Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mid-week open thread or something that points out my profound hubris

I must think I'm something else if I'm presenting an "open thread" (a place to post discussion for you newbies). However, since I'm taking my imps Northahere to visit The Babe (as Trusty so appropriately called her in comments for the last post), I figured I'd throw something up since I may not be posting until Sunday.

A post on The News Blog a week or so back pointed me to this NYT article, in which,
...the Book Review's editor, Sam Tanenhaus, sent out a short letter to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years."

The results were:

Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)

Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy (1985)
Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels, John Updike
American Pastoral, Philip Roth, (1997)

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole (1980)
Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson (1980)
Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin (1983)
White Noise, Don DeLillo (1985)
The Counterlife, Philip Roth (1986)
Libra, Don DeLillo (1988)
Where I'm Calling From, Raymond Carver (1988)
The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
Mating, Norman Rush (1991)
Jesus' Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
Operation Shylock, Philip Roth (1993)
Independence Day, Richard Ford (1995)
Sabbath's Theater, Philip Roth (1995)
Border Trilogy, Cormac McCarthy (1999)
The Human Stain, Philip Roth (2000)
The Known World, Edward P. Jones (2003)
The Plot Against America, Philip Roth (2004)

I won't comment much here - I'll follow up on any comments you, dear reader, leave for this discussion thread. Do you agree with the list for the most part? Any glaring ommissions? Have you even read any of these books? What would your #1 be if you don't agree that Beloved was all that terrific (or why was it also your choice)?

But as I said, you can also consider it an open thread and you can talk about whatever moves you.

PS - (RE: my last post) I appreciate all the back pats (and shame on those of you who chose to use back-patting as an opportunity to cop a cheap feel) regarding my last post but I have to tell you it was pure snark and just an excuse to post cute pics. I really, REALLY was not being self-pitying or anything - life is wonderful. But I was flattered by the comments, anyway.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Having a nice Meme-orial Day

It's been a wonderful weekend so far, watching my parent's house, spending half the time with the kidlets (like last year, X and I have flipped the schedule) and almost the entire time with my new love.

New love and I took the brood out to "Territory Days", a kind of street fair in Old Colorado City that's an annual excuse to cram too many people into a really small place so that everyone's forced to brush up against booths hawking overpriced crap - for the most part, crap that jingles in the wind, creates wind, and/or is largely as forgettable as the wind. Nonetheless, with painted faces stuffed full of cotton candy, the wee ones wandered through the rabble without insisting they needed they needed this or that or they wouldn't, rabble be damned.

Time and time again, I saw that strategy used on other parents (and the saps feeding into it) but I have to say my lil' ones didn't attempt it even once. Must have been the cattle prod...

My love did fold on me and my "oh get me that, oh get me that, oh get me THAT," and bought me this COOL Australian hat (but only because it looks soooooo good on me!). I post the pic as a two-fer and satisfy Crystal's desire for moobs.... god, I hope ya' haven't had yer Wheaties yet...

As you can tell - I got nuthin'. Sans anything, I'll fall back on a meme (via Sarah at Anon Y. Mass). Sometimes you just gotta' unzip it and let it flow all over some stranger's front quarter panel, there's no reason to wait. Especially if no one's looking.

  1. What time did you get up this morning? 6:20am
  2. Diamonds or pearls? Pearls - or Mother-of-Pearl - inlaid on a fret board
  3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? The Celestine Prophecy
  4. What is your favorite TV show? Law & Order: Criminal Intent
  5. What did you have for breakfast? Oatmeal and too much coffee
  6. What is your middle name? Ragale
  7. What is your favorite food? Sushi
  8. What foods do you dislike? Fast food
  9. What kind of potato chips do you like? Vinegar & Sea Salt
  10. What is your favorite CD at the moment? Sterling's Evil Mix and EvilMommy's Evil mix
  11. What kind of car do you drive? 1997 Audi A6
  12. Favorite sandwich? BLT
  13. What characteristics do you despise? Dishonesty (and all its facets but mostly, hypocrisy), vanity, greed, and stupidity
  14. Favorite item of clothing? Chuck Taylors
  15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Some remote South Pacific island
  16. What color is your bathroom? Piss yellow
  17. What is your favorite brand of clothing? Anything not involving slave labor
  18. Where would you want to retire? Some remote cabin in the mountains
  19. Favorite time of day? NOW
  20. Where were you born? Cut Bank, Montana
  21. Favorite sport to watch? baseball
  22. Who do you least expect to answer this? Landismom
  23. Person you expect to answer first? Anne (she owes me)
  24. Coke or Pepsi? Coke (with something mixed in it)
  25. Are you a morning person or night owl? Night owl
  26. What size shoe do you wear? 8 1/2 - 9
  27. Do you have any pets? No
  28. Any new and exciting news you’d like to share with everyone? I posted
  29. What did you want to be when you were little? Bigger
  30. Is the glass half empty or half full? Half, what? Where's the goddamn bartender?
  31. What is your best childhood memory? Morro Bay, California
  32. What are the different jobs you have had in your life? delivering papers, mowing lawns, landscaping, babysitting, busboy, waiter, bartender, frame carpenter, finish carpenter, cabinet maker, general laborer, maintenance at an asphalt plant, laying asphalt on a road crew (in Alabama, in the summer), reprographic printer, writer, PCB fabricator (fired for creating a board with "Bombs = Oil" written with components on USAF contract during first Gulf War), internet marketer, web designer, graphics designer, therapist...
  33. What color underwear are you wearing? gray and blue stripes
  34. Nicknames: Weed, McQ, Daddy
  35. Piercings? Yes
  36. Eye color: green
  37. Ever been to Africa? No
  38. Ever been toilet papering? Yes
  39. Love someone so much it made you cry? Of course
  40. Been in a car accident? Yes
  41. Croutons or bacon bits? Depends on the salad
  42. Favorite day of the week? Sunday
  43. Favorite flower? Iris
  44. Favorite ice cream? Pralines & Cream
  45. Disney or Warner Brothers? Disney
  46. Favorite fast food restaurant? The one they're turning into a used CD store
  47. What color is your bedroom carpet? Baby-shit brown
  48. Failed your drivers test? Yes
  49. From whom did you get your last e-mail from? Bill Winter for US Congress - I'm a volunteer, hoping to unseat the racist Tom Tancredo
  50. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
  51. What do you most often do when you are bored? I'm never bored
  52. Bedtime? When I'm tired
  53. Who are you most curious about their responses to this questionnaire? Trish
  54. Last person you went to dinner with? Trish
  55. Lake, Ocean or river? Ocean
  56. How many tattoos do you have? One
  57. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Egg

So... tomorrow I'll actually have something to write about (and pics to back it up - at my parent's house I didn't have access to the files, pshaw!) but until then, you can check out where I'll be in 2 weeks:

Friday, May 26, 2006

R.I.P. Desmond Dekker

I was 7-years old the first time I heard “Israelites”, on a beach near San Diego, its haunting, ethereal chorus floating from the tiny tin mouth of a transistor radio while I looked out past the dunes and watched the surf. Funny how certain memories from childhood remain vivid and clear while the bulk is washed out and buried deep, sunk beneath leagues of a lifetime. The exact moment I was introduced to Jamaican music is as clear as if it happened last Friday while I could not tell you name of my second-grade teacher's name despite the most excrutiating torture.

So who really taught me something, way back when I was 7-years old? Ms. Whatshername or Desmond Dekker? At the time I didn't know the song was 'ska' or 'reggae', just that I recall it was novel and beautiful and every time I heard "Ooooh, oooooh, me Israelites," my skin tingled. As years passed and I became an adolescent, jaded, depressed and oh-so-serious, that reprise would slip back into my subconsciousness to remind me that I was not so far from my childhood's wonder and that life was not an endless road of suckitude.

It was 1981 when I rediscovered Desmond Dekker, another beach (this time in Hawaii), a chance encounter with an album at the Hickam AFB BX. Though fully immersed in English punk, it was obvious that reggae was a big part of that scene (uh, The Clash folks...) and so I bought a copy of "The King Kong Compilation" out of some allegiance to my fellow funny haircut mates. I didn't know what I was getting, it was one of those purchaces where I walked into a record store out of habit and then figured it was better than anything else (certainly better than the Gino Vanelli they were blasting out on the sound system).

The album was a godsend, in so many ways. In the midst of my punk pose, my hard-nosed view of humanity, I heard a whisper from my past, as if an echo bid me out of a dark tunnel to breathe. More than that, the disk (a brief compendium of producer Leslie Kong's masterful work) acquainted me with more DD as well as some of the most memorable music of my life*.

Just one more lame eulogy for a man who meant so much to me and not only helped me discover eclecticism but also represents more of my childhood than any fluffy animal. Goodbye, Mr. Dacres, you mattered to me in so many ways.

* It's a shame that it's still only on vinyl and RARE - any angels out there who want sex with me can get it here but I'm not holding my breath... :-(

Goofy DD video over at Firedoglake but well worth the watch.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

As if I needed a reason to get drunk

According to the Fox News website (via HuffPo - didja' really think that I would read Fox News?), the cocktail is celebrating its 200th Anniversary this month. Well really, just the first published account of a cocktail and not the first mixed drink. Seems that no one can remember exactly when that happened, not surprisingly (although I can imagine it was possible someone wrote "Ye mix bitters with gin and add a slice of lime," on a bar napkin only to have it lost in the wash).

If there was ever a reason to celebrate, this is it. Births of Saviors and Declarations of Independence seem to be big reasons to get bagged and bust up the furniture but I have to confess that since 2001, the 4th of July only depresses me, while saviors pretty much went the way of Santa Claus with me. A cocktail, on the other hand, is a nightly ritual (yes, you could say I drink religiously). Given the choice between God, Country, and Booze, I'd take the drink.

If my patriotism is an issue to you, I defer to the famous quote from Casablanca (Major Strasser: What is your nationality? Rick: I'm a drunkard). If my take on God or religion is an issue for you, my response is that you need to loosen up and have a cocktail, for Christ's sake. After all, I toast your well-being, determination, and independence so it seems the least you could do is STFU about what I think and what I drink.

I sure picked a bad month to quit smoking.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Day Fourteen or whatever and I feel... um... SOMETHING...

Thanks to those of you who have lent your support and words of encouragement on my quitting smoking. It was two weeks ago today that I officially quit and with the exception of a couple of slips, I've been smoke-free. With those brief lapses, I was reminded of one reason I wanted to quit. The smoke was harsh and the taste was bad; it just wasn't a joy anymore.

In the past, in more half-hearted attempts to quit, I couldn't deny that I loved the taste and enjoyed how good a relaxing smoke made me feel. But in the past six months, all the pleasure was gone, none of the taste, none of the bliss, just a heaviness in my lungs that usually led to a hacking cough. More often than not, I'd find myself lighting up only to experience an existential dilemma, "Why am I doing this? Why do I have to do this?!?"

Looking back over the past two weeks, I've been blessed that the cravings have been minimal and brief. Putting my mind to not lighting up by seeking some distraction has helped me work through the worst. The stop-smoking supporters I've heard from in the comments and in emails have assured me that I'm past the worst of it. Agreed, the cravings are less insistent and persistant. Oh, there's still the two or three dozen times a day that I think about having a cigarette (especially when I see someone smoking) but that's better than the two or three dozen times an hour a week and half ago.

Cravings aren't the problem. What's bothering me (and the reason I haven't written much the past two weeks) is the loss of concentration. I swear, quitting smoking has lowered my IQ by 30 points. As someone who has always prided himself on a better than average vocabulary and decent grammar, the past couple of weeks has been a haze of stupidity, slack-jawed and drooling, like I'm some NASCAR numbskull or Republican. With my head full of clean air, I haven't been able to write an independent clause, much less a coherent sentence. I grasp for words that I know but the tip of my tongue seems to flail helplessly in a futile search. Conversations with me go nowhere; chances are, I'll forget what I was going to say. This senility is driving me crazy.

So, supporters of the non-smoking me (and who are ex-smokers), have any of you experienced this? Does it get any better? Tell me it does, please... if not, I'm going back to smoking.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

And now, yer' players get pasted, posted, and all around roasted

Emails went out today and everyone has been matched up for Evil mixmania! - please check your email if you're on board.

The players are:

Sarah - Anon Y. Mass
A World of Chaos
...and for those of you keeping score at home, one lucky person gets my mix (my match) as does Kimberly for figuring out my puzzle last month.

If you don't see your URL in the list above, you didn't follow the rules (posted HERE). Several people expressed their desire to play in the comments but failed to email me their information. As it was, it took me 4 hours to get everyone matched and emailed - I was in no mood to go hunting for anyone's information.

Sorry if I'm cranky, I quit smoking on Monday.

Monday, May 08, 2006

If you support Bush, you sure don't support families

Listening to: Interpol, Antics

OK, "Party of the Family", tell me how this works: hey, "The economy is booming"?

Nifty... um, for whom is the economy booming? Since your president stole the election of 2000, I haven't received a raise but I've sure as shit seen prices go up, not just gas but everything gas delivers - groceries, toys, clothes,

Your president and his buddies are costing me about $100 a month more than they were last year at this time. $100 that I have not seen in raises, lowered health care costs (heh), rent, or lowered prices overall - whadaminute, I hear that inflation being held back is one of the marks of your economic success - what planet do you live on?. Not exactly family values, this economic situation.

If I give up my car and ride the bus (a joke in this town), I make the 4 hours a day I normally spend with my kids and turn it into minus 2 hours a day; a total of minus six hours a day if we can even catch the bus.

How does that benefit my family?

Faggots and lesbians getting married are challenging my family? I don't think so. My biggest challenges are wondering if I have gas for my car or money to feed my family, if I can afford shoes for my kids or if I will pay my utilities. Where are the bigger wages Bush promised with his tax cuts? Where are the jobs?

By all means, you 32% who still support this numbskull, where are your promises? Where's your pie in the sky? Why has my family done much worse since 2000? Do your family values only apply to certain families, those sitting within the McMansions gated communities?

What about my family?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

You think that was painful?

Listening to: Old 97s, Drag It Up

A real Tom Cruise moment, that last post; having jumped on your couch and grinned toothily and jabbered incoherently about God-knows-what (I can't even remember what I wrote or even if I need to apologize to anyone), I seemed to have left a huge turd on the cushions after I pranced off stage to whisper praise to my alien overlords. Apparently, that last post was not nearly as entertaining - or funny - as I thought, judging by the whooshing sound heard in the caverns of the comment section.

'Metablogging' is never any fun but a necessary evil if I am to understand what works and what constitutes me playing to the back of the room (and the emergency exit). Not that such examination will prevent me from leaving a big, hairy, smelly one again on the furniture and in the future (I can guarantee I will and will do so too soon) but hopefully the level of suckitude with which I write will be kept to a bare minimum.

Painful as that last post was in its execution (I hate to consider the discomfort of reading it), the pain that greeted me when I got up this morning helped me put thoughts of a lousy post far behind me.

Back in late spring in 2000, I got hit with sciatica. "Hit" is hardly descriptive - "smashed in the spine with a sledghammer" comes a bit closer to capturing a fraction of the tooth-shattering pain.

I'd gotten a new oak desk, assembly required, on that day, a heavy mofo and I remember I'd been a little cavalier in getting the pieces propped up and put together. After work, I spent some time chasing Lilly around the yard, tossing her up in the air when I caught her, chasing and tossing for a good part of an hour. When we finally went upstairs, I felt a little discomfort in my lower back, a pain that quickly and exponentially worsened. Within a few hours, I knew I had to go to the ER but then pain was so excrutiating, I couldn't walk or even crawl to the car. My neighbor had to carry me downstairs and put me in my truck.

In the six years since then, I get some lumbar pain after doing strenuous work; a weekend of camping will result in a few days of lower-back discomfort (due to laoding and unloading gear). After the initial incident, my doctor told me, "That's the end of repetitive, heavy lifting for you," and his words were prescient. If I help a friend move, I have to bow out of the big stuff or else I'm asking for a couple days flat on my back.

However, this morning was the first time a flare-up arose from nowhere. Answering the alarm, I almost pissed myself when I blindly put my feet on the floor. Inconvenient, considering I had three kids to dress, feed, and get to school but a lack of convenience was the least of my worries; the flash of intense pain that radiated from my lower-back and down my thigh had every bit of my concentration rapt with "Ow! Ow! Ow!" I was tempted - very tempted - to get my sad ass down to the ER.

The two or three regulars here will not be surprised to know my children performed at a level above and beyond the call. They got dressed by themselves (I lay out their outfits the night before), fed themselves, and then, Daddy was able to drag himself and his brood into the car and drop the wee ones at school.

The rest of the day was spent on my back, in bed, dosed heavily with Advil and eventually, well enough to get the kid ohs from school, get dinner, bathe the brood and get them into bed. Still a back ache but nothing like my nightmare morning.

When my initial sciatica incident passed (I was put on anti-inflammatories, pain pills, and four days bed rest), I spent the next six weeks walking around like Quasimodo with tacks in his shoes, moving s-l-o-w-l-y, deliberately, every step feeling like someone was shoving a cold spike in my back. At that point, my doc said we might need to consider back surgery - interesting how docs say, "We need to consider" when "I" am the one thinking about going under the knife.

When I told co-workers about the doc's prognosis, someone recommended I see his accupuncturist. After all, he said, insurance covers it and if it works out, it'd beat surgery. Thinking about spending more than a week laying on my stomach pretty much convinced me it was worth a try, despite my skepticism.

The accupuncture worked. After two visits, the persistent pain was gone. My point here is that I wonder if sugery (back when I had insurance) wouldn't have been the best course of action. From everything I've read about chronic sciatic pain, re-alligning disks is the way to go. God bless my accuncturist, he made my pain go bye-bye but only for a moment. As I said, this thing goes on and on and on...

Don't even recommend I go to a Chiropractor; once you're into them in once, you're into them for life. I get the same sense of Accupuncturists. So-called "Alternative Medicine" sounds like pay-as-you-go but you get it until the day you die - and you die a lot sooner than if you see a real doctor.

If you say it's the karma I get for my previous, crappy post, I'd accept that. Fair enough. Considering it looks as though I'll eventually spend a week on my stomach, you can get your revenge.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Angels & angles

Listening to: The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour

I was prone on the couch, reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, when Zeke approached:
Zeke: What's your book about, daddy?
Me: Magicians and faeries
Zeke: Is God a faerie?
Me: I think so but I heard he went off to a retreat and got reprogrammed.

So that's what you get, one crappy joke and a good night. I'm showing solidarity with immigrant protesters, sitting this out today and not posting. Which doesn't excuse the pitiful posting the past couple of weeks but at least today, I have a decent reason for sitting on my hands.

In defense of my indolence (or redolence; the two seem to be co-occuring what with the neglect of personal hygiene and all), I have been attempting to whip up a 2,000 word anecdote for the latest installment Joshilyn Jackson's Blogging For Books (nee The Zero Boss's baby). Not that I stand a chance in hell - Joshilyn despises me and my penchant for online smut (sorry, Ms. Jackson) - but this month's theme of "cheating" is too irresistable in its potential to offend (or at least my potential to offend). Said theme can be about any kind of cheating and my story has it all, just so I can win and shake my furry fists into the air like I was an extra from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So far, I've written:
Yeah, she was a hooker but at the moment, nothing seemed to matter. Her huge, melon-like breasts heaved with passion as she looked longingly upon my gigantic, terrifyingly large, awe inspiring obelisk. She was waiting to be impaled and not without fear. Not only by my canoe-sized manhood but because in the next room my wife was busy pounding out pages on Madame Bovary for my Grad School thesis.

Yet here we were, on this dark and stormy night in my steamy room, celebrating how we'd short-changed my coke dealer by almost two-hundred bucks and were getting ready to rumble on a mattress that was missing its tag. Laying out several more lines on the flat top of my massive missle of love, I allowed her to indulge a last blast of pleasure. She wasn't about to get an orgasm and she sure as shit wasn't going to get paid.

With writing like that, there's no way I can lose. Especially since God's a Faerie.