Sunday, September 29, 2019

Facts matter, even in, shocker, nonfiction

This is why I write fiction. It's like a jazz jam session. Just write and ramble and tell a story and let it rock n roll. Nobody comes back and says: "Bags Morton didn't really get his ear shot off in a McDonald's drive-thru!"

Yes, he did. In my (does best SpongeBob impersonation) imagggginaaaaation.

An example of nonfiction "truth":
In his new book, “Talking to Strangers,” Malcolm Gladwell writes that poets have “far and away the highest suicide rates,” as much as five times the rate for the general population. The statistic struck Andrew Ferguson, a writer for The Atlantic, as odd, so he tracked down its source: a paper that cited a 1993 book by Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychologist who based the finding on suicides among 36 “major British and Irish poets born between 1705 and 1805.” Somehow, a narrow analysis of a few dozen 18th- and 19th-century poets was mistakenly applied to all poets, then amplified in a best-selling book.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

What stage of inebriation are you tonight?

So I was reading this article about the death of Alexander the Great and got a chuckle out of this:

The Macedonians and their monarchs had a proud tradition of heavy alcohol consumption. It was not at all uncommon for a session to end with drinkers passing out. In a play performed in Athens earlier in the 4th century, Dionysus, the god of wine, sets out the stages of inebriation:
For sensible men I prepare only three craters: one for health (which they drink first), the second for love and pleasure, and the third for sleep. After the third mixing bowl is drained, sensible men go home. The fourth crater is nothing to do with me—it belongs to bad behavior; the fifth is for shouting; the sixth is for rudeness and insults; the seventh is for fights; the eighth is for breaking the furniture; the ninth is for depression; the tenth is for madness and unconsciousness.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Georgia on my mind

I recently made my first visit to Savannah, GA, and was awfully impressed. I'd definitely go back and bring the wife next time.

I was there for a long weekend withmy son who is working for a few months a couple hours away. We were going to meet in Atlanta but he said airline tickets were cheaper to Savannah and he knew I wanted to visit there. Besides, it's only 30 minutes to the ocean.

The main reason it was on my bucket list was because Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil is one of my all-time favorite books. Considering it spent four years on the NY Times best-seller list, I"m probably not the only who thinks so.

So we did the St. Bonaventure Cemetery thing (read the book) on a foggy, rainy morning, which was cool. Of course the big attraction in Savannah, as far as the book is concerned, is the Bird Girl statue. There's a picture of it on the cover of the book. It was in the cemetery, but it attracted so many visitors that they moved it to a museum. It's also a good way to monetize it. That, in fact, is why I ended up not seeing it.

For starters, I'm not a big museum guy. Paintings, yes. Artifacts, maps, old tools, clay pots, fossils, whatever, not so much. So as we approached the museum, I had it in my head that if it wasn't free I'd spend five bucks to see the statue. The optimist in me hoped it might be one of those voluntary-donation places. But, alas, twas not. It was 20 bucks a head. And I had my kid's head with me. All I really wanted was a picture next to the statue. While I'm no cheap-skate, 40 bucks seemed a bit much so we turned around and checked out the Rembrandt and Michelangelo statues outside the museum for free.

They also have these park-like town squares all over (22 of them). Really nice sculptures and fountains with huge trees and lots of flowers. Every couple blocks there's one. In between are shops and restaurants and bars.

They also have those along the river walk, a cobble-stoned historic area I'm guessing 10-12 blocks long. It's along the Savannah River, a big shipping lane to the Atlantic. There are street performers, bands, and I even rode a mechanical bull. Fun area. Lots of tourists.

One thing I noticed and pointed out to Junior was: "Either they have a lot of pretty women in Savannah or a lot of pretty women visit Savannah."

A while later after noticing a man walking a Mastiff dog, another a Great Dane, and a couple other giant bulldogs outside a shop, he laughed when I said: "Either they have a lot of big dogs in Savannah or a lot of big dogs visit Savannah." He's an easy audience.

I was really impressed with the food options. Every place we ate at there seemed to be another five dishes I wanted to try.

The people were great. There's history everywhere (even though that's not so much my thang).

Most people I visited with didn't know where South Dakota was. When I told them I lived twenty miles from Mount Rushmore, they seemed to get it more. One guy even asked me if there was anything to see out here besides Mount Rushmore. I told him some stuff and he made notes and is coming next summer. Another asked if we had any wildlife. I said, just my wife.

All in all, Junior and I had a great time. One of the favorite places I've visited. (And I'm having trouble downloading the photos off my phone, so you're just going to have to go see the place in person. Trust me.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Why Baseball Still Matters: My September 11 Story (not mine, his)

Here's an excerpt from a column written by a guy known as "Baseball Crank" after the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. His office was there. I'm doing a terrible job of paraphrasing it, so just read the danged thing.

It starts with: "On Tuesday they tried to kill me"

Then he reflects on the importance of the cops and firemen and seeming pettiness of things like baseball in comparison:

There's a scene that comes to mind, and I'm placing it in the Lord of the Rings because that's where I remember it, but feel free to let me know if I've mangled it or made it up. Frodo the hobbit has lived all his life in the Shire, where the world of hobbits (short, human-like creatures) revolves around hospitality and particular etiquette and family snobbery and all the silliest little things, silly at least in comparison to the great and dangerous adventure he finds himself embarked on. Aragorn, one of the Men, has been patrolling the area around the Shire for years, warding off invading creatures of all varieties of evil. Frodo asks Aragorn, eventually, whether he isn't frustrated with and contemptuous of hobbits and the small, simple concerns that dominate their existence, when such dangers are all at hand. Aragorn responds that, to the contrary, it is the simpleness and even the pettiness of the hobbits that makes the task worthwhile, because it's proof that he has done his job - kept them so safe and insulated from the horrors all around them that they see no irony, no embarrassment in concerning themselves with such trivial things in such a hazardous world. It has often struck me that you could ask no better description of the role of law enforcement and the military, keeping us so safe that we may while our days on the ups and downs of made-up games.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A couple things that caught my eye last week ...

*** For all those disaffected journalists laid off by their corporations, consider buying a weekly newspaper. Seriously. It's a good way to write, report what you want, and make some bank. Been there, done that, loved it. In a buyer's market for weeklies, where are the buyers?
You might have chuckled at the “buyer’s market” line, since all the bad news about metropolitan newspapers may lead you to think that a newspaper is no longer a good investment. That’s not true of most community newspapers, because they are the sole, reliable source of news about their communities, and most of them “are doing fine financially,” says Kevin Slimp, the leading consultant to community papers.
*** This is an exhaustingly long piece by Andrew Sullivan, but very interesting and insightful.

*** Wifey and I just finished Season 2 of "GLOW" on Netflix. It just keeps getting better.

So the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW), since they’re on a local cable show, are required by contract to produce a Public Service Announcement to play during their show. I thought this one was hilarious.

“Don’t Kidnap” 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Always good to have a good joke on hand ...

A guy goes into the emergency room in incredible pain. Doctors examine him and determine he has something lodged in his rectum.

They get to digging and pull out a plastic horse. In fact they end up pulling out four more plastic horses. 

The doctors list his condition as stable.


Been making a concerted effort to plant flowers, preferably native, to attract bees to the garden. Seems to bee working.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

I don't want to be between those sheets

In 1978 Ian McEwan wrote a book of short stories called "In Between the Sheets," which he considered experimenting in various forms and to "find his voice as a writer."

Two decades later, McEwan went on to write two of my favorite books: "Atonement" and "Amsterdam."

It's a good thing I read his novels first, because if I'd read those short stories first I never would've touched them. I appreciate a guy experimenting, and it apparently worked, but man was that some awful stuff i just finished.

It seems McEwan had a bit of an Edgar Allen Poe phase and dipped into the gothic and sexual, but man was it nuts. Some of the stories were almost unreadable gibberish. It's like he had some notes for a story, but no beginning and no ending, and thought "hey, I'll throw them in this book of short stories."

The ones that were readable were weird. There was the two-timing pornographer whose girlfriends decided to castrate him. There's a possible relationship between a female writer and her ape. And there's a father who is suspicious of his teenage daughter's relationship with her older midget girlfriend.

The only one that was slightly entertaining, in an E.A. Poe way, was "Dead As They Come." It "tells of a wealthy businessman's bizarre obsession with a fashion mannequin, which he purchases and takes home with him."

Spoiler alert: He goes crazy(er) when she refuses to talk to him and he "kills" her.

I'm glad McEwan improved as a writer and is now considered one of the best British writers of all time. Maybe the experimentation in the short stories helped. So at least it wasn't a wasted effort.

I like short stories and always have a couple books of them on hand for when I have only 15 minutes to kill, not enough time to sink into a novel, but enough time for a quick escape. Mark Twain's are the best. I bought a recent one by Craig Johnson with Longmire shorties. Haven't tried that yet. Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges has another one that I've really enjoyed.

And it dawns on me, if you happen to be into weird short stories (not McEwan weird), you might like some of those listed on this homepage. I wish I could say I've progressed as much as a writer as he has.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

How do you insult a Norwegian?

Recently a CNN talking head got his undies in a bundle because some guy called him "Fredo", which is apparently a bad thing to call someone of Italian heritage, as in the dim-witted brother of the Corleone family.

It would never occur to me to call someone Fredo, much less occur to me that it was something bad. But, hey, I'm not exactly on the cutting edge of insults nowadays.

I know the big slur words not to say, which since I never used them (N, C, F, words) isn't really much of a lifestyle change. But occasionally there are words that I might use and not realize they are bad. But good luck explaining that to someone offended by the word in these days of instant and easy offense. I once wrote a column and referred to some Canadian as a Canuck. I then received a letter to the editor from a truck driver from Canada who said that was offensive. I didn't know that, and still am not sure of that. Not enough anyway than I refrain from using the word, as if I actually ever have reason to use it much anyway.

But this Fredo thing, which the dude said is the equivalent of the N-word to Italian-Americans (I doubt it), got me thinking. What would be the equivalent of the Fredo word or N word to Norwegians?

Seriously, what could you call a Norwegian-American that referenced his past that would even get him to raise an eyebrow? Lefse licker? Lutefisk breath?

I'm fifth generation South Dakotan. And I'm 100-percent Norwegian heritage. Both sides of my family tree are littered with Oles, Olafs and Olavs. I don't know what you could call me, referencing my heritage, that would offend me.

Seriously, Norwegians write joke books about Norwegians and sell them to non-Norwegians. We tell Ole and Lena jokes that imply we are stupid. I suppose the groups most offended would say we aren't offended because we haven't been a marginalized group. We haven't been enslaved or discriminated against like many minorities. Fair enough.

The point I'm making out of this, though, is that regardless of the wrongs done to you or your ancestors, maybe if everybody wasn't so easily insulted people would be less likely to insult you.

Because what's the point of insults? Why does anyone call anyone else a name? It's to put them down, lessen them, make them feel inferior. But if it doesn't work, doesn't get a rise out of you, doesn't make you feel inferior, what's the point of doing it? I'm not saying it would happen over night, but when an idiot discovers that what they are saying doesn't affect you, he'll probably give up eventually. If enough idiots give up, imagine the world we might live in.

In my job, I get yelled at weekly on the phone from out-of-staters. Called every name in the book. I laugh at them, joke with them, and so on. Mostly I try to remain calm, and that infuriates them more. If I took personally what everyone said, I'd be a total basket case and probably be taking it out on those around me too. It's definitely easier said than done, and I can't honestly say nobody's never gotten under my skin. Fortunately, few know what buttons to push. But, then again, I'm a stoic, unemotional, dumb Norwegian. If you don't have that going for you, it might be more difficult. Give it a try. Might work.

In the meantime, have you heard the one about Ole and Lena driving to Minneapolis?

At Luverne, Ole put his hand on Lena's knee. She smiled.

At Mankato, he slid his hand up a couple more inches. Lena smiled more.

At Minneapolis, Ole moved his hand onto her thigh.

Lena said: "Ole, you can go further if you want."

So he drove to Duluth.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Read 'The Chain' and you'll never leave your kids alone again

I was looking forward to reading "The Chain" by Adrian McKinty, as the plot I'd read about seemed very clever. For once, the book lived up to its hype. It was unsettling and left me thinking about it when not reading. That's usually a good sign. Koontz does that to me sometimes.

Goodreads sums it up well:
You just dropped off your child at the bus stop. A panicked stranger calls your phone. Your child has been kidnapped, and the stranger explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger. The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child within 24 hours. Your child will be released only when the next victim's parents kidnap yet another child, and most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don't kidnap a child, or if the next parents don't kidnap a child, your child will be murdered. You are now part of The Chain.
Author Don Winslow calls it: "Jaws for parents."

This was one of the most suspenseful books I've ever read. Wasn't gory, sexual or anything over the top. I guess you'd consider it a psychological thriller, as the parents of the kidnapped children become the monsters they hate and weigh moral choices throughout.

You get hooked from the start. A couple twists shocked me. The final twist I didn't see coming.

The author shows a little humor too, as he quotes a character: “A man once told me that all books should end at chapter seventy-seven.”

This, of course, makes you turn to the end of the book to see how many chapters are in it.

Another says: “If I don’t make it, don’t let them cast some asshole to play me in the movie version of this.” And, of course, the movie rights to this book have already been sold to Paramount for 7 figures. That makes for a good rags to riches story for McKinty.

Amazonians give it a 4.2 out of 5, that jives with an 8 out of 10 on the Haugenometer. Goodreaders gave it 3.95 out of 5.

Definitely one of the better books I've read in a long time.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Shooter and his band hit the mark

Wifey and I attended the Shooter Jennings concert last night at the Iron Horse Saloon in Sturgis. It was stellar.

I was a frequent listener of Shooter's Sirius/XM radio show, but kind of lost sight of him after I cancelled the service. Then I got back on the Shooter bandwagon when he appeared in an episode of The Punisher. His song "Fourth of July" even joined my lunchtime karaoke session, witnessed only by my dogs, and I heard no complaints from them.

The concert was impressive. Shooter's music repertoire is vast. It ranges from classic country ballards to outlaw country to rock. The segues were seamless. His banter with the audience was limited as he put all his effort into the keyboards and various guitars.

It's well known that Shooter doesn't like Nashville (much like his father, Waylon) and they apparently don't care for him either. That's unfortunate from the aspect of not having a more mainstream listenership, because he has more talent in his pinkie finger than all the bro-country Justin and Jasons put together. Shooter isn't riding his father's coattails. He's legit talent, great singer and outstanding musician.

I  always respect artists who can sing AND play an instrument besides the tambourine. I also can play an instrument and sing, but there's never been a big calling for singing tuba players. I prefer to think Nashville hates me too.

We started out the concert just above him on the rail of the second floor, but moved down to the mosh pit midway through. The highlight of the evening for me was when I belted out a duet with Shooter - killing "Fourth of July." I consider it a duet, because I was six feet away from him on the floor. He probably wasn't as enamored with his partner's talent as I was.

If you listen to just one shooter song make it that one. Here's a link, with a cameo from George Jones at the end.

Here are the lyrics so you can sing along:

Alone with the morning burning red
On the canvas in my head, painting a picture of you
And me driving across country, in a dusty old RV
Just the road and its majesty
And I'm looking at you with the world in the rear view
You were pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat
Looking at me, telling me you love me
And your happy to be with me on the 4th of July
We sang 'Stranglehold' to the stereo
Couldn't take no more of that rock 'n' roll
So we put on a little George Jones and just sang along
Those white lines get drawn into the sun
If you ain't got no one to keep you hanging on
And there you were like a queen in your nightgown
Riding shotgun from town to town
Staking a claim on the world we found
And I'm singing to you, you're singing to me
You were out of the blue to a boy like me
You were pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat
Looking at me, telling me you love me
And your happy to be with me on the 4th of July
We sang 'Stranglehold' to the stereo
Couldn't take no more of that rock 'n' roll
So we put on a little George Jones and just sang along, sang along
And I'm looking for you in the silence that we share
You were pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat
Looking at me, telling me you love me
And your happy to be with me on the 4th of July
We sang 'Stranglehold' to the stereo
Couldn't take no more of that rock 'n' roll
So we put on a little George Jones and just sang along, sang along

Monday, July 22, 2019

Catching up on the books

Getting around to a couple past-due quick book reviews.

Most recently finished John Sandford's "Escape Clause." It was standard Sandford stuff, meaning clever, funny, a little sexy and with a good twist at the end (which I humbly admit to predicting).

It's the ninth book in the Virgil Flowers series. Two rare tigers are stolen from the Minnesota zoo and Flowers delves into the underground market for exotic animal parts.

A couple quotes jumped out at me:

"She scuttled off down the sidewalk to a blue Prius and stared at him through the windshield with the electric ferocity only a Prius owner could summon."

And this quote from Davenport to Virgil; "She was goofier than a Packers fan who's lost his cheese."

Goodreaders give it a 4.2 of 5. I'm a little lower with a 6+ out of 10.

Previously I knocked off a couple from the usual suspects, Stephen Hunter and Craig Johnson.

Hunter's "Master Sniper" was another hard-core gun book.I'm not hard-core, but enjoy his stories. I gave it a 6.

Johnson's "Another Man's Moccasins" is from his Longmire series. I gave it a 6+.

One I've been fiddling with in between is a book of short stories by Ian McEwan titled "In Between the Sheets." I shouldn't have been surprised by the contents of the book given the title, but I was. It's pretty much erotica. It surprised me because McEwan has written a couple of my favorite novels, "Atonement" and "Amsterdam." Both were pretty serious. The short stories so far have been weird, somewhat pervy, but I'll probably keep chugging along because he's such a good writer.

The next novel I'm starting tonight is one I've really been looking forward to: "The Chain" by Adrian McKinty. Let's hope it lives up to my expectations. I need a knockout.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Conversations ...

Book cover designer: "Clip art of bear skin rugs is impossible to find."

Me: "Maybe it'd be easier to find someone with a bear skin rug and ask them to take a picture."

BCD: "Sure. Whatever."

Me (calling old college roommate): "Mac, you still have that bear skin rug we had in the dorm

Mac: "Yep."

Me: "Can you take some pictures of it and email them to me?"

Mac: "Sure. Can I ask why?"

Me: "It's best you don't."

(receive photos next morning and forward them to BCD)
BCD: "Of course you'd have a roommate with a bear skin rug."

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Notes, quotes & antecdotes

Light blogging is usually a good sign, because it usually means I'm making progress on a book. That's been the case lately. I actually have two novellas taking up storage space on the puter, the third Bags Morton and stand alone called "Pet Teachers."

The most recent one which is just waiting for my cover designer to finish is "Mustang Lang." My publishing timelines are generally pretty loose as I depend on volunteer labor. I pay in garden produce, so the editors and designers pretty much slack off until mid-July. As soon as the zucchinis start popping you might see Mustang Lang make his debut. It's a pretty enjoyable read if you ask me.

One of my editors, with me since the "Joshua's Ladder" debut, told me last year that she wanted a character named after her sometime. So I did in "Mustang Lang." Thought she'd be happy, but it wasn't the first time I misjudged a woman's response.

In the midst of proofreading it, she sent me an email saying: "Gad dummit, Haugen. You made me a hooker!" But she didn't say "gad dummit." I told her, "but she's a really hot hooker."

Didn't help.

*** How about those Twins?! Is it just me, or when they zoom in on Byron Buxton's face, doesn't he resemble Prince? Darn right, he does.

*** Speaking of Prince, our friends from Finland are visiting us in a couple weeks. He is the biggest Prince fan I know, probably one of the biggest in the world. It's like borderline mentally ill, but there could be worse things to obsess about.

*** In defense of owning too many books.

*** My favorite modern theologian is Philadelphia archbishop Charles J. Chaput. Here's his recent column: Building A Culture of Religious Freedom
Secular politics and ideologies have murdered and oppressed more people in the last 100 years—often in the name of “science”—than all religions together have managed to mistreat in the last millennium. 
*** Great story on one of the Last of the Mohicans (newspaper editors)
“She lived in Kansas City, and she lived to be 97. When she found out that I was working for a newspaper, she said, ‘I’m so glad. Newspapers kept going right through the Depression.’ No matter how poor her family was, they always took the Kansas City Times and the afternoon paper, the Kansas City Star. They couldn’t do without them. So, I’m hanging in there with my late grandmother.”
*** I used to be an Alex Rodriguez hater, much like I disliked Jose Canseco. One grew up, one did not. This is a very interesting story on A-Rod the business mogul and baseball ambassador.
Of Rodriguez’s troubles, Buffett says, “I’ve always said generally, you should behave better in the second half of your life than you do in the first half of your life. You learn more about people as you go through life. You really learn more about yourself. I think that’s been the case with Alex. You and I would not like to be judged by the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
*** Care about the planet? Don't ban fracking.

*** Inside one of the most spectacular and dangerous banks heists in U.S. History

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The true story of the pickled foot

Finally, a news story I have some personal experience with: Will hospitals give back an amputated limb if you ask for it?

The article is about a year and a half old, but it somehow showed up on a website I was recently reading. The short answer is: Yes, they will.

How do I know this? Because I was, back in the day, an occasional customer of the prestigious Up Your Glass bar in Corson, S.D. The name of the bar was reflected in the elite crowd who frequented it. It was on my way home from work, had cheap, cold beer and a pretty barmaid, which combined to meet my qualifications for a 5-star joint.

Keep in mind, by "back in the day" I refer to that brief decade or so when I was walking on the wilder side. Now, 22 years without a cold beer, rehashing these stories seems like a lifetime ago and with a different person. But, what the hey, it's a great story.

If you've read the novel, Bags of Rock, you will recall that it begins with a glimpse of this story, as several of my recollections during that time in my life appear in various publications.

So the nut of it is this:

A motorcycling enthusiast, named Snake, owned the bar. He had a long black beard and diabetes. He laid his Harley down on the road one day and ended up having his foot amputated. He did what any of us would do and asked for it back.

I didn't know that (it's not like were BFFs or anything) until I wandered in one Happy Hour and saw a foot inside a pickled egg jar on the shelf behind the bar next to the rumple minze schnapps (of which I have on good authority if you bought the barmaid a shot she'd show you her nipple ring). I asked the barmaid and frequent companion of Snake's if that were indeed a real foot.

She said it was and let me look at the jar close-up. I verified that it was indeed a real foot. And when Snake limped past me on crutches, it added further authenticity to the story.

As the weeks went by and I stopped in on Friday at 5, the foot gradually began to deteriorate. I think they pickled it with vinegar and not with the more effective, but harder to obtain, formaldehyde. So, pro tip, if you're going to pickle your foot, don't do it on the cheap. Because the water had become cloudy. Skin began peeling. The toenails began curling. And the top of the swelling foot that had been sutured began oozing. It was indeed a conversation piece. And not a pretty one.

A couple weeks after it had become a public safety issue, perhaps reaching biohazard status, the jar and the foot disappeared. Just gone. As any enterprising journalist would do, I asked the barmaid: What happened to Snake's foot?

And now is when the story gets gross. Now, you say? Yes, now.

It seems there's a little rougher clientele at 2 a.m. than there was at 5 p.m. when I would stop in. And one of those clientele, a fellow motorcycling enthusiast of Snake's, accepted a challenge. A bet. A double-dog dare. And for 20 bucks, one Andrew Jackson, he said he would take a sip from the pickled foot jar.

As it was replayed to me, the jar was placed on the bar, and the lid unscrewed. The member of the motorcycle gang I won't mention so as to avoid retribution, lifted the jar to his hairy lips. Apparently, the odor was jut too much, and he ... puked all over into the jar. The smell did him in. We're talking one of the baddest, toughest dudes in South Dakota. And it was too much for him.

It was also too much for the bar. Because it's one thing to have a rotting pickled foot in a jar on your shelf, but it's another to have a rotting pickled foot with vomit in a jar on your shelf. It just loses it's allure.

Just goes to show, everybody has their line they won't cross. Sometimes it just takes a while to get there.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Finished: Koontz's 'Forbidden Door'

I've read more Dean Koontz books than from any other author. He's brilliant.

But ...

As for his latest I read in the Jane Hawk series, The Forbidden Door, enough already.

Book 1 was very good. I liked where things were going. Book 2 was promising. Book 3 was bearable. This book, the fourth, was unbearable. This series needs to end.

Supposedly it's a six book series. I'll probably buy the next two, but not sure when I'll read them. I'm invested. Can't quit now.

Basically, throughout these books, it's the same thing. Jane Hawk, former FBI agent, chases bad guys who she blames for her husband's suicide. Then people who work for these bad guys chase her. If they can't find her, they try to find friends and family of hers to kill. Her young son is their favored target.

Jane is very concerned, very worried, always. She chases, kills, gets chased, rescues her son, who she's always leaving behind with other people. Rinse, repeat.

End of this book, she's rescued her son before the bad guys get him. Then she leaves him again. She still hasn't caught the people responsible for her husband's death. It's four books in and she's accomplished nothing!

I wish he'd wrapped things up in three books. That would've freed him up to write some more great stand-alone novels or more Odd Thomas novels.

But, I guess he knows what he's doing. Doesn't mean I have to like it. A 5 of 10 on the Haugenometer. Remarkably to me it has a 4.6 of 5 by the Amazonians, but many of the reviews are scathing. I feel their pain.

Friday, May 17, 2019

One eye is enough

Fit an autobiography into the rotation - Moshe Dayan: Story of My Life. I'm guessing most autobiographies by nature are the "story of my life" but let's not quibble with the book titles of one-eyed war heroes.

Dayan began life as a farmer and ended life as a farmer. He fit a lot of excitement in between:commander of the Jerusalem front in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces during the Suez Crisis, Defense Minster during the Six-Day War, close friend of David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres and more.

I've always taken great interest in the history of Israel as a country, particularly its battles, wars, espionage, rescues and general Mossad bad-assery. My brother-in-law is a former Army Ranger who trained with Israeli soldiers and he said they were indeed a cut above. I can't tell you how he actually referred to them because this is a family-friendly blog, damn it.

Dayan either kept journals or had a remarkable memory in recalling events. It would have been beneficial to me, or any reader, to be more familiar with Israeli and Middle East geography as his descriptions often got in the weeds. Maps in the book helped a little, but, really, what guy reads maps?

One thing I noticed is that contrary to his Wikipedia entry, Dayan skipped over the parts about marriage infidelity and family issues. I suppose there might be a thing or two or three-hundred I would leave out of my autobiography, but there was nary the mention of anything negative about him in the book. Nobody would believe me if I wrote an autobiography and skipped over all the bad parts.

Such as:
Another son, novelist Ehud Dayan, who was cut out of his father's will, wrote a book critical of his father months after he died, mocking his military, writing, and political skills, calling him a philanderer, and accusing him of greed. In his book, Ehud accused his father even of making money from his battle with cancer. He also lamented having recited Kaddish for his father "three times too often for a man who never observed half the Ten Commandments".
Thanks, son.

Still, it was a good read. Interesting. Dayan was a very confident fella, which I suppose is what you want in a defense minister and military leader when you are being threatened by all your neighbors.

He had one of my favorite quotes too, might even make it the subhead of this blog. After losing his eye to a sniper attack, he said: "Boys, for all that's worth seeing in this wretched world, one eye is enough."

Ariel Sharon once said about Dayan:
"He would wake up with a hundred ideas. Of them ninety-five were dangerous; three more had to be rejected; the remaining two, however, were brilliant."
Then again, maybe that should be the subhead of this blog.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Halestorm hits, other bands all wet

One thing I miss, at least in the newspapers I read, is concert reviews.

I remember back in the day the Sioux Falls Argus Leader had Ann Grauvogl. She attended and reviewed concerts and plays and really got people worked up with her opinions. She was followed by Bob Keyes. He tilted more toward the rock and roll side and did a great job.

Their reviews gave their opinion, but also the set list, the attendance, what the audience reaction was. I don't know that the Argus does that anymore. I know the Rapid City Journal doesn't. If I can't make a concert, I like to know stuff like that. Was it worth the money? I wish they'd bring those back.

I'm not good at reviews, even books. Though I have an opinion on what I like, I have a hard time verbalizing why I liked something.

Still, I wanted to tell you about the Halestorm concert wifey and I went to Tuesday night at the Civic Center in Rapid City.

The opening band was Beasto Blanco. It's fronted by Chuck Garric and Calico Cooper. He is the longtime bass player for Alice Cooper and she is the daughter of Mr. Cooper. They were what you'd expect from anyone with the Cooper pedigree. Head banging and theatrics, like when Calico pulled the arm off a mannequin (which was on stage for some reason) and proceeded to twirl it around and do sexually suggestive things with it.

While not a big fan of growly head-banging myself, I actually preferred their set to the one that followed, Palaye Royale.

These 20-something-age guys are Canadian, so maybe enough said. They call themselves a "Fashion-Art Rock Band," whatever the heck that is. After watching their set it must mean: Let's jump up and down in skinny jeans and shout the F bomb as often as possible.

For a really funny/scathing review of these Canucks, check out this.
Musically, Palaye Royale are the audio equivalent of those ‘Normal People Scare Me’ t shirts you see so many of around Camden Market. It’s all bouncy, sassy instrumentation that lies somewhere in between early 00s emo power pop and High School Musical, with lyrics about being a kooky outsider, misunderstood by the world. Not a bad thing in its own right, but you have to question a band playing the sincere outcast card while they look like, sound like and sell themselves as the result of a marketing director staring at a mood board full of pictures of My Chemical Romance, Panic At The Disco, Twenty One Pilots and massive piles of money. In actual fact, though, the worst thing about their music is that it’s not even shit enough to be funny. It’s just so cynically put together that it bums me out.
So, finally, with the head-bangers and the nose-pickers out of the way, we got on to the main event, Halestorm, and they made suffering through the opening two acts worthwhile.

They push hard rock just up to the level where if it goes any farther I wouldn't like them. But they don't so I do. A lot. They aren't dark, death metal. You can understand their lyrics, some of them somewhat sexual, double entendre-ish. The way I like em.

Their lead singer is Elizabeth Hale and she just down-right rocks it. How she could speak the next day after the concert is beyond me. She follows in the path of Debbie Harry (Blondie), Joan Jett, Pat Benatar and Lita Ford as kick butt female rockers.

As we walked out of the event, two dudes in front of us referred to her as "a rock Goddess." And I'd agree. She's as talented of a guitar player as anyone who took the stage that night. She's beautiful and personable, had a good front-person's rapport with the crowd.

To me, Lizzy Hale is the type of person feminists should embrace. She's in a male-dominated field, is kicking butt (won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, the first time for a band fronted by a female) and seems to be enjoying her career.

Her brother, Arejay Hale, is the drummer, who opened the show with a bombastic solo effort.

They played all the songs I knew, like "Love Bites" and "Do Not Disturbed," but didn't play another one I like, "American Boys." Maybe that's not one of their hits, not sure.

Halestorm put on a professional, high-end show. The one thing that struck me is they left the stage somewhat early in one of those forced encore moments. And I'm not quite sure they're at that encore-band level yet. I was worried for them as the crowd's enthusiasm started to fizzle before they returned to the stage. I told wifey: "They better get back out here before people start leaving." They did and finished strong.

I enjoyed the concert. I'm guessing 1,500 people, but I'm not great at that. I was a little disappointed in the crowd size. Thought there should've been more.

The band was very good, but not great. I didn't walk out in awe or buzzing, like after some concerts. Well worth the $35 ticket though.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Are sports books still a thing?

When I was a kid I read every sports book that came out. I still have many of them.

I rarely read one now, I guess in part, because I don't find athletes as alluring as I once did. Plus, with the internet and social media, there's very little that isn't known about them. They aren't as mythical now.

But I put this book on my list: “K: A History of Baseball In Ten Pitches,” by Tyler Kepner, a New York Times sportswriter. The book was released on April 2.
 After two chaotic decades or so, the spitball was banned for 1920, the same year the country went dry under Prohibition. The rule simply turned the mound into a speakeasy, with many pitchers going undercover to get the same slippery edge as their predecessors.
Here's a partial list of some of the sports books taking up room on my shelves. I'd forgotten how big of deal some of these people were back in the day (1970-80s). See if you recognize any:

How Life Imitates the World Series - Thomas Boswell
The Herschel Walker Story
Mickey Mantle - All My Octobers
Who's on First?
Doc Ellis - In The Country of Baseball
Bob Knight: His Own Man
John Madden: One Knee Equals Two Feet
Vince Lombardi - Run To Daylight
Jim Brown
Super Joe: The Jon Namath Story
Brian Piccolo: A Short Season
Alex Karras - Even Big Guys Cry
John Wooden - They Call Me Coach
The Breaks of the Game
Pat Riley - Show Time
Wilt Chamberlain
Giant Steps - Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Steinbrenner - Dick Schaap
Yogi Berra - If There's a Fork in the Road, Take It
Ball Four - Jim Bouton
Jay Johnstone - Temporary Insanity
Bill "Spaceman" Lee - The Wrong Stuff
John Brodie - Open Field