Is “The Strain” LOST In the Eye of The Beholder?

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I’ve sure you’ve seen the advertisements of the small worm burrowing into an eyeball. These days when I think of eyeballs, I think of two things:  “The Twilight Zone” and “Lost”. Only one of them makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Also brought to you by the letter “eye”  and coming soon to a network near you, is “The Strain”. “The Strain” is a revision on the age old vampire tale and is scheduled to premiere on FX July 13, 2014. It is a collaborative effort, written by Guilermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan based on their somewhat obscure vampire novel trilogy. Del Toro pitched the idea as a series some time ago and apparently somebody caught it.  But there is another “eye” connection here. Read the rest of this entry

THE CYNIC’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING

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THE CYNIC’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING

Written a book have you? Your first, I hear you say? Well done you! No, truly, congratulations. You’ve spent long, lonely hours banging away on your computer with only your cat (or dog, if you’re of the canine persuasion) for company. Your friends and family think: (a) you’ve emigrated to Outer Borneo; (b) you’re dead; or (c) lost your wifi and/or phone connection (which is as good as being dead anyway). You’ve survived on more caffeine than is healthy for your liver (and other soft tissue organs), nicotine (if you weren’t a smoker before, you’ve most probably flirted with the idea) and dreary ready meals (by the way, how is it that microwaved food can singe the roof of your mouth and freeze your tongue simultaneously?).

Now, if you will, cast your mind back. To the day that you first, (perhaps misguidedly), decided to write the book you always said you would. You thought of an ingenious title and proudly opened a file on your computer. You hunted dementedly online for a cover picture, and then typed those magic words that were going to reinvent your life as an author: “Chapter One”. Your initial enthusiasm may have been somewhat dampened when, diddling around on the internet, you stumbled upon the fact that you needed to write at least 80 000 words to publish a credible novel. However, determined to follow your calling (an overrated idea, if you ask me) you toiled on and on. Word followed word, sentence followed sentence, paragraph followed paragraph etc. (you know the drill) until (after dawdling around a tad aimlessly mid-plot), you typed those words that filled you with unrivaled joy: “The End”. You felt like Cathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone. Remember how she typed those words with great satisfaction, then opened a celebratory can of tuna for her cat (and topped it with a spring of parsley, yet?). That feeling.

Aaw bless. Now you’re envisioning thousands of copies of your novel in its snappy cover gracing the shelves of the most illustrious book shops throughout the world – it will, naturally, be translated into 50 languages, including Tagalog (Google that, I had to). You’ve practiced your signature for book signings for your adoring fans, and maybe even dared to go so far as mentally choosing a designer gown/suit for the red carpet on your way to collect your Pulitzer or Oscar (oh, and you’re also eagerly awaiting that call from Steven Spielberg offering you a movie deal). In other words, you’re on the cusp of literary uber-stardom. Step aside Ms Rowling and Mr Ludlum, your successor has been born! Read the rest of this entry

John Kennedy Toole

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John Kennedy Toole

confederacy of duncesJohn Kennedy Toole was craftsman who comprehended the unreasonable nature of things and through his Pulitzer prize-winning novel uncovered the very essence of New Orleans. He depicted its characters, its corners, its mysteries, and feeling of rot, that wanton flavor that he knew so well. This is a standout novel amongst modern American writing and the story of how it came into existence is as disturbing as the untimely death of the author.
Toole was an insider and captured dialect like no other, none could match his remarkable gift for voice, for character, not Sherwood Anderson, Tennessee Williams, nor Faulkner, as these writers were all writing from outside, whereas Toole was New Orleans through and through, he was part of the fabric, and he depicted it in a way that nobody else ever has.
In letters he showed that he was constantly planning books, writing characters, imagining scenes. He had an extremely sharp eye and an exceptional gift for comedy that helped him to reproduce New Orleans in the zaniest and funniest of ways.
His Southern gothic novel, a grand comic fugue, features a wonderfully offbeat cast of insane characters.
Sadly, the book almost never made it into print. Suffering constant rejection by New Yorker editor, Robert Gottlieb, (initially enthusiastic) who tragically lost interest in the novel, calling it pointless. Gottlieb insisted that the book had no meaning, and essentially, no plot. This verdict from a major publishing house (Gottlieb worked for Simon and Schuster at the time) caused J K Toole finally to give up on his masterpiece and stash it away.
Luckily, after his death, his mother, Thelma Toole resurrected the original manuscript, and Toole went on to win the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction.
RIP JK Toole.

Interview With Richard Hilton, Musical Arranger and Keyboardist With Chic

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Interview With Richard Hilton, Musical Arranger and Keyboardist With Chic

Richard Hilton

Photo taken by Glenn Bracke

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH CHIC

The best things about playing in CHIC include getting to make music with some of the finest musicians I’ve ever known, including the band we’ve had for the past five years, and getting the opportunity to share in the happiness of the audience. I’ve also gotten to see a lot of really amazing places that I’d likely never have seen otherwise.

WHAT DO YOU FIND THE MOST CHALLENGING?

The rigors of travel, which are at an all-time high these days.

WHEN DID YOU START WORKING WITH CHIC/NILES? AND HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

I started working with Nile in March of 1988. I had been interviewing for about two years for a number of different jobs with a company called “New England Digital” that made a proprietary computer music instrument called the Synclavier. They never did hire me, but when Nile Rodgers called them (being a user of their instrument) asking about a qualified programmer who could play keyboards, they kindly recommended me and that was it, I was in.

IF YOU WEREN’T WORKING WITH CHIC, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?

When I started with Nile, I was teaching at a small college and going back to grad school to get a master’s degree. I hope to get back to teaching someday. I’m very keen to work with young people.

CHIC ARE ALWAYS A JOY TO WATCH, WHAT’S THE SECRET?

A tireless dedication to delivering the best possible show every night. There’s a lot of trust and love on the stage, and it seems to translate to the audience, based on the things they say to me. One cannot underestimate the value of the amazing repertoire we’ve given to play as a major contributing factor to making all this possible.

RUMOUR HAS IT CHIC ARE WORKING ON BRINGING OUT AN ALBUM IN COLLABORATION WITH DAFT PUNK? IS THIS TRUE?

I can’t talk about projects in progress.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR TECHNIQUE?

Adequate, but not great. I do a lot of things pretty well, but maybe none of them “great”. The players in CHIC are all far more accomplished than I. My abilities are spread across a number of different disciplines in my job, so my playing technique sometimes doesn’t get the attention it might otherwise deserve. I’m lucky in that music has always come pretty easily to me.

YOU ALWAYS LOOK SO HAPPY AND UPBEAT ON STAGE! WHY IS THAT?

Because I find the privilege of playing this music and sharing in the audience’s happiness to be quite overwhelming. Playing this music in CHIC is a pretty amazing thing, and I try to let that wash over me as much as possible while we’re doing it.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

I’d try to tap less into anger and more into the love that I feel. There are a few other things specific to my relationships that I wish I’d done better.

IF YOU HADN’T BEEN BORN IN THIS CENTURY, WHEN AND WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE LIVED?

I’m happy to be here now. I don’t think in terms of “what if” very much. That said, getting to hear Art Tatum, Beethoven, and Chopin play would’ve been very nice.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE ARTISTS/MUSICIANS AND WHY? Read the rest of this entry

Queen of The Funkin Drums

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Listen To Mikey Flynn reading about Jojo Ruocco the Queen of The Funkin Drums, this piece features Ronnie Wood Ronnie At The Rah

Old Man Winter Gives Control To Son Biff

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Old Man Winter Gives Control To Son Biff

New London Writers Literary Agency Seeks Writers

Old Man Winter has reportedly turned over operational control of the winter season to his son, Biff according to sources close to the personification of nature.

Citing health issues, Old Man Winter made the announcement in late November and his overly ambitious son has wasted no time in establishing complete control over the frigid manifestation.

After first declaring himself president and CEO of Winter, Inc. Biff Winter called a news conference early this morning to confirm that he indeed has the reins of all daily operations.

And he intends to manage the season in his own style.

“I don’t plan on running winter the same way my Old Man did,” Biff remarked after slamming the continental United States with ice and frigid temperatures as far south as Texas and California three weeks ahead of the scheduled arrival of winter.

“Obviously, my new business model is a lot more efficient than the previous one,” Biff noted when asked about the recent arctic blast.

“The next thing I plan to focus on is re-branding the entire winter season. The image of an old man blowing cold winds is not an archetype that appeals to a 21st century demographics. Besides, who says winter HAS to start or end on any particular day?”

Biff Winter also presented a five year plan that includes the hostile take-over of both Fall and Spring, a few weeks at a time. By creating a general climate of seasonal business chaos, Biff Winter proposes taking advantage of the fact that these seasons have no established personifications associated with them.

“Clearly there is no identifiable leadership in the top ranks of these seasonal allocations, therefore, some of their time can be better managed by my organization,” said Biff, sending a chill through the Press Corps.

“There are still some economic hurdles and barriers to market entry into the summer business sector, but these will be addressed in time,” he added. Biff went on to subtly accuse summer of improper business practices and collusion with the global warming industry.

Biff also plans to modernize the functioning of winter through technology and software innovations.

“My father has been operating winter the same way he has since the Ice Age: arriving in a predictable fashion, manifesting in the an archaic form of an old man blowing cold winds. That superstitious mumbo-jumbo is so Middle Ages, an outdated relic soon to be replaced by modern data-mining and HAARP technology,” he said.

“After looking at economic projections based on the last 10,000 years of data, winter’s market share has steadily eroded as a result of new entrants into the seasonal market such as El Niño, aberrant solar cycles, and global warming. There is no way in hell that I’m going to let a start up venture like Green House Gases (GHG) cut into the bottom line of an old established business like winter,” Biff remarked.

Promising a new, improved winter roll-out by the first of the year, Biff also has plans for an extended season in an effort to encroach on summer’s consumer base. “Our long term strategy is to be the dominant seasonal force all year round.

“We are streamlining our ability to deliver the core product line of snow, ice and freezing temperatures across a wider distribution network, and our business plan reflects exploiting that advantage. By being able to efficiently project winter weather anywhere, anytime, we’ll be the primary player in the seasonal market all year long,” Biff remarked confidently before calling the press conference to an end with a sudden blizzard.

In a related story, an inebriated Old Man Winter was spotted on a beach in Hawaii this week. When asked why he chose to relinquish all control of winter, he remarked angrily, “I’ve been busting my ass since the Cretaceous-Tertiary period. I’m retired!”

Amanda Knox In Trouble Again

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I mean what is going ON with Amanda Knox, there I was thinking she’s so sweet and innocent, those big, baby doll blue eyes, no wonder the TV networks had her on the airwaves, all of America is rootin for the gal with no pal, but hey … what if she’s guilty? What if she’s pullin’ the wool over our eyes.

She and Meredith fell out over the flush of the toilet, sounds minor but is it? How annoying when someone leaves evidence in the bowl … can’t blame Meredith for having a go, but is it enough to KILL for? I mean if someone says, hey you! Flush the goddamn loo! Are you gonna get a knife and slash their throat? No, I don’t thinks so.

Now the prosecutors are saying she’s connected to the the local coke dealers, not good for the CV. The official knight in shining amour, Sollecito, 30, has turned his back on his lady friend citing “peculiarities” in her version of events.

This is just not going away. Let’s hope justice is done for Meredith Kercher whose memory is getting lost in all of this Amanda Knox publicity.

Oilsome Seagull

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oilsome seagullSeagulls – beautiful yet wild, mischievous yet fierce, aggressive yet comical, omnipresent yet barely noticed by humans. And when we do notice them it’s normally for the wrong reasons – stealing food, dive-bombing anyone who gets too close to their young, or generally squabbling amongst themselves and making a racket. In short, being a nuisance, one we could do without.

However, while their absence may make our days at the beach more peaceful, their link in the ecological food chain is irreplaceable. They act as invaluable vacuum cleaners for the environment, both on land and at sea – they clean beaches by scavenging for carrion and offal but, being opportunistic feeders, they also eat rats and other small pests. Without them, we would be knee deep in dead fish and other garbage.
Sadly, their numbers are not as great as we perceive them to be. Many are being wiped out by oil spills, a slow, painful way for them to die.

Oil in the feathers mat them and expose the seagull to temperatures and weather conditions that can be fatal. They also lose their natural buoyancy from air pockets created by proper feather alignment, and they can sink and drown in polluted waters. But the tragedy doesn’t stop there. An area subjected to an oil spill becomes uninhabitable for the gulls as food supplies are gradually killed off from the toxic poisons, and oil coating nesting areas destroys critical habitat. If birds are already nesting at the time of the pollution, oil that coats the eggs will suffocate the unhatched chicks, decimating the birds’ population.

If eggs have not been laid but female adults ingest the oil, the pollution can cause thinner shells that are more subject to being crushed and causing malformed chicks that will not survive. Over time, small amounts of oil in the birds’ ecosystem can be absorbed into food supplies, gradually building to deadly concentrations in birds that eat that food, whether it is plant life, insects, fish or other food sources.

The seagull, like any species on earth, forms an indispensable link in a chain that binds us all together. And a chain is, after all, only as strong as its weakest link. But, remove that link completely, and the entire becomes chain is useless. So, the next time a seagull snatches a sandwich from your fingers, try and remember that he is just as important as any other creature on our blue planet.

Conservation can be a heavy topic so, to lift your spirits, click on the link below and listen to a 1960’s folk song about an ‘oilsome seagull’ by a South African duo, Des and Dawn Lindberg:

New Writers Comin’ Up

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It’s a tough for a new or new-ish writer.  He or she must keep going against all the odds in the hopes of finding a publisher.  The writer faces the possibility that he or she may never get published, but in today’s marketplace, getting published is not the issue. Many writers choose to self-publish (and I’ll be putting an article up soon on that topic), others go with small press or start up publishing houses.

If you have a good story to tell you will always find readers.  Okay, it may be tough getting the word around, but with dedication and effort you’ll find your niche. Tenacity is the name of the game folks. Remember, it’s easy to get lost in your own little world, writing away and expressing your thoughts yet forgetting to share those thoughts.  I have had marvellous material sent from writers who then disappear into the ether, not following up on their initial enquiry, and that’s a real shame.

So do keep the flow of communications going. It’s important to email the potential editor or agent with a gentle nudge or query if you haven’t heard back. Also, keep sending your work around to magazines, publishers, especially small press publishers starting out like you. From tiny acorns and all.

Above all, if someone shows interest don’t abandon that interest.  Never let the ball drop.

Polonius’ advice to Laertes;

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel

In the meantime, submissions have been pouring in. We have some really interesting new writers on board.  One of these is a truly tenacious and talented writer called Diane Van Der Westhuizen from South Africa. Diane is a hard working girl, if she’s says she’s sending you work, she’s sending you work!

Diane is passionate about conservation and animal welfare and this passion is reflected in her work, which is mighty entertaining by the way. She is able to take the plight of a single bird and turn it into a joyful narrative.

Diane’s new book about Nelson the seagull is around half-way through. Diane works at a tremendous pace, she tells me that she fuels up on coffee and cigarettes and keeps going through the night.  That’s dedication!  (By the way, I’m not promoting cigarettes but each to their own!)

So, well done Diane, keep those chapters coming girl.

Read Diane’s article on endangered seagulls here

Why Supermarkets Suck – Take Morrisons

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Why Supermarkets Suck – Take Morrisons

The world is being taken over by cash machines, I’ve suspected this forever, now worthy old Morrisons supermarket is crunching off 2600 human jobs In favour of these metal beings. What a shame, it’s a sweet supermarket compared to most. Always offering bargains, the best and the cheapest Feta cheese this side of the Mediterranean sea. What is happening to our world? Why don’t we humans protect our interests, are we going to roll over like sissies and let these infernal auto-cash thugs take our money and push us around forever?

Read the rest of this entry