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.

Friday, September 26, 2008

How great is Mark Twain?

Here is the American Library Association's list of most challenged authors 2007.

1) Robert Cormier
2) Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
3) Mark Twain
4) Toni Morrison
5) Philip Pullman
6) Kevin Henkes
7) Lois Lowry
8) Chris Crutcher
9) Lauren Myracle
10) Joann Sfar

Mark Twain's been dead for 98 years and he still gets the bronze medal. (By the way, next week is Banned Books Week -- tell the book-burners (like Sarah Palin) to go to hell; read a banned book and buy one for a young person you love.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Potty talk

I don't know why this cracked me up but it did. My favorite thrift store is really good about checking out the electronics and other stuff they sell. They'll usually put a little notation on the price tag, something like "Works good" "Needs work" or something like that. But I guess they couldn't get any of their minimum-wage employees to take this in-home porta-potty for a test drive:

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I think the Ipod I received for my fiftieth birthday was the best gift I've ever received. Certainly without it I would not have been able to lose all this weight -- 52 and a half pounds at last weigh-in, 171 down from 223.5 -- because I would not have been able to do all the workouts without the music to inspire me -- and not just the music; I love listening to podcasts like "This American Life" and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" while I walk, and maybe something fitness-related like "The Fitcast" while lifting weights.
But mostly it's the music. And the rekindling of my love for that art form "the least disagreeable of all noises". I used to live for the music and even now something from the Ramones or David Bowie or Grand Funk Railroad can send me back in time quicker than anything H.G. Wells ever dreamed of. But over the years my passion cooled. Part of the reason was that I didn't have time or disposable income to devote to music, with a full-time job and a hectic family life. Part of the reason was the tinnitus which has robbed me of some of my hearing. (That ringing in my ears by the way is probably not entirely unrelated to my previous adoration of music -- take care of your ears, kids. Practice safe music) And part of the reason was either -- and I'm honestly not sure which -- I either got old as dirt or music started to suck.
Anyway, I got an Ipod and after filling it up with all my CDs and downloading all the old stuff I've bought before as LPs, 45s, CDs, cassettes, et cetera, I went looking for new music. And boy, did I find it -- the great Americana sounds of Reckless Kelly, the high energy pop-punk of We The Kings, the positive vibrations of Michael Franti and Spearhead that actually got me to do something I haven't done in over a decade -- buy a CD, this one and I recommend it highly -- and my latest obsession, the hard-to-describe 29-member Swedish glee-club slash rock band "I'm From Barcelona." I've also found some old stuff I was not familiar with -- I keep changing my workout music playlist, but right now the first song on there is "Saved" by Laverne Baker recorded in 1961 and beginning "I used to smoke; I used to drink; I used to smoke, drink and dance the hootchie-koo" all of which is true in my case, (albeit my hootchie-koo dancing was never that impressive.) I've also rediscovered how some of my old favorites can be re-considered as workout anthems. One of the lines that gets me pumping hard is "I'm gonna strut like a cock until I'm ninety-nine" from Grand Funk's "Walk Like a Man." Similarly the Raspberries' "Go All the Way" is no longer a power pop sex track. "Go All the Way" now means don't give up, finish your HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
And really, I probably take lyrics (and song titles) way too seriously, you know that Clash song that starts "You say you stand by your man / Tell me something I dont understand /You said you love me and thats a fact / Then you left me, said you felt trapped" and the chorus that goes "Did you stand by me? No, not at all". It's a great song, lots of energy, but I had to move it way down on my playlist because although these lines are never sung, the name of the song is "Train in Vain" and that's the last thing I want to do.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More books I've read in 2008

Who are you calling a meathead? I can still read.

Now I've heard it all

Pretty much everyone has gotten used to the more compact me by now. Sometimes I'll run into someone I haven't seen in a long while and their surprise is always fun. As are the comments people make that prove they don't get it, i.e. "You better start eating again" when, as anyone who was paying attention would know, I eat all the time. I heard a new one today though. Somebody told me I needed to gain some weight back. That being thin was making me look older. It actually made sense when they explained it -- fat fills in all the wrinkles and now I've got nothing to fill them with.
Oh well, I'd rather be wrinkled than fat.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hooray for me

It's official. I weighed in at 172 today, which means I've lost 51 pounds this year -- well, 51 and a half to be exact. Which is pretty amazing considering I've trained myself for the most part -- and I have a lot to learn. (This morning the janitor at the gym corrected my form on the lat pulldown.) My brother who's been working out forever was going to help me train, but then he got back together with his girlfriend and evidently he can't do both. So anyway hooray for me!

It's weird cuz people at work ask me how I did it, how I've lost so much weight and when I tell them they don't believe me -- or maybe it's more accurate to say they don't hear me. They want to know if I'm starving myself or eating cabbage soup or something. And when I tell them I eat more now than I did when I was fat, you can see that it doesn't sink in. But it's true, I do eat more -- although I drink a lot less. And that's one of the great things about working out is it allows you to eat -- and I love to eat.

While I'm passing out hoorays, let me give one to Kim. My beautiful child-bride turns 40 today. Happy birthday, baby.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dear John McCain

How dumb do you think we are?

"Let me just offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second crowd: change is coming."
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, the Republican presidential nominee.

Try to fight off the Alzheimers, Johnny. The old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second crowd is you -- well, you and your butt-buddy, George W. Get the fuck out of here, you crepuscular old fart.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

God Bless You, Mary Ellen Baker!

I'm not going to kid you -- there was no way I was going to vote for John McCain no matter who he picked as his running mate. He could have picked Krishna and I wouldn't vote for them. I think George Bush and Karl Rove and eight years of them and their minions have pretty much ruined this once-great nation and brought us to the brink of World War III for no reason whatsoever, and John McCain has been way up Bush's ass the whole way, going so far as to say we should stay in Iraq for a hundred years if that's how long it takes us to shove democracy down their throats.
But picking Sarah Palin as his running mate made that impossibility even more impossible. Now not only would hell have to freeze over but Satan would have to join the Ice Follies. It's bad enough that she's a hypocrite; I expect that from Republicans. She's a gun nut and a religious fascist. Again, not too far from the party line. But the one thing I can never forgive, the one thing that in my mind brands you as the absolute lowest form of life: She's a book-burner.
(A)s mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.
Please everybody let's send this idiot back to the frozen North.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I don't know if the stereotype of the dumb jock is valid or not, but ever since I've been working out I've been doing significantly less reading. Part of it is just temporal logistics -- I only have so much time and that time is mostly used for walking and weight-lifting now. But that's not the whole story, though. I do have some time to read but when I do I don't enjoy it very much and I usually end up turning on the television instead. There's just so much great stuff on these days -- Gavin and Stacy, Reaper, Pushing Daisies, The Biggest Loser and my favorite of all which has its 2-hour season premiere tonight (and it's kinda scary how excited I am) -- Bones. People who have known me for a long time and never seen me watch anything other than romantic comedies are surprised I like this show. My wife can't believe it. But despite the presence of serial killers and rotting corpses it's actually very funny and very romantic. The writing and acting are second to none and Emily Deschanel is just stunningly gorgeous.

Check it out.