Five Statements, Five Questions

1. The man who killed my father died yesterday. How should this make me feel?

2. I found this old video online recently. Would you wear the shirt I am wearing in it if I gave it to you?

3. When asked to pick the most quintessentially American composition of the 20th Century, I tend to think of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,”  or Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse.” Which would you pick?

4. Gina’s comment here rang true with me, since I’ve been a dogmatic North Carolina corn partisan for over 40 years, until switching to Team Iowa this summer. Is your own local sweet corn the best?

5. I was introduced to the concept of completed staff work in 1987, and I have really liked it as a working philosophy, both when I’ve been a subordinate, and when I’ve been a boss. Does it make sense to you?

JES Live: The Digital Tourist

I mentioned here a while back about having spoken at the State of Now Conference in Des Moines, on the topic of what I called digital tourism, which probably doesn’t mean quite what you might think it means. I was pleased to learn this morning that a high quality recording of my ten-minute remarks is now available online, so even if you weren’t there, you can learn what my secretarial position in the government of Cyber-Yugolslavia was. Seriously. So if you’ve only experienced my piffle and tripe in written format to date, here’s what it looks and sounds like when I deliver it live and in person . . . complete with a screen-capture that makes it look like I am about to attempt to fly, or deliver an interpretive dance . . .

Eponymous (The eBook)

The original print cover of the book, with which I was pleased.

I spent a few years, on and off, during the late 1990s and early 2000s working on a novel called Eponymous, which saw the light of day in a print edition in 2001. I got some nice reviews on it, sold a decent number of copies, made a few bucks off the project (though not enough to cover the time I spent producing it, even at minimum wage) and then decided that I never wanted to write another novel again. Eponymous was supposed to be in print for three years, but it still shows up in new and used editions in a variety of outlets, and I still get little royalty checks every six months or so. I don’t really think about much anymore, except to be gracious when strangers write me to say that they enjoyed it.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised to hear today that Eponymous has been converted by the publisher into a digital edition, and can now be downloaded and read on both Kindle and Nook, and possibly on other e-readers as well, though I have no clue what those might be. I looked at the sample on my Kindle, and it appears that they’ve done a good job of converting the text for the most part, although the formatting of some of the poems and lyrics and other pieces contained in the original print edition is a bit cock-eyed. While the print edition went for about $20, the eBook edition is available for around four bucks, or less. So if you have been, or are, curious about this lost classic (?), you can now read my first and last novel for less than you’d spend on a foofy whipped drink at a coffee shop.

Here’s a brief write-up on Eponymous that ran in the Albany daily newspaper back in 2002 to demonstrate that you don’t actually have to know me to like the book:

Dark, well-crafted satire of band life is set in the Capital Region.

By Lisa Stevens

Collie Hay is a washed-up musician who is now a music critic in J. Eric Smith’s fast-paced novel, Eponymous.

Collie, full of self-hate and loathing, is writing a self-hurt book to try and alleviate the guilt that consumes him following a horrible accident involving his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Kris Dennison, a bassoonist and a school teacher. Cause of the accident? “Toxic stupidity,” Collie explains.

The Capital Region is the backdrop of this dark satire, which Smith deftly crafts. The author’s in-depth knowledge of band life and his talent for rich character development makes for great reading. You’ll find yourself cheering for Collie’s smart-mouth, smart-aleck attitude and wanting to scream “grow up” all in the same sentence.

Eponymous, in its darkness, is also a laugh-out-loud page turner. We can only hope Smith is at work on his next book.

The Lifestyle You Deserve

I am a deeply-committed music geek (as if that’s not obvious enough, duh), and there are very few things in my life that don’t feature background tunes when they’re happening. There is one major exception to this rule, though, and that would be cycling. I am pretty serious about the act of getting on a bike and taking to the road, or the trail, or the hidden deep-woods zones, and I never, ever, ever, never, ever do anything when I am on a bike that impedes my already damaged hearing, since the ability to perceive incoming sounds is a key to safely negotiating the path on a two-wheeled, self-propelled vehicle. So I always shake my head disapprovingly when I pass cyclists with headphones on, and have been doing so for many years. That’s dangerous and wrong. This year, however, I have been dismayed to discover a new source of sonic distraction on the bike trail: people riding with actual speakers on their bikes, so not only are they distracted from the dangerous world around them, but anyone else anywhere near them is also subjected to the tinny din of their trebly iPod-quality speakers. A few weeks ago, I was walking a trail with some family members, and the bucolic nature of our hike was disrupted three times by cyclists roaring up on us with speakers cranked, which (they seemed to believe) also mitigated the need for them to verbally notify us of their passage, via the courteous “on your left” or “bikes back” declarations that I always offer to pedestrians on the trail. Instead, we got bad Bon Jovi delivered with maximum volume and distortion, pushing us off the trail, and making conversation impossible until the owners of those odious musical rigs were well past us on the trail. This strikes me as a terrible evolution in the field of communal, public cycling, and I am hoping that these recent events are short-lived anomalies, though in my heart, I suspect they aren’t. I guess once you get to the point where you can carry on private conversations in public with a Bluetooth device stuck in your ear, then your ability to render courtesies to the other human beings within your sonic sphere atropies quickly, on foot or on bike. This seems a pity to me.

Hidden in Suburbia 2011: Epilog

Okay, I lied.

I wasn’t planning to do any more Hidden in Suburbia pieces during my final seven weeks in Latham, but as I was out riding for exercise last week, I noticed a new construction cut into some of my favorite woods, and that made me want to grab the camera and see what was going on, in an area that I had considered safe from suburban encroachment. I was, apparently, wrong in that assessment. As always, hit the picture below to read the annotated story in all of its wistfulness, or if my words tire you out prematurely, just click here for the wordless slideshow.

To see other Hidden in Suburbia photo essays, click here.

What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning?

1. Marcia and I are back from our second exploratory trip to Des Moines. We definitely know which neighborhood we want to claim as our home out there, and we have two fantastic houses that we’re pondering making offers on, pending a review of the comps. We had several exceptional meals in Des Moines, found an awesome wine bar, walked for miles and miles on the City’s excellent pedestrian-cycling trail system, golfed the incredibly hilly Waveland Golf Course (no kidding, it had more ups and downs than some mountain courses we’ve played) and generally felt better and better about our decision to head to Iowa. The first night we were there, we stayed out in a northern suburb of Des Moines called Ankeny, since most of the downtown hotels were sold out due to the annual Hy-Vee Triathlon being in town for the Labor Day Weekend. While we were out that way, I figured I ought to grab the camera and do a little Hidden in Suburbia (Iowa Style). Toto, I don’t think we’re in Latham anymore . . .

I found a vast soy bean field, and walked across it . . . with an aura . . .

2. I’m in my final year as Class President and Reunion Coordinator for the Naval Academy’s Class of 1986. Our 25th Reunion is in October, and this is the third major reunion (15th, 20th, 25th) in which I’ve had a significant planning or management role. Our class, and other anniversary classes, are seeing reduced registrations this year compared to prior major reunions, which most folks are attributing to the tough economy. That may be the case, but since most of my classmates at Navy are pretty economically comfortable, I think there’s another reason for the reduction in attendance at real flesh-and-blood reunions: online social networking. It seems to me that as more and more folks my age connect via Facebook and other social media outlets, we’ve created a world where there’s no mystery anymore about what we’re going to encounter when we go to our reunions. When we can bathe in the minutia of our friends’ lives in garish detail each and every day from the cheap comfort of our own homes, why does it make sense to buy an expensive plane ticket and book an expensive hotel room to visit with those same friends for a couple of hours in the flesh? While Facebook and LinkedIn help organize reunions, I’m not sure that they actually support participation. I’m curious if anybody else who reads this has had similar experiences, or whether this theory resonates with you or not.

3. And speaking of real-world versus online-world, I’ll be hanging out in Latham for about five weeks after Marcia heads west, and one of my goals for that time is to do as much real-world socializing with folks hereabouts as I am able to, especially with some of the folks who I primarily know only through electronic formats. So keep your eyes and ears open, as I will be working to fill a dance card, and I might need you on it . . .