Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's Christmas Eve, babe...

Yes. For the second consecutive Christmas, I bring you the gift of Pogues. Not because of any great love for the drunk tank, or Frank Sinatra or Matt Dillon, but because if listening to this song doesn't make you want to immediately hug your spouse or significant other, your holiday spirit is running a quart low.



Merry Christmas! (or if you don't celebrate that one, Happy Non-Denominational Winter Holiday!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Who gets 86'ed from Border's?

Some dude wearing sunglasses at 5 p.m. during a snowstorm, that's who. But not before suggesting several anatomically impossible pastimes to the security guard.

The clerk and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, "Happy Holidays." It warms my heart to see that the spirit of sarcasm is still alive in these trying times.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama is proof of my photographic theories

You're probably asking yourself, "Self--what is Gerry talking about?" Well, dear reader, I'll tell you.

I am a big believer in documenting fun times. They are fun, after all. And if there is drinking involved, then the actual memories, the kind that exist in your head, are probably a little blurrier than you'd like. That means photographic documentation. But that means you're never in your own pictures.

This happened a lot in college. Except not for Barack Obama.

Even the negatives look positive.


Yeah. A photographer just happened to come across him and just happened to take a bunch of pictures of him in a badass hat. Where was my professional photographer when I had a badass college hat? (note: This is a trick question. I never had a badass hat in college)

Anyway, like I said, I think this conclusively proves my theory. Thank you, Mr. President-elect.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Off to the hinterlands

Yes! A weekend vacation in the snow. And you know what goes well with snowy vacations?

Eggnog. But be sure not to leave out the...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dear governor,

I wish you hadn't gone and gotten charged with some unbelievably ballsy crimes. Although they are entertaining--seriously, who tries to sell a U.S. Senate seat? Who?--there have been some unpleasant consequences.

Namely, the fleet of media helicopters hovering over your home. Which happens to be a few blocks from my home.

Please oblige them with a wave or a middle finger and send them on their way.

Your neighbor,

Gerry Doyle

P.S. Happy birthday.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Not to go all Jeremy Bentham on you...

... but happiness is clearly a big part of the human condition. It drives our actions. It shapes the way we view the world. And it's almost impossible to quantify.

However! Scientists need things to study, and this particular bunch decided to study happiness. And it turns out, they say, that other factors aside, other people's happiness is what makes us happy. Hi, there's an Aristotle on Line 1... he's shouting something about a Prime Mover.

Scientists say this happy face is living a lie.


Ahem, anyway... as reported in the Chicago Tribune (and check out the killer headline that ran in the newspaper, if you can. Whoever wrote it is an undeniable savant.),

"We've known for some time that social relationships are the best predictor of human happiness, and this paper shows that the effect is much more powerful than anyone realized," said Daniel Gilbert, author of "Stumbling on Happiness" and a professor of psychology at Harvard University.
And here's a look at exactly how much your relationships affect your happiness:

"If a social contact is happy, it increases the likelihood that you are happy by 15 percent," James Fowler said. "A friend of a friend, or the friend of a spouse or a sibling, if they are happy, increases your chances by 10 percent," he added.

A happy third-degree friend -- the friend or a friend of a friend -- increases a person's chances of being happy by 6 percent.

"But every extra unhappy friend increases the likelihood that you'll be unhappy by 7 percent," Fowler said.



Now you can calculate exactly how much value your friends and family bring to your life. If that's the sort of thing that makes you happy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's that time of year again

I speak, of course, of the end of the semester at Northwestern University. Although it's the middle of the winter and everyone knows that this is only a temporary respite from being forcefully reprogrammed, grammatically speaking, it's still a nice feeling.

The students get to wander off to their hometowns and enjoy the holiday of their choice. The teachers get the satisfaction of having watched the students struggle (not fun), learn (kind of fun, but, as I mentioned, a struggle) and improve (fun).

Then we'll do it all over again in a couple of months. It's like Sisyphus, but without the torture.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Is that a computer in your pocket, or are you just happy to read me?

Yeah, don't think about the title too hard.

The point is that evidently "From the Depths" is now for sale in the tiniest format available: the electron. If you have one of them fancy Kindle devices, you can download the whole thing and read it wherever (Except maybe while driving. Or underwater. Or fighting an unseen enemy onboard a derelict submarine.).

Anyway, give it a shot: Download it here. And welcome me to the 21st Century.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving thanks is tricky

And here's why. Allegedly Thanksgiving is the one day each year when you're supposed to give thanks. But of course this only applies to U.S. residents. Because Plymouth Rock and harvest bounty and Native Americans.

To further complicate matters, we're also told that if you squint your eyes a little and hold your head the right way, you see the bigger point is that you should always be thankful for stuff. Like, every day.

Woodstock is a bird. Turkeys are birds. Be thankful that you didn't
think too hard about this situation as a kid.


So what is a thankful person to do? Despite decades of experience at being a human being and an actual degree in philosophy, I'm not sure I have any concrete answers.

But guidelines? Yeah. I can do guidelines.

1) Taking anything for granted is an extraordinarily bad idea. I guess that's pretty close to the idea of being thankful every day, but it's not exactly the same thing. Because...

2) Getting hung up in always being thankful means you actually miss out on a fair amount of what you're being thankful for.

3) The stuff you're not thankful for? All life's kicks in the shins and poison apples? Don't waste your time trying to tell yourself it all happens for a reason. But do remember that we're the sum of our experiences: Even the stuff that makes us miserable also makes us who we are. Besides, would you appreciate summer without winter? No. (trust me on this--I have lived in Florida)


Maybe I'm thinking about all this too hard. It's a weakness of mine. Or maybe my weekend, which, remember, just ended Monday, was just that edifying.

But at any rate, yes. As it turns out, being thankful ain't easy... but it's necessary. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So this is where all the empty space in my head is going

Today I logged into my computer at work after a four-day absence--a fun, refreshing, yet barbecue-free(!) trip to Kansas City occurred in the interim--and was reminded that I needed to change my password.

No, I'm not going to give it to you. Not that being able to log into CCI is that valuable a commodity. (Unless you're a masochist, and if you know what CCI is, you probably are.)

But it occurred to me, as I was reminded about something that I'm not supposed to ever forget, how MANY freaking passwords are rattling around in my brain. Just off the top of my head, I've got one for the Tribune, one at Northwestern, one for each of my several private e-mail accounts, one for Blogger.com, my cell phone, amazon.com, various message boards... and so on. AND YET I DON'T FORGET ANY OF THEM.

The bizarre part is that I forget stuff all the time. What to buy at the grocery store. Where the car is parked. How many beers I had last night. Wait--forget I typed that last part.

So, in conclusion, some vague point about how I remember passwords and snippets of conversation from a decade ago, yet forget basic stuff that has immediate bearing on my life.

If I remember what I was trying to say, I'll let you know.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Piracy: Remember when?

It seems like just yesterday that piracy--real, swashbuckling, ship-seizing, Jolly Roger-flying piracy--was solely the territory of Hollywood. And it was a profitable business! Just throw some mascara and a bandana on your star, throw in a few cutlasses and pieces of eight, and you were rolling.

Now, though, piracy appears to be, well... big business. And real! According to the Associated Press, it's gotten to the point where major oil shipping companies are telling their tankers to sail around Africa rather than head through pirate-infested waters.

We live in bizarrrrrgh times.


And think: When was the last time you heard the term "pirate-infested waters?" The 18th Century?

Not sure what my point is here, other than that the world has become a really bizarre place during the last few years. If the Pony Express and tri-corner hats make a comeback, we'll know it's serious.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A bright spot in a dark month

Sure, sure--it's getting dark ridiculously early and every third day is gray, cold and rainy. But November also marks a magical moment in every year. No, not Black Friday.

The start of college basketball season.

And so to usher in this most sublime of sporting moments, I offer you two bits of roundball awesomeness:

1) Footage of former Kansas forward Darrell Arthur dunking on top of a hapless Villanova player during the NCAA tournament. (Which Kansas won. Just FYI.)



2) A test of your NCAA basketball knowledge. Can you name the top 24 schools in Final Four appearances? (I got 19 on my first try.)

So, in conclusion, yes, I am a huge basketball dork.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More appropriate for a Monday than a Friday, maybe

But in any case, I present to you:



That's right. It's a Webcam of a box full of puppies. Have a great weekend, and forgive me for being That Guy Who Provides an Annoyingly Cute Link for one day. I'll be back to blood and cynicism next week.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What's black and white and selling for $100 on eBay?

A newspaper!

The newspaper, actually: The Chicago Tribune's edition from the day after Election Day. Actual retail value is 75 cents. Demand has been so great that the paper has re-rolled the presses and printed several hundred thousand more copies.

Free shipping? To your front door? Why has no newspaper ever thought of this?



I've never seen anything like this, but it shows a clear path to saving a financially troubled industry. We just need a historic presidential election, oh, once a week or so. Why didn't anyone think of this before?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Believe

Or don't.

But as we usher in All Hallows' Eve, here's a scientific look at how many Americans believe, for instance, that they could be haunted. Done by Gallup, no less. (shouldn't they be off polling likely voters or something?)

The finding that jumped out at me:

The witch trials in Europe and the United States ended hundreds of years ago, but Americans are significantly more likely to believe in witches than are Britons and Canadians. One in five Americans (21%) say they believe in witches, compared with 13% for both Canada and Great Britain. However, witches are the only item on the list in which a solid majority of respondents in all three countries do not believe.


What the hell are wrong with the Brits and Canadians? When the Great Witch Invasion begins in 2066, they'll be sorry. (or turned into toads)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Like peanut butter and jelly or bourbon and vermouth

Clearly, punkish alt-country and Battlestar Galactica and kung fu simply belong together.

WITNESS:



Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a Bulleit neat and watch Blade Runner.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Funny, you keep saying your blog is apolitical

It is. I do try to keep politics off these pages, for many reasons.

But when politics somehow wanders into the territory of writing... or creativity... or utter hilarity... well, I see it as my duty to present them here. Because we all love hilarious creative writing. Or in this case, cinematography.

Attack ads are annoying. But what if they were directed by geniuses?



Ignore that "John McCain" in the first video looked a lot like a younger John Malkovich. I think the CGI muzzle flashes more than make up for it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

High school civics made simple

As the presidential race heads into the homestretch, let us reflect on everything we learned about politics in high school. For instance: Laws are passed when an animated bill with feet walks between the two chambers of Congress and then gets signed by the president. Or even something as simple as: There have been 43 presidents. (of course, when I was in high school, there were only 42)

But what if instead of textbooks and scratchy-voiced filmstrips, we had used comics? And made up facts if we went along? Now THAT'S American.

I liked "The Dark Knight" too. But game theory?


To see the writeups for the other 42, click here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stimulants and depressants

So remember that post when I said I was busy with big, important things? That's done now. And the big, important thing is that I'm now...

... A CERTIFIED BARTENDER.

Of course, in Illinois you don't need a license, let alone a certificate, but I have one anyway. And I know how to make a bunch of drinks fast and consistently. And I know what a "speed roll" is.

Anyway, this can only improve my writing. As well as my drinking.

And speaking of drinking, are you one of those people who is too lazy to drink a cup of coffee? No? Yeah. Neither am I. But evidently there are enough people answering "yes" that an entrepreneur invented:

Side effects may include extreme mockery.


Uh-huh. It's a spray. Not sure what to add here, except that this is the kind of thinking that inflicted EZ-Cheez on the world, too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

In a handbasket, but not headed where you think....

Noted "thriller-writer chick" Laura Benedict has posted an interview with me on her blog, Notes from the Handbasket.

Why does it look as though she's sitting in a TV screen?


In it, I discuss my biggest supporters, why Oprah likes dead bodies and which Spongebob Squarepants character could best survive being mutilated.

Go check it out!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's quiet... TOO quiet

You may have noticed I haven't been posting much this week. I've been busy.

Cheers!


But I promise a full explanation of why I've been splashing around in artificially colored water in the near future.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The end of an adventure

Well, it looks like Steve Fossett's plane has been found in California. Still no sign of the man himself, but the NTSB has all but said it would have been impossible to survive the kind of impact his aircraft endured.

It's a sad moment--for reasons I explained before--when a genuine adventurer is laid low. I hope that at some point a few answers begin to crystallize.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Filling Nigerian inboxes this week...

I didn't write this--but if I had, I would have included more typos. Actually, now that I think about it, why hasn't anyone contacted any of the exiled Nigerian princes to help with the current situation? It could be a win-win (-win?) situation.

SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

DEAR AMERICAN:

I NEED TO ASK YOU TO SUPPORT AN URGENT SECRET BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF GREAT MAGNITUDE.

I AM MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY OF THE REPUBLIC OF AMERICA. MY COUNTRY HAS HAD CRISIS THAT HAS CAUSED THE NEED FOR LARGE TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF 800 BILLION DOLLARS US. IF YOU WOULD ASSIST ME IN THIS TRANSFER, IT WOULD BE MOST PROFITABLE TO YOU.

I AM WORKING WITH MR. PHIL GRAM, LOBBYIST FOR UBS, WHO WILL BE MY REPLACEMENT AS MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY IN JANUARY. AS A SENATOR, YOU MAY KNOW HIM AS THE LEADER OF THE AMERICAN BANKING DEREGULATION MOVEMENT IN THE 1990S. THIS TRANSACTIN IS 100% SAFE.

THIS IS A MATTER OF GREAT URGENCY. WE NEED A BLANK CHECK. WE NEED THE FUNDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE CANNOT DIRECTLY TRANSFER THESE FUNDS IN THE NAMES OF OUR CLOSE FRIENDS BECAUSE WE ARE CONSTANTLY UNDER SURVEILLANCE. MY FAMILY LAWYER ADVISED ME THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR A RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY PERSON WHO WILL ACT AS A NEXT OF KIN SO THE FUNDS CAN BE TRANSFERRED.

PLEASE REPLY WITH ALL OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, IRA AND COLLEGE FUND ACCOUNT NUMBERS AND THOSE OF YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN TO WALLSTREETBAILOUT@TREASURY.GOV
SO THAT WE MAY TRANSFER YOUR COMMISSION FOR THIS TRANSACTION. AFTER I RECEIVE THAT INFORMATION, I WILL RESPOND WITH DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT SAFEGUARDS THAT WILL BE USED TO PROTECT THE FUNDS. YOURS FAITHFULLY MINISTER OF TREASURY PAULSON

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

20,800,000th floor, please

Already the leaders in reliable automobiles and ninja robots, the Japanese have decided to build an elevator to orbit.

Yes, it requires technology that just barely exists at this point. And a bunch of money. And customers. But it already has the most important ingredient: Badass concept art.

I hope the music is good.


A space elevator might even be affordable enough for my ambitious "journalist in space" program.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fun with meteorology

When I was a kid I had this idea that if you encircled a city with giant upward-facing flamethrowers, you could dissipate tornados as they approached.

Fortunately, no one ever put this innovation into practice.

But aiming weapons at the sky is not, apparently, just the purview of imaginative second-graders. According to this bit I found on CNN, a bunch of folks feel that shooting a (projectile-less) cannon into a storm prevents hail. As you can imagine, it also prevents their neighbors from liking them much.

"It sounds like artillery fire," said Gregory Connors, a 38-year-old software designer whose children have been woken up by the booms. "I'm up for everybody's right to farm. We support local farmers. But the technology and the way it's being utilized is not acceptable."

Personally, I don't think this goes far enough. Think of the additional applications of fighting weather with firepower. Stop earthquakes with lasers! Defuse hurricanes with nuclear blasts! Evaporate tsunamis with machinegun fire!

Wait, we could make it into a video game....

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pixels from a simpler time

Remember when video games basically consisted of watching a block--representing, perhaps, a bullet, an airplane or a frog--bounce across the screen? Wasn't that fun? For whatever reason, these simple games managed to convince millions of kids that they were not, in fact, merely manipulating a picture tube, but were instead saving the world or killing their enemies or something.

Nowadays, of course, killing your enemies requires no imagination. Just an itchy trigger finger (or thumb, depending on your controller layout).

You can almost smell the cordite....

But what if it did?

... but these guys don't seem to have fingers. Or necks.



Those tanks look pretty fancy. Two colors! And I bet they move and everything. Check out more "Atari versions" of modern video games here. And wonder what "Pong" would look like in high-def.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"I was being drawn down a long tunnel toward Arthur Bryant's...."

It's one of those instances in which science follows science fiction: Researchers are going to study what it's like to almost die.

There is a movie I vaguely remember from my childhood--it wasn't that great, but I thought the premise was neat--in which scientists figured out a way to actually record experiences from brainwaves. Then one of them dies while wearing the recording gear. And suddenly the world has access to what it feels like to die.

Like I said, a neat premise.

Christopher Walken makes any movie badass. It's science fact.


Anyway, there is a little data on this already. It goes something like this:

"Previous research suggests about 10 to 20 percent of people who live through cardiac arrest report lucid, well-structured thought processes, reasoning, memories and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death.

One study found that people who reported peaceful feelings, bright light and out-of-body experiences during a brush with death are more likely to have had difficulty separating sleep from wakefulness in their everyday lives. Both before and after their near-death experiences, these people often have symptoms of the rapid-eye movement (REM) state of sleep while awake."


So maybe (the science fiction writer in me suggests) these people already have a thinner wall separating their consciousness--or their soul?--from whatever comes next. Maybe they are just a few high-powered psychotropic drugs away from actually seeing it for themselves.

Maybe I should start writing a script.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Two-for-one update: Black hole eats corn

First off, we're not all dead. Even though our (more or less completely unlikely) demise at the hands of miniature manmade black holes won't happen until next month anyway. But for those of you with skittish friends, send them here.

Second, we might all avoid becoming obese, thanks to the Associated Press. Corn's assault on reason did not go ignored.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The end is... a few hours away

Just to revisit the possibility of the Earth being swallowed by a horde of tiny black holes: The Large Hadron Collider will be switched on tomorrow.

A technician prepares to vaporize you, the mortgage industry and everything in between.


It won't start smashing stuff together for another few weeks, but I thought you might like some time to get your affairs in order.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Playing from memory

An interesting thing happened on the way home from work tonight.

I had my iPod plugged into the car stereo and my music library set on shuffle. The first song to play, dragged from gigabytes of tunes, was "Angel," by Aerosmith.

And within the space of a couple of power chords, I was...

... in grade school. On a school bus. Headed across Kansas to Hutchinson, where our field trip would touch down at the Kansas Cosmosphere. Seriously: This was a crystalline memory. I was two-thirds of the way back, on the passenger side. Listening to the radio on a Walkman with weakening batteries.

Both the young and older Gerry Doyles wanted to climb into this thing.


And that got me thinking, too, about all the people who were on that bus with me. I remain close with some of them, still, even 20-plus years later. What were we all thinking that day on I-70? I planned to be an astronaut and turned out a writer. Others hewed more closely to their dreams and got involved with law, politics, art or science. But I think we were all happy that day.

Anyway, what does this wool-gathering tell us? That sometimes tiny envirnomental details--like a song--stick in your head more thoroughly than you expect. And years later, when you're not even thinking about it... you're right back where you started.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Corn is trying to take over your brain

So there's this great book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," that lays out a damning case against a plant so insidious that it is poisoning our society at its roots. You know what I'm talking about.

Corn.

The way it works is, we subsidize more corn than we can eat (but not at a price that farmers can make a good living from) and then turn the rest into... well... everything. The result is economic and ecological damage, not to mention high-fructose corn syrup, which makes us all fat and toothless.

But the word, apparently, has been getting around. I know it because I saw this on TV the other night. And I was SO TOTALLY READY to post it here on my blog, except somehow no one has posted it on YouTube yet.

So never mind. But really, in my mind, this is the beginning of the end, when two actors have to convince America that eating a frozen treat made out of hyper-refined sweetness is not just delicious, but a good idea.

Corn dogs, on the other hand, are the cornerstone of Western Civilization, and I will fight you if you disagree.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

War is a Force that Makes Good TV

I just finished watching the finale of HBO's "Generation Kill." It's great. And I had to struggle there not to say "it blew me away." Because that would be tasteless.

The series follows a group of recon Marines as they lead most recent invasion of Iraq. It's told largely from the perspective of Evan Wright, an embedded journalist from Rolling Stone. And, like all great stories--even those that are true--the people, the characters are what keep you hooked.

I won't go into too many details of the show. You can read all three parts of Wright's magazine reporting on the Marine First Recon Battalion here.

But there is a theme or undercurrent of implication that these Marines, crushed together by the weight of combat and killing, are living a kind of brotherhood that no one else can experience. I can buy that. And as a journalist, it drives home another point that I've always suspected is true (and I know is true in me): Many of us gravitate toward the worst kind of unpleasant news scenarios because, well, that's where the action is.

And in fact, it's kind of addictive.

I have seen bodies from a distance and gore up close. Once, when I bluffed my way into the Cook County medical examiner's office to get the names of some recently (and violently) deceased, I passed through the "intake" area--but it was empty. Mostly what I have personally witnessed is the extreme emotional reactions that come along with tragedy: sadness, anger, depression writ large across people and communities.

Sometimes, though, after reading or watching something as powerful as "Generation Kill," I feel a little jealousy for people like Wright, who have weathered the horrors of combat, soaked up a human experience that by any rational standard we should want to avoid.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How to find information you never knew you wanted

Generally, I don't like text messages. Generally, I hate smilies and text speak.

And yet I have found the perfect use for my alphanumeric keyboard. It is called: Cha-Cha.

Type your question and text it to "242242." You'll get an answer back, no matter how obscure--some might say pointless, but they're cynical--the question.

For example, I recently learned:

-Gerry Doyle works at the Chicago Tribune
-New Zealand is 1,400 miles from Australia
-The population of Mauritius is 1,250,882 (and bonus--that's 616 people per square kilometer!)

Now go ask them what the best use for text messaging is.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fat, but not phat

Yeah, I know no one says "phat" anymore. I guess that makes me old school. Which no one says.

OK, oh-for-two. Let's make it a hat trick.

See, I love barbecue. So when my parents came to visit for a semi-special occasion, we sought out some 'que. Smoque, a tried-and-loved favorite in Irving Park, was an obvious choice. The problem was, it was the obvious choice for the rest of Chicago as well. A line out to the sidewalk and two hungry parents meant we needed to go elsewhere.

"Elsewhere" turned out to be Fat Willy's, near Western and Diversey. I think they have fine brisket. They were out of brisket. They also made us wait for service (after being seated) for 20 minutes, served us chewy ribs, dry sandwich meat and gave my dad lip for suggesting that maybe onions had been included on his sandwich when he requested they not be.

The barbecue was as blurry as the sign.

Dissing my pops is really the last thing you want to do if you're a barbecue restaurant without good barbecue.

I doubt I'll be making a return trip. If you want good 'que, buy some great meat and do it yourself, or head over to Honey 1, which has never steered me wrong.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A painful Round Two

For the second time in as many weeks, I'm ignoring my rule about keeping Tribune matters out of my blog.

Today dozens of my co-workers--the exact number is not clear, but is probably between 40 and 50--were laid off. Some were called at home. Some were at work and heard the bad news in a closed-door meeting.

All of them are missed tonight.

That's all I really have the energy for at the moment.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I've made a huge mistake

Good: Quickest response to query letter EVER. (and my name was spelled correctly)

Bad: It was a rejection.

I'll bet Jason Bateman doesn't have these problems.


Worse: That probably means I didn't read some element of their criteria closely enough, i.e., submitting a teen romance novel to someone specializing in fly-fishing manuals. The clue? NO ONE evaluates a query in a half-hour... not even a query from a literary giant like myself.

The proper cliche to deploy here, I think, is "live and learn."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Departed

I have tried to keep my day job out of this blog as much as possible, for various reasons.

Today, though, things are different.

On Friday several of my Tribune colleagues in Metro and dozens across all the editorial departments said goodbye. They had volunteered to be laid off. And yesterday, without warning, they were.

Troubling issues around the circumstances aside, this is a sad occurence. Not only because many of them are friends, but because it represents a tremendous loss of skill, intelligence and experience.

Good luck to all of them. The Chicago Tribune is worse for their departure.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Let the games.... tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap

It's Aug. 8, 2008, and that means two things:

1) Good luck.

2) The start of the Summer Games in Beijing.

And what better way to celebrate (2) than by reliving your childhood, in which you went over to your friend's house and pounded frantically on the A and B buttons to make your stupid Nintendo athlete run faster, but he never would?

Higher. Stronger. More pixellated.

Click here... and enjoy!

Photographic evidence

The International Thriller Writers have posted a gallery of photos from this year's Thrillerfest in New York City.

Besides the firearms 'n' such (which we've already discussed), there was this breakfast at which I actually was a guest of honor. To commemorate the occasion, I wore a designer T-shirt and a seersucker jacket. For real:

It's like Where's Waldo for lazy people.


I looked much more alert closer up.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The quoted material below is not my own

Good prose has made my fingertips bleed. I have sat for 10 minutes... 20 minutes... an hour trying to figure out how to make a paragraph sing. Yeah. Writin' ain't easy, but it's necessary.

So how would it feel to learn that an ENTIRE NEWSPAPER was being constructed based on your torturously constructed words? Without attribution, of course. Crazy? Nope. If you live in Houston, you can see it for yourself.

The saga began in the classical manner: with an e-mail about Jimmy Buffett. Several weeks ago, I received a note from a Slate reader drawing my attention to an article published in March 2008 in the Bulletin, a free alternative weekly in Montgomery County, Texas, north of Houston. "I believe your … profile of musician Jimmy Buffett was reproduced wholesale without attribution," the reader wrote. "I thought you should know." I followed a link to "Spring Fling: Concerts That Make the Holiday a Time to Party"* by Mark Williams, a feature pegged to concert appearances by Buffett and country singer Miranda Lambert. Sure enough, the article included 10 and a half paragraphs copied nearly verbatim from "A Pirate Looks at 60," my Slate essay of Jan. 9, 2007. My words were slightly reworked in places, and further enlivened by eccentric use of em dashes and semicolons—a hallmark, I would learn, of the Williamsian style. But the original text was largely unaltered. For example, my Slate piece began this way:

Jimmy Buffett turned 60 this past Dec. 25, a day he undoubtedly spent in a lower latitude, in a meditative frame of mind, in close proximity to a tankard of Captain Morgan. At least that was the case with birthday number 50, which, as recounted in his autobiography A Pirate Looks At Fifty (1998), Buffett celebrated by piloting his private jet from the Cayman Islands to Costa Rica to Colombia and drinking copiously, while contemplating "spirituality" and his goals going forward: "Learn celestial navigation," "Swim with dolphins," "Start therapy."

Mark Williams kicks off his consideration of Buffett with this passage:

Buffett, who turned 60 on Christmas Day, likely spent the day in a lower latitude, in a meditative frame of mind—and in close proximity to a tankard of Captain Morgan. At least that was the case with birthday number 50; as recounted in his 1998 autobiography 'A Pirate Looks At Fifty,' Buffett celebrated by piloting his private jet from the Cayman Islands to Costa Rica to Colombia—merrily drinking while contemplating "spirituality" and his goals: learning celestial navigation, swimming with dolphins and starting therapy.

I recalled writing the Buffett piece, laboring on deadline into the wee hours, hunched over a laptop at the kitchen table in my Brooklyn home. How could I have known that I was previewing a concert to take place some 15 months later at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Spring, Texas?



And, of course, it turns out that it's not just the entertainment stories. You have to look really hard in the Bulletin to find anything original. That bit of content is the punch line... supplied by the original writer of the Slate piece quoted above, Jody Rosen.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Six degrees of too much time on their hands

Microsoft, far from inventing the next you-must-have-it bit of electronica, has been spending its time online, I see. No, not checking out the latest YouTube hilarity. Counting the number of people between you and... well... Kevin Bacon. Maybe.

Kevin Bacon wonders why you haven't texted him yet, LOL :).


The "small world theory," embodied in the old saw that there are just "six degrees of separation" between any two strangers on Earth, has been largely corroborated by a massive study of electronic communication.

With records of 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people from around the world, researchers have concluded that any two people on average are distanced by just 6.6 degrees of separation, meaning that they could be linked by a string of seven or fewer acquaintances.


What does this mean? You know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Barack Obama. Sweet.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's like writing a story, except without the fun

Synopses. Greek-based. Neccessary. And aggravating.

If you write a novel, and I hope you do, you'll need one of these bad boys to convince agents and editors that it's worth reading. It's supposed to capture the feel of the story, touch on some major plot points, expose conflict and generally drag the reader by his or her hair directly into "I have GOT to read more" territory.

I've gotten a lot better at it than I once was. But it wasn't an easy skill to learn. Below is the original synopsis for "From the Depths," which, by the way, was origally titled "Dragon." Hello, Trivial Pursuit world championship.

Join me after the last thrilling sentence for a few words about how this thing came together. (this is only about the first two-thirds of the synopsis... I don't want to give EVERYTHING about the plot away in a blog post.)

My name is Dr. Christine Myers. I work for the CIA as a forensic scientist, wading through blood and bullet casings, then telling my bosses who killed whom, and how it was done. This assignment started like many others, with a late-night phone call.

A North Korean submarine, the Dragon, was defecting to the United States. The sub was a coffin cobbled together from rust and outdated technology, but it was important to national security, I was told. Onboard was some stolen North Korean weapons research that the Pentagon already was drooling over.

In the middle of the night, the sonarman on the U.S. submarine escorting the Dragon reported hearing what sounded like a brawl. Then gunshots. Then the unmistakable noise of a sub surfacing. A boarding party found the boat filled with chlorine gas and dead sailors. In the conning tower, a man had been shot to death.

My job? To decipher the mess of corpses. The Dragon was hours from shore, and had to be submerged before dawn, when satellites would spot it. A helicopter was going to drop a SEAL team onboard to get the sub moving. I was sent in with them.

And I’m the only one still alive.

The SEAL leader, Lt. Daniel Larsen, treated me like sand in the gears of his operation. Just a couple of the others stood out at first: His second-in-command, 2nd Lt. Matthews; and Campbell, the only one to bother addressing me as a real person. The rest of the team seemed like faceless automatons, dressed in black, ready to follow orders.

Then the SEALs began to disappear. Once their bodies, broken and twisted like cherry stems, turned up, my work became a little more urgent.

I kinda like it. I wrote it in first person to set it apart--and incidentally offer some of the flavor of the book itself, which also is written from Dr. Myers' point of view.

But it didn't start out that way. The first take was almost five single-spaced pages long. I tried to nail each plot point. But without dialogue... and description... and characterization... and pretty much everything else that makes something fun to read, that version had a big problem: it sucked.

Second take was shorter. I tried to leave some suspenseful hooks instead of leading the reader all the way through to the conclusion. But it still read like a summary. A clinical description, as Dr. Myers might say. Plus it was still too long.

Then a fellow writer and excellent advice-giver--we'll call her "Mom," for short--suggested that, like the book, this might be a story best told by Dr. Myers. And she was right. The result was a one page long, tight and suspenseful.

Most important, though: it was successful.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why I'm moving to Madagascar

I discovered this addicting--not to say infectious--online game the other day, and for some reason, I can't shake the desire to wipe out humanity.

Why? Because it's fun.

In Pandemic II, you create a disease: virus, bacterium, parasite--whatever tickles your apocalyptic fancy. Then you set it loose on the world. But you're not a hands-off deity. Oh, no. You can continue to mutate your scourge, making it more communicable, more robust, and of course more deadly.

<Whoops.


I managed to wipe out the entire Earth only once. Usually, Madagascar, with its one seaport and apparently hyper-paranoid central government, is the only holdout on the entire planet. Anyone know any good Madagascarian Realtors?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gerry Doyle, space writer

Notice: "writer" rhymes with "rider," and if you say it really fast, it's practically the same word.

This is important because today Richard Branson--sorry, SIR Richard Branson, and I need to be careful about this stuff because getting on his bad side is the last thing I want to do--will tell us all how we can launch ourselves into space.

It's actually pretty simple. You pay him a quarter-million dollars, climb on SpaceShipTwo, and off you go.

Ding! You are now free to move about ionosphere.


Flying, and more fantastically, space, have been two of my passions since I can remember being passionate about anything. I love the idea that we've finally gotten to the point where space travel (if you count a suborbital flight back to the place where you launched as "travel") is just a matter of buying a ticket. Yes, those tickets are outside the reach of most of us. Especially if most of us are journalist-authors.

But someday. It'll happen. And I can't wait to complain about how there's no in-flight movie and all you get to eat is a packet of space peanuts.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Half-assed book reviews, by Gerry Doyle

Maybe a better title for this post, actually, would be "Books I have read lately." Because it's about two books I read lately:

1) "Remains," by Mark Teidemann
and
2) "Volk's Game," by Brent Ghelfi

I've actually met both of these guys, which makes it tough to be objective, but in the end it doesn't matter because both of their books were terrific.

Two space station residents play tag.


"Remains" is a hard sci-fi mystery-thriller set in the distant future, where humanity is spread--and divided--around the solar system. Some folks live on Martian colonies. Others live in the asteroid belt. There's a well-developed community on the Moon. And for others, space stations are a way of life.

As you might expect, humans being humans, each group has decided its way of life is the best. And conflict arises.

The story follows protagonist Mace Preston through a story arc that covers years as he tries to unravel his wife's death. His investigation stretches from a disaster scene on Mars to the underworld of Aea, the solar system's largest space station. And in the end, the answers he uncovers address much larger--and more dangerous--questions than what happened to the woman he loved.

I've said before, good fiction is driven by characters, regardless of genre. This is no different. It's set in the future, but it's not about the technology. It's about loss, love, discovery. It's got heart.

Spires: both pointy and deadly.


"Volk's Game" brings us back to the present day, with all its real-life ugliness. And the main character, Volk, is an ugly guy: a former soldier, a contract killer, a dealer in unpleasantness. But oddly, Ghelfi has managed to turn a thoroughly ruthless character into a likable protagonist. You find yourself rooting for the guy even as he tortures someone. Which is more than a little disturbing.

But hey, conflict drives plot. And this book is full of conflict. What starts as a caper to steal a priceless lost artwork turns into a breathless quest to save his ladyfriend from mutilation or death, which turns into... a lot of other things. And the whole thing is set in an extremely well-researched Russia. The background oozes with cultural angst, and in many ways, the country is a character in itself.

If there's any criticism I have of this book, it is that it gets extraordinarily complex. It's a testament to Ghelfi's skill and commitment to his characters that it all comes together in the end.

So in conclusion, both of these books are great reading. Pick them up today. And don't forget to tip your author.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And sometimes I write

I don't spend all of my time reading or editing or watching basketball. Making words fit together into sentences is something I enjoy. I wrote a book one time. And here, for your reading enjoyment, is a brief piece I did in a sketch-writing class at Second City. (dark and un-funny--just what Saturday Night Live is looking for!)

Enjoy... and join us afterward for a special bonus writing lesson!

Hey… my name is Adolf Mendez. I don’t think we’ve met before. But I’m one of those people you run across sometimes in life, you know? Like you don’t know me, you don’t know anything about me, but I’ve had a direct impact on your life. Probably. Hell of a way to introduce yourself, huh? No, don’t apologize. I’m the one talking nonsense. I make this speech a lot.

I live here, in Jefferson City, Mo. Capital of the state. Also world capital of playground equipment sales and manufacture. Not surprised you didn’t know that. It’s a bit of a secret unless you’re in the industry. And I am.

Been here, what, 10 years? Not married. Kind of ironic, considering my profession. But then, maybe not. Maybe a father wouldn’t be able to deal with this.

I’ve been told that I’m young for the job; 41 doesn’t seem young to me. But there are guys working here who are sketching playsets well into their 60s. That stuff’s easy.

What I do, I climb up on the stuff they design, slides, jungle gyms, treehouses, whatever. And then I drop what’s called an HHA, or Human Head Analog. Me, I call it a “hoo-ha.” You’ve got to have a sense of humor in this business.

Anywho, I drop these things—like white plastic melons, and I paint smiley faces on ‘em—and basically watch what happens. They splatter, the slide’s too high or has to be installed on a springier surface. They bounce, and my job’s done.

I get to go home to my house, open a bottle of wine, maybe something dark and red, and see what’s on TV.

I try to ignore the kiddies playing in the park across the street. To me, they all have perfectly round heads with smiley faces painted on them.


The hook for this writing exercise was to write a piece (we had 10 minutes) at whose center was a verb. Mine was "splatter." And the point, we learned while our pens cooled off, was that you generate much more muscular, interesting prose when you write about verbs instead of adjectives.

It makes sense. Or should I say, it explodes into a supernova of sense.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What you don't know can make you crazy

So here's a little nugget for you about the business side of writing: Sales figures are closely guarded. Like, "hidden under Dick Cheney's bunker mattress" closely guarded. There literally is no free, public information available.

That can lead some people--read "paranoid novelists"--to look at their Amazon.com sales ranking. One big problem with this is that it doesn't reflect anything useful.

For instance, if you write for a small press, there literally is no way you can be No. 1, because even if you sold every single copy of your book in one day, it wouldn't equal the sales of the latest Michael Crichton-J.K. Rowling side project. But wait, there's more:

Amazon makes their profit selling used books, not new ones. Maybe their low sales numbers was one of the determining factors to shift their focus toward used sales -- I don't know. But I do know that their numbers are insignificant to the pub in determining the success/failure of a book.

Well, now. Not only are Amazon rankings skewed toward huge press runs, they're not even that indicative of total sales.

And they wonder why writers drink so much.

The moral of the (best-selling?) story is simple. Pay attention to your writing, not your sales ranking. That's the only way to ensure that you're going to sell some books.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Knight knocks pawn the #$%@ out

My hairst... that is, the talented woman who cuts my hair brought to my attention what can only be described as the bestest game ever. Apparently it's big in Europe, like meat pies and energy conservation.

And after watching a few rounds, you can see why. It's got something for both the barbarian and librarian in everyone.

That's right. Chessboxing.



Alternating rounds of chess and boxing. The loser is the guy is forced into checkmate... or beaten senseless. What would your strategy be? I think I'd try to punch the other guy while he was figuring out his next move.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I still heart NY

I'm back from New York, my suitcases heavier with dozens of books and some ridiculously fly tumblers that Friends of the Blog Kipp and Kylie got me to celebrate my nominatedness.

In fact, we were all set to toast my shiny new trophy... except someone else won it. That someone was Joe Hill, son of an obscure 20th-Century writer named Stephen King. It was OK, though: I got two free drinks (thanks, Oceanview Press!), met a bunch of fascinating people and heard David Baldacci tell a Dick Cheney joke. And that was just the awards banquet.

I went to several breakout sessions at the convention, and although they were all useful and interesting, only one of them featured body armor, a bomb-sniffing dog and a grenade launcher. Andrew Peterson deserves all the credit in the world for making the photo below possible:

Yes, that is a Tommy gun, and no, I do not look cool.


Moving from cool stuff to cool people, I met pillars of the writing community like Karen Dionne, discovered that both Sean Chercover and I are useless without coffee in the morning, and learned a vital state secret while having cocktails with Brent Ghelfi. Hell, Shane Gericke took the picture above. If that doesn't underscore the sheer badassery of Thrillerfest, I don't know what does.

I learned a lot. I drank a lot. I had a lot of fun.

And hey--that's what writing is all about, with or without the trophies.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The city so nice they named it...

... no. I just won't do it.

Anyway, I'll be in New York City momentarily, carousing with some friends, trying to exude some serious big-city vibe to mask my touristy ways and rubbing shoulders with other authors.


One of the many ways to celebrate in New York.


Also, at this dinner on Saturday, I might win an award. And if that happens, New York, N.Y., will indeed be a wonderful town.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Scoreboard!

I just learned today from my talented editor that "From the Depths" has gotten another favorable review. This one is in Mystery Scene magazine. And it simply embraces conventional wisdom: Everyone loves a locked-room submarine murder story.

Or, as the magazine put it:

While From the Depths, Gerry Doyle (McBooksPress,$23.95),might be a bit light on Wideburg-style character development, it flourishes as an exciting underwater adventure replete with Navy SEALs, defecting North Korean submariners, and an intrepid heroine. Dr.Christine Myers, a forensic scientist for the CIA, helicopters out to the Dragon to determine what killed everyone on board the submarine. When she discovers papers referring to an onboard secret weapon dubbed the Serpent, she fears the deaths have been caused by an escaped biological substance. If so, howfar has it spread? To herself, and all the SEALs now on the sub? A genre-blending mix of mystery, thriller, sea story and science fiction, the sub’s claustrophobic setting intensifies the already considerable element of suspense. A terrific, rip roaring read, with a protagonist interesting enough for a sequel.



A sequel, huh? Hmmmm.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Is there anything more American than a Swedish chef?

I submit that there is not.




Also American institutions: eagles, buffalo, too many sausages, moon landings and Margarators.

Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Americans: we're not as wasteful as we seem!

Yeah, I totally stole this from another journalist. It's what we do.

LA Times Pressman Edward Padgett shares this gem: “A recent study conducted by Harvard University found that the average American walks about 900 miles a year. Another study by the American Medical Association found that Americans drink, on average, 22 gallons of alcohol per year. This means, on average, Americans get about 41 miles to the gallon!”

Rocket fuel!

I suspect I am a little inefficient. If only I could convert me to run on electricity....

Friday, June 27, 2008

More dreams of space

So this week I've been watching bits and pieces of the Discovery Channel's stellar miniseries "When We Left Earth." It documents the U.S. space program from Mercury to the Space Shuttle, and what can I say, as a lover of rocket porn, it really got my blood flowing.


Step 1: Strap man on top of ICBM. Step 2: Pull trigger.

It's amazing to think that barely a half-century ago, we basically willed ourselves into orbit. Set a goal and made it happen. Now spaceflight is so commonplace that hardly anyone seems to notice when we launch a Space Shuttle. And it won't be long before the shuttles aren't launching at all.

So what's next? I don't think we can afford to turn our backs on our exploratory nature. And the collateral benefits of space exploration are too numerous to mention. I'd love to see astronauts land on Mars in my lifetime.

But of course I think the first new NASA program should be Journalists in Space.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The lighter side of world history

It's been a rough week. But because man can't survive on merely grammar, news and self-promotion alone, I give you: Pope Comix. In which J.P. teaches us what being a badass is all about.



No, I didn't draw that. I can barely draw a square without having to erase a few lines. The brilliance posted above can be found here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The importance of being edited

I've mentioned before that feedback and revision are key elements of any writing project. Having a great editor is also a necessity--not a luxury. They don't just possess another set of eyes, but a mastery of the language that will make sure that you say precisely what you want to say (and probably in fewer words). Many of them are geniuses and strikingly handsome.

Full disclosure: I am an editor.

Here's an example of what can happen if you don't pay attention to stuff like grammar and punctuation (cribbed enthusiastically from Marda Dunsky's "Watch Your Words"):

Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy--will you let me be yours?

Gloria

Nice, huh? On the other hand, what if Gloria moved around her punctuation a little bit?

Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Yours,
Gloria

So, to conclude: In option one, Gloria is going ring-shopping. In option two, she's looking for a restraining order. Love thy editor, lest your book about small-business men turn into a story of a diminutive capitalist.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Don't stop believing, even if you're the lead singer for a Filipino cover band

Journey. A band of psychedelic album covers, overly dramatic lyrics and vocals that would wreck the throats of most adult men.

Steve Perry's sound would be hard to replicate, you would think. And you would be right. In fact, it took the band more than a decade to track down someone who could hit those mullet-curling high notes with enough panache. The search was vital, too, because the appearance of "Don't Stop Believing" in "The Sopranos" put the ballad about small town girls and lonely worlds--and thus the band--back on the map.

So where did they track down their new singer?

The Philippines. Via YouTube, of course.

Chile witnesses the power of the fully operational rock band Journey.


And because I couldn't possibly tell the story of how they tracked down Arnel Pineda as well as some random TV show, watch this:

He does a pretty good Sting, too.


The lesson: Sometimes, the wheel in the sky turns in mysterious ways.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What space needs is more explosions

Riding the CTA--and an iced redeye from my local coffee shop--it occurred to me that I would enjoy watching giant battles in space. You know, like the kind grandpa used to have back in the 18th Century, with square-rigged galleons circling each other, trying to line up a broadside and prevent the other guy from catching a favorable breeze.

What's not to love about that?

It's even more fun if you keep the laws of physics intact. Nothing can move faster than light. There's no artificial gravity. So you have giant ships of the line shooting giant cannons at each other--or maybe even high-powered lasers, if you're into that kind of thing. It would require massive computational power and a grasp of all three dimensions. More important, there's a lot of potential for big explosions.


A good start.


There was this board game I remember from adolesence, Renegade Legion, that set up these kinds of engagements. It was cool, but not as satisfying as seeing a million-ton battleship cleaved in two by a relatvisitic projectile.

Sounds fun, right? So who's with me? Anyone know any writers who could make this happen?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Epic Fail's good twin, Great Success

Good friend and detail-oriented Photographer of the Blog Christine sent along an interesting link.

It seems that "From the Depths," like Charles Lindbergh, has crossed the Atlantic. (and probably on an airplane.) Besides being in the Library of Congress, fighting for America's freedom, my book now resides in the British Library, which is just as cool but with a funny mustache and accent. Witness:

Jolly good!


What country will it surface in next? Maybe I'll cover that in the sequel.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why you suck, and why it won't doom your writing career

And so, dear readers, the time has come for us to discuss an important and inevitable part of writing.

Not death. A close second: rejection.

Every writer has to deal with it. In fact, I have a book around here someplace, probably buried under all my KU championship newspaper clippings, that's nothing but a collection of rejection slips sent to now-famous authors. It's humbling, and also a little gratifying, in a double-barreled Schadenfreude kind of way: Would YOU want to be the editor who rejected John Grisham's first manuscript?

A manuscript returns from the publisher (shipping is cheaper than airmail).


But back to the narrative. No matter how good your writing is, someone is guaranteed to dislike it. That means that if you've sent your book to an agent or editor who happens to be one of those someones, you're in for a soul-crushing response letter.

If you're lucky, they'll tell you what they didn't like. If you're not lucky, you'll get some kind of a form letter. If you're hit-by-a-meteor unlucky, you won't get anything back but your manuscript.

I've never gotten a hostile rejection slip. Once I got a form letter that was literally a slip of paper: One sentence typed on a strip about the depth of a fortune cookie message. It didn't even tell me what my lucky numbers would be.

So what is one to do about all this? Well, if one is a writer, one keeps writing. As I said before, rejection is guaranteed. But failure is only guaranteed if you listen to the voices (even the ones in your head) that tell you you're a hack. Perserverence will bring success.

And your lucky numbers are 8-16-12-9-2.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Little Green Update:

Although the aliens' choice of AFC team remains unclear, a few dozen people in Denver have now seen the video I first mentioned here. And, come to think about it, what they saw remains unclear too. Here's a still image from the video:

Don't they have stepladders on his home planet?


Meanwhile, a bunch of skeptical jerks say the whole thing could have been faked with a Halloween costume and a PowerBook. Their version:

How much is that alien in the window?


(The answer, for those of you who didn't click through to the Rocky Mountain News story, is $90)

Friday, May 30, 2008

But are they Broncos fans?

It has come to my attention that aliens will land in Denver on Friday. Well, not land, but appear on film. Well, not aliens, but something that's hard to easily identify.

All of this is assuming the guy with the film is able to successfully navigate Denver International Airport. But if it pans out, a new Denver City Council committee could change the world. As the Rocky Mountain News put it:

Jeff Peckman, who is pushing a ballot initiative to create an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission in Denver to prepare the city for close encounters of the alien kind, said the video is authentic and convinced him that aliens exist.

"As impressive as it is, it's still one tiny portion in the context of a vast amount of peripheral evidence," he said Wednesday. "It's really the final visual confirmation of what you already know to be true having seen all the other evidence."

When Peckman went before city officials this month to discuss his proposed ET initiative, he promised to show the video.


He came from another galaxy to hover around the three-point line.


As much as I'd like this to be true, it seems more likely it will be an inspired hoax or just a really cool misunderstanding. Or Shane Battier's head. But if it's ET, I hope his final destination is a place with a little more soul and a little less John Elway.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What you may not know about Rik Smits

After more than a year of blogging, I've reached some conclusions.

1) I enjoy it a lot. I've always felt a little out of sorts when I go a few days without writing. E-mails and instant messages (and now text messages--thanks, Motorola!) don't quite cut it, and furthermore expose me to far too many smilies. But with the blog, I can hammer out a few paragraphs here and there on whatever happens to interest me, from writing, to me, to my book, to me and my book, to subjects that have nothing to do with me. It's great. Keeps me out of trouble.

2) Someone in Saudi Arabia reads my blog. Or at least stops by after it came up on a Google search. Which leads me to...

Dunker, noted blog promoter.


3) Besides the obvious stuff like "Doyle," "Read Ink," "From the Depths" and "barbecue," the most popular search term that leads to my blog is... Rik Smits. Who knew that the Flying Dutchman would be such a traffic generator. If I ever meet him, he's getting a signed copy.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Microsoft. Yahoo. Google. Charlie Rose. Absurdity.

If, hypothetically, a vaguely existential playwright were to script a conversation between renowned interviewer Charlie Rose and renowned interviewee Charlie Rose, what would it sound like? This is what the Internet should be used for, people. Not business, not research--fake interviews.



Steve is not happy! (but he hopes you have a good holiday weekend)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Just flew back from Kansas City

And boy, are my jokes tired.

Other than my bag making it to Midway an hour after I did, it was a fun trip. Got to stomp around in my old stomping grounds, water in my old watering holes, chat with old friends and even take a nice stalker-style cell phone photo of the house I once inhabited.

Oh, and I also spread the Gospel of Christine (possible title for future novel?) around the Midwest. That was fun too.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Gerry Doyle, Cliche Slayer

Because I AM going home again.

Friday morning, to be specific. It's been months since I've made a pilgrimage to the homeland--with its barbecue and jazz and terrible baseball ownership--and I'm really excited. This is the first time I'll be in Kansas City as a novelist. I hope airport security is good; I hate it when I'm swarmed by autograph-seeking book lovers before I can get to my limo.

Awwww, for me? You shouldn't have.


Here's what the schedule looks like:

1) On Friday afternoon I'll be speaking to students at my old high school. I have a long talk composed about how to avoid poverty by not pursuing a writing career.

2) On Saturday I'll be at the Kansas City Literary Festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. I'll be seated at the Missouri Center for the Book's table, signing, chatting and looking author-ish. You can buy a copy for signing (and reading!) at the Rainy Day Books tent or at Barnes and Noble.

3) On Monday I'll be at the Borders in Lawrence at 7 p.m. for a book-signing. As I mentioned before, you can't get Boulevard products in Chicago, so there's a strong chance I will wind up at a local watering hole. But not drinking water.

Hope to see you, whoever you are, someplace in Kansas City. Except at the high school. That would be weird.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I also do weddings and bar mitzvahs

I just rolled in from St. Louis, and boy are... my... um... wheels tired. Yeah, sorry about that. I didn't get much sleep last night.

Anyway. The trip was a great success, with a packed house for the book signing at Webster Groves Bookshop (there's only one copy left in the store, so hurry over there now if you live in the 314, but don't get in a hury and make an illegal left turn on Lockwood. I'm just trying to help you out here.).

The book club the next night was phenomenal as well. The participants were full of thoughtful questions and observations. And there was wine, cheese and cookies. What more could an author ask for?

Now--onward to Kansas City....

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why does the Internet hate me?

This is a post about the Internet and its hatred of me. Well... perhaps "hatred" is too strong of a word. The Internet has not, as far as I know, tried to injure me, mock my haircuts or kick my pets. Good for it.

What it has done is confound me on occasion. Examples, you say? You want examples? Fine.

First of all, Barack Obama won't be my friend. He seems like a nice enough guy; I interviewed him once for a news story and he was about as easygoing as a high-powered political dude could be.

Yet whenever I try to befriend him on MySpace, I am shunned. Perhaps it's my book, full of mayhem and violence that a presidential candidate could never tacitly endorse. Or maybe it's because there's a picture of me sitting in a bar--another scene that rising political stars aren't known to frequent. Hell, maybe it's some of my other friends, like the Tossers or Flogging Molly; I admit they're a little bit rough around the edges.

The Tossers like beer. So do I. Does Barack Obama?


In any event, my Internet friendship is being spurned. And it hurts. It hurts in ways that Al Gore never dreamed of.

Then there's the whole question of anonymous blog commenters. I know I get off pretty easy in this regard, in that my work has thus far not incited anyone to outright verbal nastiness. But the whole anonymity thing makes communication difficult. For instance, a former classmate of mine commented on a post a couple of days ago... yet I have no way of contacting that person, because Blogger protects his or her identity like a Swiss bank guard. During the book give-away contest, several entrants got a doughnut--the kind indicating "zero," not the tasty it's-not-just-for-breakfast treat--because there was no way to contact them.

And so, my friends, I think it is clear that the Internet is doing everything in its high-speed digital power to keep me from living the life I should. Yes, "hatred" might not be the right word. But it's tough to think offhand of a similarly short word that means "making things difficult for me." Maybe I could Google that....