Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Okay, I'll Bite: A Meme

I haven't done a meme in a while so here it goes. This is a reading meme from Emily and Eva.

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews? This is kind of cheating, and definitely not answering the question, but I cringe away from Tolkien. Why? It’s simple—no humor. Or none that I can identify. If something is void of humor there is no way I can imagine it. Oh, and I’m suspicious of The Historian—but kind of curious too.
If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be? Jack Aubrey: for the world cruise, but I would have to be in Maturin’s position so I wouldn’t end up with a giant splinter from the mainmast through my torso. William of Baskerville: I’d hang out with him until I realized that I would never be that smart. Maria from “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Forgive me, I’m a guy, and it’s a long cruise.
(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave? Atlas Shrugged. Might cause me to end it all before I’m finished.
Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it? I read half of Zorba the Greek and told people I’d read all of it. I got caught out on this (I was unaware of the gruesome scene at the end and talked it up as a “happy” novel). Later I read the whole thing.
As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realize when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book? I’m pretty sure this is the case with On the Road. I thought I’d read it in high school, but when I read it a few months ago I realized I started about 1,000 books in high school, this being one of them, and only finished about three—all of them by a guy named S. King.
You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP) I’ve been the unofficial spokesman for Tobias Wolff (although I still have trouble spelling his name) for the past 18 months. “Hey VIP! Ya gotta read Old School!” If you want to know what it’s like to be a boarding-school trapped adolescent with aspirations toward Literature you really should read it.
A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with? No doubt and not a moment’s hesitation, Russian.
A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick? That’s a very hard one…The Great Shark Hunt maybe?
I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)? I’ve discovered that I have a lot of catching up to do. There are so many great blogs about great books written by great people that the list of things that have changed about my approach to reading is very long. I should be reading non-fiction history, but this blogging culture has me reading fiction almost exclusively. But it’s a good thing; literature, as someone once said, is the soul of history. Someone please help me identify that quote.
That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.
An automatic machine like they have on the Jetsons or Star-Trek where you just type in the name of the book and it appears in first edition perfection down a little tube or shoot. I’m not talking about ebooks or anything on-line, a little tube (a-la-the-drive-through-at the-bank) that delivers new volumes in pristine condition from the exact year when they were originally published—and in translation if required. (Could you imagine the Odyssey?) Behind this shoot would be limitless book-shelves, you know the kind where you have a rolling ladder that goes up about three stories. I would have people help me shelve, but sometimes I would give them the day off so I could just loll around and wander the stacks. Oh, and I would get paid a dollar for every word I read, or make it two. I know, sacrilege to get paid for so much enjoyment, but I have to think of upkeep for the library now don’t I? :)

Friday, January 25, 2008


In the following post I stated that Art Garfunkel had read over 4000 books since the late 1960s. I was way off. This would mean he read an average of 100 books a year, not impossible, but still, that's a lot of books! The website claims he has read over 1000 which is still pretty impressive. Sorry for the misquote.
The Management

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Garfunkel Library

There's a column in The New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" this week about Art Garfunkel's reading list. He's been keeping this list since the 1960's. I believe the total of books he's read is now over 4,000 strong. That's a huge number, but I'll bet some of the lit bloggers I frequent can top it. The list is interesting--it isn't all Tolstoy and Plato, Bob Woodward's Wired is snuck in somewhere around 1984 (the year, not the novel). As the New Yorker wryly states, a steady flow of royalty checks creates enough down-time to fulfil anyone's reading wish list. I wonder what Paul Simon's list would look like, he wrote Simon and Garfunkel's songs and presumably takes a higher cut in the sharing of those royalties.

Here is the link: http://www.artgarfunkel.com/library.html

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Food Glorious Food

Is it possible that something has changed in me? All last week, in an effort to refrain from the fast-food that has defined my diet during the time I was a student, I cooked a meal for myself every night. Part of the reason was for health's sake, but I soon found that when you cook for one you can't help but cooking enough food for two, that's just the way food is sold. So I ate the lions share of each meal, not exactly a strict diet. But a satisfying one. I was really surprised at how much fun I had with this, and a small portion of each day was spent trying to figure out what to prepare for that night. I suppose this is also a cheaper way to eat, although when I got to the grocery-store the more pricier items always beckoned. I ended up making some damn good grub. Despite some minor missteps, I've proven to myself that I've still got it.

Cooking in a home kitchen is far more difficult for me than cooking in a professional one. Everything is smaller, and those little boxes of plastic wrap fall all over the place and stick to your wrist as you try to wrap a piece of chicken with a piece that is way to small. Temperatures are different as well because most professional kitchens have convection ovens which employ a fan to circulate hot air for more even and slightly faster roasting and baking. But this is no excuse, it is just something I have to remind myself of when I start a meal. One thing I like about cooking at home, I can watch the evening news while I'm waiting for water to boil or my timer to go off.

I've continued my home cooking routine into this week. On Monday I roasted a chicken. One of the bidders for the college's food service contract sent a large bottle of excellent extra-virgin olive oil with their proposal, and I took this, some fresh garlic, lemon, sage, onion and swathed the whole thing down like an Asian masseuse. Then I stuffed the inside with the onion, lemon and garlic and roasted it. I kick myself now or not taking a picture--it was a sight to behold when it came out of the oven. The next day I stopped by the store and bought some crimini mushrooms. I took all the leftovers from the roast chicken and rice and made chicken-fried-rice with szechwan sauce. Mmmmm Mmmmm tasty!

Here are some of the things I made last week.

I started the week with a stir-fry of broccoli, chicken and peanut sauce over rice. The first photo is the chicken cooking, the second is the dish simmering in the sauce, and the third is the finished product. I wolfed this down pretty fast.

This is terriaki pork loin with yellow squash and roasted new potatoes. I didn't fan out the pork like that to be pretentious. So many years of doing this I just did it unconsciously and ended up plating it like we would have for a banquet. Of course we wouldn't have used crappy pink plates and there would have been a lot more garnish.

I wanted something vegetarian so I made a marinara boboli pizza with caramelized red onion and portabello mushrooms. I like banana peppers, so they had to go on top. And of course, lots of mozzarella. Diet my ass--literally.

The next night I ate leftover pork loin and pizza, but the next night, which was a cold wintry one, I made meatloaf with brazed cabbage and new potato mash. This was comfort food in the extreme. The best part? The meatloaf sandwich the next day.

I'm going to make vegetarian quesadillas tonight. It should be good, if not just as fattening as Taco Bell. But so much more satisfying.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Yar Rule!

Wow, it has been a really long time since I posted. Those Christmas photos are looking dated already. There is no real excuse for this, but I will say that last week I was adapting to a new regimen (that I hope to stick to) and I’m having a good time not plucking away on a computer for hours like I’ve been doing for the last four years.

My laptop has been acting up and this has taken a great deal of patience from my end. Cross my fingers, I hope I have solved the problem, but the thing developed a mind of its own for a while there. I accidentally downloaded an anti-spyware program, you know one of those pop-ups where you try to close the box and it ends up downloading more crap onto your hard-drive. Sleazy bastards. When I tried to remove the program it wouldn’t let me uninstall, it said I had to close the program first—but the program wasn’t open. Yow! So this morning, after deleting everything in the file I could, I was finally able to get rid of it. Spy-Shredder is the name of the company, so beware.

I almost, almost, took it to Best Buy to have them look at it, but reason got the better of me and I stopped short of taking this drastic measure. For one, I would be without my laptop for ten days (this is an estimate, but a learned one). Then they would charge me as much as the computer is worth to fix a hypothetical problem that probably doesn’t exist. A condescending tech-geek would spread icing on the cake. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

So I spent the week deleting cookies and temporary files, defragging, rebooting, swearing a little, swearing a lot, praying and rolling cyber-dice. The problems have abated, but I still get pop-ups, one especially annoying one which promises to find the perfect partner for me. Right now the perfect partner for me would be someone who is good at preventing a computer induced melt-down.

But on a happier note, I bought a new car. A Toyota Yaris. It is about three feet long and gets 720 miles to the gallon. No, not really, but it feels like it. One tank of gas will allow me about 400 miles of highway driving. With current gas prices it takes about 30 bucks to fill up. For its size it is very roomy inside, and Booker has much space in the back when I fold down the seat. And it is amazingly fun to drive. I can whip around clueless motorists with far more flexibility than the truck, and I actually look forward to the commute. It is remarkably small, and wise-cracks about clown-cars from the motor-heads might ensue, but while they are parked on the shoulder thumbing a ride with a gas-tank in their hand, I’ll be zipping by singing Allman Brothers at the top of my lungs.

Oh, and—it finally happened. The day, as a commuter, I’ve been waiting for. I was on my way to work one morning last week and was passing a van in the left lane. I looked in my rear-view mirror and coming up behind me at an enormous rate of speed was a brand-spankin’-new Cadillac. He was coming on so fast that for a moment I thought he was going hit me. I still had about half-a-van to pass and I refused to change my rate of speed, so I had this guy attached to my bumper for about 30 seconds. Really obnoxious. I finally merged over and the guy shot past me doing about 100mph. One of the most brazen tailgating experiences I can remember.

Right where the highway opens up to five lanes is where the cop nailed him. I was praying for this, as I often do in similar situations, because the police patrol around this area in unmarked cars all the time. I have no doubt that everyone who this guy bullied off the road cheered when they saw him issued a speeding ticket. He was way over the speed limit which could result in a revoked license, and if he has any other infractions it is sure thing. I’ve been waiting on this to happen probably for as long as I’ve been driving, but for it to happen to this particular one, who was so obnoxious, made my day.

One of the things I like about the Yaris is that it has a little auxiliary jack. Now, I’m still living a little in 1995, so I don’t have an Mp3 player which is what this feature is for primarily. What I do have is an old fashioned walkman. Remember those things? You put these weird little plastic things called cassettes in them. They would play one side and then you would have to open the walkman and physically take the cassette out and flip it to hear the other side. Music storing devices, for many years kids, had two sides. Don’t even ask about LPs, we don’t want to go there.

This is advantageous because during the actual 1990s I did my best to actively collect as many tapes of hippy concerts (I kind of fancied myself as a retro-hippy, albeit a geeky one) as I could lay my hands on. I even went nation-wide, placing an ad in Relix magazine—the NYT of jam-band related stuff—and would receive packages filled with concerts in Belgium by Fishbone or somebody. This collection grew to around 500 tapes that all sit, gathering dust, in my new-millennium-digital media-center. Okay, it’s the extra guest room, but new-millennium-digital media-center sounds better.

What this means is when I put the archaic two together and plug it into the auxiliary jack of my new car many elements of time and space are joined. First you have the concert. Let’s take the Grateful Dead at the Springfield Creamery Benefit in 1972. You know, the one where it was 103 degrees and the guitar strings started melting, literally, not just through the aid of hallucinogens like they normally would. This tape was recorded by some stoned engineer on that day and then distributed through tape trading of many generations before reaching my greedy hands sometime around 1994. I listened it into the ground, and then placed it on my shelf in 2003 when archives.org allowed the show to be streamed in digital format. Now, with the marriage of old and new, I can rediscover the joys of a “crispy” tape. (I always hated that term crispy, it usually meant too much treble and hiss, plus it just sounds weird) And that is another positive element, I had forgotten how warm a well recorded tape with noisy background ambience can sound to a trained—or cheap, whichever way you lean—ear. So what if the Allman Brothers in Raleigh in 1990 makes my right eardrum itch uncontrollably when I turn the volume up past six. It is history man! Warren Haynes man! Don’t you get it? Uh oh, the 1995 me is coming back a little.

So I’m loving the car, and I’m hoping the computer will settle-down. We are at the mercy of machines aren’t we? But I’m not quite ready to except Laurence Fishburn into my life quite yet. That conversion is a long way off.

Post-Script: I like the name Yaris. I have no idea what a Yaris is and if anyone has a notion let me know. Or better yet, just guess. I like it because it sounds pirate-like. "Yarrrrrr, is that your new Yarrrrr...is?" "Yarrrrrr, it is." "Yarrrrrr."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Holiday Photos

My last post stated that I was very busy, too busy to do a proper post in fact. But this was more or less an outright lie. I've just been slack, watching reality restaurant shows and plucking around on the guitar. I did take Booker for a walk two days in a row, and I built some bookcases at work, but a true evaluation of my activity would reveal an orgy of procrastination.

I hope to give details of my holiday soon, or maybe some other muse will divert my attention and I'll write about something completely different. In the meantime here are some photos from Christmas.

The folks on Christmas Eve

Mom continues to decorate up to the last minute

Lounging around on Christmas day

Daddy recites from War and Peace.

There's always a dog lying around.

Booker's hoping someone will drop some roast beef.

Time to walk off the chocolate truffles.

Aunt Boo with a painting of her house by Lindsay.

Lindsay and brother-in-law Dan.

Lindsay in her studio.

My parents' dog Sally.

The Virginian in his natural habitat.

At the top of the hill.

Happy New Year (good thing we can't smell that breath.)

Bonus: Here is my reading of Don Quixote

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Stay Tuned

I've been pretty busy with travels and so forth, so I haven't had time to post. I still don't have time really--but I will very soon. Here are some things I've been doing.

Celebrating Christmas with my family in Charlottesville. One of the best Christmases ever!

I bought a new car! Whoooohoo!

Went to Atlanta to see Widepread Panic on New Years Eve. Lots of drunk fratboys, but my God what a show!

I'm reading Don Quixote!

Getting psyched for a new round of grad-school applications!

More details, plus photos, in the next day or so.