Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Redux in the October Country

 Well, it's almost Halloween, and since I'm once again facing the terrifying prospect of taking my children trick-or-treating tomorrow night, I thought it appropriate (and appropriately lazy)  to re-post my Halloween Screed from last year. Because it still irritates me.

However, even though it was titled "Assholes and Autumn People" that post wasn't entirely about stupid people. It was also about October, which (along with November and May) is one of my favorite months, and Halloween, my favorite holiday, and Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite authors. Also, at the suggestion of Steve Bodio in last year's comment section, I'm adding the intro to Bradbury's classic short-story collection "The October Country" (photo above).

Anyway, enjoy. Or not. I don't really care.

A few random observations - both impolite and wistful -  on Halloween and the month of October...

First, a bit of a post-Halloween screed...

Since when did trick-or-treating with your children become a strictly vehicle-based activity? One in which the parents - who apparently can’t be bothered with the tiresome act of removing their lardasses from their vehicles and physically walking down the street with their children and, you know, engaging with them – instead kick said children out of the vehicle and slowly cruise along the street ignoring their kids and other pedestrians, updating their Facebook status on their phone and creating huge traffic and safety hazards.

Thanks for that.

What the hell, people? Is this what we’ve come to? Can we not, for one night a year, just one friggin’ night out of 365, park our cars – just this once – and take a walk instead of willfully disassociating ourselves from the opportunity to have a real, tangible, organic experience with our children?
You horrible, self-indulgent, fat, lazy, no-good, stupid-ass mo-fos; you squawking, shit-for-brained, lemming-like creatures whose asses are apparently connected - Avatar-like - with the heated, air-conditioned Corinthian leather seats in your steel cocoons, here’s a hint: Not only do you ruin the experience for the rest of us who still use our lower extremities for something other than operating a gas pedal, you ruin it for your own children, too.

How? By teaching them to grow up to be just like you. And if there’s one thing the world doesn’t need right now, it’s another generation of self-absorbed dickheads.

And this is just my opinion, but I’m pretty sure that, deep down, most eight-year-old girls don’t really want to be tarted-up pixie streetwalkers for Halloween. That’s your fantasy, and if you've secretly always harbored some Penthouse Forum daydream about rockin’ the stripper pole, hey, that’s cool, but maybe you shouldn’t be living that dream vicariously through your child. Just sayin’…

Just had to vent a little. I'm good now...

Last night, after we got home from trick-or-treating and got the kids out of their costumes and into bed, I grabbed a wee nip and curled up in the reading chair with some Ray Bradbury.

October is a restless month. It has always made me - even as a child - wistful and pensive, with a touch of fear at the transition it represents, not just of season, but of mood, being and mind. It’s the one month in which even this hoary, jaded old adult still feels some residual tug of an ancient, pagan magic we all once believed in as children, but which gradually lost its grip as we grew into adulthood.

And I don’t think there’s ever been a writer that captures the essence of, and speaks so eloquently to, my (for lack of a better term) ‘Octoberism” than Ray Bradbury. Reading “Something Wicked This Way Comes”   (or any Bradbury story) as an adult reminds me, just a bit, of what it was like to be a child who still possessed the capacity for wonder.

That and a stiff glass of scotch also makes a perfect balm for having to deal with assholes all evening...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Huntsman, What Quarry?" A Literary Criticism...

 Last weekend I took the boys (and Ozzy the pup) to spend a few days in my hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, visiting family and doing a little yard work for my grandmother. While there I was delighted to discover that the Norman Public Library, one of my favorite places in the whole world and a building in which a very sizable chunk of my childhood was spent in escapist bliss, was having its annual book sale.

So of course I hustled on down to see what could be had. I found a few good titles. A leather-bound limited first-edition "Bishop's Wildfowl" was a cool score for me, as was a copy of "Duck Shooting Along the Atlantic Tidewater." I also found an excellent condition ex-library 1958 hardcover (w/excellent dustjacket) "Martian Chronicles" as well as an old paperback copy of Richard Brautigan's "Trout Fishing in America", a UT Press copy of J. Frank Dobie's "Rattlesnakes" and a few others here and there. Nothing really terribly valuable or collectable, but nice books that I'll enjoy having on my shelf.

One of the books I picked up was a regrettably dustjacketless first-edition (1939) copy of Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Huntsman, What Quarry?" with an inscription that read "For Lucille, Damn the Torpedoes! Doris, 1944."

I love finding old books with cryptic inscriptions like that. Stokes the imagination. Most of them seem to have something to do with love, either its confounding mystery and vexation or its abiding power .

I don't know what inside joke Doris and Lucille had in mind back in '44, but it was a nice gift, from a time when the act of giving a book perhaps meant a little more than it does now. At any rate, I've been reading through the collection a bit, specifically the title poem, "Huntsman, What Quarry?" which reads thusly, and I'd like to offer my thoughts below...

"Huntsman, what quarry
On the dry hill
Do your hounds harry?

When the red oak is bare
And the white oak still
Rattles its leaves
In the cold air:
What fox runs there?"

"Girl, gathering acorns
In the cold autumn,
I hunt the hot pads
That ever run before,
I hunt the pointed mask
That makes no reply,
I hunt the red brush
Of remembered joy."

"To tame or to destroy?"

"To destroy."

"Huntsman, hard by
In a wood of grey beeches
Whose leaves are on the ground,
Is a house with a fire;
You can see the smoke from here.
There's supper and soft bed
And not a soul around.
Come with me there;
Bide there with me;
And let the fox run free."

The horse that he rode on
Reached down its neck,
Blew upon the acorns,
nuzzled them aside;
The sun was near setting;
He thought, "Shall I heed her?"
He thought, "Shall I take her
For a one-night's bride?"

He smelled the sweet smoke,
He looked the lady over;
Her hand was on his knee;
But like a flame from cover
The red fox broke-
And "Hoick! Hoick!" cried he.

Dude, you're an idiot...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My First Taste of Hunishment and Some PF Goodness

                                                        Photo By Anthony Hauck

I totally ripped off this photograph from the Quail Forever Facebook page. It was taken during last month's Montana trip and depicts the moment I finally exacted my revenge on the LGB's (little gray bastards) that had up to that point frustrated Anthony and me to no end. Wild flush after wild flush after wild flush. No fault of the dogs, either, just tough conditions. I began to develop something of a grudge. And when I finally got the chance to take my first shot at a Hun, it ended up being a close walk-up single, just like a quail. You can read about it here, if you are so inclined (and I urge you to be so inclined...). Huns are neat birds, but a bit unpredictable, sort of a crazy Slavic cousin to our allegedly genteel bobs. I like them much.

                                                          Photo by Anthony Hauck

This second pic, also by Pheasants Forever's Anthony Hauck shows an absolutely beautiful chunk of Montana prairie that was purchased by PF, lovingly restored, and then enrolled in Montana's block management program for the perambulatory pleasure of upland hunters everywhere. Coffee Creek, it's called, and it's a gorgeous place that I hope to hunt again if I can sell enough plasma to make it back up to Montana next fall.

I'm proud to say that PF/QF is my favorite conservation group. They're doing inspired work on all fronts, from the sewage-and-rot-filled halls of Congress to pristine grassland temples like Coffee Creek, and they're doing it on not a lot of money or resources. If you're not a member, then damn it, you need to be. They're not just about the pheasants, at all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Even Superman Says "Screw It"...

When even Superman throws up his hands and says "to hell with journalism", you know we're in trouble...

From Salon

In issue No. 13 of the current Superman comic book series, out tomorrow, Clark Kent will dramatically quit his day job as a reporter at the Daily Planet in front of the entire staff. The change in Kent’s character reflects writer Scott Lobdell’s goal of making Superman more relevant in the 21st century (part of a grander push from DC’s “New 52″ relaunch of several comics). A DC representative said, “This is not the first time in DC Comics history that Clark Kent has left the Planet, and this time the resignation reflects present-day issues – the balance of journalism vs. entertainment, the role of new media, the rise of the citizen journalist, etc.”
Lobdell told USA Today, “Rather than Clark be this clownish suit that Superman puts on, we’re going to really see Clark come into his own in the next few years as far as being a guy who takes to the Internet and to the airwaves and starts speaking an unvarnished truth.”
So what will Clark, a frustrated 27-year-old guy who “is arguably the most powerful person on the planet” do? Lobdell said, “I don’t think he’s going to be filling out an application anywhere … He is more likely to start the next Huffington Post or the next Drudge Report than he is to go find someone else to get assignments or draw a paycheck from.”

Maybe he'll pen a blog, or write an e-book, or start a wildly popular Twitter feed that leads to a book deal (Shit Superman Says, maybe?). No more chasing a beat for the Man of Steel...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Yeah, I Could Live Here...

                                        Beautiful emptiness, just east of Lewistown, Montana
                                (Yeah, I'm shamelessly copying your header pic, Eight More Miles...)

The weather station just to our west hit a record high of 94 degrees yesterday, while just to our east dust storms are shutting down interstates and causing major wrecks. Deaths in Oklahoma from skeeter-borne West Nile virus just hit an all-time high. We're still stuck in that high-achieving "exceptional drought" category. The grass is crunchy. So are the ponds. Duck season won't start until this weekend, for all the good it'll do. Quail season doesn't start until November 10th, if there are any quail left.

Meanwhile, the lucky bastards in Montana have been bird hunting since the first of September. Yeah, I think I could live there, long winters be damned.  How hard could it be, right?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Would You Do With A $3.7 Million Advance?

Book publishing isn't dead. As long as guys like Steve Bodio and Tom McIntyre (via Bodio) can continue to get their work published, there's hope.

Or maybe there's not, at least for some publishers.

From Salon

I like Lena Dunham. But her $3.7 million book deal with Random House, after a bidding war involving all of the major publishers, is emblematic of what is wrong with corporate publishing today. My first publishing job, in 1987, was at Random House. Bennett Cerf’s publishing company, the home of Faulkner, Capote and Dr. Seuss, is now only one of a handful of “major” publishers, by which I mean publishers who are corporate, bottom-line-driven, freighted with massive overhead and generally reactionary. The Dunham deal smacks of a search for the “Barton Fink” touch, as in get me the next “Bossypants” — stat. I realize that Dunham is an easy target — only 26, from an artsy New York family, the creator, star and director of her own HBO show. And there is an element of sexism in the backlash — a young, strong, independent female scores a big deal — but I have no problem with her agent, Kim Witherspoon, shaking down the dinosaurs on her client’s behalf. What the market will bear. I imagine Dunham’s book will kick ass, yet it will also get its critical ass handed to itself because of the advance. If Random House is already hucking it as the next Tina Fey meets Nora Ephron meets David Sedaris (no pressure, Lena), then the critics will be expecting Fey meets Ephron meets Sedaris.

Needless to say, I don't (or at least didn't, prior to reading about her book deal) know who the hell Lena Dunham is. I love both Tina Fey and David Sedaris, so I guess Lena Dunham is some new wunderkind in that mold, only younger?

I don't watch her HBO show (mainly because I don't have HBO). I'm assuming it's about a group of smart, funny, good-looking, fashionable, affluent, artsy, slightly cynical, slightly neurotic (but in an endearing Woody Allen kind of way) New York-based twentysomethings trying to figure out their crazy, complicated lives while having more fun and engaging in more great sex than you or I ever will.

Because, you know, we've just never had a show like that before. I'm sure this one's different. It's probably one of those "voice of a generation" shows that come along only about, say, a thousand or so times every generation...

At any rate, sour grapes aside, the rest of the Salon story is interesting, and goes on to postulate what some publishers could have done with that $3.7 million if they had had it to spread around and perhaps roll the literary dice with some unknown authors. Which I'm assuming is what publishers actually used to do.

The more I read about deals like this, the more I come to believe (and the article points this out) that small publishing companies and presses are the future, and that the Random Houses of the world are like huge, buoyant turds slowly circling the low-flow toilet. It's gonna take a few revolutions around the bowl, but they're assuredly headed for the septic tank.

But it's their money, and if they want to gamble it on such things, more power to 'em. As for me, I will buy Steve's new book and I will buy Tom McIntyre's new book. But I won't be buying Lena Dunham's new book. Mainly because it's going to be an advice book for young women, and I'm a fat, unhip, 41-year-old man. And, well, that would just be kinda creepy, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

And Miles To Go Before I...Blog?

 It seems I've gone a few more miles off the publishing schedule than I had originally anticipated. Blame those damn lovely, dark and deep woods of the mind. That happens sometimes at the nexus of creativity (or lack thereof), motivation (or lack thereof), laziness (no lack thereof), despair (a bit of), and yes, discontent (again, no lack thereof).

 For whatever reason(s), I just have not been able to muster the interest to write for pleasure or whimsy these past few months. It's a cyclical thing that I suspect afflicts many writers who must juggle (and differentiate between) work writing and pleasure writing. Sometimes the former affects the latter to the latter's (and ultimately the former's) detriment. If that makes sense.

As a friend of mine recently put it, "For the past six months or so it feels like I've been at about 80 percent." When you're already working on the margins, creatively speaking, that missing 20 percent makes a difference. What's to blame? Who knows, so I'll blame sunspot activity and too much aspartame. From now on it's nothing but sunscreen and Throwback Pepsi for this kid.

Hopefully I'll start finding a muse, and if that bitch doesn't show maybe I can find some inspiration and creative solace in the fact that summer's gone, fall's here and I've already had some great hunts both close to home and far, far from it. And if I can't find something to mine from that, I might as well go work in public relations...(I kid, I kid, all my PR/marketing friends...)