Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

It’s Gettin’ Real In the Whole Foods Parking Lot

July 9, 2012

 

As a longtime shopper at natural food stores and a veteran of Whole Foods Parking Lots in Oakland, San Francisco, Carmichael, Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas among other places, I was tickled all to hell when my roommate K. shared with this dope jam from DJ Spider. It’s one of my favorite comedic videos of all time, ranking right up there with the Saturday Night Live classic “Comedy Can Be Hazardous to Your Health.”

How can you not love lyrics like this?

This fool’s on his iphone, talking to his friends
Trying to pick up some cayenne pepper for his master cleanse
You the most annoying dude I ever see, bra
Could you please move? You’re right in front of the quinoa…

 

Now that’s comedy. Word up, bra.

 

Whole Foods Parking Lot

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After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts

July 8, 2012

after-the-arab-spring-by-john-r-bradley

 

Some guy named Kyle commented favorably on my Good Reads review of John R. Bradley’s After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts, which inspired a response from me, but perhaps more importantly also reminded me how interesting and important a book this is.

I love the hell out of John R. Bradley’s books; I think he’s the best English language writer on the Middle East currently working. The guy is also terrifyingly young, by the way — according to the Wikipedia page about him, he was born in June, 1970.

Anyway, it turns out the commenter, Kyle, aka Kyle Williams, has a bio that says he’s a Harvard-educated counterterrorism analyst, and has his own book about terrorism, available free online, and a blog by the same name that on first glance seems pretty balanced and engaging.

That also reminds me that I haven’t been keeping up with my favorite international affairs blog, The Coming Anarchy, which was inspired by Robert Kaplan‘s book of the same name (about the post-Soviet collapse). The bad news is, apparently the folks at The Coming Anarchy haven’t been keeping up with themselves; their most recent update is from last October.

I’ve never been entirely clear on whether the TCA blog is Robert Kaplan fan service for international relations nerds, or simply a thematic riff on a Kaplan-esque theme; as far as I can tell, there’s no affiliation between Kaplan and The Coming Anarchy Blog. The latter tends to run a little more conservative than my own politics are, but then, I tend to run more conservative when it comes to international affairs than I am in most other matters, so I’d frankly rather enjoy a bout of conversational fisticuffs with some well-informed Tories than a Kumbaya fest with some of my fellow peace-and-love hippies who want to talk about how great Iran and Cuba are.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s my return comment to Kyle on interesting books about other regions that hint at what John R. Bradley does with the Middle East and North Africa. It’s worth saying, though, that as Bradley is probably, currently, my favorite English-language writer on the politics and culture of any international region, no other author comes close to him on such topics. I don’t find anybody as irresistibly readable as Bradley.

Your Nightmares Will Now Be Televised

July 8, 2012

 

 

 

The unbelievably dumb-ass Geico commercial above has been annoying the living holy hell out of my girlfriend Bridgitte and me.

In it, an interviewed couple says “Home security systems are expensive, so we decided to adopt a rescue panther.”

That’s about as hilarious as the ad gets, so don’t bother waiting for the punch line; please just pause now to slap the shit out of your knee till you shatter your kneecap. I mean, is that comedy or what?

geicosucks

Y’see, right out of the gate we’ve got one of the stupidest ads in the history of advertising, even before we get to the “punch line.” It’s is not funny, nor does it make any sense. There is no joke there that we’re missing. It’s just one of those Chewbacca Defense moments; it…does…not…make…sense. Who the hell signs off on this shit?

Anyway, the truly annoying part is that the reason you shouldn’t wait for the “punch line” is because nobody seems to know what it is. The punchline comes when the couple is shown in bed in the middle of the night being watched over by the clearly dangerous panther — and the husband says…something.

Just what he says is the subject of some speculation on the interwebs, by people who apparently have just as much time on their hands as I do. Nobody seems to be able to figure it out, but it appears to involve a phantom “Shhhhhhh!” that potentially comes from lips unknown. It could be the wife. Or could it?

First and foremost, I consider it outrageous that in making this commercial, they inconvenienced a perfectly good panther who, I hope, promptly devoured its agent. But how the hell could they produce this thing and not realize how unbelievably obscure the “humor” is? Not in the manner of Terry Jones’s dada-est compositions like “I Like Traffic Lights” or “Here Comes Another One.” Just in that special way that says “The audience (remember them?) can’t even tell what’s supposed to be funny.”

Now, I’m as enthusiastic about another viewing of the Zapruder Film as the next guy, and believe me, I love NOTHING more than watching lame suburban couples get eaten by big cats. But in the case of this stupid commercial, I admit there’s no there there. There isn’t even a lesson to be had in how to (not) write comedic advertising spots. But sometimes I just get FREAKIN’ PISSED OFF at how stupid advertising is. I’m a pit bull for stupidity, which maybe sounds like something Harlan Ellison would have proudly proclaimed circa 1985 when boasting of yet another lawsuit…but if the Cruel Shoe fits, wear it.

Yes, it’s a little weird watching a goddamn Geico commercial over and over again on You Tube just to freakin’ figure out what the hell the joke is supposed to be when I’m damned sure it’s not going to be funny, but at least other people are similarly annoyed by it.

But if it’s adding self-inflicted injury to insult for something that’s such a waste of space to begin with to drive me to distraction, well, it gets worse, for me at least. It’s been annoying both of us because it’s on heavy rotation on — wait for it — Project Runway. This would be bad enough, if it didn’t follow on a short-lived orgy inspired by my much-beloved Oakland roomate K., who tempted me into the wicked embrace of American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, and yes, even The Tonys.

geicocosucks2

 

And in case you’re wondering, yes, the sound of breaking glass you just heard was the infinitesimal remnant of whatever goth cred I had left, making short work of my apartment window. Hell’s bells, the television I put up with for the women in my life. Sons of Anarchy, where are you now? I promise, I won’t even complain this time when you assholes fly to ireland.

Happy Pride, Everyone

June 24, 2012

Pride Sunday

 

 

Happy Pride everyone, in San Francisco and points beyond. No, I’m not there (at SF Pride), I’m afraid. I’m at Temple Fine Coffee and Tea, seeking caffeine and kibble. As in, consuming the former and tryna bring home the latter. But rest assured, even from 85 miles away I’ll spend the next 6 days tryina get that unh-chah-unh-chah-unh-chah-unh-chah rhythm outta my head. Somebody play some Tchaikovsky for me?

Erotic Noir “Hell on Wheels” Available for Kindle

June 22, 2012

Hell on Wheels by Thomas S. RocheMy erotic noir story “Hell on Wheels,” which was produced last year by the BBC, will be available for the Kindle within the next 24 hours or so for a “bargain price.” Just thought you might like to know.

A Rainbow in the Night: The Tumultuous Birth of South Africa

April 18, 2012

A Rainbow in the Night: The Tumultuous Birth of South Africa by Dominique Lapierre is, ultimately, a good book about a great story. It is only “good,” in and of itself, rather than “great,” because while parts of it are amazing, and all of it tells an amazing story, too much of it tells an amazing story in overwrought, hand-wringing fashion….like far too much writing about South Africa.

The main problem with it is that it begins as a fairly objective, fairly reasonable and very well-told history of South African history pre-World War II (which is back when the racism that would become Apartheid was not yet formalized).

That’s good — it’s going strong. The bad news is that it turns about halfway through into a hagiography of the poor. It’s also a hagiography of Mandela, which I feel like I’ve heard a thousand times. The real messy story feels like it’s avoided in favor of pouring out overwrought prose about how hard it was to be black during the Apartheid era. I’m already fairly clear that it blew pretty seriously. That’s why I’m reading a book on South Africa in the first place. Lapierre hits too hard on the same old messages of martyrdom, which makes this book not an effective history.

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t think “objective” makes a lot of sense when it comes to Apartheid, racism or Afrikaans-dominated South Africa. But I also don’t need to be beaten to death with overheated, overwrought, hand-wringing prose about the troubles of the poor. I read a LOT of books on Africa, and I see the kind of heartfelt, weepy prose engaged in here to be borderline condescending. It’s not intended that way, sure. But certainly many African writers express a deep-distaste for the hand-wringing of the West vis-a-vis Africa, and this book seems to be guilty of that. Lapierre is sort of the chief of it, having written a number of very good but very overwrought pieces of tragedy tourism (Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, for instance, and his magnum opus City of Joy). With Joy, he certainly did the right thing…spending part of the proceeds of the book to set up a foundation to help the poor of Calcutta — whom the book is about. I don’t fault his impulses, only his execution, in City of Joy as well as Rainbow in the Night. It’s not that he’s done anything wrong as that the way he does it, to some extent, dehumanizes rather than humanizes the poor of the developing world — at least to Lapierre’s Western audience.

I understand that Lapierre (and presumably his translator…not sure if this was written in English or French) are trying to communicate the agonies of being poor and black in South Africa — which are EXTREME today and were vastly more so during the Apartheid era. But I found the overdone prose in certain sections to be somewhat insulting in its obviousness.

That said, however, Lapierre’s heart is in the right place, and it’s the most accessible (and actually LEAST overwrought) thing I’ve read to-date on South Africa. The struggle the black South Africans, Mandela included, went through is amazing. I do wish there had been less hagiography and more, for instance, about the Zulu nationalist movement to the North, which opposed the African National Congress, and the criminal elements that flourished in the slums in the context of rampant soul-crushing poverty; it is in THOSE elements, it seems to me, that South Africa’s contemporary troubles have their origin.

We can attack the white Afrikaaner fascist racist murderers all we want. But as Michael Moorcock said, “All tyrants are pretty much the same, but there are many kinds of victims.” By spending the second half of this book making the racist demons as demonic as possible and the black South Africans saintly, I feel Lapierre has missed the real story in the ongoing triumph and tragedy of the struggle in post-colonial Africa overall, not just in South Africa. The result is an immensely readable book but one that’s a bit hard to take seriously as history, insofar as it concerns the Apartheid period itself (after World War II).

Speaking of which, why is this subtitled “The Tumultuous Birth of South Africa?” The author’s intention is to establish that the period from the landing of the first Dutch settlers on the Cape to the establishment of pluralist democracy is *ALL* the birth of South Africa…but out of context, it’s a little bewildering of a subtitle. It seems like it misleads the potential reader a bit.

The book still gets an honored place on my bookshelf, principally because I think it’s SO accessible that I hope it’ll be read by people who wouldn’t tackle a denser book or a more nuanced history about South Africa. The struggles the black South Africans and the Apartheid-opposing whites, Indians, those of mixed race etc. went through should be known to every person of conscience everywhere in the world.

Therefore, my nitpicks aside, if a zillion people read this book the world will be a much better place, and for that alone it gets some extra credit.

When all is said and done, it is an inspiring book and well worth reading.

Night Bazaar: Good Night, Mrs. Calabash, Wherever You Are

December 30, 2011

Over at The Night Bazaar, I’ve posted my final column:

This is my final column for The Night Bazaar. The blog was conceived as a way to promote writers who had books coming out from Night Shade in 2011, and next year it’ll be promoting writers who have books coming out from Night Shade in 2012, so that puts me on the night train to the big adios, suckers.

Thanks to Courtney for getting this blog up and running — it’s been a blast. And it’s been a pleasure to blog with talents like Bradley, Kameron, John, Stina, Katy, and Martha, not to mention our brilliant parade of guest bloggers.

I haven’t got the foggiest idea what the new year will hold for me, writing-wise, since the novels I’m currently working on are not yet sold. I hope to work with Night Shade again, but not every book works for every publisher, and it really isn’t anything personal. So in the meantime, here’s where you can find me in the year to come.

Read the rest of this column at The Night Bazaar.

Hellhound on my Trail

December 23, 2011

From this week’s Night Bazaar column, my second-to-last:

This week’s topic is  “What was the year like for you as a writer.” Such a topic is dangerous for me. It encourages me to navel-gaze, something I’m far too good at. So, honoring the mood of the season, I’ll try to keep it moderately brief, and hopefully maudlin as hell.

2011 was the third year I’ve lived without a day job (though the first year, 2009, was a partial one). I like it. I’ve also loved my day jobs, but there’s something exceedingly “special” — in both its ironic and non-ironic senses — about being able to focus totally on reading and writing.

And when I say reading and writing, that’s what I mean. Reading is the side of the writing life that I never thought I’d like so much, and for me, it has to be a daily occurrence, or I lose a sense of what I’m here for.

Read the rest of this column at The Night Bazaar.

Two SF/Fantasy Predictions for 2012

December 16, 2011

From my new column at The Night Bazaar:

Genre Trends for 2012

I’m notoriously bad at staying on top of trends in any medium.

This is true of music, literature, art and design, technology, movies, TV…Sometimes I’m way ahead of the curve; sometimes I’m well behind it. I joined Friendster and Tribe before Facebook existed — but when I design a website, it looks like the 1996 has risen from the grave to wreak its bloody vengeance on the universe.

Regardless, you can consider yourself guaranteed that whatever’s trendy this year, I’ve either never heard of it or I’m annoyed by it. If I ever liked it, I’ve lost interest in it, and I disapprove of people who are now into it. It doesn’t matter what trend it is; if you’re into it now, I either have no interest in discussing it with you, or I think your a mope for liking it.

It’s nothing personal. I’m not trying to be “cool,” I’m just funny that way. So if you mention your cool proto-coalpunk corset or how you’re writing a Gothic pinot noir mystery, and I roll my eyes, you don’t have to worry that you’ve made a social faux pas. On the contrary, you’re in good company: people whose trendy obsessions I disapprove of; it’s a very large club.

Plus, you can rest easy knowing that whatever trendy topics you’re into right now, I’ll be into it five years from now, and I may have forgotten that I ever disapproved of it.

Then, you can feel free to pull the same shit on me.

Read the rest of this column at The Night Bazaar.

These Japanese Girls Are The Future of Dance

December 14, 2011

In case you haven’t seen it…here. These two girls in Japan are the future of dance. Just thought you’d like to know. You’re welcome.
 

 
Incidentally, the whole thing goes on for five minutes and seventeen seconds. You may get the idea after considerably less than that, but believe me…the fact that they can keep this gig up that long (and at least partially on fast forward — meaning it took even longer in person) is one of the most amazing things about this. I stand in awe of their enthusiasm for…uh…moving around, and stuff.

Via Polly Superstar.