Monday, October 31, 2005

Wrong stuff

One of my favorite things about Amazon is how uncensored it is. You find just about anything there. For example, if you are so inclined you can pick up a copy of A Hand in the Bush (if you can't figure out what that is about you deserve to be shocked.) If you do click on it, my apologies for the things that will start appearing in "The Page You Made."

Sadly, the album for the breaking artist Goblin Cock has been censored, although this appears to have been done by the record company. It can't be Amazon since they have an image of this. I recall a record store in DC that covered the f-bomb with the a sticker that said "the nasty."

Seriously, my "page you made" is entirely Albini records and wacko sex books now. So be warned.

For nbk

Since nbk of the Leafe likes to have vicarious PDX experiences through me, here are some things I did today. Ate a burger at Stanich's, although I was disturbed by an angry Beaver fan loudly proclaiming the deficiencies of the coaching staff. Had a gelato at a place 2 blocks from my hizz. Found out PBR is $1.75 at the place at the end of my block. Learned a valuable lesson. If you strike up a conversation with the cute barrista girl about the book you are reading one day, be sure that the book you bring the next day isn't sci fi. Cuz she is going to ask what you are reading and you are going to have to show her.

Someone you might like

I just started Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog. Willis has a Lethem like ability to hop styles and topics between books, from happy to sad, from distant past to current. She is more or less a sci-fi writer, as her books feature some kind of sci-fi element. So does Margaret Atwood, sci-fi haters, so give her a chance.

This one is more or less madcap. An English historian recruited by a rich American is sent into the past on a series of misadventures. The fun is in her dialogue and comic descriptions. It's amazing that this is the same woman who wrote the Doomsday Book, one of the biggest bummers of all time. In that one another time travelling historian gets dropped in medieval England just before the Plague arrives. Then she can't get back. You can guess what comes next. The only downside to Willis is her verbosity. She tends to write doorstoppers, so you will be investing some time.

Speaking of the Doomsday Book, I saw a copy of the Domesday book at Powell's. As you probably recall from school this is a detailed census of England in 1086. It was about as exciting as it sounds. Giving this to the spouse will earn you the coveted you're-not-getting-laid-tonight award. Like you were gonna get some anyway.

I'd rather live in a trashcan, then see you happy with another man

Has everyone bought Tanglewood Numbers yet? I don't want to hear any of that"it's too indie" crap, go buy it.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Let's not kid ourselves, it gets really, really bad

I'm late as always with the trends, having just read Fast Food Nation. Fortunately, one of the people at Ristretto Roasters hadn't either so I feel slightly less bad. This is the most shocking book I have read in years. Yes, we all know that fast food is a culinary evil. I was less aware that it is also a social and moral evil as well. The abuse of the workers, the corruption of the economy, the destruction of interesting local character, the spread of disease and the creation of a permanent underclass can be all be laid at fast food's door. And don't go all free market on me. Giant corporations colluding with each other, the lobbyists and their government pals is not free market capitalism, it's crony capitalism and is part of what fucked up Latin America among other places. People have been telling me for years to read this one and I have balked, thinking I don't like fast food anyway. The book will actually make you think about where your food comes from and how it is made. You will likely seek out alternatives, thank goodness for New Seasons.

Burgerville is going to get an exemption, since their beef is less tainted, the company is 100% wind power (take that Saudis!) and who I am kidding, I can't resist the seasonal milkshakes. In-N-Out also gets an out since they pay their employees well and they are oh so yummy with non-sketch beef.

Are you kidding me?

Apparently some Bible beaters and separation of church and staters can agree that Halloween in schools in just plain bad. Fuck these people.

Flesh for fantasy

Via the Millions, I see that National Geographic has a piece on the town that makes the turducken. The turducken of course is a duck inside a chicken inside a turkey with stuffing layers between each bird. The high ticket price (about $80?) has always kept me away, but a friend's family had it for Thanksgiving and they loved it. I imagine all the vegetarians have fled turducken town.

Must see TV

Boondocks, the edgy newspaper cartoon is about to become an edgy TV cartoon. NYTimes has the story.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Bad movies

I was vaguely creeped out by the fact that the latest Left Behind movie opened in churches rather than movie theaters. It's not that I am really freaked out by the theocrats (OK, I am,) but I don't think it is great for small d democracy when subcultures remove themselves from our few shared national experiences.

I knew someone who actually planned to read those Left Behind books to better understand the readers of said books. There is something noble in that, but could you stand it? From what I understand the prose makes Robert Jordan look the Bard himself.

Doughnut Freak

Post Caves show, Matt and I visited Voodoo Doughnut. It is a very Portland place with strange hours (10PM to 10AM), strange types of donuts (sadly though the Nyquil is out of production) and lots of hipster kids loitering about. This particular set of kids were unironically enjoying Culture Club songs, which speaks badly of them. I had the Mango Tango doughnut, with tasty mango jelly inside and what looked like orange Tang on the top. This and the No Name Matt got were insanely sweet, one is definately enough. Choosing was so challenging I wish someone would write a Candyfreak of Portland baked goods to save us all the calories.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The front line is everywhere

Robert Kaplan has written a number of impressionistic books about conflict, principally in Third World locations. Many of his books painted a bleak picture of a world falling apart, one book about the Third World was called the Coming Anarchy and a book on the US was called the Empire Wilderness. His latest, Imperial Grunts, depicts American special forces as the means to hold this world together. He traveled everywhere for this book, from Bagram in Afghanistan to the Mongolian steppe to the the jungles of Colombia and everywhere he found special operators (known as SOF.) I for one was surprised at the omnipresence of the military.He does a great job portraying the soldiers, their daily lives and the way they do their jobs, the Mongolian chapter is one of the most interesting as it is so little known. On the negative side, he promotes the notion of an American Empire, without defining it well or debating its value to the US or to the world. He does argue that SOF is the best tool for managing it as they are more like soldier/diplomat/sociologists than plain soldier and their flexibility makes them more useful. He unfortunately totally buys into the SOF vs. Big Army debate. It would have been nice for him to address why there is a Big Army and what it can do well. Still, as a long time writer for the Atlantic, Kaplan has a way with words and does a great job defining the landscapes and the differences between each deployment. Read this one for the stories he tells, not for the worldview.

Empire is one of the hot topics in international relations. Questions include, what is an empire today? Do we like or dislike it? How much is order dependent on it? Is great power cooperation possible? Are the Europeans or Chinese capable of acting like the Americans? Niall Ferguson in Colussus says a ruling power is necessary for global order. His thesis is that only the US can too this, so it's too bad that Americans don't have the BALLS to do it. Stephen Walt argues for the US to essentially withdraw and only act in the greatest of emergencies. Despite the Amazon reviewer, offshore balancing is isolationist, but that doesn't necessarily make it bad. Both of these books are for wonky types who want to have models by which to examine the world. They are more analytically rigourous, but that also means less fun to read.

Tanglewood Numbers

Picked it up despite my plan to avoid CDs until I was truly employed. Oh well, it was worth it, the new Silver Jews is quite good. I was expecting the quieter approach of American Water, but this is a bigger messier record like Starlite Walker. Dave Berman's vocals are a little buried and his voice is harsher, but he sounds good singing with wife Cassie. As always lyrics are a highlight. There is a lot of goodness in rock these days, so the CD buying decision is not easy. If you want some alt-countryish indie, this would be a good choice.

It' not the kill, it's the thrill of the chase

Just read Empire of the Wolves, a thriller from France of all places. Jean-Christophe Grange has written a series of thrillers, some of which are available in the US. You can get a quick taste of his style by checking out the movie Crimson Rivers. Grange loves the gore a little too much and takes the lengthy route when describing deaths and corpses. Since he is French, you get European boogeymen like Neo-Nazis and Turks as opposed to dangerous corporations as in the US. Like nearly every thriller ever, once the book's secrets are revealed the follow-up is a bit of a let down. Grange switches it up with some surprising things happening to his characters, but still, the excitement in so many thrillers is the anticipation. I wish more writers would leave things unclear in the end.

Pity it's on Showtime

Showtime has a series of one hour movies from the likes of John Carpenter, Joe Dante and the really twisted Takashi Miike. In NY Times article, Carpenter shows a bit of a chip on his shoulder "We have all been beaten up in our careers, because horror is viewed as a low-rent genre, just a notch or two above pornography." Seems a bit extreme, I think it is because most horror movies are just bad. If these flicks are any good we should have them on DVD in the spring.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Glance, don't stare

Portland is small enough that you run into people you know. I've run into people at the park, at New Seasons and at the coffee shops. I also have the strange experience of seeing someone you recognize but can't for the life of you say why. One should take a quick look in these circumstances, as the following tale tells.

I was in the Cincinnati airport a little ahead of schedule in 2002, our oldest child was a little over a year. Across the rows of seats I saw a familiar looking woman holding a baby. Seeing the baby I thought..swimming class...birthing class....library group...playgroup party...friend of a friend. Going through all of these took some time and I am afraid I stared a bit as I tried to place her. She stared back and I couldn't tell if she was trying to figure out who I was or whether she was telling me to back the fuck off. The boarding call came and we all got on board. Apparently Delta was seating all the baby people together as this person was directly across from me. I then realized she was the lead singer of an indie rock band. And I had been staring at her for a good 15 minutes or so. Ashamed of my accidental stalking, I immediately switched seats with my wife and hid in the middle seat. I later met this person but she apparently does not have a mental map of all her stalkers (accidental or otherwise) so I wasn't called out. So be careful!

You think you bad, you think you got class?

I first saw Dolemite after a friend noted that the movie was on Movie Madness' Top Ten Movies of All Time. Or at least one of their lists. The plot and shooting are standard blaxploitation, but the movie is set apart by Rudy Ray Moore, self professed dirty comic. He is one of the most ridiculous people you will ever see. He was a sort of proto rapper famous for his bizarre rhymes, which you can listen to here. I am thrilled to see he is currently on tour, but no PDX shows as of yet. If you have a bent sense of humor you will like this guy, unless of course you are, as Rudy would say, a rat soup eatin' honky muthafucka. Then you should probably give it a pass.

Must see TV

Criterion Contraption just reviewed Fishing with John, which was a TV series in the early 90s. It is the first TV show in the collection, probably because it is so bizarre. John Lurie takes a celebrity guest fishing and they proceed to act as wierdly as possible. The most interesting bit is that the documentary voice-over just babbles lies and non-sequiters. I must see this show.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Not very useful comments

I am reading Driving Mr. Albert, which is a random ass book. Apparently, during Einstein's autopsy one Thomas Harvey absconded with the brain of said physicist. The author of this book used this tale as his go-to cocktail party chatter and then later tracked down Harvey. Together they drove the brain to Berkeley. It's not really a road book although you get some weird episodes like a visit to William S Burroughs. We hear a lot about the author's decaying relationship with his wife, but any tension over that is weakened by the book's loving dedication to the same wife and son. Then we get some Einstein history and a teensy bit of physics although the haters on Amazon say the physics is all wrong. Dr. Harvey doesn't say a whole lot and isn't a big part of the story although the controversy surrounding the theft of the brain is frequently mentioned. Based on the amazon reviews, I would say this one works for some people and not for others. It is an expansion of a magazine article and reads as such. Probably worth a library pick up for a diverting if not riveting read. Yes, I realize that was a worthless paragraph, sorry.

I had dinner in Hellsboro this evening, why must it be so far from Portland? I was shocked to see that the Hillsboro New Seasons carries a wide range of Dog Fish Head, while Concordia carries none, at least right now. Thankfully, New Seasons will special order any beer you like, as long as you order a case. They will knock 10% off the price too. Just send em an email. So nice over there.

Oregonian blogs

The Oregonian has lots of neighborhood blogs up on the website. There is one for mine, and maybe one for yours. As you might it expect, lots of restaurant info.

She is the warrior

So some of you didn't watch the God Warrior clip. Go watch it right now.

OK, it's from Trading Spouses where the tricksters at Fox have set up a hyper-religious woman up with some New Agers. She flips out and calls the new agers "dark-sided." The show plays Nov 2 and Nov 9 so set your calendars.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Feed your head

Talk about your stunt drinks! I was looking for info on absinthe for an upcoming bachelor party, you know so we can go all Van Gogh and shit, and I stumbled upon weed vodka. Since it can be imported into the US, you must get nothing out of it, but would you want to? Those buzzes don't go together.

Something new

(Via TedBlog) The Internet has given us more than just easy access to pornography. We have new models of buying and selling (Ebay), seas of useful product information (Amazon) and the ability to listen to any music we want to hear (Itunes). Now you can use the net to multiply your giving or to create social change. There is a new site called Pledgebank where you pledge an action like "I will stop using X if y people pledge to do it too." Here is an example of a charitible pledge. Here is a political one. Other users can then sign on and pledge as well. I signed up to get updates if anyone in Portland makes a pledge. Seems like something that could be quite powerful.

Y'all gonna make me lose my mind

Just read Lee Child's Killing Floor. I've seen the books compared to Richard Stark's Parker books since both leads are improbably skilled loners with a penchant for violence. Child's Reacher is considerably more violent than Parker. This book is going to appeal to men far more than women. Most guys know that certain people just need a good beat down and guys gravitate to books, movies and music where that beat down is delivered. Some characters will take the high road and rise above the violence of their foes. Not Reacher. Best stay out of his way.

Child is an ex-screenwriter and he keeps the pace moving incredibly quickly. There is pretty much no downtime for any character development, you get a description and the move on. Books usually suffer when that happens, but the pace makes up for it. His prose is like a less skilled Ellroy. By that I mean it stripped to the minimum, delivering only what is required. Ellroy of course makes his language almost musical and we shouldn't expect something that good out of a first novel at least. By the way ladies, Nancy Pearl wrote in More Book Lust that she really liked Lee Child, but the test might be if you thought Kill Bill was a good movie.

Monday, October 24, 2005

PDX Bands and bringing your world down in fire

My friend Matt has posted the most exciting PDX Bands podcast yet. Since I and this blog get name checked everyone should download the podcast multiple times. Seriously though, do check out National Eye on the podcast. You should also check out his Pangs blog where he is experimenting with using podcasts to sell more music.

You can also drive yourself crazy with the Silver Shamrock song. Thinking of Halloween I of course think of the Celtic Samhain, which instantly makes me think of Danzig. I stumbled across the official Danzig home page which has a honey of an article up front. This sentence alone should entice you "It is however, Danzig's soul crusher of a calling card, his coal-fired ebony heart made metal, the siren song soundtrack of two age in collision. Confront it now and feel your lifeblood drain and subsequently replenish truer than ever." That's fuckin' POETRY man. Seriously, read it.

Peace is closer

I saw the Battle of Algiers last night. It's worth seeing just as a movie. It's shot in documentary style with amateur actors. The pacing and score make it an exciting watch. The director was a member of the Italian Communist Party and there is a Marxist element in that the victory of the people is inevitable. This really only matters at the end in a incredibly shot conclusion.

From a policy perspective, the choice of tactics by both sides is interesting. The insurgents quickly move from targeting the police, a generally legitimate tactic, to targeting civilians, an illegitimate one. The army, once called in, quickly engages in brutal torture. In both cases, the tactics are effective. The civilian attacks rally the Algerian populace, lead to reprisals, which then further rally the Algerians and get the UN talking. The torture of suspects leads the army to identify, hunt down and kill all the Algerian leaders. Torture and civilian attack are plainly immoral, although depending on your political preferences, you are likely to play down one as being necessary and play up the other as evidence of one side's inherent evil.

The unfortunate point is that war often leads both sides to break established rules of behavior and destroy the people committing the acts. The initial goal of each side can become consumed in the need to crush the enemy. If you've not read War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges, I highly recommend it. He explores the psychological relation to force and it is quite moving.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Take the skinheads bowling

Pity the British rock band Prussian Blue. Not because they have played for years without chart action, but because there is now an American Prussian Blue. What's worse is that the band members are cute, teenage, blond.........NAZIS. I'm not going to link to their official site, so they don't get any traffic off me and so none of us show up on the FBI Hate Crimes file list. My faith in humanity has been damaged.

Since Nazis bum everybody out, check this Superfriends-Office Space flash (old I know) and a decent Behind the Music That Sucks.

A tidal wave of chocolate power

Dark chocolate lovers must visit Lovescool to see the list of 75 dark chocolate recipe submissions for the 13th Sugar High Friday.

Food books

The Post has review articles on Food books and Drink books this week. One of the food books, the Devil's Picnic, is so up a couple of reader's alleys. The author travels the globe trying food, drink and drugs that are illegal or taboo. He writes about cigars, absinthe, cheese, coca and chocolate mouse. He tries all of these and then talks about why they are banned or taboo, for good reasons or bad and then talks about ways in which these things might be made more or less available. Looks pretty good.

Where am I to go now that I've gone too far

Richard Clarke, long time counter-terrorism policy official and author of Against All Enemies, an attack on the Bush administration's terror policy, has written a thriller called Scorpion's Gate. Gary Hart writes that the book is useful since it makes you think about our oil addiction and dysfunctional relationship with Saudia Arabia. He also, in a nice way, says that the writing really sucks, as in "Graham Greene and John le Carre are under no threat from Clarke." The plot does sound interesting, so if you like to tackle such issues through fiction you may like it. Otherwise I would pick up Bob Baer's Sleeping with the Devil, the subtitle of which "How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude," gives you a sense of what it is like. He is no bomb thrower mind, but an ex-CIA operative.

Baer's book seems to have hit home as he is hard to find. For a class I took this year, each student had to interview three current or ex-policy people relevant to their topic. My friend wrote about Saudi policy and wanted to interview Baer. Our professor told her, "Bob Baer is unreachable." Creepy.

Not my kind of rockstar

Here's why New Seasons will not sell the Rockstar energy drink. That's a pretty good reason, although having to look at scary ass billboard on I-84 is reason enough for me. Apparently the drinkers don't like Rockstar either since all the crazy energy drink cocktails are made with RedBull. Boring-as-ever Canada put out a warning that you should never ever ever drink an energy drink with alcohol and in a parternalistic way, fail to say why. Apparently it is because the caffeine and energy can mask your need to pass out, and it is doubly dehydrating leading to brutal hangovers. Here's another tip, don't drink ten shots of Grand Marnier and then smoke a lot of hash. Embrassment is likely, trust me.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Library Book Sale

Continuing my habit of buying far more than I can possibly ever read, I hit the Friends of the Multnomah Public Library book sale. Like a rock show for bibliophiles, the line started about an hour before the doors opened, and yes I was in it. Once in, the room was strangely quite while people sought out books worth the $1.50 price. I got pretty lucky finding Fast Food Nation and Cadillac Desert, both of which I feel guilty for not reading. Now I can feel guilty for owning them and not reading them. On the fiction side, I found Booker Prize short-lister Dirt Music, Jennifer Egan's Look at Me, and a collection of the best book reviews from the Atlantic Monthly. You have to be careful at these things. It's pretty easy to spend a buck or two on a book, but do you really need the book? I run into this problem at the library, where I mindlessly check out everything that looks vaguely interesting and then have to return piles unread. Not the end of the world of course, but it can lead to a nasty reading opportunity cost.

Right now I am reading the sixth Harry Potter, which is quite good, Harry seeming to have dropped the whiny adolescent pose found in book five.

With just a touch of my burning hand

Saw Land of the Dead tonight. It's alright. Like earlier Romero zombie flicks, there is a heavy emphasis on the social commentary. Pittsburgh is run by a warlord who provides security but little else for the proles under his care. The Man throws out lines like "we won't negotiate with terrorists" to be sure we get the message that this is about Bush's America. There is an underdeveloped plot concerning some rebels, but the main emphasis is the encroaching tide of tool-using zombies who threaten to overwhelm Pittsburgh. In perhaps another connection to today's world, supply officers travel out to the sticks to take needed supplies (oil) and thereby stir up some zombies (terrorists). The zombies then follow the supply officers and overwhelm the human city (the US). It's not scary in the slightest, but it does have a lot of gore, often displayed in surprisingly creative ways.

Simon Pegg from Shaun of the Dead has a cameo. For me, this just reminded me how much more I liked that movie. It's very funny, well paced and full of amusing references. Office fans should look for the brief Tim and Dawn reunion at the middle of the movie.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Whiskey tango foxtrot

Ok, I can't have cupcakes for awhile because I now have a creeping fear that a large blue bunny will fondle my cakes.

There are some bad people on the rise

Just finished The Right Nation. It provides a good overview of the composition, motivating factors and strategies of the modern conservative movement. This descriptive component is quite good, showing for example how the conservative think tanks and grass roots campaigns multiply conservative power and overwhelm Democratic efforts. The power, influence and scope of the social conservative element is made depressingly clear. I would recommend you read this section.

The second half argues that America is the Right Nation and left America will just have to deal. As John Holbo argues, the progressive force is oddly inert in their map of the American political world, and is in any case defined as somehow non-American. Not so much as un-American, but conservatism is defined as the historical American way, and progressivism as somehow alien. Clearly the two forces are in tension, but both are very American. Also, as he points out, much of the evidence for the inevitability of conservatism is anecdotal. Look how Katrina has wounded the Bush Administration. So you might want to read the Emerging Democratic Majority as a counterargument, although it probably has similar problems. The book was written in 2003-4 so there is constant reference to the then upcoming election. Maybe the paperback is edited.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Some days like yogurt, some days like toast

OK, more food stuff. I found this cookie recipe blog with these attractive looking ginger cookies. And I also found an exciting list of 161 ways to enjoy toast. That last one is from Mr. Breakfast who looks like a deranged Mr. Clean. You can also find the un-ironic Hooray For Hashbrowns (!) on his site. I really love breakfast in all of its forms, but find myself mostly eating oatmeal and eggs (not at the same time) these days. Rather blah I am afraid.

I'm all out of hope

Saw two Criterion Collection movies, Sanjuro and Eyes Without a Face. Loved Sanjuro, but was bored by Eyes Without A Face.

Sanjuro is a Kurosawa picture starring Toshiro Mifune. People love Beat Takeshi, but I still think that Mifune wins the all time greatest Japanese Bad Ass competition. Watching this movie and Yojimbo, you see where Clint Eastwood got his Man with no Name character. In both, Mifune shows up and helps locals deal with some bad guys. He is violent but doesn't want to be and has to drifts from town to town because of it. He has a sort of laid-back cool like Han Solo, before Lucas made him fire second. Now that guy sucks. Anyway, if you like tales of the oppressed overcoming the wicked and powerful you will like this.

Eyes Without A Face just felt dated. It concerns a doctor who kidnaps young ladies and cuts off their faces, so that he might transplant them on his wounded daughter. OK, so conceptually it's pretty fucked up, but the movie drags. The only exception is the surgical scene which is pretty nasty, and must have freaked people out in 59. This one is only for the film historian types.

I'll swallow your soul

DVDTalk (of PDX) is on the podcast train and has a good interview with Bruce Campbell. He's shooting his next movie down around Medford, OR so maybe we can sneak down and have a look.


See The Comics Curmudgeon, who writes "Here’s a series of words that I can guarantee has never been written before in this order: Today’s Marmaduke is the gayest Marmaduke ever." (indirectly via Hit and Run)

I've been lonely since she found Christ

Dave Berman, of the Silver Jews, gets a brief write-up in the Times. Essentially it shows how his initially stalled poetry career led to his rock career. I haven't read his poetry but the lyrics to his songs are certainly poetic. They are often obtuse or impenetrable, but always beautiful. The music varies considerably over each record and it is the lyrics that keep bringing me back. I highly recommend American Water, which came out a few years back. It's not the only good one though. The instrumental "Silver Pageant,"on Starlite Walker, comes closest of any song ever to capturing the mix of regret and longing I feel for my beer-soaked past.

The new record, Tanglewood Numbers, is out and is getting some positive buzz, so go over to Hype Machine and search for some Silver Jews. Word of warning, the only person I know who didn't like the Silver Jews said "Woah, that's really too indie for me." I don't know what that means, but if you have ever said that you may not like them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

In PDX you have to be iron like a lion in Zion

OK, this is funny just because I was talking to a friend yesterday and she mentioned how bummed she was that the food on Alberta sucks. Apparently W Week disagrees as their Restaurant Guide Street of the year is....Alberta. There is also a bit on newish pizza joints.

On the food subject, high end chocolatier Vosges is partnering with yoga salons to bring you the odd experience of eating highly caloric food while you exercise. Vosges is selling a new Zion collection of chocolates featuring Jamaican ingredients like hemp, Red Stripe beer and Blue Mountain coffee. You have to provide your own chronic however.

Books on the cheap

Portlanders will want to consider spending part of the upcoming weekend at the Friends of the Library Book Sale. It lasts all weekend, but the better stuff will be gone by Saturday. I've had mixed luck at this sale. Some years, I walk away with 20+ books, averaging two bones per book. Other years I am lucky to find a single paperback. You are certain to have to wade through stacks of Stephen King and Tom Clancy to find something more interesting, but with effort you can get some good ones.

The sale is fantastic for kid's books though. There are tons of them, board books, readers and picture books. If you need to fill out your kid's library, this is the place to do it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Freude trinken alle Wesen

Friends, if you see me in tears over the next few days, fear not. These tears are born of joy, not sorrow. For I have conducted the vodka-Brita experiment, and, lo, I have confirmed the results.

I took Hood River Vodka (number one in Oregon apparently) and put it through the process. Hood River comes in a plastic bottle, has a label made in Photoshop and costs $3.45 a pint. I purposely bought the cheapest crap they had, you see. After three filterings, the harsh unpleastness of regular HRD (as it is known) turns into a frighteningly smooth beverage. Each sip beckons the next.

Since I am on the subject of intoxicating beverages, can anyone recommend a good holiday party drink? I am looking for something potent and tasty, something for those who want to step to the real, but can't take full kicking egg nog. Reader HK suggests the improbable Jaegar Bomb as well as the Irish Car Bomb, guaranteed to knock into the next drunk bracket. Any other thoughts?

What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?

Just finished the Strange Death of American Liberalism. HW Brands argues that American liberalism, which he defines as the belief that state power can create positive outcomes, was an outgrowth of the Cold War. The need to compete with the Soviets and present a good image to the world led to an activist government. He carefully separates doing good (making people wealthier, improving health care) from preventing evil (regulating drugs and food,) which is sensible. Most people trust the government to regulate but the American populace doesn't seem interested in large programs in the Great Society mold. He postulates that another security crisis could lead to a return to liberalism. Given the state of the American image abroad and the ongoing threats to security, could a new liberalism be upon us?

Also note that his definition of liberalism does not include a drive by civil society to become more progressive. In his terms, this would be the conservative approach as it is the people rather than the government acting. Any way, it's a quick interesting read.

I've got some cookies and here's the plot

A friend sent me a recipe for these likely tasty, but certainly visually appalling cookies. That's right, cookies made to look like cat poop resting in a bed of Grape Nuts, to depict the litter box of course. There is another version that adds coconut or ramen to increase the visual effect. It's obviously a Halloween kid's party treat, but I think I might need an Irish Car Bomb or three to get past my own queasiness.

While I am on tasty treats, today is chocolate cup cake day, so go blow the diet.

I've often noted that the only people the PC will let us mock anymore are poor, undereducated white people. Rednecks, essentially, poor white trash, if you will. I've waxed rather eloquent on the elitism of this behavior. So, um, go click on this video to laugh at a poor, undereducated white woman. I feel less bad because she would probably call me (and most of you) "dark-sided." (via Fazed, where else are you gonna find this crap?)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sarah Silverman

is really fucking funny. I've seen her derided as a hot chick who talks dirty, but hey, so was Liz Phair. I just came back from Jesus is Magic, which had the entire audience convulsing with laughter. Her timing is great, which helps with her often caustic material. She makes lots of ethnic, sex and taboo subject jokes, which may not be everyone's bag. Watch the trailer, if that makes you laugh, you will like the movie. The trailer is work unsafe.

You'd better recognize

Peter Preston, writing in the Guardian, argues that the book world's genre ghettos have got to go. He points out that any list of the best movies of the 20th century would include the Searchers and the Godfather, genre items both. He also points out that genre writers like James Ellroy and Dennis Lehane write as well as any literary writer and have more to say about society. I do think that both mystery and science fiction writers are actually better social analysts than the mass of literary writers. Literary fiction is increasingly focused on person to person relationships. Of course there are literary writers like Jonathan Lethem and Margaret Atwood that manage to genre hop at will, but many genre writers are kept outside the fence.

Time has fired a volley to help break down the wall. Their Top 100 novels since 1923(?), includes a Neal Stephenson and even a graphic novel, The Watchmen! The list is heavily biased to the last 20 years, but does include books like Blood Meridian and Revolutionary Road, which more people should read. Anyway, chances are there are some books you have missed on the list, so take a look.

Portland vegetarian sadness

OK, I love meat, but I live in Portland, which means I spend lots of time with vegetarians. My fave veg place, The Leaf and Bean Cafe, has closed. And it was on the bustling Beaumont-Wilshire block! There were hints (t-shirt in the window) that it might become a pub affiliated with Moose Drool. A good place to drink is one thing the Beaumont Wilshire area needs. True, you can wander down the hill to The Moon & Sixpence, but it's a long walk back. Also, nearly everyone to whom I have recently mentioned the Moon & Sixpence called fie upon its name, so I guess I'm not going there.

I mourn the passing of the Leaf and Bean and its tasty sandwiches. Now I must another place for the veg friends..

Powell's does it again

Matt sent this in. Powells is starting a book-oriented podcast. Up this week is an interview with writer Aimee Bender. As a traffic driver, they will have a shot at winning $1,000 in books. The podcast thing is pretty cool, its like having a bunch of independent NPRs. I should mention that Matt's sixth PDX Bands podcast is now up.

On a sunday morning sidewalk, wishing Lord that I was stoned

This is interesting news, but if the wacky tabacky makes you smarter, how can you explain the next-day-stupids?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Dogs love me cuz I'm crazy sniffable

Actually they do, but that's not the point. I picked up The Great Stink, which sounds like a really nasty kids book, but is in fact a thriller set in the Victorian sewers of London. It sounds like the most smell-oriented book since Perfume, based on this review at least.

Fight, fight, fight, fight

Philip Pullman has attacked the upcoming Narnia flick as "racist and misogynistic". One can't help but think he wants people to go see his own kids book based movie instead. Pullman's His Dark Materials books are excellent and anyone who likes Narnia or Tolkein or Harry Potter should give them a try.

Fair warning though, Pullman claims his books are not anti-religious, they pretty much are, so if that is going to be a problem, stay away.

Arty sci-fi movies

I saw Code 46 last night. Although it is marketed as a sci-fi flick, it is really a love story with sci-fi elements. The movie is shot in the langurous way so popular with arty sci-fi (Solaris, Blade Runner, THX-1138), so you get long brooding shots of faces and cities. I think this works better on the big screen as it lets you drink in the visuals. On the TV it just seems slow and plodding. Anyway, the movie postulates a environmentally wrecked Earth, where the areas outside cities are mostly desert and are populated by an excluded underclass. The well-off don't have so great either. If you have sex with someone who has a genetic match greater than 25%, (with extensive gene-modding, apparently a common problem) you get whisked off to a clinic where the memory of the sexual encoutner and the embroyo are eliminated. I wish the movie would have spent more time on these elements of the story, but it primarily follows Tim Robbins' and Samantha Morton's doomed love affair, which reminded me of a less interesting Lost in Translation.

Clash fans will want to see Mick Jones as a boozy karaoke singer belting out "Should I Stay or Should I Go." That was the highlight of the movie for me.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Graphic novel moment

So I went down to Multnomah Public and beheld the mass of graphic novels therein. I checked out these four and I list them in descending order of greatness:

Marvel 1602: If you like Marvel superheros at all, then you need to read this one. It is written by Neil Gaiman, which is another reason to get your hands on it, and places the Marvel heroes and villains back do the beginning of the 17th century. Gaiman takes the anti-racist subtext of the X-men and sets it against the Inquisition and other dark forces of the time. For colonial history buffs, Virginia Dare shows up as a new superhero.

A Jew in Communist Prague, Part I: With a title like that, you might think this one is sad, and you would be right. It follows a boy whose father is sent to jail for no apparent reason, other than the fact that he is a Jew. The muted colors support the sad story of society shunning the victim of the government. I'll definitely read more of these.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2: I liked but didn't love this one. The story, pitting Mr. Hyde, Mina Harker, Nemo (not the fish) and other Victorian heroes against the Martians is good, but it felt a little rushed. Worth reading, but get it at the library.

Michael Chabon Presents...The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, Vol. 1.
: I put the whole thing in to emphasize the key word "presents." It would be cool if we had a bunch of comics written by Chabon, but that's not what this is. He writes one which is a graphic form of what you got in Kavalier and Clay. The fun gimmick is that it purports to show the evolution of the character over time as different artists and writers take over. The best one involves a Japanese version in manga form. It's certainly diverting, but nothing more.

This is the end

Speaking of Thumbsucker, the author of said work has a new one. The NYT review gives it the "his best yet" treatment, but concludes with this interesting statement. "(the ending) amounts to a letdown, of course, but also points toward the disappointment of most fictional endings, the tendency of inspired premises to fade into the light of common day."

I've never thought of endings in this manner, and I am not sure I agree. If I understand the reviewer correctly he is saying that no ending can live up to the idea that the book creates. Perhaps because fiction is inherently unreal and cannot represent reality? Or maybe because an ending requires some level of tidying? If done well an ending can fizzle out and well represent the messiness of life. In general I am happy with most literary fiction's endings (always exceptions, such as Fortress of Solitude) Mysteries and thrillers on the other hand often do fail to live up to the surprises and plot twists generated throughout the book. For literary fiction, the ending is in many ways not so important, as the experience of the entire novel is that which resonates. You still can get a sucker punch from tricksy writers like Ian McEwan, but they risk overwhelming the rest of the novel with their gotcha.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Please don't let me be misunderstood

Saw Thumbsucker last night. It was filmed in Beaverton, OR and has lots of nice Oregon touches, like all the beer is from Widmer. I liked the movie, but found it almost equally amusing and depressing. The characters are well developed which makes the humor more natural. It is worth watching the movie just to see Keanu Reeve's character change, as he tries to find a persona that fits his needs. I thought Vince Vaughan was ok, but maybe I just wanted more dirty Wedding Crashers jokes. The parents are great and made me think about my own approaches to parenting.

On the depressing side, there is not one really functional relationship in the entire movie. At one point it seems like there might be a chance of one, but then that fizzles too. The people are highly atomized in this sense. It's not clear that any of the characters understand what motivates any of the others. Since it is set in suburbia, you could take that as a critique of suburbia, but if so it is a muted one. Even on something controversial like Ritalin, it doesn't take an strong stand. So many movies take the didactic route. It is nice to have ones that let you make up your own mind.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sign, sign everywhere the signs

Here is an amusing article that has some actual security posters from Defense Department facilities. These of course make me think of Successories. Who hasn't wanted to go berserker on some of those fucking posters? You can fight back with posters from Despair, Inc. You can see funny ones like Loneliness, Procrastination, Goals, and Ambition. Seriously, I could look at those all day.

He has a fwend you know....

Per Steve's recommendation, I checked out HBO's Rome. I liked it. It doesn't have the immediate power and pull of the early Sopranos, but it appears to put great effort on authenticity. Picking the end of the Republic as the period guarantees lots of drama as well. Unfortunately, like the Sopranos, it is really helpful to watch the shows in order as it is really one long story. The other interesting thing is the surprising amount of nudity. We aren't talking kitten Armageddon or anything, but wow, that's a lot of naked people.

Since having some background on the period is useful, I started Rubicon, which concerns the fall of the Republic as well. Unlike most classical history, this is a breezily written engaging work. The author balances a serious treatment of the subject with an engaging writing. As an example, he can title a chapter "Luck be a Lady," and you it is not ridiculous. He also places great emphasis on pointing out similarities and differences in our culture and that of the Romans. This makes the actions of the Romans much easier to understand.

Looking at the guys' author photo, I feel better about giving him money. He's the sort of British fellow with whom you'd like to visit a pub for a pint of best bitter and a packet of steak and onion crisps. So many people go for the I Am An Intensely Serious Person look that it is nice to see someone being natural.

While I am going all classical on your asses, I should mention The Twelve Caesars. People in a prurient frame of mind will want to check this one out. Written in the second century, it covers the personal and political lives of, you guessed it, the first twelve Caesars. Lots of the old in-out, in-out in here. Much of the material from Caligula came from this book. Think your SO is into some weird shit? Be glad you aren't dating Tiberius. Brotherman liked to swim in a pool while naked preteens ("his little fishes") bit him. This book is filled with stuff like that.

Fun with the dismal science

Via Marginal Revolution, I found this interesting economics blog. Now, don't run screaming, this fellow is in the Freakonomics, bringing econ thinking to the masses, school. In the link I provided the author examines from an economic perspective, the choice between going to college or immediately beginning a music career. His upcoming book, as described on Marginal Revolution, explores pricing schemes and how consumers fail to respond in their own best interest.

During my recent grad school experience, I found my economics class to be very useful in broadening my analytical tools. Thinking in terms of incentives will often provide different recommendations than thinking in terms of interests. And as the blogs above show, this doesn't just have to be about how to get manufacturers to pollute less or how to eliminate nuclear programs in rogue states. It can also be about how to get your roomate to stop drinking all the beer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

You got to admit that sweet, sweet jelly's so good

In rebuilding my link list here in PDX, I found a number of Portland food blogs. Check these out:

Extra MSG: This one does extensive food reviews including comparisons of high end burgers and caesar salads.

The Pacific Northwest Cheese Project: Can you guess what this one is about?

Exploration of Portland Food and Drink: Check the archived reviews, to which you may respond with praise or with vitriol.

While I am lauding the many wonders of Portland, I thought I would mention the library, which is indeed fantastic. To better understand today's politics, I picked up the Right Nation and The Strange Death of American Liberalism. I picked up a French thriller called the Empire of Wolves, and a few other volumes as well.

I also of course immediately filled up my hold queue, as all the best books and movies have long lines of eager library users awaiting them. You can't just take the list for granted since you only get 15 holds. No, you have to use strategery. If you only add high demand items, it might take weeks before you get anything! If you just go for the quick and easy low demand stuff, what is the point of using the holds list? Managing your queue is way more interesting than managing stocks on Ameritrade. Then again I just saw a commerical that claimed you could get more play if you manage stocks online. Sadly, your play volume is unlikely to increase if you have a really good holds list.

It's like learning a new language....

So I finally got my brain back after its decay from the long, long drive. Thanks to a ride on the Leif Erikson Trail, I am now revitalized. In trying to find a nice link for the trail, I learned that one Portland park has a tricycle race track. How cool is that? It's actually probably cooler if you have kids, I guess.

Now that my brain is back the posts will be better, I swear.

Some books should be burned

Having seen stacks of them at Powell's, I was going to spew some bile about Robert Jordan's latest waste of paper product, but I see that Jessa Crispin has said all that needs to be said.

The next step in music enjoyment

Despite the catcalls of the haters, the iPod does greatly improve your ability to access and enjoy your music. The next step should bring in the preference information as used by Yahoo Music. A really great device would store music but would modify the shuffle based on the preferences of those listening. So when I wear it, you get my faves and when someone else wear's it they get their's. When plugged into car stereo or home stereo, you should be able to plug in multiple stored preferences, so that when Jane, Bob and Mary Lou are listening, the system balances all preferences. We can't be that far away from this.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Let's kick out the Tories

I generally avoid posting the political stuff but this one cracked me up. Be sure to check the pull down menus. (via Andrew Sullivan)

I was bored before I even began

When you tell people you dislike a favorite book, you get a variety of reactions. The frown, the shrugging off, the shake of the head. Only once though have I been physically struck for owning up to my inability to finish a book. When I told a friend that I couldn't finish The River Why, he hit me! Not a let's-throw-down kind of hit, but more like a reprimand that you might give a dog for peeing on the carpet. And this was a hippie!

If you go read the Amazon reviews, you will see that people gush about the book. It basically follows a Oregon family that bonds over fly fishing. Now, I love fly fishing, I love Oregon and I love families, but this book sucks. It has that folksy tall tale spinnin' approach that makes me want to vomit whenever I encounter it. The book is also meant to Teach You How to Live. And that drives me nuts, like when everybody tells you that you HAVE to listen to Sigur Ros, because you have to admit they are awesome. No I don't have to admit they're awesome, just like I don't want to given life guidance through of a bunch of sweet gentle tales about a city slicker learning from good honest country folk. This thing is not as bad as Tuesdays with Morrie, but it lives in the same neighborhood.

No one is innocent

Just finished Vixen by Ken Bruen. It combines the comedic/violent tone of Elmore Leonard with the everybody-is-corrupt feel of James Ellroy. He's quite good at creating amusing rogues, whether they be cops or crooks. Definitely a fun read if you like this sort of thing, but it is really short, as in three rides on the exer-bike short. If you buy it, you may feel rooked out of your thirteen bones, so think about the library.

Next up is A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd. This one looks be a Graham Greene-esque satire on British colonial rule. This will be my fourth Boyd, so I obviously don't think he sucks. His early books examined various forms of Britishness, generally with a critical eye. He since moved on to writing a fake biography of an American artist and then wrote the phenomenal Any Human Heart.

Monday, October 10, 2005

There's a sequel to the things I've done....

So I finished Woken Furies. It's good, as in really good. For all of you nerd haters out there, and I know there are many, this may be a good bridge into the nerd kingdom. Richard Morgan's world is comprised thusly. Take a hero in the mode of Terence Stamp in the Limey. Take social commentary out of Chinatown. Take noir atmosphere out of Chandler. Take some serious leftist politics. If you can get past the sci-fi elements you have a really good piece of entertainment. Start with Altered Carbon and move forward. If you liked Blade Runner or some of William Gibson's stuff, but thought some more beat downs were required, then you will really like these books.

For all y'all that have already read Altered Carbon, you had best pick up Woken Furies. As you know, Morgan doesn't mind showing his biases. In each of his books, Morgan attacks some element of society. In this one, religion and revolutionary politics come under attack. So everyone can have something to be excited about.

Totally OT, but I'm listening to Elliot Smith's From a Basement on a Hill, and it is great.

Hey kids

I am, amazingly, not dead. Let me tell you this. Don't drive across the country by yourself in four days. This is a bad idea. At least I found some Tootsie Roll Fruit Twisties. Also, the new Franz Ferdinand is pretty good.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Scary moment

The plains are dreadfully boring, or at least as seen from I-80. I did have one exciting moment, if you can call it that. I was driving behind a convoy of trucks carrying black metal cases and found myself stuck between the first and second truck. I then read the wording on the black cases and saw that the convoy was carrying nuclear waste. Lovely. I was a little surprised that there wasn't any visible security. I think you can make a radiological or "dirty" bomb with nuclear waste. Getting the most effective material via theft would be suicidal but for terrorists that's OK. (Recently) living in the City Most Likely To be Nuked, you think about these things.

Anyway, if you are interested in means to deal with nuclear terror, you should read Graham Allison's Nuclear Terrorism. The tone is alarmist and you have to take a lot of what he says with a shaker full of salt, but you get the basic problem (loose fissionable uranium) and means of dealing with it. If you want to know all about nukes the one book remains The Making of The Atomic Bomb. This book has it all, physics, politics, use of weapons and the means of eliminating them. It is probably the best non-fiction book I have ever read.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Turnpikes really suck

This post is pure bitch, so ignore if you want. So here I am in Joliet, IL after enjoying the PA, OH, IN and IL turnpikes. I wasn't sure before but I now know that I hate turnpikes. You can't see anything, the other drivers, including trucks, tailgate like crazy and worst of all the food choices are abysmal. It's like a culinary Kobayashi Maru scenario. How can you deal with the impossible choice of starvation or the most unhealthy assemblage of crap possible? Thank goodness I packed bananas, string cheese and cashews. And drank about 60oz of caffeine spiked beverages. Of course, I have a nice violent book to read now so I will be all better.

Headed out to the highway

About to go get in the car for 41 hours of driving. Thank the Gods of Cupertino for the iPod. I picked up this for the trip. I am a little worried that the first Amazon reviewer is correct and that the book reads like summer vacation report. Still it has lots of history about the route I am taking so that should be interesting. Anything to make the middle section interesting would be appreciated.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Turning rotgut into something tasty

I was a party earlier this year where someone told me something strange. Apparently, if you filter crappy (the really crappy stuff like Aristocrat) through a Brita filter, you will get something much nicer, as in Grey Goose quality. I couldn't test his claim at this time as he had mixed all the vodka into a nasty pineapple based punch. I thought about it today and found that some folks took the time to test this. In short, if you filter the crappy stuff multiple times it will be as smooth or smoother than any high end vodka. One of the commenters claims the same can be done for bourbon. Equally important, the charcoal filter may reduce hangovers. So if you are short on cash but you have a Brita, then you can still get your buzz on.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Of cookies and loss

One of the great chafes of life is lost food. When my family visited Italy in nineteen ninety and seven, we ate some really good cookies in Sienna. They were crisp on the outside, soft on the inside with perfect almond flavor, the kind the explodes in your mouth and then slowly dissipates. Fuckhead that I am, I failed to write down the name of the brand or even the type of cookie, and ever since whenever I visit a store selling Italian products I look for the cookies. I also ask Italians that I meet about Sienna cookies and they give me blank looks. The cookies are probably really from Palermo or something. Anyway, in addition to looking through Euro-stores, I check out cookie cookbooks. I saw something promising in the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion and made them. The cookies were okay, but not the Sienna cookies. The King Arthur book on the other hand is great. It gives lots of detail on tools, preperation, the science of cookie cooking and variations, such as how to make a cakey vs. a fudgy brownie. None of this guidance made me a better cookie chef, but I think I am missing a baking gene. When my wife made cookies from the book, they were excellent, so check it out.

Baking is easy

Or so says Nigella Lawson. I find this claim dubious at best. Sure, any foolio can bake banana bread, but cookies bring tears to my eyes. Every year I try to make some new Christmas cookies and every year the best I get is a tepid response. My worst experience was with the Christmas jewels (note: my recipe was a little different). We put these out at a party and only one was taken. Of course, the one taken had a single bite and was placed back on the plate. Oh, the baking shame. I should have realized that making a cookie that is based on fruit cake would not be a popular move. Anyway, Lawson has three easy baking recipes meant to prepare you for some more challenging items in the future. One of her recipes, the Jumbleberry Grunt, sounds like some kind of outre sex act. Probably best to start there.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

One last thing

Stereogum has the latest Grandaddy single. It's way more Sumday than Sophtmore, but that's cool with me. If you like some poppy Grandaddy then you will be a happy camper.

Oooo scary

There are few things I like more than a policy issue about which I can freak out. The biggie of the day is avian flu. If you want to give yourself the jibblies, read this blog on the subject. If you want a nice policy article, check out Laurie Garrett in Foreign Affairs. She is also the author of the excellent and ominously titled The Coming Plague.

Foreign policy democrat style

Some of the leading Democratic foreign policy lights (and some Republican ones too) gathered in Princeton last weekend to talk about American foreign policy and Democrat alternatives to the Bush doctrine. Suzanne Nossel has the highlights which are worth reading.

Foreign policy is a gigantic subject and it is difficult to know where to begin. Many writers, especially the popular ones, are heavily biased in their presentation. For a great grounding in American foreign policy, I recommend Special Providence. The author, Walter Russell Mead, lays out an approach to post-Cold War policy. One of his arguments is that the US has a rich foreign policy tradition that predates the Cold War. Another is that four schools have influenced and constrained American policy. These schools rise and fall over time, but most have supporters at any given time.

Hamiltonian. The Hamiltonian school seeks to build American economic power. They push for expanded trade and international agreements, like the WTO, which will lead to more economic growth. They are hesitant to use force as it will limit growth.

Wilsonian. The Wilsonians seek to improve the world. This can take peaceful forms or more aggressive ones. Both the Peace Corps and the invasion of Iraq spring from this basic desire to improve the state of the world.

Jacksonian. The Jacksonians are populists who believe that any threat to national security should be dealt with immediately and severely. Once a threat is eliminated the US should withdraw.

Jeffersonian. The Jeffersonians argue that American democracy is fragile and be corrupted by international involvement. As such they seek to avoid any unnecessary international engagements of any kind.

Today, the Wilsonian and Jacksonian trends are dominant. Bush 1 and Clinton were more of a Hamiltonian and Wilsonian mix. The Iraq debacle may see a rise of Jeffersonian power. I have simplified Mead's model and I recommend this book to those seeking to better understand the sources of American policy. Mead's style is a little on the academic side, which may turn off some readers. For those people, I would recommend H.W. Brands' What America Owes the World. Brands's model is more simplistic, but his approach is more accessible. He follows individuals and their influence on policy. Best thing is to read both, but if you have to choose one, read Mead.

More market research needed

If you are going to market a new wine in the US, it would be good to make sure you aren't leveraging the wrong brand image. Check out the label for Mad Dogs & Englishman. Now I may have had a few drinks in my past, but I bet I am not the only one to think MD 20/20 before thinking Noel Coward. Click here for some rather vile-sounding Md 20/20 cocktails.

On the book front, I am reading Woken Furies. Short review: it's freaking awesome. More later.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Two admissions

While on the subject of cover art, I should mention one of my least favorite book covers, that of Catcher in the Rye. Just white and the title? Can't you work a little harder to close the sale? I disliked it so much that I never read the book. Okay, that's not why I didn't read the book, but it didn't help. Back in the high school days, I had the juvenile habit of avoiding books and bands that everyone else liked. So no Led Zeppelin or Grateful Dead for me until college. And no Catcher in the Rye ever. I mean can you really get into a book about preteen alienation when you are in your 30s?

My other failed read is A Prayer For Owen Meany, which is well loved by so many. When I told Steve I put it down, he told me "you need to learn how to FEEL." Whatever. It may have been my mood at the time, but in any case the book continues to sit on a bookshelf by the dinner table where it can reproach me at each meal.

Judging books by their covers

I've said before that I am a fool for good cover art. Whether it be books or CDs, I will fall for a well presented visual display. There is a new line of mysteries that resurrects the lurid, pulpy style of the 1950s. Check out some examples, here, here and here. There are already some big names playing ball, but the biggest is definately Stephen King. Pity the book is apparently crap. The Washington Post reviewer calls the book a "whydunit." So, if you like the cool covers, you might want to start elsewhere.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Clear your calendars Portlanders

Since it is now scary book (as well as movie) month. I thought I should mention H.P. Lovecraft. For most of the last few decades, Lovecraft has been relegated to the D&D club set. The Library of America, the closest thing the country has to an official canon, put out a Lovecraft edition last year. So maybe more than just the freaks will be reading him. He is a bit tough for the modern reader as his prose is florid, he is massively un-PC and he is given to cop-outs as in "I would describe it for you, but it was so terrible that I cannot."

Even with all that he is worth reading. Lovecraft had a bleak, perfectly 20th century outlook on life. In his universe, there were gods and superbeings, but they were all evil and out to get humanity. His heroes weren't out to defeat evil, just escape and survive. His descriptions are heavily biological as well, you get the feeling he didn't like anything organic. This quote from The Call of Cthulhu sums his worldview up nicely:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.

Portland plays host to the yearly HP Lovecraft Film Festival, which is coming up next weekend. Patti Smith will be there to talk about how he influences her songwriting, read some poetry and do Lovecraft readings. You can also read some of his short stories online.