Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mini-SB Update

Watching Brewster McCloud last night reaffirmed the SB status of young Bud Cort that started when I first saw Harold and Maude back in high school. He is seriously adorable. And surprisingly sexy. I looked around for a still of his chin-ups in underwear scene from Brewster McCloud with no luck. If anyone finds it, let me know, because that is some hot stuff. Yowza.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tik-Tok of Oz

And now, dear readers, it is time to review the ninth book in the Oz series: Tik-Tok of Oz (1914). In this book, Queen Ann Soforth, the ruler of Oogaboo, a very small and out of the way corner of Oz, decides to conquer the entire country so that she can rule over more people. First she gathers together an army of 17 of the 18 men in her kingdom (one refuses to go). All the men are officers except for the courageous and ambitious Jo Files, who volunteers to be the private. In civilian-life, Files is a farmer who grows a particularly intriguing crop:

Jo Files had twelve trees which bore steel files of various sorts; but also he had nine book-trees, on which grew a choice selection of story-books. In case you have never seen books growing upon trees, I will explain that those in Jo Files' orchard were enclosed in broad green husks which, when fully ripe, turned to a deep red color. Then the books were picked and husked and were ready to read. If they were picked too soon, the stories were found to be confused and uninteresting and the spelling bad. However, if allowed to ripen perfectly, the stories were fine reading and the spelling and grammar excellent.

Files freely gave his books to all who wanted them, but the people of Oogaboo cared little for books and so he had to read most of them himself, before they spoiled. For, as you probably know, as soon as the books were read the words disappeared and the leaves withered and faded--which is the worst fault of all books which grow upon trees.

The army heads out to conquer Oz, but quickly gets lost due to Glinda's benevolent interference. It doesn't take much time, though, before they run into the second group of voyagers in this story, led by Betsy Bobbins. Betsy is clearly our Dorothy stand-in: she is from Oklahoma, she got in a ship wreck and washed up near Oz, and along with her came her mule, Hank. Hank and Betsy soon run into the Shaggy Man, who is looking to rescue his brother from the Nome King (his brother was a miner in Colorado, who was captured by the King). To round things off, the group plucks a Rose Princess from a royalty tree tended by a bunch of rose-people. The rose-people, however, refuse to be ruled by a woman and so the Rose Princess comes with the gang to find The Shaggy Man's brother. Next they run into Tik-Tok, who was thrown into the bottom of a well by the Nome King, and after they wind him up and dust him off, he is ready to help. Plus Polychrome shows up too (remember her? The rainbow's daughter?).

The two groups meet up and decide to work together to defeat the Nome King and rescue the brother. Things are going rather well until the Nome King magically leads their path right into The Hollow Tube that slides them through the center of the Earth and out the other side into the kingdom of (get this): Tititi-Hoochoo. That's right: Tititi-Hoochoo. T-H is the ruler of a kingdom of fairies -- everyone in the kingdom is royalty except him, and since he is The Private Citizen, he gets to be in charge. T-H has already warned the Nome King that if he sends anything else through The Hollow Tube, he will regret it. With the help of a dragon named Quox, the Nome King gets his comeuppance, the brother is saved, and with the by now familiar deus ex machina of Dorothy, Ozma and their magic mirror, everyone comes to the Emerald City to have a final chapter of reunion.

Best of all, at the end of the book we find out why Toto never talks, even though all the other animals that come into Oz start talking right away:

"Do all the animals in Oz talk as we do?

"Almost all," answered Dorothy.... "but I've a little fuzzy black dog, named Toto, who has been with me in Oz a long time, and he's never said a single word but 'Bow-wow!'"

"Do you know why?" asked Ozma.

"Why, he's a Kansas dog; so I s'pose he's different from these fairy animals," replied Dorothy.

"...The same spell has affected Toto, I assure you; but he's a wise little dog and while he knows everything that is said to him he prefers not to talk."

"Goodness me!" exclaimed Dorothy. "I never s'pected Toto was fooling me all this time." Then she drew a small silver whistle from her pocket and blew a shrill note upon it. A moment later there was a sound of scurrying foot-steps, and a shaggy black dog came running up the path

Dorothy knelt down before him and shaking her finger just above his nose she said:

"Toto, haven't I always been good to you?"

Toto looked up at her with his bright black eyes and wagged his tail.

"Bow-wow!" he said, and Betsy knew at once that meant yes, as well as Dorothy and Ozma knew it, for there was no mistaking the tone of Toto's voice.

"That's a dog answer," said Dorothy. "How would you like it, Toto, if I said nothing to you but 'bow-wow'?"

Toto's tail was wagging furiously now, but otherwise he was silent.

"Really, Dorothy," said Betsy, "he can talk with his bark and his tail just as well as we can. Don't you understand such dog language?"

"Of course I do," replied Dorothy. "But Toto's got to be more sociable. See here, sir!" she continued, addressing the dog, "I've just learned, for the first time, that you can say words--if you want to. Don't you want to, Toto?"

"Woof!" said Toto, and that meant no.

"Not just one word, Toto, to prove you're as any other animal in Oz?"


"Just one word, Toto--and then you may run away."

He looked at her steadily a moment.

"All right. Here I go!" he said, and darted away as swift as an arrow.

And, as always, you can read the whole thing here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Gettin' All Spry on Grolsch

Did you know that the fifth volume of Man Why You Even Got To Do A Thing, the zine by everyone's favorite depressed cat Roast Beef (from Achewood), is available for your purchase and reading pleasure? Well it is. And I just read it. And it was awesome. So buy a copy, or if you are nice you can come over and read mine.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Charlie's Back in Town

Nothing pleases me more than when I buy a book based solely on its cover, and the writing and story end up being really great. That was exactly what happened with the awesomely covered Charlie's Back in Town by Jacqueline Park (1975).

I admittedly only looked for a couple of minutes, but I'm having a heck of a time finding out anything about the author. There aren't that many great female crime writers out there, and I think that Park is one of them. But the only other book I can find that she might have written is the 1997 novel The secret book of Grazia dei Rossi. There is an actress named Jacqueline Park who had a bunch of small mostly TV roles in the 1950s, is that her? Charlie's Back in Town was nominated for the 1976 Edgar Award Best Paperback Original Mystery Novel, so it seems like she should have written some more crime novels. My guess is that Jacqueline Park is a pseudonym, but I wish I know what other names he/she wrote under... I will have to devote more time on the Internets to this issue.

So, the book: Our hero, John Mace, is the only law officer in a small town in Canada that is just outside of Toronto (he is actually the elected reeve, which must be a Canadian thing because I had never heard the term before). [As an aside, the town in the book is called Easton, but you wouldn't know that from the back cover, which calls the town Weston.] The Toronto airport is in his jurisdiction, and a murder in the parking garage draws him into a convoluted and mysterious group of people. The dead guy is Charlie Sellers, a local shady big-shot who made tons of money in the stock market, lost it all (and the money of a bunch of other people) and skipped town. He remade his fortune in Houston and is back settling old debts and paying back those who screwed him over in the past. Charlie is a pretty sleazy dude, and just about everyone who has ever come in contact with him has a good reason for wanting him dead. This includes: his brother, his brother's fiance (who used to be Charlie's lover), his ex-parter, his ex-partner's wife (who also used to be Charlie's lover), and a whole series of gangster underlings and bosses.

But who really did it? And is John Mace, an ex-military guy prone to ennui and self-doubt, really the best man to solve the crime? Should he cede control of the case to the big-city cops? And what about all these other bodies that keep turning up?

Park does a nice job of balancing Mace's psychology and personality with the mystery and police procedural aspects of the book. The characters are well-written and the story is intriguing. Plus I didn't figure out who did it until it was revealed at the end. A very satisfying book.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


This baby table-cage both intrigues and repels me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Questioning the Universe

My latest dip into my overflowing bookshelves came up with a spot of non-fiction: Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries: Discourses on Gödel, Magic Hexagrams, Little Red Riding Hood, and Other Mathematical and Psuedoscience Topics by Martin Gardner (2003). It really is about all those things. And probably fifty more.

I first heard of Martin Gardner when I worked for the math archives. He comes from a philosophy background, but is well known for his writing on recreational mathematics. He has written about a billion books, some of which (like this one) contain reprints of his columns. Gardner is a great popular journalist, with broad interests and a whole swath of venues in which to air his (sometimes contentious) opinions on everything from quantum physics, to religion, to literature. He is entertainingly contrary on certain topics, and particularly fun to read when he attacks such pseudoscientific disciples as primal scream therapy, distant healing, and therapeutic touch.

The science articles in this book are fascinating, particularly "Multiverses and Blackberries" and "Can Time go Backward?" The mathematics articles are also interesting, although a lot of the details were a little bit beyond my personal interest in mathematics (I like the ideas, but not the numbers). The religion section is great. The Literature section introduced me to Gardner's work in the land of Oz (Kristy gift hint: get me this book). And the Moonshine section was the best of all.

It is hard to encapsulate what a book that covers some of the major aspects of human knowledge is about. And that is why this book is fun to read.

Monday, June 18, 2007


What do you get when you combine Flava-puff, Jeff Foxworthy beef jerky, and Clamato Energia energy drink? A party, my friends. A funny-flava party. And in case you were wondering, all of these items taste pretty good. Especially after several drinks.

[In addition, I made this dip which was not funny. Instead, it was just super tasty: soften some Neufchâtel cheese in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, stir in 2-3 cloves of minced garlic, spread that stuff in a pie plate, then put two chopped tomatoes, a bunch of chopped green onions, and some shredded cheese on top. Put the whole deal in the fridge for at least 3 hours, and then serve it with crackers and chips. Yum.]

Friday, June 15, 2007

Graphic Shit

I swear that a bird shit on my windshield the other day in the exact shape of the animated Paul McCartney in The Yellow Submarine. It was kind of like his head with a really long neck (where the shit dripped down) and no body.

But it rained on my car before I could take a picture.

Would I lie about something like this? Dr. M can back me up. It was uncanny.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Slaughterhouse Five

There are no telegrams on Tralfamadore. But you're right: each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message -- describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamordians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn't any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.

That's right, folks. The latest selection for our nicely growing book club is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969). This was the first of Vonnegut's books that I ever read, and that was back in junior high. All I remembered about it was something about WWII and that I liked it. Well, my memories of the book were totally on target, although there is a little more going on than just something about WWII.

In this book, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. He floats around between his service in the war, his time as a German prisoner of war, the firebombing of Dresden, his marriage, his work as an optometrist, his abduction by aliens, his speaking career, and his death. Not necessarily in that order. Although he started jumping around in time much earlier, it wasn't until he met up with the Tralfamordians (see above, where they describe their literature) that he learned of their different perspective on time, which made his jumping around make a lot more sense.

In a strange coincidence, I've just been reading some articles on quantum physics and the notion of time that pretty much say the exact same thing as the Tralfamordians. Maybe they are onto something?

I won't say too much more, since the bookclub hasn't met yet, but if it's been awhile since you've read this book as well, you should pick it up again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Does having nothing to say make me cool, or lame?

For some reason this week I am totally busy, and yet have nothing to report thus far. I have read some books, but I just got home from the grocery store and I've still got a batch of pineapple chicken salad to whip up before going to see a movie at the Paramount, so no time to write anything of substance now. Maybe tomorrow?

Until then, you could check out some of the stuff I've written on booktruck if you have finished the rest of the internet and need something to occupy your time.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Little Wizard Stories of Oz

When L. Frank Baum restarted his Oz series in 1913, after attempting to end it for good in 1910, he published both The Patchwork Girl of Oz and a series of short stories featuring the Oz characters. These short stories were originally published as individual books for young children, but were later collected (in 1914) into a single volume titled Little Wizard Stories of Oz.

The stories are set up much like fables, with morals at the end, and each involves two of the now very familiar Oz characters. The Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger teach us that "it's better to be a coward than to do wrong," and "it's better to go hungry... than to be cruel to a little child." The Wizard of Oz teaches Dorothy that "it is really dangerous for a little girl to wander alone in a fairy country." After the Nome King accidentally breaks Tik Tok in a fit of rage, he realizes: "When I am angry I always do something that I am sorry for afterward. So I have firmly resolved never to get angry again." Ozma and the Little Wizard (who is the Wizard of Oz) don't really learn anything, but they teach some mean Imps a lesson by changing them into various things until they learn to behave. After Jack Pumpkinhead falls off the Sawhorse, he learns to take better care of his head. And the Scarecrow and the Tinman learn not to stand up in boats and not to trust crows.

Some of these life lessons are probably more applicable to the average child than others, but they are all pretty fun to read. Plus the whole thing will take about 15 minutes, as it is a super shorty.

As always, you can read them for yourself here or, if you are hip to the new audio technology, you can download the audio files and listen to them on your Ipod or compubot or what-have-you. [And that site is pretty cool if you poke around in it -- I am more of a reader than a book-on-tape listener, but if you like to listen to books in your car or on your Ipod, then check that site out.] Isn't technology nice?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Glass Key

I'm mixing up the science fiction with a taste of my other favorite genre, the crime novel. I recently read The Glass Key by the always awesome Dashiell Hammett (1931) [and isn't this the best cover ever? It is the 1972 Vintage Books edition and it rocks]. Hammett is one of my favorite crime writers, and rumor has it that this was Hammett's favorite of his own works.

The main character in The Glass Key is Ned Beaumont. He isn't a detective or a cop, he is a gambler who happens to be best friends with Paul Madvig, a mobster turned politician who is working to get "his" senator and the rest of his party elected to office so that he can run the town through the system instead of around it. Just because Ned isn't a detective doesn't mean he isn't involved in solving any mysteries, however. The senator's son is mysteriously murdered, and everyone in town thinks Paul did it because the guy was making time with his underage daughter. But Paul doesn't want anyone to think he did it because he is angling for the senator's sexy daughter. Ned just wants to get the money his bookie (who mysteriously left town all of a sudden the night of the murder) owes him. So who really killed the senator's son? Why does Ned get beat up so much? Can Ned and Paul's seriously strong friendship (Ned's main character traits are few words and ultra-loyalty) handle all the accusations, love triangles, and double-crossing that takes place in this book?

Read it and find out. Seriously. You will love this book. I'll even loan my copy to you if you ask.

Do it!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Is it the End of Secret Boyfriend Wednesday?

Dear readers, we have traveled together on a crazy whirlwind of a secret boyfriend wednesday ride. One year ago tomorrow I posted my first weekly SB: the lovely Tim from the British office. I still stand by Martin Freeman and all the rest of my 50 posted SBs (50! I had no idea there were so many). I'm not out of SBs, but from now on the revelations will be less predictable. All good things must come to an end, my friends, and weekly secret boyfriends are no exception.

So, to end it where we began it, in a strangely circular fashion, I give you Jim from the American Office (who I always call Tim, since the British version is burned into my brain). Cheers to you, John Krasinski, and congratulations on being the 50th, and final SB Wednesday honoree.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Craft Lessons, Now with Extra Links!

Haven't you always wanted to make a potato stamp? I know we used them back when I was in preschool, although I'm pretty sure the teachers cut out the designs for us. I could have used a teacher to help me with my design on the potato stamps we made this weekend, but I think my tiny triangle turned out okay (although not nearly as cool as Josh's gross skull stamp). It all started when my sister came up with a craft plan to create some homemade wrapping paper for a wedding gift. If anyone can convince four drunken adults to make some potato stamps, it is Jill.

Now for a tutorial!

Potato Stamps the Jill-bot way:
1. Cut the potato in half
2. Trim sides for clear stamping
3. Trace out your design with something pokey
4. Cut out that negative space
5. Put your potatoes stamp side down on a paper towel to dry out
6. Paint some concentrated watercolor on your stamp
7. Stamp it! (Oddly not pictured)
8. Repeat
9. View your marvelous work
10. Wrap a present with it

Full potato stamp documentation here.