Sunday, October 28, 2012

The SCARY Meme

Once again from Sunday Stealing...

1) What do you think is the best costume for Halloween?
Dressed as Mittens Romney, if you can find a stick big enough to shove up your ass.

2) What would an alien think of humans if it came to Earth on Halloween?
That we're observing an ancient fertility custom.

3) Who Would you haunt?
My friend Timmy. He'd deserve it.

4) Are you afraid of the dark?
No, I'm an adult.

5) Do you pass out candy, or hide with the lights off?
Neither. I'm usually out at adult functions on Halloween.

6) What Scary movie do you like best?
That's tough. Gotta go with a classic like "Rosemary's Baby" or "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

7) If you had to wear a costume for a week, what would you be?
The bumblebee girl from that Blind Mellon video.

8) What do you think about Ouija boards?
I think the last time I used one my friend was pushing the pointer.

9) Have you ever told ghost stories around a fire?
Not that I recall.

10) Trick? or Treat?
Either.

11) Have you ever been in a haunted house?

Not a real one, just those lame fake ones they set up around Halloween. I want to go to one of those crazy Christian haunted houses.

12) What would you do if you saw a ghost?

Nothing because it wouldn't happen, there's no such thing as ghosts.

13) Question 13, should we have skipped this and jumped to 14?
Why? I stayed at a Doubletree in Chicago once that actually had a 13th floor.

14) Are you brave enough to walk into a grave yard after dark on Halloween?

Yes. Though people are dying to get in there.

15) Do you like chocolate? what kind:
Yes, milk chocolate.

16) Who would look better in a clown costume? Obama or Romney?
Romney doesn't need the costume, he's already a clown.

17) Are you in the path of Frankenstorm?
No, and I bet it won't be as bad as predicted.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

And One More Test

Just checking out the photo function on the Blogger application.

This is a Test!

Downloaded the blogger application for my iPhone so I thought I would do a test post. Kinda nifty. Maybe this will encourage me to blog more often.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Smokin' Seventeen

I actually enjoyed returning back to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series with "Smokin' Seventeen" (308 pages).  I read most of the books in the series over a short period of time a year or two ago and it was a little much. From Goodreads:

"Dead bodies are showing up in shallow graves on the empty construction lot of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. No one is sure who the killer is, or why the victims have been offed, but what is clear is that Stephanie’s name is on the killer’s list.

Short on time to find evidence proving the killer’s identity, Stephanie faces further complications when her family and friends decide that it’s time for her to choose between her longtime off-again-on-again boyfriend, Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and the bad boy in her life, security expert Ranger. Stephanie’s mom is encouraging Stephanie to dump them both and choose a former high school football star who’s just returned to town. Stephanie’s sidekick, Lula, is encouraging Stephanie to have a red-hot boudoir 'bake-off.' And Grandma Bella, Morelli’s old-world grandmother, is encouraging Stephanie to move to a new state when she puts 'the eye' on Stephanie.

With a cold-blooded killer after her, a handful of hot men, and a capture list that includes a dancing bear and a senior citizen vampire, Stephanie’s life looks like it’s about to go up in smoke."

Rather than adding a "traditional" recap, I thought I would add some quotes from the novel as I have with other books in Evanovich's series.  For the most part they're all pretty much the same with a few changes in plot.

"Lula hauled herself up off the floor and put her hand to her neck.  'Do I got holes?  Am I bleeding?  Do I look like I'm turning into a vampire?"'
"'No, no, and no,' I told her.  'He doesn't have his teeth in.  He was just gumming you.'"

"Here's the thing I've noticed about Lula.  I've seen her when she's on a healthy eating plan, holding her calories down, I've seen her on ridiculous fad diets, and I've seen her when she eats everything in sight.  And so far as I can tell, her weight never changes."

"Fortunately for you I know the perfect cure for a pimple of that magnitude.  Sweaty gorilla sex.  Lots of it."

"We all went dead still, absorbing the fact that a large bear was loose in the Burg."

"'I'm not going,' Lula said.  'This job gets worse and worse.  Vampires and bears and big guys with boners.  Okay, so maybe I didn't mind the big guy with the boner so much.'"

"Maybe you want to think about getting a different job.  Something with better work conditions... like roach extermination or hazardous waste collection."

"A madman is sending me dead people, a crazy woman wants to run me over, I need to catch a guy who thinks he's a vampire, and I have the vordo."

Again, Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series usually is just more of the same but it sure can be a fun ride and fun to read.  Catching her novels about once a year is definitely the way to go.  Recommended for fans of the bumbling bounty hunter and those who like an easy, funny read.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Killing Floor

I was happy to have found "Killing Floor" (406 pages) by Lee Child at the used book store. I really enjoy the Jack Reacher novels by Child and I was very interested to see how the whole series started. It's been my experience that series of this nature are usually better the earlier. From Goodreads:

"Welcome to Margrave, Georgia — but don't get too attached to the townsfolk, who are either in on a giant conspiracy, or hurtling toward violent deaths, or both.

There's not much of a welcome for Jack Reacher, a casualty of the Army's peace dividend who's drifted into town idly looking for traces of a long dead black jazzman. Not only do the local cops arrest him for murder, but the chief of police turns eyewitness to place him on the scene, even though Reacher was getting on a bus in Tampa at the time. Two surprises follow: The murdered man wasn't the only victim, and he was Reacher's brother whom he hadn't seen in seven years. So Reacher, who so far hasn't had anything personal against the crooks who set him up for a weekend in the state pen at Warburton, clicks into overdrive.

Banking on the help of the only two people in Margrave he can trust — a Harvard-educated chief of detectives who hasn't been on the job long enough to be on the take, and a smart, scrappy officer who's taken him to her bed — he sets out methodically in his brother's footsteps, trying to figure out why his cellmate in Warburton, a panicky banker whose cell-phone number turned up in Joe's shoe, confessed to a murder he obviously didn't commit; trying to figure out why all the out-of-towners on Joe's list of recent contacts were as dead as he was; and trying to stop the local carnage or at least direct it in more positive ways. Though the testosterone flows as freely as printer's ink, Reacher is an unobtrusively sharp detective in his quieter moments — not that there are many of them to judge by.

Despite the crude, tough-naïf narration, debut novelist Child serves up a big, rangy plot, menace as palpable as a ticking bomb, and enough battered corpses to make an undertaker grin."


Another really good effort by Child but definitely not close to being the best in his prolific Jack Reacher series.  I appreciated reading Reacher's first "adventure" six months removed from the military and to see some flashes of the character I would get to know better a few more books into the series.  Oddly enough Reacher seemed to be a little more human in his debut story while still being just as lethal.  Though I understand his personal motivations for violence in the story, I thought it was a little over the top, even for someone as cold as Jack Reacher.  One could argue some of his actions throughout the novel bordered on homicidal, a character trait that luckily usually isn't present in other books by Child. 

A decent first outing to an otherwise fantastic series.  Recommended, "that's for damn sure," to use one of Jack Reacher's catch phrases.

Completely off topic, I hate the new Blogger interface...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Your Culture Will Adapt to Service Us!


Interesting building in Dallas I saw on Labor Day. All I could think was resistance is futile...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Crossing

Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated, it's just been a busy time of year for some reason. Lots of traveling and coming home from Dallas with the plague has left me little time to do any reading. I finally finished "The Crossing" (426 pages) by Cormac McCarthy, a novel I've been working on for about a month. From Goodreads:

"Following All the Pretty Horses in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy is a novel whose force of language is matched only by its breadth of experience and depth of thought.

In the bootheel of New Mexico hard on the frontier, Billy and Boyd Parham are just boys in the years before the Second World War, but on the cusp of unimaginable events. First comes a trespassing Indian and the dream of wolves running wild amongst the cattle lately brought onto the plain by settlers - this when all the wisdom of trappers has disappeared along with the trappers themselves. And so Billy sets forth at the age of sixteen on an unwitting journey into the souls of boys and animals and men. Having trapped a she-wolf he would restore to the mountains of Mexico, he is long gone and returns to find everything he left behind transformed utterly in his absence. Except his kid brother, Boyd, with whom he strikes out yet again to reclaim what is theirs thus crossing into 'that antique gaze from whence there could be no way back forever.'

An essential novel by any measure, The Crossing is luminous and appalling, a book that touches, stops, and starts the heart and mind at once."


I think the preview above from Goodreads pretty much sums up the "The Crossing" without giving too much away. I was expecting a direct sequel to "All the Pretty Horses" but was surprised by the new set of characters and situations presented here. The tone is certainly similar to McCarthy's first volume in the "Border Trilogy." From what I've read the third installment will bring together both stories. I'll definitely need to find "Cities of the Plain" soon to complete the trilogy.

McCarthy's work is beautifully lyrical. Haunting and romantic. Tragic. When his narrative hits hard it takes your breath away. The premise is simple, a crossing into Mexico and back again, a couple of times. Along the way the reader is treated to a vast array of characters, both good and not so good, who have their own perspectives and tales of their country. I cannot recommend McCarthy's work enough. Simplistic, yet engrossing. A true master of modern storytelling.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Affair

Once again I find myself reading another Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child, easily read with all the distractions of traveling last week. "The Affair" (528 pages) is Child's most recently published work from late last year. From Goodreads:

"Everything starts somewhere. . . .

For elite military cop Jack Reacher, that somewhere was Carter Crossing, Mississippi, way back in 1997. A lonely railroad track. A crime scene. A coverup.

A young woman is dead, and solid evidence points to a soldier at a nearby military base. But that soldier has powerful friends in Washington.

Reacher is ordered undercover — to find out everything he can, to control the local police, and then to vanish. Reacher is a good soldier. But when he gets to Carter Crossing, he finds layers no one saw coming, and the investigation spins out of control.

Local sheriff Elizabeth Deveraux has a thirst for justice — and an appetite for secrets. Uncertain they can trust one another, Reacher and Deveraux reluctantly join forces. Reacher works to uncover the truth, while others try to bury it forever. The conspiracy threatens to shatter his faith in his mission, and turn him into a man to be feared."


The good:

I was little dubious going into this novel as it was another one of Child's retro Reacher stories, taking place in 1997. His other attempts at doing this fell a little flat with me. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised with this read. Though it is set back in time many years it also explains how Jack Reacher became disenfranchised with the military and why he chose his lifestyle that he lives in more current stories.

As with most of Lee Child's books the mystery is usually entertaining with a few twists and turns. Moreover, Reacher is such a bad ass character that often the plot doesn't matter when he's involved. His sense of justice sometimes blurs the line with morality and this mostly is what makes him such an intriguing character.

The paperback version of "The Affair" that I read included a short story as well called "The Second Son," another Reacher story. I love bonus materials in books!

The bad:

There were a couple of areas of the book that were kind of hard for me to suspend my disbelief. Without spoiling anything, a trip by Reacher to the Pentagon and an encounter with a Senator comes to mind. While these unbelievable occurrences didn't ruin the story for me, it did knock it down in my estimation a bit.

I get it, Jack Reacher is a ladies man who always seems to get with a lady or two in his adventures. While that's fine I could have done without the three chapters dealing with his sexual escapades. Obviously I'm no prude but it just read and filtered into the story a little awkwardly, for me, like something out of a cheap romance novel.

The ugly:

Descriptive fight sequences. Sometimes just brutal.

Another solid effort by Child. Great characters with a decent plot makes for a must read for fans of Child and mystery/suspense novels. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Tomorrow Night!!

House of Leaves

I think the reason I gave "House of Leaves" (705 pages) by Mark Z. Danielewski a read was based on all the bizarre reviews I read about it online. The people who said this novel was a mind fuck weren't kidding. From the jacket of the book:

"Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth - musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies - the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story - of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams."


Yeah it's a weird premise to say the least and the structure of the novel is even weirder. When people asked me what the story is about I really have to pause and think hard on a reply. To put it the best I can, it's a thesis written by a blind man named Zampano about a documentary called "The Navidson Record" with an introduction and notes by a man named Johnny Truant. Truant found the collection of Zampano's notes and research after his death and put it all together as best he could and later their combined efforts were found and published. Whew.

"The Navidson Record" is really a fascinating story told from the view of mounted cameras in the Navidson house as well as their own personal logs captured via handheld cameras. Think something akin to "The Blair Witch Project" in book form but far more intriguing. Will Navidson and Karen Green settle down for a quite life in a Virgina neighborhood with their two kids, and Will, being a photojournalist, wants to document the transition. Soon after the move something is amiss as the inside of the house is slightly larger than the outside of the house, an impossibility. After much toil Navidson enlists the help of his brother and a college professor to solve their little "mystery." As the space within the house grows to cavernous proportions, even more help is enlisted by Navidson and his team in the form of three "explorers" who will enter the cavern and try to map and document the impossible addition to Navidson's home. Eventually all hell breaks loose endangering the entire expedition and the family. "The Navidson Record" is at times hilarious, mystifying, and down right terrifying.

Running along with Zampano's account of "The Navidson Record" is the story of Johnny Truant, his comments on what he reads concerning "The Navidson Record" as well as some lengthy additions on what is currently going on in his life. He documents his childhood, his habitual drug use and partying in Los Angeles with his friend as well as several sordid affairs with women he picks up. There's some pretty graphic sexual content in these bits. As "The Navidson Record" descends into madness so too does Truant start to change and apparently lose his mind. This could be the result of Traunt's extreme past, his current forays into sex and drugs, the effects of "The Navidson Receord," or just simply made up. His narrative, by his own admission, isn't very reliable.

Throughout the novel are hundreds of footnotes on sources that Zampano used for his research. Often times Truant commented on these footnotes and in return the editors of the book commented on Truant's footnotes. So at times you can move from the narrative to a footnote within a footnote within a footnote that points you to one of the three appendices at the end. At times I had to use multiple bookmarks to hold my place while I moved to varies different pages within the novel. At one point this is done with a chapter concerning labyrinths that flipping through the novel becomes a quest through a labyrinth of pages just to get back to where the reader left off. Very cleaver.

I hope my summary doesn't put anyone off checking out this novel as it really is engrossing, just hard to put in to words. What exactly is "The House of Leaves?" I'm not sure. A horror story, a thesis, even a love story? Yes and maybe more. It's definitely one of the hardest works I've read in a long time but the payoff was worth it even at its most frustrating moments. At times I laughed, at times I cried, and once I threw the book across the room. Interesting post-modern literature. Or maybe Danielewski was just being cute. Recommended.

"This is not for you."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hannibal

Since I had read "Red Dragon" and "Hannibal Rising" fairly recently I thought I would go back and re-read "Hannibal" (486 pages) by Thomas Harris, a book I've owned since its release in 1999. From Goodreads:

"Invite Hannibal Lecter into the palace of your mind and be invited into his mind palace in turn. Note the similarities in yours and his, the high vaulted chambers of your dreams, the shadowed halls, the locked storerooms where you dare not go, the scrap of half-forgotten music, the muffled cries from behind a wall.

In one of the most eagerly anticipated literary events of the decade, Thomas Harris takes us once again into the mind of a killer, crafting a chilling portrait of insidiously evolving evil - a tour de force of psychological suspense.

Seven years have passed since Dr. Hannibal Lecter escaped from custody, seven years since FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling interviewed him in a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane. The doctor is still at large, pursuing his own ineffable interests, savoring the scents, the essences of an unguarded world. But Starling has never forgotten her encounters with Dr. Lecter, and the metallic rasp of his seldom-used voice still sounds in her dreams.

Mason Verger remembers Dr. Lecter, too, and is obsessed with revenge. He was Dr. Lecter's sixth victim, and he has survived to rule his own butcher's empire. From his respirator, Verger monitors every twitch in his worldwide web. Soon he sees that to draw the doctor, he must have the most exquisite and innocent-appearing bait; he must have what Dr. Lecter likes best."


The good:

I don't care what anyone says, I really enjoyed this novel both times I read it, second only to Harris' "Silence of the Lambs." Unsurprisingly there was a lot that I had forgot in my first reading more than a decade ago. Though the movie follows the novel very closely for the most part, the book adds quite a bit more particularly in its dealings with the Verger family. In fact Margot Verger is left out of the movie completely which is really a shame considering the impact she had on the story.

The novel, for me, moved at lightening speed in spite of the length and knowing what the conclusion would be. Chapters are short for the most part, clocking in at over 100, so the book can be put down and picked back up easily.

The middle of the novel, which takes place in Florence, is simply stunning. It kept me on the edge of my seat through its entirety, even knowing how events would turn out. If for no other reason I would recommend this novel just for these parts alone.

The bad:

I guess I should mention the ending, which seems to be the biggest beef with most readers of "Hannibal." Completely different from the movie, the ending takes a sudden turn which, admittedly, stretches the credibility of the characterization of Clarice Starling. It's the final chapter that really leaves the reader out on a limb to ponder just what the hell is going on with Starling. I think the movie did a much better job with the conclusion but the book didn't leave as bitter of a taste in my mouth as it seemingly did with most other readers.

The ugly:

Hannibal Lecter. Enough said.

Death by genetically mutated super pigs! That's how I want to go out.

Lobotomy dinner. Yummy.

Recommended for fans of suspense and horror. Despite his detractors I find Harris to be a highly readable novelist and I enjoyed his minimalistic style. Even with the controversial ending "Hannibal" is a great effort and a fantastic read.

I'd be curious to hear from others who've read "Hannibal," specifically their thoughts on the ending.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The More Things Change...

... the more they stay the same.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Too Tired to Think Meme, Part 2

Another addition of Sunday Stealing!

Cheers to all of us thieves!

26. What type of errands do you like running?
None right now considering it's close to 110 degrees outside, and hotter than the hubs of hell.

27. Have you ever eaten snow?
Only for pleasure, not for survival.

28. What color are your bedsheets?
Right now they are maroon.

29. What’s your favorite flower?
Lillies or wild roses, I have one in my front yard, though it's a thorny bastard, it puts off a heavy fragrance.

30. Do you do ballet?
I've been to the ballet. In fact the last time I saw the Oklahoma City ballet they used canned music. Lame. I've never danced in that style.

31. Do you listen to classical music?
I do and I'm a big fan.

32. What is the first TV Theme song that pops in your head?
The theme from "Dallas."

33. Do you watch Sponge Bob?
No, not regularly but I've seen the show a few times.

34. What temperature is it outside right now?
104 degrees, probably 142 with the humidity.

35. Do people consider you smart?
Maybe a smart ass. I have a knack for remember inane bits of facts and trivia that probably doesn't endear me to anyone.

36. How many piercing do you have?
None, I used to have my ear pierced a million years ago but it has long since closed up. To quote George Carlin about men wearing earrings: "it's over!"

37. Are you signed on [to] AIM?
Nope. I have an accout but I never use it anymore.

38. Have you ever tried gluing your fingers together?
I think everyone has tried this at one time or another when they were a kid.

39. How do you feel about your family?
They're very awesome.

40. Do you have an iPod?
I do but I only use it when flying or mowing the lawn, well before the lawn burned up from the lack of rain.

41. What time do you go to bed?
It varies wildly. One night it could be 9PM and the next 4AM.

42. What CD is currently in your CD player?
A Shiny Toy Guns CD in my car.

43. What movie do you know every line to?
"Weird Science." I must have watched that movie a thousand times in Junior High School.

44. What is your favorite salad dressing?
It varies but in general Blue Cheese or 1,000 Island. I hate, hate, hate Ranch, and after working in restaurants I hate everyone that has to have a side of Ranch dressing to go along with everything they eat!

45. What do you want for Christmas this year?
A Nintendo 3DS unless I get one before then or perhaps an e-Reader.

46. What family member/friend lives the farthest from you? Where?
My friend Lindsay who lives in New York City off the top of my head.

47. Do you like hugs?
They're ok I guess.

48. Last time you had butterflies in your stomach?
I can't remember, probably watching an important football or basketball game.

49. What’s the way people most often mispronounce any part of your name?
It can't be done unless said person doesn't speak English or is illiterate.

50. Last person you hugged?
Your mom, after I left her money on the nightstand.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Black Echo

I've been wanting to read the Hieronymus Bosch, not the painter, novels by Michael Connelly for some time. As luck would have it I happened upon the first book, "The Black Echo" (412 pages) in the series courtesy of my mother. For once I won't be starting a series somewhere in the middle. From Goodreads:

"For LAPD homicide cop Harry Bosch - hero, maverick, nighthawk - the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal.

The dead man, Billy Meadows, was a fellow Vietnam 'tunnel rat' who fought side by side with him in a nightmare underground war that brought them to the depths of hell. Now, Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys to a daring criminal heist beneath the city to the tortuous link that must be uncovered, his survival instincts will once again be tested to their limit.

Joining with an enigmatic and seductive female FBI agent, pitted against enemies inside his own department, Bosch must make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, as he tracks down a killer whose true face will shock him."


The good:

I really like the character of Harry Bosch, in spite of all the crime novel clichés. He's a grizzled, insomniac LAPD detective with a troubled early life. The book does a nice job of introducing Bosch and slowly putting the pieces together of his life and the reasons he is the way he is. Again, it's a cliché, but he does his work his own way and often isn't considered part of the LAPD "family." I'll be interested to see how he grows as I read more novels from the series.

Connelly is a very readable writer and his books always move at a fast clip. The story is decent enough here but nothing too thrilling as a large portion of it deals with a bank robbery, though it is intriguing how the robbery goes down. It took me a few days to get through the novel, which is kind of unusual for me with this kind of read. Hopefully further readings into the series will be a little more exciting. The novel is mostly redeemed toward the end with a clever twist I didn't really see coming.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. Go see it at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The bad:

Another book written in the early '90s. Pay phones and pagers to communicate, orange screen computers and snail mail to gather information. It's a wonder that good police work could be done, and swiftly, in such an age!

It's funny to read about all the places people could smoke in LA in 1992. Bosch is always lighting a cigarette and I'm sure it made me smoke a little more than usual while reading.

I disliked that the structure of the book was laid out in lengthy parts rather than chapters. It's just a personal taste but I like to lay down a book at the end of the chapter if necessary. Due to time constraints this wasn't always possible with this novel.

The ugly:

Being a "tunnel rat" in Vietnam. Smoking out spider holes is not a job I'd want or wish on anyone else.

In conclusion, "The Black Echo" is a decent enough story, though it is a little mediocre compared to the Connelly novels that I've read. I look forward to reading other books in the series and hopefully the stories will improve. Recommended to fans of the genre and the author.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Poor Mittens!

Willard Romney, trying to become only the second retarded President in U.S. history, really knows how to put his foot in it! I know, that statement is actually insulting to the developmentally disabled. The Rainbow Tour made its way to England where Romney had some unkind words about London hosting the 2012 Olympics:

"'You know, it's hard to know just how well it will turn out,' Romney told NBC. 'There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials … that obviously is not something which is encouraging.'"

To which Prime Minister David Cameron (of the Conservative Party) responded:

"We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."

Burn! Of course Romney back-pedaled on the issue when pressed further after an uproar in the London press, like he always does and always has his entire political career. What was meant as a visit to prove his chops at being nuanced at foreign policy has turned into another example of his buffoonery. The guy just can't catch a break. Too bad speaking is a required part of the job he's seeking, otherwise he might be a shoo-in.

I can't wait until the Presidential debates! Obama is going to mop the floor with this smarmy asshole. Though I think the election is going to be a nail biter. In a world where George W. Bush was elected twice (well once technically) anything is possible.

Link.

Drum Corps International


These are the last days of my core group of friends (more on that later)... Jackie, Dann, Mel, Matt, and Justin. Who else would travel to Edmond with me to see a bunch of marching bands?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting Alone



The new Shiny Toy Guns video for their song "Waiting Alone." It's kind of a bizarre video, and toward the end a little bit violent. I'm liking the song though! I can't wait for the new album.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Seven Years and One Month

Yep, I totally missed my seven year blogiversery on the 24th last month. I'm a bad blogger these days and oddly enough I've had more time than ever for it not to be so. I just wanted to give a quick thanks to all the readers out there especially in what has been a pretty lean year of postings. Thanks again!

Click here to see how it all started...

Something to Bitch About

The best thing about having a blog is having a place on the Internets to rant! I had a few things to bitch about so I thought I would combine them into one blog posting:

Willard Romney and all his day one promises. Off the top of my head he's said that he's going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, end regulations on businesses, get tough with China, initiate tax cuts, and approve the Keystone Pipeline. I'm sure there's more that he's promised but I don't have an Etch A Sketch in front of me to predict the future.

What's allegedly off limits with Willard Romney. I'm tired of hearing from politicians and their surrogates what's off limits, or should be off limits during the Presidential campaign (Obama does this too). Apparently with the Romney campaign his tax records, his religion, and his work at Bain Capital should be off limits to scrutiny and attack. Really? So I guess all we have to put under the microscope for Romney is his work on the Winter Olympics (by the way, the U.S. Winter Olympic clothing was made in Burma) and his four years as Governor of Massachusetts, where his biggest legislative accomplishment is very similar to President Obama's biggest accomplishment, health care reform. What bugs me the most is the issue of his religion and the lack of discussion about it. Mormons are batshit crazy, though in fairness, I think most religions are batshit crazy anyways.

Adult Swim live action shows. In general I love Adult Swim at night on the Cartoon Network but the live action shows have got to go! Childrens Hospital, NTSF: SD: SUV::, Eagle Heart, and the ultimately craptastic Eric and Andre Show. Someone must be watching these shows as they're still getting produced but I just can't stomach them.

Everyone being outraged by Chick-fil-A. The news of their homophobia and overall douchebaggery is nothing new! This shitty company has been on my banned list for a long, long time. Oh and while we're at it, yay for the Muppets!

The Boy Scouts of America. Same as with Chick-fil-A.

New Leaf Florist. I had some flowers delivered to my house this morning which is a nice thing but damn if New Leaf Florist isn't persistent in getting them delivered. They banged very loudly on my door twice and called me twice at 8:30AM in an attempt to get me to the door. Just leave the delivery on the porch for Christ's sake! I was a little grumpy since I woke up in the middle of the night and didn't get back to sleep until around 5AM...

The gun control debate. Why is it that when we have some kind of gun shooting tragedy in this country it's always too early to talk about gun control and putting limits on the purchasing of ammunition? It's exactly the right time to have this debate! I'm all for rednecks owning their precious guns but I think it's time to talk (again) about limiting what kind of guns said rednecks should be able to purchase. I'm not sure the founding fathers ever intended the Second Amendment to include weapons that could release 100 rounds from a magazine in 30 seconds. I guess I could be wrong, I'll leave such discussion to the experts, like the NRA.

Rachael Ray. She's always on my list of things to bitch about. She's the spawn of Satan and must be stopped.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Lord of the Rings

"Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie."


I'm not sure why I never got around to reading "The Lord of the Rings" (1137 pages) by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. I think when I was younger I was under the impression that the epic novel was some kind of difficult read, part of this may have been just based on the size of the volume alone. Later, having seen the movies I thought there probably wasn't much of a point. That, and I usually don't go for fantasy stories. Recently my friend Dann gave me a copy of the tome to read "in case I ever got bored." What seems like a year ago I reluctantly started the book just to see how it would be. I was pretty much hooked after a couple of pages. From the cover of the book:

"In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell, by chance, into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.

From his fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, Sauron's power spread far and wide. He gathered all the Great Rings to him, but ever he searched far and wide for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.

On his eleventy-first birthday Bilbo disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest - to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.
The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard, Merry, Pippin, and Sam, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, Boromir of Gondor, and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider."

The good:

Overall I really liked the tale presented here, though I knew from the movies the direction the story was going to take. Having said that, there is so much more that the story has to offer over the movie. Indeed complete sections of the book have been omitted from the movie much to my surprise and enjoyment. I found the book, in spite of it's ghastly length, to be quite readable, putting aside my earlier fears that this was a book to be feared.

I found many of my favorite parts of the story to be ones that were omitted or shortened by the needs of the movie. I really enjoyed reading and learning about Imrahil, Glorfindel, Beregond, and most of all Tom Bombadil. Specific chapters in the book that I really enjoyed and that were new to me involved the Old Forest and the Scouring of the Shire, especially the latter which really highlighted the growth and strength that the Hobbits had attained through their trials.

Lastly I loved how the book tied up all the multiple stories as it drew to its conclusion. Perhaps this was done even better than the movie "The Return of the King." I'll admit I had a few tears in my eyes as I laid the book down for the last time. On top of this there is much more information to be had after the conclusion in the form of many appendices. I really appreciated "Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring."

The bad:

There were some moments, particularly during parts of "The Two Towers" where pacing was a problem and I could feel my eye lids drooping from time to time. Tolkien creates a rich and colorful world but sometimes his descriptive skills were a little overkill. I wanted and expected a little more action than what was present and a little more in the way of conflict between the characters, at least initially in the part of "The Fellowship of the Ring." A minor quibble to be sure.

Often times fantasy novels of this type leave out strong female roles. This too is the case with "The Lord of the Rings." Arwen only mutters a few lines of dialogue in the entire book, Galadriel, whom I loved, is featured little unfortunately, and Éowyn has to hide and masculate (is that a word?) herself when she could have been strong without becoming, to all intents and purposes, a man. I guess the 1950s was a mans world, even in literature!

There are so many locals and characters mentioned in this book that I could understand how it could become overwhelming for a reader. Luckily, for myself, seeing the movies a few times helped me keep most everyone and every place in check.

The ugly:

Shelob!!

I'm really glad I took the time to read "The Lord of the Rings," indeed I'm kicking myself a little for taking so long. The story added many new and heavier layers that the movies omitted or shortened; however, there are some occasions where the movies have added new twists to an old story that were better than the book. Apples and oranges I suppose. For my part, seeing the movies first didn't hinder the enjoyment of the book one bit. I maybe wish that I had read the book in its three parts taking breaks in-between with other reads. Highly recommended to fans of fantasy and similar genres or fans of an epic yarn. I intend to read "The Hobbit" before the end of the year (and before the movie opens!).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Too Tired to Think Meme, Part 1

If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press... well, in my case it's Sunday Stealing.

Cheers to all of us thieves!

1. You have 10 dollars and need to buy snacks at a gas station. What do you get?
I'm not sure I could spend that much on "snacks" without grabbing a pack of smokes as well. Usually if I'm in a snacking mood at the quickie mart I'll grab a Dr. Pepper and a pack of Sour Skittles.

2. If you were reincarnated as a sea creature, what would you want to be?
A Giant Squid. Then I could feed on sperm. Whales that is.

3. Who’s your favorite redhead?
Why Kathy Griffin of course! Of the people I actually know I'd have to say my bestie Kim.

4. What do you order when you’re at IHOP?
Usually biscuits and gravy with sausage, hash browns, and eggs, sometimes scrambled and sometimes over easy. If the pumpkin pancakes are in season I'll have those too!

5. Last book you read?
The Poet by Michael Connelly.

6. Describe your mood.
Devious.

7. Describe the last time you were injured.
Emotionally or physically?

8. Of all your friends, who would you want to be stuck in a well with?
Probably my friend Justin because he's one of the funniest people I know and he would definitely help pass the time until we were rescued. If we weren't going to be rescued I'd pick my friend Timmy. If I'd have to go cannibal it might as well be Asian for dinner.

9. Rock concert or symphony?
It really depends on the band or the orchestral composition. In general I'd say a rock concert.

10. What is the wallpaper of your cell phone? The number? (We'll just say "hi" - promise.)
There is no wall paper on my phone. My number is 867-5309.

11. Favorite soda?
Dr. Pepper if caffeine is needed and Sierra Mist when it isn't needed.

12. What type of shirt are you wearing?
A muscle shirt.

13. If you could only use one form of transportation?
A train or subway. Unfortunately here in Oklahoma City I'd have to go with a car since our mass transportation is a joke.

14. Most recent movie you have watched in theater?
"The Dark Knight Rises."

15. Name an actor/actress/singer you have had the hots for.
Chris Pine.

16. What’s your favorite kind of cake?
Strawberry cake. I have a killer recipe, email me!

17. What did you have for dinner last night?
Blackened chicken diablo.

18. Look to your left, what do you see?
A framed movie poster. It's Peter Pan from its last theatrical release in the early '90s I believe.

19. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
Not always but often.

20. Favorite toy as a child?
This is really hard. I'd have to go with legos or video games (Nintendo).

21. Do you buy your own groceries?
I hate to say it but usually not. I do a lot of pilfering from the RENTS (parents).

22. Do you think people talk about you behind your back?
Of course! Everyone does it.

23. When was the last time you had gummy worms?
I couldn't say.

24. What’s your favorite fruit?
Probably grapes.

25. Do you have a picture of yourself doing a cartwheel?
Not yet but I'll get right on that!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Impressions

So I got my butt out of bed early this morning to see "The Dark Knight Rises" with the RENTS (parents). I've been chomping at the bit to see the final installment in Christopher Nolan's trilogy, being a big fan of his previous two movies, "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight."

I was a little worried about seating as we got off to a late start leaving the house. Luckily the theatre was actually less than half full and we had our pick of seats. I couldn't help but wonder if recent events with the opening of the movie had something to do with the lack of people in seats. Or it could just be that the movie is showing on a hundred screens at the AMC. In any event it was definitely the least packed "blockbuster" I've seen on opening weekend this summer.

Right off the bat the movie picks up on events left over from "The Dark Knight" and also picks up threads from "Batman Begins" as well. It would be to the advantage of the viewer to screen the first two movies before watching "The Dark Knight Rises" to get a complete picture of what's going on. Having said that I think the movie can pretty much stand alone if necessary.

For anyone who hasn't heard, the movie is 18 hours long. I compensated by slowly sipping my small Coke throughout the movie. Too bad I couldn't get an extra small Coke for twenty-five cents less (thanks Futurama!). I learned my lesson after viewing "The Amazing Spiderman," nearly drowning in my own piss by the end of the movie, not a pleasant feeling.

Once again Nolan did a great job with directing. Everything from the actors to the locations were as realistic as could be considering this is a comic book movie. I was most surprised by the superb job of Anne Hathaway playing Selina Kyle, a casting choice I thought was dubious initially. In fact she was one of my favorite characters in the whole production among a fantastic cast.

One of the few complaints I would have about the movie was the character Bane. I love Tom Hardy's acting and the character he played in general but I had a really hard time understanding what he was saying throughout the movie. Fortunately this seemed to get better toward the latter half of the film. "The Dark Knight Rises" won't be winning any awards for sound editing.

In conclusion, a fantastic last outing for the "Dark Knight Trilogy." Full of action with a decent story that ties up some loose ends and takes the viewer for a couple of appreciated twists and turns. The series ends well on an emotional high note that I didn't see coming. Go see this movie! I would rate it as my favorite in the trilogy followed by "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight." My favorite popcorn flick of the summer. A-

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fuck Rep. Louie Gohmert

"Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Friday that the shootings that took place in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater hours earlier were a result of 'ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs' and questioned why nobody else in the theater had a gun to take down the shooter."

Wait, what??

Link.

How can the people of the 1st Congressional District of Texas stomach this asshole?

Let the politicization of mass murder begin!

It never ceases to amaze me what people will say on the heels of a tragedy of this kind. Indeed a friend of mine on Facespace said something similar: "Too bad there wasn't someone at that theatre with a concealed carry permit. How many lives could have been saved?" Or how many more people could have been injured or killed in a shootout in a confined space?

What I want to know is why anyone would need an AR-15 assault rifle to begin with and how said person could access a movie theatre so easily?

Tragic and disgusting.

EDIT:

Another nugget from an online "friend":

"Another rampant shooting in Colorado. Wasn't Columbine enough? Prayers and condolences to the families and victims of that fatal tragedy♥ This country has become so desensitized by video game and movie violence, that it doesn't realize that even a PH.D. student like James Holmes can be demoralized by it."

My response:

"Is this a joke? Video game and movie violence is to blame for this disgusting mass murder? The guy is a psychopath and I'm sure he had other problems besides playing Resident Evil or watching rated R movies. And why would being a PHD student raise your estimation of him? People should really think before they 'speak.'"

Monday, July 09, 2012

Animal Crossing: Jump Out Nintendo Direct

Have I ever mentioned I'm an Animal Crossing fanatic? Surely I've mentioned this once or twice. For those unaware Animal Crossing is basically Nintendo's version of the SIMS. I've dropped a ton of hours playing the three installments in this franchise over the years and loved every hour of it.

I finally found a new trailer of the Nintendo 3DS version of the game after being disappointed with zero news at E3 last month. Despite the trailer being in Japanese there's some pretty cool stuff to see.



My impressions:

First, the graphics look pretty good considering this is a game for a handheld system.

It looks like the travel system has gone back to a train, or streetcar perhaps?

At one point someone is toggling through what looks like items that can be place around town outside of the houses, lamp posts, park benches, things of that nature.

Solar panels. Nifty.

From what I've seen of the shops they look about the same as previous versions of the game with the exceptions of a shoe shop and the ability to buy pants at the clothing store, a fun addition.

I definitely spied some new household items and furniture in the game, though that is certainly to be expected.

So, based on this video, the game is going to be more of the same Animal Crossing goodness with some tweaks and a few new revisions. This is totally fine with me as long as the game stays on par with other installments in the series. The best I can guess is an early 2013 release. Bring it!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Imaginary Meme, Last Part

I thought I would participate in Sunday Stealing this week since I actually like the questions. It's been a while...

181. What's the BEST rock band that you have seen live?
Without a doubt Shiny Toy Guns. I'm still pissed we had to give away two of the tickets because a couple of my friends took a powder.

182. Could you image being in a situation where you would run from the police?
I can and I have though not anytime recently. I hauled ass away from a road block once for obvious reasons.

183. Have you ever been asked for an autograph?
Only to sign various court summons!

184. What would you change about your living room?
I would try to find a way to texture over the wallpaper various previous owners started applying around 1930.

185. Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?
Always a glass. Plastic is so bad for the environment, I'm looking at you bottled water drinkers!

186. Last hug?
My mom or my great-niece.

187. Have you ever had to make up your mind?
I can't decide.

188. What is on top of your refrigerator?
Two candle sticks and a large decorative plate, moved from atop the dining room table.

189. Did it work out for you in terms of kids? (Meaning how did it work out & are you happy. In other words, from “Have none, wanted none” to “8 kids & 3 grand kids).
Yes. I don't want kids nor do I have kids.

190. Are you afraid of the dark?
No, in fact I prefer it when I'm trying to sleep.

191. What if you had three wishes – what would you wish for?
More wishes.
Enough wealth to be comfortable enough to do what I want.
Long lasting and good health.

192. Do you feel sad often?
Sometimes but not often. I'm usually pretty happy if I stay away from mass quantities of refreshing adult beverages.

193. Have you ever been in lust for an extended period of time?
Yes. Chris Pine.

194. Do you shower daily?
Of course. Sometimes twice!

195. Have you ever prank called someone?
Sometimes when I was a kid with friends. Our favorite was the "Devil's number," which turned out to be a number for a modem.

196. If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
I have a garage and it's pretty clean. All hail big trash day.

197. You are about to die. What do you do with your worldly possessions?
Take them with me of course!

198. Tell us about the first time that you bought a car.
It was a million years ago and I was excited that I didn't need a RENT (a parent) to co-sign for me.

199. What is your favorite type of music?
I actually like all kinds of music with the exceptions being heavy rap and modern country.

200. What’s your family like?
In a word: awesome.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Poet

After reading "The Scarecrow" by Michael Connelly earlier this year I was eager to track down "The Poet" (501 pages). I was finally able to find it on the cheap down at a used bookstore. From Goodreads:

"Jack McEvoy is a Denver crime reporter with the stickiest assignment of his career. His twin brother, homicide detective Sean McEvoy, was found dead in his car from a self-inflicted bullet wound to the head - an Edgar Allen Poe quote smeared on the windshield. Jack is going to write the story. The problem is that Jack doesn't believe that his brother killed himself, and the more information he uncovers, the more it looks like Sean's death was the work of a serial killer. Jack's research turns up similar cases in cities across the country, and within days, he's sucked into an intense FBI investigation of an Internet pedophile who may also be a cop killer nicknamed the Poet. It's only a matter of time before the Poet kills again, and as Jack and the FBI team struggle to stay ahead of him, the killer moves in, dangerously close."

The good:

Since "The Scarecrow" was a sequel of sorts to "The Poet" it was interesting to go back and read about Jack McEvoy's first adventure and see how the traumatic events in the novel landed him in L.A. and his current situation. Though the two novels are separated by eleven years and I read the second book first, this didn't diminish my enjoyment of the story one bit.

Even though Jack's a snake of sorts, being a crime beat reporter, I felt a lot of empathy for his actions even when those actions crossed the line between bringing light on the death of his brother and bringing himself personal glory with a once in a lifetime news story. Jack is pretty much a cynic at heart and I think that before all of his other qualities draws me to his character. Having only read the two novels by Connelly I can't say if all of his characters are rendered this way but I appreciated where Jack was coming from even if is moral compass wasn't always pointing north.

For the most part "The Poet" is a by the numbers mystery/thriller. The first half of the book moves at a sizzling rate, I could hardly put it down, being drawn into the initial investigation. The second half of the book slows down moving the reader through the steps of his and the FBI's investigation. Only toward the very last fifty pages or so does the story really get turned on its head, not once but a couple of times. By the conclusion I was really impressed on where the author ultimately ended up, something refreshing for me considering how many thrillers or mysteries I've read lately.

The bad:

Since the book was published in 1996 there's a lot of outdated technology used by the newspaper and law enforcement agencies during the time. While maybe cutting edge during the time some of it seemed kind of funny to read about at this later date. No cell phones, dial-up modems, hour long information searches, and grossly expensive digital camera technology, not to mention two major print newspapers still being alive in Denver. Appreciate the times we live in folks!

The ugly:

A lot of the subject matter in the book deals with pedophilia, a topic that should always make a reader squeamish.

A terrific novel by a wonderful writer. I enjoyed all 501 pages from beginning to end and really appreciated the curve balls the writer threw at me particularly near the conclusion. Recommended for fans of the genre and to anyone who likes a good read in general. Read "The Poet" and then follow it up with "The Scarecrow!"

Jack Reacher



"When a gunman takes five lives with six shots, all evidence points to the suspect in custody. On interrogation, the suspect offers up a single note: 'Get Jack Reacher!' So begins an extraordinary chase for the truth, pitting Jack Reacher against an unexpected enemy, with a skill for violence and a secret to keep."

The novel that this movie is based on, "One Shot" by Lee Child, is a fantastic story; however, I think Tom Cruise has been insanely miscast as Reacher. In the books Reacher is a mountain, towering somewhere around 6'4" and weighing in at over 250 pounds. His size is partially what makes him such a bad mofo. How tall is Cruise? 5'2"?

In general I like Tom Cruise movies. He's adept at playing the every man. Jack Reach isn't just any run of the mill anti-hero though. I'm sure I'll still catch the movie this winter, even if my interest has waned a bit with the casting.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

I have to give my friend Dann credit for recently snagging me a copy of "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister" (368 pages) by Gregory Maguire. I had been wanting to see what else Maguire had to offer besides his "Wicked Years" novels based on the land of Oz. From the dust jacket of the book:

"From Gregory Maguire, the acclaimed author of 'Wicked,' comes his much-anticipated second novel, a brilliant and provocative retelling of the timeless Cinderella tale.

We all have heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful child cast out to slave among the ashes. But what of her stepsisters, the homely pair exiled into ignominy by the fame of their lovely sibling? What fate befell those untouched by beauty . . . and what curses accompanied Cinderella's exquisite looks?

Set against the rich backdrop of seventeenth-century Holland, 'Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister' tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who finds herself swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice, and ambition. Iris's path quickly becomes intertwined with that of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl destined to become her sister.

While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth, burning all memories of her past, Iris seeks out the shadowy secrets of her new household--and the treacherous truth of her former life.

Far more than a mere fairy-tale, 'Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister' is a novel of beauty and betrayal, illusion and understanding, reminding us that deception can be unearthed--and love unveiled--in the most unexpected of places."


The good:

I think Maguire really succeeds in his retelling of Cinderella. Here the read is more like a historical fiction version of Cinderella rather than just a retelling, maybe not as good as "Wicked" but I think a litter smarter.

As usual Maguire's characters are interesting even while they may not always be endearing. The only character in the novel who most resembles themselves from Cinderella would probably be the role of the step-mother but in this tale her motivations and actions could be construed as necessary out of a slanted view of taking care of her family.

A couple of twists during and after the Ball really propelled this novel for me from a three star to a four star review on Goodreads. Luckily Maguire closes the story with most questions answered, something he never seemed to do very well in the "Wicked Years" books.

The bad:

Some of the writing is clunky but not overly detrimental to the story. Maguire is also very proud of his vocabulary skills.

Clara's character (Cinderella) goes through the biggest transformation in the novel yet I like her very little, which was probably the point. She has a minor act of redemption near the end but it's too little too late to salvage any positive feelings for her.

The ugly:

Names and places throughout Holland. Yuck.

A nice little tale about the Cinderella myth. Some readers may be a little disappointed that story pretty much ends at the same place as the original Cinderella; however, there's a nice little epilogue that informs the reader on the outcome of all the major players in the book. Recommended for fans of Maguire and the genre (fairy tale historical fiction?).

The Great Gatsby

I think my high school offered "The Great Gatsby" (180 pages) by F. Scott Fitzgerald as required reading in Advance Placement English during the 9th grade. Since I was in retarded English until the 11th grade I never had a chance to read the supposed "great American novel" until now. From the book:

"The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted 'gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,' it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920.

The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature."

The good:

I guess Baz Luhrman's upcoming Gatsby film was my primary motivation for wanting to read the novel.



The Jazz Age would be a great time to live in America I think. I've always been interested in this time in American history and culture. How cool would it be to be a bootlegger for Arnold Rothstein? Well it didn't turn out too well for Jay Gatsby...

I found the story very readable considering the era in which it was written. I was hooked after a chapter or two. I enjoyed the themes and found the dialogues very intriguing.

The bad:

Great American novel? More like a novella. At 180 pages this story is pretty lean and could've used a bit more girth. How often do I complain about that in a book?

Most of the characters are unlikable and even down right disgusting (Daisy and Tom). The best I can describe anyone is probably Gatsby whom I just felt sorry for by the conclusion. I'm still not sure what to think about Nick Carraway and his self righteousness, or maybe he was just drunk throughout the story.

The ugly:

There were a couple of lines here and there that to me were very racist. Whether these feelings were Fitzgerald's or his characters I'm not sure.

Old money trumps new money every time.

Again, I really enjoyed the story and interaction between the characters even though most of the characters aren't sympathetic, or at least they weren't to me. The great American novel? Hardly, but there is some good stuff to be found here especially for those interested in America of the Jazz Age. I think the great American novel would include more than just a story about New York's social elite. Recommended.

Monday, July 02, 2012

RIP Gail...

"July 28, 1980 - June 26, 2012 OKLAHOMA CITY Gail, 31, beloved wife, sister, daughter, & aunt, was called home Tues. June 26th by the Lord. Always willing to help anyone in need, Gail will be deeply missed. She enjoyed spending time with her family & friends, swimming, & playing with her 'boo boos.'"

Link.

Gail was a wonderful person and a delight to know. I'll miss her infectious laugh and good spirit. She was taken far too early but I'm glad to have known her for the last decade or so. Safe travels my friend...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Desperation

I think "Desperation" (690 pages) by Stephen King is what ultimately did it in for me as an an avid King fan back in the mid 1990's. Since I've been on a Stephen King kick of late, I thought I would close out my reading of his late 20th century works (at least for now) by revisiting "Desperation" a second time. From the dust jacket of the book:

"Nevada is mostly a long stretch of desert you cross on the way to somewhere else. And with someone else, if you're lucky... because it's a scary place. Headed down Route 50 in the brutal summer heat are people who are never going to reach their destinations. Like the Jacksons, a professor and his wife going home to New York City; the Carvers, a Wentworth, Ohio, family bound for a vacation at Lake Tahoe; and aging literary lion Johnny Marinville, inventing a gonzo image for himself astride a 700-pound Harley.

A dead cat nailed to a road sign heralds the little mining town of Desperation, a town that seems withered in the shade of a manmade mountain known as the China Pit. But it's worse than that, much worse. Regulating the traffic there is Collie Entragain, an outsized uniformed madman who considers himself the only law west of the Pecos. God forbid you should be missing a license plate or find yourself with a flat tire.

There's something very wrong here, all right, and Entragian is only the surface of it. The secrets embedded in Desperation's landscape, and the evil that infects the town like some viral hot zone, are both awesome and terrifying. But as young David Carver seems to know - though is scares him nearly to death to realize it - so are the forces summoned to combat them. In
Desperation, Stephen King's sweeping brush paints an apocalyptic drama of God and evil, madness and revelation. His genius for suspense has never been so finely honed, his imagination so shudderingly vivid, as when his wayfarers - and the readers who dare to follow their course - begin to discover the true meaning of the word desperation."

Perhaps a way to describe "Desperation" is like "The Stand" by only on a smaller stage or scale. This is both the appeal and maybe the downfall of the story.

The good:

Great cover art, no?

I really liked the pacing of the novel, especially the first third of the book. I read the first 230 pages of this tome in one sitting. It takes off like a Roman Candle and doesn't let up too terribly as the story progresses.

Collie Entragain is a terrifying antagonist, particularly early on during his "introduction" phase of the book. Though he seems mostly normal, there are a few hints that maybe a screw or two is loose in his head. Creepy stuff.

Something that King does well in some of his novels is the use of multiple characters and multiple points of view throughout a story. "Desperation" doesn't disappoint in this regard.

The bad:

Snakes, and spiders, and coyotes! Oh my! If creepy crawly desert varmints aren't your thing, this may not be the book for you.

David Carver, the 11-year old on vacation with his family, is supposed to be the hero of the novel but the little shit just gets on my nerves. Unlike most King stories, I usually don't have too many problems with the characters and their likability. He pretty much rubbed me the wrong way from the start and I hate feeling that way about a protagonist!

Tak! If I read this expression one more time I just may spit. For anyone who's read the novel I think they'd understand.

The ugly:

So here's the main reason I don't like this little good versus evil ditty. I just can't get into a story where God is speaking to the main characters and guiding them in their conflict with evil forces never fully explained. At least it wasn't a showdown against the devil! David Carver starts waving his Jesus freak flag fairly early on in the novel and it kind of spoiled the rest of the experience for me, no matter how engaging the rest of the story may have been. Even though this is a horror novel with supernatural events, I just can't suspend my beliefs enough to swallow all the religious reference, strike that, Christian reference.

All in all not a bad story with some fantastic pacing and really creepy elements. Again all the religion elements soured the experience for me; however, I am a godless heathen so maybe this won't strike such a flat chord with most readers. Recommended for fans of horror and yes, Stephen King fans, as well as those people out there who think God really communicates with them. Try Prozac!

I'm done with King for a while. Next up, a little F. Scott Fitzgerald maybe?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bag of Bones

The summer of Stephen King continues! Well not really, but damn if I don't have a lot of King novels from the 1990's that I never got around to reading. The latest is "Bag of Bones" (529 pages) which I'm sure I never even cracked open when I most likely received it as either a Christmas or Birthday present years ago. From Goodreads:

"Stephen King's most gripping and unforgettable novel, 'Bag of Bones,' is a story of grief and a lost love's enduring bonds, of a new love haunted by the secrets of the past, of an innocent child caught in a terrible crossfire.

Set in the Maine territory King has made mythic, 'Bag of Bones' recounts the plight of forty-year-old bestselling novelist Mike Noonan, who is unable to stop grieving even four years after the sudden death of his wife, Jo, and who can no longer bear to face the blank screen of his word processor.

Now his nights are plagued by vivid nightmares of the house by the lake. Despite these dreams, or perhaps because of them, Mike finally returns to Sara Laughs, the Noonans' isolated summer home.

He finds his beloved Yankee town familiar on its surface, but much changed underneath - held in the grip of a powerful millionaire, Max Devore, who twists the very fabric of the community to his purpose: to take his three-year-old granddaughter away from her widowed young mother. As Mike is drawn into their struggle, as he falls in love with both of them, he is also drawn into the mystery of Sara Laughs, now the site of ghostly visitations, ever-escalating nightmares, and the sudden recovery of his writing ability. What are the forces that have been unleashed here - and what do they want of Mike Noonan?"


I was extremely surprised how terrific a read "Bag of Bones" turned out to be. In fact I would probably rate it as one of King's better novels.

The good:

The story for one. The book stayed true to itself throughout, a fairly normal yarn, well normal for a ghost story. There really wasn't much of King's silliness that I've complained about in recent recaps. The haunting of Mike Noonan is powerful both in the sense of the supernatural and the emotional. Very intriguing and laid out well.

Initially the story begins in Derry, Maine and even has a couple of cameos from characters from "Insomnia" which I found cool since I had just read that particular novel.

The characters are real and fleshed out well. Though we've seen these archetypes before, especially in King novels, they work well in the environments created here.

The bad:

The pacing of the novel early on was a little frustrating but once the story takes off it really gets going. There were also a couple of dream sequences that were a little repetitive that I could have done without.

The ugly:

There's a couple of really nasty scenes toward the end of the book. Violence or sexual content doesn't usually bother me when I'm reading but some of it here was really horrifying and tragic.

Again, this was a truly outstanding story and effort by King. I'd probably rate it as one of my favorites of his. On par with "The Stand," "The Green Mile," and "Dolores Claiborne," just to name a couple of his stories I like really well. Recommended for fans of horror, specifically ghost stories, and fans of Stephen King (at his best).

Did anyone happen to see the made for TV movie of "Bag of Bones?" I heard it was terrible but I never watched it as I knew I'd be reading the novel soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rules of Life

  • Share
  • Obey
  • Be kind
  • Wash
  • Floss
  • Flush
  • Recycle
  • Call your mother
  • If you're gonna play in Texas, you've got to have a fiddle in the band

Monday, June 11, 2012

Insomnia

I used to think that "Insomnia" (787 pages) by Stephen King cured my insomnia way back when the book was published. I never could get in to the story and never finished the book. I thought it was maybe time to revisit the novel since it's followed me all over Oklahoma for nearly twenty years. From the dust jacket of the book:

"Ralph Roberts has a problem: he isn't sleeping so well these days. In fact, he's hardly sleeping at all. Each morning, the news conveyed by the bedside clock is a little worse: 3:15... 3:02... 2:45... 2:15. The books call it 'premature waking;' Ralph who is still learning to be a widower, calls is a season in hell. He's begun to notice a strangeness in his familiar surroundings, to experience visual phenomena that he can't quite believe are hallucinations. Soon, Ralph thinks, he won't be sleeping at all, and what then?

A problem, yes - though perhaps not so uncommon, you might say. But Ralph has lived his entire life in Derry, Maine, and Derry isn't
like other places, as millions of Stephen King readers will gladly testify. They remember It, also set in Derry, and know there's a mean streak running through this small New England city; underneath its ordinary surface awesome and terrifying forces are at work. The dying, natural and otherwise, has been going on in Derry for a long, long time. Now Ralph is part of it. So are his friends. And so are the strangers they encounter.

You, Gentle Reader, may never sleep again. Welcome to
Insomnia."

"Insomnia is a queer little story that actually jumps the shark about half way through. Usually King waits until the ends of his novels to go off the cliff.

The good:

I really enjoyed that Ralph Roberts, the protagonist, was in his early seventies. I can't remember the last work of fiction I read with most of the main players being in their late sixties to early seventies.

There were definitely some creepy moments sprinkled throughout the book, especially when Ralph's insomnia started to take its toll on him mentally. Imagine looking out your window in the early hours to discover that there's a whole other side to your city that only you can see. Or is it just the insomnia playing tricks on your mind?

I appreciated the modern retelling of Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. What if life was but a string to be cut at a specific time or worse, randomly. Very imaginative.

The bad:

The length of the book. I usually don't complain about the size of a novel as long as the story is engaging and flowing. "Insomnia" gets bogged down quite a few times and could've been edited down a bit in my opinion. At times it felt like a chore to trudge through the long narrative.

The story incorporates some elements and characters of King's "Dark Tower" series. I guess this could be a really cool thing if one has actually read the "Dark Tower" series. I have not. I felt a little frustrated that I didn't know what was going on completely with the story, particularly toward the last 100 pages or so of the novel.

As I mentioned earlier, King's ubiquitous need to take an interesting story and turn it into something really bizarre. The wheels come off of this one pretty early. Maybe it's just my personal tastes in fiction, especially horror, but I would have preferred something a little more real, if that makes sense.

The ugly:

Derry, Maine. You couldn't pay me to live in this crazy town! The novel mentions a couple of times that Derry isn't like other places. You've got that shit right. I like the fact that several of King's novels have taken place here with many landmarks and previous events mentioned on occasion.

So "Insomnia" was kind of a bust for me. Like some of King's later works, what's good is really good, and what's bad is just plain silly. Recommended for fans of the "Dark Tower" series and die hard Stephen King fans. All others should read something else.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Everything's Eventual

I've never really been a fan of short stories or collections of stories for some reason. Oddly enough "Everything's Eventual" (459 pages) by Stephen King is the second collection I've read this year. From Goodreads:

"The first collection of stories Stephen King has published since 'Nightmares & Dreamscapes' nine years ago, 'Everything's Eventual' includes one O. Henry Prize winner, two other award winners, four stories published by The New Yorker, and 'Riding the Bullet,' King's original e-book, which attracted over half a million online readers and became the most famous short story of the decade. 'Riding the Bullet,' published here on paper for the first time, is the story of Alan Parker, who's hitchhiking to see his dying mother but takes the wrong ride, farther than he ever intended. In 'Lunch at the Gotham Cafe,' a sparring couple's contentious lunch turns very, very bloody when the maitre d' gets out of sorts. '1408,' the audio story in print for the first time, is about a successful writer whose specialty is 'Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Graveyards' or 'Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Houses,' and though Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel doesn't kill him, he won't be writing about ghosts anymore. And in 'That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French,' terror is deja vu at 16,000 feet. Whether writing about encounters with the dead, the near dead, or about the mundane dreads of life, from quitting smoking to yard sales, Stephen King is at the top of his form in the fourteen dark tales assembled in Everything's Eventual. Intense, eerie, and instantly compelling, they announce the stunningly fertile imagination of perhaps the greatest storyteller of our time."

I guess what bugs me the most about short stories is getting invested in a story between 20 to 50 pages that often times abruptly ends seemingly before needed. This is the case with a couple of King's stories here but out of the 14 total, I enjoyed most of the reading. He definitely has an imagination and can spin a good yarn from time to time, especially when delving into the darkness of every day events or human nature.

I was most surprised about the short story included called "The Little Sisters of Eluria," which is a prequel of sorts to King's Dark Tower series, a series I've been meaning to get back to for quite some time. Apparently the story either takes place before "The Gunslinger" or during it.

As I said above collections of stories usually aren't my thing but I really enjoyed what King has to offer here. Recommended for fans of King or horror and easy to put down and pick back up if necessary.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Persuader

Back to Lee Child again and one of his Jack Reacher novels. I believe "Persuader" (465 pages) is the seventh in the series though I've been jumping around randomly throughout the series. From the cover:

"Jack Reacher.
The ultimate loner.
An elite ex-military cop who left the service years ago, he's moved from place to place...without family...without possessions...without commitments.
And without fear. Which is good, because trouble-big, violent, complicated trouble-finds Reacher wherever he goes. And when trouble finds him, Reacher does not quit, not once...not ever.
But some unfinished business has now found Reacher. And Reacher is a man who hates unfinished business.
Ten years ago, a key investigation went sour and someone got away with murder. Now a chance encounter brings it all back. Now Reacher sees his one last shot. Some would call it vengeance. Some would call it redemption. Reacher would call it...justice."


Another great effort by Child. As I've stated before each book is easily picked up regardless of the order the stories were written in. And though each novel follows the same loner character in Jack Reacher, the stories are almost always unique and rarely is there a "been there, done that" quality about the books. Here Reacher works with the government to infiltrate a smuggling operation to find a lost agent though his motivations are mostly personal. Recommended for fans of mysteries and thrillers. Child has a definite knack for keeping the reader on edge with the situations he throws at his hero.

I recently read that one of the Reacher novels is in production as a movie. While I'm excited by this prospect I'm not sure the casting of Tom Cruise is good casting for Jack Reacher. Well maybe a really short Jack Reacher...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Layfette, Louisiana

In spite of a lot of pissing and moaning, I generally enjoy the South. Not Oklahoma but the real South. It's like a whole other world when compared to other parts of our great country. Travel to southern Louisiana and it's like a whole other universe. That's what I did last weekend. I skipped the Gay Pride festivities here in Oklahoma City in favor of a quick four day trip to Layfette, Louisiana to visit my brother and sister-in-law. I know, I'm a bad gay with no pride...

So what makes bayou country so unique? Here are a few examples:


Where else in the country can you pull up to a drive up daiquiri stand, order some drinks, and not be threatened with an open container fine because you bought the alcoholic concoction without the straw in it? I'm sure this isn't unique to Louisiana but it certainly is in my neck of the woods. Of course the straw doesn't stay outside of the drink for long. Definitely go with the Sweet Tart!

According to my sister-in-law, part Coon Ass according to my brother, one doesn't order toast for breakfast. One needs to order toast bread so you know for sure what exactly is getting toasted on what you're ordering. Makes sense to me.

One of the festivities we took in down south was a graduation party for my sister-in-law's niece. A pretty typical affair, lots of beer, food, family and zeitago music. Well mostly typical. As the event wore on we found ourselves playing beer pong and flip cup (a gamed I admit that I'd never played before, I blame the small town college I attended). The anchor for our flip cup game proceeded to play, and play well, with a beer in hand and a baby slung over her shoulder. Only in the South.

Ever seen the show Swamp People on the History Channel? Yeah, they really exist and I've spoken to a couple of them! I can't really say that I caught all of the conversation.

Out in the boonies around Layfette I saw quite a few storefronts advertising boudin and cracklins. After being reminded what boudin was I realized I had eaten it before but I couldn't for the life of my figure out what a cracklin was. It's pork rinds. Interesting.

Finally if you're in the market for a mobile home there's hundreds of businesses to choose from north of the Layfette area. We drove up just east of Opelousas (I call it Umpaloompa) to fetch some lumber for a home project my brother is working on and it was staggering to see how many lots of mobile homes there were. Hello? Hurricanes? Speaking of hurricanes my brother has been know to flee north while my sister-in-law prefers to ride it out with her family and "party."

I kid the South, specifically Louisiana and Layfette. It really is a great place to visit, take in the sights, the culture and the people. It's definitely a lot more fun than Atlanta, but that's another place and another story.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Duma Key

Back to the world of Stephen King I go with "Duma Key" (611 pages). I love a bargain book from the store! From Goodreads:

"Six months after a crane crushes his pickup truck and his body self-made millionaire Edgar Freemantle launches into a new life. His wife asked for a divorce after he stabbed her with a plastic knife and tried to strangle her one-handed (he lost his arm and for a time his rational brain in the accident). He divides his wealth into four equal parts for his wife, his two daughters, himself and leaves Minnesota for Duma Key, a stunningly beautiful, eerily remote stretch of the Florida coast where he has rented a house. All of the land on Duma Key, and the few houses, are owned by Elizabeth Eastlake, an octogenarian whose tragic and mysterious past unfolds perilously. When Edgar begins to paint, his formidable talent seems to come from someplace outside him, and the paintings, many of them, have a power that cannot be controlled."

I really thought this book was fantastic, especially for something written fairly recently by King. Indeed I didn't want the story to end and I really savored the story, something that doesn't happen often when I read anything. I basically bought the book because it was extremely cheap for a hardcover at Barnes and Noble. Reading the dust cover didn't give me too much confident but a few pages into the read my perception changed. I was immediately lured into Edgar's story of woe and his recuperation living on Duma Key, a story that is winding and methodical with its large volume. As the mystery of Duma Key and its residents slowly unfolded I was drawn in even more. Toward the last one hundred pages or so the novel slipped into King's patented over-kill of goofiness but luckily he never went completely over the cliff (for me the difference between a four star review and a five star review). The conclusion left me satisfied in spite of some of the tragic events and unresolved relationships, but I guess such is life more times than not.

Recommended for fans of King, at some of his better writing lately, as well of fans of light horror and of the supernatural.