Saturday, February 02, 2013

R.I.P. Barney

Sometimes I think the greatest thing George W. Bush ever did was slinking off into obscurity once his presidency ended.  But with that said, I was sad to hear his dog Barney has died.

Great Lines From Good Books

First, a line from Cold Mountain, after Inman kills a young bear cub who has just lost its mother, not out of meanness or for the meat, but to spare it from even greater cruelty in the wilds of nature:

He had not eaten bear of such youth before, and though the meat was less black and greasy than that of older bear, it still tasted like sin.  He tried to name which of the deadly seven might apply, and when he failed he decided to append an eighth, regret.
 I have to say, I'm glad I listened to Cold Mountain rather than read it.  Reading it, I know there would have been times when I dozed off and lost my place or scanned through pages as my mind wandered, my eyes taking in the words but not allowing them into my brain.  Listening to it has allowed me to savor every word and its been worth it.

Second, a line from Steve Martin's autobiography Born Standing Up, which I listened to in its entirety (4 discs from the library!) last night working my last night of the night shift.  Coincidentally I found a copy of it at the thrift store this morning, and I quote from it now:

Around this time I smelled a rat.  The rat was the Age of Aquarius.  Though the era's hairstyles, clothes, and lingo still dominated youth culture, by 1972 the movement was tired and breaking down.  Drugs had killed people, and so had Charles Manson.  The war in Vietnam was near its official end, but its devastating losses had embittered and divided America.  The political scene was exhausting, and many people, including me, were alienated from government.  Murders and beatings at campus protests weren't going to be resolved by sticking a daisy into the pointy end of a rifle.  Flower Power was waning, but no one wanted to believe it yet, because we had invested so much of ourselves in its message.  Change was imminent.
 The bolded part is a notion that has just recently been dawning on me, which I think is kind of sad considering I was born well after the Age of Aquarius, raised in an era when its naivete was exposed for all to see, and yet still clung to this notion that non-violent peaceful protest is not only right, but also somehow effective.

I have no such notions now. I mean, I have no grand ideas on how to be both righteous and strong, but I've come around to the idea that being righteous alone is not enough.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Second Verse, Same as the First

This is getting ridiculous...

Alyssa Rosenberg, writing on F/X's new show The Americans, continues to prove that she can only play one note:
Elizabeth Jennings (Kerri Russell), the KGB spy living under cover in the United States of 1980 in the Cold War drama The Americans, which premieres on FX tonight, represents a major break from this anti-hero tradition for two reasons. First, she’s a woman.
Jesus Christ, lady, give it a rest.  Straight dudes don't even have this kind of vagina fixation!

And hey, maybe Alyssa has a point.  I dunno.  I haven't seen the show.  But I would fucking hope that the most interesting thing about Kerri Russell's character isn't that "she's a woman."  That's a wee bit sexist, don't you think? (Not to mention...flipping obvious.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cold, Dead Hands

Today, a young woman defending herself from tyranny found out the hard way that shit ain't like that.

Got It Bad, so Bad

For Lana Turner...
Beauty like that is immortal.

Amateur Hour

If you're writing about current affairs and you're tempted to start your piece with this phrase:
Karl Marx summed up Communism as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
You should stop, crumple up the page, and start again.  Even if you're David Mamet.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hellz Yeah

I endorse every word of this post.

The bottom line:
And on it goes, with countless writers, most not long out of college, on the hunt for smelly little heterodoxies, demanding that art be deployed in the service of the people.
This part made me laugh, too, considering how annoyed I get by Alyssa Rosenberg's "smelly little heterodoxies."
Over at ThinkProgress, culture blogger Alyssa Rosenberg celebrates the NBC drama Deception for featuring a black, female lead: “the show operated at the intersection of race and class at a way I thought was fascinating and promising.” But it was “disconcerting” to speak with the show’s creators, Rosenberg wrote, who pooh-poohed suggestions that race was an important element of the show (“it’s not really something we talk about too much in the writers’ room”).
And why would it be?  They're creative writers, concerned with the unique and the interesting.  The last thing they want to do is reach into the bag and pull out some "type."

Local Sports - Politicking Edition

John Elway is one of my heroes, and he's also a Republican who has campaigned for some people I would never vote for even if they paid me to do it.  I have no problem reconciling my respect for the guy and my disagreement with his politics.

I have to say, though, that I dig his response to gun control questions posed by Piers Morgan.

"You're from Colorado and I was particularly appalled by what happened in the Aurora movie theater," Morgan began. "But as somebody who has grown up in American culture, presumably around guns, what is your view of the debate as it stands?" He asked Elway.
To which Elway responded: "You know, I'm still waiting to hear both sides of it. I'm a gun owner. I'm a hunter and I enjoy that and I respect the second amendment."
"As someone who hunts and shoots for sport, do you see any need for civilians to have one of these military-style rifles that can pump out 100 bullets a minute?" Morgan asked.
"No, and that's one area -- I don't own a machine gun," Elway said and before he finished his thought Morgan asked, "But do you see why anybody would need one as a civilian?"
"I do not," Elway responded. "I don't see that. And that's the side I'm waiting to hear about and to see if that is the solution, if that's the solution that can prevent some of these catastrophes that are going on at these grade schools then, you know, I'm all for the solution."
Good answer. I'm not a gun owner and I've never been hunting in my life and I too respect the second amendment.  I also think that there's no reason why a civilian needs a military-style rifle that can fire 100 rounds a minute, and if they're banned...oh well.  Get a shotgun and be happy.

(As to the clowns saying they need these weapons to protect themselves from tyranny....give me a break.)

And then, there's this from Kenneth Faried, Nuggets star.

That's how people live their lives, man.  Who are you to say they can't?

Putting Your Eggs in One Basket

Borders went out of business last year and now Barnes & Noble is announcing they're going to be closing a third of their stores over the next ten years.  It's somewhat tempting to cry out in terror over the state of the bookselling business, but it might be more appropriate to mourn the death of a business model that was as short-sighted as it was short-lived.

I have vague memories of my youth, when book-sellers weren't as concentrated.  Sure, they had the chains...B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, small little stores at the mall, but there were drugstores and super markets (for the mass market paperbacks) as well as independent stores, sometimes ridiculously specialized, like the former Little Bookshop of Horrors in Arvada, which sold only horror, sci-fi, and fantasy books, or ridiculously expansive, like the Tattered Cover, four stories of books on any subject you'd desire.

The Tattered Cover is still around, but the Little Bookshop of Horrors, and pretty much any other "little" bookshop has long gone the way of the dodo.

They couldn't compete with the big chains, and it wasn't some accident of commerce, it was by design.  The big chains wanted market share; they had a corporate strategy and investors to please.  It was all about the economy of scale. 

They wanted to control the book selling business, and found out that it couldn't be controlled. They put all their eggs in one basket and discovered a gloopy mess when the basket fell.

And hey, I get it.  It's tempting to think that if one store does well, then two can do better, and that will just keep on exponentially even when you get into the hundreds.  But I'm not sure things work like that, not really, and certainly not forever.

There are other considerations, like the general health of the market.  On a large enough scale, small mistakes can have massive consequences.  Increase your footprint and you also increase your overhead.  Increase your overhead and you decrease your profitability. 

I'm sure some economist can explain it better than I can, but it's no surprise that Barnes and Noble is falling prey to the same curse of ubiquity that have doomed other big chains.  They did their best to kill the golden goose, and with a strangled neck in their hands, find no more golden eggs.

Vonnegut would say, "So it goes."

I'm not convinced that eBooks will every replace printed books, and so I suspect there will always be a market for books.  It may just be smaller, more dispersed, and that's okay.  Maybe that's how it should be.

Many times over the years, I've thought the greatest mistake we made as a culture is agreeing that a few greedy men wearing suits and sitting in faraway offices are the best ones capable of figuring out what people need. 

The truth is, people need books.  They don't necessarily need to buy them from a big chain.

Cold Mountain

So a few months ago, I was listening to the audiobook version of Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, read by the author on cassette.  Yes, it's outmoded technology in an unpopular format but, man, I love audiobooks, especially with a good reader and Charles Frazier is a good reader.  He's got a gentle voice with a subtle accent and, being the author, a command of the material.  One gets the sense that the recording sessions were only the latest time he's read the work aloud, perhaps for the fiftieth or hundredth time.

But I ran into a problem.  Tape 7, while mechanically sound, was garbled beyond recognition.  In my truck, he sounded like he was speaking another language under water.  In the boom box sitting on my desk, same thing.

No worries, thought I, as I picked up my copy of the book.  I shall read with my own eyes Tape 7's contents, then return to Tape 8.

But when I flipped open the book, I discovered that Charles Frazier, while a gifted author and talented reader, is one of those writers who thinks the rules does not apply to him.  Dialogue was not contained in quotation marks, but rather with hyphens.

There is no way I can tolerate that kind of thing, so I shelved the book and packed up the tapes and re-watched the movie instead.  (The movie, it should be no surprise, is not as good as the book.)

But during an excursion to the thrift store this weekend, I found another copy of the audiobook.  For a moment, I thought about diabolically coming back to switch out Tape 7 --no one would know-- but, hell, it was three bucks, so I picked it up.

I guess I'll use the broken copy for something like this: