Sunday, February 29, 2004

Found Around: A round-up of links that may interest no one but me. Hopefully, these will distract you from the lack of recent content.
  • More on the Quiznos subs commercials. If you are a regular reader, you had the low down on this long ago.

  • Talk about getting shot down. Rejected in front of thousands, and all caught on video.

  • "No other object has been misidentified as a flying suacer more often than the planet Venus." (For Bonus Points this time, you must name the TV series. For extra bonus ponts, name the actor who said that.) Pictures of Venus.

  • Workin' in a Salt Mine, Goin' Down Down Down.. The city of Detroit sits on a labyrinthine salt mine. I had heard about this when I was little, but forgot all about it until now.

  • Apparently the crosswalk buttons in NYC are little more than placebos. As are the ones in San Mateo. I'm so disillusioned.

  • Joe Bob Briggs was once the Paris Hilton of the b-movie scene. Now he's writing on more serious topics. Here he finds Muammar Qaddafi to be like a b-movie villain. Some skills you never lose.

Public School Follies: Here's a couple of classics.

First, it seems a third grader was suspended for bringing a replica of a gun to school. Of course, the replica was an inch long plastic gun for a G.I. Joe doll. Possible punishments include expulsion and alternative school. I'm sure the principal said someothing along the lines of "rules are rules." Idiots.

And then there's the teacher who planted dope in a kids locker prior to calling in police to search with dogs. When the dogs missed it, he told them about it and that he knew it was there because he planted it. This man was educating the leaders of tomorrow.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Recapping: Let me remind you all that the first of my two upcoming book signings is this coming Saturday, February 28th at the Burton Mall in Burton, Michigan just outside Flint. Here are the details. Please stop by, I'd love to see. You may also get to meet The Legendary KK.

Also, I still need as many recommendations as I can get over at Amazon. Here are the details. You can really help me out here.

Lastly, my friend Darcy really needs your help. Or rather, her goofy black lab, Helix, needs your help. Here are the details.

We are eternally grateful.
Lad-Lit: One of the most interesting reviews of Business As Usual recently got posted over at Amazon (scroll down a bit to see it) by a reader named Darius7. I will quote it in it's entirety:
I read this after reading and enjoying Mazzotta's previous book, Apple Pie. This one has an entirely different feel to it. It is written in third person and has more of what could be called adult themes. It is being marketed as a 'caper' comedy, but like his first book, it really starts from a foundation of 'Lad-lit' and builds from there. In this case, the protagonists are two men trying to come to terms with their situations, though at very different points in their lives. They face the usual 'lat-lit' absurdities with the requisite combination of irony and introspection. The difference here is that instead of spending the entire book stumbling helplessly through life they feel driven enough to take action, and this action is what builds into the caper. The caper only serves to accentuate the absurdities and irony which in-turn further feeds the caper. It is a very smartly constructed book.

I'm only giving it four stars because I'm not sure the portrayal of some of the characters is realistic in a corporate setting. But it is as funny as its reputation suggests. A worthwhile read.

I have never heard the term "lad-lit" before, but I take it to be sort of a compliment to the term chick-lit. A very astute observation. I must say it's very cool, and a little surprising, that a complete stranger has given so much thought to my writing.

Thanks Darius7, whoever you are.
The End of 'Sex': I posted the following over at blogcritics, regarding Sex and the City shortly before it's series finally which appeared tonight.
Whenever I hear people talk about the social or political importance of some TV show or movie, I reflexively sneer. If I had a nickel for every time some sycophantic reviewer declared a show to have had a revolutionary effect on society, I could afford that incredible looking 50-inch plasma TV I saw at Best Buy this weekend.

So it goes with Sex and the City. Some of the current love fest is obligatory with the series coming to an end, but even a critic as august as the late Pauline Kael felt there was something special about it. If I recall, Kael said the interesting thing about Sex and the City is that it portrays women talking about men the way men usually talk about women. (I'm paraphrasing, I couldn't find the exact cite.)

Kael was, I believe, only half right. Men don't actually talk about women like that -- at least not after their late teens/early twenties (technically, still boys), and the ladies of Sex and the City are coming up fast on the big four-oh. I have spent my share of time in sports bars and locker rooms and other areas where men congregate and I have never heard women spoken of the way men are spoken of on Sex and the City.

I can verify, however, that women of that age do talk like that. You can find yourself in a mixed group of 30-40 year-olds having an active conversation and, invariably, the ones talking bluntly and crudely about sex are the women. Often it gets so bad that the men have to go off to watch Sportscenter. Women are pigs.

So when I read that Sex and the City has been a cornerstone in the empowerment of women, I can only think, "Empowerment to do what, shamelessly converse like pubescent boys?" You've come a long way, baby.

Given all that, it might surprise you that I like Sex and the City. Stripped of the hype, Sex and the City is -- or was -- a good quality half-hour sitcom. Since it's HBO, they can turn up the nudity, sex and profanity which can make it seem like something out of the ordinary, but that's about what it is. They have done a good job over the years of growing the main characters out of their original superficialities. Fine acting performances, including the ones from the guest stars, are de rigueur. There has been a good balance of comic contrivance with soap-opera storylines. And they are getting out before everything goes stale (although I hear there is a full-length movie planned, which is worrisome).

Not actually revolutionary, but still a very good job. That's nothing to sneer at.

I have now seen the 45-minute finale. It was well crafted, not too overwrought, and it generally escaped the pitfalls that usually ensnare series finales. It held my attention the whole time and was mildly amusing.

It was followed immediately by Curb Your Enthusiam and I was on the freakin' floor laughing for a half-hour straight.

That about sums it up.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Not Much: I have actually a little bit of fiction written in the last week. Wait a minute...

I am leaving the previous sentence exactly as I first typed it, in its original Yoda-esque construction. That is the way it came out of my head. No editing. It will serve as a reminder to all who read it of the necessity of revision of even the most casual of writing. And also of how muddleheaded I can be, which probably does not exactly shock you.

Anyway, I have lots of projects, both real and potential. I'm sure you will see them in the fullness of time. For now, what follows will have to suffice.
Axis of Evil, Food Service Division: The Atlantic has posted excerpts from the reminiscences of a Japanese sushi chef who spent nearly 13 years as Kim Jong Il's personal chef. The guy is obviously not much for high prose, but it only adds to the surrealism of his memories of that time. He unwisely whomps the maximum moonbat in a jet ski race...
At that moment I thought maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to win, and I regretted it a bit. But he had said it was a serious race, so I decided I wasn't wrong in winning. Until then nobody else had ever won a contest against Kim Jong Il.

...but fortunately escapes unflayed:

A month later he once again challenged me to a race. However, this time at the starting line I was surprised to see that he had traded his old Jet Ski for a much larger one. With a different engine capacity there was no way I could win.

The worst was yet to come:

The liquor cellar also had a karaoke set, a piano, and a round table that could seat fifteen or sixteen people. There, I remember, we often sang together the Japanese song "The Bride in Seto."

I knew it. I've always suspected karaoke would only appeal to the sadistic mind of a freaky, paranoid, bloodthirsty dictator. Had to be.

The wack-job almost makes the Democratic candidates seem sane and sober. Almost. I'm hoping for a 2 hour special on Food TV.
Baseball is War: I don't know if you have been following the Red Sox/Yankees off-season war but it has made the baseball off-season more interesting than the football on-season.

Sadly, what will be remembered from the previous football season are the controversies over Rush Limbaugh and Gregg Easterbrook and cell phones under the goalposts. Even the exceptional Super Bowl -- one of the best ever -- will live forever in the shadow of Janet Jackson's right jubbly.

(BTW -- I never commented on the Super Bowl game itself. Let me just say it was the second Super Bowl in a row where the game was undeniably decided by the offensive line. Oakland's lost it for them last year and New England's won it for them this year.)

More compelling than any football news all season has been the on-going battle between the Bosox and the Yankees. All summer, the Bosox seemed to have the upper hand; they fired Grady Little, they snagged Curt Schilling, arguably the top pitcher in baseball, and were actively pursuing Alex Rodriguez, the reigning American League MVP (from Texas). Meanwhile Roger Clemens retires from the Yankees, then unretires and joins Houston. Andy Pettitte, the Yankees' ace free agent pitcher, also ditches the Yankees for Houston. Steinbrenner was looking a little ragged at that point.

But then the Bosox attempt at snaring Alex Rodriguez breaks down and, secretly, the Yankees move in and snag him for themselves. You can bet Steinbrenner was chuckling to himself about getting the last laugh over the sentimental favorites.

Just recently John Henry, owner of the Bosox, suggested the Yankees/A-Rod deal was evidence of the need for a salary cap in baseball, to which Steinbrenner replied, "Quit yer sniveling," (more or less). This is going to get really nasty over the course of the season. I wouldn't be surprised to see fans attacking each other or attacking umps or attacking players at Red Sox/Yankee games. Seriously. Ramp up security and hope they're unarmed.

More quietly, in the National League both the Astros and the Cubs have shored up their pitching staffs. Especially the Cubs who, with the signing of Greg Maddux, now almost certainly have one of the top five starting rotations in the game. With Bartman afraid to show his face at Wrigley, there may be no stopping them now.

Definitely shaping up to be one of the most drama filled seasons ever.
Previously Occupied: I have done two jobs in my life that I think everybody should be required to do as a right of passage. The first is work in fast food, because everyone should spend sometime on the lowest rung -- it would make people a lot more appreciative of the stupid office space job they get right out of college. The other is a car salesman. Only by working in this profession, if just for a brief stint, can you truly comprehend the meaning of the word 'sleaze.' Hang out with car salesmen for a while and you will yearn for the simple honest company personal injury lawyers. This undercover investigation, Confessions of a Car Salesman, from brought me back. Unpleasantly so.
Kiss The Next Few Days Good-Bye: Classic video games from the '80s that you can play in your browser. You may not sue me for wasting the next 3 days of your life. Consider yourself forewarned.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I Need Your Help: This will only take a couple of minutes and won't cost you a thing. To do this, You have to have made a purchase from Amazon at some point in time and be logged in to their site. I know just about all of you have bought something from Amazon, and Amazon generally remembers you when you land on the site, so that shouldn't be a problem.

It turns out that Amazon allows you to make recommendations to readers for similar books. For instance, you could go to the listing for Moby Dick and recommend Emeril's Seafood Cookbook or something like that. In a couple of days, anytime somebody went clicked on Moby Dick, there would be Emeril's Seafood Cookbook as a reader recommendation.

What I want you to do for me is visit some book listings and recommend Business As Usual. This is a very simple process. Let me walk you through it.

First, you need the ASIN of Business As Usual. Here it is: 159299024X. You can copy it to your clipboard (just double-click the text and press ctrl-c).

Next, visit some listings for books that might attract the same kind of readers -- I will link some below. You will see one of two things when you visit the listing.

One: If you scroll about half way down you will see a heading in orange called Our Customer's Advice. Click the link that says "Recommend an item!" On the next screen just enter the ASIN of Business As Usual -- 159299024X -- in the I recommend box and click the submit button.


Two: If there are no previous recommendations, there will be a heading in orange called What's Your Advice? In that case just enter the ASIN of Business As Usual -- 159299024X -- in the I recommend box and click the submit button.

Simple, quick and painless. You will be done in less time than it took me to explain it.

Here are some good books for a Business As Usual recommendation. You may want to open them in new window (select ctrl+N in Internet Explorer) so you have access to the instructions above.

Of course, you can feel free to recommend Business As Usual for any book you want.

It will just take three or four of you to do this to give me a bit of extra exposure and every bit helps. If you really love me, you will do this and you will have my eternal gratitude and you will offically be The Bomb! Let me know if you have any problems:
A Friend Needs Your Help: My friend Darcy is coming to the end of a stint doing some basic live-in training of a Paws with a Cause dog -- namely Helix, a daffy but loveable black lab. Helix will be moving on to the next phase of training, so as a going away present we need to have Helix named as Pet of the Month at

So here's what you do. Click this link. Select Helix (down at the very bottom of the photos). And click submit.

You must do this. If you don't, Helix will be sad. And being responsible for a black lab crying is about a low as you can go in this world. Do it.
Don't Let School Stop You: A very interesting article about how pop culture is not necessarily the reason kids struggle in school. The case in point here is something called fan fiction. Fan fiction generally coalesces around popular sci-fi or fantasy storylines such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Buffy, etc. From the base characters and universe of the show, fans write their own stories or episodes or even entire novels and publish them on web sites to share with other fans. To wit:
When she was 13, Heather Lawver read a book that changed her life: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Inspired by reports that J. K. Rowling's novel was getting kids to read, she wanted to do her part to promote literacy. Less than a year later, she launched The Daily Prophet, a Web-based "school newspaper" for the fictional Hogwarts. Today, the publication has a staff of 102 children from all over the world.

Lawver, still in her teens, is its managing editor. She hires columnists who cover their own beats on a weekly basis -- everything from the latest Quiddich matches to Muggle cuisine -- and edits each story. She encourages her staff to closely compare their original submissions with the edited versions and consults with them on issues of style and grammar as needed.

Or this one:

Consider, for example, the girl known online as Flourish. She started reading X-Files fan fiction when she was 10, wrote her first Harry Potter stories at 12, and published her first online novel at 14. She quickly became a mentor for other emerging fan writers, including many who were twice her age or more. Most people assumed she was probably a college student. Interacting online allowed her to keep her age to herself until she had become so central to the fandom that nobody much cared that she was in middle school.

All the English Composition classes in the world probably could not generate the desire to sit down and write like that. Which is exactly the point of the article:

We often act as if schools had a monopoly on teaching, yet smart kids have long known not to let schooling get in the way of their education.

Dead on. Personal aside: I think HRH Miss Anna would be a natural for this.
We Like The Moon: Have you seen those disturbingly wacked-out animations in the Quizno's Sandwich Shop commercials. Here's the source. Brilliantly bizarre and fantastically freaky.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Damn Site: I just realized there is horrible bug in Internet Explorer 6. Technically speaking, you cannot select text in what is called an absolutely positioned "div". It so happens that the text you are reading now is contained in such a thing. The sidebar is OK, but in structuring the page I had to use an absolutely positioned div to get the content on this part of the page to position correctly. If you are using earlier version of IE you are probably OK. If you are using something other than IE you are probably OK.

You can select a word by double clicking it, but if you try to select a sentence, it will highlight pretty much all the text up to the top of the section.

Stupid web browser.

The reason this is important is that very soon I am going to ask you all for a favor. And it will involve cutting and pasting a word from this page. And so, when the time comes, I am going to have to tell you to be sure to select the word by double clicking on it, rather than just tell you to select the word by any means you choose. Just another complication to pester me.

Oh, and your eyes are not deceiving you, I did change to text over to a serif font (specifically Georgia, and if you don't have Georgia, Times New Roman). I just think it's a bit more readable that way.

Lots more to come soon, possibly including an excerpt from my third, and yet to be completed, novel, tentatively titled Misspent Youth. Maybe possibly.

For now, some links to amuse, fascinate and inform you.

  • Dogs are the weak cousins of the noble wolf, dependent on man for nearly everything. But with the wolf outnumber 300 to 1, who is the real evolutionary success?

  • Looking for retro or obscure sports logo clothing? Look here. My new object of desire is a Michigan Panthers hoodie (remember them?). I still can't find an EMU Hurons sweatshirt.

  • Ten technologies that refuse to die. And some that did.

  • The theory and practice of beating your wife.

  • When is trailer not a trailer? Park me one of these by the beach and I'll gladly while away my retirement complaining about the government and driving really slow.

  • Blog awards. Check 'em out. Once again, I am heartlessly overlooked.

  • There are some things I don't want to think about.

  • And some places I don't want to go. But if you're on vacation in North Korea, there's an easy way to get around.

  • Paging Simon from American Idol! Why do people have to fight? by Herve Villchaize. Warning! This has audio and video in Quicktime format so you'll need a high speed connection and it'll work best with a Mac, but if you can play it, it is comedy gold.

  • Speaking of music, such as it is, this is wrong in so many ways...