Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Books I've read in 2009

Religion. Art. Sex. The Arab-Israeil conflict. Politics. Marriage. Terrorism. And - oh yeah -- the end of the world. Tom Robbins had some heavy stuff on his mind when he wrote "Skinny Legs and All" and that's good cuz, unlike most people who get either depressed or confused when pondering such weighty matters, TR loves thinking about that stuff. So deep and palpable is that joy he felt writing that you can literally feel it when you read his words. I think I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading this book. I was certainly in no hurry for it to end when his asides are as enjoyable as they are -- I mean Tom Robbins throws away lines that other writers would kill for. All along I thought the book was headed for a big showdown in the Promised Land, but that was an illusion. Where Robbins was actually going was so much better than that. And speaking of illusion, the ending where Salome does the dance of the seven veils -- removing one by one the misperceptions that keep us blind, broken and bound is just an astonishing 13 pages. The removal of the religion veil by itself was worth the price of admission:

Religion was an attempt to pin down the Divine. The Divine was eternally in flux, forever moving, shifting shape. That was its nature. It was absolute, true enough: absolutely mobile. Absolutely transcendent. Absolutely flexible. Absolutely impersonal. It had its god and goddess aspects, but it was ultimately no more male or female that it was star or screwdriver. It was the sum of all those things, but that sum could never be chalked on a slate. The Divine was beyond description, beyond knowing, beyond comprehension. To say that the Divine was Creation divided by Destruction was as close as one could come to definition. . . The Divine was expansive, but religion was reductive. Religion attempted to reduce the Divine to a knowable quantity with which mortals might efficiently deal, to pigeonhole it once and for all so that we never had to reevaluate it. With hammers of cant and spikes of dogma, we crucified and crucified again, trying to nail to our stationary altars the migratory light of the world.
Thus, since religion bore false witness to the Divine, religion was blasphemy. And once it entered into its unholy alliance with politics, it became the most dangerous and repressive force that the world has ever known

Read this book. Now. Then read it again.

I am so happy that I live on the same planet as Tom Robbins.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Total eclipse of logic

I mentioned how much I enjoyed the literalism of seeing Mick Jagger sing "I'm just standing in a doorway" while he's just standing in a doorway, and that has led me to the discovery of literal videos. If you've never heard of literal videos check this out. Hilarious:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stuff I've saved.

When I was weaning myself off of diet sodas, I drank a lot of Honest Tea. I liked them because they taste like real fresh-brewed tea, and they're "barely sweetened" which is the way I like my tea. (And yes, I'm sure you're wondering what I'm doing in the South, the land of disgustingly-sweet tea, but there you go.) I also like that their bottle caps always had an interesting quote to ponder while you were enjoying one 0f their delicious beverages. One of these caps I saved and keep it in my desk. It's a quote from Henry James:
"Three things in life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."
I love this quote because I think if you distilled my beliefs that I've gathered from 51 years of living on earth down to their bare-bones essence, this just might be it.
Sadly, I have at least as much logician in me as poet, and I can't help thinking, "You know, Henry, that's really only one thing."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Books I've read in 2009

I've waited too long to be able to give these books anything like a proper review, but I did read:

"Heroic Meaures" was a free download from, and it was a lot less ponderous and depressing than a lot of her book choices. An aging couple in Manhattan tries to sell their apartment during the same weekend that a terrorist is on the loose and their dachsund is having surgery. I believe this sub-genre is known as "domestic thrillers" and although I fel no need to rush out and buy this book so I can get a warm nostalgic glow every time I see it on my bookshelf, I enjoyed it enough.

I enjoyed the first half of Elizabeth Berg's "Open House" in which a woman who finds herself unexpectedly divorced draws on a deep well of wit to cope, but it got all serious toward the end with a miscarriage and denouement that was obvious from miles away.

Seth's graphic novel "It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken" is one of my favorite book titles ever and the story about the author-artist's search for information about an obscure cartoonist -- ostensibly anyway, it's probably more a search for a simpler time -- is pretty good too. This is one of those works that I own in more than one form -- in this case, the original issues of the comic book "Palookaville" that they appeared in and the book collection. I'm trying to thin out some of my duplicate literary works and I was hoping that I could get rid of the comics and keep the book on my shelf, but they did not include the original covers with the book collection and it's smaller and harder on this aged eyes of my mine so I'm keeping the comics -- and the book too, cuz I love looking over there and seeing the words It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken over there. A similar scenario occurs just about every time I try to winnow down my collection.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thrift Store Find

We just got back from four days in the North Carolina mountains. Had a great time swimming, hiking, visiting the wildlife center and just enjoying air that's neither hot nor humid. But it wasn't all outdoor activities, either. That part of the country has more thrift stores than any place I've ever been, and Kim and I hit a few of them in Hendersonville and Brevard. We got a bread-maker for three bucks, a Batman cap (for me) and a Supergirl girl cap (for Kim) some clothes of course, including a pair of shorts that are dark purple with large stripes of even darker purple.
Kim was aghast when she saw this last item. "What are you going to wear those with?" she asked.
"Please, I'm a guy, I don't worry about stuff like that."
I also found this book and I cannot get over how cool it is. It's called "Making Love: the Picador Book of Erotic Verse." Which is cool enough, although I have other volumes of erotic verse and I might not have spent the whole dollar it cost me to purchase this volume were it not for the cover. Check this out:

I'm not sure if you can see it but that dove has a silver strand of something in his beak. I can't tell if it's plucking out this sleeping beauty's gray hair or trying to build a nest in her nose.

But that's not the best part. Here is the back cover:

Now that is a lush explosion of pubic hair there. This book was published in 1978 and back then we weren't afraid of our body hair. It is after all what makes us mammals. (Well that and the breast milk.)

And even that's not the best part. Check out the spine:

Can you see that? Nipples on the spine? how cool is that? I've never seen anything or anybody with nipples on their spine before. You know, just because I wear purple pants doesn't mean I don't care about aesthetics. This book is going to look great on my bookcase.

Nipples on the spine. Wow!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mata Hari

Mata Hari will live forever in crosswords, but if all you know about her is that she was a spy, well then, everything you know is wrong. She was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (and if she'd kept that name she'd probably never have shown up in a single crossword puzzle ever) in Leeuwarden, Holland. She invented the whole Mata Hari (Malayan for Sun) persona, claimed to be from the mysterious land of Java, raised by temple priests, et cetera. None of it was true, of course, and neither were any of the espionage charges pressed against her. Her prosecutor, AndrĂ© Mornet, stated without apology in an interview forty years later: “There wasn't enough evidence to whip a cat.” And a German general concluded: “Innumerable tall tales were concocted about the German secret service … like the one about the unfortunate Mata Hari, who, in reality, did absolutely nothing for the German espionage effort.” She just happened to be in the wrong place at the time when France needed a scapegoat. She was executed by firing squad -- she refused the blindfold -- in 1917. I understand she's always going to be around, and I'm fine with that, but can we please stop besmirching the poor woman's reputation? She was a fascinating woman and she had morals that shocked the French who are notoriously lenient in that department, but she wasn't a spy. With a little luck, Mata Hari would have been 133 years old today.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Happy Birthday, Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley is most famous for the poem "Ozymandias" but that was just the tip of this man's creative iceberg. He also penned the poems "To a Skylark" and "Ode to the West Wind" as well as entire plays in verse such as "Prometheus Unbound" and "The Cenci" and novels like "Zastrozzi". He inspired everyone from Browning to Byron in poetry and his acts of civil disobedience were copied by Gandhi. He managed to get himself kicked out of Oxford for writing a pamphlet entitled "The Necissity of Atheism" and refusing to recant any of it. He was a radical reformer too, campaigning for better treatment of the lower classes and for animal rights (before there was even an idea of animal rights.) He did all this and more before dying by drowning at age 29. He also married Mary Woolstonecraft, the author of Frankenstein, and she must have liked him all right since she retrieved his heart from the cremation pyre, kept it with her all her life and had it buried with her when she died. Even though his name was Percy, he was much feared by the conservatives of his day, hated too. One of them eulogized him thusly: "Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned, now he knows whether there is a God or not."

One thing Shelley does not get credit for is for creating the absolute best pick-up line ever.

"Nothing in the world is single,
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle
—Why not I with thine?"

Had he taken better care of himself, Percy Shelley would have been 217 years old today.


by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Pips, get it??!

So, there's this guy named Craig Frazier. He's a cartoonist. And he's working on a project called "Drawords" where every week he posts a new drawing and invites people to submit captions, publishes what he considers the best along with several runners-up. Eventually it's going to be collected into a book, I think. I enter most weeks, and I've gotten runner-up a couple times but I've never won. And I'm starting to think I'm never going to. Not because I'm not funny. No-ho. Because I'm too funny and too sophisticated for Drawords.
Big ego? Maybe, although I prefer "healthy self-esteem" but maybe I'm right. I mean, check out this last week's cartoon: a couple guys dressed like dominoes on a train of some kind.

As you can see, most people went for simple dominos-fall-down gags. A few people expanded just a tad on the domino theme -- bringing in Fats Domino and the Domino Theory. (And kids, the domino theory was something the powers that be kept using to scare us into sending our young people to die in Vietnam. Supposedly, if we let Vietnam go commie than Laos and Cambodia and eventually Canada and the US would fall like dominoes to communism. Ridiculous, of course, but considering how many people gave their lives for this theory, I don't find anything amusing about it.) One person made a simple pun based on the fact that dominoes are sometimes called "bones." There were two basically identical Domino's pizza jokes. And a casual Friday joke that makes no sense. (Or maybe it's another guy way too funny and sophisticated for Drawords and the gag goes over my head.)

My caption was "On the way to audition for Gladys Knight." And that, my friends, is funny.

Don't give me that blank look. You get it. You're smarter than Craig Frazier. You know that Gladys Knight's backup band was known as the Pips, and that pips are also what the spots on dominoes are called.

You may now clutch your side, slap your knee and roar with laughter.