Goodbye, Champagne Charlie

Memory Lane

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Leon Redbone, one of my all-time favorite vocalists, died about a week ago at the age of 69. I first heard his voice when I was a teenager, and my friends and I thought he was the greatest thing since peanut butter and jelly.

Redbone enjoyed a cult celebrity throughout the 70s and 80s, appearing often on Saturday Night Live and the The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was a true oddity in the pop era I grew up in, bending and twisting the musical styles of ragtime and the 20s and 30s into something all his own and strangely enchanting. He found a dedicated following of fans who kept him performing right up until a few years ago, when he retired for health reasons.

He was truly a mystery man. Very little is known about his life or childhood beyond his “discovery” by Bob Dylan at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1972. I’ve added a link to the documentary film about Redbone, Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, a 15-minute treasure from Riddle Films well worth watching, and a link to some footage of him strumming through “Shine On Harvest Moon” in Nashville, TN, 2014, near the end of his career. 

If you’ve never encountered Mr. Redbone, you’ll likely be somewhat flabbergasted by his music and performance style. I’m the first to admit he’s an acquired taste. But once acquired, you’ll want to listen to everything he’s ever recorded.

I’m sorry that I must say goodbye to this unique talent, who taught me so much about art, style, and voice during my impressionable youth. His passing leaves me with the hollow sadness one feels upon losing an old friend you wish you’d gotten to know better. I tip my hat to you, Champagne Charlie.

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Iris Murdoch on love, justice and truth

Nick-Di-smI love it when philosophy and literature walk into a bar together, and I’m a great admirer of the existentialists. I don’t know a lot about Iris Murdoch, but I look forward to reading this book, especially her take on Plato.

Phil Ebersole's Blog

I recently read Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature, a collection of philosophical writings by the late Iris Murdoch from 1951 to 1986.

I bought the book because I enjoyed her novels, although I admit don’t remember the plots of any of them clearly, and because of praise of her by Matthew Crawford, author of The World Beyond Your Head, which I admire and which I am re-reading as part of a reading group.

I admire Murdoch as a thinker, but there is much more in her thought than I could absorb in one reading.

What follows are ideas I took away from reading this book, which may or may not represent her thought.

One idea that, in order to perceive reality as it is, you must cleanse your mind of egotism and wish-fulfillment fantasy, which are the source of illusion.

This is true not only of…

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New Nick Story in March 2019 Galaxy’s Edge

NickGE3-19I’m happy to announce that my short story “The Sin-Eaters” has landed in the March 2019 issue of Galaxy’s Edge. This is another original Italian folktale in my Il Villaggio di Ombre series.

For a short time, the story is available online, along with great fiction by Orson Scott Card, Joe Haldeman, and others, and columns by Gregory Benford and Robert J. Sawyer

Thanks to the fine folks at Galaxy’s Edge — Mike Resnick, Taylor Morris, and Shahid Mahmud — who have consistently published a fascinating mix of science fiction and fantasy stories every odd month since 2013. You can purchase digital or paper subscriptions and buy individual issues directly from the Galaxy’s Edge website. Enjoy!

And remember, Reading Is Fundamental.

Winter Wonders and Spiritual Blunders

Discover (or Rediscover) the Joy of Wonder

This month, I invite you to celebrate your sense of wonder with one of the best books I’ve read all year, Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. In fact, it took me all year to read it. Not because it wasn’t wonderful. It was! But rather, it’s one of those books that taps so deeply into the creative process you’ll want to read it slowly, in bits and pieces, and not necessarily in chapter order. This book is far more than an instructional manual for writers. Its highly visual presentation celebrates the writer’s wandering and wild mind and our need, as imaginative thinkers, to be both artistically free and disciplined. In keeping with the holiday season, I’ll call it a nutcracker for the analytical brain. A great Christmas gift for yourself or the creative writer in your family. Or me, for that matter, since I borrowed it from a friend, and now I have to return it. Interesting note: By the time I finally finished reading the book, the publisher released a revised and expanded edition

(Rating: Delightfully Mind-Blowing!)

Upstate NY is a Great Place for Stark Landscapes and Bleak Stories

I oughta know. I grew up there. And Christmas is a fine time of year to perseverate over God, religion, faith, what we believe in, and why we believe it. So, in the spirit of self-examination, I’m recommending a super depressing little indie drama called First Reformed, released earlier this year, starring Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried. I loved the way the movie began as one thing, stumbled into something weirdly awkward, and then rolled headlong into the entirely unexpected. Hawke plays the reverend Ernst Toller, a deeply troubled man, running away from his tortured past, only to discover that his past and God are both conspiring to destroy him. It takes a perfect storm of inner and outer conflict, and a fair bit of coincidence, to trip this guy’s wire, but it’s a helluva trip. This is not a holiday movie by any means, but I invite you to take a step back from the consumerism of the season and watch this film. Think about where you fall on the spectrum of hope and despair, which I think is what this movie is really all about. You can view it for free on Amazon Prime. Interesting note: Don’t be too disappointed that Hawke’s stylish movie-poster goatee does not appear in the film. 

(Rating: Break Out the Jim Beam!)

Yoga and Aliens

September 2018 has given me two great books to remember. One of them, Annex, is by my super talented science fiction pal Rich Larson.

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The yoga book from DK has some surprisingly good vegetarian recipes and dietary advice in the back, along with tips on breathing and meditation. Like most yoga books I find, I try not to let all the poses I can’t do depress me. : /

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Find il mio amico Rich Larson on tumblr!

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Nerding Out at MegaCon TB

MegaCon Tampa Bay 2018.

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With fellow fantasy panelists and authors Jeff Morris, Jen Paquette, and Sarah N. Fisk.

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Me and Tiffany Razzano, the energetic brain behind Wordier Than Thou,

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With way-cool artist John Giang of Orbital Harvest.

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Trying to look James T. Kirk-serious on the full-scale Enterprise bridge from Stage 9 Studios.

Me and Lee!

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Lucky Break!
I met my favorite mystery author Lee Child at the Vinoy in downtown St. Pete this past weekend. He was there for the World Mystery Convention, Bouchercon 2018. I wasn’t attending the conference, but I was meeting a couple of my pals for lunch, and I spotted him in the lobby just hanging around. I turned into a total fanboy and told him how much my dad and I loved his books. He was incredibly gracious. He even agreed to this photo. What a great guy! Thank you, Lee Child. : )