Tuesday, October 31, 2006


You've probably all seen the SNL Star Wars audition tapes. But have you seen the for real audition tapes? There is some goodness here. Full kickin' nerds will note the script changes from the auditions to the final film. Rejoice in them.

What? Star Wars not for you? How about Rob Zombie lookin' Jack O' Lantern? Or pehaps Tigger? The Bringer of Light is involved in the Jack O'Lantern myth, in case you didn't know.

Don't get me wrong, I'll read a little more

Ron Rosenbaum has an appreciation of Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir novels. He has all kinds of things to say, like that German Requiem, an homage to the Third Man, may be even better than the Third Man (that's a bit far for me.) He also thinks that these books make the recent of the Le Carre and all of Furst look crappy. All I know is that I love those books. Here Rosenbaum nicely encapsulates the greatness:

The achievement of Philip Kerr’s novels is that he takes his Chandler/Hammett-style detective, that lone figure in the (largely ahistorical) mean streets of the urban jungle, into the midst of a far more highly charged historical backdrop, a different, more profoundly mean—indeed, evil—sort of mean-street neighborhood, the crossroads of history and tragedy. Mr. Kerr has set his detective on an Inferno-like trajectory that takes us deep into the heart of darkness. He’s a private eye in Hitler’s Germany.

Looks like I need to buy his latest, One from the Other.

Agony Column has some notes on some exciting new books. Barry Unsworth has a new one, set in 12th century Italy. If that doesn't sound like your bag, consider that Unsworth tends to tie in a lot of modern social/political commentary. For example, his Song of the Kings, set before the invasion of Troy, is clearly about Iraq. Scroll down to have a look at an interesting new one from Sean Williams.

Amazon book blog has more information and the first review on the new Pynchon. This sentence gives me great pause: "His new book will be bought and unread by the easily discouraged, read and reread by the cult of the difficult." The gauntlet is thrown, o reader.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Must read

Jonathan Carroll is becoming one of my favorite authors. In admirably short volumes, he spins strange tales of the metaphysical and fantastic, without becoming tedious or confusing. He writes books similar to Neil Gaiman and Tim Powers. His books don't always make the most sense, but the two I have read have been world class.

I just finished White Apples. Have a look at the journal/blog Carroll wrote for this particular book. It is filled with random asides that may give you a hint as to whether you might or might not like him. There is also a list of reviews.

The plot is strange, and it involves an intially not terribly appealling character who has been brought back from death to save the cosmos. Sounds cliched, no? Don't worry, the story doesn't play like the normal good vs. evil tale. Instead the characters wrestle with memory, identity, and personality traits made manifest.

A number of the Amazon reviews dislike the book based on analytical grounds. If you're the type who greatly admires structure and plot continuity, you will probably not be thrilled by the book.

When I grow up I want to be, One of the harvesters of the sea

There are certain authors who become characters in their own books, so much so that your enjoyment of the book may hinge on how much they personally attract or repel you. Obvious example include David Sedaris, Hunter S Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Essayists and travel writers are particularly prone to placing the author's personality out front. There are exceptions of course, like Rory Stewart, who is barely discernable in his own books.

Redmond O'Hanlon sits squarely in the author as character category. And he is quite the character. He reminded me of Truman Capote (as depicted in the film) endlessly holding forth, at cocktail parties at least. Like Capote, O'Hanlon could be perceived as a blowhard who just won't shut up, but what he has to say is, in fact, interesting and he is just self-deprecating enough to fall on the good side of the interesting/annoying line.

His book, Trawler, is ostensibly about a life aboard a North Sea fishing boat, in the dead of winter. O'Hanlon hitches a ride with a marine biologist. I thought the interplay between O'Hanlon and the scientist was the most fun part of the book. The enthusiasms of each lead to fascinating conversations. These conversations, though, are supposedly captured from long sleepless hours, gutting fish, in a boat moving violently in all directions. This deflates the credibility of the book's exactitude at least.

This isn't the sort of book where you learn a lot about anything, aside from Redmond O'Hanlon. It's the sort of book where you learn a little about deep sea life, fishing conditions, the Shetland and Orkney islands, Sparta, alpha males, biology, marine biology and so on. If you enjoy a sampling of interesting topics told by an eccentric, then you may well enjoy it. I did.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A pair of histories

There is a new history of the Crusades that looks rather good. The PW reviewer said it was "likely" to replace Steven Runciman's magisterial trilogy as the standard work. High praise indeed. What interests me most is that the Levantine crusades are considered with the Reconquista and the Baltic Crusades. What worries me is that the book is over 1000 pages long. 1K of history can be quite a bit.

Max Boot was on Talk of the Nation to discuss his new book on military revolutions. The concept of the military revolution is that a combination of social, economic and technological factors can change how warfare is fought and change the definition of power. The major question for today's military is whether the world is undergoing a new revolution or not.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Jerome Weeks, former book editor of the Dallas Morning News, has a new book blog called bookdaddy. He describes the end of his DMN career and the decline in book sections in general here.

I found his most recent post both funny and sad. Funny because he makes fun of Mitch Albom, and sad because Starbucks alone has sold nine times as many copies of the new Albom volume as every book outlet ever has sold of Edward Jones' Lost in the City.

The Old Dominion

My home state, despite living in Oregon, is Virginia. Perhaps it is living away from it, but lately I have felt the desire to read books set in Virginia. Unlike those who call New York, Chicago or Los Angeles home, there is relative paucity of books on the commonwealth.

Based on a Michael Dirda book chat I picked up Ellen Glasgow's Vein of Iron. The book, written in 1935, is set in the western part of the state and follows family from the beginning of the 20th century up into the Depression. This could either be a lost classic or a dated period piece. Since I plan on reading it, my money is obviously on lost classic status.

William Hoffman has written a number of books set in Richmond an its environs. I read Blood and Guile and thought it did a good job in portraying life in certain Virginia social circles. I liked it enough to look for more.

Geographically closest to home is William Styron's A Tidewater Morning, which I read long ago, but I am now considering reading again.

To complete the regional split, we need a satirical novel of life in the NoVa suburbs, perhaps with a dash of the menace and existential terror of Revolutionary Road, the humor of Little Children, and some defense contractor/government worker color and high jinks mixed in.

Blood, like a crimson highway

The Millions has a post on the new Erik Larson book, the title of which, I admit, forces me to immediately think of AC/DC. Anyway, the principal complaint is that the structure is a cut and paste from the prior book, which also featured gruesome death contrasted with ascendant goodness. I worry about that, but I don't think it will impact my ultimate decision to read it. Many authors repeat technique or theme. Ted Conover, for example, lives amongst a group and then writes (excellent) pop-sociology about the experience. On the musical side, the Ramones churned our their first four albums (in about four years) that were very similar, but also uniformly excellent. So there is nothing particularly wrong with copying a format into a new story, as long as the story is a good one.

The Post has a discussion with Larson which reveals a few interesting items including the facts that the Devil in White City will be a movie, his hurricane book has been optioned twice.

EDIT: I should note that Max's post is for the most part positive. I realize my post implied that it wasn't.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I am more than a little annoyed with Lost this season. Enough with the others and the Losties in cages. Boring. Anyway, here is a decent Washington Post chat on the show.

Two paths for cartoonish rockstars

Here are two very different trajectories for two of our most cartoonish rockers.

First, Rob Zombie, he of the large hats and penner of Superbeast has of course gone the film route. He is putting the ultraviolence of the Devil's Rejects aside for his new one. He is working on a re-imagining (don't call it a remake!) of Halloween. The first one of course. Although who wouldn't want to hear Zombie's take on the Silver Shamrock song?

Then we have Danzig, master of eeeeeevvvvilllll, and man who should not antagonize much larger dudes, has gone a different way. Yes he still makes albums with crazy Satanic names like I Luciferi and Circle of Snakes, but it takes your evil down a notch when you make little dolls of yourself. They come in Misfits, Samhain and Danzig. Why not buy all three? Oh right, because they cost $70. Each.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More good news

My favorite Stephen King story (either in short story or novel form), The Mist is being made into a movie (you have to scroll down). I was worried that this excellent tale would be given to some horror hack, but my hopes are raised by the fact that it will be helmed by the director of the Shawshank Redemption. Here, the director discusses his intense and long-standing interest in doing the movie.

If you've not read it, lucky you, you have a great read in front of you. The story is set in small town Maine. A man notices an odd mist coming across the lake but thinks nothing of it. He heads to the grocery and finds himself, and others, trapped. Oooooo I can't wait.

Lately I have been frequenting nerd houses

This one is nerdy, so avert your eyes if that is an issue.

I don't read a lot in the way of comics, but I like the big crossover stories. These are like the sweeps week of comics, they are big stories where they can make major changes, including killing off of major characters. They are meant to realign the entire universe and set the tone for all the comics in the following years. I recently read the excellent Identity Crisis and learned that DC quickly followed that with the Countdown to Infinite Crisis.

In Identity, we learn that a number of superheroes did a Bad thing, which caused Batman to reconsider his affiliation with other heroes. It also freaked out the villians who, led by Lex Luthor, banded together to defend against the heroes. Some villians didn't want to play nice and the intra-baddie fight is captured in the excellent Villains United.

Quite a few of the Amazon reviews note that knowledge of the DC universe is helpful to the enjoyment of these stories. That's true, but I barely knew any of the characters in Villains and I found it a rollicking story.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Happy happy news

If you are having a not so great day, click here. If you are too busy to click, the Pixies are going to record a new album. Last I heard, they weren't.


I admit this is terribly petty, but I avoided seeing Brokeback Mountain because of Annie Proulx's freakout rant in the Guardian. But that was this year, you say, what about the theaters. As a parent of small children I am close to exclusively DVD these days.

Anyway, I'm glad I finally did as the movie has four excellent, even surprisingly so, performances. It also manages the trick of being sad without being maudlin or overly manipulative. It has one of my favorite literary themes, the idea that you if you do not pursue what you want, you will suffer for it. As Ennis and Jack surely do.

Something's going very wrong

Do you think that countries like the USA are slowly sliding to fascism? Then you will probably like Farthing. Do you think not? Then you won't. The book is set in a 1949 where Britain went the Halifax route and backed out of the war. Britain gets Finlandized and the anti-Semitic tendencies of the upper classes gain strength. Out on a country estate, one of the leaders of the appeasement gets whacked and of course they blame the (innocent) Jew. As you can imagine there are all sorts of nasty politics afoot.

From a technical standpoint, the book is good. Sadly I don't think the book adds up to all that much unless you think that you are reading an allegory for our times. In case you miss this, the author's introductory statement and the cover's Ursula LeGuin quote hammer it into your head. So again, do you think the US is headed towards fascism? I don't. Do you think the clowns we have now can get anything right? Do you really think these geniuses can manage the overthrow of the entire political system? I think they can damage the republic to the point that we slide into a third world minor authoritarian morass. And there is some danger of that. But fascism? No way.

I saw some people complaining that too many people in the book are gay. Whatever. I've read enough Iris Murdoch/AS Byatt/Pat Barker to be convinced that the entire British upper class is, in fact, gay. They just breed to maintain the family name.

I'm probably the wrong audience for the book though. I think alternative history is mostly bunk, although I keep going back to it, like a dumbass.

Monday, October 23, 2006

And you know you've seen it all

For no good reason, I've considered myself well versed in movies. This from a person who rarely sees more than 1/5 of the Oscar contenders and finally saw a Jean Renoir movie this year. I think my reasoning is based on a belief that I have seen every movie that is worth seeing. Poppycock, sheer rot, of course, but the truth is, it's hard to find a good movie if you don't know to look for it.

So I was pleasantly surprised by Movie Lust. The book is designed to be consulted at whim. You flip around and you will find something of interest. The book is ordered around themed lists, like Horse Sense (obvs) and Fathers and Sons (also obvs,) but with more odder selections like decent remakes, and starter anime (although she includes the Overfiend movies, which are best seen by no one. CREEPY) The downside is that a lot of the more obscure stuff is only on VHS.

Here's something odd. I am all too willing to slog through a middling scifi or mystery novel in hopes of unearthing a gem. This can takes days of priceless reading time. With movies, if I am not hooked in the first 15 or so minutes, that sucker is done. Very strange.

Three things that don't go together

Agony Column has a long audio interview with Scott Smith about his book, the Ruins. They get crazy with the spoilers so don't listen if you haven't read the book yet. The book is divisive, for a horror novel at least. Powells and Esquire love it, for example, while Bookslut (spoilers aplenty) hates it with a cold fury. I quite enjoyed it myself.

Checkout the fancy packaging on this Malyasian version of Kit Kat. Reference is made of a pumpkin Kit Kat as well.

If you have some spare cycles, take a peek at Richard Haass's take on the Middle East. Haass is a centrist and the head of the bi-partisan Council for Foreign Relations. This means his take is sober, complicated and will not appeal to a strongly ideological point of view. I like that he splits out internal and external drivers of change and provides meaningful policy guidance.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fun on the Oregon Coast

We spent the weekend on the Oregon Coast and amazingly it was like a summer day. An Oregon summer day, which meant it was in the 70s, and there was no way in hell you could swim. But still, incredibly gorgeous, especially Hug Point. I just now learned that Hug Point is prominent in crop circle, um, circles thanks to it, no doubt UFO-related, sandrings.

Anyway, one of our fave spots in Gearhart, where we normally stay, is Pop's Sweet Shop. It appears to be yet another beach town ice cream shop, albeit with a cheerier staff. They have what you would expect, fudge, taffy, Tillamook ice cream and espresso. The big attraction though is the scone. They make them at the shop and match them with an appropriate jam. The basic scone is a plain scone with raspberry jam. I also tried the cranberry scone with marmalade. Sometimes they just have the basic. Don't worry, it's awesome. So soft, flaky and warm, you will be thrilled when you try it.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Ok, this isn't for everyone, but John Hodgman of The Areas of My Expertise, the PC Guy vs. Mac Guy ads and the Daily Show had a chat on the Washington Post. Go ahead and click, but if you want a taste,

Washington, D.C.: When you were in college (being so smart, did you ever need to go to college? Or did they just heap degrees on you every time you left your house?) and had to write a paper due the next day that you just couldn't bring yourself to start, what did you do?

John Hodgman: I usually forced myself away from the online chats with authors of books of fake trivia that I was using to procrastinate and just sat down and did it.

That is all.

His bit on Lost is great too.


Christopher Hitchens has an interesting review of the reissue of Alaistair Horne's Savage War of Peace. He discusses how appropriate it is to compare the Algerian War to the Iraqi war. The book was out of print for awhile, so it is good to see it back. My copy, which sits in the kitchen bookshelves, glowers at me every time I eat a meal.

Void Magazine has an amusing bit on non-existent literary sequels, like:

Electric Kool-Aid Beta Test Tom Wolfe returns to San Francisco to find the merry-pranksters have established their own start-up e-auction business, made $240 million off the IPO, bought Jettas, and spend their time sulking around Marin County McMansions. (Via Grumpy Old Bookman)

Then we have this collection of completely Not Safe For Work album covers.

Here is a good piece from the FT on all the recent Iraq war as Tet talk. The last line is great, in a black humor sort of way.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Joanna has a lengthy post on the origins of candy corn, followed by a taste test. The winner is a little surprising as it is the least expensive (on a per pound basis.) Candy corn is a tasty treat, but I think I like it best on Halloween sugar cookies. When I was but a wee tot, I was quite fond of the fall candy mix which contained the orange flavored pumpkin, the maple flavored wheat sheaf (or was it the banana flavored one) and the chocolate flavored cat. I think I'd rather just have candy corn at this point.

Today the Oregonian carried a story about the house we call the holiday house. For a number of the major holidays (4th of July, Christmas, and Presidents?) they put out a lot of decorations. The Halloween one is the biggest though. As the article says, school buses show up to drop kids off here on Halloween night. Lucky for us, we can just walk. These folks buy $800 in candy every year and if you are lucky you get an invite inside. When our twins went as Princess and the Pea, we got our picture taken by the owners. I'm not sure the costumes are going to hit that bar this time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Two books you should read

I am nearly done with Edward Jones's Lost in the City. You probably don't own this, as the initial run sold only 5,000 copies, or so I saw in an interview. His stories are exceptionally good, and even better almost uniformly good. Most short story collections are like most CDs. Maybe 40% of the content is good, the rest being filler. This one is like Murmur, every one a keeper.

My wife has complained that short stories are just about sadness, and there is some truth in this. Jones's stuff is often sad, but isn't just that. I rather like his story "Orange Line Train to Ballston," is a slice of life story about a woman trying to time her Metro rides to see a man she fancies. Others are darker, including a story about a woman who raised her own son and helped raise another woman's boy. Speed up twenty years, and her son is rising in the gang hierarchy while the other is late on payments. Doesn't end well as you can imagine. Go get this one.

On the scifi side, I am reading Pushing Ice, by Alaistair Reynolds. I've really quite liked Reynolds other work, which was far future space opera, but felt he could have used more editing. His other books were just too long. This one is far tighter and moves quickly. What's impressive is that he takes a standard scifi concept, first contact with a strange alien object and makes it exciting.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Neal Stephenson

John Derbyshire at the National Review has been commissioned to read and review Cryptonomicon and the entire Baroque Cycle, a mere 3,800 pages. He has an update of his foray into the first books. I remain leery of commiting to such a time eating body of work, despite the strong words of praise I have heard. Derbyshire's piece doesn't really make me change my ambivalent mind on the subject, but it makes for entertaining reading. For example,

The math gets out of hand, too. Naturally I swooned to see the Riemann Zeta Function on page 11; but I got bored with the modular-arithmetic stuff about the bicycle chain in p. 204 ff, and just skipped to the next chapter. Modular arithmetic **is** boring, until you get to quadratic reciprocity (which Stephenson doesn't), after which it gets terrifically fascinating—any math geek knows that.

No doubt you are aware that Derbyshire is the author of a book on Riemann and other mathematical tomes.

Oh, joy

Got something you need to work on all night long? Well this will keep you up.

Apparently the folks running our counter-terrorism programs can't tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite. As the writer points out, this is like someone studying Northern Ireland who doesn't know the difference between Catholics and Protestants.

An example: "She took a stab at it: “It’s a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it’s the Sunnis who’re more radical than the Shia.”

Lest you think it is some partisan hack with an axe to grind, the reporter is from the staid old Congressional Quarterly.


Do your eyes glaze over when talk of fantasy football arises? Do you pine for a way to set your favorite Senators against the rest of the elected rabble? Well get excited, because now you can play Fantasy Congress. I am ashamed to admit I don't know who I would pick, although I am happy to see that the top scoring member is Virginia's own John Warner. The wicked Rick Santorum is number five, but not for much longer! You get points based on how far your Congressional team can push legislation through the process. I suppose you could sign up all your local people and see if they are getting anything done.

If all that requires too much thinking and stuff, maybe you should consider Def Con, the game with the happy subtitle "Everybody Dies." The game is a nuke fest designed to look like the WarGames computer. Here's a screenshot, it's going to get hot in Boston. It's a multiplayer megadeath fest, which may not be for every taste.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Slightly less than I used to

I was lukewarm of James Ellroy's last effort, the Cold Six Thousand. I am therefore less psyched than I once would have been about his guest blogging at The Rap Sheet. He is his normal loud mouthed self. And he has declared that he reads no books nor magazines nor does he take in the cinema. Hmmm. I wonder if he is going to be mean to the commenters. (via Sarah Weinman)

Save some time

Well I was all excited to get the new Niall Ferguson, so I put it on hold at the library. Thank goodness I did as this review said what I most feared. That it was a long history of things we mostly already knew without that much value add. The Amazon reviews are very positive, but if I am going to read an 800 page history, it had better be really good, not just decent. So unless someone tells me otherwise, I am taking this one back.

Best single volume book on the Second World War

Finding a good book that covers the entire Second World War is difficult. Yes you can read multi-volume studies like Churchill's, but a world class single volume has remained lacking. The subject is so giant it is hard to encompass. Ideally you would read deeply in the subjects that interest you. For most people, a single volume will give them the overview they need to understand what happened.

A War To Be Won by Williamson Murray and Allan Millett is the most worthwhile single volume history of the Second World War I have encountered. Let me list its virtues. For one it is accessible. Rather than descending into jargon, acronyms or unit designations, the authors write for the reasonably informed reader. They also provide a detailed appendix with terminology and concepts. For another it is well balanced. All areas of the war receive coverage. Many books slight the Russian war for example, but here the core role of the Soviets is clear. Some of the books that give the Soviets their due denigrate the contribution of the Western Allies, but not this one. Another high point is the analysis and point of view the authors bring. Too many histories merely relate what happened. With a topic as large as WW2, it is hard to not simply rattle off facts. The authors nicely situate battles and decisions in the strategic context, so you can get an idea what was a good idea and what was not. The authors are also unafraid of making judgements. Omar Bradley, for example, gets a rather scathing verdict. If you want to learn more about the war but find the rows and rows of books available to be daunting then this should fit the bill.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

More food

First of all thanks to Brack for his idea of the Applesauce snack cake. Sorry for the prick tease of a link. It give the description, but the recipe is just for subscribers. Grrr. Anyway, the recipe is interesting. It mixes applesauce (unsweetened, natch) dried apples and apple cider. You reduce the cider with the dried apples. This sucks the rich cider into the apples. I wonder if this would work with cross-fruit combos. I think orange juice and dried mango would do rather well. BTW, watch out for the Costco dried apples, they are coated in sugar.

If you like reading the food blogs, you should check out Chocolate & Zucchini. The writer is French and has all sorts of interesting ideas, like this spiced chocolate peanut butter spread. It sounds rather delightful. Back in my livin' in China days, I bought something called peanut butter, that was actually some sort of peanut butter chili combo. It was astoundingly good, and I never found it again. I should try making that.

Speaking of spreads, you should really try the almond butter at Trader Joe's. It has no added sugar but still packs a hell of a flavor punch. A lot of almond butters will clock in at ten bones, but you can get it TJ's for five. I am thinking of swapping it out for peanut butter in the holiday cookie recipes. Maybe this year my cookies won't suck.

Star Wars at OMSI

If you live in Portland and you like Star Wars, you should go to the the OMSI Star Wars exhibit. It's large, it has props from the movies and the interactive elements are actually quite good. In one you learn about robots. There are three stages and in each you learn a little bit more and do a little bit more. At the end you program a robot and send it around a small track. There is also an interactive bit on virtual reality and using magnets to levitate and move. If you are bringing kids, try to go in the work week, take the day off if you have to do it. The crowd is not small.

If you do go, keep your eyes peeled for the Cloud City Garrison of the 501st Legion. The storm troopers definately gave my daughter pause. Boba Fett even more so. These people aren't just going down to target to get their storm trooper costumes. Take a look at what they do to make the uniforms.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Fun over the weekend

Seeking some scary fiction for the Halloween month, I picked up Cold Skin, by Alberto Sanchez Pinol. Don't read the spoiler-rich Publisher's Weekly review, but take a look at this one in the Believer. The reviewer says that the book "is an uncharted fictional territory somewhere between H. P. Lovecraft and J. M. Coetzee." I agree on Coetzee, the book can be seen as an allegory about colonialism. The Lovecraft isn't quite right, as it isn't really creepy or cosmic enough to fit that author. Large portions of the story reminded me of I am Legend, although it eventually turns in a different direction. Since I was looking for getting creeped out, rather than thinking about colonialism, the book wasn't a great fit for my mood. That said, it is well written and if you want a literary novel in a different mode, maybe it will do you right.

Perhaps I had low expectations, but I liked Fantastic Four. The movie is in the origin style. We see how these characters came to be. They use the classic FF story but tweak the Doctor Doom story to make it fit. I was never a fan, so I didn't care, but if you are, it might bug you. The casting is OK, but I loved Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm. An excellent choice. I also liked that they bucked the recent comic movie trend of killing off villains. In comic books, those guys NEVER die, so they can keep coming back. Doom puts up a hell of a fight, but they eventually shut him down. This one is no epic, but it was plenty entertaining. Nerds get excited, the next Fantastic Four movie involves the Silver Surfer and Galactus.

How to solve your problems

Start living! With tequilla.

Wild wild west

I heard Hampton Sides on NPR talking about his new book. The subject, the coming of the Americans into Navajo country, isn't normally a favorite, but I do love Sides. After listening to the story, I think this one is moving from the library borrow list to the buy list.

The topic in general made me think of the idea of America as an isolationist country. While this idea still exists, the tide seems to have turned to the idea that the US has never been isolationist, but has been both revolutionary and expansionist. There is a strain in American policy which has sought to avoid interaction with Europe, but that doesn't mean the United States was ever truly isolationist. Just ask the Native Americans or Mexicans. One of the latest to re-examine American history is Robert Kagan. The neocon author has just released Dangerous Nation, which is his provocative title for his new history of the United States until 1900 (or so.) I think similar arguments were made in Dominion of War.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ghoulish gathering

Are you a vampire (sorry, I meant vampyre?) Do you live in Richmond, VA? Then you better get yourself down to the vampyre gathering on this unholy day. I'll miss it, which is too bad, as I would love to meet Lil' Hatchet Warrior and all her friends.

Just what I need

I always hesitate to read long book recommendations from indie booksellers and bloggers, not because I don't appreciate their opinions but because I so often find things I want to add to the piles of books that threaten my house (and marriage). So it was with some trepidation that I read Slate's list of less-known fiction gems. Alas, it looks like there are some good ones in there. The Chagall book looks especially good, in a Kavalier and Clay kind of way. I wonder if I have any room left under the bed?

Nerdy goodness

I hit the nerd jackpot last night with two great graphic novels, Frank Millers 300 and Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis.

300 will be getting a lot of buzz thanks to the upcoming movie. It's the story of the 300 Spartans who marched to certain death at Thermopylae. They fought the massive army of Xerxes, stopping him for awhile before his ultimate defeat a few months later. The trailer has a militaristic brutal feel to it, and some of the commenters at Crooked Timber have rolled out the fascist label. While Miller's stories are always violent, they are never fascist. His theme is the individual (Batman, Sin City's "heroes", Leonides) driven to confront overwhelming or impossible forces in the defense of what small amount of good there is in the world. For these even if something good survives, it makes their sacrifices worthwhile.

Identity Crisis is a big crossover graphic novel set in the DC universe. It involves killings that hit very close to home to the caped crusaders. These stories are about the personal cost to the heroes for many it is far too high. The liner notes highlight some interesting design choices. For example, Batman doesn't appear until halfwaythrough, Superman makes a number of dramatic appearances, Wonder Woman is never shown in full as she is too majestic to be taken in with a single image. The authors note that these are the gods of the DC world and have to be handled appropriately. The author and illustrator bring that level of analysis and craft to the whole endeavor. Check it out.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

British war movies

I picked up a collection of British War movies at the library.

I've only watched Went the Day Well, but it was surprisingly good. It concerns a group of Germans disguised as British soliders who infiltrate a British village. Their mission is to serve as landing point for a broader invasion. The movie was made during the war and was presumably meant to scare the crap out of the British (and to reduce the influence of appease the German types found on the aristocratic right, as late as 1940.) For the time it was rather brutal. This one would do well with a modern updating.

Another one in the collection is Dam Busters, which is apparently an exciting movie about engineering. You see there was this dam the British needed to bomb and it proved a real challenge as to how to do it. Apparently the final scene was the inspiration for the Star Wars trench scene, down even to dialogue. I so hope there is a portly fellow who says "Stay on Target...Stay on Target." The big controversy with the film, which is one reason fewer people see it, is the name of the dog. Thanks to his black coat, he is named after the n-bomb. And thanks to his tragic death, his name is repeated endlessly. It rains n-bombs like f-bombs in a Tarantino movie. Or n-bombs for that matter. Anyway, today's audiences would likely be shocked, much like the black face in Holiday Inn. It's a true story and I bet the name of the dog will be changed in the Peter Jackson remake. He is like the Santa Claus of movies, that guy, bringing happy gifts for all.

There are three more movies in the set including the Cruel Sea, which is Das Boot for the British, the Ship that Died of Shame, and the Colditz Story.

Oh, you tricky devil

Victor David Hanson critiques the major books on the Iraq War including the new Bob Woodward, Fiasco and Cobra II. He notes that all of the books use anonymous sources and then argues that we are therefore getting a dishonest picture of the war.

Fair enough, when sources are anonymous you can't verify the statements or lay the claims at someone's door. However there are a number of qualifiers to this. For one, the Bush administration has made a bad habit of punishing outspoken members of government. The most shameful case was that of Gen. Shinseki who closely predicted how the war would turn out, and was given the bum's rush for his troubles. This was a four star general. Is it surprising that lower ranked military and civil servants are not going to openly criticize?

For another, Hanson sidesteps the actual argument. Yes, the authors partly base their arguments on anonymous sources, but only partly. Is Hanson arguing that they made up the idea that the war is going badly or was bungled in 2003? Much of that argument is well supported by official interviews in the books. As a further insult to our intelligence, Hanson writes that we are midstream in the war and can't be sure how we are doing. This says we can't critique government policy until that policy is complete. That's foolish and requires a slavish adoration of authority.

Finally and most importantly, Hanson is pulling a rhetorical trick. By lumping all three books together he is tarring all of them with the sins of a single book. The Woodward book has a much greater ratio of anonymous to open statements. That's his thing, he has access to people most reporters don't. The other two books place much greater emphasis on named interviews. Hanson would have us believe it is all just a bunch of gossip from disgruntled civil servants who didn't get their way. Don't believe him.

Angels fall to earth

I can tell when it is time to put down a book. When my pages read per reading session drop to around ten, the book isn't working for me. Sometimes, I will press on, but this is a bad idea. I find it better to pick up something I want to read more. I continue to acquire new books which I will never read because I spend too much time reading books on which I am none too keen.

It's been awhile since I gave up on a book, but Metropolitan. The atmosopher is appropriate I suppose as Venice has the air of decay about it, and does feel like a refugee from another time. If you are greatly interested in Venice maye you could try it. Or just read A Death in Venice.

You could always look at the nominees for the National Book Award. The Millions has them laid out. It is full of books that are completely new to me. I clearly have not been paying attention to the literary fiction world.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

More books

Jennifer Egan, author of the Keep, which I really want to read, and Look at Me, which I have on my shelf, has written a glowing review of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Speaking of the Keep, check out this online interactive exploration.

Slate also has a review of the new Richard Powers which is getting some praise too.

Rock like you mean it

I caught the Killers last night. I'd written them off as a poseur band, but I liked the show. It was good straight ahead rock, if a bit too loud. The strangest thing was the crowd. I was sure it would be all young 20-somethings, but the mean was probably closer to 30. The crowd favorite? Not terribly surprising, All These Things I've Done. Click this video to see someone who has overlaid the song to scenes from Lost. Seriously that song could be the theme song for the show. Haters should have a listen to Smile Like You Mean It.

Also wierd was that the guitarist looked like Duff McKagan, if Duff had joined Poison instead of GNR.

Heads all empty and I don't care

I was looking for some Terrapin Station videos online, and I came to an odd realization. There is an eerie similarity between admitting you like the Grateful Dead and admitting you do in fact dance with yourself. They both follow a simple arc.

Stage 1: Denial. "Listen to the Grateful Dead? Me? Whatever, those losers over there might spend all day listening, but not me."

Stage 2: Grudging admission. "Ok, I listen to Skeletons in the Closet every once in awhile, but I have lots of bands I'd rather listen to." In reality you have all the studio CDs and about 20 bootlegs. You would only need one or two bootlegs, but you keep looking for a version of Dark Star, that is just right.

Stage 3: Too much information. Now you are wearing it a bit too much on your sleeve. You put a copy of Robert Hunter's lyrics on your coffee table. You love telling people about your original promo posters from the Fillmore.

Stage 4: Comfortable acceptance. "What's the big deal? Everybody likes American Beauty."

I understand the name of this blog makes this post extra creepy, but there you go.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Treats for October

Fall means apple treats. This year we found an old favorite and stumbled on a new one. When we lived in Massachusetts, we would visit a pumpkin patch in Ipswich and they sold apple cider doughnuts. These are cake style doughnuts suffused with cidery warmth and flavor. Soooo good, especially when fresh. Strangely we had a hard time finding them in Oregon and Virginia. This weekend we found some at Fir Point Farms down I-5. If you can't find them yourself use this recipe. The link has the story on the doughnuts as well.

The farm was also selling fried apple pie. We were not sure about this one until we saw the line. It had to be good! Or we were all just sheep who follow the leader. Luckily it was the former. I've seen recipes where they make a pie and then fry it, but these are a bit different. Here you take a firm apple, like a granny smith, and cut it into wedges. You cover it in a wet pastry dough and fry it. Once done you cover with cinnamon sugar. The effect is like a doughnut with melting apple in the middle. It's rather good.

On the store bought front, look out for Hershey's Cocoa peanuts. They are chocolate covered peanuts with a dusting of cocoa. These have a nice subtle cocoa flavor that I found addictive. Super bonus is that you can get them at the convenience store.

And here is a great article on salted caramel, with recipes for those who dare.

Monday, October 09, 2006


People have been telling me for years that I should read Charles Bukowski. Sven was telling me way back in year 93 that I needed to read this guy. And yet I didn't. I blame it on my circumstantial reading habits. By that I mean, unless I get it as a gift, stumble on it at the used bookstore, or in the library, I probably won't read it. For someone with a blog named BAMOF, I really should be more proactive about the books I read.

Anyway, Joanna told me that I should start with Ham on Rye, so I picked it up. I'm happy to say that it is excellent. It pokes fun at the coming of age story, while serving as a nihilistic coming of age story of its own. The narrator, Henry Chianski, has horrible parents, lives in a neighborhood where petty violence is common, and is beset by a 99% worst percentile case of all body acne. If the big questions of the coming of age novel is asking who you are and what are you going to do with yourself, Henry finds out he doesn't really like himself or society and he retreats into an alcohol haze. I thought by the end, the character, based on Bukowski himself, starts to feel a little too sorry for himself, but throughout he questions why people do the things they do.

What I liked best was the black humor that Bukowski manages. The bad experience after bad experience that Henry endures could be ridiculous, but the matter of fact presentation makes it work. And until the end, when he begins to retreat into himself, Henry manages to handle the bad situations well, aside from occasionally beating the crap out of people.

Playing songs that bring tears to my eyes

I know that radio has been bad for quite a few years now, but some things still bother me. The one thing that drives me most crazy is how the stations (since they are all owned by one or two companies) will pull some oldie (meaning an alterna-hit of the 80s on a rock station) out of the database and play the crap out of it for a few months before putting it to bed. I guess it is too hard to randomize the oldies.

What drives me even crazier is that I cannot escape Jane Says. It’s not even close to the best Jane’s Addiction song and I have heard it enough times that never again sounds good right now. There are plenty of good songs available that get little to no play, and I want to promote them.

San Francisco - Scott McKenzie. This song should not work. You can see the hippies in circles clapping along. In the conformist hippie way, we are commanded to wear flowers. And that way out of date break should kill it. But the song is just about perfect. Don’t worry, I’m not going all patchouli on you. If I had a Hammer still makes me want to destroy. And always will.

Dead Heart – Midnight Oil This song is so much better than Beds Are Burning, but gets very little love on the radio. If I had to guess, it would be the relative paucity of Peter Garrett I’ll Believe in Anything Wolf Parade I know it is asking a lot for a quirky indie rock song to get played on the radio. But this one is so friendly and engaging, that it would fit nicely into many a playlist.

Blood on our Hands - Death from Above 1979 Why did the somewhat derivative Blood on our Hands get little or no airplay when the similar but completely derivative


The North Korean test is terrible news. I think we are now (meaning in the next four or five years) going to experience a doubling of the nuclear club. It's hard to see what the Bush Admin and China can achieve at this point. Read this Robert Kaplan article in the Atlantic for some implications.

And if you need to get a better understanding of how nukes were developed, built and used, go no further than the Making of the Atomic Bomb.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Fans of George R R Martin will want to listen to his new podcast. He describes how he started the Song of Fire and Ice. We learn that TV pilot writing nearly stopped the birth of the series. He also says "he hopes" he will finish Dance with Dragons by the end of the year.

Sweet, sweet beer

Powells has a review of a new history of beer. The review opens with this:

There is a myth among us beer snobs about the history of beer in America. It goes something like this: everyone used to drink full-bodied beers up until prohibition. After prohibition, the big brewers took over the industry, flooding the market with weak beer made more from rice than barley, because rice is cheaper. They aggressively drove everyone else out of business, and so now Americans drink this limpid swill because they don't have a choice. It makes a great story, particularly for fans of hearty ales and microbrews. The only problem is, as Ogle lays out in this fascinating history, the myth is almost completely untrue.

Well I totally bought into that story. Who knew? The author will be speaking at Powell's Hawthorne on October 17.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Best of the Commonwealth

Since the NYT generated all sorts of excitement with its best novels of the last 25 years, the Guardian thought it would do the same. Number 1? Disgrace. To be honest, I liked that one but did not love it. There are a few of which I have never heard including Earthly Powers. There is even a list of those that almost made it. Anyway, you can probably find something to get angry about or something to buy at the store.

Another Halloween book

Two years ago, I picked up a copy of Monster Goose. It turned out to be too scary to be that year's new Halloween book. This year the kid's love it. The little rhymes border on the disgusting, and the art hovers between funny and creepy. Here is what is probably the most outre of the poems:

Cannibal Horner
Sat in the corner
Eating a people potpie
He bit his own thumb
And cried "Oh, yum, yum.
A tasty young morsel am I"

If you want to serve up something a little different this Halloween, this book is a good choice.

Friday, October 06, 2006

And to think I hesitated

So I almost didn't go to the Friends of the Multnomah County Library book sale. I was feeling tired, and wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money to become a member (friday night being members only you see) Then I realized that it was my civic duty to join and I happily went.

If you ever have the opportunity to go to your local library's member night sale, go to it. I had to put away books because I couldn't carry any more. Among my treasures:

Alan Morehead's White Nile. One of the classics of the explorer genre. He is tad un-PC by today's standards so beware if that is an issue for you.

Rick Atkinson's Crusade. One of the better Gulf War 1 histories. It may also have be the last of the big tank vs. tank wars in history. I say this as the DPRK gets ready to possibly blow up a nuke. Then it will be tank-a-palooza over on the 38th Parallel.

Peter Hamilton's Judas Unchained. Hamilton specializes in the most operatic of space opera. Everything is big big big just like this 827 page monster. If it is anything like the first book, it will be well worth it.

Gary Shteyngart Russian Debutante's Handbook. I've heard this is awesome.

Some Bernard Cornwell books. I confess that I used to look down on Cornwell. I thought anyone who churned them out as fast he does couldn't do that good a job. Silly me. I read one and loved it.

And many more including a David Liss, Chalmers Johnson, Roger Zelazny and Peter Mayle. Like I said, they started to get heavy.


The next class of American aircraft carriers will be the Gerald Ford class. To be honest I am none too keen on the habit of naming these ships after Presidents. For one, they get plenty of things named after them already. It looks another this just looks like another benefit of the job. For another, does it matter if you are a top tier President or do you have to just be President? We have a Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier fitting out. The last of the Nimitzs is the George H.W. Bush. Jimmy Carter has to make do with a submarine. A fancy special operations submarine, but still. We are still waiting on the USS William Clinton and USS George W Bush, but you can bet we will see them one day.

Seven of the ten Nimitz carriers are named after Presidents. Two of the others are named for Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. This is a wink-wink, nudge-nudge from the Navy to let House leaders know there might be a carrier in it for them, if the Navy gets something nice under the Christmas tree.

Back in the day, carriers were named after famous ships or battles. Names like USS Lexington and USS Saratoga are gone, as are USS Yorktown and soon, USS Enterprise. While tradition isn't everything, I think there is value in historical continity rather than just political payback, which is what the current naming scheme feels like.

Things to Do This Weekend

If you live in Portland that is.

First up is the HP Lovecraft Film Festival. It takes place at the Hollywood theater. Like a Star Trek Convention or a Dead show, you go for the people watching as much as the content. The movies are rather mainstream this year, but most fit into a Lovecraftian mold. By that I mean creepy, dank, and only partially explained.

If you need (ok fine, if you want) books, then you need to get to the Friends of the Multnomah County book sale. Some people hear library book sale and think about the books no one has checked out in seven years, and that have white stickers with Dewey Decimal numbers on them. Not here, it's all donations. Yes you will have to do some hunting, but that is part of the fun.

If you have kids you might consider a trip to the pumpkin patches. The ones here can't compare to the extravaganzas found in Northern Virginia, but they are still really fun. The Oregonian has a list. We'll be visting Fir Point Farms ourselves.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

This is Sparta

This year has pretty much sucked for movies, so I am all kinds of psyched for 300, coming out next year. It's based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name and covers the Battle of Thermopylae. In that famed battle 300 Spartans faced thousands of Persian Imperial troops. They lost of course, but they delayed the Persians enough that the Greeks won the war. I've not read the novel, but this is the same guy who brought you the Dark Knight Returns and Sin City, so it can't be that bad. I did read Stephen Pressfield's great Gates of Fire, a novel about Thermopylae.

I think Kieran Healy is correct that many commentators will make great hay out of the movie and how we aren't militaristic enough, although I think he is a tad pissy about it. Those looking to set up Sparta as some great model for the US should think again. Back in the Cold War days, Sparta vs. Athens was a metaphor for Soviets vs. USA. On the one side a communtarian, militarized, land power and on the other, a democratic, trade oriented sea power. Both sides were empires that kicked around the little guys, which made the comparison all the more apt. Everyone in international relations read Thucydides back in those days. Maybe they still do.

But let's leave the politics to the chattering classes. Instead, check out that trailer. Stylized violence action galore. It looks like they are trying to capture the look and feel of the comic book, as was done so well in Sin City.

Getting Ready for Ramadan

From Israel's Ynet News:
Deliberate masturbation during the month of Ramadan renders a fast invalid, Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khameini has ruled.
Khameini, who is Iran's most powerful political and religious figure, was asked on his website : "If somebody masturbates during the month of Ramadan but without any discharge, is his fasting invalidated?"
"If he do not intend masturbation and discharging semen and nothing is discharged, his fasting is correct even though he has done a haram (forbidden) act. But, if he intends masturbation or he knows that he usually discharges semen by this process and semen really comes out, it is a haram intentional breaking fasting," the Iranian leader said, posting the reply on his website.

Damn hippies

This is both hugely funny and hugely sad. I fear Wonkette's assessment at the end is all too prescient.

Food things

The Post has a story about one man's encounter with Trader Joe's. The most interesting bit is the corporate history. There was in fact, a Trader Joe. Essentially the writer had a bad first encounter but was partially won back. The writer identifies a number of strengths including snack foods, meat and Asian frozen food. Produce is just plain bad there, it is true. He gets mad that the $4 wine he bought didn't go over well with the guests. Dude, you should never, ever put out a sub-$10 bottle of wine for guests without trying it.

To truly like Trader Joe's I think you have to be a multi-grocery store person. You just can't get everything you need there. I go to four grocery stores myself, including:

Safeway: For most purchases
New Seasons: Produce, fish, sausage, cheese and Ruby Jewels.
Trader Joe's: Nuts, cereal, meat, weird juice and chocolate bars. Valhrona for $3 is a steal.
Beaumont Market: Last minute needs, beer (so good here) and Grand Central Baking bread.

Everyone is getting on the salty sweet train. If you haven't had the pleasure of salty caramel, here is a recipe. Or if you live in Portland just go to Sahagun. Here's a salty sweet idea that is just crazy enough to work, Salty Peppermint bark.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Oh man, this is so going to confuse people overseas. You may recall that some Chinese papers have accidently used the Onion as a real news source. Well, now CNN.com is running Onion stories! What are the Harry Potter book banners going to do when they see this?

A few random items

To be honest I wasn't all that keen on reading the new Neil Gaiman short story collection. I'm not sure why, as I've loved everything he has written. This review got me interested though. It comes with a short story sequel to American Gods. It also has "A Study in Emerald," which is a Sherlock Holmes/Cthulu Mythos crossover. As the review notes, it would be a good way to see if Gaiman is your cup of tea.

The same review site has a review of a bizarre, but interesting sounding book about first contact.

I also see that Charlie Huston has a site. He writes gritty, violent noir and if you like that, you will love his books. If you don't, you'll probably hate them. He has a new book out this month and a vampire noir book coming out in December. I know what you're thinking. Vampire noir? That is some of the most ridiculous shit ever said. Done poorly, that would be true, but this guy does it right.

Stop the madness

Let's face it. We are living in some suck ass times. What with our hands in two tar babies, the economy teetering on the edge of recession, the Geheimstatspolizei harassing people in the streets, paedophiles running amock, Screech giving ladies the dirty Sanchez, and the world about to get a brand new nuclear power, I have a hard time believing things could get worse.

So if you need a little pick me up, listen to the Lightning Seeds "Pure." It can't help but raise your spirits.

This will also make you laugh, as it is eight flavors of awesome.

Oh and the third Season of Lost is starting. I guess things aren't so bad.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Popular vs. academic

Jill Lepore who writes academic histories writes a mildly positive review for Hampton Sides new book on the Navajo, Blood and Thunder (which I am so buying.) She hits him with this: "His story gallops; more ideas, harder questions, would rein it in to a slow trot" Well it is popular history, isn't it? But she does raise a good point. On one hand, there may be an element of envy. The popular historians vastly outsell the academic ones. On the other hand, it is disturbing that most people read no history after college or high school, and if they do, they read simplified accounts. Some knowledge is better than none, yes?

Why does this matter? I suppose it matters most when people use their limited understanding to make decisions like, say, supporting the invasion of Iraq.

Freedom of choice

Via Powells I see the book publishing world is concerned that there may be too many big name author books coming out this fall. Well lots of books is great news for consumers and retailers, but shouldn't it be good for publishers too? I would think most of them have a portfolio of names and at least one or two should hit it big for each of them. I suppose it could be a winner take all effect as well. In any case, most people will be pleased at their choices.

One of the current choices is the new Bob Woodward book on the war. So far a lot of the talk seems to be about how Woodward has taken a different tack than in prior books on Bush. Namely that now Woodward tells us the Bush team is dangerous while before they were great. I think Ross Douthat has the right idea, that Bush is the same as always but in new circumstances his approach is truly bad. In any case, the focus should be on the surprising content. The book is so negative that it has this Republican saying we really need to vote in the Dems in Nov.

Monday, October 02, 2006

One you need to read

I am attracted to books about places I have lived, and since I have never lived in New York or Los Angeles, the pool is a little small. When I heard about Edward Jones's Lost in the City, short stories about black Washingtonians, I was intrigued. When Jonathan Yardley called it one of the books that "that come from nowhere to leave one astonished and delighted," well, I just had to have it.

I am reading it very slowly and when I get tired, I put it down so I don't miss anything. Always a good sign. This person captured an important point. He compares Jones to Joyce in that he created characters that are distinctly of a time and place (in this case African Americans in 20th century Washington DC) but also universal. My favorite story so far is brief, just 10 or so pages. It details a girl attending his first day of kintergarden with her mother (who she"had not yet learned to despise.") The normal sadness of the child leaving home for a broader life is made terribly poignant with the details of the story.

If like me, you have been stuck in a pulpy rut, this is just the ticket. Jones has a new collection of stories called All Aunt Hagar's Children, that I suspect will be on my reading list soon.


Slate has a good piece on how the Chinese dumpling as served in American restaraunts must be improved immediately. During my year in Xi'an I ate a lot of dumplings, the best being served in hot chili soup or fried Hui style, and while you can find really good dumplings, you do have to look. Here in Portland, I would recommend Mandarin House, which is on SE Ankeny and 1st. It really doesn't look like much, but their dumplings are a delight, as is most of their food.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

When the world is a monster

William Lind has a new book called the American Way of Strategy (a clear nod to Russell Weigley) In it he argues that the post-cold war US strategy is a disaster and the US should turn to "offshore balancing" and the possibility of acting in concert with the other great powers to deal with the major issues of the day. For me there is a strong element of Can't Get There From Here to that. Do China, India, Russia, Germany, France, Japan, the UK and US agree about anything? Take the US out of the picture and they still can't agree on anything. Maybe at some watered down and pointless level. And how does the United States withdraw from its commitments when no one else is anywhere near capable of stepping in? I think he is right to argue that the American system as is today (although not in the Clinton era) is too expensive and provides too little value to the country. This book would go well with Charles Kupchan and Stephen Walt recent books which ask why the US can't change. At the very least, it is worth discussing whether the role the US plays is a benefit or not.

Pumpkin fun with Danzig

We took the kids out to Rasmussen farms to pick some pumpkins. If they somehow survive until the end of the month they may get carved. A highlight of any visit is the pumpkin funland which consists of pumpkins with faces painted on them in some sort of theme. It's been movies, music and history, but this year it is "how things have changed." One section had hairsytles, and amazingly it included the Devilock. This was my first ever Danzig/pumpkin interaction