Sun Fun Rain Pain

I am too much in the middle. The space between happy/fulfilled and sad/angry/bitter/hungry. There is no art in the middle. I need to choose which direction to go. I'm not much good in the middle. Mediocrity lies in the middle. Work me hard, or not at all. Put me in despair, or bliss. How many great artists weren't hungry? Okay, except for Haydyn (or was it Handel? I always forget). That's the thing about Seattle weather, it's usually grey, somewhere in the middle. I'd rather have pouring rain or bright sunshine. Blah. I currently have several directions I could follow to induce some self-hatred or disgust or bitterness. I just haven't had the gall to lock myself up with those demons. I skirt along the cliffs everyday, though. Like a scarecrow dancing around a log fire.
Tori Amos has a new album coming out, Strange Little Girls. She released some very low bit-rate versions of one of the songs, I Don't Like Mondays (listen in RealAudio or Windows Media), and it's nice. One of the more unique concert experiences these days is hearing just Tori and a grand piano, and she's returning to that for her upcoming tour. Tori inspires very respectful, adoring fans. It's an odd, peaceful experience.
The Standard is dead. I could do without the magazine, but too bad Media Grok will go down with it.
Interested in fiction? B.J. Myers wrote a long essay in the July/August 2001 issue of the Atlantic Monthly titled "A Reader's Manifesto: An attack on the growing pretentiousness of American literary prose." Unfortunately the article is not reprinted on the website, but I found it thought-provoking and suggest you pick it up if you have an interest in contemporary fiction. Among the others Myers criticizes are Paul Auster, Don DeLillo, David Guterson, Cormac McCarthy, and Annie Proulx. If you can't find the article, there is an interesting synposis and reaction to the article in of the essay in Salon in the Books section.
I agree with Myers that plenty of work by the folks above would not go down in history as classic, but I do enjoy some of the sentences they've spun, especially McCarthy. Proulx I haven't read, Guterson is nothing great, and DeLillo can be somewhat dry, but I loved All the Pretty Horses. The opening chapter of Underworld is brilliant. The rest is somewhat dull. I would agree with Myers that not many contemporary writers are the equal of writers from our past like Faulkner, Proust, Nabokov. And that good fiction need not be dull. And that winning a contemporary book award, like the National Book Award or the Booker Prize or the PEN/Faulkner is not guarantee of quality.
Still, Myers is right, much of modern fiction bores. That's why I keep returning to short fiction, where I don't think you make any tradeoffs between the quality of the prose and enjoyable storytelling. For longer works, instead of novels, try non-fiction, which may lack elegant or breathtaking prose, but whose stories amaze you simply because they're true. I'm reading The Informant, and it keeps me up late at night, not because it's great writing (it's solid, straightforward reporting), but because the story is so unbelievable.
If you want to just enjoy some good storytelling and some quality prose I suggest anything by Tobias Wolff. I list some of his works on my reading page.
I find books on tape amazing, thought it maybe because I've never really listened to one. How do they finish reading such long books in only a few cassette tapes? I must have a distorted sense of how long it takes to read some of these books, or they're reading significantly condensed versions of these stories.
I finally had some time this weekend to scan and post some more of my photos from Spain and Portugal. Some of them came out alright, though clearly a few times I got burned by forgetting to bring 400 speed print film for my Leica, or getting caught with slide film in my Nikon when I needed my Leica. From now on, I think the Leica will always have 400 speed print film. By the way, my Leica is pretty old school, and doesn't have much in the way of fancy features, like a zoom lens, etc. But it takes great shots, and I have a thing for old school mechanical and electronic devices.
I've decided I'm going to get a library card. So I can check out books like this one about mosquitoes and learn all the interesting facts it has to tell and then return it. My Visa needs a vacation from Amazon.