Tuesday, December 23, 2008
1. Derek Nikitas, who, for full disclosure, is a friend of mine, recently published three loosely linked stories. My favorite is "Razor" at Thuglit (the other two are "Bronze Horsemen" in Plots With Guns and "Homecoming" in Pulp Pusher).
2. David Erlewine's "Always with Us" at The Pedestal Magazine.
3. Roland Goity's "America’s Least Wanted" at decomP.
4. Jason Jordan's "Iron Lung" at Red Peter.
5. And I will go out on a holiday note with Carolyn McGovern's cheery "HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND GREETINGS TO ALL!!!!" over at Monkeybicycle.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
It is official:
Erik's was also genius level, which he attributes to his big word usage. I assume mine is due to my brilliant choice of topics, like how I supposedly look like Val Kilmer or Garden Weasels or that time Andre Dubus said Renfroe is a "black name" or this ....Genius! Pure genius!
Monday, December 15, 2008
Guess what? No, really guess. No, it's not that. Nope, not that either. All right, I finished grading. Hooray! Much like the last time I finished grading I felt like sharing. And much like last time, Heather brought me down with this news: among the 1000+ new species found in that Mekong River place is a spider big as a dinner plate (not pictured).
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
So my computer has been sick. Ill. So I did what any normal, rational person would do: I cursed until my throat closed shut. And then I flipped it the bird several times, while keeping my cool enough not to jump up and down on it in nihilistic glee.
Which brings me to today's etiquette advice. Last time it was on being a good conversationalist. And what is conversation made up of but words. This tip comes from American Etiquette and Rules of Politeness 1884 (Rand, McNally & Co.):
Such exclamations as "The Dickens," or "Mercy," or "Good Gracious," should never be used. If you are surprised or astonished, suppress the fact. Such expressions border closely on profanity.
Mercy, I'm going to beat the dickens out this dag-blasted machine. Good gracious, this has been your etiquette advice from some old books I found.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The first "Stick" is on 3:AM Magazine.
The other one "Scientist Mad" is on decomP: a literary magazine.
I'm thrilled even beyond reckless punctuation use to be a part of these two seminal magazines. Check them out. Oh and!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I have said it before, but this blogging thing is good for something. And that something has primarily been connecting with the past. Oh the past, it's not even past...or some such Faulknerian thing.
So now, a former student of mine from when I was a grad student TA at UNCW, of all things, contacted me. Despite my youthful ineptitude, he seems like he's actually doing stellar. His name is Jeremy S. Griffin, which is a fine name because I admire anyone who includes an initial in their name, let alone the initial "S." Check out his writing and comedy doings at his Web site.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Tonight we had our first official installment of the Queens Reading Series with the poet Susan Ludvigson. She wowed them with poems about the Landsford canal lilies (pictured) and one of my favorites: "Man Arrested in Hacking Death Tells Police He Mistook Mother-in-Law for Raccoon."
At the after dinner, I got to meet her husband the novelist Scott Ely (his latest is The Dream of the Red Road) who had a great story about a guy throwing his back out picking up a bale of marijuana. Also, I had the "pleasure" of eating at a French restaurant...okay actually the food was great--I got a Cesar salad with grilled lettuce...no kidding, they grilled the lettuce...oh and sans condiments, of course.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I'm back at the Main Street Rag table at the North Carolina Writers' Network table. No puppies. And no people. The economic downturn hurts everywhere, friends. Even essentials like the arts.
But what happens when we run out of arts. When we are thirsting for sestinas and surrealist drip paintings? When we are digging through trash not for food, but found art? Then, we will be sorry. We'll all be sorry.
I'm grumpy in the morning...
Saturday, November 15, 2008
It's 8:30 and I've been up an hour already. Not of my own volition. No, no volition on my part. I'm at the North Carolina Writers' Network Conference in Durham, manning the desk of Main Street Rag Publishing Company with my associate editor hat on. Not that I have a hat. But I should make one. One with a feather. Or a bowler. Or a press hat, but instead of the card that says "Press," I would have a card that reads, "Assoc. Ed."
The good thing about MSR is that we have a rack of books large enough to hide behind. I'll probably nap soon.
I am a naturally born salesman. When people come to the table, I ignore them and type furiously, which, of course, makes them think I'm very important and so in an effort to impress me they'll buy many books. So far, these impressed people have left to get more cash, I can only assume, and will, I'm sure, be back any minute.
I have met plenty of cool people though. Sara Claytor, one of our excellent poets, and Keith Flynn, the embodiment of cool, a jazz-infused poet and poetry purveyor. More good times to come.
Well, all the browsers and potential customers are gone to panels so I can stop typing....
Friday, November 7, 2008
No need to sing the song about how vain I am...I do have a blog, after all ("Dang, boy, you got you a blog"--that's for Heather). No actually my story "An Introduction to the As-Yet-Unpublished Story Collection Dead Grandmothers" is in the new issue of Vain Magazine, "a new form of collaborative art." And I must say it's both a literary and visual feast (barring my bit).
Thursday, November 6, 2008
The literary week continues with a reading by the University's new poetry professor Morri Creech at the local independent bookstore Park Road Books. He read mostly from his book Field Knowledge (Winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, 2005). One of my favorites, "His Coy Mistress" is a response to Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" and begins "Spare me the high-flown. Everyone knows that ploy/ you tricky swains work up to lift a skirt." That is why I tried my hand at poetry, but, of course, that never really worked out for me...who knew limericks weren't sexy?
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Whatever way you go, you'll want to go out of your way to get a copy of Ben Tanzer's new novel Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine (out from Orange Alert Press). Did you see what I did there? You see, I'm using words and diction in the title in this different way where I...
Anyway, Tanzer of This Blog Will Change Your Life and This Zine Will Change Your Life fame, has written a novel like his first, Lucky Man, focusing on the lives of four characters. The relationships are just as precisely drawn as before, but this time he displays more of his wit and humor. With the recent release of his story collection , Tanzer is busy creating an impressive body of work. Work you should check out, no matter which way you're going (sorry, just couldn't help myself).
Monday, November 3, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
So tonight I sat in on a colleague's class on Alan Moore's Watchmen. There's nothing better than discussing the philosophical underpinnings of free will via a naked blue superhero (and no he's not from Kentucky).
Monday, October 27, 2008
It's not what you think. Unless you think it's the study of reptiles and amphibians. Then it is what you think because that is exactly what it is. Good job.
Why is it on my mind? You don't ask but would if you were stuck beside me on a plane and I kept going on and on about it. I've been researching Melville lately. Why you ask? None of your damned business. God, when did you get so nosy? Anyway, I found this article on "The Herpetology of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick." It discusses his "herpetological awareness." What is your herpetological awareness?
Saturday, October 25, 2008
So Friday, Heather and I participated in Just Do It's unofficial Halloween show "Fear Itself." Just Do It is a bit of a variety show so there was our readings, scene readings, monologues, an improv group, and a short film. We both wrote short pieces in response to a photo we were sent. Heather wrote a sly rhyming poem a la Single White Female about two emo guys. I wrote a faux public service announcement promoting the value of fear.
All ran smoothly thinks to the host/organizer/etc. Vito Abate. The crowd was a good size and generous. My favorite, aside from Heather's, was Charles K. Meauhead III's short film The Inexpressible Horror--a mock trailer for a 50s sci-fi horror flick complete with cheating with the milkman and typical teen beatniks and bikini-clad hula hooppers.
Plus there was Halloween candy.
Monday, October 20, 2008
So the other night, Heather saw in the Creative Loafing that Harvey Pekar would be at a comic book store signing. And so we showed up to not only find him but also Alison Bechdel of Fun Home fame. My friend Dusty Harbin, who manages the place, kindly gave us free tickets to the Novello Festival reading the two were giving that night. So we went. Excellent fun. Pekar talked about knowing Crumb and getting into comics and his new work of publishing biography comics. Bechdel had an amazing presentation discussing her creative process. Such a happy accident.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Today's etiquette advice comes from The Life Cycle Library for Young People 1969 (Parent and Child Institute, Chicago).
If you know me--and I hope, for your sake, you don't--then you know I am a spectacular social butterfly. Sort of like a conversationalist Mothra--he was a giant butterfly, right? But if you need help when you're at that next networking mixer, here's a quick tip:
Jokes made at someone else's expense, crude or off-color jokes, and very personal questions seldom make good conversation. Pointing out that Wally's teeth make him look like a gopher, even if they do, may get a big laugh, but the laugh is not worth the price of losing Wally as a friend. Laughter at someone else's expense is a sure way of losing friends.
Yeah, Wally really does look like a gopher. And now apropos of nothing--I'm only using that phrase because Heather hates it--this is also the book that clears up this concern:
A homosexual is a person who is sexually attracted to persons of the same sex rather than to persons of the opposite sex. One of the problems that masturbation can cause is that a young person may wonder if something is wrong with him or her. Some young people think masturbation is linked to homosexuality. They believe that if they masturbate, they are a homosexual or will become homosexual. They should realize that masturbation does not cause homosexuality.
So what have we learned? Don't call Wally a gopher and pointing out that masturbation does not in fact cause homosexuality--as everyone surely must have assumed--is probably a great conversation starter. This has been your etiquette advice from some old books I found.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Over the weekend, Heather drug...I mean had me willingly escort her to another TN wedding. It was a good time though unseasonably hot and strangely quick by some standards. We stayed at the Bunkhouse Inn on the River, and the next morning as I was reading my bible (I'm teaching Ruth for a class...not that I don't normally read the bible in the morning...) and sipping my coffee by the river, a burly man in a checkered shirt stepped out on to the adjoining porch. His name was Tim, and he asked if I fished. After disappointing him, we talked about the local sights, and he directed me to Clingmans Dome, even showing me on a map on his laptop while singing the praises of wireless Internet and cursing his forgotten wireless mouse.
So we (Heather and I, not Tim and I) went to the top of Clingmans Dome, third highest point east of the Mississippi, and since I've never been west of the Mississippi, I was very impressed. Also while we were there, we walked a short bit on the Appalachian Trail and the Mountain-to-the-Sea trail, where we saw a sign informing us that the next shelter had been closed due to "aggressive bear activity." Naturally, we turned around and ran the other way.
Going back through Cherokee, I convinced Heather to stop at Harrah's casino by offering to bankroll the excursion. I'd never been to a casino. Aside from the lung incinerating smoke and the infernally distracting lights and noise and 80s muzak and the soul-dead people mindlessly pushing buttons over and over with those cards stuck in the machine with a cord clipped to their body as if they were IVed to the machine and clicking the morphine button again and again, hoping for the sweet release of death... Aside from that, I had a great time...because I won. That's right; I took those suckers. For $4.25. Yeah, I'm a natural born gambler. Heather, however, wasn't born lucky and lost $4. But that still leaves me 25 cents up. I'm thinking of quiting my day job.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Went to the Kakalak Anthology 2008 reading at the Barnes & Noble in the Arboretum. Great to see the editors Richard Allen Taylor, Beth Cagle Burt, and Lisa Zerkle. And enjoyed reading with the likes of Diana Pinckney and Julie Ann Cook. Good times.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
So over the weekend I dutifully followed Heather to one of her friend's wedding. Marriage, what's it good for? Am I right lonely and sad people? Anyway. The shindig went down at a summer camp. And we played the part of campers crashing in sparse cabins and dancing in the dining hall. Good times, especially for me since I never went to summer camp. So I got a mini-adult version.
It also made me realize what Clue and Saw II have in common. They're both movies of dubious quality that I enjoy for the simple reason that they trap strangers in a confined space. It has sadly taken me forever to articulate this love of the confined space genre. It comes at a time when I'm showing Night of the Living Dead (the original, of course) in class--there it was all along.
Monday, September 22, 2008
So a few weeks ago we went to the Greek Festival to enjoy the culture, i.e. the food. And last weekend, we went to the Festival in the Park to enjoy the art, i.e. the food. Though, I did not this year have a turkey leg & foot-long corn dog sword fight in my stomach because I actually escaped without eating anything. But food could not escape my attention. What, I asked, is an elephant ear? A funnel cake like thing, came the answer. What then is the difference between them? I was proud of my question at this point because I'm teaching Socrates and I felt he would have been pleased. I don't know, came the reply. But tonight, we have it on good authority that an elephant ear is bread fried while the funnel cake is fried batter. There you go, another mystery solved. Sleep soundly.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
- Live life. Many bloggers forget this one, but it is essential. You need to go out into the big, dark world and find something mysterious and terrifying, then wrestle it to the ground and in this way have an experience. Once that is done, you must come directly home to your computer where you will set it all down in words or else that experience will be completely meaningless and lost in your ever fading memory. If you’ve done that, then you’ve completed the first step, but that’s not all. Go on.
- I cannot stress this one enough. Click the publish button. If you fail to do this your post will not appear on your blog, and you will, in fact, not be blogging.
- Do not put any pictures on your blog. First, readers do not like pictures because it makes them feel childish. Secondly, if you do, you will be sued.
- Make people read your blog.
- Set up an account with one of those places that measures the hits your blog gets. A hit is the measure of how many times a person clicks on your blog. This count, in theory, measures the amount of people reading your blog when, in fact, it can’t actually tell if they clicked on it by mistake or are painstakingly crocheting your words onto a pillow. Don’t worry about that. What is important is that you put the total on your blog, so that people can see how many theoretical people are reading your blog. If you do not do so, you are a coward. And no one likes a coward. Especially a coward who blogs.
- Some people will tell you not to measure your stats with other blogs. They will tell you that blogging is not a competition. They are wrong. The numbers are all that matter. Obsess over them endlessly. Hits are as good as money (see the Money section below).
Congratulations! You are a blogger. Enjoy your success.
Troubleshooting: Marketing. Let’s pretend people aren’t reading your blog. What to do?
- Make your family read it. First, tell your family that you’ve started a blog. They will not read it. Second, tell them that you’re talking about them in this blog. Some of them will look into it. Be sure to say rude things about one family member in particular, usually the one who is least likely to read the blog. Your brother, perhaps, who sells irrigation equipment and accessories. After a while rotate which family member you choose to ridicule. The more negative, the more likely your hits will go up. Corollary: the more hits you get, the less you will be invited to family functions, which will have the advantage of giving you more time to blog.
- Make your friends read it. First, do not tell your friends that you’ve started a blog. Instead, write several long posts about them where you use their full names. They will inevitably find the blog while Googling themselves. They will feel a secret thrill as if they’re reading your secret diary, when in fact they are falling for your secret plan.
- Get more friends.
- Go to any random blog and leave a comment. The comment doesn’t even matter, only that you link it back to your blog. In fact, the comment should be something inscrutable. For example, just write “Turnip!” I would also recommend an exclamation point. The blogger and the blogger’s audience (i.e. that person’s friends and family) will inevitably think to themselves who is this person that has written “Turnip” with an exclamation point and then click on your link to uncover the mystery. Presto! More readers.
- Pay people to read it. Warning: this step may cut into your profits.
Troubleshooting II: Money. Why are you not rich yet?
- Hits are not as good as money. Only money is as good as money. Hits, however, can be converted into money.
- There are programs like Adsense that will place ads into your blog and based on a complicated geometry problem decide how much money to give you from these advertisers. I suggest you not do this because this is what we in the biz refer to as “selling out.”
- A far better and easier way to capitalize on your blog is to, as we like to say in the biz, be “discovered.” This is where a person with a lot of money reads your blog by accident and decides you are brilliant and wants to give you a lot of money to be your sponsor.
- An even easier way to capitalize off your blog is to convince your significant other that the above shadowy sponsor will find you sooner the more time you spend on your blog. Suggest to your significant other, therefore, that you should quit your job in order to dedicate more time to the blog. Enjoy not working.
- Finally, sell things on your blog. Like transcripts of this very “How to Blog” manual, available here for only $9.95!
You have completed my online course on the fundamentals of blogging. You are free to put the button “S. Craig Renfroe, Jr. Approved” on your blog (WARNING: This button is trademarked and the sole property of S. Craig Renfroe, Jr. Any attempt to actually put said button on your blog will result in a lawsuit).
Copyrighted 2008 (One final tip: be sure to put this at the end of every post so that no one steals your beautiful ideas and makes more money off them than you do.)
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Now at first, this news scared me so bad I wanted to hide under the bed--but then I thought the black hole would be sure to look there.
Then, I took some deep breathes. In the past, I have been entrusted to teach Darwin and Galileo (hahahhahahahhaha). And sure enough after my initial horror, I read the articles and found that the people complaining are led by a safety inspector with a law degree. A law degree! Phew!
Most importantly let's not let this LHC distract from the real threat: grey goo!
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
So I found another old book--what can I say; it's a pastime--The Royal Path of Life, published in 1880. It's an old self-help guide so not exactly etiquette, but I'm too lazy to change up the feature. T. L. Haines and L. W. Yaggy hope "it shall be a counselor to those who have become indifferent to life's purpose." I want to be anything but indifferent to life's purpose. That sounds reminscient of some other modern book I keep hearing about, something about how purpose will drive my life. I wish purpose would just give me a lift.
Anyway. The Royal Path turns out to be instructive, especially in the ways between men and women: "Man is bold--woman is beautiful. Man is courageous--woman is timid. Man labors in the field --woman at home. Man talks to persaude--woman to please.... Women are generally better creatures than men. Perhaps they have, taken universally, weaker appetities and weaker intellects, but they have much stronger affections. A man with a bad heart has been sometimes saved by a strong head; but a corrupt woman is lost forever."
Strange, then, to find what appears to be a statement of support for the suffrage movement tucked inside the pages. It seems legimate, though did they have yellow paper back then? When did we invent colors? The top reads THE EMPIRE STATE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: Victory for Woman Suffrage in 1915.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Today's recipe...actually this is the first recipe I've blogged. It comes from one of the books I usually peruse late at night for etiquette advice. Earlier I told Heather she had a lot of "pigs in the fire." I realize that should be "irons in the fire." But pigs work for me and may explain this...
Anyway, today's recipe comes from Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book 1909 (The Success Company):
Broiled Pigs' Feet. Scrape the feet and wash them thoroughly, soak in cold water two hours, then wash and scrape again. Split each in half lengthwise, and tie the pieces separately in pieces of cheese cloth. Place in a deep saucepan, cover with boiling water, add 1 tablespoonful salt, and simmer slowly until the feet are tender usually about four hours. Take them from the liquor and set aside until cold; remove the cloths; they are ready then to be broiled in the following: 2 tablespoonfuls butter, 1 tablespoonful lemon juice 1/2 teaspoonful salt, Dash McIlhenny's Tabasco Sauce, 1/2 tablespoonful finely chopped parsley. Cream the butter. Work gradually into it lemon juice, salt, tabasco, and parsley. After removing the cloth from each piece, brush with melted butter and dust with salt and pepper. Broil over a clear fire for six minutes. Transfer to a hot platter, and spread with prepared butter. The pigs' feet may be prepared the day before needed.
That's right, the day before needed...
Sunday, August 24, 2008
My girlfriend Heather wrote the title of today's post. Kids these days with their symbols. Luckily she doesn't text message. But she does an inordinate amount of Facebook bumpersticker. She wants me to take that off, but I won't. I'm sorry you had to see that. We normally don't fight in public.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
You should get the only literary magazine I've read cover to cover--I was going to say "in a long time," but why lie--ever! Monkeybicycle #5.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Do people actually mine salt? That aside, I am back, back and so soon after being gone. Back to work, but I refuse to whistle. You will not hear a whistle out of me. Not a one.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I'm in TN. That's something. I like to abbreviate Tennessee by writing "TN" because that word repeats too many letters. As a writer, I cannot brook repetition. Especially letter repetition. Come to think of it repetition repeats "ti." Is it teaching by example or is it mocking us? Is this a joke?
I went to Border's to get Jack Pendarvis's novel Awesome, but they didn't have it and it made me sad. But they did have Clyde Edgerton's new one The Bible Salesmen. I studied novel writing with Clyde at UNC-Wilmington.
There, that was something. And here's a picture of something:
Thursday, August 7, 2008
--from a letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne from Herman Melville
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
So I found a 1st edition of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, a little text I have referred to here at the blog for its helpful and sometimes idiosyncratic writing advice, but who would care? Except me. And Heather who sweetly and excitedly said, "One from when Strunk was still alive!" Sadly, Strunk died in 1946 and the first edition with White came out in 1959. Why should that be sad when White is dead as well. I'm going to depress myself if I keep going.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
So my short story "The Villain" is in the current issue of roger, an art & literary magazine. I'm in there with luminaries like Aaron Hellem, Don Mager, and some nobody called Pablo Neruda.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
So the other night we went to see Avenue Q. An adult send-up of Sesame Street and the Electric Company, what could be better? Though it makes me call into question why I waste my time scribbling here when as Trekkie Monster says "The Internet is for porn!"
Monday, July 21, 2008
See for yourself:
And his views on the state of the Internet:
Friday, July 18, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Home from the Emerald Isle and convalescing from the jet lag. On the plane, I finished David Jack Bell's thrilling novel The Condemned. It's a tight page-turner playing with the tropes of a zombie tale while brilliantly and subtly commenting on the war, the treatment of veterans, Katrina, and more. Take the dark ride yourself.
Monday, July 14, 2008
That's right I was a total tourist and kissed the blarney stone. Blarney castle was built by Cormac MacCarthy, not to be confused with Cormac McCarthy (pictured). Supposedly, the kisser gets the gift of eloquence...or cooties. Also, an embarrassing photo opportunity.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I survived. The next day I went around the ring of Dingle. My first big site was the Celtic and Prehistory Museum where I meet this odd musician who has collected and now opened to the public a strange collection of things, including the giant skull of a Woolly Mammoth--complete with tusks as big as me. And then I was off to the Great Blasket Island. And it was great. The place is empty:
The few remaining inhabitants left the island years ago. The ferryman said that they went to American and never came back. No cafes, no convenience stores, no bathrooms (ouch). Only the abandoned houses even newer ones with stuff just left or litter piled in. As this eerie, i.e. poorly shot, photo will attest:
I hiked the island for three hours and was alone most of the time. Which is disconcerting when you find piles of bones around the place:
But the view was worth it: