New car

I bought a new car last night. And I don’t mean I bought a replacement for the Subaru – this is a second car. And I don’t mean I bought a new-to-me car off of craigslist with 100K on the odometer. I mean I bought a brand new car off the dealer lot with ten miles on the odometer. It’s both scary and neat.

I got a 2008 Toyota Yaris liftback. It is black sand pearl, 4-speed automatic, AC, power locks/windows/mirrors, the cold-weather package (heavy duty heater, starter, daytime running lights), ABS, side curtain airbags, and the stock AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo. The Yaris doesn’t have much latitude as far as options on vehicles sitting on lots, and pretty much all of the ones we found in Denver were either this build, or this build minus the power package. The reason for this car is that when I’m commuting in the Subaru, Sarah will be walking to work, but sometimes needs the car for an appointment or a meeting across town, or to get to the airport at 6AM, so a second car makes that much easier. And we don’t need a huge car with every luxury that we could drive across the country every other month and haul 500 miles of lumber and a fridge in the back. We just need an around-the-town deal, and the Yaris is that.

The Yaris is tiny. It is very narrow, very short wheelbase, and very low to the ground. Despite this, the interior is very roomy. I have tons of headroom, even when I am in the rear seat, which is surprising. The car is also set up so the metal is very low around you, and there’s a lot of glass at eye level. The visibility is much better than the Subaru all around. The oddest thing is that the instruments are in a tiny pod in the middle of the dash, so there’s nothing in the dash in front of you. It actually opens up as a glove compartment, and the passenger has two gloveboxes. There are also flip-open drink holders in the dash, plus a center console and holders in the doors. Lots of places to put junk. The bad this is, when you’re driving at night, you instinctively look for the lit dash above the steering wheel, and it isn’t there. Very weird.

There’s a 1.5L engine with 16 valves and some weird proprietary electronic valve breathing monitoring whatchamacallit that promises better performance. It’s not a bad car as far as pep goes, but it gets 44 MPG highway, which is the real benefit. The engine is really crammed into the front, and the hood is like a foot long, so they really shoehorned into there. There are a lot of other engineering feats, like all-electronic steering, and the throttle control is electronic. Looking in the engine bay, which is the size of a glovebox in an SUV, it’s a work of art to see what they crammed in there.

Downsides – well, there’s no trunk. There is a hatch, but seriously, the Fiero has as much cargo space. The Subaru has a lot of power and convenience things that this car doesn’t (keyless entry, trip computer, tachometer, etc.) but you can’t expect that for the price point. The car drives well, but it’s small – it’s a lot ‘quicker’ as far as steering response and handling, so it’s different. It’s not as quiet on the highway, either. But for the around-the-town puttering, it’s excellent.

The paperwork and finance side of things really had/has me nervous. We seriously talked about going to buy a car at noon yesterday, and I had the keys and was pulling off the dealer lot at 9:00. Part of that is that we just wanted something simple and cheap, and didn’t feel a need to test drive 400 cars and search the country for the exact trim level we wanted. Part is it was that you can very easily research this crap online. And part of it was that the Toyota internet sales people were very helpful and to the point, and it was a very no-bullshit experience. We narrowed it down to one dealer with two cars, identical except in color, we drove it around the block, and the paperwork started.

Because Sarah financed the Subaru, the decision was that I’d finance this one. As a point of reference, the last car I owned was a 1978 VW Rabbit with a dented in side, covered in rust, and I dumped it for $100 when I moved in 1999. I did lease a two-year-old car (no thanks to Evergreen Ford in Issaquah), but I’ve never bought a new car. But the guy plugged in my numbers, and my credit score stunned me. I went through college dealing with creditors and going into credit card debt, and then spent years after trying to pull together my debt. Prior to the car purchase, I had $12 in total debt on my report, and a credit score in the highest tier, which meant I could have picked any car off the lot if I wanted to. But I took the cheapest one, and after saying no a thousand times to the finance person, I got out of there for about $15,000 damage.

The Toyota guys were very nice though, and it was almost an in-and-out deal, with no real hitch. But seriously, buying something that big and then taking out a brand new car with almost nothing on the odometer was very daunting. I still can’t believe I did. The rub though is that I’m not the one driving it – I will be putting the miles on the Outback starting Monday. But the Subaru gets 30 MPG highway, so that isn’t a huge punch to the nuts.

As an aside, with this Yaris, why would anyone buy a hybrid? This seriously has as much space as a Prius, but costs half as much. It gets about 5 MPG less, but is also classified as an ultra-low emission vehicle. It doesn’t have a hybrid badge on the side, so you can’t brag to people about how you’re saving the universe. But it also doesn’t have eleventy-million parts and pieces and components and batteries and everything else that will break, and that cost both money and environmental erosion to produce. I should make some “My car was cheaper than your Prius (and gets close to the same mileage)” stickers, and start selling them on the Yaris message boards.

OK, gotta add a car to the insurance, get a spot in the parking garage, then go for a nice drive. Did I mention this has an Aux jack for your MP3 player? That’s basically the only feature I really need.

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On the ranch

The zine is out, and available at lulu. You probably already know the details and are sick of hearing about it, but here’s more: This issue’s theme is “Weird, Paranoid, Insane”, and features 23 stories by 15 writers. I am very excited, because #12 has more published authors than ever; I also have a lot of solid work from some newcomers. And don’t worry, there’s plenty of writing from the usual gang of slobs that have contributed in previous issues. Authors include Grant Bailie, Keith Buckley, Tony Byrer, Joshua Citrak, Kurt Eisenlohr, Rebel Star Hobson, Stephen Huffman, Jon Konrath, R. Lee, Erin O’Brien, John Sheppard, Joseph Suglia, Todd Taylor, and Richard K. Weems. The stories range from tales of deranged relatives to secret coalitions to battle-maddened ‘Nam vets who can’t shop in Kroger without seeing VC behind every freezer cabinet, to a still-alive Richard Nixon snorting coke and listening to Dokken. Something for everyone. We created two video trailers for the book. (Yes, apparently books can now have trailers.) The first is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w83ZgawVDF4 and the second one is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWEoSBZVBHUb – The second trailer was done by Matthew Pazzol, who also did the cover and interior art for the book. The book is now available at lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/content/1151437) and will be available in about six weeks at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and other fine online booksellers. It’s $14.95 + s/h. The book is 236 pages, and is 6×9″ with a very cool color glossy cover. The isbn is 978-0-6151-6314-7. Lulu has a free preview containing the first 20 or so pages that you can read online. Also check out http://ParagraphLine.com, where you can download e-books of all previous issues for free, get information on submitting your work, and read news on Paragraph Line Books, the publishing company that I started with fellow author John Sheppard to put out AITPL and other books. As always, any links or mentions to the new issue out on the internets would be greatly appreciated. Since we’re not affiliated with any academic or corporate system, word of mouth is a godsend.

It’s been a busy week. On Tuesday morning, I woke up early, packed the car, and drove south on I-25, to my land. I hit the morning rush hour, but found it wasn’t terrible – it was possible to keep a good 50 or 60 going without touching the brakes. This will be my new morning commute, so it was good to time things. It was also nice to try out this whole podcast thing, by listening to Talking Metal, probably my favorite podcast as of late. I’ve got a fantasy baseball podcast on the iPod that’s okay, considering I just want news and not fantasy baseball stuff. Anyway, it passes the time, and within a half hour, I hit the big open mesa south of town, and got it up past 75 and on cruise.

This trip was more than just a look-see – I had in the back of the Subaru a set of three Colorado Blue Pine trees, each about a foot tall, in plastic pots. I also had a 50-pound bag of peat/manure mixture, some organic pesticide stuff, a shovel, and every large plastic container I could find, filled with about five gallons of water. i know three trees is not some huge undertaking, but the journey was more about timing the drive, and timing how long it would take me to haul out all of this shit and dig the holes in the ground. I also needed to do something to cap the end of my summer, before I got back to driving a desk for a living. And seeing something other than the parking lot across the street would be good for the soul.

I drove past the Air Force academy and saw a pair of Schweizer 2-33 gliders, one making his approach, and the other under tow, trying to get as much altitude as possible. (I have no idea how they fly at this altitude, with the thin air.) Then I cruised past Colorado City and its religious freakies, and Pueblo, and it’s beaten old factories. By 10:00, I got to Walsenberg, a tiny little town that sat at the intersection of 160. The biggest thing around was a gas station/truck stop, which happens to be the first place we ever filled up the Subaru. I took on a full tank of gas, then bought three gallons of water, and got a cheeseburger combo at the built-in micro-A&W. It was only ten and I wasn’t in the mood for burgers, but this would be the last stop before my land, and I’m a dozen miles from San Luis; their biggest eatery is a Checker station with a candybar shelf. Burgers it is.

The 160 drive is the roughest part of the trip, because the roads wind around tight mountain curves, and also raise and then drop about a half-mile above the mile-high altitudes. It’s all dual-lane stuff, and you’re always battling to pass a big rig hauling something that looks like a John Deere farm implement invented to mine the surface of Mars. Most of the terrain is reddish-brown, and you can occasionally see a bit of barbed wire surrounding a hundred acres and a hundred cattle, but a lot of it is overgrown scrub. The western haul is 47 miles according to the map, and you’re actually covering half that, because of the curves. Add in a transmission that keeps trying to jump down a gear because of the hills, and it took me about an hour until the speed limit dropped, and I hit the next town.

Fort Garland isn’t much, maybe the size of a couple of city blocks, and a diner or two, along with a museum and some gas stations. But it was also the intersection of 159 and 160, and 159 south was the home stretch. I drove south of town, and into the strange area where half of the land was scrub brush and desert, the place where the Air Force would drop bombs in mock combat drills. The other half was irrigated, green and glistening with huge agrarian machinery that pumped water through crops. Actually, a lot of the green had been mowed down by huge International Harvesters and baled into stacks of bright yellow hay. But it always strikes me as odd to look to the left and see nothing but loamy dirt, but to the right is this bright chlorophyll paradise. And don’t forget that the Sangre De Christo mountains are on either side of the valley.

After a dozen miles, I hit San Luis, the oldest city in Colorado. San Luis is pretty beat – most shopping malls are bigger, and even during the day, have larger populations. There are a few token attempts at being pretty for the tourists, the “come again” signs, the signs of the cross display and the old mission-style church high on a hill. By the time you slow down to 25 to match the speed limit, it’s time to get back to speed again, and the town’s done.

159 dumps out of San Luis going west, and then curves back south again, making its final run into New Mexico. My land is three miles south of there, and I always forget that they put in this recreation center since I bought the place, this pond about a quarter-mile square, where people fly fish. It’s so odd to see a body of water there, but nice. I start scanning for the county roads, and fall back to my training as a bicyclist in the Indiana cornfields, counting a mile per road on the grid. A big farm’s on the right, all green, maybe parsley. Then some busted-up house and barn buildings that are vacant, that look like they burned down. A mile south, I recognize the turn-off, County Road K. (For Konrath.) I hang a left, stop the car, and get out for pictures.

There are two roads from the highway to get to my property. First is CR. K, which is two dirt strips through a bunch of weeds, heading west. I get in the Subaru and drive west on that. It’s not a hard drive, but little weeds ping and snap on the undercarriage. Then, a quarter mile up, is the access road that goes in another quarter mile to a cul-de-sac. First, I drive west a mile, to the next big road on the grid. There’s an unnamed dirt road, but just past it is an eroded river bank, or maybe a farmer’s irrigation ditch. There’s only a tenth as much water as the banks would suggest, but it’s water! It’s like hiking Mt. Everest and finding a Ramada Inn halfway up, very unbelievable to me.

I back up, go down to the access road, and it is almost completely covered in flowers and weeds, so much that I could barely see it until I spied the ditches on either side. They dug out that road in late 2001 maybe, and I don’t think it’s been touched since. So I drove to the cul-de-sac and did a few donuts in the Subaru, to etch out some of the dirt underneath all of the tumbleweed.

Everything was the same as it was in March. I started this pile of stones then, anything bigger than a pack of matches I found while walking around the place. And the surveyor’s plastic stakes were still in. Most importantly, there wasn’t a ton of dumped trash. And no rabbits, deer, or horses. I started unloading the car, and looked for a place to start. There’s a 30-foot easement on each side, for the power company and whatnot. And I will eventually have my own little driveway coming out 45 degrees or whatever from the circle. And the best place to block with a treeline is north. So a pace is three feet, and I started making my marks.

Planting trees is a pain in the ass, but it’s also cathartic. I had to dig holes, water, put in peat, water, put in trees, put in driwater, put in peat, water, cover with dirt, water, spray with the pesticide. The ground was very clay-y, heavy with a recent rain, and I had trouble hiking around, because I’ve got this busted knee, and every surface is uneven from the ground and plants. But I finished in no time, and once the plants were in, I realized I had about an hour invested in the project.

(For those of you unfamiliar with DriWater, it’s like 99% water and 1% some inert ingredient that makes it a consistency of thick jello. When exposed to soil and the soil gets dry, the DriWater starts to melt and waters the soil. When the soil is wet or when the DriWater freezes, it stops melting. It comes in a biodegradable carton, like a carton of milk. You cut off the bottom, bury the carton against the root, and it melts and keeps things watered for up to three months. Very handy for when you’re planting trees in the middle of nowhere.)

I collected more stones – I have this dream that by the time I get the property cleared up, I will have a pile of stones big enough to make a driveway, although I realize that may take 500 years. I also watered the trees and sprayed on more of the bug stuff. And then I noticed a pain in my wrists, and realized that the bug stuff, or maybe some weed I touched, had caused my inner arms to burst out in red welts. My scalp and neck were also itchy, like I was being attacked by tiny bugs. So I packed up, doused the affected areas with water and then with purell, and decided that maybe it was time to get the fuck out of there.

The arm thing went away, and I have no idea what it was. Maybe heat rash. The pesticide only contained egg whites, cayenne pepper, and some other minor stuff. The neck/scalp thing – sunburn. I was very, very red by the time I got home. Much solarcaine was applied.

I’m back. Got the car washed in and out yesterday, then went to my last baseball game of the year – the Dodgers. It was a real nail-biter, too – went back and forth many times, then Brad Hawpe got a 2-run homer at the last minute to put over the Rockies. I forgot my radio, didn’t bring my binocs, and only took a few pictures. But it was awesome. I also like that pitcher Josh Fogg has a Foghat song for his walkup song. As we speak, the day game is 6-0 rockies in the 4th, so I expect good things to happen there. I will miss going to games. Maybe I could catch one more, and there’s a small chance that they will make playoffs, but then the tickets will be too expensive.

OK, gotta go get shit done.

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Screams and whispers

First of all, I’ll get all of the zine stuff out of the way:

I am waiting for a proof to arrive (early next week?) and then it will be live and you will be seeing much more spamification here telling you why you’re an idiot if you don’t buy a copy. I have the first proof (no ISBN) sitting on my desk and it is easily the best issue yet. It looks incredible, and has more good stuff from more new people and more published writers. Anyway, go here for more info.

The weather’s shifting fast, and it’s doing weird things to my head. First, it’s literally doing weird things, because I have some allergy or allergy-like headaches and congestion. I took an Allegra today, which means I trade the headaches for this feverish, mindless jittery feeling all day. But the weather’s been odd; it was cracking the 90s one day, and the next is was barely at 50. It’s been hot for a while, so the sudden warp in the weather is pretty weird. And I swear there is some correlation in these pressure changes or temp snaps that force my brain to dial up memories from some point in the past when the same thing happened. And it’s not memories, like I’m reminiscing about a long-lost restaurant or a girlfriend that never was. It’s like I just feel the essence of that time, and then in order to somehow quantify that, a few brief memories slip in.

Case in point: on Friday, it was lunchtime, and Sarah had the car, and all of the lunchmeat in the house was green. I hit F12 to see the weather on my Mac Dashboard, and it was 59, so I grabbed a light jacket, an iPod, and started walking south. For whatever reason, the temperature or change in barometic pressure or something reminded me of the band Anacrusis, so I dialed up their album Screams and Whispers on my little white music box.

Anacrusis is either a minor historical footnote or an inside joke to most of the metal community. And I don’t even consider myself a member of the metal community anymore. But back in the early 90s, as thrash metal gave way to Death Metal and then the industry or the bands or the fans (or all three, since usually the same people had bands, zines, and basement record labels) suddenly realized that every band out there continuing to release the same exact Sepultura record was not a sustainable plan, so labels tried to branch out with all of these fusion ideas: death/industrial, death/hardcore, rap/metal, thrash/gothic, whatever. And Anacrusis fell into that slot on the Metal Blade lineup for two albums. The St. Louis-based four-piece took a thrash approach and tried to mix in some prog-rock influence, like Fate’s Warning or Queensryche or whatever. The good news is that all of the fans into this album thought it was completely over-the-top. The bad news was that there were about eight fans of the album, and after their 1993 album, they fell off the face of the earth.

Now back when I was doing Xenocide, I was getting a lot of record label demos and advance copies. (I was also getting record reviews from a future Al-Quaeda member, but that’s another story.) Marco at Metal Blade fed me a lot of tapes, and for whatever reason, this tape ended up in the walkman quite a bit. In the spring of ’93, I was carless, and walked everywhere. And for whatever reason, I have this really distinct fragment of a memory of walking to the grocery store or mall or laundromat, and I was listening to this tape. Every day, I walked at least a mile to work, to shop, to get out of my tiny cell and clear my head. And that album, that music brings me right back there. The album itself is not that memorable; I couldn’t name a single song on it, and there were no big breakthrough hits or whatever. It’s not the kind of album that you buy because it’s got that “Hm Hm Hiiim” song on it. It’s very ambient in that aspect, very background to me. Maybe that’s why it stuck with me.

And what’s weird is that when this happens, I don’t think about the girl I was dating then, or my job that I was working day-and-night, or the classes I skipped, or anything else. It’s just that walk, just south of 3rd Street, cutting through the yards and church parking lot to get to the Eastgate Plaza.

Anyway. My typing ability is rapidly declining. I was going to mention that I took a tour of Coors field last Wednesday. I was the only one there, so my $7 got me a personal tour. Photos are here. It was interesting, especially when I actually got to walk across the field on the warning track, a dozen feet from home plate, and then into the dugout. It’s a lot less glamorous than I’d thought; I mean, every single one of these guys make at least five times as much as I do, a few of them a hundred times as much, and they’ve got a wooden bench to sit on that’s about as nice as one a bum sleeps on in a public park. I don’t know why, but I thought they’d at least get some kind of Herman Miller shit in there, or air-conditioned ass pads. Still, very interesting.

OK, time for lunch.

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The Plot Against the High Castle

I just finished reading Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America yesterday. When I saw a ton of hipster types reading it on the subways a few years ago, I assumed it was some kind of anti-Bush screed. (And by some of the reviews on Amazon, a lot of people who read it did the same.) But it’s not, and it’s a nice little alternate history novel that involves a big twist or two going into WW2.

I’m a big fan of these sorts of alternate history plots, especially when it’s World War 2. I just re-read Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle a few weeks ago, and after a dozen or two google searches, found Roth’s book and decided I should check it out. Other similarly themed books would include Fatherland by Robert Harris, and maybe Ira Levin’s The Boys From Brazil, both of which I enjoyed. And there’s the PS3 game Resistance: Fall of Man, which takes the jagged alt-future and mixes it with a healthy dose of zombie-like beasts set out to infect and destroy the earth. Each of these books makes what we know as historic timeline turn into a different history by the change of a small event in the past, like someone not winning an election, or a war’s winner and loser flip-flopping. It’s always interesting to play the “what if” and read a story that starts with a stock set of characters and then switch it all up until you’ve got Josef Mengele running the research division of Procter and Gamble in the 1950s.

TPAA takes a softer touch with the changes, compared to other books anyway. The US doesn’t get involved in WW2, and a land that is becoming more isolationist and worried about fixing domestic issues before international voting in Charles Lindberg as the next American President, defeating FDR in 1940. He then signs peace accords with Hitler, and on the surface, shrugging off the thought of going to war. But many social programs are started that seem to target Jews, relocating them to remote rural areas to break up the strongly Jewish enclaves in large cities, and (voluntarily) sending off young Jewish kids to live in the countryside with farmers for the summer, and maybe teaching them to stray from their family beliefs. This quickly escalates into massive anti-Semitism riots and general chaos, with families fleeing to Canada, young men enlisting in the British army via Montreal to fight in France, and crews of Jewish vigilante police groups erupting in violence with the national guard and other non-Jewish vigilante groups.

Roth chose to write the book from the viewpoint of a young Jewish boy (also named Philip Roth) living in New Jersey, and he details the conflict in terms of this boy’s family, neighborhood, and apartment building. It’s interesting, because the cheap way to go would be to have these two-dimensional stormtroopers come in and lay waste to the high and mighty Jewish people that did nothing wrong and were entirely noble. But he spends time blurring the lines a bit, showing people within the family as not being entirely perfect. His dad is completely enamored by every word put across the airwaves by blowhard gossiper Walter Winchel (sort of the Jewish Perez Hilton of the 1940s.) The dad goes on these huge tirades and believes every word of Winchel’s reports; just saying the word “Lindberg” around him makes him blow a gasket. Philip’s brother Sandy enters the program to work on a farm in Kentucky, while his cousin Alvin joins the Canadian army, gets his leg blown off in France, and later ends up a low-level mafia henchman. His aunt marries a Rabbi that is a confidant of the Lindberg political machine; the downstairs neighbors get sent off to the deep south in the relocation program.

It was a real page-turner, although I thought he didn’t dive too deep in the alt history, and the ending slapped together far too quickly. Pretty much every loose thread is pulled back together at the end of WW2 to the actual history, with few explanations as to how that would happen. Much more of the book had to do with domestic policies and the slight changes among the population. For example, the war in Europe is mentioned, but hardly detailed. The Japanese conflict is only mentioned once or twice. If you’re looking for detailed specifications of what kind of jet bombers the Luftwaffe built with no allied bombers mucking up their factories, that kind of thing isn’t there. There are also strange “factual” errors, like that if Hitler and pals went unchecked for an extra few years and the US had no great military buildup, it’s unlikely the Third Reich would have still fallen in 1945. This book’s much more focused on how the already existing anti-semitism in the 1940s could have exploded if the political situation went south, and it does do a good job of twisting together existing political figures into the fabric of the story. That said, I found Roth’s writing itself to be somewhat clunky and tangled in places. There were more than a few times where I read something and had to say “wait, they’re in Kentucky now?” and had to backtrack and read forward and search to find the tiny reference he made to some huge plot device.

What’s weird to me is that if you research Lindberg or the anti-war far right movement (which has been forgotten by history), you see that a lot of the reasons they had for staying out of WW2 were the same reasons people now state for staying/getting out of Iraq. Read this speech he gave in 1941, and it’s just odd to think that he’s on the completely opposite side of the political spectrum from people giving the same speech today. And with that in mind, back up to the thing I said about people who reviewed the book saying “OMG BUSH PWNED!” – did they even read the book?

Anyway, worth checking out, but go with the PKD for a better-written book, or Fatherland for a more technical one.

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Summer is over

Well, summer’s over. I just accepted an offer on a full-time job, which puts the kibosh on sitting around in my underwear writing unpublishable fiction and walking across the street for every baseball game I can afford. For the sake of not getting fired, I won’t mention where I’ll be working, but drop a line if it’s really bugging you. It’s a techwriter position, and everyone seems nice and the money’s good, so I’m excited to get started. (My first day is 9/24).

It’s weird going into this. My first instinct would be to stay home and do nothing, and giving up that freedom isn’t as easy as I’d thought. But I still have this bug in the back of my head that’s used to checking my Bank of America account a couple of times a day, and when there’s not money going into it on a regular basis, that makes me worry. Ditto that for the 401K and IRA. I interviewed at a few other places and I think this is a perfect offer and salary, but I still felt a little hesitant to accept the offer. I never felt like this before, but I think every time in the past I was given a job offer, I was living hand-to-mouth and needed to keep the paychecks coming to keep a roof over my head. Now I need to weigh the options a little more, and that nagged at me. But in the end, I took the job.

I am not really looking forward to a half-hour commute. And that’s odd, because I have a new car with no problems and good gas mileage, and I have the built-in iPod adapter and an iPod that currently holds 19.1 continuous days of audio. I also have the jitters about what my schedule will be, how I will need to dress (not in my underwear, probably), how I will read my email now that I have all of it coming straight to my Mac, and a bunch of other odd minor things that will probably sort themselves out in the first week with no effort. The big one is that I am not sure what this does to my writing schedule. I currently have my whole day free, and I’m getting zero done, so what happens when you add 8 or 10 hours of work plus an hour of commute? Sarah did point out, however, that the most productive period of the last year was when I started waking up two hours early, using my full spectrum light, and writing before work. So maybe some structure will kick me in the ass a bit.

Unrelated #1: Go to ParagraphLine.com – I touched up the design, colors, logo, and have been nipping away at the text. The next issue is very very close – I just need the ISBN and it will be ready. In the past when I bought an ISBN, it was from Lulu’s block of numbers, which means it was instant. This time, I registered as owner, which means a bunch of paperwork and a delay. Anyway, soon.

Unrelated #2: I got my new camera (Canon PowerShot A570IS) and it is pretty awesome. It’s very small and fits in my pocket, but it has a 4x optical zoom, and the digital zoom (x16) is actually pretty damn smooth. The camera has some image stabilization junk, like camcorders, so it’s easier to take steady shots at long distances. It also has built-in stitching support for panoramas, and the stitch software on the Mac can even make QuickTime VR movies very easily. There are a million focus and light adjustments on the camera that I will never understand, and a display that shows far too much information. It also runs on 2xAA batteries, so no worries when I run out on vacation. And it has so many small touches that make it nice, like how a shutter door closes over the lens when you turn it off, so it doesn’t get smudged or need a lens cap (like my last camera.) And it fits in my pocket!

And the perfect test of the camera – tonight the Rockies play the Padres, and I will be there, new camera in hand (or in pocket). But first, a million things to do here on the home front…

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Broken cameras and small towns

I went to the Rockies-Giants game yesterday, but there’s not much to mention. Barry Bonds did not play, but I did see a number of people with homemade asterisk shirts, which was cool. It was hotter than hell on earth, and I was sitting in the second row of section 106, which is on the ground, right behind the right fielder. There was no shade whatsoever, and although the view was different than usual and very close to Brad Hawpe, you can’t really see pitches or what the hitter’s doing. I did, however, have this crazy fan next to me who was yelling at the top of his lungs at each play. He was heckling the pitcher right as he slipped in the third and allowed Jeff Francis to hit a double and start off a seven-run bitch-slapping from which the Giants never recovered.

The worst part of it is that my fucking camera broke. It may have happened on the way back from Indiana, I’m not sure. It let me sporadically take a picture or two, but when you shake it, you can hear a part rattling around. I’ve hated this camera ever since I got it in 2005, but it’s taken some decent pictures. It has also been all over the place with me: Hawaii, Vegas, Berlin, Amsterdam, Alaska, and a bunch of states in between. But it’s also one of those mini-pseudo-SLR sized cameras, which doesn’t fit in a bag or a pocket well. And it is horrible as far as low-light situations. The internal battery is also dead, so if I take out the AAs for more than a minute, it forgets the date and all of my settings. So I jumped online last night and bought a Canon PowerShot A570IS. It’s a lot smaller, more pixels, also uses AAs, but uses SD, so I had to get another card. (Anyone in the market for a 1G xD card?) It also has image stabilization, which might be cool or might just be a gimmick. Anyway, I hope to have it for Friday’s game against the Padres.

If you’re wondering about the zine, it’s getting there. The cover and the interior are done; I just bought the ISBN and I have to wait 3 or 4 business days for them to get back to me with the actual number, then I order a proof. The art is all in and looks awesome – each story has a title page that has fucked up art on it, and the cover is awesome, too. Anyway, stay tuned on that.

I just finished reading Population: 485 by Michael Perry. It’s the tale of a writer who lives in a tiny farm town in Wisconsin, so it’s fitting that I bought it in Milwaukee at this weird planned community slash mall that’s designed like a tiny town, except in the EPCOT center. Anyway, Perry’s story is interlaced with his duty as a volunteer fireman for the town’s emergency services. There are two things going on here: one is the macho ER adrenaline junkie stories of fire and death, which is interesting. The other is an attempt to take the small-town mix of deer-hunting, Packers, and pickup trucks and validate it somehow.

I thought about this a lot, since I read this book right after spending some time in my old childhood home town of Edwardsburg, Michigan. Edwardsburg was maybe pushing a thousand people when I lived there in the 70s, maybe less than that. There was a lot more fishing than hunting, due to all of the lakes. And the main strip of downtown was probably bigger, although they didn’t get their first fast-food restaurant until maybe the late 90s. Edwardsburg was also close enough to Elkhart and South Bend that people could survive without a Kroger or a mall or a movie theater, since they could jump in a car and drive a few minutes south. But the village always had a certain feel to me, a place where the tallest building was an abandoned feed mill, and even if there were only a few hundred people in the high school, they still had three strings of football teams.

Perry spent a lot of time trying to justify the life of his small town to the folks on the coasts that think that the great red plain is cultureless and lifeless. I appreciate that he went this way with it, because so many books in this space tend to be demeaning, or look down at rural culture from an ivory tower and frame it in such a way that the NPR crowd can look at it and moan about how horrible red states are. Perry did an honest job of describing the small-towners, and it made for a good read. The ending got a little weird, and the death and injury angle also got a little overwhelming, but I still liked it overall.

I have a million zine-related tasks to pull together, and I just can’t get rolling. Maybe I need more caffeine.

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