Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Band That Time Forgot…

Ladies and gentlemen, Gentle Reader’s included… I would like to mention a band from New Jersey, thank you very much, known as The Smithereens.

“Who?” you may ask.


What a great band!

They were shanghaied by grunge in the nineties but the classic beauty of their sound is still in existence. Please see: for more info.

I have always seen this band as stuck in time. They are relevant (to yours truly) and beatnik at the same time. Electric Kerouac, baby – no doubt. The true joy of the Smithereens is having the eyes to see that. Wonderful guitar riffs, the timelessness, the wonderful lyrics – and they’re from Jersey!

Please… Check out “Top of the Pops” or “Blue Period.” Amazing music – at least for this out of time Beatnik.

Oh well, out of time and out of place… Check their site for tour dates. From what I’ve seen they are worth investigating.

… Walk on…

Monday, September 24, 2007

The "Open Artistic Studio Tour"

What’s that?

Good question – I didn’t know about it until lunchtime today. Basically on Saturday, October 13, from 11 – 6 PM over 30 local (to the Cumberland County area of New Jersey) artists are going to be opening their studios to the general public (you and me). I met one of the artists today, a lady named Meed Barnett who gave me the info and I though that I’d post it for anyone who may be interested. It would be a nice way to spend a Saturday and it would have that whole “Third Friday” vibe. Third Friday is a celebration in – of all places, downtown Millville, of artists and musicians. The local businesses stay open and it’s a worthwhile time to visit. There's a lot happening down there.

One of those businesses is Bogart’s Books. I couldn’t recommend Bogart’s Books & Coffee Shop (formally Wind Chimes Bookstore) higher. Great coffee, characters and all the used books you could ever want. For the record: Evil Chicken’s favorite bookstore in the known universe.

But I digress…

For more information on the Open Artistic Studio Tour check out this… Navigation is a little wonky but you’ll get the information if you’re persistent.

It should be fun. I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one with the Bogart’s coffee in my hand.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

NaNoWriMo – The Return

Have you always wanted to write that book or novel but just never had the time to sit down and do it? Yeah? Well, November is coming and that means that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is gearing up once more. You, Gentle Reader, are charged with the task of writing 50,000 words in 30 days – from 12:01 AM, November 1 to Midnight on November 30. That’s it; nothing else – nothing more. People walk into the month as would be storytellers and walk out of the month as NOVELISTS.

Not too shabby.

Bella Candy, a friend of yours truly, introduced me to NaNoWriMo about 4 years ago – I haven’t looked at the month of November the same way since. You won’t either. I got the following e-mail yesterday from Chris Baty (the guru of all things of NaNo and all around nice guy):

Dear NaNoWriMo author,

You know what time it is? Time for a novel-length email about things afoot at NaNoWriMo!

We'll be opening sign-ups for another noveling season late at night on October 1. Between now and then, all of the content on the current site will be archived, and the forums will be wiped clean for the 2007 event. All active NaNo accounts from last November will stay active, and Script Frenzy log-ins will work as well.

We'll be turning off sign-ins this Monday so we can have a week of thing-resetting and something-migration that Russ swears is very important we do without anyone hanging around the site watching us. We will miss you that week, but we'll be reunited in October, and we can share stories of our time apart then.

At the end of the last NaNo, I invited everyone to join me in publicl y posting a couple big, fun, scary goals for the new year. Then we went after those goals like otters on lutefisk, and kept a progress log of it all in the NaNo forums.You can see what kinds of amazingly scary goals people set for themselves (and pulled off!) here:

Officially the YoBFSA comes to a close when NaNoWriMo 2007 begins. If you are a YoBFSA participant who has achieved one of your goals by then, please let us know by sending an email to with the subject line: BFS Winner. We'll email you a certificate in October to commemorate your achievement. My big, fun, scary adventure? I set out to learn basic Spanish and work on my radio production skills. Did I earn the certificate? You better believe it---I'm even a proud graduate of Piedmont Adult School's Spanish 1A class. My radio pr oduction skills: still ailing. But it's a start!

We're going to be implementing a bunch of new things this year to help get the site ready for a freakishly superpowered future. These include an entirely new back-end system, a new server, and new Author Profile pages (more on this below). Some or all of these things will break spectacularly and immediately upon launch. We will hurry to fix them. They will break in different ways. We will fix them again. This will last most of October.

So you know those beautiful gray book-like author profile pages with the turning pages we've had on the site for the past three years? We're saying goodbye to them this week.

I know, I know. The design was so beautiful and sleek it made us weep. But as nice as it looked, it caused us a lot of problems, financial and otherwise. The system was built by a genius designer/pr ogrammer who created it in such a complicated way that most professional Flash programmers wouldn't touch it. Which meant every time something broke or needed an update, we had to hire a Flash Yoda who charged us Jedi-level hourly rates. Last year, adding a "Winner 2006" image to the winners' photos, changing a few text labels, and adding a European character set cost us $2000.

That made us weep too, but for different reasons. The other problem was that the tidy, magical books are very hard to slip new features into without a major overhaul. Which is bad because we receive dozens of great Author Profile page feature suggestions from participants every year, and we also have tons of our own ideas for new things we want to integrate into the pages.

We'd like comment-able novel excerpts, customizable participant blogs with room for audio and video, in-dash Twittering, an "encouragement capsule" where friends and family can uploa d morale-boosting messages to be released to writers when they hit certain word-count goals, and a billion more things.

As a first step towards a future where we can easily add new modules to the AP pages, we'll be launching a much more expandable system on October 1. It's clean and pretty, and over the course of the next year---knock on fundraising wood---we'll be able to add the exciting new features and powers you've been requesting. Once in place, those cool new functions will make the current Author Profile pages look gray and lifeless by comparison.

MORE CELEBRITY PEP TALKERS REVEALEDIn case you missed the announcement in the last newsletter, we're going to have some extraordinary help writing the pep talks we email out to participants in November. In the last email, I revealed that NaNo 2007 authors would be receiving a pep talk from none other than novelist Sue Grafton.

Now I'm here to unveil the identities of thr ee more of this year's NaNoWriMo pep talkers. They are...drum roll please...the ferocious Garth Nix! The fantastic Naomi Novik! And the awesome Neil Gaiman!

Yep. These writers have all answered the no-pressure-at-all call to inspire 100,000 authors in various states of noveling exaltation and despair with their kind words. We actually have eight pep talkers signed on for this year, but Tavia has asked me to wait until the site relaunches to share the identities of the other four. Which I've agreed to do. But one of them is Tom Robbins.

Oops. See?

This is why I shouldn't be in charge of these things.

Did you know we run two events in November? There's NaNoWriMo, which you're already familiar with. And then there's the completely separate Young Writers Program, over at Where kids 12-and-under and K-12 classrooms taking part as a group enjoy their own private creative mayhem. Authors in the YWP get to pick their own word counts, and they receive extensive curriculum, activities, games, YWP participant and winner certificates, private forums, and a VIP lounge for teachers. We also mail a free poster, progress chart, button pack, and sticker bundle to the classrooms to help incite noveling in the students. The whole thing has gone a little bonkers in the last couple years, growth-wise. Last year, we had 15,000 kids and teens take part. That number will likely double this year.

That’s the very good news. The bad news is that we don't have enough money to host NaNoWriMo and the Young Writers Program and continue our Libraries in Southeast Asia project.

Donating 50% of our net proceeds from donations and merchandise sales so Room to Read can build libraries on our behalf has given thousands of kids in Cambodia, Laos, and Vie tnam the chance to fall in love with reading. But now we want to take the next step, and help kids around the world fall in love with writing. And to do that, we need to start putting 100% of our resources into our own programs.

Happily, Room to Read is doing great. They were a tiny start-up when we first met them, but they've since mushroomed into a global philanthropic powerhouse, raising over $1,000,000 per month in donations. Go Room to Read!

Since becoming a nonprofit ourselves last year, we've struggled to find the funds we need to keep the doors open and servers humming year-round for NaNoWriMo, Script Frenzy, Young Writers Programs. With every dollar as precious as it is, we want to focus the donations we receive on what we do best: Hosting life-changing writing adventures for kids and adults.

We hope you'll join us in that goal by making a donation to NaNoWriMo when the site opens in October. We also hope that those who loved our L ibraries in Southeast Asia project will continue to support Room to Read directly through their website,

So true. So true.See you on the site in October!



So, there’s the long and the short of it. For your convenience, Gentle Writer, I have the link listed under Evil Chicken’s Favorite Places. I hope you consider it and all of its organized chaos – it’s a challenge but I know it can be done.

So get to it! November’s not that far away (believe it or not).

Monday, September 17, 2007

All That You Can’t Leave Behind

…No – not just the title of U2’s tenth album… This thought occurred to me tonight while I was flipping burgers in the dark on a picnic table.

BTW –, and I don’t say this lightly or boastfully, my burgers ROCK.

Any way and back on topic… the thought occurred to me just what are the things that I can’t leave behind? What are the things that I cannot do without at this juncture in time? Make no mistake, time has a way of making what is so important now into piles of flotsam and jet some in the near to near future – future. Dare I say the dual processor laptop that you treasure will be obsolete next week? Pssh, but you know that already… It’s just the way of things.

Things. That’s almost all they are, right – souvenirs of moments past – reminders of another time in which you happened to share between the moment and yourself. Hey, I’m not pointing fingers; Lord knows I’ve got ‘em too. Believe me it doesn’t take too long to look around the room that I’m typing this in and realize the Evil Chicken’s has a weird collection of things around him while he writes. It’s true. I do. The oddities that surround me have only significance to me. If you were to ask me why I had a certain item here in the Chicken’ s Roost I’d probably tell you but you would quickly lose interest. Therefore, I will not bore you with the rest of the gory details. Many of the oddities around me are completely selfish in nature, like the rock from Centralia PA or the one I found on the Appalachian Trial here in North Jersey (did you know that there is about 75 miles of the AT here in New Jersey, Gentle Reader? Well, I’ve climbed that mountain and the only souvenir that I took was a rock. Amazing experience – you should try it, BTW.)

So, like I said, as I was flipping burgers this very evening, the thought occurred to me that they were all just things; material goods that only I know the significance or value of. That’s it, nothing more. When I’m gone my children will all say Dad was crazy for the things that he collected - and they will be right. Let’s cut to the point here; as I look around this room and consider the things that I would want to save in case Rancho Del Evil Chicken is hit by a meteor I come up with this quick list…

1. The compass from the Half Shell, my father’s boat. Why? – It was dad’s boat - all I have now is the compass.

2. My NCC-1701 Enterprise ornament from Hallmark. Why? – Well it was the only present I received the year that Mother Hen and I first got an apartment together. I got her a coffee grinder.

3. My “Raiders of the Lost Ark” one sheet. Why? – It’s one of my favorite movies of all time and Mother Hen gave it to me.

4. The Size Chart hanging on my door. Why? – I can see how much my children have grown over the years. I would hate to lose this.

5. My framed and autographed Weird NJ issue 25. Why? – I’m in it and it was the second time that I met the Marks (Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman that is).

6. My framed and autographed Peter Laird issue of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Volume II, Number 1. Why? – As I told the man himself back in 2003, the guy's an amazing success story and illustrates to me what can be accomplished with a little imagination and hard work.

7. My burlap Griffin. Huh? – I won it by putting a cross bolt arrow through the heart of another griffin all the while being told by people who knew me that I couldn’t do it. It’s a keeper.

8. The external hard drive downstairs. This one has ALL the pictures.

9. My postcard collection. Why? – Well I’ve been to some nice spots (by my reckoning) and have amassed an interesting collection of postcards along the way. I’d hate to see ‘em go.

10. My laptop would be nice but I’ve got everything backed up off property anyway. If the meteor hits Evil Chicken’s nest I’ll be up in no time; novels, screenplays, short stories, blogs and writings will be intact. At the end of the day, Gentle Reader, things are all they are – most of which only having significance to yours truly. I’d be quite happy knowing that the Three Chicks, Mother Hen and yours truly were safe. I just thought it would be fun to share the short list.

So, what are the things that you would take with you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 – Six Years Hence

It was a beautiful day. I was at work at a cube farm that I had just transferred to, sitting in a sterile conference room when a lady passes through and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. “How big a plane?” I asked. I had a passing thought about that small plane that hit the Empire State Building about 50 years ago.

“Oh, I don’t know.” She answered, “Pretty weird, huh?” She shuffled out the door on her way to make a batch of copies for some unknown file somewhere.

There were no TVs inside the cube farm. Radio reception was spotty at best so I left the conference room and sought out a friend of mine who I knew was a news junkie and man of all media (let’s call him Pax Romano). Pax was attempting to get a decent signal from his radio by adjusting the antenna and dial. He must have sensed my presence. He glanced over his shoulder and asked, “Do you believe this?”

“What do you got?” I asked as the two of us huddled around his radio. He began explaining what had happened, that it wasn’t a small plane – that it didn’t sound like an accident. I remember that another co-worker and friend (let’s call her Zelda Parker) joined us at his cube she was one of the people training me in my new position. The three of us heard the announcement that a second plane had hit the other tower. The creeping fear that this was an attack instead of an accident was confirmed in our minds. We just stared at each other with looks of disbelief on our faces as we listened on.

I had to retrieve my work from the conference room and rendezvoused over at Zelda Parker’s cubical. She too had a small radio and had managed to find a decent signal. I called my wife, Mother Hen waking her up in the process. I told her to turn on the television and brought her up to speed on the unfolding events. I needed to talk to her just to touch base with some constant in my life. I told her that I loved her and went back to listening to the radio with Zelda. We listened to anything we could – desperately gathering information as it came over the radio. Mother Hen called and told me that the Pentagon had been hit. I passed this along to Zelda. Once more I told my wife that I loved her and returned to listening to the radio with Zelda. We heard that United 93 went down somewhere in PA and we were there listening when the first tower fell. “This is not good.” Zelda said.

I looked at her, agreeing without saying anything. “Zelda, I’ve got to find a television. I’m going to Wal-Mart.” I said. The Wal-Mart was across the street. And that’s what I did. When I exited the cube farm I looked skyward and was struck by the fact that there was nothing to be seen. No air traffic whatsoever. It was all shut down – from coast to coast.

The world would never again be the same.

Wal-Mart failed me. They did not have any live feed in the store. The first video that I saw was later in the afternoon while Zelda and I were at a field visit down in Wildwood Crest. We stared in slack jawed and terrible wonder.

Certain moments in time always have resonance; the Kennedy assassination the space shuttle blowing up and 9/11. They are part of our shared collective unconscious. 9/11 should never be forgotten. 3,000 lives ended that day in the only attack on American soil in my lifetime. Blind agendas, no matter what they claim to be, are dangerous. Osama Bin Laden has friends – that’s why he hasn’t been captured or killed. There are people out there actively planning what the where’s, why’s and how’s of the next attack will be. Life in the twenty-first century now means being ready (or at least as ready as possible). Always being vigilant and walking around with one’s eyes open has become one of our most important defenses. It pays to be observant these days.

So on this anniversary I humbly whisper a prayer for the future and remember three thousand people who were just going about their everyday business on 9/11, six years prior only to be murdered by the madness of a blind agenda of hatred spawned half a world away. …Everyday people like you and I Gentle Reader – just like you and I. Who knew that we were so hated, so feared? I didn’t. I do now but prior to 9/11, I was blissfully unaware of the many thousands of people who were plotting to kill me – me; a humble infidel – no not a person or human being with thoughts or feelings or aspirations mind you – an infidel. Infidels are easier to kill than human beings are. It’s less messy that way – after being indoctrinated and everything.

Que Sara Sara. We live in interesting times, Gentle Reader; interesting times indeed. Enough about psyche; this blog is about memorializing a moment in time.

…So where were you when the towers fell?

Monday, September 10, 2007


They couldn’t have chosen a better Tony Stark.

It is a good time to be a geek.