I’m officially coining the word “Conversationist”

You will so get why I chose this image in a minute.

You will so get why I chose this image in a minute.

I despite the word “conversationalist.”

According to the internet–and the internet is never wrong–the word “conversational” means appropriate to informal conversation. Thus, a conversationalist must be someone who “practices appropriateness to informal conversation.”

No, that doesn’t make a bit of sense, which is the reason I despise the word.

“Conversation,” on the other hand, means the exchange of ideas by spoken words. A conversationist, therefore, is someone who exchanges ideas by spoken words, which is crystal in its clarity and explains why I have been using the term for years. Which, in turn, explains why people frequently correct me and say, “You mean ‘conversationalist’?”

No, I bloody don’t mean “conversationalist.” I meant what I said, which was “conversationist.”

No one can make a logical case, on a semantic level, justifying “conversationalist” as a legitimate term. I bite my thumb at this abomination masquerading as a dictionary entry. All that badass stuff Ricardo Montalban said to Captain Kirk at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? That’s what I’m saying right now (go watch it if you haven’t. It’s a lovely bit of acting).

Remember well this day, my friends, because it will be looked upon by history as The Day the World Changed. It is the day a new word is born, courtesy of Eric John Baker:

Conversationist.

Book it.


My Man Crush on Sean Bean

Per urbandictionary.com:

Man Crush – A man who has a crush on another man without sexual attraction.

Notwithstanding the subject misplacement in that definition (a man can’t be a man crush), a man crush is a real thing. I know, because I’ve had one on the English actor Sean Bean for ages. It can lie dormant for a year or two at a time, but then I’ll see a trailer for a show or a movie featuring the hardworking thespian, and I’ll be like, “Damn. That Sean Bean has got it goin’ on.”

Like in this new TNT show, Legends, which I now have to watch:

The good thing about a man crush vs. a real crush is that there’s no anxiety and you don’t lose sleep over it. You can’t be rejected, either, because it’s not like you’re going to ask the guy out. Sean Bean won’t take my calls anyway (jerk), but the point is, having the man crush is the end in itself.

Man crushes are also fun because they freak out homophobes and those vehemently anti-gay folks who secretly wrestle with feelings they want desperately to repress. The latter usually open gay-conversion clinics and other such silly institutions, and they tend to add a lot of noise to otherwise intelligent conversations.

Sometimes a machine gun is just a machine gun.

Sometimes a machine gun is just a machine gun.

If you are a man and think you might want to share my man crush (another great aspect: no jealousy. The more the merrier. It’s like polyamory where no one touches anybody), check out Sean Bean in HBO’s Game of Thrones, the suspense thriller/remake The Hitcher, the first Lord of the Rings movie, Fellowship of the Ring, or as the villain in the James Bond flick Goldeneye.

Note: Man crushes should not be confused with “bromances,” in which two or more dudes are really close and hang out together all the time but are not romantically or sexually attracted to each other. I tried to explain the difference to a gay friend once, and he said, “I don’t know. I just went out and got myself a boyfriend. It’s less complicated.”

So guys, who’s your man crush? Ladies, have you got a lady crush you’re willing to admit to? Gay and lesbian readers, have you ever had a non-romantic crush on a member of the other sex? It can happen! Another gay friend told once described his other-sex crush on Kirsten Dunst. For reals.

Talk to me.


Music Review: I Know U… will dig Chase Bell’s new 5-song mini album!

Artist: Chase Bell & White Licorish (featuring Emma Bell and Darius Campo)

Title: I Know U U Know Me (mini album)

Genre: Adult-oriented pop

Release date: September 1, 2014

Pre-order: Here

Chase Bell CD cover

When I reviewed Chase Bell & White Licorish’s album Skywords last year, I described it as something like “jazz and soul-infused pop.” In other words, pop music for people who want to hear less Auto-Tune and more singing and who value musicianship and composition over computer processing (can you tell I’m old-school?).

Chase Bell

Chase Bell

My minor critique of that album was its tendency to become White Licorish & Chase Bell at times instead of the other way around. Chase’s voice I likened to that of Bruno Mars: Intimate and sensitive, more bobbing and weaving than power punching its way through the music, and I didn’t think it took center stage often enough on that release.

Now back with a new 5-song mini-album entitled I Know U U Know Me, Chase and his bandmates seem to have drawn the same conclusion. This time around, Mr. Bell is given more sonic space to play with. The arrangements are softer, less busy, and more dynamic. Instead of occasionally competing with the vocals, the other instruments pick their spots with greater creativity, supporting and emphasizing the main melody. The keyboard work stands out for its subtlety, and the collective effect is to make the songs catchier and that much more memorable.

The other notable change is the participation of Chase’s talented sister, actress and singer Emma Bell, who duets on four of the five tunes. You may recall Emma from her role as Amy on season one of The Walking Dead or currently watch her play Emma Brown on TNT’s Dallas revival, though, being the horror fan than I am, I know her best from her lead roles in Final Destination 5 and Frozen (the good Frozen from 2010, with man-eating wolves and lots of unmitigated terror, not that bleeping cartoon!).

Emma Bell

Emma Bell

Anyway. Emma Bell can sing. It is the burden of writers, when facing the impossible task of explaining music with words, to compare the artist under discussion with another artist readers already know. Given that, I’ll say Ms. Bell reminds me just a little bit of Emmylou Harris. Suffice to say her vocals mesh well with her brother’s and the harmonies are sweet and pleasing to the ear throughout.

The standout track for me is the dynamic “Cats and Dogs,” which alternates between sparse, introspective verses and big wall-o-sound choruses to great effect. Other songs include the bouncy, lightly funky “Paint the Wind;” the piano-heavy “Like a Taxi,” with a rather Queen-like melody; the folky “Hear You There;” and the haunting ballad “Savior,” featuring the string work of renowned session violinist Darius Campo.

If the goal of a songwriter is to make people want to hear his song again (and it should be), Chase Bell & White Licorish’s I Know U U Know Me is 5 for 5 in that regard.

The EP will be available online from September 1. For more info visit the band’s website.


The Militarization of Law Enforcement in the USA

ferguson police2

I find it deeply disturbing that the above photograph was taken in the United States of America. Someone please explain why this person deserves to have cops dressed in full-on military gear point automatic weapons at him. He’s walking on a public sidewalk in Missouri wearing a t-shirt and jeans and carrying a handbag. I often do the same here in New Jersey.

The role of police officers is supposed to be protect, serve, and maintain public safety. Where is the threat to public safety in this image? Since black people are a much a part of the public as white people, I’m going to tell you: It ain’t the black dude.

When you allow people to have unlimited authority, they will abuse it. Always. When you give automatic weapons and flack jackets and camouflage pants to the police and instruct them in wartime military tactics, they are going to start acting like soldiers in a war.

If, for once, a police department held an officer accountable for killing an unarmed black person instead of calling out the SWAT team to silence opposition, pictures like this would not exist.

If police departments on steroids don’t stop getting away with arresting reporters for filming their antics, pictures like this will not exist. There’s no room for a free press in fascism. What’ll it be, folks?

police filmingimage source: stolen from Huffington Post


The OTHER Top 7 of All Time List

top 7 redhot

7. Frank’s RedHot Original (I can’t believe I forgot this last time)

 

top 7 helena

6. Helena

 

Nile Rodgers and Duran Duran

5. Nile Rodgers Producing Duran Duran’s Next Album (Rodgers was the producer behind some of the 1980s biggest hits by Duran Duran, David Bowie, INXS, and others, and he co-founded the seminal 1970s funk/disco band Chic)

 

top 7 without4. Trashy 80s horror movies and their accompanying posters

 

 

3. Japanese heavy metal guitarists named Akira Takasaki who are amongst the most incredible fretmasters who ever lived yet get almost no recognition because they don’t have western-sounding names. Even if you hate heavy metal, you have to be dazzled by this dude’s chops. At least watch the beginning and then the solo at 3:20.

 

Lost Moon of Poosh

2. The Lost Moon of Poosh Here represented by desert balls. I can’t show you the actual moon for obvious reasons.

 

Robin Williams

1. Robin Williams. Peace, brother. You were loved by millions.


When Bad Books Get Published

book of the dead

There are two realities: The one we insist upon and the one that actually is.

For writers, the insisted reality is that nothing less than perfection will get us a sniff at publication. Agents, publishers, editors, other writers, and bloggers don’t mind telling us everything we’re doing wrong in our quest, either.  Taken in toto, their advice demands that our stories have intriguing, likeable, and flawed (but not too flawed) characters who interact via engaging, authentic dialog and whose arcs roll out in perfect synchronization with an expertly paced, surprising (but not too surprising) plot, within which we have woven the perfect balance of descriptive details and crisp verbs while employing a narrative style that utilizes all five senses, avoids adverbs like bubonic plague, layers in foreshadowing that is not too obvious yet not too obscure, and speaks to the human condition in an original, innovative, and commercially viable way.

The actual reality is that most books fail to meet these demands yet are published all the time. Go to any bookstore, and within 5 minutes you should be able to find at least one novel that is a derivative, bland, and cliché-ridden exercise in tedium, the sole purpose of which seems to be: I dare you to finish this. Within a half hour, you can probably find a dozen more like it.

book of the dead2I say this because I am currently reading a debut novel that is, at its very best, mechanically competent on a sentence level. I’m reading it because it’s set during the early Italian Renaissance, a period that intrigues me, and because someone lent it to me.

None of the characters offers anything close to a personality or motivation, tedious exposition stands in place of a plot, and tension is nonexistent. I’ve invented the following dialog exchange for your amusement, yet I feel it captures the character interplay quite accurately:

“It’s not fair that you are sending me to the monastery. You know that all I long to do is paint and to become a great artists like my father!” said Luigi with a wince.

“You know what is not fair?” replied Super Mario. “It is not fair that you stole that apple from the street vendor, forcing me to give 3 florins to the jailer to secure your release! It is not fair that your mother died of consumption those five years ago and left you in my care, for, prior to that, I had no worries in the world. Oh, what else can I do with you, Luigi? It’s a monk’s life for you, I’m afraid.”

This followed by a three pages of exposition detailing the hitching of the cart, the ride into town, the condition of the roads, the oppressive atmosphere at the monastery, and so on.

To end up in a bookstore, this manuscript had to interest an agent then be pitched and sold to a publisher, edited, printed, and distributed, despite the writing being objectively poor.

As would-be professional novelists (presuming no best-selling authors currently read this blog), we show good form by not whining in public about our struggles to find success, not trashing our contemporaries by name, and taking our lumps from experts with humility. But you know as well as I do that lots of awful books get published and sometimes—admit it—you think, “Geez. I would have written that so much better.”

Which leads me to this question: When you browse a novel that forces you to stifle your gag reflex over its dreadfulness, do you end up feeling bitter or motivated?

monty python book


Writing Tip: Dashes vs. Hyphens

ericjbaker:

For those who requested a post on dash v hyphen, here’s an excellent, straightforward explanation from writer and fellow corporate lackey Michelle Proulx. Did I just say “corporate lackey” out loud?

Originally posted on Michelle Proulx -- The Website:

In today’s Writing Tip, we’re going to talk about dashes (—) and hyphens (-). This is a pretty intense topic, so buckle up and prepare yourself for some extreme learning.

Dashes

These cute little guys come in two varieties: em dashes (—) and en dashes (–). Can’t tell the difference? Em dashes are slightly longer. I know it doesn’t look like it, but trust me! I’m a professional. (God help us all.)

So these are the ones you use in lieu of brackets and commas to separate out phrases in a sentence (presumably there are other uses as well). I’ve seen em and en dashes used interchangeably (apparently en dashes are often used in date ranges, i.e. 1994–1998), but I favor em dashes, mostly because I like how they look. Anyway, here’s an example of dashes in action:

The awesome thing about dashes—and here I’m going to get technical, so…

View original 272 more words


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