Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yay for Austin!

It is so lovely to be back home. For the past two weeks I've been subjected to constant below-freezing temperatures, including a few nights that got down into the negative digits (with the exception of one really warm day in the 50s that made all the snow melt). Today I have short sleeves on and the windows are open. Wonderful.

I've got a million things to do and lots of piles to sort and stuff to put away, so while I'm busy with all of that, please amuse yourselves with a short video of the as-yet-unnamed family band that will soon be topping the charts.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Almost home

We would actually be on the road home right now had we not had a totally shitty tire blowout on the Kansas Turnpike last night. Here are some lessons learned:

1. Dr. M is a good guy to have in the driver's seat if your tire blows out when you are driving 75 on a busy interstate.

2. Kansas state troopers are nice guys and they will help you change your tire.

3. Always, always, always check the air pressure in your spare before a long trip (mine was at zero. Whoops).

4. Triple A is a good investment when you find yourself on the side of the interstate with no air in your spare.

5. Driving for fifty miles on your tiny spare is freaky when you can't go over 50 and everyone else is going 80.

My current hope is that Rick, who the ladies at the front desk of our hotel recommended, has our tire size in stock and is a fast worker. I'm ready to be home right now...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oh yeah...

With holiday times and holiday travels, don't expect too much spacebeeriness over the next couple of weeks. Although, who knows, maybe I'll surprise you...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

The always wonderful JLowe gave me his copy of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater or Pearls Before Swine (1965) by Kurt Vonnegut. It had been rescued from the bin behind Half Price Books, and doesn't have its cover, yet is still perfectly up to a re-reading.

I'm not sure when I read this last -- probably in high school, but possibly in college. I loved Vonnegut back then and tore through all his books multiple times. And he is an easy guy to tear through, with his short chapters and pastiche-style narratives. He is also an easy guy to get mixed up with himself. I remember reading all of Vonnegut's books, but little about what I thought of individual novels. So even though I don't remember how I felt about God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater when I first read it, I did really enjoy it this second (third? fourth?) time.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is the story of (as you might imagine) Mr. Rosewater. Actually two different Mr. Rosewaters. One, Eliot Rosewater, comes from a huge amount of money and has the non-responsibility of distributing large chunks of that money as president of the Rosewater Foundation. The other, his distant cousin Fred Rosewater, is a struggling insurance agent in Rhode Island who will inherit the Rosewater fortune if his lawyer can prove that Eliot is insane. And to his family, particularly his father, the Senator, Eliot does seem pretty insane. He left his big house and his fancy life in the city to live back in the town of Rosewater, Indiana. He is obsessed with volunteer firemen. He drinks constantly, sleeps in a dingy one-room apartment, and answers every phone call, any time of day or night, with "This is the Rosewater Foundation. How can we help you?" And then he does whatever he can to help the person on the other end of the phone.

He also has some words of wisdom. For a time he wrote the following in every men's room he visited:

If you would be unloved and forgotten, be reasonable.

And when asked to baptize some twins, even though he is not religious, he comes up with the following plan:

Go over to her shack, I guess. Sprinkle some water on the babies, say, "Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies --: God damn it, you've got to be kind."

So, yeah, Eliot Rosewater probably is a little crazy. But in the nicest, most sane way possible. Just like Vonnegut, whose books manage to be cynical and naive and funny and heartbreaking all at once.

Now, who can I give this poor coverless book to? You know you want to read it...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Is life worth living?

Well this 1933 publication (endorsed by the Catholic Church) certainly seems to think so. I'd say it would at least be worth living long enough to read some of the other booklets published by this company, including: "What is Love?," "Dorothy's Divorce," "Companionate Marriage," "Unreasonable Mothers," "Can You Say No?," "Are You in Style?," "What Price Popularity?," Everyman: A Three Act Morality Play on Marriage," and "The Terrors of Being Engaged"

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Exorcist (1971)

For some unknown reason, I bought this copy of William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist from the library book sale. I think I was just interested to see how closely the movie followed the book. And I do like the movies (well, the first one and the third one, the second one is a little goofy but still occasionally entertaining). And, with the exception of the first couple chapters and a few heavy-handed metaphors, I was not disappointed.

As most of you are probably aware, The Exorcist is the story of Chris MacNeil, a famous actress (who was actually based on Shirley MacLaine, who is a friend of Blatty), and her daughter Regan. Things start out slowly, with Regan complaining of bumps in her room and an demonstrating an increasing fascination with her Ouija board. Regan's problems soon escalate into a barfing, cussing, coma-ridden, linguistically enhanced, religiously-tinged masturbatory freak out, at which point her mother and the rest of the household seek outside help. They first turn to doctors, then psychologists, then a doubt-ridden priest who is also a psychologist (Father Karras), and finally an un-doubting old priest who comes right away when he is called to exorcise the demon Pazuzu out of little Regan. (Pazuzu! It never stops being funny to say. If you watch Exorcist II, you will get to spend a lot of time with Pazuzu.)

Overall the book is fast-paced and well written, although it occasionally gets a little too drawn down into its science vs. religion, doubt vs. belief motifs. And the first chapter almost made me just put the book down and walk away (which I almost never do) -- it is told from the perspective of Chris MacNeil, and has some of the hammiest metaphors and stupid use of sentence fragments and italics I have ever seen. The first paragraph of the book gives you a taste of it: "Like the brief doomed flare of exploding suns that registers dimly on blind men's eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all. It was difficult to judge." If you can get through that, the rest of the book is a breeze.

Finally, I know I have posted this clip before (which is from Exorcist III, although the carp in question is actually mentioned by the detective in the book of The Exorcist), but I can't get enough of George C. Scott and his carp:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Special Secret Boyfriend update!

Thanks to our digital TV converter box, I have renewed my love affair with a feisty pair of secret boyfriends, the San Diego private detectives Rick and A. J. Simon. Now that we are receiving digital waves from our antenna, we get the Retro TV Network, and as far as I'm concerned we never need to buy cable for the rest of our lives. In addition to the sexy brothers on Simon and Simon, we also get the Rockford Files, The Incredible Hulk, The A Team, Dragnet, and so much more.

But back to those Simon boys. A.J. is the straitlaced, play by the rules brother who usually gets the girl. Rick is a Vietnam vet who takes chances and plays by his own rules. And often also gets a girl. The girls change from episode to episode. Every episode is really excellent, although the last one I watched has Rick and A.J. investigating a man who disappeared from a nudist colony, which naturally involved quite a bit of nudity on the part of the brothers, often with hilarious and charming results. I believe this is the only instance of two naked SBs together in a single one hour television show, and it might be hard for any of my Secret Boyfriends to top that...

Don't believe me about how awesome Simon and Simon is? Just watch the intro, and you will be hooked for life: