One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer

I belong to an online music club. I pay $7 a month to get a hardcopy CD mailed to me from my queue of chosen CDs. If my queue runs out they charge me anyway-I’m not this foolish. Initially I front loaded my queue with ten or so CDs I’d been wanting to get for the first time or replace in my current collection. Since that batch ran it’s course I’ve spottily kept barely ahead of the ‘nothing in your queue’ gotcha. Normally I’ll add a whole album based on a song I’ve heard recently on the radio or the Coverville podcast.

Somewhere I heard George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” so I added his “Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock” CD. I recognized enough songs in the list of 16 that I had no trouble adding it to my queue and then bumping it to the top. I’ve never known what metric a label uses to determine greatness or hit-iosity, so I can’t say if something is obviously missing or erroneously included. I can only say I sing along to some more than others.

I first heard “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” on this album less than a month ago. I love it. I replay it immediately after it ends. I’ll skip back to it sometimes when “Willie and the Hand Jive” just isn’t cutting it for my driving pleasure. I’ve wondered if there are any good covers.

This song makes me feel like I’ve pushed the moldering newspapers off an old chest in the attic and found the storybook grandma read to me as a child. You know, the one about bourbon, scotch, and beer.

Word count: 278
Day 218

The Creative Writer’s Style Guide

The other day I mentioned I was looking for a book. I don’t know if I called it by name. Most likely I referred to it as a writing book—maybe a grammar book. I’ve found it improperly shelved between two outdated software manuals for 3D modeling. “The Creative Writer’s Style Guide” by Christopher T. Leland (dude! where’s you blog?) reads surprisingly well for an instructional book on writing. I credit Leland’s conversational style, terse but varied examples, and lack of assignments for my success in reading his book cover to cover.

The first half of the book outlines technical grammar rules by reflecting examples from fiction writing. He begins with nouns—in case you didn’t know what those were—moves through verbs, then parts of speech, sentences, capitalization, punctuation, and concludes with dialogue and thought. Thankfully he doesn’t use an extended example throughout with the same characters and same scenes playing out only with a new focus on the next topic.

If the first half of the book teaches you how words work, the later half teaches you how to work the words. This last part covers language and style. I’m sure there are excellent topics left out, but looking over the table of contents the gaps don’t spring to mind considering that Leland covers images, slang and dialect, offensive words, description, pace, accuracy, allusion, and experimentation. For me, the book is like a personally designed Swiss Army knife. It matches the appropriate amount of blades with the necessary array of gadgets and leaves out the useless awl and magnifying glass.

I am glad to have it back on my desk—maybe now I’ll get to using that dash correctly.

Word count: 274
Day 215

Almost Like Writing

The outstanding looking Scrivener software for the Mac stumbled into my Internet surfing yesterday. As a result I began googling ‘scrivener for windows’. Most of the hits were people wishing there was such an app, but a very few proposed candidates. I installed and played with three contenders: yWriter, Liquid Story Binder XE, and Celtix.

I’ve been aware of yWriter by Spacejock Software for a number of years. It hits every time I search for writing software. The most recent addition, version 4, shows maturity and a better thought out design than I recall earlier versions sporting. If I were only needing subtance and practicality, I think this would do the trick, but I’m a little bit of a gloss whore. yWriter, the best of the three, is not chrome-tastic.

Celtix is chrome-tastic. It’s also focused on script writing with the ability to handle plain text—you know, for mere mortals. The link I followed didn’t make it out to be so industry specific, so maybe it’s unfair in this line up. Most of the bits can be coerced into use for novel writing and probably serve just fine. The rest of the bits just hang out there screaming let’s write a movie. For me that is distraction enough to avoid further use.

Liquid Story Binder XE comes the closest at a glance to Scrivener. Once I installed it and poked around I discovered that it’s not flexible and complex, but a mess. Some dude cobbled this up to his own specific writing needs. If your specific writing needs and his are parallel then great, you’re set. Mine aren’t.

What do I need you ask.

I’m not entirely sure. Since I haven’t written a novel or long piece of fiction I can’t say for certain what I need. What I want though scans out something like this:

  • Foldering to organize the chunks of writing
  • Character sheets
  • Location sheets
  • Prop sheets
  • An intuitive way to inventory characters, locations, and props across the chunks
  • Word count and task duration statistics
  • Integrated submission/rejection tracking
  • Looks cool

The BBC’s Coupling

Think of this as practice for techniques other than the exposure of a great television program(me).

I year or so back I became absorbed by a BBC America “Coupling” marathon. In the middle of a work day I sat down to eat a late lunch at my in-laws–where the TV is always on–and began flipping channels. I probably watched three episodes and could have watched more. I returned to work vowing to find that show when I got back home.

Last week I remembered that vow and fired up the search and record feature on the satellite to accomplish my aging goal.

I’ve either heard or read that “Friends” was based on, derived from, or just often compared to “Coupling”. I can see how either of those first two might be true and I can understand why the last certainly was true. My simple opinion is that the British program was both more and less what the American one was.

The first five shows I’ve seen were more extreme in their sexuality. I guess in Europe they can get away with just a touch more than we can here. Friends limitations forced very topical crude humor when it came to sex. [place examples from episode here when you think of some]. Coupling’s story propelling dialogue is what I’ll call intellectually bawdy. Maybe it’s just the accents. Maybe it’s just that I’ve watch so few episodes in comparison. That’s just my take on it.

Coupling’s characters are less than Friends. Stylized and compartmentalized characterizations mark American sitcoms’ mainstay. If Joey is a womanizing playboy in season one, he’ll be one in season eight. Along the way he may have become more lovable, but he won’t have become more like Chandler or Ross. Coupling’s characters are already more like each other than we are used to here in the States. While you can make out the general distinctions between the three male characters, there doesn’t seem to be any rule why one can’t be as sarcastic or as athletic or as kooky as another is the plot calls for it. In all that they still maintain enough of a distinction that the roles aren’t interchangeable.

Word count: 345
Day 191

Martin Sexton at the Bricktown Ballroom

Martin Sexton sang two songs in his encore: Chris Trapper‘s “Wild Irish Rose” from when he was with The Push Stars and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”.

Trapper opened for Sexton an hour earlier and by anyone’s account made us forget for a while who’s name was on the ticket. Trapper’s songs came off like we’d listened to them over and over–like we’d done for Sexton’s–even though I doubt many in the crowd of maybe 150 had. They were about the emotion and the story. If the number of syllables in the lyrics didn’t quite match up with the tune, that was OK, he’d sing them a little fast so we couldn’t tell. I’m thinking a good biographic headline might read “Nerd Turned Folksinger Makes Good”, but then I don’t really know what a nerd or a folksinger are.

Johnny Cash was not in obvious attendance.

Let me be clear, Sexton didn’t sing Chris’ “Wild Irish Rose” while Chris sat backstage with a beer thinking, “Man it’s great to hear that guy do my stuff.” Sexton sang accompaniment on a song that was clearly Chris’ and he said so. One guy in front of me came unglued when he heard this. His buddy hugged him in celebration as if to say, “I told you he’d do it. See?” Set up like this, I was leery of what would come next. Could any song be worth a public, uninhibited, jumping up and down, man hug? Not for the first time that night I regretted not having brought a recording device of some kind.

I don’t know of anyone that can play Cash’s stuff and not conjure The Man in Black. Certainly you can’t conclude with “Folsom Prison Blues” without commanding the audience to walk back to their cars thinking of Johnny first and you second.

I’ve been to few enough concerts to just say none at all, so I can’t say how other performers handle encores but I doubt it’s this way. Generous and humble.

The smoker dude out front of the Bricktown Ballroom said it best when he remarked to a smoker dudette that it was a strange venue. That worried me as I climbed the wooden staircase. It shouldn’t have–one man’s weird is another man’s cosy. The informal clump of three men at the top of the stairs were printing tickets from a laptop, stamping hands if you wanted to drink, and some third thing that must have been equally important, but sadly unremarkable. The single warehouse room devoted the back quarter to the one step up stage. A crowd of maybe fifty leaned on the rail or leaned on those leaning on the rail. Some few had camped out on the floor along the walls or pillars. A ransom note font style poster on stage right warned against moshing or stage diving–no worries. A hand written notebook page requested the performers not hang from the sprinkler systems–not likely. In the evolution of performance space, this room held vestiges of the garage, the living room, and the back yard. An echo of–“My Mom and Dad went out to the Cape. Marty’s coming over to play.”–hung in the air. If this was weird, it was good weird. Sexton certainly played it like it was good weird.

Good included hitting four of four mics. Two of two pianos–I think they were pianos, I never saw them over the crowd. But what else do you sit down to play? And two if not three guitars. Was there a harmonica too? I suppose having all that set up ahead of time just makes the show flow quickly for the sound guy, but the down stage left mic was quite different. I don’t have the slightest idea what they call it in the industry, but it made Sexton’s voice sound like Hendrix on a guitar.

Good included excellent crowd rapport. The truth is I can listen to an album at home and get most of what I need that way. If I go out to see you live, I want to see you live playing music. Sexton didn’t disappoint me. He introduced himself with both words, lyrics, and music. His self-deprecating segues illuminated and entertained. “You don’t seem like the type of audience that screams out, “Gypsy Woman” in the middle of a quiet piece. Maybe you are, but you don’t seem like it.”

Good included every song I wanted to hear and a few I hadn’t expected–I haven’t bought “Seeds” yet. Sexton left a few hallmark songs in the cellar, but with so many to play you have to forgive him that he might not have uncorked your favorite. I’m glad he didn’t water anything down with a ten song montage. Each and every pour was generous and allowed to breath.

I’m recommending the night to all my friends. Especially those of you in Denver and LA that have time to pick up tickets for the shows later this month.

Word count: 865
Days 152, 153, 154, and 156

Day 73: Cryptozoology Infomercials

Aside from a switched on TV being a reason for me to stop and watch, I get totally reeled in by get rich real estate infomercials and cryptozoology programs.  Of course on Halloween there were plenty of those.  The one I watched highlighted the Northeastern North American Lake Champlain and it’s “Champ”.

Pretty much a rip off of Loch Ness.

In recent years I’ve noticed a trend for these programs to amplify the pseudo-science with considerations of an ecological angle often combined with a more hard science approach.  The hard science result is both the climax and the let down of the show.  But I’m liking the inclusion nonetheless.  Asking questions about the required behaviors of an unknown animal, it’s affect on the ecosystem, how it breeds, or if the ecosystem could ever support it appeal to me.  I like the angle for it’s similarities to discovering black holes.  Let decide it IS there and then find it from the dent it makes.

Sadly, they never go full throttle with this technique.  This show got close in one brief interview with a local biologist, but didn’t follow through.  She started describing the community size requirements to avoid inbreeding.  Her numbers were in the 50s and the 500s.  They cut her off before she could go on about the dent that would make in the food web–not to mention the likelihood of not being able to locate them.  Another self-described (cause who else would assign this moniker?) cryptozoologist talked about several cryptos that had been ‘discovered’: mountain gorillas, ceolocanths, okapi, and something else.  Now that gives a nice historical sciencey feel to the whole thing, but its a distracting load of crap since once those animals were discovered they remained discovered.  It was like it was hard to find them again, so it can’t have been too hard to have found them in the first place.  I don’t see that being the case with bigfoot, nessie, and that Mexican goat-bat thing.

Anyhow, for some reason this whole topic gives me the willies.  I expect to lie in bed for a bit just wondering.  Eesh.

Word count: 350

Day 30: DarkRoom Review(ish)

It shouldn’t surprise me how often writing tips, advice, and strategies drift to the top of the various aggregators’ lists. The whole world seems to be writing now. Last night I came across something that I’ve hoped for for some time. I am writing in it now.

Not that you could tell.

DarkRoom is a Windows homage to the Mac application WriteRoom. On a Mac it’s a throw back to the Apple][e on a Windows machine its a throwback to DOS or WordPerfect 5.1. A text editor that robs your screen of all the distractions, replacing it with green text on black background. A CRT.

I’ve been able to replicate this look in Windows and Office for some time. You have to spend a while tweaking the environmental settings of the OS and then throw Office into fullscreen mode. I have settings for classic green and neo-classic amber. Trouble is that the plugin menu for Adobe PDF puts a kink in the screen and Office forces you to have a “Fullscreen” toggle menu. You can hide it in the bottom corner, but the magic is tainted still.

With DarkRoom you may set the background opacity down from 100%. Your text appears to be floating mid-air over all the other windows on your screen. I have it set to 75% now. It feels like a jet fighter HUD. That’s teh shit. I wonder what it looks like set to 0%.

Not so good.

First, it doesn’t go to straight 0%–something more like 10% is the nadir. Second, the text looks like it drops off opacity along with the background. Instead of appearing like my text is just weirdly overwriting the spreadsheet I have open in the window below, it looks like somethings broken on my screen.

Let’s see if I can hook you up with a screenshot…

dark room screenshot