Meanest Book Review of the Week

From last week's Washington Post Book World:

In order to stretch it into what frequently seems the longest book ever written, Carr is forced to look elsewhere, especially to the Ku Klux Klan, the sordid past and present of which she examines endlessly without managing to add an iota to what we already know about it.
Emphasis added.

Leaving On a Jet Plane

A To Do List

Actually, she's leaving in a rented van with a set of crazy relatives and a big ole dog. The Brunette is leaving me for a week of female family bonding in Florida, so I thought I'd put my list of things to get done right here where I can remember to find it.

My head goes all discombobulated when she's gone.

  • Saturday
    • Buy Present for Nephew
    • Attend Ben Kepler recital
    • Taxes
    • Wireless Router
    • Buy ink for cool pen
    • New Helmet
    • Research Subversion and Active Directory
    • Grocery Shop
    • Garden
  • Sunday
    • Wrap Present
    • Paint
    • Attend birthday party
    • Create ClearQuest CruiseControl Plug In
    • Do Laundry
  • Monday
    • Play Trivia Casino at the New Deal Cafe (win big)
  • Rest of Week
    • Mope about
    • Moan
    • Whinge
    • Sleep

1:13

Have you missed getting the commuting reports? Not much to say today except that this is the first bike ride to work since November. I feel this way every year, but jeeeez, those four months have left me out of shape. I'm zonkered.

But I'm feelin' smart!

File Under Stupid Things to Say

So, I joined the Greenbelt mailing list. This means I now get little nuggets of crime placed into my mailbox on a regular basis. I wonder if, in general, this isn't just contributing to our culture of fear. But today's weekly crime report made it all worth while.

Imagine you're driving along and you get stopped from something minor like sneezing while driving or forgetting to put on your seatbelt. How do you react?

  1. Meekly apologize to the cop and take your medicine?
  2. Push the pedal to the medal and flee the scene?
  3. Break into tears and hope you get off with a warning?
... was arrested and charged with Making a False Statement to a Police Officer. An officer stopped a vehicle for a seatbelt violation. The driver gave a false name. A computer check under the false name revealed an open arrest warrant with the Montgomery County Police Department. The suspect was transported to the Department of Corrections for service of the warrant. Further investigation revealed the suspect's true identity, and he was released to the Department of Corrections for a hearing before a District Court Commissioner for the false statement charge.

Obviously, you pick #4: Tell the cop you're actually someone else; somebody who is on the lam from the cops.

Think of Some Joke about Jets

A Community Report

This is true. We received the following notice in the ground-based old-fashioned mail today (stamped and postmarked and everything):
Attention: Greenbelt Residents There is a man who is learing [sic] at and harassing young girls at the pool and in the square of our community. This man [name removed] has convinced several people that he is being victimized by these warnings. But you judge for yourselves. How often has he been seen hanging around the square? Or prowling the community in his [description and license plates of his two cars]. He is not the victim. I have asked for your help as the police will not do anything until he hurts someone. Don't let this happen. What this guy needs is a good oldfashioned [sic] ass whipping. PLEASE POST THIS SO AS TO SPREAD THE WORD.
Stop shouting at me! Or maybe all-caps doesn't count as shouting in snail mail?

This made me think of the high school students who were banned from using MySpace because of making fun of other students. I guess they went and got themselves some stamps.

Now, what I'm disappointed by here is that the originator of this missive didn't say when or where the ass whipping will be held. What kind of party planning is that? I don't know what to bring; what if two of us bring the same seven layer dip? I don't know what to wear; is this black tie or not? Will baby sitting be provided? I hope there'll be s'mores and campfire songs.

If on a winter's night a traveler (Italo Calvino)

You browse the web and find yourself reading this latest blog entry by Taleswapper. Before you start, though, you want to make sure you're in the right mood and surroundings. Tell your boss to leave you alone. Turn your cell phone off. Those two horndogs in the next cubicle over? They keep babbling about vegan jello wrestling? Tell them to keep it to themselves.

Or, if you must, go over and listen to their stories before coming back here.

Did you do it? It's important that you're giving your entire attention to this blog. A distraction, no matter how small, will steal away the wisdom you might have gathered from this site. Or at least make it seem much less funny that it really is. So you try to make an effort to focus and let the cares of the working day fall away from you.

For example, that thing about the vegan Jello. You're thinking about it aren't you? Maybe that story is more interesting that the story ole Taleswapper has crafted for you. You're thinking maybe Taleswapper better come up with something better than this rather meandering discourse. In fact, you're wondering why youstuck with it this far. Maybe you meant to just check out the comments. Sometimes, these blogs create little communities and the communities take over, so that the readers come to visit the comments sections more than the primary content.

"Primary content" is such a biased word, you think. It's only primary from the point-of-view of the writer, don't you agree? Maybe the primary point of interest is elsewhere. You know, maybe there's some other readers who feel the same way you do. Or maybe there's one particular other reader who feels the same way you do. And if the Other Reader feels the same way you do about this little blog in the corner of nowhere, maybe you have other things in common, too. But you won't find that other reader here; you'll have to look in the comments. Oh, nobody has left any comments? Maybe you'll just leave a quick one.

If you don't leave a comment, you run the risk of missing a potentially vital interaction with that Other Reader. Imagine, some Other Reader is sitting at a terminal reading these words just like you are. The Other Reader is having the same feelings and reactions as you, perhaps. How much closer to someone can you get than sharing an experience? The Other Reader is sitting there thinking the same thing you are: What a bunch of boloney. There's no Other Reader. Only by leaving a comment will you be able to let the Other Reader know that there really is someone else out here.

And I know what will happen. You'll catch that other Reader's attention. Maybe make a little small talk, discuss reading, build up some confidence. Then you'll ask that Other Reader out.

You'll want to go somewhere public, of course. You know how these internetweb thingies are. A public place is a safe place. And safety is a part of what you're looking for, isn't it? Someone with the same thoughts and dreams? After the first little meeting (where you make fun of the pitiful blogger typing in his basement all alone), you'll move on to more risky dates. Eventually, you and the Other Reader will become entangled irrevocably. Maybe you'll move to the country or maybe down to the exciting urban center. Either way, things are going to change.

Why, you might have 12 kids before you know it. The kids are great (of course they are, they're yours), but they do take up a lot of time. Or, maybe you'll skip the kids and adopt abused llamas from Peru, only that's no easy task, either. You'll spend all that time tending the llamas and explaining to dolts just how different llamas are from alpacas.

Really, they're hardly alike at all.

At any rate, you find yourself climbing into bed with your partner after a particularly exhausting day. You're reading your shared copy of Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler. You find it interesting if a bit orthogonal. Certainly, it's the story of two readers falling in love, but it's also the story of the strained relationship formed between the reader and the writer. What is that a reader wants from the work? For that matter, what does the writer want from the reader? And this makes you think of that poor, lonely blogger. What was his name? Oh, yes: Taleswapper. So you log into the network and hop on over to his blog.

And what will you find?

You'll find that he has grown weary of his fickle readers; that he has tired of explaining that he doesn't even have a basement; that he's given up blogging and is off somewhere reading Italo Calvino, too.

Filed under:

Best Line from a Short Story This Month

Shit, says Czesko again. We're gonna need a Baptist.
"Czesko", by Ef Deal, in Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2006

Firefly

A Weekend Report

Not having a television leaves one a bit out of the flow of popular culture. From time-to-time, it becomes necessary for us to dive in and experience the water. Otherwise, we'll be condemned to the humor attic as folks fail to understand our once-hilarious, but now tedious, wise-cracks referencing the antics of the Brady Bunch. To maintain our standing in American society, we spent Saturday night at the Brunette's brother's house watching his large television and soaking in science fiction geek points by watching Firefly.

Yes, I know that even with this effort we are waaaaaaay behind the times, but it's our small effort to catch up. You have to give us some points for that, right? We've already picked up the phrase "Gor Ram" and have been using it to annoy any and all who pass us by. (And by "we", I really mean "I", and the person I'm most annoying with incessant use of fake profanity is the Brunette, but that's the price for keeping up with popular culture, don't you think?)

Now, as far as I can tell, this show is about how Bill Cosby's father (now a priest of some sort) and famous chef Rachel Ray (now a chef and mechanic) bop around the galaxy with a good-hearted thief and his band of merry men (and women), running from those darn Union soldiers and revenoors (sorry, I mean "Alliance forces") and doing good deeds where they can. There's all this tension between trying to get stuff illegally and yet being basically ethical folks.

The show is great for a first season series. The cast seems to hang together well and the writing is solid -- it feels real. There doesn't seem to be any of that junk we had to endure in the Star Trek groupings: give them a year to find cohesion and comfort with their roles. This is bang on from the start. It's worth a view if you can get it.

Of course, there is that little sister who keeps trying to get attention, what with the evil mad-scientists and hearing the screams of dead people and all. I mean, why doesn't she just say it: "Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm. Everything's always about Malcolm!"

Angry Anglicans

A Lenten Report

We visited the nearly local Episcopal/Anglican church for Ash Wednesday last night. At one point, the officiant paused in her discussion of repentence to say, "Any right-wing bigots who have bugged the walls of this subversive congregation, take note--"