Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Damn that bejlum

Man, I hate it when the Jumble kicks my ass. Usually I sail through these puzzles. Occasionally one of the six-letter words will hold me up. And once in a while I draw a complete blank and I end up listing all possible letter combinations -- truly moronic -- or just throwing up my hands and going to Internet Anagram Server -- which of course is cheating.
Usually if I can't get a word it's because it has an unusual letter pattern and my brain just refuses to consider it. Today I couldn't get the first word in this Jumble for a long time. It's CHAOS, and it probably eluded me because of the A-O vowel sequence. I guess there's a lesson in there somewhere, and I hope it's not that we turn stupid after age 50.
But the fact that I had to cheat the unscramble the answer -- there were only two vowels in a twelve-letter, two-word answer and that was just too much for my by-then-frazzled brain to handle -- does make me worry.

Monday, January 28, 2008

More books I've read in 2008

I really enjoyed A.J. Jacobs' "The Year of Living Biblically," which is about just what the subtitle says it's about: One man's humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible. The problem of course is that the Bible has a lot of bizarre rules in it, which is why A.J. wears all white clothing with tassels attached -- and never of more than one fabric; it's why he's building a hut in his living room and eating bugs. I think the thing I liked best about this book was that he never goes for the cheap laugh, as he himself says "the Bible may not have been dictated by God, it may . . . (be) filled with political agendas and outdated ideas -- but that doesn't mean the Bible can't be beautiful and sacred."
At the end of his year, Jacobs is still an agnostic, but now he's a reverent agnostic. "I now believe that whether or not there's a God, there is such a thing as sacredness. Life is sacred. The Sabbath can be a sacred day. Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendent, beyond the everyday. It's possible that humans created this sacredness ourselves, but that doesn't take away from its power or importance."
To which I say: "Amen."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Moon for the misbegotten

I saw something today at the beer store that made me happy -- actually, I saw a lot of things that made me happy, I was in the beer store. Blue Moon Brewery's Spring Ale "Rising Moon" was on the shelf.
Ah, Spring!
I didn't buy any though. I can't fool myself. It's not Spring yet. Hell, it's still 3 weeks till pitchers and catchers report for Spring training, and we all know that baseball brings the Spring, just as surely as the Coastal Carolina Fair brings the Winter.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cleaning House

So, I'm trying to clean up my office in preparation for my 50th birthday party later this afternoon. My problem with cleaning is that there are lots of notebooks in which that I've written down dreams, scraps of ideas for stories along with scores from domino and Scrabble games, and grocery lists, and I don't want to throw them away and I don't really want to keep them either, so I usually end up just shuffling them into the deal-with-someday pile. But I'm going to try to extract everything interesting from this one notebook and then pitch it.

Dream from 12-4-99

I dreamed I met that strange guy who used to do the sports on TV way back when I first moved to Charleston, back before sportscasters had to be pretty. Now he comes to the Port occasionally delivering parts for Bumper-to-Bumper. He was sitting on a picnic table reading a book. I struck up a conversation. He was grouchy of course, but eventually he showed me the book he was reading. It was a paperback with a picture of some garish, kindly-looking monster surrounded by children who obviously loved him. I read the back and found out it was about a friendly monster who everyone loved and then a mean monster who looked just like him wreaking havoc and destroying his good name.
I thought at the time -- my first lucid dream -- "This must be a story idea for me to take back. I need to remember this. It's a great story and I don't want to lose it."
I'm glad I remembered it and I'm glad I was able to go lucid, but it doesn't seem like a great story to me now. It's a lot like the 1944 Superman radio show tape I've been listening to.

(These are lines from some forgotten book that I loved so much I wanted to keep them. No idea what book or who wrote it)

"On the smooth brown hair was a hat that had obviously been taken from its mother too young."

"I reacted to that just the way a stuffed fish reacts to cut bait."

"I pushed the bell but nothing happened. I rang it again. The same nothing happened."

"Her voice was as cool as boarding house soup."

"Her voice faded off into a sort of sad whisper, like a mortician asking for a down payment."

I'm sure of the author of this next fragment. It's me, getting the beginnings of an idea for a column:

"I'm as romantic as the next guy -- nay, verily, I am more romantic. How do I know? Because I don't confuse love with mental illness.

(This actually became the middle portion of this column -- one of my favorites.)

Then there's the stuff that must have made sense at one time, like this page that just says:

Jack Larsen
Jack LaLanne

And then it obviously became my work notebook when I was in the police department as there are several pages of driver's license numbers, names and addresses of drivers involved in accidents in the late 90's. And then a section where I plan for an upcoming fantasy baseball season.

And there you have it. Now 30 minutes later I've thrown away one notebook. My office is still a mess.

My 400th Post

A copy of the letter I sent to the editor of my local newspaper, the Charleston (SC) Post and Courier:

Regarding your story "Homeless vets: Why does this still happen?" there's another question that needs to be answered first, and that is: "Pointless wars: Why does this still happen?" Because one thing's for sure, if our next president is someone like John McCain or Hillary Clinton, who has not learned the lessons of history and wants to prolong that senseless bloodbath we started in Iraq, there will be many, many more of our best and bravest young men and women returning to America and ending up homeless, damaged mentally, emotionally and physically.
If they return at all, that is.

Robert Loy

Friday, January 18, 2008

More books I've read in 2008

Valedictorian Denis Cooverman doesn't want to make the usual graduation speech about going forth and fearlesly facing the future, et cetera, so he uses the forum to say we should all do the things we will regret forever if we don't do them, and we should do them now.

That's when he announces that he loves head cheerleader Beth Cooper and outs his best friend Rich. Which leads to one unforgettable night. Former "Simpsons" writer Larry Doyle is a very funny guy and this book kept me turning the pages. My only complaint was that some of the car chases and property destruction seemed written with an eye toward a movie deal.
I found this book by way of one of my favorite web comics "Unshelved" which does a book review every Sunday -- one of the reasons I like it so much.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Rocky II

Last night my wife and I were watching the returns from the New Hampshire Primary and they kept showing Mike Gravel with 1 per cent of the vote. "Who the heck is Mike Gravel?" we asked each other. We even made jokes about Mike Gravel being there on the "rock" bottom.
So imagine my surprise when I learned that Mike Gravel is actually my choice for president -- at least according to this internet quiz. (And we know internet quizzes are never wrong.)
90% Mike Gravel
90% Dennis Kucinich
84% Joe Biden
84% John Edwards
83% Chris Dodd
83% Barack Obama
81% Hillary Clinton
71% Bill Richardson
41% Rudy Giuliani
28% John McCain
23% Ron Paul
23% Mike Huckabee
20% Mitt Romney
17% Tom Tancredo
11% Fred Thompson

Are you a Gravel man too? Take the quiz and find out:
2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Column

This is my new column for Country Standard Time Magazine.


The world of music lost a lot of greats in 2007 – Denny Doherty (of the Mamas and the Papas), Beverly Sills, Frankie (“Rawhide”) Laine, (lead singer of Boston) Brad Delp, Bobby “Boris” Pickett, Don Ho, Luciano Pavoratti , Ike Turner, Robert Goulet, Luther Ingram, and of course Porter Wagoner and Hank Thompson, to name just a few – but none that I personally will miss more than Dan Fogelberg.
I had the privilege of interviewing Dan a few years ago, and of all the interviews I’ve ever done, this was by far the most enjoyable. It was the only time I can think of where an interview felt more like talking to a friend than talking to somebody trying to sell me something. The man had no ego. When I informed him that on the same night he was playing in town George Jones was performing as well, Fogelberg laughed and said, “If I had to make that choice, I think I might have to go with George.” His concerts had that same feeling of intimacy to them too, like your coolest friend welcoming you into his living room.
Some people only know Fogelberg for the ballads like “Longer” and “Same Auld Lang Syne,” but he was a lot more versatile than that, doing everything from rock to jazz, bluegrass to Renaissance Christmas music. My favorite song of his is “Leader of the Band,” probably because there are so few songs of filial love, and as a father I appreciate it. In that song, Fogelberg calls himself the “living legacy” of his musician father. When I interviewed – well, when Dan and I talked that day – I asked him if he ever thought about what his legacy might be.
“No, I don’t think in terms of legacy,” he said. “I think in terms of life. That’s why I’ve never been self-promoting. Life is more important than what happens afterwards. I really don’t care if fifty years from now nobody knows who the hell I was. It’s more about having a great day tomorrow.”
A couple of years after our conversation Dan Fogelberg was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, and he put up a message on his website (still there today) encouraging men to get their prostate exams so they don’t have to leave their loved ones too soon.
He didn’t say it was his legacy. I’m saying it.
Guys, PLEASE, if you’re over 50 (or over 40 with a family history of prostate cancer) get a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) and a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test EVERY YEAR. I know people make jokes about the DRE but have you noticed nobody makes jokes about prostate cancer? Get it done, it’s not that bad, and it very well might save your life. Do it today, don’t wait. If caught in time prostate cancer is very treatable. If you wait too long and it becomes advanced prostate cancer, your chances for survival are significantly slimmer.
I personally think Dan Fogelberg’s music will live forever, but I’m sure Dan meant what he said, and he doesn’t care if you forget all the great music he gave us, so long as you have a great day tomorrow and live to see many more happy pain-free tomorrows on earth.
Somehow I think it’s fitting that the Living Legacy’s legacy is life itself.

Polar Plunge 08

Well, we've done it two years in a row now, so I guess that makes it more of a tradition and less of a wild hare. I'm talking about the Polar Bear Plunge at Folly Beach on January 1st 2008. Here are some pictures from that event.
No, it's not Baby New Year, it's my brother John participating in his first plunge. He had threatened to wear a Speedo and here he's attempting to turn his bathing suit into one.
All of the plungers preparing for a dip -- or is that all the dips preparing for a plunge?
Part of our cheerleading squad -- that's my sister Susan, my wife Kim and my Dad dad.
Me and my youngest daughter Cricket post-plunge.The young 'uns.The ride home -- well, actually the ride to Andolini's for pizza and (more) beer.

Books I've read in 2008

History repeats itself. The CD replaced the LP not because it was better, which it was in some ways and less so in others. CDs became king because the music industry made vinyl expensive and hard-to-find and they added extra tracks to the CDs, so they could say "The consumer has spoken and they prefer the CD format" ignoring the fact that it was anything but a level playing field.
Something similar is going on in the world of comic books. The traditional 32-page saddle-stitched comic book is held in great disdain these days; they're called "pamphlets" and "floppies." The "graphic novel" is king, or soon will be, despite the fact that most of them aren't novels, but paperback collections of comic book series. Readers are discouraged from purchasing "pamphlets" because many stores only carry enough for subscribers and have shelf after shelf of paperbacks but no copies of this month's She-Hulk comic. And they make you feel like an economic ass to continue purchasing comics the old-fashioned way. This collection of Bill Willingham's great series "Fables" collects eight issues for $18, buying the eight issues individually would cost you 24 dollars, and usually they throw in some extras that you can't get anywhere else -- an introduction by the author, design sketches from the artists, unpublished short stories, et cetera. I've quit buying the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book because when the paperback collection of the first story arc "The Long Way Home" came out it had all the beautiful variant covers included as well, and I don't even know how much that would cost individually, but I know I can't afford it. (A variant cover for those who don't know is an identical-on-the-inside edition of a standard comic book but with a different cover which OCD completists such as myself have to buy.) So I'll wait for the second story in paperback. Yes, it's farewell to the floppies. And the paperbacks are better in some ways, easier to store and catalogue, nice to read all in one sitting rather than waiting months -- or sometimes a year or more, since floppies have also become notoriously late more often than not.
Okay, end of rant. Fables Volume Four "March of the Wooden Soldiers" may be my favorite collection to date. We get the big showdown in Fabletown between the Fables and the Adversary's army of invincible wooden soldiers carved and brought to life by Gepetto himself. Snow White is pregnant with Bigby Wolf's baby and there are hints that something might be a little unusual even by Fables standards with the child. There's a magic battle between Baba Yaga and the witch of Hansel and Gretel and the mayoral race between Prince Charming and King Cole. And lots, lots more.
I also read and enjoyed Craig Yoe's "Arf Forum" as I've enjoyed as I've enjoyed all the Arf books. Yoe has a knack for finding cool stuff about comics. Here you learn that Elvis was an Archie fan, Smokey Stover is an underrated strip, and we get to see rare stuff from Stan Lee and Joe Maneely and Krazy Kat too.