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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/25 - Fun Facts

Here are fun facts about authors, gleaned form I whittled it down from 100, and edited heavily: Virginia Woolf was the granddaughter of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray... Harriet Beecher Stowe lived next door to Mark Twain... Evelyn Waugh’s first wife’s name was Evelyn. They were known as He-Evelyn and She-Evelyn... In 1951 William Burroughs accidentally shot his common-law wife dead at a party... Jonathan Swift invented the name Vanessa... In 1974 Arthur C. Clarke predicted the internet... Stieg Larsson said that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was based on what Pippi Longstocking would be like as an adult... Thomas Hobbes, who famously described human life as "nasty, butish and short," lived to 91... Before becoming an author, Dashiell Hammett worked as a private detective; his first case was to track down a stolen Ferris wheel... Jean-Dominique Bauby "dictated" The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, about his life following a stroke, by blinking his left eyelid... Stella Gibbons wrote much of Cold Comfort Farm while commuting on the London Underground... Friedrich von Schiller kept rotten apples in his desk, claiming the scent helped him write... When he worked for Faber, T. S. Eliot liked to seat visiting authors on whoopee cushions and offer them exploding cigars... Noel Coward claimed he began every day by checking the obituaries; if he wasn’t listed there, he could get down to work... Agatha Christie disliked her creation Hercule Poirot, calling him "a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep."... Molière died after collapsing on stage while acting in one of his own plays – playing the role of a hypochondriac... On his marriage document in 1582, William Shakespeare’s name was spelled William Shagspeare... Mickey Spillane ordered 50,000 copies of Kiss Me, Deadly to be destroyed when the comma was left out of the title... The first U.S. edition of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale was published as You Asked for It... Louis L’Amour received 200 rejections before he was published. His novels have sold 320 million copies worldwide... Katherine Mansfield wore mourning dress to her first wedding and left her husband on their wedding night... Eyesight failing, James Joyce wrote much of Finnegans Wake in crayon on pieces of cardboard... J. R. R. Tolkien dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon warrior and chased an astonished neighbor down the street... Truman Capote wouldn’t begin or end a piece of work on a Friday, and would change his hotel room if its phone number involved the number 13... When he was six, Roald Dahl asked his mom to take him to meet Beatrix Potter. Potter, who disliked children, told them to "buzz off."... J. K. Rowling came up with the names for the houses at Hogwarts while on a plane, jotting them down on a sick-bag... Dr Seuss included the word "contraceptive" in a draft of Hop on Pop to make sure his publisher was paying attention... When staying in hotels, Hans Christian Andersen always carried a coil of rope with him in case he needed to escape from a fire... Only ten people attended D. H. Lawrence’s funeral. One was Aldous Huxley... In 1912 Ambrose Bierce proposed an emoticon, the snigger point, written as \___/!, designed to mimic a smiling mouth... Quentin Crisp’s real name was Denis Pratt... Jack Kerouac typed On the Road on one continuous roll of paper 120 feet long... J. M. Barrie set up a celebrity cricket team featuring G. K. Chesterton, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jerome K. Jerome, A. A. Milne and H. G. Wells... There is an asteroid named after Kurt Vonnegut... Marlon Brando was a huge fan of Toni Morrison; he would call her and read passages of her novels he particularly enjoyed... There is a life-size android version of Philip K. Dick, built in 2005 by David Hanson. It has been christened Robo-Dick... Sylvia Plath committed suicide in an apartment in which W. B. Yeats had  lived... I Dream of Jeannie was created by Sidney Sheldon, who went on to become the seventh bestselling fiction writer of all time.

According to an article in today's NY Post, half of every dollar spent online is at

I stood beside my car from eleven to one on this nasty day, hoping some of my regulars would pass and ask for books. I'm holding three that have already been paid for, and I'm owed a few bucks for others. Alas, none of those folks showed. Here's hoping the weather improves tomorrow.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/24 - Thinks

I'd never heard of David Lodge before someone donated one of his novels to the floating book shop. Born in the UK in 1935, he has had 17 novels published since 1960, and also 13 works of non-fiction and an autobio. He has also written plays, and for TV. I just finished his 15th novel, Thinks, and was impressed by his flair and craft. Set in the late '90's, it is the story of the soon to be 50 head of a small college's science department - a married womanizer, and a recently widowed, 44-year-old writer, critically not commercially successful, who is hired to lead a seminar for aspiring authors. She lives on campus during the term, renting her London home to tourists. The man, fascinated by consciousness, particularly the unconscious, is a strict scientist, the woman a humanist who has lived conventionally, and who believes humans are more than sophisticated machines. He dictates his thoughts to recorders, she keeps a written journal. Their conversations are stimulating, only occasionally dense, sprinkled with references to science and literature. Will they become lovers? There isn't much more to the story than that. It's about the human condition as seen through these interesting characters. Its point of view shifts back and forth between each and a narrator. I'm always impressed by men who write convincingly from the female perspective. I read eagerly. Here are snippets: the woman on writing books: "When you think of the billions of people who have lived on this earth... it seems extraordinary, even perverse, that we should bother to invent all these additional pretend-lives." Yes! I can't believe that never occurred to me. The woman on the isolation she feels when everyone around her seems to be adulterous: "Why be good? Why deny myself pleasure?" I've asked myself that so many times. In an email to the scientist, she says: "We all have bad, ignoble, shameful thoughts. It is human nature, what used to be called Original Sin. The fact that we can suppress them, conceal them, keep them to ourselves, is essential to maintain our self respect. It's essential to civilization." Clearly, I identified more with her than the male, although my desires weren't much different than his. At one point the woman makes the brilliant observation that a computer seems like a savant autistic person. There are three twists along the way. I loved the first, was lukewarm about the second, and wonder if the third was inspired by revenge against a despised academic colleague of Lodge's. The narrative essentially ends at the finish of the semester, although there are a few paragraphs synopsizing the future of the major players. It is geared to those who prefer the literary rather than the popular. Although it by no means should be classified as erotica, anyone squeamish about frank sexual content should pass. 44 readers at Amazon have rated Thinks, forging to a consensus of 3.6 of five, too low in my estimation. The title refers to the cloud-like image of thought seen in comic books, as illustrated below:  

Speaking of how fascinating consciousness is - what song was playing repeatedly in my head during my morning walk? Jingle Bell Rock! In late April! I have no idea what triggered it.

From the Weird But True column in today's NY Post, in my own words: A man in Anchorage, Alaska has robbed two liquor stores and a gas station - wearing a cardboard box on his head, two eye-holes punched out. Life never ceases to fascinate.

The rain held off, allowing the floating book shop to operate. My thanks to Monsey, who brought me four beautiful, pristine hardcover children's books she found earlier. A young mom bought them five minutes later. Monsey later returned and insisted on paying for a CD set of Beethoven sonatas. I'd let her have a book on the struggles of Christianity and a CD of Chopin's work to pay her back for her generosity, and would have gladly parted with the Ludwig Van's for nothing. Thanks, my dear. I had a nice chuckle late in the session when a man approached, a pair of drumsticks protruding from an inside pocket of his jeans jacket. He noted the classical CD's and asked if I knew Beethoven's favorite fruit: "Ban-nan-nan-nah." He may have been imbibing a fifth.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/23 - Medical Marvels & More

The following news items were gleaned from today's NY Post, edited heavily by yours truly, often in my own words: According to an editorial critical of the pipeline bans in the Northeast, the areas residents pay 29% more for natural gas and 44% more for electricity than the national average... Zachary Zortman of York, Pa. is a child therapist who moonlights as a lead singer in a two-man alternative pop band. While driving last September, he suddenly lost the ability to speak. Because it had happened before, his girlfriend insisted they go straight to the closest emergency room. Doctors detected a brain tumor and rushed him to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. His operation began with him asleep. Dr. Zarina Ali, a mom of three, drilled into his skull to open a large flap and sliced through membranes covering the brain. Then Zortman was awakened. Since his scalp was anesthetized, he felt no discomfort. The surgical team had him name objects shown on a laptop, while Ali used electrical stimulation to mark spots on the brain that did not hinder his speech. He was then asked to sing in order to guide the doctor's probing. He did so - loud and clear. Unfortunately, bad news followed the operation. Zortman was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that might kill him in two to five years. Some patients live more than 20 years. He plans to marry in November... An article by Larry Getlen cites a new book by a former Monkee, Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff by Michael Nesmith, who has made millions as an entrepreneur. Getlen was harsh about the band's musical abilities. I have no idea how much they participated in the recording of their albums, and don't care. I still enjoy the songs when they come up on an itunes stream. They were loved, and the vocals were darn good... If this isn't inspiring, nothing is: Ten-year-old Isabella Nicola Cabrera was fitted with a prosthetic at the engineering department of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber):

Congrats to C.D. Madsen, 99, who had his first hole-in-one yesterday. He used a six-iron to cover the 106 yards. The rascal shot 85!

I displayed the most wares ever today at the floating book shop. Curiously, no one bit on any of the Nora Roberts or Danielle Steel. My thanks to Monsey, who purchased Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander III M.D., to the young Asian woman who showed me the HBO logo on the cover of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, which confirms it was inspired by the Pretty Little Liars TV series, which I hadn't realized (Duh!); to the elderly woman who bought a David Baldacci thriller whose title eludes me: to the two women who each bought a puzzle book; and to the woman who bought two paperbacks in Russian. Special thanks to Bad News Billy, who cleared out my DVD inventory. I also had a visit from B. S. Bob, who has dropped 30 pounds since I last saw him. He had great news. His partner has set up a meeting with one of the producers of Rocket Man (1997) to discuss their screenplay, Christmas 1945. If that turns out well I'll have to remove the initials from Bob's moniker. Good luck, sirs.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/22 - Mature Subject Matter

Manchester by the Sea (2016) won the Oscar for Best Picture. I caught up to it last night courtesy of Netflix. It is the story of a divorced, fortyish man unable to defeat the guilt and anger evoked by a tragedy for which he feels responsible. Working as the custodian of an apartment complex in Quincy, Massachusetts, he returns to the place of the tragedy when his older brother succumbs to a faulty ticker, leaving his 16-year-old nephew without a guardian, as the mother has disappeared into the dark world of alcoholism. The narrative moves seamlessly back and forth from present to past, slowly revealing the source of the grief. The cast is outstanding. Casey Affleck won the Academy Award for Best Actor, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges were nominated in the supporting categories. The scene where the characters of Affleck and Williams meet by chance on the street is the film's best. Neither is able to find the right words but the emotions of each speak volumes. A work like this is geared to those who long for mature subject matter, and to those patient enough to stick with it. The action adheres to real life, especially its most painful aspects. The characters often speak and behave abominably. Fortunately, there are slight, occasional touches of humor to leaven the grimness. Made on a budget of "only" $8.5 million, it returned almost $75 million in the USA alone. Kenneth Lonergan wrote the screenplay and directed, only his third stint at the helm since his debut in 2000. I was surprised to learn the screenplay was not based on a novel. The critical and box office success should guarantee Lonergan his choice of material for several years. The film is a product of Amazon Studios, another feather in the cap of CEO Jeff Bezos. Kudos to everyone involved for bringing serious work to the screen. 124,000+ users at IMDb have rated Manchester by the Sea, forging to a consensus of 7.9 of ten. I would not go nearly that high. It is a film to be respected, appreciated, rather than liked, enjoyed. I was glad when it finished. It is a tough journey of more than two hours. Refreshingly, it doesn't present a tidy, feel-good resolution. I prefer Hell or High Water, the only other 2017 Oscar nominee I've seen so far.

The great luck the floating book shop had all week dodging the rain ended today, the session terminated after only an hour. There were no sales. Looking on the bright side, my bank statement reflects royalty payment for four Kindle sales of Five Cents, and someone else downloaded a copy this week. After today's disappointment, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's episode.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/21 - Business Moves

Today's NY Post contained eye-opening items about the struggles of two iconic American brands. After just two years on the most famous shopping corridor, 5th Avenue & 55th St., Ralph Lauren has closed its flagship store. The chain has been fighting sagging sales and has closed 50 other venues. In 2013 the company signed a $400 million, 16-year lease for the place in question. Along that strip rent averages $25 million a year - $68,493 a day! RL is obligated to make those payments until another tenant is found. Why would it make such a move? It is saving money on the salaries and benefits of the 125 workers who worked there. RL has seven other Big Apple stores. Is this a microcosm of the overall economy? Or are astronomical rents finally having a negative effect on business? Or is it the result of losing customers to web vendors?... Subway shut 359 of its USA shops last year. I'm not surprised. I was never crazy about its products, but it offered an easy way to load up on veggies, while being stingy with meat and cheese. Once the five buck foot-long went to six and now, in some cases seven, it's not worth it - at least to me. Alas - gone are the days when one could purchase a great hero, made with real Italian bread, at a reasonable cost from just about any Brooklyn deli.  

I chose not to write about Aaron Hernandez. Why would I waste space on someone to whom the gangsta life was more important than his rare athletic gift? That changed this morning while I was listening to radio host Mark Simone. It seems there was method to Hernandez's madness. In Massachusetts, when a felony conviction is appealed, the original charge is wiped from the ledger. Technically, upon committing suicide, he died an innocent man, despite the fact he was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of a friend, which was under appeal. His millions in assets now belong entirely to his four-year-old daughter. None of it will go toward victim compensation. The word "diabolical" comes to mind.

There was a mist in the air at eleven AM, so I decided to kill time by heading to the recycling center at Stop n Shop. Conditions hadn't changed much by the time I returned, but I decided to put the wares out, hoping the light precipitation would soon cease. The stuff remained covered in plastic for a while. Not having given up on the session immediately paid a big dividend, as Lynn showed up wheeling a shopping cart full of books. There must have been at least 50, paperbacks and hardcover, most by popular female authors. I piled all but a few onto the back seat of my Hyundai, knowing there wouldn't be room enough in the trunk when I packed up for the day. I set aside books by writers I lacked at present: Mary Higgins Clarke, Danielle Steele, Anne Rice, Sandra Brown, Jude Devereaux and Nicholas Sparks, and added them to the display. None of those sold, but Ira bought Katharine Hepburn's autobio Me, and a Life pictorial on the year 2003, and Lou purchased six more DVD's, and a young man bought another. My thanks, guys. 78, Lou doesn't look his age. He showed me his secret formula, a supplement that costs him quite a bit. He bragged about his sexual prowess. He's involved, "for the first time," with an Irish woman. He told her he's 68. More power to him.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/20 - Making Book

Here are fun facts about books I found at I whittled the list down from 30: Isaac Asimov is the only author to have published a book in nine out of the ten Dewey library categories... Hugh Lofting, author of Dr Doolittle, thought books should have a "senile" category to complement the "juvenile" section... Charles Dickens’s house had a secret door in the form of a fake bookcase. The faux titles included The Life of a Cat in nine volumes... Playwright Joe Orton went to prison in 1962 for defacing library books. One of the cartoons he drew was of an elderly tattooed man in trunks... The first book bought on Amazon was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought by Douglas R. Hofstadter... The first woman Ray Bradbury asked out was a book store clerk; they married in 1947 and were together until her death in 2003... The Japanese word tsundoku translates as "buying a load of books and then not getting round to reading them." (A lot of people have begged off purchases at the floating book shop for this very reason.)... Only 2% of the 1.2 million books that sold in the USA in 2004 sold more than 5,000 copies... The earliest known written instance of the word "book" is in one by Alfred the Great, who ruled England from 871-899... "Bibliosmia" is the enjoyment of the smell of old books. (One of my fondest memories at the floating book shop is a lovely young woman pressing her nose to an old book she'd just bought and inhaling deeply.)... In 2007 Stephen King was mistaken for a vandal when he started signing books during an unannounced visit to a shop in Australia... The most expensive printed book in the world is the 1640 Bay Psalm from America. It sold in November 2013 for $14.2 million... A "bouquinist" is a dealer in second-hand books of little value. (I plead the fifth on that one.)

I wonder how many of those protesting Bill O'Reilly's alleged sexual harassment looked the other way when Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton and David Letterman were accused. Expect the attacks against Fox News to pick up steam now that it has caved on this issue. According to radio talk show host Mark Simone, Fox won't change its philosophy much while Rupert Murdoch is alive. Once he's gone and his sons assume control, the tilt left will begin. One is an ardent liberal, the other a moderate, and their wives are both extreme leftists. Fox is sort of like Israel, surrounded on all sides by the enemy. The only other significant conservative media voice, as far as I know, is Breitbart.

Florida officials in two cities are investigating complaints about brown spots on cars, boats, air conditioning units and other objects. In one instance spots went through the clear top coat on the hood of a new SUV, and wouldn't come off. So far no one has reported health issues. It sounds like the basis of a new Stephen King novel.

It was a quiet day at the floating book shop. My thanks to the gentleman who bought five DVD's, and to the one who purchased The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg. I've received my stipend for the one day I served jury duty - $40. I'd forgotten about it and am surprised it's more than $25. I've also had good news regarding my portfolio. Years ago I bought shares of AOL - too late. Fortunately, it was saved when acquired by Time Warner. I've had an order to sell my 81 shares if it reached $100. It did today. I more than doubled my original stake. Tip money for big traders and the likes of the great Classie Freddie Blassie, but a nice shot in the arm for yours truly. That's one less stock to worry about should the market finally come back to reality.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/19 - Move Fast

Today's NY Post has several interesting items. Here are highlights, in my own words: Jonathan Taplin, author of Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, makes a great point in an op-ed piece. While I would argue that said companies encourage rather than undermine democracy, Taplin is spot on in asking why youtube, whose algorithms successfully block porn, doesn't devise any to block posts by ISIS and other bad actors... I'm not a germophobe - unless I visit a hospital - and here's the reason why, as pointed out in an article by Betsy McCaughey: "...There are at least a dozen lethal superbugs the CDC has labeled 'nightmare bacteria.' They’re causing tens of thousands of deaths a year in American hospitals. But you wouldn't know it, reading death certificates. At least half the time, the infection that actually killed the patient is omitted..." And this simple headline at the website is a reminder of the peril that may be around the corner: "The FBI has active terror investigations in all 50 states."

So far my support of President Trump remains very high. I thought he was in error in trusting Putin, but that was vanquished by the bombing in Syria, which embarrassed the Russian leader, who I firmly believe is our enemy. Yesterday the President congratulated Turkey's leader on winning the country's referendum on increasing presidential power. I realize Turkey may help in the fight against ISIS, but I think Mr. Trump should have remained silent on the issue or, if pressed by the media, been ambiguous. Erdogan seems to be turning his country into an Islamic state.

Here's another example of why I love Chinese immigrants. I buy two hot dog buns from a local bakery every Wednesday morning, and have them for lunch. Until recently, they were a buck each. They raised the price, not to two dollars or even one-fifty, but to $1.10! Bless their hearts.

My thanks to the kind folks who bought, donated and swapped books today. One gentleman dropped off seven Harlequin paperback romances, another two bags filled with hardcovers, including a 35th anniversary edition of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Most of the sales were of Russian books. Steve, the poet laureate of Sheepshead Bay, bought three CD's of classical music. He teaches a class on opera at the New School. The highlight of the session was a visit from Ol' Smoky, who has remained in emergency housing and not returned to living on the streets, as I feared he might. To repay him for all the books he'd given me before his eviction, and since he again has access to CD and DVD players, I let him take several items. While perusing the case housing Public Enemies (2009), starring Johnny Depp, he mentioned that John Dillinger asked for absolution as he lay dying. I was skeptical. Smoky insisted. I didn't argue, knowing how riled he might get. I just asked Google about it. Dillinger's page at Wiki says he died without a word. I wonder if OS has JD mixed up with another criminal.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/18 - Bricks

Way back in late 1979, the Pink Floyd four-sided album The Wall began its rise up the charts, going platinum in several countries, eventually selling more than eleven million copies in the USA alone. One of its songs, Another Brick in the Wall (Part II), was the band's only #1 single. Co-written by Roger Waters and David Gilmour, it skewered formal education: "...We don't need no thought control/ No dark sarcasm in the classroom..." I was 29 at the time, an aide at John Dewey H.S.. I vividly remember sitting in the staff room of the gym teachers, listening to the conversation between a teacher and a lovely student of reddish hair who frequently visited him. She got real snooty talking about how much she hated the song. Although I liked it despite its simplification of the issue, I didn't say a word in its defense. Who was I to put my two cents in? I was a hypocrite, someone who had always hated school now working in one. I remember wondering if that beauty had even an ounce of teenage rebellion. I wonder how her life turned out. Anyway, what resurrected that memory was a list I came across at about amusing ways teachers have gotten back at students: Here a few: "Yeah, keep rolling your eyes. You might find a brain back there." "I know when you're texting in class. Seriously, no one just looks down at their crotch and smiles." On a note taped over a clock: "Time is passing. Are you?" "I don't know how, but you used the wrong formula and got the correct answer." (I think I know, but I'm not snitching.) "Please ask to play the piano - unless you're Mozart but I know you're not because he's dead." I prefer Van Halen's vision of the issue in Hot for Teacher:

"I don't feel tardy."

My thanks to Barry Spunt, author of Heroin and Music in NYC, who bought a book on the trials of being a celebrity, and to the gentleman who bought three sci-fi novels in Russian; to the woman who bought two Mozart CD's; to the kindly, elderly man who bought Sinatra, A Man and His Music; and to Lou, who bought two action DVD's. The floating book shop received donations from three sources today. Alexander E. Poet brought a mix of books, music and movies, my Tuesday benefactress rolled up with several pictorials and interesting works of non-fiction, and Herbie handed over a paperback mystery. I had a difficult time closing the trunk of my old Hyundai. Not bad considering Political Man stopped by early in the session and began berating Russians as "stupid." Although I was afraid people would think I shared his opinion, I let him vent, hoping he would soon leave, which he did Strangely, he wasn't on an anti-Trump jag this day.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/17 - Shadow Man

I did my club-hopping in the early '80's, mostly at Hurrah's in midtown Manhattan or The Ritz in the East Village. I would often see figures painted in black on the plywood of scaffolds or that which covered windows of buildings undergoing renovation. Sometimes I'd be caught by surprise and take a step back, a shiver running down my spine. I assumed it was a Black Power message. Anyone I asked had no clue about it. Decades later, I've finally come across an answer. Here are highlights from an article in yesterday's NY Post by Raquel Laneri, edited heavily, sentences juxtaposed by yours truly. It was the work of a Canadian —  Richard Hambleton. At downtown galleries his mysterious figures fetched thousands of dollars, at first more than work by his friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. He attended parties with beautiful women on his arm. Andy Warhol begged him, in vain, to sit for a portrait. Hambleton drew some 450 shadow men in Manhattan — and also managed to get a few on the Berlin Wall. “The city is not a blank canvas,” he said. “It’s a living motion picture that I collaborate with.” Though he painted in the middle of the night, and never signed his name, the work attracted attention. He, Basquiat and Haring became the toast of the art world. By 1982 Hambleton had a successful studio, painting his shadowmen and cowboys on canvas. His work was commanding $15,000. Basquiat’s fetched $10,000. Unfortunately, drug abuse brought him low. Under the influence of ecstasy, Hambleton began producing landscapes. “They looked like [J.M.W.] Turner paintings; they were sublime,” said Kristine Woodward of Woodward Gallery on the Lower East Side. It was career suicide. “The art world did not want landscapes . . . they wanted more shadow men." He dropped out of the scene in the late 1980's. While the work of his friends skyrocketed in worth, the art world lost interest in him. He was so poor he would use the blood in the needles he used to shoot heroin as paint. Incredibly, while Basquiat died of a heroin overdose and Haring of AIDS-related complications, those scourges did not befall Hambleton. His drug-life was not without consequences, however. At one point he lost half his nose. He now has numerous ailments, including skin cancer. 64, he has emerged from the shadows. In 2009 he connected with two art dealers who have ties to the fashion world. They arranged a traveling one-man show sponsored by Armani. His paintings began to reach a new generation. Hip galleries are again showing his work. He’s recognized as the godfather of street art, and his influence can be seen in the works of young painters. A documentary about his life and work, Shadowman, will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. Hambleton now lives in a studio in the East Village. He says: “I know my life isn’t perfect, but I hope the better parts of me are what inspires and not the worst.” Here's a pic of him from back in the day:

And here's one of him at present:

My thanks to the young man who purchased two CD's as I was closing shop. He broke the goose egg that had been on tap for today's session of the floating book shop. Special thanks to my niece's friend Robbin, who bought Exchanges yesterday. I just enjoyed leftovers - ham, taters, stuffed mushrooms - from our fabulous Easter meal. Thanks, Ron & Sandy.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/15 - Upstream Color

Most feature length films have budgets in the millions. $50,000 was spent on Upstream Color (2013), a movie best categorized as sci-fi. I watched it last night courtesy of Netflix. It begins as a fairly standard story: a woman is abducted and made to ingest an organism that renders her a slave to a con artist, who drains her modest finances. She then somehow finds her way to a pig farmer, who removes the organism from her. She wakes up alone, with no memory of what transpired. The narrative then becomes a puzzle, the fragments pieced together slowly. Although it runs only 96 minutes, I thought it should have been much shorter. The pace is snail-like, and the action comes to resemble that of Terrence Malick's most recent work, although considerably less abstract. I'm pretty sure I understood most of what happens. I was unfamiliar with the players, although two have extensive experience. Thiago Martins, who has only a few credits, plays the thief. Amy Steinmetz, outstanding as the woman, has 66 acting credits listed under her name at IMDb. She also has many as a screenwriter, director and editor. She even has one for cinematography. Andrew Sensenig, 102 credits, plays the pig farmer/scientist. Shane Carruth plays the man, also ruined financially, who woos the woman. He also wrote, produced, edited, directed and shot the film, his first since his 2004 debut. He also has three credits as a composer. I found the following comment on the web, printed on a still from the movie: "Because it's by the dude who made Primer, proving once again that he's smarter than you." It was without attribution or explanation, so I have no idea if it's ironic. Although I wasn't satisfied at the conclusion, I respect the fact that the flick forces the viewer to think. Apparently, many at IMDb do too. 24,000+ users have rated it, forging to a consensus of 6.8 on a scale of ten. I wouldn't go nearly that high. To my surprise, shooting was done in Texas. I assumed it was New England, as Vermont is mentioned several times. Even more surprising, the film brought in more than four times its budget, $415,067, in the USA. If the meaning of the title was explained, I missed it.  Anyone who lacks patience should pass. The film likely will appeal most to those who are drawn to the arty.

My thanks to the kind folks who bought goods today, and to the woman who donated about 50 classical music CD's, several of which sold. The most interesting sales of the day went to an Asian woman of about 20, who bought Sex For Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry by Ronald Weitzer and Blueprint for an Escort Service by Vicky Gallas. I know what you must be thinking and, no, I didn't have the nerve to pry... Happy Easter and Passover.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/14 - Believe It or Not

From the NY Post, edited by yours truly: Researchers at George Mason University have created a synthetic version of an antimicrobial compound using a substance in the blood of the Komodo. It appears to help wounds heal faster and kill a type of bacteria often found in infections. So far it has been tested only on the lesions of mice. The discovery may eventually lead to the development of a new type of antibiotic. Approximately 23,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections. Here's a pic of the critter:

Also in the Post, in my own words: It is believed Eli Manning has been involved in the hawking of fake sports memorabilia. The Post is convinced of his complicity, Yahoo Sports not so sure. Why would he do it? Are his astronomical salary and endorsements not providing enough income? This is a blow to his squeaky-clean image. If he's guilty, a long suspension is in order. And if that happens, Giants' brass should think about calling Tony Romo.

From Yahoo Sports, in my own words: In 2015 baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew, 71, suffered a massive  heart attack doctors dubbed a “widow-maker.” In December he received a heart and kidney transplant. As chance would have it, his donor was an ex-pro athlete - Konrad Reuland, a tight end who played in the NFL from 2011-16, including four starts in 2015 with the Ravens. He died in December at age 29 of a brain aneurysm.

Also from Yahoo, in my own words: The Seattle Mariners have a surprise hit in the concession market - toasted grasshoppers from Poquitos, a Mexican restaurant. Sprinkled with a chili-lime salt, they're called chapulines. More than 18,000 grasshoppers have been sold - more than the restaurant sells in a year. The cost is $4, eaten by the bowl or in a taco.

My thanks to the kind folks who bought books in Russian, and to the woman who purchased The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren, and another self-help book; and to the woman who bought the Best of Jim Croce CD, and to the one who bought the Terminator 2 (1991) DVD. I was relieved that no donations came in today. There's a little more room in my trunk. My arms are fatigued from carrying the jammed-packed crates. I shouldn't complain. It's only ten minutes of hard work per session... Best of luck to Maddy Cruz, who worked in a nearby law office. She's taken another job in a different neighborhood. I'll miss her sunny presence.
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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/13 - Reasons

Here's a fun collection from, edited heavily by yours truly. The names have been eliminated to protect the guilty: An attorney proffered an odd reason for a client who shot his supervisor six times: a crash diet left him dehydrated, exhausted and delirious... An Arizona man claimed he was sleepwalking when he stabbed his wife 44 times. Prosecutors pointed out that the guy stashed the murder weapon, his bloody clothes and boots in a plastic container, and hid them inside the tire well of his car. The actions were too complex and specific for a sleepwalker and indicated premeditation. Judge and jury agreed... A Swedish man had an interesting explanation for a series of assaults he perpetrated - nutmeg, which contains myristicin, a psychoactive drug. The jury didn't swallow it. He was convicted of multiple charges... A woman gagged her husband, taped over his mouth and eyes, wrapped a bandage over his head, then later tied his arms and legs behind his back, a regular, consensual activity, she claimed. She then left home for 20 hours. By the time she returned, her hubby had suffocated. Authorities were unable to prove premeditation, so she received only an 18-month sentence for negligent homicide... In 2000 a 27-year-old San Francisco college student chopped up his 47-year-old landlady and scattered her body parts across town. He had a novel explanation - he was afraid of getting sucked into “the Matrix.” According to the movie, this world is just a simulation, an idea that played well into the perp’s paranoia. He'd already been institutionalized in his native Switzerland. It was this delusion, compounded by a crystal meth addiction, that pushed him over the edge and led him to attack his landlady, who was emitting “evil vibes.” He was declared insane and institutionalized... A 32-year-old security guard from India was accused of stalking two women. His lawyer attributed his doggedness to Bollywood movies, which teach men that the relentless pursuit of a woman will eventually make her succumb. The mouthpiece also claimed the guy's behavior was quite normal for an Indian. The dude was let go on condition he behave himself for five years... A woman was busted for passing counterfeit bills. When asked to explain she said President Obama had passed a law allowing people on a fixed income to print money. Cops found up to $50,000 in counterfeit cash in her apartment, all crudely made on her printer. The "law" came from an article in The Skunk, a satirical zine. It stated that Obama’s plan was to distribute a printing press to every American so they could print US currency... During the trial of drug-trafficking Malaysian twins, each blamed the other. Authorities were unable to determine which was guilty, so they were freed, escaping the death penalty that country levies against such a crime... Absent from the list, Flip Wilson's Geraldine's: "The devil made me do it."

Seven former and current students unveiled a 1,500-pound Rubik's Cube during a ceremony at the University of Michigan. The massive, mostly aluminum structure is the brainchild of four students who three years ago handed it down to others. If memory serves, I solved it once in umpteen tries - and had no idea how. There must be a catch to it that the mathematically inclined intrinsically understand. Here's a pic from

The floating book shop received donations from five different people this crisp spring day. I could barely close the trunk of my old Hyundai. I brought 20 of the less marketable books back to the apartment. My thanks to those kind folks, and to the woman who early in the session bought Overcoming Overeating by Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter. It looked like that would be the only sale until one of my regulars, a middle age Russian woman, saved the day by overpaying for novels by Belva Plain, Jude Devereaux, Judith McNaughton, Anita Shreve and Gloria Goldreich - in English. Spasibo, madam.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/12 - J & Others

RIP J. Geils, 71, founding member, guitarist of his eponymous band. He played trumpet in college, influenced by his dad, who was a fan of Jazz and Big Band. Geils formed his group in the '60's, beginning as an acoustic trio, eventually switching to an electric sound and adding members. They worked the club circuit for years before hitting it big, building a reputation as a great live act. They found great commercial success in 1981 following the release of the album Freeze-Frame, which went to #1 and achieved triple platinum status. The title track rose to #4 on the singles chart, and Centerfold spent six weeks at #1 in '82. Overall, 17 of the band's singles cracked the Billboard Top 100. Love Stinks has been used on several film soundtracks. The band broke up in 1985, but reunited for several tours through the years. Geils released two solo jazz albums post 2000. He also recorded albums as a member of Bluestime and New Guitar Summit. Well done, sir. (Facts from Wiki & Billboard)

According to Reuters, China has sent a flotilla of 12 North Korean freighters loaded with coal back to their home port. Meanwhile, it has placed massive orders for the steel-making commodity with U.S. producers. The move reflects the country’s commitment to join other nations in punishing North Korea for its continued nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development program. China is suspending North Korean imports for the rest of this year. This sounds like great news. Did the summit with President Trump have anything to do with it?

Here's sobering news from a blurb in today's NY Post, edited by yours truly: According to the renowned Mayo Clinic, a second opinion changes an original diagnosis 88% of the time. 21% of the time it changes completely, 66% it is refined or redefined.

I like this guy. A Montana man, convinced he was being screwed by the tax man, vented his displeasure by adding a note to his $745.77 check. In the Memo line he wrote: "Sexual Favors." So far, the check has not been cashed, as "it isn't clear what the funds should be applied to." It's quite simple, really. I believe the gentleman was referring to being told to "bend over" by the government. I've been tempted to write something nasty on every check I've written to pay an alternate side parking violation, which in each instance had been a matter of forgetting, not intentionally ignoring the regulation. I resisted, afraid it would lead to trouble. I'm sure the guy hasn't heard the end of it from government gangsters. (Adapted from the Weird But True column in the NY Post.)

My thanks to Ira, who bought a bio of Walter Cronkite and a book on the Kennedys, to the gentleman who bought three Russian translations of Frank Herbert's works, and to the elderly woman who purchased a Fern Michaels thriller.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Writer's Life 4/11 - Flights of Fancy

The story of the day seems to be the United airlines fiasco. Although I've made umpteen pickups of relatives at airports, I haven't been on a plane since pre-9/11. Given the hassle of security, I hope I never again have to fly. I don't know anything about what goes on except for the occasional complaint of someone who has just landed, and a glance at negative story headlines, so I won't comment on whether the company's bumping of that man from a flight was unjust or not. On his radio talk show this morning, Mark Simone played audio of the incident. I do know one thing - I'm glad that guy's not my doctor.

From Yahoo Sports, edited by yours truly: Last night the Detroit Red Wings played their final game at Joe Louis Arena, where they won four Stanley Cups. Many of the greats from those teams attended. Their enforcer, Bob Probert, who succumbed to a heart attack at 45 in 2010, was there in spirit. He played 474 games with the Wings over nine years, but the number fans remember most is 2090 – the penalty minutes he earned when he was the NHL’s uncrowned heavyweight fighting champion. On Sunday his widow brought him back one last time. Dani Probert, wearing a locket with her late husband’s ashes inside it, decided on the spur of the moment to spread his ashes inside the penalty box. Here's the best picture I could find of it:

I've put aside the file of the novel I plan to self-publish in January, but I keep a list of thoughts that might fit the narrative. The title is Present and Past, and throughout it the characters reminisce. One is particularly enamored of his experiences. This line occurred to me recently, spoken by his friend: "How d'you even know you're rememberin' this stuff right after so long?" My first reply was: "They may not be exact, but the essence is right on." I wasn't satisfied with it, but let it be. This morning another occurred to me, which I will incorporate with the first, most likely preceding it: "True. When I'm watching a movie I think I have completely down pat, I'm always surprised it isn't exactly how I remember it." That's happened to me countless times. Yesterday I came across an interesting quote on the subject by Jessamyn West: "The past is really almost as much a work of the imagination as the future." Note that she uses "almost." Although humans are frequently given to delusion, I believe we nail the essence of what has been. I recall how deluded I was about my athletic ability, believing I would be able to play college football. I now occasionally wonder if I'm as deluded about my literary aspirations as I was about my athleticism. I don't believe I'm deluded regarding my memories. The mind is wondrous, full of twists and turns, ins and outs, ups and downs. Wiki lists 21 books, all fiction, under West's name. Her most famous is The Friendly Persuasion, the story of a Quaker family, published in 1945, adapted to the screen in 1956, starring Gary Cooper, directed by William Wyler, nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture. It was originally released without a screenplay credit, as the writer, Michael Wilson, was blacklisted. In another fun bit of trivia, West was a second cousin of Richard Nixon. A Quaker herself, she died in 1984 at 81.

My thanks to the kind folks who bought wares today, especially the elderly Russian gentleman who purchased eight DVD's and the woman who took the Oprah pictorial I've been displaying prominently for a month. Special thanks to my Tuesday benefactress, who donated another marketable cache of fiction and non.
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