The Guilty Party

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Just Came Here for the Band

ASU Band Day 2009 056

Our daughter is in the high school marching band. Her journey there began when she was six years old when we were on vacation in Seattle. We spent a good part of one day at a place called Experience Music Project, a fantastically designed building celebrating the act of making music, specifically dedicating itself to blues and rock and roll. Lots of exhibits, but more importantly, lots of ways of making music yourself. We had a blast. Our little daughter found a love of percussion. Couldn’t get her away from the place where you could pound out a rhythm along with anyone else who chose to join you. Doing our duty as parents, we asked if she would be interested in taking drum lessons when we got back home. We weren’t really expecting a positive answer, and if we got one we were fully prepared to see this “phase” last a few months at best.

Nine years later she’s still at it. She stuck through six years of private drum lessons, played in the elementary and junior high bands, handling a variety of percussion instruments, but finally gravitated to the mallet instruments: xylophone, vibraphone and bells. She can still handle a snare, chimes, tympani, or just about any other instrument that you strike with a stick, but she has narrowed her focus and she’s getting really good at it.

Makes me smile.

Way back when I was in high school I wouldn’t have been caught dead at a football game. My attitude toward the whole affair and those who participated in it was disdainful, to say the least, and my attitude hadn’t changed much in the ensuing decades. I couldn’t see the point of the whole exercise and as a student I resented the attention the sport received in the press, the budget they commanded (when my beloved theater department had to scrounge for funds), and the adoration the players received from a majority of the student body. Especially the pretty girls.

But now, thanks to my daughter and her passion for music making, I am at least a partial convert to the addiction that is Friday Night Lights. And it isn’t because I’ve suddenly developed a passion for the game that Andy Griffith described as “some kindly of a contest where they see which bunchful of them men can take that punkin and run from one end of that cow pasture to the other without gettin’ knocked down… or steppin’ in somethin’”. Nope I came the first time just for the band (more specifically for our daughter) and I come back for her and because the entire show is just so darned much fun. Doesn’t really matter what’s happening on the field–although a good, close game has its own charms–because even during a timeout, all you have to do is look around and there is something interesting, entertaining, jaw dropping or just plain silly happening somewhere within view.

It could be the cheerleaders performing what to me seem to be death defying acts of group acrobatics. Or the kids just past the endzone running an impromptu game of their own Or the young men (I think they must be on the gymnastics team) who dress up, quite minimally, in blue shorts and blue paint, and run around with flags spelling out the name of the team, then pump out pushups totally the number of points the team has scored; or the kids in the stands texting their friends sitting two rows away; or the mom shouting herself hoarse as she implores our team to take down and punish the fellow on the other team who is gaining a few too many yards to please her. The last game we attended had some miniature versions of the blue group, trying their best to emulate the big boys and having a great time doing it.

And sometimes even the football game is exciting.

But the one sure fire entertainment winner is always the band. You want to see and hear a group that exudes fun and high spirits and dedication and good sportsmanship and wickedly funny humor? Look no further than the band. The half time show is only a part of it. What they do in the stands keeps the crowd tapping their feet, cheering and sometimes laughing. From rollicking renditions of “Timewarp” to the trumpet section shouting out commercial jingles to the band director leading the crowd in choreography to “Louie Louie”, the band is the group to watch and listen to.

But the real fun, the absolute best part of the game for me is watching my kid, all intensity and concentration as her mallets fly. I don’t care what sport brought the rest of the crowd, I’m there to watch the seed that was sewn almost a decade earlier during a trip to a music museum blossom under the Friday Night Lights.
cheer squad
lil toros 2
color guard and toro
intense vibes

Thursday, October 29, 2009

So Why Is It Called "Sketches" by Plumboz?

Excellent question. Like many enterprises, this one started with a certain plan in mind, a method of operation that I thought I would be able to sustain, that in fact, would in itself help me in keeping a blog fresh and up to date. I would sketch something, use it as an original illustration to top off whatever I wanted to write about at that moment (whether it related in any readily identifiable way with the drawing or not), and in so doing not only reap the benefits to be had from the act of drawing (just ask Mr. DaVinci how drawing exercises the mind and puts one in touch with the world around us), but provide a source of amusement to my readers. The term “wobbly sketches” was coined by a reader friend just for my drawings
But as so often happens with original intentions, the drawings subsided. Time, interest, and subject matter (or at least subject matter I could come anywhere close to rendering in a recognizable fashion) all seemed to become less and less abundant. It has been months since I have opened up my sketchbook and done my worst with a pencil.

Shame on me.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t trot out a few of my favorites once more. Perhaps it will inspire me to take up the pencil once more. Perhaps not. But it’s pretty certain they will provide at least a chuckle or two from those who can make a tree look like a tree.

bench
A bench in our backyard. Hardly ever gets sat on. Pity.
harolds
Used to be a store called Harolds in the same shopping center as the store I managed. Both stores are gone now.
ruffsketch
Tried to draw Odie, my longhaired doxie. Hope he never sees this.
PICT3171
Front window of Victoria's Secret, also close to my old store
wine
Think I can get a gig at Bon Appetit magazine?
gardentours
By our patio door.
There you go, a Greatest Hits from my Sketching Period.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Operation eBook Drop and the Local Media

A few weeks ago a fellow writer at an online critique site clued me into a couple of places where I could go to promote the Kindle version of Boomerang. Before that I had no clue as to where or how to even begin getting the word out that an ebook edition was even available. Well, that one nudge from a kind and disinterested person had a few very positive effects. First, I learned about a site called Smashwords, where I could make Boomerang available for many different e-book readers in lots of formats, giving it a much wider potential readership. Once on Smashwords, I learned that the way I had formatted my book for e-readers was a whole lot less than optimal and I got easy, step-by-step instructions on how to correct the situation. During the course of this education I met quite a few helpful and interesting people on these ebook sites. And when I had Boomerang looking good, sales improved dramatically. Makes sense, eh?

And then, on Kindleboards.com, I happened across a thread about a brand new, absolutely grassroots effort to get free ebooks to troops stationed overseas. Started by a gentleman named Edward Patterson barely a month ago with an offer by him to send one soldier a collection of ebooks as file attachments, Operation eBook Drop has since expanded to almost two hundred authors, several small publishers, and a growing number of military personnel, including the crew of the Los Angeles class attack submarine, USS Oklahoma City.

As a participating author, I receive fairly regular emails from Ed, letting me know of any new troops who have signed up and been verified as eligible. I then send that soldier an email with a link to Boomerang on Smashwords and a coupon code that allows him or her to download it for free.

There is a real sense of connection when I log on to my Smashwords account and see that a Troop Coupon has been redeemed. And it's a joy to receive thank you notes, like the one from the commander of the USS Oklahoma City or the one from the mother of a soldier who is filling his Kindle in anticipation of his redeployment overseas. It the kind of endeavor a person wants to help make as successful as possible.

And so many of the Operation eBook Drop authors have been sending out press releases to their local media to help get the word out about this way we are trying to say thanks to the men and women who serve and sacrifice for us everyday. But I've got to tell you that the going has been slow, as most of us have run into a solid wall of Who Cares from newspapers, radio and television. I do not know the details of what other authors are sending out, but I try to make it clear that I am not looking for publicity for my novel and I don't care if they even mention my name, I'm just hoping to get the word out about the program. Because practically everyone either has a loved one or knows of someone who has a loved one in the service and the percentage of military personnel who have and use ebook reading devices is much higher than the general population. Which makes sense, since they allow a library's worth of books to be easily transported, an essential for a soldier. And reading is a great way to help pass the time, improve the mind, lift the spirit when so far away from home. Frankly, we would love to be swamped by requests for free ebooks. But in order to that to happen we need people to know what we are offering. So far the Phoenix media has been closed to me as a way of getting the word out. And I honestly don't understand why.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apple Cream Cheese Pancakes

Apple Cream Cheese Pancakes

Oh Yeah


For decades now, or so it seems, it has been my assignment to produce Sunday breakfast for the family. Actually, it's kind of an honor, and I like doing it. But coming up with new things to serve, while still staying in the What Everyone Likes territory can be kind of challenging sometimes. Pancakes and waffles are the standard fare, but sometimes it's good to introduce some variety while still working with the tried and true. Here is something that has gone over very well with my family.

The pancakes are the same as what I always make. Here is the recipe I use:

3/4 cup of white whole wheat flour (King Arthur brand is really good) You can use regular whole wheat flour if you want, but I would reduce it to 1/2 cup instead and adjust the unbleached flour accordingly

1 3/4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

Sift the flour. Really. I know it says "sifted" on the package, but sift the flour.

Add 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar

4 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

Stir up the dry ingredients

Beat two eggs. Don't be mean about it, just get them nicely, well, beaten.

Add two cups of either whole or 2 percent milk to the well beaten eggs. Then...

Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil

Stir up the wet ingredients and add to the dry stuff. Mix it up with a fork until the batter is pretty smooth, but not completely without lumps.

Smash up a couple of nice ripe bananas and add to the batter. Fold it in gently.

Heat up a griddle. I have a nice non-stick flat pan I use. Medium heat works for me. When the pan/griddle is hot I do a light smear of canola oil on a paper towel and rub it on the pan to make it very lightly greased.

With a big spoon, pour enough batter to make pancakes about six inches across.

Flip them when the edges begin to kind of pucker. Just pay attention and you'll know what I mean.

About a minute after flipping they will be ready. Put those on an oven safe plate in the oven set at about 210 degrees F and do the next batch.

That's the pancake part. Now here's what makes it kind of special.

Before you do the pancakes, thinly slice four apples. I like Granny Smith's for this, but last time I did it I only had Galas and they worked fine too. Don't peel them, you lose too much apple goodness when you peel them.

Put the apples slices in a nice sized pan, one that can accomodate four apples worth of slices with maybe just a little layering. Sprinkle a generous amount of brown sugar over the apples and then as many dashes of cinnamon as you like. Let them cook nice and slow over medium low heat. Add more sugar and cinnamon if you like. You want to cook them down to what I think we'll call apple pie consistency. Juicy and floppy and sweet and a bit tart.

All this is happening in the apple pan while you're making the pancakes.

When the pancakes and apples are ready, spread some whipped cream cheese on the top of one of the pancakes, spoon a generous amount of apple slices on top, spread a bit more cream cheese on the bottom of another pancake, put it on top of the apple slices, top the whole thing with a few more apple slices and maybe three or four banana slices, and repeat for all the pancakes you have. This recipe should give you about sixteen pancakes, or two stacks each for four people.

Real maple syrup warmed up and oh so yummy and you're ready to go.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Back on Track

The business of a writer, one would be excused for thinking, is to write. Sit down, scribble on a page or tap on a keyboard, and produce something. And since I have been identifying myself as a writer for some time now, one would also be excused for thinking that I occupy as much of my time as possible writing.

But lately that hasn't been the case and it is not a satisfactory feeling at all. Which is strange since what has been taking up what should be my writing time has been promoting time. A single note on the authonomy.com site from a fellow member there pointed me in the direction of a place called Kindleboards.com. There I learned so much about the production and distribution of ebooks that for the last four weeks have been devoted to first Making the eBook of Boomerang all spiffy and easy to read, and then Getting the Word Out. Result, at least so far, is what should be a very gratifying bump in number of copies of Boomerang out there in the real world. In that four week time span more than one hundred and fifty people have downloaded Boomerang to their Kindles or other ebook devices. That is a nice big leap in my readership and it ought to make me pleased. And it does. But getting there has been such a blasted diversion from writing the satisfaction of making the sales has been fleeting. Ooh! I sold four copies today! Sweet! Let's see where else I can get the word out and maybe tomorrow I'll sell five!

It has all boiled down to a Big Whoop without some fresh writing to accompany it.

So today I get back on track. I have a feeling whatever I crank out is going to be lousy, but as Anne Lamott would remind us, shitty first drafts are where it all begins. The compost from which the good stuff sprouts, as it were.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I've Finally Got This ebook Thing Down!

After quite a few tries, most of them without benefit of any sort of informed assistance, I finally found (well, okay, stumbled across) a great guide on how to properly format Boomerang for ebooks and now, after waiting for several days for the good folks at Amazon to decide that yes, Alan Hutcheson does have the rights to this particular piece of literary nonsense, the Really Good ebook Version of Boomerang, along with the very nice new “cover art” by a gentleman who goes by the online moniker of 911 Jason, is finally available on Amazon’s Kindle site.

I’m pretty psyched about it.

The book is good, if I do say so myself, and in ebook form it’s just a dollar, which is a darned good deal, once again if I do say so myself.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

There's Editing and Then There's...

Tossing out bits and pieces of your life. Sometimes it's tough to know which is which until you go looking for something you thought for sure you still had. I couldn't have gotten rid of that, right?

Several years ago, in one of my occasional efforts to Edit and Move Forward, I sorted through my many LP's (vinyl records that is, in case "LP" is a mystery to you) with the intention of freeing up some shelf space to accommodate more books. No more bookshelves seemed to be in our immediate future and there were lots of old records I hadn't spun in many a moon. When I was done with my winnowing I had a couple of boxes full, maybe a hundred or so, that I was sure I could do without. I had moved past them, outgrown them, gotten over the, didn't need them anymore.

Well, it was nice to have the extra room for more books, I mean books just keep needing to be acquired, don't they? But the fun of using the credit they got me at Bookman's Entertainment Exchange has long since worn off and every once in a while, when I'm sore in need of a dose of Jethro Tell, Focus, Procol Harum, Yes or even Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, I'm screwed. What was I thinking when I presented the tatooed man behind the counter with my complete Moody Blues collection? Geez, I even traded in my Mahavishnu Orchestra LP's. It's true that a person only needs to hear "Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love" maybe every two or three years, but when you need it, you need it and downloading a compressed version off of iTunes just ain't going to do the trick. Besides, it costs ninety-nine cents.

What prompted this particular Geez, I Shoulda Just Bought Another Bookcase on Credit moan? In today's newpaper the full page ad from concert promotion company LiveNation includes upcoming concert dates for Loggins and Messina (Together Again!), Gordon Lightfoot (This Time He'll Be Sober!), Steely Dan (Performing AJA in its entirety), Ian Anderson (Plays the ACOUSTIC Jethro Tull), Little Feat (40th Anniversary Tour), and The Phoenix Symphony Performs the Music of The Doors, with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger. Yes, you read that last one right.

It all just made me want to crank up the old Dual turntable and listen to an unadulterated analog version of "Thick as a Brick", but I traded that away for the equivalent of fifty cents credit towards Vanity Fair or something. Fair trade? Maybe. But I still want my Days of Future Past.

A Bit About Me

My photo
I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.com. As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.