Friday, January 30, 2009

Well, this made my weekend.

Actual print magazine with a website.

Hi Jamie,

Thank you so much for your email, and submission. I would like to publish it in the magazine. At the moment it is around 500 words too long, as our articles are all between 1000-1500 words. Would you mind cutting it down to near 1500words?
The photos are great too, and it should look great on our website.

Thank you again!

Best regards,
Lucy


That feels good.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Like Superman's Cape.

Madrid doesn't get that cold. Usually. This winter has been a little chilly.

Being from a Vermont, and therefore, a Norseman, I don't mind the cold. When it gets down to minus thirty fahrenheit (which it does in Vermont) I mind it a bit. But here it dips down to plus thirty only rarely. Because of that, I only have a black jean jacket and a windbreaker here for coats. But, in my continuing quest to become the ultimate metrosexual, Wendy suggested I get a leather jacket. I was open to the idea because every now and then (like standing, not moving for two hours, waiting for an event to start in the middle of winter) I wouldn't mind something a little heavier. Visions of a long black leather coat like Spike and Angel wore danced in my head. Wendy's thoughts tended to lean toward something a little more fashionable.

So this weekend we went coat shopping.

The first coat we tried on looked okay. Not fantastic, but pretty good. It was waist length and black. The second coat was brown and looked awful. The third was black, a little longer and it too looked awful.

The fourth coat was the longest of all and had a price tag of eight hundred Euros.

Eight hundred Euros is like a thousand American dollars. A thousand dollars for a coat. The salesman used his key to unlock it from its chain and I put it on. It was like a second skin. It came in around the waist and made my back and chest look bigger. It had flairs on the collars that highlighted my beard and cheekbones.

"Oh God, he's smiling" Wendy says to the salesman who is thinking about the lobster dinner he's going to buy with his commission.

"It does look great on him."

He said "great" because good isn't a strong enough word to describe how I looked in this coat. I was more muscular. More dashing. I think my penis was bigger. I was ready for the runway. I was ready to twirl at the end, not smile and give a haughty look to no one in particular as I made my way back off stage. I was ready for the red carpet over the shoulder pose.





It reminded me of something Wendy said in Baiona when a restaurant served us the most delicious bread.

"This bread is so good I want to take it home and sleep with it."

That's how I felt about that coat. It called to me like a lover.

I've never understood, until that moment, how anyone could pay a fortune for a piece of clothing, a handbag or shoes. Now I understood. I also understood why actors look like Gods at movie premieres or the Oscars. If a schlep like me looks this good in a thousand dollar coat, imagine what Brad Pitt looks like in a ten thousand dollar coat.

It was eye opening.

(The coat remains safely chained up at "The Corte Ingles" awaiting my return. We're going to see if we can find that style a little cheaper elsewhere. )

A lot eye-opening these days. I am trying to do a different form of writing that is really not my style. I'm a rambler. An anecdote teller. Long winded you could say. So, I've discovered that there are magazines that claim they are not looking for travel writing that lists places to stay and rates and maps to attractions. No, they are looking for anecdotes, quotes from people we met, things that make readers feel like they are there. Candy came up with a good name for them, "Travel Memoirs."

So last week I tried to mine my website and my book in perpetual progress "I'm not an alcoholic, I'm just European" for things that would make a good article. Which turned out to be far more difficult that I imagined because of the writer's guidelines. They want quotes and anecdotes and descriptions of your experiences, but they also want it in twelve hundred words. I have found that most of my stories about anyplace are five to ten times as long as that. As usual, Wendy gave me some great advice on accomplishing what I need to do, but it's a struggle. I'm not used to writing short concise pieces that leave out so much of my notes. But I'm learning.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Happy New Year!

Damn right it's a new year. A new start. A new hope. Happy Obama Day!

Yesterday started out with me celebrating with lots of blood as new aparatus was put into the bottom of my mouth at the dentist's. He had a packed schedule and needed to fit me in so he didn't have time to be gentle. As I arrived he shook my hand and said "Great day for America, huh?"

"Yeah. We're very excited."

"Great day for the whole world actually."

Exactly.

(While I am filled with hope, I still wish Hillary had won. Obama continues to try and reach across the aisle while the number one question on most American's mind is "Are you going to pursue criminal charges against Bush and his cronies for his many misdeeds?")

HBO wins the "dick of the year" award for buying the rights to "We are One" the Obama inauguration concert and then not letting anyone post it online or allowing countries other than the US to view it. You can't view it from Spain. It checks your IP and tells you "Sorry, only for Americans." (Unless you're a computer guy like me and can find a work- around.) Which is bullshit considering this is a world event and the whole world wants to celebrate. It is available from their website if you live in the US and then it streams it in a small box that you can't pause, rewind or make full screen. We watched it anyway and it was inspirational. I was moved and enjoyed it far more than I would have thought. Wendy cried.

We then went out to a Democrats Abroad Inauguration party at the Inter-Continental Hotel which had dinner and open bar for four hours and met up with Lena, Stefan, Strother, Benjamin, Alana, JB, Sue and many others. The company was excellent and we had a great time. The paella sucked, the "band" (and by band I mean a woman singing bad seventies songs with a tape deck to back her up. No band.) sucked but the boiled ham, atmosphere and drinks were excellent.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Don't worry about Global Warming

Remember a long time ago I listed all the ways humanity could be just wiped out?

Every 500,000 years on average, a one-kilometer meteor hits the Earth, causing massive damage, extinctions, climate change, etc.

“On March 23, 1989 the 300 meter (1,000-foot) diameter Apollo asteroid 4581 Asclepius (1989 FC) missed the Earth by 700,000 kilometers (400,000 miles), passing through the exact position where the Earth was only six hours before. If the asteroid had impacted it would have created the largest explosion in recorded history.”

And of course, we have those Super-Volcanoes to worry about.

“A National Geographic documentary called Earth Shocks portrayed the destructive impact of the rapid eruption of Lake Toba some 75,000 years ago and caused a phenomenon known as the Millennial Ice Age that lasted for 1000 years and wiped out more than 60% of the global population of the time. An eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano was originally one of the scenarios depicted in the docu-drama End Day, but was excluded from all airings to date for unknown reasons and is only presently mentioned at the show's BBC website.”

To Refresh : Yellowstone National Park is the world's largest super-volcano. If it explodes, it will be a disaster on the scale humanity has never scene. We're talking so many particles in the air it will be like a nuclear winter. It explodes about once every 300,000 years. It has been 330,000 years since the last explosion.

In Time this week - "Numbers: 500 - Estimated number of earthquakes that shook Yellowstone National Park between Dec 26th and Jan 1, triggering fears of a massive hydrothermal explosion."

500 Earthquakes in a week.

Scary.

In lighter news, Wendy and I watched "Love Actually" last night. We've seen it three or four times each over the years and last night's viewing was probably the best. Maybe it's because we haven't seen anything amazing for a while, but really, the film is just so well written, acted, directed. Everything about the film was perfect. Each scene just the right length. Each line masterfully crafted. Highly recommended.

In the middle of it I paused the film, took Wendy's hands in mine and turned towards her and looked deep into her eyes.

"You know, it is moments like this that just remind me how special you are. How great we have it. I just want you to know... I love you like a hamburger."

Wendy points a finger at me "That is not becoming part of your repertoire."

"Okay, that was the last time. I promise."

Sorry for the lack of really long updates. They will probably continue for a while. The books Wendy gave me for Christmas opened my eyes to a number of places I could be selling stories. And, I have come to the conclusion that getting an agent and selling a book will be much easier if I have a resume as long as my arm of places that I have been published.

I have spent this week looking at websites, writer's guidelines, appropriate markets and mining this website and my always in progress book for articles of the appropriate length and content for different places.

I have already recieved my first rejection.

I am sure it is the first of many, but as my fortune cookie told me so long ago - "Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Global Warming my ass! (More book reviews)

Two inches of snow and below zero (C) weather for two days.

In Madrid!

As promised, more book reviews. Next update will be a little thing about life in Madrid and why you shouldn't give money to beggars. Even as a Paladin. (Not that I'm a Paladin, but I try hard.)

I have to admit, I get a guilty pleasure from going to Amazon and reading negative reviews of books I don't love. "The Wheel of Time" reviews have provided me with countless hours of laughter.

"Have you ever wondered how many stripes should be on the dublet of an important dignatary from Illian? How many shawl twitches are appropriate when Aes Sedai negotiate momentous agreements? What kind of stool the general of an Aes Sedai army sits on, and how stable said stool might be? Well buckle up for a wild ride, amigo, because you're going to learn all that (and more!) by the time you've tediously slogged to the conclusion of this book.

Part of what really makes Mr. Jordan's worlds so unique are the wonderful characters which populate them. I like nothing more than to scratch my head in befuddlement as yet another Aes Sedai is reintroduced into the plot whom I can no longer recall. It gives me an excuse to page to the back of the book and open up the 'Robert Jordan Appendix of Useless and Irrelevent Characters' which is always such a joy. I've created my own drinking game based on this called, [...]
For anyone who wants to play along the rules are simple:

1.) Is the character you're looking up totally irrelevent? Take a drink.
2.) Do you have reason to suspect said character will remain totally irrelevent? Take a drink.
3.) Does the character twitch her shawl? Take two drinks.
4.) Is she looking "cross-eyed" at someone? Take a drink.
5.) Do you know the exact design of the embroidery on the fringe of her shawl? Of course you do - take a drink. For your own sanity, consider taking another."



This morning I had to go read some of the "Twilight" reviews and was happy to see there are many people who feel the same surging of bile in the back of their throat as I do.

While Christmas shopping this year I happened to find myself in Spencer's and they have a ton of great stuff. I desperatly wanted to buy a t-shirt emblazoned with "I eat pu*** like a fat kid eats chocolate cake." Actually, I wanted to buy three of them. One for me and one each for Lena and Stefan. I cannot fathom why I did not. One of the things that caught my eye, and I did buy, was "My horizontal life. A collection of one night stands" by Chelsea Handler.



While not a great book, it is an easy read and perfect to hold your attention while waiting for a plane to take off or sitting in a dentist's office. It's not x-rated but it delivers on what's promised. While not brilliantly written it is funny in some places, sad in others, pathetic in still more. Recommended for those who need a break from the heavy stuff.

Finally, on to the good stuff.

I'm going to have to kill George R. R. Martin soon. I don't think I'll be alone in that feeling if he continues to pretend that he is the late Robert Jordan.

In an airport somewhere (they all blur together these days) I saw GEORGE R. R. MARTIN's name blazing across the top of a book. A man in armor with a long white sword is standing next to a motorcycle and the title is "Inside Straight." Ah, a new Wildcards novel.



Dear Mr. Martin,

You bastard! When is the next book from "A Song of Ice and Fire" going to be out? We've only been waiting a decade now.

Love and kisses

Jamie
(Still not gay.)


Wait, on closer inspection it turns out he just edited "Inside Straight" and wrote one chapter. Still, even one second away from working on the book we're all waiting for is one second too long.

Let's talk about "A Song of Ice and Fire" series first. If you haven't read them, you're reaaallllly missing out. It starts with "A Game of Thrones." My mom is a voracious, if slow reader. She'll read about ten pages a day on a book she likes. She doesn't like fantasy at all. I begged her to read the first ten pages of the book. If she didn't like it, nothing lost.

She finished 807 pages in a week and grabbed the next one.



While working at the high school, one of the teachers I really liked came in on Friday and was looking for something to read.

"Cindy, try this book. Skip the awful prologue and read the first chapter, 'Bran.' It's ten pages. You won't be sorry."

I found it odd I didn't hear from her on Monday. Or on Tuesday. Usually people I recommend the book too can't wait to tell me how much they love it. I finally spotted her on Thursday.

"I guess you didn't like the book?"

Laughter. "What are you talking about? I finished the first two already and I'm here looking for the third."

"Excellent!"

She grabs my arm. "I couldn't believe it when they killed..."

"I know!"

And you won't believe it either.

Back to "Inside Straight."

I've read some wildcard novels before and found them about as good as "My Horizontal Life." A good read but nothing spectacular. This one was different. It was excellent.

Usually the wildcard novels are a series of short stories about different people hit by the wildcard virus which changes your body. Sometimes your head turns into that of a fly, sometimes you get super strength, flight and invulnerability.

(Have I ever mentioned I'm a mutant? I have a power that no one I have ever known has seen or heard of. When I yawn, sometimes, dozens of drops of water shoot out of my tongue and fly about two feet out of my mouth.

*yawn*

"Whoa" Wendy says and moves her book away from me.

"Sorry, did I just water you?"

She shows me the book and her arm with a couple dozen tiny water spots in a neat circle.

"Sorry about that.")

"Inside Straight" starts out with 10 unknown heroes competing on a reality show (I don't think I would make it very far unless one of the challenges was to put out a very small fire, and then well, any man could do that...) called "American Hero." This is entertaining enough, but the direction the book goes from there is fascinating. It is also a complete novel written by many people, not a collection of short stories. While not a masterpiece of fiction, I found it an excellent read and easily the best of the wildcard novels. Wendy read it as fast as I did as soon as I was done. Highly recommended.

Next is "The Best American Travel Writing" edited by Anthony Bourdain.



I had no idea there was such a market for writing of this kind. Essentially everything is in the same style as what I have been writing about on this website. I always thought only novels were published in such form, but, no. It was quite an education for me to see snippets of life in other countries without being actual guides to go and get food and lodging with phone numbers and directions. Something I do not excel at writing.

While the book has some boring stories and boring writers, a good portion of it is excellent. The man describing his life and driving in China was laugh out loud funny.

"After years of long queues, Chinese people have learned to be ruthless about cutting in line, an instinct that is disastrous in traffic jams. Toll booths are hazardous for the same reason. A 2004 World Health Organization report found that China, while having only 3 percent of the world's vehicles, accounted for 21 percent of it's traffic fatalities."

Or the guy going on his first hawking expedition in Pakistan.

"At the wheel is Sheikh Mohammed, a commercial real estate developer in Prada shades and rippling white robes who is picking up the tab for this year's Pakistan trip as a gift to his friends. And what a gift it is. Our expedition's camp employs a small army: dozens of cooks, launderers, mechanics and marksmen. Nobody keeps precise track of what this trip costs-not even Sheikh Mohammed. I don't ask but he's been known to shrug and say, "I stop counting after a million and a half."

To go hawking. In a country that lets other people build their schools since the government is too busy testing their nuclear weapons to be bothered with schools and fresh water.

Or the guy touring Africa when he ends up in Bahai. His guide tells him -

"Be careful of looking at Zaghawa women. The men will harm you if you approach their women. If you kill a woman, you will pay at least one hundred camels. A man, you will pay countless camels. Understand?

"Where would we get the camels?"

"Please, just try not to kill anyone."

"Right."

I loved it.

I felt like I had found a home.

In the same vein, also from The Beautiful Wendy was "Traveler's Tales, The Best Travel Writing." Which I haven't finished but is also ripe with humor and tragedy.



The chapter about a boy's life at sea with his father who sells everything and sails the open ocean with his kids and girlfriend reminded me a great deal of my friend Mizu's blog.

http://www.onuzim.blogspot.com/

There's also vastly educational articles like the one about why American Indians hate Mount Rushmore. They equate it to putting up an enormous statue of Hitler in the middle of Jerusalem. They call the founding fathers the founding terrorists. An educational and interesting read.

Much laughter is to be found in Jennifer Wells visit to Zimbabwe.

"I have a theory, supported by a great deal of data, that Western women lose twenty to thirty IQ points in the presence of a beautiful African man with dreadlocks. When the dreads are accompanied by good teeth, she can lose up to forty points. Depending on how smart she is to begin with, this can be a real problem."

Later, dancing at a club.

"'Is Zimbabwe your country?'

'Yes, mon.'

'Then why are you speaking in a Jamaican accent?'

'I'm Rastafarian, this is how we speak. My name is Kudakwashe-it means God's Will.'"

Later still...

"'Why don't you come to my house, mon, I want to show you my art.'

So here's a guy speaking in a fake accent, who doesn't know his spiritual guru was Ethiopian, and wants to show me his 'art.' I'm no fool. I know 'art' equals penis. I know this guy is a player, and is only hitting on me because I'm a wealthy foreigner. But I can't seem to wipe this stupid grin off my face.

Munya returns with the beers. Munya is a sweet man who always has a smile on his face. But he shot this guy a look of pure hatred. The Rasta scurried away.

'I know that guy, he's always hitting on white women.'

'Oh, you know Kudakwashe?'

Munya bursts out laughing. 'His name's not Kudakwashe, it's Brian! What's wrong with you white girls? You're all so smart and educated, but you fall for the Rasta game every time."

Or the travel writer who has documented so many places he finally decides to take his parents and friend "Bilby" on a cruise and write about that. He does so with horror and humor.

"Casino girls? Yes and by the second week of the cruise, they'd opened up to Bilby and me, upping our relationship beyond the dealer/gambler level to something like annoyed familiarity.

Bilby: 'Cynthia, I have a question about the rules. What would happen if all the cards caught fire simultaneously.?'

Me: 'Cynthia, I'm going to put this empty coin bucket on my head now, and I'll tip you two dollars if you say I look like an organ grinder's monkey.'

And Grinder. She was not an object of great beauty, or any beauty, especially when tucked into the floral yellow culottes the dealers wore on informal nights. She was from Bristol, fiercely working class, a sneerer, and probably a barroom brawler.

'Give me your chips. You're cashing in. We're not keeping the casino open just for you. Go on, off with yuhs before someone else comes in.'"

At the end of the journey he's actually fallen in love with it. He asks a crewmember where he can find the personnel departement.

"'I'm going to apply for a job,' I said. 'Captain. Stand on the bridge and go, 'Watch out for that whale!' There's an island. Hard astern.' I could do that.'

'It's not that easy,' Mike said, no humor, all business.

'Well,' I said, 'How about bread maker?'

'You could probobly do that.'"

The author is currently working on a memoir titled "Behind the Iron Skirt: Puzzling adventures with Russia girls.

I will be buying it.

That's all for today. I was going to leave you with a Rick Astley video link but now I find out that doing so is now a fad called "Rickrolling" somebody. I actually like Rick Astley and hate fads with dumb names, so I'll leave that part out.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I love you like a hamburger Part II

So, I bought Wendy a ring and some books for Christmas. She likes Barbara Kingsolvers essays and somehow, she had never read "Ender's Game"



So, I bought her the boxed set of Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Shadow of the Hedgemon. They decline in quality as they go. But Ender's Game is frikkin fantastic! A true Sci-fi classic about smart kids. I love stories about super geniuses. Good Will Hunting. Searching for Bobby Fischer. Little Man Tate. Ender. Great Stuff. She devoured it in about two days and finished the three in about a week. Then re-read Ender's Game. It's that good. I then read Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow for about the fifth time and loved them all over again. If you've somehow missed them, pick them up as soon as possible. You won't be disappointed.

In a moment of weakness, I also bought her "Twilight."



Look, it's a popular series they just made a movie about. I knew it wasn't any "Harry Potter" but I knew that millions of fans loved it. It was a romance novel. You know, for women. Or rather, girls. I figured we could see if the hype was justified.

It wasn't.

Look, no offense to an author who has made more money than me (so far) and has had her book be made into a movie, but this fucking thing is god-awful. The writing is fucking horrible. On the back cover it proudly proclaims "New York Times Editor's Choice" and Amazon "Best book of the decade" and Publisher's Weekly "Best Book of the Year."

This elicits nothing but sheer anger from me. Are you fucking kidding me? Sure it's a twelve year old's fantasy, but book of the year? The writing is just plain bad. The repitition is maddening. The number of times the main character fawns over her boyfriend's "angelic face" his "deep eyes" his "savage beauty" his muscular chest, his porcelin skin, his marble features, his... whatever. Hundreds of pages where the author can't stop describing how beautiful this boy is just gets so old! Both of us almost tore the book in half and threw it across the room in the first three hundred pages.

Oh, but don't worry, the first three hundred pages fly by. It's like the book is printed in large type for ancient people. The book is thick but widely spaced and the type is large.

"I love you like a hamburger" describes his love for her. A twisted thing neither of us can understand. How is this sexy? How can women love this? Actual quote follows.

"You see, every person smells different, has a different essence. If you locked an alcoholic in a room full of stale beer, he'd gladly drink it. But he could resist, if he wished to, if he were a recovering alcoholic. Now let's say you placed in that room a glass of hundred-year-old brandy, the rarest, finest cognac - and filled the room with it's warm aroma - how do you think he would fare then?"

This is why el vampire loves her. Because she smells good. And he wants to drink her fine, fine blood. This is about three steps below "I love you because you have a nice rack." And one step above "Want to be in my snuff film?"

It also shows a startling lack of comprehension about alcoholics and shows the love interest wants her like I want a thick bloody steak. How romantic!

On top of that, the innocence is sickening. These are late high school students we're talking about. One day the main character is talking with her friend.

"Has he kissed you yet?"
"Not yet."
"Do you think it will happen Saturday?"

Um, welcome to 2009. A more realistic conversation for anyone not writing a wet dream for a twelve year old girl would be -

"Has he kissed you yet?"
"Uh, I blew him on the way home from the movies the other night. Kissed me? What are you ten? This isn't 1950."

Not only that but the trend continues about making vampires more and more powerful. They used to move fast and be as stong as three men. In today's fiction they're as strong as the Hulk and as fast as the Flash. Oh yeah, and they glitter like gods in the sunlight.

There does come a time where a conflict is introduced and does make it a bit interesting, and she adds something to the vampire myth that also adds to the story, but all in all, it's pretty much crap.

Despite all this, we both read the book (grudgingly, and with much bitching) in about two days apiece. And sadly, we will watch the movie and might buy the second book. But only for the ideas, not for the writing, which is God-awful.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the good books I actually read and the revelation I came to thanks to Wendy's Christmas gifts.

In closing, some videos of interest.

Usually I hate WoW videos. But I just watched one unlike any I have ever seen. I can't grasp how it was done but it was spectacular. Even if you don't play WoW, it's worth the watch. The sound is very important to the overall feel so if you're at work, either close your door if you have one, or wait until you can watch it at home. If you don't play WoW you'll be interested to know there is a whole quest series where you go about exposing the woman who is a dragon and the conclusion in the game is epic and amazing.

The video. Really, really good.

http://vimeo.com/2625538

Lena sent me this youtube vid that is really entertaining. A three minute summary of the year that was. AND it has Rick Astley. Sorry, but I love him. In a totally non gay way. Well, maybe a little gay...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWiXy55OHyY

Monday, January 5, 2009

Capote

Look.

Philistines.

All Capotes are that color.

That is all.

More Thursday.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

"I love you like a hamburger."






This is the amazing gift The Beautiful Wendy gave me for Christmas. You can tell it's a real Capote because it stands up on its own. The thing weighs about forty pounds.Isn't she hot? She takes a good picture, right?

I'm totally going to kick ass at this years Capea since I'll have time to practice some passes and get a feel for where to choke up on it. I'm very excited.

I got Wendy a ring. Did you know emeralds are more expensive than diamonds? At least that's the way it seemed with the shopping I did. The prices on the emerald rings were out of my league. I started out wanting to get her a ring of her favorite color, a sort of red/purple and then stumbled on a beautiful emerald ring that reminded me her eyes were green. And it was in my price range!

Been trying to get back to this for days but not time. No time today either.

Maybe you can guess the reason for the title of the post. Its from a popular book we both just read. And it was awful.