I'll come up with something in a minute.

Just a Drawing?

I was amused by an internet video showing the Top 11 Animated Hotties, even though the reviewer seemed to have an unnatural fascination with chick who had accents beyond the normal (for TV) Mid-Western or California drawl. The one thing that annoyed me a little, and always annoys me was a bit at the end where he admonishes the audience for being even mildly aroused by cartoon characters. Since he had just spent eleven minutes drooling over The Baroness and Sailor Moon, I must assume that line is put in for comic effect. However it has been brought up in the past in more serious comments and I’d like to address it.

The main complaint goes something like this “They aren’t even real people, you’re getting aroused over drawings!”

Okay, fair enough. They are drawings, projected onto a screen or displayed on some variety of liquid crystal or what have you. The point is that they are, more or less, a collection of moving still images. They are just a collection of pixels, arranged into a representation of something like the shape of a human female. The problem is that so are the humans that are being displayed on the same screen. Those are also still images, played at speed to insinuate movement, presented as pixels arranged into 2-dimensonal representations of human shapes.

Still images have the same issue really. A drawing that reminds us of the human shape is in many ways like a photograph. Neither are the actual person, both are representations reproduced by artificial means. In fact, if done by the right people they are even made the same way. Someone working on their laptop to render a drawing of a pretty girl uses the same software and methods as someone who uses a digital camera to upload and show off a picture of a pretty girl. They may even use the same software, and if you’ve got someone with a really sick mind they’ll make the computerized girl that was rendered make out with the computerized girl that came from a digital photo of a real girl.

The point is that both hit the same mental triggers in our minds because that’s how anthropomorphication works. Even if it’s exaggerated to an extreme degree, or touched up beyond recognition, all you have is a 2-d image that hits a place in your head that reads “girl” or possibly “hottie” or even “vacuum cleaner” if you have a very perverse sense of humor. I don’t have such a sense of humor, but I have heard enough comments from other guys about some people being able to get golf balls through garden hoses to know that this is a common phrase.

Be honest, for 98% of us, Angelina Jolie is no more real than Jessica Rabbit. You’ll probably never see Angelina with our own eyes unless you’re lucky/stalkerish, you’ll only ever see her in a medium in which Jessica could also show up. Considering the amount of post-work done on the average magazine photo these days a shot of Angelina is about as realistic as one of Jessica anyway. As far as I can prove, one is no more real than the other. Not as far as I know, as far as I can prove, right now, while sitting in my chair.

I’m not saying that I believe there really are animated characters (or Toons) running around. Obviously! We killed them all in ‘62 after the “Hawaiian Punch” incident and spoke no more about it.

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July 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Extras

DVD extras have taken sort of a hit in the last few years apparently. It seems people watch them less than they did when DVDs first hit the market and that if they watch them they only do so once. I can confirm part of this, because I watch the special features much less than I used to. I know part of it, and I’ve discussed this with other so it’s not just me. There seems to be a threshold for how many times you can watch people talk about how everyone was wonderful to work with and how hard it was to make these costumes/sets/props and so on. After enough times, the process becomes routine even to the viewer. Unless the production did something really groundbreaking in either technical or artistic fields, I’m not too interested anymore.

Give you an example. I skipped through most of the two bonus discs on the four disc Kingdom of Heaven set because while it’s a good movie, they didn’t really do anything really new. Except Ridley Scott, he told a complete story with a fully formed narrative, but that was only new for him and wasn’t addressed in the bonus stuff as far as I know. Most of what I saw would be old hat if you watched the Star Wars prequel or Lord of the Rings documentaries. Not that there was anything wrong with the documentaries, they actually had more work put into them than a lot of making of features do and if you’ve not seen some of the earlier examples I mentioned this would be a good one to start with. The problem is that there is only so much you can put into one of these things without resorting to buying a 45 minute video from The History Channel or one of the Discovery Channels to fill up the disc a bit.

Warner Brothers has done another bit that makes me not want to watch DVD extras as well. See, they got some famous people to talk retrospectively about Film Noir for a documentary they made as a bonus disc on a Film Noir set. All well and good, no problem there, but you do sort of notice that a lot of the people are either actors who have… time on their hands to do an interview and experts who will always talk for an hour about their favorite subject. Okay, no real problem there, only then they decided to get a bunch of these people to talk about movies that were only tangentially connected. Michael Madsen talking about Film Noir makes sense, he’s been in a few movie that can be classified as Neo Noir if you want to mix Latin and French all willie nillie and don’t mind sounding like a twat.

The problem is that since they clearly had Mike for the day, when they were done talking about film noir of the 50s, they started him on gangster movies of the 30s. When they were done there, they cut the discussions with all these people and edited them into about two dozen ten minute long documentaries, one per disc of at least three different sets. Okay, they get the ‘No Waste’ award for using as much of the interviews as possible, but they also come off a little repetitive because they forget that they used bits in other documentaries and now I’ve heard Michael Madsen make the same statement three times. As extras go, they aren’t bad really. It’s just that they start to feel repetitive if you watch a bunch of them together, which you do if you’re watching a set of movies you just bought. In fact, in the Stanley Kubrick Collection, which I just got in the mail today, they do the same thing. Not Michael Madsen, but Sydney Pollack has shown up on the 2001 and Shinning bonus discs so far. Again, not that his statements aren’t valid, but they do confuse a bit.

Although, while they re-use a few statements here and there and I get the impression that they really wanted value for money when they recorded these interviews, at least they tried. For the most part, the makers of these little films gave it their all and I must assume they did so working under a budget of about 75 cents. Most of those DVDs make up for the lightness by having lots of shorts from the time period so the disc is a little time capsule with a single contemporary addition that doesn’t detract from the event.

The problem is that a lot of the so called extras don’t even attempt to come up to those levels. Mostly you get a version of what’s known as an Electronic Press Kit, which is a fancy way of saying “Almost, but not quite totally propaganda for this film.” If you’ve ever watched one of those Showtime (or is it HBO?) First Look things, that’s an EPK. Some members of the cast talking about who their character is, where the movie was shot and other interesting things you could slip into a 2 minute piece on Entertainment Tonight.

It’s that last bit that can put you off watching DVD extras forever. Wall to wall “He was great to work with, she was great to work with, everyone was great to work with” statements, an over excited voice-over actor telling you about how they used the latest technology to bring the story to life, and generally giving you information that you could have gathered for yourself by reading the back of the box. Now the problem with these, is that the EPK mindset can infest other parts of the disc. Unless you’ve got some confident people, you can always sort of tell that people are speaking very carefully and have been edited even more carefully to make sure no one takes and offense. As a result, even in depth documentaries often can come off as bland and feeling disingenuous at times.

May I just take a moment to point out that I spelled disingenuous right on the first try? That’s pretty cool for me. I know lots of big words, I just can’t spell them.

Anyway, my point was… what was my point? Oh yeah! Unless you’ve got a movie that really changed things, have some harrowing story about getting the movie made, or have some amount of historical footage for the history junkies, I’ve been skipping a lot of special features lately.

July 23, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And now, another episode of “All y’all are pissin’ me off!”

You know what I really can’t stand? When some asshole, left or right wing, drags out The Children as a way to defend their fairly shaky political ideas. People on the right have been pulling this shit for years as an excuse to remove every freedom we might ever have, but lately I’ve caught people on the left doing it too. I’ve seen is used as an excuse to try and remove any kind of slightly interesting ideas from our TV and radios, because The Children might be listening or watching and could see or hear something offensive that would warp their minds, as well as trying to ban gays because it would confuse children to see two men holding hands.

It makes my skin crawl to hear these reprehensible bastards talking like this. It’s the single most evil and pernicious of all the right’s talking points. Even stupidity like “Better safe than sorry” pales in comparison to “Won’t someone think of The Children?”

Lately though, I’ve read people saying that we need to protect the environment because how are you going to look at your child and say “I polluted the environment and made the world a toxic place to live” which I find just as bad as the right’s examples. Never mind that most the people who do the actual polluting think that pollution is bad but starvation sucks, and have an extra mouth to feed if they’re expected to face their children. Those guys and gals aren’t in charge, and as things currently stand it’s not nice to spit in the eye of what could be the only job left in town. It’s one thing to ask a 20 year old with no one to look after but themselves to take a stand, but a 35 year old with 2 kids has this terrible time asking the 4 and 6 year olds to please try and live off the ideals of some people they’ve never met. You want to tell a child how nice it is that Daddy lost his job because he refused to dump waste into the river? I suggest you go explain it to them while the sheriff and his deputies are taking their toys away as part of the repossession proceedings, I’m sure they’ll be very interested in hearing all about it.

While on the subject, I think it’s a little naïve to think you can guilt trip the people in charge anyway, since those greedy motherfuckers have no souls and eat lightly toasted babies for breakfast. If these asscacti could be guilt tripped, it would have been done in the 70s, or the 80s, or the 90s. Let’s face it, calling them a naughty-nellie ain’t cuttin’ it. These shit bags get off on the idea that they’re destroying the world and making a buck while they’re doing it. They don’t care because by the time it becomes and issue, they figure they’ll be dead.

It’s not just the environment, the lefties have pulled the same “how will you face your children” crap in the last few years over a number of subjects. The question “How will you tell your children that you voted for small minded bigotry?” has the same ring to me as “How will you face your children knowing you allowed what being married means change forever?” in that they are both grabbing a kid as a purely emotional response instead of arguing on merit. All kinds of reprehensible shit has been pulled in the name of protecting The Children or having to face The Children or explain things to The Children and I’ve always found it sort of cowardly.

It’s not just cowardly, it sort of proves to me that whatever argument I’m listening to can just be ignored. The person who holds up The Children knows that they’ve got nothing left and it’s either hold up a child and claim you’re fighting for them, or admit your prejudices and the fact that you just want to have control over others.

The shame of it is that I think the environmentalist argument does have merit, the gay marriage argument also has merit, and so I get disgusted seeing weak and emotional wedges used this way. It makes people think that you’ve got a hidden agenda, because no one who uses The Children doesn’t have a hidden agenda. The Children are ALWAYS used as a last ditch effort to deflect people from seeing that you’re arguments are wholly based on an indefensible private agenda. Put The Children down, come out from behind them and actually defend your arguments for yourselves.

Seriously! Here, I’ll help you… “We need to research new sources of cleaner fuels now because even if we drill the shit out or ANWR we wouldn’t get that oil for 10 to 20 years, it would lower the price by 15 cents and one of our biggest domestic problems is that we don’t have enough refineries. You’ll need more refineries first, can I put one in your town?” See? None of those needed The Children and all of them are more or less accurate.

Either that, or join me in the idea that whatever Gods might actually exist are probably more the old pagan, don’t give a shit about you or anything else, variety and that humans were sent to be an extinction event. Geologically speaking it makes sense, we have fucked this place up in the blink of an eye when you put it on a galactic time scale. It really cools you out to think that all we’re doing is what we were sent to do and you can have a drink and relax while it all falls down around you knowing that the job is being done properly. Also, you don’t need to worry about The Children because they’ll be wiped out with the rest of us when the job is completed, we’re wonderfully self-cleansing in our own little way.

When you hold up The Children, you loose my respect, and you really loose it if you have no children of your own and have never had that waking night of wondering if you’re going to be able to feed and clothe them. At that point, I just think that you’re threatening someone else’s children, and that take you from irritating to contemptible.

I’m a fairly left leaning guy. I believe in abortion and evolution and the environment and consenting adults doing what ever the hell they want with or to other consenting adults, but one thing I don’t believe in is using The Children. It’s cowardly and stupid and below you no matter who you are.

Fuck The Children… when they’re old enough and if they want to be fucked of course.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m feeling quite positive at the moment, thank you for asking.

I’m positive we’re all fucked.

Anyone here seen Yojimbo? 1961 movie directed by Akira Kurosawa.

Well, in this movie there is a scene that takes place after the two gangs have had a massive fight. Massive causalities, 100% on one side and about 90% on the other. So the more or less nameless character of Kuwabatake Sanjuro (30 year old mulberry field) walks up the undertaker who is distraught to find his business all dried up and asks what his damage is. Sanjuro thinks he should be bucks up. After all, with all the corpses, there should be ample requests for coffins. And this is where the economic boom is lowered and our hero has consumer theory explained to him. The undertaker’s reply is that when deaths hit a certain point, no one bothers to buy a coffin anymore. Either there is no one left to deal with the bodies, or they go for the more economically sound mass grave option.

I wonder if the divorce lawyers and therapists will find that has happened later this month. Maybe there comes a point when so many have lost their jobs at once and have been worrying about it so long that no one bothers with their services anymore and just leaves their marriage/sanity on the road to rot in the sun with their mortgage, their pensions and their hope on not being killed by a terrorist, a natural disaster, their food or some jumped up Security Guard/Weekend Soldier Wanna-Be* ass munch who thinks they might be a terrorist/natural disaster/tainted food and decides better safe than sorry.

If the country isn’t in a recession, then the rest of the country must be experiencing some form of solid gold bukkakke direct from Uncle Pennybag’s cock straight into their wallets to keep up the average because Michigan is in a depression and I can’t understand how we can keep having this argument. I haven’t looked at all the charts and figures, I look for a subtler sign… one that reads “We Buy Gold” in bold black letters on a yellow back ground with a phone number, an address and no other information what-so-ever. Those signs, above being ugly, are also a sure notice to all concerned that some Hoovervilles are not far behind. We’re turning the corner, oddly enough it’s probably the corner prosperity is just around.

*Not a reference to National Guard, but rather the sort of assholes who couldn’t even make it into the National Guard and just run around gun shows in cameo like they’re hot shit ninjas/special forces even though they make Nero Wolfe look slight and willowy and make George W. Bush look brave and gallant.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More writery thoughts

You know one of the other things I’ve had on my mind of late? Writers who have owned a concept to the point where people who have never heard of that writer still ape the concept.

Give you an example of what I mean, name a butler without thinking about it. I’m going to bet at least half of you said “Jeeves” right off the bat. If I ask for a butler that always has the solution to problems while being completely unflappable, I’d get an even higher number of Jeeves related comments. Of course Jeeves isn’t actually a butler, he’s a Gentlemen’s Personal Gentleman or Valet. However, the idea of an unflappable man servant who can handle any difficulty is more or less the invention of P.G. Wodehouse and he so totally owned it that even people who have never heard of Wodehouse or know that Jeeves is an actual character from a book know about Jeeves.

I’m also interested in someone who got an idea so well down that other authors have to either work within the confines of that style or deliberately step so wide around their ideas to avoid claims of copying that style that you can sort of see where the style is by the avoidance. It’s less powerful than the Jeeves example, but I think it still probably fits into the idea as a whole. What I find in this section is how the writers took long established ideas, with influences you can easily point to, and still made them their own.

Sexy, semi-homoerotic (or not semi and just homoerotic if you like) vampires may have existed before Anne Rice, but her writings really nailed it. In fact you have to go a long way in a vampire story not to be accused of at least being a little Lestatish now. I think Raymond Chandler did this with down on their luck private detectives to the point that all private eyes are supposed to be down on their luck and should keep a bottle of hooch in the lower right hand drawer. Syd said that Anne McCaffrey made rideable dragons her thing. Stephen King went a long way to making it okay to mix pop and classical references in the same spot.

As I say though Stoker did sexy vampires, Hammett did the less than perfect detective, and lots of authors have mixed the current with the ancient. However, each of these people went a long way to reforming the idea into something they could put a really big stamp on. I can’t speak of McCaffery’s influences because I’ve never read any of her books, but I assume they are also built on such solid foundations.

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ignorant, but not stupid

Asking if for well known American authors or if reading for pleasure is important among a group of dedicated readers is always interesting. Mostly because I find it interesting to see when people’s prejudices pop up unexpectedly. Well, I say unexpectedly, I expected it.

In my author post, I quite expected to get a list of authors that were either genre writers or people I hadn’t heard of. I got what I expected. Does it say something for my education that you guys brought up writers I’d never heard of as some of the greats you expected to be remembered in a hundred years? I suspect it says something about the readers.

I also say a great deal of interesting responses to the ‘is reading necessary’ post, but most of them missed fundamental points. The question wasn’t does reading make you a better or more complete person, but is it in fact needed? The answer, I’m sorry to say, is no. You can get along just fine, even in middle class society, without reading. The fact that on average the American adult reads just under one book a year, and some of you here read up to 100 books a year, tells me that there are a lot of people who never once pick up a book who are perfectly able and contributing members of our society.

That’s just it, the question isn’t can you achieve enlightenment without reading. The question isn’t will you be a better person for not reading. The question was and is, can you get by and go far without reading. The sad answer is yes. If you argue that books open up a great world, or that books offer something movies can’t, or that you’d be a more complete human being, then you’ve missed the point of the question.

See, this is where the prejudice comes in. Because you guys are readers, and many of you read in what little time is given between driving, writing and other niggling things that can’t be done with a book in your hands, you think it’s that important. Not only that, but having such a large amount of text under your belts, you’ve read lots and lots of different authors to try new things and see what you like. As a result, you’ve got a tilted idea of what people are reading or know about. Because you guys have got such a large fount of knowledge, many of you have got a sort of blind spot for the ignorant but not actually stupid among us.

I’ve been among the smart, but unlearned and I’ve been among the dumb but educated. I’ll concede that the ignorant but not stupid usually hover in the blue collar areas of work while the stupid but informed get to wear nice suits and run banks like IndyMac, but I’ve preferred the company of the honestly smart people more. The problem is of course that many who are educated have a slight tendency to think anyone who isn’t classically educated is to be lumped with the rest of the stupid people who failed to learn that Plato wasn’t a product made by Kenner before they got bought out by Hasbro. Yes, that’s a pun, I understand that people on the internet think they’re clever and I’m nothing if not up on all internet traditions.

It may be a harmless little prejudice, or it may not be. Most days I would suspect it as being fairly harmless, however I would suggest that many on the right wing who like to hammer away on the anti-intellectual point would say that it isn’t. They would argue that a great number of America’s industrialists didn’t need much fancy book learning to build the mills and factories that made them into the Captains of Industry that they became. Whether that is true or not is debatable, but I would suspect that I can find a few guys who only bought those fine leather bound books in their libraries because rich men with big mansions were supposed to have libraries fill with leather bound books. It happened with a great many European Lord so why not with the American rich?

That group, the ignorant but not stupid, has always been a larger group than people often want to admit. The actually stupid always assume that the merely ignorant must be as knowledgeable as the informed, because they’re always so smart. The informed often assume they must be stupid because they don’t know or care what is was that Descartes said about Voltaire or if it was the other way around. The ignorant, but not stupid merely has other things on their mind than those things. One could question how actually ignorant those men and women could be if they built the American Economy and made this one of the most powerful nations in the world*, but we’ll ignore that point for the moment. The ignorant don’t mind being complimented by the stupid, but they do have feeling insulted by the informed.
*This statement is pre-dated to before our economy went to shit and the dollar became worth about half a Euro.

So you have the fact that many people on the right, who sympathize with the anti-intellectual feelings do so because many of them are the ignorant but not stupid. They quite often are the people who never read for pleasure and if they do they get something from the best sellers list. These are the sort of people who often feel insulted by the intellectuals because they haven’t read Melville or Thoreau or some other supposedly great author that no one they know has ever heard of. As a result, they get talked down to a lot by people who have read those books and secretly point out to themselves that those supposedly educated fellows couldn’t last half a day in their jobs.

These aren’t just mindless insults I’m flinging around at you, my gentle and constant readers. I’ve got a very good reason for telling you these things in this way. I am in fact, telling you these things for your own good. I’m also explaining because I have specialist understanding in this area.

I’m telling you this because without question I could have easily been one of those guys. I was a very smart child, but had difficulties with reading and traditional learning environments. I got yelled at a lot, told I was being lazy or not trying hard enough, or whatever the semi-educated louts were going on about because I stopped paying attention half way through their rants.

There I was, age eleven, being talked down to by someone who was clearly less intelligent than I was and realizing that the reason this guy was teaching sixth grade was because that was where his abilities had ended. This guy was an idiot who couldn’t manage any higher than he’d achieved and I saw it clearly. If this particular teacher had asked me what the problem was, or bothered to engage me beyond the pathetic lecture he was attempting to serve, we might have gotten on better, but he didn’t. Any respect I had still lingering for my so-called educators vanished in a flash.

After three minutes of listening to me, any decent teacher would be able to tell that I knew and understood the material. In fact, after ten minutes most good teachers knew that I had learned it long ago and was bored stiff, but were impotent to actually help me advance because the bureaucracy of our school district demanded that a child needed to excel in grade form if they were to be put into higher and more challenging classes. The cracks, I fells through them. I eventually came to the conclusion that 98% of the adults around me were idiots, and most of them were teaching because they’d be fired in any other environment, and that I knew more about what they were teaching than they did in many cases.

So at age eleven I had already seen through the veneer of educational snobbery. Instead of just making up my mind and going on with it though, I kept investigating the problem. See, my parents were and are readers. My father is quite clearly an intellectual and he never treated me like an idiot simply because my interest in the classics only emerged when there were swords or dragons. He let me read at my own pace, and let me watch movies at my own pace and never tried to rush or insult me even by inference. So they can’t be all bad.

If both my parents hadn’t been intelligent, well learned people, I could have simply decided that all the lefty-liberal-commie-pinko-liberal-lefty-gay-liberal-red-lefties in the educational system were all a lot of idiots just trying to use big words and dead authors to cover up for the fact that not one of them knew a god damned thing about anything beyond those dead authors and big words.

However, since my mother DID take pains to teach me to read and my father DID make careful and steady attempts to open my eyes to the fact that just because a book doesn’t have pictures doesn’t mean it has to be boring I DIDN’T come to that conclusion about all intellectual people.

Well, not ALL of them anyway. I do still believe that there are some people who are trying to cover up their stupidity by putting on educated airs, but now I’ve read or learned enough about a lot of those books too and can catch them up when they try to bullshit me.

Also, I’ve got to be put into the lefty-liberal-hippie-liberal-pinko-gay-liberal-lefties column because I believe in equal rights and justice for all and not violating the Constitution like it’s a drunk cheerleader at a frat party. However, I didn’t have to decline invitation to the anti-intellectual party, and I hope you all remember why I would have been accepted with open arms if I had accepted.

July 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Writers

Either I don’t read as much as I think I do, or I don’t pay attention to where people come from, or this is just a silly idea.

I was thinking of the really great American Authors. Since I was considering it, only a few people come to mind because I’m no great fan of the Hemmingways and Steinbecks of the world. I’m sure they write very nice books, and I’m sure it bespeaks something horrible about my character that I want something to actually happen in a book besides an old man whacking at a shark (which is really a symbol for… fuck… something. I can’t remember what the hell it’s supposed to be a symbol for anymore) or a turtle walking around for an entire damn chapter, but there it is. Yes, I have actually read some of the great American “Classics” and I’ll take the easily dismissed garbage every time thank you very much.

I had started out by thinking about how Stephen King was once the biggest name in American book sellingness* and how he’s often considered to be a bit past it these days. I don’t know what his sales are like, because I don’t really look into those things, but I must concede that things haven’t been the same the last few years. Even if you really love his work, King’s ending have always been a bit “Oh… okay, I guess.” but that he’s been really bad about that lately. What I was thinking is that when he dies, and really about ten to twenty years after his cannon is forever closed, I think there will be a major re-assessment of his work and he’ll very likely be held up as the 20th Century’s answer for Mark Twain.

What that got me thinking was who are the really great writers in American Literature. Not Hemmingway, or Steinbeck, or even Fitzgerald. Can’t be having them, they limit themselves too much. If you can only write about what’s around you then what good are you? I can’t be having with fishing or bullfighting or longing for another life or even going to pick fruit in California. Drama and examination of the human condition alone bores the fuck out of me, I need something else to go along with that. If I want to read about the complex relationships between man and woman I’ll read porn, which I also find a little tedious as well frankly. I’ve gotta have some murders, or a monster who eats people, or a sword fight, or at least someone getting cut on a shard of razor honed wit. In short, there must be blood for blood is compulsory.

Twain’s good because he’s funny and often times nasty in ways that make even me stand back and say “Daaumn!” E.A. Poe is good, because he was clearly a fucked up individual who put his fears into writing. King, for his current faults, almost always gives every character a first and last name and a personality, which goes a long way to helping me believe in each of them.

The problem is, I sort of run out of candidates at that point. I keep thinking that the writers in question would have to be consistently popular, during their lives and after their deaths. I like Rex Stout and I know a lot of people like H.P. Lovecraft, but both of those authors are really rather niche writers and while popular they’ve never really become household names. The same is true of Chandler and Asimov, who are Americans despite the occasional tie to other countries. Popular in their own fields, but not really known that well outside of the fan base.

I sort of think that members of the list should be known even by people who don’t read for pleasure. I would have to say that Fitzgerald and Steinbeck would probably be bumped from the list just for that last requirement alone. Hemingway might be remembered, but more for having books that one reads if they’re really intellectual or something. You know them sure, but remember that you are my brilliant and sexy readers and therefore know a few more authors than the average person. When you step out into the world of the unwashed masses, even an intelligent non-reader might have trouble with telling you who Hemingway is.

I’m really at a loss for who I would put on my personal list of the 5 really great American Authors. Just to make sure we’ve got all my requirements in place… They’d have to be American, popular during their career, still read for pleasure a significant amount of time after their death (or can be expected to), and well known enough that they can be considered a household name even by people who don’t read much.

It’s probably that last part that dooms most authors, and is why I can’t think of authors beyond the three that I’ve got. However, that it one of the major signs of greatness, that your name can transcend beyond people who have actually studied your work and is recognized by people who only know what sort of work it was.

If I really thought about it hard, I could probably come up with the last two names for a nice round list of five. Right now though, I’ve got a trinity. A trinity is nice and all, but it’s not really what I’m after.

*TOTALLY a real word! No matter what that lying spellcheck says.

July 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unpacking

I looked in every free box in the basement,
then I looked through them again,
then I looked through the boxes in Syd’s room
and yet I couldn’t find the candles
I was thrown several times,
because I did find boxes of candles
But I never found the right box, or the right candles
We have a lot of candles
I searched high and I searched low
I checked to and I checked fro
I tried to remember what else I packed them with and where they might go
and in the bathroom stuff I finally found the candles.
The question of course is that now that I have them,
and they are all over the floor,
what the hell do I do with them
and where can I put them?
Why did I work to hard to find the candles?

July 14, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I almost thought I was going to have to deliver a child today.

Holly saw me having a very meh sort of day, so she gave me the card and a spending limit and told me to go nuts. Actually she discussed with me the buying of the Director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven and said that if I wanted to get a second movie that would probably alright if I stayed within certain limits. I think the first version is punchier, but the second is more accurate.

Well… Best Buy was closed by the time I got there, so I went to Borders. I get my selections and go to the counter… where someone is trying to flirt with the clerk. This woman must be 5 to 10 years older than me, and is trying to flirt in a way that would embarrass a vaguely intelligent 15 year old. She’s actually doing the whole “One knee doesn’t want to lock so I have to swing around like a retard” maneuver. She’s actually fawning at the guy.

He asks if she wants one of Border’s “Let us track your purchases for life” cards to which she asks. “Is it free? I’ll do anything if it’s free.” Then there is a giggle which causes Gloria Steinem to wince for reasons that I could explain if I met her. It would be nice for Gloria to know she’s not developing a nervous tick, it’s just psychic resonance. While contemplating on poor Gloria’s condition I miss a few words, but I catch up again when I hear her using the second most annoying ploy after the knee stance.

“Oh, can you fill that out? I never know how to set those things up.”

“Oh what the tender juicy flame-broiled fuck? You’ve just got to put your name down!” I scream within the confines of my head.

“So… name?” The clerk asks.

“Kimberly.” She announces. “Only call me Kim. The only time I was ever called Kimberly is when I was in trouble.”

“Kimberly.” The dark and sarcastic part of my brain says, trying desperately to get a hold of the vocal cords. “He isn’t here to flirt with you, he’s just here to sell me DVDs. He has no other reason to exist and will likely return to a puff of ideas when I leave here.”

It’s about this time that a girl of about 25 (Sidebar-When the fuck did I start referring to 25 year olds as “girls”? When did that shit start and how do I make it stop?) and she looks to be around 8 months pregnant. I glance behind her and give a polite smile, wondering if we’re going to get out of line before the kid is ready to meet this sad veil of tears. I’m not saying she was ready to burst, I’m saying that we were quite possibly in for the long haul.

Poor kid, would have to be called Borders or… Wait a second! She has to pull out her wallet to find out what her address is? Yes, that is her wallet, and yes she is reading her address off it, showing him her driver’s license photo! That’s a trick for a 21 year old! That’s what you do so you can show a guy without stating explicitly that he can ask you to a bar for a drink! You are WAY older than 21!

He asks her birth date and she looks back at the license! SHE HAS TO LOOK AT HER DRIVER’S LICENSE, WHICH SHE WAS JUST SHOWING HIM! While my head spins over these facts, she mentions she always has trouble finding her place or remembering her birthday when she’s had a few. I’m leaving out all the teen age body posturing that goes along with the one limp leg look, but she’s doing it. She is also giggling and trying to act coy and playful to an extent that I can hear the outraged cries of Lucy Burns echoing in my ears. If I were not a fearless tough guy, I would be quaking in my shoes.

I turn back to the pregnant girl, who has now become rather slack jawed with wonder. She looks as if the cries of Old Lucy has shattered her nerve, or possibly she dumbstruck at how badly the woman is trying to flirt.

“Phone number?” The clerk asks, and she complies. She then adds… “But I have a big tall boyfriend so don’t try calling to pick me up” And another giggle. She has a boyfriend, and is shamelessly flirting with the clerk? Warning him not to call? I can’t be sure, but I could have sworn I heard “Let me at her, let me at her!” in Queen Boudica’s voice along with another woman (Possibly Alice Paul, but I’m not sure) holding her back and saying “Just chill baby, bitch ain’t worth it.” I turn and notice a sort of panicked look on the pregnant girl’s face. I hope that kid hasn’t decided that tonight’s the night.

They finish the transaction after another two weeks of her stalling and flirting, and as the young man is pulling the receipt from the register, she hands the CD back and asks. “Can you unwrap that for me? I can never get those off. Why do they put that extra sticker on there, it makes it impossible to open. I just liked my old cassettes and eight tracks.”

My hand went into my pocket, of that I’m sure. I took hold of my pocket knife, I know that as well. Whether or not I actually pulled it from my pocket, opened it, put it in my hand in a stab position and leaned back towards the pregnant girl saying “We’ll say she attacked me, yeah? You and me, we’re together on this, right? You’ve got my back?” and if she really said “Yeah, do it.” I can’t be sure of. My memory picks strange times to go fuzzy.

Before I got to serious stabbing though, the flirt actually walked away and I managed to get up to the clerk and hand him the money for my purchases. And this lunatic actually asks me if I have or want a Border’s “Let us track your purchases for life” card. I look him in the eyes, my expression one of mingled weariness and wonder.

“No.” I say, shaking my head as if asked if I want to sodomize a hedgehog.

“You sure?” He asks.

“No.” I say. “I don’t need one.”

“Well, no one needs one, but it’s nice to have.” And I begin to wonder if I’m cranky or if he’s tired of life.

“It’s okay.” I tell him. “Really.”

He seems to understand and pushes no further. I pay for my movies and with Herculean effort, manage to make the doors. I see Kimberly coming back to the building from the parking lot as I walk towards the car. She looks determined, I don’t make eye contact. I’ve always heard that you shouldn’t make eye contact with dangerous animals and I suspect Kimberly might talk me to death if given the chance.

I can’t say if the pregnant girl got out of there alive, I hope she did. I hope she and the baby enjoy full and happy lives, but for all I know she’s still trapped in line, trying to get out. Maybe I should have gone back, to make sure she would get out alive, but I’ve already taken in Chou Chou, and that’s my good deed for the year.

I made it though, so I can tell the tale.

And on my car door handle… there was a hook Border’s “Let us track your purchases for life” card!!*

*If you don’t get this last line, you need to sit around a fire with kids more often.

July 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

End of Side One

Barnes & Noble was having a big 50% off sale this week, so we bought some books. I got a handful of audio books and started the process of recording them into MP3s for the computer. Most these books are old, a lot of them came from the used section in fact. That means that they are almost all something I haven’t had in a while: Abridged. Back in the early 90s, when I first started listening to audio books as an alternative to struggling through reading them (often giving up and not reading as a result) almost everything was abridged. That probably sounds strange to anyone who buys audiobooks today. In some ways you are wished the best of luck in finding anything abridged for audio, but back in the day these two tape long sets were all the rage. Huge swaths of the story would be removed to get the book down to 180 minutes on two cassettes. If it was a big book, they might stretch the point and give you 4 tapes, but still an abridged version of the story. Now of course, they record the whole book.

There is something charming in the abridged audio books though, more nostalgia than sense. I hated abridged books and if given the choice I will still buy the unabridged version. I am looking at my new audio copy of Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon (I already have Hannibal on audio (strangely also an abridgment)) with some strange affection though. I know I’m only going to get the important bits, the bits that REALLY matter. Of course the trade off is that I’ll probably loose all the things that made the book good in the first place. Little things like character development, side plots and depending on how to the bone the abridgement is… entire characters are sometimes excised. There are often entire chapters missing from the 2 tape versions of these books.

I always liked the extra effort some companies would put forth, adding a little music at the start of each side, a few sound effects now and then, and the bit I always remove when making the MP3 files the side markers. Since the tape and the reading might not always match up, they would sometimes have the reader announce “End of Side One” and “Side Two” at the beginning and end of each side to help you keep track of where you were. I remove those now because I don’t need to swap tapes any more, so those audio signposts marking where in the tale I am are useless to me now. Still, I can’t help but smile a little as I listen to some actor announcing that I’ve reached the end of the tape and should fast forward so I can flip the tape over.

These are the sort of things my teen years were made from. I kept listening to the books, obviously, but they became more routine and less special. However, I haven’t actually got any new audiobooks on tape in a long time. CDs took over the audiobook world just like they did every other recording medium a while ago (although it took longer for books than everyone else) and so actually having to run the tape through my stereo and into the computer is sort of neat in a quaint sort of way. It’s not as big a deal as I make it sound, when I want to record a radio show off the internet, I run the signal into my stereo and then back into the computer because I get better recordings with the software I have using that method.

Anyway, I’ve got a nice new stack of books to record and put on my ipod. Once I do that, I can tell you if William Horwood’s continuation of The Wind in The Willows is a travesty or not. Strangely, I don’t actually seem to have The Wind in The Willows as an audio book. I have a BBC adaptation I got of Radio 7 a few years ago, and I’ve got a paper copy of the book, but no audio version of it. I’ll have to go get one I suppose.

July 6, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment