Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Book Review: Shoeless Joe (W.P. Kinsella)

Baseball fans are dreamers. Not baseball players, mind. I’ve known a few of them, and while they’re superstitious as the day is long, they are at their core a fairly practical species. No, I’m talking about us baseball fans. The rhythm of a baseball game, either on television or sitting at the ballpark in the hot July sun on a Sunday afternoon, beer in hand, allows a lot of time for contemplation. Baseball, with an unbroken history longer than any other sport in America, is layered with traditions and collective wisdom bordering on mysticism. A dreamer’s fertile field.

Shoeless Joe is a novel for dreamers.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Now You Can Get Email Feeds!

After a certain amount of tinkering, I've managed to install a new way to get content from this dog and pony show.  If you click the link at the upper right, supply a valid email address, and enter one of those ridiculous secret words, and you can receive email alerts when I update the blog.  You'll get a confirmation email with a link to verify that you are in fact who you say you are (if "you" is in fact your real name...)  It's run through FeedBurner, and I promise it will not send you spam, just a daily email summarizing the activity on the blog.  If nothing's been posted, no annoying empty email, either.

Being the engineer I am, I tested it before rolling it out to an unsuspecting public, and it seems to work pretty seamlessly.  Any experienced bloggers out there are probably chuckling at this, but I'm still getting the hang of this, so keep your eye rolls to a minimum, please.

I'd like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who's been reading this space regularly (especially that person in Canada--I don't know who you are, but I know you're a regular, and I gotta tell you it's cool to see international stats).  I've been at this just over a month now, and I've found it to be very cathartic to allow some of the stuff rattling around in my head loose on the world.  I think I might just continue, as long as you're all willing to stay on board!


--PS:  I looked up "cathartic" to make sure that was the word I really wanted to use, and one of the alternate definitions pertained to "evacuating the bowels."  After some deliberation, I decided that was exactly the word I wanted to use there.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Microfiction 9/27/10

For the uninitiated, microfiction = short story, exactly 100 words.  This is a weekly feature.  Enjoy.
"The Alley"  (Jon King), 9/27/10

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Get Updates of JLOS Using an RSS Feed

A few people have asked me if there is an easy way to know when I add new content to the blog.  So far my primary means of syndication have been shares to Facebook which, considering I'm not a constant status-changer, means that is about all you see on my FB page any given day.  This can understandably get a little annoying. 

An easy way to find out when I post new stuff is to set up an RSS feed using your browser.  Just copy the following URL into your browser address line (or, you know, click it right now):

Depending on your browser of choice, you'll get a page with a link asking if you want to subscribe.  Click it, and you're there.  Best of all you can have it add a button to your favorites bar, which will show up bold when new content is present.

There are other RSS readers out there that I'm not as familiar with, but I think they can be set up to send you an email when it finds new content.  If anyone has luck with that, please let me know.

Thanks for reading!

New Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Trailer

The second official trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Pt 1) was released a few days ago.  If you haven't already seen it, check it out below.  I'm glad the final chapter(s) look good, because on the whole, I've been a bit underwhelmed with the movie versions of J.K. Rowlings' books, apart from some absolutely magnificent casting choices.  Alan Rickman as Snape (Die Hard, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves) and Jason Isaacs (The Patriot) as Lucious Malfoy can only be described as perfect, and even though you can barely tell it's him through the makeup, Ralph Fiennes gives Voldemort the creepy heft the character deserves. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Community Recap, Episode 2.1 "Anthropology 101"

Yay!  Community’s back!  I’m not going to try and be objective and journalism-y here--why the hell would I?  It’s my blog…it’s not like I have an editor to please.  In my opinion this show was the best new comedy last year, narrowly edging out Modern Family, and soundly beating most everything else that debuted in the sitcom genre.  Tonight’s premiere was, well, a premiere.  Season premieres are often dragged a bit by exposition and general refreshening exercises to bring us all back up to speed (see there?  I just made up a word, and nobody’s telling me I can’t…), and the episode’s impact on the whole sometimes suffers for it.  Anyway, this should go without saying, but if you haven’t yet seen the episode, SPOILERS FOLLOW.  Consider yourself warned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Microfiction 9/20/10

For the uninitiated, microfiction = short story, exactly 100 words.  This is a weekly feature.  Enjoy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Arsenal Fandom Update: 20,000 Leagues to Play In

If you remember, a few weeks ago I officially pledged my support of Arsenal FC in the English Premiere League.  Not that this was a momentous occasion for everyone, but I view it as a perfect opportunity to learn about the essence of what it means to be a sports fan.  It's also a chance to immerse myself in a world that until now was completely foreign to me, in the literal sense.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What I'm Watching Fall 2010

Expect this list to change as the season goes on.  TV shows, and new TV shows in particular, tend to have insecure lives.  The TV business is fickle and flighty, and if network executives aren't happy with ad revenue or ratings, a new show can get the axe pretty quick.  The last decade of television has seen dozens, if not hundreds, of network TV series' cancelled before their initial story arcs were even begun, much less allowed to play out (Heather Graham had a series last precisely one episode a few years ago).  That doesn't count the piles of shows that have pilot episodes written, cast, and shot, only to be tossed to the death pile at NBC, ABC, or CBS (not Fox--they'll put any drivel on the air).  I guess what I'm saying is, this might not be what I'm watching in a month.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Book Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)

This review is probably not going to be much of a "scoop," really.  This is possibly the most talked-about book since The Da Vinci Code, and for none of the "inflamed conservative opinion" reasons, either.  If you follow popular literature at all, you're aware of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  If you follow movies and popular movie stars at all, you're aware of it.  If you only listen to NPR and consume no other media at all, you're REALLY aware of this book.  It's been kept pretty solidly in the news recently by the U.S. release of the third and possibly final chapter in the Millennium series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. There is also a sense of fascination concerning the circumstances of its publishing.  Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson wrote three manuscripts (Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and Hornet's Nest), and then died of a heart attack in 2004 before they could be published.  In addition to the three novels of the de facto trilogy, there is known to exist three quarters of a fourth novel, as well as possible outlines or early manuscripts of two more, currently in possession of Larsson's partner, the rights still tantalizingly undecided. 

At the beginning of this cloud of media attention is a gripping, if dense, page-turner of a crime thriller.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Letter from Kurt

Letters of Note is a pretty cool site that posts personal correspondence from celebrities or historical figures, usually as submitted by the letters' recipients.  Some are short missives between colleagues, some are fan mail (there's a particularly touching one from Wil Wheaton to an 8 year-old fan club applicant, 20 years late), others are fairly major pieces of secret history that were seemingly lost over time (like the memo from JFK to the head of the then-fledgling NASA, asking how the U.S. could "win" at the space race).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Priest" Looks Awesome...For Now

In the course of researching another topic on today, I ran across the trailer for "Priest," due out in 2011.  Apparently based on a comic book--sorry, "graphic novel"--it stars Paul Bettany as the titular character, a futuristic clergyman defying his order to rescue his niece from vampires.  Bettany has made a small niche for himself playing badass religious figures, from The Da Vinci Code to last year's Legion.  He also stars here alongside nerd favorites Karl Urban (LOTR, Star Trek) and Stephen Moyer.  It's possible this will end up being a disappointing cross between Judge Dredd and Waterworld, but at this point it's definitely early enough to think it looks good.   Trailer at IMDB is linked below:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Former Bodyguard Finds Britney Spears "Shocking" and "Disgusting" Enough to Sue

This from TMZ (by way of AV Club):  in a story that's apparently been developing for a couple of months, a former bodyguard of Britney Spears has filed a lawsuit against the pop "singer" and his former security agency.  Fernando Flores alleges sexual harassment and, more troubling, child abuse at the hands of Spears.  On numerous occasions, Spears allegedly disrobed or otherwise behaved lewdly toward Flores, which caused the bodyguard "shock and disgust." 

Now, much fun and debate could be had at the expense of Spears' relative desirability at various stages in her career (which, let's face it, sort of ended with Federline), but the abuse allegations put a damper on that.  The suit claims she once demanded Flores' belt and used it to "savagely" beat her younger son Preston.  More disturbing still is an account of Spears forcing her seafood-allergic kids crab meat and then prevented them from receiving medical care as they vomited.  I'm going to go on record as saying that's the worst thing I've ever heard of a celebrity doing.  Including OJ.

It should be noted that all of this is "alleged" at this point (LA County Dept of Children and Family Services investigated and found no merit for the claims), and no response from Spears' camp has been made public yet.  So, either Britney is the worst--worst--mother in the world, or Flores is guilty of some serious slander.  One way or the other, ugly business.

No word yet on the reaction from this guy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday Book Review: Cyberdrome (Joseph and David Rhea)

Cyberdrome (Joseph and David Rhea)

Reality can be hard to define. It can be what we believe or experience, more than what actually exists. That seems to be the message of Cyberdrome, although it is not a message clearly delivered.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

R.I.P. Robert Schimmel

Those of you familiar with Schimmel's work will be saddened by this news.  After beating a heart attack, cancer, and the death of his 11 year-old son, to be taken by a seemingly random car accident seems unfair, at the least. 

His "Unprotected" HBO stand up special from 1999 stands as one of the funniest things I've ever seen on television.  A two-minute clip from that special on YouTube.  Warning, extremely NSFW:

Rest in peace, good sir.  Don't forget to take it out of the box first.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Sit Down, We're Not Going Anywhere" Movies: Die Hard With a Vengeance

This feature will start with a simple premise: think of the movies you adore, and then maybe figure out why. Movies you'll stop and watch when you see them on cable, no matter what's going on or where you have to be (as a friend of mine would say, "Sit down, we're not going anywhere"). Movies that may or may not be pieces or artistic genius, but that pull you in every time. Movies that you may know inside and out, and yet are surprised by something you've never noticed before.

I have a large, amorphous list of movies that fit this qualification, so source material won't be the problem. The challenge will be to translate the reasons I watch these films over and over again into coherent thoughts that are accessible to the world at large. Now, maybe no one will care why I've seen Independence Day at least 100 times, but some just might see it because I've explained myself (though that would probably just encourage Roland Emmerich to make another turd like 2012). And, since I'm sure everyone has their own list, the comments sections can easily become a sounding board for your own favorites, and why. This is really a formality, since most of these films have been around a while, but THERE WILL SPOILERS. Each time I pop up with this irregular feature, I’ll drop that warning early, to avoid angering anyone who’s been purposefully avoiding talk about Back to the Future for 25 years until they get time to watch it.

Monday Microfiction--Another New Feature!

As some of you may know, a couple of weeks ago I reviewed a short story collection by David McAfee.  The bulk of this anthology was made up of hyper-short stories--exactly 100 words--known as microfiction.  It was a bit of a revelation to me that so much could be conveyed in such a short space.  It is also a very strong disciplinary tool for fiction writers.  With only 100 words to tell the story, every damn one of them better mean something. 

I thought I'd try it.  I'm starting out by writing them as often as I can (and it's pretty easy to bang out a rough draft in a few minutes), and posting one here every Monday.  Ultimately I think they'd be very useful as story seeds for longer stories or even the novel I keep telling myself I'll write someday.  I'd like feedback from my readers, if possible.  It's easy to leave a comment now that I think I've disabled that annoying secret word crap, so please do.  And also, if you want to post your own 100-word microfiction story, no place like a comment!

So without further blathering (I've already chewed up more words in the feature intro than the story contains), my first Monday Microfiction entry...

Friday, September 3, 2010

OK, everybody! Follow me!

I know I'm only a few weeks into this nonsense, but it seems I already have quite a few loyal readers.  To those, I am very grateful.  I'm also happy to have anybody drop in, read a post, decide I'm a complete idiot, and leave.  They're all pageviews, man.

I'd like to ask a small favor of those of you who find yourselves here often.  See that "Followers" tab in the upper right corner of the screen?  If you click the button and register as a follower of the blog, it adds to my reader numbers, and comes with the benefit of streamlined updates when I post new material.  The process is pretty easy, and you have the option of using your existing account info from any other social media site you use (Google, Twitter, etc). 

So go ahead and follow me (see what I did there?), and let's make this tomfoolery a little higher-profile.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fantastic Four to be rebooted for some reason

According to (not one of my usuals, but they would be the ones to know), a reboot of the crappy 2005 version of The Fantastic Four is already in development, with Bruce Willis as the Thing.