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Thrift Store Triumph & Tragedy September 22, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, General, Writing.
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Been blog-absent for some time now, sorry. Finishing up a new book that y’all can watch this space for in a few weeks – not the new Wagstaff novel, but the first entry in a NEW series, this one a young adult scifi adventure tale that I’m sure adults can enjoy as well – and I’ve also devoted much time to work, an interesting investment exercise, and sports sports sports.

But in the meantime, a tale I’m inspired by today’s events to tell.

About a week ago while rummaging through yet another thrift store, I came across a pristine jet black 100% cashmere sport coat which I took as a sign from God to buy since it fit me PERFECTLY. The price tag was a tad steep for the thrift store universe since it had a Dior label, but between knowing the money would go to charity and a surprise $25 refund from my eye doctor the very same day, I figured I could simply average it with the other 100% cashmere blazer I found in a thrift store some months ago for a mere $3 and call it a day.

So today, I’m out running some errands and figure that I may as well hit the Goodwill to see what’s turned up in the book bin mostly, and lo and behold… another beautiful jet black blazer, only this time, 100% camels hair. I got a gray and a navy blue camels hair jacket, why not another black one? Evan-Piccone for Macy’s, too, a decent make. And this one was tagged at only ten bucks AND it was the discount color of the week making it only FIVE BUCKS!!!! This thing new would have been at least $150 or more.

BUT IT WAS A SIZE AND A HALF TOO BIG.

A 43 large, as it turned out. If I was 2 inches taller and 15 pounds heavier I might have gotten away with it, but that wasn’t happening. I’m a 40 regular and can get away with a 39, but that’s about it.

What a bummer. It deeply hurt me to have to put such an amazing bargain back on the rack even when I’ve already got a nice black jacket.

Actually, I have three. One is regular wool, and the other a velvety cotton number that I like to think of as my Dracula-as-pimp jacket. But the camels hair would have been a nice addition to the upper-end of the Wagstaff wardrobe.

AND the book selection at Goodwill was meager. Bah.

SO MY HEART WAS BROKEN.

Was this payback for my dream the other night where Fred “Rerun” Berry from What’s Happening? followed me to my car and asked me to drive him to Pasadena because there’d be “a few beers in it” for me and I turned him down, breaking HIS heart?

Yes, I really have dreams like that. Either the shrimp marinara for dinner that night, or my own insanity.

So, I’m only batting .500 for nice jackets this September.

But soon…. watch this space…. I think my batting average for novels worth reading will remain at 1.000 with the new YA entry. Stay tuned!

 

 

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Another Wonderful Movie Website July 12, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies, Writing.
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Go check out Pre-Code.com, a nice site filled with reviews & material on all sorts of pre-production code Hollywood material.

I landed on it while reading about an old Wheeler & Woolsey comedy, Diplomaniacs, which I just sat through.

And as always, they made me appreciate the Marx Brothers even more.

But check out all the material on Pre-Code.com. I might vary in opinion with the reviews, of course, but this guy’s stuff is thorough, detailed and extremely well designed and illustrated. It’s a great place for obscure movie tips.

RIP, Harlan Ellison June 28, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Movies, Television, Writing.
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Died in his sleep, according to a family announcement today. He was 84.

As he said, “For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”

Ellison is one my favorites. I wrote this about him many years ago, so I’ll link it here.

The High Point Of My Day June 2, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Cats, Writing.
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I’m still used to waking up early, and got up without an alarm by 7am today, so I figured I’d make the most of it and troll a bunch of yardsales in my area.

Came up empty on the sales – a nice Starter NY Yankees jacket was the find, but it was a tad too big on me – but at one sale, the family’s Siamese cat wandered among the meager offerings and allowed me some serious pettin’ time.

They told me he loves everyone and loves when they have yardsales, and that was certainly the case. He made sure I took care of every important face petting spot, and then even flipped over on his back for me to give him a belly rub. He was a total attention whore to be sure, but I didn’t want to leave him alone.

I miss my Siamese kitty. So I went to the WHORE DOWN THE STREET for some ACTION.

They told me they found him as a kitten, abandoned in a box at the park down the hill.

So all at the same time, I thought about how some people are total scum and deserve to die, while other people are just plain wonderful.

So, kitty time and no new crap for the packrat pile.

The rest of Saturday will be writing character backstory biographies for Wagstaff 3 so that I can maintain motive continuity later on. Well, that’s how I do it anyway. I can’t speak for other mystery writers.

Chester Gould supposedly dug fake graves in his backyard for the characters he killed off in “Dick Tracy.” I’d love to be THAT crazy, but digging up my yard is too much work, and it’s gonna hit 100 today, looks like.

Indoors. A/C a’runnin’. Yankees then Stanley Cup Game 3. Sounds like a plan.

The only reason to go back out would be to pet the cat again.

 

 

Launching Wagstaff Summer 2018 June 1, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in General, Movies, Writing.
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Starting it off right – today I set a new record for alcohol purchases for a single day by replenishing different departments. Between a Trader Joes run and then a Costco trip, I refilled the ol’ wine fridge with a nice assortment, grabbed a new monster-sized Bulleit Rye (which I came back to after a brief sampling of some others, both for taste and for the Costco value), and then figured “Why not? snagging a 24 pack of Modelo regular and Modelo Negro.

I was also a good boy and donated 2 big boxes of books I culled from my overstocked library, picking out stuff I’ll never read or never read again, or in the case of numerous old reference books, never use again. I also took an old computer to be recycled. Lots more room in here to stretch out, that is until I inevitably buy more books to fill the opened up shelf space.

No books at an estate sale I happened upon on the way to Costco, but I did manage to grab some nice vintage kitchen items. They don’t make Tupperware like that anymore, y’know.

But the big plans this summer have to do with getting more books ready. First up will be a young adult scifi adventure novel I wrote sometime back that has spent enough time bouncing around Hollywood hell and ought to just get an Amazon release. It will be the first book in a series, so if y’all like the characters & the concept once you check it out, there’ll be more to come. Watch this space in the next few weeks for more details and previews and the like. This one will have illustrations and a more complex interior design, so I’ll need to be experimenting with that aspect. Aiming for a late summer/early fall release.

And yes, it IS the actual “kid’s book” referenced repeatedly in the Wagstaff detective series. It really does exist. I can write clean material, really I can.

For those of you who want to take the escalator up to the Adult Department of Berkin Inc.,  the raw material for the third entry in the Wagstaff detective series is pretty much all organized and ready to work with.  I will also spend the summer banging out a draft of Wagstaff 3. Stay tuned for more on that as well, not sure of a release time yet.

I know, I know… work work work (Hello boys, I missed you…)

But as long as I can get into a routine and concentrate, I think I can git ‘r all done. Not sure if I need Jonathan Shields to light my pipe and fly in my favorite rocking chair from my cushy southern university post teaching medieval history, but then again, I’m not sure I’d want him around after he set up my overheated southern belle wife played by Gloria Grahame to run off with Gilbert Roland and die in a plane crash.

I don’t smoke a pipe.

I don’t write in a rocking chair.

The married to overheated Gloria Grahame part I like, although I don’t think I’d want to come home and find her in bed with my 13 year old son from a previous marriage like Nicholas Ray did. I wouldn’t want to come home and find her in bed with Nicholas Ray, either.

Might be best just to watch those great old noirs she turns up in.

If you’ve never seen “The Bad & The Beautiful” I strongly recommend it. And NOT just to better understand parts of Wagstaff 3. And that’s the only big fat hint you’re getting at this point, mac.

 

 

 

 

 

Current Mood, April 25, 2018 April 25, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in General, Writing.
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Yeah, it’s basically how I feel about the world every day.

Maybe I should shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

Anyway, I’m still contemplating/interpreting a weird dream from last night.

I dreamed that Andrew Sarris had co-authored a piece in The New Yorker all about how my books absolutely sucked and illustrated some sort of general downfall of civilization. I can’t remember who the co-author was, but they both quoted from my books at great length to discuss how awful the writing & language was, never mind the plotting, and how I was clearly the worst writer in existence.

I read through the article, which was long and detailed (my dreams can do this, yes), but when I looked at the date of publication, the issue was from May of 2011.

I thought, wait, my first book Cut To Wagstaff didn’t appear until June of 2012.

I double checked the date and thought for a moment, and realized that I must be dreaming.

And then it occurred to me that Sarris didn’t write this nasty article intricately and voluminously describing how me & my books suck…. but that I did.

Me. MY subconscious.

And here I was thinking I was only a self-hating schmuck while I’m awake. Seems there’s no escape.

Sarris died in 2012. I’d like to think my book killed him, and now I’m inspired to include a rant against auteur theory in my next Wagstaff book, book 3 in the series, the writing of which is proceeding nicely these days.

So expect another literary abortion, New Yorker. You snobs. Maybe my next book will kill you all.

Only in my dreams.

My Sunday As An Addict March 18, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Cats, Writing.
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Since I lost my cat last June, I often have cat withdrawal and start jonesin’ big time for some cat petting and general must-pamper-kitty urges.

Get another cat, you say? Well, maybe, right before my long Summer vacation, perhaps. But part of me also enjoys not having the responsibility of taking care of the cat, having to be back home for wet food feeding at certain times, or a repeat of taking care of a sick cat, constantly. It was a lot of stress.

So, instead of remarrying, I found a local brothel.

A nearby pet supply place, where I used to buy cat litter, has a big fluffy black cat living in the store. You can usually find him sleeping on various cat trees, or just wandering around.

A branch of my bank and a Goodwill occupy other spots in the same shopping center, so whenever I have the slightest reason to go there, I make a point of going into the pet supply place and spending some quality time petting the black cat.

Today he was sleeping. Woke up for a second, I petted him, and he just went back to sleep. I never want to disturb a cat’s sleep, so I wandered around the store to see if he’d wake up in a few, but no dice.

Sigh. I left.

Then since it finally stopped raining, I went for a nice long walk to think about/work out some ideas kicking around in my head & notebooks for Wagstaff 3. I get my best ideas on these multi-mile walks through the neighborhood, and it’s a no-shit-sherlock that the exercise is good for me. Get them triglycerides down AND figure out how to make my usual layer upon layer of idiotic pop culture plot actually turn out to make sense.

And as I walked by a house, I saw a little brown tiger cat!

Perhaps this was my KARMIC MAKEUP for not being able to pet the black one.

After all, I usually never see cats outside in my neighborhood. I actually don’t WANT to, since I live in an area where coyotes freely roam after-hours, and any cat left outdoors most often winds up listed as missing on Nextdoor or on posted flyers, and it’s more than obvious that Wile E. Cat-eating-fucker had a big dinner.

I called to the brown tiger cat. He took notice, but was skittish.

I knelt down to make myself less threatening, and called him over.

He trotted right over to me. Started to lean forward to smell my hand, and then suddenly changed his mind. Ran back towards the SUV in the driveway, then turned back to check on me.

I called him over again and made purring sounds.

He thought about it a moment, and then trotted back to his original spot, watching me.

Calling him over again didn’t work. He got bored and went into his backyard.

Nobody loves me.

I think I’ll jot down some after-walk notes about the book and drown my sorrows in some pasta & wine for dinner.

Pasta ALWAYS loves me.

A Clean Blog Is A Happy Blog February 17, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in General, Writing.
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1188210727_1Relax, I don’t mean clean language. I’ll continue to be disgusting.

But I cleaned up the content a bit, deleted a ton of past-their-sell-by-date sports predictions that no one cared about anyway, even the people in Las Vegas who plan their kids’ college education based on my ability to pick football games.

In the future, I might make a separate tab for sports predictions so that people scrolling through the blog will only see content about TV, movies, recipes, cats, and assorted silly crap that I post from time to time. Regular sports-related posts, like the baseball cards and any comments on actual events, will still be part of the regular blog content. I’ll just move the gambling stuff elsewhere.

So if you’re new here or haven’t been here a while, scroll down and keep going, you might find something you like.

And yes, I still miss my kitty.

Keep Those Reviews Coming July 7, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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A quick update on the literary canon of yours truly:

I have an appearance in the Independent Book section of the current issue of the New York Review of Books. (Link opens to a PDF). This is sort of an experiment on my part – I’m assuming the disproportionate majority of people who look at this particular outlet are directly related to the publishing biz – agents, editorial assistants, “scouts” and so forth of various degrees. It’ll be interesting to see who takes notice.

And if you do, that email is just over to the right… drop a line and say hello!

Another nice thing to happen is that readership of Wagstaff & Meatballs is driving more interest in the first book in the series, Cut To Wagstaff. Sales of that have perked up and new reviews might start to appear.

The third in the series is in the plotting stages, if you’re curious.

The first book of a different series, this one a lightly comic scifi adventure series for younger readers of all ages, is in the illustration stage.

AND I’ve been selling all sorts of old crap on ebay for way more than I ever thought I’d get. At some point, I’ll be able to see the floor in my closet once again!

Everything’s coming up Milhous!

So if you’re out there & haven’t posted a review of either book to Amazon yet, please join in! People in other creative fields get to enjoy the reaction from their audience immediately. Writing can be a lonely thing – you spend countless hours cobbling the thing together & banging it out, only to send it out into the world for dribs and drabs of reaction over time, if you get them at all – since reading, too, is a solitary and often lonely thing.

But I wanna know! What to people think? Any minor characters you particularly like and want to see more of in future stories? Any aspect of the book really stick with you?

I can never predict these things, so I’m always curious. I think all writers are, whether they admit it or not.

So keep ’em coming, thanks!

 

What Are Dreams Made Of? June 27, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in General, Writing.
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A quick note relating to a dream I had last night.

Not a dream with some celebrity in it where the plotline gets surreal and bizarre…. sorry, I save those gems for the Wagstaff novels.

In this dream, I met a woman who complimented me on my hair out of the blue as I walked past an old now-gone drug store in a shopping center from my childhood. You’d think I’d’ve known I was dreaming at that point, but I simply stopped in my tracks and decided to talk to her.  Hell, overcoming my shyness and chatting about my haircut with her should have clued me in that I was in a dream.  But I guess I’m bolder in the dream universe, so I talked with her about getting my haircut and checked her out and see if I could get a date out of it.

Much like what I’d do in real life, I made a point of looking at her eyes while I talked, since I either revert to my “Hey, Jim must be on the spectrum!” behavior of looking away from people as I talk, or reverting to my “Hey, Jim is a friggin’ dirty old sod” behavior by looking, well, elsewhere.

So because of that focus on her eyes, I got to study this young woman’s face while I chatted with her.  The image of that face stuck with me when I woke out of the dream and saw 5:53am on the clock. I thought about the face for a moment and it mystified me.

For  the life of me, I have absolutely NO idea who it was. (more…)