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.'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 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.