Friday, July 09, 2021

2021 Mid-Year Reading Roundup

Well, I published this, and it looks like I accidentally deleted everything past February.  Such are the joys of Blogger.  I mean, if this were 2004, I'd talk about moving to another platform, but considering I apparently can't be bothered to write anything on here more than once a month, I guess we'll just shrug it off as one too many wires in plugged into the socket, and just try again. 

A blog post?  What???W?W???

It's June, and here's a brief roundup of what I've been reading in the early part of 2021:


Four Past Midnight, by Stephen King

Continuing re-read project.  Couple of these are a bit more taut than I remember.  Secret Window, Secret Garden feels like a flipside companion piece to The Dark Half....

The Fighting Bunch: The Battle of Athens, by Chris DeRose

Easily the best (and most and best researched) volume on the Battle of Athens I've read. 

The Searcher,  by Tana French

I liked it, but it didn't hold the same amount of water as most of her work.  Had one particular plot point that pulled the rug out from under me, and I just couldn't get into it like her best work.

Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf

Fun, if clunky.  Definitely a book improved on with its film adaptation....

We Promised You a Great Main Event: an Unauthorized WWE History, by Bill Hanstock

Meh.  Google journalism.  But maybe the best you'll find, since a good oral history would be next to impossible.


The Spy with No Pants by John Swartzwelder

I think I love these Swartzwelder books more than I love baseball, pizza or professional wrestling.

The Empire Strikes Back: From a Certain Point of View, edited by 

Meh.  There are a couple good ones, but four or five months later, I don't remember a thing I read in this.....

Dark Tower: the Waste Lands   by Stephen King

So much fun.  I mentioned when I read Drawing of the Three last year that the section where Eddie meets Roland is maybe some of the finest writing King has put to page in his career.  But as a story, the Waste Lands is where the Dark Tower finds its feet.  It starts cooking with gas, and this remains one of my favorite King books.

The History of the Ancient World   by Susan Wise Bauer

A commute that I wished I'd read instead.   I can visualize a lot, but for some reason, I don't see maps well.  I need the visual aid.   That said, this is a well put together work, and I'll be reading her follow up on Ancient Rome very soon.

Night of the Mannequins   by Stephen Graham Jones

Quick, fast paced, weird horror.  Stephen Graham Jones is moving quickly up my list of favorite writers.  I wanted this one to end a little more ambiguously, but I still enjoy this one very much.  In a quick Twitter review, I mentioned that it made me want to watch the movie Twister, for some reason.  To which SGJ responded: "I can't stop watching Twister...."


A Song with Teeth   by T Frohock

This might be my favorite new read this year.  I love a nice period piece, and Frohock's Los Nefilim covers a stretch in European history (fantastically, using an adverb that works on a couple levels) that I am just now coming to in my personal reading.  I'm picky about both fantasy and historical fiction, but Frohock zeroes in on exactly what I've been looking for with this series.....

Medallion Status     by John Hodgman

Hodgman had popped up on a couple of podcasts I'd listened to just prior to this, and in one, he was plugging this read.  I like a guy who can turn a good phrase, and for months since, I've been referring mentally to eggs as disgusting snotty chaos.

Sidelined: Sports, Culture and Being a Woman in America by Julie DiCaro

I've been reading DiCaro's work for years....since way back in the blogging days.  We've followed each other on Twitter, and sadly, I've seen a lot of the disgusting shit people say to and about her.  Posting my review brought an odd amount of heat from the same trolls.  This was a good read, and I've passed a couple copies out to friends......


T-Rex and the Crater of Doom   by Walter Alvarez

A Kindle/Lunchtime read.  As much about the scientific process as it is the end result.  Dry, but enjoyable.

American Gods  by Neil Gaiman

A commute listen.  My friend Jillian was reading this, and asked if it was worth finishing.  It's actually a better listen than a read.  Gaiman's work feels better aurally, if that makes any sense.  Also, I need to go to Rock City again...I haven't been since the second grade....

Miami Blues    by Charles Willeford

This came recommended by a Bill Ryan piece I read here.  I dug it.  It tickles the part of my brain that digs the Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty brand of Southern Gothic.  Grotesquely hilarious enough that I laughed until I cried about Hoke Mosely's dentures.

Needful Things    by Stephen King

The last Castle Rock story.  This one was a big deal to me back in the day.  Reading it now, it represents the best of King's instincts (his love of his small towns, the decency and lack thereof in everybody, King's astute memories of childhood), and also his worst (he gets maudlin, and saccharine sweet at the weirdest times...also, a couple of the threads tying to other Castle Rock works just feel forced...the whole Ace Merrill bit really, really grinds at me).  Still, this one ends in a whirlwind, and I ended up liking it very much the second time around, nearly 30 years later....


American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race  by Douglas Brinkley

A commute listen.  Digs hard into the politics of the space race.  Made me think hard about Werner von Braun.....

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory    by Caitlin Doughty

I'd had this one on my shelf for a while, and finally sat with it.  Good read on the American take on Death, as part of our culture.....

The Dark Horse    by Craig Johnson

I read this one during my May vacation.  Does it say much about me that I was more worried for Walt's dog than I was the child when both went missing?

Mongrels   by Stephen Graham Jones

This one's strong.  Legitimately creepy, with an air of melancholy that pervades, but doesn't overwhelm the thing.  

The Blizzard of '88    by  Mary Cable

A 1.99 Kindle read.  Actually kinda neat to read in a very hot grocery store backroom, and thinking that standing, trapped on a pier during a blizzard, to be rescued with your coat frozen to you doesn't really sound all that bad.....


Gerald's Game    by Stephen King

A Commute listen.  I liked it better than I remembered, but I still think the ending is a cop out.  I didn't like a couple of the revelations in those final chapters.  They felt cheap.

The Perfect Storm    by Sebastian Junger

 I didn't mean to re-read this one, but due to a remodel at work, my attention span was a little lacking.  This one, even as much as I like it, reads like a long magazine article....

Some Assembly Required    by TJ Condon

A friend of mine wrote this from her own experiences with her husband's wait for a liver transplant.  Tara's a natural storyteller, and this one reads very quickly.  She translates a hellish experience with grace and humor.  I bought a couple copies to pass out to people.....

Frankenstein    by Mary Shelley

I bought a copy with illustrations by the late Bernie Wrightson, this being a reprint of a Marvel project from way back when.  I forget who had the original Marvel copy back in high school, but I always dug it.  This is actually my first time through the book itself, though.  I made an aborted attempt in the eighth grade or so.  I dug it, though, and not just for the drawings!

The Ninth Metal   by Benjamin Percy

The commute listen.  There were seeds of good stuff in here, but none of it every really bore fruit.  I finished, but I didn't care for this one too much.

Fishing for Dinosaurs and other Stories   by Joe R. Lansdale

The kindle/lunchtime read.  I'd read a couple of these in other places and forms, but enjoyed the collection overall.  Black Hat Jack is definitely a favorite....

My Year Abroad    by Chang-Rae Lee

Shyam got me a subscription to a book club from Powell's, and this was the first of this year's editions.  I liked it...bombastic and funny.  I will say that the dialog felt wooden, from time to time, but on the whole, I enjoyed this one very much.


The Premonition: a Pandemic Story    by Michael Lewis

I'll go ahead and include this one, since I'm re-writing.  The commute listen.  Lewis delivers an interesting read....the conundrum of the last year is that if your measures work, then everybody will say it was overkill.  Of particular interest (and a subject for future reading), how a potential outbreak of Swine Flu during the Ford administration helped shape our country's disjointed responsed to Covid-19......

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Dreams and memories.....

 It's odd the things you remember.  Dates.  Times.

On April 15, 1994, as a junior in high school, I asked somebody on a date. Spent days working up the guts to do it. Finally got up the courage, and asked.  And she thought I was joking, and laughed.  I was demolished in that way that only teenagers are demolished.  I laughed along, acting like I was indeed joking about such things.  Saved whatever face i was looking to save in 1994.  I guess.

I've written about it before, and the person who I asked figured out that it was her I was referring to.  She got ahold of my number through friends and called me to apologize.  That's been more than 10 years ago.  We're cool.  We were cool way before that, but it was still decent of her to call.

Being a teenager is hard.  I work with teenagers, and I have to remind myself of that at least 3 times a week, right after I've talked myself out of pitching a 16-year-old through a plate glass window.

That said, being a grownup isn't much easier. 27 years later, and that one still sneaks into anxiety dreams on occasion......

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Wrasslin' and Whatnot

 Personal Top 10 Wrestlemania Matches

1.  Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage, Wrestlemania III....a 34 year-old wrasslin' match that just holds up.  It's as much about the nostalgia as it is the ringwork.  In the spring of 1987, I was on the back end of my true believer status, and I hated the hell out of Randy Savage.  This was a grudge match, and it ends so satisfyingly.  The ringwork, by the way, is top notch.  It gets some shit down the line for how much Savage wanted it laid out.  I don't care.  The end result is still a lot of fun.

2.  Undertaker vs. Triple H, Hell in a Cell, Shawn Michaels special referee, Wrestlemania XXVIII

Damn.  This one's savage.  I don't know that there's a better Wrestlemania streak than taker from 25-28.  But this one is just savage.  With all 3 bodies telling a story of respect.

3.  Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin, Wrestlemania XIII

Still the best executed double turn in the history of wrestling.  Hard to believe this match will be turning 25 next year.

4.  Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart, Wrestlemania X.   Just a clinic.  Almost a fuck you to Vince.  No clowning.  Very little showboating, except for the requisite heel stuff from Owen.  Just a clinic where two brothers wanted to show who was better...and the best there is.

5.  Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle,   Wrestlemania XX.  I miss Guerrero. Very much.  He had another one or two of these in him.

6.  Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker,  Wrestlemania XXV.   Again, a clinic.  This time in Ring psychology.  These two play the crowd like a piano

7.  Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart, 60-minute iron man match, Wrestlemania XII.  Amazing.  Just Amazing.

8.  Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar, Wrestlemania XIX.   Whoa.  Just whoa.

9.  Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan.   Wrestlemania XXXV.    This is a match that Kofi and Bryan both deserved.

10.  Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper,   Wrestlemania VIII.  So much fun.  Bret carries Piper, but Piper holds his own...he's one of the best brawlers in history.  Only thing holding this back from higher is a hammy moment when Piper listens to the crowd.....

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Basketball, and whatnot

 Basketball is stupid.

That's not true.  I like basketball a lot.  And I like the NCAA tournament a lot.  I wish COVID were done, or that I were vaccinated, so that I might find a sports bar and enjoy the first couple of days of the tournament without worrying that I'll take the Lung Crud home to a loved one.  The energy of the first two days of the tournament is my favorite thing in the sports world.  Watching Tennessee piss its way through its first round loss was made somewhat more palatable by watching Oral Roberts upset The Ohio State University, for a nice 15-seed upset.

As an addendum to the previous paragraph, I wish the weather could make its damned mind up around Southeast Tennessee....I've been able to use the patio at Buffalo Wild Wings a couple times when it's been warm, lately (Tennessee's game Friday the 12th was one such occasion).  Today's weather, hovering in the 50's around lunchtime, did not seem conducive to a pleasant afternoon.  There had been plans to take in a couple games today with a buddy, which fell through when he had to work at the last minute.  Hard to be mad.  I work retail, too....

What else in the World of Big Stupid Tommy?

I got to eat lunch with the Uncouth Sloth himself this past week.  First time in several years I've seen Ardoug in person...but he and his missus were passing through the area, so we grabbed a quick bite.  He's still Rob, and that's as fine a compliment as I can think.

On vacation this week.  Stumbled headlong into this one.  My company picked up a few stores in southern Georgia and western South Carolina, and are in the process of flipping them to our brand.  I've had to make a couple trips in the past month, one to Albany and one to Hawkinsville by way of Warner-Robins.  I'm not used to business travel, though the trips themselves were enjoyable enough.  Walking through a Goodwill in Warner-Robins netted a couple neat finds....a handful of 50's pulp magazines, Amazing Stories type stuff. 

Anyway.  On vacation.  Gotta buy a lawnmower.  Kinda want a riding model, what with my being a middle-aged American Man.  That decision will come sooner rather than later, as Mother Nature is threatening to turn my yard into the Brazilian Rain Forest.....

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Inauguration Day and Whatnot

 We inaugurated a new President today.  Count me among one of those feeling relief.

I don't care a lot for Biden.  But I look forward to not waking up wondering if the incompetent fool at the White House blundered us into World War III.  And on the wrong side.

What's more, it'll be nice to have a guy in the White House who seems genuinely interested in doing the right thing . (For the record, I felt much the same about Obama, and even Bush the Younger....I was always much more concerned about the people surrounding Bush than I was Bush himself).  

Mostly, I look forward to leadership that aspires for us to be something bigger than ourselves.  

Something great.

That phrase has grated on my nerves probably since 2015.  

Make America Great Again.

Fuck you.  America was always great.  We don't need a grifter coming in making himself and his friends richer, telling us he's gonna make us great again.

Trump is one of those guys who can't tell the difference between fear and respect.

I wrote in November 2016 that a Trump presidency would not end like those who voted for him thought they would.  It was a travesty.  From top to bottom.  Up to and including the treasonous events of January 6.

Anyway.  Biden inherits The Plague and 73 million assholes who voted for Trump.  I wouldn't wish that on anybody.  I hope he's up to the task.....

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The 2020 Read List

Here's a list of what I read in 2020.

2020 was a challenge on a lot of levels.  I had it nowhere near as tough as many, and I don't want to pretend that I did.  I will say, though, that from March 12 through about the first of May, it was six- or seven-day weeks, and occasionally 12 and 13 hour days.  There were a few other stretches like this.  There were periods where reading was difficult, if only because my attention span was squirrely.  

I read more on the Kindle and the Kindle app more this year than in years past.  Lunches usually had me staring at a book instead of doomscrolling through the Facespace or Twitter.  Better for the mental health, at any rate.


It   Stephen King

Just a huge, huge romp.  Easily one of King's four or five best.  Part of my read-thru of King's work.  Its scope is amazing.  Plus, I wonder if King was struggling with quitting smoking (along with drugs and alcohol) because Damn!  Everybody smokes!

Realityland:  True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World    David Koenig

A very interesting read.  Picked it up for the Kindle not long after Shyam and I returned from Orlando in 2019.  My lunchtime read.  The politics and logistics of the venture are just fascinating to me.

The Water Dancer    Ta-Nehisi Coates

Excellently written, with a lot of good turns of phrase.  Harriet Tubman is amazing, and I'd like to see this as a movie or series.  This one grew on me after I read, but my initial take on it was that it wasn't far enough from Coates' work on Marvel's books to suit me, but I made my peace with it, as well.  One of the books that my brain keeps wandering back to.

Another Man's Moccasins     Craig Johnson

A commute listen, and a nice rebound for the series, after the previous volume nearly aggravated me away from the books altogether.  I liked the setting, and it made me feel like Walt Longmire might be buddies, after a fashion, with Joe Lansdale's Hap & Leonard....

Cold Storage     David Koepp

Not bad, but not great, either.  Parts are definitely well done.  But it suffers from following the wrong character.....


Bucky Fucking Dent    David Duchovny

A Christmas gift from my friend Micah.  You know, Duchovny's a funny dude.  And this is a pretty decent book.

I Stooged to Conquer    Moe Howard

Moe's autobiography.  An immensely clever guy, whose intense love for his brothers shines through.  Perhaps the funniest thing I've read in years was the story of a young Shemp and young Moe courting women at the Boardwalk, and Shemp taking a stomach cramp, and mistaking a couple making out under the boardwalk for driftwood.  In attempting to use the "driftwood" for a makeshift toilet, he ends up getting his butt kicked and having to clean himself off in the ocean.....

Quincy Harker: Year One    John G. Hartness

A commute listen.  I think I prefer Hartness's Bubba the Monster Hunter, as a read, but this was still a lot of fun.

Dog of the South     Charles Portis

The more I read of Portis, the more I enjoy.  I wish I'd found him earlier in life, but I'm glad I've found him now.  I'd love it if the Coens had adapted this one....


Carved from Stone and Dream    T. Frohock

If you haven't checked out her work, you should definitely give Ms. Frohock's work surrounding the Spanish Civil War a look.  I dig this series a little more with each book.

Heart of Darkness    Joseph Conrad

A re-read.  I'd read it in college, but only in the semi-resentful way where you're reading for plot or style points because you're assigned it for a class.  Reading it when I did, the week that things started to go insane, it was a nice juxtaposition picking apart Conrad's prose while getting asked every 3 minutes if we had any Lysol or Hand Sanitizer in the back.....

Eyes of the Dragon    Stephen King

Another part of the read-through.  Such a fun, fast read.  I first read this one late in high school, after I was already 3 books deep into the Dark Tower series, and had already read The Stand two or three times.  I kept comparing it to those works, which at the time made it seem inferior.  Maybe I'm a little more mature now, or can just see it better apart from those other works.  It's a lot of fun.  And as an aside, Bronson Pinchot has always been an excellent actor, but he's a superior narrator as well, and I'd love to see him involved with a film adaptation.....

Kaiju Rising     edited by Tim Marquitz & NK Sharps

A part of a Kickstarter way back when.  Hit or miss, but there are a couple really good ones in there.  "Day of the Demigods" was funny, and threw a couple of curves in there.  "Occupies" was a hell of a good concept.  And I keep thinking about "The Conversion," too.  Just a nice, bleak monster story

Ready Player One    Ernest Cline

I'd tried a couple of other reads, but grabbed this as a bit of mental comfort food.  I finished it on March 23, when our business had gone crazy after schools had started shutting down.  (Without putting numbers out there, we'd had our busiest week in 14 years the second week in March...and then topped it by 40% the next week, for what was probably the busiest week that my current store had likely ever had, or at least since the blizzard in 1993).  As for the book, I still dig it as a grail quest.  Cline's not great shakes as a writer, but there are parts of this that let you know his heart and soul are in this one....


The Splendid and the Vile    Erik Larson

One of the best books I read this year.  Larson's strong, but he hits the Churchill bio out of the park.  I gave a couple copies as gifts this year.

Under the Black Hat       Jim Ross

More superlative:  One of the best wrestling books ever written.  Right up there with Mick Foley's Have a Nice Day and Countdown to Lockdown, and Bret Hart's autobiography.  Creativity as a corporate enterprise fascinates me, and the efforts of the WWE are no different in that regard.  A touching book, ultimately.  Jim lost his wife Jan within a few days of my losing Dad.  It was amazing how much his grieving process resembled my own in that spring of 2017.

The Deep   Alma Katsu

Katsu has written some really great stuff, but this was a little clunky, for some reason.  It had all the elements that usually work for me (I love a nice period piece ghost story).  I didn't dislike it, but it just didn't hit exactly right.


Buzz Saw: The Improbably Story of How the Washington Nationals won the World Series     Jesse Dougherty

I read this one because I was missing baseball.....I root for the Cubs, but Shyam roots for the Nationals.  By association, I've become a well wisher, so when the Nationals won it all in 2019, I was very happy, and quite familiar with the cast of characters.  Dougherty focuses on the key players, and I especially enjoyed the looks at Howie Kendrick and Dave Martinez.  Especially disagreed with the look and conclusions on Anthony Rendon, who I've always regarded (and still do) as a prima donna.  Still, a pretty good read....

Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death     Thomas Lennon

These are fun, and I hope Lennon gets to publish a wagon full of these.

Misery     Stephen King

 A commute listen.  King ruminates on fame and fandom.  Effectively.  This is a strong one.  One of the few King books I'd actually not read before going through it this time.


The Game:  Inside the secret World of Major League Baseball's Power Brokers    Jon Pessah

Again, I was missing baseball.  A look at the labor and drug issues in baseball for a couple of decades.  My take is much the same as it was beginning the book...Look:  Owners are by and large ruthless pieces of shit.  You don't get to the point of having a billion dollars at your disposal without being something of a piece of shit.  At the same time, though, I still have trouble mustering much sympathy for people making six, seven or eight figures a year playing a game, and doing very very little in this same time span for the folks in the minors.  It just comes down to How Much Money Do You Need?

Salt and Stilettos     Janet Walden-West

My friend Janet published her first novel this year, and I gave it a read.  Maybe not my normal stuff, but Janet has an excellent ear for dialog, which I'm a sucker for.  This is a good read, and I recommend it.

Time's Demon     DB Jackson

This series is fun.  I really dig the ramifications of time travel for those who are able to walk.  And this one's a page-turner.  Droe was probably my favorite character of the first book in the series, so it pleased me that she got so much focus in this book.....

The Stench of Honolulu     Jack Handey

I keep going back to this one.  I liked this one a lot, after the fact.  I do wish I'd read this one, instead of listening.....

The Dark Tower: the Drawing of the Three    Stephen King

Man it may not the best of his stuff, but the initial section with King and Eddie meeting, and ending their leg of the journey fighting Balazar just bristles with energy.  I'd always considered Eddie very much the analog for King in the series.  Until, well, King himself shows up.  There's a lot of heart in Eddie.  He was my Dad's favorite character.

Jaws      Peter Benchley

I very much went on a Jaws kick this year.  The movie is one I'd watched every couple of years, and remembered each time:  Holy Shit, this is good.  The first movie I saw in a theater of any kind after a five-month hiatus was Jaws at the Swingin' Midway Drive-In.  I picked up the book the next day.  It's not a bad read, but that subplot between Hooper and Brody's wife threw me for a loop.  The Mob connection, did as well.  Glad to see those forgotten in the movie.....


Shakespeare for Squirrels   Christopher Moore.

One of my favorite writers.  And probably the one with the highest batting average, in terms of books I gave a thumbs up to.  The Pocket stories are tremendously fun, and this one is no different.

The Drowned World    JG Ballard

A Kindle read.  It popped up in a $1.99 or $2.99 sale.  Bleak enough to make me dream of it.

Impervious     AJ Hartley

My buddy Dino had gifted me a copy of this one.  Definitely not your average fantasy/SF romp.  Quite a bit jarring, actually.

Survivor Song     Paul Tremblay

I didn't think I'd end up liking a book taking place in a pandemic while in a pandemic myself as much as I did.  Tremblay wanders away a bit from his Weird and Ambiguous Horror Umbrella.  I ended up liking this one quite a bit.

An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa 1942-1943    Rick Atkinson

I've come to like Atkinson very much.  A strong read.    Ended up giving a couple copies as gifts this Christmas.


More Better Deals     Joe R. Lansdale

Finds traction about a third of the way end, and when it does, it tears it up.  Nice kinda East Texas noir.  I dug it.

The Fifty Year Mission: the First 25 Years   Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman

A commute listen.  A look at the beginnings of Trek, through its Motion Pictures from 1979-1991.  Not a bad read, though a thought hit me later.  I've never had as much use for Gene Roddenberry as some.  Except, that's not quite right.  I'm just not always comfortable with the deification of creators (this from a guy trying to read everything King's written in order).  That said, our editors occasionally come at Gene pretty hard.  I'm not saying it's undeserved, and I applaud veering away from that glorification.  But the flip side can be just as vexing.....

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre      Max Brooks

This one just jumped off the shelf at me.  It was fun, even if spending too much time with the Sasquatch, even on the page, starts stripping away some of their allure.

The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home    Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

This one just jumped off the page at me on sale.  It was fun, even if spending too much time with the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home starts stripping away some of the allure.


The Tommyknockers     Stephen King

This was the first speedbump I ever ran across when I first started reading King, way back when.  It was a friggin' mess.  I made a second run at it in college, and got just about as far in.  This is one of the books that was on my mind when I started my King read-through.  This one took me most of August, and became an Insomnia Read, as I had a mild bout of it back in the late summer and early fall.  The book is still a friggin' mess.  King himself said in an interview or two that it's about 350 pages worth of book packed into 700 pages.

The End of Everything (Astrophyiscally Speaking)    Katie Mack

I've been following Katie Mack on Twitter for a long time.  One of the most educational twitter accounts out there.  And she's got a sense of humor that appeals to me, as well.  The book is much the same.  And I have to say that a highly localized singularity leading to our losing cohesion and fading into nothingness at the speed of light didn't sound so bad after herding teenagers for a weekend.....

The Only Good Indians    Stephen Graham Jones

Damn, this was a good book.  Probably the best thing I read this year.  A melancholy sort of horror.  Whip smart.  This is an awesome book.

American Nations: a History of the Eleven Rival Cultures of North America    Colin Woodard

An interesting take on the multiple personalities of culture that inhabit our land.  Especially interesting given the varied responses to the pandemic across the country.....

Children of Blood and Bone     Tomi Adeyemi

I liked how this one was put together, even if it got busy for a while.  It just didn't grab me, at the end of the day.


True Grit      Charles Portis

I didn't intend to re-read this one, but Shyam had lent her copy to her Mom, and brought it home when it was finished.  I started thumbing through it, and ended up re-reading it over the course of a couple nights.   It's become one of my favorite books, in the past few years.

The Answer Is...Reflections on My Life     Alex Trebek

This one turned into an Insomnia Read.  I hate to say it, but this one felt rushed.  Like they were trying to get it out before Trebek passed....which, sadly, he would quite soon after its publication.

Dune     Frank Herbert

This one had been on my list for years and years.  And it took a while to really get moving for me.  I liked it, but I'm not champing at the bit to hit another Dune book.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief      Rick Riordan

I think this is my first book recommendation from my nephew Thomas.  He was reading it, and said he liked it.  I found it for cheap on the Kindle, and ended up liking it pretty well.  When I told April to tell Thomas that I liked it, he started grilling me about my favorite parts.  For the record:  The Battle of St. Louis and playing ball in the Underworld with Cerberus.....

The Natural    Bernard Malamud

It was kinda funny reading this one with its undertones of the gods right after reading Lightning Thief.  Anyway, Roy Hobbs is a douchebag who reaps everything he sows.

The Dark Half      Stephen King

This one was a lot tighter than I'd remembered.  A fine book.


The Good House      Tananarive Due

Due's short stories seem to show up in a lot of short story collections I pick up, but this is the first novel of hers I've read.  It won't be the last.  Good blending of supernatural and real world horrors.   I dug it.

Answers in the Form of Questions    Claire McNear

Quick kindle read.  Published a couple of days after Alex Trebek's passing.  Gets a little more in depth into the game theory and buzzer strategies of players than the couple other Jeopardy books I've thumbed through in the past.  A good overview, though it hesitates to criticize too harshly....


Sophie's World      Jostein Gaarder

This was the text book we used for Dr. Bombardi's Intro to Philosphy class.  Had a couple points where I felt like I should have been eating lunch on the JUB steps while reading.  This time around, I really appreciated the framing device for its story....

The Fifty-Year Mission: the Next 25 Years    Mark A. Altman & Edward Gross

A Continuation of the Trek Oral History, working its way through the Next Generation, DS9 and so forth.  The TNG and DS9 sections held my interest pretty well, with the Enterprise and Voyager sections not doing much for me, likely because those shows also don't do a lot for me....

Ready Player Two     Ernest Cline

Eh.  It's pretty likely that Cline's a one-trick pony.  What might have made this book more interesting would be following a new set of characters, or perhaps Art3mis, as main characters.  Instead, we spend the first quarter of the book attempting to reset characters back to their positions at the beginning of Ready Player One.  Or their mindsets, at any rate.  It's not as horrid as Armada, but it's definitely not as fun as its preceding work....

A Christmas Carol      Charles Dickens

An annual re-read.  You know, that section where Marley first visits Scrooge is really well done as a spooky ghost story.....

The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy     Bill Simmons

The Kindle read.  I don't follow the NBA.  Not regularly.  It's just not my type of basketball, by and large.  But, my nephew does.  And when he speaks on it, I feel pretty damned ignorant.  This one got recommended by a couple folks.  I've been reading on it in dribs and drabs.  Not a bad book at all.....

Friday, November 13, 2020


 18 years ago, I started this bloodletting thing men call a blog.

I'm not here as much as I used to be, but I appreciate all who continue to visit, seeing if I'm still farting around.

The answer is: yes.  I am still farting around.

Monday, November 02, 2020


 We vote as a nation tomorrow.

A great many still believe in the demagogue.

Just remember that the demagogue does not believe in you.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

A Pessimistic Post

 So, the con man you guys elected hasn't been paying his due taxes.

Writing off 70,000 on hair care?

There are still tens of millions in the country who will vote for him.  And happily.  

I hope we have enough to vote against him.

And I hope we don't have an even bigger storm to weather in the after.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Dispatch from the Plague Zone

 Another vacation week.  Much appreciated, though not as stressed out as the last vacation week.  Which is saying something, considering what the last six weeks have looked like.

It's a different kind of tired some days.  The Public has many problems with rational thinking, with data processing.  Interpreting data is not a strong suit.  It's very much why we're in the state we're in.

Official position?  Mandating masks isn't a violation of any of your rights.  Come off it.  And if a place makes you wear a mask?  Yelling at a 19-year-old clerk or a 49-year-old cleaning guy or even management doesn't change the business's mandate.

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Monday, July 13, 2020

Returning to work and whatnot

Welp.  Another staycation come and gone.  Here are a few random thoughts.

This week, we saw Itsabit move into the house with us.  It's been an easier than expected transition.  She took the litter box like a pro.  Aside from a bit of confusion at night, where she meowed for attention, she's done great.  The past couple of nights she's crawled up onto the couch to watch TV with me.  She rather liked Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, but was bored by Match Game last night.

This vacation one wasn't originally marked as a staycation.  If everything had gone according to plan, I'd have gone to Atlanta with this one (I originally thought this was earmarked for a potential trip to New Jersey, and I may have been wrong about that, or maybe even both had been planned).  If everything had gone according to plan, the Braves and Cubs would have played this past weekend, right before we headed into the All Star Break.

I'm not terribly optimistic that we'll get even a 60 game season, but if that goes according to plan, the season starts in 11 days for the Cubs.  I like their chances over a short season.

The Barnes & Noble Criterion sale started Friday.  Had thought about wandering down, but ended up just ordering online.  Interested in War of the Worlds and Spike Lee's Bamboozled, which just had Criterion releases. 

Tired of the Coronavirus.  Tired of people.  Had hoped we'd be past it at this point, but apparently not.  Turns out a former neighbor is one of the folks locally who passed, when it got into the LifeCare retirement center.  So, to those who say "Well how come nobody you know has it?"  I'm one of the ones who knew somebody (3 somebodies actually), and actually knew a body who passed.

Mostly tired of the arguments about it.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Happy Birthday, America

America turns 244 today.  

I thought about getting it a present, but it never cashed in that gift subscription to Shudder that I got it last year, so I think I may just text it Happy Birthday.  We don't get together like we used to, even prior to Covid-19.  I dunno.  I'm 43.  I can take a hint.  

A few random thoughts, as I drink whatever beer I find in my fridge:

  • Man, Karate Kid still pushes all the right 1980's Kid buttons in me.  Even if I find its message of a shortcut alternative to practice and study repugnant.  A thought that crosses my mind as I watch:  I wonder how many of the Cobra Kai's parents are at the All Valley Tournament at the end.  I know upbringing gets touched on somewhat in the first season of Cobra Kai (which is all I've seen of a show that was better than it had any right to be).  But it's something that crosses my mind every time I watch that movie.
  • I'm on vacation this week.  I'd gone back and forth about whether to take it (and indeed, my hand was forced somewhat by a couple of call-ins and quits).  But, I'm taking it.  The tired, the last few months, has been a different kind of tired.  We're running 40-50% up vs. Same Store Sales from last year.  The trend in the region is 20-25%.  We don't have a good reason to point to, except:  my boss and I run a good store, and we fell apart less than a lot of our competitors over the initial shock and rush in March, and it made a good impression, and we've kept a lot of those new customers.  So, the upswing in business is there.  But we're dealing with a lot of stressed out folks, still, and that has a cumulative effect over the course of a day.  Especially on a week where I worked 6 straight.  Even on the first day of vacation (which is my first Independence Day off maybe since 2004) , I don't feel like I'm on vacation.  I'll probably start to decompress tomorrow.
  • Not a good flick:  Crawl.  I wanted to like it.  I just found myself losing interest.
  • Good flick, such as it is:  the Disney+ showing of Hamilton.  Yeah, that's as fun as everybody's said.  It was one of those things that I'd avoided simply because too many people were recommending, and it couldn't meet the expectation I'd built in my head.  Yeah, still fun.  It deserves the praise.
  • Kittens is the buzzword of the past couple of weeks.  Mom got a new couple of kittens from a family friend.
  • They're not tribbles.  They're cats. Young.  She hasn't named them yet because she'd like to learn their personalities.
  • We've also had a couple of visitors.  They showed up with their mother a couple of weeks ago, and disappeared, only to reappear sans-mother this week.  Here is the one that has taken on the temporary label of Greavey (pronounced Gravy):
  • She and brother may be slightly malnourished, but we're working on correcting that.  Greavey is friendly.  The brother is wary, but kinda likes being held once the initial shock wears off.  We're not looking to make them inside cats, but we're thinking we're gonna get them fixed and maybe let them hang around to take care of pests, along with Yard Cat Lester
  • I really liked Christopher Moore's Shakespeare for Squirrels.  You should buy it and read it.
  • This is two in a row humdingers from Moore, whose Noir is delightfully funny.  A pretty good balm for this asshole world around us.....

Monday, June 29, 2020

2020: The Reads, halfway post

Hey look!  The once monthly post!!!!

Here's a quick look at what I've been reading in 2020, which has been a fucking roller coaster of a year.  I'm management at a grocery store, and the Covid rush in March and April pretty much made my attention span worthless--the same thing generally happens around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the first three weeks of our crazy rush in March were like the day before Thanksgiving combined with a Snow Rush every day.  A handful of long days and a shortage of days off left me unable to sit and read much more than 8 or 10 pages at a time.

Things started to edge back toward normal in May.  I think this past month, I've finally begun to relax. 

The last book on the list, Shakespeare for Squirrels, by Christopher Moore, I'm almost done with, and should probably finish by tomorrow, so I'm going ahead and counting it for June.....

Favorites, so far?  It was and is an amazing book.  I was giving The Water Dancer a B or even a B-, but I've kept going back to a couple parts of it, and I think I like it better now with some distance.  Dog of the South was a lot of fun.

I'm really proud of my friend Janet for publishing Salt + Stilettos.  It's not my normal choice of genre, but I dug it.  She does good work, and I'm excited to see what she does in the future.....


It by Stephen King
Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World   by: David Koenig
The Water Dancer    by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Another Man's Moccasins     by Craig Johnson
Cold Storage    by David Koepp


Bucky F*cking Dent   by David Duchovny
I Stooged to Conquer   by Moe Howard
Quincy Harker: Year One   by John Hartness
Dog of the South   by Charles Portis


Carved from Stone and Dream: Los Nefilim, Book 2     by T. Frohock
Heart of Darkness   by Joseph Conrad
The Eyes of the Dragon    by Stephen King
Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters     edited by Tim Marquitz and NX Sharps
Ready Player One    by Ernest Cline


The Splendid and the Vile     by Erik Larson
Under the Black Hat: my Life in the WWE and Beyond    by Jim Ross w/ Paul O'Brien
The Deep    by Alma Katsu


Buzzsaw: The Improbable Story of How the Washington Nationals won the World Series
      by Jesse Dougherty
Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death    by Thomas Lennon
Misery    by Stephen King


The Game    by Jon Pessah
Salt + Stilettos   by Janet Walden-West
Time's Demon     by DB Jackson
The Stench of Honolulu      by Jack Handey
Dark Tower:  the Drawing of the Three    by Stephen King
Jaws     by Peter Benchley
Shakespeare for Squirrels      by Christopher Moore

Thursday, May 07, 2020


I don't know what's occasioned it, but I've been watching a lot of wrestling over the past month.  It might have something to do with the COVID-19 stuff, where I feel inundated with both info and emotion over the course of a day.  Wrestling's an easy watch.  Little to no thought involved.  I'm on vacation this week, and I've been listening to the Grilling JR podcast while I do chores, and I've ended up watching a lot of the shows Jim Ross has been discussing....The Spring 2000 WWE run, and the Spring 1989 feud between Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair for the NWA World championship....

During the podcast, JR and Conrad both mention one or multiple occasions of the Flair/Steamboat feud as favorite matches.  I'd definitely call the feud a favorite myself, and when asked, I often cite the 2 out of 3 falls match at Clash of Champions VI as my favorite match of all time.

Which got me thinking, apropos of little, what are my favorite matches in the year 2020, especially since I've paid as little attention to the wrestling world in the past couple of years...

In almost chronological order:

Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat      Chi Town Rumble 1989
Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat      Clash of Champions VI
Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat      Music City Showdown 1989
Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat       Wrestlemania III
Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect          King of the Ring 1993
Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart            Wrestlemania X
Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper       Wrestlemania VIII
Royal Rumble 1992      (Flair wins WWF Title)
Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels     Wrestlemania XII
Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin      Wrestlemania XIII
Taz vs. Sabu          Barely Legal 1997
Underaker vs. Mankind      King of the Ring 1998
Steve Austin vs. The Rock     Wrestlemania XIX
Low Ki vs. Jerry Lynn vs. AJ Styles      NWA TNA, August 2002  (Favorite Match seen live)
James Storm/Chris Harris vs. Elix Skipper/Christopher Daniels   NWA TNA    June 2003
Jeff Jarrett vs. Raven       NWA TNA, April 2003
Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker       Wrestlemania XXVI
CM Punk vs. John Cena       Money in the Bank 2011
Triple H vs. Undertaker      Wrestlemania XXVIII
Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (vs. Seth Rollins)    Wrestlemania XXXI

I don't watch or get into as much Japanese wrestling as a lot of hardcore wrestling fans do.  I've seen a lot of really good stuff.  The Omega/Okada stuff is great, but I don't have emotional ties to it.  And that's the fact of the matter....a lot of it is about the nostalgia of the time, as well as the emotion of the match.....

Monday, April 06, 2020

A Request From a Grocery Store Manager

I had a beer in me last night (just one...I'm a cheap date now).  I went on a Twitter Screed.  But, it was a humble request....simply put, it's how to act in the grocery store.

Here it is now, slightly edited, because I can actually type on a keyboard, as opposed to trying to rant on a touchscreen phone.

Hello.  I help manage a grocery store.  I've worked 17 of the last 19 days (and 26 of the last 30).  I'm worn down.  Mentally and physically.  Kicking high but slow.  I've been thinking on it, and I have some thoughts.  Requests?  Yeah.  Requests.  Here are a few requests that I have from the public, when they go shopping:

  • Get back in the habit of shopping just once or twice a week.  Whether you believe in Covid 19 or no (and that's a discussion for another day, but suffice it to say, there are a fair number of you that Still don't think things pertain to you), we're seeing far too many of you every day.  We appreciate the business, but for the sake of cutting down lines in the store, try just shopping once or twice a week.  We're not on spring break here, guys.
  • Make a list.  If you know how the store's laid out, make your list in a logical order.  Also, for your items, try to have a plan B and a plan C for what you're looking for.  Truth be told, 4 weeks in, the supply chain is still trying like hell to recover.  We're at the mercy of the warehouse, which can only receive so much itself, on top of being able to pick and stack a finite amount.  We're likely to be out of something you're coming in for.  Depending on the day between trucks, it might be many somethings.
  • It's just fine to ask if we're out of something.  In fact, that's the best way to phrase it:  "Are you out of French Cut Low Sodium Green Beans?"  It's not insulting.  Just be prepared to get a yes.  Just don't beat around the bush.  It's possible you'll get lucky, and we'll have it in back, especially if a truck's recently arrived.  But chances are, if you don't see it on the shelf, it's not here.  (A minor point...even before this, most stores don't keep a large amount of stuff in back, if they can help ties up dollars).  Don't ask "can you check in the back."  I know it sounds ludicrous, but a few of us have a pretty good idea of what's in the back, especially now since we're somewhat depleted of stock status.  If we think there's a chance it'll be in the back, we'll check.  But there's a good chance we know.
  • No, we didn't forget how to order.  At this point, we don't know if you're serious, or just trying to lighten the mood.  In my store's case?  There's a 99% chance that it's being ordered, and it's either out at the warehouse or it's being time-prioritized behind a more "staple" item.  Anyway, stop joking or thinking that we're just not ordering enough.  We're regularly ordering 5500 case grocery trucks, and receiving 1000 pieces (or less) of that.  While that's a bone of contention I have with the chuckleheads at my warehouse, it is a truth of how things are going right now that All the stores serviced by the warehouse are coping with this, and it's an impossibility to keep up with it all.
  • In some cases (for my store, dairy, produce and most meat categories), the folks at the warehouse ordering have done an amazing job of meeting demand.  In others (beef, dry grocery and frozen), they're struggling.  They're working as many days as I am trying to rectify it.  This is hard, on a lot of levels.
  • I say that to say this:  we know we're out of a lot of stuff.  Please stop being surprised or annoyed by it when you come in.  It's not due to laziness or lack of planning.  In almost every case, it's beyond our control.  And we're even more frustrated by it than you are.  (My manager, and department managers all feel about the same about all's stressful to look at these empty shelves...we're trained from early on that a good looking store is of the utmost importance, and we've gone a month almost without having a good looking's psychologically impactful to the point of being mentally exhausting, believe it or not).
  • Absolutely, you can ask when trucks are coming.  Just know that they give us a window, not an exact time.  It's like a cable repair'll be here between 6:30 and 8 PM, depending on traffic.  I'd say many, if not all, chains are this way.
  • While you're in the store, don't dawdle.  You're not there to visit.  You're not there to browse.  Use your shopping list and get in and out as quickly as possible.  We're not your destination to soothe your cabin fever
  • When you get to the checkout, follow the social distancing requests we have in place.  They're there so we can try to wipe down and sanitize what we can between customers.  Use that time that we're cleaning to do a couple of things:  Find your store loyalty card (if your store has one), and get your payment method ready.  Most times, you've got a couple minutes to do that.  When you fiddle fart around, you're making folks wait, possibly exposing more and more people to this thing.
  • I can't stress this enough:  Get off your phone.  It's rude, even if there's not a pandemic on.  Right now, cashiers will have a couple specific requests or questions.  Get off your phone so you can focus on that conversation.  You're not the great multitasker that you think you are.
  • That said, you can use your smart phone for a couple of things.  If your store has an app, use that app to call up that mentioned store loyalty card.  You can also use your phone to pay in most places without having to touch anything....
  • Don't get annoyed when you have to wait.  I'm sorry.  That's just a reality.  Lots of people shopping at the same time will do that.
  • You don't need to bring the whole family to the store.  Just bring you.  Truth be told, it was kind of annoying pre-pandemic.  It's irresponsible now.  Especially if you have a lot of young children.  Please don't bring them, unless you don't have any other option.
  • No, you can't go in the back room.  We're working back there.  You will be in the way.  It's not a secret space for us to do magical things.  We're just trying to work.
  • Don't park in the fire lane.  Just park in a space.  We're not at Thunderdome yet.  Just park in a space and walk the extra steps.
  • If you see a store employee or vendor pulling a pallet, please don't stop them to ask a question.  Those pallets are heavy (especially the ones with water or soda on them).  They don't stop on a dime.
  • If a stocker, vendor or other worker is working in an area you'd like to shop, don't crowd them.  Either wait until they're done, or say "excuse me."  I prefer the latter.  I want you to shop.  There are only 3.4 million other things I can do in the interim.  You wouldn't think a refresher in manners was required here, but judging by the family of five that crawled over my back on a Saturday to get to the Chef Boyardee, we're lacking a little bit of common sense, courtesy or some combination of the two.
  • We don't always have time to answer phone calls.  We're trying.  But if you're in the habit of calling to find the cheap soda price in town, stop that.  And if you're calling to try to find toilet paper, I understand.  Be patient if the phone keeps ringing.  I know this contradicts an earlier point, but it's probably quicker to just wander in to see yourself, some days.
  • The number of people are seem honestly perplexed and annoyed by seeing the shelves bare rankles me.  "I just don't understand what the problem is," is a variant of a statement that I'm getting a few times a day.  I'm sorry you don't.  I guess that's part of my attempt here, to try to lay a couple things out.  For the time being, you're probably going to have to change your shopping patterns.  I know that's inconvenient, and even difficult.  We're doing our best to make it as easy as have to have that faith in us.  The truth is, you might have to change these patterns for a while.
  • I wish I knew how long.
  • Be patient.  I say some variant of this around Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Be cool out there.  We're all going through this.  Not just you.  Do not yell.  That's important:  Do Not Yell.  Or cuss.  For any reason.  Be patient with us.  I'm tired.  My crew is tired.  We've all worked our asses off under what's an unusual and difficult set of circumstances.  Truth be told, it wasn't until this week that I really started to understand the anxiety of some in my crew beyond my own.  That's on me, and I own that.  It's easy to get blinders on and just keep trucking for the finish line.  Too easy, especially since I need to keep putting a foot in front of the other, sometimes, to keep from thinking too hard on things....
  • That said, this week will be the first week I've had 2 days off scheduled or taken since the first week of March.  And it's not guaranteed:  if a huge grocery delivery does make it our way, it's likely that I'll end up working my day off again.  
  • A couple small things tangentially related to this:  it's still Service Dogs only inside this store.  You don't need to bring your dog with you.  And there's a special place in Hell for you if you lie about your dog being a service animal.  Also: it's starting to get warm out there (82 yesterday at the Big Stupid Tompound).  That's actually too warm to leave the dog in the car, even with windows cracked.  Just leave the dogs at home.
  • If you've applied for a job with us (and we are looking for help), answer your phone when we call.  Set up your voicemail.  That's how that phone number works.  And be prepared to be interviewed at an odd time.  (I had one balk when I asked him to interview on Sunday.  Sorry chief...we're open Sunday, and that's the only day we're not receiving any deliveries).
  • Last thing:  Thank you.  Most of you, the overwhelming majority of you, have been very cool about this.  Most of you seem to understand this thing without my having to bullet point it.  And that's awesome.  We've been thanked, which is always nice to hear.  A couple folks called us heroes, but I don't think of myself that way.  I'm just doing my job.  It's all good.  Besides, wearing a cape would only be a distraction.