Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Meme!

Hey lookit. Book meme. Seen here.

To follow the NPR (US National Public Radio) meme, copy this list, putting in Bold those you have read.

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien (In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't read them until Peter Jackson's movies were coming out)
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (It's probably about time to re-read).
3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
(Should be required reading...everywhere...)
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan (Up to the third book. Within a day of my finishing it, Robert Jordan passed away. Already disillusioned that while I liked how he wrote, nothing much was happening, I hopped off that 1000 page a book train)
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
(I hated Neuromancer, but I think it may have been because Gibson's book actually scared me...)
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
(Personal favorite, yo. Sacred cow.)
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess (I own the book, but have never sat to read it.)
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein (Probably my favorite Heinlein book).
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams (If you haven't read this book, quit your job, and go read it, you shithead).
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller (I've started this one, but never finished--more because of the tiny, tiny type in the paperback copy I had than the content of the book, which I was enjoying)
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
(An oddly beautiful book).
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien (I didn't finish this one, but read all that I wanted to. Honestly, reading the phone book is slightly more interesting).
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons (I started, but read all that I care to. A pity, maybe, because everybody raves about the first couple of Hyperion books. Given my lack of success with Dan Simmons in general, I think it's a writer thing...)
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy Simply the scariest book I've ever read.
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
(Wicked, as far as I'm concerned, is the exception to the rule of Gregory Maguire. The Rule being: Gregory Maguire is a bad writer. Wicked is a decent book. Anything else he's published, is not.)
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn (Fun books, actually, and of all those Star Wars books I have read and owned, these were the only ones I deemed necessary to hold on to, incase I decided to read again).
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis (Connie Willis does not get enough applause for her work, this book least of all).
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


My Dad's birthday is today. He is still in deepest absolute denial that his favorite restaurant (Reedy's, in Englewood) is closed. Despite that it has been gone for 2 decades now, he is resolute in the belief that we will spend his 59th birthday there tonight. Or, he'll bring a "Whoopin' the Size of Three Dom Deluise."

So. There's that.

I wrote this a few years back:

Do you have one defining image of a person? That when you think of them, the first thing that pops to mind is that defining event? It's an event that can be astounding or mundane...regardless, it strikes a tone so deep in your psyche, it transcends all logical thought, so that all your opinions, beliefs and values regarding that person use that as the starting point?

I was nine. It was 1986, and I'd just lost my very last baby tooth. The little bugger had started loosening a few days earlier, and had popped out during a viewing of Head of the Class. I was in a state I could only describe as ebullient...a level of joy I had never reached prior nor have I reached since.

I was still reeling from the satisfaction of essentially having a small bone pop out of my head, when I changed the channel to Night Court.

My dad taught nights. At least, that's what I believed, and still believe to a point to this day. At the time, he was teaching computer courses at the town just below ours, at the small college one could find there. I know he taught these classes, because I still have people in around my small town coming to me and saying "Your Dad taught me how to use Fortran."

To which I reply: "Fortran? Quit making up words, Aunt Charlotte, and make me a sandwich..."

Anyway, back to the point.

I settled in for a half-hour of sheer hilarity with the comic stylings of Judge Harold T. Stone. It was a fun episode, though I feel like it's important to note that this was while Selma Diamond was still part of the cast, and before John Astin started making his appearances as Buddy. I'll grant you that it was indeed a creative valley in the show's storied run, but I'll submit to you that no better use of a nine-year-old's time could I come up with, even to this day, than to learn about the ins and outs of the legal system in nightfall New York City, and to do so with a laugh.

As an aside, I still have a thing for Markie Post.

But anyway, the episode was nearing the end of the second act, when a commotion arose in the courtroom.

I was watching intently. "This is all quite odd," I said to no one in particular, though my mother was hosting her weekly McMinn County Lady's Mixed Martial Arts Cotillion right behind the sofa.

In the courtroom, just after Harry had rendered a verdict (Court costs and time served), a ruckus arose. The camera pans back, a little uncertain, I believe. And a rather large, hairy man starts throwing hookers, extras and bums aside. And by throwing, I mean picking up and heaving like logs of firewood through a pickup truck window.

The camera panned back for a second to Dan Fielding, who in a rare display of valour grabbed Christine Sullivan and pulled her off screen to safety.

The large man, whose voice became dreadfully clear to me, continued his rampage to the front of the courtroom. The bailiffs came running in, guns drawn. It was the first time I'd ever seen weapons displayed in the courtroom.

Shots were fired, and it was at that moment that the beast stopped his rampage long enough for the cameras to get a focus on his face.

For reasons known only to himself, my Dad was rampaging through the courtroom on that Sitcom.

The bullets didn't stop him. They slowed him down, though. Long enough, I think, to consider just how angry he was going to be.

With a sweep of one mighty arm, he smashed Selma Diamond against the defense table. She was on the next week, so he didn't kill her, thankfully.

In the next motion, he picked up a nameless bailiff (the one with red hair) and threw him against Judge Stone's bench.

He took one step, and found himself face to face with all 6 feet, five inches of Richard Moll's Bull Shannon.

The air was electric. These two behemoths, nose to nose. Each bringing hell with them in their hip pockets, each holding the power of Valhalla in their hands.

The fight was epic. It lasted seven minutes, and each blow was like an frog punch from God. Lights flickered, streets ruptured, and the Hoover Dam burst (though that was later revealed to be the result of a drunken Buddy Hackett playing with the controls...still, it was coincidental and dramatic).

At the end of seven minutes, with dust and smoke filling the courtroom, the broken remains of the prosecution table underneath his dying body, Bull Shannon said to my father "I yield!....I yield sir!...."

My father, holding a filing cabinet in one hand, let it drop with a muffled bang.

"It is finished. We now know."

And he looked at the camera.

"We all know."

And with nothing more said, he left the courtroom, and Night Court went to commercial.

My mother sent me to bed after that. She was too busy applying a triangle choke to have seen what just happened, and she didn't believe me. The next morning, while eating a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, I asked my father "Were you on TV last night, beating up Bull Shannon?"

My Dad looked at me as if I had tentacles growing out of my nostrils.

"No, I was teaching."


I wandered to school that day, and indeed many days after that, confused and questioning. I knew what I'd seen. Was it merely a creation of my own mind?

Several weeks later, during my Dad's summer break, we were sitting down, watching Night Court. Nothing much was said, until the third act. Harry Stone had just issued some edict or another, too which Bull Shannon replied "ooo...kay." I heard my dad utter a small, gravelly laugh.

And I heard him say "pussy."

He got up to leave, and he reached into his pocket, and pulled something shiny out of it. He tossed it to me, and went into the kitchen.

I still have it to this day.

It is a New York Court Officer's badge, with the name Shannon emblazoned across the nameplate....

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A thought from Harlan Ellison

Picking through an old notebook, I found this quote from Harlan Ellison. It's apropos of nothing but I like it, and it bears repeating (I've posted it before I think. I just can't remember when...).

You can sympathize, accordingly, with my upset at the major networks' fear & trembling as regards what they show the little no-neck monsters every Saturday ay-em. Last season, there was such a hue and cry raised by paranoid parents (who can't cop to being responsible for their kids' traumas, so have to blame it on everything from Hong Kong Flu to masturbation, with comic books and TV getting a big blast) that kiddie-shows--notably the animateds--were warping their urchins' minds, that radical changes were proposed in Saturday morning programming....

Refuting...the running-scared set is no problem. Arrayed in the Wertham philosophy that TV (and comic book) violence cause children to use meat cleavers on their mummies are hundreds of psychologists and psychiatrists who contend that filmed horror and terror are good for kids, that they offer a purgative, a release for adolescent tensions and hostilities.

On a personal level, I can vouch for the accuracy of that theory. Every guy who I know who grooved behind horror movies and comic books when he was a tot is today a productive, beautiful person, with imagination and a sense of wonder. The few I know who were only allowed to read Albert Payson Terhune and see movies were the virtues of God and Dogs were extolled are square, hidebound, bigoted, short-sighted schlepps who sport SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL COSSACK bumper stickers.
--Harlan Ellison, in the December 28, 1968, edition of The Glass Teat.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Lost Master

Late last week, I wandered into th annual effort to help fund the Public Library, in which old and donated books are sold to help throw a little more money towards the E.G. Fisher Library, here in town. It's a pretty well done effort, and it's something I can remember hitting for bag upon bag of science fiction, mystery and Garfield books as far back as sixth grade....

Wandered in, and walked up and down the tables. Found a few things, despite having stacks and stacks of books at the house I haven't read yet.

To my credit, I only bought a couple four books that I haven't read. An Andrew Vachss book (Safe House), The Plague Dogs, by Richard Adams (because books about dogs having adventures are just right up my alley), a book about Early Irish Myths (a Penguin Classic, printed in that classic typeface they use that frustrates my eyes somehow), and Linda Greenlaw's book about swordfishing (because I watched The Perfect Storm again the other night, and just happened to remember her name when I happened across her book The Hungry Ocean).

I also found three or four books I'll hold on to to give away. Another copy of Confederacy of Dunces, which is one of my five or ten favorite books--it's one I tend to give away once a year or so. I also found another copy of Still Life with Woodpecker, which is a good one to share. I also found a nice copy of Run with the Horsemen by Ferrol Sams.

Anybody want a conversational, whimsical Southern book to read? One of my aunts introduced me to Ferrol Sams maybe ten years ago, now. Gifted writer out of Georgia. A doctor who wrote in his spare time. Run with the Horsemen, while not an out and out comedy, made me laugh out loud as much as any other book I've read in my life. I like introducing people to Ferrol Sams.

There was one other thing I found.

This little blogging hobby brought me a couple of things I'd not have expected, nor guessed. 9 years ago (and we're fast approaching the NINTH ANNIVERSARY of this blogamathing) I'd never heard of Robert Service. I thank Eric for introducing me. Lyrical, fun stuff. I'm no expert in things poetic, but I am a fan of words fitting together in a way that pleases me...and Service does that from time to time.

I picked up a collection of his Poetry. Printed in 1966. Had a nice old book smell that I dig very much. I've picked through, and found a couple that I like. The one I dug this morning:


"And when I come to die" he said
"Ye shall not lay me out in state
Nor leave your laurels at my head,
Nor cause your men of speech orate;
No monument your gift shall be,
No column in the Hall of Fame;
But just this line ye grave for me:

'He played the game.'"

So when his glorious task was done
It was not of his fame we thought;
It was not of his battles won
But of the pride with which he fought;
But of his zest, his ringing laugh,
His trenchant scorn of praise or blame:
And so we graved his epitaph,

"He played the game."

And so we, too, in humbler ways
Went forth to fight the fight anew,
And heeding neither blame nor praise,
We held the course he set us true.
And we too, find the fighting sweet;
And we, too, fight for fighting's sake;
And though we go down in defeat,
And though our stormy hearts may break,
We will not do our Master shame:
We'll play the game, please God

We'll play the game.