Killer Poetry

We’ve had killer fiction on our radar screen for a while. Now here comes the tragic tale of… killer poetry!

A former teacher was detained in Russia’s Urals after being accused of stabbing an acquaintance to death in a dispute about literary genres, investigators said Wednesday.

The 67-year-old victim insisted that “the only real literature is prose,” the Sverdlovsk Region’s branch of the Investigative Committee said.

The victim’s assertion outraged the 53-year-old suspect, who favored poetry, and the dispute ended with the ex-teacher stabbing his friend to death, investigators said.

Ridiculous! I cannot imagine any circumstance in which arguing over the world of ideas can possibly be… wait, what?

This is not the first time high-brow disputes have led to bloodshed in Russia. In September, a man was shot in a line for beer in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don after enraging a fellow beer drinker with his views about the work of Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant.

I stand corrected. Kant – that’s different! Fellow beer drinkers be warned: Don’t mess with my views of Immanuel Kant!

Who’s Cheating America: Lonesome Highway Edition

Ah, the joys of interstate travel! Europe may have trains, but we Americans have the I-system. The open road! Freedom! Purple mountains! Amber waves!

And for those of us who love the wide-open feeling of hitting the road, there are all the little wayside restaurants and truck stops and lonely old gas stations. Selling Cokes and coffee and all that good road food.

Okay, some are disgusting. Some have bathrooms that feel almost sub-human. But the clean, well-run places – like the Flying J Travel Centers – are welcome oases.

I love the Flying J! Second only to Sheetz on my list of welcome sights at the bottom of Interstate offramps.

It turns out that the Flying J Travel Centers are run by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. We’ve had some issues with NFL owners in the past, as well as the NFL itself… but here’s a good story. The Flying J! Clean, well-lighted joints where Americans need them most! Thank you, Jimmy Haslam!

Except for one problem… America is being cheated. And the Flying J is at the heart of itContinue reading

Small Press Shout-Out: Akashic Books!

Here we go! Back to Brooklyn for another small press shout-out. This week, we look at Akashic Books, which describes itself as

a Brooklyn-based independent company dedicated to publishing urban literary fiction and political nonfiction by authors who are either ignored by the mainstream, or who have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers.

They have at least one blockbuster you no doubt have heard of – the megahit Go the F*** to Sleep and the G-rated version Seriously, Just Go to Sleep.

Detective and crime aficionados will want to take a look at their Noir series, which is edited by luminaries like George Pelecanos and Joyce Carol Oates, and which includes titles like Brooklyn Noir and Cape Cod Noir (and D.C. and Detroit and Dallas and Dublin and Delhi and London and New Jersey and the Midwest and Mumbai and New Orleans and Moscow and… oh, just go look at the whole page, they all look great.

And oh, good lord: Ziggy Marley wrote a children’s book!? Apparently so, and apparently it’s called I Love You TooWell, of course it is. Those of us who spent much of the late-80s blasting Tomorrow People from the boombox will be smiling along with me, I’m sure.

Did I hallucinate this, or did I see Ziggy Marley twice in concert? I seem to recall going to see Ziggy Marley, Cheap Trick, and INXS – and also seeing Ziggy Marley opening for Stevie Nicks on another tour. Could that be? And were the Sugarcubes part of the latter? Ah, the 80s. Tripping on Mountain Dew… it’s all such a bright, colorful blur…

Final note: if you’re like me and you tend to see a good book listed somewhere, then you wander over to Amazon to save a few bucks, fear not! Akashic Books offers 25% off every book, every day. So you can buy from their website. Good luck, Akashic Books! I love you too!

Previous Small Press Shout-Outs:

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love CreateSpace (Okay, Okay, I’m Still Worried)

Readers, you have been extremely patient. I know not everyone is on board with the Kindle or other e-device. Curiously, I’ve heard from a lot of people who once had a Kindle and have stopped using it. One wonders what the future will bring. In the meantime, I’m trying to make my books available to as many readers as possible. And with that…I am unveiling…

race-cover4

Yes, the print version has been formatted both inside and out. I’m still awaiting the proofs, which should take another week or so, depending on shipping times. And soon after that, if all goes well, you too can own a copy of your very own for the low low price of $4.99.

I’m extremely excited. So why am I concerned? What’s the fly in my bonnet? Continue reading

What They Knew #27

“A wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle…”

– Vladimir Nabokov

Who’s Cheating America: The Overzealous Recyclers

We take care of the elderly in America! These are our beloved grandparents and great-grandparents. We want them to be healthy. We make sure they’re getting their medications. And they often need it! Thanks to miracles of modern science, different medications keep those brains sharp and those hearts beating.

If you’ve ever been to a nursing home, you know what the cupboards look like. Prescription bottle after prescription bottle, all sitting there, waiting to be used.

And what if prescriptions change or the resident passes away? What happens to those unused pills? They can’t just be thrown out, can they? Don’t they seep into the water supply? Of course they do. They need to be disposed of properly!

You can probably guess where I’m headed with this. The recycling never happened! Or it did and someone got stuck with the bill who wasn’t supposed to. Grieving relatives? Underresourced nursing homes?

Oh no. That would be a story in and of itself. But that’s not this story.

This story is so much worseContinue reading

Popova on Lightman

Just when I get beyond my fear of falling into a black hole, along comes Maria Popova to throw me back into a cosmic tailspin.

In the title essay of his excellent The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew, which also gave us this beautiful meditation on science and spirituality, Alan Lightman points to fine-tuning — the notion that the basic forces propelling our universe appear to be fine-tuned in such a way as to make the existence of life possible — as a centerpiece of how modern scientists have attempted to answer these age-old question [of why our world exists and what nothing is].

So far so good. Here’s where I start to get uneasy:

The most compelling example of fine-tuning is dark energy — an invisible and unexpected cosmological force that hides in empty space and works against the universe’s slowing expansion, a sort of “cosmic accelerator pedal” that is speeding up its expansion and causing galaxies to drift away from one another.

Don’t… like… dark… energy… (takes deep breath). Too much is unexplained! And having its foot on the accelerator pedal… well, that just seems malicious to me. Things fall apart! The center does not hold! And the universe is stuffed with something we don’t understand!

Popova quotes Lightman:

On one thing most physicists agree. If the amount of dark energy in our universe were only a little bit different than what it actually is, then life could never have emerged. A little larger, and the universe would have accelerated so rapidly that matter in the young universe could never have pulled itself together to form stars and hence complex atoms made in stars. And, going into negative values of dark energy, a little smaller and the universe would have decelerated so rapidly that it would have recollapsed before there was time to form even the simplest atoms.

Huh. Maybe I’ll read the Lightman book, which Popova praises to the, ahem, skies:

[E]xquisitely mind-bending read in its entirety, the kind that will leave you at once educated and disoriented, but above all able to embrace and celebrate the profound uncertainty that propels rather than hinders human knowledge.

Certainly a ringing endorsement from one of my favorite ringing endorsementers.

Then again, just look at that title. The accidental universe? The world I thought I knew? No thanks!

Certainty is hard to come by in this world, Mr. Lightman. I’ll take my share and get out.