Thursday, December 31, 2015


Happy New Year, Campers.  2015 wasn't bad, but it's ended on a sour note.  I've spent more time working these last three months than is kosher.  More than that, I've spent more time these last three months covering for people at the expense of living my own life than is cool.

No huge complaints.  Just didn't care for this last quarter of the year.

Here's to making a better 2016.

Happy New Year, folks.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Year-End Book Post

Welp.  It's the 29th of December.  Near enough for a look back at what I read in 2015.

First, the list, and then a few thoughts:


1.  The Plague Dogs, by Richard Adams
2.  Moonshine: A Cultural History of America's Infamous Liquor, by Jaime Joyce
3.  A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
4.  Silver Screen Fiend, by Patton Oswalt
5.  So, Anyway..., by John Cleese


6.  City Behind a Fence:  Oak Ridge, Tennessee 1942-1946
                                     by Charles W. Johnson & Charles O. Jackson
7.  Revival, by Stephen King
8.  All Clear, by Connie Willis


9.  Tretiak: the Legend      by Vadislav Tretiak
10.  In the Kingdom of Ice, by Hampton Sides
11.  Black Swan Green,  by David Mitchell
12.  Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
13.  the Outlaw Album, by Daniel Woodrell
14.  Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman


15.  the Eye of God, by James Rollins
16.  the Guns of August, by Barbara W. Tuchman
17.  Prisoner 489, by Joe R. Lansdale
18.  the Prague Cemetary, by Umberto Eco
19.  the Martian, by Andy Weir


20.  Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: the Untold History of English, by John McWhorter
21.  the Dark Tower:  Gunslinger      by Stephen King
22.  I am Radar, by Reif Larsen
23.  Dust and Decay, by Jonathan Maberry
24.  Long Black Curl, by Alex Bledsoe
25.  Finding Nouf, by Zoe Ferraris


26.  the Jesus Cow, by Michael Perry
27.  Heir to the Empire, by Timothy Zahn
28.  the Great Movies, by Roger Ebert


29.  The Likeness, by Tana French
30.  Finders Keepers, by Stephen King
31.  The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, by Joseph J. Ellis
32.  Hocus Pocus, by Kurt Vonnegut
33.  Pitching in a Pinch: Baseball on the Inside, by Christy Mathewson
34.  Armada, by Ernest Cline
35.  Dorie:  Woman of the Mountains, by Florence Bush Cope


36.  M.A.S.H.: A Novel about Three Army Doctors, by Richard Hooker
37.  Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
38.  The Power of the Dog, by Don Winslow


39.  A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay
40.  Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow
41.  The Shepherd's Crown, by Terry Pratchett
42.  The Coloring Book: A Comedian Solves...., by Colin Quinn
43.  Secondhand Souls, by Christopher Moore
44.  The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Professional Wrestling, by David Shoemaker

45.  The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
46.  The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert
47.  As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from....., by Cary Elwes, with Joe Layden
48.  American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
49.  Bombs Away: the Hot War, by Harry Turtledove

50.  Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
51.  Epitaph: a Novel of the OK Corral, by Mary Doria Russell
52.  Jacksonland, by Steve Innskeep
53.  The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick

54.  The Cold Dish, by Craig Johnson
55.  Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy
56.  Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
57.  Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford
58.  The Colour of Magic, by Terry Pratchett

My unofficial goal was 52 books, which I broke.  I don't think I actually read more than the last couple of years, but I also didn't read any doorstop tomes like The Stand or any of the Song of Ice and Fire books, which take time.

For the largest part of the year, up through October, the list is split pretty evenly between books I read, and books I listened to during my commute to work.  The last couple of months haven't been really conducive to reading at home.  I've had little down time, and when I do, I haven't had the concentration for it.  Stress, anxiety and all that.  I don't enjoy the holidays, and not being able to relax and read is a big part of it.  The only books I actually read during those last two months were Johnson's The Cold Dish, Pratchett's Colour of Magic and bits of McCarthy's Suttree, and Clarke's Childhood's End, in between listening.

Favorite books of the year?  

In the Kingdom of Ice is a tremendous, fun read, and one I gave as a gift a couple of times this year.  It's one I've tried to remember, when I'm having a bad day.  As bad as the day has been, at least I haven't been dragging a boat across the arctic ice pack, only to end up 7 miles behind where I started, because we aren't walking as fast as the ice is drifting.

Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts is one of the better horror novels I've ever read, and one I'm probably going to have to revisit, because I haven't landed on a definitive answer as to what the hell just happened.

Craig Johnson's A Cold Dish was a lot of fun, and I'm glad Shyam recommended that one.  Johnson turns a good phrase, and I like Sheriff Longmire a lot.  

I was tremendously sorry that I'd waited so long to get to Suttree.  What a tremendous book.  And one that'll make me take a walk around downtown Knoxville sometime to see the sights.  I loved this book.

Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell is one that I keep coming back to.  I was uneasy with the ending, which seemed to meander, but it has since grown on me.  I've given this one as a gift to a couple people.

Alex Bledsoe's Long Black Curl really hit close to home.  Alex's Tufa books are my favorite things that he's done, and this one was my favorite of that bunch.  I got a better sense of the community in this one, than I had before.   I gave this one as a gift, as well.

And Michael Perry's The Jesus Cow as a funny read that hit very close to home for me.  Somebody else I'd recommended it to didn't have a lot of use for it, though.  As with all things, your actual mileage may vary.  For me, it hit somewhere in the region that Keillor, Hiaasen and Christopher Moore hit.  I liked it very much.

There were disappointments, I'm sorry to say.

I love Christopher Moore, but Secondhand Souls was rough.  It felt very much like a book his publisher wanted him to write, as opposed to something he enjoyed.  I can't describe it except that there isn't as much bounce in that one, as there is in others of his.  At the end of the day, I didn't care a lot for A Dirty Job, the book that Souls is an unnecessary sequel to.  I guess if another comes out in the series, I'll avoid it.

I used to love Harry Turtledove, but Bombs Away left a bad taste in my mouth.  It's like he's trying to channel George R.R. Martin, but using paper dolls to do it.

Ernest Cline's Armada was garbage.  I am mad at myself for pushing through to its end.  Ready Player One was a tremendous, fun read.  Armada was trying for that same vibe.  I'd almost think he was trying for parody, only I wasn't amused even by that.  I tried to tell myself I didn't dislike the book, after I first read it.  I think I was trying to soothe my mind after wasting that time, and I don't like running down the work of others.  Now, I guess I can admit that it was bad.  And I hope Ready Player One wasn't just lightning in a bottle.....

Final thoughts?

I'd wandered away from Terry Pratchett for a few years.  Not sure why, except that I probably read a lot of his stuff in a short period, and had sillied myself out.  I read The Shepherd's Crown this year, as it was a gift from a friend.  It is a great read, but it made me sad.  Pratchett's a favorite.  And this was his last.  I'm going to pick my way through the Discworld books that I haven't read.  I'm currently reading The Colour of Magic--I have about 50 pages left, and it'll likely be the last thing I finish this year.

I had a small handful of re-reads this year.  A Confederacy of Dunces was one of them, and I have an even greater appreciation for the work.  Came away from that one with a better understanding of Ignatius, and a bit of a kick in the pants to not be him.

I did The Gunslinger as a re-listen.  I'd always considered it the least like anything else Stephen King had written, in that there wasn't much of a Stephen King character in the book.  Until I realized this time around that young Jake was very much King.

And American Gods was an interesting re-read.  Odd the parts that worked for me greatly 10 years ago did not work as well now.  I may revisit it in another 10 years, just to see how I react then.

All in all, a good year.  Trying to continue to pull myself away from mindless TV.  It's too easy to let myself get sucked in.  The reading helps.  No specific goal for next year.  I'll just keep on reading....

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Listens, The Day, 27 December 2015

Haven't done one of these in a while.

Haven't written in a while.

Anyway, here's what popped up this morning as I wrote:

The Fairytale of New York,    the Pogues & Kirsty MacColl
The Last Train to Clarksville       the Monkees
Time Zone          Amy Ray
Turkish Song of the Damned      the Pogues
Low           R.E.M.
Help Me Make it Through the Night          Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
Nobody's Child                   Traveling Wilburys
Sugar Dyed             St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Alice Eyes               Corb Lund
I'm Looking Through You              The Beatles
Don't Thrill Me No More             J.D. Wilkes & the Broken Bones
The Sound of Silence               Disturbed
Run a Mile              Todd Snider & the Hard Working Americans
Gypsy                Kim Boekbinder

Then I switched to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which came up available for Streaming right before Christmas....

The Hateful Eight

Wandered up to Knoxville to take in the Hateful Eight Roadshow, Tarantino's longer cut of his flick, complete with intermission and overture.

Incomplete thoughts:

Tarantino's about spectacle.  And he does spectacle well.

And he does spectacle beautifully.  This is a visual feast.  The scenes inside Millie's Haberdashery (where the bulk of the flick takes place) are fantastic.

I have always enjoyed Jennifer Jason Leigh as an actress.  Her eyes are the biggest reason.  In very few people have I never noted "there's a lot more going on behind those eyes than just the character," but she is high on that list.  Tarantino took note, and there are a number of shots where the viewer is directed to her eyes. Beyond that, she is a hoot in this flick.  She is reveling in her role, here.  I enjoyed her performance most of all.

I also enjoyed Walton Goggins, who's just a human cartoon anyway.  He fits into the Tarantino world view, and easily.

Odd thing that seemed out of place?  Kurt Russell's performance.  I dunno.  Somehow, it didn't seem to fit completely, which is sad to say because I generally enjoy his work very much.

Other thoughts:  I knew the flick was going to be violent, walking in, but was still taken somewhat aback a couple of times.  Spectacle, of course.

Problem with spectacle, though, is that there are diminishing returns.

I think Tarantino's probably smart not putting a flick out but every few years.   I enjoy his flicks.  But after a while, even Samuel L. Jackson snarling at you from the screen loses its novelty.

It hasn't yet, but if and when he wanders out with a new flick, the Jackie Brown fan in me says I'd like to see him try something a little different next time around.

But then, I laughed my way through this flick.  I still enjoyed this ride, and very much.  I'm not among those who wants to crown him King of all Flickdom, but he enjoys what he does.  It shows.  I enjoyed this romp as much as anything he's done this century.  I give it a thumbs up.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Is it my favorite day of the year?

Hello, December 26.

I don't hate Christmas.

I rather like Christmas.

But what I hate is that tumultuous few weeks leading up to Christmas.

Especially that final week, where I generally have to work like a botard.

The previous post is a product of that general frustration.

So, the 26th is nice.  We're as far from that nonsense as we can get.

This one's a day sweeter.  2016 is a Leap Year, so there's one day's respite.

October through December is usually a rough time at the job place.

This year, in particular.

The final 12 weeks of the year include inventory, everybody squeezing in their last vacations, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  Add to that this year, another manager being out a week for illness, and being shorthanded of experienced help (a condition we seem to find ourselves in more and more).

New Year's is one more week, and it's tough because you have to change out a month's worth of displays in about 12 hours, and deal with more customers dealing with the "haveto" mentality.  So, I look forward to January 2 as much as anything during the year.

Next year?  Can we chill out?

Still.  The worst is over.  We're a year away from more Christmas nonsense.

Christmas itself was a good one.  Our family did Christmas on Christmas Eve.  I went to see the new Star Wars again with Mom and Dad on Christmas Day.  Super rainy, of note.  My drive to my folks' house took twice as long as normal due to heavy rains and overflowing creeks.

I do have the weekend off (my first since Halloween), and Shyam and I are gonna to go see The Hateful 8 this afternoon.

I hope Christmas was a good one for you, Campers.  And I hope you get to rest up from the nonsense.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

How to get my blood going on Christmas Eve

Drinking my coffee, I wander across this story, from the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

If I may, Charlie Wysong, Jan Frazier, Bill Reesor, Patty Currey, Mary Lynn Jones and Louise Reesor, as identified in the picture in the link, are idiots.  They are worthy of your scorn.

I'm about done with well-dressed white people with too much free time, you know? While I disagree vehemently with your stupid, demonstrably wrong belief that there is a war on Christmas, your complete waste of time is even more infuriating to me. If you feel so strongly about what Christmas is, why not use the time you've taken to make your stupid little signs and the time you're taking to stand out in the rain to go volunteer at a homeless shelter, or an agency that helps at risk women and children? Or help an elderly neighbor? Or volunteer at your local humane society? Maybe go do something to make this planet a better place to live on. That sound like too much trouble? Then, you could just do the decent thing, and stay home, and not bother anybody else. Personally? I'm jealous of your free time. After today I'll have crossed the 60 hour mark for the week, and I feel like I'm coming up on the end of Stephen King's The Long Walk. If you know me folks, and you feel that there is a War on Christmas, this is not the cause you want to mention within earshot of me, because it is not a hill you wish to die on.
I realize that this sort of sentiment is not the majority, or even a sizable minority of folks. Still, I'm aggravated. If there is a War on Christmas, I write this from Christmas's Heavily Fortified Position in southeast Tennessee. Happy Holidays. Don't be a dick.

Monday, December 07, 2015


I recently made Cormac McCarthy's Suttree my commute listen, and it was one of those purchases that made me a little sorry, after I started.  Not because it was bad, but because it was so good.  I was afraid that Richard Poe's narration might paint the novel in a way that my own mind might not.  Still, I've been alternating between reading (at home) and listening (on the road), and enjoying the roller coaster ride.

Today, one of my favorite jokes made its way into the text.  A fellow named Randy Pearcy told me this one, at the comic shop out in Murfreesboro.  I've heard variations since, on morning radio among others.

Suttree is the story of a man adrift on the outer fringes of Knoxville society, and among those he meets are other folks adrift.  Among them is Gene Harrogate, who might be the first character I've read where I read his adventures nearly agog at what I'm hearing.  Endlessly fascinating, tragic and funny.  Gene is a mess, even to those in the book who wouldn't pass muster in "normal" society.

Here, he is quizzing Suttree on how to meet women:

There were walking along the tracks with the city rat at Suttree's off elbow taking legstretcher steps over every other tie, his hands crammed in his hippockets gripping each skinny buttock.  He watched the ground and shook his head.
What do you say to em?
Say to them?
Yeah. say.
Hell, say anything.  It doesnt matter, they dont listen.
Well you gotta say somethin.  What do you say?
Try the direct approach.
What's that?
Wel, like this friend of mine.  Went up to this girl and said I sure would like to have a little pussy.
No shit?  What'd she say?
She said I would too.  Mine's as big as your hat.

I've dug McCarthy for a while, but I don't recall feeling like I'm reveling in a book of his like this one.