Thursday, July 31, 2014

Something for Thursday

A repeat to this feature, I'm sure, but I haven't heard it in a while. This is one of the finest works of meditative pastoral music I know. Here is "The Lark Ascending", by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This situation is out of control. It is out of control and we will be lucky to live through it.

I missed a birthday....

NASA's birthday, that is. It was yesterday (the anniversary of the day President Eisenhower signed the bill into law creating NASA).

Hey America? Let's go to space today, shall we?

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

This one's more serious in tone than usual, but I've been thinking a lot about it. Roger had an unfortunate experience in a place he has naturally seen as something of a sanctuary. How do you deal with things like this -- either this type of situation, or in more generic terms, a situation in which something or someplace you see in a certain peaceful way is violated?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Badass Flashdrive

I have a bit of an obsession with flash drives and external hard drives, in that I own three of the latter and more than half a dozen of the former. I love extra storage, and I'm all about backing up my work. But there's one flash drive I use more than any other, and it's this little fella right here:

The name used to be on it, but that's worn off long ago. There's a little plastic loop thing on the other end so you can put it on a keyring, but that broke off, too. This thing keeps on going, though, and it holds 32GB. I have all my writings on it, plus all my photos, plus I have several portable versions of programs I use frequently, such as Chrome and Photofiltre, so I can use this thing to do work on breaks whilst at the Day Job. The last few months, since the little key-ring loop broke, I've kept this drive in my coin pocket at work.

And this past Friday when I got home, I forgot about it, and tossed those pants in the wash. On Sunday I washed the pants, and then ran them through the drier. Twice, actually, since things were still a little damp after one cycle.

Yesterday morning I got up and got dressed, and when it came time to slip that little drive into my coin pocket, I couldn't find it. I suddenly realized there was only one thing that could have happened, and sure enough, when I looked in the drier, there it was. It had gone through the entire washing and drying cycle, submerged in soapy water, then resubmerged in clean water, and then tumbled about a drying chamber in high heat. There was no way that little drive still worked.

Guess what.

I wish I knew who made it, because that thing took a beating and still worked just fine today. I'm impressed.


That is all.

(Watch it in fullscreen if you can.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sentential Links

Time for linkage!

:: This past year, for spelling, there was this predictable pattern for the homework of approximately 20 words. (I'm fascinated by the acrostic exercise, and I wonder if it would have helped the terrible spellers I knew. On a side note, I often wonder about spelling. I can think of few areas where lack of ability is so divorced from, well, general intelligence. This is to say that I've known more than a few folks who are very bright and very articulate and who read a lot and who can hold forth on many topics, and yet, they can't spell 'cat' without three Ms.)

:: Look at that curved beak, it is made for tearing apart his prey.

:: Using corsairs as the pirates is a good move too. I usually enjoy the liberty and style of Western pirates more than the structure and uniformity of the Barbary corsairs as presented here, but so many pirate films focus on the Caribbean that The Sea Hawk is a nice change of pace. (Until I read Michael May's post, I had no idea there'd been an earlier film called The Sea Hawk, different from the Errol Flynn film that is one of my all-time favorites!)

:: But Elvis stayed scattered on the table for the entirety of the week, in case anyone felt like working on it.

:: All I ask is a little bit of Bobo every so often. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to have Dr. Teeth and Rowlf back--some of you may remember that Rowlf the Dog is my favorite Muppet--but a little bit of Bobo is a grand thing.

:: The novel Fight Club only sold about 5000 copies, according to Palahniuk, and the rest of the print run might have been pulped if it hadn't been for the Fincher film encouraging the publisher to get the copies back into circulation. That the film was no great financial success is a well-known story, as is the disastrous marketing campaign that Fincher still regards with chagrin—he recalls the head of marketing saying “You've found the perfect nexus—men don't want to see Brad Pitt with his shirt off and women don't want to see fighting.” (I never liked Fight Club, but almost purely on the basis that it simply isn't my cup of tea. I honestly can't cite anything that I specifically think is a flaw in it. I wonder what a return to that story will look like.)

:: In my not inconsiderable experience, even the most intelligent and literate authors have between 300 and 800 mistakes in an average sized novel. ( work's cut out for me....)

:: It needn’t have been this way, and it still needn’t be this way. There are those who still dream, who understand the call to space, and who are devoting their lives to make it reality. We’ve faced adversity before, and have not let it stop us.

I think we can overcome our own petty blindness. Sometimes we humans look up, not down, and see not just the Universe stretching out before us, but also our place in it.

We’ve done it before and we can—we must, and we will—do it again.

More next week. Or possibly not. You never can tell!!!

Oh to be a kitty....

This is too funny to let just to the Tumblr folks....

Testing...ignore this....

Yes, the picture's crappy. I'm just trying to figure out how to add images using Blogger's Android app.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Your Sunday Burst

Oddities and items of questionable interest to occupy your time this Sunday morning!

:: How Secret Societies Stay Hidden On The Internet.

It all started with a Facebook message from a dead guy.

Seems to me a wild-and-wooly adventure novel, full of globe-trotting exploits and hidden treasures, should start with a line like that. Someone needs to write that. (Not me, I'm booked.)

:: It turns out that actors don't always like other actors, and are sometimes quite willing to say so. For example, Rex Harrison on Charlton Heston:

“Charlton Heston is good at playing arrogance and ambition. But in the same way that a dwarf is good at being short.”

Ouch. More actor-on-actor insults here!

:: I am forever fascinated by questions of artistic process, such as "What's your desk look like?" or "What's the atmosphere of the room you work in?" or "What pen do you use?" Well, the world hasn't gone completely to electronica: Creative Types on their Favorite Writing and Drawing Instruments.

I will show up at a client meeting with a museum director and curators with a bowl of about 50 Sharpies in different colors. People just never see that. It’s like candy. When I start sketching, generally the purple comes out first – it is strong, but not too out there. I also love orange. The different colors help you clarify things: layering, floors, spaces, doorways.

--Architect Kulapat Yantrasast, who loves Sharpies.

:: How they make Ramen noodles:

:: A brief history of Sambo's Restaurants, which aren't all gone yet.

I don't recall ever once eating at a Sambo's, and if we did, it was likely on a road trip of some sort when we needed breakfast. I never knew about the racism in the name until the places were all gone.

:: Kevin Smith on walking on board the Millennium Falcon. (Salty language warning.)

:: Scared of heights? Don't go to these places. I, however, would love to go to each one! (I'm not doing that "tether myself to the CN Tower and then lean over the edge" thing, though. That way, madness lies.)

:: My new life goal is to have a book of mine summarized on Thug Notes.

OK, that's about all for this week. Enjoy and stay weird!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Symphony Saturday

I meant to get this one done last week, but time intruded (I can't believe how much time I spent trying to make my book trailer work!), and I never got the post written. I could have written it, really, but for this series I never write the post without having given the symphony in question a fresh hearing, and this one's on the long side. Up now is the Faust Symphony by Franz Liszt.

Liszt is far better known as a composer of piano music than for his orchestral output, but that's not an indication of quality so much as his life's focus, as Liszt may well have been the greatest piano player in history. He's certainly on my short list of musicians I would strive to track down and hear were I to gain access to a TARDIS or Doc Brown's Delorean or Bill and Ted's phone booth get the idea. Liszt was so great a pianist that his life took on a rock star quality. He used his performing fame to fuel a full and complete musical life, as a composer and a conductor and essayist. Franz Liszt was the total package as a musician. Falling squarely in the Romantic era, you can hear in Liszt a great deal of the connecting tissue that led from Beethoven to Wagner. His music looks back and forward, and though he can be long-winded, his works invariably have moments of searing incandescence.

Years ago, when I was studying music in college, I attended a recital put on by the faculty, which they did once or twice a year. This particular recital ended with one of the piano professors, Dr. Reuter, playing one of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies. It was a showpiece that, among us music students, pretty much brought the house down. I'd love to be able to hear Liszt himself, at the height of his powers, working that magic on the keyboard.

As for today's symphony, A Faust Symphony is something of a hybrid, combining the symphony with the idea of a tone poem (or "symphonic poem", as Liszt would call it). The full title of the work is actually A Faust Symphony in Three Character Sketches after Goethe: (1) Faust, (2) Gretchen, (3) Mephistopheles. It is not intended as a musical telling of the Faust story, but as a depiction of the characters themselves. I've never read Faust, and my only real familiarity with the story comes from the large number of musical works I've heard, most from the 19th century, that were inspired by it. (Chief among these is Berlioz's amazing La Damnation de Faust.) The story of Faust had quite a hold on the imaginations of the Romantic era's great artists, and Liszt was no exception.

This symphony employs typical symphonic construction, particularly in its opening movement, before becoming a cyclical work of tremendous drama in the third, after the lyrical and tender second. In this work Liszt does something quite Berliozian, while anticipating the musical language that would later be called "Wagnerian". It's a fine, fine work, atmospheric and brooding and's Romantic, with all that the word entails. Here is A Faust Symphony by Franz Liszt.

Next time, we return to France for one of two symphonies written by a composer who achieved immortality by writing one of the most popular operas of all time!

Friday, July 25, 2014

An act of scarvery

I suspect that "scarvery" isn't a word. Oh well.

In a bit of retail therapy this week, I made my first ever Etsy purchase, from The item in question? A new scarf! Check it out:

Yes, that's old Will himself, the Bard, Mr. Shakespeare to you.

Here's a closer look at Mr. Shakespeare:

And the printing at the scarf's other end:

I can't wait for scarf weather to return! Actually, for this one, I don't even need really cold weather, because it's a much thinner material than my other scarves. I might wear this one on our annual trip to Ithaca in the fall...scarves and overalls are a way of life, folks!

I also made one other small purchase for the library decor, but I don't have it on the wall yet, so that's going to wait. It's cool, though. Really.

"Some infinities are bigger than other infinities."

I've complained a bit about the time I spent over the last several days watching my computer try to run Windows Movie Maker, with less-than-reliable success. (Part of this is likely because it's a pretty basic program, and another part is undoubtedly that my computer isn't tricked out with all kinds of extra memory for tasks like video editing.) There was one upside to the time I spent not writing, though: I passed quite a lot of the time I was waiting for the computer to do stuff reading John Green's The Fault In Our Stars.

Spoilers follow, so I'm putting this after the break.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Something for Thursday

Revisiting a favorite work of mine today, because sometimes you need to remind yourself that once in the greatest of whiles, someone on this planet really does achieve perfection. Of course, perfection is a more reasonable goal if you happen to be, say, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. For the rest of us, it's something to aim at in hopes of just getting better. For Mozart, "perfection" is what happens on a startlingly regular basis. That's what made him Mozart, after all.

I find myself liking performance by school groups and youth orchestras more and more these days, because what you might lack a little bit in polish, you tend to make up for in fresh liveliness of the musicmaking. I have a greater appreciation for flawed passion of late. Here is a chamber orchestra, with soloists, from the New England Conservatory, playing Mozart's Sinfonia concertante for violin, viola, and orchestra in E-flat major.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

So, how frustrating is it when stuff that's supposed to work wonderfully in this new gee-whiz techno-wizard world just doesn't?

I had another post in this space earlier, but I had to take it down because it involved a link to another blog and I could NOT make the link work using Blogger's mobile app. I tried a bunch of times and kept ending up with a broken link. Then I tried fixing it in Blogger's web version (still on my phone), but that didn't work either, so I'll use that one another time.

This all comes on the heels of some enormously frustrating time I've spent lately with Windows Movie Maker, trying to make a book trailer for PRINCESSES. All I'm doing is literally stitching a bunch of brief movie clips together just to convey a bit of what I hope the book feels like, but this makes the program choke constantly. Again, something that should be pretty easy turns out to be a headache.

So again, how do you react when even your relatively modest expectations for your technology end up going awry?

Monday, July 21, 2014


Sorry about the complete lack of content the last few days, but I've been busy doing stuff. Important stuff. You've no idea, folks!

One thing I've been busy working on is a video trailer for Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title), and it turns out that Windows Live Movie Maker is an enormously frustrating program to use. If I had time and motivation, I'd chuck it and learn to use a different program. Luckily I don't intend to post the trailer until September or October, but I want to get this done, and this program is giving me major fits.

Anyway, stay tuned!

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Been a while since I did one of these, so here is some recent photographic evidence of my misdeeds!

So far this summer has been one of many blue skies.

...and much green.

I've added to my library a little:

And that top book, about how to make drinks, has turned out quite useful, as the wonderful Mojito has become a staple at Casa Jaquandor!

The cats continue to discover the magical realm beneath my desk. Julio, the resident foot-fetishist, especially loves curling up around my feet when I'm trying to work.

Writing continues, slowly....

At 9:00 am on a Saturday morning, downtown Buffalo is abuzz with activity.

Lester and Julio guard the upstairs. Patience and Fortitude, they ain't.

Lester does not wish me to be successful.

It's all about caffeine and air flow.

It's also about reading outside and sipping Scotch.

It's been an oddly cool summer thus far. Usually I spend July suffering endlessly and not even thinking about wearing overalls, but on the 4th of July this year, it was cool enough!

In fact, by the time the sun was dropping and it was time to start thinking about heading out for fireworks, a sweatshirt became handy. This is unprecedented, folks!

From afar, at dusk, Buffalo Niagara looks like this.

I also baptized our new fire pit.

Some stuff I haven't done:

One day the rains came...

And an hour later, were completely gone....

Minty M&Ms!

Drink up, folks!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Something for Thursday

Conductor Lorin Maazel died this week, at the age of 84. He lived a fine and long musical life, and I, for one, will miss his work. Maazel conducted the very first New Year's From Vienna concert that I ever watched, and he frequently returned to that same event over the years, and he regularly turned up on various televised classical music events. Maazel always seemed gregarious and enthusiastic about his musicmaking, and that's a quality that is never in great enough supply, I think. Maazel never failed to convey that he really wanted you to like what he was doing.

Anyway, here is Lorin Maazel conducting The Ring Without Words, a concert version of orchestral extracts from Wagner's great Der Ring des Nibelungen tetralogy. Thank you for so many years of great music, Maestro Maazel!

(Maazel grew up in Pittsburgh, by the way. The best things in life seem to come from either Pittsburgh or Buffalo....)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Of these two phrases, which is more annoying: "At the end of the day....", or "It is what it is!"?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dispatches from the Faire

This Saturday past, we traveled to the shores of Lake Ontario for the Sterling Renaissance Festival, which we have attended most years over the last decade or so. We missed it last year, owing to our vacation in Cape May, NJ, but this year we were back in form, so off we went! I love Renaissance Festivals in general, ever since I attended the Minnesota Faire back in college. I find them enormously entertaining, and I especially love buying things directly from the people who made them. You can't beat that, and I never quibble price for something that was not only not mass-produced in China, but might well have just been made a day or two before.

Some photos from our day at the Festival, starting with the icky one right off the bat. We were sitting down for a water break when The Wife and The Daughter both freaked out, simultaneously. Seems this little guy was hanging out on my shoulder. The Wife knocked him down, and I then used a twig to move him to safety under the bench. This is quite the close-up, by the way; he's really only about an inch long.

One of my favorite things about the Festival each year is seeing older couples, in period dress, still very much dating each other. This makes me happy.

Maybe new this year -- or possibly last, as we weren't there -- was this Faerie, who spent her day roaming and interacting.

One vendor whose wares we never stopped to appreciate before is the one that makes bronze sculptures for yard display. We haven't had a yard, so what was the point. Well, this year we have a yard, so we looked. The items there are stunning and wonderful, but also way out of our price range. And this spouting dragon, towering above everyone, didn't even have a price tag that I could see.

This next item, however, did have a price tag. It's a pirate ship where all the details are made of glass, right down to the water on which it sails.

Ten thousand dollars will let you bring that home!

No, this is not George RR Martin. At least, I don't think it's George RR Martin. I didn't ask him.

And, as always, Her Highness the Queen!

Hopefully we have so good a time next year!

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Just one word at a time, man."

“When asked, "How do you write?" I invariably answer, "One word at a time," and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That's all. One stone at a time. But I've read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.”

--Stephen King

A friend asked me a question about my particular writing process the other day, and it struck me as an interesting question that I haven't mentioned before, so I thought I'd go into a bit here, too. I often like reading about the processes other writers use, not necessarily in a 'comparing notes' kind of way, and certainly not in a 'If I write the way they do, I'll be successful!' way, but in the sense that it's just nice to be reminded that even for the really good ones, the ones who make it seem so effortless, the ones whose footsteps I'm trying to's still just a job. However they do it, they still have to show up someplace and get the words down somehow. Writing, for all its wonders, really does lead to an awful lot of quasi-mystical bullshit that isn't always warranted. Sometimes it really is like laying bricks to make a wall to repel the invaders.

Anyway, the main question that my friend asked was a mechanical one of how I handle the content and its organization into computer files. When I wrote the first draft of Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title), I wrote a separate file for each individual chapter. Actually, I did this with The Promised King as well, way back when, so that approach had precedent. What I found as I got further and further into the book, it got harder and harder to easily refer back to earlier events. This comes up a lot, especially when writing a sci-fi epic: What color was her hair, again? What did I call that one beastie? How many people did I say populate this planet? I'd have to open chapter files one by one until I managed to find what I was looking for.

Additionally, at the end of the process, there was the additional tedium of cutting-and-pasting all of this into one large file, which was also a pain in the arse. Then, at editing time, I would just work on that one large file, so I came to the conclusion: why not just write the thing in one large file to begin with? So, that's what I've done ever since, starting with Princesses II, GhostCop, Deliverance, Eh?, and now, Lighthouse Boy. It's just easier that way for me. I've yet to run into any kind of upward limit on filesize, although I wonder if Lighthouse Boy might not get there, as that book is turning out to be well-and-truly massive. I intended this, so I'm not dismayed, but wow, what a big story I have going on there: I'm over 150,000 words right now and only about halfway done. I wanted to write a doorstop, and by golly, I am!

Now this is all necessary because I use OpenOffice to write. I like OpenOffice; it's perfect for my needs and it has all the features I'd ever want. Plus, it's free, which is also nice. There's another program out there, though, that I'm told allows a more...and now I'm groping for a word...we'll call it a more holistic approach to crafting a novel. It's called Scrivener, and it is beloved by people who use it.

Scrivener apparently provides an entire internal environment for writing. You can gather research notes and all sorts of other materials into the same project folder, so when you write, everything's right there without having to open other programs. I'm told that Scrivener makes it easier to move scenes around if you wish: apparently it allows writing in small atomic pieces that you can then arrange as you see fit. I assume that when you're done, it then automatically stitches everything together into a single file. Scrivener also has e-publishing capabilities built in.

I did try Scrivener, very briefly. (It allows a free trail period.) It was not my cup of tea. I tend to think in very linear fashion when writing, and I only go back and revise anything I've already done if there is a pressing need to revise something earlier based on what's happening now. I'm referring to putting the gun on the mantelpiece, for instance, or adding bits of foreshadowing when I realize I need a character to be able to do a certain thing. I don't generate large amounts of reference materials, and I just don't think in terms of individual scenes when I write. Scrivener is deeply counterintuitive to me as a writer, so I didn't try to adapt to it at all. It's the perfect tool for some, but for me, it's just a nonstarter.

So that's about it: I use OpenOffice to write my books as single, large files. For backups, I have three external hard drives and a flock of flash drives, and I upload my work to both Google Drive and Dropbox daily. (Google Drive is my primary cloud backup, so things automatically upload there whenever I save them. I have to manually save to Dropbox, but Dropbox has saved my bacon once already by virtue of its archiving of older versions of files. This came in deeply handy one day after I screwed up and overwrote my newest version of a file with an older one, instead of the other way around.

So, writer folks of the world, how do you write?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I apologize in advance for this....

No, don't get up. I'll show myself out.

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome!

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: Redneck Rocket Launcher. This situation is out of control, and we will be lucky to live through it.

:: No, no way, and never. In that order.

:: The World Cup is almost over (Thank God), but here's an amazing photo of Rio at night.

More next week!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Then you may take me to the Faire....

Off to the Renaissance Festival today. I'm actually taking two days off from writing. It feels twitchy, but we'll get through it.

Later, folks!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Something for Thursday

Ahh, Hans of the most vexing names in film music. It's hard to really evaluate his influence, as his industrial approach has resulted in a strong homogenizing of the sound of movie music these days, but it's likewise impossible to argue that he can write really good music at times. His score to Beyond Rangoon is just such a little-heard gem.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Do you listen to any podcasts? If so, which ones?

On a tangential note, what do you think of TED Talks? This came up on Facebook this morning.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

We're building that so we can look at...Buffalo?!

Apparently it's been 40 years since a big construction project unfolded near Toronto's waterfront, resulting in the CN Tower.

Oddly, I've never gone up in the tower -- we're always doing other stuff when we're in Toronto, and we go to TO less often than we should anyway. I'd love to go up there, though; as a kid, I remember when we'd always make the trek to the top of the Space Needle when we went to Seattle.

Anyway, more photos of the construction phase here. I guess I was wrong in that they didn't build the thing complete, lay it down on its side, and then pull it upright.

(No, I didn't think that.)

Monday, July 07, 2014

Gardeners versus Architects

George RR Martin has some interesting things to say about writing. I agree with him, quite strongly, here. I may have issues with his books, but I think he nails this.

I, too, am more of a gardener in this metaphor than an architect. But GRRM notes that it's important to do some architecture along the way, and I totally agree with that. I won't outline an entire novel, but I'll outline a particularly complex scene or sequence of scenes. In general, though, I love to just scatter little plot ideas and notions here and there, and see which things come back as important things and which don't.

As I go back through the manuscript to Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title), I am noticing a lot of those tiny little details that I just threw in willy nilly, and now some of them are striking me as having some potential down the line.

Writing is awesome!