The Reading List, Pt I

The New Year is right around the corner and time to set some goals and refocus on some interests. One thing I want to do is do more reading – good, real reading, not magazines in the john, not tons of internet chatter but instead spend some time with some good books. The Top 100 English Novels of the 20th Century is a good place to start.
I haven’t read Ulysses – I own it and it sits nicely on a shelf. Maybe I will bend that spine. The Great Gatsby is a phenomenal book. I have read it a few times and will probably make a stab at it this year as well. Hmm, more Joyce. Ah, but then we get to Lolita. What a great book. Nabokov is a god and his wordsmithing is so precise and amusing that you can’t put this book down. You find yourself savoring every single word, phrase and paragraph. It gets a revisit this year as well.
Hmm, Darkness at Noon. I am not aware of this one. It goes on the list.
This is a nice list. Compelling and modern. Oh look, James Dickey’s Deliverance made number 42! This book consumed me one hot summer. Forget the movie and Ned Beatty and pick up this epic “Coming of Age” novel.

There is something decadent and escapist about reading good books. Enveloping yourself in an author’s world and letting the narrative and characters consume your dreams for a few short weeks.

I can’t wait to get started.

FCC Complaints Coming From One Place?

Drudge is reporting that is the case:

“Through early October, 99.9 percent of indecency complaints�aside from those concerning the Janet Jackson �wardrobe malfunction� during the Super Bowl halftime show broadcast on CBS� were brought by the PTC (The Parents Television Council) , according to the FCC analysis dated Oct. 1. (The agency last week estimated it had received 1,068,767 complaints about broadcast indecency so far this year; the Super Bowl broadcast accounted for over 540,000, according to commissioners� statements.)”

This group is pretty right wing fundamental Christian and is using existing law and policy to ensure enforcement of a strict Victorian code. Notice the action alerts at their site spelling out what shows or episodes to focus on each week. And the letters they suggest are turning up at the FCC, word for word and used to initiate formal complaints and penalties. Fox recently paid a huge fine based on one of their “Action Alerts.” Buzzmachine has filed a Freedom of Information request and can trace the FCC fine of Fox to three people – three different letters, sent in mass, over and over and over again. It is kind of outrageous.
It seems The Parents Television Council are the ones in charge and have appointed themselves as the grand inquisitor.

Tuesdays with the Colonel

Tuesdays with the Colonel

I guess the greater part of my Army memories revolve around just living and traveling in Germany and Europe. Small town boy getting down in G-town. Stuttgart, Germany is located in Southeast Germany near the Swiss border. It is about the size of Denver and the automotive manufacturing capitol for Germany. Mercedes Benz corporate headquarters as well as plants making VWs and Audis all occupying office parks and factories . Denver’s light rail train system is made in Stuttgart and that train line stretches for miles and miles and makes this scatter shot city of Stuttgart and its surrounding boroughs easily interconnected and efficient. Don’t forget German efficiency. It really is a marvel to drive and travel in Germany. It seems as though the car and the road are such a natural part of their world that their coexistence is second nature. The politeness shown by the drivers is unlike anywhere else I have been. Big traffic circles with lanes and lanes of cars and not even a honking of the horn to voice any displeasure. Strict adherence to even the simplest traffic laws like lane changing and traffic lane merges makes the whole system work like the cliche’d clockwork we have all be told.
One of my responsibilities while stationed at Kelly Barracks was to share in driving our Colonel around. He preferred to travel in a “CUTV” or in civilian terms, a specially outfitted Chevrolet Blazer, painted in camouflage and equipped with all sorts of radio and telecommunications equipment. It stood out on the Autobahn like a fresh, swelling bruise on Whitney Houston’s face. And because of the Colonel’s rank and responsibilities, I had to take an “offensive” driving course where I was taught some terrorist avoidance skills and how to do some cool things to a Mercedes Benz on a closed track. I was taught how to make wicked fast turns; how to turn the car around with just the emergency brake; how to roll a car and land it on it wheels successfully; how to handle a car or van traveling at high speed on ice and snow and how to drive pretty damn fast on open terrain through a slalom course of pylons.
I never had to use any of those skills but the training was helpful, as I tended to party and drink pretty hard in those days and then crawl into work with a terrific hangover and no sleep. Driving around Stuttgart on autopilot was pretty simple after having advanced driving skills training. I remember once, driving back from Muenchen (Munich) in VW bus full of field grade officers. I had been up for about 28 or 30 hours at that point as part of a field training exercise. Driving the officers back to Kelly Barracks, I must have drifted off to sleep about two or three times – once Major G____ tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was okay to drive! But they seemed to trust me as no one took me from the wheel and we arrived at the base safe and secure. I ended up working about ten more hours for a grand total of nearly 45 hours straight without sleep. To this day that is a personal record and I really don’t think I am up to breaking it any time soon.
One thing though, I never drove on off duty. I never took the time to get a European driver’s license or a car for off post shenanigans. This probably saved my life and kept me out of jail. I used the bus system and the train system to get virtually anywhere I needed to be on off duty hours and have a stable of good solid friends and roommates with cars for those trips into town with the gang. But the trouble those trips caused is a different story all together.

Dude, Where’s My Doobage?

And in sad news out of Florida, two teens were arrested after they reported their pot stash was stolen and they needed it back so they could sell it. Ah, youth.

Friday Fives

1. Do you enjoy letter writing [as in snail mail]? When’s the last time that you wrote someone a letter or a note? When’s the last time that you received something in the mail from someone [not including regular stuff like bills, junk mail, etc.]?
I recently got a letter from a co worker who left our company to go into the Army. He wrote from basic training. It was a very nice thing and I have been and absolute boob and bore and not answered his letter. I will write him back this weekend. I love getting letters in the mail but there is a problem – you have to write letters to get letters and I am not a very consistent letter writer.

2. Do you plan to send out holiday cards this year? Why/why not?
Do you spend a lot of time on them? About how many holiday cards do you usually send each year?

A few years ago I send cards out regularly, accompanied by a long annotated Christmas letter. But I got out of the habit during my Dad’s illness and haven’t dipped my toes back in the water. I keep telling myself the blog kind of makes up for my Christmas letter, however a lot of the folks I sent Holiday cards to don’t read this thing, so I am living in a fantasy world.

3. Have you ever had a penpal? Where and when? How long did you write to them, or are you still in contact with them? What kinds of things did/do you talk about with them? How did your penpal relationship come about?
I remember one summer as a boy when my mom tried to get me to write to a pen pal. In retrospect, I think it was all a plot by teachers to keep me writing all summer long so as to aid my dismal handwriting. They were probably right (write?}) but I never followed through with it.

4. Do you feel that you have good penmanship? Did you ever have to take a handwriting class in school? Do you prefer typing letters or writing them by hand? Have you ever had your handwriting analyzed?
Are you kidding me? My handwriting is atrocious. It has a shelf life of about 18 hours, after which point even I can’t read it. At one point in school my handwriting was deemed so unworthy that I had to take special education classes and have special tutoring for about an hour a day. That will really mess with your self esteem – to go from the advanced reading classes to the the remedial handwriting classes and dyslexic kids classes in the same day. I prefer to type everything. See above answer on handwriting.

5. If you could receive a personal, hand-written letter from anyone in the world right now, who would you choose and why? Why would you want a letter from him/her?
I think Dave Eggers would write great letters. He would be a great pen pal.

Tuesday’s with the Colonel

From February 1985 until February 1988 I spent my time in US Army. The decision, you would think, didn’t come lightly, but in fact that wasn’t the case. The decision came quite lightly and in fact was a bit of a lark. I was out of college for about a year, having taken time off to earn some dough and decide what I really wanted from life. I had gotten into a very minor scuffle with the law involving a fake ID and a rather rude bar bouncer (and former family friend.) I was working at Safeway at the time and had no real direction in my life. While at the court house resolving the fake ID charge I was approached by an Army recruiter. Well several months later and two Army recruiter’s later, I decided why the Hell not, lets join the Army, get some money for college, see the world and all of that.

I enlisted as a clerk typist and was slotted to serve as a clerk in the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg. That meant after basic training and my occupational specialty training, I was supposed to go to jump school in Fort Benning, Georgia and then serve out my time as a parachuting clerk. I wasn’t sure of all the particulars but I imagine it involved jumping out of an airplane with a typewriter and a pencil. Well two weeks into jump school I began to get second thoughts. I had made one jump out of a plane and realized that this was shear nonsense. There is really no reason to be jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.
I made the decision to quit jump school and see what else the Army had to offer me. I had to go stand in front of a captain’s desk and humble ask to be relieved of my training responsibilities. I was chastised and told my Army career would be ruined because of my decision, but since I really never intended on making the Army a career, I wasn’t overly concerned. I was sent to an admin office and new order were generated for me and I was then hastily shipped off to Germany and eventually landing in Stuttgart, Headquarters and Headquarters company of the US Army VII Corps, the Fighting Jayhawks, the corp most famous for its raid/landing on D-Day in Normandy and a major European command headquarters. I smirked and remembered my conversation with my bitter jump school captain about how disastrous my Army career would be. So far, things were looking real good. Once at VII Corps, I was shuffled around for a bit, kind of like going to a job fair as the many powers at be decided where to assign me. I was snapped up by sergeant First Class Iris Gil de Lamadrid, a fiercely proud and foul mouthed Puerto Rican woman from Brooklyn. She was so cool and tough. She took to me instantly. My new Army job would be as clerk/admin to the Corps G3, Col. John H. Meyer.

This is the first in a series of my Army stories. I had the privilege of serving in one of the weirdest and off beat Army headquarters that I have ever heard about. After leaving the Army and congregating from time to time with other vets, I quickly learned that I wasn't in the same Army as everyone else. I hope to share some of these stories here on Tuesdays.

Cool Blog Finds

When Blogger added the next blog button at the top of the blogspot page, I wasn’t exactly enthused but have recently recanted and find myself loving this roulette wheel of blog dom (doom?) that is the [Next Blog] button.

Two recent finds from a spin of the ol’ wheel:

National November Bloggers Month A blog dedicated to writers participating in the National November Novel Writing Month and are publishing their novel online.

Query Letters by managerguy, a “Hollywood insider” who gets tons of badly written screenplay query letters and movie treatments a month and has taken the unselfish act to publish them online for all of us to share in the horror that is the Hollywood studio movie machine. There is some real gold here. (this was on Metafilter yesterday as well, but it wasn’t how I stumbled upon it. The inter-web is a small world after all.)

Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of crap to be found via the Next Blog button and apparently, Blogging is very popular in Argentina and who the hell knows what those kookie kids are talking about. But patient clicking of the button will turn up some gems, that is certain.

Friday Fives

Friday Fives

– the post holiday delayed edition

1. Have you ever bought and/or sold items through an online auction (for example, eBay, Yahoo! Auctions, etc.)? Do you remember the first item that you ever purchased through an online auction (or at an online store)? Do you plan to shop online for the upcoming holiday season?
The first thing I ever bought on ebay was a video tape on how to play the banjo. Since then I have bought my sister some Goofy collectibles, a stereo, my digital camera, my cdr/rw player for my computer, a set of pots and pans, a vacume food sealer and the list goes on and on. I have a few gifts that I will be buying on line this year

2. What is your shopping style?
Head straight for a specific store and pick up the item that you’re looking for
Browse through everything and then narrow down your choices from there?
Do you enjoy shopping?

I am a haphazard browser. I don’t go aisle by aisle and instead tend to wander and meander. I don’t really like shopping and have to be in a very certain mood.

3. Is there someone in your life who is particularly difficult to buy gifts for? What do you usually end up getting him/her? Why are they so hard to buy gifts for?
The Rev Ed followed by Reid then probably my sister. Go figure. All of them have eclectic tastes and interests and generally those interests are all across the board. This year I am buying each of them a shiny new liver.

4. Do you prefer to shop at big-name department stores, small family-owned gift shops, or somewhere in-between? Do you tend to patronize local stores as opposed to store chains? Why?
Thrift stores and consignment shops is where it’s at baby! I make a salary of about $4,800 or so dollars a year and so I have to stretch the budget. This year, everyone is getting shiny tin foil hats to welcome in the second term of GW Bush.

5. When’s the last time that you bought something for yourself to enjoy? What was it, and when did you buy it? Do you reward yourself with gifts every so often? Why/why not?
I tend to buy for Roy quite often. He likes books and music and gets a lot of it from his benefector, R-Dub.

Gobble Gobble


On the road and away from the computer until Friday or so. Have a great holiday and please fell free to enjoy the beer and sandwiches.

Turkey Day Road Trip Tomorrow


Off to the ranch for some Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to it this year. The new house, the new family with all its members in full attendance and some nice down time – well except for a lap full of two, three and four year olds. But what is really wrong with that.

PS: Yes, this isn’t a turkey picture, it is an emu. Yes there are emus at the ranch. No, we will not be eating the emus for Thanksgiving. {burp}

(Oh, yes, there are pictures on the blog now. How much fun is that!)