Monday, February 26, 2007

Numbers game

Six Degrees of Separation, Two Questionable Hairstyles, One Hell of a Funny Coincidence.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

My favorite news story of the week!

What could be more fun than the thought of PRIESTS ,MONKS AND ASSORTED CLERICS PLAYING SOCCER!!!! Except for maybe nuns in full habit playing soccer, but maybe that's next. This news story comes with no photos and despite mention that they played in traditional sports gear, I prefer to think of them in their priests stuff, a la the Vicars playing the Pirates on Monty Python. And I think the idea of an extra card for an especially long suspension is brilliant, but would be especially cool if when hit with a "blue card," they had to run off and make confession--Bless me Father for I have sinned. I spiked Brother Reginald at midfield as he was making a break. Well... say 10 Our Fathers, 10 Hail Marys, make an act of contrition and tighten your shoelaces. Play ball!!!!

*** Well, evidently I was corrected on the Monty Python reference--it was Obstetricians vs. Long John Silver impersonators... but the idea is the same. And nuns playing footie would have been funnier.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spook: Science Tackles The Afterlife, by Mary Roach



What happens when we die? That's a question so ingrained in our culture (and everybody else's apparently) that you can never avoid it for too long. Even if you're not thinking about it, it usually pops up anyway in some context... and then of course the ensuing arguments with it. It's an argument I don't intend to address right now. Everybody seems to have an opinion though, and are generally willing to take sides and brawl through the wee hours, bringing in religion, science, mythology and often unwilling to admit that they've just had far too much to drink. I try to avoid it but I'll make two quick statements and move on: 1) I leave the possibility open and even believe in something though I'd be hard pressed to say exactly what, and 2) I've never met an atheist who could convince me that they really didn't believe in anything because they just seem to be arguing too hard. Nuff said... okay?

So I'm kind of cheating because I haven't actually finished this book yet, but I'm enjoying it immensely. It is, as the title suggests, an attempt to look at the issue scientifically, or more precisely, a look at how others have tried to approach the topic scientifically and through religious beliefs. It's handled very lightly and with great humor. It's not so much that Roach is making fun of believers so much as just expressing that it's nothing to fight over. One of the points is that it's difficult to "tackle" from the point of view of science. Sure it's possible to debunk individual cases based on weakness of evidence, but impossible to measure any quantifiable evidence that it can't happen. That's one of the first reasons that I can't personally take the "anti" position on it. I didn't even pick up the book looking for answers--it's another that someone down the street had tossed out--and I picked it up thinking it might be a horror novel. Another lucky find though, because it's really a lot of fun so far. So rather than prattling on about it any further, here's what the author had to say about it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Little Feet Big Feat




I'm surrounded by news all day--part of the job--most of it is boring. A lot of it is just bad. BUT, every so often it's happy and uplifting and the good news of the day, if you haven't seen it in the daily papers, is that the owner of these little, bitty feet--this little miracle--is going home today after 4 1/2 months.

Monday, February 19, 2007

NEWS FLASH

THIS JUST IN: THE CDC IS REPORTING THAT EATING FOOD IS HARMFUL AND COULD KILL YOU

Graceland by Chris Abani



Okay, I don't want anybody to get the idea that I never pay retail prices for books, or that I spend all my time digging through my neighbor's trash... but I didn't pay retail for this book, BUT I would have. It was gleaned from the discount rack at Barnes & Noble on a recent mission to salvage the sad odds and ends of remaindered hardcovers. Had I known how sad and beautiful it would be I would have bought every copy to pass out to friends and family.

Now, it would be hard for me to explain why you should read a book about a teenage Elvis impersonator in Lagos, Nigeria... I guess I can only weigh it against my own relationship with pop culture iconography and personal identity, and my own memories of the 70s and 80s and coming of age--and how incredibly different it was from this kid's story, seeing it all filtered through the chaos and abject poverty of post-colonial Africa. Some of the depictions of life in the slums there are understandably gruesome. It's not really a flowery, pretty, uplifting read, but we're talking realism here. Chris Abani was persecuted by the government and actually forced into exile for his writing--he doesn't exactly portray the leadership or conditions there in a positive light. I guess despite my complaints about First Amendment abuses here in the U.S. I have to acknowledge that few fiction writers have been declared enemies of the state for quite some time. It's humbling to come upon people that do suffer for their art.

So yes... Graceland. Pretty stunning stuff. It was only $5.98 hardbound too, which doesn't exactly seem fair, but the world of publishing is what it is.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Malcolm Middleton

Okay, since I've tried several times unsuccessfully to post the actual video of this song, you'll just have to WATCH IT RIGHT HERE. Malcolm Middleton, formerly of Arab Strap, is just an incredible talent but I wouldn't recommend him if you take your own shit too seriously.

Or you could hear more at his MYSPACE page.

In his own words: 'I have a problem with confidence in that my own supply is very unreliable,’ says Malcolm. ‘Some days I think my songs are as good as anyone else’s and have a right to be in the world. Other days I hate my voice, my sentiments, and my need to do this. So therein lies the problem.’

Hey Malcolm, no worries... I love your voice, and your sentiments and I'm just friggin' thrilled that you do this. You're my favorite dour Scotsman.

Tilt-A-Whirl--Chris Grabenstein



From the man who brought us the Trojan Man radio spots--my favorite advertisement that just might save your life, we have Tilt-A-Whirl, the first novel from comedian, ad man, writer Chris Grabenstein. I'm fairly certain I salvaged this advance copy from the same garbage can where I got the David Fulmer book, and yes, it's another murder mystery. That's pretty much where the comparison begins and ends. Tilt-A-Whirl is murder and intrigue set against the backdrop of the summer vacation haven of the Jersey shore, complete with amusement parks, burger stands, surf shops and put-put golf. It's a pretty unlikely premise... filthy rich real estate tycoon gunned down on the Turtle Tilt-A-Whirl in the height of the summer season... ex-military policeman and his summer help slacker sidekick bent on solving the crime. What makes it work though is the narrator/narration, the aforementioned summer rent-a-cop/telling the story in first person is goofy as hell and at times brutally funny. This isn't really a comedy, but it definitely made me laugh loud enough to scare the bejesus out of my F-train neighbors on the morning commute. It's about as funny as a story the includes murder, embezzling, arson and child abuse can be--if I have one criticism it's that I had a hard time reconciling the humor with the subject. But that's my own gripe... the whole thing is pretty damned good. There's a point where Chaos Theory is explained in terms of the unpredictability of the movement of the Tilt-A-Whirl, and that's definitely how the story moves, with unexpected twists right up until the end. The narrator, Danny Boyle, makes the story really--the central character, Officer John Ceepak, is not what you would consider the classic detective novel sleuth. He's almost a comic book character, as described by the narrator anyway. In any event, this was an unexpected surprise and a real pleasure... right down to the way Bruce Springsteen lyrics punctuate the narrative.... another concept I wouldn't have expected to work, or that I'd enjoy so much. There are, according to Grabenstein's website, two more novels in the Ceepak series and provided they aren't repetitive, I'd imagine are worth the read. Now I just have to remember which house these books came from. I might have to make it a point to pick through their garbage regularly.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cheeses Christ Almighty!!!



From the NY Times this week:
From top to bottom
Our Blessed Lady of Velveeta
Jesus, now just a shell of his former self
Pan Fried Savior
Saint Pierogi--The Polish Christ

Okay, my question is... If your lunch already bears the image of Christ or the like, do you have to bother pausing to say grace?

Chasing The Devil's Tail-David Fulmer



Don't go chasin' the devil's tail, cuz you might jus' catch it.

Published in 2001, CTDT is the first in the sort of noir mystery series featuring Creole detective Valentin Saint-Cyr. Set in 1907 New Orleans, it's a grainy portrait of the legendary (mythical?) Storyville red-light district--it's a game of Clue set in bordellos, beer halls, bayous and slums. Except Colonel Mustard is a corrupt gangster cum politician. Get the picture? The rest of the cast is an array of junkies, winos, pimps, whores, madams, rounders and YES, we have guest appearances by Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and even a cameo by Louis Armstrong! Interesting stuff and you get a fairly decent history of the birth of jazz thrown in for good measure.

Saint-Cyr is a great character--if they did a film/TV adaptation I'd probably cast Giancarlo Esposito. Fulmer did a really good job fleshing him out considering it's a relatively short novel. Saint-Cyr is the perfect anti-hero, and not a cheap rip off from the classic detective mold. His whole gig here is to solve the case of a serial killer--someone knocking off working girls in the District--and in the classic hard-boiled detective mold he knows all of them--and he's also chosen for the job because of his lifelong friendship with Buddy Bolden, who plays a major part in the story. Bolden is quickly lapsing into insanity and he's the prime suspect even if his old pal isn't so quick to believe.

This isn't the sort of book I would have picked up and bought off the shelf in the store, despite my recent immersion in the crime genre. It was one of a stack that someone down the block here had thrown out a while ago and it's been gathering dust for the better part of a year. I'd forgotten why I salvaged it from a huge box of stuff in the first place--probably because of the music connection--like an orphan it appeared to need saving. No regrets though--it's truly a piece of work--very enjoyable and rewarding. Fulmer really knocked himself out weaving the story intricately through New Orleans history and musical legacy. It's about as impressive as a crime novel gets and definitely crosses the bridge between genre fiction and literature. Very compelling... dark... sinister... I will probably get around to plunking down the cash for the next few in the series.

Monday, February 12, 2007

CLOSED FOR RENOVATION

Dear Timmy,

Fuck this.

Love Dad.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Fleshmarket Alley



Number 15 in Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series is Fleshmarket Alley (or Fleshmarket Close if you're in the U.K.). I've been burning through them since last summer, my first real foray into genre fiction of any type. I'll not go back and rehash what makes Rankin special but it says a lot that you can get 15 books into a series and not find redundancy. I will say that F.A. is the best in the series so far, delving deeply into the issues of political and economic refugees and asylum seekers in Western Europe, immigration, racism and essentially the business of trading in human flesh. Perhaps given current arguments going on right here in the U.S. at the moment, this is simply the one that strikes closest to home. It goes deeper than that though when you see Rebus (who defends the immigrants, calling Scotland a "bastard country")re-evaluating his own feelings and his own identity and past--painfully aware of how much of his own history is obscured. I think we're all stuck in that same place--we place so much stock in our ethnic heritage and history and legacy, and most of it is pure fantasy at best. We conveniently ignore the truth that many of us are only here because our ancestors were fleeing something--desperate, hungry, powerless--we are for the most part, the children of nobody, just folks looking for another chance somewhere else. It is through the plight of refugees and immigrants that we come closest to seeing our own history--and Rebus definitely goes through that. The writing is pretty spot on--stark, bleak, realistic, ultimately portraying the situation truthfully. The conversations--the arguments--they're echoes of everything you've ever heard on TV, in bars, across the dinner table... all too familiar.

So the problem is, I'm nearly up to date on the series... Rebus is getting older and ready to retire. Maybe I should have stretched it all out more.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Gillette Fusion 2: Redux



Have to admit--it looks pretty cool--5 blades and a mysterious strip of something facing one way (What is that strip made of anyway?) and one sneaky single blade on the back side, for all those tricky places, supposedly. So we'll give it an A+ for design aesthetics and a big FAT ol' F for utilities. Seriously, I lost so much blood I'm lightheaded.

Gillette Fusion 2: The Review



What can I say? A picture is worth a thousand words, isn't it. When you start out with a shitty blade, adding 5 more just like it ain't worth much. Unless of course you get off on self mutilation.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

!REWARD!



$10,000 to the first blogger ballsy enough to brave the deep freeze outside and the smell of age and decay in my apartment and bring me a couple of these.