Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup

Back in full force this week, listening to a dizzying amount of fantasticness. I dove into the depths of my never-ending wishlist and fished out some longed-for records. So much amazing fuzzy warbles spilled out of the system this week that I had a lot to choose from to present to you all. Instead of taking all of the same-same kind of albums, I chose to put forth a collection that has something for everyone. Oh yeah, and I made a Roundup logo...just for fun.

Harlem - "Hippies": I was very skeptical coming into this one. To be honest, I thought it looked like it would be total crap. But it just goes to show you can't always judge by a cover (only sometimes). This is a great little garage rock album. Falling just on the right side of lo-fi, it reminded me of the great sounds filling the air in the summer of '01, reborn for the spring of '10 (when this officially is released). 

Greenland is Melting - Our Hearts are Gold, Our Grass is Blue: This is a pretty cool combination of alt-country/ blue grass...but it's also a garage sound album. Reminded me of early Lucero. Nothing revolutionary, but if you like that country twang to your garage albums, this is worth picking.

Paloma Faith - Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?: This is a genre I typically avoid, but after hearing Paloma sing a few lines on Nevermind the Buzzcocks, I was curious. Her voice was amazing. The album is much more on the pop side I usually drift, falling squarely in the trend of British blue-eyed soul that has been happening since Amy Winehouse and Lilly Allen's success. But that said, this is easily the best I've heard in the genre. Incredibly catchy beats and an amazing soulful voice make this is worth a listen. I'm loving it. 

Demetori - Shout at the Devil: Yes, the cover art and the title nod to Motley Crue certainly influenced my curiosity in this album. It's a decent example of the Japanese style of power metal being played this past decade (think Boris). A kind of metal that isn't really being played so much in the States anymore (everything here either shifted to death metal or stoner drone). Solid enough instrumental fast-paced effort from 2006.

C.A. Quintet - Trip Thru Hell: This psych-rock album from 1968 is very reminiscent of the Floyd albums from this era (More, Obscured by the Clouds, Atom Heart Mother) which are among my favorite Floyd albums. It's a great story album, ranging from epic instrumental tracks to lo-fi acoustic hippy moments. I was happy to discover it.

Spirogyra - St. Radigunds: The bands '71 debut album is a treasure of the progressive folk scene. While many of the albums from that era drift too far away into the corny for my tastes, this album stays on the serious and sad side in its mood. Very Bowie-esque in many parts, very Fairport Convention in others. A perfect rainy day kind of album. 

Wu Tang vs. The Beatles - Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers: This was passed on to me by my good friend and fellow music aficionado, the dANIMAL. It's easily one of the most impressive albums I've heard in quite some time. A mash-up of the Beatles and Wu-Tang seems unlikely, but somehow, it sounds as if it were always meant to be. Two innovative bands meet to create something as equally original as the source material. Available for free download here ... get it NOW. 

Rodriguez - Cold Fact: Also given to me by the dANIMAL, this is Detroit singer/songwriter's '70 psych-folk album is like an angrier, grittier Donovan. Pretty great stuff.

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: I admit to not knowing of this late '60s British psychedelic rock band until this week while watching a wonderful documentary called Rock City. There was a live performance by them doing "I Put a Spell On You" regaled in total freak paint. It was breathtaking. Apparently, they were a Marilyn Manson of their time, scaring the daylights out of middle class parents. The album has a San Fran sound and does it well. Interesting sidenote: there's a song that references Rossetti's Goblin Market (which I wrote about last week). 

Trees - On the Shore: Another lost artifact of London's psych-folk movement, this 1970 album owes a lot to The Incredible String Band. If you're in the mood to get your freak folk vibe on, I think you could do a lot worse than to spin this once or twice.

Follow up to last week's Pink Floyd album. After some comparisons, it seems the Amsterdam '69 concert is the best quality of "The Man" & "The Journey" performances. It's widely available on several different bootlegs. That's the one to to go for though. Truly perfection.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Great Expectations of Genius

Last night, I watched Steamboy, the first feature film from legendary anime director Katsuhiro Otomo. It was his first directorial full-length movie since 1988's Akira. I've been waiting to see this film since it came out in '05. Akira was one of those movies that shaped my teen years and in many ways influenced my artistic interests not only in film, but literature and art as well. Naturally, my expectations would be set way too high for any film to match...which truthfully is part of the reason I delayed so long in viewing.

I reassured myself that it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility to hope for a masterpiece. After all, Otomo was involved in 2001's Metropolis, another anime must-see. And there had been nearly 20 years between this in Akira. A genius can cook up something great in that time...think Chinese Democracy. So, I watched eagerly.

There's no denying the lushness of the 1850's Victorian England scenery and the amazing, Seussian nature of the machines. That's one thing a great anime film does...draws you into its world and lulls you into its dream. Steamboy certainly achieved this. But shortly after the story began picking-up steam, literally, it seemed to dissolve before my eyes.

The characters quickly confused me with there choices and motivations. Ray, the boy at the center of the movie, was so easily misled and manipulated that he was hard to root for. Early in the movie, he leaves the girl behind who is obviously interested. She was only character that kept her head in a difficult situations and she saved his skin. Then, after she's quickly disposed of, Ray falls for a truly despicable character...who I think was meant to be appealing. By that point, it was impossible for me to root for him. Because of that, I barely cared if he won or lost. 

The film covered so much of the ground already trampled in Akira, but without nearly the level of cleverness. Where Akira is a layered epic that requires many viewings to unravel, Steamboy is so transparent that everything important it tries to say, rings false or poorly thought-out.

The movie left me extremely disappointed. But that's the curse of genius. As an artist, when you create such an all-consuming and culturally important work of art, how do you ever achieve that again?

Though, I don't presume to understand the kind of pressure some one of Omoto's stature must feel, I can relate to some extent. There's always the drive to create the best you can each new time around. However, there's always this little computer in the brain that compares what you're working on with everything you've done previously. That's why there's always this pang of defeat whenever someone tells me "I've read all of your books. I love them, but Pure Sunshine is my favorite." A downward trajectory is not what one aims for.

But it's also fair to say, creating anything that is meaningful to someone, even once, is a gift and something to be proud of. Plus, everyone is entitled to fail some of the time. I don't won't to be too harsh on Steamboy. I hate tearing things down and I really dislike the culture of critics that is nowhere more prevalent than in blogs. To create anything that strives for greatness is worthy of praise...and Steamboy is still better than anything a critic creates. 

Perhaps someone else will love this movie and see in it what I saw in Akira. It's just impossible for the human mind not to compare and I suppose Akira is just his version of Pure Sunshine for me. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 4

Intercepted Communication 004 (access 001 and 002 and 003)

Attempts to poison the food supply have backfired. The rabbits appear to have multiplied in size and have organized in a way we never anticipated. They seem to have borrowed from social insect classifications. We hope this means there is a definitive leader. Our only chance is to identify and assassinate...  


The population of human children has risen among their ranks. They've been promoted, many of them. We worry about what information they may be passing to the enemy. Therefore we've been forced to restructure own on forces, attempting to dislodge our society from any conceivable structure of logic... 


...retreated to a position deeper in the mountains. All cities have been abandoned.

(Tune in next Story Time Tuesday for the next installment)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking Out the Window of An Inner World

I'm not sure what it is about me that always makes me question an entire story as I near completion. I constantly hear myself asking; is this right? does that work? did I forget about this? how does that make sense with this other part? These and a whole other galaxy of questions soon make me mentally unravel the entire narrative thread until it resembles nothing more than knotted shoelace within my mind. 


Perhaps it's my own self-destructive nature, or the writer's inability to refrain from being his own worst critic. Maybe it's just the ever-present urge to start over nagging at the psyche. For, there is an unavoidable attraction to the blank page when your pages are full, this is because you've unconsciously blocked out the fact that a blank page is daunting when there is nothing to follow it. 

Though I have absolutely no plans to scrap what I've been working on. I know in my heart that it's solid. But I did suffer this common crisis last week. It's nothing new. It's part of my creative process. It seems every novel I've ever written has included a similar stage of development. In my younger years, I'd have given into the temptation...thankfully I'm older and wiser now and know all of these doubts are much better eased in revisions rather than restarting. 

I'm telling about this because it's one of those things I often hear from teenage writers. They tell me they get stuck and give up on a book at some point. I tell them with complete honesty: me too. But if you are ever to become a writer, you must learn to navigate the pitfalls. This particular pitfall is a doozy. 

Helpful Hint for Writers: How do I get past this doubt? I generally decide to skip ahead. I jump right into the teeth of the closing act. This always seems to propel me and energize the prose. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup

My pace of digesting new music has been down a little the last few weeks as I try to give more careful listens to some other things I've raved about in the past. Part of me misses the days when I was a broke student, buying one CD a week and playing the daylights out of it until it became a part of being. On the other hand, there's always something to be said about new discoveries. Thankfully, I still managed to find some amazing things this past week. Without further ado, allow me to share:

A Singer of Songs - Old Happiness: A very nice melancholy folk album that reminds me Palace's more lo-fi conventional offerings, or Bright Eyes when Conner Oberst isn't being pretentious. Sure, it's familiar ground, but beautiful nonetheless.

Do You Know the Way to Blue? (Ondadrops Vol. 1): This is a compilation of unsung singer/songwriters and folk outfits that an online friend helped compile and alerted me to. Two discs of some very fine music with bands I'd never heard of...and that's saying something especially since I love the genre. The above album (A Singer of Songs) was a band I discovered from here. It's available for legal FREE download here

Woody Pines - Counting Alligators: This band plays a bluegrass style of country folk jug band, and I do love me some jug band. Some great tunes on here. Reminded me a lot of Old Crow Medicine Show (which I discussed a a few roundups ago). Not quite as grabbing as OCMS, but still toe-tapping good. 

Scout Niblett - The Calcination of Scout Niblett: Scout's last album, 2007's This Fool Can Die Now, was one of the best albums I heard last year. So, this was one of my most highly anticipated albums for 2010. Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as This Fool...but it's still pretty great and I didn't expect it to match since Bonnie Prince Billy's contribution is what put the last album in the next stratosphere. Still though, Scout has one of those haunting voices that stays with you. A definite for fans, but if you don't know her work, I recommend going for This Fool Can Die Now instead. But I will say, this album growing on me with each listen. As for style...think stripped down moody indie rock. 

Shout Out Louds - Work: Sweden's Shout Out Louds are known for catchy indie-pop...remember 2007's irresistible single "Impossible". Like their previous two albums, this one is more a collection of songs than an album. And like their other albums, some songs stand out above the rest. "Fall Hard" is the super catchy track on this one. I do think as a whole though, it doesn't match the last one. But maybe it's just the awful cover that makes me say that.

Black to Comm - Alphabet 1968: Despite what the title may suggest, this album is from last November. This is the kind of album I've been enjoying while I work. It's a combination of field recordings and a kind of ambient drone. It creates a nice mood without requiring much attention...or commanding much either. If this is your thing, it's worth a shot. 

Buddy Holly - For the First Time Anywhere: A collection of early Buddy Holly recordings that sound as good as everything else he did. It contains great version of "Maybe Baby" (my favorite Buddy tune). The whole album has a more back room bar feel than some of the more polished Holly. Great stuff.
Pink Floyd - The Massed Gadgets of Auximenies: A 1969 bootleg of the treasured "The Man" and "The Journey" story concerts that Floyd played that year as they tried to discover who they were without Syd. To non-bootleg fans of Floyd, the track titles will make you drool and wonder why you've never heard of these songs before. The truth is, though these are unreleased songs, most of the six-to-ten minute tracks would later be reworked into other songs. But the strength of The Man and The Journey is the story nature of it when played this way. WARNING: the quality of this boot is pretty close to terrible. There are better ones out there. But this is the one I listened to this week. 

Joe Cocker - Mad Dogs & Englishman: A live at the Fillmore album from 1970. The deluxe edition contains all three concert sets and captures Joe at his best. I've always thought Cocker was a better live album person, which is pretty rare. But his voice just works better without being mixed or dubbed. Just raw power. Hits and covers galore...great classic rock album.

Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones: I've purposely not bought this album a few times simply because it was the last Waits album I still wanted and by god, I wanted it on vinyl. I just felt I needed some Tom on vinyl and this is a good one for that. Thankfully, I got it for my birthday, 180g pressing and it sounds amazing. Tom's children's nightmare voice with a bit of booze jazz in the background...fantastic stuff this. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kid Fight! Kid Fight! (Two heavyweight characters battle it out)!

I've recently been working on a new children's book project, reviving my CatKid side to create another precocious narrator. Why? Because those characters crack my head up, that's why. After completing the manuscript, and before reworking it, I wanted to freshen up a bit on other similar type books just to sort of see where I stood in creating something unique.

I picked two popular books within in the same level and same target audience. What I discovered surprised me in many ways, while in others seemed unfortunately predictable.

Up first was Judy Moody Saves the World by Megan McDonald. I'd been aware of the Judy Moody books for years and had been meaning to read them. The books are quite popular, and being the Literature Major that I am, I wanted to examine them. I was hoping to find a new character to love, but alas, I found an example of what bothers me about some of children's publishing today.

The series title is by far the catchiest thing about these books. In the world we live in, that gives a book a headstart to becoming a hit. It's easily marketable. This is a perfect example. Clever title. Clever concept (saving the world is a favorite lesson for both teachers and parents). But once I got inside the covers, I found a very sort of calculated attempt at being kid-friendly. 

The characters felt flat. The informative facts felt forced. Even Judy's catch-phrase was fake. "Rare!" is her expression for anything that excites her. I've never heard anyone use that word before in such a way. Don't get me wrong, the book was exactly bad and I think kids would enjoy it (obviously thousands upon thousands have), but it reminded me of a return to an old style of didactic children's books wrapped up in pretty packaging to fool people into thinking it was modern.

Then, there's Beezus and Ramona...

What's odd to me is that this book, written in 1955, felt more refreshing than the new book. A lot of books written in those post-war decades give me the feeling that I just described for Judy Moody. I was expecting a little of that, even though I love Beverly Cleary and know she is such a gifted writer. 

I happy to discover the book wasn't like that at all. Mostly because the story wasn't trying to do anything from a marketing point of view. It only tried to be what it was. A story about two sisters that sometimes didn't get along. The characters came to life because of the honesty of the writing. The kids weren't created to feel cool...they were simply kids. The humor was very real. The story was heartfelt. Those are the ingredients for a great children's book. 

Though marketing has the power to create a hit...only great writing can create a classic. For this reason, I imagine the Judy Moody series will be forgotten by the next generation, while Ramona will always live on, as she has for generations. As a writer, I've always been more interested in creating stories that are dear and meaningful. If that means not getting a merchandising bonanza of spin-off journals and t-shirts, so be it. As long as the kids who read the books I write remember them fondly, that's all I could hope to ask for. There's enough disposable products in the world without needing to create anymore. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010


"She liked his stories where things came zigzagging out of nowhere, each minute unconnected to the next. True, she was not sure if he was quite like other people. If he were her own age, stuttering like that, she would certainly not like him."  Still She Haunts Me by Katie Roiphe

I recently finished one of most beautifully written books I've read in quite some time. Still She Haunts Me is a fictional novel about the relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, the girl for whom he made up the Alice stories. As any reader of this blog is fully aware, this is a subject of a fascination for me and is what led me to pick up the book in the first place. Though, that was the original reason I read the book, I discovered something much richer than a curious interpretation of one author's imagining of this famous historical relationship. 

The novel's real strength is the exploration of the incredibly complicated relationship between artist and muse. The historical documentation of this particular creation story make for a perfect setting to examine the the confusing line between creative passion and desire. Was Lewis Carroll in love with Alice? The answer, based on his own letters and even a small dose of common sense would suggest that he certainly was in love with her. But the nature of this love has been debated, questioned, and analyzed for over a century and a half. Was it an innocent infatuation or something more? It seems most scholars always fall to one side of the divide or the other. Still She Haunts Me suggests, as I've always believed as well, that the real answer falls somewhere in-between or that it was transient, moving back and forth between the two.

"Dodgson shaded his eyes so he could see better. The girls were running across the lawn, batting the ball, their skirts flying behind them.

His eye was drawn to the middle one. Alice. The least pretty. Not an inanimate doll-beauty like the others, but a dark, wild, tousled thing. Her legs and arms too long, sun-browned, her hair short for a girl, almost boyish, and messy, sticking up, as if she had just woken up, the front cut unevenly; no doubt she squirmed under the scissors. Her face was pointed. Her eyes enormous and complicated and black.

 And then there was the slightest trace of theater in her stance. She ran a little too fast. She concentrated a little too intently on the ball. She swung a little too hard when she hit it. All of which served to make her more there than her sisters."  page 11

I've often wondered what it is about some people, or places that stand out in an artistic sense and inspire a creative urge. A lot of my characters are based initially on stranger's faces that for one reason or another haunted me. Gretchen from Tomorrow, Maybe was based on a girl I saw on the subway. Elizabeth from that book and Thief is based on someone I barely knew but for one reason or another occupied my imagination. Same can be for Lukas from Zombie Blondes. In the case of Alice, this obsession by the artist was a hundred fold, but on a basic level, I can understand how inspiration can easily become twisted into obsession...especially to a Victorian era recluse with a stutter who lived hailed the imagination as a divine power. This novel illustrates all of those complex feelings so exquisitely and tastefully. 

I did object to some of the liberties taken by the author when it came to the end and the fallout between Carroll and the Liddell family (which remains one of the great unsolved literary mysteries). Though her suggestion is very plausible, and therefore works in a literary sense and doesn't detract from the greatness of the book, it casts a negative light over the factual circumstances that I feel might be a little unfair. Regardless, it's a fantastic book illustrating a most unconventional love story and I recommend it for anyone interested in the Alice universe or the creative process. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Great Rabbit Wars Pt. 3

Intercepted Communication 003 (access 001 and 002)


Fleets of rodent pests have been registered migrating in great numbers west and north. These rodents are heavily supplied for the coming season. Better than our own regiments. Some reports have suggested the enemy has been fitted with sonic assault weapons. APPROACH THESE RABBITS WITH CAUTION for they have been infected with great intelligence. 


...with special nuanced whistling, a frequency achieved through the gap of their front teeth, can only be heard by children. It seems large numbers of the children have defected to the enemy and have taken to the habit of wearing rabbit ears as a sign of solidarity. Spies among us...


...impossible victory.

(Tune in next Story Time Tuesday for the next installment)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Goblin Market

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:"

This weekend I decided to read Christina Rossetti's free verse fairy tale poem again for the first time since college. I was originally lead to the poem by Lewis Carroll's fascination with it. In this poem, he saw that children's literature could be something more than the didactic snores that had existed before. I was recently reading another Lewis Carroll inspired work and was once again steered to The Goblin Market

The Goblin Market is the tale of two sisters tempted by forest goblins to eat the fantastical fruits they sell. The sister's know better than to taste of such fruit, but one simply cannot resist...she eats. 

As the wiser sister watches the other prematurely age and begin to die before her eyes, she decides she must face her fears in order to save her sister. What ensues is a maddening encounter that stands as one of the most exiting pieces of poetry written in the Victorian era, in my opinion. 

"Though the goblins cuffed and caught
  Coaxed and fought her,
 Bullied and besought her,
 Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
 Kicked and knocked her,
 Mauled and mocked her,
 Lizzie uttered not a word;
 Would not open lip from lip
 Lest they should cram a mouthful in;"

The strength of this poem is in the language. The pace is frantic and enthralling. Reading it aloud, you can hear the words circling upon each other like a storm. It's also clear to see its influence in some of the more manic episodes within Alice's adventures. 

The poem can be read in it's entirety here if you with any verse though, I recommend you read it aloud. Enjoy. I certainly did. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup

Interesting collection this week of things I never knew existed and things that I've wanted for quite some time. As is usually the case this time of year, my tastes tend to drift to the woodsy sort of folk that seems the surround my brain in the winter months. Though, given the sometimes surreal nature of the novel I'm working on, some of this crosses over into freak territory. The mood of my current writing is typically reflected in the music I choose to listen to at the time of conception. So...enjoy.

The Parade Schedule - Seeds to be Planted, Trees to Be Cut: A Midwestern folk album that is beautiful in its simplicity. There's a alt-country to feel to the songs, but still more folk than that. Just a lovely, lo-fi album that I could listen a million times.

A Silver Mt. Zion - Kollapse Tradixionales: This is one of those frantic sort of experimental rock albums that normally annoys me. However, the experiment works on this album. It pulls together to make a very surrealist kind of story album, like a heavier Sunset Rubdown circa Snakes Got a Leg era. I'm absolutely loving this album. "There's trumpets in Heaven, six feet under ground."

Cold War Kids - Behave Yourself EP: It's fashionable to hate this band in many indie circles. Then again, in many indie circles it's fashionable to hate any band that has more than four fans. I like these guys. I like their California brand of beach groove. Hopefully this new ep is a sign of more good things to come. 

Ned Collette - Over the Stones, Under the Stars: Newish album (came out last fall) from Australian singer/songwriter is pretty fantastic. I think this album expands on his previous album's themes and really touches on the sad absurdity of so many things in our culture.

Jordaan Mason & the Horse Museum - Divorce Lawyers I Shaved My Head: Yes, as you can tell by the album title and cover, there is an obvious intent to be bizarre. And this album is very much of the freak lo-fi genre, but I give them credit for truly embracing it. They don't skirt around it, they go full on. The result is something along the lines of early Neutral Milk Hotel meets the Microphones. I actually like this album a lot, but can certainly see people despising it. 

Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens - What Have You Done, My Brother?: I've been infatuated with the title track off this album for well over a year, after it's inclusion on a MOJO compilation. Even though the album was all over a lot of "Best Of" lists for 2009, I didn't manage to hear it until the other week. It's certainly solid gospel soul that sounds authentic to it's '70s influences. But, a little to heavy on the religious side in a lot of songs for my tastes. There are a few songs though that are fantastic. Title track is a must.

Samantha Crain - The Confiscation (A Musical Novella): Any reader here knows that I've been in love Samantha Crain's music since August. This is the first EP she did, which in my opinion is the best of her releases that I've heard yet. Just six absolutely perfect songs. A little darker and sadder than the full length. Terrific, terrific stuff.

The Beatles with Tony Sheridan: The prize piece in the vinyl Christmas treasure, the actually German release (first pressing) that still didn't distinguish the "with Tony Sheridan" on the cover. This is the early, early Beatles with some bloke named Tony singing. It actually sounds more like Elvis than the Beatles, but hey, that's still pretty good to me. 

Brenda Lee - Une Explosion!: I actually managed to get my hands on all of Brenda's early EPs and singles this week and it only cemented my belief that she's one of most underrated early rock 'n' roll legends. This 1958 EP should be enough for anyone to agree. "Bigelow 6-200" and "One Teenage to Another" are so amazing. The other two tracks, well they're merely perfect.

NASA Voyager Recordings - Symphonies of the Planets Volumes 1-5: The sounds of space as recorded by the Voyager probe as it made its way through the solar system. NASA collected these sounds, adjusted them to human hearing frequencies and the results are truly mind-blowing in that the sound of space is musical, rhythmic and soothing. Each volume is a half-hour long and moves out farther and farther into the solar system. Just out of pure curiosity, everyone should listen to this at least once. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Brave New World

The totalitarian systems of the future will be obsequious and subservient, plying us with drinks and soft slippers like a hostess on an airliner, adjusting our TV screen for us so that we won't ask exactly where the plane is going, or even whether there is a pilot on board.

J.G. Ballard (1998 interview)

I've been reading the above book lately, which by the way is an excellent medium to digest Ballard, whose ideas I've always thought to be more intriguing than his prose. But anyway, this quote really struck me because I fear we're already there, in this vision of his. This brand of self-delusion is so prevalent in all of Western societies. You see it everywhere. People don't want to think about things. They don't want to question the information fed to them by media sources. They don't want to consider the ramifications of not only their governments' actions, but also their own consumer habits. As long they can be secluded in the safe illusion of their homes and cars and things, who cares what the government does. 

In many ways, we are living in a totalitarian world...we just don't seem to care. It seems most are happy being the workers of the hive.

Sorry for the downer Saturday, but sometimes things need to be said.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hunting the Devil

Like any child growing up in South Jersey (yes, for you non-Jersians, there are two states within the world of Jersey; North and South, distinguished by their culture, sports affiliations, and accents) summers meant trips to the shore. Trips to the shore meant car rides through the desolate region known as the Pine Barrens and stories about the Jersey Devil roaming that endless expanse of nothingness located in the most densely populated state in the union. 

The Jersey Devil is a creature of legend that has been seen for hundreds of years savaging the area; snatching dogs, livestock, and in some wilder reports, children. It is the reason that as child, I was told nobody ever walks into the Pine Barrens and comes out again. 

It wasn't until I was nearly thirty that I pulled over and walked into one of the many sandy paths that lead into that strange place. I'm a big believer in woods having a certain spirit. I've been in evil woods and I currently live in woods where good spirits reside. I'm a bit of an expert at sensing these things, so I tell you with great honestly that there was some bad ju-ju in those barrens. I stayed barely long enough for the wife to flash a few photos and then nervously tried to find the car again.

Flash forward a few years and that same photo of me has been published in a book about....the Jersey Devil. When my wife told me this news, I was very excited. Probably as excited at when hearing one of the books I've written is going to be published. I know, it sounds kind of sad, but you'd have to understand that I've taken it upon myself to educate people about the Jersey Devil for years...spreading the legend up north into New York where few have ever heard of it. Finally, my missionary work would be legitimized. 

For my birthday, I finally got a copy of the book. It was even better than I expected. The caption reads "A man participates in a hunt for the Jersey Devil"....brilliant. Especially considering I was actually scared out of my wits, looking over my shoulder, and begging my wife (who didn't grow up petrified of this creature) if we could leave yet. My hunt didn't last longer than fifteen minutes or go farther than 100 yards. Yes indeed, I am the great hunter.