Archive for March, 2010

Photos from the ‘Showdown in Searchlight’

These are some photos taken at the “Showdown in Searchlight,” the Tea Party event on March 27, 2010.

Geoff, Steve Sebelius, Scott Dickensheets, Ken Miller.

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My report from the Tea Party thing in Searchlight

The Huffington Post website has posted my report from the scene of the Tea Party event today near Searchlight, Nev. Go here to check it out.

Also, Los Angeles journalist Marc Cooper gave my piece a nice plug and offered further analysis here.

I probably will have a few more observations about my Saturday odyssey soon.

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Historic day: House passes health reform

March 21, 2010 1 comment

I just wanted to post a short blog item to commemorate passage by the House of Representatives of the health care reform bill. The vote was 219-212.

This is a historic moment. I strongly supported passage of this legislation. I believe it will be a significant advance. I think it’s a great achievement for President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

I was disgusted by the antics of the conservative protesters outside the Capitol over the past two days. There were racial slurs, homophobic slurs, spitting on people and other acts of disrespect to elected officials. An anti-abortion Democrat who decided to support the bill was called a “baby killer” by a Republican lawmaker. Rep. Devin Nunes of California, amazingly, defended the actions of these nutjobs. Then there was House Minority Leader John Boehner equating the bill’s passage to “Armageddon.” “This health care bill will ruin our country,” Boehner said. These are all cases of a step too far.

Now the hard work begins of implementing the reforms. It will be complicated and tumultuous, but it will be worth the effort.

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The benefits of browsing

I’m Switzerland in the war between printed and digital books. I love printed books, of course. They’ve basically taken over our house. (It’s still more of an accumulation than a collection but it’s starting to look and act more like there’s a method to the madness.)

I also have a Kindle, and I have intentions of reading books on Apple’s new iPad. I read and write about books online. The internet has become a tremendous resource for information and criticism about books and the book industry. It also can be a great place to buy hard-to-find books.

But for all the benefits of the web, there is still no substitute for browsing in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, especially a secondhand shop. If you walk into a used bookstore with an open and curious mind, you are likely to leave with an item you’re extremely pleased to have acquired. Thrift shops with well-populated shelves of books also often yield surprising finds.

Take, for instance, a little book I picked up the other day at Dead Poet Books at Rainbow and Charleston boulevards. Wandering with the aforementioned open and curious attitude, my eyes fell upon an old paperback. It lay flat and askew on the shelf next to the properly alphabetized and aligned paperback novels. I can’t really say why I was drawn to the book — a hunch and no more.

But once I started looking it over, I knew I’d found something I had to take home with me. The title: “Edge of Awareness: 25 Contemporary Essays.” Published by Dell in 1966. A fairly slim 240 pages. Sold for 60 cents when it was new.

The cover barely contains any artwork to attract the eye, but it does have this compelling text running down the right side: “Provocative views of man in a complex world by distinguished modern writers, including: Jack Kerouac, Lillian Ross, E.M. Forster, Harry Golden, John Keats, Robert Graves, Margaret Mead, Adlai Stevenson, John Ciardi, Arthur C. Clarke.” I didn’t recognize all the names but I was acquainted with enough of them to pique my interest.

Needless to say, the book now rests on the desk beside my keyboard. I have read the first two essays, by Keats and Kerouac, and they are good, both narratives on the general theme of “something valuable I learned in my youth.” Keats recalls his post-high school, Depression-era adventure riding the rails across America. Kerouac writes about serving a solitary summer as a fire lookout in the mountains north of Seattle. Great stuff.

Kerouac: “Thinking of the stars night after night I begin to realize ’the stars are words’ and all the innumerable worlds in the Milky Way are words, and so is this world too. And I realize that no matter where I am, whether in a little room full of thought, or in this endless universe of stars and mountains, it’s all in my mind. There’s no need for solitude.”

Keats: “I can say that some part of me, now and forever, answers to the sounds of a train whistling lonely in the night, and to the deep tones of foghorns in the mist of the Northwestern coast. Some part of me is still a boy sweating at unloading watermelons from a truck in Portland; I am still shivering atop a cattle car in the winds driving through the snow-covered high passes. There is still in whoever I am the wink of campfires and the sight of drunken men jumping across a fire and someone hitting him with a railroad spike and him falling into the fire. I can still see the lights of San Francisco and of Alcatraz from Coit Tower, and the delicate faces of the Chinese girls that Louis found for us. I have a memory of walking the docks in the rain in Seattle, and of sleepless nights in the fumigated cost of flophouses run by the Gospel Mission; of the Western wastelands creeping past and a hawk swooping on a gopher. . . .”

I will end up reading this entire essay collection, and getting a ton of pleasure and wisdom from it. I’m particularly curious about an essay by one Joseph Wood Krutch titled, “Can We Survive the Fun Explosion?” I’m also eager to read “TV Shows Are Not Supposed to Be Good” by David Karp. I’m curious, too, why this book was published in the first place. Something tells me the very idea would be rejected out of hand today.

And I highly doubt there’s any way I could have come across this book on Amazon or ABE Books or anywhere else on the internet. The only way to come into contact with a forgotten gem like this is to run across it in a book shop.

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A proud moment in publishing

March 1, 2010 1 comment

This piece was first published earlier today on Facebook:

Tomorrow evening, “Blue Vegas,” a short story collection by P Moss, will make its debut. A book launch party at the Double Down Saloon starts at 8 p.m.

“Blue Vegas” originally was going to be CityLife Books’ first title. But last fall, when we decided to publish “Restless City,” the serial novel commissioned by the Vegas Valley Book Festival, “Blue Vegas” became the imprint’s second title.

I’m extremely proud of both books. I think they represent a great and appropriate start for this imprint, which I dreamed up about two years ago and which Stephens Press publisher Carolyn Hayes Uber embraced from the minute she heard my idea.

Since its release in November, “Restless City” has been well received. Featuring a talented lineup of local authors — Lee Barnes, John Irsfeld, Brian Rouff, Leah Bailly, John L. Smith, Constance Ford and Vu Tran — it’s a fast-moving, edgy crime tale set in modern-day Las Vegas. It’s a fine addition to the local culture, I believe, and an appropriate title for CityLife Books to publish.

“Blue Vegas” also fits perfectly into what CityLife Books aims to do. The 17 stories reflect the dark side of life in Las Vegas, the side where people lose more than a few dollars in a casino, where they find themselves in deadly situations because of greed or stupidity, where dreams don’t come true.

Moss had been working on these stories for some time but it wasn’t until the creation of CityLife Books that he really had an appropriate venue in which to get them published. They deserve a wide audience, I think, wider than the confines of this valley. An article in Sunday’s L.A. Times surely has triggered interest in Southern California, and review copies have gone out far and wide.

The local media coverage has been ample and enthusiastic, promising a good turnout at tomorrow night’s event, as well as at book signings scheduled later in the month.

I am pleased to be involved with these two books, as well as a few more in the pipeline. CityLife Books fills a void, providing a vehicle for promising local authors of good fiction and nonfiction about Las Vegas to get published. It’s a low-cost operation, which means we are willing to gamble on a piece of writing that might not pencil out for Stephens Press or other publishers.

“Restless City” and “Blue Vegas” are just the beginning. The next title will be called “Vanishing Village,” a nonfiction work by Evan Blythin. If you or someone you know has a manuscript or is working on one about Las Vegas, and it is less than 50,000 words, consider making a pitch to CityLife Books. We’re especially interested in writing that challenges the status quo and the conventional wisdom in Las Vegas.

In the meantime, “Blue Vegas” is the hot new title to get a hold of. Whether you ultimately love it, like it or hate it, I guarantee you will remember reading it.

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