I Owe Joey Ramone Big Time

Tommy Erdyeli passed away yesterday. A couple years ago I wrote about what the Ramones meant to me, giving a big portion of the credit to Joey, but Tommy, Dee Dee, and Johnny were equally responsible for shaping my attitude towards music. Tommy maybe moreso thanks to him also producing the Replacements and Red Kross. I’m reposting this piece with that addendum to give credit where it’s due, and to say thanks to someone who’ll be greatly missed.

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In looking forward to Rob Reid’s book Year Zero, I’ve been thinking about music. I mentioned in an earlier post Rob’s TED speech on Piracy’s impact, and read the first chapter posted on Wired (definitely looking forward to this book). All that got me thinking about when, growing up, music first started really meaning something to me. It damn sure wasn’t what I grew up with in the 80’s.

I mention that because there’s a lot of 80’s fetishism going on nowadays. Between Ready Player One (awesome, by the way), Rock of Ages (which I’ll skip, thanks), Drive (I’ll be catching that on Netflix) and plenty more that decade just keeps spinning right ’round, you know?

I really didn’t enjoy a lot of what I was hearing at the time. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t inspired by it. I blame MTV. When having visual instincts started trumping…

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20 Black Women in Horror Writing

An excellent and valuable list here. I’ve read some, but ultimately too few of these authors, so I’m leaving this here more a reminder to myself the next time I’m looking for new authors to try.

Sumiko Saulson

Image Black History Month 2013

February is Black History Month here in the United States. It is also Women in Horror Month (WiHM). As an Ambassador for WiHM, and as a woman of color (I am Black and Jewish) who is a horror writer, I am poignantly aware of the fact that while women writing horror is a rare occurrence – women of color are exceedingly so. The number of black women writing horror that most people are aware of can still be counted on one hand. For a lot of people, in fact, it can be counted on one finger: “Octavia Butler“. Most people are aware that the talented Ms. Butler, best known for her Science Fiction works, has also written horror. Far too many fans of the genre are unfamiliar with Linda Addison, first African American winner of the Bram Stoker award, or Stoker award nominees 

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Ranting About Articles About Damsels

By now I’m sure the latest “Oh noes, women read romance!” article (Warning: article may cause eyerolling) has achieved it’s purpose and driven clicks to read yet another author’s ruminations on the poor damsels he perceives are in distress. Here again is a writer mesmerized by a woman reading a romance novel — You could read it, and marvel as he recounts the surprise he felt observing the reading material of choice of an apparently functional “woman” on his subway train, but you already know the drill: as he leered over her shoulder and sneered at the “sentimental, florid style of that genre,” it occurred to me that we’re pretty much doomed to constant repetitions of “thinkpieces” by writers trying to understand why someone so clearly not a shambling mess would stoop to what he perceives as low literary fare. After all, one can assume the writer prefers a more highbrow form, perhaps one in which noble men like him struggle to come to terms with the mediocrity of their lives. Basically anything else, so long as it follows noble people’s struggle, but literarily.

Then I realized the poor guy was probably wrestling with a deadline, and lacking the presence of a legitimate story in the news worthy of serious analysis in a capital “B” Business publication – say the latest sharp decline of Bitcoin’s value or potential fallout of that decline – the author did what any noble hero struggling with the constraints of time and imagination might do, and punted.

These “articles” on genre appeal – and romance’s appeal in particular – are to actual reporting “what hot dogs are to cuisine — quickly made, tasty, filling, temporarily satisfying, but with no nutritional value whatsoever.” as he so eloquently puts it. They’re nothing more than a couple hundred words dedicated mostly to stats and bullet points culled from a coffee break web search. Even given actual data on the significant economic success of the romance genre, and it’s popularity across cultural, political, and even gender divides, it remains stunning that seemingly intelligent (often male) writers can’t help but fall over themselves to deride its readers. They even go so far as to declare it a “guilty pleasure” with apparently no awareness of how well crafted many romances can be. He could have deigned to read one and actually examine their appeal, but with that pesky deadline looming perhaps he lacked the time? Barring that he could have examined our tendency to praise well-choreographed action over well-choreographed sex, but that’d involve not debasing sex and shaming those who enjoy reading about it.

Instead he wonders why women – “forty years after the women’s liberation movement, Roe vs. Wade and the pill have transformed [their] lives in the most dramatic of ways – continue to indulge in the fanciful tales of females so unlike them who live in fantasy worlds light years removed from their reality?” Why can’t they succor themselves with more highbrow fare? Clearly something must be missing in their lives; he can tell this is true, he found a goodreads.com quote. Perhaps if that poor woman next to him had only looked up from her iPad, she would have found the noble hero she was searching for in that tawdry prose right there, gazing into her lap on the 2 Line.

The choice of reading a romance novel is as much an “expression of distaste in hippie culture” (Seriously – he used the phrase hippie culture with no quotes, in utter seriousness, as if the moon was still in the Seventh House and that cool kid in the fringe jacket still wouldn’t pass him a marijuana cigarette) as the guy across the aisle – who’s shoulder wasn’t leaned over – reading the most recent George R. R. Martin book is due to “distaste” in how our anti-regency American culture once ruined all that wonderful tea. It’s certainly not an expression of distaste on par with recommending Jane Austen to adults. It may be true modern women have become unfamiliar with Austen in the 200 years since her death, but in fairness, it’s not as if she ever crafted a romance hero who speaks to women quite the way Mark Darcy did to Bridget Jones.

So we’re doomed to writers repeating this narrative. Over and over, there will be a class of author who fears his talents will be overlooked in favor of something they deem “lesser”. He’ll continue to ride the subway, alone and under deadline, until he sees someone he thinks he might connect with. Someone he perceives is as successful and intelligent as he is. Hoping to strike up a conversation he’ll peer longingly into this woman’s lap, only to be crushed to find her attention drawn not to him or even his publication, but to the latest best seller from Sylvia Day. And so he’ll trudge up to his office, and fulfill his deadline obligation with a sad, paternalistic rumination on the tragedy of her taste in prose not written by him, before staring out his window, and shedding a lonely tear.

Country Hardball Review

I’ve been delaying this review of Country Hardball, mostly as an excuse to re-read some of the stories in this book. Steve Weddle’s novel in stories is such a gem of a book, brimming with intense, sharp writing I can’t stop myself from sinking back into it, reveling in it.

Set along the Louisiana-Arkansas border, Weddle documents a series of desperate lives. Some of the characters are the architects of their own fate, others have been poleaxed by the cruelty or indifference of others. They live in a world where everyone knows your family going back generations, and your last name can be an indictment. Crime plays into all of their stories, sometimes more directly than others. I genuinely couldn’t tell which had more impact, the ones that explode into violence, or the ones more concerned with the fallout of that violence.

What’s more, most of them are just trying to stop the bleeding, one way or another. They don’t put their pain into words, but they don’t have to. Weddle knows the way someone stands, or considers their hands says more about how they’re holding up than words ever could. He pours so much empathy into describing the humanity of these characters, and the way each small victory or degradation weighs on them.

The title alludes to baseball, the game recurs a few times throughout the book. Still, the sport I found myself comparing Weddle’s writing to most frequently was boxing. Like a great fighter, he doesn’t just try and pummel you; he weaves and dances, choosing his spots and catching you off guard. I was caught numerous times reading this, distracted by the feint before being jabbed hard. Several stories here knocked the wind right out of me so profoundly I had to re-read them, and walked into the same body-blow each time. Steve Weddle’s a writer I’ll be watching for in the future, because Country Hardball is a hell of a book.

NaWri15Mo

I am totally on board for this idea from @aramblingfancy, I hope many of you will join us…

A Rambling Fancy

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is nigh upon us. The past several years I’ve taken my best shot at writing 50,000 words in November. I have failed miserably. It’s okay. I’ve either jumped on at the last second with the barest idea of a story in my head, or I’ve casually approached it. “Sure, I’ll give it a go. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t.” Perhaps some people can use the word “maybe” in conjunction with NaNoWriMo and come out at the end of November with 50,000 words, but I am not that person. And since I am trying to be more honest with myself, although I WANT to be that person who “wins”, I know it’s not gonna happen this year. November is too busy with birthdays and holidays and I am just not prepared for this.

But, I still kinda want to join in with all the NaNoWriMo…

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Creepy, and Just Right for Halloween

Just a reminder that, back in the Seventies, someone thought it would be helpful to warn children about the dangers around water by casting Donald Pleasence as a ghost intent on drowning kids. Happy Halloween!

How Punk Rock Made Me a Better Entrepreneur

Everything about this piece by Caroline Moore is capital “A” Awesome.

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Update: the video for this talk was posted on the WMC blog, which means you can go watch it now.

Last Sunday, I got to give a talk at WMC Fest in Cleveland. Maybe some of you were there. Due to my inability to STOP TALKING OMG YOU’RE STILL TALKING, I didn’t quite get to the end of it. Probably my favorite thing anyone said about the matter was this:

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CPT’s stage isn’t the first place I’ve been kicked out of, but it’s certainly the nicest. This is my unedited, notes I wrote to myself for the thing. I figured if I started trying to clean it up, it would never get posted. Thanks to those of you that made it out, thanks to anyone that said they enjoyed it or got something out of it, and thanks to the WMC Fest crew for letting me get up there…

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