Archive for June, 2009

Today is our anniversary

June 26, 2009

One year of blogging today. 365 days, 90 posts, about 3900 views. For whatever it’s worth, I’m more or less satisfied so far with the blog. It has given me an excuse to write some things, which was kind of the point. I hope it’s been worth reading for my solitary and apparently fairly loyal readership. If you have ideas for some ways to go, feel free to share them. The 50 new books in 2009 blogs will probably occupy a large amount of my time, and hopefully, I’ll have baby parenting anecdotes to share as well. I’ll probably write more about food and music, because they are things that I generally enjoy and almost never get tired of. Hopefully, you don’t either.

In any case, thanks for the reading, commenting, and occasional prodding that have kept this going. I’d like to do a better job of being consistent in posting, and would like to have 10,000 views at the end of year two. Of course, year two will coincide with year one of parenting, so we’ll see where we end up. Thanks for coming along.

Joe

A Michigan genius and his penchant for fire chips

June 24, 2009

Yesterday while working in the glorious metropolis of Hardinsburg, Kentucky, I stopped in a BP station for a snack. I was looking in the potato chips aisle and settled on a bag of “Uncle Ray’s Hot Potato Chips.”

Wow. Uncle Ray wasn’t lying. Uncle Ray could’ve called them “Uncle Ray’s Eye-Watering, Head Sweating, Drown the Fire and Beg for Mercy Chips”. I guess it would’ve cost more to print the bags that way.

So after indulging in his tasty snack, I checked out the bag. Uncle Ray, apparently still active in Detroit, has decided to share his life story in segments on the back of his chips. The bag I had included a story about how he had stolen his brother’s clothes one day when he was swimming. More than a bit odd. Kind of like Uncle Ray. Apparently, in 1999, this guy was awoken from a sound sleep, went to his kitchen table and started writing his life story. Uncle Ray has explained “Everyone has a bad day, and I want to be there with a message.” Even if the message is not to steal your brother’s clothes.

This is exactly the sort of thing you should buy in the BP at Hardinsburg, Kentucky. Just make sure you get lots of water as well. Either that, or try some normal flavor of the chips, which by the way also come in flavors such as ketchup and dill pickle. Rumors that Uncle Ray is negotiating with me to provide blog posts for his chip bags are untrue. Well, unless he gives me lots of free chips.

Joe

The Big Almost Lebowski

June 24, 2009

#24 The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.

When I finally found a copy of this book for $2, I knew I had to check it out. Oft-cited as the inspiration for “The Big Lebowski”, Raymond Chandler had been praised to me by Stephen King in “On Writing” (THAT book isn’t in the 50 because I didn’t read it, but Julie read it to me on car trips). So I got the book and pretty much devoured it.

Phillip Marlowe is the hero, and he’s everything The Dude is not. Focused, too cool for school, dark and brooding, Marlowe IS the early 20th century detective, in just the way that Sherlock Holmes is THE mid to late 19th century English detective. The story, though, does share much in common with Lebowski. Marlowe is hired by an elderly paraplegic, to look into gambling debts owed by his young and vivacious daughter (not wife, as in Lebowski). She apparently does owe money to known pornographers. People start dropping left and right and each answer reveals a new mystery and Marlowe has to try to stay one step ahead. Marlowe never drops a lit joint into his crotch, and his rug apparently doesn’t take the brunt of a Chinaman’s urination, but there are more than slight similarities between Sleep and Lebowski.

They’re both really great too. Each in its own unusual way, but entirely worth checking out. I hope to check out the film version soon, with Bogart and Bacall playing and William Faulkner writing the screenplay. I think even The Dude would admit that sounds like a great (Expletive deleted) idea.

Joe

Another book or two…

June 24, 2009

#23 The Day that Christ Died by Jim Bishop

The evilness of work subsides for a second and I’ll update you, my loyal and solitary readership, on the 50 new books in 2009 project. I polished this one off at the Kentucky Bar Convention. Bishop is a historian, not a theologian, and it is from this angle that he takes on the last 24 hours of Christ. This is a common theme for him, although his other subjects were the day Lincoln died and the day JFK died. I loved the Lincoln book, but I never read the JFK one. I mean, who knows where the guy on the grassy knoll or the umbrella man were at 8 AM? 😉

Anyway, Bishop makes clear early on that he is a believer in Christ, so we don’t have a historian here who is trying to second guess miracles or re-write the story to make Judas Iscariot a hero. Instead, he moves hour by hour through the last day of Christ, utilizing the Bible and whatever other historical accounts will fill in the account. He does take some occasional liberties in the act of telling a story, but don’t all historians?

In any case, the book was very readable, and managed to place the last day of Christ in context well. Learning about the historical and political bent of the time helps explain the events of the crucifiction more clearly than I understood them before. It’s a well-written history. Admittedly, Bishop is guessing about some things and is likely wrong about a few. But like a good historian, he works from what he knows and posits his best guesses about the rest.

Joe

Book #22- God Save the Fan by Will Leitch

June 5, 2009

To summarize– Irreverant discussion of sports and life. Leitch begins with the epic story of how Michael Vick was busy infecting some woman with STDs and meanwhile seeking treatment and testing under the worst pseudonym ever, Ron Mexico. It’s all uphill from there. Leitch hates ESPN, and writes a wonderfully brain numbing column about watching 24 consecutive hours of ESPN programing. Like the documentary filmmaker in “Super Size Me”, the results he elicits are horrifying.

Most instruing to me, Leitch had an incredibly thoughtful chapter about the knee-jerk reaction against athletes who invoke God or Jesus Christ after some sporting triumph. I was never totally comfortable with this myself, but Leitch articulates the issue more clearly than anyone else I’ve read or heard from.

I enjoyed this book, and I like Leitch’s underlying purpose of proving that covering sports shouldn’t be reserved for the deigned credentialled few. And obviously, I dig blogs, so we’re coming from kind of the same place, in that not at all way. The writing was a bit uneven here, but it was consistently funny and amusing. Nice book, and I hope to continue reading Will’s musings.

Joe

Baby Class VI

June 5, 2009

And so, as it began, the baby class ended with a whimper. While there were some full screen photos of poop, it really didn’t get any gorier than that. At the end of the class, we were taken by the nursery, where several new babies were beginning life. It was a reminder– this is why you’ve given up six Tuesday nights. Of course, I considered pointing out that they couldn’t stop us from getting the baby even without giving up the Tuesday nights. But I do feel a little less stupid about babies. Not much less, but a little.

With every passing day, my unborn daughter becomes a little more tangible and real to me. Tomorrow she’ll probably become much more real, as I’ll spend much, if not all, day with my kind father-in-law and the always helpful Jim Kelly (not the former Buffalo Bills quarterback, instead the current Logan County High School teacher) putting together furniture for her. Or for us. She’ll become who she is. We can’t change that, and I guess wouldn’t if we could. We can give her some furniture. And shelter, food, love, and smothering attention. I think she’ll survive despite us. I know I can’t wait to find out.

Book 21- Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs by Molly Harper

June 2, 2009

Yes, I read a paranormal romance book. Why? Because Molly is a friend of mine, and it is a semi-solemn pledge that if you are a friend of mine and publish a book, I will read it, regardless of how far outside my normal sphere of interests it may be. And I’m definitely not sorry I read it. My favorite thing about Molly’s writing, since the days when I first read it (around 1998, when she writing must-read columns for the College Heights Herald), is that she is so funny. If Dave Barry was a woman with a slightly more drily caustic wit, it’d be something near the same effect. Except that I don’t think Dave Barry has written a paranormal romance novel.

Molly’s main character, Jane Jameson, is a fired librarian in the podunk town of Half Moon Hollow, Kentucky. When she is shot in a freak accident, it would appear that she is dead. But no. Instead she meets a wily and mysterious vampire who, shall we say, drafts her for his team. Wacky hijinks ensue, with the complications of the living world and the undead world being a constant feature. Jane also gets framed for a crime she didn’t commit, and has nasty things said about her. This seems to indicate that the only thing worse than normal a-holes would be a-holes who could live forever. And yes, there are some tasteful sex scenes interspersed occasionally.

This book is the first in an on-going series, with the second to be published around September. Harper does a wonderful job of setting out backstory in an interesting way that explains her fictional universe. It has to be a daunting constraint of a science fiction-ish writer’s job to set out a parallel and totally different universe which can also be explained and understood within our actual universe. But Molly is pretty much as smooth as butter here.

This was a funny book with likeable characters and an easy, conversational tone. I have high hopes for the rest of the series, and for that matter, for anything else that Molly Harper writes.

Joe