Monday, August 31, 2009

30 days to changing my life

My life is getting really scary right now. I'm just about done my semester in library science which will put me halfway to completing the degree. The problem is, I don't have the finances to complete it at this time. There was some issues with my financial aid forms and my bill is unpaid for what I have completed. I can get Stafford loans for the upcoming semesters but cannot for the previous work. No one wants to loan me the money, either, because I'm underemployed.

There is problem number two. I don't have much time left on unemployment. I need to find a job, pronto. Or become really good at forging paintings. Haven't decided which yet.

Add to that the final conclusion to what was once a promising relationship and I could be getting depressed right now.

But you know what? I'm not. I began realizing last month that I needed to make some changes. It's been almost a year since I lost my job and even though I have become a little bit stronger than I was at this point last year, I'm not even close to being as fit. I also am not that attractive carrying around this extra weight. That's one change I need to make.

Do you know how long I've wanted to write a book? Most of my life. Probably since I first had something published back in high school. I haven't written a book because I think I suck as a writer. Well, enough of that nonsense, too.

I'm not moving. The boowahs started school and I really want Gaga to finish up high school here. He made the soccer team. He did well last year and is excited about this year. Doodle will be going to the same school for the first time in a while. Last year was his third straight year of changing schools. He is in a couple of choirs. I really don't want to uproot them again. It also means I want to get this house straightened up. My Dad has been up and has helped me fix up the bathroom which I am immensely grateful for. I'd like to get the hallway and the barn finished up.

Since school seems to be out for the time being unless a bank unexpectedly comes through, I'll have more time this month to get my life in order. Even if I were to start up with school again, it does not begin until the 21st anyway.

I hit up Zander's book The Art of Possibility again and it has been the inspiration and instruction I have needed.

For the next thirty days, I'm going to mold my life into what I want it to be. Here's what I want to happen and how I'm going to do it:

1. Improved fitness - Crossfit every day, as rec'd. A minimum of 20 minutes of rowing five times a week. Practice my karate techniques, jump rope and arm work in the form of pushups and pullups each twice a week for ten minutes.

2. Improved dietary consumption leading to weight loss. Strict paleo diet for the month of September. No cheating. I'm also ditching my diet teas for the month. That's scarier than being broke.

3. Work on my book. One of the topics I've been interested in writing about is very vast and I have wondered who will publish it once it is written. Cart before the horse. I'm going to have fun researching and writing it and let the chips fall where they may.

4. Get a job. I'm probably going to have take a non-library position, at least temporarily. So be it. Resumes and networking this month.

5. Work on the house. My folks will help me with spackling and painting the hallway. I can work on the barn. I need to fix the column in the front of the house but I have left the indoor/outdoor patio off of my bedroom in a state of incompletion for reasons I'm not discussing. No mas. That is a great place for me to be working on my book once I get it fixed up. Need to run electricity to the pond for the filter but there's no rush on that. Probably not a September thing.

6. Go on a date. You know, with all my free time.

I think that's a pretty good way to fill a month. There's not a thing on there that makes me go, "Oh, yuck, I don't want to do that". Well, taking a less than ideal job but hopefully it won't come to that.

I appreciate any encouragement and/or support you wish to give. Thanks.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hang (Drums)

You ever hear of a hang (drum)? Until recently, I had not. It's a very cool sounding musical instrument (or sound sculpture as the creators like to label it) that was created by a couple of Swiss at the beginning of the millennium. It resembles a steel drum in sound but is portable, resembling a UFO in appearance almost. Some folk just call it a hang. It seems like a drum to me.

I came across it when XPN did a feature on Philadelphia hang player, Dante Bucci. Since then, I've checked out some other hang players but I haven't found anyone who sounds half as good as he does. Most of the other players I heard have that New Age sound to them - just sort of random pleasing sounds. Bucci actually composes some nice tunes with catchy phrasings that stick with you and he lets the resonance of the instrument make it sound like there are multiple overlapping parts. Here's video of him playing his song Reminiscence:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Media mix of August 26th

[Listen] What song/group of songs would you use as a backdrop to your nightmares? Do you ever actually have songs playing in your head during your nightmares?

I rarely have nightmares. I also rarely dream of music. My most lucid dreams tend to have ambient sound - wind, birds, traffic. I cannot even think of when I last had a nightmare and what it was. Hard to come up with a soundtrack when you know nothing about the content.

[Watch] What is your favorite documentary?

I'll tell you the documentary I really want to see. Zidane. I do not care for soccer in the least but this movie looks terrific. I also want to see Helvetica.

Not to sound like a broken record, but I just don't watch a lot of movies. I struggled to think of documentaries I've seen and when I came up with some, none really struck me as being something I could remotely call a favorite. Then it hit me, though. I really enjoyed Thoth.

[Read] As a child, what was your most memorable character in a book?

Alan Mendelsohn, of Daniel Pinkwater's Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars is the most memorable character of my childhood by leaps and bounds, edging his bookmate Leonard Neeble. Slippery Jim DiGriz of Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series is in the hunt but loses out because of some boring stories. Fritz Leiber's duo, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stick in my head from the Dungeons and Dragons type of stuff. Moving into the high school years, Lestat and Louis from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Sherlock Holmes has been in my life for longer than I can remember. Rabbi David Small of Harry Kemelman's Rabbi Small detective series was enjoyable. Hmmmm.....what other memorable characters of my youth can I memorate?

Oh, Conrad Stargard. He was a cool guy in Leo Frankowski's books. Frank and Joe Hardy.

It would seem that the majority of characters I remember from my childhood comes as a result of my reading about them in many books. Mendelsohn and Neeble seem to be the only one book characters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer

It's not often that I come across a story that is completely unique. This may be, though, because I am not well-versed in horror genre. Labeling this a horror book seems questionable to me although I have seen it listed as such online.

The tastefully named Jonathan Howard is the writer of Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer, a book I bought for the library and one I was the second to read (my oldest son beat me to it and enjoyed it also (and he is a fan of Lovecraft)).

It is about a fellow Cabal, who, by selling his soul to Satan, has learned the power of necromancy. The book begins with Cabal traveling to hell to visit Satan in order to get his soul back. While obviously powerful and confident, Cabal has been disappointed with his "successes" in raising the dead and wants to renegotiate. Satan is cool with the idea and promises to give Cabal his soul back in exchange for 100 souls in a year's time, but they must be acquired with the aid of a traveling carnival.

Cabal is a necromancer, not a businessman, so he turns to his older brother Horst, a shrewd fellow, for assistance. The thing is, Horst is a vampire (and has become so because of Cabal although it is never explained how), and has been entrapped in a tomb for quite some time until Cabal comes to release him.

Cabal staffs his carnival with the undead, sometimes killing the people so that he can raise them from the dead. We find that his skills are flawed and that there always tends to be something wrong with the finished product, despite years of practice.

As the year comes to a close, Cabal finds himself a few souls short and has to resort to trickery to get the last few souls. Up to that point, he "nobly" takes the souls of those whose actions in life have already ticketed their souls for Satan. It is when he takes the souls of these innocents that Satan's plans become clear.

In the end, however, Cabal finds a way to trick Satan as well and he returns to his home, the first time we realize he has one, where we find why (vaguely) Cabal needed to become a necromancer in the first place.

The book is dark but also very funny with some laugh out loud spots in it. The writing is a little uneven which can be expected and forgiven of a first novel. There is a lot of missing backstory which would have been nice to have (How and why is Horst a vampire? How and why is Cabal a necromancer? How did he come to meet Satan and make that trade in the first place? Etc.). There is rumor of another book already even though this book has only been available in the U.S. since July. Whether this is a sequel, prequel or both, or whether it even exists, remains to be seen. I'll definitely read it when it comes out and I recommend this book because of its unusual story.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Send Adam Dunn to the minors

The fellows at put up a minor league equivalency calculator on the site so one can see how a player's minor league performance translates into major league performance factoring in level of competition and ballpark effects.

You can also run it in reverse and see what the equivalent performance by a major leaguer would be if he were back in the farm system.

For fun I prorated Adam Dunn's Washington Nationals numbers over a full season and then stuck him in Kane County, the Oakland Athletics affiliate in the Midwest League (and wouldn't Dunn just fit in great with the Athletics?).

Dunn's full season numbers equate to a .553 batting average, .709 on-base percentage and 1.272 slugging percentage in Kane County. The raw numbers:
444 AB, 177 R, 246 H, 54 2B, 0 3B, 89 HR, 239 RBI, 230 BB, 154 K.

Wouldn't that be fun to watch Dunn for a full season at Class A?

Used properly, though, the calculator is a nice tool. I have been dismayed that the Royals have not promoted native Hawaiian Kila Ka'aihue this season despite his .400 OBP. Plugging in his numbers from Omaha, you see that his low batting average translates into an almost unusable batting average at the major league level, despite his ability to draw walks. Then again, it's the Royals, what could it hurt?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Media mix of August 19th

[Listen] What music did your family listen to as you were growing up, and did that music end up influencing you in any way?

Philistines! That was my family growing up. To this day I'm not sure how I quite ended up the way I did with music. I think a lot of it was just from playing music so much in band and orchestra but even taking that into account, I sure did an awful lot of exploring with music then and now.

My family enjoyed Kenny Rogers, The Mandrell Sisters, Willie Nelson, The Statler Brothers, Loretta Lynn, Alabama. At Christmas time there was some group we listened to a lot that I enjoyed and I'm completely blanking on the name. The fact that I don't listen to much country is probably due to familial reverse-influence.

[Watch] What is your most quotable movie? And if you want, share a couple quotes from it.

Oh, easy. Real Genius.

Compared to you, most people have the IQ of a carrot.

You get even with Kent. It's a moral imperative.

Self-realization. I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "I drank what?"

How's it feel to be frozen?! Yeah, ice is nice!

Take one and pass them back, just like your I.Q. was normal.

Take very good care of this young man. He's one of the ten finest minds in the country.
Someday I hope to be two of them.

I could just go on and on and on. But I won't.

[Read] Think about the last book you read. In what ways were you similar to the writer or narrator?

I just finished reading Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. The narrator is a rare book dealer. Outside of the appreciation of books, I don't think there are a lot of similarities. He is sixty years old, Italian, grew up during World War II, spends most of the novel in a coma. We both like women which isn't an incredible coincidence since we're both guys. We do not share the same tastes in music. We both enjoyed Cyrano de Bergerac immensely. We both have children. We both have propensities to write about lots of things that might not be important to anyone but ourselves.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Human Fly and Other Stories

Three of the next four books I'm going to review are collections of short stories which is just crazy. This is crazy for two reasons. First, I really have never enjoyed short stories. They usually leave me feeling unfulfilled. To me they are usually short because whatever is being written about isn't interesting enough to merit being written about or they are good but could stand to be developed into something more than a short story (a novel or at least a novella).

The second reason this is crazy is that they were all good. Perhaps this isn't so crazy because all three collections are by authors who wrote novels that I would rank among my all-time favorites.

The collection I'm writing about today, The Human Fly and Other Stories is by T.C. Boyle. Yes, I felt enough time had passed since I read The Women, to give it a shot. It did not disappoint. I was surprised to find it on the Young Adult shelf at the library and was even more so once I read it. Sex and violence are the main reasons. I guess I have too much 1950's in me. I don't know. All the main characters either are teenaged or are reflecting on their teen-age years. The stories have a wide array of topic matter: a competitive-eating contest, two teenagers who kill their newborn baby, a high school football player in his last game who is coming off of a 56-0 defeat, a teen visiting Jack Kerouac's house on Christmas Day, and many more.

The stories are all sort of off beat, written beautifully, and impressively complete. They have tidy endings. I'm not left wanting more or thinking the story was a bunch of hooey. If you want to try out T.C. Boyle's writings and don't want to go through a 400+ page novel, you can't go wrong getting your exposure to him with this book. It's also under ten bucks new online which to me is just a phenomenally cheap price for a writer of Boyle's caliber.

Friday, August 14, 2009

American Psycho

I'm not much for movies. On occasion, in an effort to procrastinate, I'll rewatch something online. It isn't too often I'll watch something new. New movies tend to disappoint me.

In a short period of time I came across two references to the film American Psycho on College Humor that made me want to watch the film. Both are Not Safe For Work.

The first was from their group of sketches, Hardly Working:

The second was a music video from Miles Fisher. His remake of the Talking Heads song This Must Be the Place.

Check out Miles' website. You can download his EP for free. He also does a nice Tom Cruise impersonation:

I enjoyed American Psycho. Definitely a weird flick. Based on a Bret Easton Ellis book. He's a guy I've never read and ought to. His writings have often been made into movies including another 80's era (the era in which American Psycho is set) flick, Less than Zero.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

A few days ago I mentioned Jonathan Safron Foer and how much I enjoyed his books. Here's the review of the second one, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. As fantastic as Everything is Illuminated was, I still liked Extremely Loud better. Considering I toyed with ranking Everything is Illuminated (EII) as the best book I read this year, well, you get the idea.

The book is about a precocious nine-year old boy named Oskar Schell. Oskar's father had died in the World Trade Center attacks. Oskar is the narrator but like EII, some of the story is told through letters, in this case from Oskar's grandfather. When Oskar discovers a vase hidden in his father's closet that contains an envelope holding a key, he sets out to try and discover more about his lost father.

I'm at a loss as to how to write about this without revealing things. I felt like there were some similarities between this book and Shadow Baby. The protective single parent who keeps information hidden from the child. The precociousness of the child. Missing relatives. Sadness.

Foer makes use of photographs and fonts in this book, too, which seems to be a characteristic of what people consider postmodern. Like every aspect of the book, these visual effects are well done and add to the story.

I really cannot stress enough how much I enjoy Foer's books. Assuming he writes more, I'm sure he'll end up being one of my favorite authors.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Alain de Botton on success

37signals linked to this nice TED talk by Alain de Botton on success:

I loved de Botton's book The Architecture of Happiness so had to watch this. He has some interesting thoughts on success and career and the juxtaposition of work/life.

Those who know me know I've never been keen on a career. I was reflecting the other day on how this time last year one of my primary concerns with my life was whether I wanted to take up a string instrument or capoeira. That was the tough choice with which I was coping. I felt pretty good about the majority of my life.

Those same people also know that more than anything, I have tried to be a good father. If I were to say I have been successful in any arena, it is that. My oldest, now solidly in his teens, only ever proclaims hate for me while laughing. I hope to avoid the teen-angst hate and expect I will. I feel like I have achieved the "tough but gentle" line that de Botton talks about at the end of his talk. So I'm happy with my role as Dad.

Beyond being a good Dad, I'm not sure what else would make me feel successful. There is a job I want to have ultimately...I think. And it is somewhere where I want to live the rest of my days...I think. And I also think there are a few things that I want to do with my life before I'm dead and gone. By and large, though, I'm pretty happy with my life. I don't think many people would be envious of it but that's mostly because I rarely want what the majority of people do.

On the flipside, I don't feel envy towards many people. My friend, Jason, mostly. He somehow manages to completely utilize his time for himself and the things he enjoys doing. He does this without being selfish, either, which I find impressive. If I were single and without kids, I'd probably aspire to be like him.

My friend, Danielle, too. I get envious of her. Her personal seesaw is heavily weighted on the life side rather than the work (as is Jason's). She has a wonderful spouse whom she loves very much (and vice versa), a nice house in Philly (what makes it nice to me is their sense of style more so than the building itself), and a great sense of adventure.

I cite them because it helps me to see what I want to be successful. A loving partner. Time/financial freedom/whatever else might help me feel more comfortable about pursuing my interests.

Which returns me to de Botton's talk. I can't be successful in everything. Being a good father requires sacrificing time and money (and my computer). When the boowahs are all growns up, then maybe I can pursue my interests some more. I don't know how successful I'll be at capoeira with my body size at age 50 so maybe I'll have to shoehorn that in sooner than later. There are plenty of things I can be doing now (or at least once I'm free of school).

There's my thoughts on success. Hope it inspires you to think about your own sense of success.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thank goodness for Burkina Faso bankers

I had always heard about the importance of networking but didn't really take it seriously until I got into librarianship. Even though I've been networking with fellow librarians, it just takes one person talking to someone in another field - banking, medicine, professional hopscotch, etc. - to get my name around in other industries. I'm not exactly sure how it happened but word of my overall intellectual savvy has spread, apparently all over the globe.

Exhibit A: Today I got THREE e-mails from bankers in Burkina Faso who want my assistance in transferring money from accounts that belong to deceased European clients who died in crashes nine or ten years ago (it's almost spooky how similar all the situations are). Once I'm done with them all, my share of the accounts will be in excess of thirty million dollars. Do you know how many Powerball tickets I can buy with thirty million dollars? THIRTY MILLION! Or fifteen million if I choose the Power Play option. And if I hit the Powerball, I'll be rich!

Some of you jealous people might think this is a scam but these guys are from Burkina Faso, not Nigeria, so you know they're legit. Dr. Abdulazi Jabi (the dude is a doctorate for crying out loud, or maybe a medical doctor (or both)) expressed it most eloquently:
"This mail might come to you as a surprise and the temptation to ignore it as
unserious could come into your mind but please consider it a divine wish and accept it with a deep sense of humility"

I was tempted to ignore this all as unserious but my deep sense of humility makes me want to share my good fortune with all my readers. So if any of you want part of the thirty million dollars, just give me your bank account information and I'll forward it along to the bankers. There might be some small transaction costs involved but not enough that you won't be able to buy yourself a new car, especially if you take advantage of the Cash for Clunkers program.

Remember folks, network. Then you too might be known as the guy (or girl) who handles foreign based bank accounts of dead people.

July Darvish and Prince update

July was full of intrigue for Yu Darvish and Josh Prince.

I was all excited about the potential of Josh Prince setting the single season stolen base record for the Pioneer League. The Pioneer League is a short-season league, playing just 76 games in a year. Despite this, Prince was on pace to steal 55 bases, having pinched 26 in 36 games. The record is 60, set by Tom Goodwin of the Great Falls Dodgers who stole 60 bases in 63 games. Prince had a shot, especially if he would have been able to get another high steal game like he did at the start of the season.

Alas, the chance is now zero. That's a good thing for Prince, though, as he was promoted to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He has three steals in four games there and also has hit a pair of doubles. He's one step closer to reaching the majors. Prince has a shot at maintaining his league lead in steals in the Pioneer League, though. Casper's Avery Barnes is his biggest threat.

On the other side of the world, Yu Darvish had an episode which left me wondering what the equivalent event would be here and how Bud Selig would handle it. We'll get to that as we continue the game by game accounting:

Rakuten manages nine hits but can plate just a single run in seven innings against Darvish. One walk and seven strikeouts issued as Darvish gets a no-decision:
112 IP, 70 H, 22 BB, 103 K, 10-2, 1.13 ERA

Darvish has his worst start of the year against the Seibu Lions. In seven innings he again gives up nine hits but two of them are home runs, doubling his season total for home runs allowed. He limits the damage to four runs but still takes the loss.
119 IP, 79 H, 24 BB, 108 K, 10-3, 1.36 ERA

Is Darvish tiring? Is something wrong? Nah. Just human. Throws a complete game next time out. A four-hitter, striking out nine. He does give up another homer, though, as his only run surrendered.
128 IP, 83 H, 25 BB, 117 K, 11-3, 1.34 ERA

Three straight games with a home run allowed? Darvish enters the All-Star Break with another complete game, this time allowing two hits, one a homer, as Nippon beats Lotte, 2-1.
137 IP, 85 H, 29 BB, 123 K, 12-3, 1.31 ERA

Here's where the drama starts. Two days later, Darvish gets the start for the first All-Star game (the All-Star series is a best of three games in Japan). This surprised me a bit. Japanese starters tend to throw just one game a week so they get six days rest typically. Darvish is going again after one day? Granted, it's an All-Star Game and he wasn't going to pitch much anyway. I still thought it was an unusual decision.

Darvish did not pitch much anyway as he took a line drive off of his pitching shoulder and left the game after one inning.

Can you imagine the response here in the States if such a thing were to happen. We no longer have the skills competition before the All-Star game because Barry Larkin injured his knee during one in the 1980's. The All-Star game decides home field for the World Series now because we had a tie game one year. If a pitcher of Darvish's ability and popularity were to take a line drive off the shoulder in an All-Star Game!!!, I think that either the game would cease to be held or that pitchers would have to pitch behind batting practice screens and bunts would be disallowed. Probably the latter since no one bunts anyway in an All-Star game and MLB wouldn't want to lose the revenue.

Darvish is tough. His next start was pushed back a day to help him recover from the bruise and he threw another dandy to close out the month. Served up yet another home run but added nine strikeouts in eight innings.
145 IP, 90 H, 31 BB, 132 K, 13-3, 1.30 ERA

Darvish continues to be the best pitcher in Japan right now even with a month that contained five home runs allowed and his worst start.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Media mix of July 29th

I was going to do the media mix for today but she hasn't posted it yet (and may not). So here's last week's:

[Listen] What is your most memorable concert experience?

I go to so few concerts, virtually all of them are memorable. But let's see what highlights I can recall.

1. Seeing Denis DiBlasio perform during a Maynard Ferguson concert. That guy is awesome. I was surprised last summer to see that he is a professor/instructor at Rowan University in New Jersey. It would be awesome to be a music student there just for that reason.

2. I've seen George Benson in concert three times. Being the hip cat I am, I saw him a couple times in high school. Took this girl Trude to one of them where she proceeded to flirt with the guy on the other side of her the whole time which neither myself or his date took kindly to (plus, I think the guy was in his 20's. I was almost sixteen and my parents drove us). Unpleasant memory. Plus, when Trude told her friends she was going to see George Benson, they all thought she was going to see Robert Guillaume. No joke.

3. Seen Michael Tolcher three times. Each one was awesome for different reasons. Discovered him at the House of Blues in Chicago where he was an opening act for Everclear. Saw him at the World Cafe in Philadelphia, a lovely venue with good food. Lastly at the Stone Balloon in Newark, Delaware where the crowd was maybe thirty people or so. Fantastic concerts.

4. Steve Winwood outdoors with my good buddy Transfixed Ingress. Nice outdoor concert.

5. Itzhak Perlman is always amazing. Seen him multiple times.

6. Loretta Lynn. My first concert experience. My parents took me but I enjoyed the opening act, Bandana, much more and bought their cassette tape when I found it for a buck at a used record store about a decade later.

7. And, of course, DeVotchKa at the El Rey in L.A. Great concert. Got to witness one of the best cello players ever in Pawel Waleroski as part of the opening act Rupa and the April Fishes. Spent time with my friends. Then the always pleasant memory of the return to work and getting fired.

[Watch] What is your most memorable experience in a movie theater?

I have even fewer memorable experiences at movie theaters. Never have been a movie guy. Hate movies as vehicles for dates. Three movie things I remember fondly. A high school friend, Kevin, was a big movie fan and would drag us to flicks or drag us to his house to watch them. I don't know how many movies I slept through at his house.

1. Took whippersnappers with us to see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Made all the gun battles seem like they were in surround sound or something. Speaking of whippersnappers, a guy pulled a gun on us later that summer when we went to a Baltimore Orioles game and we were throwing whippersnappers out the car window. That was fun.

2. Seeing Like Father, Like Son and yelling "Dudleyyyyyyyyy" whenever Dudley Moore showed up. It got boring after a while since he stars in the flick. This led to us always saying to one another "I hope Dudley Moore is good in this one" when we went to future movies, something I still do today (although I see about one movie every five years in the theatre)." Fun to do when there are people around you because they start thinking they're in the wrong theatre.

3. Seeing Mississippi Burning. There's a very dramatic scene where someone's property has been burned down and all the carnage is showing. The theatre was very quiet and tense and then there was a shot of a burnt cow. My friend Kevin says, "Holy Cow!" and made everyone crack up.

[Read] What is your most memorable experience in a library?

I spend too much time in libraries for any of them to be really memorable. It's not like libraries are special occasions like concerts or movies. Plus, I always enjoy myself at a library whether I'm working or visiting as a patron. I can't even say I have a favorite library. I liked working at the University of Pittsburgh Library and that led me to leaving the University of Pittsburgh so I guess that's memorable. There were a bunch of guys who worked in the library with me and played Strat-o-Matic baseball. They got me to join their leagues. We spent all our time playing Strat and not going to classes. Great guys. Poor students.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The return

It's seemed like a lot longer than two weeks since I have posted and I'd like to thank everyone who wrote me wondering where I went. Mostly I got caught up in other stuff and just wasn't taking the time to write. I also wasn't really sure why I was writing. Hearing from people helped.

It also turns out that an attractive young woman helped...again. As I wrote a little while ago, I have a weakness for attractive women. Well last night the same girl mentioned in the post from before came into the library. I had only seen her once since she had mentioned Jonathan Safron Foer and I did not get a chance to talk to her then. She needed help requesting a movie online and I helped her with that but I got called off to help someone else before I could talk much to her.

I was working the circulation desk when she checked out, though, so I said to her "I've been wanting to thank you".
Her: "Me? For what?"
"A while back you were in here and you spoke very highly of Jonathan Safron Foer so I read his stuff and I loved it"
"REALLY?!?! What did you read?"
"I read both of his books, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud."
"I am so happy right now."

I don't think she could have been prouder or happier had she written the books herself. I swear she had tears in her eyes. I really wasn't expecting it. Thought maybe at best there'd be a "Cool, glad you liked it". So I was really surprised. I was really struck by her reaction but after she left I thought about it some and realized that I'm sort of the same way. One, there's something affirming when someone else likes the things we like. It makes us feel good. Two, it feels good to expose people to new things. I've become a DeVotchKa zealot, touting them to anybody and everybody. When someone tells me they listened to DeVotchKa and liked them, I feel warm and fuzzy inside. Same with Toby Barlow's Sharp Teeth. Some of it is pride in that I steered them towards it but some of it is that I'm glad that others are moved in the same fashion I was.

Which brings me back to the blog. One of the main purposes of this blog is to talk about what I read. I feel like I read a reasonable amount of stuff and a bunch of things that are off of the beaten path for most. Her reaction was sort of that "Aha!" moment for me (plus the outpouring (OK, trickle) of e-mails I received from readers.

Now I need to catch up. In the last two weeks I've finished five books, including Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I've reviewed these in chronological order so I'll continue to do so. Today's review is Steve Hely's How I Became A Famous Novelist. It's a nice little satire on the the industry of fiction writing. The main character, Pete Tarslow, is a ne'er do well who, in an attempt to largely spite his ex-girlfriend who is getting married to someone else, decides to write a novel. Rather than mine his imagination for the story, he reads bestsellers and models the characteristics of them to create his own, pretty terrible novel. But a few breaks and some publicity turn him into a bestselling author. Much to the chagrin of appreciators of literature, Tarslow pulls off his goal. In the end, though, he realizes that there is much more to writing and reading.

The book was moderately funny. The main character is not someone whom you root for which in itself is sort of nice. You're looking for him to get his comeuppance and he does. There's not really anything special about it, though, for me to recommend it.