Monday, December 31, 2007
I haven't read the strip on a regular basis the last few years, but I did send off for an autographed copy of "The Best of Tumbleweeds" awhile back and I suggest you do the same at
http://www.tumbleweeds.com/index.html. Good stuff. Thanks, Tom.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I found this one in a new way. Previously I've purchased books just because I liked the cover. (This is how I discovered Russell Hoban, one of my favorite writers; there was just something I couldn't resist about the several-shades-of-red hosiery on the cover of "Her Name Was Lola.") I've also purchased books because I liked the title. "The Time-Traveler's Wife" is my all-time, better-than-Dickens, better-than-Twain favoritest favorite book ever, and I picked it up even though I hated the cover, cuz I loved the title.
The website where I waste the most time nowadays is Bookmooch.com, where you can give your old books a new home and replace them with books you desire. Even when none of the books on my extensive wishlist is available, I like to mess around on Bookmooch, seeing what books other people who like some of the same books I like are reading or searching for. And that's how I found Marina Lewycka's "A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian." Somebody who liked Jonathan Carroll or Russell Hoban or George Saunders or Harlan Ellison or "The Time-Traveler's Wife" or "Horton Hatches the Egg" had this book on their wishlist and because I have given away a lot of books and consequently have a lot of points, I mooched it.
It's the story of an elderly, recently-widowed Ukranian man living in England who falls under the charms of a big, blonde, fake-breasted Ukranian woman. His grown daughters who don't agree on much agree that they need to save dear old Dad from this dangerous gold-digger. This book never loses its light, sure touch even when we discover that the sisters' animosity toward each other has much to do with the Nazi concentration camps that Mom and Dad (barely) survived.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
In this graphic novel Gene Luen Yang tells three separate stories -- one about the Chinese Monkey God and his rejection by other Gods and attempts to remake himself, another about a shy Chinese boy in America and the third about a kid named Danny with an embarrassing -- to say the elast -- cousin named Chin-Kee, who is the living embodiment of every unpleasant Oriental stereotype ever. Amazingly, by the time the book ends all three stories have entwined and become one, and somewhere along the line we've learned how important it to be yourself.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Dan Fogelberg is no longer with us. He died of prostate cancer this morning. I had the honor of interviewing Dan a few years ago when he came to Charleston, and I can honestly say that it was the most enjoyable interview I've ever done. He was a lot of fun to talk to. He had just turned 50 when we talked and he told me he was thinking of hanging up the guitar and becoming a painter. The half-century mark was a good time to change careers, according to him. I'm sorry he didn't get a chance to do so. If he was half as good a painter as he was a singer-songwriter he'd have been a heck of a painter.
Biography was my first literary love and I read every single one of them on the shelves of Jackson-Davis Elementary School in Richmond Virginia, but somewhere along the line fiction stole my heart and I read very few biographies anymore. But I do read everything Bill Bryson writes whether it's about travel ("In a Sunburned Country" "I'm a Stranger Here Myself") linguistics ("The Mother Tongue") or everything else ("A Short History of Everything") so I was glad to get my hands on his biography of William Shakespeare. There are a ton of books written about Big Bill Shakespeare -- more than there are about Jesus or Abe Lincoln -- even though we know very little about his life. One scholar said that "Every Shakespeare biography is 5 per cent facts and 95 per cent conjecture." So Bryson tells us more about the life and times of an Elizabethan actor, so we get to see the world through Shakespeare's eyes.
Russell Hoban is one of my favorite writers, but I'm not sure what to make of his "Linger Awhile." An octogenarian falls in love with a long-dead 1950's B-movie actress. With the help of some friends he succeeds in bringing her image to life but she's black and white in a full-color world and she becomes a vampire, and they clone a second one who also goes around sucking blood. There's at least one love story in here -- no, there's at least three love stories here -- along with some great lines and observations from Hoban, but it's not one of my favorites of his.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007
My grandma and your grandma
Were sittin' by the fire.
My grandma told your grandma:
"I'm gonna set your flag on fire."
And if rhyming "fire" with "fire" and two old ladies threatening each other with flag desecration sounds bad, watch what happens when the Cups turn the violence level up in verse two:
Look at my king all dressed in red.
Iko, Iko, unday.
I betcha five dollars he'll kill you dead.
Jockamo fee nané
Damn. In verse three they get lazy and repeat verse one, only this time they substitute "flagboy" for "Grandma." Really that's the only difference.
Then in verse four, they turn from violence to sex:
See that guy all dressed in green ?
Iko, Iko, unday. He's not a man;
He's a lovin' machine.
Jockamo fee nané.
According to Wikipedia, this song's been covered by everybody from The Grateful Dead to Cyndi Lauper. I wonder why. It's not near as good as "Cinderella dressed in yella."
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
It's day 5 of NaNoMoDiSoMo and so far, so good. I'm substituting tea -- hot tea in the morning or on those few days where it's cold enough to drink hot tea in the afternoon, and Honest Tea at other times. Honest tea is not cheap, but it's good and not too sweet like a lot of iced teas are, especially here in the South. Plus there's those cool quotes on the bottlecap from people like Swami Beyondananda ("The bad news: there is no key to the universe. The good news: it was never locked") and Mohandas Gandhi ("An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind") and Winnie the Pooh's friend Eeyore ("Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.")
Monday, December 03, 2007
Jonathan Carroll's last two books "White Apples" and "Glass Soup" are two of my favorite books ever. Before he wrote those two, I found his work fascinating but frustrating. Too often he would set up a mind-boggling premise but peter out to nothing when it came time to explain what was going on. "Bones of the Moon" is one of his earlier works that I missed, and I have to say it has a strong ending. What it doesn't have is a compelling middle. A woman spends a lot of time in a dream kingdom with the child that she aborted years ago, helping him to find the bones of the moon, relics that will help the child defeat the evil lord of this kingdom. When the dream land starts to spill over into "real" life it's pretty scary, but a lot of the quest stuff just reads like bad fantasy. If you haven't read Carroll, you're missing out, but read "White Apples" first. If that doesn't blow you away, you can skip all the "books I've read" blog entries of mine. Our tastes are too different and we are never going be book buddies.
I read William Kotzwinke's brilliant satire "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" awhile back and enjoyed it very much. In searching on Bookmooch.com for more Kotzwinkle I came across this one. Walter is a dog with a gas problem, he is much beloved by the children in his household, though not by the father, who sells him at a yard sale. Unfortunately he sells him to an evil clown who hooks Walter up to a fart machine, forcing Walter to fill up balloons with his noxious emissions. He then uses these balloons to rob a bank by popping them and knocking tellers and security guards out with the aroma. I know my sense of humor is not very sophisticated and I'm not ashamed to tell you that this book cracked me up. It goes on my shelf of books that I plan to read to my as-yet-unborn grandchildren.
(Speaking of Bookmooch.com, it's a great website to find good homes for books you no longer love and for finding new books to love. Check out my wishlist here and if you've got any of them let's start trading.)
Even though I know it's a mistake for me to read too much of one writer's work in a short period of time, I enjoyed David Nicholl's "Starter For Ten" so much I read "The Understudy" immediately afterwards. Even though this usually makes a writer's flaws too obvious, I actually enjoyed "The Understudy" more, maybe because I like it when the hapless hero actually gets the obviously-inappropriate girl.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
One of the problems I had with reading the Bible was trying to reconcile the god of the Old Testament -- that cranky old man who would not only smite your ass if you violated one of his arbitrary edicts, but the ass of the 7th son of your 7th son -- with the living embodiment of love that Jesus called God. I mean, it's no wonder that people didn't believe the Prince of Peace when he said that God is Love. They knew he was the kind of guy that would butcher innocent children for teasing a bald man. My wife says she always thought parenthood mellowed the old curmudgeon god, but I still had my doubts.
Well, I think that problem has now been solved for me. Remember a while back when the National Geographic made a big splash out of the discovery of the lost gospel of Judas Iscariot, which painted Judas in a very flattering light? April D. DeConick, a professor of Biblical studies at Rice University and the author of “The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says” says that National Geographic, in a rush to get the story out first, did a pretty crappy job of translating the lost gospel. You can read all about it here. Quoting from the NY Times article:
Judas is a specific demon called the “Thirteenth.” In certain Gnostic traditions, this is the given name of the king of demons — an entity known as Ialdabaoth who lives in the 13th realm above the earth. Judas is his human alter ego, his undercover agent in the world. These Gnostics equated Ialdabaoth with the Hebrew Yahweh, whom they saw as a jealous and wrathful deity and an opponent of the supreme God whom Jesus came to earth to reveal.
I am not all that concerned with whether Judas was a saint, a sinner or a demon, but I think the Gnostics are really onto something with that Yahweh as a jealous and wrathful minor deity and not at all the God of love and forgiveness that Jesus was talking about.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Now we know:
|Your IQ Is 130|
Your Logical Intelligence is Below Average
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Exceptional
Your General Knowledge is Exceptional
Thursday, November 29, 2007
And it's not as though I didn't make any progress in novel writing. For one thing I decided I'd rather write a Jack B. Goode novel than the YA thing I was working on. I'm thinking about turning that into a novella.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
And sometimes it's actually something about me, as when this very astute Texas blogger quotes me on the subject of classic country or rock songs being used to shill product. He even links to one of my favorite Country Standard Time columns:
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The Nearness That Is All
by Samuel Hazo
Love's what Shakespeare never
said by saying, "You have
bereft me of all words, lady."
Love is the man who siphoned
phlegm from his ill wife's throat
three times a day for seven
Love's what the Arabs
mean when they bless those
with children: "May God keep them
Or why a mother
whispers to her suckling, "May you
Love's how the ten-year
widow speaks of her buried
husband in the present tense.
Love lets the man with one leg
and seven children envy no man
living and none dead.
leaves no one alone but, oh,
lonely, lonelier, loneliest
at midnight in another country.
Love is jealousy's mother
Love's how death
creates a different nearness
but kills nothing.
makes lovers rise from each
loving wanting more.
says impossibility's possible
Love saddens glad
days for no bad reason.
Love gladdens sad days
for no good reason.
One of my favorite comic book artists is Jaime Hernandez, he of the brilliant "Love and Rockets" All I can tell you about the genius of Jaime is that every time I go to meet a creator or get an autograph at a comic book convention, I inevitably end up behind some dork who's prattling on and on about how much he loves the artist's work and is getting a stack of comics a yard or two high signed. I hate this guy, but when I met Jaime at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland I turned into that guy for the first and only time -- gushing on and on about the brilliance of Love and Rockets and forcing Jaime to sign everything he'd ever doodled and pissing off the people in line behind me.
So you know I love this: Jaime Hernandez has done a poster for Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour and it is a thing of beauty. He's even incorporated all of the opening "It's nighttime in the big city" bits. Check it out here.
And if you like that, you should definitely check out this -- somebody turned that poster into a movie.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I'm not so sure how academically excellent this school was. I mean they can't even spell the word "ninth".
But you could learn there, I guess. June Skipper, besides being the girl that every guy in that school lusted after, knew the difference between "who" and "whom."
Friday, November 16, 2007
Toilet Paper. I won't wipe my bum with anything other than Charmin Ultra. I take a roll or two with me everywhere I go -- even to expensive hotels. Charmin Ultra is not my favorite toilet paper of all-time (That would be the original White Cloud) but it is the best being manufactured today.
Petroleum. I buy Citgo. Not because I think it's better, but because I'd rather my money go to poor people in Venezuala than to obscenely-rich-but-still-greedy-for-more soulless bastards like Dick Cheney. And even if it doesn't go to the poor in that country, if it goes to prop up Hugo Chavez's socialist government, that's fine too. I think capitalism like every other form of government has a limited shelf-life and has reached its expiration date in the USA. Let's try something else.
Lip balm. Chapstick of course. What else are you going to use? Chap-et?
Shaving Cream. Edge Gel. I've tried everything else. Just recently I tried the new Gillette Fusion Hydra-Gel. Nothing's as good as Edge.
Tennis shoes. New Balance. Mainly because I have mega-wide feet and New Balance is the only shoe that always has extra-wide sizes available.
Baked beans. Bush's. This is the only thing named Bush that I am in favor of.
I'm sure there are more, but I can't think of any right now. There are other things that I'm brand-loyal about but I buy so little of the product it's hardly worth elaborating on. I mean I wouldn't buy any kind of prune juice other than Sunsweet, but I only buy like three bottles a year. I used to be an oatmeal snob and only bought Quaker, but now the store brand suits me fine. I used to buy only Rosarita refried beans but the only store in my neck of the woods that carried it stopped carrying it, so now I buy anything other than Old El Paso, which I'm boycotting.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Friday, November 02, 2007
I've been playing fantasy baseball for 5 years now and this is my first championship. I know it's geeky as hell, but I'm seriously considering buying and displaying this.
Still at it. Did just about the same number of words today as yesterday, and I now have 2,065 words in the books, so to speak. I'm in good shape for tomorrow too, as I know what's going to happen next and am looking forward to learning what happens after that.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
I wrote 1,028 words, a little shy of the NaNoWriMo goal of 1,666, but my goal is an hour of writing and I did that. And the day's not over. Who knows, I might have another 638 words in me. I also learned a few things about some of the characters -- like the guy I thought was some kind of genius is actually more of an idiot savant. And I know what I'm going to write about tomorrow, or at least I know what I'm going to start writing about. And we got a great pep talk from one of my favorite writers, Tom Robbins. So all in all I'd say Day One was a success.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
And I got up early because I realized I had no idea what I was going to write about on Thursday. You see, I was sort of planning to . . . well, not really cheat, more like use all my resources. About 20 years ago I wrote a couple of young adult books, and I was planning to finally get back to one or the other of them and see what I could do with them. They're not publishable as they are, but I figured it was better than starting with a blank white page. But which book? Maybe I should combine the two. Or chuck it all and start fresh. So I got up to write an outline and got as far as a list of characters. I won't be combining the two books but I am going to steal the female protagonist from one and insert her into the book I've chosen to work on. I think she'll be happier there.
But I still wasn't sure where to start, so I went for a walk at lunch, cuz I remember from the days when I used to be in the habit of writing that good ideas come when you're doing something else -- washing dishes, shaving, walking around by the harbor. And it worked. Tomorrow I will start writing on a section of the book that I have never worked on before. I still don't have an outline, so I'm not sure where this scene will go. But in reading over some of the stuff I had stashed away I wasn't satisfied with some aspects of the main character's "voice." So I want to write him fresh and then see if I can incorporate some of the best stuff from the original version.
One bad thing about walking around and thinking of something else especially if you live in Charleston SC where you can't walk a block without hitting some colonial-era, lumpy-ass cobblestone street, is that it's easy to fall down. And I did, I fell and bruised up my right knee pretty good. I wanted to include a quote about writing in each blog entry during NaNoWriMo, and the one I've selected for today is not about writing, but it is from Hemingway, it's one of my all-time favorite quotes and it seems apt, and hey, technically it's not NaNoWriMo yet.
"The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are stronger at the broken places."
One Halloween note, my boss hated the Superman shirt, of course, and we did the dialogue we do -- word for word -- every year on All Hallow's Eve.
Boss: Where's your uniform?
Me: It's Halloween and I'm Superman.
Boss: Oh, I didn't know we were playing Halloween this year.
Me: I play every year.
He can't do anything about because the corporation allows its wage slaves a chance for levity and self-expression this one day, so he has to find something else to get upset about. And I guess it shows what a model employee I am that the only thing he could find was a few rubber bands hanging off the gear shift in our company truck. Here's how that conversation went:
Boss: What are these rubber bands doing here?
Me: (entirely innocently) Nothing. Just hanging around.
Boss: Yes, I know, but why are they hanging here?
Me: No idea.
I don't know. I think I probably need to polish up that last line iif this conversation's ever going to become an annual tradition too.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I bought a stack of Uncle Scrooge comics by the great Carl Barks to hand out to trick-or-treaters. My wife said you better give 'em some candy too so the little hellions don't egg our house. So, come see us tomorrow night. You'll get graphic goodness and something to make your teeth ache too.
After that is when the real fun begins. November is National Novel Writing Month -- or NaNoWriMo -- and you can read more about it and sign up to participate here. The goal is to write a full-length novel in a month. It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be 175 pages. There's lot of encouragement available at the website including pep talks from the likes of Neil Gaiman and Tom Robbins. From the website:
What is NaNoWriMo?
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.
As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.
In 2006, we had over 79,000 participants. Nearly 13,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.
So, to recap:
What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.
Who: You! We can't do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.
When: Sign-ups begin October 1, 2007. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.
I'm signed up and going for it, but 50,000 words is a secondary goal for me. My main goal is to write for at least for an hour a day and hopefully get into the habit of doing so. I'm also hoping to not write crap. An hour a day doesn't sound like much, but with a full-time job -- actually fuller than fulltime; I'll probably be working six days a week this month -- a houseful of teenagers, a wife, a cat that needs nigh-constant chin scratching, and an epileptic shar-pei, I'll be hard pressed to find sixty minutes a day.
(By the way, if you're an eccentric millionaire blog-browser and you want to finance my novel, I'll quit my job, buy the cat one of these and write fulltime. I'll even dedicate the book to you.)
I'll try to keep y'all informed as to how each day's writing goes. If any of you want to join me, I'd love to have you.
Wish me luck -- no, wish me discipline.
But first a lesson in postage:
First class mail 1 oz and under costs 41 cents. Each oz after that costs 17 cents. Oversized mail costs 80 cents for the first ounce and 17 cents for each subsequent ounce. Postcards cost 26 cents. Before the recent postal increase those rates were 39, 39, 24 and 24 cents respectively, so in some ways the increase was actually a decrease, albeit a confusing one.
When I took over running the mailroom, I decided I wanted to keep stamps on stock at all times, so that I could save my fellow wage slaves a trip to the Post Office whenever possible. Not every possible denomination of stamp of course, but enough to handle most common postal needs. Before the rate increase I always kept 39 cent and 26 cent stamps around. (I like having 26 centers around cuz I enter a lot of contests that require postcard entry.) It was easier than when postcards and subsequent ounces both cost the same. Now I only keep 41's and 26's. I don't keep 17's because I have noticed that most people look at them the same way they look at two-dollar bills, id est, as not exactly legal tender. I'll weigh a letter for someone and tell them it's over an ounce so it's going to cost 58 cents. And they'll say, "Okay, I guess that means I'll need to put two 41 cent stamps on here." And I'll say, "Not necessarily, all you need is one 41 cent stamp and one of these spiffy 17 cent stamps."
And they'll look at me as though I've lost my mind, mumble something about how they've never heard of such a thing and put another 41 cent stamp on there -- spending 82 cents when they only had to spend 58. I guess they honestly believe the Post Office assigns certain pieces of mail postage rates that it is impossible for their patrons to hit exactly on the nose.
These are the same spendthrifts who like to empty out their piggy banks to buy a stamp from me. I just want to tell them, hey, if you've got no use for those pennies, what makes you think I do?
Humh, I seemed to have digressed.
But anyway, the other day I got a voice-mail from a co-worker who works in an office about twenty miles away. (The company I work for is spread out all over the state.) She says I sent you (by courier) a letter to be mailed out, would you please weigh it and make sure I put enough postage on there?
I said sure.
I get the letter and it's oversized -- 9 X 12 -- which means it's 80 cents for the first ounce instead of 41. And it's heavy. She had three 41 cents stamps on there. That's not enough. And I'm out of 26 centers, so I e-mail her to say:
Your piece of mail needs $1.82 postage. You have $1.23 on it – so you need 59 cents more. I have a couple stamps here in the mailroom and I’ll be happy to add them to your envelope, but I better get reimbursed with a couple of those hummingbird or bat stamps in the afternoon mail. Deal?
Ok---I’ll send you $.41 ---deal?
I write back:
No deal. You need 59 cents postage so it’s going to take two stamps – or 82cents, but I’d rather have the stamps.
And now she has the gall to say:
Go figure----82 cents is more than .59---what is the additional cents for ---shipping and handling?
At this point I was torn between sending the letter back to her with the couriers, mailing it out with insufficient postage or sending her an I've-really-had-about-enough-of-this-and-I'm-going-to-explain-this-to-you-one-more-time-and-this-time-like-you-were-a-spoiled two-year-old e-mail. I decided on the latter.
And 41 cents is less than 59 cents. I’m having to put stamps on your envelope. I only have 41 cent stamps. If I put one stamp on that’s not enough. Two is 82 cents. If you prefer I’ll ship this thing back to you and you can put a 59 cent stamp on it – assuming you can find such a thing.
And she whips out the ALL CAPS and lets me have this:
OK OK!!!!!!!!!---LET’S NOT GET HUFFY----YOU WILL GET YOUR .82----MY LAST TWO STAMPS---THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO---I DON’T CARE WHAT (your boss) SAYS ABOUT YOU.
True to her word she sent me two stamps -- stapled to a post-it-note that said "Love ya, Loy."
If you love me, don't try to cheat me out of 41 cents when I'm doing you a favor. And don't staple stamps to a post-it note. Post-it notes are sticky already.
Monday, October 29, 2007
I very much enjoyed this comedy from the great William Kotzwinkle. It's a satire of academia and the literary world, but it's also a meditation on what it means to be human. A bear steals a briefcase containing the manuscript to a novel and becomes a media darling. Meanwhile the man it was stolen from becomes more and more ursine, and both seemed pretty pleased with the deal.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
I have a couple of quirks about motion pictures -- well, more than a couple actually, but only two that I want to talk about right now. One is that I almost always stay and watch the final credits -- all of the final credits. I have three reasons for doing this 1.) I believe that the key grip or the best boy is as responsible for the success of the movie I've just seen as the egomaniacs who get their names up on the screen before the movie starts and this is my way of paying my respects to the unsung, 2.) This is a great way to see your next movie for free; most theaters follow a code that does not allow them to start cleaning the theater until everyone is gone, but most theater cleaners don't know this; when they turn on the lights and start cleaning before the credits are over, I find a manager and complain and invariably I get free movie passes. Reason#3.) I will get to in just a second.
My other quirk is summed up in a sentence I uttered to my future-wife when we first started dating. I told her, "There are only three kinds of movies I will go see -- comedies, romances and romantic comedies." And that's true, if a movie's not romantic or funny or preferably both, that movie won't get my $8.50. (Which is also reason #3 as to why I stay and watch the credits -- the kind of movies I go to see affect me and watching the credits gives me a chance to collect myself emotionally.)
So tonight my wife and I had another perfect date. It began with Atlantic salmon encrusted with blue cornmeal and covered with a radish-watermelon glaze, haricot verts, fingerling potatoes and Greek salad at our favorite restaurant, the Mustard Seed. And then we went to the movies and saw a great one, a complex romantic comedy called "Lars and the Real Girl." Lars is an emotionally damaged young man who can not stand to be touched and cannot sustain a relationship with anyone other than a real doll he ordered online. It could have easily turned into a smutty sitcom-like waste of 90 minutes, but thanks to the sure hands of the cast and the director and a great screenplay it became instead a beautiful examination of love and community. There were parts of this film that I know I'll never be able to talk about without tearing up, so you know I stayed and watched the credits. And during those credits I saw something I'd never seen before -- a shout-out to the "honeywagon driver."
The only time I've ever heard the term "honeywagon" it referred to a tanker used to suck up waste matter from porta-potties. A little research online after I got home tells me that a honeywagon can also be a "trailer or truck and trailer combination outfitted for and used as the dressing room for actors when on location". And even though I'd prefer it was the guy vacuuming out the porta-pots getting some recognition, that's probably what was referred to in these movie credits, and that's okay too. At least it's a blue-collar guy.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Just so I don't forget how, I thought I'd blog "Endnotes" by David Sullivan.
A tough puzzle but with a clever payoff that makes the work worthwhile. When you're faced with a toughie, it's best to fall back on the classic rules of puzzle solving. Rule #1 I think is "Fill-in-the-blank clues often give you the best chance of gaining a toehold." That was certainly true here where 41A: "____ Loves Mambo" (PAPA) and 27D: ____-Hartley Act (law governing unions) (TAFT) were the first two answers I was able to obtain. (I didn't do as well with the third fill-in-the-blank clue 58A: "House of Dracula" director ____ C. Kenton (ERLE) but when I finally did get that one filled in, I was amazed to find a third guy who can't spell the name Earl, with this guy joining "Oilman Halliburton" and "Perry's creator ____ Stanley Gardner")
It took me a long time to figure out the theme, and I really think there's a lesson in here somewhere but I can't quite put my finger on it. I knew that 34A: Film with a bat named Wonderboy was "The Natural" because it's one of my favorite movies, one of those rare instances where the movie was better than the book (with apologies to all those who prefer the pointlessly-depressing Bernard Malamud book) but I couldn't figure out how to make it fit in there. I figured that 21D: Parasite was LEECH and 31D: Docent's deg., perhaps was MFA but I didn't fill either of them in, because I didn't think there could possibly be a movie title like _HFF_ _ _ and of course I was right, there is no such movie, but I was wrong, I should have filled them both in anyway.
Anyway, without further delay, the theme here -- well, the theme is going to be hard for a musical illiterate like me to explain, but basically I think certain musical notes have more than one name , depending on what key you're in. In other words there is on difference between a E Natural and an F Flat, which is how "THE NATURAL" can become "THFFLAT" and in the same manner (A flat and G sharp being the same note) John Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat" can become TORTILLGSHARP at 20A. Forgetting that there was a theme and filling in letters from the East side of the grid, I was trying to think of a book titled "Somebody-or-other's Harp". I'm glad it was "Tortilla Flat" though because I love that book and I love John Steinbeck. In this book, Steinbeck draws parallels between King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and some drunken paisanos near Monterey California.
The other note-able entry was 53A: Singer of the 1962 hit "Mashed Potato Time". Dee Dee Sharp recorded that classic, as well as its follow-up (and I'm not kidding) "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)" In this puzzle Dee Dee Sharp becomes DEEDEFNATURAL.
Other entries of interest:
Once I stalled out on my fill-in-the-blanks, I gained a second toehold at 5A: City near Fatehpur Sikri (AGRA) Not that I've ever heard of Fatehpur Sikri, but it looks Indian and it's four letters so it must be AGRA. Then with that initial A I got 5D: Sea on the Kazakhstan border (ARAL) and I'd much rather have the first letter on this one than the last three cuz if I had _RAL, I wouldn't know if it was ARAL or URAL.
62A: Start of a few choice words? (EENY) I had _EN_ and I was sure it was going to be MENU. I wonder how many traps like that are purposely set by crossword constructors.
This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I had the initial C at 9D: Alexandra, once and I, thinking of Alexandria, was trying to think of another name for the city in Egypt. Of course she was actually a CZARINA.
A couple of sports clues that briefly held me up: 16A: Court defense type (ZONE) where I thought first of judges and juries, then tennis, and finally basketball (not a big roundball fan) and 36D: Walks, for short (BBS) which I didn't even realize was a baseball clue till I had it filled in. BBs are "bases on balls."
19D: Subject of some searches (TALENT) and speaking of talent, I'm not sure how much BO DEREK possesses, but I love the title of the movie in the clue 39D: "Ghosts Can't Do It" actress.
In a September 29th 2007 edict Rex Parker, the King of Crossworld, said "if you are an adult who still reads the Sunday funnies for pleasure, there might be something wrong with you. Not necessarily ... just see your doctor." Well, I'm just a lowly serf in Crossworld, but I say if you're an adult and something gives you pleasure and doesn't hurt anyone else, then go for it. I love my comic strips -- or funnies, if you will -- but I didn't see a doctor, other than Doctor Zook, which allowed me to get 60A: Patient of Dr. Zook (HAGAR)
That was fun, let's do it again sometime soon. Have a nice weekend.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
All I can tell you is that if I'd had to, I would have driven even further. This stuff is delicious and now I can't wait until lunch tomorrow.
-- Nick Hornby
Simulblogging at Madness. . . Crossword and Otherwise.
So, my last ride in the big chair here before Linda returns to take the controls. All I was hoping was something non-controversial, and what did I get? Double controversy.
First it's called "Political Positions". You do not want to get me started on politics. Especially after our chief executive, who didn't veto one spending bill during his first six years in office vetoes a bill providing health care for children. Evidently 35 billion over five years is too much money to spend on our kids -- even though most of it would come from a tax on cigarettes, but it's okay to spend 190 billion for another year of that war in Iraq that nobody wants but him.
And second, this is what I call a Cramalot puzzle and the rest of the crossword community calls a rebus. But I can't call it a rebus because the word "rebus" means picture puzzle. If you're old enough to remember the TV game show "Concentration" you know what a rebus looks like:
That's "Eye-toen't-bell-leaf-waa-dice-e." I don't believe what I see.
Too young for "Concentration"? Old enough to drink? Perhaps you've seen rebuses on the caps of Ballantine Ale. I used to use these as a yardstick to moderate my consumption. When they started getting difficult to figure out, I'd had enough.
So to me this puzzle is not a rebus -- some crossword puzzles are. If the letters you have to cram can make a simple picture like say "KEY" or "HAT" and you actually put a picture of a key or a hat there, that's a rebus.
And yes, I know the whole world calls any puzzle with more than one letter in a square a rebus. Doesn't make it right. The majority of Americans think "a lot" is one word, and that "Enough" can be spelled "Enuf" and that "Dancing With the Stars" is must-see TV.
All I can say is if you call this puzzle a rebus, you better have drawn a little donkey or an elephant in the appropriate squares. If instead you crammed D-E-M or R-E-P in there, than it's a cramalot.
Now, on with the puzzle itself:Democrats or (DEM) are on the left side of the puzzle and Republicans (REP) are on the right side. This is just simplification, because it would have been too difficult to depict where both of these parties actually are -- in the back pocket of special interest groups.
26A: Set boundaries (DEMARCATED) crossing 1D: King topper (DIADEM)
33A: Poker player's gloat (READ 'EM AND WEEP) crossing 36D: Some records or cars (DEMOS)
87A: Prize since 1928 (ACADEMY AWARD) crossing 58D: Working together (IN TANDEM)
And the only themed entry that is actually a political phrase 109A: Candidate's "This isn't over" (I DEMAND A RECOUNT) crossing 95D: Supporting instrumentalist (SIDEMAN)
Holding our noses and crossing over to the other side of the aisle, we find:
24A: Event where there might be burping (TUPPERWARE PARTY) (Great clue, by the way) crossing 15D: Sunken cooking site (FIRE PIT)
42A: Students' gifts from home (CARE PACKAGES) crossing 39D: Brunch serving (CREPE)
92A: Help in checking calls (INSTANT REPLAY) crossing 86D: Worker in the TV biz (AD REP) Every time there's a disputed call in an important baseball game like there was in game one of the Indians-Yankees series where Johnny Damon's lead-off home-run was originally called a foul, the pundits start shouting that our national pastime needs to use instant replay. No, it doesn't. But this great game -- the least mechanized of all major sports, it doesn't even have a clock -- has resisted all our efforts to ruin it -- the DH, the devaluation of defense -- but instant replay just might do it.
103A: Junkyard supply (SPARE PARTS) crossing 104D: Loud noise (REPORT)
The cherry on the top of this crossword confection is in the center square where the Independents finally get a chance to be heard:
65A: Response to "Want some?" (DON'T MIND IF I DO) crossing 51D: Duke Ellington classic (SATIN DOLL). If you were doing this as an actual rebus, please let me know what you drew in this square.
I kept looking for the GREen party on the fringes of the left and the LIBertarians on the far right, but couldn't find them.
There were a lot of clues in the non-themed portion of the puzzle I liked, but I think I've gone on long enough and am late enough posting this thing, so I'll only mention a few:
10D: Girl with a crook (BO PEEP)
89A: Turnabout, slangily (UIE) Can we agree on how this thing is spelled? Sometimes it's UEY and sometimes UIE.
15A: Having no master (FERAL) Once I figured out the theme of this puzzle and got the first two letters of this entry I thought we might be witnessing the return of the Federalist Party.
60A: Rain-___ (classic bubble-gum balls) (BLO) Man, I used to love Rain-Blo bubble gum. When I played Little league baseball, at the end of every game we got 10 cents credit at the concession stand. For 10 cents you could get anything they had there -- soda, chips, a hot dog. I always opted for 10 pieces of grape Rain-Blo. Perhaps I should add this childhood reminiscence to this page of other old farts waxing nostalgic about Rain-Blo.
That's all for me for now. Thanks, Linda, for this opportunity. I hope you had a great vacation.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Good morning to everybody out there in Crossword World, this is your friendly neighborhood Green Genius Robert Loy, reporting for my penultimate stint behind the wheel at "Madness. . . " Please forgive my bedraggled appearance. We were up late last night cheering the Red Sox on to victory and booing and hissing the Yankees on to defeat.
After taking a thorough spanking on the Friday puzzle, I was wary of the Saturday, especially when I saw it was from Brendan Emmett Quigley and David Quarfoot, two constructors that I like a lot but have been known to give me trouble. I was afraid the Killer Q's were going to make me walk the plank, but it turned out to be more like a warm, refreshing cup of cocoa.
(Yeah, I know that's a crappy metaphor, I just wanted an excuse to run this picture from one of my favorite photo blogs Bent Objects.)
On to the puzzle, which was AWASH IN (24D: Totally covered by) the kind of unusual answers that require some mental flexibility to solve, stuff like
8A: Material for drainage lines (PVC PIPE)
39D: "Who'da thunk it?!" (IS THAT SO?) Which seems a tad more formal than the colloquial "thunk" clue. "Izzat so?" might be a closer synonym.
38D: Rallying slogans (WAR CRIES)
40D: Paper that calls itself "America's Finest News Source" (THE ONION) 20A: Bond type whose first purchaser was F.D.R. (SERIES E)
31A: May day events, perhaps (FINALS)
Not to mention the kind of clues that, while playing perfectly fair, do delightfully mislead. I confess I had DAFFY at 51D: Friend of Porky instead of DARLA, having turned at Looney Tunes instead of Little Rascals. And I had WALKS at 30A: Pitch problems right up until I had the entire crossing word 30D: Black, say filled in as WURNT and it occurred to my baseball-besotted brain that would make more sense as BURNT, which would makes WALKS BALKS, another kind of "pitch" problem. (Although, it should be noted that WURNT seems to fit the clue for 42D: Dialectal contraction better than the correct YILL. What is "yi'll" anyway? I must be missing something here.)
I forget who said it, but 50A: Reunion gatherers was proof again that your first impression is usually right on Monday, wrong on Saturday. I had ALUM instead of CLAN. But I've done so many crosswords that my thoughts on hearing a "foot" clue like 21D immediately go to the poetic rather the podiatric, so IAMB didn't slow me down a bit.
I was taken just a bit aback by 37A: "Oh, I give up!" cuz I just didn't think SCREW IT would pass the breakfast table test. My favorite entry is probbaly 13D: It's far from a metropolis just because PODUNK is so much fun to say.
Looking back over this puzzle, the only entries in the grid I'm not familiar with are the two musical entries. I've never heard either ESO BESO (63A: 1962 hit with the lyric "Like the samba sound, my heart begins to pound") or "The East IS RED" (6D: . . .1960's Chinese anthem.) But since the latter sounds catchier than the former, here are the lyrics to that golden oldie "The East is Red":
- The east is red, the sun is rising.
- China has brought forth a Mao Zedong.
- He amasses fortune for the people,
- Hurrah, he is the people's great savior.
- Chairman Mao loves the people,
- He is our guide,
- To build a new China,
- Hurrah, he leads us forward!
- The Communist Party is like the sun,
- Wherever it shines, it is bright.
- Wherever there is a Communist Party,
- Hurrah, there the people are liberated!
Friday, October 05, 2007
|What Your Pizza Reveals|
You consider pizza to be bread... very good bread. You fit in best in the Midwest part of the US.
Your taste is rather complex and sophisticated. You consider yourself a gourmet - and a bit of a snob.
You are eclectic, stylish, and totally random with your choices.
You are deep and thoughtful. You should consider traveling to Paris.
The stereotype that best fits you is guy or girl next door. Hey, there's nothing wrong with being average.
( hope it turns out to be more accurate for y'all. Nobody's ever accused me of having a small appetite or of being particularly deep.)
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
- “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group;
- “Gossip Girls” series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;
- “Alice” series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;
- “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;
- “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;
- “Scary Stories” series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;
- “Athletic Shorts” by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language;
- “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;
- “Beloved” by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group; and
- “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence.
Off the list this year, but on for several years past, are the “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. All are highly recommended by the Green Genius.
Monday, October 01, 2007
But now I've decided to retire a month early -- not really retire exactly. I'm not shutting the Green Genius down, but I won't be blogging about crossword puzzles five days a week for the foreseeable future. I'll be reading, walking in the park, watching the baseball play-offs, making an outline of the novel I hope to at least start writing in November -- and doing crossword puzzles, of course.
It's been fun and I appreciate everybody who ever stopped by, whether it was just once or on a regular basis. I'll still be blogging here about whatever I'm involved with, which will be crosswords among other things, and you'll always be welcome here. And I'll still be crossword- blogging at Madness. . . Crossword and Otherwise this weekend. Drop in and say hey.
Oh, and I do have one thing to say about today's Sun puzzle -- 21A: Big oafs (OXES) I can't tell you how wrong that looks and how it pained me to put it into the grid. I understand we're actually talking about boors and not beast of burden, so maybe OXEN would not be appropriate, but OXES? That can't be right.
Take care, y'all.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
So, it's October and that means one thing at Chez Genius -- postseason baseball, the playoffs, and the World Series. Actually, the regular season is not quite over -- or there's an extra play-off round, depending on how you look at it, since the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies play one game tonight to determine who gets the NL wild card. In New York, the Yankees' run of division titles is at an end but the Evil -- well, you can't call them an empire anymore -- the Evil Group of Overrated Guys Led by the Derek Jeter, the Guy Who is Such a Hot Dog He Should Change His Name to Oscar Meyer are in the playoffs as the AL wild card. And the Mets, well, the Mets will have to be satisfied with going into the history books as one of the biggest chokes of all time.
The point is in Autumn, a young man's fancy turns to baseball, and what do we have in the October 1st crossword from Dominick Talvacchio?
We have hockey. Two New York hockety teams and one from New Jersey.
57D: Org. with members found at the ends of this puzzle's three longest answers (NHL)
And those three answers are:
20A: Silver rider (THE LONE RANGER) I didn't get this one right away. Being more of a comic book fan than an oater afficionado, I thought of the Silver Surfer rather than Tonto's pal.
33A: Hawaiian, e.g. (PACIFIC ISLANDER) A shout-out, perhaps, to New York Times Crossword blogger Linda G. vacationing as we speak in the Aloha State.
50A: 1984 George Burns sequel (OH GOD, YOU DEVIL) The only show of the new TV season I'm excited about is "Reaper" about a 21-year-old slacker who discovers on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the devil and now he must act as bounty hunter for Lucifer returning escaped damned souls back to hell. It's funny and scary and it reminds me a little of one of my all-time favorites "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" and why did I start to tell you this? Oh yeah, because in the premiere episode Satan is talking about how much he loves hockey (and he loves it pretty much for the reasons I hate it) and he challenges the protagonist to guess his favorite team. It's never revealed, but I'm betting it's the New Jersey Devils.
Not a whole lot of interest in the non-themed clues.
My hillbilly roots messed me up on 2D: Partner of haw (HEM) where I had HEE, thinking of course of Buck Owens and Roy Clark and pickin' and grinnin'.
1A: Sonny's "I Got You Babe" singing partner (CHER) Kinda wordy for a gimme. Couldn't they have just said "Sonny's partner"?
49A: Witherspoon of "Election" (REESE) The reason I don't go to many movies nowadays is cuz I don't think we have many actors as good as the ones I can see on Turner Classic Movies at home for free -- Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Katherine Hepburn, William Powell. One of the few modern actresses that can actually act is Reese Witherspoon.
That's all for today. See you Tuesday.