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January 31, 2007
January 30, 2007
Plugapalooza: Lottie's Lounge
Josh Davis and I both worked at Amazon.com during the zenith of Dotcom Mania. While most of us, upon escaping the clutches of the World's Largest Bookstore, just staggered into similar careers elsewhere -- customer service, IT support, website design, and the like -- Josh had Big Dreams, and set out to pursue them. He studied mixology, became a bartender, worked his way up from dives to cocktail lounges, and, less than a decade after starting down this road, purchased his first bar, lovely lovely Lottie's Lounge. Oh, and along the way he also married one of my best friends. NICE WORK JOSH! P.S. The pesto linguine kicks ass. -- MB
Okay, so my first attempt at writing something about Lottie's Lounge sounded like a plug for a Ronco product or maybe a nice-smelling perfume. And while our food is delicious and the smells of Lottie's are typically pleasant, Lottie's is neither a rotisserie nor is it something quite as chic as Paris Hilton's latest fragrance. So, like the coffee shop that became a bar, and then the bar that became a coffee shop and a bar, I'm making an effort to redo the first perception and talk about Lottie's Lounge for what it is.
The thing is that I don't know what Lottie's Lounge is. You would think that a place where I have spent the last two years of my life--the last year roughly 75 hours a week--I would have some idea of what the place is. I could say it's my lover but that just isn't a very welcoming way to describe a building. I could say it's my wife, but my real wife would probably not like that. I could say it's my job or my child or some other metaphor, but those don't do it justice. It's not that Lottie's doesn't have an identity (it almost literally oozes an identity) it's just that it can't really be described. It has history. It makes people happy. It's family, not just for me but for everyone who walks through the door. That's all I know. People come to drink coffee, to eat food and to drink booze (sometimes in large quantities). People come to see their friends and to gather. People come to hear music and to laugh and to sometimes cry if necessary.
So even without knowing exactly what Lottie's Lounge is, I know it is a good place for good people. It's a good place for good food and it's a good place for good drinks. It's not a place that is fancy like the Dial-O-Matic nor is it a place that wants you to smell pretty like Britney Spears (or at least like her perfumes, because she probably smells like a bucket of fried chicken and a spent Marlboro 100), but I digress. Lottie's is just a place where you end up and find that that is where you wanted to be.
Lottie's Lounge is located in historic Columbia City on the corner of Rainier and Ferdinand in Seattle, Washington.
-- Josh Davis
January 29, 2007
A Hashbrown Named Desire
The following post was inspired by the eighty-second suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Tom Fakes of CRAZ8.
I bought some frozen hashbrowns. The cooking directions say "Microwave for 90 seconds, if desired."
I'm glad they specified that they should only be cooked when desired. I can't tell you how many times I've taken a plate of streaming hot hashbrowns out of the microwave and thought, "Man, I wish I was hungry. What the fuck am I going to do with these?"
Plugapalooza: Conservatize Me
I was a party for John Moe the other night, celebrating his new job, when someone asked how he and I had become friends.
"Hah hah -- that's a funny story," I said. "See, a few years back he was the head writer for a local comedy program called Rewind, and I would sometimes submit sketches. Since John was also the guy in charge of submissions, he was the one who always wrote back to tell me that my stuff had been rejected. So, then ..."
Here I sort of trailed off and stared into the middle distance for 20 seconds or so.
"Um, yeah. Anyway, we're friends now. Somehow. In retrospect, I have no idea how that happened."
I wrote this book called Conservatize Me, right? I tried to switch from liberal to conservative through a variety of experiences, some quasi-serious and some -- most -- not so much. The research took place over the course of a month in the summer of 2005 when the nation had recently re-elected Bush (or, depending how Kos you are, Bush stole Ohio) but the horror the horror the horror of Iraq was becoming evident. As the book came to fruition, I was struck by the idea of routines. The research phase was not routine at all: it was full of diverse adventure like having tea with man-whore/reporter Jeff Gannon, shooting guns, getting high on jellybeans at the Reagan museum, crashing the college Republican convention, and shopping for Escalades. The writing phase was completely filled with sameness (6am at West Seattle Uptown Espresso, get handed my 12oz coffee before even ordering it, fire up Postal Service on iTunes, and I was writing before Ben Gibbard could even point out that something seems so out of context in this gaudy apartment complex).
The promotional phase of it, though, was a dizzying blend of tedium and new experiences. HarperCollins shipped me around the country, putting me up in swell hotels and hiring folks whose only job was to tend to me. Though every radio interview I did was somewhat different, they all asked pretty much the same questions, making me realize I ask the same questions of guests I interview (or did at my old job). Stops on the tour were exciting and getting to see your book on the shelves at Harvard's bookstore is bonkers exciting, as is finding yourself in Austin. But the bookstore events are always -- ALWAYS -- just a smattering of folks (8 to 60 on my tour) and you read the same stuff and answer the same questions. So diversity and routine all at once. Except the Glenn Beck show on CNN Headline News.
See, we had struck out on most national media. Nothing ever came of NPR's national shows, the Today Show nibbled but didn't bite, same with Olbermann and Hannity. Then, weeks later, we get a call from the Glenn Beck show. Radio guy gone to TV, conservative, Mormon, from Everett.
Here's how it worked on the day of the show:
I might never be more famous than this day. How would it have been different had I picked the left ear?
-- John Moe
January 27, 2007
2007 Make-Yer-Own Oscar Pool Page
The 2007 Make-Yer-Own Oscar Pool Page is ready to go. A big thanks to everyone who helped test it out. And if anyone else notices further bugs or errors, be sure to drop me a line.
(Oh, and keep those cliches coming. Still haven't decided what to do with them all, but I've been getting some great ones!)
January 26, 2007
The following post was inspired by the thirty-sixth suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Jan Ives of Dr Jan's Tips From The Top.
To: Ma Baldwin
Hi, mom. This week my defective yeti posts are based on a book of blog suggestion. I had my readers randomly select the topics, and today I'm supposed to post an embarrassing photo from when I was younger. I sure you have a few laying around the house. Can you pick one, scan it, and send it my way?
* * *
To: Matthew Baldwin
* * *
To: Ma Baldwin
Oh, god. You win that bet.
On my top ten list of Internet Crushes, Sarah Brown's name appears three or four times. For years she has been revealing funny and embarrassing details about herself via Que Sera Sera; now she's letting the whole NetarWeb in on the action with Cringe, which she describes as "A monthly reading series ... [in which] brave souls come forward and read aloud from their teenage diaries, journals, notes, letters, poems, abandoned rock operas, and other general representations of the crushing misery of their humiliating adolescence." -- MB
I wish I'd never made the joke that Cringe was "better and cheaper than therapy," because every interviewer since then has really tried to grab onto that and make it their "hook," which is funny to me, because why can't the hook be that this thing is really funny? Because it is; it's really, really funny. That's the best part about hosting it, and reading all these book submissions. They make me laugh that kind of laugh where you sort of bark really loudly in surprise and then your stomach hurts and you say, "Oh... ohhhhhh. Oh no." That's probably my second favorite kind of laugh. Definitely beats the accidental fart while being mercilessly tickled laugh.
The entries that kill me the most are the ones where people simultaneously exaggerate or embellish the truth, to their own diary, and then, in the next sentence, lay all their hopes and dreams bare. There was a great reader named Roslyn, who at seventeen was determined to stay a virgin until marriage, but she was also "dying for some play." She then launched into this elaborate fantasy about her dream boyfriend, and what they'd do if her parents went out of town. It jumped back and forth between the sweet and clueless, like them having cookies and watching a movie and ordering a pizza, to the unflinchingly raunchy, all handjobs and oral references (apparently her definition of sex was the Clinton one), but lingered mostly on these heartbreakingly small details, like how her hair would be "perfectly blow-dryed," and how she hoped he'd come into her bedroom and ask questions about each little thing she had on display, every picture on the bulletin board.
That kills me most of all, because at that age, you spent so much time assembling your room because you couldn't really assemble the personality you wanted any other way, and to have someone pick up each and every thing and ask you about them probably would have made most of us happier than actually getting in on. Most of us. And the honest truth is, a part of you still wants that. You want someone you like to come into your room and ask you if you've read all those books and which was your favorite and who is this in this photo and when was it taken, blah blah blah, you want that tractor beam of attention, that teenage feeling. And that, to me, is the best part of Cringe: you laugh off your most unbearable moments and everyone laughs with you, but there's the unspoken understand that we're all still pretty much just like that, clueless and horny and full of hope and dread.
Submissions are open for the Cringe book until February 14 at cringebook.com.
-- Sarah Brown
January 25, 2007
The following post was inspired by the third suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Deron Staffen of Lectures on Everything.
The nicest present I gave anyone went to my little sister, in 1984. She wanted a copy "Like A Virgin," and I bought it for her. This may not seem too impressive, until you consider that (a) I was a shy, 13 years boy, and (b) the front of the record featured a reclining, bustier-clad Madonna, with bosoms heaving every-which-way. I was mortified by the thought of handing it to a cashier and telling her I wished to purchase it. And since I only had enough money for the record, I couldn't even employ the teenage-boy condom-buying ruse of piling an assortment of miscellaneous other items on top of it at the checkstand and then feigning surprise when the cashier uncovered it. ("What the-? How did that get there?! Well, you might as well ring it up ...").
Several Christmas earlier my sister had given me a package of pencils that she purchased with her allowance, because she'd heard me say I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. At the time I thought it was the lamest gift ever, paling in comparison to the Death Star playset I'd received from my folks; In retrospect I think that might be the most thoughtful present I've ever received.
I don't actually know Neal Pollack, and even calling him an "Internet friend" would be a stretch, but I am nonetheless indebted to him for his unwitting contribution to this site. A few months after I started defective yeti I wrote about an event I attended, in which Neal was interviewed by John Hodgman. The post gained me some measure of notoriety as it was linked from all over the web, increasing my daily hit count by a dozen or more, and catapulting me into the rarefied ranks of E-list bloggers where I remain to this very day.
Neal Pollack's newest book, Alternadad, is a sobering look at what happens when a baby enters the life of a man incapable of remaining sober. -- MB
On Monday night (Tuesday morning?) at 1 AM, I found myself in the studios of WOR Radio, in New York. I was to be a guest on The Joey Reynolds Show. I didn't know much about Joey Reynolds, other than that he used to be Wayne Newton's manager, sometimes serves his guests homemade cheesecake, and wrote a memoir titled Let Your Smile Be Your Umbrella, But Don't Get a Mouthful of Rain. Also, his real name is Joey Pinto.
I arrived at the studio baked out of my mind, which was the only way I could make it to 1 AM with any semblance of coherence or humor. There, I found a woman named Ronnie Koenig sitting on a white leather couch. Ronnie is the former editor of Playgirl Magazine. She has written, and is performing in, a play based on that experience. We wondered what we were doing on AM radio at one in the morning. Meanwhile, Joey Reynolds was talking on air to a guy with a German accent.
Joey's producer came to get Ronnie, which left me alone in the foyer to do nothing but pace and do easy yoga stretches. A panel discussion was in progress on the radio. In addition to Ronnie Koenig, Joey's guests were Kenny Kramer (the "original" Kramer), and an Albert Einstein impersonator. They spent much of their time talking about the high personal cost of fame. Meanwhile, I waited to get into the cocktail party.
When it was finally my time, I entered an empty studio. Everyone else had been ushered out the back door while I was taking a piss. I met Joey Reynolds, who was aging, but in a good Tony Bennett kind of way. Reynolds, who had not yet seen my book, took a look at my readers' copy, said, "Alternadad? What the hell is this?" and then launched into another on-air monologue about the high price of fame, and also about how he doesn't like upper-level radio station management. Fifteen minutes later, he cut to commercial.
"You have to connect with the people," he said.
I hadn't yet said a word.
Eventually, we talked at length about my book, an interview that, I'm sure, led to thousands of sales. During commercial breaks, he told me about his friends Charles Grodin and Dan Parcells, the brother of Bill Parcells. And then it was over. Before I left, I had to pee again. Joey was in the handicapped stall, smoking.
"Nothing to see here," he said.
"I saw nothing," I said.
He looked at me kindly.
"You'll do fine," he said. "Just don't get addicted to fame."
Somehow, I felt like he understood.
And then he was off to interview the former manager of The Smithereens.
-- Neal Pollack
January 24, 2007
All this week (and next!) I will be making posts based Mighty Girl's book No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog. In preparation for the event I asked readers to send me numbers from 1 to 100; I am now writing entries based on the corresponding suggestions from the book.
Today's randomly selected writing prompt, #27, reads, in part:
The people around you are doing worthy things ... write little profiles of your friends.Well, hey: the other thing I am doing this week (and next!) is letting my friends use this site to promote the various "worthy things" they have recently accomplished. And I'm even prefacing each with a little profile. In other words, I am already implementing this blog suggestion, and needn't write anything more about it. ISNOW DAY!
That said, I'd be remiss not to mention that today's suggestion was chosen by Felix Helix of Ipecac Aperitif.
Plugapalooza: Sarrett-Adams Games
I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, reading GAMES Magazine, when I first learned of a board game publication called The Game Report, which hailed from my hometown of Seattle and was written entirely by one man, Peter Sarrett. I looked Peter up upon my return to the states, joined his game group, and even started writing game reviews for TGR.
Not content to just play games, Peter eventually started to design them as well; his first, in fact, is my all-time favorite party game, Time's Up. And a few years back he joined forces with veteran game designer Michael Adams (who created many of the game in the Cranium line) to form Sarrett-Adams Games. He also, incidentally, writes the weblog Static Zombie. -- MB
When we develop new party games, we'll often think of really cool high-tech gadgetry that would enable some terrific game experiences. But we face two problems. We have no electronics background, so we can't MacGyver a doorbell and a hair dryer into a Jeopardy! lock-out buzzer. And even if we could, we'd face the problem of how to bring that technology to a Wal-Mart price point. So when we're prototyping a new game, we have to resort to simpler, mechanical solutions.
For our latest party game, a clue-giving communication game similar to $25,000 Pyramid, we envisioned a train theme with a timer that was actually a mechanical train chugging along a railroad track. Each section of track remaining when players stopped the clock would earn them bonus points. We couldn't find any suitable trains at local shops, but we did find other wind-up toys of appropriate size. So instead of a train, our early prototype featured a wind-up duck that waddled down the track. Playtesters were immediately drawn to the cute little duck, and asked to play the "duck game," but ultimately we streamlined the game design and eliminated the mechanism altogether. When Hasbro bought the game they changed the theme completely so trains weren't even involved.
The lesson to us is clear, and sometime soon we'll design a game involving fowl play.
That party game, minus the train theme, became Tie One On and was published this fall by Hasbro. It is currently only available at Wal-Mart.
If you have young children (3-6 years old), you might like our other new game this year: The Crazy Mixed Up Zoo Game from Simply Fun. This is a game with beautiful components that scales in difficulty as children get older. And since it's a memory game, kids will often win against adults.
Finally, coming in March from Rio Grande Games is our latest game, If Wishes Were Fishes. This one's a family game where players can catch fish and sell them later at market, or throw them back and be granted a wish that may give them an edge over the opposition.
-- Peter Sarrett
January 23, 2007
The Cliche Rotation Project
The following post was inspired by the fourteenth suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Jon Deal of Ransom-Note-Typography. Jon posted a video today in honor of the occasion, so you should definitely check it out.
Despite crotchety old men like me carping about acronyms like "LOL" and "IMHO," we've always had literary shortcuts that allow us to get our point across economically. They are called "cliches," and they are an essential element of our language. Just think how many words you'd have to write or say to communicate the same idea that "caught with his pants down" expresses so succinctly.
Of course, the problem with cliches is that they are just so darned ... you know. Cliche.
That's why I am initiating the Cliche Rotation Project, to replace our current set of cliches with new ones of equivalent meaning. For example:
Come, join me in the CRP. If drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information:
Do-It-Yourself Oscar Poll Page
Yes, I'll run the Do-It-Yourself Oscar Poll Page again this year. Gimmie a few days; I'll have it set up by Friday.
January 22, 2007
The Fire Of Youth
The following post was inspired by the thirty-seventh suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Virginia Culler of I Absolutely Hate The Word "Blog".
The adult seemed a little flustered by the speed of my response. "Your bike?" she asked, incredulous. "You could always buy a bike, you know. Isn't there something personal you'd want to save?"
She, like most adults, didn't understand. It wasn't important to have "a bike" after the fire; it was important to have my bike. Back then, certain possessions were practically an extension of my identity.
For a while there, around the time I was seven, my prized possession was a stick. It was a length of birch, maybe a yard in length and an inch in diameter, that I'd stripped of bark, and employed as a lightsaber in my backyard reenactment of pivotal Star Wars scenes. Plastic lightsabers were selling for a dime a dozen at the time, but I was happy with my stick -- after all, we'd shared so many adventures together.
One day we both broke -- it in half, I into tears -- and I knew it could never be replaced. Sticks like that don't grow on trees, you know.
So what would I save now, if my house were burning down and my family were already safe? Man, I don't know. Nothing leaps to mind.
In a way I'm proud of this -- attachment to stuff is such a drag, you know? But, still, I can't help but romanticize the days when my Dapper Dan or my Mickey Mouse wristwatch meant the world to me.
Maybe, if my house were burned down tomorrow, I'd use it as an opportunity to reclaim some of that lost innocence. I'd break into my garage, save my bike, and then ride up and down the block to share the news with my neighbors. "Come look," I'll cry excitedly, "A house is burning down! Oh boy: I bet the fire engines will be here any minute!"
Plugapalooza: The Offbeat Bride
I first met Ariel Meadow Stallings virtually via Metafilter, and later in person when she moved (back) to Seattle. She writes the weblog Electrolicious, hosts the Salon of Shame, and is one of the founders of hooping.org. -- MB
The theory is that even freaks get married sometimes, and in a world of 300-page glossy bridal magazines catering to people with princess fantasies, freaks need all the wedding advice they can get. That's where Offbeat Bride: Tafetta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides comes in.
While the title suggests that the book is only for women, there are more than a few offbeat grooms quoted in the book, including Mr. Defective Yeti himself:
Blogger Matthew Baldwin, from Seattle, Washington, was married at the Seattle Aquarium. He explained that "During the planning process we discovered that a lot of places that seem 'exotic,' like the aquarium, are actually a bargain, because they are considered city or state parks and therefore rent for cheaper than you would get a corresponding hall. We loved getting married there — the best part was that whenever we had a 'transition' (such as from wedding to reception or whatever), there were otters to look at for the guests." Matthew went so far as to say, "We went to a traditional church wedding about a month after our aquarium wedding, and all we could think was, Booooooooring." He has a point: When was the last time you saw otters at a church wedding?
So yes: while I somehow wrote a book about weddings, it uses otters to mock church nuptials — and I pride myself on having written the only wedding guide offering advice for dealing with stoners at receptions:
While traditional brides may worry about Uncle Joey getting drunk and lecherous, many offbeat brides have, well, other concerns. Debra Hanson from Iowa City, Iowa recounted, "Most of our friends are stoners, and we had different groups of smoker-friends coming together and knew that would be a big part of their bonding together. I requested ahead of time for people to please keep it discreet, and they did, for the most part. That was probably my biggest stress surrounding the wedding. I didn't want my conservative relatives to see my friends smoking and have there be drama. Most brides worry about flowers and food, but I was consumed with worry about this! I wish I hadn't fretted so much though, as everyone was very discreet and respectful of my wishes."
For more information, head to www.offbeatbride.com.
-- Ariel Meadow Stallings
Plugapalooza Pregame Festivities
If you have a blog you'd like to promote, send me an email with:
Update: I got all I need. Thanks for playing!
January 19, 2007
I LOL U
Apparently Valley Wag has named me one of the 12 Funniest People on the Internet. I assume they mean "funny" in the sense of "does this mu shu pork taste funny to you?" because, otherwise, I can't imagine how I wound up in the company of Ze Frank and Bob Powers.
Anyway, if you are coming here from that article, allow me to direct you to the favorite posts page, where some of these alleged gut-busters reside.
January 18, 2007
Dumb Or Really Dumb?
Have you seen that show Deal or No Deal? It's incredible. And by "incredible" I mean "incredible it wasn't canceled seven minutes into the pilot." Seinfeld fancied itself "a show about nothing," but, man, these guys really walk the walk.
A contestant comes on and is given an amount of money between one cent and a million bucks. That's it. That's the entire program. Everything else is suspenseful music and reaction shots.
The other day I saw a woman at Target buying a copy of the Deal Or No Deal board game. Yes, the only thing that could make that formula more exciting is if you took the money and the models out of the equation. Man, throw in a six-pack of nonalcoholic beer and your evening will be off the hook!
Of course, the real weakness of Deal Or No Deal is that the show is all carrot and no stick -- I mean, even a "loser" still walks away a penny richer. That's why I'm currently pitching an even better show to ABC called "Ten Grand Or Tennis Ball To The Nuts?"
Here's how it works. A contestant comes on stage, and a tennis ball cannon is aimed at his privates. A giant digital stopwatch begins counting down backwards from 30 seconds; when it reaches zero, the player either receives a check for $10,000 or an incapacitating groin injury. Sometimes, in the latter case, the ball is fired with such velocity that it bursts, whereupon children rush on stage to collect the candies that spill out.
Hypothetically the contestant would have a 50% chance of receiving the money. But, because I know what the American people want (i.e., "to see people roll around on a stage while groaning in agony"), we'd rig it so only 3 out of any 10 players walk away with cash, while the rest don't walk anywhere for a fortnight.
Best of all, the scenes of Testicular Trauma can be repackaged and aired again later in the week as part of "America's Funniest Home Videos." And 70% of the people stupid enough to go on my program would be unable to reproduce thereafter. ITS WIN-WIN-WIN!
January 17, 2007
Books: Yendi and Teckla
In the week since I finished Jhereg I've plowed through the next two volumes in the Vlad Taltos series. I'm not really a "two books in a week" kind of reader these days, but as each of the novels is just a shade over 200 pages and written in the same breezy, compulsively readable style of the first, getting these two off my "to read" pile was as easy as knocking back beers.
Yendi manages to avoid seeming like a sequel in a couple of ways. First, it is set a number of years before the events of Jhereg. Second, it doesn't duplicate the plot of the first book, instead spinning a more straightforward adventure / fantasy yarn: Vlad, a younger man and still fairly inexperienced in the business of organized crime, finds himself in a turf war with a neighboring Boss trying to horn into his territory. And, third, the narrative actually has a romance component. The story lacks some of the inventiveness of Jhereg, but the first set the bar on "clever" pretty high, so it can certainly be excused for failing to clear it.
Teckla, the third book in the series, takes place after Jhereg. This book does suffer from some sequel-itis -- the central story is about yet another turf war, just as Yendi before it. It's also the gloomiest of the three by far, with Vlad moping about for the final half of the story. I hated the fourth and fifth Harry Potter books for exactly this reason, but at least when Vlad gets depressed he goes around stabbing people in the heart with stilettos -- a vastly superior coping mechanism to whining, if ya ask me.
As I mentioned before, each of the books is entirely self contained. You could read them in reverse chronological order and everything would still make perfect sense, though Jhereg is indisputably the best introduction to the series. And all three can be found in a single volume, called The Book of Jhereg. If you're like me you'll have a hankering for more Brust the moment you finish Jhereg, so you may as well get the compendium to ensure that you don't go hungry for a moment.
January 16, 2007
I remember the first time The Squirrelly saw a photo of a fox. I had just picked up a book called "Foxes and Their Dens" from the library and, upon arriving home, handed it to him. He looked at the cover and said "dog!" Then he appeared unsure of himself. After a moment's consideration he tentatively ventured "kitty?"
"No, it's a fox," I told him.
He looked at me confused, as if to say "Wha-?! It's a dog and a kitty in the same animal?"
January 15, 2007
You Say Tomato
My Pa-In-Law came to visit last weekend. At one point he was reading a small book.
Me: What'cha readin'?
January 12, 2007
The Bad Review Revue
School for Scoundrels: "Is to the multiplex what bagged spinach is to the produce aisle." -- Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST
Happily N'Ever After: "The best that can be said of this charmless animated picture is that whether or not it ends happily -- an outcome you're unlikely to give a hoot about -- it does, happily, end." -- Ruthe Stein, San Francisco Chronicle
The Holiday: "Like her namesake, Meyers has quite a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A." -- Scott Foundas, VILLAGE VOICE
Unaccompanied Minors: "The situations are so contrived they make SpongeBob Squarepants seem like a nature documentary." -- John Anderson, NEWSDAY
Thr3e: "R3ally, r3ally aw4ul." -- Phil Villarreal, Arizona Daily Star
January 11, 2007
THE QUEEN: You little --
MATTHEW: God damn it!
MATTHEW: Come on, you.
MATTHEW: Now, look: it's time to go to bed. Do you understand? I want you to stay in your bed. From now on. Do you understand?
MATTHEW: No, I'm totally for-serious this time. Stay in your bed. It's time for sleeping. Stay in your bed. Good night. Stay in your bed.
MATTHEW: He looked pretty tired. I think he's going to stay in his room this time.
THE QUEEN: [Ominously] He'd better ...
MATTHEW picks up the REMOTE CONTROL from the TABLE and sits on the SOFA next to THE QUEEN. He presses PLAY.
Enter THE SQUIRRELLY, left
THE QUEEN: That's it.
THE QUEEN: He won't bother us again.
MATTHEW: Why was the Pam in his bedroom?
THE QUEEN: It wasn't. I brought it with me, and sprayed it on his inside doorknob.
January 10, 2007
One nice thing about getting older: it's easier to pick out a book that I know in advance I'll enjoy. I just select any novel that I read before 1997 and vaguely remember liking the first time; my lack of long-term memory (which appears to max out at about a decade) ensures that the ending will still be a surprise.
And so I recently reread Jhereg. Actually, I was doubly sure I would enjoy it, as I'd read it twice before -- once shortly after its initial release in 1987, and a second time in the Peace Corps, some 10 years ago. It's not one of my all-time favorite works of literature or anything, but it certainly lends itself to rereading: it's short, it's funny, it's clever, and, despite the fact that it's the first in a series of novels, it's self-contained.
Though set in a fantasy world (and fond in the "Fantasy" section of your local bookstore), Jhereg is more of a mystery novel. In fact, it's really two separate mysteries. The first revolves around a thief named Mellar, a former member of the Jhereg high council who embezzled an obscene amount of money and then promptly vanished. Another member of the council contacts the book's protagonist, Vlad Taltos, and charges him with the task of tracking down the missing man and funds. Though this proves to be fairly easy, Vlad must still unravel the intricacies of the heist, to learn how and why Mellar committed the crime.
The second mystery is inverted and stacked atop the first. Because, you see, Vlad isn't a private detective -- he's an assassin. He has been hired to bring Mellar to the authorities, but to very publicly kill him, to ensure that no one ever dare steal from the Jhereg again. To that end, Vlad must endeavor not to solve "the perfect murder," but rather to plan an execute it. And Mellar does his best to make Vlad's task difficult, setting up a Doomsday device of sorts, which prevents Vlad from striking even though he knows exactly where to find his target.
The is a rich backstore to Jhereg -- about the 17 ruling houses, the difference between sorcery and witchcraft, and a complete bestiary of exotic creatures that inhabit the world -- but author Steven Burst only reveals what you need to know to understand and enjoy the current chapter, never letting the narrative get bogged down in lengthy exposition. There is plenty of humor in the story (mostly witty repartee between Vlad, his assistant, Kragar, and his familiar Loiosh) but this isn't one of those "comic fantasy novels,' a la Terry Pratchett or Piers Anthony -- though the characters joke around, their work is (literally) deathly serious. And Burst has written each of the nine books in the series such that no one book is a prerequisite for another, and each can be read, understood, and enjoyed independently.
I'm not really a huge fan of fantasy novels, so don't let the genre deter you. Jhereg is a light, funny, inventive, and engrossing book, and one I look forward to reading again in 2017.
January 09, 2007
Rest 3-5 Minutes Before Serving, Momofuku Ando
Last Friday, Momofuku Ando, inventor of instant ramen noodles and chairman of the company that makes Top Ramen, passed away. He was 96.
His body will be cremated in accordance with his wishes, and the ashes sealed into a tiny, square, foil packet.
January 08, 2007
Hi! Sorry about that. The fam'bly and I took a bit of a holiday vacation there, and I've been largely off the grid since mid December. Wait, what does "off the grid" mean, exactly? Does it mean "without access to the Internet?" Or does it mean "completely without electricity?" In retrospect, the latter sounds more likely. But, whatever: we bloggers are totally rewriting the rules for media, you know (it said so in Time!), so if I say "off the grid" means "without access to the Internet" then, by Jiminey Popsicles, that's what it means. OFF THE GRID! WEB 2.0! BUILD TO SPILL uh I mean FLIP OR WHATEVER!!!!!
Anyway, here's a photo of my son sitting in the lap of an old man who wears a furry costume and hangs out at the mall.
Awww yeah -- two years old and he's already mastered the White Man's Overbite. The kid's a prodigy, I tell ya.
Fortunately, The Squirrelly is still too young to entirely "get" Christmas, so we didn't have to decide whether to let him believe in The Big Guy yet. Personally, I'm torn. On the one hand, he is the central figure in Christmas, and I guess there's no harm in letting him think he's real for a few years. On the other, I just can't help but imagine how crestfallen he'll be when he discovers that he's just a make-believe character. Some kids at school will spill the beans, he'll come home crying and ask us if it's true, and we'll have to say, yes, we've been lying to you all these years: there is no Jesus.
For now, all The Squirrelly knows is that December 25 = a whole buncha swag. He made out pretty good this year, too. His Grandma bought him a tricycle. His great-uncle bought him a remote control car. His aunt went berserk and bought him a crapload of stuff, the least of which was a book called Hot Rod Harry which he inexplicably loves. (And what did Papa get? Papa got to read Hot Rod Harry a hundred and thirty times over a two week period. What fun. It's a helluva lot easier to get through than Moby Dick, though -- I'll give it that much.)
He also got a Memory / matching game, with people's faces as the pictures. But I didn't realize that at first. When he ripped off the wrapping paper and exposed the box's bottom, I thought it was, like, a Whitman's Sampler for cannibals.
Another thing we had fun doing over the holidays was making up words to those Christmas songs to which we did not know the correct lyrics, i.e., pretty much all of them, insofar as we are Godless Heathens (see above: yukking it up over nonexistence of Savior). But, having never heard these songs before in his two years of life, The Squirrelly accepted whatever we coughed up as the Authoritative Version. Which is why, two weeks after the yuletide, he is still ambling around the house singing this:
(To the tune of O Christmas Tree)
Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I also bought out good-for-nothing cats a Kitty Castle for Christmas.
I mention this as a warning to others who might consider doing something so stupid. I brought into the house, put it in the corner, and prepared to watch the cats cavort with glee. Instead, Louie sauntered up to it and, as if he had scaled the thing a thousand times, nonchalantly climbed up to the top; moments later Eddie moseyed into the scene and, without so much as a sniff of curiosity, leapt onto the middle platform. Then they both settled down and watched birds out the window for half an hour. Subtext: we are too dumb to ever remember this not being here. YOU EFFING INGRATES I COULDA BOUGHT A WII FOR THAT! If anyone reading this has a kid who might like some pets for Christmas 2007, drop me a line in November and we'll work something out.