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.