Sunday, December 29, 2013

Preying on the weak-minded

One of my favorite daughters bought me a BAM gift card for Christmas. No, it's not a new gun club in town, it's Books-A-Million, which replaced Borders when it went south. So Saturday I purchased three books.

At home, I put the books in my library (storage room, spare bed room, greenhouse, with a piano to pile to things on). And, lo and behold, I discovered I already had one of the books. It was a John Sandford "Prey" book. I have about 30 of them and, if you aren't familiar with them, they all have "Prey" in the title: Easy Prey, Winter Prey, Night Prey, you get it. So it's understandable, right?

It's not like I bought another copy of Huckleberry Finn and then went: Dang, I already have this one. But if there were Raspberry Finn, Strawberry Finn, Elderberry Finn and 25 others, it could easily happen. Right?

The thing is, at the store, I allowed for the fact that there were only 3 or 4 Prey books I don't have and many more that I had read, so was very diligent in reading the dust jacket. Nope, nothing sounded familiar. I even read the first paragraph to see if that rang a bell. It didn't.

So I got home and there it was. Smack dab on the shelf in front of me. It's like renting movies you've already rented (back when people actually did that), and I've done that too.

Getting old sucks.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Last Link-Oh-Rama of 2013

Busy week, lots of driving, relativing, singing and celebrating, but very little blogger. I’m only human.

** South Dakota likes its cowboys: Tiny Oelrichs counts two world-class rodeo athletes as residents
“I think it really gives everybody down here a common cause to cheer for,” he said. “Everybody — whether you get along with your neighbor or you don’t get along with your neighbor — everybody is cheering for Chad and Lisa. It draws everybody together that way and is a common bond to be shared by all.”
** And rich people like South Dakota.

** Jill Callison at Argus Leader writes: Mom writes children's book on patience after unborn deaths

** Blue Cloud Abbey is resurrected in Aberdeen.
“Nobody goes out and buys an abbey. But we have six couples who just felt this is something we’re being called to do,” Heller said. “We’re kind of waiting to see what this all becomes, where God’s taking us in all this. But who is 100 percent sure in where God’s taking us?”
** A ride to heal, remember 1862 hanging of 38 Dakota in Mankato. With photo gallery of the riders.

** Facebook is doing a faceplant in young users.

** Come on guys, like Ali-Frazier and Leonard-Hagler: Dare to be great. How about winner takes all?
2004. The last year a fighter other than Mayweather or Pacquiao was ranked No. 1 on The Ring's pound-for-pound list. That fighter was Bernard Hopkins.
** I don’t do the flu shot thing. Probably should, but I rely on my high-garlic, high-sardine diet to keep my healthy. Here’s a link though for how bad the flu is in your neighborhood.
“For the past few years, 40 to 45 percent [of Americans have gotten vaccinated]. … Our goal is 70 percent, and we’re not there yet.”
** 14 movies somebody can’t wait to see in 2014. None interest me, except maybe the Johnny Depp one.

** Do you know what Meatloaf won't do for love? My 22-year-old daughter surprised her elder workers with the correct answer.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Haugen, Texas Ranger - has a ring to it

In response to the Volvo commercial where Jean-Claude Van Damme does the splits between two trucks, they've come out with a Chuck Norris commercial to top it.

After viewing that, a friend sent me a meme (is that what they're called?), because she apparently saw the similarities even before I did. So I felt obligated to post it. Uncanny. It's like looking in the mirror.

I should mention that another young lady (blonde) in our email chain pointed out that, hey, like, ya know, that Chuck Norris video is just, like, a take-off of the Van Damme Volvo commercial.

I told her, I thought that was the point of the Norris follow-up; and that Van Damme stole the idea from me, when I did a similar stunt on two Ford Mustangs going down Highway 18 outside Canton in 1982. There's no video of it, but take my word for it. Like Chuck Norris, I rarely lie.

Friday, December 20, 2013

All I want for Christmas is Link-Oh-Rama

And to answer the idiotic burning question of "What color is Santa Claus?" I'm going with whatever color your daddy is. Seems simple enough. And, not to ruin it for anybody, but he's a fictional character! He can be anything you want.

And in more interesting news:

** Good luck, dude: From Jill Callison at the Argus Leader: Used bookstore doors closing as owner seeks cancer treatment
“In a retail store overall, about 10 percent of your items do 90 percent of your business,” Swalve says. “I have certain authors that do the biggest part of your business, (like) John Sandford. Danielle Steel used to be really good. Nora Roberts. James Patterson, who doesn’t write his own books. In Westerns, Louis L’Amour still sells.” 
** Interesting take on school shooters and the divorce connection.
As the nation seeks to make sense of these senseless shootings, we must also face the uncomfortable truth that turmoil at home all too often accounts for the turmoil we end up seeing spill onto our streets and schools.
** 5 Reasons Millennials Are Quitting Facebook

** In lieu of having any unique thoughts on the Controversy Oh The Day, my man Ace of Spades offers some thoughts.

** And where do you come down on this burning question: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

** Yes, I asked for it, but I'm sure it's too good to be true.

** I'm usually late to the popular party (though I was listening to the Baha Men long before "Who Let the Dogs Out"), I'm told the cool people now are listening to Less Than Jake. Here's their latest.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Learned a new term today: Montana tendergroins

I wonder if Ms. Hammond ever thought she'd write the following paragraph in the Rapid City Journal: An Oyster Feast with a Bullish Twist.
Just to clarify, although there are number of names of questionable taste for the unusual dish — cowboy caviar, calf fries, huevos de toros, Montana tendergroins and swinging steaks to name a few — they are the testicles of a bull calf. In this case, a bison bull calf.  
Any story with that paragraph is bound to be entertaining. It is. Except for the buffalo.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Finished: 'George Washington's Secret Six'

So I finished the novel, George Washington’s Secret Six (half price now!) by Brian Kilmeade. It was a quick, enjoyable read about a group of New York-area spies General Washington worked with.

A couple things jumped out at me about it. They used invisible ink. And not just any invisible ink, but a newly-formulated ink, because apparently everybody used invisible ink back then. I mixed some up myself, and lo and behold, it works! If you have the solution you can rub it on the  blank area of screen below and read my secret message:

If you didn't get it, your loss, because what I wrote is really profound and funny too.

The second thing that I thought of is that, you know what, not everybody in America agreed with each other back then either. You had your patriots and you had your loyalists to the King. People disagreed on what was best for the country. So apparently whether it was 1780s, 1860s, 1960s or today, Americans disagree and the country survived.

So this tripe of “Why can’t we all get along?’ is just utopian sloganeering that I find annoying and shallow. You can hope for it, wish for it, even work for it, but it ain’t gonna happen. Disagreement among Americans on issues is good. When we all start agreeing on everything, I’ll be worried. Like that will ever happen anyway.

Back to the book. Pretty good. You might learn something and be entertained. Glad I bought it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday's 12-days-to-Christmas Link-Oh-Rama

Welcome to this week's link-oh-rama, a day in history Saddam Hussein would just as soon forget, which, technically, I suppose he already has since he is worm food. But we shan't forget these notes of interest:

** Popular Mechanics is turning into one of my favorite websites. Here they have Valet Confessions: What They Really Think of Your Shiny Car.

** Megyn Kelly has taken cable news by storm. The Washington Post has an interesting profile on her.

** In case you missed it, my man Pope Francis was named Time magazine Person of the Year. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Miley Cyrus! Here's a great summary.

** This dude at the St. Paul paper offers: My semi-unorthodox tips for not getting cold in the cold. Where were you last week, buddy?
If you have nowhere to hike, move. But don’t just stomp around in a circle like a fool. Do jumping jacks, like a bigger fool. Or fling your arms alternately in big circles like Olympic swimmers before they take their marks.
Not only will these movements get your heart rate up (and boiler working), you’ll physically force blood to your fingers and, if you do jumping jacks, toes.
When camping in cold weather, this is my pre-bedtime routine.
** Vanity Fair tells us: How George W. Bush Evolved from the Uncoolest Person on the Planet to Bona Fide Hipster Icon like Mark Haugen.

** From The underlying point of everything we’ve ever written about baby names is that the name is essentially the parents’ signal to the world of what they think of their kid — whether it’s a signal of tradition, religion, aspiration, affiliation, or whatnot.

Here is a very pure example of that principle: a baby named Colt .45 Stratemeyer. It’s via Jim Romenesko, from a birth announcement in the Tillamook (Oregon) Headlight-Herald:
Colt .45 Stratemeyer was born Nov. 26, 2013 at Tillamook Regional Medical Center. He weighed seven pounds, two ounces. He joins his older brother, Hunter Allen Stratemeyer, 3. Baby Colt’s parents are Joshua and Rebekah Stratemeyer of Toledo.
I assume the announcement is legitimate, though I can’t say for certain. I am guessing there are fiction writers out there who could write a short story or maybe even a novel with no more inspiration than this birth announcement.
** The Intercollegiate Studies Institute emails to say: Last-minute holiday shopping? ISI has you covered. We've made EVERYTHING in our store available at a 50% discount! That includes ISI's Book of the Month, The Cost of Liberty, the gripping new biography of John Dickinson, whom historian Forrest McDonald calls "the most underrated of all the Founders."

** Heard this on the way back from Pierre on Wednesday. It'll stick in your head like glue - tequila-flavored glue.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Haugen Top 25 of 2013:

As promised, here's a peek into my demented mind reading list from last year. This is the fiction list with the title, author, and the HRS (Haugen Rating Scale, not to be confused with the Hamilton Rating Scale).

Obviously, I tend to stick with my favorites, but this list doesn't include the non-fiction books (I'm not going to start rating the Bible, for example), the short story anthologies (Twain and Borges) and poetry (Frost, Poe, etc.).

I think if you look at this list, you will see authors responsible for selling 800 trillion books and approximately 300,000 homicides.

Here it is. Don't judge.

Amsterdam - Ian McEwan (9)
Butcher's Moon - Richard Stark, aka Donald Westlake (7+)
Bad Business - Robert B. Parker (7+)
Persuader - Lee Child (7+)
School Days - Robert B. Parker (7+)

Tsar - Ted Bell (7)
Dark Rivers of the Heart - Dean Koontz (7)
Shockwave - John Sanford (7)
Breathless - Dean Koontz (7)
Innocence - Dean Koontz (7-)

Bad Luck & Trouble - Lee Child (7-)
Running Blind - Lee Child (7-)
Deeply Odd - Dean Koontz (7-)
The Vision - Dean Koontz (7-)
Echo Burning - Lee Child (7-)

Nothing to Lose - Lee Child (7-)
Phantom - Ted Bell (6+)
Soft Target - Stephen Hunter (6+)
Wicked Appetite - Janet Evanovich (6+)
Get Real - Donald Westlake (6+)

Gator A-Go-Go - Tim Dorsey (6)
Florida Roadkill - Tim Dorsey (6)
No Country For Old Men - Cormac McCarthy (6)
The Third Bullet - Stephen Hunter (6-)
Electric Baracuda - Tim Dorsey (6-)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Another list!

I keep striking out on these lists, so I might have to go back and compile my own to see what it is I actually did read least year.

Here's the National Journal staff's: Best Political Books We Read in 2013.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Read, whether it's good for you or not

The Star-Tribune features a Bloomberg column: “Reading for pleasure is in painful decline.”

The author doesn’t really cite any evidence of this other than overhearing a conversation between two teenagers, and a 10-year-old National Endowment for the Arts report suggesting a “rapid fall in ‘literary’ reading to a decline in civil participation generally.”

I am one of those believers. Democracy needs readers — in particular, readers of literature. Tackling a book (whether print or e-) is a considerable undertaking, requiring an investment of time, attention and serious thought — and the tougher the text, the more serious the thought. In return, we readers learn the importance of reflection, of patience, of trying to understand another’s point of view — all skills that are vital to democratic politics and seriously in decline across the spectrum.

I sometimes fear we bookies get a little pretentious about reading, as if it makes us better people than those who don’t read. Everybody is guilty of that in some respect, puffing out their chests regarding their own hobbies, like if you don’t listen to classical musical you really don’t understand music, and if you don’t play classical music for your babies they are going to grow up to be doofs or Packer fans. We all think that we do makes us special.

I’ve never changed my own oil on my car or know how to install a dishwasher, but by golly I read Frost and Poe and Koontz religiously. Which guy do you want on your city council? Probably doesn’t matter either way.

That being said, I don’t want to undervalue the time spent reading. It does inform and encourage critical thinking. But so does tracking, hunting and cleaning an elk in the Black Hills. So does bird watching, painting and crocheting. All of that is better than sitting on the recliner watching Laverne and Shirley reruns all night or drinking yourself silly at the corner bar. I’ve done all that, except for the crocheting.

I encourage reading, want my kids to read, think it is valuable; not necessarily more valuable than other hobbies, but valuable. I will say, most smart people I know read a lot. They also eat carrots. Are they smart because they read or smart because they eat carrots? Maybe they are smart, so they read. Maybe they are smart because they read. I don’t know many dumb people who read; and I know a lot of dumb people. So my guess is there could be a correlation.

And it’s not a class thing. I know working class people, professionals and academics who are all smart and all read. I know bikers who read, meat cutters who read, priests who read and senators who read. I do think it is time well spent and people make themselves better by reading. But it doesn’t mean we are better, or behave better, or are wiser, as even the Unabomber was an avid reader.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday's Link-Oh-Frozen-Rama

It’s so cold out, I had to chip the dog off the fire hydrant. With that done, here’s some noteyness:

** This is oddly fascinating. If you read one story this week make it this one. Brains and Brawn: Inside the Mysterious Art of ChessBoxing.

After one fight, Jan Schulz, the chess referee, told me he is always amazed to see how the athletes are able to follow the logic of the game under such duress. “Even one blow to the head is enough to completely disorient you,” he said. “Imagine what a whole round of boxing could do to you.”
** I know a lot of people love The Boss, but I’ve never been a big fan. Apparently somebody is: Springsteen manuscript sells for $197,000.

** I find Rand Paul very interesting. He’s the Mounds candy bar of politicians. Some coconut flakiness, enough nuttiness to make him dangerous in a good way, and enough sweet chocolate to make him likable. The National Interest has a pretty good profile on him.

** One last JFK story: Bill Janklow and Oswald – it’s a small world.

** From Reason: How Poker Became a Crime. The capricious federal crackdown on the Internet version of an all-American game.

** How man’s best friend thinks. And from the same science site, don’t fall for this cunning crocodile trick.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Finished: 'No Country for Old Men'

For the longest time I've been waiting for a copy of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian to show up at my favorite used bookstore in town and for the longest time it hasn't. So a while back I nabbed his No Country for Old Men instead, thinking I would warm up on that one.

And I have a bonehead confession to make. For some reason, the synapsi in my brain had me thinking No Country for Old Men was made into a movie starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. So I figured it was a comedy and it's just been sitting on my to-be-read shelf for a long time. Well, duh. You know THAT movie was Grumpy Old Men. Hey, it had "old men" in the title, so cut me some slack.

The book has been staring at me for a long time and finally on what I think was Day 4 of the Haugen hostage situation (mother-in-law was staying at our house) that I figured things couldn't get any worse. So I cracked the seal. I was thinking before I even started No Country for Old Men that anything written by a guy named Cormac was going to be different. It was.

For starters, the guy doesn't believe in quotation marks and many apostrophes, so it takes half the book just to get used to that oddity. I guess it's his shtick. Like Lady Gaga walks around naked; Cormac doesn't use quotes. Clever. He says, according to Wiki, there is no reason to "blot the page up with weird little marks." He is also celebrated for not using semicolons; whatever. So I guess he doesn't make winky faces when he texts, eh ;). Revolutionary.

The guy has a Pulitzer and is rumored to be on the short list for an upcoming Nobel Prize for Literature, which I guess they give to people who abandon general rules of English that were taught in fifth grade. But I digress.

The novel was pretty interesting -- in a way that a three-legged dog is interesting. You look at it and think, aw, nice dog, wonder what happened to it? The main storyline suddenly, inconceivably, concludes halfway through the book, then switches to some deep thinking introspection by the main character. It was different, which I guess is good, and I still intend to read Blood Meridian, because I've heard great things about it.

I only gave Old Men a 6 on my 1-10 scale. I was glad I read it, because it was a good break from reading several books in a row that actually made sense; that can bore a guy. You can quote me on that, just be sure to use quotation makes.

A couple quotes from the book (I remembered this time!):
“You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday don't count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothin else.” 
“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”

Monday, December 2, 2013

100 books I haven't read this year

It's time for the pretentious NY Times 100 notable books of the year list to come out and remind me of my populist book-reading habits. (And I guess they assume no notable books will come out in December.)

It's not a list I take too seriously, since it's compiled by a bunch of vainglorius staffers, who wouldn't include a Koontz,  Hunter or Sandford novel if it were the last book in the bookstore. And don't bother sending them your book unless it meets their political, areligious slant.

Don't you just want to read that list now after such a build-up? Well, it's still fun to look over. I read the list and wasn't surprised to find I hadn't read a single one, but I did find eight I'll put in my que for future consideration:
THE CIRCLE. By Dave Eggers. (Knopf/McSweeney’s, $27.95.) In a disturbing not-too-distant future, human existence flows through the portal of a company that gives Eggers’s novel its title. 
CLAIRE OF THE SEA LIGHT. By Edwidge Danticat. (Knopf, $25.95.) Danticat’s novel is less about a Haitian girl who disappears on her birthday than about the heart of a magical seaside village.
THE DINNER. By Herman Koch. Translated by Sam Garrett. (Hogarth, $24.) In this clever, dark Dutch novel, two couples dine out under the cloud of a terrible crime committed by their teenage sons.
HALF THE KINGDOM. By Lore Segal. (Melville House, $23.95.) In Segal’s darkly comic novel, dementia becomes contagious at a Manhattan hospital.
THE LUMINARIES. By Eleanor Catton. (Little, Brown, $27.) In her Booker Prize winner, a love story and mystery set in New Zealand, Catton has built a lively parody of a 19th-century novel, while creating something utterly new for the 21st.
SUBMERGENCE. By J. M. Ledgard. (Coffee House, paper, $15.95.) This hard-edged, well-written novel involves a terrorist hostage-taking and a perilous deep-sea dive.
WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES. By Karen Joy Fowler. (Marian Wood/Putnam, $26.95.) This surreptitiously smart novel’s big reveal slyly recalls a tabloid headline: “Girl and Chimp Twinned at Birth in Psychological ­Experiment.”
MY PROMISED LAND. The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. By Ari Shavit. (Spiegel & Grau, $28.) Shavit, a columnist for Haaretz, expresses both solidarity with and criticism of his countrymen in this important and powerful book.