MTM Cincinnati Art Museum

Cincinnati’s Art Museum is one of the Queen City’s crown jewels.  Situated in Eden Park near Mt. Adams, the Cincinnati Art Museum has had free admission since 2003, thanks to an endowment from The Lois and Richard Rosenthal Foundation.

Founded in 1881 and opened in 1886, the museum is the first purpose-built art museum west of the Appalachians.  It houses some 60,000 works of art, making its collection one of the largest in the Midwest.  Among its displays are the Rookwood Pottery Collection, from a famous local pottery company that operated around the turn of the century.

More at the My Town Monday blog

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And Two More On Mt. TBR

Since last my post two weeks ago about my summer reading list, two more arrivals have joined the stack.

The Devil by Ken Bruen – Jack Taylor comes to America.  And is sent back to Ireland.  While waiting at the airport, he meets a man who seems to know more about Jack than even Jack knows.  And he’s waiting for him in Galway, where a series of murders begins.

Delta Blues – Ben and Alison have really stepped things up since going it alone with their new Tyrus Books venture.  A collection of short stories centered around the blues written by authors from performance artist Nathan Singer (who wrote what I believe was the best story in Expletive Deleted) to John Grisham, into by Morgan Freeman.

One Step At A Time

They tell you to write every day if you’re serious about being a writer.  But too many aspiring writers say they don’t have the time.  Actually, they do.  What they really mean is “I can’t write a novel in a week.”

Well, I wrote one in two weeks, but it took up all my time and some of that was vacation.  At the time, I had no kid and no school and a light work load.

What they really mean, whether they realize it or not, is that writing a long work will take a long time.  When you figure out that’s what’s really holding you back, it becomes one of those “Well, duh!” moments that frees you up.

“So, Jim, aren’t you the one who’s been whining you have precious little time to do any writing now?”

Yes, I am, but I do it anyway.  Since I overloaded the current academic term, my writing output has dropped to almost negligible.  Yes, I’ve reached the point where writing a blog post has become a sort of workout to keep the writing muscles from atrophying.  But writing a blog post, if you do it right, is more like writing a newspaper column.  Most columnists and paid bloggers work on tight deadlines.  They have to have something ready to go tomorrow.  So keeping this blog humming daily has been a good exercise.

But it’s not writing fiction.  It’s not writing short fiction.  It is occasionally writing a review, but unless I decide to dedicate this blog solely to book, music, and movie reviews – all of which require vast amounts of prep time – reading, listening, watching – this blog will remain an Internet version of Dave Barry.

If Dave were angrier and less funny.

Back to writing fiction.  Every writer I know, with one or two exceptions, refuses to let go of that old chestnut “Write everyday.”  For me, I’ve finished a looooong novel and am now focused on short fiction until I can dig out from under the academic avalanche I’m buried under.

“Gee, Jim, where are your short stories then?  Let’s see them?”

OK.  The first submission of the year was originally an academic assignment.  So was the second.  I should know more about them soon.  The third was a rewrite of a story based on Marillion’s 1981 hit, “Market Square Hero,” retitled, resubmitted, and accepted.  You’ll see it in the next couple of weeks, assuming the editor isn’t himself buried under his own avalanche.  A third was a story written for a specific market.  They just reopened.  I expect I’ll hear back by summer’s end.

“Well, okay.  But you had college and some old stories.  We want new!

I’m working on new.  Three in the can awaiting rewrites.  And I am working on new stuff.

One paragraph at a time.   Or one scene at a time.  Guess what happens if you write just a little bit of a short story every day.

You eventually finish one.

So how does that apply to novels?  Ask George Pelecanos.  He once told NPR that anyone with talent (or even without, when you think about it) can finish a novel in a year.  You write one page a day.

That’s 250 words.  After a year, you have 365 pages.  Given the average first manuscript is about 350 pages, you’ll finish with time to spare.  If it’s longer, you’ll finish a little later than a year.  Point is you’ll finish.

Notice he did not say get published.  That’s a whole ‘nother nut to crack.

And as I’m pressed for time, I’m not going to crack it here.  I have an agent to do that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go work on something for my agent to sell.

DRM That Works

I talk a lot about Joe Konrath’s commentary on ebookery here, mainly because Joe raises a lot of good points.  Yesterday, he slammed the concept of Digital Rights Management (DRM).  His basic premise is this.  If you make a product hard for people to use, people won’t use it.

I need only point you at that gang of window lickers known as record company executives for proof.  DRM has done more to encourage piracy – often with the complicity of the artists it supposedly protects – and destroy CD sales than the classic Napster ever could on a good day.  Result?  Radiohead has no label.  And yet they sell quite well without one.  The labels still exist and still serve the artists, but the days of supporting record execs’ cocaine habits with idiotic pricing models are over.

When it comes to placing bits on people’s devices, preventing people from copying that data, especially when they paid for it, is a fool’s errand at best.  They’re bits.  No DRM scheme devised by man will ever truly work in the long run.

But does this mean all DRM is evil?

Consider the cloud model.  Under this scheme, your data lives in the nebulous cloud (really racks of storage devices kept in a secure location).  This would include all that music you buy from iTunes, Amazon, and so on.  Google is big on this model.  They’d love for you to store your personal files on the cloud.  And Microsoft, for a time, toyed with the idea of pulling your operating system and software off the cloud.  (Mercifully, that idea died.)

So how’s this good for the consumer?

You can’t read my Google docs.  Well, you could, but it’d be a lot of work for you to do it.  So suppose Google or Apple or Oracle decides to sell you space in their racks of storage devices for your very own place for your stuff.  It is much easier to secure off-site information and distribute it to whatever device the end user chooses than it is to restrict use of data on those same devices.  After all, they already do your email that way.  Credit card info, banking info, your Amazon account, and even your account at the pizza place are all secured by the vendor based on you.  Yes, hacking is an obvious danger, but has hacking slowed down use of eBay, Amazon, or the iPhone App Store?

So let’s say your music is sent to wherever you store your information.  The credentials for this are tied to you, not your device, not your hard drive, not some product key limiting your access to something you paid for.

What’s the difference?  The DRM is tied to the consumer, not the data itself.  When a user authenticates to a server, something we do dozens of times a day, he or she can call whatever data is needed out of the sky.  This includes music, video, and ebooks.

So the problem is not that DRM offers no protection.  It treats the customer like a thief.  When it protects the consumer rather than the data from theft, it becomes user-friendly and eliminates DRM’s biggest moral hypocrisy:

It might be your intellectual property, but it’s my hard drive.  Barging in and looking at my data because you’re afraid someone might be looking at your precious work without paying you is exactly like breaking into my house because you think I took your lawn mower.  You may be right, but the moment you bust down my door, you become the criminal.

And that’s precisely what the current DRM model is.

MTM Cincinnati: Haunted Factory

North of Cincinnati near King’s Island sits the Peter’s Cartridge Factory, a former ammunition plant that operated from 1860 to 1944.  Today, it’s considered one of Cincinnati’s most haunted places.

In 1890, a collision between two rail cars loaded with gun powder destroyed many of the original buildings.  11 people died instantly.  The company rebuilt, and by World War I, the present complex was in operation.

The factory continued to operate until 1944.  Since then, it’s been partially abandoned, with some companies taking over sections of it from time to time, including an eyeglass company.  A small commerce park runs in part of the building, but most of it stands empty.  Racks of material left from the previous operations still sit visible in the windows.  More after the jump.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

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The short, short version…

Corporate greed, cultural vendettas, monotheistic terrorists, and angsty teens combine to create the Cylons.

That’s right.  The destruction of mankind in Battlestar Galactica was brought about by cybernetic whiny teenagers.

Which explains why Cavil on BG was such a manipulative crybaby.  Kinda like Lord Voldermort, only more annoying.

The first Cylon


The Cylon creed: “You’re not the boss of me!”

But What If You Gave Up Root Canals For A Month?

In a recent online survey of 1226 people, 23% said they would prefer to give up sex for a month rather than make cold calls to businesses.  Only getting a root canal ranked higher than cold calling.  Also high on the list, public speaking.

In my personal experience, I’ve cold called businesses.  I’ve given up sex for a month a few times because I or my partner at the time had health issues.  I’ve had a root canal.  And I was a member of Toastmasters for eight years.  The Winter response to this survey?

I have to agree with most of it.  I hate cold calling.  The rest?

Sex – Hey, it’s only a month, and let’s be honest.  There was no shame in Kramer’s early loss in that infamous bet on Seinfeld.

Root canal – Had one.  Fell asleep during it.

Public speaking – Hello!  Toastmasters?  Only reason I left was because I had other things to do.

Only one other choice on the survey would be worse for me than making cold calls:  Surprise guest on a reality series.  If ambushed by cameras to find out I’m being drafted for Showgirl of Love with Elizabeth Berkley, my first response, after my wife kicks Liz’s scrawny out-of-work ass, would be to call my lawyer and demand a court injunction.  Honestly?  I hate being on television.  And I used to be a standup comedian.  I sure as hell don’t want to be on reality television, thanks.

I wouldn’t mind doing a cameo on, say, Treme or Southland or Caprica, but those are scripted shows.  Anyway, the closest I’ve come to being on such a television show was to ask the creative consultant for Stargate:Universe if they would be accepting unagented spec scripts.  Acting was not mentioned, nor was a yes answer.  (Actually, it was “I don’t know yet.”  Haven’t followed up.)  As for any other type of television, when I see cameras at the Federal Building, the Federal Court  House, or Fountain Square, I cross the street.

Yeah.  I’d rather make cold calls than be on television.  But I wouldn’t give up sex to avoid it.

Posted in WTF

Writer’s Golden Rule

Write.  Submit.  Write.  Submit.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Four stories out.  One acceptance.  Four in the can awaiting rewrite.

Just because my life is hectic doesn’t mean I get to put writing on hold.  It gets put on hold for a night or two.  No more.

Because that’s what writers do, even in this brave new world of ebooks and online marketing.

It’s our golden rule.

Ebooks: Still Have A Way To Go

No one can deny ebooks are going mainstream.  St. Martin’s and Amazon would not have had their infamous dust-up earlier this year if they weren’t.  And it’s pretty clear the blockbuster mentality in New York is ultimately going to destroy the current print model.  But just how prevalent are ebook readers?

Kindles and their clones are already pretty common.  Some people will ask you “Is that a Kindle?” when they see you with one.  They know what it is, which means they’ve seen them before.  Already, IT departments are testing iPads for their ability to access corporate networks or their portals.  Apple has blessed the e-reader with all its sterile coolness and given the once-dead pad computing market a reason to exist.  Of course, in doing so, it’s introduced new competitors to make life hard for Dell, HP, and Lenovo, those being Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony.  But…

Remember, I am writing this from America.  About the only thing you can really compare America’s growing love of the e-reader is Canada’s.  But what of Europe?

This month, we have a German exchange student named Daniel staying with us.  Daniel is pretty well traveled for a seventeen-year-old.  He lives in a part of Germany that allows occasional trips to Paris and regularly visits his father in Israel.  Also on his itinerary after he leaves America?  Switzerland and the Montreux Jazz Festival.  So Daniel’s been around.  He’s seen more of the world than most of us.  How did he respond to my Kindle?

“What is this?”

The e-reader is a new phenomenon.  In Europe, people are not as gadget-addicted as we are in America.  Yes, they want the iPad, but like many of us less-giddy tech junkies, they’re likely waiting for later generations.  But Daniel’s comment actually reflects something I noticed among American kids.  They’re just not on fire for an e-reader.  Some are so sick of the iPod that the iPad is simply not on their wish list.

The way I see it, ebook pioneers and entrepreneurs have two obstacles they need to overcome at this point in time:  They need to capture the foreign markets, and they need to get the youth excited again.  The former will truly open up ebooks’ potential for writers to earn from their work.  The latter is crucial if books in any form are to survive.  For that, publishers, print or electronic, are going to need to pay attention to how teens want their content.  The trend I’m seeing leans toward unpowered hardcopy vs. the latest device du jour.  Will that stay the same?  Who knows?  But for now, if you want to keep those foreign markets and capture a young audience now, you ignore print at your own peril and develop your ebook model in a vacuum.

That is where we are at present.  Certainly, the publishing industry needs to get a sorely lacking clue about ebooks.  But those among us evangelizing the ebook revolution – and I count myself among them – should remember print is not dead for a reason.

But it’s going to look radically different and sooner rather than later.