Saturday, January 31, 2009

Happy birthday... me!

I was born on January 31, 19gkfriiooeioijmjiooiehq0[erh vn. (Sorry, computer problems.)

Some interesting people with the same birthday:

Japanese Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu
Composer Franz Schubert
Western author Zane Grey
Baseball player and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson
Author Norman Mailer
Baseball player Ernie Banks
Author Kenzaburo Oe
Composer Philip Glass
Baseball player Nolan Ryan
Musician John Lydon (AKA Johnny Rotten)
Actress Minnie Driver
Jeopardy! champion Brad Rutter
Autistic savant Daniel Tammet

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (1/29/2009)

OK, so, Uniqlo is a Japanese clothes store. I guess it's kind of like Target, sort of cheap but still cool. And Uniqlock is -- well I don't quite know how to describe it. "Quirky music, pretty girls dancing, and a clock" doesn't really do it justice. I find it strangely fascinating. Watch for yourself.

Learn how the Egyptians made mummies by making your own virtual mummy.

Kneel before Zod! It's not quite as good as Khaaan! but almost.

And some music: "Standing Outside a Broken Phonebooth With Money in My Hand" by Primitive Radio Gods

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bob Dylan's "American Idol" audition

If a young Bob Dylan were to audition for American Idol...

(Dylan walks into the audition room.)

Simon: Hello, Bob is it?

Dylan: That's right.

Paula/Randy: Hello (etc.)

Randy: Where you from, Bob?

Dylan: I'm from Minnesota, but I live in New York now.

Simon: All right, Bob, what are you going to sing for us?

Dylan: It's a song I wrote called "Blowin' in the Wind."

Simon: All right, off you go.

Dylan: (Sings)

(Simon, Randy, and Paula look at each other in consternation.)

Simon (raising hand in a "stop" gesture): All right, that's enough. That was dreadful.

Randy (laughing but pretending to be trying not to laugh): Yo dawg, the way you mumble, I can't even understand what you're singing.

Paula (trying to be nice): You have a very nasal tone when you sing, haven't you ever noticed that?

Dylan: But did you like the song, man?

Simon: No. The music business is not for you. Paula?

Paula: Sorry, no.

Simon: Randy?

Randy: Sorry dawg, Simon's right. This isn't the business for you.

Dylan: You just don't get it, man.

Simon: No, you don't get it. Goodbye.

Dylan: (Leaves)

Watch "Blowin' in the Wind"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I'm reading "Twilight," so you don't have to (ch. 14)

Our Story So Far

Here's my synopsis of Chapter 14 of Twilight, by Stephenie [sic] Meyer.

Chapter 14. Mind over Matter

Edward drives with one hand and holds Bella's hand with the other. He puts the radio on an oldies station, because he likes 50s music. He says 60s and 70s music sucked, while the 80s were "bearable." (OK, stop. Stop right there. Granted, 70s music kind of sucked if you only listened to Top 40 and you skipped 1970 and 1971, but 60s music sucked? Sixties music? WTF! I mean seriously, Holy Mother of WTF!)

Edward finally tells Bella how old he is. He was born in 1901 and became a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire in 1918. (That makes him about 100 years old. Or does it make him 17 for a long time? It's actually an interesting question. A 17-year-old's brain is still developing. Did Edward's brain just stop in its unfinished adolescent state, or did it continue to develop? In Anne Rice's first vampire book, the little girl vampire develops an adult brain, essentially becoming Baby Herman in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? So what about Edward? It's an important point, because this is what determines whether Edward is a perpetual adolescent who is rightfully attracted to teenage girls or just a dirty old man who looks very young.)

Carlisle The Wise Leader turned Edward into a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire during the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, because Edward's parents were dead, and he was dying anyway. (No information is given on what Carlisle The Wise Leader did about the other 20 to 100 million people who died.) Turning into a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire hurted a lot.

Edward tells about how each member of his Beautiful Sparkly Vampire family became a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire, namely, blah-blah-blah-who-cares. Also, Alice The Nice One can see the future, but it's very subjective. The future isn't set in stone. Things change. Remember that the Mirror shows many things, and not all have yet come to pass. Some never come to be, unless those that behold the visions turn aside from their path to prevent them. The Mirror is dangerous as a guide to deeds. Do you wish to look in the Mirror, Frod-- er, sorry, wrong book.

Alice The Nice One can always see when other Beautiful Sparkly Vampires are coming, and whether they pose a threat. (No doubt this will come in handy later in the book.) But she doesn't remember how she became a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire in the first place.

They get to Bella's house and Edward asks Bella to invite him in. He reveals he's been spying on her at night. Of course, Bella finds his obsessive stalking of her flattering rather than creepy, even when he says he watched her sleep almost every night. But she freaks out when he says she talked in her sleep and he listened, because she talked about Edward often. Apparently, when an ever so mature girl like Bella is in love, it's embarrassing any time it's made clear to the other person.

Bella's Dad comes home, so Edward slips out, because true love makes you sneak around behind your parents' backs. When Bella's Dad sits down in the chair that was recently occupied by Edward, she finds the contrast between his uncoolness and Edward's Beautiful Sparkly Vampireness comical. (After all, Bella's Dad is just a regular, hard-working guy, trying to make his way in the world and do what's best for his family while serving his community as a law enforcement officer. How could he be other than comical compared with somebody who's beautiful?)

Bella blows off her dad, who suspects she has a thing going with some boy. She goes upstairs, opens the window, and looks outside throws open the window and looks into the night; her eyes scan the darkness, the impenetrable shadows of the trees. But Edward is already waiting for her in her room, which makes Bella almost faint from the surprise.

Edward says, "FFS, get a grip!" (I wish.) Bella gets ready for bed and then runs downstairs to tell her dad goodnight, because he suspects that she's going to sneak out to see a boy. (Little does he suspect that his daughter is way ahead of him in her campaign of deceit, because the boy is already upstairs in her room. Of course, the whole thing makes no sense anyway, since Bella's Dad is perfectly willing for her to go out on a date on a Saturday night.)

Bella and Edward hang out in her room and talk. Edward is sure now that he won't kill Bella -- well, pretty sure, anyway. They talk about what it's like to be in love for the first time. Edward says he feels jealous sometimes.

Bella's Dad peeks in the room to make sure Bella's really there, but they fool him good. Edward says Bella smells like flowers.

Every Beautiful Sparkly Vampire has a special power. Bella asks if Beautiful Sparkly Vampires can do the wild thing. Edward says, why yes, why do you ask? Bella says, well, I thought you and me could do it sometime. Edward says, no way, I'd break you. Bella says, but do you want to? Edwards says, I may be a Beautiful Sparkly Vampire, but I'm a man too. (Not a "boy," or a "guy," a "man." As in "dirty old"?) Bella falls asleep.

(Check the pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog for more Twilight chapters.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (1/26/2009)

At Daily Kos, LithiumCola posted perhaps the best thing anyone has written about Guantanamo Bay and its moral implications.

Tourism Queensland is offering the Best Job in the World. Seriously.

OK, I find it hard to believe that some of these "Hilarious Newspaper Clippings" actually appeared in newspapers (I mean, c'mon, "Condom truck tips, spills load"?), but a lot of them are very funny.

The Obama Art Report covers Barack Obama artwork of all kinds.

And in To Try a New Sword on a Chance Wayfarer news, I expect to put up another "I'm reading Twilight, so you don't have to" chapter tomorrow. Sorry it's taken so long. Life gets in the way sometimes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

YouTube Favorites (January 2009)

Frisk FAIL, an NBS News report on Dr. Manhattan from 1970, Apple's new no-keyboard laptop, the Tiddy Bear, an honest college commercial, Rasheed Wallace schools a Laker fan, and Dave's not here.

Frisk FAIL: "What's this right here?"

Ten years of Dr. Manhattan

I am so looking forward to this movie.

Apple's new no-keyboard laptop

That's Tiddy Bear. T-I-D-D-Y.

If college ads were honest, most of them would be a lot like this.

I'm a Laker fan for life, but I gotta give credit where due. Rasheed Wallace schooled this guy.
Laker fan: Rasheed, you suck!
Sheed: Not like yo' mamma!

Dave's not here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And on a happier note...

Combing Mom's hair

My mom is 75 and lives in California with my sister, K. Mom hasn't been healthy for a while. Last week, she was in the hospital for a few days with heart trouble and pneumonia.

I went down to California for four days to visit her. In the same hospital room, there was an elderly Mexican-American lady with lung cancer. Her daughter, a woman in her 50s, was visiting her. When I walked into the room, the old lady was sitting in a chair, and her daughter was brushing her hair. I only glanced at them as I walked by -- I didn't want to stare, of course -- but it was a very tender and moving scene.

The next day, my mother asked for a comb. She wanted to look presentable when her own doctor came on his rounds. So she was combing her hair, but she was having a little trouble. She couldn't get the comb through it. Her hair hadn't been combed for days, and it was all tangled and knotted in back. Of course, I said, "Let me comb out the back," and I did.

The whole time I was combing her hair, I was thinking, why isn't my sister doing this? Why is my mom's hair all tangled in the first place? Why can't my sister see this kind of thing and take care of it before it ever gets this bad?

A couple days later, I combed Mom's hair again. I asked her, "Why don't you ask K to comb your hair sometimes?" She said, "Ach. She wouldn't do it." I knew that she would say that. It was only my frustration that made me ask at all.

And I realized, that's our family in a nutshell. My mom has no one to comb her hair. When I come and visit, I'll gladly comb her hair. But then I have to leave again after a few days. And when I'm gone, there's no one to comb Mom's hair. There's no one who even notices that her hair needs combing. My mom needs things done for her that aren't getting done. There's no one to do them for her. There's no one who even notices that they need doing.

I guess I can't really blame my sister for that. People are what they are. I suppose it's not her fault that she isn't warm and attentive to others' needs. (After all, no one would ever describe me as "warm" either.) And maybe she's doing the best she can. Maybe more than the best, because she's not healthy herself, and living with and taking care of our mom -- however inadequately -- is wearing her out.

But just because somebody's doing the best they can doesn't mean that enough is being done. My mom needs more help than she's getting, more help than my sister can give her. Mom could get all the help -- all the love -- she needs if she came up to Oregon to live with us. I couldn't take care of her by myself either, but I wouldn't need to. I have five other willing people (my spouse and children) to help me.

We've been trying to get her to move up here for years. When she was healthier, it was "Come live in an apartment near us." For the past year or two, it's been "Come live in a house with us." Naturally, Mom's been somewhat apprehensive about the idea. It would be a big change. But it would be tremendously better for her. Not just because she would be loved and adequately cared for, but because our town (except for the weather) is so much nicer than the one she lives in. There are so many more opportunities here, for recreation, for friendship -- Mom doesn't have any friends around her own age -- for things to do and see and learn. And lately, she's been coming around to the idea.

But lately every time my mother has a health scare -- she's had to go to the emergency room before -- my sister breaks down. K sobs and wails, she basically turns into Butterfly McQueen in Gone with the Wind. Right in front of my mother, mind you. She doesn't save it until Mom can't see her or anything. She just lets go and falls apart. Then my mother has to lie in her hospital bed and worry about whether K is all right. And she's a little afraid to leave K. She worries if K would be OK on her own. So she's not willing to just up and leave, which is what she should do. She needs a little push from K, at least an "Are you kidding me? Of course I'll be fine alone."

But that push isn't coming. Because here's the thing: my sister refuses to let Mom move up to Oregon and live with us. K constantly complains about how terrible the situation is, how hard it is on her (and it is), but she refuses to let Mom go. And I do blame her for that.

Of course, there would be some logistical problems to work out. Mom should get healthier before she makes a long trip like that. They bought their house together, and would need to sell it, and this is a bad time to sell houses in California. But I've got some ideas to work around that, to fix up the place and wait a year or so to let values start going up again. Those aren't the real problems, though.

No, the real problem is that K doesn't want to be alone. She thinks the solution is for me to uproot my family and move down where they live. And she thinks I'm selfish for not doing it. She thinks I'm selfish because I don't want to uproot my children from the town where they've lived for over 13 years, take them away from their friends and from their schools, and bring them to a place with inferior schools, more crime, more gangs, more drugs, and different values from the ones my children are being raised with. And why? So K can still live with Mom. So she won't be alone.

Well, I'm sorry she'd be alone. It would be hard on her for a while. But the world doesn't revolve around K, and the needs of seven other people are involved as well. And if Mom is to be properly cared for, all seven would be better off in Oregon. Besides, K has friends, who should be able to keep her from getting too lonely, and she has a good salary and a lot of days off to come visit anytime she wants. Yet she refuses the obvious solution. Because it would be hard on her.

Before I left to come back home, my mom said, "I don't know what I'm going to do on Tuesday after you leave." It broke my heart. Because what I want most is for her to never have to think that again, to never wonder again if she'll get all the help she needs. And I -- we, I mean -- could give that to her. If only they'd let us. But they won't.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The most horrible day of their lives

American Idol: I guess these girls were rooting for the guy who didn't win.

Books I've read during 2009

These are the books I read during 2009.

**** Highly recommended
*** Recommended
** Meh
* Don't bother

123. The Hunter, Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark

122. Free Fall in Crimson, John D. MacDonald ***

121. The Green Ripper, John D. MacDonald ****

120. The Hundred Days, Patrick O'Brian ****

119. Harlequin Valentine, Neil Gaiman and John Bolton ***

118. Death: The Time of Your Life, Neil Gaiman and Chris Bachalo ****

117. The Empty Copper Sea, John D. MacDonald ***

116. The Dreadful Lemon Sky, John D. MacDonald ***

115. Mental, Eddie Sarfaty ****

114. Pygmy, Chuck Palahniuk ****

113. My Uncle Oswald, Roald Dahl ****

112. The Outfit, Richard Stark ***

111. The Man with the Getaway Face, Richard Stark ***

110. Signal to Noise, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean ***

109. Turquoise Lament, John D. MacDonald ***

108. The Scarlet Ruse, John D. Macdonald ***

107. The Facts In The Case Of The Departure Of Miss Finch, Neil Gaiman ***

106. Gods and Soldiers: The Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing, ed. by Rob Spillman ****

105. The Hunter, Richard Stark ***

104. Blonde Faith, Walter Mosley ***

103. Stardust, Robert B. Parker ***

102. Playmates, Robert B. Parker ****

101. A Tan and Sandy Silence, John D. MacDonald ***

100. The Long Lavender Look, John D. MacDonald ****

99. The Yellow Admiral, Patrick O'Brian ****

98. The Commodore, Patrick O'Brian ****

97. London's Burning: True Adventures on the Front Lines of Punk, 1976 - 1977, Dave Thompson ****

96. Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future, Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum **

95. Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, Nick Lane ***

94. PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God, Frank Warren ***

93. Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout ***

92. American Gods, Neil Gaiman ****

91. Why Evolution Is True, Jerry A. Coyne ****

90. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey ****

89. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson ****

88. The Wine-Dark Sea, Patrick O'Brian ****

87. The Truelove, Patrick O'Brian ****

86. The Good Soldiers, David Finkel ****

85. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett ****

84. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield ****

83. The Evolution of God, Robert Wright ****

82. The Nutmeg of Consolation, Patrick O'Brian ****

81. The Thirteen-Gun Salute, Patrick O'Brian ****

80. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman ****

79. The Letter of Marque, Patrick O'Brian ****

78. Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, Noah J. Goldstein, et al. ***

77. The Reverse of the Medal, Patrick O'Brian ****

76. The Far Side of the World, Patrick O'Brian ****

75. Treason's Harbour, Patrick O'Brian ****

74. The Ionian Mission, Patrick O'Brian ****

73. The Surgeon's Mate, Patrick O'Brian ****

72. The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham ***

71. The Fortune of War, Patrick O'Brian ****

70. Desolation Island, Patrick O'Brian ****

69. The Mauritius Command, Patrick O'Brian ****

68. H. M. S. Surprise, Patrick O'Brian ****

67. Four Kings: Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran and the Last Great Era of Boxing, George Kimball ***

66. Post Captain, Patrick O'Brian ****

65. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, David Grann ***

64. The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity, Matt Miller ***

63. Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian ****

62. As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires, Bruce Weber ****

61. My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up, Russel Brand **

60. The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, David Neiwert ****

59. The Chosen, Chaim Potok ****

58. All Creatures Great and Small, James Herriot ****

57. Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit, Matt McCarthy ***

56. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!, Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith **

55. The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien ****

54. People I Have Loved, Known, or Admired, Leo Rosten * (sort-of review)

53. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis **

52. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew, C. S. Lewis **

51. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy, C. S. Lewis ***

50. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair, C. S. Lewis **

49. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis ***

48. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, C. S. Lewis ***

47. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis ****

46. Crimson Joy, Robert B. Parker **

45. The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972, Charles Schulz ****

44. Count Zero, William Gibson ***

43. The Reader, Bernhard Schlink (trans. by Carol Brown Janeway) ****

42. Dress Her in Indigo, John D. MacDonald ***

41. The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper, John D. MacDonald ***

40. Neuromancer, William Gibson ****

39. Fault Line: A Novel, Barry Eisler ***

38. Columbine, Dave Cullen ***

37. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien ****

36. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien ****

35. Monty Python's Tunisian Holiday: My Life with Brian, Kim "Howard" Johnson **

34. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien ****

33. Cinnamon Kiss, Walter Mosley ***

32. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood ****

31. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, Jon Meacham **

30. The Sandman Vol. 10: The Wake, Neil Gaiman, et al. ****

29. A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present, Howard Zinn ****

28. The Sandman Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones, Neil Gaiman ****

27. The Sandman Vol. 8: Worlds' End, Neil Gaiman, et al. ****

26. Let the Right One In: A Novel, John Ajvide Lindqvist, trans. by Ebba Segerberg **** (Review)

25. The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives, Neil Gaiman, et al. ****

24. The Sandman Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections, Neil Gaiman, et al. ****

23. The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You, Neil Gaiman, et al. ****

22. The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists, Neil Gaiman, et al.****

21. Little Scarlet, Walter Mosley ****

20. Six Easy Pieces: Easy Rawlins Stories, Walter Mosley ***

19. The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country, Neil Gaiman, et al.***

18. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel, Barbara Kingsolver ****

17. The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll's House, Neil Gaiman, et al. ****

16. The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman, et al.***

15. A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project), Howard Zinn ***

14. Taming a Seahorse, Robert B. Parker ****

13. Life of Evel: Evel Knievel, Stuart Barker ***

12. The Best American Sports Writing 2008, ed. by William Nack ****

11. Coraline, Neil Gaiman ****

10. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz ****

9. A Catskill Eagle, Robert B. Parker ***

8. High Profile (Jesse Stone), Robert B. Parker ***

7. Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century, ed. by Orson Scott Card **** (review)

6. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez ****

5. Death from the Skies! These Are the Ways the World Will End..., Philip Plait ***

4. The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970 (Vol. 10), Charles Schulz ****

3. Ghost Soldiers, Hampton Sides ****

2. Rough Justice, Robert B. Parker ***

1. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Barack Obama ****