Saturday, October 28, 2006

Books, Bands, and Blatant Self-promotion

Hi there, writers, poets, lit & music lovers. Needing a net distraction? Here ya go:
[warning: blatant self-promotion contained in the following]

You got here because you dig music, books, lit, or all of the aforementioned. Welcome or welcome back. If you read this blog and enjoy it, pls let me know.

Rockin' Fun: I worked my way into free tix to V-Fest Baltimore - American Inaugural - by pitching a review to a respectable, engaging, and up-and-coming online music pub (see links following). See my write-up for my thoughts on this amazing day of live music, which was mostly rock with a bit of club, trance, and Americana tossed in. This assemblage of diverse people was, overall, a success. Dare I say the spirit of the '60s was present here?

OK, a teaser: the Who, the Killers, Wolfmother, the Raconteurs, Flaming Lips, and others were there. I wanted to interview some bands, but alas, my venture into medical sales, insurance marketing, and other nonsensical diversions somehow have delayed my rock-journalism greatness. In other words, Rolling Stone should be calling any moment... or, realistically, I need to pitch to their editors. Feel free to write them and demand a column by me -- I'd appreciate the plug.

Anyway, here's the link and enjoy. Pls leave a comment after reading:
V Fest Review

Books I'm reading currently (my relatives would like to think I'm digesting another Michael Moore book or other liberal offering. I can't really stand his books, but his films are enlightening): St. Martin's Guide to Writing (fifth ed.), A Guide to Composition Pedagogies (Oxford), Teaching Grammar in Context (C. Weaver), The Royal Family by Vollmann -- 160 pgs in, concerns itself with the humanity and desperate lives of San Fran prostitutes - some short stuff from the latest McSweeney's, articles in Poets & Writers, poems by WS Merwin, and with all my extra free time, selections -- OK, skimming -- Seeing and Writing by Bedford/St. Martin's. So many books, so little time to read them. This working and sleeping keeps getting in my way. Until next time, happy surfing and reading. Drop me a line about your reads. Or not.

“We need a little more compassion, and if we cannot have it then no politician or even a magician can save the planet.” – the Dalai Lama

“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” – the Dalai Lama

** Happy Birthday, sis! **

Friday, September 08, 2006

Joe Bonamassa: You & Me Blues-Rock CD Review

If you like Stevie Ray Vaughn-style blues-rock, then you might enjoy Joe Bonamassa's guitar work and songwriting. Some critics say he is too much like SRV, but this reviewer says nay. The man has his own style - sure, he's borrowed from some blues masters and giants, but his voice is original. Listen to some of his work and decide for yourself, eh?

Here is a link to my review of Joe's latest release:

Bonamassa: You & Me

Friday, August 25, 2006

Choices That are Good for the Planet and Us: Think Organic

Today, guests on NPR radio ( were discussing the importance of consumers making smart buying decisions, being aware of how our choices drive fuel consumption and to make sure we create the demand for the right products - e.g., organic, locally produced/grown produce. The theory being that produce bought locally supports local markets and farmers, and it reduces the consumption of fossil fuels and the amount of pollution produced created by shipping out-of-season goods (e.g., berries in winter in the East) to our "yuppie" communities. Growing and producing organic foods does not create pesticide and toxic run-off (or at least not manmade run-off - large amounts of natural fertilizers can be harmful also) which can leech into our soil and waterways.

Obviously, these are habits that we can change and implement gradually, but it is urgent that we start now, despite what you think of Al Gore. Many people and communities are already doing this. We will follow your example. Please share your ideas. Remember when recycling was a new idea? (Maybe you don't.) Recycling is now part of my lifestyle, despite it being a pain-in-the-butt... I feel it is my responsibility as a homeowner and consumer; we, as a society, create so much waste.

What else can be done? We can renew, reuse, and recycle things that we normally throw away. Again, being aware and thoughtful about our actions and decisions. For many raised in the "Me Generation," this means being less self-centered. Americans are used to getting what they want, when they want it. Things have changed, my friends. We must change or know that we've done nothing to help our children and future generations live happy, healthy, and productive lives. Of course, if one is self-centered (egotistical), their response might be: "Who gives a damn? I'll do what I want, when I want." If that is you, realize that you are not a bad person (just selfish) but need to change some habits and think about how everyone's actions affect everyone and everything else. Probably one of the reasons the world hasn't changed much since barbaric times (violence, crime, racism...) is because as societies we are still failing to think in a multi-perspective way. Let's start acting like people who do give a damn. It means growing up and acting like informed, intelligent adults as a country and world community.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Word on Words... in the news and noteworthy

Random Literary Notes and Links:

- BOA Editions, a literary press, celebrates its 30th Year Anniversary.
Li-Young Lee is one of the outstanding poets they publish. Good news for creative writers...They will soon begin publishing fiction in addition to poetry.

- Kurt Vonnegut's essay offers his bleak, witty outlook for America and the world. This link is a six-paragraph teaser of the full article from Rolling Stone magazine in the their August 24, 2006 issue.

- Listen to your favorite writers, poets, and essayists talk about their opinions on modern living - everyone from William T. Vollmann to Billy Collins and those in between. Search by writer or individual's name here. You can also go to the Archives section and scroll through the Months to see the offerings.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Been Writing (Professionally) for Ten Years

Work: I am polishing a collection of poems to send around this fall with the goal being a first book or at least a chapbook. The collection contains 45 - 50 solid poems written over the years, many which I initially wrote, revised, read at Baltimore coffee houses, and revised, revised, revised again.
Working on several short-story ideas, which are coming along nicely. By the way, if you are actually reading this, well, thanks for being interested in my writing. My goal is to get more out there, when ready, to share with more readers. I tend to write for myself (see also Stephen Dixon), but what artist doesn't want their work appreciated by others?

WHAT I'M READING NOW: Seventy pages into Vollmann's THE ROYAL FAMILY. It is a detective novel of sorts based in San Francisco and centered on a group of prostitutes, one of Vollmann's favorite topics.
Also reading a collection of interviews with American authors titled STORY STORY STORY by John Schumock. Here is where I learned that Dixon writes for himself. Did you know that he's an ex-newspaperman?

WEBSITE FOR LIT LOVERS (if you don't already know of it):

Friday, June 09, 2006

Poem About San Fran Published

I recently discovered that one of my poems, "A San Fran Serious," was published back in 2004 by the 24th street irregular press in Sacramento, CA. To see the cover of the poem's (tiny) chapbook click [here]. Scroll down to May 2004.

You can find out more about the poetry series Poems-for-All by clicking its link.

If you send Richard Hansen a couple bucks in postage on a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope), request my poems (#375), and a few others, I'm sure he'll get them out to you like he promises. See the link above, Poems-for-All, for the address. Enjoy. It is a real thrill to be published by Richard's press. I sent him some others, so we'll see...

Monday, May 22, 2006

More Book Babble

My last post, about the NYTIMES BOOK REVIEW (NYTBR) panel I attended at the DC BookExpo (BookExpoAmerica), discussed the drama and fun “literary circus” I witnessed as impassioned LitBloggers confronted Sam T., NYTBR editor, about his alleged allergy to fiction, per Ed Champion and others.

I have no feelings on this, currently, one way the other since I am not a serious reader of the NYTBR. However, I do scan it just about every week as part of my job (book acquisitions), but find the LIBRARY JOURNAL’s reviews as informative, if not more balanced between fiction and non-fiction – one of the LitBloggers apparent beefs with the NYTBR. I really appreciate the underdog and underground, so my heart and support go to the LitBloggers.

More importantly, there were books recommended by some of the panel participants (and recent NYTBR jurors for the What is the Bestest [sic] Work of Fiction Ever [Ever being the lifespan of a twenty-five year old]?) Cynthia Ozick recommended William Gaddis’s Carpenter’s Gothic and critic Liesl Schillinger stated Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant as favorite novels. Schillinger also mentioned Jonathan Foer and David Foster Wallace as edgy young writers.

WHAT I’M READING: more than 100 pages into Vollmann’s 13 Stories and 13 Epitaphs (1992)

BLOG I’M CHECKING OUT: Good Books Guide Blog

Now, back to the paper I'm writing (or not writing)...

Friday, May 19, 2006

BookExpo DC - Truth About Fiction and more

Through the generosity of my employer, I went to the DC BookExpo at the DC Convention Center yesterday (5-18-06). The weekend events were more attractive, but, alas, my schedule would not allow such literary joy.

I attended some cool and informative workshops/seminars on blogging, international literature, and the soon-to-be infamous New York Times Book Review pick for Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years. The winner is... well go to NY TIMES to see.
Otherwise you'll have to wait until this Sunday's edition (conference attendees got a sneak preview). The panel was interesting and some egos were larger than others. See more details by reading Ed Champion's blog post about him questioning Sam T. about the nature of the NYTBR and why there isn't more fiction covered within, or women critics. I was sitting one row behind this Brownie Sender [see Ed Champion story] and it jazzed up what could've been a bore fest.

The moderator, and NYTBR editor, Sam Tanenhaus ("The Vulgarist"), used the forum primarily to plug the BOOK REVIEW, its literary merit, and his "choice" of reviewers, some assembled were Liesl Schillinger, Tom Mallon, and Cynthia Ozick. Actually, the jurors that selected the novels were academics, writers, critics, and other literary sorts that were sent letters (over 200) by Tanenhaus's staff (Greg Cowles). Mostly men replied and their votes were counted. The winner suprised literary Cynthia Ozick, who praised the writer's use of poetic form and themes, but felt other fiction is more worthy of the title: Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years (according to the establishment). Seriously, for all the talk that there aren't that many young writers on the list of jurors, well what about Dave Eggers, Chabon, Rick Moody, Lorrie Moore and Vollmann? I guess some aren't as young as their publicists make them seem, but their writing is fresh and young.

The highlight of the opening day (next to the Brownie War), for me, was keynote speaker Tim Russert. One cannot say bad things about Mr. Russert without feeling, well, bad. I had no expectations of the event beforehand, so was warmed, entertained, and inspired by his American stories. The son of a trash man, he told many stories of how fathers, and parents, impact the lives of their children. He spoke emotionally about his own father and humbly pitched his newest offering, THE WISDOM OF OUR FATHERS. I will put this on my summer reading list. The book contains some heartfelt letters in response to Russert's first book, BIG RUSS AND ME.

Washington, DC was bustling with activity as always. It had been about a year since I had visited and luckily I know the city well from my days as a technical recruiter (yuk!) and managed healthcare representative (also yuk, but with greater compensation). The teaser at the convention was seeing all the exhibitors loading in their wares and setting up their booths. Right, conference attendees on Thursday could not visit the exhibition area at all. Being a book lover and writer, I was eager to mill about the hall meeting agents, fellow writers, and publishers. Maybe next year. Additionally, they also have a concurrent writer's conference connected with - usually before - the Book Expo.

My favs are McSweeney's, Daedalus Books, and Soft Skull Press, but I was unable to grab hands with their representatives (I'll look on the Brightside, call me Mr. Brightside, since this meant less germ exposure. Howie Mandel would be proud).

Sunday, February 26, 2006

What is Sacred?

In our busy, sensory overloaded lives, we all struggle to find sacred moments - connections to each other and to nature. If not, well, then we're not feeling too human, robotic is more like it. That is my opinion and if you're on a blog about books, music, thoughts, well, maybe you feel the same way.

Finding the time to cherish life and its precious, diminishing moments is a real challenge. For me, finding the time for family and work (outside of the paycheck) that is rewarding and purposeful is important.

Books to me are also sacred. It is the aura of the author's spirit and voice that radiates from them. The sweat and toil that have gone into their writing, revision, and creation. As I read before in a quote from another booklover, it is good to surround ourselves with books. We can hope to read as many as possible, cherish their adventure and experiences, their knowledge, and some, even though we might not finish, we at least tried to understand and appreciate the author's voice and message, although maybe it did not speak to us as others might.

One of my goals for this year is getting out and hiking and walking more. Experience the natural world that is slowly (more rapidly of late) dwindling away, mostly in the name of "progress" and development. I want to read and study more on how we as a species can better manage our resources and work with the land instead of always taking, taking, taking from it. There is much to learn from native peoples and their holistic approach to living in concert with nature and not trying to conquer her. Conquering her could be to our demise. For me, there is no "could," it will cause our demise. Until later, happy reading and living. - CF