Archive for February, 2010

Best. Video. Game. Ever.

February 17, 2010

Soooo, I finally got Beatles Rock Band yesterday. I first had to find a Rock Band bundle, so I had the drums and the wireless guitar, and a USB microphone. And after roughly two months of looking, I found one. Major props to my father-in-law for driving to Columbia, KY, to pick it up for me.

But anyway. This is it. In 1970-something, when the guys who made Atari started marketing video games, I like to think that in the wildest, craziest corners of their mind, they envisioned a game like this. The graphics are shockingly good, the music, well, obviously isn’t half bad, and the fun is immeasurable.

This (belated Valentine’s gift) is my Red Ryder BB gun. Short of exhuming and reanimating John and George, and letting me into the band, this is the closest to Beatledom I can get. And it rocks.

EDIT: I was just messaging my sister about the game. I wrote her, “It’s so great I want to poop my pants. Mostly so that I have a good excuse to go home and play it some more.” Just thought I should share… the anecdote, not poop.

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A Country Genius

February 17, 2010

Another reading update.

6. Man of Constant Sorrow by Dr. Ralph Stanley.

A good friend of mine once had a dream in which I was eating a sausage biscuit and I was very proud to show him that the wrapper proclaimed it to be a “Country Genius Sausage Biscuit”. Needless to say, this became an overnight catch phrase. If there’s anybody who really is a country genius, it would have to be Dr. Ralph Stanley.

Dr. Ralph is in his mid-80s, and is still the reigning king of clawhammer banjo, as well as “what they call” bluegrass music (his words, not mine, as he doesn’t like the name). Dr. Ralph was awarded an honorary doctorate by Lincoln Memorial University in the 1970s, and apparently liked it so much that he insists on being called Dr. Ralph.

Anyway, in 2009, he finally got around to sitting down and writing his life story. From talking about milking cows to telling stories about a flatulent fiddle player (who cut, as Dr. Ralph calls it, “a real greaser”, which thoroughly disgusted a record company executive), this is about as genuine as it gets.

Dr. Ralph’s country genius, as a musician, as a writer, and just as a person stems from the fact that he is exactly who he is. There is no pretense, there is no dressing up the truth, there is only a great American life. So read his book. And go see him. When I told him I was born only a few miles down the road in southwest Virginia from his old hometown, he looked at me in wonder, and posed with me for a photo which is one of my all time favorites. And I will post it on here, if I ever remember to. He also sang “Oh Death”, just like he did in O Brother Where Art Thou, and put chill bumps on everybody. That’s a country genius, if I do say so myself.

Books: 6/50
Pages: 2,250/20,000

(another book is almost finished, which means another post…)

Reading in 2010

February 1, 2010

I have decided to re-up the 2009 reading challenge, albeit with a slight tweaking. To reiterate, the goal is to read 50 new books in a year. Note that it is restricted to new (to me) books. I love old books, and in some year, maybe 2011, I’ll do a reading challenge for them. Re-reads are pretty much always quicker and I know which ones are good. But I want to try to learn something new in this project. And thus, all new books.

Of the 50 new books, five are to be religious works. The theory here is a sort of literary tithe.

Also, to keep me from discriminating against the big, fat books that are piling up, another tweak is this: I want 50 books and/or 20,000 pages. I’d say 400 pages is a reasonable length for a book, and counting pages should also keep me from avoiding the big Lincoln biography, or the history of the Supreme Court, or the account of the lives of the wives of Henry VIII.

So anyway, finishing out January, I also got these in:

3. Big Man by Clarence Clemons. Odd, uneven book, with chapters by Clarence interspersed with chapters from his co-writer, screenwriter Don Reo, and other chapters of “legends” which are admittedly mostly lies. Fun, interesting, but REALLY uneven.

4. It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over by the staff of Baseball Prospectus. This is a book about baseball pennant races. The staff of Baseball Prospectus use history as a jumping off point to ask questions about baseball and to try to use empirical data to answer those questions. If you’re a hardcore sports nerd, this is great. If not, likely a bit dry.

5. Under the Dragon by Rory MacLean. Fascinating travel writing about Myanmar (aka Burma). Since a good friend spent a long chunk of time in and around the area, I’ve been very interested in it. MacLean writes the story of he and his wife journeying across the county in search of a particular kind of basket. En route, they encounter persecuted, browbeat, beautiful people who, bit by bit, spell out the story of a doomed land. Heartbreaking, engaging and very well written.

January total: 5 books completed/50
January page total:
Magic in the Night 268
The Book of Basketball 715
Big Man 384
It Ain’t Over 457
Under the Dragon 224

As yet unrevealed 6th book in progress 101
January total 2,149/20,000 (Actually, I realize in retrospect that I read approximately the first 200 pages of Magic in the Night in December… so while I’ll count the book as a 2010 book, the page count goes back down to 1,949/20,000).