Thursday, September 19, 2013

The German-Language Version of BLEEDING KANSAS Is Now Available!

I’m impressed with how quickly this got done. I’d love to meet the translator and ask him or her how they worked around my American idioms. If nothing else, I hope Derek Grace’s sour-snarky attitude towards Life in These United States ca. 2013 translated well for a people and a nation with their own problems.

Photo from one of my favorite foreign news sites, Der Spiegel.
Click here to see read their English language article
 on how to get the most out of your Oktoberfest experience.
Which is all to say I hope I sell a metric ton of books to Germans, who will like it enough to bring me over to the ancestral homeland just so they can have a look at me and see if I’m really for real. So I in turn can see Germany. Also, I’d really love to go to Oktoberfest. I’ve got to do that at least once before I die. I want to go there with my son, dress in the lederhosen, and ogle me some frauleins....

Anyway, it’s been a lovely, chill fall day. Here’s hoping your day was at least tolerable. It’s all I can ask for most days myself.

So it for the cover alone!.
Oh, and on the off-off chance anyone’s interested, the link to purchase the German edition from publisher Luzifer-Verlag is here. I recommend looking at the site if only for the stunning cover art on their books. I’m waiting to see if they offer Bleeding Kansas with the cover art on a special flash drive. I’ll have to get a shadow box for that and the paperback.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer the American version to the uninitiated. Sorry about the cover. That one is all my fault. It’s a delightfully cynical and mean-spirited little tale, though. It’s on the inside what counts! Ask any zombie chewing on a length of long pig chitlin!

UPDATE: The intrepid translator making sense of Bleeding Kansas to German readers is Torsten Scheib. Look for the link to his blog Scheib’s Shit on the “Other Voices in the Wilderness” column on the right. As of this writing he's finishing translation of my second book, Grace Among the Dead.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Fear and Self-Loathing

A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.  —Ambrose Bierce

It happens, and I have to check myself from time to time. Reading stuff on the Internet for the sole purpose of pissing myself off. So weird how we become addicted to things like that. 

In the course of checking myself this time, deliberately swearing off some Web sites, I’ve come to a startling conclusion: so much out there is directed at making us hate ourselves. 

Who’s us? Mainly Americans, of course, though I expect some of this can apply throughout the Anglosphere. For my part, I’m guilty of it, too. Looking down at people for being such and such a way and hating myself for the same. Not that some of this isn’t entirely justified. Still, it’s curious that we are the citizen/ subjects of the most advanced civilization in history (no irony) and we are expected to hate ourselves for 

* Being privileged to enjoy the comforts of modern civilization

* Being fat

* Being lazy

* Watching too much TV

* Being a “sheeple”/“drinking the Kool-Aid”

* Being startled to learn the obvious (seriously, you’re only now just noticing?)

Again, some of this could be justified. For instance, hating myself for being fat is a powerful motivator to watch what I eat and get my fat self exercising.

One could also say it’s a brilliant mass culture psyop. Make people doubt themselves. People who hate themselves and each other aren’t coming together to threaten anyone’s status quo.

Of course, that presumes someone is getting a memo to push this. It also discounts the sheer meanness of people in general, the way we like to build ourselves up by tearing others down. We like feeling superior to the morbidly obese, to the Teabilly, to the libtard, that scrawny little thing with the stupid-looking glasses, etc.

Whatever the case, what a hoot! We’re citizen/subjects of the biggest, richest empire in the history of human civilization—and we hate ourselves! One can only wonder what the ancient Romans would have made of this.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Gifts for the Taking, Belatedly Unwrapped

WARNING: Yet another one of those godawful stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of posts.

Like me, Charles Bukowski suffered from severe bouts of depression with the occasional dip into suicidal ideation, and it helps to see how he handled it. Bukowski wrote of how he could be inspired by the sight of a dog walking down the street, his spirits lifted by the flash of lightning behind the mountain. This I have recognized from past experience. You look for any encouragement you can get from the universe, however indirect.

So. What do I have? Only what happened to me a few Sundays back, the one right before my Bad Week.

While taking my customary after-dinner walk. I got a whiff of something blooming on a cool breeze just before the crossing the pedestrian walk. I’d crossed over because the walking trails in the greenbelt across the street are on a tall ridge overlooking the near south, and beyond the next tall ridge was a very active electrical storm. 

This is the view due south. You have to picture this in late summer, not early fall. Then early evening,
as opposed to late afternoon. Then with blue-black storm clouds with lightning spanning the horizon
and well beyond the frame of this photo. Got that?

Although the storm was so far away you couldn’t hear the thunder (keep in mind this is Colorado, and you can see for miles from a tall enough ridge) I could feel the electricity in the air, making the hair stand up on the back of my neck. So I cut a hard right back up a steep slope on the ridge to take me back into the residential neighborhood and a quicker way home.

“This is Colorado, and you can see for miles from a tall enough ridge.”
This is the view from near the top of that “really steep slope” mentioned above. I feel like I’m eye-level with the summit of Cheyenne Mountain.

The thought of getting zapped on this high ridge helped immensely with any fatigue I might have suffered taking on this slope. Still, I had to stop and turn and look one more time at the light show. It was a fantastic view, bolts of hotter-than-the-sun electricity spreading for miles over east and west.

Another reason I was cutting my walk short had to do with the growing darkness. The storm clouds brought the deep twilight on early. I ascended into the cul-de-sac and walked my zig-zag route back down to the main road.

As I rounded the corner I was stopped by the sight of a hissing, sparking, popping cylinder in the middle of the street. It was some kind of fireworks device I’ve never seen before. I was uncertain of how safe it would be to walk around it, even on the sidewalk. So I stood and watched as it hissed and threw sparks ten feet into the air, some of which popped like small firecrackers.

On the opposite side of the street were what I guessed to be two families from adjacent houses sitting in folding chairs in one driveway, watching the spectacle. 

I stood on my side and watched with them. In maybe a minute or so I felt safe enough to pass on down the street. Once I got a few yards down towards the next intersection I turned in time to see the cylinder catch its second wind. It spat sparkles and popping flame for another 30 or 45 seconds. 

I thought about taking my phone out to snap a picture* but I didn’t want the families enjoying this to think I was ratting them out to the police, as fireworks are banned in El Paso County, Colorado. So I enjoyed it with them, complicit in their criminality, until the cylinder fizzled out. Remarkably, the usual odor of cordite was absent. A very stealthy cylinder. I wondered how much it cost. A few minutes late or soon and I would have missed this. Lucky me. A gift from the Universe, as a former therapist of mine would have put it. 

I turned and walked on. The dying light behind the mountains as I walked westward towards home, the graceful S-curve of the four-lane street I crossed as it wound away down the hill...all of it was lost on me. The fireworks, the lightning, that pleasant scent as I stood at the top of the ridge before crossing the road. Wasted. What followed was simply a bad week. One misery after another, the kind of week in which you question the validity of breathing.

I did remember all this, though, as I took my walk the following Sunday. It all came back to me in the huge, grassy park I go through towards the beginning of my walk. Out in the middle of the field was the guy who lives somewhere down my street with four tiny little toy poodles. He’s a blonde, athletic-looking guy of 30 or so who should have no trouble with the ladies—and he’s wielding one heck of a conversation-starter with these dogs. They’re not yappy. They’re extremely well trained. He’s running his own little circus with these things, right there in the middle of that big green field.

A free circus, with the most insufferably adorable little creatures you ever did clap your tired, grumpy eyes on. The guy running it isn’t some schlumpy-looking loser, either. Imagine that. Only where I live, in the unfashionable and crumbling south end of Briargate, in Great Recession-era Colorado Springs.

On these Sundays since, I notice the ladies all say “Hi” and “Good evening!” to me now that I no longer give them the two-second sizing-up I used to do before passing them. One fading little yuppie beauty gave me this big, chirpy “”Hey!” right in front of her husband. In this case I looked and saw her smiling right at me, showing off her preternaturally straight and white teeth. I had just enough time to smile and nod in response as I passed. And then wonder, What on earth was that all about?

Thanks for all this, Universe. I do look for these things now and they’re all very nice, but what I really need is a spike in book sales and a massive royalty payment at the end of the quarter this month. Christmas and everything else depends upon it. Put a few C-notes in the card next time, all right?

* As a man of a Certain Age, I can’t help chuckling at the facile absurdity of “taking my phone out to snap a picture.” I laugh out loud when I picture how my long-dead (since Reagan was president) and not-very-quick-on-the-uptake mother would have reacted to such a statement.