Saturday, January 31, 2015

Random thoughts ...

** For the record: Patriots 34, Seahawks 13.

** Marshawn Lynch behaves like a dink. Part of the responsibility of a job in the NFL is representing your team and the league to the public and press. Answer some dumb questions from the press, have some fun. It's the Super Bowl. It's not all about you.

** Friend and I were discussing how people got so wrapped up with Deflategate but seem to pay so little attention to much weightier issues that might actually affect their lives or the lives of others.

I’m working on a theory that people take an interest in these shallow Kardashiany things so as not to face the reality of the important things. The avoidance theory. Denial. “If I ignore it, it’ll go away.”

That’s my generous theory.

My other theory is that people take an interest in those mundane tabloid things because they understand them and can make conversation about them and can seem as smart as their neighbor or friend, as opposed to talking about things they don’t understand as well like the National Debt or Ukraine or Boko Haram.

I have no problem with people being amused and entertained by silly things (heck, I'm the king of liking dumb nonsensical stuff) but it would be nice to see some other subjects taken as seriously by the general public.

** I really like the Gotham series on television, which is somewhat odd because I've never really gotten into the Batman movies except when Prince provides the soundtrack. I find Gotham to be very well written, cool characters, good vs. evil, all the things that make shows worth watching. Unfortunately I don't see it very high in the ratings so it will probably soon go the way of other great artistic pursuits I enjoyed like The Tick.

** Always good to receive one of those "Your Order Has Shipped" emails. Especially when it's from Tomatofest with your heirloom seeds! Yes, I live life on the edge.

** I am blessed to have a wife who really gets into UFC and MMA fighting. Though it is problematic when she throws one of those rear naked choke holds on me. So it looks like we're on tonight for watching the Silva vs. Diaz fight with a bunch of college kids. Her idea. Seriously.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Haugen's rules for radicals

Ray Bradbury said: "There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches." (Don't insert Muhammad cartoon here.)

Undeterred, Junior just finished reading Huckleberry Finn in school. It's one of the most banned books in the world. Mark Twain was actually jubilant when he first heard about HF being banned. A library in Concord, Mass., banned it as "trash suitable only for the slums." Twain figured that would sell him another 25,000 copies.

He wrote: "A committee of the public library of your town has condemned and excommunicated my last book, and doubled its sale This generous action of theirs must necessarily benefit me in one or two additional ways. For instance, it will deter other libraries from buying the book and you are doubtless aware that one book in a public library prevents the sale of a sure ten and a possible hundred of its mates. And secondly it will cause the purchasers of the book to read it, out of curiosity, instead of merely intending to do so after the usual way of the world and library committees; and then they will discover, to my great advantage and their own indignant disappointment, that there is nothing objectionable in the book."

After gagging through Macbeth and Catcher in the Rye, the fruit of my loins hit his stride with Mark Twain, as all Haugen men do. I've studied Twain for years and of all the things to accuse him of, racism toward African Americans would be the last. I guess some would prefer Shakespeare hadn't written in Old English as people spoke in his day, or don't want Jorge Luis Borge to write the way people in Argentina speak. Twain's characters used the "N" word (which is stupid not to spell out but I'll join the stupid crowd for now) because that is how they spoke during the time of which the novel was set.

If critics actually applied critical thinking to the book they'd recognize that Jim (the former slave) is the only truly moral person in the entire book. That should over-shadow the fact that a word now deemed offensive was used. It shows us where we were and allows us to contrast to where we are now. There are also many moral questions that could be discussed. It's just a matter of what a teacher chooses to emphasize and teach. (Today the class read Bradbury's The Other Foot. I love this lit teacher!)

I've generally parented my kids by erring on the side of them knowing too much rather than not enough. As Junior was watching Terminator movies with me before he was in kindergarten and an "F" bomb would come up, I'd tell him. "You know that word. It's a bad word. We don't use it." And he doesn't. Wasn't rocket surgery.

As I mentioned, this Huck Finn book comes on the heels of his class reading Catcher in the Rye, which is also a favorite of the book-banning crowd.

But what do you expect from a radical Catholic school where they read daily from one of the most banned books in the United States: The Bible.

Seems there's more ways to be a rebel than just tats and piercings and lying down in traffic. Be a radical. Read! Or go to church. That will really offend some people.

For now, I'm content just to live vicariously through my son's lit class.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Finished: Lee Child's '61 Hours'

Got a little out of order with the Jack Reacher novels, but so be it. This one 61 Hours is set in South Dakota, so that made Reacher bustin' skulls even more interesting. While there are references to Huron, Sioux Falls, Rapid City and even Cavour, the town he gets snowed in at is a fictional town named Bolton. It's just off the interstate where a new federal prison has been built.

Throw in some corrupt cops, prison guards and a Mexican drug lord on his way and you have the makings of another good Reacher novel. It's even more violent than most Reacher books (not like that's a bad thing). Reacher's main mission in the book is to protect an elderly lady librarian who is set to testify against a motorcycle gang who has set up camp just outside town, of course.

I highlighted this conversation between the drug lord Plato and his man on the ground in Bolton:

"So for your own sake, get the job done. I don't care about bystanders. Wipe out the entire damn town if you have to. The entire state, for all I care. How many people live in South Dakota, anyway?"
"About eight hundred thousand."
"OK. That's your upper limit for collateral damage. Get it done."
"I will. I promise." 
Plato hung up and poured himself another cup of coffee.
There are some other highlights I made, but they give away the ending so I won't ruin it for you. All in all, another great Reacher book.

I gave it a 6-plus on my 10-point system. Amazon gives it a 4 of 5. Goodreads a 4.05 of 5.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Deflategate? Clever title, not

One month until pitchers and catchers report for the Minnesota Twins, so in the meantime we have to put up with this Super Bowl silliness between two teams I don't hate nor particularly like, so what fun is that?

Most people have rightfully and thankfully forgotten that I was a sportswriter in my former life (Argus Leader, Tea & Harrisburg, Rock Valley, Luverne). Back then people actually paid me to write about sports. And then silly people still bought those newspapers. So it's in my blood and I still like to dabble here, and it's free!

My question regarding deflategate and the Patriots is: Why does the PSI of a football matter? If each quarterback brings his own football into the game when the offense takes the field, who cares? As long as they are using the same brand, type and size of football, and they don't add wings to it, why should it matter if Tom Brady likes his footballs at 12 psi and Mark Haugen likes his at 14 psi? (NFL regs say footballs should be 12.5 to 13.5.) If Brady wants to throw a flat football, let him. It's only going to hurt his kicker if there is a scramble at the end of the game to kick a field goal and the kicker doesn't get to bring in his own ball.

Whatever PSI a quarterback wants, let him use it.

This is the biggest nothingburger of a controversy since the invention of nothingburgers and the Y2K panic.

Can we talk about Gisele instead?

My other bug-a-boo about deflategate is: Why does every controversy have to be "gate?" People do realize that Watergate was a hotel, right? Unless the scandal took place in a hotel with "gate" in it, call it something else.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Friday Link-oh-Liam-Rama

Watching "A Walk Among the Tombstones" while I do this so excuse me if there are random OMG!s throughout.

Not sure who I'd rather be when I grow up Liam Neeson or Lawrence Block. Maybe a cross.

 ***So you wondering what's in James Patterson's library?
Jack Reacher and I have a long history — I’ve read every book in this series. In this [installment], Reacher is forced out of retirement after an assassination attempt on the French president. Set throughout Paris and London, the story is explosive and thrilling. Child is still hitting it out of the park.
*** If it weren't baseball season, I'd consider this. Unique Opportunity: Summer Job as Viking Ship Captain.

*** Pigeon guy just jumped off the building. Wifey beat me to it: "Oh my gosh!"

*** Guessing one, or both, of these people is crazy: NASCAR driver accused of assault says ex is trained assassin

*** This is the best story I've read in months.
Atop a wooded hill here in the heart of America’s Dairyland, an industry legend was recently laid to rest. It wasn’t some milk magnate or a famed innovator, but an ornery, 2,700-pound bull named Toystory - a titan of artificial insemination who sired an estimated 500,000 offspring in more than 50 countries.
*** 30 shockingly amazing linkbait phrases Buzzfeed uses to get you to click on stuff.

*** Quote from psycho guy reading about Y2K in AWATT: "People are afraid of all the wrong things."  Yup.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Finished Robert B. Parker's 'Sea Change'

My RBP jones continues.

In Sea Change Jesse Stone investigates a body washed up in the ocean during Yacht Week. Along the way he runs across a lot of sex, drugs and rock n roll. Actually, no rock n roll, but extra sex and drugs.

This is book No. 5 in the series. By now, Jesse has been on the wagon for almost a year. It's a pretty interesting subplot as he visits his shrink and discovers how his not drinking is somewhat a metaphor for his rekindling relationship with his ex-wife. Not to ruin it for you, so I'll just say I didn't like the ending.

I'm starting to run out of gas on the Jesse Stone character, so, I'm giving it a 6-minus on the 1-10 Haugenometer. Amazon gives it a 4 of 5. Goodreads a 3.82 of 5.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

P.J. O'Rourke QOTD

"Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it."

Friday, January 9, 2015

Link Oh-rockin' Rama

So, sources say (albeit it a blonde one) that this band coming to the Black Hills Stock Show is supposed to be the hottest thing to come out of Texas since Sandra Bullock.

The Casey Donahew Band will be performing Feb. 6. Here's their song "White Trash Story." Be there, if for no other reason than lots of cowgirls will be.

Here's Double Wide Dream.

*** Speaking of good singers, I like Lucinda Williams. Here's a good story about the influence her poet-father had on her. He passed away Jan. 1.
Throughout her childhood, the elder Williams often hosted after-parties for writing workshops, prompting Lucinda to entertain the guests. 
“People say rock ‘n’ rollers are wild, but those poets could drink anyone under the table,” Lucinda says with a laugh. “Partway through most of those nights, Dad would say ‘Honey, why don’t you go get your guitar?’ I would start playing in the living room, and Dad’s friends would tell me I had soul and that I should hang in there. My writing wasn’t there, and my voice hadn’t developed yet. But I got encouragement from some pretty cool people.”
*** One of my favorite authors David Baldacci opines in the NY Times about conspiracy theories.

*** Escaping the Recession by Boat:
When the Great Recession hit, young people found a million different ways to cope with their battered job prospects. Alex and Nick Kleeman found the best way, scraping together enough cash to buy a 32-foot sailboat, then plunging into the Pacific for the adventure of their lives. So what if they didn’t know how to sail?
*** I guess if you have to be known for something it might as well be this: Meet Vinnie Myers, known as the “Michelangelo of Nipple Tattoos.” It's actually a serious, interesting story despite the portion I chose to highlight.

*** I've written about the Italian justice system before. Here's the murder case that country is currently obsessing over (never end a sentence with a preposition).

*** Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

*** Not all records are ones to be proud of (never end a sentence with a preposition).

*** Science says mom's right: Bundle up to avoid a cold.

*** Speaking of science, how about some climate change history.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Finished: Robert B. Parker's 'Stone Cold'

Robert B. Parker is best known for his Spenser novels, of which the television series Spenser For Hire was based. Stone Cold features his second-best known character, Jesse Stone, which spawned a made-for-tv movie series starring Tom Selleck.

So, yeah, the guy had some success.

I like that Parker really delves into his characters' personality flaws, gives them a lot of depth. Jesse Stone is one of those characters who battles alcoholism and an addictive personality that carries over into his relationships. And Stone, a small-town police chief, isn't afraid to punch a guy in the face on occasion.

I gave Stone Cold a 6-plus, as Jesse tracks down a yuppy couple on a thrill-kill spree. Amazon gives it a 4.1 of 5.

Highly recommend anything RBP writes.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Random thoughts ...

** There was a stretch in December where I spent parts of 12 of 16 days with my mother-in-law. Just sayin'.

** My mailbox was destroyed twice in one week by obnoxious drivers who didn't have the courtesy to stop and tell me that they couldn't drive on slippery roads. One was on Christmas Day. A neighbor saw them, knocked on my door and told me where the truck went. I didn't feel like calling the sheriff for such a minor deal, so I walked to that house and returned a piece of the bumper he left behind. "I was going to tell you, but needed to drop off some stuff first," he said, beer in hand, an hour after it happened. After meeting the doorknob, I regretted not reporting him. Rocket scientists nationwide need not worry about job competition from him.

** My son and youngest daughter are attending the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) national conference in Nashville with about 10,000 others from across the country (thus the word "national"). I attended FOCUS in Orlando two years ago and those college kids really give a guy hope for the future. Pretty sure those kids would let you know if they accidentally destroyed your property.

** I really get tired of hearing adults complain about "kids now-a-days."

** I know a couple of the students recently nominated by our congressional delegation to attend the Air Force Academy. And have known several more over the years. They, along with the appointees to the other academies, are the cream of the crop of this year's senior class. Amazingly smart, mature and motivated young men and women. Hope.

** Looking like a long, cold January, but remember: Every day is one day closer to baseball season.

** I'm going to write a post one of these days about some of the dumb, bigoted adults I've run across. About every couple months I encounter some moron, in most cases an anti-Catholic one, with stupid comments and actions toward kids. One of these days ...

** Speaking of writing, my latest novel is in the hands of my editing posse. Early reports are good. One particular edit was caught that had me laughing. I meant to have a cowboy rancher in a bar wearing a NFR belt buckle, but I typed it as an NPR buckle. I don't believe National Public Radio gives out belt buckles, and the proof-reader thought maybe I was trying to be funny but thought he'd point it out, just in case. I'll change it to NFR. Can't be disrespecting the bull-riders. I'm not that dumb.

** Remember the name Bobby Trane. Just sayin'.

** Three seed catalogs so far have me plotting out my garden on paper. Good times.

** "Catalog" is a word that always gives me difficulty spelling. So does "squeal."

** That stretch of days I mentioned earlier also included my oldest daughter graduating from Black Hills State University with degrees in political science and history, receiving a job offer from our newly elected U.S. Senator, and getting married to her high school sweetheart. That's a heckuva two weeks for a lovely, talented, smart kid of which my contribution was molding her into a great baseball fan.