2.28.2013

Free Thrillers...



Click on the images to download free copies of the companion novellas above, and thanks very much for reading! Any feedback (good, bad, or indifferent) is always welcome (and appreciated) in Amazon's reader reviews section... 

2.27.2013

Sean F. Lynch's "The Cave"



The March/April issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction arrived last week, and I've finally been able to take a gasp of fiction amidst this sea of critical theory that I've been reading. I really enjoyed Sean F. Lynch's story "The Cave." This man knows how to write about family, and about the fluidity of time, and about the bonds that form between generations of kin. I really like the dialogue in this story, and the setting was positively claustrophobic. In the foreword notes, the author describes a trip he took with his sons that formed the story's genesis. It's this type of genuine reflection on life and the passage of time that gives speculative fiction so much gravitas, because introducing a fantastic element (best manifested here in the setting) provides an artistic license to really drill down on the core of what it means to be a father, and to pass along whatever collected wisdom and guidance one can to his children.

I rarely see that so artfully done in the middle-aged ennui tales of a Bosch or a Cheever (though those stories have their charm as well; it's just of a different sort) story...

(P.S. So how long has the word "dialogue" been getting flagged in spell checkers? Sheesh, blogger. Get it together!)

2.26.2013

Underrated Tuesday: Dale Murphy

Classic Dale Murphy Poster
Even though the weather is crummy across this great land, the fact remains that the boys of summer have reported, and baseball is being played in both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. It's cold and dreary here in Florida, but that doesn't temper my enthusiasm for the great game, and I'm excited to see a bunch of Jacksonville Suns games with Jeanne and Lyla this year.

I thought, given the game's rich tradition, that I might shine an occasional light on some of the great, unsung ballplayers of this era and others. I'll start with the best slugger of the 1980s, the waaaay underrated Dale Murphy.

Dale, a native of the Portland area, was a back-to-back MVP in 1982 and '83. He crushed 72 bombs in an era when power hitting at that level was rare. He patrolled the outfield with ease, running balls down so effortlessly that he ultimately won a bunch of Golden Glove awards.

He dominated for years on some very bad Atlanta Braves teams. Growing up, I watched him play all the time on TBS (he was also very durable). He was clutch. I can't remember how many times he came through in the late innings, but it always seemed to me as a kid that he just couldn't be retired after the seventh inning.

From everything I've read about Dale, he's also a gentleman. It's a shame he didn't make the Hall of Fame this past year, his last year of eligibility, because he certainly deserves it in my book...

2.25.2013

Daniel Day Freakin' Lewis




So he did it again last night, and now for the third time. I just watched Gangs of New York (2002--sheesh, it's hard to think that film is now more than ten years old, isn't it?) this past weekend, and I came away amazed once again by just how good this guy is. 

I have always been genuinely impressed with Leonardo DiCaprio's acting skills, but the overall impression I left that movie with was just how far out of Lewis's league poor Leo was back then. Every time they were on the screen together, you couldn't help but notice Lewis's Bill "The Butcher" Cutting as a raw, magnetic figure. Lewis snarled his way through that film with that uncanny accent, that unabashed bravado, that acerbic nationalism. He did it with such panache that it's a wonder this latest win for Lincoln wasn't his fourth for best actor.

The BBC posted a great little write-up on the actor today. I had no idea that he's only taken six leading roles in the last fifteen years. It looks like he brings the same focus and intensity to his career that he takes to his craft. Here's an interesting snippet:
"When the imagination frees itself, you have no goddamn idea what's going to happen. So it's not a constrictive or restrictive way of working - quite the opposite."
He added that he found it far easier to stay in character during the filming process, saying: "What would drain me much more, in my case, is jumping in and out of that world that we've gone to such an inordinate length to create for ourselves."
While I haven't seen Lincoln yet, I'm really excited to do so. In fact, there are a great many films that were nominated last night that will be released on DVD in the next few weeks that will make for some fine viewing. The 2012/13 awards season seems to have trended back toward more artistic, serious fare. Alas, I've been to the movies more this year, but I've opted for the popcorn features. 

I've seen Mama ('B'), Side Effects ('B'), the Red Dawn remake ('C'), Killer Joe ('B'), and The Hobbit ('A-') in the last few months. I'm sad that I missed out on catching The Impossible in the theater. 

I saw a pretty great turn this weekend by Denzel Washington in Flight (2012), but I'll be honest--nobody is as good or as intense when it comes to embodying a character on the screen as DDL.

Congratulations on another win, Mr. Lewis. Looking forward to your next choice...

2.21.2013

Survival is Free


As of this morning, Amazon has made Survival free. A few hundred copies have since been uploaded. Click on the image above to grab yours if your into dystopic barbarism (and let's be honest--who isn't?)!

2.08.2013

The Amazing Spider-Man



Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) was a refreshing addition to the filmic superhero genre. Andrew Garfield was really good as Peter Parker/Spidey. I had kind of forgotten how much I disliked Tobey Maguire's simpering, stumbling turn in the Raimi films. The story here flows well, Garfield and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacey have  a nice chemistry, and this version of Spider-Man has some stones. I loved the scene on the rooftop when he gave Gwen a web and dipped in for a kiss. None of that beating around the bush stuff here.

Rhys Ifans was good as The Lizard. The special effects were solid, the score complementary. I really enjoyed the scene of the crane workers setting up a path for Spidey to get across town. Awesome stuff to see the man in action, swinging low over the city.

To be honest, I'd love to see this version of Spidey do battle with the version in the Raimi films. I think I can predict who would win, but it'd be some awesome eye candy to see those fellows zinging around the skyscrapers.

Re-imaginings can be tricky--both on careers and on franchises (Brandon Routh and Star Wars, anyone)--but this film was fun and smart from start to finish. For an advance look at another film that is seeking to breathe some new life into a treasured standard, take a look at this trailer (WARNING: THIS IS A HEAVY TRAILER--NOT FOR KIDS!):

2.05.2013

The Communication Spectrum

With the recent breaking news on the discovery of King Richard III's skeletal remains found beneath an English car park, it's interesting to consider the man's contributions to the world of information. While vilified throughout history and in literature, KR III relaxed restrictions on Gutenberg's printing press in the 1480s. He allowed for the distribution of texts. In short, he was a champion of democratizing the written word.

How important was the printing press? One of the profound ideas that Walter Ong posits is that:

  • More than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness. (78)
Because writing is a complex technology, its impacts on cognitive theory have been immense. In essence, writing allowed scholars and thinkers and people of all sorts to "get out of their own heads." De-cluttering the human consciousness (and think of how hard it must have been for primarily oral cultures to memorize and perform such complex narratives as the Iliad and the Odyssey) allowed for a record to be created. This freed the mind up to move to new ventures--creating advancement and progress in the cultivation of information.


When we think about scholars like Ong (who had a charming appreciation for the authenticity and lyrical nature of primary orality), we often consider how communication has changed and shifted through the decades. Ong's assertions in Orality and Literacy seem to herald a rejuvenation of secondary orality--an idea that the digital present will return us to the fluid and dynamic communication culture that shifted when print technology enclosed the written word and held it captive on the page.

Richard Lanham has posited similar thoughts. Once an alphabet becomes transparent (as it is beginning to become to my three-year-old daughter, which is really a sight to see), then the essence of the words themselves prevail. That is to say, once we start to look past the singularity of the letters themselves, the "treeness" of the word "tree" steps to the forefront of our cognitive mind. When that process has been achieved, Lanham believes, the next logical step will be to rethink how we create meaning from this evolving communication landscape. That step takes the form of collaboration, remix, reinterpretation, and "play," for lack of a better term.

In The Gutenberg Elegies, Sven Birkerts advances the notion that moving beyond a meaningful print  culture will have profound impacts on our society, cognitive ability, and appreciation for history. His theories are among the most interesting and important I've found in my education in texts and technology. Honestly, kids still require an approach to linear, close analysis that is being circumvented in our present digital avalanche. There is no reason we can't teach these literacies side by side.

And finally, as I was reading Jay David Bolter's Writing Space last evening (very intelligent, engaging text, by the way), it occurred to me that a sincere irony in our present circumstance is that print texts still represent our most "fail-safe" approach to archiving. Network failure, cyber security, and that vaunted notion of "data heaven" represent very real threats to the digitized word. Thankfully, print culture will always maintain an important presence in the informational marketplace... 


Uncovering Original Ideas

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope....