‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy

Recently, I’ve started to watch re-runs of “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” on one of our channels because IT IS HILARIOUS . . . if you like bad singing. Now and then they get someone who can carry a tune, but it’s usually not the melody of the song they’ve said they can sing. I’m telling you, most of them are bad–they’re worse than ME.

Tonight some lady said she could sing “All Along the Watchtower.” Yeah, RIGHT. She actually missed the fourth line of the song. (“I can’t get no relief.”) She made something up. She also had little clue to the melody. I’ll give her this–she brazened it out like a champ.

I couldn’t go on the show because I am in the habit of changing lyrics I don’t like. And I know the “Weird Al” versions of a good number of songs, so I wouldn’t be able to remember that it’s not really “The Rye or the Kaiser” and “Soon I’m going to be a Jedi.” Also, I have the most squeaky voice. My best friend Linda L. and I would sometimes break into laughter at the same time, and people would say, “Hey! Where are the elves?” People still ask to speak to my mother. I swear, I love to sing, but you wouldn’t love to hear me. I can harmonize on “The Chipmunk Song.” Pretty sad.

But really, this is a hoot to watch. If you see early episodes, you won’t know any of the songs (or at least *I* didn’t) because they’re all hip-hop or whatever, stuff that was never played on 1960s-1970s-1980s radio. (GRIN) However, lately they’ve taken to using older songs that I can not only sing, but sing correctly. I nailed “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Carry On Wayward Son,” and “Roundabout” (by “Yes.” Although my personal motto is “Just Say NO to Yes,” Rick Wakeman is one of my husband’s heroes, so I absorbed the lyrics by osmosis from hearing the albums all the time. Yes, even now he loves YES.) I was, however, totally irate at the guy who said he could sing “White Rabbit” but obviously had it confused with another song. He kept saying, “Who’s Alice?” when the lyric was revealed. *sigh* Feed your head, dude. Feed your head.

(They aren’t crazy enough to do “MacArthur Park” yet, but they did do “American Pie” and the singer got it wrong. That is a complex lyric that’s tough to remember. But she was pretty much on key, in her defense.)

It was a real hoot when they had a celebrity football player on and he had done fairly well on the R&B and pop categories. He went for the Encore Song (you know the drill–“double or nothing” for one song) and it was . . . wait for it . . . “Killer Queen”! Yes, by Queen with Freddie Mercury! Aw, poor player. He had NO CHANCE.

Freddie Mercury had an operatic range and (it is said) used to go to an opera/voice teacher for fun to sing arias with her. Also, the lyrics to this song are clever and go pretty fast. There was no way this poor dude could do it.

They brought several members of the audience up as “backup singers.”

It was a trainwreck.

But I had fun hearing what they thought the lyric should be!

My mother said, “What is that song babbling on about?” When I explained, she said, “That is disgusting! That’s pornographic!”

“Not as pornographic as the film you were just watching. ‘The War of the Roses’ has pornographic violence, anger and rage and hate, and FAR WORSE STUFF than the story of the Killer Queen, which is absolutely hilarious.”

“Get out of here,” she said, turning back to the Michael Douglas movie channel. Up next was “The Game,” another depressingly horrible little film that she loves. To each her own, I guess.

But seriously, if you get a chance to catch this program, give it a try. It could be one of the funniest experiences you’ll have all day.


Slap upside the head oughta get their attention

I have been stoooopid.

For years now, I’ve sort of thought of myself as a semi-famous blogger. I used to be the moderator of a fairly active FidoNet national mailing list, and I got a lot of mail. There were also a number of people making comments at this blog.

BUT . . . traffic has fallen off. I’m not famous, really. And this platform, LiveJournal, is quickly losing credibility and sliding into the trash. They’ve stated that they want to be more like Facebook and other social networking sites, and they don’t care about their established users. They would rather attract a lot of new people.

Fair enough. I’ve had friends who said they wanted to go be with the popular crowd and were sorry that they’d have to treat us nerds/grinds/straight-A types badly from then on. I’ve watched as people dumped their nice and loyal boyfriends for the next new shiny man who came around the corner. I’ve seen businesses decide to change their brand and their charter.

I’ve even seen the strategy work.

But I want a journaling/blogging site that’s like LJ used to be. The closest thing I’ve seen is Dreamwidth. I can’t remember to get on there, is the problem. A lot of writers who blog are choosing WordPress, and they tell me it allows for cross-posting. I should probably transition over to one of those platforms. I’d be cross-posting until the bitter end, so I’ll be hanging on here as well.

I won’t dump LiveJournal, but I’m afraid it is going to crawl into the dumper over the next few months. It’s going to leave US, and it doesn’t care. Well . . . life happens.

Who’s out there and happy at another site? Is it Dreamwidth? Or something else?

A word to the wise


A traditionally published author on my friendslist here at LJ has been posting twice a day–and the posts always include a big photo of his/her (I’m not telling) latest novel’s cover. It was nice to see the cover the first couple of times. Yes, I know your book is coming out. Nice photo. But by the third or fourth time, I found myself paging past that damn rainbowy pic pretty quickly. Now it seems it has been ten or fifteen times, and *BOOM* I have lost patience. I can’t stand to look at that cover EVER AGAIN.

It would have been sufficient to mention the dang book a couple of times and then start just putting a link (I suppose) at the end of the post where I could click or ignore.

A Word To The Wise Is Enough.

For that matter . . . ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Things that writers think about

Being an Amazon author myself–I have a deal to put my books out in print through CreateSpace without cost because of having finished in the quarterfinals of their last contest, and I’m putting them on the Kindle, as well–I had to chuckle at the cleverness Amazon is being credited with in this article. I also suspect the claims made are correct, at least in general.

“When you see Snooki’s book on the New York Times Best Seller List, you know publishing is in trouble.
“You can blame readers and say publishing is just giving the public what they want. But [if true!] that’s only half the problem. The rest is a lazy publishing industry that does far too little of the work that got them here: Discovering new authors and giving them a shot. Instead, they go for the lazy lay-up: Overpaying on celebrity memoirs and pop culture phenomenons with a built-in audience.
“But that was a short term mistake that has put the publishing industry behind the eight ball. And, according to this industry insider who asked not to be named, a familiar bully is about to take them out.”

Read more.

P. J. Thompson (lj-user=pjthompson) writes:
“You know that thing where you’ve edited a book so [heavily] you’ve cut all the life out of it?”

Yes! It’s something that I’ve preached against over and over, but I’ve been shouted down by agents and critique partners who say that every word has to further the action of the MAIN PLOT of the story, not just show character or develop a subplot or any other valid artistic reason. I know that I can be wordy and digressive, but if you cut out everything that some people would like to cut out of my work, you wouldn’t have anything left but margins. Surely a reader wants to proceed at a reading pace, not at the breakneck pace of a rap lyric.

She goes on: “Throughout the reading [of a friend’s edited novel], it felt incomplete to me, missing beats, wanting something that kept slipping through the fingers–cut to the bone and unable to quite articulate itself as those bones clattered along. A large part of the life had been taken away. I intuited that it had once been there, but no more.”
(Read more.)

I see this happen all the time when writers go to workshops and get the skinny on The One True Way You Are Supposed to Do This. The resulting work is either in the no-style style or is in standard workshop style. Whatever unusual turns of phrase the critters ran across have been turned into roadkill, and any quirky stuff has been completely rubbed out.

The charm that the work originally had is gone along with the errors and problems that they’ve fixed.
* * *
A whale swims all day, only eats fish, drinks water and is fat.
A tortoise doesn’t run, does nothing . . . yet lives for 450 years.

But a tortoise IS pretty wrinkled, so perhaps there is some justice.

Writing and the future of novels/novelists

Novels will never go away. There’ll always be people who need story in their lives, for whatever reason, and a novel gives you enough–not just a flash like a short story or a film (which is longer, but doesn’t have the same cooperative-creation aspects).

Technology is not going away. If anything, more and MORE people will be adopting the e-reader technologies. Younger people will be introduced to it via schools (where textbooks on e-readers would be the most eminently sensible things they’ve done in years, if they can keep the kids from destroying their e-readers through carelessness and pranks). Younger people may never read a printed book. That’s still in the future, but not as far away as you might hope or think. The Jetsons future never materialized (and I mourn it, as I neeeeeeed Rosie the Robot Housekeeper and a flying car), but this one is here. Now.

So. I have had several arguments with people on various mailing lists about whether e-book borrowing is the same as print-library borrowing. Many people have told me that they see no problem with authors and their income, because libraries have always existed (since Ben Franklin came up with the idea, anyhow). But unlike library sales of today, when libraries all over the country buy a couple of hardcopies of your novel and lend it to one person at a time–and, significantly, have to replace a copy that is lost, stolen, defaced, or just plain worn out by purchasing another copy–the e-lending model allows one copy of a book to be lent over and over with no damage to the book. Amazon has a lending program: if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow a couple of Kindle books a month out of their vast collection. While you have the book checked out, you can copy out the passages you want to keep. Why would you go back and buy the book (in most cases, unless you LOVE it)? That’s one book sale potentially lost. It would only have cost you a couple of dollars to buy a copy, but you didn’t have to. (I don’t have an objection to free samples on the Kindle, though. Those lead to purchases.)

Very soon all DRM will be broken (if it hasn’t already) such that if you lend a book to someone, that book might be cloned and sent to hundreds of other readers for free. (This can be seen as good or bad, but if you are relying on an income from the tiny royalties you get from selling a book for $2.99, it leans toward bad indeed.) The limitations that some publishers are attempting to put on library lending right now may seem “petty,” but they’re trying to keep some re-buying going in this situation. Pirate sites will pop up where people can get free copies of books. You might argue that people could always copy out print books by hand (ha) or that they could photocopy them (I’ve seen that done when a book is out of print and rare, and it is a HUGE cost and hassle!), but copying the e-file is almost too easy. Too tempting. Erase that author’s royalties.

Worst of all, to me, is that once authors are not getting advances and not getting much in the way of royalties, they’re going to have to go out and get real jobs (unless they have sugar daddies like mine who work for a living and allow them to stay home and labor on the unseen details). This will mean that their books have to be worked on in whatever spare time they have, and the books will come out more slowly, if at all.

Look at the transformation of the music industry. Sure, it’s great for us as listeners to be able to get free MP3s when promotion time rolls around, and it’s cool that we can buy ANY track as a “single” from the various vendors, and we’re happy to be able to sample so many artists’ output without paying much (if anything). But artists no longer get much money from their CD sales and royalties from iTunes and such. They, however, can go on a concert tour and perform. Writers can’t do that as effectively. So one of the income-streams available to singers/songwriters is not available to writers, at least not so much. Are we ignoring the future when we say we want cheaper e-books? Do we care whether anyone ever writes another word except for personal reasons (ego, the desire to be read, the desire to leave something behind for posterity, an inner drive, whatever)–meaning that many of the series now begun may be abandoned because the author is working flippin’ burgers instead of typing at the glowing altar?

Information wants to be free. Intellectual property is worth something. An author or singer deserves to be compensated for all that work. Do not starve an ox as it treads out the grain. How does this all fit together?

In other words, it’s not as simple as people who love to get “Free!” books would like to think.

Some of us are dumb enough to go on scribbling anyway. But now that the gatekeepers can be circumvented through putting books out on Kindle and through CreateSpace, Lulu, and other non-ripoff print POD services, it’s quite difficult to find books that you want to read. It’s not difficult to find BOOKS, which are all over the place. But it’s tougher to find books that don’t have clunky prose with constant howlers (“While driving down the interstate, a tree fell off a truck and bounced off the car”) and so many typos that the book soon flies against the wall. It’s tougher to find books with at least a semblance of originality. Many books don’t have coherent plots, and the plot holes are so large that they boggle the mind. These books aren’t much fun to try to read. But when the only way to find books is wading through the hype created by publicists and friends of the author who write that every potboiler is “captivating” and a “must-read,” you find yourself doing a lot of weeding. Perhaps you don’t mind being an involuntary beta reader or proofreader for someone’s first draft that was rushed to market because it COULD be. One thing I can promise you about my own books is that you won’t find howlers or typos, and you’ll be seeing an umpty-umpth draft that has all the plot problems (at least the ones that I agree are problems) fixed. But that won’t always be the case with books you download.

Any coin has a flip side.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

* * *
I simply LOVE these book reports that an author has provided on his website for lazy middle schoolers who want something to turn in without having to actually read the book! I am going to shamelessly copy this guy and put book reports up on my novels as soon as I can think of some that are nearly as funny! (Anything to drive traffic to the site and to the books’ buying pages, right?)

* * *

“[If you think] that people don’t need to read, that people don’t like books, that they want to be “entertained” (as if reading were something hideous, something other than also entertainment), then we come to an impasse. But if, like me, you believe that books preserve the past, illuminate the present, and point the way to the future . . . then you can understand why I seem to be upset.”
–Harlan Ellison, _Sleepless Night in the Procrustean Bed_

Out of Poe-dunk into eternal fame

A moment of reflection in honor of Edgar Allan Poe. This would have been his umpty-umpth (I think the 203rd) birthday. The fans discontinued the tradition of “toasting” him (for years a mystery figure had been placing roses and cognac on his gravesite, but that ended with no explanation a couple of years ago. We figure the “toaster” has crossed the veil to join Mr. Poe.) Poe died mysteriously, alone in the gutter. But his work lives on!



Not that loud. But final.

The sound of a microwave oven dying.

I had been in the kitchen cooking all afternoon and all evening (partly to get away from the sound of the roofers ripping off our shingles and tossing them onto the front lawn and garden) with Mama at my elbow explaining that I was doing it all wrong when we heard the *thunk* from the direction of the oven.

Mama had been microwaving bowl after bowl of things all afternoon, one after the other. Packages of frozen veggies that she put together and cooked in her small glass casserole dish so she could put them into the fridge and graze on them all week. (She just started on Prandin, a diabetes medication, and it DOES bring down her blood sugar. FAST.) At least four packages’ worth had been going for up to twenty minutes each. (She can’t do “al dente” because she’s missing so many “dente,” so she cooks to mush.) A couple of simple casseroles that she thought would be easy grazing. Lots of food. The effort was finally too much, simply too much work for a fifteen-year-old microwave oven.

It did a *thunk* and the digital time display went blank and the turntable came to a halt. It just stopped. She pulled the plug and plugged it into another circuit across the kitchen.

Still nothing.

It was gone.

It died with its boots on. It did itself proud; the squash casserole that it had been so bravely working on was ALMOST done and could be finished off in the “real” oven.

I hope it had its two-minute warning.

*a moment of silence*

Someone told me online a little while ago that it could be just a diode, or it might’ve blown a fuse (the fuse is blue? Somebody already pulled that one on me in Circuits I), or it could be something else in the high-voltage power supply, such as the capacitor. I suppose there are people who still repair appliances, although our local shop went out of business a couple of years ago. But! I don’t want to touch a high-voltage capacitor because it’ll still be WAY charged up, what with having run for hours, because that’s the last touch an electrician usually feels as he flies out the back door under the power of a mega-zap! So out it goes. Sears has a GE Profile 2.0 cubic foot 1200 watt oven for around $250, and there are probably other options. (Yet the other stores don’t take the Sears card, and mine happens to be paid off at the moment, so that could come into play.)

Wonder whether a charity would want it? Goodwill used to have people they trained to fix things and then re-sell them. But those days have probably gone. Last time we put out stuff for a charity, they wanted working appliances, wearable clothing, and books in good shape. And I don’t blame them. Just throw away those hol(e)y socks and waterlogged tomes. That probably means I’ll end up throwing away the oven, which still seems like a waste, but still.

This does, however, explain one thing. The other day the Kia dealership where we traded in Hubby’s purple car on that stupid brown one called. They didn’t leave a message. Instead, they mailed me a check for around $450 that they’d overcharged us. I had already paid the car payment that month when they took the car in trade, so they overestimated the payoff. One of their honest accountants corrected the mistake. So I got a check in the mail today. I knew there was something it was intended for, as I never get a small windfall or refund that isn’t needed to cover a broken appliance or some other surprise. At least we can trust that someone up there is watching. It WOULD be nice to get a windfall that I could use to get the house painted or take a real vacation, though.

So . . . the roofers came today, one day early, and I had to run outside to move both the cars and make room for their truck, dumpster, supplies, tools, compressor, Coleman cooler (full of beverages and snacks), and I don’t know what all. Then began the POUNDING. And RIPPING. And the THUDDING of the pages of shingles that they were ripping off. Amazingly, the dog didn’t go crazy.

However . . . I did.

Hubby woke up with terrible nausea and a stomach problem, so he was home sick and lying in bed watching SF movies off the TiVo and playing noisy videogames on his iPad (actually a Toshiba Thrive, which he seems unnaturally pleased with) as I ran back and forth to serve up green tea and crackers at intervals. He couldn’t answer the door when they knocked to tell me they were plugging in to the front courtyard outlet. He couldn’t get up and do ANYthing that would make me less crazy. We think he caught something at the doctor’s office, where he went on Monday for a diabetic checkup. How does the staff there keep from being sick all the time?!

Mama kept up a nonstop stream of worries. “What if it rains?” (It was clear and cold. It rained all last weekend instead.) “What if one of them falls through the roof and crashes through the ceiling?” (Maybe he’ll land on the OLD sofa.) “Have you taken your pills?” (I’m looking for the hemlock. Isn’t it passive-aggressive to always ask, “Have you done this? Have you done that?” instead of just saying, “Do this! Do that!” when that’s what you MEAN?) “Can we pay them when they get finished?” (Yes, we got a check from the insurance company and I managed to get it co-signed by the old mortgage company before they sold our mortgage. But there was a $2k deductible and $2k worth of depreciation, so I had to scrape together more funds. The final $500 or so will have to come out of our budget for this month. Whee!) “Why do you look so stressed? You have big bags under your eyes and all these wrinkles just like all the Gerneth women. Why did you turn out like that side of the family?” (At least I have a different set of diseases from you. Makes it more interesting.)

None of my big plans to declutter the house and fix it up got accomplished, although we got the Christmas decorations down and boxed up. I did manage to get a lot of things out of the closet to try on again. I have a large pile of nice things to give away to charity, and then a smaller pile that is really GOOD stuff. I’m not sure it is worth trying to sell on eBay, though. That’s an awful lot of hassle. I have stuff like designer suede boots that we’ve both (Mama and I, not Hubby and I) tried on once a season for two years but never could walk in because we have weak fat ankles . . . the Missoni-for-Target briefcase/purse that I was always afraid to carry because it came with a tag saying it might have lead in the handles . . . electronics that are just barely out of date . . . and so forth. I never can bring myself to just throw those into the charity bag.

I still haven’t had any time to work on the books that I want to get onto the Kindle. (sigh)

But we’re hanging in there. Tomorrow I’ll have an excuse to get away from the banging. We can go microwave oven shopping at Sears.