Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mystery Writer Parnell Hall Sings The Book Tour Blues (VIDEO)

Be careful what you wish for, especially if you are a writer.

Parnell Hall's tongue-in-cheek music video humorously yet accurately depicts the double-edged sword that is finally becoming a "published" author: now what? Book signings are one of the Holy Grails of the struggling author, but seldom does it occur to them (okay, us) that unless you are one of the elite literary celebrities who are well-known enough to have name recognition with people who have never read your books, it isn't likely that you will have a crowd of people asking you about you and your latest novel.

As Hall clearly demonstrates, the only thing worse than being an obscure author is being an obscure author at a book signing at the same table as Mary Higgins Clark.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book Review: The Rare Anthology

As with any short story compilation, The Rare Anthology is something of a mixed bag. A collection of horror stories ranging from impressively brutal to disappointingly tame, the book's host Brian Knight (credited as "Compiled by") has assembled a bunch of horror stories with no discernible theme connecting theme, despite Knight's convoluted explanation in the introduction that the stories all contain "something rare." Of course, the reason for why the stories are included in the book isn't important, what's important is how good the stories are.

There are some truly choice cuts in this compilation, and three of them actually share a theme of obsessions. J. Newman's opening story, When Satan Sings Th' Blues (13 Sinful Selections From A Little South O' Heaven)...Vol. I., is a charming little tale about a vinyl record collector's ultimate find, a demonic blues album. Sasquatch Cafe, by the book's Compiler Brian Knight, is a cautionary tale of what happens when you push the boundaries of culinary experiences, and features a truly great twist ending. Then there is Funky Chickens by Drew Williams (The Corruptor), which explores the darker side of roadside attractions featuring mutated livestock. All three deliver on the promises made by the opening paragraph, the true sign of a competent short story writer.

Two other excellent entries delve into the battle-of-the-sexes, and takes 'battle' quite literally. Old Bones, Old Bones is a well-crafted examination of of battered women, emotional trauma and protective fetishes by Kim Guilbeau, while M.J. Euringer (The Jaws of Adanadelivers a cryptic yet compelling tale of power, desire, submission and dominance in The Jeweler. Both are a little deeper then your typical shock and slash stories, deserving of compilation if feminist-themed horror stories.

My personal favorite of the bunch, however, is Freak Gallery by Daniel W. Gonzales. A journalist's journey into the twisted world of a demented painter that can only end in madness, Gonzales' story is not only full of startling imagery, but features masterful lines that will attack your eyes and lay eggs in your brain, and that's what good writing is about.

The rest of the collection ranges from poor to passable, and is mostly populated by the usual suspects: killer plants, killer tattoos, family curses, medical torture, and brutal killers who have the tables violently turned against them. Not all of them are bad, but none of them brings anything fresh or new to the table. Even the Edgar Allen Poe parody at the end, The Tell-Tale Fart, is a bit longer than the joke demands.

Still, six out of seventeen isn't that bad of a ratio for a horror compilation. If nothing else, it fits into the book's theme after all: really good horror stories are a rare find indeed.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mohammed Who?

Overheard in a conversation from the chair next to me at the barber shop shortly after Faisal Shahzad was identified by authorities as the person responsible for the failed car bombing in New York City:

Barber: "You see they caught that guy that left the car bomb in Times Square?"

Patron: "Yeah. What do you expect, that's how they're raised over there, bunch of psychopath savages."

Barber: "I heard he was born here."

Patron: "Doesn't matter. It's that religion the bring over here with them. They all worship Ali."
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, May 3, 2010

Fat Kids Get Bullied More? Really?

I try not to bitch and moan too much about useless tests and surveys that are performed in the name of science or knowledge and then later highlighted as transitional filler during the cable news hour-long cycle. Harping on why scientists would study cricket orgasms or the eating habits of nuns (does that count as a pun?) gets old quick, and more importantly, "useless" studies singled out by politicians usually end up having legitimate scientific implications. It's a waste of time that doesn't seem worth the effort.

But of course, I had to turn on MSNBC today at the exact moment they ran a quick news item about a recent study that has shown that obese children get picked on more than children of average weight.

Holy shit. Really? Are they sure about this? I mean, maybe we should get a couple more years of research under our belts before jumping to any harsh conclusions. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that Dr. Julie C. Lumeng from the University of Michigan led the study thoroughly and without cutting corners. But I'm going to need some pretty well document case study reports to convince me that overweight children are picked on more. The whole idea sounds more than a little suspect to me.

In case you missed it, the previous paragraph was more than a tad sarcastic.

Of course fat kids get picked on more. Nobody likes a fat kid, and everyone knows it. You couldn't come up with a better example of common knowledge if you tried. Unless you managed to grow up without being exposed to any kind of unsupervised social interaction with other children, you aren't even going to attempt to deny it. Fat kids are catnip to bullies, so much so that even non-bullies feel compelled to mess with the fat kids. Its just some perverse extension of human nature that will never be eliminated. Remember Piggy from Lord of the Flies? Yeah, of course you do. Everyone who reads above a third-grade level does. Piggy was the fat kid, and what happened to him? That's right; his classmates crushed him to death with a giant rock. And you know how many English students in middle or high school read that chapter and found it to be outrageous, unrealistic, or even a tad unusual? None of them. Not even the fat ones.

But I'm not annoyed that someone felt the need to devote time and energy into proving empirically that fat kids get bullied and abused more than skinny ones. I'm not even upset that they felt the need to publish the results in some bizarre attempt to further educate the world about this previously unrecognized bias against chubby kids. Not at all.

What pisses me off to no end, however, is that the continual and unrelenting joke that is the American News Media somehow felt that this startling revelation was newsworthy enough to not only publish as if it were an actual news story, but to highlight with other breaking news items during the course of a normal news cycle. Not only do they care so little about delivering real news that they'll waste time with this useless nonsense, but they think so little of the average viewer that they seem convinced they are stupid enough to actually consider this a real news story.

The sad part is, they're probably right. About the stupid American audience, I mean. Then again, they're also right about obese children being bullied more. Just ask a fat kid, they'll tell you.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]