Saturday, October 14, 2006

Robert Anton Wilson needs help

One of my favorite writers, Robert Anton Wilson, is broke and needs help from his fans, according to a news item in ANSIBLE, the monthly science fiction newsletter published by Dave Langford. The dispatch says, "ROBERT ANTON WILSON, co-author of the _Illuminatus!_ trilogy and guru of offbeat thinking, has only months to live and is broke. He faced eviction from his apartment until a fund-raising call brought help with the rent. Donations to the cause of allowing RAW to die peacefully at home can be sent c/o Futique Trust, PO Box 3561, Santa Cruz, CA 95063, USA (dollar checks payable to him), or Paypal to olgaceline at gmail dot com. He writes: `I am dumbfounded, flabbergasted, and totally stunned by the charity and compassion that has poured in here the last three days. To steal from Jack Benny, "I do not deserve this, but I also have severe leg problems and I don't deserve them either."'
Wilson's official web site is here.

Monday, September 11, 2006


My wife and I went on vacation a few weeks ago to Hilton Head, South Carolina. We took my mother-in-law, Treva Richey, along with us and hooked up with my wife's sister and her family.

When we rented a house in Hilton, the literature they sent to my wife gave instructions on how to behave if we saw an alligator. I figured this was just hype designed to make the place seem more interesting than it really is, but when we arrived there was a lagoon in the back of our house, crossed by a footbridge. And sure enough, on most days an alligator about five foot long would come drifting along behind our house. (Ann also managed to ride her bike within a few feet of the thing as it was trying to relax on the bank.)

Obviously, my new career as a nature photographer needs work, but here he is.

We also had a lizard who lived on our front porch. If this little fellow enjoys eating mosquitoes, he'll never go hungry in South Carolina.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Tom Disch

I'm indebted to Brett Cox for returning from Readercon and duly reporting to me that one of my favorite writers, Thomas Disch, has a blog. You can read it here and also subscribe to it at Bloglines.

Disch complained in a recent blog entry (I think he may later have deleted it) that at Readercon "all the books I signed were crumbly with age. No novels after Camp C, no books of poetry."

Made me feel bad I haven't been to Readercon lately. I guess I'm an atypical Disch reader, since nearly everything of his I've read has been since CAMP CONCENTRATION. I've only read one novel so far, ON WINGS OF SONG, but I have three books of poetry in my book collection (YES, LET'S is especially good -- it's the "greatest hits" collection), a book of poetry criticism THE CASTLE OF INDOLENCE and a short story collection, THE MAN WHO HAD NO IDEA.

A few of Disch's poems are posted here.

I've started reading 334.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Karrin and Nancy's rainy day

My wife and I went to a jazz festival in Toledo on June 18, mainly so that I could see my favorite jazz singer, Karrin Allyson. Unfortunately, it was a stormy day, and Karrin Allyson's performance had to be cut short after just six songs. The performance was supposed to also feature Nancy King, a jazz singer who performs with Allyson on Allyson's great new album, "Footprints," but the storm began before King could participate.

That was kind of a bummer, but there was a nice incident later. While the headliner, Al Jarreau, was performing, I noticed Karrin Allyson standing off to the side of the stage with another woman. I walked over to try to get a picture. I didn't know who Nancy King was until "Footprints" came out, but when I got my copy I looked King up on the Internet, and I noticed the woman next to Karrin looked like the picture I'd seen. She was closest to the fence I was behind, so I asked her, "Are you Nancy King?" She was, and when I explained how I'd figured out who she was, she asked, "Did you look at my web site?" I explained I'd just found out who she was but that I planned to track down her music, too. She suggested I pick up her new album with Fred Hersch, "Live at Jazz Standard."

I asked if I could take her picture, and she asked if I wanted Karrin Allyson in the picture, too, and I said sure, so she grabbed her friend and they posed for me. That's Nancy on the left and Karrin on the right. I got to talk to Karrin Allyson, too, and asked her to come back to Ohio, and she asked my name and shook hands.

It turned out my favorite music downloading site, eMusic, had "Live at the Jazz Standard," so I bought it. The same site also has the entire Karrin Allyson catalog.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

My Utopia

I recently wrote a column for my paper outlining the changes I would make if I could somehow become dictator and impose all of the laws I want.

My favorite part was this: "Due space will be provided in public libraries and college literature courses for our greatest living literary geniuses -- Neal Stephenson, Susanna Clarke, Robert Anton Wilson, Iain Banks, Elinor Lipman and Tom Perotta." My dad didn't recognize the names but looked them up on the Internet and discovered I was referring to real authors.

The rule that got the most comment though, was requiring all women to wear red clothes at least once a week. (I just like the way women look in red.) A few days after the column was published, I covered a meeting of the county commissioners in Erie County, Ohio, and all of the women on the third floor (of the County Services Center, where the commissioners meet) were dressed in red, including a county commissioner and the county clerk. They looked great, of course.

Column is here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Joe Cimperman tax

I've been reading a fascinating book called THE WAL-MART EFFECT by Charles Fishman, a business journalist, which lays out the good and bad consequences of the rapid expansion of Wal-Mart.

One undeniable effect, according to Fishman, is that Wal-Mart lowers the inflation rate in the U.S. and saves people who choose to shop there a large amount of money. Citing an academic study, Fishman asserts on Page 151 that grocery prices at Wal-Mart supercenters were found to be "on average 27 percent lower than at traditional groceries, an astonishing discount. It's like getting one week of groceries free every month, just for moving your shopping to Wal-Mart."

The pattern of Wal-Mart distribution in Cuyahoga County, where I live, is rather interesting. Democratic city officials such as Joe Cimperman have succeeded so far in blocking Wal-Mart from opening any stores in the City of Cleveland. The older suburbs have Wal-Marts. And as you get farther away from Cleveland, you are more likely to live near a supercenter, where you can save on food as well as the items that all discount stores carry. You'll also notice that Cleveland has the worst-looking neighborhoods and that the further you get away from the city, the nicer the houses look. In other words, the people who are generally better off are more likely to have access to cheaper prices for the basic goods they need to get by.

Perhaps the higher prices paid by Cleveland residents ought to be known as the "Joe Cimperman Tax," in honor of politicians who do the bidding of labor unions rather than following the best interests of their own constituents.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dazed by the old radios

Radio Daze is a company that makes most of its money selling parts over the Internet and through catalogs for repairing old radios, receivers from the 1920s and 1930s and 1940s. You can't buy radios from its catalog, just parts and radio kits.

But when you visit the company's headquarters near Rochester, you can see a showroom of dozens of old radios, all for sale, which the customer can carry out the door himself or have shipped anywhere in the world. My wife bought me a 1941 table radio with both AM and shortwave bands. When we set it up in our living room and tried it, we pulled in a shortwave station from Croatia.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

George Alec Effinger site

I've launched the George Alec Effinger pages . I've included a FAQ, links, and a blog. A bibliography will be posted soon.