As a kid, my father told me that constantly. "Eso es Satanico" referred to Ninja Turtles, Smurfs, Garbage Pail Kids, and even Madballs. I tried to convince him that Scooby Doo wasn't 'satanico' because the monsters were actually angry old men who ran county fairs and not at all related to the devil or he-who-must-not-be-named.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I didn't care for this year much at all.
The summer was nice, I guess.

My favorite memory of this year involves watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with Beth. The "going the wrong way" scene in that movie had us laughing so hard that I almost peed. My stomach hurt afterward. Had I been watching that movie on my own, I maybe would have rewound the scene once. She had me rewind it... maybe ten, fifteen times? I thought we would never stop laughing. Even the obviously tacked-on heart-felt part at the end worked. She probably cried (she cries).

We were in the basement of the house I'm living in. My roommate, the owner of the house, has outfitted it with a TV and DVD player and an aquarium and a couch. My roommate is an apallingly inconsiderate person. Loud, grunting, rapping along to whatever bullshit Kanye song is playing at the time. It boggles the mind. We were in the basement of the house he so clearly owns and... he and I aren't friends. We say hello, we're friendly, and that's it. So being there, in that basement is a reprieve but it also feels as though we're stepping on someone's toes. And I'm always aware of that.

But when we grabbed dinner and beers and watched that movie down there--one of my favorite evenings of the last year--we forgot about all that and everything else.

Friday, November 20, 2009

GOD SAYS NO by James Hannaham

I wound up liking this so much more than I expected to. I mean, look at that cover. It's brutal. It was weird to receive it from McSweeney's, a company whose aesthetics I'm usually in love with. They've never put out anything ugly. Everytime I recieve a package in the mail from them it's exciting, and not always because of the writing contained within. I openly judge these books by their covers. Just not enough to avoid reading them. They are paid for, after all.

I kind of hated it for the first two hundred or so pages. Then I realized that my response to the book shouldn't necessarily be based on my reaction the the main character, Gary Gray, a Christian who struggles with "SSAs" (same sex attractions). He's an innocent dude in denial about his sexuality, and sometimes the mix of that and his religion make him into kind of an asshole. It's a tough read sometimes, especially when his wife is trying to get him into bed with her and he responds agressively, as if he were in an argument.

Hannaham, who doesn't strike me as the most compassionate author (he thinks his book is a lot funnier than it actually is), really gets into this guy's head. The book is written in the first person and a lot of it is what runs through the guy's mind. Struggles, hopes, faith, and all. He really did an impressive job.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cat's Cradle is the best book my little book club has read so far, and I chose it.
So I rule.

I wrote a brief review of this book for another website, but it has bugs that won't allow me to access it anymore. So I'll do it here.

This is my second Vonnegut novel-length experience. The first one was Breakfast of Champions. Cat's Cradle is some high concept stuff about the end of the world and all the ridiculous circumstances that bring it about.

I've said this before, I know. I don't read the backs of books so I'm not gonna talk about the book too much here. I hate spoilage and I'll have no part in it! I'll just say that it really, really was a solid read full of satire and dark humor. It is equal parts terrifying and hilarious, and I wish everyone would read it. I feel as though everything Vonnegut was trying to do here was accomplished. All the funny, all the dark, etc.

Dictators are frightening. Religion, terrifying. And a good time was had by all.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Setting: Victoria, BC Fairway Grocery Store
A CREEPY OLD MAN approaches me and asks me the following:
"Why do women live longer than men?"
"Why?" I ask.
"Because they don't have wives."
I fake laugh and he starts to walk away. Then he turns around and faces me again.
"Why can't Barbie and Ken do it?"
I knew the answer to this one. "Because they don't have genitals."
He corrects me. "Because Ken comes in another box."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

With regard to August 13th's entry,
Yeah, Not so Much Anymore.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Zoe’s Tale was a totally dissatisfying read. It was a means to an end and that end was to fill the holes in the previous book in John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War universe, The Last Colony. I ate up The Last Colony. I fell in love with the characters and their situation, lost in space, not being able to communicate with their own people because they were, in a way, exiled. I enjoyed their wit and audaciousness.
I remember picking it up on a whim before a trip and beginning to read it at the airport. I remember Jesu was what was playing on my headphones, while my ex-girlfriend read whatever it was she was reading and listened to whatever it was she was listening to. We had probably missed our flight and were killing time until the next one. That’s how we travelled. We ran late, missed flights.
Once I finished The Last Colony, I ordered the two previous books in the story, Old Man's War and Ghost Brigades. I ate them up too. I read them in record time, and I was ready to follow John Scalzi through this or any series of books. I hadn't read sci-fi this fun since Ender's Game.

Anyway, The Last Colony had massive plot holes and untied loose ends, and Zoe's Tale, the story of The Last Colony told from the point of view of the protagonists' teenage daughter, was Scalzi's attempts to fill those holes and tie those loose ends.
Zoe, the teenager telling the story, is all sassy and smart and her personality just bleeds through the pages. It's clunky and weird and there was a part at the very beginning where I worried she might try to fuck her female best friend.
I'm sure it's a hell an undertaking for an adult male author to write a book from within the head of a teenage girl, and I can appreciate the ambitiousness of the project, but in this case it didn't work. I'm not interested in spoiling anything about the book so I won't go into scenes that I disliked in particular, but I can say that I was a little relieved when it was over. I didn't want to see teenage Zoe ever again. I like John Scalzi, mostly, and I'll keep reading his books. Maybe even one where Zoe's an adult and it doesn't feel like Scalzi's so far out of his element.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm Feeling Pretty Good.
I'm working out a whole lot and eating pretty well.
I've pretty much eradicated cheese in my diet, and I've been going to the gym on my lunch breaks.

I. I. I. I. I.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The World Beneath
is a book that I picked up at The Stranger's Slog Happy, a monthly happy hour event in which the Stranger staff invites their readers to come out and have a drink with them. There are food and drink specials, friendly people, and free books. Their literary critic brings out a whole mess of galleys and uncorrected proofs (same thing?) and people are invited to take books home with them, read them, and review them.

There's really only one thing about Aaron Gwyn's The World Beneath that bothers me, and I'll take a moment to get it out of the way-- it seems like a modern fiction cliche to have the story's hero be traumatized by something that happened to them when they were younger. The death of a child by being run over, the death of a wife by fire, the death a little brother by drowning, the discovery of an artifact-collecting grandfather in the middle of an old-people orgy sex ritual, etc. Each hero is haunted by what they've seen or whatever else life has dealt them, and it has a tendency to inform their decisions for the rest of the book. It also has a tendency for flashback-making.

Oh, well. The rest of The World Beneath is about a few different things, all of which revolve around holes in the ground and Native American myths. There are three characters whose stories are told-- each of them broken in a different way because of their traumas. JT, a half-Mexican half-Chickasaw boy, a loner, is obsessed with going underground to be with his dead father. Sheriff Martin blames himself for his little brother's death and spends his entire life trying to make good on that, and Hickson Creed fought in the first Gulf War and is suffering from PTSD. The story flashes back and forth between two different timelines and JT's own narration of some of the important events in his own life, and all three character's lives intersect.

The World Beneath is a relatively short, spare story that sadly, loses some of steam as it moves forward but still is a story very much worth your time. This is Aaron Gwyn's first novel, and I'm looking forward to the second.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I really, really love what it is that James Kochalka does. And what he does is touching, cute, and shockingly violent at the same time. And by touching I mean surprisingly touching. I've read 2.5 of his books now and they always get me right there. I told him so. I pointed at my chest and said "Monkey vs. Robot got me right there, man." of course, that was when I'd only read Monkey vs. Robot. I've since read just less than half of the first collected American Elf book and now, Magic Boy and the Robot Elf.

It really is a thing of beauty the way he tells these seemingly nonsensical tales that grab you. Almost like a cuter, less developed version of a Jason story.

I suggest everyone go to their local bookstore, grab a cup of coffee, and read a James Kochalka book as soon as possible.

Then buy all of them.

book clubs pt. 3

I actually read Couch before reading Whatever you do, Don't Run, but I wasn't sure what to say about it. I'm still not entirely sure.

Couch was a winding and long read. I was in it to finish it, and I did, but I didn't feel like it was worth the trip.

Three guys-- Thom, Erik, and Tree, decide to carry a mystical, nearly invincible couch to its place of origin. Kind of like a modern Tolkien story. People try to stop them, everyone wants the couch and whatever power/knowledge it may or may not contain within. There's even a Tom Bombadil character.

Couch was an adventure that really, really made me feel hopeless for the characters. Everything was so grueling and sweaty and dark and lost for so much of the book. I felt a little abused by the end. A little taken. Again, just like Tolkien only the end of The Return of the King was worth the trip.

I liked that the character of Erik was kind of a prick, and that Thom had so much heart. Tree was kind of useless.

I read this book for the Elliott Bay sci-fi book club and when I arrived I met a whole bunch of people who really, really seemed to like the book more than I did.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Book club books for to meet people pt. 2.

The last book club went well. There were seven or eight people there, all ready and I guess somewhat excited to discuss The Last Night at the Lobster. It was me and a few ladies in their 40s, and everyone was really kind. I liked it-- people were interested in discussing even the smallest parts of the book and everyone laughed at everything I said.

Whatever You Do, Don't Run was another such purchase-- to get me into a book club and get me talking shit with a new group of people in Seattle. This time it was the new book group, and it went well. The conversation was good, the coffee and snacks even better (Cafe El Diablo).

Take a look at the cover of Whatever You Do, Don't Run. You don't have to look too closely to see that the safari hat the Lion is holding on to was superimposed using MS Paint or Print Shop. It was as if they had no intention of making any effort whatsoever. I picked it up, looked at it, looked at the cost ($16, methinks), and almost didn't buy it. It's not as if Safari-guide non-fiction is something I was dying to read.

I got it anyway, and I guess I'm kind of glad. Peter Allison's book is a bunch of episodes, mostly ending in bad sitcom-style jokes, about being a tour-guide in Botswana. He's not a particularly good writer, but the he managed to pique my interest in what it must be like encounter a lion while walking alone in the Desert. Almost every story involves encounters with animals that can bite, stomp, sting, or squeeze you to death. Sometimes it reminded me of reading horror, because the danger level seemed almost unreal. At one point Allison parties with some of the guests, and one of them gets drunk and wanders off in the middle of the night. The assumption, the book has you believe, is that it is almost impossible that he hasn't been devoured by something.

Whatever You Do, Don't Run isn't a book that gave this book club much to talk about, besides all of the "oh, shit" moments it inspires. Oh, shit. Lions and snakes are like zombies, waiting beyond and sometimes within the small perimeter of the safari camp to devour you.

I guess, for me, Whatever you Do, Don't Run is the definitive summer beach read. You just read this simple book, and its over in a day. Occasionally you say "oh, shit" and you might giggle a couple of times, though I find that hard to believe. I'm going to send it to one of my rarely-reading siblings. I found it that readable.

Also, did I mention I got my job back just over a month ago? Things are better now.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Underdogs is a foul, foul book.
It was so hard to get through-- the translation was so weird and made me feel like very word of it was being read to me by fat Sgt. Garcia from the 1950's Zorro TV show that was always on the Disney Channel when I was a kid.

The Underdogs is supposed to be the great novel of the Mexican revolution, but more than that it is a book about the failures of the revolution. One gets the impression that Azuela really meant to undermine the Mexican revolution by writing it.

The tales it tells, kind of episodically, are about the heroism of the revolutionaries, then about their brutality as they rape and pillage their way through village after village.

The stories Mariano Azuela tells, especially with regard to Camilla, a woman whose life is greatly affected by this particular band of revolutionaries, are cut and dry. They're meant to be told that way, too, and it was very effective. When she's mistreated by the revolutionaries it is as though the author himself doesn't give a shit about her. I feel like that itself was one of the strengths of the book.

These men, they start off with nothing, they fight back, and then forget what they're fighting for. It was a devastating read. If you're interested in a short book that'll take you a long time because, seriously, it really is no fun at all to read, then The Underdogs is for you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I enjoyed the shit out of Last Night at the Lobster.

I picked the book up out of an interest in joining in on the fun at one of the many Elliot Bay Book Company book clubs and maybe meeting some people in this town of mine. We'll see how that works out.

Last Night at the Lobster is about a Connecticut Red Lobster on its final day-- corporate offices has deemed this particular store redundant and has decided to close it down.

Mostly we follow around a guy named Manny, the restaurant's manager, as he deals with his feelings on the final day, a massive blizzard, his feelings for one of his servers, and a staff that just barely wants to be there.

Every word of the book rang true, I felt. Stewart O'Nan really has a handle on what it is to have your place of employment close down-- it really is a big deal, a world-shaker, but with the exception of a few hugs and drinks with your co-workers, not the kind of deal where its really acceptable to get emotional in public.

Last Night at the Lobster is a very quick read (finished it in two days) but still entirely worth the $13 cover price, I thought.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Stutter Island.
I don't understand how Scorcese's chosen this as his next movie.
I'm sure he'll make it into something watchable. Maybe even something good. But I'm gonna give this book away.

Teddy's a U.S. Marshall trying to track down Rachel Solando, an escaped violent mental patient who drowned all her kids, or something. He and his partner are on Shutter Island, the place where she escaped from her awesome ward of violent mental cases. Surprises abound.

I don't even feel like going over it. This movie will be Scorcese by way of Shyamalan. for real.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'm laid off.
I was given my walking papers just over a week ago.

The job search begins.

My work has been graceful enough to allow me to stay there until March 1st. This means I get medical until March 31st. Thank you for that, NC Machinery. I'll be taking advantage -- getting massages and acupuncture every week until the 31st. I have to make a dental appointment or two as well.
Yesterday I spent the evening at work. My shift ended at 5pm, I was home at about 10pm. I stayed at work re-doing my resume and applying for
one job. It was an information intake officer, or something like that. I have no idea what it was or what the job entails, but I'm mostly qualified, based on their criteria.

There was an essay portion to the application, and I had to answer each question with a narrative about why I may be capable with a customer or someshit. This, and the fact that requires you to use their version of a resume and type up all your info
again, took all evening. So now that they have my information, the government is going to be receiving applications for all kinds of shit from me. That took forever to do and it isn't worth it for just one job.

We'll see what happens. I know of people taking weeks to get their unemployment benefits. I hope I can get mine.

I'm worried I won't land a job soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"My guilt is all I have left. If I lose it, I have stood for nothing, done nothing."

Maybe Ironweed is the darkest book I've ever read. I'm thinking that maybe it's also the reason it took me so long to read. I wound up reading a couple of graphic novels and even picking up a second book while reading it.

That doesn't mean its a bad book at all-- just that I found it difficult. I was embarrassed to find that one of the reasons I found Ironweed so hard to read was the length of the sentences. They'd go on and on, for three, four, five lines, and I, with the attention span of a beagle puppy, had a hard time following along.

I liked Ironweed. It moved me. I have every intention of reading at least one more of Kennedy's Albany Cycle books.

Ironweed revolves around Francis Phelan and his guilt. Francis is a (to u
se the term so often used in the book) bum who left his family about 20 years earlier when he dropped and killed his 13 day-old baby, Gerald. The book follows him and a couple of other bums on their quest to not freeze to death in the frozen post-depression Albany winter of 1938. The book also tells of his finally, after so many years, confronting his own sense of guilt for the death of his son and so many others encountered while on the bum. I don't know. Maybe frozen Albany is supposed to double for purgutory. It doesn't matter. When his dead baby's ghost, in a Six Feet Under-type speech, tells him that after he has redeemed himself he will "stop trying to die because of me," I felt it like a gut-punch.

When I hear that a book or a movie is "about redemption" I usually cringe at the sound. But I really, really liked this book. This is a book about doing really awful shit and almost destroying yourself over it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I took one picture at last night's Juana Molina show, and this is it.

It was such a nice experience being at an uppity joint like The Triple Door and watching someone as amazingly talented as her. Julie, who I met at the show and who arrived first, saved us what I felt could have been the best seat in the house.

I was disappointed to learn that Juana Molina was touring with a band this time, for the first time. I hadn't seen her on any of her earlier tours. The band didn't really hinder her in any way, but her (for lack of a better word) jam tendencies really seemed to show themselves when she was on the stage by herself. The musicians in the band she's traveling with-- a bassist and a drummer-- were phenomenal. Brilliant. But they were her backing band, and she said from the stage that they'd only known each other for four days. So of course they weren't going to be prepared to have her go off on tangents like the one she went on when she was up there alone. The shit she did while she was by herself-- I described it to Beth as being a "vocal kaleidoscope." I still haven't found a better way to describe what I heard her do.

I don't mean to complain, though. I couldn't have been happier with the evening. Five or six of us, mostly meeting for the first time (via Yelp), sat down to dinner and a phenomenal show. Everyone was perfectly friendly and just the right amount of chatty. I had a lot of fun. What a great night.

Edited to add: I can't believe I haven't yet mentioned Laura Gibson. It was such a pleasure to watch her, up there, by herself. She played her guitar and stomped her foot and sang her haunting and lovely songs. She was funny and loveable and just... perfect. I wound up buying her stuff.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I've had a harder time reading the Ironweed by William Kennedy than I care to admit. I love the book, but the prose is winding and sometimes difficult to follow. Difficult for me is what I mean, coming from the school of Hard Case Crime and easy-to-read books of that kind. Ironweed is a dark, slow book. Devastating and full of horrid imagery and dark, dark humor. I started the book more than three weeks ago and I'm at about 110pgs, sad to say.

Also, though, it's The Wire that's ruining my life. Taking things over. I work, I work out, make and eat dinner, I watch The Wire, have a quick conversation with Beth, and go right to sleep. If I could find the time, I'd watch two, maybe three episodes of The Wire every evening. Disc 1 of Season 2 arrives from netflix tonight. You can guess what I'll be doing with my post-work post-gym evening.

I love this show. So far, I don't love it I like I loved The Sopranos or The Shield, but I do love it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Killing Castro is one of the more ridiculous books I can remember ever reading. I'm okay with that, though. I enjoyed the shit out of it and it was a good break after reading Unless, a very emotional and mournful book, a couple of weeks ago.
American dudes with guns and bombs go to Cuba and try to kill off Castro. There's the mercenary type who doesn't care about anything but money, the guy who is dying of cancer and wants to do this one good thing before he's dead, the dude who wants revenge, the guy who just wants out of the country because he's wanted for a double murder, and the savage stupid one who spends the entire book trying to rape the girl on the cover. Killing Castro seems to be like a somewhat more stupid version of that movie Valkyrie that's out in theatres now. History tells us the end of the novel and it really just is a matter of watching these guys get there. Silly action with dumb characters spliced in with a lot of really interesting historical bits, detailing Castro's rise to power.
There are loads of Lawrence Block fans out there that were dying for this reprint to come out, and I can only imagine they're happy with it. This was my first Block experience. And I'll keep reading his work as long as Hard Case Crime keeps sending it to me.
P.S.- Killing Castro takes the award for most embarrassing book cover, I think.
Also- Wow. Block originally wrote this in 1961. People have wanted Castro dead for a very, very long time.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I went on a Gallery Walk tonight in Downtown Seattle. Pioneer Square, the neighborhood is called. I can see myself going on these a lot, in all the different neighborhoods.

It was a mostly quiet affair for me, since I don't really know too many people in town, but it was okay. Being alone in a roomful of people who are talking to each other can get a little grating but then I see these photos of Michael Kenna's, and I know the trip was worth it. The quietness of them-- I don't know how it made me feel. Like we live in a beautiful place, I guess. I don't know. I'm afraid I left my art critic hat in the other room. It doesn't matter. I got a little lost, I spent the better part of half an hour looking for parking, I was there alone, and traffic was a nightmare, but I felt pretty great when I saw his work on those walls.

Jennifer Harrison's work also made me feel pretty glad to be there. The paint literally jumps off the canvas, as if she were working in play-doe or cake frosting. The work is simple and repetitive, but that's beside the point. Just look at it.

One day I'll learn to express how art makes me feel, if I feel anything at all. A lot of the time I'm just happy for these artists, that their work is on display and that they're making a living from what I can only imagine to be their favorite activity in the world.

I don't know.

It should be mentioned that I am searching (and failing) for descriptive words to use in this blog whilst very comfortably using (wearing?) my slanket which the lovely Bethy bought for me. Thanks, hon.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

It occurs to me that Unless is the first Canadian novel I've ever read. It also occurs to me that Unless is the first novel I've ever read by a woman and about women. It left me wondering if the book was meant for women, a little bit.

Unless is a first-person narrative about a woman who has suffered a great tragedy in her life, the kind of tragedy of a tentative nature that manages to keep her mind on this tragic event throughout the entire book because beyond the sadness there's also a great deal of worry involved.

There's a lot going on here. The narrator, Reta Winters, is an author of what I can only describe as chick-lit. 'Comic fantasy' is what she and her editor call the books she writes. Reta also translates the memoirs of feminist author and Holocaust survivor Danielle Westerman, and Westerman's views carry over into a lot of the book. The reader follows along with Reta Winters while she deals with daily life, writing, friends, and family while also dealing with what else is going on, outside of her control.
This makes up the bulk of the book.

I thought it was a solid, though very wordy, read. I'm glad I read it but I'm afraid my attention span made it so that some of the passages blurred into each other. It left me feeling as though there were something profound that the author was trying to impart that I must have missed. I don't feel as though that's the author's fault, though.

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Seattle, Washington, United States
I don't have enough time on my hands. I have too much time on my hands.

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