Love Omega Glee will also be appearing.  I am very excited to read it and find out which other underground authors enjoy the silliness and spectacle of pro wrestling.  Word is that the anthology should appear this fall.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Charles Bukowski On Lawns

I recently reread a collection of Charles Bukowski short stories.  I was surprised how well his work held up.  I found some comments on lawns amusing.

In "Notes Of A Potential Suicide", he writes, "all the people in Los Angeles are doing it:  running ass-wild after something that is not there.  it is basically a fear of facing one's self, it is basically a fear of being alone.  my fear is of the crowd, the ass-wild running crowd; the people who read Norman Mailer and go to baseball games and cut and water their lawns and bend over the garden with a trowel."

In "The Blanket", he writes, "Madness?  Sure.  What isn't madness?  Isn't Life madness?  We are all wound-up like toys . . . a few winds of the spring, it runs down, and that's it . . . and we walk around and presume things, make plans, elect governors, mow lawns . . . Madness, surely, what ISN'T madness?"

It appears that Bukowski perhaps regarded lawns as a waste of time.  That stance isn't too shocking coming from the bard of L.A.'s skid row, but, given the current drought, California might have been wise to listen to him.

Monday, May 4, 2015

45 Years Of May 4th

Every year, if I can swing it, I mosey down to Kent, Ohio USA for the May 4th Commemoration.  Though the event is rapidly receding from living memory--the flower children whom I saw today would be more accurately described as flower elderly--it is important to remember what happened.  And what happened was the government--one group of people--killing another group of people who disagreed with them.  Underneath all the malarkey laid on top of the event, that's what it boils down to.  The lesson to be learned is that we can disagree without killing one another.  It was sad to read in The Daily Kent Stater that some of the shooting victims were retired or getting ready to retire and then think of the four dead who had all that life stolen from them.  A couple of those students were just walking to class; they weren't even all protestors. One was even an ROTC student.  Sadly, 45 years on, the world doesn't seem to have learned that lesson.  Every week, a read of The Economist reveals that a Kent State happens every day pretty much somewhere in the world.

Other thoughts on the day:

*Keynote speaker Dick Gregory was inspiring if rambling.  Nevertheless, I hope that I am that energetic at 83.  He is good evidence that there might be something to his fruitarian diet.

*Kent continues to get more creepy and corporate.  Downtown is starting to resemble one of those fake town outdoor shopping malls.  It would look nice if I did not suspect quite a bit of taxpayer money was poured into erasing the funky soul of the town that I lived in many years ago.  For example, the ramshackle Mantis Gallery that The GoGoBots played so many shows in is vacant (it had been a couple of other bohemian type things after the Mantis) and the building has a sign on it advertising that it will soon be shops, offices, and apartments.  Town and gown have also demolished most of the old student ghetto and replaced it with an odd almost blockwide concrete walking path to downtown.  It's pleasant enough but seems to be a sort of pointless use of that space (except for perhaps getting rid of cheap competition to the dorms).  It has a poetry park next to it, which is nifty, but I noted the irony of a plaque with a poem about dandelions being in it, while the lawn looks chemically treated to keep the actual dandelions out (fortunately, the rest of the path between campus and downtown is more dandelion friendly).

*I finally got to visit the May 4 Visitors Center.  It was nice.  Last year, it was closed because May 4th was on a Sunday.  One would think the university might have the budget to open it up on a Sunday once a decade or so.

*Somehow, the old hippie who wears the same jeans every year has managed to keep them going for another year.  By this point, the jeans are mostly patches, but looking for his jeans is always a highlight of the visit.  Long may his jeans and the spirit of May 4th live!          

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Red Fez Poem Of The Week!

For some unknown reason, probably random selection, a poem that I wrote, "Mitt Romney Dreams Of The Last Taxpayer And Nightsweats, Soaking His Magical Underwear", is The Red Fez's "Poem Of The Week".  I would be thrilled enough to declare myself The King Of May, just like Allen Ginsberg, but I dislike royalty, so I will just say thanks.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Hooray For Free Comic Book Day!

On my errands, I noticed that a new comic book store, Imaginary Worlds, had opened in Cleveland Heights, Ohio USA.  Since it was Free Comic Book Day, I decided to pop in.  I was glad I did.  In addition to the free comics (honestly, usually not that great, but sometimes a gem pops up--still, one can't complain since they are free), the store had boxes upon boxes of comics for ten cents each (as long as one bought twenty), with some good stuff in them.  It was their grand opening, so I suppose it was their way of making sure people had a good time and would want to come back.  It worked!  The store seems a nice addition to the Cleveland comics scene.  It's well-stocked, and the staff seems nice.  I probably will pop back in again long before the next Free Comic Book Day.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dandelion Season

The dandelions on my block seem to have all sprung up overnight.  I find this delightful.  Not only are they pretty, but they are a good guide as to which yards have had unnecessary and possibly hazardous chemicals dumped on them.  A yard without dandelions is worth jogging past with the dog.  A yard with dandelions is likely quite safe for the dog to sniff on a leisurely stroll.  Unfortunately, the method isn't foolproof, as I noticed a couple of neighbors today busily digging up the dandelions, and I suspect it wasn't to make a salad or wine with them, which is unfortunate because those are among the only good reasons to dig out a dandelion.  The dandelion is actually quite useful.  I learned more about it recently by reading The Teeth Of The Lion:  The Story Of The Beloved And Despised Dandelion.  I picked up the book when the author, Anita Sanchez, gave a talk nearby.  I also got the chance that evening to sample some dandelion coffee, which was quite yummy.  I do enjoy useful crops that just grow without much help from me, so the dots of yellow popping up amidst the green in my lawn please me.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Professional Wrestling And Life Writing

Yet another fun file find here!  Back in 2007, I wrote a proposal for a Modern Language Association (MLA) conference paper.  I wasn't surprised that the proposal didn't get accepted, as many MLA panels seem to be prefabricated, but the panel organizer did ask me to write the paper and submit it to a journal that he edited.  Alas, I never followed up on it since I had other scholarly projects in process then and didn't have time to add another project.  It would have been fun to work on.  If someone hasn't written a similar paper yet (and I do recall hearing one that was in the same ballpark, er, wrestling ring that focused on inconsistencies between two different biographies by the same wrestler a year or two ago at the Popular Culture Association conference), then please feel free to have a go at it.  I doubt that I will ever get around to doing this project.

"Grappling With The Past:  The Genre Of Professional Wrestling Biography"

Since 1999, when professional wrestler Mick Foley's first autobiography, Have A Nice Day:  A Tale Of Blood And Sweatsocks, achieved the number one slot for hardcover nonfiction on The New York Times Best Sellers booklist, dozens of professional wrestling biographies have been published.  Though most of the biographies are ghostwritten, some wrestlers become more involved than others in crafting the narratives of their life stories, particularly Foley, who writes his books himself, having published three autobiographies to date.  But, regardless of the level of the involvement of the wrestler with the book, the interest of fans of professional wrestling in such books has caused the professional wrestler biography to emerge as a genre within celebrity life writing.  Why has professional wrestling, a form of popular culture often held in low esteem by nonaficionados, turned so literate in recent years?  Part of the attraction of such books for wrestling fans is learning about the world of professional wrestling beyond the ring.  For, despite the knowledge that it is typically scripted, professional wrestling continues to thrive on mixing fantasy with reality, or what in wrestling terminology is known as a "shoot" (real) and a "work" (fake).  Fans, especially the hardcore vocal minority who participate in Internet forums and likely purchase many of the books, often seem to delight in analyzing storylines, attempting to distinguish artifice from reality.  However, though the dedication to keeping trade secrets, known as "kayfabe" within the wrestling industry, has lessened with wrestling's recasting of itself as "sports entertainment," even the supposed tell-all professional wrestling biography may not be as forthcoming as it appears to be.  Indeed, the construction of the identity behind the wrestling character in the biography may be just another mask to hide behind.  In this paper, I examine several representative wrestling biographies in an attempt to, pardon the pun, pin down notable aspects of the genre.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Robert Cormier Interview

I found some more interesting stuff in the old files.  This one is definitely worth sharing.  It's a 1988 interview with Robert Cormier, who was a popular novelist for young adults at the time. 

"My worst nightmare is a reader closing one of my books and yawning.  I want to shake people up a little.  I want them to react to what I write," declared awardwinning author Robert Cormier during a press conference with area high school students Wednesday at the tenth annual Youngstown State University English Festival.  Cormier was the featured lecturer at the English Festival and four of his books, including The Chocolate War, are on this year's festival booklist.

Cormier's writing career has spanned four decades.  He started writing as a journalist and won the Associated Press Best News Story Award twice, in 1959 and in 1973.  He wrote fiction in his spare time for many years before he decided to write it fulltime in 1978.  Cormier has won numerous awards for his fiction, including the New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year Award three times for his novels The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese, and After the First Death.

A friendly man in his sixties, Cormier looked relaxed as he fielded questions about his writing, answering them in his New England accent.  Cormier denounced the adolescent literature label on much of his work by saying, "I don't think I write young adult books.  I write books about young adults.  When I sit down at the typewriter and begin creating a story, I don't write with a sixteen-year-old in mind.  I write for an intelligent reader regardless of age."

Cormier also stated that he feels a great kinship with teenagers, and their problems and lives are of general interest to him.  That is the reason much of his writing concerns teenagers.  He claims to have total recall of his teenage years, and he became interested in writing about young adults when his three children reached adolescence.  Despite his strong affinity with teens, Cormier exclaimed, "I wouldn't be a teenager again for a million dollars.  It's the most turbulent, lacerating, total, terrific time of life, which is what makes it so fascinating."

Cormier said that his writing stems from emotions.  He claims to need a strong emotional catalyst to start writing, and he has a great emotional involvement with his characters.  He described himself as a storyteller who possess a "third eye," which picks up nuances and, then, feelings of people that he can use in his writing.  He keeps his writing style sharp by every night recording his impressions of the day.

Cormier always thought of himself as "a writer disguised as a newspaperman," and, when he had the chance, he became a fulltime writer.  He compared his relationship with the typewriter to the relationship between an artist and an easel or a pianist and a piano.  He wants to have readers react to his work, and he is very pleased when he gets feedback from readers on his work.  He even placed his phone number in I Am the Cheese when Adam tries to contact his girlfriend, Amy.  Sometimes readers call.

As long as he keeps writing, they probably will keep reading as well.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Day I Met Marjane Satrapi

I was going through some old files recently and stumbled across an old cartoon.  It looks as if I spent all of five minutes on it, but it's amusing enough.  It's a true story also.  You probably will need to click on it in order for it to be legible.  It is fun to draw a comic from time to time.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Freelance Season

Freelance season is beginning a tad earlier this year than usual, so I am advertising it a bit.  If you, or anyone you know, need any editing, proofreading, or writing done, then please feel free to get in touch for more details (wredfright AT or 216-227-9493).

Monday, February 16, 2015

What Wred's Reading: The Sunny Spaces

New Castle, Pennsylvania USA has a bit of a literary bent.  Maybe most small towns do if one digs around enough, but I have always been a bit surprised at the amount of literature that the little place has produced, not that most people there notice, since they tend to be most interested in fireworks, food, and football (and if pharmaceuticals were spelled with an "f" at the beginning, then I would have thrown that on the list as well).

True, the town's most famous literary creation is the stretchable sleuth from the comic books known as Plastic Man, courtesy of hometown boy Jack Cole, and some literati would sniff about that, but I got a thrill as a kid reading that Plas hailed from the same town that I did (though the book that contained that fact, Secret Origins Of The Super Heroes, thought "New Castle" was one word like its English counterpart).

A little closer to mainstream literature, though still someone that snobby literati would scoff about, is Edmond Hamilton, a pulp science fiction writer who, like Cole, worked in comic books but, unlike Cole, also wrote for Weird Tales and whatnot.  As a teenager, I read his Starwolf novels and enjoyed them, but I never read anything else by him since I was gravitating out of science fiction and more into mystery.  Eventually, I would move through mystery into literature with a capital L.

A few years later, I would stumble upon a fantasy novel by a local named Susan Dexter.  It was enjoyable, but, having moved past fantasy about the same time I stopped reading science fiction regularly, I didn't read more.  Since then, one of my high school classmates, Diana Joseph, wrote two books, both of which I enjoyed.  She specializes in humorous memoir.

I am sure that there are also some fine local fiction writers, playwrights, and poets, whom I do not know of, since I do like to keep up with literature produced elsewhere as well, and it is a big world.  Still, I do have an interest in literature from that small town and, indeed, that general area of Western Pennsylvania.  New Castle is located in Lawrence County, so I also get a big kick out of Ellwood City poet Ron Androla's work, though he has lived in Erie for so long that it is probably more accurate to call him an Erie poet.  Or an eerie poet?  Androla would enjoy that description!

In any case, I was delighted to get a copy of Ann Antognoli's novel, The Sunny Spaces, for Christmas.  Not only is Antognoli from New Castle, but also her novel is partly set there.  It's a middleaged love story where two wounded souls find solace in one another.  It has lots of literary references as well, with the title coming from Moby Dick, for example. It is an enjoyable read, reminiscent of the work of Richard Russo.  It also reminds me of Lawrence Richette's work a bit.  All three writers tend to focus on straight-up storytelling in a realistic mode.  Ann is a retired high school English teacher, so she has clearly learned well from studying the great works of literature!  I believe that I had Antognoli as a substitute teacher a couple of times, but I know her husband better since he taught a great creative writing class that I took at the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts.  Having met with both Antognolis recently, I know that Ann is thinking about another novel, so the literary heritage of New Castle should only continue to grow!