Posts tagged ‘books’

A Thankful Countdown: Day 3

21 November, 2011 | | No Comment

I’ve decided to count down to Thinksgiving, and take a moment each day to think about things I’m thankful for. 

Number Three:  Books.

The reading of them, the writing of them, of the making of books there shall be no end.  I surround myself with them, in part because they help insulate the walls in the wintertime, but mostly because I’ve so often found a wonderful world waiting for me on the other side of a wall of words, full of magic, of science, of fascinating characters, of bastards and dastards and witches and bitches and lions and tigers and bears, oh my. 

My favorites have always been those that reference books that have come before, whether those of the author or others – the quiet in jokes that solidify the conversation between reader and writer.  When the protagonist mentions something that happened in Oz, or Middle Earth, or Narnia, it’s a wink from the author, saying, “I’ve read those, too.”

The three lunatic children have been known to describe the house as living in a library, and for the chance to offer them two thousand passports to distant lands, I am thankful.

The Giving Car

11 July, 2011 | | 9 Comments

I want to go to the park, said the Boy.
Tell your Dad, and I’ll bet he’ll drive you to the park, said the Car.
And the Boy told his Dad, who loaded him into the Car with a nice picnic lunch, and drove them to the park.

And time went by.

I need some money, said the Boy.
Get a job, said the Car.  You can drive me to your job and back, if your Dad says it’s OK.
And it was OK with Dad, and the Boy starting driving the Car to work and back, and pretty soon the Boy was driving his Car to work and back, and the Boy had a Car.

And time went by quickly. 

I need to get laid, said the Boy.
Put one of those new carburetors in me, so I go vroomvroom really low and growly-like.  Chicks totally dig that.
Yeah? asked the Boy.
Oh yeah, said the Car.  And clean out the backseat.

And the Boy spent some of his money on a new vroomvroom carburetor, and cleaned the Car inside and out, and bought some of those fuzzy dice for good luck.  And he met a terrific redhead who liked cars that went vroomvroom really low and growly-like, and wasn’t afraid to show it.

And time went by.  Nine months’ time, to be exact.

I need a family car, said the Boy.
No problem, said the Car.  Put some after-market safety straps in the back and load me with carseats.
I suppose I should clean the backseat again, said the Boy.
Dude, what’s the point? said the Car.
Yeah, sighed the Boy.

And time went by.  And young and stupid people did young and stupid things.

I need a car that can outrun a police car, said the Boy.
What on earth for? asked the Car.
Because he’s gaining on us, said the Boy.
The things I do, sighed the Car, shifting into overdrive.

And time went by, and the Boy woke up one morning and realized that he wasn’t getting any younger, so he joined a gym and met a much younger women and bought a mid-life Chrysler and left the Car with his first wife.

I need a minivan, said the redhead.
Sorry, said the Car.
Not your fault.

But no one wanted to buy an elderly Car with after-market straps and a goofy carburetor, so she eventually put it on blocks, drained the fluids, and threw a tarp over it.

And time went by.  And it was dark in there.

And the Boy came to his senses about 2 years later.  And the redhead made him sleep in the garage for the first month, so he spent some time putting the tires back on, topping off the fluids, and getting the stains out of the backseat.

I really made a mess of things, didn’t I? asked the Boy.
In pretty much all cases, yes, said the Car.
Oh, who asked you anyway, said the Boy.

Hey baby, said the Boy.
Don’t you hey baby me, said the redhead.
I fixed up the old car, said the Boy.
Hmmph, sniffed the redhead.  But she was touched just the same, and let him sleep in the house.  On the sofa.

And time went by.  A lot of it.

I have to go to a funeral, said the Boy.
It’s raining, said the Car.  Better check my brakes, and it would be nice if you waxed me shiny and tuned up my carburetor, so I can go vroomvroom all low and growly for her one last time.
And the Boy did those things.

I want to go to the park, said the Boy.
Tell your son, and I’ll bet he’ll drive you to the park, said the Car.
And the Boy told his son (who had kept the old Car in good condition since it looked like it would be worth a bundle one of these days, and besides his wife and the kids loved it), and his son loaded the old man into the Car with a nice picnic lunch, and drove them to the park.

Well, that was helpful.

12 April, 2011 | | 1 Comment

Sometimes, people leave you hanging.  Sometimes, you are people. 

I spend a bit of time in the car, and since I’ve found that I can’t take notes legibly while driving, I record my thoughts on the Blackberry for later review.  This is possibly the single most useful feature of that device.   For the record, I can’t take notes legibly while I’m not driving either, but that’s not important right now. 

What’s important right now is that it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually reviewed my voice notes in a while, and so I listened to many of them on the way home today.   These tend to be notes for things I’m writing, have written and need to edit, or plan to write – either sometime soon, sometime when I get around to it, or Real Soon Now.  So, many of these notes tend to be fragmentary and end with the words “or something like that.” 

So while not altogether a surprise, it’s still annoying to hear my own voice come on and recite the following: 

“We were deep in the jungles of Sulamalasy when I found the body.”  I dunno, take it from there.

That was it.  And I said, out loud, to myself, “Thanks a lot, asshole.”   Sheesh.  That guy just expects me to do everything for him.  What a jerk.  I’m tempted to call him and tell him to write it himself.

Good ole Jules

24 February, 2011 | | 1 Comment

This past February 8th, Google posted the coolest “Google Doodle” mini-app EVER (and there’s a hi-res version of it here).  Jules Verne was one of my boyhood heroes – one of the best books I read in my youth was Around the World in 80 Days, which given my life as an Air Force brat resonated with me pretty well.  Phileas Fogg and Passepartout were heros, for different reasons – Fogg for being a Don Quixote adventurer, answering to no one but himself, setting out to take huge risks to prove a rediculose point for no better reason than because he said he could; and Passepartout playing the loyal Sancho Panza, facilitating his employer’s madness while by and large enjoying the ride.   (As we said about my ancient Uncle Zignorine, when he thought he was a chicken – sure, it’s a shame, but we need the eggs.)

Jules Verne predicted the future, from submersible ships to space flight, including the concept of mutually assured destruction as a deterrent to war, high-speed trains, calculators, a worldwide “telegraphic” communications network that sounds suspiciously like the Internet, and the idea that governments would execute criminals by electric charge.   That was a hell of a leap in 1863. 

The Google doodle also reminded me of this comic, which I think I’ve linked to here before – but it bears repeating.  It’s called “Mr. Bookseller” by a guy named Darko Macan, a brilliant artist.  The depiction of Anton re-reading his old copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea came to mind as I navigated the Google artwork – lost again as I was in the memory of an old book. 

Good stuff, and my hat’s off to Google for that one.   Next up, stepping into the future with Ray Kurzweil!

Did he know?

23 February, 2011 | | 2 Comments

Ah, the wonderful redolent haze of a Tuesday evening, as I send the 12-going-on-32-yr-old Human Tape Recorder back to bed with a book from the 70s about the 40s, (Ilse Koehn’s Mischling, Second Degree), and I with a book from the 1890s about the 1880s (Rudyard Kipling’s From Sea to Sea).   As I read more of the few books from Kipling that I haven’t read before, I find myself thinking the same thing again and again – why haven’t I read this before?  Holy crap!

The man was a genius, one of few in our modern days, and in Sea to Sea we have what are essentially his travel notes.  Here he sits down with, talks to, asks impertinent questions of, and fawns over Mark Twain – who puts up with him, and admits that he has actually heard of him.  Here, on the other side of the world, he visits a Burmese town called Moulmein and sees a beautiful pagoda.  I’m reading this and humming “Road to Mandalay” and realizing he hadn’t written it yet.  The question I have, of course, is – did he know?  As he penned his notes home to the journals for which he was writing, did this master of English poetry see then, in his notes, the shell of what would become one of the best loved poems of all time? 

And seriously, why haven’t I read these before?  I’ve read Bill Bryson and William Least Heat Moon – in this medium, both are Kipling’s grandsons by proxy.  This is Kipling at his observant best, reporting from the road, a road-trip travelogue blog 110 years before its time.  I feel as Keats must have, on first looking into Chapman’s Homer.   D’oh!