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.