April 27, 2015

Coffee Cup…Butts?

My nephew Luther, who lives in Chicago, is a really creative, ingenious, and funny guy. I love him a lot and follow his interests with great interest because they’re always so interesting. Like his handmade Christmas cards. Like his recent project to build a motorized volume control for his antique Marantz receiver [for those of you who don’t know what a receiver is, click here]. But I am not here to tell you about his retrofitted volume control, but to pass along another of his interests more in keeping with our own: coffee. Specifically coffee cup butts. Yes, you read that correctly. Luther has discovered the coffee equivalent of tea leaves. It hardly makes sense for me to attempt to describe what a coffee cup butt is. You’ll have to find out for yourself my clicking…

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April 25, 2015

Book Review: A Hoarse Half-Human Cheer

It was Peter Dexter who wrote, “Keep in mind that a book that entertains without enlightening can still be a guilty pleasure, but a book that enlightens without entertaining is algebra.” Joseph [X.J.] Kennedy’s delightful A Hoarse Half-Human Cheer is, admittedly, intended to entertain, yet it enlightens in being a period piece – après-guerre America, circa 1946 – foreshadowing the sprawling modern era in this country with wit, humor and irony. After you finish re-reading Heller’s “Catch-22,” this is the novel you should begin. Young Moon Gogarty is the book’s Candide, trying to deal with his stultified feelings after having lost his first love to his mortician grandmother, just as he’s about to begin his studies at the infamous College of Saint Cassian of Imola. He’s thrust into a community of 4,500 older men who’ve…

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April 17, 2015

People, Places and Things I Know on Twitter – NOT!

Why do I get these completely random Twitter notifications about people, places and things I don’t know, would never wish to know, and confound my sense of what’s spam? This is ridiculous. Google does a better job of targeting me with adverts that are at least within my interests or peer group[s]. Call it machine intelligence. Naw, call it machine irrelevance. The computer version of robocalls. And yeah, I know I can log into my account and change my preferences, but clicking the garbage can icon is quicker and more satisfying. Twitter Goes BIRDBRAINED! Tweet! Tweet! Wheeeeeeee!

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March 14, 2015

About the Podcasts

We think podcasts of books are the audio format of the future. Last year, we presented our founding barista’s novel, Wild Blue Yonder, and some other fictional works and old-time radio dramas in downloadable audio files. Jack’s been a DJ and media nut most of his life, so you never know what he’s gonna podcast next. OUR NEW PODCAST This week, we begin the new podcast series of Jack’s second novel, Madrone. It’s the second volume in the Nathaniel Hawthorne Flowers story, and it’s received rave reviews from readers. Now you can listen to it here. We’ll publish one chapter a week for the next 24 weeks. The podcast is read by Leonard Mailloux, a lifelong radio broadcaster and broadcast writing practitioner. Len is Senior Faculty in the Communications Department at Simmons College. Sound engineering by Walking…

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December 23, 2014

The Sketchbooks of Jonathan Shih

Jonathan Shih lives in Taipei, Taiwan, although he lived for many years in the U.S., mostly in New York, where he earned his MBA and worked in finance.  You cannot say he has retired, for his interests and activities keep him busy every day. A prime activity is his art. He carries a sketchbook wherever he goes. We met up in a beef noodle restaurant on TaoYuan Street in Taipei. [BTW, the beef noodle soup was exceptional!] Jonathan arrived with three sketchbooks under his arm, and I had to know what they were all about. He told me these three were just for the past few weeks – he regularly fills four to five sketchbooks a month. Clearly, art is his passion. I began browsing through the sketchbooks and quickly decided we should feature his work here at…

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December 13, 2014

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot, I Can’t Breathe, Die-In Demonstrations

  The country is experiencing demonstrations across the country to protest police killing unarmed black people with alacrity. We, as a culture, seem to have reached a tipping point. “To Protect and Serve” as been besmirched by Michael Brown’s “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and Eric Garner’s “I Can’t Breathe.” Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice never even got a chance to surrender. We know what’s going on and we know it needs to change. People are speaking out, staging “die-ins” to express their concern [and of course being arrested for it by the police]. I raise my voice and concern and support by sharing this song, “Why Can’t We Live Together” by Diana King with Kyle Eastwood. For me, it says it all, and I know the artists feel the same. I hope you will, too. Jack From the…

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December 11, 2014

365 Docobites Gets Kickstarted!

    We’re pleased to tell you that Epiphany Morgan and Carl Mason, the videographers we featured a few days ago https://www.fictionalcafe.com/sharing-their-stories-with-the-world/#.VIodBYrF_Do], have met their Kickstarter goal, raising almost $5,000 in just a few days. We would like to think you played a part in this happening. Here’s their message to all of us: Thank you! We are thrilled to announce we have reached our initial target of 17K! We want to thank every single person who pledged or shared the campaign with their friends and family as we simply would not have been able to continue sharing these human stories without each and every one of you. So with 7 days to go, what’s next? Our Stretch Goal! We have been keeping in touch with the amazing photographer from Humans Of Amsterdam, Debra, ever…

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December 9, 2014

Sharing Their Stories With The World

We baristas believe in stories, and especially in storytellers. That’s why we do what we do here at Fictional Cafe, and why we’re excited to share the story of two video documentary storytellers with you. Two intrepid Australian storytellers, Epiphany Morgan and Carl Mason, have been traveling the world to create 365 mini-documentaries in 365 days. Their project is called 36docobites  and you ought to take a look. These people not only have an ingenious and deeply human project underway, but are creating the most amazing video stories with people from all around the world. We want to help them, and we thought you might want to as well. They have a campaign on Kickstarter and not many days to reach their goal. If you can kick in [yep!] some help, please do. There are a…

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December 6, 2014

“War and Peace” Reading Group is Now Reading!

On October 27, we posted a message about starting a Goodreads group to read a book few, if any, would undertake without some external motivation: War and Peace  by Leo Tolstoy [The Louise and Aylmer Maude translation]. My friend David Bond suggested creating a Goodreads group to read it together, and I heartily joined in sponsorship and the read. [I think my copy has been sitting on my bookshelves for about 40 years.] We’re proud to announce our group of eight people officially began reading December 1. One of us was so excited he finished in 24 days, in November. You can be sure we’re going to have questions for him! Few would dispute this is a masterpiece, and many believe it to be the greatest novel ever written. Others suggest it represented a major shift in…

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