Sunday, November 30, 2008
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
Monday, November 24, 2008
And hallelujah! it turned out to be just as crappy as I'd hoped it would be. This is the review I turned in:
"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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 AT THE GYM
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.
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.
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