Friday, April 19, 2013

Books: Covers

What you see above is my current book collection, minus a few novels that are out on perpetual loan.  If one were to explore, they would find they're looking through a pretty wide selection, but there's one thing they're guaranteed to not find.  An eBook reader. 

I'm not one of those people that despises Kindle books, I just prefer the real thing.  Sure the overall cost is more, you can't carry your collection with you like an e-reader... though I've never had a need to carry around over 260 books either.  Yes, I'm paying more. Much more. But there's something I'm paying for that you can't get with an iPad, the main reason why I'm an advocate for physical books: Pride of Ownership.

A book being a tangible object is a benefit in and of itself. We love displaying them, looking at them, holding them... going to a bookstore and setting our handful of selections in front of the clerk simply feels good.  Seeing that nearly-iconic Amazon box at your doorstep fills you up with a little excitement, doesn't it?  There's one more benefit to physical books: their covers.

You want handheld art? Then look no further than a bookshelf. Sure, many best-selling thrillers have the cliched title and author set in raised, foil block lettering with an ominous stock photo in the background.  They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.  Well, I do when it comes to these.  Not once have I seen one of those covers then flipped it over to read the back summary.  Those covers are to books as barbed wire tattoos are to people.

The cure to cancer could be in there, and I'd never know.

But many books have covers so brilliant and pleasing to the eye, you often pause between pages to look at it... again and again.  Most of mine are like that, and there are a few that I love especially. Below are a few of them, my favorites.  The story or author have no relevance, only the art.

"A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess
Flames, a sketch of someone screaming, it's just plain cool.

"Born Standing Up" by Steve Martin
The cover is just like his writing - cool and refined with a hint of humor in the right spot.

"Ecstasy" by Irvine Welsh
I like the fact that Welsh posed for this picture himself, along with the back cover. It also gives you a hint of oddity to prepare you for the content.

"Fire the Bastards!" by Jack Green
William Gaddis, the actual author, is on the cover and the look of vague frustration on his face sets the tone to the book.

"Gonzo" by Hunter S. Thompson
This is one hell of a coffee table book, and the cover grabs your attention from across the room.

"Machine Man" by Max Barry
Simple, clean, and explains the premise of the book without much effort.  Minimalism at its best.

"Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey" by Chuck Palahniuk
The omission of both the title and the author's name, leaving an "R" from beneath the dust jacket, makes it simple. Even with the chaotic art.  Oh, and there's one more thing I like about this book...

It's a signed first edition. Boom.

"The Gun Seller" by Hugh Laurie
On Amazon
Yep, House wrote a book - and it's pretty good too.  The cover has kind of a pulpy Roy Lichtenstein pop art feel to it.

"The Tao of Travel" by Paul Theroux
This one is by far the most different.  Leather-bound, gold foil lettering... it gives the feeling of significance, a bible for travel writers (which it kind of is).

"When You Are Engulfed in Flames" by David Sedaris
A van Gogh painting of a skeleton smoking.  What's not to like?

Now, there's another point to that last selection.  The cover art was designed by a man named Chip Kidd, someone who is extremely well-known for book covers. If I ever get a book published, that's how I know I've made it: if the cover was designed by Chip Kidd.

But for now, I'll settle for banners that I make on Microsoft Word.

Feel free to check out my other sites:
Rusted Bolt

Friday, March 30, 2012

Writing: Letter Colletions

Photo by Daniel Rembert, "Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956"

Over the winter months, I decided to spread my literary wings.

It wasn't so much in regards to my own work, but in the way I approached the work of authors & artists I've been following.  Novels & biographies alone weren't enough anymore - like an addict that needs to up the dosage of whatever vice they have - I needed something more in order to stay interested.

It started with a coffee table book I found, called "GONZO", a pictorial biography of Hunter S. Thompson's life & travels.  Being a Hunter-O-Phile, I thought it was fascinating to see the pictures he took of the places mentioned in his various works.  In between those pages though, there were letter excerpts about the very same thing.  They were the raw, unprocessed ore of books & articles that I already loved.  I read every single one and became obsessed.*

*Notice post #3 on this very same site.

The majority of those letters were published in a book called "The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman 1955-1967", and I tossed it onto my monthly Amazon book order. Thanks to their recommendations feature, I was made aware of many more letter collections. Kerouac, Ginsberg, Cassady, Joyce, Bukowski, Burroughs, Vonnegut... even George Carlin had collections published, and those are just ones that I currently own.  Almost any famous writer is in this special club.

What I love about these publications is that the reader gets more insight into the author than any biography could ever get.  Dare I say even better than autobiographies?  I think so.  An autobiography is usually written much after the fact, so the content isn't nearly as accurate as they are with letters.  In letters, you get up-to-the-minute emotions & thoughts rather than a reflection of them from decades later.

Being a wordsmith myself, there's another perk with "The Letters of..." collections, the opportunity to watch their writing style evolve into what everyone else is familiar with.  Especially with collections that begin early in their life, you get to see the full transition - including any sort of influences they've had along the way.  When they start to read a series of works by someone else, their style will change a little, being influenced by it. 

It's a process that almost every writer goes through, and when you get to read through it chronologically, you get a magnified view of normally subtle tweaks and changes that people normally never get to see in the first place.

A warning though: To really enjoy books like these, you have to be a big fan of the author.  If you aren't, you will get bored easily.  To the average reader, it's just a thick-ass book filled with letters to unknown people, talking about trivial shit. 

Me, on the other hand, I've always been fascinated by Jack Kerouac's relationship with Allen Ginsberg & Neal Cassady, and I have three separate books of letters dealing with that subject alone. 

Literary Fan Level: Nerd

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Television: Characters

Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs
(Giving you the "Hey, cut the shit" glare.)

Very few fictional people out there actually have my respect, mainly because they're... fictional.  What do I care about some character on TV?  It's not like a non-existent person's view of me would ever really matter...

Enter: Agent Gibbs 
Stage: Left 
Direction: In your goddamn face.


Alright, that guy is intimidating and awesome... in an epic combination of equally epic proportions.
He is SO invited to my wedding if I have one.  Hell, if Gibbs has a daughter, I'd marry her.

What's that?  Wait.  He had a daughter... and she's dead? Uh oh.
Huh?  She, along with Gibbs' first wife were killed by a Mexican drug dealer? Shiiit.
Say that again? He's a former Marine Gunnery Sergeant & Scout Sniper? AND got revenge by shooting him in the face from 600 yards away?

Sorry Gibbs, um... please don't beat me up too much.  Stop just short of causing brain damage, if possible.

_      _      _      _      _

If you're unfamiliar with NCIS, it's a crime solving show on TBS about the Naval Criminal Investigative Service - voted "America's Favorite Show" in 2011.  The difference between this and the multitude of other crime shows, is that this one isn't "dark & gritty" as so many of them are described by advertising teams when they're first introduced to the public. 

Sure, there are fake crime scenes that the faint of heart may cringe at, but the characters investigating them are lighthearted and entertaining.  They could be best described as a somewhat dysfunctional family, not unlike other ensemble casts in sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory, Archer... or even the online series, "After Hours" on 
* * *Shameless plug for a website I'm loosely affiliated with* * *

But Agent Gibbs, the father of the pseudo family, is the backbone of the show.  He's not only tough, intimidating and has a crime intuition that borderlines on supernatural, he also has a side to his demeanor that makes everyone (including the audience) want to seek his approval.  It's a strange combination that I rarely see in movies or TV... but it compliments the other characters on the show very well.

You really couldn't care what the subject matter of the episode is - you just want them to interact in any situation, like sitting at a 24 Hour diner and talking about random shit.

Like "After Hours" on 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Music: Albums

Frank Sinatra: The Best of the Capitol Years

I think it's safe to assume that the majority of people under the age of twenty-four claiming to be fans of Frank Sinatra... are full of shit and just want to sound cool and cultured.  

In a way, I get it.  Frankie was, still is, and will always be the pinnacle of Cool, so if you want to sound cool without actually being it... why not take that route.  The sad part is that they probably will never become fans because they're too busy listening to dubstep.  (If you don't know what dubstep is... picture the Chemical Brothers in a bus station bathroom, having violent hangover / McDonald's breakfast burrito diarrhea... and recording it.)

If one were to actually take the time and give ol' Blue Eyes a chance, this album would be the best place to start.  Featuring 20 of the best songs recorded at Capitol Records from 1952-1960, this compilation demonstrates Sinatra's peak as a recording artist.  I have this entire album memorized.

Now hold on for a second, I'm not claiming to be the ultimate Frankie Fanboy... I'm just saying I know the record front-to-back.  Listening to it almost every night for my entire childhood will do that.  Before, during and after our family dinners, Mom & Pops would put this in the record player and let it play all the way through.

I'm assuming (since I can't remember the first times I listened to it) that I didn't like it at first.  Hey, I was a freakin' little kid.  But when I was around fifteen or sixteen, right around when our family dinners stopped being so routine, these songs were as much a part of my life as anything else... if not more.  Even now, as my Sinatra collection exceeds 130 songs, these are still my favorites.  

Drop by  This, the best Frankie collection to date, will only set you back $10.  It's more than worth it.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Alright, I know.  Everyone and their slightly deranged uncle living in the basement collects photos they see on the internet and displays them with little to no explanation.

See: 97% of all Fickr and Tumblr pages.

I normally hate bolstering cliches, but hey, it's kind of hard not to these days - we're all sharing everything so much, the internet has become one overflowing cesspool of cliche.  My own personal exhaustion of photography (besides women that are all nakie-like) is a fetish for collecting weird vintage photos.  The dozen or so displayed above for your viewing displeasure are some of my favorites that I've come across in the past five years or so.

The reason why I'm so oddly specific with the.. well... odd photos is because society back then was very proper yet deranged when compared to our generation, so things that seemed normal and trendy then are just plain goofy to us.  I'm sure it'd be vice versa as well.

We have the "Everyone Jump on Three!!" and "No One Look Directly at the Camera to Look Deep" pictures... they had children in creepy animal masks, rigid oak chairs and NO ADULT SMILES.  It's like you'd lose your land if you had a mustache and were caught smiling for the camera. Then again, if I had to wear one of those unholy warm and itchy wool suits, I'd walk around with a wicked scowl on my face too.

Though, I have no explanation for the bear consoling the forlorn woman.  That shits goofy no matter what president is in office.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Writing: Quotes

This quote is from his novel "Women", the first of only two books I've read by him.  

When it comes to Bukowski, I'm not a conventional fan.  I've never read any of his poetry, nor do I want to.  His novels that I have read, "Post Office" & "Women", didn't really stand out as anything very special, and lets face it, he wasn't exactly a nice guy.  His lifestyle has created an entire generation of copycat amateur writers that think you have to be a drunken asshole to be talented.

The reason why I keep coming back to him as one of my favorite writers is because he was a wordsmith that had a knack for pumping out amazing quotes, this one included.  Some are good with novels, others with nonfiction, and some are good with essays... to me, Bukowski's niche was being a quote machine.

Ask Google to show you his quotes.  They're all brilliant and simple at the same time. 

Music: Songs

I first heard of Stevie Ray Vaughan when I was 12 or 13.  By then, I had been taking guitar lessons for a few years and one of the requests I had for my teacher was to not only show me how to play the six string, but tell me about the people who could do it the best.  SRV was at the top of that list.

This song is probably one of my favorites of his.  Sure, SRV is best known for his blisteringly fast and intricate guitar solos, but he was also an incredible all-around blues man.  This song was released about a year after Stevie's death in 1990 on a compilation of un-released studio tracks called "The Sky Is Crying".  This song is by far the most powerful.  Featuring just Stevie and an acoustic guitar, it's a song that people believe is about his past drug & alcohol addiction and his reflections on it.

To me, Stevie Ray Vaughan wasn't just a guitarist or a musician.  He was the blues guitarist.  A lot of people disagree with me, citing musicians like B.B. King, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy,  etc.  and I do partially agree with them, those men are incredible.  But Stevie didn't play the blues, he was the blues.  His life was littered with pain and anguish, from both him and his surroundings... all the way to the tragic circumstances of his death.

Listen to this song tonight, by yourself.  Very few songs out there can make your heart hurt the way this one does.