Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I felt like doing a survey but only wanted to answer questions that I felt like answering. So I made up my own survey. It's all about my favorite stuff.

Favorite Color? Green (bordering on obsession).

Favorite Meal? Breakfast. (Most important meal of the day -- and usually the biggest.)

Favorite Tree? Pine. (Yeah, they're kind of the weeds of the tree world and they're sticky which is inconvenient to tree-huggers like me, and those endless needles are a pain in the ass to rake -- but they stay green all winter long which makes up for everything else.)

Favorite TV Show? "Bones", if you're asking about current television. If you mean all-time favorite TV show, well, back in my pre-VCR party-all-the-time lifestyle, there was one television show that I stayed home to watch no matter what was going on as far as nightlife. That show was "Life Goes On" so I guess it's my all-time favorite. Season One is out of DVD, but I'm a little scared to watch it again because I don't see how it could be as good as I remember it.
Favorite Actress? Well, if you're talking current then I'll go with Reese Witherspoon, who I think is the only actress in her generation anywhere near as good as Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Myrna Loy and others from the golden age of movies. (Although, just once I'd like to see Reese play somebody who is not a complete Type A personality.) All time favorite has to be Greta Garbo. Nobody else on film has ever impressed me as much as Garbo. When I first saw her in a movie I thought she was corny and hammy, but after only a couple of minutes it seemed to me that she was the only person in the movie who was really alive and everyone else was just human robots. I still can't take my eyes off her. If you've never seen one of her movies, may I suggest you begin with "Queen Christina"?

Favorite Actor? Current, nobody, although I thought Mark Ruffalo managed to hold his own co-starring with Reese Witherspoon in "Just Like Heaven" which is quite an accomplishment. All-time, well, I'll watch anything with William Powell in it.

Favorite Berry? The raspberry.

Favorite Fish? Salmon.

Favorite Soup? Everybody that knows me knows the answer to this one -- Split Pea, or as my co-workers call it "Baby Poop Soup."

Favorite Book? That's a tough one, I'll have to come back to that. How about instead we do:

Favorite Short story? My favorite short story is "Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz" by George Saunders, which is a sparkling gem, one of the few things in this vail of tears that is absolutely perfect. You can read it for free here. (Warning, I just reread it and I've still got goosebumps and tears in my eyes. It's that good.) My second favorite story is "Jeffty is Five" by Harlan Ellison, and my third favorite is "Isabelle" by George Saunders. My favorite short story writer -- you'll never guess -- is George Saunders.

Favorite Genre? Romantic comedy. Again, no surprise to anybody that knows me.

Favorite Romantic comedy? Maison Ikoku, which is a manga about a hapless college student who falls love with his widowed landlady. People get mad when I tell them this is my favorite RomCom, They want me to pick a movie. When they make a movie as good as this I'll pick it -- but they won't, they can't. Maison Ikkoku went on for fourteen volumes. Hollywood would hack the story to pieces to get in to fit in two hours.

Favorite flavor of Chapstick? Spearmint

Favorite Avatar of Vishnu? Krishna

Favorite era? The 1920's

Favorite Book? Back to that, are we? Well, I agree with Ernest Hemingway who said " All American writing comes from that. ("The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.") There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." But I also agree with the part of the quote rarely quoted -- about how the book falls apart at the end. On any given day, my favorite book is "David Copperfield," "The Time Traveler's Wife" or "White Apples." Some days it's "Bel Canto" or "The History of Love." Sometimes it's "Huckleberry Finn" even with the crappy ending.

That's all I can think of for now. Anything you want to know, just ask.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My flesh turns to fur

I mentioned in the previous post that I wrote an entire column about one song for Country Standard Time Magazine, then realized I neglected to post it here. So, here you go:

Sturgeon, Rimbaud, Buck and Me

Country Musings by Robert Loy, November 2008

Sturgeon's Law states that 90 per cent of everything is crap. And that includes music, of course. I submit that there are two exceptions to this rule: 1.) crap percentage is somewhat higher on modern day country radio, and 2) when you're young the operands in this equation are reversed, i.e., 90 percent of everything is pure gold.

I remember when I was a kid taking a car trip somewhere with my dad. He wanted to change the radio station to listen to a basketball game. I asked him to wait till the song that was playing ("Valleri" by The Monkees) was over as it was my favorite song. When The Monkees finished doing their thing my dad reached for the radio button, but not before the next song had started (something by the Grass Roots) and I said, no, hang on, that's my real favorite song.

My dad waited patiently but when the third song started, and again I asked him not to change the station (Sorry, I don't remember anything about this song, other than that it was my absolute all-time favorite), he said they can't all be your favorite and turned on the basketball game.

But he was wrong, They were all my favorite. Which brings me to Loy's Law - Nothing will ever again sound as good as music when you first discover it for yourself.

Together these two laws make a depressing case for an adult music fan. But despair not. Hope comes from the only thing I remember from my college economics class - the more there is of a particular item, the less each item is worth. Conversely, the less there is, the more each individual item is worth.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I've found a song I am passionate about, and if I can no longer turn on the radio and count on being sent into a rhapsody, when I do find a song I love, I love that one song even more than I loved any one song by The Monkees or the Grass Roots or anybody else during my golden musical age.

The song is "Furr" by a folky Portland-based sextet called Blitzen Trapper. If you haven't heard it yet, treat yourself soon. It's reminiscent of The Byrds and Poco and all that early country-rock stuff, but with a complex rhyme scheme and thoughtful lyrics that touch on (among other things) love, getting in touch with our animal nature, spirituality and the compromises that must be made in order for interspecies mating. It's about a man who turns into a wolf and eventually back into a man for the woman he loves. And much more. All in four minutes and eight seconds.
"Furr" has gone to the top of almost all of my iPod playlists. And I could give you a couple dozen music critic reasons why - in fact I just gave you a few. But the truth is I love it because it reminds me of what it was to be a kid again.

Specifically it reminds me of the day I discovered one of my all-time favorite books "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London. This unforgettable reading experience was one of my first instances of sitting safely in my living room while being transported far, far away. And I don't mean just to the frozen North but into the mind and heart of a Saint Bernard mix named Buck. And even now "The Call of the Wild" is one of my desert island books, i.e. if I could only take 10 books with me to live on a deserted island "The Call of the Wild" would be one of them.

So the good news is if you're riding in the car with me and you want to change the radio station chances are I'll let you.

And the even better news is I have once again found the truth of Rimbaud's quote "Genius is the recovery of childhood at will."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The year in music.

I read a lot of music blogs. (Nine Bullets and Twang Nation are two of my favorites.) I also listen to a lot of music podcasts, with Sound Opinions and All Songs Considered topping the list of faves. Everybody is doing their year-in-music wrap-ups, and I thought I'd do something similar. So here's my thoughts about the music of 2008.

Best Album: "All Rebel Rockers" from Michael Franti and Spearhead, which is the only CD I bought this year, and I bought the deluxe version with DVD. One problem I have with modern music is how violent, nihilistic and misogynistic so much of it is. And that's why I love Michael Franti. He is a positive person making the world a better place with his music and his actions. His music is energetic enough to work out too, and sweet enough to merit a spot on my Ipod playlist called "Kim" (about which I will say no more.)

Franti has his own channel on Youtube. Check out all of his songs and tell me if you find one there that is less than magnificent.

Song of the year: No question about it. "Furr" from Blitzen Trapper. I love this song and I still get happy when it comes up on the Ipod cuz I never got tired of it. It's freaky, funny and philosophical. I wrote a whole column about it. It reminds me of one of my favorite books of all time -- Jack London's "The Call of the Wild."

Favorite new 80's band: Kid Creole and the Coconuts. I really didn't pay much attention to popular music in the 1980's -- or maybe I did but there wasn't much memorable about it. Either way I somehow missed Kid Creole and the Coconuts, but I'm certainly enjoying discovering them now. They don't look like an 80's band, the 30's maybe since Kid Creole likes to wear zoot suits, and they don't sound like anybody else of any era.

I love working out to this one. I'm not as much like Endicott as I'd like to be, but I think he's something to shoot for. But like Endicott, I am up at 5 o'clock and giving it all I've got.

Favorite alt-country (whatever that is) band: Reckless Kelly. I played some of their stuff for a friend at work. He loves Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, but he said he couldn't enjoy Reckless Kelly cuz he couldn't get past the twang, so he went back to living in the past. Too bad, these guys rock.

Best alt-Swedish band: I'm From Barcelona. (Warning: if you don't like your music as upbeat and positive as I do, this video might be hard to take. However you might just love it.)

Favorite workout lyric: This song never fails to get me pumping just a little bit harder, especially this one lyric. See if you can pick it out.

Yep, "I'm gonna strut like a cock until I'm 99."

More books I've read in 2008

Two more picture books -- er, graphic novels, both about cats. The first about a bunch of big ones and the second about one little one.

"Pride of Baghdad" is based --sorta -- on a true story, about the lions in the Baghdad zoo who were set free when Iraq was attacked by the United States of America. Of course these lions can talk, and I doubt the real lions could. I enjoyed this book very much. I think it made a great point about how innocents suffer during war. Surprisingly, because you know I love puns and wordplay, the only thing that didn't work for me and that jarred me out of the story was the tigress-Tigris pun that came up in a conversation between one of the lions and a tortoise. I just don't think that pun would work in either lion lingo or tortoise tongue.

I also enjoyed "The Rabbi's Cat" by Joann Sfar. The titular feline kills and eats a parrot and gains the power of speech, after which he has several conversations with the rabbi about spirituality in general and Judaism in particular. (And let's just say that cats are not real religious.) He loses the power of speech when he calls out the name of the lord -- a big no-no in Judaism, but that's not the end of the story. The rabbi's daughter, his beloved mistress, marries and moves away. They are visited by their cousin who travels with a lion. The rabbi meets a Muslim holy man. The entire group travels to Paris to meet the groom's family, where the rabbi has a faith crisis. And everybody learns to bend a little. The rabbi becomes less dogmatic, the cat befriends a canine even though he once said that "A dog is a sunny, simpleminded, moralistic, macho shithead."

And I just found out there's a sequel, so excuse me while I update my Bookmooch wishlist.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Now here's a guy who loves his PBR

The Defense Rests

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I stand accused of "revisionist history in the making," a heinous crime. My esteemed sibling would have you believe that I made a bet with him that I could find an interview with Ronnie Van Zant wherein the lead singer specifically stated that the smell referred to in the song "That Smell" was the smell of death. This despite the fact that he and I both know Van Zant died in a plane crash three days after the release of the album that contained the song in question so interviews mentioning that song are few. And he and I both know (though only I will admit to knowing) that the aforementioned smell is obviously the smell of death and is indisputably clear from the lyrics where no other smell other than "the smell of death" is mentioned.

Methinks my esteemed sibling doth insult your intelligence. He would have you believe that the conversation went something like this:

Me: Boy, I bet I can find an interview where Ronnie Van Zant says that the smell of death in the song "That Smell" is actually the smell of death.
Esteemed Sibling: I bet you can't.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am no genius. That will be proved to everyone's satisfaction very shortly. (If it hasn't already been proved by the fact that my brother -- who also is no genius -- outscored me twice on the SAT 33 years ago.) But I would certainly not take a sucker bet like that. It's obvious to me and to all right-thinking people that the white in "White Christmas" refers to snow, so obvious that I doubt I could find an interview with Bing Crosby or Irving Berlin wherein they state that obvious fact, and so I would not make a bet that I could.

The actual conversation that led up to the bet went something more like this:

Esteemed Sibling says something about the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" being about LSD.

Me: I've read a lot of interviews with John Lennon and he always said that the song was not about LSD. It was inspired by a picture that his son Julian drew.

ES: John Lennon is full of shit. That song is obviously about LSD.

Me: So you know more about the song than the man who wrote it?

ES: I know an LSD song when I hear it.

Me: (trying to dig him out of this hole he's digging for himself) I think you haven't really thought about this thing since you were in high school and we were always looking for drug references in songs, like "The Hotel California" being about THC or "That Smell" being about the smell of marijuana.

ES: "That Smell" is about the smell of marijuana.

Me: Of course it's not. It's about the smell of death. It says so right in the song.

ES: No, it's about the smell of marijuana.

Me: I bet you it's not.

ES: Okay, it's a bet. How are we going to settle it?

Me: (And here is where I prove once and for all that I'm not a genius. What I should have said was "Let's listen to the song carefully as grownups," but I didn't. What I actually said was:) Well, I could probably find an interview with Ronnie Van Zant where he talks about the song and --

ES: All right. If you can find an interview with RVZ where he specifically says the song "That Smell" is about the smell of death than I'll admit I lost and pay up.

So you see, ladies and gentlemen, the bet was not about whether I could find an interview with Ronnie Van Zant discussing "That Smell". It was about what the smell was. The interview was the only proof that my ES would accept. (And come to think of it, he probably wouldn't have accepted such proof even if I could have found it anyway. He wouldn't accept multiple interviews with John Lennon that "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" was not about LSD.)

I've also been accused of having a eight-month long temper tantrum, a charge to which I plead innocent. And in the spirit of the season I would like to extend my hand in fellowship to my esteemed sibling and declare this bet a draw.

What do you say, John? The ball's in your, er, court.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Betting with my brother

I made another bet with my brother. I'm not sure why as he never pays when he loses. He's an attorney and he loves to argue. The first bet we made that he welshed on was about the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "That Smell" -- specifically what smell the title refers to. To me and to all people with any knowledge of musical archeology it's simple:

"Ooh, ooh, that smell!" (What smell?)
"Ooh, ooh, that smell!" (What smell?)
"The smell of death surrounds you!" (Oh, that smell.)

But he says no, it's not the smell of death, it is in fact the smell of marijuana, which in the context of the song (all about the dangers of drug abuse) makes no sense. If you're Ronnie Van Zant writing a song about bandmate Gary Rossington's attempt to kill himself with drugs -- heroin, quaaludes, alcohol -- would you really name it after the most benign drug in the song? But Ronnie Van Zant died shortly after the song was released and I can't find an interview wherein he specifically states the smell in "That Smell" is the smell of death. And I probably couldn't even if he'd lived. Like I said, it's obvious what he meant, and what's more I think my brother knows it too. But according to the lawyer's creed, if you can win the argument -- or at worst forestall losing it -- that means you're right.

Then he got divorced and he was going around telling everybody that he would never get married again no matter what, if he said he wanted to get married please shoot him, et cetera. The same stuff everybody says in between one marriage ending and the next one beginning. So I bet him a hundred dollars and a case of beer that he would be married again within five years. Less than a year later he's living with his lady love. I was joking around with him saying he should go ahead and pay up. This got his hopes up, as he obviously wanted to argue about common law and cohabitation. (He's older now and he only wants to argue when he knows he can win.) I didn't take the bait and I disappointed him by not debating it with him, which I was unwilling to do because I've still got four years -- more than four years -- and no doubt in my mind that I will win.

Our newest bet is who will have the lower percentage of body fat on New Year's Day before we go on our annual Polar Bear Plunge. And he's already laying the groundwork for welshing out. Bitching about calipers and scales and how subjective and inaccurate they are. But he finally agreed. This bet is the big one and one I can ill afford to lose. The first two bets were only for a mere hundred dollars each, but this one is to see who has to buy pre-plunge drinks, and with my thirsty brother that could run to some serious bucks.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Robert Ariail is the political cartoonist for the (Columbia SC) State newspaper, and he's a damn good one, part of the reason that years ago I subscribed to the State even though I lived in Charleston. (This was before I realized that it wasn't just Columbia's paper, every paper -- even the Springfield Shopper, was better than Charleston's Post and Courier.) I once wrote Mr. Ariail a letter telling him how much I appreciated a cartoon of his -- two men sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper headline about how global warming might wipe out humankind, and one man saying how ridiculous it was to think that climate change could wipe out an entire species; and if you look in the ground under the park bench there are the bones of a dinosaur -- and he sent me a signed, framed copy of the cartoon. I still follow his work and I particularly enjoyed today's 'toon which makes a point about our weak and getting weaker economy, but in a gym setting where weight plates equal interest rates.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Still More People who Piss Me Off at the Gym

It seems my roidless rage knows no bounds. Here are some more people doing their damndest to spoil my workout:

Larry the Cable Guy: There are signs all over the gym saying proper athletic attire is required. Evidently some people think this means jeans and a button-down shirt with the sleeves torn off.

Speaking of inappropriate attire, what is up with the Hefty Bag Man? You know, the guy who works out in a big plastic sack? If you're that desperate to lose a little water weight, why are you carrying around a gallon jug of water? Why not just eliminate the middle man and pour the water directly into your Hefty bag?

Working on the same principle is The Unabomber. He works out in a jacket and hoodie. Use your head, Ted. You're not going to lose any weight that way.

And the guy who hasn't bought a new pair of gym shorts since high school and is about to bust out of his nut hugging 1955-Wilt Chamberlain shorts any second. Get to Wal-Mart, dude. Hot pants don't look good on guys.

This guy doesn't bother me only because I've never come across him. But he irks my brother. He's the guy who insists on doing his workout including push-ups entirely inside the squat rack. Actually, John, in New Rules of Lifting, Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove suggest you do just that. But I don't. I step outside of the squat rack to do anything other squats. But that doesn't mean I'm done with it or that I want someone coming along, trying to claim squatter's right to my rack. (Squatter's right, ha ha, I crack myself up.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More books I've read in 2008

Wow, I've actually been doing a little reading. "Deaf Sentence" is about a retired college professor, who's losing his hearing. He has to deal with an aging parent, a nutjob co-ed and some jealousy about his wife and her work. As David Lodge points out, blindness is always tragic, but deafness is usually comic. I'm losing my hearing -- well, actually, I think it's more technically correct to say that my tinitus drowns out a whole spectrum of sounds, but the result is the same -- I can't hear. I enjoyed this book because I could relate to the professor and feel slightly superior as well, since I think my coping mechanisms are better than his. (Although you might have to ask some of my family, friends and co-workers -- the people who put up with all my "huh"s and "beg your pardon"s and my non-sequiturs cuz I guessed wrong on a couple of missed words and responded inappropriately. Anyway it's a very funny book up until the very end when a trip to Auschwitz and the death of a parent turns things suddenly somber.

I also read "Wonder Woman: The Circle". I think Gail Simone is one of the best writers in comics today and I loved her run on "Birds of Prey" and was really looking forward to seeing what she could do with Wonder Woman. Well, she doesn't disappoint. I've been reading Wonder Woman for a long time and this is the first time she didn't seem at least a little bit silly. Artwork is uneven -- impressive when the Dodsons handle it, less so when Bernard Chang takes over for a couple of issues. My favorite part of this book was when when Wonder Woman visited her partner in the hospital and presented him with a nectarine pit and a bracelet of thorns:
(Click to enlarge unless you have really really good eyesight.)

I also read some nonfiction:
"In Defense of Food" is one of those rare life-changing books. I'll write more about it later after I've had time to digest it, so to speak. For now I'll just say, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants". It's as simple and as complicated as that.

And I never read it cover to cover but by skipping around I've surely covered "New Rules of Lifting" by now. Great stuff, which is going to help me defeat my brother in the great body-fat competition that kicks off 2009.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sirius seriously sucks

I know I've talked about this before, but damn, I just can't believe that when XM and Sirius merged the geniuses behind the satellite radio monopoly got together and said, "Let's get rid of our progressive country station and play shit that would have been considered progressive in the nineteen-goddamn-seventies." I've been trying to give that frigging outlaw country station a chance but it just infuriates me. Do you know who they played on my ride home from work tonight? The Flying Burrito Brothers, David Allan Coe and Johnny Horton. Johnny Fucking Horton y'all -- who died in 1960 and I'm sure would be amazed to learn that he's an outlaw. Oh, and I also heard "Jingle Bells" done in all fart noises and a song from the idiot disc jockey (don't even get me started on their moronic DJ's) some dipshit named Mojo Nixon who did a Christmas song to the tune of "Louie, Louie." It was excruciating. Unbearable. On the old XM 12 what most of the artists had in common was that they were stretching the definition of what country music could be. Now what the artists on channel 12 have in common is that they're all dead -- or in the case of that egomaniacal name-dropped David Allan Coe it's just his career that's dead. Look, I love classic country but we've already got an oldies station for when I want to hear Johnny Horton. Can't we have one that plays new country? Not that Faith and Tim crap I can get for free on WEZL -- I mean progressive country -- Reckless Kelley, Chris Knight, Jim Lauderdale -- the stuff XM played before this damned merger.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's not plagiarism if you cite your sources

This is from Ken Levine's rave review of the movie "Nixon / Frost":

I had only one problem with this movie. If it had been released ten years ago it would have had a thousand times the impact it does today. What seemed so shocking, so unthinkable back then – a United States president lying to the American people and covering up a botched break-in – is nothing in comparison to what Bush, Cheney, Rove, & Co. have done. Nixon shoplifted a Snickers bar compared to these Visigoths. And at least Nixon was tortured by his actions for the rest of his life. When George Bush has his comparable interview in a few years with Tyra Banks I’m sure there will be no such remorse. He may have destroyed the country and the world but at least he spared Vegas.

Monday, December 08, 2008

An open letter to XM Radio

Dear XM;
It's hard to know when to let go, especially in a relationship that has been as close as ours. I was one of your biggest fans, constantly singing your praises to anyone who would listen. Very few days went by that I didn't have XM on in my car and when I did I missed you so much I couldn't stand to go back to FM and just left the radio off, preferring to commune with my thoughts -- many of those thoughts were about how much I loved XM.

And now, I'm ready to cancel my subscription.

I was against this merger with Sirius from the very beginning for several reasons mostly having to do with not trusting big business mergers, which inevitably lead to fewer choices and higher prices. But also because Sirius didn't have anything that I wanted. You tried to get me excited about the merger by telling me what all I could get from Sirius -- Howard Stern, Martha Stewart, Nascar and the NFL. Wow! I hate Howard Stern, couldn't care less about Martha Stewart and have no interest in any sport other than baseball -- which I already had with XM, and was one of -- okay, the -- reason I chose XM in the first place.

And you merged anyway, didn't you? I found out when I turned on my XM to one of my two favorite channels -- XMX, channel 2 which I could count on to play "Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour" all day on Wednesday, and "Bill Anderson Visits With the Legends" all day Tuesday as well as Tom Petty's Buried Treasure show in Thursday -- and it was gone. Just gone, nothing in its place, nothing on channel 2. I went to my other favorite channel --- the alt-country channel, channel 12 and it's now called "Outlaw Country" a description I haven't heard since the 70's -- and I guess it's apt, because this channel doesn't play cutting edge-country; it plays stuff that was cutting edge in 1977 -- a lot of Waylon and Johnny Cash and other stuff you can already find on the classic country stations. Seriously, most of these outlaws are long dead, hasn't the statute of limitations run out? I felt like I was in a time warp, and I had no way now to find new alt-country artists. But I wanted to be fair, so I gave Outlaw Country a chance -- and in addition to a lot of dead guys you also played Neil Young and Tom Petty (neither of which are country or cutting-edge. Did they get a parking ticket sometime? is that why you consider them outlaws?) And then I heard "Black Betty" from Ramjam.
Ramjam? No, I get why you're called outlaw country -- it ought to be against the law for a country station to play Ramjam.

And of course there's no baseball in the winter. So you tell me, why shouldn't I cancel my subscription?


Robert Loy

More Books I've read in 2008

Oh My Goddess is my second favorite manga -- I don't think anything will ever top Maison Ikkoku, which is not only my favorite manga, it's my favorite comic book series period and my favorite romantic comedy ever. I love the romance and the humor and the spiritual aspects of the story, but my eyes kind of glaze over when they go into one of their extended motorcycle race sequences as they do in this volume. The second half was only a little bit better as Keichi and Belldandy take a road trip to a hot springs -- unfortunately accompanied by Chihiro who puts a damper on any possible romance. I am looking forward to volume 25 however, as a new goddess is introduced in this book and she says an object known as an "angel eater" has been stolen.
Joss Whedon never disappoints me. He is an amazing genius. The man responsible for Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel and Firefly on television -- not to mention the best superhero-run I've seen on a comic this century (on "Astonishing X-Men" with the great John Cassaday) turns his attention here to Marvel's Runaways. I followed this comic when it first came out but lost interest somewhere along the way, but all I need to see is the name "Whedon" and I'm forking out money for the hardcover edition. (It looks like Marvel knows that's all we Joss Whedon people need to see, look how much bigger the author's name is than the title of the book.) This is a great story. The kids get mixed up with the Kingpin, fall afoul of the Punisher and get stuck in 1907. Whedon makes it all look so easy, the perfect blend of action, romance and laugh-out loud humor.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Notice anything unusual about this sales flyer? (Other than the place is called "Books a Million" and they're hawking games?) The Scrabble player whose point of view we share is cheating -- he's got eight letter tiles and you're only allowed seven. (Not that it helps him much. It's still a pretty crappy rack. )

Friday, December 05, 2008

Two -- maybe three reasons -- to celebrate today.

1.) Justice is slow sometimes, but today -- finally -- O.J. Simpson -- the dumbest man in the world -- was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison. Why do I call him the dumbest man in the world? Well, if you got away with butchering two people, you'd probably be the most law-abiding citizen ever -- no speeding, no jaywalking, no spitting on the sidewalk; it would never occur to you to commit armed robbery and kidnap. That's because you're not the dumbest person in the world.

2.) Today is the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. So raise your glass and give a toast to the right to drink legally -- even absinthe, if you so desire. I'll be raising my glass too, but since I'm in a body-fat contest with my brother, I'll be toasting with unsweetened iced tea.

Today is also the birthday of my third-grade teacher, which I remember because I adored her. She was the only teacher I ever had with enough sense to pick me as her pet. Happy birthday, Miss Sobel, wherever you are!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Congratulations, I'm a winner!

Three contests I enter on a regular basis -- NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday Puzzle, the Car Talk Puzzler (also on NPR) and Games World of Puzzles. The last one has the best prize -- 500 dollars. So I was excited when I got home yesterday and found an envelope from Games World of Puzzles, a real envelope with 42 cents postage, not a subscription come-on. I opened it up and it said,

Dear Robert,

Congratulations. You're a winner.

I had already thought of 501 different ways to spend my prize when I read a little further and learned that I was a runner-up prize winner, which means I get a Games T-shirt. Which is cool, don't get me wrong, but I've already won two of them, and they're not as cool as 500 dollars.

BTW, I forgot how I won the first T-shirt, but I won the second one by pointing out a mistake in one of their crossword puzzles, when they somehow referred to the bird known as the Baltimore oriole. I pointed out that there's no such thing. The bird formerly known as the Baltimore oriole is now called the Northern oriole. And the only Baltimore Oriole now is the perennially-sucky baseball team.
Which reminds me. The World Series was like a hundred years ago. Why isn't it baseball season already?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Something very scary happened today. I heard Mike Huckabee on NPR talking about the bailout -- and I agreed with what he said on the subject. Now that I've reserached it further I still agree with him -- so much that I can barely restrain from shouting "Amen, Brother!"

Frankly, I’m disappointed and disgusted . . . as I watch them attempt to strong-arm a bailout of some of America’s biggest corporations by asking the taxpayers to suck up the staggering results of the hubris, greed, and arrogance of those who sought to make a quick buck by throwing the dice. They lost, but want the rest of us to cover their bets so they won’t be effected in their lavish lifestyles as they figure out how to spend their tens of millions and in some cases, hundreds of millions in bonuses and compensation which was their reward for not only sinking their companies, but basically doing the same to the entire American economy.

This is not money that Congress is risking from THEIR pockets or future, but ours. Many if not most of us have already experienced lost value on our homes, retirement accounts, and pensions. Now they’d like for us to assume some further risks so they won’t have to.
What happened to the “free market” idea? Is that only our view when we WIN and when we LOSE, we ask the government to come in and take away the pain? If you are a small business owner, is this the way it works at your place? When you have a bad month, a bad year, or face having to close, can you go up to Congress and get them to write YOU a fat check to take away your risk?

Now, I can look at this in a lot of different ways to minimize the panic that agreeing with a Republican causes in me -- It was bound to happen sooner or later that a Republican would be right about something, and I was against the bailout long before I read this; it's not like Huckabee talked me into it, and hey, I still disagreed vehemently with everything else he said -- but it's still scary. I'm a proud yellow dog Democrat like my paternal grandmother. I never heard her say anything kind about the GOP -- and I was shocked by how much this sweet old woman hated Nancy Reagan's guts -- until one day I heard her say she kind of liked Barbara Bush. It scared the heck out of me and I tried to get her back on track but she wouldn't back down on her admiration of this she-beast that spawned the SOB who tried his damndest to ruin this country.

As I feared it was all downhill for my grandmother from then on. And I guess it doesn't look good for me either. But I can't help it, and I won't lie. Mike Huckabee is right, the bailout is wrong.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

More books I've read in 2008

Had some extra time over the T-giving holidays and actually got to do some reading:
Actually, I've been reading this one for sometime now. It's not the type of book you sit down and read cover to cover. It's a hilarious (if you like the dry British wit as much as I do) instruction manual teaching you how do things like "Go To Church" "Fix Things" "Be Happily Married" ("Sexual excitement may start to wane in a marriage and so you should think of all sorts of different ways to spice up the last few days of your honeymoon.") or "Go to a Barber" ("When you're young you wonder why old men with receding hair bother going to the barber. The answer is that they have more hair growing out of their ears and nose than you have growing out of your head. Similarly, older men wonder why young men bother when they leave looking more idiotic than when they came in.")Some people say that comics (or graphic novels if you will) can do everything that prose novels do. I say yes, but it's rare. Craig Thompson's "Blankets" certainly qualifies as a "real" novel but it took Thompson over 600 pages to tell his story, not many artists are willing to draw that many pictures. "Shortcomings" by Adrain Tomine is more like a short story or a novella, but a smart insightful short story, one that will stick in my memory. It's about an Asian-American guy and his struggles with racial acceptance -- not so much acceptance by others of his race, but of self acceptance of his race. He has a lot of issues, but the book doesn't take itself too seriously. There's a lot of funny stuff in there too, mostly from his eternally-randy lesbian best friend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More people who piss me off at the gym

The guy who leaves the gym and heads straight to get a stack of McGriddles. One thing every trainer worth a damn stresses is the importance of diet. It's somewhere between 50 to 85 per cent of the battle to lose fat and gain muscle. No matter how hard you sweat in the gym, you can't outtrain a bad diet. You're wasting your time.

And speaking of wasting ones time, what's up with the guy who does the exact same routine every day? Look, I'm sure that behind the back dumbbell thing your high school football coach taught you in 1982 is a great exercise, but it's time to mix things a little bit. I mean, look at you, you're fat as hell. It ain't working; try something else.

The guy who parks his sweaty ass on the bench where I'm doing my bench presses. I'm in the middle of a super set, that's the only reason I got up. I left my towel and my water bottle right there to stake my claim. Now I gotta lay my head down right where you just flooded the place with ass sweat. Give me a break.
The guy singing along to his Ipod at the top of his lungs. C'mon, dude, you can't sing. And even if you could, not everybody loves the Ramones and the Bay City Rollers as much as you do. . . Oh, wait a minute, this guy's not annoying. He's me. Never mind.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I still do reviews for Country Standard Time. I don't always post them here because I've been getting a lot of mediocre CDs lately and it's hard to write a good review about a mediocre album. A crappy album -- now that's an easy and fun review to write, which is why I was excited when the editor assigned this record to me to review:
And hallelujah! it turned out to be just as crappy as I'd hoped it would be. This is the review I turned in:

Randy Owen

"One on One"

Broken Bow Records

Randy Owen was the lead singer of the popular band Alabama – popular with fans if not critics who got tired of them doing the same song over and over under different titles, i.e. is there really a nickel's worth of difference between Born Country; Down Home; Tennessee River; High Cotton; Song of the South – all the way back to their first hit single My Home's in Alabama. Perhaps realizing that they had exhausted all the possible ways to express the "I'm a happy redneck" sentiment, Alabama retired in 2003 to count their money and pat themselves on the back for their contributions to country music – making it blander and more repetitious.
This project does not feel like a typical Alabama album, for which I'm grateful as the wall I used to beat my head against when I was required to review them is not as sturdy as it used to be. On the other hand it does not feel like it took five years to put together – witness the misspellings in the press kit ("I Confess was a love song in the vain (sic) of Sweet Home Alabama ") and even in the song titles (No One can Love You Anymore – quick grammar lesson, unless you're talking about someone who's passed away or otherwise become unlovable, it's two words, Randy "any more".)
One difference is a sparseness of instrumentation. It's as though Owen doesn't want anything to overshadow his voice, which would be all right if the lyrics were better. Oh, they're not bland, on Slow and Steady a breathy Owen croons "I want to kiss you all over from your head down to your feet" (podophilia didn't pop up often in Alabama songs.) Braid My Hair (about children with life-threatening diseases) sounds genuine and compassionate until you get to the last track on the album, the 9/11-themed Pray Me Back Home (although predictably referred to "911" in the liner notes) and you realize he's just pushing all the buttons and pulling out all the stops – he actually recites "The Lord's Prayer" AND "The Pledge of Allegiance" on this one, and still the only praying most listeners will do after listening to it is for Randy to reretire.
-- Robert Loy

I knew he was going to cut the line about me banging my head against the wall because he has a rule against the first person singular pronouns, as hard and fast a rule as it is arbitrary. I just write my review and make him take out any "I's" or "me's". But that's not all he did. He cut out that whole second paragraph wherein I give Mr. Owen a much needed grammar and spelling lesson. It just boggled my mind that a professional CD would be released with that much illiteracy. The editor also added the line about John Rich producing the album. He asked me why I hadn't mentioned that and I said because I didn't think Rich would want it on his resume. Here's the review he ran:

Randy Owen was the lead singer of the popular band Alabama - popular with fans if not critics who got tired of them doing the same song over and over under different titles, i.e. is there really a nickel's worth of difference between Born Country; Down Home; Tennessee River; High Cotton; Song of the South - all the way back to their first hit single My Home's in Alabama. Perhaps realizing that they had exhausted all the possible ways to express the "I'm a happy redneck" sentiment, Alabama retired in 2003 to count their money and pat themselves on the back for their contributions to country music - making it blander and more repetitious.

This John-Rich produced project does not feel like a typical Alabama album. One difference is a sparseness of instrumentation. It's as though Owen doesn't want anything to overshadow his voice, which would be all right if the lyrics were better. Oh, they're not bland, on Slow and Steady, a breathy Owen croons "I want to kiss you all over from your head down to your feet" (podophilia didn't pop up often in Alabama songs.) Braid My Hair (about children with life-threatening diseases) sounds genuine and compassionate until you get to the last track, the 9/11-themed Pray Me Back Home (although predictably referred to "911" in the liner notes) and you realize he's just pushing all the buttons and pulling out all the stops - he actually recites "The Lord's Prayer" and "The Pledge of Allegiance" on this one, and still the only praying most listeners will do after listening to it is for Randy to reretire.

Still not a positive review, but I really think he took much of the punch out of it. I mean if you know that nobody bothered to proofread the song titles to see if they made sense, that really tells you all you need to know about an album.


I try to enter the Car Talk puzzle contests every week, but a lot of times they're way too logical for me. I can do word puzzles, can't do math puzzles, and can usually struggle through logic puzzles even though they give me a headache. The puzzler last week was about baseball:

RAY: This came from a fellow named Harold Pressberg, who says this puzzler occurred to him after looking at the box score of a game between the Mets and the Cards. He was checking the stats for a certain relief pitcher of the Mets who came in at the start of the 7th inning.

Now when you look at the box score, it says things like Innings pitched, 1. Hits, 0. So he pitched an inning and allowed no hits. Runs, 1. Earned runs, 1. Strikeouts, 1. Bases on balls, 0.

So, in other words, he pitched one inning, and in doing so, he recorded 3 outs, gave up no hits or walks, and was still charged with an earned run.

How was this possible?

Well, I knew the answer right away. And this what I e-mailed them.

There's a lot of ways this could happen. Here's one: The pitcher strikes out the first batter, but the catcher drops the third strike and the runner advances to first. Next batter sacrifices him over to second. Runner steals third. Next batter hits a sacrifice fly, scoring the runner. Third batter grounds out. The pitcher's line would read 1 inning pitched, 1 strikeout, 1 run, 1 earned run, no hits, no walks.

Well, guess what -- I didn't win. They didn't even acknowledge my answer as an acceptable alternative. Here's their answer:

RAY: Here's the answer. It turns out he pitched the seventh inning and he did pretty much exactly that, he struck out a guy, didn't walk anybody, and didn't allow any runs in the seventh inning. In the eighth inning, he comes out, hits the first batter with a pitch. The manager takes him out and brings in another pitcher. That guy gives up a home run.

TOM: Oh.

RAY: The first pitcher gets charged with an earned run because he hit the batter. But because he didn't record any outs in the next inning, he didn't get charged with pitching part of an inning. According to the box score, he pitched one full inning.

That's one way. Like I said there are several ways. Maybe they don't know that a run that scores after a runner advances on a dropped third strike counts as an earned run, but it does. You could look it up.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I was a kid I was a picky eater. The battles between me and my dad over whether or not I was going to eat my green peas are legendary and epic. (And yes, now I love green peas and harass restaurants that don't serve it often enough, an irony that is not lost on my father.)
As a teenager I pretty much lived on peanut butter and cheese sandwiches. As a young man I became a vegetarian and for a time a vegan.
Picky, picky, picky.
But raising kids in general and particularly picky eater kids changed me. Watching them turn up their noses at stuff they'd never even tasted or picking their food apart because they thought they might have spotted a microgram of an onion or something else from the vegetable kingdom in it convinced me that I did not want to be a picky eater any more. I wanted to learn to love more food, all food. In just the past two or three years I have learned to appreciate beets, plums, bananas, figs, peaches, fish, shrimp, pumpkin, broccoli, kale and quinoa. I eat beef and pork now too, although every time I eat it I know it means I'm going to have to spend a little more time in either Hindu or Muslim hell, respectively.
But there are still a few things I haven't worked up the courage or the desire to try -- shellfish, mostly. And I can't get out of it any more by reminding people that God hates shellfish. (see Leviticus chapter 11, verses 9-12) . I might as well include the Christian one in my afterlife tour of hells. (Although the bad thing about the Christian hell as opposed to the Hindu hell is that it's forever, Hindu Hell is temporary.)
Anyway, this weekend we had a party for my father-in-law's 60th birthday. And it was an oyster roast. And I knew I had to give the slimy mucus creatures a chance.

The first one was not as revolting as I thought it would be, i.e. it didn't make me hurl immediately. But it was gooey and unappetizing. Someone said they didn't want gooey oysters (the only kind there was as far as I knew) and the next batch was cooked longer. And I tried one of those two and I can tell you that a chewy oyster is worse than a gooey oyster.
But I proved I'm not picky or afraid of shellfish hell.

Busiest website in the world today

Drpepper.com. Why? Because they promised to give everyone in America a free 20 oz Dr. Pepper if the Guns and Roses album "Chinese Democracy" was released before the end of the year. Considering that Axl Rose (the only thing left of G and R) has spent 14 million dollars and 14 years working on the thing, it must have looked like the very definition of a safe bet.
But guess what? In the words of Leonard Cohen, "Democracy" is coming to the USA. (If you consider Best Buy part of the USA.)

By the way, as much as I would love to believe that this a great album, a return to form for the last great rock and roll band, I don't see any way it can be anything other than a disappointment -- even if it is great, it will be a disappointment. No album is worth waiting 14 years and spending 14 mill.
I am however glad to see that this album continues the trend of vinyl LPs becoming more popular again. Real music instead of ones and zeros. That's a good thing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Give peas a chance

Every restaurant I go to I have the same conversation with the waitperson and then with Kim. With very little variation this is how it goes:

Waitperson: Hi, my name is (whatever) and I'll be your server tonight. Yes sir, you have a question?

Me: Yes, I do. What is the soup of the day?

WP: It's broccoli and cheese (or chicken chili or loaded baked potato).

Me: I see. How long have you worked here?

WP: I've been here for two years (or ten years or five months).

Me: And in all that time that you've been working here, has the soup of the day ever been split pea?

WP: (without any hesitation whatsoever) No sir.

Me: I see. Thank you.

(Waitperson departs -- I assume to get our drinks, Kim assumes to tell everybody in the kitchen about the weirdo at table eight.)

Kim: Why do you do that? You know it's never split pea. You're the only person in the world that likes that stuff.

Me: You know I'm not. What about your Uncle Mike?

Kim: Well, I guess they figure selling two bowls of split pea soup is not worth making their other customers sick to their stomachs.

There is a restaurant near us that specializes in soup -- it's called "Ladles." And every day for the last couple of weeks I go to their website to see what is the soup of the day. So far no split peas. Today it's General Tso's Chicken Soup. Isn't that weirder than split peas?
The only good thing about winter is that soup tastes so good when it's cold outside. But it's starting to look like if I'm going to get any of my favorite soup I'm going to have to open my own restaurant to compete with Ladles. I'm going to have to keep my overhead low in case Kim is right and my Uncle-in-law Mike is my only customer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shaking Things Up

Like my workout music playlist -- and my workout itself -- my pre and post workout shake keeps changing. (And that is one shake by the way, I drink half before a workout, half after.) What I had this morning was fairly typical.

1/2 cup milk I prefer kefir just because its got a lot of probiotics; it's also got a pretty high price tag so I don't always have it. Milk works fine as a substitute.

1/2 cup cottage cheese This is the most recent addition to my shake. I always thought of cottage cheese as the half-rotten milk dieters ate in the 1970's. But it's made with whey and it has 4 times as much protein as milk, so lately I've started using half cottage cheese, half milk or kefir for my base.

Protein powder. I keep playing around with these. I've used pea and hemp protein, but stick mostly to whey. Right now I'm using Greens Plus Whey Protein. I love Greens Plus and I was using their powder in my shakes -- it's an easy way to get a couple of servings of vegetables in first thing in the morning -- but when I can afford it I get their protein powder with greens. It is pricey so I'll probably be going back to a cheaper whey when I run out. I don't use soy protein powder, by the way, but I don't share the current soyphobia. I don't think it will make men's breasts grow or any of that nonsense (otherwise every guy in Japan would look like Dolly Parton) but I don't seek out soy either. There's enough of it in our diets already. It's the protein source in Kashi Go Lean cereal, which I eat every day, for example.

Kale. Speaking of greens. When my brother mentioned a while back that he put broccoli in his shakes, I thought that was the weirdest thing I'd ever heard. Now I think broccoli is okay but not quite green enough for me. I prefer spinach or kale.

Blackberries. I always have some kind of fruit -- berries are best in my book; my favorite is the rasp but black and blue work too, I've also used bananas, peaches, nectarines, plums. For people who find it difficult to get the recommended 5 servings a day of fruit and vegetables, all I can say is the sun's not even up yet and I've already had four.

PB2. Another fairly recent addition. PB2 is such a great idea it's a wonder nobody thought of it before. It's peanut butter with all the fat removed. It makes any shake into a peanut butter shake without all the fat of PB1.

2 egg whites. More protein.

1/2 cup wheat bran. Or psyllium husks. What can I say? I'm a fiber freak. By the way, this affects the taste of the shake much more all the green stuff. If you don't like a grainy texture to your shake you might want to scale back on the bran.

By now with all the fruits and veggies and powders in there, my shake is a little dry. A lot of mornings I'll thin it out with crushed ice, but it was colder than a hag's areola this a.m. so I used some leftover cold tea.

Delicious and very filling.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More books I've read in 2008

I don't have as time to read as I'd like, now that I'm using my limited spare time to improve my body and not my mind. But there are some writers who when they come out with a new book, I do what I have to do to make time to read it. Russell Hoban is one, and even though the last book of his I read Linger Awhile was a bit of a disappointment, I am still actively anticipating getting my hands on his newest one My Tango With Barbara Strozzi. Jonathan Carroll is another one. I've always enjoyed his metaphysical novels, even though most of them did not have satisfying endings. Then came White Apples, wherein a likable womanizer discovers that he actually died some time back (without apparently noticing) and has been brought back to the land of the living because his unborn son will be the savior of humanity and he has to teach the boy what happens after you die (difficult, since he doesn't remember anything about it). It's weird, thought-provoking, dreamy and funny like all of his books, but White Apples is my favorite because Carroll really delivers on the set-up here and ties it all together in the end, even though I didn't think there was any way he'd be able to -- and it's also my favorite because at its heart this cosmos-spanning novel is a love story about a man and a woman.
I wish I liked The Ghost in Love as much but I didn't. For one thing the title is misleading, the titular ghost is not a ghost and the love it has for the protagonist's ex-girlfriend is not a big part of the story. The bad guys didn't seem very threatening. It just seemed to me that the ideas in this one were more psychobabble than the spiritual insights I expect from Carroll. I didn't hate it, and I'll wait to see if this means he peaked with White Apples.
(One other writer in this must-read category for me is Mil Millington, and he has a new one out too Instructions For Living Someone Else's Life but I'm waiting till January to read this one when I can get an autographed copy from the author.)
I also read Home Truths from David Lodge because I heard Mister Lodge on the radio talking about his new book Deaf Sentence, a comedy about losing one's hearing. I wanted that book because I'm losing my hearing and having a hard time finding anything amusing about it. I went online and put it on reserve at my local library, but when I went to pick it up -- after receiving an e-mail that it was ready -- they couldn't find it, so I got this instead. It's a short novella about a couple of writers who try to get revenge on a reporter who did a hatchet job on one of them. It's based on a play and it's obvious since it's almost all dialogue -- but witty dialogue, so no complaints.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Well, you knew he wasn't going to be a good sport

Maybe they should change the rules so that if you're elected president you start work in the White House the next day. George Bush who certainly did his best to ruin this country still has 2 months to be president and evidently he's going to spend them the same way he spent the first eight years -- screwing over the poor and middle-class, this time by reducing the number of services available under Medicaid, despite the fact that he knows President Obama is just going to undo his evil handiwork. According to the New York Times this is "the first of an expected avalanche of post-election regulations" so brace yourself, I guess W's taking no chances on securing his legacy as America's worst president ever.
And me, I just hope I live long enough to understand why a working class person would ever vote Republican. All they do is pay lip service to you and your needs and then spend their terms making themselves and their rich-ass friends even more obscenely wealthy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

People who piss me off, part one

Today in church we did an exercise where you write about someone you're angry or upset with and the first thing I said was, "I'm going to need more than that one sheet of paper." The point of course was to get to some kind of understanding and eventually peace. At least I think that's the point. I was too busy making a list of people who piss me off. Since I was planning to go to the gym that afternoon I started there.


1.) The Dumper. I mean, who takes a shit at the gym? What are you, homeless? I seriously do not understand why they even have toilets at public places. Urinals, yes. But there's no way I'm sitting down and going on that seat that people have pissed on and puked on unless I have a dire and immediate gastric emergency. And even then I'll probably end up going in my pants while speeding home to my own lovely toilet.

2.) The Gum Chewer. I don't know why I find this so irksome. All of a sudden I'm Miss Vevon, my eleventh grade english teacher who hating gum chewing more than she hated dangling participles or anything else on earth. I just think there's a time and a place for chewing gum -- although right now I can only think of one, and that's when you're going up in the mountains or otherwise experiencing a sudden change in altitude. And chin-ups don't count.

3.) The Nudists. Why, why, why do some guys insist on strutting around naked? You've got a towel in your hand, why don't you wrap it around yourself. Cover up that rusty old ass and micro dick. I mean, seriously, what is the point?

4.) The Ladies Man. The guy who only goes to the gym to flirt with the ladies. Again, time and place, Romeo. If you worked on your physique as hard as you work on your pick-up lines, maybe you'd get a better response.

5.) Larry the Cable Guy. This is the guy who works out in jeans and an old button-down shirt with the sleeves torn off. Buy some sweats, dude. They're right there in Wal-Mart not tooo far from the chewing tobacco.

6.) Mr. Top-heavy. These are the guys with huge arms, huge chests and scrawny little bird legs. Quit doing all those curls and do some squats or something to develop your lower body or you are going to crumble.

7.) The Narcissist. This is the guy who does all his exercises in front of a mirror and is unable to hide his admiration for his own body.

8.) The Guy Who Blow Dries his Testicles. This guy should be drawn and quartered.

nanowrimo Day 2

I did 1651 words on my NaNoWriMo novel today for a total of 3387, so I'm right on schedule. I also know what's going to happen next, which is a first. It reminds me of my favorite quote about writing. It's from E.L. Doctorow:
Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

If We Make it Through November

November is National Novel Writing Month, when nutjobs all across the globe try to write a complete novel in one month. Sounds impossible, right? And it would be except for the fact that there's one word missing from the mission -- that word is "good." You don't have to write a good novel as long as it's 50,000 words. As founder Chris Baty says on the website, "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".
Which still ain't easy. You need to average 1660 words or so a day to complete NaNoWriMo. I wrote 1736 words yesterday and it took me 2 and a half hours. I'm not going to have that much time most days, nowhere near. Especially as whatever free time I have will still need to be spent at the gym. (I'm leaving the fat-loss portion of my fitness program now and moving into the hypertrophy portion. Although I bought a body-fat percentage scale yesterday and it says I'm at 19.1% BF which is down about 10% from the first time I checked it in April and God knows how much since I started this path in January but still higher than I want to be.)
I'm going back to the book now. Wish me luck. In the following post I put up what I slaved over yesterday. If you want to comment on it, remember the rules of NaNoWriMo



“I was having a bad week, your honor. A really bad week. I’m talking from-hell type a week, you know what I mean? I had sprained my shoulder getting out of the way of a demonic minivan that seemed determined on running me down no matter which way I tried to avoid that fate. Myrna – that’s my hairdresser – well, ex-hairdresser now – had completely messed up my hair. She ruined it. I mean, look at this, would you go anywhere with your hair looking like this?”
“The plaintiff may not have noticed but I don’t have any hair at all. If I had your locks I would be grateful for them and try to fix them on my next appointment.”
Great, a funny judge. My lucky streak continues. I forced out the best fake chuckle I could muster under the circumstances, which only seemed to antagonize him. Maybe he wasn’t being funny. Maybe he really did want my fried, hacked-off orangeish hair. We can work this out, your honor. Just let me go and I’ll give you every tress.
“And my favorite TV show got canceled before we even found out who Carly was going to marry. And then this morning I was late for work. Again. And again it was not my fault. According to the radio there was an overturned chicken truck on the interstate blocking traffic for miles.
“An overturned chicken truck. That’s the kind of week I was having, your honor. How does that even happen? Do all the hens all decide to lay their eggs on one side of the truck and the weight of all that albumen tips the thing over?”
“That’s neither here nor there, Ms. Masterson. As much as I’d love to spend the day discussing possible causes of poultry pile-ups I do have other cases on my docket.”
“Right. Sorry, your honor. So, ordinarily when I’m stuck in traffic, I try to use the time to get something done – usually prep for a meeting at work or planning an upcoming party, but even if it’s just filing my nails I figure I might as well get something out of the situation. So I was reaching for my purse when I realized I’d left the sodding thing at home. And of course in addition to my emery board and my drivers license, it had everything I needed for that meeting with the Smith-Klein corporation that I was already late for
“And that was when I threw up my hands. ‘Great!’ I said, ‘that’s just great!.’ And I just kinda asked heaven – even though I don’t believe in heaven or God or any of that claptrap and before you say anything, yes, I realize that’s neither here nor there – ‘What else could go wrong?’
“Like, I said, I’m not a believer, but wouldn’t you know, for once heaven answered. The lady behind me – her over there with her hair all tamped down on one side like that where you can tell she never stops talking and should really invest in a bluetooth if you ask me – well, she was evidently lost in a deep cell phone dream, and hallucinated that the gridlock surrounding us was actually a smoothly functioning chickenless municipal thoroughfare and ran into my back bumper knocking my little Prius into the SUV in front of me and throwing my shoulder – which had been edging its way slowly back into his socket – almost through the windshield and up onto my now crumpled-up hood.
“When I got out to give her a good cussing-out – which must be the thing to do in these circumstances, since the tattooed bruiser in the SUV, who as you can see looks a whole lot like Joseph Stalin only not near as friendly was rappeling down from his gas-guzzler to give me one too. Which he did, your honor, and it was a much meaner and more menacing cussing than I gave Suzy Cellphone there.”
I stopped there because the judge was holding up his hand. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
“The court is prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt, Ms. Masterson, and assume that you misheard the question and are answering a whole lot of questions the court never asked in the hopes that you might stumble upon the correct question. To save us both some time however, why don’t I repeat it? Why did you push the gentleman there into a ditch?”
“That’s exactly the question I am answering, your honor. But it won’t make much sense if you don’t have any background on the situation.”
I could tell by the way he smirked that he didn’t think it made a whole hell of a lot of sense even with the background information, and I had to admit he had a point.
“All right, so I’m cussing out Suzy Cellphone, Joe Stalin there is cussing – and threatening – me, when up walks this guy. ” And I turn to point to the guy who more than anybody was responsible for my being where I was. He was sitting in the front row of the court but he wasn’t paying any attention. He was gazing out the window, looking at something that commanded his full attention. Maybe they were already working on building my gallows out there, who knows.
“As you can see, he’s all scruffy and unshaven, and I have no idea where he came from, where his car was or what in the hell he wanted from me. I thought at first he might be homeless but you don’t get that kind of flawless skin living out on the street and he didn’t talk like a homeless guy or smell like one either.”
The judge held up one finger and brought it crashing down onto his desk or pulpit or whatever you call that thing he sits behind. And although I don’t speak sign language I knew he meant “Get to the point.”
“So he walks up from out of nowhere in the middle of all this cussing and blaming that’s going on and he starts apologizing. For what I have no idea. But he’s all like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. This is all my fault.’ At first I ignored him. I mean with the day I’m having the last thing I need is some nutjob with flawless features to go blithering on about how he somehow caused this accident even though as far as I can tell he doesn’t even have a car. Then the light goes on, and I think I know who he might be.
“But I don’t get a chance to ask him cuz right then Stalin there grabbed my shoulder – the sore one I told you about – and spun me back around cuz he evidently has a strong preference for spewing profanity in my face rather than at the back of my head. Suzy cellphone was still chatting all this time, by the way, and I think we all assumed that she was talking to the police, until she goes, ‘Okay, Randy, I’ll see you tonight. I love you too’ and even makes this little kissy-kiss bye-bye sound.
“Well, I wanted to take that phone and shove it up – I mean, fling it somewhere, maybe through Josef’s back window or something. But I don’t. I show restraint and suggest her next call be to 911. Then I turn around to the homeless guy who’s still apologizing and I say, ‘Are you the guy who was driving the chicken truck?’
“And he goes ‘Chicken truck? What chicken truck?’
“And I go, ‘If you’re not the guy who caused this traffic jam, then who the hell are you?’ and he goes, ‘I’m Hershel, your guardian angel.’
“That was when I pushed him into the ditch and I’m sorry I did that, your honor. But as I think I’ve demonstrated, I was having a bad week and an even worse day, so I was in no mood for crazy talk.”

After that they put Hershel or whatever his name was up on the stand. He said no, he wasn’t hurt, no, he didn’t want to press charges, what he meant when he said he was a guardian angel was that he was a good Samaritan and he wanted to see if he could help in any way.
He was charming as all hell and the judge not only bought it, but it seemed to imbue him with such goodwill toward man that he let us all go, he even dismissed the ticket the cop had given me for driving without my license, though he did give me a stern warning that if was caught driving without it in my possession again the sentence he would give me give would curl my hair even worse than it already had been.
By the time we got out of the courtroom it was after eleven o’clock. My meeting was long over. So too was my career probably, since my cellphone was still at home in my purse and I never even called to explain to my boss why I wasn’t there.
I was standing outside at the curb waiting for a trusting cabdriver to come by, one who looked like he would believe me when I told him that although I had no money I would be able to pay him when we got to my house, when homeless Hershel walked up beside me.
“I really am sorry about everything that happened today,” he said.
“Is that all you know how to say? ‘I’m sorry’?”
He smiled. “No, I also know how to say ‘Can I buy you a cup of coffee or some lunch to make up for the trouble I’ve caused.’ ”
I was about to point out that he had only caused a small percentage of my woes, but I felt like I had used up my quota of verbiage for the week on the judge – who didn’t appreciate it half as much as he appreciated the few honeyed words from Hershel – and besides, all I wanted to do was get home to an overflowing bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream and the Discovery Channel. I did not want any more penitent palaver with this lunatic.
“Look, I’m too tired to be polite, so I’ll just tell you flat out I don’t like coffee and I don’t like you. So

Thursday, October 16, 2008

One of my favorite websites is Bookmooch.com, where you can trade books you don't want for books you do. I've gotten some pretty cool stuff there and for the most part the fact that the books have been previously enjoyed is not a problem, but I really do not want a used copy of this book.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


One of my favorite blogs is Shorpy: The 100-year Photo Blog, which as you might guess shows rare pictures from the last century of our history -- fascinating pictures. I'm mostly interested in stuff from the 1920's because that's an era I'm obsessed with, but I can always find something there of interest. Here's a shot of Charleston SC's King Street in 1915:

Doesn't look all that different today. Not quite as many Model T's maybe, and they did pave over those railroad tracks that ran down the middle of the road -- How did that work anyway? having a train drive down the middle of your busiest street?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Well, I thought it was funny. . .

I wonder if this guy

made mayonaisse when he grew up.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Thanks, Mr. Kettle

This is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. (And by funny I mean pathetic.)

Kid Rock lecturing us about how bad it is to steal music.
Kid Damn Rock.
I'll wait for a second or two while that sinks in. Mr. Rock, whose whole career is based on ripping off other artists' styles, and his biggest hit ever "All Summer Long" steals from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Warren Zevon. (And don't call it sampling, as Kid himself would say, "Stealing is stealing.")
Go away, Kid, your fifteen minutes are up.

Monday, September 29, 2008

More books I've read in 2008

Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier.
I have to confess that even though I grew up reading those great silver age Marvel Comics, Jack Kirby was never my favorite artist. I couldn't get past some of his stylistic quirks, such as the square fingers. Then there was the fact that although nobody could draw alien technology and weaponry and crackling energy like Jack Kirby, his women were always, well, homely and square-fingered. And at that stage in my life I much preferred a pretty girl (like John Romita's Gwen Stacy or John Buscema's Shalla Bal) to any piece of machinery. Now that I know a little more about the history of comics I understand more about how Jack Kirby revolutionized the artform. Before Kirby, comics were flat and two-dimensional. Jack brought them to life and his characters and his action popped off the page. So many of the boundaries that he broke were copied by everybody who came after him that a punk kid like me didn't understand what a pioneer he was. And not only a pioneer but a helluva nice guy with no business acumen and who was too trusting of people and as a result he got screwed over by just about every company he worked for --- especially Marvel.

The Quitter by Harvey Pekar and Dean Haspiel.
What can I say about Harvey Pekar? If you don't like him and find his comic series American Splendor to be a self-indulgent exercise in naval-gazing you're not going to like this graphic memoir of his school-age and early adult years. Me, I think what he does is pretty amazing, just by being more honest than most writers dare he can make his admittedly-pretty-boring life into compelling pieces of literature. Pekar has had a lot of great artists draw American Splendor but for my money Dean Haspiel is the best. Of course I'm a big fan of Haspiel and his ultra-romantic anti-hero Billy Dogma anyway.
They just don't come any cooler than Paul Newman -- a hella handsome guy who refused to play pretty boy roles, preferring to challenge himself with roles of oddballs, loners, losers and criminals. A guy who started selling his homemade salad dressing as a joke and ended up with a food corporation that gave 250 million dollars to charity. A guy who stayed married to the same woman for 50 years (the lovely Joanne Woodward) and who was such a staunch liberal that he made President Nixon's fabled Enemies List. (Newman always said this was his proudest achievement. ) When I asked him to sign a bookplate for the book he wrote with A.E. Hotchner about Newman's Own Foods Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good he graciously acceded. If you'd like to honor Paul Newman in the way he would have appreciated best click here.