Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gone Postal

Last Thursday, I received an e-mail from Amazon telling me the U.S. Postal Service had tried unsuccessfully to deliver my order the day before (the Leverage soundtrack and the collected poems of Philip Larkin) and that my package would be available for pickup at the post office indicated on the notice.

Problem: I never received the aforementioned notice. The USPS automated call-in system could not track my package, so I called a local post office where my mail had been held in the past. I said I never got a notice and was told I didn't need the notice; I could come in and pick up mail with my photo ID.

So yesterday, I went to the post office and waited in line for forty-five minutes only to have a counter person check for my package without looking at my photo ID to confirm my address (I'm pretty sure he misheard me.)—all while the counter person next to him was telling another customer, "I have to check your ID. Otherwise, how do I know you're not some crazy guy picking up other people's mail?"

Finally back home, I e-mailed Amazon, telling them everything I did to try and retrieve my order, and they sent me a new Leverage CD by UPS and refunded me for the Larkin book, which was no longer in stock.

Thinking of warmer climes...

I read my poem "Paradise". Warning: Poem contains profanity.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger Dies

I just heard J.D. Salinger died at 91. I read The Catcher in the Rye in eleventh grade. It was one of the first "school books" I enjoyed from cover to cover and remains my single best reading experience. Salinger seemed completely into the voice of Holden Caulfield. I almost believed the novel was non-fiction. It was and is how I want to write.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Liberation Serif is the free font I've set as my default in OpenOffice. Take that, Microsoft.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Back in the saddle.

Editors Joseph Shields and Jerry Hagins have accepted my poem "We Might Have" for Issue 29 of Nerve Cowboy, due out this spring.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thank Your Mentor Day

Apparently today is Thank Your Mentor Day, and while I'll never keep up with these unofficial official days, I am nothing if not grateful. Though I've never followed anyone as closely as I think the mentor-mentee relationship implies, there are several people to whom I especially owe my current values. Fortunately I thanked them all at the time and don't need to do it here, but they all gave me a glimpse of greatness I don't know that I'll ever achieve but will always pursue.

Favorite Robert B. Parker Book

This morning on Twitter, David Thompson of Busted Flush Press and Houston's Murder By the Book asked, "What's your favorite Parker book?"

Mine is Promised Land (1976), the fourth book in the series, Hawk's debut. The case involves real estate developer Harv Shepard and his runaway wife. Unknown to Spenser at first, Shepard is also involved with crime boss King Powers, who sends Hawk as his enforcer.

Meanwhile, Spenser's relationship with Susan Silverman was only two books old, and white-hot. In Promised Land, Susan tells Spenser, "I love you," and Spenser balks. Near the end of the book, he proposes marriage, but Susan balks, and so their complicated yet completely unique commitment began to define itself.

Before Hawk spent several books as Spenser's doughnut-eating best friend, he was the toughest adversary Spenser ever faced, all the more threatening for how well he knew Spenser and how well matched they were in skill and physique. As the legend went in Pastime (1991), Spenser and Hawk used to box on the same card. They even fought each other once, but the result was never revealed to readers. After the bout, racists ganged up on Hawk, and Spenser helped him fight them off.

Because Spenser continues to respect Hawk despite who pays him, instead of killing Spenser for Powers at the end of Promised Land, Hawk turns on Powers. It's the most tension I've felt reading Parker. The book won Parker his only single-work Edgar® Award and inspired the pilot episode of Spenser: For Hire.

Feel free to comment with your favorite Parker book.

THE FIRST RULE by Robert Crais

Frank Meyer, once part of a mercenary team led by Joe Pike, seemed to successfully leave that violent life behind at the behest of his girlfriend/wife, Cindy. As Crais's second Joe Pike book opens, a home invasion crew kills the Meyer family and their nanny.

Pike sets out for vengeance, but when the invasion crew is revealed to be targeting criminals, Joe has to wonder whether Frank was still an honorable man. I particularly liked Crais's exploration of whether people can truly reinvent themselves. Some Amazon reviews say Pike is too invincible, making the book is a straightforward takedown, but I disagree. While Pike is super-competent, he can fall for a convincing story as anyone might. The First Rule succeeds as a mystery on Crais's skill weaving that story.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Robert B. Parker Dies

I first heard the news from Ali Karim on Twitter this morning. Then Sarah Weinman posted the news as relayed by Parker's U.K. publisher Quercus that he had died "just sitting at his desk." Having said many times he would keep writing novels until a) he died, or b) no one bought them, I think this is just how he'd want to go.

Parker's Spenser was the first P.I. series I read, over the summer of 1993. By summer's end I'd caught up to his current book. Six years later, I was known on many Parker discussion lists as one of his toughest critics, but this was only because his books had such an influence on me I hated to see him turn in less than his best. Looking back, I can think of no better writer with whom to fall in love with mystery, poetry, depth, the resonance of language, than Robert B. Parker.

If I hadn't begun to moderate my own Parker discussion list in 1999, I could very well have gone on reading him for sheer pleasure, forgiving him the foibles every writer has. Indeed, it's to Parker's credit that he kept me from seeing his flaws so long, that even as I hear he has passed, I don't believe it.

Further Reading:

Castle: "Sucker Punch"

Working a case involving heroin smuggling and a gang war, Beckett runs across a victim killed in the same manner as her mother. Finally catching up with her mother's killer, there is a tense showdown at the police station, after which Castle says he's through tagging along with Beckett, and Beckett says she's gotten used to having him around, that he makes her job more fun.

What a great way to end the series.

Except it's not the end. There are nine more episodes this season. But this was the thirteenth episode of the season, and I think the writers were hedging their bets against the show being canceled at this point a la Dollhouse.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Twice on Sunday

Two new YouTube videos, that is. First I read my poem "Cleaning House":

Then my poem "The Tease":

Friday, January 15, 2010

Conan vs. Leno

I've never been able to stay awake for much late-night TV, certainly not every night, but I prefer Johnny Carson to Leno, Letterman to Leno, and Conan to Leno. Leno does have the honor of succeeding Johnny Carson, but that almost went, and should have gone, to Letterman. Meanwhile, when he succeeded Letterman, Conan was known as a writer, but I'd seen next-to-nothing of his onscreen persona. I came to enjoy his intellectual brand of humor, a hunor that doesn't seem as mean-spirited as Leno's or Letterman's. I thought Conan was doing fine on The Tonight Show and he would build a following just as he did for Late Night.

But the conflict between him and Leno is less about comedy than it is about Leno deciding years in advance to retire and then changing his mind, very reminiscent of the Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers succession with the Green Bay Packers. When Green Bay finally cut ties with Favre, he struck deals with the Jets and Vikings, displacing the development of their young quarterbacks.

If life or business were fair, NBC wouldn't allow Leno back to The Tonight Show. He somehow convinced NBC he would succeed with a 10 PM show. The rest of NBC's schedule is in such tatters that execs at the time decided to give up dramas at 10 and install Leno, an unmitigated failure (see Favre with the Jets).

Sure, Conan could have a show elsewhere, but it won't be The Tonight Show, just as The Late Show isn't The Tonight Show, the show Letterman and Conan paid their dues to host.

UPDATE (01/19/10): Here's Leno's perspective. As MysterLynch wrote in the Comments, Jay says NBC forced him to retire last year. I apologize for assuming Leno was trying to hang on at any cost.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Its Continuing Mission

It sure doesn't feel like I started this blog six years ago. Starting midway through what is traditionally my most sluggish month, I worried I'd run out of material in a week. Clearly, I haven't, though several posts in earlier years were the kind of running commentary I now reserve for Twitter.

I have never and will never claim to serve a purpose with this blog. The truth is it serves me. Every story, poem, column, or review I've written since 2004 has been in part a result of blogging, and vice versa.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Pre-Order The Lineup 3

The Lineup 3 is scheduled to go on sale at,, and independent booksellers April 1, 2010. The retail price will be $7.00 for our largest issue yet (19 poets, 48 pages). Lulu charges an additional $3.99 shipping, plus sales tax on orders shipped to New York and North Carolina. However, today through March 15, you can pre-order Issue 3 directly from me for $7.50 per copy (includes USPS postage). Your copies will be added to my order of contributor copies and should reach you before or shortly after April 1. E-mail g_so at yahoo dot com for the pre-order payment address.

You're My Inspiration

Yesterday, Lineup 3 contributor David S. Pointer accepted two of my poems for an upcoming anthology on domestic violence. One of the poems was inspired by sounds overheard and tweeted by The Middleman and White Collar star Natalie Morales. When I mentioned the acceptance on Twitter, Natalie asked to see the poem. I direct-messaged it to her, and she messaged back, "Cool ;)".

Monday, January 04, 2010


I can't say I'm a New York Jets fan, but I have to say something about the Jets season. It's been up and down and up and down. Fans of drama can't ask for anything more. The Jets may lose the Bengals next week, but already Rex Ryan has lived up to his big talk. Contrast this with the Giants' uncanny downfall, and it resonates all the more.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

How I Write

This entry comes to mind because my blog's new color scheme reminds me of a legal pad. I blog spontaneously, but otherwise I hate coming to the keyboard with vague or no ideas. Before I switched to memo pads to save space, I jotted most of my ideas down on legal pads.

I didn't redo my blog with the idea of a legal pad, but already the colors have inspired me. Writing on a laptop in college made me feel conspicuous. I'm sure few people give them second looks today, but I've only ever been able to jot brief ideas on the go. These would probably amount to a single printed page. As fancy as fonts can be, none can call up the context of what I dash off and the subtext of the moment like longhand.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

So long, Food Network.

Scripps decided to pull Food Network and HGTV from my Cablevision lineup as of yesterday. I'm a fan of Food Network, but I went years without it while it was scrambled and I didn't have a cable box in my room. I don't think I'll miss it if Scripps and Cablevision don't work out a deal. If it was subliminally causing me to eat more, I'm better off without it.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Gutter Eloquence #7 online to meet the new year, featuring my poem "Best $90 I Ever Spent". Thanks again to editor Jack T. Marlowe.

Warm Welcome

Again I lost the chart of blog colors I made before the holidays and have improvised a scheme defying the wintry weather. May the new year be fruitful for one and all.