Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review: The MacGregor Brides

This book review has a history. It was the first one I did, sometime around the end of 2005. Someone named Attila the Mom stumbled upon it, thought it was humorous, blew coffee out of her nose, refilled her empty coffee cup, and a friendship was born—both bloggerly and personally. At my request, Mom found this review in an old Innertube vault so I could rerun it in the interest of keeping readers informed.

If for any reason you don’t agree with my opinion or it really revs your engine, please jot something down in the comments section.

* * * * *

The MacGregor Brides, Nora Roberts

As you all know by now, I approach every subject I write about with objectivity, integrity, and a keen sense of fair play—three characteristics that are, er, characteristic of me. Characteristically, then, and with no thought aforethought of being judgmental, I dove open-mindedly yesterday into the pages of The MacGregor Brides.

Jesus, what a piece of shit.

Okay, I confess that I didn’t read all 370 pages, but I did read 50 of ’em. Hell, if I’d read the other 320 I’d be back in the hospital seeking help for a book-induced frontal lobotomy.

A brief summary of the first 50 pages: Laura MacGregor, fabulously rich and fabulously beautiful, is fabulously adept at protecting the sanctity of her fabulous knickers. Royce Cameron, a fabulous pussy hound who thinks with his fabulously small schlong, is nearly into Laura's fabulous knickers by the end of Chapter 3. Laura is a fabulous attorney and Royce is a fabulous security systems designer, but in the course of human affairs they are both as vapid, as vacuous, and as dumb as a box filled with fabulously dead spiders.

Publishers Weekly said about the book, “[Roberts] delivers the goods with panache and wit.”

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Here’s a sample of Roberts’ “panache and wit” (page 33):

Royce: “If you change your mind about the meal, you’ve got my number.”
Laura: “Oh yeah, I’ve certainly got your number.”

The Los Angeles Daily News said, “Roberts is indeed a word artist . . .”

Here’s a bit of her “word artistry” (page 23):

“Her hair was black as midnight, straight as rain, and tumbled to a waist that just begged to be spanned by a man’s two hands.
“And she was wearing some of the sexiest underwear it had ever been his pleasure to observe. If the face lived up to the body, it was really going to brighten his morning.”

The Los Angeles Daily News continued, “. . . painting her story and her characters with vitality and verve.”

And here’s some “vitality and verve” (page 47):

“He lowered his mouth toward hers, stopping an inch before contact. He saw her eyes darken, heard the long intake of breath, knew she held it. He waited, while his blood surged, waited until they were both suffering.”

Make that three, pal; I was suffering right along with the two of you.

But as shitty as this book is—writing, story, and everything else-wise—51 reviewers on gave it an aggregate 4½ stars out of 5.

So what the hell is wrong with these people?

Or is it just me?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The World Needs Susan Boyle

She isn't physically beautiful, or have a great stage presence, or wear CFM get-ups and boots. She doesn't make love to the microphone, or to herself, or to every male who passes her in the street.

What Susan Boyle does is sing. Beautifully. From way down inside, from her soul.

So why all the publicity? Because Susan Boyle is 47-years-old, lives alone with her cat Pebbles in Blackburn, Scotland, and is neither a make-up freak nor a fashion plate. Rather, she is representative of 80% of all women living on the planet.

Where, and in whose fucking rulebook, does it say that a female singer has to be young rubbish—both morally and vocally—to be accepted as legitimate? Whether or not she is made fun of on Twitter and the blogs, Boyle will win the finals of "Britain's Got Talent" next Sunday night—a win for every woman—and all of us.

From the Associated Press:

"The singer said before Sunday's performance that she wouldn't transform her appearance. 'I just want people to see me for who I am, and do my best at singing the song, that's what I am focusing on,' she said.

"She said the death of her mother had inspired her to enter the TV talent show.

"'I wanted to show her I could do something with my life,' Boyle said."

ADDENDUM, MAY 27. Here is a wonderful comment from Cathy:

"The first time I watched the clip of 'I Dreamed a Dream', I saw a REAL woman who was singing about her own life. A woman who was tired of years of dreaming and ready to take her life into her own two hands and see just how far she could go. I had tears streaming down my face as she sang. I dreamed a dream, too, and that dream didn't start becoming real until I finally had a chance to do something. I think there are many of us out there, and we're backing Susan to the hilt. Working to make dreams come true isn't limited to clothing style or size, hair, makeup, and how white your teeth are. It's all about heart. [Italics mine]

(Bringing the world together through music: visit the Playing for Change website, and watch this video of Stand By Me of street musicians playing for change, that I downloaded in January.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mr. Badwrench

No one has ever accused me of being handy or a do-it-yourselfer, as these two vignettes attest.


“Are you sure the power is off, Charlie?”
“The power is off because I personally turned it off.”
“Yes, but are you sure the power is off?”
“The power is off because I personally turned it off. And to prove it, I can touch these two bare wires together and [Really loud POP with a big blue flash!]
”Uh, I don’t think the power is off, Charlie.”
“The power is off because I personally turned it off myself. But since I forgot to turn the power off, the explosion turned it off for me. By the way, do you smell something burning?”
“Yeah, your hair is on fire. Throw some water on it while I call the electrician.”


“The clock on the living room wall says it’s 5:53,” Martha announced with her hands on her hips—you know, the female stance that says, "I'm really pissed, buster."
“Yeah, so?” I replied.
“Its said 5:53 for three months.”
“Yeah, so? What’s your point?”
“The clock isn’t working.”
“Did you give it a couple of taps? Spin the hands around? It’s probably just stuck.”
“It isn’t stuck. It needs a new battery.”
“How do you know?”
“Because the clock isn’t working.”
“Give it a shot of WD-40. That’ll fix it. WD-40 fixes everything.”
“It doesn’t need WD-40. And don’t you dare suggest duct tape. It needs a new battery.”
“What size battery?”
“How the fuck do I know what size battery?”
“Battery size is crucial, elst the clock won’t work.”
“The clock doesn’t work now.”
“There you go, then. Tell you what. Get the caulking gun from the garage . . . Martha? Sweetheart? Lover lips? Where’d ya go? I'm just trying to HELP, you know.”


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Singing the School-house Blues

At 5:45 this morning, Martha handed me the editorial page from The Arizona Republic newspaper and said, "Here. Read this. It'll piss you off.” Normally she hides rant-causing articles; after all, who in their right mind wants to hear an incoherent rant from me before the sun is up (or down)? As it turns out, this editorial pissed her off just as badly as it did me.

* * * * *

[Headline] Failing Grades No Longer Allowed
Jim Hull, Glendale, [AZ]

"I have been teaching 5th and 6th grade for nine years in Phoenix. This is the first year I have been told to give grades. When I was in school, you earned it.

". . . The underlying reality for teachers is that even if a student deserved to get a failing grade for lack of effort, you're not supposed to give an "F" on the report card.

"The driving force behind all of this is that the principal's office doesn't want phone calls from parents complaining about their kid's failing grades. As long as I pass everybody, I won't have problems from the front office, or so I thought.

"My latest visit to the principal's office resulted in a directive to make my class easier. A parent or two complained my class was too hard for their kids. These are probably the same kids that don't do their work. So how to stay out of the principal's office?

"I give credit where none is due, and pass students on to the next grade at the end of the year whether they've mastered the skills necessary for them to be successful or not."

* * * * *

Is this in fact true, or does this fellow (whom I hope is not an English teacher) have a bad case of sour grapes? I don't know.

I do know that children in metro Phoenix public grammar schools are not "held back" to repeat a grade—what in my day was called "flunking" and a full-year repeat of the grade flunked. Back then, when dirt was a brand-new invention, we didn't have fancy-smancy counselors and psychologists who worried about "self-esteem issues," nor did we seem to have parents who dictated to the school system. If Johnny couldn't read or master third grade grammar, then so be it: Johnny sat in third grade until he was competent for fourth grade work. I may be wrong, but I don't think Johnny fell on a sword or became a serial killer because he was held back to learn.

It goes without saying that children who want to learn will learn utilizing their textbooks, self-initiative, and parental help, and I daresay there are a lot of them. But if Jim Hull's editorial is correct, what is the impetus and rewards for the majority to learn?

Not a damn thing.

* * * * *

In her post of yesterday, here are two quotes from Stinkypaw in Montreal that are apropos:

". . . we live in a society where morons thrive, and surround us; where incompetence seems to be an actual pre-requisite for many jobs . . . We, as a society, are lowering our standards to accommodate the mass. It’s sad."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Does GRRM Owe Us?

For those of you who are wondering what a GRRM is, it is the hairy fellow in the photo. GRRM is fan shorthand for George R.R. Martin, easily the best writer of epic adult fantasy since J.R.R. Tolkien. I use the adverb “easily” with confidence if the 3,734 reviews on alone are any indication of his popularity.

So why do I ask the question, “Does GRRM owe us?” A bit of back-story is necessary before I answer it.

In 1996, Martin published the first book in a projected series of seven under the umbrella name, A Song of Fire and Ice. Titled A Game of Thrones, I was intrigued from the first paragraph: here was a whole new world called Westeros, much more medieval than fantastical, with believable characters, profanity, sex, plots, sub-plots, sub-sub-plots, and a large dose of murder and mayhem. No one, absolutely no character big or small, was exempt from Martin’s inked axe. The unpredictability of the story was one of its major strengths.

In 1999, the second book, A Clash of Kings, came along, followed closely by the third, A Storm of Swords, in 2000. Martin was on a roll and so was I, a faithful reader. Or addict, if you must know.

But the roll hit a rock and I waited for the fourth installment. All of us did, thousands upon thousands of fans, waiting for our Martin fix. We waited for five years when, in 2005, A Feast for Crows (AFFC) was published. In a different format, and with cliffhangers galore.

In the three previous books, each chapter was named for a character and it followed that character’s thread. "Cersai,” for example, followed the goings-on of the evil Queen, while the next chapter, “Arya,” concerned the exploits of a desperate ten-year-old girl. In AFFC, however, only half of the major characters were included; the other half has not been “heard from” since 2000—including the best character of all (in my opinion), Tyrion.

Martin has every right to write what he wants and in whatever format he chooses. In addition, through excerpts on his website, the next book, A Dance with Dragons (ADWD), will be the stories of the missing half. Hopefully, and with speculation on my part, they will all come together again in books six and seven (both of which have names).

The problem is, it is May 2009, and no ADWD. The release date has been changed two or three times on Amazon, with the current date set for the end of September. Porcupine poop: don’t believe it. Martin promises on his site that he will announce ADWD the minute it’s completed—a promise that is dated January 1, 2008.

Does GRRM owe us? I say yes. I have a lot of time invested in an imaginary world I care about, not to mention flipping pages of appendices to keep the characters, their alliances, and their sigils (crests) straight in my crooked mind. At the very least, I believe Martin should be upfront and tell us he’s burned out if he’s burned out. Don’t just leave the thousands of worldwide fans hanging, the fans that have fattened his purse with gold coin.

* * * * *

Boy, I do carry on sometimes, don't I. But I'm an emotional guy, and you can see the cloud of powder from my powdered wig fill the air when I'm all worked up.

For those of you who say you don't read fantasy and could care less about my excellent rant, think again. How many of you have read Rowling's Harry Potter series, and how would you feel if she'd strung you along for ten years and counting to finish her seven volumes? Yes, I thought so.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Born to Be Clumsy

This is a golden oldie post from the 2006 vault, and I've decided to run it again because the comments were hilarious. Believe it or not, Mr. Ripley, but my beloved is not the only clumsy oaf in the world.

* * * * *

Martha is a tripper. She does not fall on her prat, dive on her face, nor spread on her eagle. Rather, if there is anything whatsoever to trip over, she will trip over it. Furthermore, if there is absolutely nothing to trip over, she will indeed trip over nothing as well.

But my dearest is not only a tripper. She is a toe stubber, an elbow whacker, a noggin knocker, and a fingernail breaker. Her knees are a mess, and her forehead is prone to raising eggs. Martha is not only a tripper and a stumbler, you see; she also walks into walls, doors, furniture, and parked cars.

My beloved, I am sorry to say, is a clumsy oaf.

She also has a potty mouth, spewing forth such invectives as “Shit, that hurt!” or “Really shit, that really hurt!” whenever she is clumsy.

My beloved is also a blaming oaf. Upon stumbling over nothing on the sidewalk, she screams at the non-offender, “THAT DEAD LEAF TRIPPED ME!” No amount of personal inattention is ever her fault.

Caring and compassionate husband that I am, I sympathize with her COD (Clumsy Oaf Disorder). If I have said it once, I have said it 463,728 times:

“What in the HELL is the matter with you? Can’t you watch where you’re going?”

Lest you think that I am picking on my precious Precious Moment, Martha’s entire family is COD (pronounced cod, like the piece). Her parents, her sisters and brother, even the offspring—every single one of them is chronically COD.

Here is a good example. Last summer, while sitting on the patio at my sister-in-law’s house, there was a garden hose lying between the patio table and the back door. During the course of the afternoon, Martha and her sister traveled between the patio and the door several dozen times—one for soda or tea, the other for the bathroom, and then vice versa. Here, for your convenience, is a partial transcript from the audiotape:

[My voice on the tape]
“Honey, don’t you think it would be easier to move the hose out of the path?”
[Her voice on the tape]
‘Why? It’s not in the way of anything.”

You know, I have been giving this whole COD thing a lot of thought. Since it appears to be multi-generational with no generation skipping and a 100% affliction rate, I am certain it is a genetic anomaly instead of a case of mass carelessness.

So Monday morning, bright and early, I will be submitting my paperwork to the National Institutes of Health for a grant of forty-eight billion dollars to study the matter. As soon as the check comes in, lettuce say on Thursday or Friday, I’ll let you know my findings. From our new island in the South Seas, that is, where my little island pineapple will be tripping happily and carefreely over seashells, banana fronds, and absolutely nothing at all.

* * * * *

So, dear reader, have you ever been clumsy?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Charlie Lightens Up

My last post, Death Becomes Me, was a bummer, man. Necessary, I felt, but a large bummer. So, to lighten and brighten things up around here, I'm going to tell you all about my funeral plans. Isn't that great?

First of all, there isn't going to be one. There is no way in hell (oops) I'm going to play the funeral home scam. Like caskets (the PC name for coffins) that are guaranteed to not leak for twenty-five years. Give me a fucking break. Try to imagine Martha, in her seventies or eighties, forgoing bingo night to rent a backhoe, digging me up, and checking me out for leakage. Hell (oops), I leak now, so the whole exercise would be moot anyway.

Unless, that is, she's hard up for bingo money.

No, I'm opting for the cremation option. No suit and tie (neither of which I own anyway), no lipstick and mascara, and since I live in the Sonoran desert, I can take the heat.

What I would like, though, is an open-urn wake. You know, so all of my friend or two can get a last gander at me.


"Why, he's the spitting image of himself! They did a lovely job."

"Hey lady, that's not an ashtray--well, actually it is an ashtray--but don't you be flickin' your ashes in it."

"I could swear that urn is leaking."

On second or third thought, maybe there should just be a cake. Yeah, a remembrance cake, that should do it . . .

Friday, May 01, 2009

Death Becomes Me

I call them “911 moments”: those times when I feel certain I’ll stop breathing if Martha doesn’t call the paramedics with their ventilator machine. Luckily, those moments are very rare, except that I’ve had two of them in the past two weeks—the most recent being night before last. Thanks to Martha’s quick reactions, my breathing stabilized with increased oxygen, a drug I inhale with a machine called a nebulizer, and a large dose of Advil—the strongest painkiller I can take.

Technically, my heart should have stopped—and it probably would have if I were 72 or 82 or 92. But I’m just a youngster going on 62 and, so far, my heart has been strong enough to handle the stress put on it. It’s definitely taking a beating, though, and I don’t know how many more “911 moments” it can take. No one does.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I am in the end stages of emphysema—an incurable, irreversible lung disease caused by smoking and with only one outcome: death. Or, as Stella in Dublin put it so lyrically, “As my sail nears the wind . . .”

The wind is picking up because I can feel it in my chest, my dying lungs pushing painfully against my ribs as they take in oxygen but are unable to rid themselves of carbon dioxide, sometimes three exhalations for every one inhalation, and all of it so physically exhausting that I could sleep for a day, a month, a forever . . .

. . . And that’s what scares me, the forever. I am neither a philosopher nor a theologian, but that’s okay: there are no human answers to the after-death after-life. The preachers know plenty about hellfire and damnation, like the sadistic priests and brainwashed nuns who began brainwashing me when I was a baby in kindergarten. All of those “sins,” those lurid images, those horrible mind-pictures in Dante’s Inferno—try as I might I cannot put all of that behind me because it might all be true . . .

But until my time comes, I’ll continue to carry on with my life like any other abnormal human being; not to do so would be a waste of the time I have left. I’ll continue to button my oxygen cord inside my shirt, brush my tooth, eat my balanced diet of Count Chocula, and read just as many books as I can. I’ll continue to blog and hobnob on LibraryThing because I still care about people, especially those who hurt . . .

And when it’s over, I just want . . . to go home.

The words to "Going Home" if you haven't time for the video or you want to follow along with Chloe:

Going home, going home
I'm just going home
Quiet light, some still day
I'm just going home

It's not far, just close by
Through an open door
Work all done, care laid by
Going to fear no more

Mother's there expecting me
Father's waiting, too
Lots of folk gathered there
All the friends I knew

All the friends I knew

I'm going home

Nothing's lost, all's gain
No more fret nor pain
No more stumbling on the way
No more longing for the day
Going to roam no more

Morning star lights the way
Restless dream all done
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life just begun

There's no break, there's no end
Just a living on
Wide awake with a smile
Going on and on

Going home, going home
I'm just going home
It's not far, just close by
Through an open door

I am going home