Monday, September 29, 2003

A long time ago, on an amp far, far away...

Bopping around town the other day, one of my favorite guitar solos came on, and for a moment I'm sure I was more dangerous to my fellow drivers than an inebriated executive on a cell phone in the midst of changing a CD in a school zone. Good solos tend to distract me. That gave me the idea to mine my collection for ya.

I've collected a herd (get it? "heard" - *ahem*, anyway...) of some great ones. [Click the titles for the solos. Or if things don't work, in MS Windows right click and select "save as..."; on a Mac, hold button down and save it; on Linux, I won't insult you with instructions.]

"When I look at the World" - solo by The Edge (aka Dave Evans) of U2. Doesn't it sound like fireworks riding into the sky and detonating? The Edge is underrated as a guitarist because what he does is so simple. Guitar mavericks often say "anyone can do what he does," yet I've yet to hear someone who makes good on that boast.

"Sentimental Hygiene" - Neil Young straps one on for Warren Zevon's chunky hit. This is just one of the two great solos Neil hammers out for the excitable boy, may he rest in peace.

"Breakdown Dead Ahead" - This is where I get into trouble with the true believers of rock and roll. "Boz Scaggs!?!?" they'd say in mock horror, "What have you been smoking and why aren't you passing it around? Isn't Scaggs that guy who sounds like Kermit the Frog on 'We're All Alone'? How lame!" Well, yeah, Boz did channel Kermit for the first couple bars, but man, Steve Lukather (renowned studio musician) just snorts off a nasty one here, don't he?

"Sausalito Summernight" - from Danish one hit wonder Diesel. This was one of those impossible to find singles until a couple years ago. Don't you wish you could play guitar like that?

"Things Change" - Dwight Yoakam's silent partner, in only a figurative sense, is Pete Anderson. Pete has produced all of Dwight's albums, is often the co-writer of his songs, and is his main guitarist on top of it all. Take the pressure off, Pete.

"Peach" - Prince gets all Jimi here. The tune is essentially a frame for guitar solos (three!) and breast metaphors. In other words, bouncy perfection.

"Up in Arms" - Foo Fighters. That's Dave Grohl, former drummer of Nirvana, smokin' the frets (all too briefly) there (AND doing the vocals). To think one guy is this talented just makes my fillings ache. (In case you were wondering, he simply is the best freakin' drummer still working today, only threatened by the drummer he hired for the Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins.)

"Nada" - The Refreshments (specifically guitarist Brian David Blush) from their album "Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy", which to me is one of the great unsung rock albums of all time. The whole thing is a raft of great tunes, with phenomenal guitar work - as you can tell from this clip. The band broke up after their second album, which was a dark day in the Yahmdallah household. The wife let me sit out on the deck and gaze into the distance as the sun set, contemplating that "sun-cracked, coal-black soul of mine" (a refrain from "Nada") and the sadness of losing one of my favoritist bands.

Hey kids, rock and roll, rock on.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Reason number 57,387 why I love that woman:

Came back from running errands the other day, and my wife was introducing our daughter to that classic of felonious parenthood Raising Arizona as part of our ongoing effort to fan the flames of one of the most important components for having a happy life - a good sense of humor. There are so many things to love about that movie, but this is one of the better ones: It shows how very much we love our babies.
Reason number 666.2 why some Christian fundies shouldn't even be allowed to drive:

Crap like this. (Via Mark Shea.)

Their basic premise is this: These musicians aren't really Christians, even though the musicians themselves claim they are, because they aren't as perfect as Jesus and don't even try to be, therefore they are not good enough, neener neener.

You really can't get the message of Christ any more backwards than that.

(For those of you in the cheap seats: None of us are good enough because we all sin, therefore we are made good enough, that is forgiven of those sins, through belief in Christ and what he did for us. It's not a goal; it's a gift.)

Monday, September 22, 2003

Movie killers

Ever noticed how some actors and actresses always bring up the level of a movie by merely being in them? The short list includes Al Pacino, Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Frances McDormand, and M. Emmet Walsh. (Yes, M. Emmet Walsh. Check it out. If he's in a movie, it's good.) I could spend a lot of keyboard mileage debating with myself whether their skills as a performer create this magical aura or if they just tend to know which scripts are for them, have something they can work with, but I won't. Partially because I haven't really thought that hard about it yet, but mostly because I can't muster much of a damn over the fact. It's just a fact, let's move on.

I say this only to point out that I've discovered the antimatter, the dark side, version of this phenomenon. By name, he's Dennis Quaid. What's odd about this is that he's actually a decent actor. He was great in both The Right Stuff and The Big Easy. Yet, nearly every other movie he's been in has either been a turkey in its own right, or he has made it somewhat less than the sum of its parts. Boring. Arid. I dunno. Odd, ain't it?

You got any antimatter/black hole actors/actresses that just suck the life out of a film?
A rare event

For the first time in over half a year I heard a song on the radio that I liked, and would buy if I had the money. There was a time where I had this experience at least twice a week. I read an interview in this week's "EW" with Dave Matthews, Pink, and Outkast, (which was great btw) and they all carped about the same thing. We turn on the radio, surf for about a half hour for something, anything, that will make us want to stay, then we pop in our newest mix CD. If major label artists are bitching about the same thing I am, let's call it A CLUE. And the record labels wonder why no one's buying.

I went out to iTunes to get the song because I can afford 99 cents, actually, but they don't really have a good run-down of actually how things are charged before you download their application and sign up - or at least I couldn't find it. Web designers: if a customer cannot find exactly how much something will cost in under five pages, then you've lost half of your potential customers. Fix it, please.

Oh, and online CD sales guys, like Amazon and CDUniverse, please put up samples of the songs of new releases when they're actually released and for sale. That's kinda the whole point, just in case you were wondering.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Big nasty fuckin' spider

My computer is in the basement, and the other day on the way to a potty break from reading blogs, as I bopped past the sunken window well, I registered a bug clasping the screen on the window. My early alarm systems posted "Spider!" on my fight-or-flight nerve web, but the higher brain overruled with calm reason, offering that it was probably a grasshopper because the creature was simply too large to be a spider, so I didn't even break stride. However, the reptilian brain spoke up and said, "you'd better believe that's A BIG FUCKING SPIDER! MY GOD!! LOOK AT THAT MONSTER!!!" So I did.

I don't know about you guys, but when I encounter something truly spectacular in a negative sense, my brain attempts to recoil, thereby prolonging the agony as I have to re-grasp the terribleness over and over again a few times until it sinks in that it really is as horrid as it appears, such as when I encounter a truly ugly person (so ugly they fit Moms Mabley's description of, "so ugly, it hurt my feelings"), a large, complex puddle of vomit, or a REALLY BIG FUCKING SPIDER. So, I froze there, waves of goosebumps echoing around the surface of my skin as if it were a proof of concept demonstration that the epidermis is the largest organ of the body.

I thought briefly of taking a photo of it and posting it here, but that would've meant that I would've had to tape something to the window to give you an idea of the scale of this monster, which most likely would have resulted in my wife discovering my cooling corpse in the basement, a look of horror molded onto my face ala The Ring, scotch tape in one hand, a quarter clutched in the other (the coin I would have used for scale comparison), spider gone as the thump of my body hitting the floor would have startled it away, so she would have to wonder for the rest of her days what I had been doing, why it killed me, and why I needed tape and twenty-five cents.

To give you an idea of its size though, if you were to place a computer floppy on the thing, all of its legs would've extended a solid inch or two, depending on the leg, beyond the perimeter. The fangs would've been just visible on one side, and the two weird stubs that hang off the back of the abdomen's web excretor would've been visible on the other side. It was one of those sinister sporty spiders, all sleek with the legs held to the front and back for optimum leaping and dashing ability, as opposed to the economy spiders who hold their legs in a circular configuration, best for gripping a web. The quarter I would've taped to the window were I a braver man would've looked like an M&M next to a Hotwheel Camaro.

I stepped into the other room and had a total cluster attack of the fantods. I went and sat again at the computer, planning my course of action. I simply wanted to read some more, have another cup of coffee, and so I decided to relax and do just that. However, my lizard brain kept whispering things like, "what if it's not there later when you go to get it?", "what if it's outside the window well and it jumps on your leg?", "what if it crawls up the side of the house and falls on you while you're looking down in the window well?", and finally, "what if it gets inside?" Well, fuck.

I go into the garage for a really big, really long stick. Then I remember I have a can of spider killer spray up on the ledge out there; I won't have to even get close! I have another moment of anxiety as I imagine another spider perversely clinging to the other side of the can way up there where I can't see it. I spastically grab the can in order to dislodge any nasties, real or imagined, and head over to the window well, which is at the top of a steep incline covered in landscaping rock, surrounded by long wild grass we've neglected to pull. I imagine the look on my face as I climbed the sliding rock was quite comical.

It was still there on the screen, so I blasted it. I totally coated the thing, turning it from gray to completely Christmas tree frocking white. It slowly turned and began climbing up the screen, the thick layer of poison not even making it falter or slip. (That fact that anything which weighs as much as a mouse can casually stroll up a sheer vertical of glass is just wrong.)

I ran to get a big stick! Images of its yellow fangs gave me another fit of the fantods as I scooted down the rocks. The thing was a dull, moldy gray, but its freaking HUGE fangs were poisonously yellow! Dear God!

Back with my stick, I whacked it a good one. It dropped to the bottom of the window well, and I leaned over and went after it.

Here, boys and girls, is the reason I have told you this whole horrid story: I reached down with the point, placing it on its stomach segment to crush the dreadful bastard, and it started grasping wildly at the stick for purchase. The thing was so huge, the thrumming of its legs traveled up the stick; I could feel it!! I can't really be sure, because at that moment the tape head that records my memories was completely out of contact with the tape so my brain wouldn't have to go to the effort of repressing the memory later, but I bet at that moment I let loose a strangled, multi-octave, "GAAHHHH!" and impaled the beast. It stopped struggling, but I hammered the thing flat, pushed it between the rocks, covered it with one, and pushed hard on the entombing rock for good measure.

I hope it's dead.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Where the Boys Are - and the Girls, too!

My town had the annual artfest recently (an event which I heartily recommend for every single town in the nation), and it is one of the highlights of the year for my family. Artists and artisans set up their tents, local eateries put out booths and double their prices, and the town rents the a cappella group du jour for the weekend. There's a guy on stilts who takes care to dress as a cowboy and not a clown (our current age's scariest archetype), since freaked-out frightened little kids tend to automatically strike out at scary things within reach, a real hazard to stilt-wearers. Someone makes balloon animals. Once, they had a roving magician, but I think he made the jewelry artists nervous since he could clearly palm anything; I've not seen him since. The local Birds of Prey rescue mission shows up and displays the eagles and hawks they're nursing back to health after prying them off someone's fender or grill. The police show up and do their K-9 unit demonstration (which makes the artists who indulge in chemically enhanced inspiration a little edgy). They sell nice T-shirts. And, of course, there's beer for $5 a glass.

It occurred to me as I was perpetuating my endorphin rush by wandering from tent to tent, that artisans are the real artists anymore. Official, academically-sanctioned art is so pretentious, formless, and generally awful that no one outside of that particular circle of artists likes it, takes it seriously, or really pays any attention to the latest "found art" refuse sculpture or abstract smear of pigments intended to wake us up from our bourgeois trance. (Most twenty-year-olds who indulge in this illusion haven't even lost their mental baby fat, and yet they are supposed to shake the rest of us from our supposed daze. Like, puh-leeze, dude.)

Michael Blowhard once asked me via email about what I do out in the wasteland of Colorado to experience art since I moved from the art mecca of Minneapolis/St. Paul (though these are not his phrasings or implications, he's too polite for that, but is the basic gist). Well, for me, artisan fairs are the answer.

My two favorite artists whom I encountered this year are Bill Amundson and Padgett McFeely.

This is an example of Bill Amundson's drawings, and his site is here.

Amundson told me a great story when I chuckled at this particular drawing. And I paraphrase: "Yeah, that happens to be my most popular commission subject. Everyone wants me to put logos and stuff on tits. I say 'tits' by the way, even though it embarrasses me, because my girlfriend said that 'breasts' really belong to women - its such a serious grown-up word - but 'tits' belong to the world. So, she says I need to call them 'tits'. This one lady had me make one with tractors on the tits for her dad, because he likes tractors, and well, tits, of course. I think I've put every logo there is on tits..."

Naturally, he's a hoot.

Here is one of Padgett McFeely's hand-tinted photographs, and her site is here.

"Mountain Melody"

I wish I could retell her stories about where and how she found some subjects, and how she re-envisioned them, but those were mostly great in the telling, and I just can't do them justice.

However, both of these artists post their scheduled shows on their sites, so go find them yourself and hear their stories first hand.
As an added bonus, check out this great essay by the Blowhards regarding art and stuff.

Afterthought: Now I know that slamming mainstream/academic art and then posting a drawing of boobs (sorry Bill, I like "boobs" better) and a tinted photo is kinda cutting myself off at the knees, as they aren't "high art". I don't think the artists who produced those works would call them high art either - but they are art, regardless of their relative stature in the larger wash of things. It's just that art should contain the high and the low and everything in between. Here's the inbetween. And they pass my test: I would hang them on the wall with pride if I could afford them. So there.
Why Star Trek SUCKS when Capt. Kirk isn't at the helm.

Was pleased to run across the DVD set of the complete fifth season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" at the library. Snag-a-roo!

Spent the rest of the week remembering why I eventually abandoned the series with extreme ambivalence. Gad what a frustrating experience STTNG is. It's Star Trek, dammit. But it's boring and grindingly politically correct, dammit anyway.

The main culprit is mediocre writing (you can often reverse engineer the story conference for an episode* [see below]), but the blah writing is always exacerbated by clunky direction and pacing. As I had suspected when riding out another vast swath of commercials during the original broadcasts, each episode clocks in at 45 minutes, including the title and credit sequences. Taking 3 to 4 minutes off for that, we have only 40 minutes of show. Then, each and every cursed (pronounce that with a long "ed") episode has a good 5 to 10 minutes of bullshit character development - that serves nada towards said character development.

I don't know how many times a scene starts with someone cutting flowers in their quarters, playing the trombone/clarinet, reading a book, masturbating, etc., and we have to wade through their cute moment before something to do with the actual plot happens. Y'know, when Spock was playing his hippie dulcimer-harp in the rec room, it was interesting because we didn't think an emotionless person would like music. But when we see Riker tooting on a trombone, no one gives a flying warp speed fuck. It's not surprising or informative that he plays the trombone, it's dull.

Even the way trivial dialogue is delivered (meaning they're not on the bridge dealing with aliens with bad facial prosthesis) and edited fills me with entropy. It typically goes like this:
- One character speaks, then mugs for the camera
- Cut to the other character looking at them; pause; we see them absorb the other's dialogue, formulate their own
- They then speak their dialogue, mug
- Cut to other character looking at them; repeat
(This is what typically happens when you let actors direct, btw.)

Since the running time of most episodes is only 40 minutes, this crap pads each by about another 5 to 7 minutes, so we are officially down to about a basic half hour of action and plot spread over a life-wasting hour. It's kinda like that joke Woody Allen uses in Annie Hall to explain his view of life: two women are at a cheap resort in the Catskills having a meal when one says to the other, "the food here is terrible," to which the other adds, "I know, and such small portions."

*- "The Perfect Mate" - story conference idea: Q: what would be the perfect woman? A: someone who liked what I liked and thought I was totally cool. (Another possible sci: "You brought her, you fuck her.") ((Though, Famke Janssen in the role goes a long way towards achieving the perfect woman groove. Good Lord, that woman's a mondo-uber-hottie! (Alien estrus spots notwithstanding.) She joins my "Friends" inspired list of Celebrities My Spouse Would Let Me Do, alongside Kimberly Williams and Kate Hudson.))
- "I, Borg" - sci: what if a borg, used to a collective, was all alone?
- "Ensign Ro" - sci: if the Klingons represent(ed) the Russians, what kind of character would represent Arabs?
- "Darmok" - sci: y'know how we pitch stories, "it's kinda like "Altered States" meets "Lethal Weapon" (), what if a race really talked like that all the time?
- "The Game" - sci: you guys really need to quit playing "Doom" and work on those scripts.
And so on.

I have also complained in the past (if you're paying attention and bless you if you are) about the dearth of sex in most post-classic Star Treks. Well, in season five, Troi boffs the leader of the Eugenics society they save from a neutron. Riker boffs Troi, Ro, an androgynous character who supposedly doesn't even possess genitalia, and a few nameless wrinkly faced alien chicks. Picard most likely boffs the "Perfect Mate", the "Metamorph" empath babe who's literally born solely to please men. So, seems there is a lot of woogy woogy taking place, but everyone seems to regret it except Riker. I still prefer Capt. Kirk - and even Bones (and Spock if only he didn't go into heat just every seven years) - indulging in a little space nooky, then unashamedly showering off and moving on to blow more shit up.

Now, the Borg were a great creation, and Data was a wonderful character, but that's about where it begins and ends for STTNG. Oh, and what red-blooded guy didn't want to do Troi at one point or another?

One final thought ... the compression used on the DVDs had this odd artifact/effect where if any of the characters were sitting with their head very still, their features would float on their head, because the compression would keep the surrounding frame of the sides and back of their head still, but let all of their features move as a unit, particularly with Capt. Picard. It's totally freaky. I surprised they let this pricey collection out of the gate with such a blatant flaw.

Monday, September 15, 2003

In the Bedroom
partial review

<Channeling Sam Kinison> OOOOOOH! OH! OOOOOOOOOOOOOHH!

Yet another pretentious, glacially paced, overly long art film with inexplicable Oscar nominations up the butt. This is some folks idea of the perfect "serious film". Bullshit. It's the perfect bad film.

Let me give you an example. The plot (all 5 minutes of screen time that it gets out of the total 140) is this college boy home from school is boffing an older woman who has kids and eventually her estranged husband puts a bullet through his eye. The remainder of the film is his parents dealing with this. Here is one of those scenes:

- 10 seconds of black screen and silence.
- We fade up slowly on the mom (Sissy Spacek) sitting watching some talk show. We watch her watch the TV for approximately 90 seconds of screen time (I watched the time readout on the DVD player for these timings).
- The dad (Tom Wilkinson) walks in with a teapot and offers to pour her a cup, which she accepts, so he does, taking 60 seconds of screen time.
- The dad sits down to watch the TV, too. We watch the both of them watch TV for approximately 100 seconds of screen time.
- We fade out slowly, for about 15 seconds, to sit through another 10 seconds of black screen and silence.

Total wasted time: 4 Minutes, 55 seconds, and let's just round it up to 5 minutes to be that way.

That is just one vignette out of 7 in a row like that. The movie is wall to wall with scenes like that. The movie even ends with a series of scenes like that. Why in the hell does anyone make a movie like that?
Just in case anyone needs reminding:

George Bush did not win the popular vote, and perhaps wouldn't have even won enough votes in the Electoral College had the vote been allowed to continue to legitimate resolution, but the Supreme Court, stacked with cronies, halted the election and installed Georgy..

After we were attacked by Middle Eastern terrorists, George rightly attacked the country that gave refuge to the group, but we don't know if we got the leader. It's even come out that our intelligence agencies knew of the possibility of the attack, but it was ignored at higher levels.

Using this terrorist attack, George Bush then attempted to justify a war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein by saying they had weapons of mass destruction and had aided the terrorists. So far, neither seems to be true. It's good to be rid of Saddam, but the means perhaps weren't justifiable. It is more likely that Saudi Arabians were behind the financing and planning of the terrorist attacks, but the Bush family and most of the oil families are tight with the Saudis, so aggression against them, whether it's justified or not, is unlikely.

Americans have lost more civil rights though this administration through John Ashcroft's PATRIOT Act than we have in all of our nation's previous history. This is the single largest attack on our civil rights since Ronald and Nancy Reagan's drug war, with its introduction of civil asset forfeiture - taking the accused's money and belongings before guilt has been established. Essentially, the PATRIOT Act completes the nullification of our Constitution begun by the drug war. In case you missed the fine print, Feds can now come into your house when you're not home, go through everything there, not tell you they did this, and they get permission to do this from a closed court that has no public accountability. The same goes for phone taps, internet access taps, and complete access to all of your financial accounts.

Tom DeLay has been the mastermind behind the possibly illegal, and certainly unrepresentational, gerrymandering in Colorado and Texas to guarantee Republican seats in the Capitol. He was also behind the California recall fiasco which will most likely result in the installation of another actor/puppet and neocon rubber stamp into the Governor's office.

George Bush has led our country into the worst depression ever since the Great Depression of the '20s and '30s - a verifiable fact. Jimmy Carter's recession was nothing compared to the economic trouble our nation faces today. There's even cause for suspicion that the Bush administration and the puppeteers behind it actually want our nation to be in a depression as some sort of "wage adjustment" with the added benefits of union busting. ("Look! We're losing our jobs overseas to cheaper workers! Make it cheap here and the jobs will stay!")

On top of all this, some of our news operations now blatantly and unapologetically lie to us, and then try to sue citizens who point this out, as Fox news did recently to Al Franken - just search google on his name. News organizations are supposed to be upholding free speech, not suppressing it. Reuters is often caught lying, as in this mind-stabbing example (on via Andrea Harris).

Total full-goose bozo wingnut Ann Coulter's latest effort has been to "save the legacy and reputation" of Joe McCarthy - of the infamous McCarthyism period (so infamous your spell-checker knows the term). When she froths about it on the Rushclone talk shows, they just smile and ask, "Really Ann? Joe McCarthy? Isn't that even far out for you?" And when she says, "No, he was a great man," they just smile, say "OK," and go to commercial.

Even my father-in-law, a lifelong Republican, has finally realized the above and how bad things are. He began a "did you know about this?" diatribe yesterday, and my wife and I felt vindicated that someone who should be firmly and warmly ensconced in the excrement of delusion offered by the administration and the far right's spin doctors is suddenly alarmed by the facts. He even went so far as to explain the original, real meaning of fascism and how fascism rises only from a nation that was democratic, but had been whipped into a nationalistic frenzy and then allowed the many small changes which add up to the creation of a fascist state. A lifelong Republican said this.

We are in some deep shit folks. No doubt about it. It can happen here.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

The Game of Love
Cat's in the Cradle

Went out to celebrate the birth of one of our friends on the block, her 40th I'm told (but didn't ask), so it was bittersweet and fun. As we walked from the restaurant to the club for some dancing, a whole horse carriage of drunken twentysomething girls clopped past, and they, for some reason, were celebrating Mardi Gras, in September, in the middle of downtown Denver no less. Some people actually had beads, and these girls would flash their boobs to get a string, as the tradition goes. A comedian I saw called this phenomenon "breasts in the wild", in that these aren't your wife's boobs which, though still wonderful and enticing, aren't the same as getting a glimpse of a stranger's boobs. (Yes, yes, men are freaks.) The comedian said this was like God saying, "Have a Nice Day!" My wife, to this day, will point out a breast in the wild if she notices I haven't noticed, bless her heart.

Yet, even with unexpected gratuitous live nudity, the highlight of the evening for me was when our daughter got to ride in the limo they rented for the night, before all us adults blasted off to an urban evening. We had to go pick up some friends in another cul-de-sac, so all the kids piled in and we went. The look on her face, that wondrous shy and slightly-stunned-with-the-novelty demeanor, and being there for another first experience were like soul candy.

That's what being a parent does to you.

This morning, she got up and got herself ready for school all by herself, and she's going to be seven in just over a month. Recently, she's begun to keep a diary. A freakin' diary! At six! Can you imagine reading a diary you kept at six? She's made my wife and me solemnly promise we won't read it. We got her one with a little lock on it, and she's thrilled. I can't believe how fast this time is going. Joni Mitchell says eventually you "drag your heels to slow the circles down". Hell, I would toss out an anchor if I could.

I wish that I had kept a blog from the time before my daughter was born so I'd have it all recorded, and some written memories to go back to and reminisce. Yes, we have the videos and the pictures, but the words would be nice to have, too.

James Lileks does have that, and it's wild to read and see the changes a child brings. Even as a vicarious experience, it's compelling. I've read Lileks pretty much since he put up his site (I think I found it when it was three months old, back when he could reasonably respond to his email), and from the time he announced he was going to be a dad, it was one of the more enjoyable reading experiences I've had. Here is the post where his daughter is born:
Read through some of the posts before and after. You'll probably not encounter a better depiction of the dawning of a new life anywhere else.

And, hey, it gets even better. Dooce, aka Heather Armstrong, is pregnant right now with her first child. If you want to have the experience "live" as I did reading Lilek's wonderful posts, add Dooce to your bookmarks. On top of it all, she's probably one of the most hilarious bloggers out there. It's always fun reading a new parent trying to describe one of the most moving and life changing events we can experience as humans (outside of seeing Star Wars for the first time, of course), and Heather's even treating us to weekly tummy pics. (Note to self: make sure you read her husband Jon's blog for the new daddy perspective.)

Here's to life on this momentous day!

Thursday, September 04, 2003

The Book of Light by Michelle Blake
"Hated it."

Michelle Blake's The Book of Light is a grueling read, in my opinion. It belongs to that odd genre of fiction brought to us by "gender feminism" (Christina Hoff Sommer's term), that vaguely man-hating, quasi-poisonous narrative, where the main character is a snarky, bitter woman who can barely stand her boyfriend, and would probably rather be a lesbian, but "just likes a stiff one once in a while" as a real-life woman friend of mine once put it. Their general view of life is soured; everything is ugly and it smells badly; everyone's damaged, particularly men, but it's all made a little better by eccentric women that the rest of us typically cross the street to avoid conversing with. Other writers in the genre are Margaret Atwood, Ursula Le Guin, Terry McMillan, and Anne Tyler.

As with all fiction, there is some reality woven into the fabric of this story, and since I've read more than one author who writes about the world in this way, there must really be women out there who wander around with this sour point of view all the time. (And a few men, come to think of it. Jonathan Franzen of The Corrections - official killer of the Oprah Book Club fame - also fits into this "malaise genre".) I feel pity for those who are cursed with such a curdled view of the world. Everyday must just be another variant of misery. Some days you wake up as a giant cockroach in Prague, some days you don't, but everything still sucks. Bleh.

In The Book of Light, Lily Connor is an Episcopalian priest who gets involved in mysterious circumstances. There is no actual mystery, even though the genre label on the cover says it's one. The whole "mystery" is centered around a document that's supposed to be an unedited, earlier version of the "Q" document. It's clear through the whole novel that it's authentic (in the story), so there's no freakin' mystery. And we never find out what happens to the few people who end up missing at the conclusion. (So, OK, that part's a mystery.)

TLD: The thumbnail story behind the "Q" document is that some "scholars" have proposed there was a document that a couple of the Gospel writers cribbed from, because the two Gospels have so many sayings of Christ that are similar. Thus, the typically unstated premise behind the "Q" document is that the Gospels are just myth, meaning pure bullshit, so the only way they could have so much in common is if they used a common source document - plagiarism essentially. That source document is labeled "Q", for reasons I've forgotten. Of course, this whistles through the graveyard of the idea that the Gospels have a lot in common because the authors were reporting ACTUAL EVENTS. Here's a fact: when eyewitnesses describe an event, their stories have a lot in common with each other. Thus, when someone buys into the concept of their being a "Q" document as it's offered by the scholars who invented the concept, they are also buying into the idea that the Gospels are fiction. It goes without saying there may have been little bullet list collections of the sayings of Christ, but the "Q" document folks insist that such a list invalidates the Gospels as independent accounts of the events.

Besides the fact that there's no mystery in the mystery, the narrative is tedious, partially because of the sour viewpoint as descried above, but mainly because every time we encounter a female character, we are given a detailed list of what she's wearing. Every time anyone eats, we are given the complete menu, sometimes even the order in which they ate it! It's like a really skewed result of Hemingway's bad writing advice, like "always describe the weather." Look, only Hemingway could write like Hemingway, so his writing advice is useless to everyone else. If an editor were to cut out all the descriptions of food, clothing, and the dialogues that have no relation to the plot from The Book of Light, it would be a short story. And a boring one at that.

Here're a couple excerpts as examples of what I mean:

"He wears a white dress shirt with the sleeves buttoned at both wrists. The detail makes Lily feel sorry for him, so she tries not only to listen but also to empathize, but she's having a hard time doing either."

"Recently, Lily has been growing tired of the monastery chants and voices -- so precise and precious and a little feeble. So male, she thinks, although not bass male, tenor male. Today the whole service feels especially closed down, and she wonders why she bothered to come."

So, the book sucks. I was even going to post a review on Amazon saying pretty much that, but of the three books she's written, there are only about a dozen customer reviews between them. I know most authors check out Amazon regularly, so I just didn't have the heart to go poop on her parade. And I doubt she'll ever find this blog. And if she does, I'll prolly hear from her.

(P.S. Why is it easier to write a bad review rather than a good one? And why is it more fun?)

That said, besides being the epitome of a bad read, there was this bombshell in amongst the tedium and thread counts of fabric:

[Lily says,] "Let's just say...Let's just say I'm beginning to see the gospels in a new light"
"What light would that be?" he asks.
"I don't know," she says. "Maybe I'm beginning to believe they're true."

So, our main character, Lily (eye-rolling symbolism, that), is an Episcopalian priest who doesn't believe that the Gospels are true. Y'know, it's one thing to have a detective who's not really a detective, or a gal that isn't really even a gal (The Crying Game), but a priest who doesn't believe? What the Spong is up with that shit?

Note to pastors, preachers, priests (nuns), and clerics everywhere: If you think the Gospels aren't true, find yourself another fucking job, you leach! Read any part of the oeuvre of Job Bob Briggs where he waxes rhapsodic on having to explain things that are obvious! If yer gonna be a carpenter, you gotta have a hammer! If yer gonna be a flight attendant, you gotta be able to say "buh-bye!" If you're going to be a leader in the faith of Christianity, YOU'VE GOT TO BELIEVE, BABY!

Aren't editors supposed to point this kind of shit out?
Save the Children

A neighbor lent us a teen magazine that had an article about how casual (some) teens of the current generation are about oral sex. It does seem as though this is some sort of fad, in addition to kids - mostly girls - being encouraged to try same gender sex even if they have no firm personal opinion on their being actually gay or not. (The girl whose mag we borrowed had gone through and added the female pronouns to a test meant to tell you if that hot guy you're checking out is right for you.) ((Nother example: "This year’s big MTV Video Music Awards tongue-wagger? Madonna open-mouth-kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera after the two younger singers paid tribute to her 1984 VMA rendition of 'Like a Virgin.'" - from's "The Fix" from Aug. 29, 2003.))

Both my wife and I paged through the whole teen mag. It is amazing what the soulless cretins who put this magazine together are trying to stuff into kid's heads. I recommend anyone who's reading this should pick up any teen magazine they encounter and go through it. Some issues of "Playboy" aren't as risque and sex-focused as this one issue of "Seventeen" is.

After me and the missus had talked about all the crap in there, including ads where underage kids were getting real tattoos, we had a riff session on what the world's gonna look like in about 10 years with practically one entire generation covered with faded tattoos. It's gonna be a like a bad art gallery installation by Ed Gein. Ick-o-rama.

I hope (and suspect) as with all past generations, there's gonna be a small percentage who do all this shit these magazines put forth, but the rest of the kids will have a brain and some independence of thought and won't end up a tattooed loon with a string of icky love affairs with both genders, scarred by some sort of oral venereal disease, and a litany of regrets that take them regularly from the darkest hour of the night all the way into noon the next day.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

More Elsewhere

I've got my own stuff in the hopper, but I seem to have constipation of the keyboard these days, the words just won't drop out, as it were.


Go check on the history of Dooce's (Heather Armstrong's) hair in the past year year (at the bottom, click "Launch A Year in the Life of Heather’s Hair"). I wonder if that woman is that funny all the time just wandering around the house. If so, her husband is going to have to have plastic surgery by the time he's 40 to correct the damage done by laugh lines, or he's gonna have a passing resemblance to Keith Richards (and they can each form part of the scary smile/frown drama faces, with Keith being the frown, natch).

Yesterday, I pointed at Mark Shea as a good "current affairs in Christianity" guy, but the Mark of "Minute Particulars" kinda has cornered the market on thoughtful pieces on Christianity as it intersects daily with the world. I love his style, and I would envy it if it weren't unChristian to do so.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003


The Poor Man has served up his greatest hits whilst he takes a break. Try not to die laughing. has a fun rumination on being a pariah of taste in the midst of a truly hip and informed circle of friends that tries not to cast too many pitying glances in your general direction when you broach the topic of your beloveds. I am familiar with this problem, and I love music, all music (refrain: 'cept gansta rap of course), unabashedly, and am likely to put, into my 5 CD player, Nirvana, Barry Manilow Live, Live's "Throwing Copper", The Best of Dionne Warwick, and Dwight Yoakam's "Gone" and hit random. Every roomate I've ever had has complained bitterly about my eclectic tastes. True music snobs don't even try to be polite; they unload their most bitter, vintage bile all over my love of great tunes, naturally tossing in a rhetorical question regarding my questionable lineage. I take it as the ultimate compliment.

If I haven't sent you in Andrea's direction lately, let me correct that mistake right now. I've noticed my blog reading habits have changed since I'm sitting out employment thanks to ... well, Georgy Porgy undt da boys ... but it's not time to rant, it's time to go read Andrea because I keep coming back to her charmingly snarky view of the planet in these days where I have cut way back on blogsurfing. It's consistently fun, on occasion eye-opening, and always worth a few swings of the eyeballs.

For a right-wing Catholic, Mark Shea is surprisingly breezy, and a good source for the topics on the Christian side of the aisle these days. The Rush-like bombast makes me shake my head sometimes, but unlike Rush, Mark has some legit points. Warning to those who care: he does not take the current party line on gay rights, so consider yourself warned. (I may or may not have an entry coming up on that - if I can find the right way to articulate some things in this day of unallowed dissenting opinions.)

Have fun!