Saturday, April 29, 2006


My 35th birthday was one month ago today, so I thought I'd assess where I am with my year-long project...

The biggest change has been on the music front, obviously. I have sustained my guitar playing for the longest stretch of my life and it has paid off. I play it better than I ever used to (bar chords are getting easier) and I am learning more chords than I ever knew. I have also starting learning how to play the bass and feel I have a basic knowledge of what note is where. This has all culminated in me actually writing a song (I used to write lyrics when I was in high school but never got around to putting any real music with them) and actually getting up and playing at an open mic. This coming Thursday, May 4, will bring my second open mic appearance and my Valpo debut. I am also working on my second song, "Tell Me."

I haven't done much writing of any kind. I've been focused on the music, for one thing, and I'm busy with work and family and so forth. I'm not terribly worried about it, as I am starting to get new ideas for stories, and once the current session at the Y ends I will have a lot more time to myself (only 5 weeks left). Perhaps my book idea for The Year of 35 will also start taking shape then.

My reading is down a bit and I haven't been watching as much baseball or keeping track of as many TV shows or watching as much on DVD and so on. I've been busy doing more things, which is a definite change for me. Sure, I'd like to do more of all those things but I'm happy with the balance that has been struck on the whole.

I've also allowed myself to buy single issues of comics again. Look - no guilt! Sure, I'm going slowly but there's nothing wrong with that. I only have so much money (and space). But 6 issues in a month's time is pretty good for me and I have plans to buy more.

Anyway, that's the quick overview. More on most of the things mentioned in the coming weeks, I hope. I do plan on getting back to a bit more regularity of posts starting Monday (May 1). Get to some reviews I've been meaning to do for a while and try to stay a bit more current. Until then...

Friday, April 21, 2006


I've talked about doing an open mic night for years and years, going back to the early 90s. I first got the bug when we would go see Your Neighbors, a band that contained a friend who actually was my neighbor growing up. They were really good and I always thought it was a shame they never got a record contract and they eventually broke up. Anyway, we used to see them play at a local music store, Front Porch Music. This is back in 1992, 1993 range. Every time I used to say - I'm going to work on the guitar and learn some songs and start playing. I didn't back then.

Over the years, I've got to open mic nights at Front Porch from time to time; each new instance would bring a new resolve from me to play. Never did.

Over the past year or two I've gone off and on to see Graham play without much thought to doing it myself. Except now I'm in the year of 35 and things like open mics are what it's all about. I knew there was one happening in DeMotte (the town I grew up in and first dreamed my music dreams in) on April 21 and I decided it would be fitting to play that for my first time out.

I started working on some cover songs, trying to decide what I could play and what would sound okay. And after practicing those, I started to play some chords to see what sounded good and I found something I liked. I kept on playing it and a melody came to me. Then I had an opening line. That was it until earlier this week - I was washing the dishes and suddenly I had two verses. It was completely unexpected and utterly cool. I spent five minutes trying to go to sleep that night and then got back up and wrote down the last verse. A little editing here and there and trying to fit everything to the song and just yesterday and changed up the chords in one part and added a little repeat and it felt ready. When Graham came over yesterday I played it for him and he said he thought it was ready.

Cut to tonight. It's my turn to play. I get up and talk briefly about turning 35 and all of that. Then it's time to play. First I did "Lonely Holiday" from the Old 97s and then I debuted my song - "Woke Up." I played it pretty well, missed a D chord a few times and forgot to change to a G at the end, but I was happy with it. I got a very nice repsonse from the crowd (many of whom I knew) and that was great. I wasn't that nervous either, even when I hit the mic stand while playing or missed a chord. I know it didn't ruin things. And I know I'll do it better.

Next up is playing the open mic at Front Porch, which I will be doing May 4. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, April 10, 2006


My hand is not very pleased with me right now because I had to do 44 progress reports for my swimming classes from yesterday afternoon to this morning. Ouch. But outside of a few checkmarks or comments here and there I am finished for another session. This is the last week of the current one and then we start a new one next week; it will last 7 weeks, bringing us into early June. And then I'm taking 5 weeks off so we can go on vacation and all of that. Yay.

Anyway, I thought I've give a quick progress report on what else I've been up to the past week or so. Between the time change and going back to work and the death of one of our former drama kids, last week kinda got away from me.

I'm still working through The Empire of Ice Cream. I've now read 10 stories, leaving 4 to go. It's been great and I'm sad to see the book come to an end but the new David Mitchell, Black Swan Green, is due out tomorrow and I can't wait to sink my teeth into that one.

I also took some time out to read Seven Soldiers Vol. 2 and Ex Machina: Fact v. Fiction - reviews coming in the near future (at least that's the plan), as well as a story and the book reviews in the Apr. issue of F&SF (I have to finish that and then have the May issue and the June issue of Asimov's).

I picked up the new Flaming Lips last week and am eagerly awaiting the new Built to Spill and Calexico that come out tomorrow. I also used up the rest of my eMusic downloads for the period, picking up the Iron and Wine/Calexico EP (why didn't anyone tell me how great it was), Elliott Smith's Either/Or (followed a link on a whim), and another Brendan Benson track I didn't have (a McCartney cover).

The bass has been going pretty well. Graham came over and taught me a few things last Thursday and I now realize I need to think of it in terms of what notes are where. Makes sense, I know, but I needed to get that into my head. We also started writing a song together, which was cool. I'm also aiming for my open mic debut on April 21 - I will play guitar and sing a couple songs. Less than 2 weeks!

I've also been watching baseball. Of course. The Sox are off to a slower start than last year but I'm confident they will find their rhythm.

That's about it...

Sunday, April 02, 2006


No, I haven't stopped reading The Empire of Ice Cream. I'm three stories in and loving every minute of it. I've just decided to stop posting about each story as I read it; I'd rather let them roll around in my head for a bit and play off of each other. So, I will wait and do a review of the collection as a whole when I finish it later on this week. I have the title story up next!

Today is one of the best days of the year for me. Why? Baseball is back! Anyone who knows me or has read my various blogs over the years know of my love for the game. Last year was a great season, culminating with my Chicago White Sox winning the World Series. The team looks good again this year and I look forward to watching them try to defend their title. I also like watching other teams and players around the league and watching how it all unfolds. I've watched one "Baseball Tonight" already and will watch the next one at 6:00 PM CDT and then the Cleveland Indians and the White Sox (though there is rain in the area and that may mess with things). In any case, I am very happy to have my favorite sport up and running for another season.

Things I could have done with the hour we lost last night...

* Read another story in The Empire of Ice Cream (working on "A Night in the Tropics" right now)

* Watched more of the extras on The Fearless Freaks DVD (the main doc is good, by the way)

* Listened to the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs another time (I picked up Show Your Bones when I got the DVD on Friday and am right now listening to it for the second time)

* Worked on learning the bass some more (I did play for an hour in the afternoon, as well as the guitar; then again, I don't think my family would have let me make a racket that late at night)

* Started a new writing project (I have an idea...)

* Slept (I'll probably feel that loss tomorrow, especially since it's back into the pool)

Saturday, April 01, 2006


This is one of two stories in the new collection that I've actually read before; I encountered this in the Flights anthology. I liked it then and I like it now.

It's a story of the power of creativity and engaging with the world. Of passion and poetry. It also loops around on itself, intimating that the tale just told has happened over and over again. I don't want to say much more than that, really. It's dreamlike and sexy and beautiful. And that's enough.

It starts with the idea - there are faeries called Twilmish who only become corporeal when they discover a sand castle to their liking. Their lives then last only as long as the sand castle remains, so they must choose wisely.

Next comes the specific - a small journal was discovered and its author was one of the Twilmish, named Eelin-Ok. The rest of the story consists of the entirety of his journal.

The payoff comes in the beautiful writing and the life that Eelin-Ok lives. He comes into being at sunset and passes away while the moon is still in the sky but time seems to behave differently for him. He explores, fights off a rat, decorates the castle, acquires a sand flea companion, meets and fall in love with a faerie woman of a different species (and her son), rides on a bird, repels a full scale assult from more rats, and so much more. The story too plays with time - it seems like you've read a much longer tale. Eelin-ok writes "'What does it all mean?' I have always asked. 'It means you've lived a life...'"

A beautiful story and a strong start to the collection.