Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Minimalism vs. Possession Obsession

I have too much stuff. And not just books (which there's a shitload) but trinkets, notebooks, files, etc. Items that I rarely look at but feel the need to possess. Stacked up everywhere, spreading like a contagion. Reminds me that d and I occasionally talk about the time we lived in Virginia in a one-bedroom apartment with absolutely no furniture save two lawn chairs that we dragged inside from the third-floor balcony when company arrived. Bedroom had a mattress, lamp, and zero other furnishings. Now our happiest time will always be when our daughter entered the frame but occasionally we recall the earlier era when we had next to no possessions. Life seemed a lot more, say, manageable.

So I was drawn to Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things directed by Matt D'Avell and featuring minimalists who believe in more happiness through less clutter. Here's the trailer for you. Now, I'm not sure I could ever scale it back as far as the minimalists do because I like a lot of books surrounding me and couldn't imagine Joyce's Ulysses orphaned on the shelf. (Though if I could only have one novel, what would it be?) But after viewing Minimalism on Netflix, I scoured through a few containers inspired by not just the film but my previous lifestyle and tossed away old newspapers, magazines, and papers guilt free. It felt damn good... and hardly made a dent. Still, like my hero Sisyphus, never give up. I'm going to try again today.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Voices of the Dead: In Memories and Literary Prose

When the family reserve has been let down by the indie publishing, I go back to the daily security grind which takes me here and there, until the coffers are no longer on life support. So, there I was, at 4:30 a.m., shuffling into the Holiday Inn dining nook in Warrenton, Virginia—preparing my bolstering dose of English breakfast tea—when I noticed the woman I had exchanged pleasantries with the previous morning was unhinged. "Be careful out there," she warned. "There's been a murder at the CVS and the police told us to lock the doors. So, if you go out, you’ll have to knock or call to get back in." That deposited an image of me...

*For more, and I certainly hope I've stoked your interest, please click here for the rest of my article.

Never-Before-Seen Event: 'Kilonova'

The Verge: "For the first time, astronomers detect gravitational waves from two neutron stars colliding." Wow! Incredible news and this comes a mere two years after gravitational waves were first detected confirming a prediction by Einstein. In addition:
In the wake of the collision, the churning residue forged gold, silver, platinum and a smattering of other heavy elements such as uranium. 
What a time to be involved in science, or, like me, a dedicated aficionado. Fantasy: to have witnessed this mind-blowing neutron 'duel' from a protective distance, maybe aboard the TARDIS. A cosmic spectacle for which the words stellar and awesome were invented.

The Naked Time (1967)

On a dying planet, the Enterprise crew discovers a research team frozen dead in bizarre positions: one member was fully clothed taking a shower and another sits at a control panel like nothing was amiss. Mr Spock and Lt. Tormolen split up to investigate when Tormolen is unknowingly contaminated by a red liquid and then by domino effect inflicts the rest of the crew. Soon, because no one is at the helm, the ship's orbit is compromised and the Enterprise begins to plunge toward the planet. McCoy eventually saves the day with a vaccine and Spock proposes an untested theory of time and antimatter. With options depleted, they time travel for the first time going back before the events that nearly crippled them.

Easily one of the ten best episodes of the original series because of the crew 'drunk' and behaving widely erratic with Mr Sulu imagining himself a swashbuckler, Riley locking himself in engineering and promoting himself to captain, and Nurse Chapel professing her love for Spock. As a kid, this episode along with "Shore Leave" were my favorites because of the out of their element detours. And I had such a kick watching The Naked Time" again, I'm going to add more time tripping adventures to the Cranmer queue. Slingshotting next with "Tomorrow is Yesterday" when the crew finds themselves in that strange era known as the 1960's.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

How Sci-Fi Writers Imagine Iraq’s Future

The Atlantic: In a new speculative-fiction anthology series, Iraqi authors consider their country’s tumultuous present as they envision how it could look in the year 2103.

The Paradoxical Politics of Literary Criticism

New Republic: How did literary scholarship take a leftward turn during the 1970s, when neoliberalism and austerity were ascendant?

Who Was Mata Hari?

Exotic dancing and espionage are the twin peaks that come to mind when the name Mata Hari is mentioned. But what is her full, true story? Lost to time and blurred in key passages, for sure. Fact and fiction began cross-pollinating quite early, furthered in great part by her own exaggerations in efforts to hype her lascivious career. Journalists lapped it up for purple prose lines like, “so feline, extremely feminine, majestically tragic, the thousand curves and movements of her body trembling in a thousand rhythms.” Today's Hollywood publicists have nothing on Ms. Hari when it comes to self-promotion and aggrandizement. She discovered early in her stage career that the more outlandish a rumor reported by the press, the more people paid to see her dance.
My full article can be found at Macmillan's Criminal Element.

Thelonious Monk - Straight, No Chaser (HD FULL ALBUM)

The Abyss by Oliver Sacks

Saturday's used bookstore haul included The Best American Science Writing 2008 edited by Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind. First article I read was "The Abyss" by Oliver Sacks that spotlighted Clive Wearing who has chronic anterograde and retrograde amnesia. He only retains memories from anywhere from seven to thirty seconds. In a journal he attempted to keep, he would repeatedly write entries like “I am awake” or “I am conscious” over and over again. Damn, can you imagine being trapped in that loop? And yet, he can play the piano with little issue and remembers his wife's face. I recommended the read or this video I found on YouTube. Fascinating, thought-provoking.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mitch at War

We’ve been celebrating one hundred years of Robert Mitchum, having already looked back at his noir and Western films. Another genre he dominated was war movies, often projecting the great inner strength of tight-lipped heroes who fought the good fight, usually against staggering odds. Here are several of the best.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Trilogies Get Better but Movie Trilogies...

Movie Trilogies Get Worse with Each Film. Book Trilogies Get Better.

Fear and Desire

Here's a curio: Fear and Desire (1953) directed by Stanley Kubrick, his first feature. At 62 minutes, it plays like an art house film cross-pollinated with The Twilight Zone. Open narration sets it up:
There is a war in this forest. Not a war that has been fought, nor one that will be, but any war. And the enemies who struggle here do not exist unless we call them into being. This forest then, and all that happens now is outside history. Only the unchanging shapes of fear and doubt and death are from our world. These soldiers that you see keep our language and our time, but have no other country but the mind.
It shows Kubrik's theme of dehumanization was already set in place and if you have some time, it is well worth the view.

Nik Morton's Dark Echoes

Nik: Reading my western Coffin for Cash, you might think there is the odd echo or two from some of Edgar Allan Poe’s work. And you’d be right.

The Guardian: The Rub of Time by Martin Amis Review

Guardian: Insight vies with self-regard in this anthology of essays on everything from poker to porn.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

About That Trailer

In 1977, at seven-years-old, I saw Star Wars at a drive-in movie theater and it charged my imagination like no movie before—I remember days afterward still buzzing with the andrenline high. Then came The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. Not the same shot in the arm but damn near close. The pitiful prequels followed that had their moments and if you closed one eye and squinted you could almost relive the magic. I liked aspects of The Force Awakens and forgave it for being the plot to the first movie and holy hell it was sure great to see Han and Chewie again. But on a second viewing, a few months later, I was completely bored and fast forwarded through chunks of stale dialogue, same old action. Rogue One was a step-up though I felt no emotional connection between the hero and her father because the opening moved too swift, lack of character development. Still, it's obvious these individual stand alones (Han Solo is next) have a much needed fresh package seal.

Now, earlier today, I posted the new trailer because I guess (pleading Pavlov's dog syndrome) thats what I am suppose to do. And I did as trained though I was underwhelmed to the max by my first glimpse of The Last Jedi. I liked seeing Luke Skywalker but have zero interest in Rey's journey of enlightenment. Because that was Luke's original journey and well it was completed in 1983 with the death of Vader and the Empire in ruins but fandom demanded it all keeps going so here we are again... and will be again until sales at some distant point fade. As if that's posssible, right? Yes, bah umbug! I'm old, ewoks. Though many of my friends on Twitter within the same ten years of decreptitude are way excited, looking to decipher every frame of this trailer and the seven-year-old kid in me is wanting the same level of excitement. I just can't give it to him.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Trailer (Official)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Travels and Adventures of Little Baron Trump and His Wonderful Dog Bulger

Trump Is the Star of These Bizarre Victorian Novels. Different Trump... or is it?!?

Cranmer Family Bake Off

Ava held a family bake off. It was me against Little d. Ingredients: sugar and ­čŹÄ's. I sliced an ­čŹÄ. Layered pieces with peanut butter/marshmallow creme. Yeah, I lost badly.

Walden Wasn’t Thoreau’s Masterpiece

For the record, I never thought it was. The Atlantic: "In his 2-million-word journal, the transcendentalist discovered how to balance poetic wonder and scientific rigor as he explored the natural world."

I'm Taking Baby Steps

Last week, on Twitter, I lamented that writing feels like I'm carving Mount Rushmore with toothpicks. And the more I thought about it, crafting new sentences has been a chore for about a month. I don't have the mean reds over lack of flow because what I'm laying down, I'm satisfied with. Case in point, yesterday, I conjured five sentences for an introduction to the Tom Paine book I'm finishing. Not brilliant but serviceable. Now, I will polish them off and see if I can turn the dial a bit farther. Like Bill Murray in What About Bob, I'm taking baby steps. It's working.

An Oral History of Batman: The Animated Series

Vulture: The show that defined the Dark Knight for a generation, in the words of its creators and stars.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Infiltrations of the Surreal

From 2015, my article on Julio Cort├ízar. Besides thinking I did a fairly decent job with this piece, I've become a convert to Cort├ízar's body of work and just recently started  reading his short stories again. Hope you don't mind me sharing again.

First Poll

Click over to Twitter to vote in my first poll to decide which book series (007, Reacher, Holmes, or Poirot) I review next.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Traveling Wilburys - End Of The Line

Vegas Horror

Woke to news of the mass shooting horror on the Las Vegas Strip. Can't begin to convey how my heart aches for the families of the murdered. And yes this is terrorism, and YES it is the time to talk about ways to prevent it. We can mourn the dead and also be active in our response.

Sunday, October 1, 2017