Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Excerpt for the Day

    Call it nationalism, call it patriotism, call it my swelling national pride banging against the gate, whatever you call it, I am unabashedly proud of our great leaders in Beijing, proud that they have chosen to invest so much of our country's treasure in so many struggling Western economies in order to bring the rest of the world up to the same high standards of our great Chinese State.  It is right and it is just that we do so.

(from Madmen at the Tombs, by Ilow Martin Roque)

3*/10.  The full review is here.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dali Saturday

    It's been a while since we paid tribute to our favorite artist - Salvador Dali.  This is from the Photoshop wizards at Worth-1000, of course.  It is tantalizing to think of what Dali could've done if he had access to that program.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Excerpt for the Night

    He sits down.  There's a stiff sheet of calligraphied parchment lying on the table.  He leans forward to peer at it with interest.  A shadow appears across an archway, and he looks up to see the Ancient Mayan.

    (T)his is a guy you identify immediately.  Feathered head-dress, jaguarskin kilt, silky black pageboy bob.  Hooked nose and high cheekbones.  A sad and sneering countenance, appropriate on a member of a long-vanished empire.  Is this the end for the Spanish Jesuit?

    No, because the Ancient Mayan bows so his green plumes curl and bounce forward, and he inquires:

    "How may I serve the Son of Heaven?"

    The Jesuit looks down at the parchment.

    "Well, the Margarita Grande looks pretty good.  On the rocks, with salt, okay?  And make that two.  I'm expecting a friend."

(from Sky Coyote by Kage Baker)

6*/10.  The full review is here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

YMCA graph

    This is not true.  Personally, I also know the line "It's fun to (erm... something or other) at the YMCA..."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SCOTUS and SB 1070

    So.  The banner reads "Supreme Court signals it's OK with parts of Arizona's immigration law".  You can link to the article here, and I'm assuming they don't change the headline.

    This is not going to be a rant about how racist SB 1070 is.  That's a given.  Nor will I gleefully tell you about the bigot that sponsored it here in Arizona - Russell Pearce - who we've booted out of office because he's such a pig-headed bigot.  Well I admit, there's a wee bit of glee there.

    Instead, this is just to register my surprise that MSNBC considered SCOTUS's "signal" newswrothy.  Does anyone really expect them to rule otherwise?  You have 4½ right-wing political stooges sitting on the bench, plus Elena Kagan has recused herself because she worked on the case as part of the Obama administration.

    Folks, these are the dweebs that felt it was okay to strip-search and cavity-probe a suspect - twice - who was in jail because the cops had misidentified him as someone who had outstanding traffic tickets.  What can you expect of these idjits?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

about the blinds...

    ... I can explain.  Really I can.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Excerpt for the Day

(Three assertions.  Two are factual; one is bullsh*t.  Which one?  Answer in the comments)


1. In the U.S., a household of four will, on average, use two trees' worth of toilet paper per year.

2. The first documented use of toilet paper in human history was in China in the sixth century A.D.  By the ninth century A.D., using toilet paper was common is China (which is where paper was invented).

3. The inventor of modern commercially available toilet paper in the U.S. was an entrepreneur named Henry Joy.  Joy's Therapeutic Paper was introduced in 1740, and was rolled up on thin wooden rods in packages of three.

(from Fact. Fact. Bullsh*t!, by Neil Patrick Stewart)

8*/10.  The full review is here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy 4-20 Day!

    And if you don't know what 420 Day is, the Wikipedia article on it is here.

    In other news, it appears Blogger has decided to move everything around on the workspace page, while actually not adding or deleting any features.  You really gotta lay off those whites, Blogger.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

RIP - Levon Helm

Levon Helm
b.  :  26 May 1940
d.  :  19 April 2012

    Helm was part of the group called The Band, who first gained fame as the supporting band for Bob Dylan when the latter one day decided to go electric instead of acoustic.  All five members were multi-instrumentalists, but Helm did most of the drumming.

    The Band soon became a musical force on their own, coming out with their debut and seminal album Music From Big Pink in 1968.  The LP included what is probably their best-known song, The Weight (YouTube it), which featured Helm's charmingly raspy voice on lead vocal.  Their first incarnation lasted until 1976, and although they re-formed in 1983, the golden years were over.

    The group's founding personnel have taken some devastating hits over the years.  Keyboardist Richard Manuel hung himself in 1986; bassist Rick Danko passed away in 1999; and now Helm has lost his battle with throat cancer.  Only Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson remain.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Punny Wednesday

  There are several comic strips that from time to time push bravely into the realm of pundom.  Barney & Clyde is one; Mythtickle is another.  For for sheer contrivery (yeah, I know.  that's not a word), there is none better than Pearls Before Swine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book Excerpt for the Day

    We are all of us parts of God, parts of His dream, His desire, but none of us know any more than our own role in His plan; if indeed He has a plan, and is not merely moved this way and that by cosmic Whim, as sometimes seems the case.  And so I, a tendril in God's imaginings, had to be informed by another entity, as insubstantial as myself, just what my task was to be.

    "A messenger."

(from Humans, by Donald Westlake)

8½*/10.  The full review is here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Phoenix Gay Pride Parade - Next Saturday

Just a quick reminder that the Phoenix Gay Pride parade is next Saturday, 21 April.  Liz and I had our string of three straight attendances snapped last year when our newly-acquired pup, Bella, became deathly ill.

    Parade starts at 10:00, and we will be customarily late, which we will circumvent by parking near the end of the parade route and watching it from there.  Liz will have her cell phone, and I will have my fancy schmancy camera.

   Fair warning - the weatherman is calling for something like 98°F for a high that day.  This past Saturday, the high didn't even hit 70°F.  Hey, Gay Pride folks!  You really need to schedule this a few weeks earlier in the year.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Map of Australia

    Just kidding, of course.  In truth, I would dearly love to visit Australia, the 16-hour flight notwithstanding.  And New Zealand sounds even better.  My mental image of NZ is lots of greenery, a mild climate, a couple mountain ranges, and a gazillion sheep.  Plus that's where LOTR ws filmed, and I think the sets are still standing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Book Excerpt for the Day

    The Fink-Nottle, you see, was one of those freaks you come across from time to time during life's journey who can't stand London.  He lived year in and year out, covered with moss, in a remote village down in Lincolnshire, never coming up even for the Eton and Harrow match.  And when I asked him once if he didn''t find the time hang a bit heavy on his hands, he said, no, because he had a pond in his garden and studied the habits of newts.

(from Right Ho, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse)

7½*/10.  The full review is here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cops in da 'Hood

   Lots of cops with lights a-flashing when I got home today.  Two on the streets that straddle the nearby Junior High (pics #2 and #3), and these guys in the top pic, in the water run-off basin right across the street from us.

    All I can think of re these top guys is that they landed a helicopter in the basin to air-evac someone to the hospital.  Although it then begs the question, if the copter's done come and gone, why are these two still lolling about?

    It's also possible they busted someone at the Jr. High for drugs or something.  But then what's the point of the car in the basin?

    In any event, since they didn't have assault weapons like they had the last time nine cars of cops descended upon our neighborhood (see here), this is all just a tad bit ho-hum.  It might get a couple lines in tomorrow's "local" section of the newspaper, but I'm betting not.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In Memoriam - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (d. 04/11/07)

   Can it really be five years already since Kurt Vonnegut became unstuck in time and was transported to Tralfamador?  Royal bummer.

    Listen.  Simply put, Kurt Vonnegut is the greatest 20th-Century American writer.  I hesitate to say "of all time" only because of Edgar Allan PoeSlaughterhouse Five rates a "10*/10" to me, as does Sirens of Titan.  There are a host of "very good" Vonnegut novels (Cat's Cradle; Player Piano; Breakfast of Champions; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater), and only one that I considered a "stinker"  (Galapagos).

    Of course, I read Galapagos 20 years ago, so maybe it's time to go revisit it.  And Slapstick currently resides on my TBR shelf.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Excerpt for the Day

    He gestured toward the canvases in the main room.  "What are they, really?  I mean, no bullshit.  Because - I wouldn't say this to very many people - they remind me of the way life was inside my head when I wasn't taking my pills."

    "They're just make-believe," I said.  "Shadows."

    "I know about shadows," he said.  "You just want to be careful they don't grow teeth.  Because they can.  Then, sometimes when you reach for the light-switch to make them go away, you discover the power's out."

(from Duma Key, by Stephen King)

9*/10.  The full review is here.

Monday, April 09, 2012


    "Autological" and "Heterological" deftly examined.  And we won't even mention my personal favorite, "Pentasyllabic".

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Eostre Trip

    We took the day off to do some time-traveling.  Headed back to ancient Egypt to do some celebrating of Eostre the original way, before Christianity hijacked it and gave it their spin.

    Had a nice time with the Thebans, although the weather sucked.  Prayed that the earth would renew itself this year - no small matter in a land where life and death depend on the Nile.  Got the assurance from Isis that all would be well.  Ate some figs (yuck) and olives (double yuck), then called it a day.  Told the Thebans we'd see them later - about 46 centuries hence.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Book Excerpt for the Day

    "I intend," said Melicent, rather grandly because of the jolt the blunt question had given her, "to take the veil, and I would like it to be among the Benedictine sisters of Polesworth."

    "Sit down here beside me," said Sister Magdalen comfortably, "and tell me what has turned you to this withdrawal, and whether your family are in your confidence and approve your choice.  You are very young, and have the world before you..."

    "I am done with the world," said Melicent.

    "Child, as long as you live and breathe, you will not have done with this world.  We within the pale live in the same world as all poor souls without."

(from Dead Man's Ransom, by Ellis Peters)

8½*/10.  The full review is here.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Eye Exam

    I was off today for the holiday, and Liz celebrated it by making eye appointments for both of us.  Which effectively killed the afternoon.  I supppose she had a point, since my last eye exam (we looked this up) was in 2006.

    The good news is - neither my eyes nor my contacts have changed since that time.  The bad news is - since my uncorrected eyesight is something like 20:2000, it really can't get any worse.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Mew Christy Minstrels

    "Meow many roads must a man walk down..."

    Back to converting LP's to MP3 files.  Tonight I did The Kingston Trio's Something Special album, and it put me in a 60's state of mind.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Book Excerpt for the Day

    "Our ways have existed since time began.  Yours but for a blink of the eye.  Yet ours is considered legend and lore."  She shook her head as her manner relaxed.  "I feel the same way when the stories of Christianity are told to me.  I remember one about a man who lived three days in a whale's stomach.  They claim he survived.  Ha!"

(from Strega Muirne by William Deen)

6*/10.  The full review is here.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Guns don't kill people...

    This will forever be my mental image of Texas theocrat/governor Rick Perry.  And to think that there are a bunch of bozos out there who wanted to put him in the White House.  One of which is God, if you believe Mr. & Mrs. Dimwit.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

RIP - Earl Scruggs

Earl  Eugene  Scruggs
b.  :  06 January 1924
d.  :  28 March 2012

    Simply put, Earl Scruggs is a bluegrass legend.  Some of the folks he played with over the years include Bill Monroe (the father of bluegrass), Lester Flatt ("The Ballad of Jed Clampett"), Vassar Clements (another bluegrass legend), The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band ("Will the Circle be Unbroken"), and Doc Watson & Ricky Skaggs (the Three Pickers).

    But he was more than just a musician.  When The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band  came to Nashville looking for C&W artists to collaborate with on Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Scruggs embraced the gesture.  Bill Monroe didn't want anything to do with a bunch of long-haired hippies.  Earl supported the (Vietnam) anti-war movement.  And the team of Flatt & Scruggs was constantly adapting rock & roll tunes into the bluegrass genre.

    I have albums by him from all stages of his career, and a video of the Three Pickers, which is a treasure.  Most of the first generation of bluegrass pickers are gone now.  Alison Krauss is more of a diva lately, and even Ricky Skaggs is looking a bit old.  Right now, the bluegrass band that I'm most excited about is Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.  Yeah, it's that Steve Martin, but the man's also an accomplished banjo picker.

    So Rest In Peace, Earl Scruggs.  You had a long career, you wore the bluegrass mantle proudly, and your songs will not soon fade away.  I for one consider you a liegend.