April 17, 2014
Oakland's Got Talent
Throughout the day and night, amateur rappers walk by my apartment, honing their craft. I hear only brief snatches as they pass by my window with no indication of what went before or came next. The most recent of these went like this:
Y'all need to stick together
like butter on a feather
April 16, 2014
The Inspector Calls
I’ve been annoyed for quite awhile by the right side panel displayed on the latest versions of Mac OS Pages, the annoying thing being figuring out how to make it go away when you want. It’s useful when you need it, for font, formatting, alignment, and such. But when just typing I find it distracting. It’s not obvious how to make it go away, though, and until today I’ve just passively elected to live with its mildly irritating presence because figuring out how to get rid of it was just a little too much effort.
Today, though, I decided to look for the switch to make it go away. I figured I’d be looking for a menu item or button called “sidebar” or “format bar” or something like that but no such item seemed available. So, as one does with a program like MSW when finally fed up with it I went through each menu item one by one, regardless of whether it seemed logical. By this brute force method I found the answer.
This sidebar is known as The Inspector. I’m not kidding, The Inspector.
Once you know its secret, utterly counter-intuitive name (they might as well have named it The Brigadier, or the Baker, or the Guy from the Gas Company) you can hide it.
I love Pages and prefer it in every way to MSW. But that ain’t Maclike. It ain’t even Windows-like. It’s stupid-like.
April 15, 2014
Sackcloth and Ashes
April 10, 2014
A Writer's Life is a Dog's Life, Except You Have Hands
Currently reviewing the second pass proofread of the text of King Dork Approximately and finding very few further corrections to make, which feels either very good or very bad, somehow. (The result of this is going to be the final text that gets published.) I actually read the entire thing out loud in a single sitting that took all day, so my voice is fried and I feel really disoriented and spacey. And my cat looks annoyed. What a weird "job."
(I put this pre-order link at the bottom of all posts if I remember to do it, just in case anyone is interested, or possibly in hopes that people who aren't interested might wind up pre-ordering it anyway by accident.)
April 09, 2014
As difficult as it is to imagine the Who without Keith Moon, it's even harder to imagine them this way:
[original drummer]Doug was deeply hurt by [being asked to leave the band], especially because, unknown to me, he had defended me against my being thrown out of the band a few months earlier when another auditioning agent said I was gangly, noisy and ugly.”
That's Pete Townshend talking, from his memoir Who I Am (which I have yet to read.)
April 07, 2014
Just replaced another of those missing, possibly ex-girlfriend-confiscated LPs, and it's a big deal. This is a great day. (The vinyl is as NM as it's possible to be and, judging from a name written on the label, it was once owned by someone named Nancy Virtue, which I consider a definite plus. And it sounds simply amazing.)
April 04, 2014
April 03, 2014
Seattle Librarians Take on Portland's Book Nerds
J.D. Salinger... F. Portman... goal!
March 31, 2014
March 28, 2014
According to this, the phrase "no worries" means "you're welcome" and it "infected" American English through Crocodile Dundee and the Lion King.
I've been saying "no worries" for as long as I can remember, though I never say it to mean "you're welcome." I mean it almost literally (even if it's usually a gross exaggeration), i.e. "there is no reason for you to have any worries about anything concerning this situation, my friend." Am I using it wrong?
With friends like these...
According to the largeheartedboy link I clicked on to get to it, this article is a "defense" of P. G. Wodehouse, which seems unnecessary. It's actually more like a carping, petulant "appreciation." Probably not all that far off per se, I suppose, but still somehow profoundly irritating nonetheless.
March 27, 2014
Brendan Halpin on the "likeability trap" and YA fiction. This apparently increasing phenomenon -- character "likeability" as the central, most important criterion for assessing literary merit -- is one of my least favorite things about the democratization of criticism enabled by the internet. (I assume the internet is to blame for enabling it, at least as a self-validating cultural tendency among readers who post stuff on the internet.)
Brendan's caution that we'll "miss out on some cool books" if editors begin to take their cues from goodreads, et al. and reject books with complex, disreputable, or politically incorrect characters is apt, though I doubt we'd see that taken to the extremes he fears, if only because the resulting books would be completely boring. I still have enough faith in readers and humanity (I know, I can't quite believe I typed that either) to have confidence that such books would eventually weed themselves out. In the borderline cases, though, it's a pressure I can easily imagine could exert an undesirable influence, in the spirit of going along to get along, e.g. toning down a character's vocabulary or unsavory thoughts or feelings in hopes of getting a few more five star and a few fewer one star reviews from random people on the internet.
The more plausible danger is increasing self-censorship on the part of authors, who, having their characters and books slapped down and dismissed time and again by the likeability brigade will inevitably consider shying away from the unfortunate habits that earned the slaps. Authors are just like anybody else, only more so, in craving approval, and moreover in the aggregate these reviews can, it seems, be not insignificant in determining commercial success or failure of a given book or writer. This sort of self-censorship is already a big factor, it seems to me. I think it was Flannery O'Connor (was it?) who described her relationship with her readers as primarily adversarial, and most writers know what she was talking about. This goes with the territory, of course, but it can be exhausting, and the temptation to pull punches and tailor your writing to make it kinder and gentler (and weaker) can be hard to resist. It's one reason characters tend to be so "samey" these days, in YA fiction as well as in other marketing categories.
I'd love a world where "unlikable," challenging, or complex characters were appreciated and celebrated, and seen as the mark of good writing rather than as an indication that the machine has broken down and failed to deliver the warm, fuzzy goods. In fact, that is more or less the world I grew up in, at least as far as literature courses and old style book reviews went. I don't remember any lit professor ever asking me to write an essay on whether Stephen Dedalus or Raskolnikov were "likeable" (though I suppose they aren't.) Has this changed? You know, I wouldn't be too surprised to learn that it has. Dislike.
Of Guitars and Lobsters
I've been told that they'll never do this with guitars, but...
...apparently all it takes is an agency's "order" to ban the import of all ivory regardless of age or context, such that an antique upright piano is now stuck in Japan, apparently forever. I'm pretty sure none of my old guitars has ivory pins, but if they did an order like that for rosewood, it would (effectively, probably) ban every single one of my old, beat-up, but very lovable electric guitars, since there's no way of proving or even knowing the source of their rosewood fingerboards. Also, I'm not even 100% certain that such an order hasn't already happened, and I don't really know how to go about finding out whether or not one has. I assume if it were to happen it would make the news, but, you know, maybe I'd miss the news that day, or I could be the first.
This woman had no idea that buying lobsters in plastic bags would put her in prison for eight years, and there was no way for her to "check" even if she had thought to wonder whether putting lobsters in plastic bags was illegal, because the government that prosecuted her didn't know itself till it had done months of research to find something, anything, to charge her with. I guess there are two kinds of people in this world, those who see a story like that and think "well then, I'll just avoid lobsters in plastic bags from now on," and those who think "if it could happen with lobsters it could certainly happen with guitars."
Anyway, I'd really think twice about bringing a vintage guitar to Japan, or anywhere foreign at this point. Maybe get a new, travel-only guitar, keep it "clean" and keep all the documentation, like they advise you to do with laptops. Having to prove your innocence is hard enough for a human, but a dumb guitar really doesn't stand a chance.
(Also pre-order my book.)
March 26, 2014
Getting realer and realer...
Just got a few galleys of King Dork Approximately in the mail. (That's not what the actual cover is going to be, so it says "cover to come!" on it.)
Call me old fashioned, but a book you can touch and take a picture with feels around 800% more "real" than a pdf ever could. It just does.
March 25, 2014
Behind the "music"
When I was a kid just getting started on my future career as a pretend rock star, one of the first things I came up with was an arrangement of the Beatles' "Yesterday" with the lyrics of the Spiderman theme song, Barnes & Barnes style. I thought it would make me at least as famous as Little Roger and the Goosebumps (whose famousness I drastically over-estimated anyway, as it turned out.) It was not to be, but I guess it came out about right in the end anyway.
March 24, 2014
Paul and George had a quota of anecdotes from these early days of a strengthening friendship, like the time they heard how someone had a copy of the Coasters' "Searchin'" and made a long bus journey to Bootle or Kirkby or Knotty Ash (it varies in the telling but apparently it involved two changes) simply to ask this person if he'd play it to them. Why they didn't just buy it is never explained. However, as Paul once confessed, having accepted the generosity of this stranger who let them sit in the living and listen to his record they relieved him of its ownership, doing a runner with the precious disc stuffed under a jacket.
Another of Paul's warm anecdotes is the one where he and George heard about somebody in a distant Liverpool suburb who knew the chord B7. Again, they got out the bus map, planned a route, knocked on the unknown door, and asked the man to show them.
-- Mark Lewisohn, Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years
March 23, 2014
Somehow, I appear to have been left off this list
This is apparently the pub where the cover photo of the Muswell Hillbillies album was taken
Closed for renovation, unfortunately, but basically still recognizable through the window screens.
The closest I have ever come to weeping at a gravesite