Monthly Archives: June 2015

Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction

crime fiction

Here’s’ about 20 crime stories written or published from the 1950’s through the 1980’s. The stories range from deep and dark to short and sweet, well, sweet for a crime story.  At one point I had to take a break from the book as one of the stories was really dark. Twisted dark. Hopeless.  When I picked it back up again, I read the first line of the next story. “At twenty-five minutes past midnight on 51st Street, the wind-chill factor was so sharp it could carve you a new asshole.” That story was dark to, but not hopeless, and by one of the best short story writers around, Harlan Ellison. There were several stories here that I enjoyed.  I have a soft spot for the hard boiled detective. There was I time when I read all the Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler I could get my hands on.  Heck, I wanted to be Hammett: writer, Pinkerton agent, bad-ass. So those stories were good.  I liked “Soft Monkey,” Ellison’s story with the great opening line.  I liked “This World, Then the Fireworks,” the story that influenced me to give the book a rest.  I told myself I’d read that story again just to be sure it was a creepy as it seemed (the depravity in that one was subtle). I even liked the over-the-top story of the men forced to fight to the death in a pit by crazy snake-handling Appalachian hillbillies. (Not so subtle that one.)

One thing I would do differently next time I come across a book of short stories in my to-read pile is not read it straight through. That doesn’t give me enough time to digest the gems or forget the dogs, and they get a bit mixed in my head. Instead I’ll make it my Monday night treat (or whatever day), something to be savored and enjoyed rather than hurried through like a novel.

Nocturnal

nocturnal

I didn’t know anything about this book other than it was by Sigler (I’d listened to a podcast of another of his books) and in the horror section. It started out as police procedural, then I thought it was going to be a werewolf book, and then it kept surprising me. Great characters. Great original premise. Over the top in its gruesomeness? Maybe, but again, it was in the horror section. Good fun, great page turner. Sigler can definitely write a book that you want to keep reading.

Treadmill Films 46-54 — Good Films

Good films are about the things we all struggle with, those things that make us human.  Good films help us to realize that we’re not so very different from each other, that we have more in common with each other than we have differences.  Good films address this universal humanness in a very specific way; and in these specific stories we are able to find ourselves.  I don’t have to be a heartbroken hobo, a gender confused child, or a struggling artist to find my own story in their stories.  And of course a good film does all of these things well.  It’s a great thing when an artist creates good art. But one person with a brush, paint, and canvass I can understand.  It takes a lot of people to make a movie.  It’s really a miracle that so many good movies are out there.

I think the movies in this batch run from good to great. I’m sure it says something about me that I think three of the four great ones are the ones about kids.

Other stats for this batch: 4 are about a struggling artist of sorts, 3 are (almost) 40 years old or older, 2 are foreign language films, and 1 is a documentary.

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Tomboy. Oh to wrap our kids up and keep them safe. Best father daughter hug ever. Amazingly talented young actors. A lot good here. See it.

The Kid with a Bike. Heart breaking, heart warming quiet little good Samaritan story. Love looks like this: saying hold on, but not so hard.

The Croupier. A lot is cool about this movie’s plot and protagonist. Too cool maybe? And who zoomed who at the end? I didn’t quite follow.

The Hustler. Is it only possible to win by cutting all ties & standing alone? Does money ruin the purity of competition? Isn’t Paul dreamy?

The Conversation. Liked all the parts–sound, scenes, performances, music, the 1974ishness of it all. But altogether it didn’t click for me.

Mud. Huck and Jim, and can a boy believe in love, and family and friendship is hard but worth it, and great performances. Amazing movie.

Amadeus. My kids: That looks like the most boring movie ever. Me: I know, but it’s really good. The first adult movie I remember liking.

Taxi Driver. My theory: Travis Bickle is America of the 1960’s/70’s. We don’t know how to solve our problems here, so we use guns far away.

Surfwise. Crazy dad seems right about this: It’s easier to die when you’ve lived. So go out and make memories. That way you don’t die alone.

A Revision – Triolet

I pointed

When my mom asked me, “Where’s the poem?”

“Right there.”

“Oh,” she said. “I like my poems to rhyme.”

“Your English teacher did you a disservice,” 

“Probably so. Probably so.”

 

See to me, that’s not a bad little poem right there, accidental though it may be. (When I realized that I did edit it just a bit.)

As an English teacher, I heard my mom’s viewpoint a lot. How can it be a poem if it doesn’t rhyme. The short answer is, of course, there’s a lot more to a poem than rhyming. What’s even more difficult than appreciating free verse is writing it. Here’s the craft box–make something. Little kids and the uninhibited will dive right in. The rest of us, especially teenagers who are terrified of taking chances, doing the wrong thing, and looking dumb, freeze up. And we (English teachers) get this:

I had a dog

He ate a frog

Fell off a log

And found a cog

I found, both for myself and my students, that a little structure can go a long way in both thawing out some of that fear and building confidence. One of my favorites for this is the triolet. It’s a simple little form from the 16th century. And while any good poem takes some effort, I’ve found that many of my students surprise themselves with this form. It’s easy to write something cute and fun if not deep and profound. This is the lesson that I use with my kids. 

And so, for my parents, and all those who grew up with the regular rhythm and rhyme of the fireside poets, I offer this compromise–something between free verse and Longfellow–my poem “I had one criteria when Linda asked” rewritten as a triolet.

 

When we went on our blind date

I chose the man who’s tall

Be it luck, or god, or fate

When we went on our blind date

His name was Bill or Sam or Nate

I wondered if he’d call

When we went on our blind date

I chose the man who’s tall

 

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Plainview #24

Our kids, the neighborhood vandals. Student Podcasts. The movie Comedian.  The t.v. shows The Office and My Name is Earl. Matt joins Hapkido.  Mare stresses out.

It’s funny to think back to when we watch television shows at the time and dates when they were broadcast by the networks.  We only do that now if it’s a Chief’s game or there is a tornado warning.

Remember Milo

After returning home from Arizona, I continued to write letters home from Kansas State.  The highlight for me from this letter is the obvious Letterman reference in paragraph two.

Monday [Sept.] 22

Family,

Hi Ho

Glad to hear Mike ran well Thursday. I called Gram & Gramp yesterday to thank them for the fridge.  Gramp was at the farm helping with the Milo harvest, but I did get to talk to Gram. She said mike ran well and of course she enjoyed going to see him. She said she had just baked an apple pie and needed someone around to eat it.

Mike–guess who’s coming to Manhattan Friday. Friday at 3 PM the Pikes are having the Otis Day and the Knights play at a porch party.  They are charging $10 for the band and refreshments. We will probably be able to hear them from here, or could just go listen from the street.  Also, Second City–the comedy group from which came Bill Murray, John Belushi, John Candy, etc. will be here in October ($5). And–as if that weren’t enough–and by golly, don’t you think it ought to be–the Rainmakers (Let My People Go-Go) will also be here in October.  Don’t tell me that Manhattan isn’t the cultural center of the conquered universe.

Well, we had a party yesterday–no Saturday, yeah, Saturday.  I never did get a date. I tried. I tried.  But next time I guess I’ll have to start trying earlier.  After a few tries I decided that I wasn’t going to go with some bimbo I didn’t even know, so I said, “punt it” and went by myself. I ended up having a good time anyway.

Mom, I saw your old sweetie’s kid at Icthus last week–K C. I talked to her some.  (Asked her to the party but the Theta pledges were having some kind of retreat that weekend.  I know–I asked two of ’em.)

C called last night.  I think she and I are going to go to Coffeyville this weekend and meet M and maybe M S and watch P play some ball.  C’s still at KU of course, M is at ORU, and M S is still at Liberal, but may (or may not) come here in a semester or two.

I guess L somehow took a pill which had penicillin in it.  She is real allergic to the big P. and had a very severe reaction to it. It put her in the hospital for a little more than a week where she learned how “dumb-butt-ish” army doctors are.  I guess she’s alright now.  Usually if one misses more than a week of basic they have to repeat all of it.  But whoever is in charge is letting her continue on.

So I probably won’t go to the Renaissance Festival in KC–although I think it would be cool and that Mike might like it. C’s mom and dad are going–you might see them there.

Gotta go eat lunch.  Mike, if you are interested in seeing any of the attractions listed earlier, let me know.  See ya all later.  Good luck at Clay. I love you.

Love,

Matt

Short Book Reviews #1

I feel bad using up a whole blog post for my little one line reviews from Goodreads.  So I present a few of them.  That makes me feel a little less bad.

Doctor Who II Volume 2: When Worlds Collide

who

How is it that the comics make more sense than the TV series.

Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales Of The Here And Now

futuristic

Mixed bag. Enjoyed some of the stories and art, and others not so much.

Night of the Crabs

crabs

Kind of a silly pulp kick this summer.

NASTY LITTLE F!#*ERS

grubs

Silly fun.

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

martin

Listening to Steve read it to you is the way to go.

Strawberry Bowl

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This artist didn’t exactly give me this piece. In fact she’s not really even my student, although I did have her in study hall this year. She was in there sometimes. And sometimes she was off doing other things (socializing). I acquired this piece because my daughter was in the art room at the end of the year when everything was being cleaned out. The artist held this bowl up and said, “Who wants this?” Maly snatched it. It’s not perfect. The glaze is uneven; there are parts the glaze doesn’t cover at all. But look how pretty it is holding some fresh-picked strawberries. For that job, it is perfect.

That’s How We Do A House

This is the last letter from Arizona.  At the end of the summer, little brother few to Arizona, and the two of us drove home via San Diego, Los Angles, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, family in Colorado, and the long drive through Western Kansas. We were 19 & 17.  Dont’ ask me if I’d let my kids do that at that age. At any rate, we arrived home alive and unharmed, despite our shady lodgings in the city of angles–no phone in our room–had to walk to the corner to use the pay phone to order pizza–one of us made the call while the other kept an eye on the young men hanging out down the street. Based on this letter, it appears that I have done at least one good day’s hard work in my life.  The Kentucky Fried Chicken mentioned below is the one I fell off of when my ladder came out from under me, dumping me and a half-gallon of yellow paint into the drive through.  As a result, I went to the emergency room just in case. That story didn’t seem to make it into a letter.  I’ve done a little research, it appears that “antsy” is the preferred spelling.

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Family

Typical long 13 hr day yesterday–well, let’s start on Wednesday.  We started a house Wednesday. That is D, K, and myself. First D & K sprayed the whole outside of the house with the first coat.  Meanwhile I cut in around the windows with a roller and held the shield for them where necessary.  Then they put on the second coat and helped me wash the windows where they over-sprayed or I “over-rolled.” That all took about 5-6 hours and was the end of Wed. (Wed. morning we wall papered a Kentucky Fried Chicken place.) Then yesterday K & I started about 6 AM (D had a meeting with a guy til 7:30). He wiped off the fascia–the trim around the top of the house–and started brushing on its first coat.  Meanwhile I taped off the windows on the inside.  Then I helped him finish the fascia while D did some spraying on the inside–the ceiling.  Then I caulked the shelves (I caulked the windows yesterday). THEN K finished spraying the inside of the house and D & I stained all of the doors and trim (Most houses just have painted doors & trim.) (Bout 12-13 hours) Finally this morning we sealed the doors & trim and cut in the walls & ceiling (2 hrs).  Alls that’s left is to sand the doors & trim & touch up.  So I guess that’s pretty much how we do a house.

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Right now the S’s are getting ready to go to Tuscon. They are going to spend the night.  Then tomorrow morning at 6:00 K & L are going to come get me and we’re going to the Chericowas (spelling prob. not even close) to hike.  D said he was going to pay me what I needed for school next semester which I told him was $2500.  He said fine.  Last Sunday we and the C’s went to Tuscon to pick up D C at the airport.  We ate at El Torito–goooood. All you could eat Mexican food – yum.  Strolling musicians too.  I really don’t have anything exciting to tell you.  I didn’t do anything this week much except work.

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Sunday evening July 6

Yesterday in the mountains was really nice. (If wrong spelling doesn’t help you to locate them–they run N & S and are located just west of New Mexico & just north of Old Mexico.) They were lush green–like Colorado Mts.  the first ones we climbed (weeks ago) were pretty dry and rocky–but not these.  We ended up going about 12 that’s T-W-E-L-V-E miles.  It was good and I didn’t hurt at all this morning. As a matter of fact, D & I just finished a 3 or 4 mile run.  Best I’ve run in a long time.  We ran from C’s house to here.  they (the C’s) had lunch here after church, then we played some cards–Nerts–then we watched a video at their house (Turk182–not bad, pretty good, ok) and then ran home.  Yesterday I got a letter from the Colorado Slocombe’s informing me of their move and telling me what was going on in general–that was nice. Tomorrow work starts at 5:30 AM (98.6 on your FM dial) so I had better hit the sack.  Thanks a lot for your call Friday, although it made me a little ancey, ancy, ancie, ? to come home.  Tell everyone out there in Abilene land “Hay!” Be sure to try to find out when I need to be back to Manhattan cuz I want to spend a least a week at home before that.  Tell C thanks for the good letter and Mike–you should bring her to Icthus with ya’ll.  Cuz I say so.  See ya soon. I love you all.  Night night.

Love

Matt

4-H Cows, Cooking, and Patience

4h

I was reminded of 4H last month when my daughter was trying to get her TSA (Technology Student Association) project done in time for state competition. Her project was a children’s book about science. She only had the entire school year to get her book and the accompanying paperwork complete. But for some reason we were at school Saturday evening trying to get everything copied and digitized and saved and ready to go before leaving for state conference the next morning. She kept waiting for me, I think, to get angry. And of course I was becoming more and more annoyed as she discovered more requirements that she had overlooked in getting her project ready. But I kept remembering working on my 4H record book, filling out the last of the boring paperwork required for each project before its entry in the fair. “This has to be done today!” my parents repeated.  “Projects go in tomorrow!” I swore loudly to my parents that each year would be my last. I also remembered my mother at my dad’s office, typing my essay on one of the typewriters as I decoded my handwriting for her; we were there until one o’clock in the morning sometimes. These 4H projects and school assignments could have easily been done before the last minute. It’s really only at this point in my life, 30 years after I closed my last 4H record book, that I actually try and generally succeed at getting things done before the last minute. So while I was as annoyed as all get out at my girl child, I kept remembering my own last-minute experiences and my patient mother typing away at dad’s office, and I managed to keep my cool.