Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Newsflash: Chest Pains Spoil Rush's Vacation

I saw a headline today that made me want to jump up and down with glee. When you hear what the headline was, you'll think I'm a heartless son of a bitch, who has obviously forgotten major portions of his Buddhist training. Here's the headline: "Rush Limbaugh admitted to Honolulu hospital." Now, my first thought was that this is the same corpulent rich bastard that hoped for President Obama to fail. Am I allowed to hope for Limbaugh's heart to fail? His spokesman, Kit Carson(?), said that "Limbaugh appreciates people's prayers and well-wishes." This is the same cowardly piece of putrescence that didn't serve his country in Vietnam, because he had an anal cyst. I'll refrain from making the obvious jokes.

I can imagine right wing bloggers (tea bloggers?) exhibiting outrage (tantrums), at any joy the left may take in an event that might take Rush Limbaugh out of the limelight. Here is a man who broadcasts hate and lies from his palatial mansion in Miami for a living, and we're supposed to treat him with loving kindness? Maybe if I was a monk, with my saffron robe and begging bowl, then maybe I could treat men like Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney with compassion. Until then when I see that they are in the hospital with chest pains I think: "They brought it on themselves getting all worked up spreading hate and dissent."

I used to believe that there was good in everybody, but some of the extreme ideologues on the right have without a doubt erased that earnest belief of mine. The hateful lies that these rich media talking heads spew is almost laughable except for the fact that there are some very willfully ignorant people out there who believe the lies with reckless abandon. Who but the insane would side with the insurance companies during this whole health care debacle? Why would anyone in the working class vote for a party that consistently rejects any increase in the minimum wage? It's that whole What's the Matter With Kansas? thing.

This minority of willfully ignorant people also happen to be very adept at getting their faces on television by being loud and obnoxious. Television, and now Internet media, is very powerful and manipulative. The public is lead to believe that these so called "tea baggers" exist in greater numbers than they actually do. These are the kind of people that you're never going to run into at your local library. Glenn Beck's viewers are not likely to read the original Common Sense by Thomas Paine, but instead they'll digest Beck's warped interpretation of history. I'll never understand the right's continued disdain for college graduates and people of high intellect. I guess it does make sense when your goal is to keep the masses willfully ignorant.

Well, that's my political/social rant for the night. Limbaugh's admittance to the hospital is what got me started. A few other comments on that note: It was recently reported that Limbaugh was engaged to be married for the fourth time. The photo of the proverbial happy couple showed a shapely blonde named Kate Rogers, who is a party planner. No kidding...a party planner. She is 32 and the Porcine king of right wing talk radio is 58. Only 26 years years difference. I'm sure that they have a lot in common though.

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open." - A quote attributed to Frank Zappa. I wish Frank was here to give us his commentary on Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Smart people are not often give the microphone in this day of "reality TV" and Fox "News." I leave you with a video of Frank Zappa from 1987 on CNN's Crossfire. He looks a little bored being the only smart person on a panel of ignorant buffoons.


Oh yeah. Get well soon Rush Limbaugh. Best wishes.

She's Super Freaky!


Thanks to my favorite political blog, The Political Carnival, for posting this "Afternoon Distraction" video. I guess it was one of Entertainment Weekly's top 10 viral videos of 2009. I had no idea. I'm out of the loop and I like it that way!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sacrilege or Sacred?

Is it sacrilegious to listen to Black Sabbath so close to Christmas? Too late!



Love the outfit. Was fringe ever really in? Here's a different video that may be a little more seasonal. But then again, maybe not. My Christmas music is all packed away, so Black Sabbath will have to suffice.



Ozzy Osbourne. Just another one of Santa's helpers. Or maybe it's Satan's helper. The spelling is so close. They're anagrams, you know. There's probably a conspiracy there somewhere.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December What?

Another big money night at the bookstore. I mourn for the loss of other independent bookstores that have closed in the past year (R.I.P. Baily-Coy,) but I sure am happy to see Ravenna Third Place doing so well. The Ravenna neighborhood is very dedicated to us, but we also draw from many other areas. Locals always bring their out-of-town visitors in to show off their favorite bookstore. I guess I'm showing my pride.

I had a good morning with my son. He awoke early and wanted to watch "The Lady and the Tramp." I was able to doze a little longer, while he watched the animated canines cavorting. Soon it was requested that I make breakfast: "Yogurt, oatmeal, waffles and juice." Of course, he wasn't hungry enough to eat all that he requested, but he had good intentions.

Later on in the morning we made a trip to QFC to pick up a few necessities: laundry detergent and shampoo for daddy; and snacks for Justin. Justin and I have enjoyed a tradition of snacking at a local baseball field. We sit on the bleachers, and then Justin starts directing. "Daddy, you move over there. No. Over there!" Okay. All right already. Maybe he'll be in management when he grows up.

After lunching at Red Robin (where else?) we headed to the local hardware store. Justin is going through his flashlight stage. Don't all boys go through their flashlight stage? Anyway, he likes to play with his flashlight at bedtime, and often I need to pry it from his fingers after he's asleep and turn it off. Well, recently his cheap Spiderman flashlight bit the dust. We found out on a day that he wanted to bring it with him to Red Robin. He told me that he needed it to "watch the girl eating macaroni and cheese." He seemed to have this fantasy, or maybe it was a dream he had, about using his flashlight at Red Robin to watch some girl eat her macaroni and cheese. His light wasn't working (thankfully), so we didn't bring it in. But he repeated his intention once we were seated at a booth. He even pointed in a certain direction like he had it all planned out.

Anyway,we stopped at the hardware store, and bought a nice little blue flashlight for him. He can use it to do his peeping.

Shop for Baby Jesus!

This is the week. Show your Christmas spirit by depleting your checking accounts, and resorting to plastic. Speaking as a lowly employee of an independent bookstore: we need sales! Actually, our bookstore is doing pretty good. Tonight we made over our goal, and -- as has been pointed out to me a couple of times -- these projections were made before the shit hit the fan, economically speaking that is. And it makes me happy to sell thousands of dollars worth of books in a day. Everything from I am a Bunny by Ole Risom, to The Lacuna, the latest novel by Barbara Kingsolver. My boss was just relating to me that he had heard a customer exclaiming how much he loved our store. It's something we hear quite a bit. We're a neighborhood bookstore, and our neighbors disdain big corporate stores. Lucky for us.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Oh, I'm sorry. This is Abuse."



This skit has been in my head for the past few months. Maybe my divorce mediation brought it to my mental forefront. Whatever...it's funny. No it isn't! Yes it is!

The Reading Year 2009

Books Read in 2009


1) Citizen Vince by Jess Walter
2) The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language by Steven Pinker
3) The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton
4) The Little Philosophy Book by Robert C. Solomon
5) Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwartz
6) The Power of Movies: How Screen and Mind Interact by Colin McGinn
7) What Does It All Mean? by Thomas Nagel
8) The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
9) Among the Missing by Dan Chaon
10) Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Rom Brafman
11) Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
12) The Relation of My Imprisonment by Russell Banks
13) Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
14) The Light of Falling Stars by J. Robert Lennon
15) Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg
16) Erased by Jim Krusoe
17) Who Do You Love by Jean Thompson
18) Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti
19) Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
20) Losing My Religion by William Lobdell
21) The Tenant by Roland Topor
22) Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David M. Eagleman
23) The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World by Colin McGinn
24) The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
25) A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
26) Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio
27) Invisible by Paul Auster


Top Ten in Descending Order

1) Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
2) Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David M. Eagleman*
3) Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon*
4) Invisible by Paul Auster*
5) What Does It All Mean? by Thomas Nagel
6) Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
7) A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
8) Losing My Religion by William Lobdell*
9) Citizen Vince by Jess Walter
10) Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti*
11) Erased by Jim Krusoe*


*Published in the U.S. in the year 2009.

The last entry (Benny & Shrimp) is a sentimental favorite. My significant other read it first and mentioned some similarities between the two main characters, and us. I read it and found some of the same elements. I read a lot of great books in 2009, as I do every year. It's tough to pick out ten (11) favorites, and tougher still to try and attempt rate their position among the vaunted ten (11.) Of the ten (11) books listed, six of them were actually published in 2009. That number surprises me, but it shouldn't now that I'm once again employed at a bookstore, and able to peruse new titles fresh off the press. I have also written staff pick cards for six of the ten (11) titles. I guess I figure that the other four don't need my help to sell copies.

Who knows? I may yet read another great book that qualifies itself for yet another inane top ten (11) list, but time is running out before 2009 becomes just another year past.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sick Day

I could feel this latest virus coming on last night, and I knew it was trouble. My son became afflicted over the weekend and spent most of Sunday vomiting. These are the types of winter colds that toddlers spread like wildfire. I've learned from nearly four years of being a parent that there is no way to avoid it, besides living in a bubble. And living in a bubble does not lend itself to good parenting.

I did the smart thing today and called in sick to work. I knew that if I tried to spend the night on my feet then I would feel worse tomorrow. Besides, did they really want me spreading the plague to our good customers? I didn't think so. So, after having lunch with Justin and his mother, I came back home and spent the afternoon on the couch, reading Invisible by Paul Auster. If it hadn't been the enjoyable page-turner that it was, I would have ended up dozing off. After the pleasure of finishing the novel, I laid in bed, trying to get comfortable for a couple of hours, never really sleeping.

So, now I have the evening to continue to nurse this cold, and browse through possible titles to read next. I've been dipping into a book of macabre short stories by the Russian author, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, for a few weeks now. Mainly I started reading them for a change of pace from Descartes' Error. It's a slim book and the stories are all pretty brief. I'll probably continue to read it off and on, but I also have the urge to start something new. Ah, the reader's life!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Paul Auster

Tonight I finally had the chance to finish reading Descartes' Error by Antonio Damasio, which I has started at the beginning of November. It's taken me over a month to read it, because my time is limited; and also because I have found that books on neuroscience are not necessarily page-turners. Like the brain itself, Descartes' Error was a complex book with many aspects to consider. I did enjoy it, especially since I have been slightly obsessed with the philosophy of mind for a while now. Damasio's classic work of neuroscience is opposed to the dualist view that Descartes favored. Damasio shows that reasoning does not function well without an emotional counterpart. He starts the work with an examination of the famous case of Phineas Gage, who sustained brain damage to his frontal lobe and his personality was severely effected. He could no longer make sensible decisions, and was fraught with frustration and anger issues. The Phineas Gage case comes up often in any study of the brain. It was one of the first medical cases that shed significant light on the workings of the brain, and in particular what sections contributed to various functions.

Now I am ready to dive back into some quality fiction. Paul Auster's most recent novel was released a few weeks back, and has received some of his best reviews in quite some time. I try not to read complete reviews, because quite often they give away too much of the plot. But I read enough to know that I would like to read Invisible as soon as possible. My hope is to read enough of the novel to select it for my featured staff pick in the bookstore for the month of January. I've only read three of Auster's previous novels (The Music of Chance, The Book of Illusions, and Oracle Night,) so I guess that I cannot claim to be a dedicated fan. I haven't even read his New York Trilogy yet, which is what put him on the literary map. My excuse for this shortcoming is the mere fact that there are too many quality books and just not enough damn time to read them.

In anticipation of reading Auster's Invisible I found this interview that previews the novel.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cold Enough for You?

It's been unusually cold in Seattle lately. I have to keep reminding myself that I've experienced much colder weather than this. I grew up in New England, where they actually have a season called winter. I also spent four years in North Dakota, while I was in the air force stationed at Grand Forks. We would be duty-bound to work out in the missile field, unless the temperatures got colder than 60 below zero. That was 60 below zero degree Fahrenheit. Trust me, that is pretty friggin' cold. And the wind chill sends the temp into the torture zone. We used to say that the wind didn't blow out there. It sucked, right down from the icy plains of Manitoba.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Status Report

As I type this it's not quite midnight. My son is sound asleep in the other room, and if I know what's good for me, I'll be asleep soon too. It was a very slow day at work today, but it was also bitterly cold. I would think if anybody had any sense (and a fireplace wouldn't be bad either) they would be safely ensconced in their humble little abodes. My boss actually rode his bike to work today! He admitted that he was questioning his sanity on the ride. It's unusually cold for this part of the state. Of course, we set temperature records for heat over the summer. One of the symptoms of global warming is wild fluctuations in temperature. Look it up Sarah Palin.

One of the heaters in my apartment decided to go on strike over the weekend. Being that my humble abode is three-quarters under the earth, butted up against the underground parking; if the heat is not working, it's gets cold fast in here. Just as I was mid-search for the landlord's number, I decided to turn the thermostat up once more just for the heck of it. The heater came on, blowing out hot air into the room. That's not to say I didn't have any heat over the weekend. There is another heater in the hallway, but it was working constantly, because the other wasn't. I thought that one might quit too, for having to work so much overtime.

My new computer is scheduled to arrive on Friday. That means I'll have all weekend...to look at the box sitting in the living room, while I'm taking care of my son. I probably will not even bother to open it until Sunday afternoon. And then there is the transfer process. This will take a while. Then comes lightning fast speed...fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Going Dutch with Nietzsche

I realized this evening that, when my three-year-old son was over last weekend, he subscribed to a couple of podcasts on my iTunes: the New York Times Book Review, and Laura Speaks Dutch. I don't know where this kid is headed. First he's pulling Nietzsche off my bookshelves, and now he's learning Dutch. He'll be four in January! Actually, the only thing he read out of The Portable Neitzsche was "Once upon a time..." and I don't think it really starts that way. Once upon a time there was a man named Friedrich. He was an existentialist.
Mystical explanations are considered deep. The truth is that they are not even superficial.
— Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Tigers and Rabbits

Poor Tiger Woods. He thought he could actually avoid media scrutiny when he drove his SUV into a fire hydrant and then his neighbor's tree. He lives in a gated community. It was 2:25 am (give or take a few minutes.) Shh. Nobody has to know a thing. The local police did their best, but once the "news" outlets smell the blood in the water, it's all over. Next thing you know you've got secret lovers coming out of the woodwork, all lawyered up with their hands out. It's a free-for-all!

Pretty soon the story seeps into the legitimate news organizations (stifle laughter here.) Silly rabbit. There's no such thing as legitimate news organizations. If there were George W. Bush would never have served a second term, and he and his cohorts would be sitting in some cushy federal prison right now.

So, who really cares about the Tiger Woods story? Is the news media giving us want we want? Or are they feeding us this dreck to keep us stupefied. One of those Look over here tricks, meanwhile they're about to send another 30,000 troops into Afghanistan. But there's news of Tiger's "transgression" lasting 31 months. That's, let's see...that's two years and seven months! Wow, that is news!

The best related headline I saw today was, "Endorsements Appear to be Safe." When it comes right down to it, that's what it's all about. Will Tiger have to have the Nike swoosh tattoo removed from his ass? America is waiting...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Nerve

The sun has a lot of nerve, showing it's shiny face today, while I'm in a gray and overcast mood.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Speaking of Socrates

Here is the respected Karen Armstrong, speaking about Socrates and his methods for revealing truth and wisdom. The entire talk can be seen on fora.tv

Nearly Midnight Ramblings

It was Socrates that said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." I would find it hard to believe that there is a human being that hasn’t, at some period in their life, paused to reflect on the meaning of it all, and their place in it. Usually at some point, many times during adolescence, people will wonder about the big questions. Will I exist in some form after the death of my body? Is there really free will, or is everything predetermined by genetics, and the turnings of the universe? Where does one’s sense of right and wrong come from? I have to stifle laughter whenever someone takes the position that without religion, and specifically the ten commandments, humans would run rampant, stealing and killing. Wouldn’t not killing people at will just make sense anyway, whether someone thought to inscribe on a stone table a few millennia ago? For a civil society it only makes sense to adhere to a few certain basic rules. Thou Shalt Not Kill is certainly a good one. When I was growing up I always had questions about that commandment though. I thought it was pretty direct in it’s statement, but when the state kills someone using the death penalty, how is that squared with the basic tenet against murdering another human? Then you can always depend on some “Christian” pulling out the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” quote. That may be the only quote they know from the ancient texts, but they wield it like the weapon they imagine it permits them to use.

But I digress…slightly. My initial intention was to imagine that everyone at some point in their life, pauses to think about certain metaphysical questions. I personally think that pondering the big questions can be a life’s pursuit. It can also cause one to weep and worry. There have been times in my life when I just wanted to be a beer-drinking NASCAR fan, working for the weekend. Maybe a high school janitor that enjoys watching professional wrestling on his 42” plasma flat-screen TV, and drinking cold bottles of MGD. (That’s Miller Genuine Draft for those of you not in the know.)

I always found the term “Joe Six-Pack” to be very insulting. Exactly who falls into the category of Mr. Six-Pack? Alcoholics? Guys who would rather be known as Joe (as in Joe the Plumber,) or Mack, or Buddy. But it was the party run by the Harvard and Yale brats named George Herbert Walker Bush, and Neil Prescott Bush, and the actor known as Ronald Reagan, that tried their best to appeal to the so-called “Joe Six-Packs” of America. They insult the beer drinking slobs right to their face, promising them more change in their pocket (literally: nickels, dimes, a few pennies), so that they can continue to buy their watered down horse-piss they call beer.

More digressions and I’ve yet to get to a point. A point of reference to yet another rambling blog post. The point was that it can get depressing thinking about the big questions. Questions that do not seem to have any answers that could be comprehended by our puny human intellect. Reality TV seems to be about veneer and vacuity. I’m not a big watcher of television, but I haven’t heard of any hit programs that tackle the mind-body problem, or death, or whether we actually have free will. Instead people seem to be breaking laws to enable some sort of fame in their lives. There was the “balloon boy hoax” and now there’s some wacky couple from Virginia that crashed a White House party in order to drum up some publicity for a possible reality show. Serial Killer of the Week is not far off. They are already priming the pump with the very graphic forensic shows that inhabit the airwaves. All this viscera interrupted by commercials for Viagra, MacDonalds, and various brain-dead celebrities pawning crappy cars, and retirement plans.

Don’t get me started. I could be here all night. Tomorrow I will be arising with both the sun and the son. In fact, my son will probably get me up before the sun ever shows its face. We have a big day planned of going to the post office, and eating at some restaurant, any restaurant, besides Red Robin, or Jalisco’s.

As the Week Begins...

This week I shall start to receive my new computer in the mail piecemeal. That means that my printer, printer cable, and wireless keyboard and mouse will all arrive sometime this week. The actual computer is still being assembled by bow-legged elves somewhere at the Dell facility in Texas.

Back up here in the Pacific Northwest there is still the clouds of winter gumming up the skies and preventing any significant sunlight from reaching the citizens down here on the ground. We're being forced to turn our car headlights on while driving, and turning on every light in our domiciles, so that we don't start feeling the effects of cabin fever until at least after the first of the year.

Meanwhile, I'm still reading Descartes' Error and finding out that our brains are very complex. Who'd have thunk it?! I'm also reading a book of short stories with the great title of There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby by the Russian writer Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mahna Mahna

My son has been enjoying this song lately, but he's been enjoying the cover version by the band Cake. I'm not sure if he's even familiar with this classic by the Muppets from way back in 1969. (I was only eight!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday is Dead and Gone

It's all over folks. I haven't bothered to glance at any headlines proclaiming the holiday buying season a success or failure based on today's receipts. We had a good day at the bookstore. Nobody was waiting outside at 4am, which is good...because we don't open until eight. To me the whole idea of a season for shopping (I think it's called "gift giving" in the vernacular.) is abhorrent. I'm sure you've seen footage from past Black Friday sales, which people being injured as they were trampled upon by other anxious consumers. Seeing people in their pajamas in a Best Buy, dragging a plasma TV to the front counter makes me want to distance myself from the human race. Maybe I could just be a happy bovine for a while. I wouldn't have to worry about sales, and keeping up with the Guernseys. I would just dully chew my cud, and look up when cars go by. "Red one!"

But I enjoy selling books. Books are one of man's greatest inventions. The ability to transfer ideas to the minds of total strangers through the medium of the written word. I'm assuming that my son will be a book lover, because he'll be surrounded by a culture of books growing up. He already enjoys books, and is on the lookout for certain ones in the bookstore. His recent favorite is "Arthur's First Sleepover." Justin is at a stage where he enjoys the idea of being scared. He frequently likes to take his flashlight to bed with him. I don't think he is truly frightened, but he likes exploring the concept.

One fun aspect to selling books is the exchange of ideas with the customer. As fellow readers, we are always trading title suggestions with our co-workers, and our customers. I urge certain titles on the public through our clever use of "Staff Picks." We write up little blurb on Staff Pick cards, and display them with the book in the store. We take personal pride when our pick manages to sell some copies of a favorite book of ours.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve

Today is Wednesday, and the bookstore will be open until 10pm as usual. The only thing out of the ordinary tonight will be the addition of some musicians from a local high school playing chamber music. Tomorrow I will be picking Justin up at about 11am, and having him over to my place for lunch and a movie. I think the film choices will be "Mary Poppins," or "Bedknobs and Broomsticks." After bringing him back to the house I may just require an afternoon nap, before arising to enjoy some reading time. It also crossed my mind to clean the bathroom tomorrow, since I will have a free evening. It seems a suitable activity for an evening at home on a national holiday.

My only trepidation about tomorrow is actually having to shop for a few groceries tonight. I'm hoping that by the time I get off work at 10pm most folks will have already made their last minute trip for cranberry sauce and walnuts, and the aisles will be free for me to peruse the selections.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Happy Hump Day

Yes, it's Wednesday. Sometimes Monday-thru-Friday workers like to label this day "hump day," as in "getting over the hump." Of course, there is some sexual innuendo at play here. Isn't there always though? One hump I leaped over this morning was balancing my checkbook. I've been spending money without an eye on my balance, and today I finally remedied that situation. As far as the sexual innuendo goes: Shouldn't every day be "hump day?" I mean, breaking up the middle of the week with a some intimate interaction is a fine idea, but let's not forget Mondays, or Thursdays (also known as pre-Friday.) Every day deserves it's place among the possible opportunities for lovemaking. Not just "hump day."

And on that note, it's time to get to work. There has been an author event for the past two nights, and tonight is the monthly book group meeting. I'm also sad to report that yesterday we sold two copies of Going Rogue by that crazy Alaskan quitter. One was sold to a reporter, who woefully reported that he had to buy it for work. Another was sold to a woman, who didn't bother to explain her purchase. My boss told me that he held out until the last possible minute to order the books, but after all the publicity over the weekend, he realized that he had to have a few copies on hand. Oh well. True book lovers will not be clamoring for the spite-filled memoir of the ex-governor. Instead, they will continue to buy Olive Kitteridge, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday is Made for...

The beginning of another work week. This is the season for many new titles at the bookstore, but one I don't think we'll be unpacking this week is the new hate fest by Sarah Palin. Her, and her Gestapo clad buddy Herr Glenn Beck, can go sell their wares at Wal*Mart for super low prices to the unwashed and uneducated. I will stand on the sidelines and watch her crash and burn. The book is not even out until tomorrow, but already the lies are starting to seep into the headlines.

I'm still trying to figure out my own mind, before my demise. This weekend at Powell's I bought such books as Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction by Susan Blackmore; Mindsight: Image, Dream, Meaning by Colin McGinn; The Rediscovery of the Mind by John R. Searle; and Mindfucking by Colin McGinn. These are all titles that I've been desiring for a few years. Most of them are short discounts, or university press titles, or both. That translates to mean that even if I had ordered them through Ravenna Third Place I probably wouldn't have gotten my traditional 40% discount. Besides, I couldn't resist buying the books once I set my eyes upon them on the shelf. My goal this week is to resist buying any books. I should be able to restrain myself for at least one week. At least until I get the overflow in my apartment safely stored in one of my closets.

Winds of Change

Outside the "first serious windstorm of the season" is beginning. I feel safely ensconced in my concrete bunker with the Pergo flooring. I'm back home after an overnight trip to Portland. Besides eating, sleeping, and telling "Once Upon a Time" stories to my son, we made the mandatory visit to Powell's Bookstore, which was only two blocks from our hotel. We couldn't have been that close and not go in, and still call ourselves book lovers. There were three of us visiting the Rose City, and we each came home with probably five books each. Well, one of us, who shall not be named, left the majority of their books on the train. Thinking optimistically of most people, I believe that they will be in the lost and found box at the King Street station in the morning. My public demeanor is usually a disdain for fellow humans, but down deep I believe everyone has good qualities and ethics to draw from. The whole idea of "original sin" is an insult to our intelligence, and an immediate devaluing of children. We are born into this world as perfect little beings, but even perfection is not without its flaws.

It's much too late to ramble on about what books I bought at Powell's today, or what DVDs arrived in mail in the past week. That's all just trivialities that fade away with time anyway. Now, to be truly in love is to feel truly alive. Everything else can fall by the wayside. Yes, including books. (I can't believe I just wrote that!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm in a Dancing Mood

It's Friday, and that has a lot of significance for me this week. Yes, it's the last day of my work week, but I also get to come home to my son, and my best friend. (Two different people, FYI.) My friend is going to cook Justin dinner (unless he persuades her that Red Robin is the better option,) and get him ready for bed. If all works according to plan he should be sound asleep when I get home at approximately 10:30 pm. Tomorrow the real fun begins when we escort el Justino to Portland for a night of non-Seattle type fun.

To better express my mood, here is Jools Holland singing "I'm in a Dancing Mood."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Repeated Tasks

I'm packing books again. This time I'm boxing up some of the stacks of books currently on the floor of my living room. These are my purchases from recent months, and select titles that I brought over from the house. I'm putting books to-be-read-later in the living room closet. Books to be read in the more immediate future will be on my shelves. Also on my shelves will be books that I just like to look at, like my collection of New York Review of Books classics. I'm a bookaholic. I admit that freely. There is no cure. Downsizing one's living space can put a damper on the rate of collecting. It doesn't seem to have stopped me though. There's something about a 40% discount on used books that's just irresistible...literally.

My son will be spending three nights of every week at my place now, so I've got to try and give him some space. I think that he'll be getting the bed with the heated mattress pad and heated blanket, and I'll get the futon couch, sleeping at an angle, and feeling like I'm perpetually falling of a cliff.

This weekend we'll be arising early on Saturday to take the train from Seattle south to Portland, Oregon. It will be just a one night jaunt to the city proper, with a return trip just after lunch the following day.

The Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster" is playing. That must mean that it's time to get back to cleaning the apartment. I need to set a good example for my son.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Time for a Few Laughs

One of my favorite stand-up comedians, Brian Regan. I can always depend on him for a few laughs.

Sigh of Relief

I'm back home at my apartment, after spending three consecutive nights at my ex-wife's house. Yes, I can emotionally and legally now call it her house. It's also where Justin spends most of his days. I would love to have him over at my apartment more, but at the house he has the benefit of a big backyard, and his own spacious bedroom. As it stands now, he'll be spending every Monday, Friday and Saturday night at my place. That officially starts this Friday, and we celebrate by taking the train to Portland on Saturday morning. Justin will love the train ride, and then once down there we'll play it by ear. I've heard that the aquarium is worth checking out, and then there's always Powell's...

The 40% off sale at the bookstore over the weekend was a big success. It was 40% off all used books. We have this sale concurrently with the Lake Forest Park store twice a year, Spring and Fall. It gives us a chance to clean out our stock a little, which is good, because we buy used books from customers every day, 10 to 6. I'm a Monday through Friday employee, so I didn't get to enjoy the book buying excitement. I was having fun all weekend though, spending Saturday at the FFRF convention, and Sunday in the company of my best friend, which is how I intend spending all my Sundays.

The clothes dryer is tumbling away in the background. I'm sitting here eating pretzel nuggets (or should I say "sourdough nibblers"), and drinking an iced tea. It's been a tiring past few days: working, caring for Justin, and putting the last of my items from the house in storage. I could probably collapse into a dreamless sleep instantly, but I think I'll stay up for a bit, and enjoy being back in my own personal space.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Heretic's Holiday

Winding down from another heretic's holiday. I skipped the non-prayer breakfast in exchange for an extra hour of sleep. The convention started with a rundown of all the states that were represented (I believe it was 37, plus Canada.) There was just over 600 participants this year, and a good majority of those were from right here in the Godless Pacific Northwest. We’re second only to Oregon as the most Godless state in the union. By Godless, I mean the lowest church attendance. There was a short presentation from a local woman, who had produced the book Frommer’s Seattle Day by Day, and she gave a little welcoming speech and a rundown of tourist traps, er…I mean tourist spots for the out-of-towners.

The first topical speaker was Barry Kosmin, who spoke on "The Rising Tide of Secularity in the U.S." He was a principal researcher of the American Religious Identification Survey, which showed that the nonreligious had grown to 15% of the adult U.S. population by 2008. I picked up on a new term this year that I hadn’t heard before: the “Nones.” These are the people who said "None" when asked their religious identity on the survey. They’re not necessarily militant atheists. They just don’t care. Mr. Kosmin gave an academic speech with lots of statistics and a little humor. I had to struggle to stay awake at times.

The next speaker was Daniel Everett, author of Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle. He started off his life as a missionary to South America, and along the way morphed into an atheist, who is now chair of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Illinois State University. His book details his time spent with the Pirahas tribe in the Amazon. This tribe is significant for several reasons, including the fact that they have no creation myth. They also don’t have numbers, or words for colors. They tend to live in the present moment, and someone like Jesus, who may have lived over two-thousand years ago doesn’t mean anything to them. The talk was very interesting, and unfortunately Everett’s time was limited, because he had to catch a flight to London.

After lunch, we had about a half hour to get back to the convention. The wait for the elevators alone was twenty minutes. The two speakers in the afternoon were quite good: Jennifer Michael Hecht, who authored a history of doubt a few years ago, was honored with the Freethought Heroine Award. She was obviously brilliant and could have easily filled a couple of hours with an interesting talk. Ursula K. Le Guin came on next, and she's a living legend in my book. She's in her 80s and still writing fiction, poetry and essays. She had a very poignant speech, re-interpreting the Emperor Has No Clothes fairy tale. This is connected to the fact that she was receiving the "Emperor Has No Clothes" award for speaking out truthfully, and without fear. I had Ms. Le Guin sign my hardcover copy of her translation of the Tao te Ching,and yes...I will treasure it always.

There was one speaker after the banquet this evening. But before the speaker was the annual ticket drawing for pre-“In God We Trust” money. For the last two years the people I have sat with have won a prize. This year was no exception, making it three years straight that someone at my table has won a Godless piece of money. This year it was my ex-wife of almost two weeks, who won one of the cherished bills. She will be in the group photo that adorns the appropriate issue of Freethought Today.

After the giveaway another Emperor Has No Clothes Award was given to former L.A. Times religion reporter William Lobdell. He wrote an excellent book entitled Losing My Religion about his years on the beat as the weekly religion columnist. During his tenure he covered the Catholic sex abuse trials, and that along with his coverage of such charlatans as Benny Hinn, led him to reject the notion of God. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, and his tale is a very personal journey. Many aspects will ring true to anyone, who has ever questioned their faith, whether they’ve crossed over to full-blown atheism, or not.

Now it’s time to relax, but one beer doesn’t stand clear, and if it did it certainly wouldn’t be that Miller piss water. No, it’s time to relax by shutting off the computer and choosing some mindless movie from my collection to watch. I’m thankful that I don’t have cable, otherwise I’d be tempted to channel surf. Nasty habit, that channel surfing. Maybe it’s time to re-watch Superbad once again. It’s never too soon.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and lightning in the skies of Seattle. I grew up in New England, the land of the nor’easter. Hurricanes would wind their way up the coast in the late summer. The rainy season in the Pacific Northwest is so sedate in comparison., except for the occasional earthquake, or volcanic eruption. But late last night, and at times today, there was rolling thunder and lightning in the skies of Seattle. Maybe God was showing his anger over the fact that the Freedom From Religion Foundation was holding their 32nd annual convention downtown at the Red Lion Inn. Or maybe their was also an event at the Discovery Institute that raised His ire, and prompted the thunderous outburst in the sky. Then again, maybe it’s just the weather.

Speaking of FFRF: tonight I attended the opening evening of the aforementioned convention. Tonight’s speakers were Phil Zuckerman, an associate professor of sociology at Pitzer college, and author of Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment. He was and informative and entertaining speaker, and, yes, inspiring. His book details his sociological study, comparing the least religious nations against the most religious, and he even breaks that down into states. Some of his results are not surprising, because it has a lot of correlatives with conservative versus liberal areas. The more religious states have the higher rates of divorce, and violent crime. There is more teen pregnancy and STDs amongst the faithful’s children, because they tend not to use protection. There was a lot of spontaneous applause during his talk, but, for the most part, that was the audience congratulating themselves for being on the positive side of these studies. Hooray! We’re more tolerant! Yippee! We have more oral sex! You read that correctly. Secularists have more oral sex. To be even more specific: non-believing women are more likely to receive oral sex. “Oral sex” being the buzz words for the evening.

Ron Reagan was the closing speaker. He had received the Emperor Has No Clothes Award in 2004, after publicly criticizing politicians at his father’s funeral for wearing their religion on their sleeve. He has never shied away from proclaiming himself an “unabashed atheist.” This year he brought his award with him, and gave the acceptance speech he wasn’t able to give back then. Being a talk show host on a politically liberal radio station (Air America), his speech was naturally peppered with references to politics, and his father’s time as president. He was most passionate when speaking about stem cell research and the attempt by the right to moralize the issue. He was humorous, and congenial, but his speech seemed a little offhanded. The speakers were through at 9 pm, and then it was time for cake. I find that cake at these types of events is always too sweet. Good, but so rich you can actually see your waistline expanding with each bite.

Tomorrow the convention is an all-day affair, although there will be a two-hour break for lunch to tour the city. There is even a woman from Frommer’s speaking in the morning…I’m assuming to sell her chintzy tour book to gullible easterners. I doubt if I’ll do any touring downtown, but I may end up in a corner of the hotel lobby, reading about Phineas Gage and his incident with the crowbar.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sick Day

Today I took a sick day from work. I went in with good intentions, but after my long day yesterday of caring for Justin, and working my evening shift I felt worse today. I was feverish and fuzzy headed. I came home and slept until about 9:30 tonight, and then felt well enough to tackle my checkbook and awaiting bills. While I dealt with that mundane task, I watched the movie "Singles" out of my peripheral vision. I hadn't watched it in a few years, but there was a time when I watched it quite often. To me, it's not only a love story between the couples in the film, but it's also a love story about a city - Seattle. When I lived on the east coast, before my imminent return to Seattle, I would watch this movie and reminisce about living in Seattle during the budding days of Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains.

Now I need to get some more rest, so that I can be full of heretical vigor this weekend at the annual FFRF conference. Friday's speaker is Ron Reagan, who also happens to live in the Seattle area, and does his radio show from here. On Saturday there will be the presentation of awards, and speeches by such luminaries as Ursula Le Guin, Bob Lobdell, and Jennifer Michael Hecht. This will be the third consecutive year that I will attend the conference by the Madison based group. I hope to continue this annual ritual that stimulates my intellect, and gives me a sense of belonging. Some people have Burning Man, while others have weekends in Vegas. I like to travel to cities to hang out with a group of friendly people working to keep the separation of church and state; giving a voice to a minority that is all too often ignored by society at large.


"Singles" (1992) - Written and directed by Cameron Crowe. It's worth a rental.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Daylight Savings What?

There is only one benefit to Daylight Savings Time, and that's in the fall, when we get to set the clock back one hour and get the psychological benefit of sleeping an extra hour on Sunday morning. The shame is that a three-year-old doesn't really understand that benefit. I had forgotten about the whole setting-the-clocks-back thing this morning, and immediately thought, "Oh, seven-thirty...that's not too bad." It wasn't until I turned on my computer to see that I was up earlier than desired. Justin has been enjoying some Pee Wee's Playhouse, while I've gotten him breakfast and showered.

It looks like we might be blessed with a little sunshine this morning, so that it might be possible to take Justin to the playground for a bit, before returning him to his homestead. Needless to say, I'm quite looking forward to be relieved of parenting duties today. I have a feeling that there may be an afternoon nap scheduled for my future today. Justin may have outgrown his need for naps, but my need only grows stronger as I lurch toward the golden years.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mice and Cookies

I'm about to leave to see a performance of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" at the Seattle Children's Theater. The highlight will be watching my son's face as he sits enthralled by a live interpretation of one of his favorite books. The theater will just be crawling with toddlers with their parents in tow. This is the first family event that Jen and I will be attending since our divorce.

I'd like nothing better than to sleep in on this rainy gray Seattle morning, but I will not have that opportunity again until...Monday, I think. Tomorrow morning there's a rumor that I will finally be moving an armoire over to my apartment. Tomorrow night I will be caring for Justin until Sunday afternoon. That arrangement immediately signals a lack of sleep.

Out of the Office

This post is intentionally left blank.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

First Lines

I bought six more books tonight. (Gasp!) My rationalization is that 5 out of 6 books were used with prices hovering in the $6.99 range. I then get 40% off that price. So a $6.99 title ends up costing me $4.20, plus tax. The other integral element to my well-thought out rationalization is that tomorrow is the finalization of my divorce. Buying books has always been something I do to cheer myself up. Having new books to browse through is an luminous activity for me. Don't get me wrong, I like to buy books when I'm happy too. I've said to my parents when they marvel at my book collection, "It could be worse. I could be spending all my money on heroin." That puts it all in perspective.

So tonight, with my marriage dissolution to occur at approximately 1:30 pm tomorrow afternoon, I bought six books; five novels and one book of philosophy entitled The Duck Who Won the Lottery. I usually read the first few lines of any book to see if it hooks me, or if it at least has elegant prose going for it. Here are the first lines from each of the six books I brought home tonight:
a.) For some time now the road had been deserted, white and scorching yet, though the sun was already reddening the western sky.

b.) I don't know whether I should tell you my dreams.

c.)She shook him awake into the quiet darkness.

d.) Joe "Kong" Allen's lifelong stepfather massaged his shoulders and said, "Son, this is your first big one. Watch your Temper!"

e.) Yes, of course I can come straight to the point and start with a sentence like: The telephone rang.

f.) No one in their right mind could read Cernan's testimony and deny that NASA must be giving its astronauts training in advanced rhetoric.

I don't know about you, but to me "b" seems the most mysterious and inviting of the six lines. I also realize that "d" is actually two sentences, but it just read better that way, and read more like a first line. When I worked at Bailey-Coy bookstore on Capitol Hill we would choose a first line each day and post it on a sign outside. Anyone who guessed the book correctly would 20% off any one book. Of course, with iPhones and such these days, it's easy for people to quickly research something trivial like a first line. In the bookstore we had a couple of books behind the counter that were nothing but first lines (last lines too!) We also had the freedom to just pick a random book off the shelf and use its first line.
* * * *

As I mentioned above, my divorce will be finalized tomorrow. This will be my second divorce. I realize that in the eye of the beholder the phrase "twice-divorced" would conjure up certain judgements and imaginings. I myself start to feel like Eddie Fisher, or Richard Burton. They both had been married five times, and share the fact that they were both once married to Elizabeth Taylor. Actually, Richard Burton married Elizabeth Taylor twice! I've never been married to Elizabeth Taylor, although my first wife's name was Elizabeth.

In reference to an earlier post: I do not have a bottle of champagne chilling in the refrigerator, ready to pop tomorrow upon becoming an ex-husband. The occasion is bittersweet, to say the least. I will be dealing the the emotional residue for months (and years) to come. We have child to co-parent, so that demands attention to feelings and respect for alternative points of view.

I haven't seen or heard from my first wife in well over a decade. It was one of those we-married-too-young kind of things. At least that's the veneer of it. I was 23 years old, and not long out of the air force. I look back and it seems like another version of myself that lived that life. Actually it was, since all of the cells in my body have regenerated a couple of times since then; sloughed off on couches, in showers, and just sitting in the car. Now it's a different Me being divorced from a different wife.

To honor the occasion of my divorce (and speaking of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor), here is a scene from the classic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Ah, marriage...

a.)The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy, b.)The Man of Feeling by Javier Marías, c.)Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy, d.)Doom Fox by Iceberg Slim, e.)The Procedure by Harry Mulisch, f.) The Duck That Won the Lottery by Julian Baggini

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pining for the Fjords

Yes, I admit it. I'm starting to obsessively think about my upcoming trip to the Olympic Peninsula. Who can blame me? My divorce will be finalized this Wednesday. I'm having to pack away all my cares and woes. Actually, that's not true. I'm actually packing away all of my material possessions that will not reasonably fit into my tiny apartment (AKA the "freezer.") The days are becoming shorter at an ever-quickening pace. Rain is a frequent visitor to the area now. All I can think about is being ensconced in a cabin by the sea, with a certain passionate lover, who has the uncanny ability to take away all my cares and woes. (So that's where all my cares and woes go!) I just need a three nights by the sea, and the ability to leave the city and it's attendant stress behind.

I'm about 75 pages into A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami. It's his first novel, and, so far, I'm once again enjoying his characters and easy-going prose. Let it be my literary diversion until I'm ready once again to plunge into life's big issues. Tonight I will head to the old homestead after work to care for Justin overnight. He's home sick today, and I wish I was there to sooth his fevered brow. While there tonight I will undoubtedly pack away more books. It feels like I'm starting to make some headway, but my deadline (my line in the sand) is November 11th, Veteran's Day. With my second divorce in sight I guess I qualify as a veteran in that respect.

Here is a short promotional video for the Kalaloch Lodge. Two and a half months will seem to stretch into two and a half years, before the four hour drive to paradise begins. Until then here's just a teaser:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Odd Moments

I just logged onto Facebook for the first time in a couple of weeks. I don't really use the site to socialize, which makes sense since I'm not the most social person in the world. I mainly use it to update my reading lists, music likes, and so forth. I also check in on my relatives that use it. I saw the photos of my niece's new baby mere hours after the birth. I have co-workers that check their Facebook page frequently throughout the day, and update it: "I just ate a cookie!" Me? I'm old fashioned. I still communicate via e-mail. Call me a Luddite, I know. I just cannot seem to get out of the habit of actually forming paragraphs filled with these things called sentences. I can almost count the number of times I've used emoticons on both hands.

The rain is pattering outside my door, drops slapping down onto the pavement entryway. I was laying in bed with my headphones on, listening to Ben Folds. Rock and roll with a smirk. I actually got up and turned my computer back on. I was having problems logging onto Blogger earlier, and I guess I was just aching to write a post. It's been a week, and so much has gone on in my life.

At about four o'clock on Wednesday morning -- I was still awake, but about to retire -- I heard someone very noisily stirring their recycled glass. I thought that maybe someone was going through the bin outside of the apartment house, but I peeked out my doorway, and could not see anybody in that direction. When I opened my door a cat immediately appeared above my head atop the parapet that borders the neighbor's property. The feline appeared to be begging for entrance into my abode. I mentally told him It's four o'clock in the morning! What the hell is going on out there? I never did find out what all the glass clinking was about, and the cat wasn't letting on.

Later on Wednesday, I took a short drive to the nearby Subway sandwich shop to buy my usual: turkey on whole wheat, hold the mayo. On the way back home, as I was turning south onto 99, I saw three police cars across the way on 100th st. by the custom upholstery shop. The cops were out of their cars with their guns drawn. I didn't have time, nor the inclination to see the suspect in their sights. I drove back to my apartment thinking, I'm about to enjoy a turkey sandwich, and there are police a few blocks away, threatening to end someones life.

So, a couple of weird events in amidst a week of work and some play. Not enough play mind you, but some.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rainy Day Feelings

It's Friday, which seems to have some significance for some people. Tonight is my last shift at the bookstore until Monday evening. I'm ready for a break. The computers, and credit card connections at work have been protesting the recent wind and rain. Their protest has taken the form of a work-strike. The rain has only intensified today, and I glanced at the forecast with the idea of taking Justin somewhere tomorrow, only to see the next five days decorated with rain clouds. I may venture out with him to see the film "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." Only fitting during a rainy weekend.

Other than keeping my son busy, and entertained, I will attempt to get a little farther along in my reading of The Intuitionist. I was able to read another 20 page chunk last night before retiring for the night. For whatever reason, I'm a little anxious to get through this particular novel. I'm enjoying it, but I feel that there are quite a few other titles I'd rather be reading at the moment.

I've had my most recent rental from Netflix for a couple of weeks now. It would be good to get that watched this weekend. It's a film called "Carla's Song," directed by Ken Loach, and I've been wanting to see it for some time now. One hesitation I have with the DVD is that it's lacking subtitles, and the Scottish brogue is quite thick. I know that I'll miss quite a bit of the dialogue, but I will hopefully get the gist of it anyway.

Well, it's time to microwave some lunch before heading east to the bookstore for the afternoon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Man's Funny...

I remember as a teenager seeing "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" with my father. It was the second time I was seeing it, and it certainly wouldn't prove to be the last. I think that I was hoping to turn my dad on to, what to me was, one of the funniest movies of all time. We were seeing it in the university district, so the crowd was fertile ground for Monty Python.

My dad did not laugh once during the entire movie. In fact, during the "killer rabbit" scene, he leaned over towards me and whispered, "This is stupid." Meanwhile, the rest of the theater is in stitches. It's not that he didn't get British humour, because at home he would laugh his ass off at Benny Hill. But Benny Hill was all pratfalls and boobies. There is certainly a lot of what passes for comedy these days that I do not find funny. Funny to me is the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen (especially his early, funny films.) I've also enjoyed the whole Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen/Jason Segel/Paul Rudd miasma that's been happening over the last few years.

So, here is the funny "killer rabbit" scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Or maybe it's just stupid.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Philosophical Bent

"I can't believe that!" said Alice.

"Can't you?" the queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

There is an interesting tidbit of information that blew my mind when I first heard it: "you can't measure anything without changing it." I recently read a book called The Mysterious Flame, in which Colin McGinn postulates that we will never know the mystery of consciousness. That we as humans do not have the mental capacity — or more importantly the concepts — to conceive of the manner in which our brain matter attains consciousness. I have a book on my “to buy” shelf called Ignorance that sides with Descartes theory that the only fact we can truly know is that we are conscious: I am a thinking thing that thinks. Whether life is just a dream, or that I’m really Keanu Reeves plugged into the matrix cannot be known for sure. What can we truly know? All I can know for sure is that I am thinking these thoughts. I may awake one day to find that I’m a leopard slug in the rain, who has just awoken from a very weird dream

Who bothers to think about these things? Philosophers. Thinkers that think. In Buddhism one is trying to attain a silence of mind during meditation. A state of non-thinking. In philosophy, one ponders the Big questions, and ends up in a non-thinking state. Questions like: Does God exist? Is there life after death? How do the mind and body work together? Am I (as in my personal identity) just a collection of electrical pulses, and chemical reactions? Human beings have been hashing and rehashing these ideas for thousands of years. I would be so bold as to state that we are not any closer to answering these basic questions than when they were first posed.

Some claim the power of faith. The idea that one believes in an idea, because their gut tells them to; or because people of their ilk have believed the same thing for thousands of years. Maybe they believe certain things because the evidence persuades them. It may not be peer-reviewed, double-blind evidence, but it persuades them nonetheless. As I heard Bill O’Reilly say to Richard Dawkins about the creation mythology: “It’s true for me.” Can something only be true for you? I have always believed that there’s me…there’s you…and then there’s the cold hard truth. But then what is truth?

When I’m in a particularly good mood (as I was today) food tastes better. Colors are more vibrant. The driving rain seems like a good thing! Hell, I may even glance in the mirror on a day like today and think that I’m handsome, in a worn and unrefined kind of way. On a day when my mood is as dark as a midwinter day in Seattle, then everything else takes on that gray hue. My perception changes based on my inner state of mind. If I’m happy, healthy and horny then life is good, and the world seems bright and shiny. If it’s a down day I start to think that Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh have a persuasive influence beyond a few brain-damaged yahoos living in their mother’s basement.

So, those are my random thoughts for the evening. My post-work, write-to-relax, blog entry. To celebrate my good humor, here is something humorous:

I'd Rather be Reading

A few years back I was reading a book a week. These days, with a full-time job, and parenting responsibilities, I’m lucky to get in a book a month. Anything over 250 pages starts to seem daunting. I’m about one hundred pages into Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, and the story is drawing me forward, but the pull is not quite strong enough. I find myself admiring the New York of his alternate universe, where the world of elevator inspectors is highly politicized. The main character of the book, Lila Mae Watson, is the first black woman inspector. The world of elevator inspectors is also divided into empiricists and intuitionists. Needless to say, the intuitionists are viewed as practitioners of voodoo, or some other hooey. The intuitionists are more liberal, and in touch with their emotions. The empiricists are the old white boy network. A tough nut to crack. I think I would enjoy the book more if I could devote more time to it. I cannot get into the rhythm of the words, by reading it in twenty page chunks; on lunch breaks and just before falling asleep.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Death to Nostalgia

I survived the mediation meeting on Friday morning. We did manage to finish all necessary paperwork, and were out of the office ten minutes early, which was not bad, considering that we showed up ten minutes late. We were pausing outside of the office before beckoning an elevator, when Jen realized that she had only reported half of her income. She had mistakenly given the amount on her bi-weekly pay stub as her monthly amount. That made the disparity in our incomes that much more glaring, and my chance of having my necessitated payments reduced by one hundred dollars that much more likely.

I loathe hindsight, and nostalgia. Events passed are already blurry within my memory cells. Even photographs lie. A mere momentary smile in amongst a lifetime of grimaces. Looking forward seems just as futile. The horizon is unknown to me, and forever out of reach.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nothing But the Funk

It’s Thursday evening, which can have different meanings for different people. Some folks feel a buoyancy of spirit due to the fact that tomorrow is Friday. Friday is sacred to the worker of a standard work week. It’s the beginning of the weekend. The symbolically needed excuse to begin to drink, and PAARTY! For years I worked on Saturdays (one of the evils of retail), and so Friday felt like just another work day, or it possibly felt like Thursday. Now for me, Friday means that I will be caring for my son from the end of my shift at the bookstore until sometime Sunday afternoon. This Friday has the added meaning of yet another meeting with a mediator to finish up the paperwork necessary for the divorce. Two weeks ago I was on the eve of another mediation session, and feeling quite verklempt. I took the night off from work and went back to bed. I slowed down my day and started to right myself.

This is my second divorce. The second time around does not make the experience any easier. This current marital struggle has been ongoing, and stressful. The divorce is a sad dénouement to a relationship that always had a strong basis in friendship and trust. It’s just that life got in the way. Priorities got skewed. Of course, there is much more to it than this. There is a child involved, which makes us both want to be extremely mindful and respectful of his interests. There is a good possibility that, once the legal smoke clears, Jen and I will have a better divorce than we did a marriage. Everything changes.

So, the morning mediation is slightly on my mind, but the toughest paperwork has been hammered out. The parenting plan, and property settlement. The rest is just icing on the cake of dissolution. Maybe just a little bittersweet though.

I traded in a box of books today, and received $60 worth of credit, which I immediately used tonight. I have a few new titles sitting in my bin, and I wanted to clear them out. I came away with six new books — actually one was a remainder priced at $3.98 — In the Valley of the Kings by Terence Holt, The Philosophical Baby by Alison Gopnik, Today I Wrote Nothing by Danil Kharms, Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser, Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead, and Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. The last three titles are published by New York Review of Books, and I collect those editions. There is also some Russian absurdism, philosophy, and a debut collection of Poe-like short stories. I traded in books that I had for years, but hadn’t read. My reading tastes have changed somewhat over the last five years, and I have different interests to occupy my thinking time. Plus, my reading time is so precious these days, that I hate to waste it on bad books.

I got some Funkadelic going on in the background here, so I’m going to close up shop, and let my motor wind down. Peace and love…and Oh! And understanding! Yeah, almost forgot about understanding. What's so funny about those things?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No Time

I just do not have the time to write about the things I'd like to cover tonight. I got home from work at about 10:30 pm. I decided to finish reading The Mysterious Flame, since I had less than thirty pages to go. I've also been going through fiction withdrawal, so I was ready to close off the heavy thinking, and move on to some escapist fare. I'm not sure how The Intuitionist is going to fill that need. My guess is that it's the type of novel that writers admire, which doesn't always translate to readers in the general public. I've heard raves and I've heard "pretentious!" I'll have to make my own literary judgements when I'm through.

I've love to have time to jot down my feelings about the moon. Yes, that's right...the moon. There is something magical about the moon in the fall and winter months. It's more significant in the sky, larger and brighter. There was some smattering of fall colors over the past few weeks, but a recent brisk wind has caused their downfall. Soon the long season of darkness will begin.

No time left to discuss music, or movies, or telepathic lizards. Just enough time to..

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hello October

Fall is here in the Great Northwest. That usually translates to leaves turning bright colors, and then being dashed to the ground by a wind storm. It's such a short-lived season compared to the fall in New England. The days are already getting noticeably shorter, and soon the rains will sweep in, and summer will seem like a lifetime ago.

This being Monday, I am about to leave for my shift at the bookstore. My co-worker, who has only been at the bookstore for about three weeks, will depart our employ in just under two weeks. He was lucky enough to have a dream job created for him. This means that there will be a new hire starting soon. Someone I will have to guide and train. As long as the person has book knowledge the rest of the job usually comes pretty easily. If you're a right-winger, who only reads paeans to Ronald Reagan, or worships the drool cup of Glenn Beck, then you will probably not fit in at our store.

I wish that I had more time to write today, but free time is at a minimum these days. Maybe for Christmas I'll get a stocking full of time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wasn't I Just Here?

The weekend has arrived again. This translates into one more evening of work. Friday night at the bookstore, and there is a light drizzle in the air. It's hard to predict whether the store will be busy today, or not. Sometimes the rain keeps the customers away. Personally, on any rainy day I'd rather stay home and read the books I have on hand, rather than go shopping, but I can certainly understand the need for new books. I brought home three new books last night. At the end of my shift I will be heading north to "the house" to care for Justin until Sunday afternoon. I slept in today, knowing that I would not get that opportunity again this weekend.

A week from today, my wife and I will be attending our last session with the mediator to finalize all necessary paperwork in order to dissolve our marriage. The divorce will be final at least fourteen days from the date of filing. We have had to write up many contingencies in case our working relationship ever "goes south." Not being a big fan of "the south," I'd like to avoid that direction if at all possible. It's no fun, sitting in a corner office with a view of the Olympics, and coming up with which of the parents will have Justin on Christmas, New Years, and St. Swithun's Day. It's also a little disheartening to hear the woman you've loved and lived with for over 14 years declare that she will donate any of my belongings still at the house after 30 days. Ah well...there is more life to be lived waiting in the wings.

There is a picnic tomorrow at the co-op, where Justin attends three days a week. It appears that the weather may frown upon that activity. My only concern is what to bring to this potluck. I suppose that I could choose a recipe tonight, and try and throw something together before it starts. Or I could take the lazy route and pick up something at the grocery store. I'm sure that if I brought a big bucket of "Nemo fish" Justin would be more than satisfied.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Slappin' the Bass Mon"

For some reason, when I attended the Lizz Wright performance last Sunday evening, her bass player reminded me of this skit from "Kids in the Hall." It certainly wasn't that he was a bad bass player. In fact, his bass had five strings, as opposed to the usual four, so that must mean he's good. It was just that bass players sometimes put out the dorky vibe. I don't think they can help it, it's the nature of the instrument. I don't feel the same way about the stand-up bass. And bass players often get a bad rap. It's true that it doesn't necessarily require a lot of talent to provide the thumping rhythm, while standing next to the cute drummer. But most times the bassist doesn't really get to shine, because of the nature of the music. On the opposite end of the spectrum: check out Jaco Pastorius sometime. That mutha can slap the bass mon!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gray Skies

The skies are gray today in Seattle. There still may be a few sunny days left before the long dark season begins. The outside lights at the bookstore now come on at 3 pm in preparation for midwinter, because that's when darkness will fall with regularity for a while. I've spent the morning cleaning house, and keeping myself busy with minor tasks to keep my mind off the gray skies in my heart. Tomorrow Jen and I are meeting with a mediator ($300 a fuckin' hour!) to finalize our divorce paperwork and get it filed. I'm ready to be done with it. My last straw was reached late last year, and I have no stamina nor will to try and repair anything at this point. Nor has Jen shown any interest in the same. I still feel a great deal of sadness for putting my son in this situation, but all I can do is continue to be the best father I can for him. To give him unconditional love and caring ad infinitum.

I knew that I was going to reach this emotional brick wall at some point. Jen and I have had an overall good marriage based on a strong friendship, but there has been vital elements missing for years now. No matter the cause of the break-up it is a sad occasion that I need to swim through and somehow make it to the other side. Books will always be there for me, and music. I'll continue to write in my journal, and get out in the great northwest outdoors to aid in shaking off the woes that crop up from time to time. Nobody said life was going to be easy...at least nobody told me that. (I stole that line from "The Big Chill.")

Blue Wednesday

I feel like I'm closing doors that are better left open. That's not a good trend. If only I could take a sabbatical. Of course, these are the type of thoughts that I should be writing down on paper and stuffing inside a bottle with the intention of throwing it out to sea. Instead I type these frustrations and symptoms of minor mental maladies down on a public blog. Is this a non too subtle cry for help?

I have started reading The Mysterious Flame by the British philosopher Colin McGinn. I have found in the recent past that reading philosophy and science takes my mind off the more troubling aspects of my life. I find myself concentrating on the complexities of the topic at hand, rather than dwelling on my blue moments and missed opportunities. Sometimes all I need is a shoulder to cry on, but then I find myself unable to summon forth the tears. I don't even think that one of my favorite tearjerker movies could cause tears to well up in my eyes at this point.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Concert Preview

Here is the soulful and sultry Lizz Wright singing "Stop," which is a Joe Henry composition. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she will do this number when I see her this weekend at Jazz Alley.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sack O' Woe

I did something unusual tonight. When I had my evening dinner break, instead of going to one of my usual three eating spots -- Zeek’s Pizza, Jalisco’s Mexican food, or Vios Mediterranean food -- I decided to drive to the nearest QFC and just pick up a few things to eat back at the bookstore. As I crested the hill going west on 65th, I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in a while. The pink rays were bursting skyward above the silhouette of the Olympic mountains. It was an amazing site, but inside all I could visualize was turbulent seas, and darkening skies.

As I walked out of the grocery store with my bag containing a couple of Snapple iced teas, a pre-made turkey sandwich from the deli, and a package of two Grandma’s® peanut butter cookies, I imagined that I was on a road trip, and I had merely stopped at the local market to pick up something to eat before once again hitting the road. It was better than the reality of heading back to work.

Part of the melancholia I felt as I viewed the beautiful sunset was caused by the fact that I have not been in the mountains at all this year. I haven’t been camping in at least a year. In fact, I have a nice new tent that I was given as a Christmas gift two years ago that still has not been used. Sadness comes in all forms, and lately mine has manifested itself as an accounting of opportunities missed. I could sure use a week (or two, or three) in the woods with a good book (or two, or three.)
***

I’ll be back at the house for an extra night this week on Thursday. Jen is working a shift at ACCES in Lake City. She has sworn that this will be her last extra shift for a while. That’s a promise that I’ve seen broken many times before. Tonight she called me to inform me that we have a meeting with a mediator on Friday morning at 8 a.m.. I wish the appointment was not so damn early, but I guess it was their only opening for weeks. This means that after this meeting our divorce will be moving forward fairly quickly. My state of mind pertaining to this divorce has not changed. Last fall, when I was informed that I was no longer welcome to be a stay-at-home dad; and there was a severe lack of compassion during my surgery recovery; and it was requested that my wife and I separate for a year with a re-evaluation at the end of that year, I decided that I had had enough. My first thoughts were for my son’s well-being. It broke my heart that we had adopted this beautiful boy only to divorce before his fourth birthday. My wife’s opinion is that it is better for him to have two happy parents living separately rather than living together in state of misery. She has a point there.

This Sunday I will be attending my first live show at Jazz Alley (as long as I don’t screw that up before then.) I will be seeing Lizz Wright, who music has kind of become the score for my current relationship.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to get up in time to get my haircut, and to pick up the nearly twenty CDs I have on hold at the library. Then it’s back to work, and the whole cycle starts all over again.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Already?

It's Friday, which means that I will being going to the house after work to care for Justin until sometime Sunday. I haven't hung out with my son since Monday, so I'm ready for some father/son bonding time. Last weekend I had him here at my apartment for a while on Saturday. I was making the meager attempt to get him to take a nap, and I was laying next to him on the bed. Needless to say, I was very sleepy and could easily have fallen asleep. But Justin was quite energetic and he decided to pull a book of my nearby shelf to read me a story. He chose The Portable Nietzsche and began, "Once upon a time there was a boy named Justin....and he was an existentialist." Actually, I added that last line, but just the fact that he pulled Nietzsche off the shelf and began his tale made me laugh. My little philosopher.

Last night we sold a copy of Dan Brown's latest piece of commercial crap. At least the customer seemed to know what they were buying, because they declared it the ultimate airport book. Ah well, there goes our streak of having not sold one copy of the latest book that the media says we must all buy like faithful sheep.

I'm going to leave a little early for work, so that I may drop off a bundle of CDs at the library and pick up a few more, including the Definitive Rod Stewart and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen songbook. You will all be happy to know that Godsmack is on its way, to offset the mellow mood music.

A Musical Interlude

Here is the great Geoff Muldaur singing "Got to Find Blind Lemon." I was lucky enough to catch Geoff a couple of years back when he made a rare stop in Seattle. It was a wonderful show, but there were only ten to twenty people in attendance, which is a damn shame. There is nothing like an intimate acoustic blues performance, and I feel lucky to have caught his performance. This particular song is on The Secret Handshake album. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Literature and It's Enemies

It's nearing one in the morning...the morning of September 16th. Last Monday the 7th was my 13th wedding anniversary. I had completely forgotten about it until I was at the house that evening to care for Justin overnight and happened to glance at the calendar in the kitchen. I think it's probably the first year that I've forgotten, but I have a lot of things on my mind, like the dissolution of said marriage.

Last night I stayed at the house to care for Justin, and I was with him until I had to leave for work today. He has had some behavior issues lately, and it's hard to tell how much is caused by the impending divorce of his parents, and how much is just due to the fact that he is three and a half years old. There has certainly been some major changes in all of our lives over the last six months. I was with Justin nearly every day for the first three plus years of his life, until a wrench got thrown into the works last fall. Now that I'm working full-time, and living in my own apartment, my time with him has been drastically reduced.

Tonight I am staying at my apartment, and I will not be back at the house until Friday night. One of the pluses of being home is that I don't have to pill the cat. This translates to stuffing a Prozac down Lyle's gullet whenever I am staying the night at the house. Lyle is the resident psycho cat, and if he doesn't get regular doses of Prozac he starts to act freakier than usual and begins to pee indiscriminately around the house. The last time this happened he peed on some of my art books in my office. So, I have a vested interest in making sure he gets his meds...at least until all of my possessions are moved out.

As much as I'd like to ramble on and on, I must get some sleep before arising to sell more books tomorrow. Today is that day that the new Dan Brown novel went on sale. In case you've been living in a cave for the last ten years: Dan Brown is the author of the bestseller The Da Vinci Code, which was poo-pooed by the Vatican, and henceforth became a global bestseller. Brown's latest book is entitled The Lost Symbol and five million copies were shipped to bookstores in time for today's sale date. We have 32 copies in stock at Ravenna, and I'm somewhat proud to say that by the end of today we had not sold one copy. That fact makes me proud of our literate customers. We also have a very small true crime section, no romance section, and no copies of the Left Behind series in stock. Unfortunately, we have sold a couple of copies of Glenn Beck's piece of garbage, but I think the people that bought them were from South Carolina or something...just visiting.

Anyway, so much for not rambling on and on. I now must get into bed and listen to some music on my headphones for a while before drifting off into dreamland.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Busy Biped

It's going to be a busy next couple of days on my schedule. Tonight, after work, I will be heading to the house to care for Justin until I leave for work tomorrow. As I stated in my last blog post, his friend August will be dropped off for a couple of hours, which may or may not make my morning more hectic. I'm voting for "may not." Then it's off to work again, but tomorrow night I get to return to my small, but comfy abode. On Friday morning I will have to arise much earlier than I would prefer to attend a seminar at the Seattle courthouse for parents that are going through the divorce process. I will then go straight to work at the bookstore only to head to the house afterwards to care for Justin until sometime Sunday afternoon. I'm already tired just thinking about it. My reward will come on Sunday afternoon, when rest and relaxation are pretty much guaranteed. I have a dear friend to help me de-stress after a busy week. Whew!

Back to School

Here's a thought: if you're not blessed with a shapely ass, then maybe you shouldn't wear tight pants that emphasize your lack in that bodily area. Just a thought that crossed my mind, as I sat and ate lunch in Jalisco's and noticed that high school was back in session. Please don't write me off as a dirty old man for noticing what is plainly put on display.

Work has been well, besides the fact that I cannot go a week without purchasing at least a half-dozen books. I think I've already reached my quota this week. Tonight I finished reading Losing My Religion by William Lobdell, and it was inspiring in an atheistic kind of way. I already have my next book planned: The Tenant by Roland Topor. I read it over twenty years ago, but I recently decided to make it my latest featured "staff pick" at Ravenna Third Place, and I feel obligated to reread it, so that I can give it an honest review. I may not have felt that way, if the book wasn't so short (137 pages.) The book was made into a film by none other than Roman Polanski, and he took the unusual step of playing the feature role. I plan on re-watching the film as soon I finish the book.

Tomorrow night I will be back at the house (even though I'm not exactly welcome there) to watch over Justin until I leave for work on Thursday. This is an extra duty this week, because my wife is still making up time for her trip to Ohio. I found out tonight that I will be overseeing the care of another toddler on Thursday morning, Justin's friend August. I almost feel that this addition will make my job a little easier, because they can entertain each other, while I stand on the sidelines and make sure nobody plays with matches, or tries to drink anti-freeze.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Musical Interlude

Do my eyes deceive me? It's Rob Zombie and Lionel Ritchie singing the Commodores hit "Brick House." It's both scary and funky!

Friday, August 28, 2009

TGIFF

Thank god it's finally Friday! (I'm in no way devout, so I'll just use the little "g" for the god guy.) Friday means this is my last night at work for a few days. It also means that I'll get to hang out with my son until Sunday afternoon. That's always a good thing. It also means that I'll soon get to re-connect with the owner of a certain pink robe that's hanging in my closet. I've been going through withdrawal ever since she left for parts unknown a week ago. But I refuse to get all gushy on a public blog.

Last night I finished the new novel by Dan Chaon, Await Your Reply. It's an excellent psychological novel that reads like a dark thriller with plot elements coalescing at the very end. I highly recommend it, and I'll be "staff picking" it at work. Next book up is Losing My Religion by Bob Lobdell. I'm reading it in anticipation of seeing him speak at this year's FFRF convention in Seattle. I also plan on getting my copy signed. One man's celebrity is another man's "who the fuck it that?"

Well, as always, my time is limited. I need to throw a few things together for the weekend with Justin before I leave for work. The sun is out, and it's also shining in my heart, and take my word for it: that's a recent development in the state of my emotional weather.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Brief Respite

I actually have more time at home this morning, because I went grocery shopping last night. For lunch I have the choice of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a Tofurky sandwich. Either sandwich would be accompanied by peppercorn and ranch flavored Sun Chips (they're multi-grain!) and a cold ice tea. Having more time has given me the opportunity to update my checkbook (always important) and to post a blog on my religion and politics page. Tonight I will be staying at the house with Justin, so I need to pack a few things before leaving for work. Lately, I've been over there more than my own place, so I've begun the habit of taking some dirty laundry along with me. The only problem with that is that I usually end up finishing the loads that are already filling the washer and dryer. I also usually pick up the dog poop in the backyard, so that neither Justin and I step in it while we're running about.

I still plan on giving myself some time before work to read a chapter or two in Await Your Reply. I'm planning on reading Losing My Religion next, because I will be hearing the author speak in November. I want to have my copy signed and it would be nice if I've read it by then. I also need some inspiration for my freethinking mind. (If you are one of the close-minded types you can open your hymnal to #43, and begin to sing "Please God, don't smite me, or spoil my crops today.")

I've had my emotional ups and downs lately. How else is one to react when they are informed by their soon-to-be ex-wife that she will be changing the locks on the house next month. It's no fun being treated like a pariah. Especially when I need to maintain contact in order to be a good father to my son. The big divorce date is less than a month away. Maybe I should start chilling the champagne now? Or maybe I should just hunker down and be thankful for the wonderful elements now integrated within my existence. Right now I'm missing one of those wonderful elements. I only have a pink robe in my closet to remind of her until she comes back to town.