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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Denver Rescue Mission

Tonight I did one of the coolest things I've ever done. I volunteered to help out with food prep at the Denver Rescue Mission.

Just one night, just for an hour and a half, just cutting up some fruit and onions.

And I don't even like homeless people!

The reason I did this: The list. A "bucket list" of sorts, things you want to do before you die. It's a thing me and my brother are putting together inspired by that show The Buried List. I've never seen the show, but when my brother outlined the concept, I was immediately on board.

Yes, I liked this idea a lot.

Most of the things on the list are travel related, or things that require a certain amount of planning or preparation. Climb a Mayan pyramid, go to Carnivale in Brazil, prepare a meal in France, go to a Nuggets game in a different city. It's "someday" stuff, as in "Someday I'll go to the Vatican."

But some of the stuff can be done right now! Feed the homeless?

That one has been crossed off the list.

On eBooks

Count me a skeptic that ebooks will become the next big thing in the publishing world. There are many reasons, but one of the most compelling is that the publishing world seems intent on ripping off ebook readers.

Here's an interesting article discussing the conflict:
...[S]ome e-book buyers say that since publishers do not have to pay to print, store or distribute e-books, they should be much cheaper than print books.

“I just don’t want to be extorted,” said Joshua Levitsky, a computer technician and Kindle owner in New York. “I want to pay what it’s worth. If it costs them nothing to print the paper book, which I can’t believe, then they should be the same price. But I just don’t see how it can be the same price.”
What a revolutionary concept, prices being determined by value rather than some arbitrary price-fixing scheme!

But then these publishing types have to call you stupid.
“There are people who don’t always understand what goes into an author writing and an editor editing and a publishing house with hundreds of men and women working on these books,” said Mark Gompertz, executive vice president of digital publishing at Simon & Schuster. “If you want something that has no quality to it, fine, but we’re out to bring out things of quality, regardless of what type of book it is.”
Oh, spare me the "I worked hard on this" argument. If "working hard" was all we needed to justify getting paid, then manual labor would be the surest way to becoming wealthy. It's not.

And the "if you want something that has no quality to it," um...hate to break it to you, bud, but it's been years since the Best Seller list has been indicative of "quality." There are thousands of unreadable, poorly written, barely edited books published every year. Not just by the amateurs, but by the pros too!

Guys like...Douglas Preston, who said this:
“The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing,” said Douglas Preston, whose novel “Impact” reached as high as No. 4 on The New York Times’s hardcover fiction best-seller list earlier this month. “It’s the Wal-Mart mentality, which in my view is very unhealthy for our country. It’s this notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something.”
Dude, I've tried to read one of your books. I don't know if it was Preston's fault, or his collaborator's fault (Lincoln Child), but it was horrible!

The sense of entitlement of the American consumer? How about the sense of entitlement from the American author, who thinks he can fill our shelves with dreck and get paid for it?

"This notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something?" Gimme a break. The real price for your book, Mr. Preston. What I paid for it...on half-price day at the thrift store.

Reflecting on the Jobless Recovery

Ryan Advent makes a prediction.
What seems clear is that at no time in the living memory of working Americans has the economy gone through a recession like this—deep, and with a jobless recovery. It will influence society and culture for a generation. It may also produce a serious bout of reflection in America, concerning just how the economy lost its way over the past decade (and perhaps longer).
My prediction says that the "serious bout of reflection" part will be skipped by those who tend to vote Republican.

No doubt there will be reflection, but "serious?" Sorry, but I don't think "the liberals/welfare queens/illegal immmigrants did it!" counts as serious.

The Black Keys

Just got into this band and was going to write a post about exactly how I got into them, but I decided that wasn't interesting.

Suffice it to say, if you're going to name your band with something that starts with "The" and ends with a plural noun, you're going to have to work twice as hard to win me over.

But if you're going to play a raw melange of garage rock and blues, then I guess I live with the lame band name.

Ultimately, what I wanted to point out was a song I was listening to on the way to work this morning, called Lies from their latest record, Attack and Release.

One of the refrains says this:
I got a stone
Where my heart should be
And you know, that's definitely true in my case. Indeed, I think a lot of my personal problems --from writer's block on down to my issues maintaining interpersonal relationships-- comes down to this.

I've got a stone where my heart should be. Maybe I need therapy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Stuff

Death

Captain Phil Harris, of the Cornelia Marie, a crab boat from The Deadliest Catch. Complications from a stroke. He was 53. Also one of my favorite captains from the show. I didn't know him, but I kind of felt like I did.

Nodar Kumaritashvili, a luger from Georgia (the country), in a practice run before the official start of the 2010 Winter Olympics. 21 years old.

John Murtha, Congressman from Pennsylvania, Marine. Complications from surgery. 77 years old.

Other stuff, non-death related.

This weekend I took the bus up to the thrift store and bought a copy of Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose. I've been wanting to find this book for a couple months now...

Then, in the same parking lot, a Hollywood video was going out of business. Everything was for sale. So I bought Jean-Jacques Annaud's film, Name of the Rose, starring Sean Connery. Book and movie, total cost: thirteen bucks plus tax.

That day, I finished listening to James Lee Burke's The Neon Rain, read by Will Patton. One thing you should put on your bucket list is listening to a James Lee Burke novel read by Will Patton. Doesn't matter which one. Doesn't matter if it's abridged or not. Just listen to it.

So tell me. Are you a Ryan Gosling fan? You might have heard of his new movie called Blue Valentine. Oh, it was a big Sundance favorite. I have no idea what it was about, but reviews are solid. It was directed by this guy named Derek Cianfrance, who was the roommate of these guys I used to work with. Mishka, Sam. After work, we'd go to parties and bars, have a good time. Sam had this Buddy Holly thing going on, Mishka was rocking the sideburns and pompadour.

They had this filmmaker roommate who made this movie called Brother Tide, some black and white movie that they were in(!), and it got into Sundance! They crammed into Sam's Jetta and took off through the mountains. The movie never got picked up, never even saw a video release. But still, it got into Sundance.

Ah, the late 90s.

I never really knew Derek, just met him once at a party, but it's cool to see him going places, even if it is back to Sundance.

President's Day

For some strange reason, it's a company holiday. I guess they figured we needed one between New Years and Easter. But hey, I'm cool with it. I'm off that day, my only day off this week due to the schedule change, but I'm gonna be paid anyway...

I am exactly 20 days away from getting my drivers license back.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

American Tabloid

I finished reading Ellroy's American Tabloid last night. It's a frustratingly brilliant book and I was almost tempted to turn back to page 1 and start over, or failing that, immediately cracking open the sequel, The Cold Six Thousand.

Alas, I must take a breather and read some crap. It should be easy to do; Ellroy makes everything else seem like crap. Ellroy is as economical as he is vivid. He never wastes a word and never flinches from a willingness to punch you right in the gut.

The following passage blew my mind. In it, conspirators Pete Bondurant (a mob enforcer), Kemper Boyd (an FBI man), and Nestor Chasco (a Cuban exile) rip off the mob by stealing their dope and killing their smugglers as they wait for a beach-side pick-up. It's gruesome, gory, cold-hearted, and two pages of the most effective prose I think I have ever read.

If this "chainsaw massacre" doesn't knock you on your ass, I don't know what will.
Boyd walked point. The shapes took form. Smashing waves supplied audial cover.

The shapes were sleeping men. One insomniac was sitting up -- check that glowing cigarette tip.

They got close.

They got closer.

They got very very close.

Pete heard snores. A man moaned in Spanish.

They charged.

Boyd shot the cigarette man. Muzzle flash lit a line of sleeping bags.

Pete fired. Nestor fired. Silencer thuds overlapped.

They had good light now--powder glare off four weapons.

Goose down exploded. Screams kicked in loud and faded into tight little gurgles.

Nestor brought a flashlight in close. Pete saw nine U.S. Army bags, shredded and blood soaked.

Boyd popped in fresh clips and shot the men point-blank in the face. Blood hit Nestor's flashlight and shaded the beam red.

Pete heaved for breath. Bloody feathers blew into his mouth.

Nestor kept the light steady. Boyd knelt down and slit throats. He went in deep and low--windpipes and spinal cord snapped.

Nestor dragged the bodies out.

Pete turned the sleeping bags over and stuffed them with sand.

Boyd patted them into shape. It was good simulation--the boat men would see dozing men.

Nestor dragged the bodies down to a tide pool. Boyd brought the chainsaw.

Pete yank-started it. Boyd spread the stiffs out for cutting.

The moon passed by low. Nestor supplied extra light.

Pete sawed from a crouch. The teeth caught on a leg bone straight off.

Nestor pulled the man's foot taut. The teeth whirred through easy.

Pete sawed through a string of arms. The saw kept bucking into the sand. Skin and gristle pop-pop-popped in his face.

Pete quartered the men. Boyd severed their heads with his Buck knife. One swipe and one tug at the hair did the job.

Nobody talked.

Pete kept sawing. His arms ached. Bone fragments made the belt-motor skip.

His hands slipped. The teeth jumped and raked a dead man's stomach.

Pete smelled bile. He dropped the saw and puked himself dry.

Boyd took over. Nestor fed body parts to the tide pool. Sharks thrashed in to eat.

Pete walked down to the surf line. His hands shook --lighting a cigarette took forever.
Check that style. Each sentence an image, each detail honed for optimum effect.

But what makes this the work of a master is the context. Before this moment, which happens later in the book and becomes a major hinge in the plot, Kemper Boyd is an ambitious career-man going places. He's moving up in the FBI, getting cozy with the Kennedys, sticking his fingers in a whole lot of pies: Cuba, the Klan, the Outfit.

He's not the type of guy who would go robbing drug smugglers and cutting them up with chainsaws.

Pete Bondurant, on the other hand, is just that type of guy. He's a cold-hearted killer, a mob hit man and CIA stooge. His main occupation is doping up Howard Hughes, covering Jimmy Hoffa's ass, and preparing Cuban exiles in Miami for the Bay of Pigs invasion. He's ambitious too, but he just wants to make a lot of money, not change the world like Kemper Boyd.

Through the various events of the book, these two men find themselves on this beach, about to attempt a massive double-cross/frame-up job on the mob, and by the time they're done cutting up the bodies, they are completely different men.

Kemper Boyd's idealism and moral righteousness can't stop him from slitting sleeping men's throats. Indeed, he dives into the work with a businesslike efficiency. On the flip side, Pete Bondurant's history as a contract killer is no preparation for these murders. By the time they're done dumping the bodies, he's literally puking his guts out and his hands are shaking.

A lesser writer might feel the need to point this out, to spell out exactly how these characters have changed, how cool and dualistic the role reversal truly is. But Ellroy doesn't even bother. He says, "I paint the pictures. You tell me what it means."

Monday, February 08, 2010

Palin Derangement Syndrome

Yes, I suffer from it. I'm seeking treatment.

I love the Sarah Palin takedown. (Profanity restored.)

"So why don't you finish collecting checks for your stupid tea party speeches, you half a fucking politician. Also you come after me on Facebook? What are you, fourteen? Here's a status update. Grow the fuck up. Poke me again and I will write shit on your wall so obscene your computer will cry. Go back to the tundra, you fucking gimmick."

(Yeah, Sean posted it first.)

It's Like They're Proud Of Being Ignorant

Ta-Nehisi Coates describes the Sarah Palin phenomemenon as
what happens when you turn conservatism into nothing more than the white populist id.

Maybe it always was that. I don't know. What you have here is a party being eaten alive by the hate that they stoked for decades, dumbasses who think the essence of "Real America" is stupidity and ignorance, who'd sooner have a president who packs a cheat-sheet to a tea party, than a Indonesian/socialist/nigger/Muslim.
Ha!

Yeah, exactly. Sarah Palin can come out and say stupid shit like, "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?" and these idiots will think that's soooooo presidential.

But when President Obama uses a teleprompter, STOP THE FUCKING PRESSES!!!!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Tim Tebow

They just played the controversial Tebow/Focus on the Family ad. It was as inoffensive and uncontroversial as an ad can be.

I still think it's a huge waste of money...but I'm not on Focus on the Family's board.

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah

Katie Couric once asked Sarah Palin what newspapers or magazines she reads, and Palin said, "All of them."

While I cannot prove this, I suspect that "all of them" includes the Washington Post, in particular that insulting piece by Gerard Alexander.

Sarah Palin talking to Fox News:
Palin said Americans are becoming frustrated because he "expects us to sit down and shut up and accept" his policies. Asked specifically which policies, Palin said Obama has been condescending to the American people with his "general personality."
Ha! She doesn't know what she's talking about!

She just knows that she's supposed to be flogging this "condescending" thing. Hilarious!

She's not Rush Limbaugh; she's the dumbass who repeats Rush Limbaugh's show around the watercooler.

Quote of the Day

"They say there are no atheists in foxholes. But as we sat in those holes, praying that God would save us, I thought about the fact that the other side was doing the same thing. And then I wondered if God is just playing some kind of game with us. Pretty much I decided at that point there was no God."
-Bronze Star recipient Milton Christian, reflecting on his WWII service

Speaking only for myself and how my brains works, if it were me, I wouldn't wonder if God was playing a game with us. I'd wonder why I would rely on the God who put me in the foxhole to get me out of it.

The Tea Parties are Coming! The Tea Parties are Coming!

Sarah Palin gave a speech last night at some scammer's money-making Tea Party event. She was paid $100,000 for her speech, in which she called for another American revolution and winkingly said folksy stuff like "How's that hopey-changey stuff workin' for ya?"

(Shh! Don't tell Gerard Alexander. After all, it's the liberals who are supposed to be the condescending ones, right?)

The crowd ate it up. They also loved that Palin managed to get through her speech without the aid of a teleprompter. (Of course, who needs a teleprompter when you have your hand?)
Yeah, look at her left hand for her notes.

The thing about this is that I don't care if someone speaking uses notes or a teleprompter. Public speaking isn't the easiest thing to do, with or without notes, so if you want to use notes, I say go for it.

But if you're going to be mocking someone for using a teleprompter, then don't get caught writing notes on your hand.
Because that makes you look just a wee bit hypocritical.

Fark had the best headline about her speech:
Sarah "The One" Palin tells teabagger crowd that Obama should start listening to their stale ideas that have already failed our nation and stop lecturing about how those stale ideas have already failed our nation.
Ha!
This guy had the best paragraph about the Tea Party convention.
If the original tea party had charged a week’s wages to register political outrage, we might still be wearing fussy stockings and bowing to some Lordship arriving in Boston Harbour.
Ha-Ha!

Updated: Kevin Drum's response to Palin's hand-written notes:
The most obvious question is: why would anyone need to write this stuff down? It's not like she's trying to remember the quadratic equation or anything. For someone who swims in the seas that Palin swims in, this is about the equivalent of writing down a note to remember your birthday.
Seriously. What kind of Republican can't remember to talk about tax cuts in her keynote speech?

A dumb one. That's who.