Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A To Z Day Fourteen: Red Sox Nation

I am a Red Sox fan. (I'm sorry.) Being a Red Sox fan is kind of like owning an iPhone used to be: at one point, you were unique, now every third person is just like you.

My instinctive response is to point out that I'm not one of THOSE people- I've been a fan since the Carter Administration. I root when we're good, like 2013, and I root for the dog's breakfast group therapy teams like 2012 and 2011, and I root for the grossly overrated teams like 1995. As Jerry Seinfeld once put it, I'm rooting for laundry, and it's too late for me to change now.

But that's not the right way to act. When you love something, the natural response is to share it, not push people away from it, and just because I know who Jimmy Collins was and what Duffy's Cliff was and who owned the Third Base Saloon, that doesn't make me a better fan than you. It just makes me a bigger nerd.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A to Z Day Thirteen: Handel's "Messiah"

I defy you to not get chills listening to this, The Hallelujah Chorus performed inside a Macy's in Philadelphia.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A To Z Day Eleven: Charlie Brown and the Kite Eating Tree

Most everyone knows who Charlie Brown is. The comic strip "Peanuts" and it's characters are known, I think, around the world. As with any great art, it works on two levels- a tale about a kid trying to fly a kite, and a kind of Sisyphean labor. Charlie Brown bargains with the tree, begs it, defies it, dares it, but still it sits there, implacable, endlessly hungry, ruining his day over and over again, heartless and cruel. I don't know what the late Mr. Schulz intended the tree to "represent", but I think everyone can appreciate a foe that just won't let you have a good time, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A To Z Day Ten: Jokes

A termite walks into a bar and asks, "is the bar tender here?"
What did one hat say to the other?

"You stay here, I'll go on a head."
Why couldn't Dracula's wife get to sleep?

Because of his coffin.
What do you do when you see a spaceman?

Park your car, man.
What did the big bucket say to the little bucket?

You look a little pail!
Why is there no gambling in Africa?

All the cheetahs.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A To Z Day Nine: You And I

"You and I", from the tragically forgotten musical "Chess", here beautifully sung by Elaine Paige and Michael Ball. It contains what might be the saddest lyric I have ever heard- "But we go on pretending/Stories like ours/Have happy endings."

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A To Z Day Seven: A Gander At Gender

Blatantly stealing from my sister from another mother Giulie, today we talk about gender, and specifically gender in regards to my stories in the indisputably marvelous "2014" books, available here and at reputable book stores everywhere. And even some of the disreputable ones.

Gender is more complicated than it appeared to me previously, a phenomenon which is rapidly becoming a theme of my 42nd year on Earth. It's not simply your chromosomal layout or the appearance of your block and tackle, it's a social construct, who you feel you are as well as how you decide to present yourself to others. (This makes me think of the birth scene from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life", where the mother asks if she has had a boy or a girl, and Graham Chapman responds, "it's a bit early to start imposing roles on it!")

In my 2014 story cycle, Mark Hamilton is a man caught in a vise- he is making tremendous sums of money at his job, but he is starting to hate the things his job is doing to him. His work world, professional baseball, is male dominated, while his home life is dominated by his wife Angela and his distant daughter Madison. He has trouble reconciling who he feels he has to pretend to be to keep his job and his paycheck, with who he really is, which seems to me to be the central thrust of the concept of gender.

To quote the late great Mr. Vonnegut, we are who we pretend to be. So we must be careful who we pretend to be.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A to Z Day Six: Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction, as you probably know by now, is simply short fiction, but focused and direct, even shorter than short, typically less than 2000 words. Basically anything longer than Hemingway's famous "for sale, baby shoes, never worn" is probably flash fiction, up until maybe 1500 words, at which point it becomes a regular 'ol short story, which has, I was once told, an upper limit of James Joyce's "The Dead". That seems as good a place as any.

Flash fiction is just like regular fiction- it needs to have a unity of effect, as Mr. Poe taught us, and have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's just shorter.

This Blog has practiced Flash Fiction in this space from time to time, with varying degrees of success. This Blog is most proud of, at present, the fact that It has not murdered Its teenage son, as well as the works of flash fiction it has propagated in the marvelous 2014 series, now available in your favorite electronic or dead tree format.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Friday, April 04, 2014

A To Z Challenge, Day Four: Depression

Depression isn't the blues.

It isn't glamorous, or dramatic, or artistic.

It isn't disappointment, or being sad.

Depression is a disease, a horrible, grasping thing that changes people, destroys lives, and kills people as dead as Julius Caesar and Ty Cobb.

If you're depressed, get help. Please. Before it's too late.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

A To Z Challenge, Day Three: Cancer

Like my favorite podcast host Matthew Berry, I, and This Blog, have always opposed cancer. Among the shocks that flesh is heir to, the big C has never been a big worry for me. Not because it isn't serious, but because I always assumed something else would get me first. (Like the late Mickey Mantle once remarked, if I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.)

Cancer is an unusual disease, as such things go- it's not an organ or system failure, like diabetes or MS or heart disease. It's not (well, not entirely, at least not as far as we know) an invasion from outside. It's a cell's own machinery gone haywire, controls broken or missing, normal functions gone crazy. It's a ninja disease, sneaking in and wreaking havoc, and the one sure risk factor we know of is being alive.

Cancer has now touched my family, making me think about it in a way I never have before. (Obviously, I've thought about it before. But i can only think of so many things, so some (koalas, the balance of payments, forechecking) get shoved to the back burner.) It is now real for me, like it has been for so very many others, and I feel an awful kinship now that I did not ask for and would like to give back.

(Boring technical note: as far as I know, I have legally, morally, and ethically posted each and every day (all three of them.) I cannot understand why Blogger seems to think I posted three times on March 30th. I did not. I'll try to obey whatever witchcraft Blogger wishes in the future.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

A To Z Challenge, Day Two: Baseball

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again."
-James Earl Jones as author Terence Mann in the film "Field of Dreams".

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A To Z Challenge, Day One: America

(This post is part of the A To Z Challenge 2014.)

I'm going through one of those phases I go through. Suddenly I can't get enough of the Revolutionary War and the Founders, and I'm tearing through books like I'm in college again, even listening to Joanne Freeman's Yale course via ITunes U, burning through Mike Duncan's marvelous podcast Revolutions, and starting through the Gordon Wood books on Audible. This, like any fever, will probably abate in time, and I will become obsessed with something else. 'Twas ever thus.

I'm not someone who is regularly overcome with patriotic feeling. It always seems false and phony and holier than thou to me. (I don't think less of you if you have those feelings. I'm just saying that I don't.) I instinctively distrust whenever a feeling is assumed to be universal, because I don't think anything ever is.
The more I learn and relearn about this period (I'm quite forgetful), I am struck by a simultaneous awe for what occurred against tremendous odds, and a sense of shame at how much was left out, and how very imperfect they all were, and how many Americans still struggle to this day for their "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".

Baseball historian Bill James, talking about another systemic injustice, the color bar in Major League Baseball, once pointed out that we should look kindly upon the mistakes of the past in the hopes that future generations look kindly upon our own. The more I learn about the world, the more convinced I am that I don't know anything about anything, and everything is more complicated than I thought it was.
I still hate the Yankees, though.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Testing, testing...

*blows dust off of blog*
*taps microphone*
*winces at feedback*

Uh, hello? Is this thing on? Can anyone hear me?


Hey everybody!

("Hi, Dr. Nick!")

Guilie Castillo Oriard, whose talent is as wide as her name is long, is participating in an A to Z Challenge over at her blog. The A to Z challenge lives over here and is a network of almost 1700 bloggers who have committed to posting one entry for every day in April except Sundays, each entry thematically linked to a letter of the alphabet. The special part about Giulie (other than her being all that with a side order of clam strips) is that her entries are centering on and around the wonderment that is Matt Potter's 2014 book project as the featured arc for her blogging activities. She will feature contributions from This Blog as well as other, more talented people, all touching on characters, themes and events from our stories in the 2014 books.

For those of you who are terminally unhip and have missed out on "2014", it is a series of 12 volumes, with one story per day, each story written by the same author on the same day each month. (The story on February 11 is written by the same person who wrote the story on January 11, and also March 11, and so forth.) Each story is self contained, but they take place within the same universe. It's a fantastically ambitious project, and is worth your support.

In other news, This Blog is quite tickled by the idea of an A to Z challenge, and is going to try to make a go of it.