Friday, December 28, 2007

Merry New Year All!

You'll all hear from me again in 2008. Until then, it's time to spend more quality time with friends and family and come up with some resolutions I can stick with. In the meantime, in case you need something to read, or want something to listen to, or have a desire to go see a movie, Fimoculous has compiled the best of "Best of 2007" lists. It's compiled lists for best books, movies, and music, but also best cars, best candy, best gadgets, best webcams, best photos, best, best, best. It's worth perusing over during the long weekend. Have fun the rest of the year!

2007: The Year in Magazines

Folio has the rundown of highlights and lowlights in regards to magazines throughout the year.

NY Times Critics' Picks

The book critics at the good ol' New York Times pick their favorite books of 2007.

Roger Marshutz Dies at 78

The LA Times has an obituary for Roger Marshutz. He was a Hollywood photographer most famous for the Elvis Presley picture above. He shot a lot of greats including Rock Hudson, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Perkins, and Natalie Wood. His pictures appeared in fan magazines, on posters and in movie publicity kits. Dying of pancreatic cancer, he will be missed.

Seattle - Almost the Nation's Most Literate City

Well, my hometown of Seattle couldn't hold on to the top spot a third year running. Minneapolis is now the nation's most literate city. Seattle's second place. That's not too shabby.

From the story:

The rankings, originated and authored by Central Connecticut State University's president John W. Miller, compare the country's 69 biggest cities in terms of libraries, bookstores, educational levels, newspaper readership, locally published magazines and Internet resources.

Some interesting tidbits:

Seattle continues to lead the nation in number of bookstores per 10,000 people and in the percentage of adult residents with high-school diplomas and bachelor's degrees or higher.

Seattle's library circulation, staff and branches rose from seventh in the nation in 2006 to fourth this year.

Seattle residents, let's get reading and take out Minneapolis next year. Come on! READ! FIGHT! WIN!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Spam Art

Drawn, the illustration and cartooning blog, showcases a couple of groovy artists that use email spam as an inspiration. Using the subject lines, and sometimes using the body text of spam, the artists create some whimsical pieces indeed. Linzie Hunter has a fun series (one of which is pictured above). Dutch artist Symen Veenstra's series on junk email is in a more elegant vein. Enjoy them, like you might enjoy cheap Viagra.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Haiku Poetry in Portland Fiction

Based on the word tickle.

How Did Plastic Man Originate Anyway?

And what about Wonder Woman? And the Penguin? And Hawkman? And Green Lantern? DC Comics reveals the origin stories of some of its heroes and villains.

Can Poetry Matter?

This is the question Atlantic Monthly ponders. "Poetry has vanished as a cultural force in America. If poets venture outside their confined world, they can work to make it essential once more," the story reads.

I'm reminded of reading all that great Beat poetry when I was just out of college. I was trying to woo my beautiful wife and so I'd read, passionately and aloud, the works of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg (pictured above).

From "Howl":

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water fiats 'doating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated...

If my whiz bang readings of those effervescent Beats didn't do it, I'd shift gears, read some Emily Dickinson or Rimbaud, some William Stafford or, the ultimate in woman wooing, the works of Pablo Neruda.

Can poetry change the world these days? Perhaps, perhaps not. What it still CAN do, however, is help people fall in love with one another. And, really, that's about as great a change in the world as you can make.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays!

So, I'm off to Olympia and the wife and kid are coming with me as we spent the long holiday weekend at my mom's house. If being with friends and family gets difficult for you in the next few days, why not curl up with a good book? The Guardian Unlimited has a story in which famous writers (Monica Ali, JG Ballard, Peter Carey, etc) note their favorite seasonal reads. And, if a book doesn't bring holly jolly joy to your holidays, alcohol will, yes? Then perhaps you should enjoy a winter cocktail, care of Charles Dickens.

All the best to you and yours this holiday. I'll be back after Christmas.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Writing in Fine Books & Collections Magazine

I'm in the latest issue of Fine Books & Collections Magazine. It's a story about the world's foremost authority on John Updike's work, Michael Broomfield. His collection of Updike materials is bigger than anyone's and he's just written an extensive new bibliography.

Sherman Alexie Interview

The wonderful Whitney Matheson, USA Today employee extraordinaire, interviews the extraordinary Sherman Alexie, a wonderful writer if ever there was one.

Christmas Shopping - Antiquarian Books

Reading Copy, the blog for AbeBooks, has a fun list highlighting the most expensive sales on the last couple of weeks. Good gifts, to be sure! Which reminds me of the good gift my delightful wife gave me for our first Christmas together (and got me into collecting first editions). It was this one. Happy holidays and happy gift giving, book loving people!

The Editing of Raymond Carver

The Guardian Unlimited writes briefly about the recent issue of The New Yorker. Within the magazine they discuss, in detail, the way famed editor Gordon Lish radically altered Raymond Carver's work.

Twilight of the Books

What will happen to us if we stop reading? What with computer games and TV, the internet and Blackberries, we're reading books less and less. What will life be like? The New Yorker ponders these questions.

And, with all this new technology sprouting up most every day, will there even be books like we know them? Steven Levy, for Newsweek, covers The Future of Reading, highlighting Amazon's new electronic reading device.

My Kayaking Story in Canoe & Kayak Magazine

Well, it's finally arrived. The new issue of Canoe and Kayak includes a story of mine. It's a story that will be told and retold in the Shipley family for years to come. It's a story of treachery and near-death. It's a story of kite flying and barnacles. It's a story of brotherhood. It's the story of me and Mark being absolute idiots. Go to the newsstand and find yourself a copy. Enjoy it. Laugh. Chuckle. Snortle, even though snortle is not even a real word.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Best Novels You've Never Read

New York Magazine has compiled a list. Sixty-one critics reveal their favorite underrated book of the past ten years. My goodness, my hold list at the Seattle Public Library is getting very long indeed.

Books Are a Vital Human Right

The Guardian Unlimited writes about literacy in Africa.

From the story:

Literacy - being able to read and write - is widely regarded as a basic human right. Reading also enables people to exercise other rights; to participate in decisions that affect them; to access vital information. And of course it's integral to the right to education.

But without material to read, the right to literacy means nothing in practice. The consequence of this is that many people in Africa, having learnt to read in school or adult literacy classes, actually lose the ability to read once they leave the classroom. Worse still, the shortage of books and learning materials in African schools means that many children will actually leave primary education illiterate.

But despite the central importance of books to securing human rights they are often dismissed as frivolous luxuries.

Drive-By Poetry

This is totally geeky. It's probably something I would have done had I been awesome enough to do it. In a recent issue of The American Scholar there's a story, "Poetry Stand: How a Precocious Group of High School Poets Learned to Provide Verse on Demand," by Douglas Goetsch.

From said story:

Drive-by poetry, as Rich described it, entails loading the students into a van, cruising around a commercial area in Trenton, and pulling over near targeted pedestrians. One of the students sticks his or her head out the passenger window and serenades — or accosts — the startled pedestrian with some passionately recited lines by Walt Whitman or Pablo Neruda. The kid pops back in, rolls up the window, and the van takes off in search of the next victim.

Wow! What I wouldn't give to go back in time and do that with my geeky friends in high school. We'd be rollin' down the dark streets of Olympia, find some middle-aged gaggle of state employees and shout menacingly at them a section of William Stafford's "Waking at 3 a.m.":

You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.

The state employees would then feel the full wrath of poetry!...And then probably say, "Huh?" and then finish their latte and continue their discussion of state fiscal policy. Whatever.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Best Novels of the Century

Of course this century isn't all that old yet. Whatever. highlights the best novels of the century (though take it with a grain of salt. Not having Cormac McCarthy's The Road on the list is blasphemy).

Chewing Over Food in Fiction

The Guardian Unlimited has a fun story about how "Meals are the setting for many of life's most significant moments, and provide the ingredients for many a brilliant scene." Scenes from the works of William Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, and Herman Melville are discussed in the piece (among others). My stomach is now rumbling. Off to the kitchen for a brilliant scene!

Flying Saucers in Popular Culture

Browse hundreds of fun UFO book covers here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What I'm Researching, What I'm Writing

There's a couple stories I'm working on while Christmas fast approaches.

For Distinctly Northwest Magazine I'm doing a story about the plethora of micro-distilleries in Oregon. Oregon has the second most micro-distilleries in the country (California is the only one with more). Some of the more well-known distilleries include Clear Creek Distillery and Bendistillery, located in, you guessed it, Bend, Oregon. Funny thing - I asked if I could get sent some samples of their products. I was expecting those small airline sized bottles. On my porch, an enormous box. My wife called. "There's a huge box here from a distillery. Can I open it?" The lush. I said, sure. Inside - five full bottles of some great spirits, including Crater Lake Vodka. Crater Lake, by the way, is stunning (pictured above). Hopefully I'll be able to write the story without getting too hammered.

I'm commencing research on the life, times, and books of Sherman Alexie for Firsts Magazine. Firsts is a magazine for book collectors, specifically collectors of modern first editions. Being a collector myself (my treasures include Steinbeck's first book, Cup of Gold, an autographed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and a first edition of Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls). I've collected Alexie for years as well. He's a Washington native, like me, he went to Washington State University, like me, and he's written all sorts of things from novels to poetry, like me. The only difference between him and me is, well, most everything. Most of the books I have I have signed because I've been to plenty of his readings. Going to an Alexie reading is an event. He really puts on a show. He makes you laugh while skewering you at the same time.

Also on the docket? My story about artist Peggy Strong and, hopefully, I can get a profile together about Harmon Killer Killebrew. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quote of the Week

Typos are very important to all written form. It gives the reader something to look for so they aren't distracted by the total lack of content in your writing.
- Randy K. Milholland, Something Positive Comic, 07-03-05

Friday, December 14, 2007

My Favorite Magazines

In the past, I've highlighted my favorite blogs and my favorite websites so I thought it about time to highlight my favorite magazines.

This is a tough thing to do, winnow down the magazines you read frequently to a mere ten. Sadly, many good magazines didn't make it on the list (and many good magazines I probably haven't stumbled on yet probably will make the list in the future). Good Magazine, some time back, discussed their choices for the 51 Best Magazines Ever, and The Millions made their case that the best magazine ever is The New Yorker.

Without further ado, my favorite magazines (in no particular order)...

1) Esquire. A great well-rounded magazine without all the ridiculous soft-core porn offered by Playboy. Esquire has your fluffy celebrity profiles and "What To Wear on Your First Date" type stories, but also has great features including stories about Dennis Kucinich and tuberculosis (not the same story), education reform and bacon (again, not the same story...though that would have been totally awesome).

2) The New Yorker. Just holding its pages makes me feel smarter. I'm always amazed about what I'll be interested in reading once I actually start reading it. Who knew I'd be interested in prison reform or mushroom hunting or dueling or Bush's scriptwriters or a cornucopia of other topics if it hadn't been for this magazine? Add to that Sedaris essays, Roz Chast cartoons, and frequent contributions by Steve Martin and I'm a happy guy, indeed. The only knock? It comes out weekly and, really, who can read all of it before the next one comes out?

3) New York Times Magazine. I don't subscribe to the Sunday NY Times, though I probably should. Instead, I go down to my local coffee house, Cafe Luna, and steal it. I'm a bad person.

4) The Atlantic Monthly. Smart, sharp, witty, and with a slight sense of humor that Harper's doesn't have. They also employ Matthew Yglesias, a great blogger.

5) Vanity Fair. For the longest time I thought Vanity Fair was a magazine for women. How wrong I was. I apologize.

6) Outside Magazine. Great writing about great topics from great writers. It's the magazine that helped launch Jon Krakauer and that's a magazine I can read and read often.

7) Smithsonian. Their December issue has a story about the keepers of the missing Ark of the Convenant. How cool is that? Did I mention I'm totally psyched about the coming Indiana Jones movie?

8) National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure and National Geographic Traveler. It goes without saying that National Geographic would be on the list.

9) Mental Floss. I'm a dork.

10) Good Magazine. I'm a dork, and an optimist.


The Spiritual Art of Salvador Dali

If only I lived in New York City! If I did, I could visit the William Bennett Gallery which is showcasing the spiritual art of Salvador Dali. For the first time in it's entirety, the gallery will be showcasing Dali's Biblia Sacra, an illustrated Bible of sorts, complete with 105 original lithographs published in 1969. It is also showing a complete six-volume set, complete with 100 woodblock prints, of Dali's German edition of Dante's Divine Comedy.

As a personal side note, happy birthday to my father-in-law, John Skoor. He died in October of '06. It was at a Salvador Dali exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum that I first met the man and I knew from then on we'd be good friends and, further, good family. I miss him a lot and think of him fondly every single day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Top Ten Blogs for Writers

According to Copyblogger.

Keeping Up with the Jonathans

Being a Jonathan, it's always nice keeping tabs with what other authors named Jonathan are doing. That said, the great and talented Jonathan Lethem has some fiction in the recent New Yorker - The King of Sentences.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Science Fiction Books - Where to Begin?

Perhaps you've always glanced at the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section at your local independent bookstore and thought to yourself, "I might like science fiction." Perhaps you played Dungeons & Dragons or Gamma World when you were a kid. Perhaps you've always enjoyed learning about outer space. Perhaps your father is a mutant alien from the planet Yorq. Whatever your reasons for being somewhat interested in sci-fi, you've never broken down and read much of it because there's simply too much of it. Sifting through those oodles of shelves is daunting! How can you separate the wheat from the chaff? AM New York is here to help with a quick and handy guide. The Science Fiction Reading List.

Do You Need to Bone Up on Grammar?

My alma mater is here to help. For instance did you know that it's a brussels sprout, not a brussel sprout? And did you know that mauve (a shade of purple) rhymes with grove? Learn this and more! HURRAY FOR PROPER GRAMMAR!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A "Catcher in the Rye" Christmas

CNN has a story about folks who go to New York during the Christmas season and hit the spots that Holden Caulfield did in Salinger's most famous work.

From the story:

"The Catcher in the Rye," by J.D. Salinger, was published in 1951. But nearly all the landmarks Holden mentions as he wanders around Manhattan at Christmastime -- the Rockefeller Center skating rink, Radio City and the Rockettes, the zoo and carousel in Central Park, Grand Central, the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- are still drawing holiday visitors more than a half-century later.


Ruth Freer, an English teacher at Highland Park High School, about 30 miles from Chicago, teaches "The Catcher in the Rye," and she created a "Holden tour" for herself on a visit to Manhattan not long ago. She took pictures of all the places mentioned in the book to share with her students.

Ah, if only I could live in the East, I could take a "Holden tour" myself, and, perhaps, even visit the town the reclusive Salinger lives.

Bizarre Literary Deaths

A bit morbid, to be sure, but Alternative Reel highlights ten bizarre literary deaths (including Euripides, pictured above, who was mauled by a pack of wild dogs).

Wish Me Luck

So, I tried out this past weekend to be in a production of "The Wizard of Oz" for Drama Dock, the theater company on Vashon. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Quote of the Week

Advice to writers: Sometimes you just have to stop writing. Even before you begin.
- Stanislaw J. Lec, Polish writer (1909 - 1966), "Unkempt Thoughts"

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Writer's Brush, by Donald Friedman

I'm enjoying a great book, entitled The Writer's Brush. It's a coffee table book, of sorts, that showcases works of art created by famous authors. The Mid-List Press reviews it, glowingly, here. The image above, for example, is entitled "Paysage Urbain," painted by none other than Victor Hugo, author of such classics as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables.

The book, with an essay by the great John Updike, includes all sorts of great art done by all sorts of great writers, whether it be Sylvia Plath or Winston Churchill, e.e. commings or William Saroyan. The Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York City showcases some of the work, including a great watercolor by Henry Miller.

Recently, New Hampshire Public Radio interviewed Dpnald Friedman, who has written the book and compiled all these great images. I look forward to poring over the thick tome this weekend.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Emerging Artists 2007

PopPhoto highlights their favorite emerging artists.

From the site:

These 15 trailblazing imagemakers can help us find a clear path through today's uncharted photographic wilderness.

The image above is from the portfolio of a 36-year-old New Yorker, Amy Stein.

Hidden Poem Found

Recently, the Guardian had a story about a hidden poem that was found recently. It was written by William Wordsworth's second cousin, Emmeline Fisher.

The poem reads, in part:

Bones of our wild forefathers, Oh forgive if now we pierce the chambers of your rest.

Which brings me to the question that begs to be answered: Who cares? With that question put for I present...

Other Hidden Poems That Will Soon Be Published in High-End Literary Journals:

"The Swan," by Josephine March, Edgar Allan Poe's laundress
"A Dark Storm," by Alphonso Rubiera, Federico Garcia Lorca's weird nephew
"Cracks" by Penelope Hogworth, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's hairstylist
"When We Were Young" by Michael Carter, W.B. Yeats' podiatrist
"Your Heart Torn Assunder," by Ralph Jones, e.e. cummings' haberdasher
"Before Morning, Stillness," by Quincy Trumbull, Lord Byron's stable hand
"The Reckoning," by Steve Harris, Edna St. Vincent Millay's prom date

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Manly Men Who Write Manly Man Things

The eNotes Book Blog highlights the Top 10 Most Manly Writers Ever. Read their books, and then let's, you know, play tackle football.

GQ Men of the Year Interview

The great George Saunders interviews the great Bill Clinton.

Hollywood's All-Time Worst Pitches

Radar asked movie producers recently what were the worst pitches they ever heard.

For instance...

Spayed in Manhattan
The Pitch: Sex and the City meets Trading Places meets Homeward Bound meets The Emperor's New Groove.
The Premise: "An heiress party girl trades places with her dog in a freak accident and is forced to make it on the streets of Manhattan," says an agent at CAA. "If she doesn't change back before she gets spayed, she has to stay a dog forever."
Suggested Tagline: You'll howl, beg, and roll over as the summer's biggest little comedy warms its way into your heart.

Yup, they're bad pitches and they're also having a contest! "Project Redlight" lets you pitch a terrible idea for a movie to be judged by the legendary Harvey Weinstein. I'm going to have to think on this. Saving Private Ryan meets Meet the Fockers? Hmmm...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

How to Defeat Our Robot Overlords

The great and funny Christopher Moore is guest blogging this week over at Powell's Books. His first efforts? An essay about his Roomba - a robot vacuum cleaner.

Single Manuscript Page of Napoleon's Sold

I had no idea that Napoleon Bonaparte wrote fiction, did you? Recently, according to the Scotsman, the first page of his novel (a love story) sold for about $35,000. That puts to shame my recent royalties check for my novel. It was enough to buy me a bagel. One of those good ones.

From the story:

Clisson and Eugenie - only 22 pages in its original handwritten form - is the last piece of creative writing Napoleon produced before turning his literary attention to political matters, said Mr Hicks, who helped publish the most complete text of the novel in September.

He said the general was well-read and influenced by the Enlightenment thinker Rousseau, whose ideas of the solitary poet and reverence for nature find their way into the novel.

Perhaps I should read more Rousseau if I'm to make this kind of money on my writing. Or, perhaps, you know, rule France and change the course of history.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Quote of the Week

Good writing takes more than just time; it wants your best moments and the best of you.
- Real Live Preacher, weblog, 10-09-04