A Blogger’s Lament

No Ideas

It’s been too long since I have made an entry on this site
And of great creativity I will not deign to boast
For in those stolen moments when jot some thoughts I might,
I find myself without ideas for what I’d like to post.

Oh sure, I could regale you ’bout my trips both near and far
Or vent about public affairs, with all their saints and sinners
Or treat you to another sappy post about my car
Or share pics of the mac and cheese that tonight I had for dinner.

A list of things – that always works! – yes, that could be the answer
Or videos of things absurd or photos of my dog
Or breathtaking accounts of how I bought three pair of pants — er,
Maybe that would make for just a very boring blog.

Perhaps I could opine at length with thoughts on Gamergate
Or share the pics from Pinterest of sugar-free granola
Or, to prove I’m Very Serious, I could at length create
An uninformed but passionate lament about Ebola.

The pressure’s on, I must devise a work of weighty matter
A story with a moral, like the one of Eve and Adam
For if I don’t give value but instead give mindless patter
I’ll lose my faithful readers (that’s assuming that I had ‘em.)

Oh, elusive inspiration, I so wish I had you now
The words would spill forth on the page, and this would be the log
Of undisputed brilliance, and to me all scribes would bow,
But I can’t think of anything of which I’d like to blog.

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P.G. Holyfield

So I’ve been thinking all day about what I could possibly say. I overslept this morning. The alarm went off at 5:30, like it always does, but I decided to rest another five minutes before getting my first cup of coffee. Next thing I knew, it was 6:25. I went downstairs, poured a cup and sat down with my phone, planning to read the New York Times. For some reason, though, I had Facebook open, so I started to skim that instead. And that was how I found out that my friend P.G. Holyfield is fighting for his life.

I don’t remember whether or not I met him at my first Dragon*Con in 2008, though I clearly remember him being at a couple of parties I went to. The following winter and spring, I mainlined the podcast of Murder At Avedon Hill, and somehow I finangled my way into a very very small part in one of the last episodes. After that, I knew I had to meet the guy behind this tour-de-force – a captivating world, a gripping story, and a sonic artistic achievement far beyond anything I could hope to produce. I found a guy who is quiet but friendly and gracious, and often very funny. We roomed together at Dragon*Con 2010. Alcohol loosened my tongue and I talked his ears off. His tolerance for me was commendable. Continue reading

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This is What Life as a Red Sox Fan Does To People

Michaela Murphy told this terrific story on The Moth about growing up in a house full of Red Sox fans and her adventure taking her younger brother to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Find more excellent stories on The Moth at www.themoth.org.

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My children are grown, and I’ve noticed something interesting over the past year. The youngest is 19 and about to start his second year of college; the older two are living on their own. From December 1988 until August 2013, my days were filled with working and my sons. Diapers, risk management when they learned to walk, toys, looking for lost toys, bedtime stories, school, and sports. Lots and lots of sports. I enjoy sports even though my talents for them came from the shallow end of the gene pool, so I also enjoyed watching the boys play. Baseball, basketball, soccer – it was fun. Time-consuming, and not always played in what one would call pleasant weather conditions, but fun. Still, more than once I found myself thinking, as I was driving to another game in Rome (New York, that is,) that a break from all this would be nice. I’d get to do activities that I chose, rather than having them foisted on me by my sons’ schedules.

So now they’re grown and mostly out of the house, and I have the opportunity to do what I want on a Saturday night. And you know what?

I can’t pick out anything I want to do. That’s right: Faced with what parents of younger children see as “freedom,” my response is – meh.

Tonight is a good example. Here are some of my choices:

  • The Chiefs are playing a doubleheader over at NBT Bank Stadium.
  • The New York State Blues Festival is going on right now in Clinton Square.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is playing at three different malls within a 10 mile radius of my house, including theaters showing it in 3-D.
  • I have season one of Breaking Bad on DVD that I borrowed the other day from the library.
  • I also borrowed the DVD of Ken Burns’ PBS series The Dust Bowl.
  • I am surrounded by unread books.
  • I have a guitar and a list of songs I want to learn how to play.
  • I have an Xbox 360 and a cabinet full of games.

And yet, with all these choices, I can’t pick anything. It’s on nights like this that I wish I could make all my friends from Balticon magically appear. I could discuss movies with Christiana Ellis, talk recording with Bryan Lincoln, laugh my ass off at anything that comes out of Norm Sherman’s mouth, crack a beer (or more) with Tee Morris, talk about writing with Katie Bryski, Abbie Hilton and Lauren Harris, talk about anything with P.C. Haring, and basically have one hell of a fun night. I apologize to those I left off the list; it’s not a slight – it’s for the sake of something approaching brevity.

So yes, the kids are grown, I can do whatever the hell I want, and for the life of me I can’t decide what to do. I am not anticipating waves of sympathy coming my way from those of you with kids at home, especially those still consumed with getting the nighttime ritual of baths, pajamas and story time done. Believe me, I remember all too well how tiring it is. My oldest is taking the bar exam in 10 days, yet it feels like yesterday that I read him The Hobbit as a bedtime story. Sometimes, I catch myself half expecting to walk in the front door and find the middle one excitedly working his way through his latest video game purchase. Or walk into the family room and find the youngest building something with the K’Nex that he played with constantly for so many years. It’s a trite cliche, and if you’re a parent you’ve heard it way too many times, but it’s true – they grow up way too freaking fast.

Parenting is chock full of challenges, but what I’m surprised to learn is that you still have challenges when the kids move on. For years, the kids fill your every moment, and then one day they don’t. And you find yourself on a Saturday night wondering, “What the hell do I want to do tonight?”

Right now, I’m leaning toward a good book and a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad.

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Things That Have Happened To Me Lately

It’s been many moons since I posted something here, and it’s not been because my life has been dull. I sit down to write blog posts sometimes and I draw a blank. I feel like I should write something edgy, hard-hitting, opinionated, something to stir the pot. Jeez, my son Joel has started a popular blog that turned into an occasional gig writing for The Week. He’s already had a commenter call him a moron. I’ll admit to being more than a little jealous.

However, since I don’t really feel like piling on with my thoughts about the Supreme Court’s ludicrous laughable controversial Hobby Lobby decision yesterday, I’ll just lay some of my recent adventures on you …

May 14. I’m one of four people in my boss’s car riding from Syracuse to eastern Long Island. I’m in the backseat, doing a little work-related reading that I never have time to do in the office. We’re about a half mile from the George Washington Bridge on a highway in New Jersey. Suddenly, I hear a BANG and feel a rather noticeable jolt. It seems a crater sinkhole car-eating monster from Tatooine really, really big pothole appeared in front of us and my boss had no way to avoid it. We pulled over, inspected the front tires, they looked okay, and we proceeded.

Halfway across one of the busiest bridges in the Northern Hemisphere, a guy in a black car pulled up next to us on the right, beeped his horn and pointed downward. It would seem that the front passenger tire was not as okay as it appeared at first glance. Point of fact, it was losing air at a somewhat alarming rate. This, my friends, is not good, not on that bridge. My boss kept it together long enough for us to take the first exit on the New York side of the bridge, then the first exit off the West Side Highway, and find a level, easily visible spot for us to park. Then she commenced chain-smoking.

Our hero with a scissor jack.

Our hero with a scissor jack.

We were at the corner of 171st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, which I’m told is in Morningside Heights – not the best neighborhood, but not the worst. I cemented my reputation in the office as a legend because I knew how to change a tire. This apparently is an unexpected skill. Too bad the spare tire was flat, too. After a visit from a Port Authority truck with an air compressor, a drive into the Bronx where we visited two tire shops, and a repair man gustily whacking the tire rim back into shape with a hammer, we eventually made it to the Long Island Expressway and arrived for the group dinner at a fine, white tablecloth restaurant with me wearing only the finest street grime on what started the day as a good pair of jeans.

May 23 and 24. Balticon, a science fiction/fantasy convention held each Memorial Day weekend in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Four of my favorite days of the year. This year was special, because a few of us had secretly plotted to throw a surprise celebration for Abbie Hilton, who wrapped up production this spring on her five-part Guild of the Cowry Catchers series. My job: Order a cake.


Is it cake or is it art?

One of the great things about Balticon is that there is a Wegmans supermarket almost literally across the street from the hotel. I went there before I even went to the hotel. They were able to screen print the image of the book one cover on the cake’s frosting. I was pretty pumped when I ordered it, but the end result blew my expectations away. This cake was such a work of art that I almost felt bad about eating three pieces of it. And I think Abbie was surprised. It’s not too often that you can pull off a real surprise, so that was pretty cool.


The Green Monster “appetizer” at Jerry Remy’s.

June 16. My youngest son Nathan and I hit the road for Boston to visit Joel. My Fathers’ Day gift was tickets to a Red Sox game at Fenway for Tuesday night, but we headed out there on Monday. Nathan’s only wish for the trip was to watch the USA’ s first World Cup match at a sports bar. Jerry Remy’s, which is right next door to Fenway Park, fit the bill nicely. We ordered what was advertised as an appetizer, but in truth it was a crapload tower of food. Eight sliders, one and a half pounds of chicken wings, and a plate of sweet potato fries. It was delicious, and beyond filling. So, of course we also got dessert. As we wobbled out of the restaurant, full and happy that the home team had beaten Ghana, a total stranger walked up to us and literally gave us three leftover tickets to that night’s Red Sox game. The game was half over, but the operative phrase was, “What the hell?” So we reversed course and went back to Fenway Park. Our seats were right behind the bullpens, and the Sox won a close one. My Fathers’ Day tickets were for the next night, so we ended up seeing a game and a half on this trip. It was probably our last visit to Boston for a while, as Joel is moving to New York soon. Not a bad way to close out his three years there.

So, that’s been some of my excitement. During the visit to Long Island, I was given an award, something that was as touching as it was unexpected. Balticon was the best one yet, and I missed all my friends before I’d even gotten on the highway to head home. Joel graduated from law school, one of the proudest days of my life. It’s been a nice few months. And summer’s just starting! What good things will the hot weather months bring? I’m looking forward to finding out.

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Random Spec-Fic Geneology

Around ...Submitted for your consideration: A trail of speculative fiction movie connections. Starting with …

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), which starred, among others, Samuel L. Jackson, who also appeared in …

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005), which also featured Ewan McGregor, who also appeared in an episode of …

Tales from the Crypt (1989 – 96), another episode of which starred Richard Thomas, who in 1990 starred in …

Stephen King’s It (1990), a made-for-TV movie that also cast in a supporting role Seth Green, who for three years had a recurring role in …

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003), which for six episodes featured in the role of Darla, Julie Benz, who also appeared in …

Supernatural (2005 – present), which for six episodes in 2007 – 08 featured Katie Cassidy, who currently appears in …

Arrow (2012 – present), which stars Stephen Amell, who three years ago appeared in two episodes of …

The Vampire Diaries (2009 – present), which stars Paul Wesley, who once appeared in an episode of …

Smallville (2001 – 11), which starred Michael Rosenbaum, who also appeared in a short-lived series about robots titled …

The Zeta Project (2001 – 03), which starred Julie Nathanson, who also lent her voice in 2003 to the animated TV series …

Spider-Man (2003 – present), which starred in the role of Peter Parker, Neil Patrick Harris, who played the lead role in …

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008), which also starred Felicia Day, who also appeared for a couple of seasons in …

Eureka (2006 – 12), which for 10 episodes featured James Callis, who had a major role in …

Battlestar Galactica (2004 – 09), which also starred Katee Sackhoff, who was also in one season of …

24 (2001 – 10), which starred Keifer Sutherland, who was in the 1992 film …

A Few Good Men, which starred Demi Moore, who was once married to Bruce Willis, who starred in the 1995 picture …

Pulp Fiction, which also starred …

Samuel L. Jackson, who appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

And it all comes around.

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Sometimes You Just Have To Talk These Things Through…

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Automotive Memories

20140330-203147.jpgI bought a car yesterday. My trusted 2004 Camry runs just as well as it ever has, but I learned 10 days ago that it will not pass the emission control test when it gets inspected (its current inspection sticker expires tomorrow.) The estimated cost of restoring it to compliance is $3,700, as a goodly chunk of the exhaust system needs replacing.

The car has given me more than 143,000 good miles with very little trouble. However, the cost-benefit analysis pointed to replacing it. The cost of the repair is greater than its value, and this likely would not be the last repair. So, yesterday I made a deposit on a 2013 Camry with low mileage. The dealer and I agreed on a fair price. Continue reading

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Art For Art’s Sake; Money For God’s Sake

Money vs. Art

Courtesy of LitReactor.com

Very interesting blog posts on similar topics in the last couple of days from Philippa Ballantine and Jennifer Povey. Kind of interesting because, though they both live in Northern Virginia, I’m not sure they’ve ever met. Their minds seem to think alike, though. Pip wrote earlier today about the incessant argument about which is better, art or commerce:

Here’s the truth of it. Many, many writers have had to walk away from writing, or even died while waiting for some commerce to come their way. My favourite poets died waiting to be paid for the work they did. (I always thought it was a cruel trick of fate that their best career move was shuffling off their mortal coil.) So yes, the people who make their living off writing do not have the luxury of waxing philosophical about art. They make it about work. Craft and passion are damn useful, but the writer is the master of words, the words are not the master of him or her. Art and passion are all very well, but books (at least the ones you plan to sell) must also be a commodity.

Jenna posted yesterday in a similar vein, but she focused on what writers should choose to write, i.e., writing something that appeals to the author vs. writing something the author believes will sell in the current market:

There’s nothing wrong with considering marketability when deciding what idea to work on next. Writing something you don’t enjoy because you think it will sell, though, is likely to produce a low quality book. Following a fad is just going to leave you behind. Write something you enjoy and make it as good as possible – there’s luck involved, of course, but you still have a better chance than by blindly following trends. Continue reading

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Pete Seeger

I was 15 years old when I heard a Pete Seeger album for the first time. Looking back on it, I think it’s kind of amazing that old-fashioned, conservative Afton, New York, a place that probably hasn’t elected a Democrat as mayor since the Civil War, actually had a Pete Seeger album in the high school library. I knew who he was from all the reading I’d done, but I’d never before heard the reedy voice accompanied by twelve-string guitar or plucky banjo.

The man was my grandparents’ age, but I was so enthralled by the music that I didn’t even notice. The voice and the songs were so genuine, so heartfelt, and so warm and inviting that they just captivated me. Whether he was leading a chorus of hundreds in We Shall Overcome or singing the Cuban popular song Guantanamera (hey, I thought, we sing that in chorus!), I loved them all. Continue reading

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