Saturday, April 30, 2011

Very Weird Cloud Thingy

You have to put this in full-screen and fast forward to around 43-seconds and watch the upper left portion of the clouds. This video is by a Christian guy I just met. He has no idea what it is either, but it's very strange.

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Woman in the Dunes"

I watched a Japanese movie from the early 60s over the weekend called "Woman in the Dunes" that was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen. It was chilling and the very definition of "strangeness" (as CS Lewis used the word). The film had a very otherworldly quality to it that was like watching a nightmare. I can't really say if it was good or bad, but everyone should see it just to see what strange really is.

It's about a man (a school teacher) who's an entomologist. During a lone expedition to the beach to collect sand beetles etc., he becomes a prisoner in a woman's hut that exists at the bottom of a deep sand pit. The sand itself has some otherworldly qualities to it. The woman has apparently been there all her life. We find at the end of the film that the man stays there at least seven years, and by the end of the movie, he becomes so acclimated to his surroundings that he doesn't seem to want to leave.

If there's a Hell, this movie is it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hilaire Belloc - "The Night"

I have some audio clips of Belloc singing his own songs at YouTube, and a man by the name of Jude Galbraith left a video response to it that's a choral work he wrote and sang all the parts to with the words taken from one of Belloc's poems--"The Night." He's got a style of vocalizing that's unlike anything I've ever heard. Check out some of his other songs too at his YouTube Channel.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Disturbing Trend In E-Publishing

In 2010 we saw for the first time that electronic downloads of books outsold hard copy books for the first time. That does not necessarily mean what it appears to on the surface however. E-publishers often sell very short works of fiction and poetry which traditional hard copy publishers wouldn't be able to make available because the cost involved in printing a hard copy of a short work would barely bring any profit. For instance, you couldn't very well sell a 10,000 word short story or essay for the same price as a 120,000 word novel, but the cost in putting together the print version of each wouldn't be much different. It's fairly easy however, and cost next to nothing, to make a work of any size available for electronic download. So by default, there are many more works available for download than there are for hard copy, and as such, there will be more works sold via downloads. But those downloads won't necessarily bring in more money for e-publishers.

Short works are in fact one of the good aspects to e-publishing. Let's say for instance, that you're a new writer of fiction. A short story through an e-publisher may be a good way to test the waters and see if anyone likes your work before committing to spending months, or even years, at hard work on a novel that no one will read. Also, starting your own e-publishing company is child's play, and there are times when self-publishing is actually the best way to go. For instance, if you have a popular website that focuses on a particular subject in which you have a fair amount of expertise, but you know there wouldn't be enough sales in writing a book about that subject for a print publication to take it on. Self-publishing can work in a situation like that where only a few hundred sales are expected. But other than these types of examples, a traditional publisher through a good agent is still the only road worth taking. The reason why involves a disturbing trend that e-publishing has brought about, and that trend involves a cesspool of sharks.

Many e-publishers will take just about anything you send them. It cost next to nothing to list books with online retailers. Some will even ask you to format your own book for them. They'll ask, no, demand, that you join some silly online network or mail-list, and then count on each of the authors in that network to become friendly enough to buy one another's books along with what family and real world friends the authors can badger into buying their books as well. Of course the author makes no money if what little profit they have goes into buying the books of their friends in the network. Many of the books may sell less than ten copies. But the publisher keeps the largest percentage of the profits, so all they have to do is publish as many books as they can to make a good profit. Instead of a handful of truly good authors selling thousands of books each, they'll have thousands of authors selling ten books each. They make a profit either way. The only one who really loses is the author. Actually, we may all lose in the end when we find the online book seller sites absolutely flooded with books, most of which never should have been written, let alone sold. It will become very difficult in coming years to find anything worth reading when you have to plow your way through mounds of sludge to find that one diamond in the electron stack.

I came across this posting in an online group by a women identified as Sandra who just had her book accepted by an e-publisher a few weeks prior:

Edits are coming along. But last night I realized 500 words into a scene, staring at white space, that most of an entire chapter was missing. Not just any chapter. THE CLIMAX CHAPTER, in ALL the copies I submitted to agents and publishers last January! ... Honestly, this is the confrontation with the head bad guy, the heroine in a potentially fatal position, the hero having to save her....of all scenes to go missing! ... I'm surprised it was accepted at all.
It was no surprise to me.

So how do you know if an e-publisher is one of the good ones?

Look online for posts by people saying they had a book rejected by them. Let's say the publisher is called ABC Publishing. Google something like "ABC Publishing rejected" or "rejected by ABC". If your search turns up empty, this is probably a publisher to avoid. And of course, be very leery of any publisher who demands that you to join any kind of online networking group. Look through their book catalog. Is it listed with Amazon? If so, Amazon has a service that allows you to browse through their books to see if you think you might like them before you buy anything. The publisher, however, can deny access. If a publishing house doesn't want perspective buyers to be able to browse books before they buy them, then there's a good chance they don't want you to know just how poor quality those books are. Don't go by excerpts. Almost any book can have at least a few well written paragraphs. And lastly, find out what kind of material the publisher asks you to send in for their consideration. Any reputable publisher will only want to see a few pages and/or a synopsis of the chapters, at least for the most part. If they say right up front to send them the entire MS, and especially if they ask you to format it to anything other than Courier, such as Georgia, Garamond, or any other popular font that e-publishing uses—this is a real danger sign.

E-publishing has a good purpose, but there are plenty of sharks in those waters too. Swimmers beware. You are your own best lifeguard.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Beach Boys A-Cappella "God Only Knows"

I remember when this song came out, The Beach Boys and The Beatles had a real friendly rivalry going, and after Lennon and McCartney first heard this song, they looked at each other and said, "How are we ever gonna top that?"

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Forest Park

I shot some video at Forest Park today. People can down St. Louis all they want (and half the time I'll join them), but if they did one thing right it was this wonderful park. I spend many weekends out here walking the 6-mile trail around the place.

It was too windy to get great footage today even on a tripod, but it isn't terrible.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mafia President Trump?

Let's talk about just a few of Donald Trump's mob ties:

Phillip Wasserman - Trump uses Wasserman's company to promote free lunch seminars that are in reality high pressure sales pitches. Wasserman resigned from the Florida Bar rather than face disciplinary action. According to, "The Florida Supreme Court found him guilty of charging excessive fees, failure to act with diligence, improper trust-account maintenance and even paying a disciplinary fine with a bad check." Wasserman openly admits that many of his family members are involved with the Chicago Mob, but will say nothing of his own involvement.

Genovese Mafia Family - From a July 2001 Time Magazine article: "Even the currently troubled Donald Trump has allegedly paid his Genovese dues, perhaps unwittingly. Last month Trump took the stand in Manhattan's federal court to deny that he knowingly hired 200 illegal Polish aliens to demolish a building in Manhattan in 1980 to make way for his glittering Trump Tower. Members of Housewreckers Local 95, who also accuse their own president in the scheme, allege that Trump was able to avoid making payments that would now total $1 million (including interest) into the union's pension funds. % "You can bet there was a wise guy somewhere in the background," says an FBI specialist on the Genovese family. Says labor consultant Daniel Sullivan, an FBI source on the Mob who has testified in the case: "It's a classic Mob relationship. Trump or his people had to have a deal to get such a sweetheart contract."

Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno and Paul Castellano, both of the Gambino Mob - Wayne Barrett, political writer for the Village Voice named several crime families connected to Trump's building and real estate ventures in his 1991 book, _Trump: The Deals and the Downfall_, where he showed copies of numerous government documents and personal interviews backing his claims. Salerno and Castellano's S&A Concrete company was one that was used several times, including all the concrete used in the Trump Towers.

Roy Cohn - Well known lawyer to the mob has handled numerous suits for Trump over the years. Barrett claims Trump was like a son to Cohn.

John Cody - Boss of that same Gambino owned concrete company. Trump rented a condo to his girlfriend, and then after Cody went to prison, Trump tried to sue her for unpaid rent. That is, until she filed court papers accusing Trump of taking kickbacks from an architect working on her apartment. Trump settled out of court giving her a half million dollars.

Robert Hopkins - Lucchese crime family associate who ran the biggest illegal numbers operation in New York out of his Trump Tower condo, according to court records cited in the book.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Got Myself A Kindle Today

I'll probably leave a full review on my CM blog in the coming days. Right now I just want to say what a treat this thing is. I couldn't be much happier with it. It takes a good part of the day to figure out the majority of its functions, but it's very rewarding once you do. What sets it apart from other e-readers is that it has a tiny keypad so you can, not only highlight passages, but leave notations about them too. With all the free content at Gutenberg I should never run out of things to read.