Thursday, November 19, 2009

Christmas Carols

So the Monday after my birthday (that's November 16th) the radio station we listen to in the lobby of our office switched to playing all Christmas music, all day.

Seriously? It's not even Thanksgiving yet. Last holiday season I was stuck listening to nothing but Christmas music for several weeks in my treatment room doing manual therapy all day and I came up with this post about how the lyrics of older Christmas songs imply some pretty hilarious things.

So this year, instead of focusing on how much I want to deafen myself with an icepick so I don't have to hear one more droopy Bing Crosby croon, I decided I'd make my own list of favorite Christmas music. Of course they'll never play most of these, because whatever cruel person decided that Christmas starts SEVEN WEEKS early this year also has no intention of making it the least bit pleasant for us. We're quite doomed to hear only nasally Paul McCartney treacle and "Do They Know It's Christmas Time at All?" and that horrid new country one about the young kid who buys his dying mother new shoes for Christmas. When that one comes on, I pray for the sweet music of circular saws or jackhammers or screeching tires to get the sound of it out of my head.


If you have iTunes and you want to listen to some pretty excellent Christmas-related music that won't make you want to smash your head against a wall till the pain stops, check out Mark's Favorite Christmas Music:

1) Imogen Heap, "Just for Now"
2) Vince Guraldi Trio "Linus and Lucy"
3) Dave Matthews Band "Christmas Song"
4) Dan Fogelberg "Same Old Lang Syne"
5) Sarah McLachlan "Song for a Winter's Night"
6) Cast of South Park "Christmas Time in Hell"
7) Jewel Kilcher and her mother Nedra "Rudolph" (A Capella)
8) Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan "Silent Night" (hidden track from the end of "O")

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A new Dashboard Confessional album

A new Dashboard Confessional album that doesn't suck? The HELL you say! "Alter the Ending" is the first thing since the dull "Dusk and Summer" that was worth buying. I actually picked up the whole album because every sample sounded like the old Dashboard I had nearly given up on

Sunday, November 08, 2009

NaNoWriMo: day 8

Beth bought me an iPhone for my birthday (holy smokes!), and I think we can safely say this poses a serious risk to me completing my novel. If anything, I have a little more inspiration since the novel is high-tech science fiction.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

NaNaWriMo: Day 7

Still 13,323 words. I'm re-reading my synopsis and notes so I can remember where the major plot changes were and how I wanted to handle them. These things always change as I write them. I might originally concieve of a character as something iconic and two-dimensional, and then as I write them I look for nuances to create a more three-dimensional character. My synopses are almost always sort of cartoonish and Michael Bay-ish. Simple and straightforward with flash and emotional punch. Then as I work through them, I tone down everything that seems cinematic and I look for ways to let real life shine into the story.

Listening to Tori Amos's "Dragon" still, and the new Creed, Joss Stone, and Swell Season. Joss's "Free Me" is infectious and Swell Season's "In These Arms" is surprisingly sweeter after the fourth or fifth listen. I'm still sort of deciding about the new Creed album. It's very recognizably Creed, and like one reviewer mentioned it seemes like Scott Staap has toned down his presence in the band considerably. While this may bode well for his ego and the continued existence of the band, I sort of dug his voice and intensity. Some people still compare them to Pearl Jam, but I think that's really unfair. Pearl Jam has had such a long, bizarre career arc that they're almost like Radiohead. I'd go see either of those bands, but only if I was assured they'd play something from the first third of their career. New Radiohead can be so painful it's almost atonal and Pearl Jam has drifted from catchy to almost unlistenable. This album from Creed has a lot of the early My Own Prison sound, but lacks any songs that really leap out the way "Higher" and "With Arms Wide Open" did. The new tunes "Rain" and "In Silence" are in the same zip code as their previous work, but much of the album is too driving and frenetic for my taste. That could change, however. At the very least, they're not watering down their sound, which so many of my favorites have tragically done (Dashboard Confessional comes immediately to mind). There's nothing I hate more than a band that takes a break for a while and then comes back with something so different than their original sound that it makes me feel worse than if they had just stopped making music altogether. I'm looking at you, Portishead and Dave Matthews.

Friday, November 06, 2009

So much for my head start

I'm stalled at 13,323 words going into the weekend, and the goal for the people who started at zero is 15K works by the end of Monday. That caught up fast... On the bright side, this book is coming along as well as could be expected. I haven't yet hit any spots where I lost sight of what I wanted to do with the story, so that's always encouraging. As long as the ideas seem bright and not dim in my head, I can usually keep putting words on the page.

Just played Call of Duty 4 with my dad for what must have been the third or fourth time this week. I had forgotten how much I loved that game and it's considerably more fun when you're playing it with someone you actually know. Any other CoD4 fans out there? Gamertag is "vinniethevole".

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NaNoWriMo: day 3

Well, it's Tuesday and I'm getting set to work on my novel some more. I wasn't able to yesterday as Mondays are generally quite long days at work and my wife and I watched Dr. Drew and Tool Academy instead last night. I did, however, reread the 40-odd pages of the book I've got so far and I was struck by a couple of things.

1) The story reads a lot faster than I remember. This is curious, since it is literally chock full of real-life science concepts from quantum physics.

2) The dialogue isn't as bad as I thought it was. I often have more trouble with dialogue than any other part of a story, but this time it seemed at least smooth and unobtrusive to my mind.

I'm also going to confess to a certain amount of giddy excitement over this whole thing. I made a grocery store run this morning specifically to pick up the sorts of food I like to eat while I write, including of course my white cheddar cheese and orange juice. I also threw in some thick-cut bacon as well, for good measure. Add to that the short list of new iTunes songs I downloaded Sunday and I figure I almost cannot fail.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

My first stab at NaNoWriMo

I've stood by for a number of years now as friends and literature pals have attempted to complete NaNoWriMo. For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), is an annual contest-ish event where writers (some aspiring, some established) attempt to complete a marathon month of writing and crank out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

For new writers, this is a clear and tempting invitation to actually sit down with a pen or laptop and finally work through the novel they've been toying with or meaning to write. For more established writers, it's something different I've not quite yet fully grasped. Like a real marathon for seasoned runners, it's a test of proficiency in a skill that takes years to cultivate, and is often done in lonely solitude. For us, it's a chance to celebrate and brag along with our other writer friends and share the deeper experience of writing a novel with those who understand it.

This is no small task, however, even for a seasoned writer. To date, I've completed five novels, three of which are either published or are in the process of publication. They range wildly in the length of time needed to complete them. Everywhere from five intermittent years (Red Ivy Afternoon), to eighty-six exhausting, bleary-eyed days (The Damnation of Memory). Even with Damnation, however, those two and a half months were purely time spent writing. That doesn't take into account the amount of time spent beforehand gathering research including visiting locations, intervieweing topical experts, and planning the story arc. All told, the time to complete the first draft was more like four or five months, and believe me when I say that when I wrote it I was writing at minimum two to three hours each day and sometimes as many as eight or ten.

So you can imagine my intimidation at the idea of writing a novel of similar length, scope, and quality in less than half of my previous fastest time, where I was not only ready to write but nearly possessed by it.

There are a couple of things on my side, however. First, I have finished enough novels to know and anticipate the problems that will arise while putting the story together. This I hope will give me an edge. Also, I've decided to use NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to continue work on a novel that was already in progress. Yes, I realize this is somewhat like cheating, but this isn't just something I'm writing to say I wrote it; this is a novel that already exists in more or less finished form in my head and needs simply to be put on the page. In fact, I already have a nice 10,000 word head-start on it, in the form of a prologue and a few key scenes that are already written. Finally, as I still have Tuesdays and Thursdays to myself, as well as a quiet house while John is at school and Beth is at work, I have some ready-made writing time built into my schedule.

So here we go, friends, I'm giving it a shot this time. If any of you feel up to the challenge, go to and register. There's still time, it starts today.

You can find my author page on the NaNoWriMo homepage and follow along, or just stay tuned for my updates posted here. If I get creative, I might just rip off Amy Guth's idea from last year and podcast myself doing it. Good times.

Long Lost

Well, it's been damn near forever since I updated my poor blog, but there you have it. As many of you know, I was laid off from my previous practice in May and spent the ensuing four and a half months in a long and involved job search where I applied for something like 150 jobs and interviewed for a sizeable chunk of them. As you might expect, I did find some practices I liked that were either unwilling or (sadly) unable to meet my salary requirements, but I eventually decided to broaden my search past just the immediate north shore and I almost immediately found Park Chiropractic in Mount Prospect. Mount Prospect, if you live in the city or the north shore, sounds like one of those hinterland-type suburbs, but I found happily that it takes less time to get there than into the city and the commute is considerably lighter.

The best part, however, is that my new practice is a nearly perfect fit for me. My range of skills make me something of a magic bullet for the right practice, but finding that practice wasn't easy. Dr. Park, my new boss, is an excellent doctor and she and I have very similar ideas about care quality (only the best) and office environment (flexible, team-oriented, and low drama). My new office is a beautifully well-appointed clinic on Prospect Ave in the heart of downtown Mount Prospect, and we have virtually every piece of theraputic equipment available for our patients to take advantage of. The practice is small enough that logistics and paperwork aren't overwhelming and we can focus our efforts 100% on the patients with few distractions, yet still large enough to be steadily busy and continually growing even in this economy. Needless to say, I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

John is loving pre-school and has a fun little cadre of pals he eats breakfast with every morning. Though it has not yet become fully mainstream, the potty is now very much on his radar and he uses it as often as it is practical for him. H1N1 has made an appearance at his school, which is worrisome, but with their insistence on constant hand-washing and other precautions, I am relatively reassured that the spread of it and the regular flu will be at least slowed. The weather has been utter crap here for almost an entire month with rain and overcast skies nearly every day. Yesterday seems to have at least partially broken that up, however, as today the sky is clear and blue and beautiful.

Thank You, Death Robot is out and the initial impressions of those readers I've talked to have been very favorable. It took just short of four years to finish from initial talks to the book-in-hand, with delays and allowances for other projects I worked on in the meantime (including the birth of my son), but I think the overall quality of the end product justified the wait. Len's cover, in particular, has been a fan favorite.

I've updated my playlist as well with some new songs. The new Joss Stone album is terrific in general, and apparently Creed has a new album, too. I'll have to listen to it a bit more before I give you a final verdict on that. Tori Amos's "Dragon" I fell in love with after watching the YouTube video of the PS22 Choir singing it. Has anyone seen "Where the Wild Things Are" yet? I'm still dying to check it out. Maybe I'll make that my Tuesday project...