Monthly Archives: June 2011

An Extremely Subtle Reminder of My Pending E-book, Bored in the Breakroom

An example of signage more obvious than this post.

On my way back from the optometrist this morning I walked up 4th avenue, which was one of the first streets on which I remember driving in Pittsburgh. It was some years ago after a job interview. 4th avenue starts (or ends) at PPG Place, a curious agglomeration of crystalline spires and shimmering glass. There was a subtle but marked hill as I turned onto 4th, and my Philadelphia-conditioned sense of urban outlay was charlie horsed: a hill, in the middle of a city? Get lost. But it really was there. As I walked through the gauntlet of obsidian windows today their warped surfaces reflected my unreliable memory.

Oh hey! Speaking of all that stuff, I mention PPG Place and 4th avenue in my e-book, Bored in the Breakroom. The content has been finalized and after a few more chess moves and a coordinated cough of server space it will be available soon. Matt didn’t shred it up too much, which either makes me think his standards are too low or that I may have hit the target somewhere on my first pass. He has more hair than I do, so who can really say?

If you are the reviewing type and are self-hating enough to read a collection of super short stories, contact me if interested. To translate that into normal author-blogger dialect: “GREAT NEWS! If’n you wanna read n’ review an ARC of my razzle dazzle N E W E – B O O K, send me a friendly email! K?”

Picture from jrmyst.

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Fan Fiction by a Five Year Old: The Hello Kitty Chronicles

My daughter, Elena, reads a lot, so it’s natural that eventually she would start writing — which she has done. Well, she wrote in the sense that she comes up with stories, but to actually commit them to paper would strain the limits of time and legibility. So I dutifully wrote down her epic stories in her Hello Kitty pocket notebook.

Though you can’t tell, these stories follow a pretty close parallel to events in her own life, so consider these narrative vignettes quasi-autobiographical. I did minimal editing; only where things were completely nonsensical did I suggest changes.

So what you read below are the true-to-form, novice imaginings of a writer who refuses to blow her nose properly and sometimes has trouble listening to her parents.

Hello Kitty and Mimi were having a fun party at their house and all of their friends were invited to the fun party.

When their friends were there, they had a game section for them.

Next they had a ball section for them because they couldn’t play inside the house, because they would wreck the house up.

The last part they had: unwrapping their own presents. And inside were all the things they had just played.

When they got home they sure had lots of fun, especially with the boring parts.

Notice in this next one the great pun on the eye color and geting them checked, and the pun on Hello Kitty’s name and saying “hello” to her. I don’t think Elena knew she did it.

Helping New Friends

Hello Kitty was alone. Mom and Dad were gone. She was the only one in the house. Mama was having a baby in a couple of weeks. They thought her name was going to be Mimi.

Today Mama was having a baby, then she popped out. Mama was amazed how beautiful her face looked. Hello Kitty said kids are fun already, but except it’s a baby and really fun, too.

I wasn’t sure about having a baby at first. Mimi is really cute, too.

“Thank you,” said Mama.

“Look at her eyelashes!” Hello Kitty said.

“I see,” Mama said.

“And her eyes…they’re green like ours. Oh, I mean it’s pink instead. Maybe I need to get my eyes checked,” Hello Kitty said, laughing.

“Oh, a new baby. I forgot this time,” Papa said, giggling.

She even said, “Mama! Dada!”

“Mama! Dada!”

“She said it again!” Hello Kitty said, giggling.

“Hello Kitty,” Mimi said.

Guess what was on her mind when she wrote this.

It was about time that Mimi was a kid. When she was grown they played Legos together. When they were done they knocked it over. And they built it again and again and again until they got tired.

Next they had a snack, then Hello Kitty told Mimi, “There are real bugs in there. There was a female black bug.”

Then Mimi farted. “Sorry, Hello Kitty. I didn’t mean to fart right in your face.”

Then she farted over and over again. And then some of the foofs talked to her. It said, “Foof!”

Then another said, “Put glasses on!”

“Did the foofs just talk to us?” Mimi and Hello Kitty both said.

Then one of the foofs that Mimi foofed said, “The name of this group is called Farty.”

She didn’t fart again, but it was pretty weird though.

Then another fart said, “We’re disappearing. Ahh!”

The DS maguffin is, of course, a Nintendo DS.

Getting Addicted to Some Things

Hello Kitty and Mimi had a pink DS. They played it almost their whole lives.

The next day, though, it was Hello Kitty’s birthday. And the cake was fairies with a DS in the middle. And the fairies were all circled around the DS.

Then Hello Kitty blew out the candles and licked off the vanilla icing on the candles. She unwrapped all the presents her friends got her. Glorious presents. They were all very pretty and good for her.

Someday, cars may last as long as they do in this story.


Today they were having company. They were getting babysat by their Grandma and Papa. And they were giving them a few presents before they left, and Grandma and Papa were giving them a few presents, too.

When they got there, they got a real car to drive in! It was a pink car! They drove in it and when they had their own kids, they could put them in the back seat.

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Interview: Michael Bukowski


"...and in my spare time I enjoy museum tours, removing splinters, and inspiring unspeakable dread in mortals."

I first heard about Philadelphia-based artist Michael Bukowski when I came across his Yog-Blogsoth site, where he is doing his own visual interpretations of all the H.P. Lovecraft alien-gods. He also has a normal site (if you can call it normal) at lastchanceillustraion.com, that addresses his other artistic explorations. In this here little interview you’ll learn a little more about his love craft for Lovecraft (for Pete’s sake…I’m sorry).

Late in May you did a show of your Lovecraft illustrations at the Grindcore House in Philly. How did that go? Do you know of anyone who had dreams of lurking hideousness that night?
Haha, no one’s had the courage to admit they’ve nightmares, however the show did go extremely well. I sold about a third of the pieces at the opening and now there’s only one third left. Which may not sound too exciting, until you take into consideration that there were 68 pieces.

This is also the 3rd time I’ve shown this work. In 2007 I showed 20 pieces at Benna’s Cafe in Philadelphia and Armageddon Shop in Providence. Then, a few months later I showed a few more pieces I had done in this series at Mugshots Cafe also here in Philly. This show however, included three times as much work and I actually redrew almost all of the previous pieces.

Lovecraft was sometimes very detailed in his descriptions of his creatures’ anatomies. Other times he barely described their appearance. What were some of the disadvantages when working with little details to go on?
I actually enjoy the descriptions that are middle of the road. You know, some details but with a little room for interpretation. The Elder Things description in “At the Mountains Of Madness” is like 3 or 4 paragraphs long and even gives precise measurements for appendages. It’s a little nerve wracking to work within those limitations. Then on the other end there’s the Wamp, Voonith and Urhag, which basically get “I saw an Urhag” as a description. What I really enjoy is something like the Byakhee:

There flapped rhythmically a horde of tame, trained, hybrid winged things … not altogether crows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor decomposed human beings, but something I cannot and must not recall. -H.P. Lovecraft, “The Festival”

That gives me something to work from but doesn’t give too binding of an outline. Like he never says what part of a buzzard, or crow or ant….That’s up to me, as an artist.

You do a lot of artwork for punk and hardcore bands. Do you ever come across other Lovecraft fans in the scene? It seems like there should be somewhat of an overlap between the two subcultures.
Not much honestly. There was one band from Nebraska named Hercules that wanted a drawing of Cthulhu on their shirts but that’s it.

You seem to be pretty busy. Do you find the time to read at all? Who are some of your favorite writers besides Lovecraft?
I mean, I have been reading a lot of Lovecraft haha. I am pretty strapped for time, so I listen to a lot of audio books while I work. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard….I also listened to the first 2 Song Of Ice and Fire books and I have the third one. I also read a few William Hope Hodgson stories not too long ago. They were great! Oh and how could I forget, when I went to England with my partner, Jeanne D’Angelo, I read “Lurker At the Threshold”, which is one of those posthumous Lovecraft “collaborations” August Derleth did. Whoof! That was abysmal! There were some cool creatures in it, but Derleth couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag…at least where the mythos is concerned.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I’d be dead.

Illustration of Rhan-Tegoth by Michael Bukowski. Duh.

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Back From the Flexed-Arm State

I just spent about a week of vacation in an area of the nation where people have begun to worship a group of people named after a kind of bear. I brought back about 100 minahs of processed wood and right now my eyes have been overlayed with a sheen of lead. There were four boiled eggs, and now there are three.

I’m not sure how I can make this post any more surreal and truthful without losing crucial sleep-time. I will publish an interview soon.

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Book Review: Tales of H.P. Lovecraft

"Hey, I can see my blasphemous, non-Euclidean house from here."

I first heard of H.P. Lovecraft in the winter of my freshman year of high school, when I listened to Metallica’s Ride the Lightning nonstop. The closing track, an instrumental, was titled “Call of Cthulhu”, and I found out it was a literary reference to a creepshow universe of alien gods and people going insane. Around this time, too, I read an interview in Guitar World with Morbid Angel’s Trey Azagthoth, whose adopted surname is taken from one of Lovecraft’s deities.

I’m sure I came across more Lovecraftian references down the road, but since this was the age of libraries and encyclopedias (those are things like Google but more tactile and heavy), I couldn’t find information fast enough for my hormone-addled teenage brain. Fast forward to now, where you are reading this review of a compilation of the more popular Lovecraft stories — called Tales of H.P. Lovecraft — that formed the basis for his Cthulhu mythos, a universe he shared with his writers group, who included August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith.

Lovecraft’s style is similar to Poe’s, something that Joyce Carol Oates noted in the introduction. Since I reviewed Poe very recently I picked up on it quickly (I didn’t read Oates’ introduction until after). Lovecraft is meticulous and formal in his narrative, using trends of language that were almost obsolete in his time. There is even a reference to (or a continuation of?) Poe’s “Arthur Gordon Pym” story in “At the Mountains of Madness,” where Pym’s account is cut rather short after the appearance of the white, oversized shrouded figure in the Antarctic mists. You’d be hard pressed to find the same amount of detail in modern storytelling, but Lovecraft effectively delivers suspense and dread through it.

The stories of the mythos are formulaic, also another strike against modern literary sensibilities. The stories are told in the first person and involve the narrator investigating strange incidents with reluctant curiosity and documenting the happenings with warnings for those who read them “not to go any further”. Contact with Lovecraftian gods (who are really just transcendent extraterrestrials) or their creations and subcreatures nudge the human psyche into insanity but never pushes them into it wholesale. It’s Lovecraft’s fine touch and even hand that makes the stories so compelling. Though we end up knowing more about what they have done on earth and in the cosmos, the gods are more “hideous” because we never “see” them completely. Their inappearance augments their horror.

I never knew how much Lovecraft had inspired the horror writers of today until I read up on him. He, like Poe, became renown only posthumously. It would be interesting to delve into other writers’ takes on the mythos cycle but Tales offers a great introduction.

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Interview: The Bike Nerd

Seth performs the Tree Lean-to Over River (+150xp)

Last year, Seth W (AKA, The Bike Nerd) got rid of most of his stuff and decided to travel outside his New York City comfort zone and into the wilderness of the rest of America — mostly by bicycle! He’s written e-books about cycling and travel and is getting ready for his “14 Cities in 14 Days” tour.

I’ve known Seth for quite some time: my old band played with his one-man-show at many a venue, I’ve written for his music blogs, and he stayed at my house a little bit last autumn. We even biked forty-four miles round trip to eat some Thai food. When Seth is around, things like that happen.

Read on as we discuss his upcoming tour, lifestyle changes, and robot drawings.

Tell me about your new “project”, the “14 Cities in 14 Days” tour.
Since I came back to the east coast, PA / NJ / NY area, I was getting restless. I needed to keep moving. I had also just went back for a proper visit to the dentist after about five years. Needless to say, I need a lot of work done. I thought up this east coast tour so I could stay close to “home” for proper dentist visits, and this challenge seemed unique enough for another book project. I didn’t want to follow up my previous ebook, ‘Seven Months’ with something called ‘Ten Months’ and just have it be, “yup, I’m still doing this!” That seemed boring, so I thought I’d do this.

Speaking of those two books, “How To Buy Your First Bike” and “Seven Months” — how will the e-book about the tour be different?
Well, I have the experience now of being on the road over ten months, so I know what sort of photos and stories I’m looking for, to include in the ebook. A pretty photo and caption aren’t going to cut it for this next one. I want to dig for stories in the different cities I’ll be visiting and trying to discover things for myself and be able to pass that along to readers.

You travel very light, so I know you don’t carry any books. Do you read any e-books? What kind of things are you into?
I generally don’t carry books, as they take up space and weigh a bit. The last book I carried was ‘Enchantment’ by Guy Kawasaki because I got it in the mail. Otherwise, I download books onto my Mac, using Kindle for Mac. I mostly read business and marketing books. ‘The Mesh’ by Lisa Gansky was really good. ‘Poke the Box’ by Seth Godin was great, as was ‘Do the Work’ by Steven Pressfield. Both of those are real “kick in the pants” sort of books that I like. I need them to remind me to keep doing stuff. Keep making stuff. As Seth Godin puts it, “keep shipping.”

As for ebooks by other bloggers, I buy practically anything by Ev Bogue and Ashley Ambirge (fact check that name, I’m typing this on my iPhone) [You got it! – Jay] of The Middle Finger Project. They’re both “tell it like it is” and down to earth.

I also find a lot to read from Tumblr. I follow some solid people on there. It’s like a finely curated RSS reader, linking to stories I actually care about. I follow a handful of photographers who generally write compelling articles about the state of their industry.

Can you describe some ways in which your new lifestyle has affected your

To be honest, I didn’t really like writing all that much. I had grown tired of writing about bands and tours, so this “bike thing” is exactly what I needed. I also knew that I didn’t want to just review bikes or talk about bike lanes. I’ve been taking chances with a lot of my writing in the past few months. I’ve openly written about my divorce, my fears, my doubts… I think I’m a lot more comfortable these days just letting go and hitting publish. Generally if I’m about to publish something and I get a tinge of fear, as in, “this could really rub someone the wrong way,” then I know I’m onto something. I got away from that over the years. With Buzzgrinder.com for many years I’d be sarcastic and poke fun of bands. I was pretty confident in what I did. Somewhere along the way I lost my confidence in that. To write with “an attitude” I guess. I try everyday to get back to that.

We’ve worked together in the music industry for a while now. In your experience with writing and publishing, do you see publishing transforming the same way the music industry has?
I see everything as standing still. Labels are still putting out CDs and hoping people buy them. Magazines are still cutting down trees, putting ink on paper and hoping people buy them. Sure, some labels are offering digital, and some magazines are finally making a push on the web, or even the iPad, but I think it’s all too little, too late. I’ve worked for a magazine before, as their web producer, and in speaking to other friends who’ve worked for magazines as web people — it’s always the same story; they’re a magazine FIRST. They’re cutting down trees, using ink, putting bundles of plastic onto trucks and delivering them to newsstands. The web is usually thought of as some cute little after thought. Web folk are expected to perform miracles with no staff, work long hours, adhere to a 24/7 news cycle and somehow not burn out. Oh, all that for $25k a year, too.

What’s with the robot fetish?
I grew up on Transformers, Vol-Tron and Robotech. I love that stuff. I can’t draw them all cool, magna, japanese style, so I just draw boxy little, broken down robots. Some people tell me they look cool, so I keep drawing them. I try to take my own advice on that – if you want to draw, draw. I’m not going to get any better at drawing robots if I don’t draw robots. It’s such a simple concept, but I’m still trying to learn that.

You give a lot of lifestyle advice on your blog. One’s one big piece of advice that you can give to anyone, regardless of their life goals or situation?
Be present. Whatever you’re doing, do it to 100% of your ability. If you’re a cashier working in a crappy retail store and getting paid crap and drowning in debt, just smile. You never know if the next person in line is hiring for their store down the street, and what better resume than a great attitude and acting like you care at least a little bit? The next person you meet at the coffee shop, a show, or in the office — they might be able to get you your next job. Or another gig. You might even fall in love with them and marry them. I’ve found that when you aware of your surroundings, 100% in the moment, when someone bumps into you and you’re able to strike up a conversation, it goes so much more smoothly. That’s hard to do when you’re constantly checking your Facebook wall or texting 14 different people while you’re at a party with your friends.

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Book Review: Nascence

currently: jus floatin here wit sum letters u kno hehe

Nascence is a compilation e-book of short stories by Tobias Buckell, who is perhaps best known for his installment in the Halo universe series of books. But this is not just any compilation – they are all unpublished stories that were rejected for publication. What also sets the e-book apart is Buckell’s autobiographical notes and his explanations behind the reason for their unpublished state.

The stories in themselves aren’t unreadable, really, but those who are at least a little experienced in fiction writing, particularly sci-fi and fantasy (and maybe even some who are not), may notice the unprofessional flubs that dot, and often are strewn generously in every paragraph, across a writer’s early work. This is not a subjective, preferential criticism coming from me — Buckell freely admits where his publication-killing mistakes sat with each story.

Still, as with any accomplished writer, there are hints from their amateur days of pockets of greatness, and these don’t pass by unnoticed. In “The Arbiter” there’s an outline of complex socio-political intrigue, and in “Closed Cycles” — a story that Buckell says is a conglomeration of “all of [his mistakes], at once, in a story” — there are some scenes and turns of dialogue that I found interesting.

This is an e-book more for aspiring sci-fi and fantasy writers more than casual fans of the genre or of Buckell himself. The real value seems to sit with Buckell’s frankness about the struggle with his craft, even as his career began to blossom. The retrospection isn’t something well-known writers tend to expose, either from the threat of deflating their reputation to simple sheer embarrassment (the account of his first experience being “published” and having crudely-drawn genitalia accompany his story makes for a good chuckle). I know little about writing this genre but there is great weight placed on different things, like believable world-building, that other genres do not need or emphasize as much. Buckell provides a good introduction into what the task is for a beginning sci-fi author.

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Sort of About Writing: Cry of the Afflicted

There was a band that broke up not too long ago called Cry of the Afflicted. They came out with an album right when their style of music was starting to get overplayed, but I liked some of their material regardless and the lyrics to one of their songs I found interesting.

I’m a fan of songs that express religious sentiment without the stock turns of phrase or vocabulary. Worship bands are notorious to some for not being creative with their lyrics — or their music for that matter (when someone like David Crowder is considered cutting edge in your genre you know you’re dealing with some non-risky behavior types). It’s partially intuitive that a band that plays unorthodox “Christian” music might have unorthodox lyrics. “Unorthodox” here meaning “using any words or phrases not found in the Psalms”. Not a far-reaching goal line to cross but you have to consider the narrow breadth of vision of many Christian artists.

It can come off as mean-spirited criticizing really overtly-themed Christian artists because they’re spreading the word, man. Calling out bad lyrics that are based on scripture isn’t spreading the love, man. You’re like crucifying Jesus all over again, man. I’m strawmanning a bit here — I think — but there’s an unspoken rule that it’s malformed etiquette to put red marks all over a lyric sheet that has obvious verse references and the proper number of God’s-name-invoking-per-minute ratio. I imagine some don’t even bother receiving constructive criticism because they can just fall back on the “ministry” excuse for a barely passable product.

But anyways, these are the lyrics to “A Scar Filled Sky” and a video of the song. The lyrics admittedly rely on a few cliches scattered among the marvelous this-is-my-personal-apocalypse imagery. Lyrics and music copyright I don’t care.

Eruptions of fire and stone all around
They fill the air and shake the ground
And it’s proving impermanence

the tortured landscape heaves
Nothing will be left alive

Bury my remains
under ashes falling on my grave
Make me whole again
give me the sight to see Your ends
Bury my remains, cover up this body in decay
Make me whole again
paint me on a brand new canvas

Not far from here, a place prepared
Can’t find my way, send up a flare
Open the sky
show me the way through twilight

Even now I see a spark in the distance
A flicker of hope for peace and silence
This span so hostile, won’t last forever
This path through struggle will make me stronger

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