A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for November, 2013

Malkin, Penguins rally, stun Maple Leafs in shootout

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 28, 2013

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Pittsburgh Penguins – Recap – November 27, 2013 – ESPN.

A great come from behind win, and much needed, for the Penguins!

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Magazine Submission Rules

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 27, 2013

I’m the poetry editor for Ray’s Road Review and I’ve been a professional poet for about 25 years. Over time, you learn — or should learn — various magazine submission rules, but lately some of the people submitting to RRR have been so boneheaded, I thought I’d mention a few here.

First, read the submission guidelines. They’re there for a reason. If a magazine doesn’t take simultaneous submissions, don’t send them any. You’ll get blacklisted if you get something accepted elsewhere and have to pull your submission or worse yet, if it gets published in multiple magazines. How hard is it to read the guidelines? Apparently, if you go by RRR’s submissions, it can often be pretty hard.

Second, don’t send a book manuscript for the editor to page through, pulling pieces out to gloriously publish them, thanking you the whole time. I had someone do that to me this week. They sent me their book manuscript and expected me to read it — when I have dozens of submissions to read — and choose something. I deleted it. It’s just rude. We accept a maximum of six poems, as stated in the guidelines. Why do you think your book is so damn good that it’s above the rules, that an editor is going to take their precious time to read it and choose something? Cause it ain’t gonna happen!

Third, if you’re sending out simultaneous submissions, don’t include the email addresses of all the magazines you’re submitting to in the To email line. An amateur does that. I got a submission this week which was submitted to 22 magazines, probably arbitrarily, and I got to see each and every magazine this person sent their submission to. Delete. I promise none of these magazines will publish him. It’s just rude. Don’t be a moron.

Fourth, if you get rejected, don’t email the editor and berate them. That will get your nowhere. I had a person email me yesterday wanting to know what the hell was wrong with his poems and that he wanted to resubmit. Well, the poems sucked — not one came close — and sure, resubmit, but I’ll remember you and the submission better be damn good. I normally read submissions two to three times, sometimes four, but this person will get one read. And look  — everyone gets rejected when submitting, even the best writers. It happens to everybody. Don’t take it so personally. Find another market to submit to and keep honing your craft.

Fifth, going back to guidelines, if a magazine wants rhyming poems, send them rhyming poems. If they don’t want them, don’t send them any. It helps to read several issues and see what and who they like to publish. If your stuff is similar, there’s a decent chance you might have something accepted. If you’re a nature poem writer submitting to a gritty underground zine, you might want to rethink your strategy.

I guess that’s it for today. Submit your work, yes, but do so intelligently.

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A Review of Ramones

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 26, 2013

RamonesRamones by Jim Bessman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let me begin by saying I’ve liked the Ramones for a very long time. Since roughly 1980. And while I’ve enjoyed their music, I never thought they were musical geniuses or lyrical geniuses the way Lennon and McCartney were or even Trent Reznor. It was just fun, fast music. This book is about the music, but I’m downgrading it a couple of stars because the author thinks the Ramones are the world’s greatest band, for all intents and purposes. He’s a real fan boy. But since this is an authorized biography, I guess you would expect that.

The band started out in New York in 1974. Four disaffected young people who couldn’t play a musical instrument to save their lives. They couldn’t even imitate their musical heroes, the way Bowie or McCartney did. But they did get instruments and learn a chord. Their first show was a disaster, but soon the new club, CBGB’s, found them and nothing was ever the same again. They’d come on stage and rip through 17 songs in 15 minutes or 23 or 24 songs in 20 minutes. The object seemed to be to get through the songs as quickly as possible, with as much loudness as possible. The chiefs at Sire, a new outfit, heard their demo and signed them, and all of a sudden they had a record. And it got great reviews! All of a sudden, they were the founders and leaders of a new punk movement, and they influenced the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, and many, many other bands. They toured a lot and continued putting out records. That’s pretty much the book. A couple of lineup changes, the only one of which — when bassist and song writer Dee Dee quit — was big. There’s mention of drugs and alcohol, but just barely. This is a PG rated book, unlike other rock biographies I’ve read. A lot of the songs are quoted in the text, or snippets of songs, but it serves, in my opinion, to show just how insipid their lyrics were — not how great they were like the author asserts! While the Ramones never sold many records, they did tour a lot, and I guess that’s what prompted the author to write, “Everyone in the known universe loves the Ramones today.” Huh? They made $400 for their shows. Their albums sold in the 25,000 to 40,000 range. Obviously NOT everyone in the known universe loves the Ramones…. One weakness of the book is that it was written in 1993, before three of the four members had died. I’d love an updated version, just to see what the author would say about what happened to them. It was a decent rock bio, but I’ve read many better. One nice thing about the book, though, was all of the photos of the band and various fliers that would be put up in various places. Nice touch. Recommended for punk rock fans and fans of the Ramones, but probably no one else….

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More Stuff

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 23, 2013

I know, I know, I haven’t actually blogged here in a long time. It’s been mostly book reviews. But that’s what you people like, right? So anyway, this week was the 14 week anniversary of my dad’s death. And I finished up a grief support group I had been in for eight weeks. I’m not sure how helpful it was. Some of the people were there who had loved ones die years ago. I honestly think I’m handling this much better than many of them. And mine was the most recent. Of course, I miss Dad a lot. But I’m moving forward. It’s the only way to go. Meanwhile, Mom’s going crazy on the weekends, which is when she and Dad used to do things together. She’s very lonely. She’s considering moving back to Knoxville, where she has hundreds of friends and where her home church is. We had all talked about moving together, but Gretchen and I like the house that we’re in and we’re not that keen on moving, so Mom might go on her own. Which would make me worry and feel guilty. *sigh*

Our cat, Toby, has been having some problems. I took him to the vet three weeks ago. He has kidney damage. He’s overweight at 21 pounds and drinks water incessantly. Of course, he is a Maine Coon, and they like water, but still, it’s amazing to see how much he drinks. He actually gets in the shower with us, gets in the sink to drink from the faucet, drinks from my wife’s bath water. It’s crazy! We’ve put him on some kidney food the vet prescribed. This is actually the third one. The first two, neither cat would eat. They went on two three day hunger strikes before I caved and fed them their old food. The vet said don’t let them starve — if they don’t eat the “right” stuff, feed them their old stuff. Fortunately, this third type of food they are eating. I don’t know how this will help Toby, but we want him around for awhile. He’s only six.

My Steelers have won two in a row and play the Browns tomorrow. I really think we’ll win that one. My Vols play Vandy tonight and it’s a must win game. If we win this and beat Kentucky next week, we should get to a bowl game. If we lose, the season’s pretty much over. And Vandy’s no longer a pushover. They’re pretty good. So, I don’t have high hopes. Still, go Vols! Meanwhile, my Penguins have won three straight and are now 15-8 and leading their division. Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL in scoring, which is cool. I hope he wins another MVP this year. He deserves it. Of course, he has to stay healthy, but hopefully he will.

I was having trouble with my car seat. It wouldn’t move forward. Instead, it turned to the right, thus twisting my body right and making it impossible for me to see. Therefore, I had to put my seat all the way back at its lowest position and couldn’t see over the steering wheel. In any case, it was dangerous, so I took the car into the garage. I also asked them to check a window and to replace my two windshield wiper fluid jugs, both of which had cracked (for an astronomical price). Turns out they wanted to charge me a fortune just to take my seat out and apart because it was so complicated. It’s a Nissan dealer, but I have a BMW (which I’ll never buy again). They told me it was either a motor or a track issue and the part to replace it from the BMW dealer would be about $1,000 and all the work together would come to almost $2,000! I was astounded. Still, I had to have it done, so I said go ahead. I’d just have to put it on my credit card. So I was elated to get a call from them a couple of days ago telling me they could fix the front to back tracking and the recline, but not one other thing, but if I was okay with that, they wouldn’t need this extra part and it would save me a grand. Naturally, I jumped at that! When I picked it up yesterday, it was considerably less than I expected it to be, so I was overjoyed. Still, I’m never buying another BMW as long as I live.

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been reading the usual sci fi. I’ve been reading biographies. They’ve been pretty interesting. I’m in a zone.

This poet I met in Atlanta a few weeks ago — Cliff Brooks — and I have exchanged some books we’ve written. I got an email from him yesterday saying he really thought the books I sent him were awesome and wouldn’t mind featuring me on his radio show. That’s pretty cool. I was once interviewed on Air America for 30 minutes, but that was years ago. Still, it was a national show and that was neat. Who knows?

Gretchen and I live in a nice middle class neighborhood, but there’s a shocking amount of crime here, and that’s disturbing. You may recall that our house was broken into in August and some things were stolen. They kicked in our front door, which was wooden. We subsequently got a metal door. And an alarm service, which makes us feel a lot safer. It’s possible we may have a handgun for emergencies, but we really wouldn’t have much need for it, other than target practice. I found out a couple days ago, I’m going to be getting my old .22 rifle (with scope) I used when I was young pretty soon. It was a great rifle and it’ll be fun getting out on a range again with that. And it can be used as home security too. Can never be too safe. We also each have pepper spray. We carry that with us all the time. The crime really is worrisome. And the cops don’t seem to care very much. They care about the rich areas of town, but the rest of us can go suck it, right? *sigh*

Ending on a positive note, there’s a large likelihood I may be selected to serve on our church’s vestry in a few weeks. If so, it would certainly be an honor and a responsibility I wouldn’t take lightly. I might even attend church more frequently. LOL! Gretchen’s in the new bell choir they just started. She’s also in the flower guild, and I serve as the church’s webmaster. We’re fairly active there.

I guess that’s all for now. Cheers!

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A Review of The Good Son

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 20, 2013

The Good Son: The Life of Ray The Good Son: The Life of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini by Mark Kriegel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini was my favorite boxer as a young teen, and remains my favorite even today. He could knock the living daylights out of you, could take a punch, and his story was awesome. Until tragedy struck. I assume most everybody knows about it, and it takes up a large portion of the book, but the author does a great job of treating it with dignity and respect.

Boom Boom was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, a rust belt former steel town with a big Mob presence. His dad had been a fighter and was the number one challenger in the world, up for the title fight, before World War II called and ended his career with a drastic injury. Ray grew up idolizing his father and it seems like he always wanted to be a fighter. He decided early on that he would one day win the world championship that eluded his father, and he would do it for his father. And he fought with fury. He had real presence about him, a magnetism, charisma, and since I lived in the Pittsburgh area with Youngstown so close by, he felt like a homeboy to me. Oh yes, I rooted for him.

He trained hard and he fought hard. Forgive me if I don’t get my facts straight, but I read this in e-book format and can’t go back to look up the figures, but by age 20 or so, Boom Boom was something like 23-0 or 23-1, most with knockouts. (He was a lightweight.) When he finally won the world championship, you feel like cheering alongside Ray. He fought a few more fights, but as is the case, you have to fight the top challengers to hang onto your belt, and in 1982, an unknown South Korean named Duk Koo Kim was the top challenger. Watching video of him, Ray and his team felt like he mirrored Ray in never stepping back, in always pursuing with dogged tenacity, in taking punches, and dealing out punishment. Ray, always confident, was a little worried, but he trained hard and when it came time for the fight — which I think was held outdoors in Reno — he was ready. But the fight was difficult — for both fighters. They pummeled each other. They held nothing back. They both bled and bruised and inflicted pain. It was a 15 round fight and it was pretty even until the 14th, when Ray caught Kim and knocked him out with a series of blows. Ray’s family and team rushed the ring, and he celebrated, but he missed seeing Kim taken out on a stretcher to a local hospital, where tests showed he had severe bleeding in his brain. He wasn’t going to live. Within about three days, Kim was dead and a lot of people now viewed Mancini as a murderer. It was devastating! He couldn’t believe it. And he thought, as did others, it could have been him. This death in the ring was the beginning of the end for Boom Boom. He’d fight about eight more times, losing four, getting abused twice by one person who won the belt off him (Bramble). His heart wasn’t in it anymore, so he retired. At age 23 or 24. Amazing.

However, the book is a lot more than just this. It shows Ray meeting his virginal Cuban American wife in Miami, courting her, marrying her and having three children together. It shows them moving to Santa Monica, where Ray ate and drank with famous people like David Mamet and Ed O’Neil virtually every night. Ray even tried to go into acting, getting some bit parts. Sylvester Stallone did a movie of the week of Ray, starring Ray. The book also has a chapter on Kim, and his upbringing, from a hard childhood to his eventual boxing stardom. It shows the pregnant fiance he left behind, his mother, his family. Ray was further devastated when Kim’s mother committed suicide three months after his death. Everywhere he went, people asked him about it, and he just wanted to leave it in the past, haunted the whole time by it. Eventually, Ray screwed up and went for another girl, an actress, was caught by his wife, who divorced him, but who remained a good parent with him for their children. In this book, we see Ray’s father, Boom, getting dementia, his brother Lenny getting shot to death. There’s a lot of tragedy in this book, as well as honor and excitement. It’s a well researched book and surprisingly meaty for being so short. Kriegel could have butchered Mancini — an easy target for some — but he treated him and everyone in the book with the respect they deserved, and I thought that was classy. I especially enjoyed the section when Kim’s fiance and son came to California to visit Ray and help heal him of his demons. Even if you’re not a boxing fan, this book has enough human interest in it to make it appealing to just about anyone. Recommended.

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A Review of Heinrich Himmler

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 15, 2013

Heinrich HimmlerHeinrich Himmler by Peter Longerich

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I give up! I surrender! I got to page 602 of this 1,050 paqe book and I simply could not proceed onward. It’s flat out BORING!!! I expected to learn gripping, intimate details on Himmler, the SS, Himmler and Hitler, and more. Instead, I was deluged with numbers and statistics, with resettlement in towns and provinces too numerous to mention. Oh God, it was so boring. Okay, so Himmler started out as a quiet youth, unable to deal with females, which made him a prude until he was married in his mid-20s, and which later made him legislate morality to his SS troops. He had to approve each SS marriage personally. I learned he got a degree in agriculture and spent some time working in the field before somehow rising to be the head of the SS. I never figured out how that happened. At some point, he’s working closely with Hitler (we’re never given a good, let alone any, picture of Hitler in this book), yet there are absolutely no details at all as to how they met, when they met, where they met, what lead Hitler to promote this loser to such a vital role. There’s nothing there. It boggles the mind. We learn about Himmer’s hundreds of associates, underlings, and enemies. The name dropping is so intense, it’s a wonder one can remember any names from the book at all. Now, the book does detail Himmler’s vaguely anti-Semitic views in college, his vision of a pure German nation, his grand visions of resettling Europe and eventually ridding Europe and Russia of all Jews. However, it’s hard to connect the dots. How does he go to looking down his nose at Jews to wanting to exterminate all of them, and how does he get tens of thousands of men under his command to murder them? I still don’t know. Apparently, the goal was to relocate the Jews, first to Madagascar, and then later to Poland and Russia. How did that turn into mass murders? Also, Himmler was apparently as opposed to the Christian church as he was to the Jews, particularly the Catholics, of which he was raised. But he felt like he couldn’t act on that because Hitler didn’t want to persecute the Christians. That’s never explained either. The book throws tons of numbers at you — how many Jews from this town, from that ghetto, from this province, from that city are carted away monthly, first for forced labor, later for extermination. The numbers are overwhelming and become so commonplace that the horror of the situation is actually lessened by the deadening weight of giving numbers to the reader. Also, I wanted to read about the attack on Russia, but that was never really addressed. One day there’s an attack, another day Himmler is touring the front lines. How did this happen? I could go on and on, but I’m boring myself now and that pretty much sums up my experience with this book. It could have been and should have been so much more — some life could have been written into it — but instead it reads like an electrical engineering textbook, which would put most people to sleep. Sadly, not recommended.

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