Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Nominees for Worst Company Name

I'm sure there are plenty of horrible company names out there that I don't even know about, but I came across a new one today: Nomensa. It's a technology firm out of the UK that is apparently proud of the fact that none of its employees belongs to MENSA. I can see the ads now: "Nomensa: No geniuses here!" "Nomensa: Idiots is us!" "Nomensa: Keeping your VCRs flashing 12:00 since 1992!"

I did a quick search for "allmensa" to see what kind of competition they had, but I couldn't find anything.

But this still doesn't beat the company called Powergen Italia, whose original Web domain, powergenitalia.com, was eventually replaced. Some have reported that powergenitalia.com is a hoax, that the company doesn't really exist, but apparently it's a real battery-maker in Italy, and has nothing to do with the Powergen in the UK. You can find old powergenitalia.com pages in old Internet archives, if you know how to access them.

I don't...

(On the other hand, I'm not so sure about Pen Island -- penisland.org and penisland.net.)

What other company names really suck?

(On the other end, the best business name I've ever seen was a hair salon in St. Louis called "Curl Up & Dye.")

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pacers Game

I took my elder boy to a Pacer's game last night as part of a Cub Scout outing. Some company or another bought the tickets for our group, which means they were pretty cheap.

There were only 5 rows of seats that were higher than ours. We were so high that I could see the top of the center-court scoreboard. I ran down at the beginning of the second quarter to get us some popcorn and drinks, and I almost didn't make it back up all those steps.

What does it say about my well-being that I'm too out of shape to even WATCH a basketball game?!

The Pacers lost to the Utah Jazz, the most horribly named team in the NBA.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Loss of Passion

Of late, I've lost my passion. Or maybe I've just noticed that the passion is gone. Ten years ago, if I wasn't sleeping, I was either listening to music, playing music, or writing -- mostly words but sometimes music. I had a real passion for writing and for music back then. (Of course, I was lonely and depressed and surrounded by people who seemed to be quite content with their lot in life, so I had a lot to write about.)

But that passion just isn't there anymore. I am completely unmotivated to do anything. To get anything done, I need to put it on a list of things to do so it doesn't just flitter out of my memory.

I go home and sit down and tell myself that I'll just play on the PS2 for, oh, maybe half and hour. Two hours later, I turn off the games and go hunt for dinner. I know there are things I ought to be doing, and I tell myself, out loud sometimes, what I ought to be doing.

But still I sit on that couch.

I feel like I'm constantly waiting for the next thing to happen, instead of making the next thing happen. I'm just so unmotivated. Maybe I'm just lazy. Maybe it's pre-traumatic stress disorder.

There are a few glimmers: I did sit down and start writing my novel (for the fourth time) two nights ago. I got about a page and a half in when my brother-in-law called. By the time I hung up the phone, I felt like S.T. Coleridge. I could no longer write anything worthwhile.

That'll teach me to answer the phone. My caller ID works just fine; it's my thumb that needs to be fixed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Movies

With the coming of December comes an influx of Christmas movies in prime time. I don't like Christmas movies on the whole. They're always predictable, and they almost always have unrealistic happy endings.

Bah. Humbug. I say.

But I'm interested in what other people think about Christmas movies. What are the best and worst Christmas movies ever made.

The best one, in my opinion, is "A Christmas Story," which we watch every year. (Will Ferrell's "Elf" comes in second.)

The worst Christmas movie? "Frosty the Snowman Returns." Even the title sounds like it should be a parody.

Your opinions?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Book Review: Jim Tomlinson's "Things Kept, Things Left Behind"

Sure, I love short stories -- in principle. My all-time favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut, and I’ve read every novel and autobiography he’s written. But even I couldn’t make it all the way through Welcome to the Monkey House, his first short story collection.

Perhaps I’ve become jaded simply by growing up in the era of MTV, but I have come to expect the complete story: the arc, the conflict, the resolution, the denouement. Where once we had static splashes of paint on canvas, leaving us guessing about exactly what a picture might represent, now we have television and film -- complete stories with completely developed characters and a beginning, middle, and end. It’s what we’ve come to expect, possibly to the detriment of the past masters.

This has spilled over to literature, as well. The novel -- the story that starts on the first page and neatly ends on the last (with perhaps just enough of a cliffhanger to get people to buy the sequel) -- has become the pinnacle of literary creation, to the detriment of the short story -- the literary equivalent of the still life, the portrait, the sculpture.

Fortunately, even though novels win the day, the art of the short story is still practiced by a few deft hands.

Things Kept, Things Left Behind is a collection of short fiction that won Jim Tomlinson the 2006 Iowa Short Fiction Award, and for good reason. What daVinci is to art, Jim is to fiction.

In this collection, Jim introduces us to people. Not characters, not stereotypes, not archetypes -- people. Jim presents glimpses into the lives of real people. And, much like the glimpses we get of strangers’ lives every day, their stories do not start with the first word, nor do they end with the final punctuation. This is what makes these stories great.

And he wields his words like a master, at times abandoning so-called “proper grammar” to create something that couldn’t be taught in a high school English class. We’ve all seen incomplete sentences, run-ons, and the like. But rarely do we see them used with such accuracy and with such great results.

The common thread throughout these stories is failed or failing marriages. In each story, Jim reveals what really goes on in the hearts and minds of ordinary people as their marriages die. But don’t look for “And they all lived happily ever after,” because you won’t find it. What you will find are well-told stories about people you recognize, and these stories leave off in moments of despair, indecision, confusion, anger, exasperation, pain, and hope. But the stories don't really end. Sure, the words stop, but the people in these stories don't. The true endings of these stories are left to the minds of the readers.

And along the way, you'll find some little gems of beautiful writing. Here’s one of my favorites, from “Things Kept”:
Sometimes she thinks of herself as a howl. The wail of a coyote, maybe, or a
lone banshee, a shriek dying away in the night without reaching ears. Piercing,
like something wrenched raw from an orphaned soul. A hollow thing, haunted, a
sound that lives on, still shrill in the memory long after its echo dies.

Things Kept, Things Left Behind is well worth the reading.

Who would like this book?
People who are separated or divorced; people who are happily married (though they would enjoy it for a different reason); people who prefer the truth, even when it isn’t pretty; real people.

Who wouldn’t like this book?
People who think that Disney movies have the best endings; newlyweds (this book tops the list for the world's worst wedding gift); people who insist on “correct” grammar and complete sentences; people who don’t deal well with a lack of closure.

Find out more at Jim's Web site.