Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2 Tips for Writing a Novel

It was exhilarating to finish the new book. But a couple of weeks have passed and I need to get to the second re-write (the first one did little more than correct some spelling errors...). My wife blew through it and had some good insights. For one thing the dialogue in other languages is never translated. Though it is rarely more than a sentence or two it seems to be a sticking point. I also glossed over some stuff that needs more detail. The exhilaration has evaporated. I realize now that the ending needs some help too. I am anxious to dive back in and polish it but also dreading the overwhelming work! I know from past experience that I am prone to getting caught in an endless loop of tweaking and re-tweaking. I need to avoid that somehow and just bash the thing out. I hope that by Thanksgiving I can be done enough to begin the rounds of query letters etc. My two tips: 1) Write to the end of the book then go back and clean it up. This way you won't get bogged down in minutia. 2) "Write what you know" is the worst advice ever. Why regurgitate your daily life? (unless of course it is truly compelling, but chances are you go to the bank, post office, grocery store and dry cleaners, how compelling is starch?) "Blog what you know, Write what you imagine.", that's good advice

Monday, October 30, 2006

Tom Petty - New single adds to His History

Tom Petty is nothing if not consistent. Are there highs and lows, sure (he rhymed "Tattoo" with " a tattoo too" at one point...), but the guy has been writing great songs for 30 years and his new single will surely join the pantheon of his continuing hits.
Flirting With Time, his new single from the Highway Companion CD, is a wistful, haunting but joyous tune. He is at the high end of his vocal range during the verses, plaintive and haunting. The Chorus is a power house of pop. I think the song might be perfect. Whimsical but sad. He is addressing the encroaching downhill struggle of age but still slamming away like the young rocker he was.
I saw him with the Heartbreakers at the Hollywood Bowl on Sept. 26. I have seen the band countless times but it had been at least a decade since the last show I had been to. There are new crowd favorites (It's Good To Be King.) but surely the material from the new CD will take the band into its twilight. Stevie Nicks and Jeff Lynne both stepped in for guest appearances. Jeff Lynne's production of the new CD is amazing(Jeff, thanks for the incredibly understated production on Highway Companion, and thank you for not burying the tunes under a mountain of background vocal overdubs.)
Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell are possibly the best sidemen of all time, tasteful, timeless, and not a wasted note. Steve Ferrone, a strange choice for a Heartbreaker (British funk drummer!?) is an amazing compliment. Solid, steady and falling right in with one of the most American sounding bands of all time, sure their pointy boots nod to the Beatles but these boys were more likely listening to The Byrds.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Guitar Gadget - This is Cool

I usually go to my friend's site www.cfgear.com for USB drives. I found this cool guitar shaped drive that I might just have to get!

Friday, October 27, 2006

How could DHL lose 6 boxes twice in one day!?

So they found my missing boxes in Rochester, NY and shipped them to their hub in Ohio for re-delivery to Detroit. When I tracked the boxes to Ohio they only had showed one arriving.
I called. They physically checked and could not find any of the boxes.
I called back again. They found the six boxes! So, they are on the way to Detroit right? WRONG!
They have been seized by U.S. Customs. Evidently the boys at CBP were a bit peeved that DHL didn't send this stuff through correctly the first time. Now I am looking at a 30 day hold!
From past experience I know that a good customs broker will work as an advocate to be sure your shipment clears Customs as soon as possible. Unfortunately my customs broker is:DHL.

Middle Eastern Music

I am taking a break from my ranting about DHL (There's more of that on the way.) to mention something positive. The Yuval Ron Ensemble is playing this Saturday in Los Angeles. The Ensemble is a unique blend of musicians from throughout the Middle East. They promote peace, unity and understanding through the common language of music. There is information about the Concert For Unity here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Al Qaida, DHL is the shipper for you!

What's this employee thinking? "Too bad we forgot to clear this stuff through U.S. Customs!" Attention Al Qaida, if you want to get a dirty bomb into America just ship it with DHL! They won't bother to actually run anything by U.S. Customs. And then they will try to lie their way out of it and never accept responsibility for the problems they have caused. Al Qaida, DHL is your perfect partner!
So DHL came clean today, they forgot to clear my shipment through Customs. Iin the words of DHL's import department "this was all our fault".
So what does a $700 additional charge get you from DHL? 73%(Almost $100 a percentage point!). Of 23 boxes, only 17 showed up before the GUARANTEED delivery time (let alone the fact that they previously quoted a $10 fee, not $700!) .
So the missing six boxes, where are they? Missing.
Here's where it gets really good, the DHL driver showed up at the delivery location a few hours after dropping off the packages asking if he can "have them back because we forgot to clear them with Customs."
So, now my customer is still traveling. They will be in Michigan tomorrow. If DHL finds my 6 boxes they will most likely be schlepped to Customs for inspection (and delayed even further). If they don't find them it is a $6000 claim.
DHL is a global corporation, this level of incompetence is unfathomable. I have been involved with shipping and delivery for nearly 20 years and I have NEVER seen anything like this. I have NEVER seen anything like this in countries where I would expect confusion and bribery to be the norm. (I NEVER thought I'd say this but Thank god for bribes! At least things happen!)

Another DHL Rant

This is a picture of a DHL guy in action. Is he running to get your package to you? No. He is running off to the wrong address or even city, far, far away from where it is actually supposed to be. DHL called me yesterday afternoon. They had originally told me that there was a410 charge to re-direct to a new address. That has suddenly escalated to $700!!! SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS! To send a shipment to New York instead of New Hampshire. And to top it off it was THEIR FAULT! Now I must say that all of the DHL employees I have spoken to have been very pleasant and polite. Unfortunately they have also been inefficient, unaware, uninformed and in one particular case a complete liar.
The headaches, expense and in convenience are my own, the biggest problem is the lack of confidence my customer might have after this incident. Will they re-order from me or avoid me like the plague? Will they understand that the problems have been with DHL and not us?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

DHL - Part 2, These guys can't quite deliver.

I have spent the morning on the phone with DHL. My stuff finally cleared Customs by some miracle. I had to change the delivery address because DHL seems to have forgotten about my shipment which languished in Ohio for 5 days befor they bothered to take it to Cusstoms. Despite the fact that I faxed the new re-directed address to them twice and read it over the phone twice, they tried to deliver to the original address today. Duh. I have my doubts that it will make it to the new address by tomorrow in which Case we will have to re-direct it again to a third address (my customer is traveling, I am trying to hit a moving target here!). Is it seemingly impossible that incompetence could rise to such grand levels.

DHL = DHELL Is it that hard to deliver a package?

Last night I was on the phone with U.S. Customs for the better part of an hour. I have a shipment with DHL that came in from Hong Kong. Last Thursday they showed that the shipment had arrived in OH and was clearing Customs. On Friday they contacted my customer and made delivery. But only 1 of 24 boxes showed up. So I check back with DHL and they tell me that the shipment has not cleared Customs yet. I pointed out that they had already delivered one box.
The guy at DHL tells me they will need to retrieve the box and take it back to Customs.
Too late, the stuff is already sold. They gave me the number for the Customs office in Ohio and told me to contact them directly. Of course this particular Customs office is conveniently only open from 10pm to 6am. I spoke to the supervisor and the inspector who were both polite and professional and just a little baffled as to why DHL would have me call. Turns out that despite the fact that my goods arrived on Thursday, by Monday night DHL hadn't bothered to clear them through Customs AND mistakenly let one box loose (too bad they didn't screw up and send all of them!). I would expect these headaches in a developing country (as well as "fees" for customs officers) but in OHIO!? Hopefully my customer will get their stuff tomorrow, I can't wait for the import department at DHL to open this morning.

Friday, October 20, 2006

British Band Releases Song on USB Flash Drive

I have never been a fan of Keane's music but this is pretty cool. Island Records is releasing the group's new single as an MP3 loaded onto a thumb drive. Seeing as the entire recording industry is moving toward digital distribution this makes perfect sense. Now of course there is something to be said for the argument that MP3 fidelity isn't nearly as good as a CD but then CDs are stuck in the ancient 16bit format anyway. True audiophiles would prefer digital files if they were higher resolution.
Cheers to the person at Island Records that either thought of this or permitted the band to do it!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Here is a great group of subtle and witty put downs, Click for Maryam's Blog.

Low Back Pain Relief - Knee Pain Management

My wife, Chantal Donnelly, just launched her new website BodyInsight101
She is a Certified Physical Therapist and Massage Therapist as well as a Certified Pilates Instructor. The site address aches and pains, in particular knee and back pain.
There are exercises and stretches to help relieve pain before it becomes so serious that surgery or drastic treatment is required.
She also has her own blog, Body Blog where she is posting about her own experiences treating patients as well as her own aches and pains.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Greg Graffin - Trades in Punk for Folk?

I got the new(ish) Greg Graffin CD today.
There are few punks whose voices could be said to have soul, and among them Graffin is at the top of the list. (If you don't believe me check out "Sorrow" from the 2002 Bad Religion release The Process of Belief.) He's also an interesting character in that he eshewed the stereotypical nihilistic, self destructive drug and drink addled punk lifestyle to study anthropology, biology, paleontology and zoology. He received his PhD from Cornell University.

This year he recorded a very un-punk solo record called Cold as the Clay. It is a collection of traditional songs and new tunes drawn from the deep well of his childhood growing up in the rural midwest of the United States.
First impressions: The first song might be the weakest of the bunch. As the album unfolds the signature soulful scratch of his voice surfaces and grabs you. The backing band are great, amazing guitar, banjo, slide and drum stuff.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New Chilled Electronica

Working on a new CD. This one is a bit grittier than the past few. more of an urban American sound than the cool euro/middle east vibe of Foundsound or Tighten Up Vol.1.

You can find the first two L.A. Tight albums on iTunes:
FoundSound on iTunes
Tighten Up Vol. 1 on iTunes

I uploaded 4 sample tracks to our MySpace page, you can listen to them here: L.A. Tight.
I hope to have the full CD finished by the end of the year.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

All I need - on a USB Flash drive

I have been using mobile applications from Portableapps.com for the past few months.
I have to say that I couldn't be too much more impressed. John Haller, the developer who created the site, has done an amazing job of using community resources to provide free open source apps that you run entirely off of a USB thumb drive. Portable Firefox, Thunderbird, Skype, and Abiword have proven to be invaluable. Portable OpenOffice is great for any one needing to throw together powerpoint compatible presentations on the go.

The book is done - Self Doubt Sets In

I finished the first re-write of my book last night. As I skimmed back over the entire thing I suddenly had a gut wrenching wave of doubt wash over me. What if it sucks?
I have a fairly short attention span as is, I hardly ever come across anything that seems "new" (most stories and songs have been written a million times over, think about it and you will see that things start to slide into easily distinguishable archetypes).
But then, maybe there is hope because these are the themes of human existance and they resonate over and over again because there is a degree of truth to them.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I haven't written a big turd.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Manuscript Format - MS Word

I have a question for other writers: Do you write and then format or do you keep everything in proper format (1" borders, courier, double space etc.)?

Also: Does anyone know how to eliminate the header on the first page of an MS WORD doc?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Cashflow - Rich Dad/ Poor Dad Board Game

I played Cashflow for the first time yesterday with a group of friends here in South Pasadena. Cashflow was created by Robert Kiyosaki, Author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a book about investing and wealth. I had read the book a few months ago and was a bit underwhelmed. His advice is sound but when he mentions that he got rich in pyramid schemes and 'no money down' real estate scams it minimized the impact of his approach. I won't use this post to lambaste him or his books, there are enough places you can find Kiyosaki critiques on the web.
I do want to talk about the game though.
The game is designed to educate and instill Kiyosaki's investment and wealth principles. Was it fun? Yes, for the first hour or so but be prepared for a 3-5 hour game if you want to play it until completion. The fact that a few of us were first time players probably slowed the pace a bit but the experienced players said this was typical. Did I learn anything? Sure, the key to financial success is to borrow recklessly and hope you get lucky and rich. This is the strategy to win the game and presumably Kiyosaki's strategy to generate wealth.
I'd say enjoy Cashflow as sort of a complicated Monopoly, don't expect to learn anything but be sure to bring a calculator.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

L.A. Times

I read the L.A. Times every morning.I have been following the recent ownership/management drama for the past few months with a personal interest as a reader but also as a citizen. The Times may not be perfect but it is a damn fine newspaper, one of the best in the country and maybe one of the best in the world. (Attn. East Coast folks, The Washington Post and The New York Times are not the only newspapers in the U.S.). I haven't read much of the L.A. Times' own coverage of the situation because it can only be inherently colored by the editorial staff's own personal experiences (though I am sure they have gone to great, valiant lengths to remain professional in presenting the story). I have mostly relied on other local media coverage to follow the power struggle between the Chandlers and the Tribune Company.

This week the inevitable happened as publisher Jeffery Johnson was forced to resign. After his recent stand with editor Dean Baquet to refuse to slash staff and expenditures, it was only a matter of time before he was shown the door. Now Baquet is under attack from bloggers who claim he has been disloyal in remaining at the paper and not resigning immediately in a show of support for Johnson. This allegation is ridiculous. I do not know Baquet personally, he may be a jerk or an ogre but one thing is clear; his stand against the Tribune was to save the heart and soul of the L.A. Times, not to simply support his colleague. A resignation in the face of more adversity would only sell out the paper he is trying to protect. If Ms. Finke and others see this as cowardice or a lack of spine they are sadly mistaken.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Guitar Rig

I went from Diehard Analog purist (1/4" 8 track reel to reel)(Ok, not only analog but lo-fi to boot) to Cubase fanatic but I have resisted the siren song of Amp Farm, Pod , Amplitude et al. Not only resisted, protested. Were the sounds good? Yeah, they were "good", possibly usable but when A/B'd with my Marshall, '49 Champ or Victorilux, there was clearly NO comparison.
Until today. Native Instruments Guitar Rig is pretty cool. Perfect? No.
Remarkable for a software amp/cab simulator? Yes.
I did a few demo tracks today and was blown away. I was looking for a warm, just past clean crunch. Wow. My past experience has been that these programs do 2 things well: Super clean and Pristine or Blown out hi-gain madness. Not much in between. Leave it to NI to fill in the shades of gray. The stellar quality of the B4 should have been a sure sign that beneath the cool, collected German heart of the company lies some honest to god, warm blooded soul.
Vielen Dank NI!