Today’s Need For an Almanac

An old friend arrived in the mail yesterday. It was a book I haven’t seen in twenty-five years. I got it from an online used book dealer. If it is possible to have a love affair with a book, this was a long standing romance of mine.

Called The California Information Almanac, its 654 pages contained every kind of fact and figure on the Golden State. Just some of the chapters were History, Government, Education, Population, Flora and Fauna, Agriculture, Minerals, and Fisheries. Along with Oceanography, Manufacturing, Recreation and Tourism, and, well, you get the idea.

I’ve approached two publishers with the idea of writing a Nevada almanac. Neither were interested. One said this, “Unfortunately, the internet really devastated reference books like that; they cost a tremendous amount to produce and much of the information is freely available online, so they’re just not feasible for a press like us.”

Freely available on-line. Very true. And completely unorganized. A state almanac is somewhat like the internet in book form. One moment you are reading about the Governor’s Flag, the next you are reading about walnut production. But you don’t need to look at a screen or be hooked up to the net. A whole state, in bite size bits, chapter by chapter, awaits exploring.

As far as I can determine, the last Nevada almanac was published in 2003. I’ve sent for a copy. Although I have been opposed to self-publishing, since it would take away from my paid writing work, I am thoroughly tempted to begin a years long project that would make the Silver State enjoyable on paper pages. Who knows, maybe I could produce at the same time an interactive e-book for people hopelessly wedded to the net. Hmm. I have much to think about.


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Dedicated Tablets for Book Titles?

The Amazon Fire tablet is now selling for $39.99 at Target. Earlier models cost less. It’s WiFi only and comes with a seven inch screen. That’s roughly the size of a conventional trade paperback. What if an e-book was bundled to a dedicated tablet?

The Fire has 8 gigs of storage, expandable to even more, which could contain an enormous amount of pages and photographs. As the months and years roll by the price will continue to drop. It might be cheaper in quantity and at wholesale. Is it time to think of reference works and other premium titles published on their own dedicated devices?

I was thinking of writing a 200 to 250 page reference book about Nevada. Although I don’t like the small size of the Fire’s screen, the possibilities it presents are kind of awesome. You could make a truly interactive book out of something like this, especially when hooked up to the net. When you needed the title you’d pull the tablet off the shelf, just like you would with a book. New versions could be updated online.

The Kindle Paperwhite is a dedicated book reader but limited in size, color, and displays photographs poorly. The book I would like to produce would be 8″ X 11″, 250 pages, full color, and spiral bound. The cost to self publish something like that would be nearly $35 a copy. Check out the prices below:

I understand the Fire’s screen doesn’t display photographs as well as more expensive tablets but we may be reaching a point where paper could move over for digital. I hardly ever read Kindle e-books on my tablet; they are clunky and inconvenient to access, but a dedicated tablet to a title might offer so many features that it makes it compelling compared to print. Yes, it is still electronic and it still needs to be coddled, and it needs batteries, but most electronics are getting tougher over time.

I continue to be depressed at the cost of paper printing and I continue to look at other choices, even if the screen is poor and small. At the Fire’s low price I might buy one to experiment with and I’ll keep you informed.

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Shorty Smith and LeRoy Neiman

While packing up things for my upcoming move, I came across a favorite photograph. Done on a color printer of dubious merit, it expresses the mad spirt embodied in camel racing. And it reminded me of LeRoy Neiman’s colorful style with horses.

The lead rider is Shorty Smith, a Tasmania resident, who I met in 2015 at the Virginia City Camel and Ostrich Races. Smith gave me the photo, eager for me to have something about him. It depicts him in a real race in his home country.

Smith was garrulous, a term I don’t use lightly. He could talk. And talk. And talk. Not only had he raced all over Australia, he had been to Saudi Arabia and recounted races there. Luxurious tents were set up in the desert, complete with trained falcons attending. All the while he talked I wished I had a tape recorder and some magazine to sell a story about him. And I wished that my breakfast wasn’t getting cold. Fascinating guy.

If you want to know more about Shorty Smith, just Google Shorty Smith and Camel racing. And check out LeRoy Neiman’s paintings anywhere on the web. I’m not sure Neiman ever painted a camel race but I bet he could have. And I am sure he would have liked Shorty Smith.


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Shall We Dance?

The word “shall” has always baffled me. Much like steam locomotives or the theory of relativity, the word shall seems fated to confound. But I admire complexity for complexity’s sake, much as I admire the gleaming brass of the steam engine or the wonder of traveling at the speed of light.

Consider Burchfield writing in New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, describing shall and will. ” The history of these auxiliary verbs and of their contracted forms is immensely complicated and cannot be satisfactorily summarized here.” An entire two column page follows, making fine distinctions, one after another, none of which seems to please the writer.

Shall we dance? Shall I get my coat? These seem fine examples of fine writing. But judging by statistics, should and will are winning over shall. Using Google’s Ngram Viewer (external link), we see the steady decline of the word shall, which peaked in 1820. Shall seems doomed like the fairies, condemned to getting smaller the less people think of them.

KIRK: What will it be? Past or future? Tyranny or freedom? It’s up to you.
SPOCK: It is time.
KIRK: In every revolution, there’s one man with a vision.
SPOCK: Captain Kirk, I shall consider it.

Click here or on the image for the full size graphic



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The Company One Keeps

This is a biography page from the most recent Temenos Journal (internal link). Only in a literary magazine will you find such a large, diverse group of writers and artists. Although most of the writers have been published before, there is hope for new writers like you and me. Note that not all writers claim a college degree. If you don’t mind being paid in copies, investigate the literary review world and keep submitting your work.

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Where Do You Get Your Inspiration?

Perhaps from a beating?

On October 4, 1986, CBS anchorman and journalist Dan Rather was attacked on the streets of New York while walking to his apartment. According to Rather, the assailant kept saying, “Kenneth, what’s the frequency?” The attacker was not captured at the time and indeed there were rumors as to whether the mugging occurred at all. Some thought Rather was trolling for a gay lover.

It was not until 1997 that a TV critic laid the story to rest. Rather had been attacked by William Tager, a man who had been convicted of killing an NBC stagehand in 1994. Tager thought radio waves were being beamed into his head by police and that television network personnel could stop the transmissions.

Perhaps presciently, R.E.M. released a song in 1994 called “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” It seemed to detail someone who had lost their moorings. But perhaps not. (external link) offered an explanation of the song and quoted frontman Michael Stipe:

It makes sense that R.E.M., a band whose lyrics were often cryptic and indecipherable, would find inspiration for a song in the mysterious circumstances surrounding a physical attack on newsman Dan Rather. “It was the premier unsolved American surrealist act of the 20th century,” said singer Michael Stipe. “It’s a misunderstanding that was scarily random, media-hyped and just plain bizarre.”

The song, although crazily written and delivered, had a more direct meaning. Stipe later said that “I wrote that protagonist as a guy who’s desperately trying to understand what motivates the younger generation, who has gone to great lengths to try and figure them out, and at the end of the song it’s completely fucking bogus. He got nowhere. ”

Where do you get your inspiration?

What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? (1994)

“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
I was brain-dead, locked out, numb, not up to speed
I thought I’d pegged you an idiot’s dream

Tunnel vision from the outsider’s screen
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh

I’d studied your cartoons, radio, music, TV, movies, magazines
Richard said, “Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy”
A smile like the cartoon, tooth for a tooth

You said that irony was the shackles of youth
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh

“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
Butterfly decal, rearview mirror, dogging the scene
You smile like the cartoon, tooth for a tooth
You said that irony was the shackles of youth

You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand

You said that irony was the shackles of youth, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand
I never understood, don’t fuck with me, uh-huh


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Moving Again

After less than two years of living in the Las Vegas neighborhood of Spring Valley, I am moving again. I am going to an apartment complex in nearby Summerlin. The problem is smoke. And the drug culture. And everything that flows with the drug culture like crime. It wasn’t a surprise that my pot smoking neighbors’ apartment was broken into just last month, despite this being a gated and guarded community. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Now that marijuana smoking is legal in Nevada, most apartments are letting their tenants smoke weed without restriction. But unlike cigarette smoke, the stench of marijuana can pass as easily through my apartment’s thin walls as noise. My present apartment may, in fact, have a shared ventilation system with my neighbors. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that I am having to flee from the safe space I used to call home.

These are two Yelp Reviews I recently posted.


Apartment management is completely unable to deal with the pot smoking neighbors that I have had. My last three neighbors have been pot smokers, filling up my apartment with smoke at all hours. Management contends they have the right to smoke, I contend I have the right to breathe clean air. The pot smokers are being taken care of but not me. Me, I have been told I can give a 30 day notice and move out.

I do enjoy this place but I am bitterly angry with how the management will not support me, a good tenant, while letting the potheads and druggies fill my apartment with smoke. The whole world has turned crazy. I am an inoffensive tenant with a cat. I don’t bother anyone. But I am not being supported.

I have the right to clean air in my apartment! I have the right to clean air in my apartment! I have the right to clean air in my apartment! What if I had a young child? A baby? What if I had asthma? I have the right to clean air in my apartment!


I am now having to move out of my nice apartment. The other night found me sleeping on my couch because pot smoke in my bedroom was horrific. The next night I spent a hundred dollars at a hotel to get some sleep. Management wouldn’t even call the offender. All management does is place a paper notice on their door the day after.

I will now spend four hundred dollars more a month to live in a senior community that cares about the rights of people who are not druggies. At The Resort at The Lakes, I have no right to clean air in my apartment. The people who are smoking weed are in charge. Peaceful people like me can’t use their whole apartment and have to move out. Damn them all!

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