Saturday, December 26, 2009

Brother Report: Nice Article About Renovation Project

There's a nice article in today's News-Gazette about the work my brother, Dannie, has done on their house. The print edition has some additional pictures.

Annual Book and Movie Ratings

Although the end of the year is still a few days away, I'm going to go ahead and list my annual book and movie ratings. I don't expect to finish any more books by the end of the year and I may still see another movie or two, but I'll just include them in 2010. The ratings are based on five stars being the highest. The books are ones I have read or listened to this year, some of them for the second or third time. I read (or listened to) a record number of books this year, 67, up from last year's record of 61. Twenty-one were non-fiction; 46 were fiction.

Some of the books were short, but there were also some long ones, topped by Part II of The Man Without Qualities, by Robert Musil, which came in at 1,067 pages. (That's a book that is probably deep, but it is so deep that I don't know it's deep.) I think the reason for my increasing number of books is that I watched practically no television last year. I have to watch The Office, but that's about it, except for a few Illinois football and basketball games. My number will probably go down in 2010, as we just signed up for AT&T's UVerse package, which includes telephone, internet and 200 cable channels. With that many channels, there must be some television worth watching, although I'm not holding my breath.

My book of the year is Saturday, by Ian McEwan.


Five Stars

Political Fictions, Joan Didion
Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver
Rabbit Run, John Updike
Saturday, Ian McEwan
Indignation, Philip Roth
Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
Road Dogs, Elmore Leonard
I Married A Communist, Philip Roth
Fine Just Like It Is: Short Stories, Annie Proulx
Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
The Omnivore's Dilemna, Michael Pollan
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
The Age of Lincoln, Orville Vernon Burton
Fire In The Blood, Irene Nemirovsky
The Nine, Jeffrey Toobin
All The King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
Terrorist, John Updike
Homeland And Other Stories, Barbara Kingsolver
Zeitoun, Dave Eggers
The Stranger, Albert Camus
Short Stories of John Cheever, John Cheever

Four Stars

After Henry, Joan Didion
The Plague of Doves, Louise Erdrich
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Burbery
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Descartes' Bones, Russell Shorto
Naked, David Sedaris
The Financier, Theodore Dreiser
Where The Roots Reach For Water, Jeffrey Smith
The Source, James Michener
Soldiers' Pay, William Faulkner
In The Company of Cheerful Ladies, Alexander McCall Smith
The Sound and The Fury, William Faulkner
Babylon Revisited, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Summons, John Grisham
Oh, What A Slaughter, Larry McMurtry
Taft, Ann Patchett
The Power of Now, Eckhardt Tolle
The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See
Too Politically Sensitive, Michale Callaghan
Tender At The Bone, Ruth Reichl
A Gate At The Stairs, Lorrie Moore
The Humbling, Philip Roth
Up In Honey's Room, Elmore Leonard

Three Stars

The Nanny Diaries, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Rabbit Redux, John Updike
Where I Was From, Joan Didion
Mosquitos, William Faulkner
Flags In The Dust, William Faulkner
Mummy, Daniel Curley
The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, Alexander McCall Smith
44 Stockholm Street, Alexander McCall Smith
His Excellency: George Washington, Joseph Ellis
Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
The Villa of Reduced Circumstances, Alexander McCall Smith
The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday, Alexander McCall Smith
Three Cups of Tea, Craig Mortensen
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon
The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil
Rhino Ranch, Larry McMurtry

Two Stars

The Noonday Demon, Andrew Solomon
Beethoven, Edmund Morris
Slowly Down The Ganges, Eric Newby
Sounding, Hank Searls
Leave Me Alone I'm Reading, Maureen Corrigan

One Star

Haven, Iodine Kimmel


I saw 42 movies year in theaters, down a few from the 44 I saw in 2008. I saw a few movies on DVD, but I don't count those because that's not the real movie experience.

Five Stars Plus

The Reader

Five Stars

Gran Torino
My Winnipeg
Begging Naked
Frozen River
An Education
A Serious Man

Four Stars

The Class
Sunshine Cleaning
The Last Command
The Fall
Sita Sings The Blue
Good Bye Solo
The Hangover
Away We Go
Julie and Julia
The Informant
The Bicycle Thief

Three Stars

Trouble The Water
Let The Right One In
The Soloist
Easy Virtue
Whatever Works
Public Enemies
The Ugly Truth
Food, Inc
Cold Souls

Two Stars

Nothing But The Truth
Year One
Pirate Radio

One Star

Night At The Museum II

Friday, December 25, 2009

JACK Report: LA Times Says Watch Them in 2010

Not that I needed any encouragement, but I will certainly follow the advice of the LA Times which says the JACK Quartet is one of the "faces to watch in 2010." The Quartet makes its LA debut in April, playing an absolutely astounding piece in total darkness. We heard them play it, the "String Quartet No. 3, In iij Noct," by Georg Fredrich Haas, in Chicago. Even the exit light bulbs had been removed, and the audience sat in the middle, with the chairs turned higgly-piggly, every which way, in the middle of the room, with the quartet players stationed at each corner. It was almost an hallucinogenic experience. Unlike some new music, this was very listenable.

Monday, December 21, 2009

How Far She Has Come

Way back in 1985 or so, little Allison Krause, then 14, beat my 8-year-old son, Jeremy, in a fiddling contest at the Champaign County Fair. With that as her springboard, has come all kinds of success -- more Grammys than any other artist of her genre; gigs playing with Yo-Yo Ma and other celebrity musicians. If Jeremy had just practiced a little more.

(A hat tip to my friend, Catch Her in the Wry, for the link.)

Friday, December 04, 2009


I'm not usually a cusser. (Full disclosure: I have been known to use a common vulgarism for excrement when I hit or pinched a finger, dropped a glass or spilled my tea, but that doesn't really count as cussing.) Yesterday morning, I came in to work, looked at a fax that had come in overnight and cussed. WTF!!!! Only I didn't use the initials.

What caused me to cuss was a fax from Newt Gingrich's organization, "American Solutions for Winning the Future," addressed to "John." The first sentence was as follows: "Thanks to the help of business leaders across the country Newt has begun to get our message across that the Obama Administration is bad for America and bad for businesses like yours." What?? "OUR message?" As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger when the they were surrounded by Indians and the Lone Ranger said, "We have to do something," "What do you mean, 'WE, keemo sabe?'" The Obama Administration is bad for MY business? MY business is suing people. So what bad thing have they done for MY business?

The fax goes on to say, "I hope you don't mind but I went ahead and personally recommended you to Newt to become a member of his high level, 'Jobs and Prosperity Task Force.' This is Newt's group of top advisers from the Business community and I think you would be a terrific addition to the group!" So, you hope I don't mind that you personally recommended me to Newt. Yeah, right, dipshit. I mind and you better personally tell Newt, that Crockhead is pissed!

That wasn't even the worst part. The fax goes on to say,
"We would like to send out the attached Press Release to your local paper announcing your appointment and run a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal with your name in it endorsing our 'Jobs Here, Jobs Now, Jobs First Campaign,' which includes a complete abolishment of the 'Death Tax'."

What??? A press release announcing my appointment? Even our local Republican rag would use such a press release for toilet paper. (Well, actually they wouldn't because it would clog up the sewer, but you get the point.) Endorsing the complete abolishment of the "Death Tax?" For your information, ass wipe,the so-called "Death Tax" only applies to estates larger than 3.5 million dollars in 2009, and Congress is in the process of passing legislation to extend that exemption indefinitely. So, exactly how is it that letting people who inherit (not work for, but INHERIT) 3.5 million dollars not pay any taxes on it, help create jobs? The same way the Bush tax cuts for the rich created jobs?

My son, who is working two jobs to keep himself and his wife clothed, sheltered and fed and can't afford health insurance, has to pay taxes on what he EARNS. So, why should heirs who do nothing but exist,have their multi-million dollars be exempt from taxes? And, how exactly does that create jobs? The same way that the Bush Administration's tax cuts for the wealthy created jobs? How stupid do you think the American people are? (On second thought, don't answer that question.)

The last page in the fax was a mock-up of the full page Wall Street Journal advertisement with my name at the top of the list of "business leaders." I called the number in Washington (1-866-716-3386, if you want to personally tell Newt Gingrich what you think of him) and demanded to speak to the person who had sent me the letter. "He is busy," the telephone operator said. "Please, personally give Newt this message from his friend, John," I said (actually, I wish I had said, but everything else in this post is true:)
"Newt, you swine. You vulgar little maggot. You worthless bag of filth. As they say in Texas. I'll bet you couldn't pour piss out of a boot with instructions on the heel. You are a canker. A sore that won't go away.
You are a putrescent mass, a walking vomit. You are a spineless little worm deserving nothing but the profoundest contempt. You are a jerk, a cad, a weasel. Your life is a monument to stupidity. You are a stench, a revulsion, a big suck on a sour lemon.

"You are a bleating foal, a curdled staggering mutant dwarf smeared richly with the effluvia and offal accompanying your alleged birth into this world. An insensate, blinking calf, meaningful to nobody, abandoned by the puke-drooling, giggling beasts who sired you and then killed themselves in recognition of what they had done.

"I will never get over the embarrassment of belonging to the same species as you. You are a monster, an ogre, a malformity. I barf at the very thought of you. You have all the appeal of a paper cut. Lepers avoid you. You are vile, worthless, less than nothing. You are a weed, a fungus, the dregs of this earth. And did I mention you smell?

"You snail-skulled little rabbit. Would that a hawk pick you up, drive its beak into your brain, and upon finding it rancid set you loose to fly briefly before pattering the ocean rocks with the frothy pink shame of your ignoble blood. May you choke on the queasy, convulsing nausea of your own trite, foolish beliefs.

"You are weary, stale, flat and unprofitable. You are grimy, squalid, nasty and profane. You are foul and disgusting. You're a fool, an ignoramus. Monkeys look down on you. Even sheep won't have sex with you. You are unreservedly pathetic, starved for attention, and lost in a land that reality forgot.

"And what meaning do you expect your delusionally self-important statements of unknowing, inexperienced opinion to have with me? What fantasy do you hold that you would believe that your tiny-fisted tantrums would have more weight than that of a leprous desert rat, spinning rabidly in a circle, waiting for the bite of the snake? You are a waste of flesh. You have no rhythm. You are ridiculous and obnoxious. You are the moral equivalent of a leech. You are a living emptiness, a meaningless void. You are sour and senile. You are a disease, you puerile one-handed slack-jawed drooling meatslapper.

"On a good day you're a half-wit. You remind me of drool. You are deficient in all that lends character. You have the personality of wallpaper. You are dank and filthy. You are asinine and benighted. You are the source of all unpleasantness. You spread misery and sorrow wherever you go.

"You smarmy lagerlout git. You bloody woofter sod. Bugger off, pillock. You grotty wanking oik artless base-court apple-john. You clouted boggish foot-licking twit. You dankish clack-dish plonker. You gormless crook-pated tosser. You churlish oil-brained clotpole ponce. You cockered bum-bailey poofter. You craven dewberry pisshead cockup pratting naff. You gob-kissing gleeking flap-mouthed coxcomb. You dread-bolted fobbing beef-witted clapper-clawed flirt-gill.

"You are a fiend and a coward, and you have bad breath. You are degenerate, noxious and depraved. I feel debased just for knowing you exist. I despise everything about you, and I wish you would go away. I cannot believe how incredibly stupid you are. I mean rock-hard stupid. Dehydrated-rock-hard stupid. Stupid so stupid that it goes way beyond the stupid we know into a whole different dimension of stupid. You are trans-stupid stupid. Meta-stupid. Stupid collapsed on itself so far that even the neutrons have collapsed. Stupid gotten so dense that no intellect can escape. Singularity stupid. Blazing hot mid-day sun on Mercury stupid. You emit more stupid in one second than our entire galaxy emits in a year. Quasar stupid. Your writing has to be a troll. Nothing in our universe can really be this stupid. Perhaps this is some primordial fragment from the original big bang of stupid. Some pure essence of a stupid so uncontaminated by anything else as to be beyond the laws of physics that we know. I'm sorry. I can't go on.This is an epiphany of stupid for me. After this, you my not hear from me again for a while. I don't have enough strength left to deride your half baked comments about unimportant trivia, or any of the rest of this drivel. Duh.

"The only thing worse than your logic is your manners. Maybe later in life, after you have learned to read, write, spell, and count, you will have more success. True, these are rudimentary skills that many of us "normal" people take for granted that everyone has an easy time of mastering. But we sometimes forget that there are "challenged" persons in this world who find these things more difficult. If I had known, that this was your case then I would have never read your fax. It just couldn't have been "right". Sort of like parking in a handicap space. I wish you the best of luck in the emotional, and social struggles that seem to be placing such a demand on you.

"You are hypocritical, greedy, violent, malevolent, vengeful, cowardly, deadly, mendacious, meretricious, loathsome, despicable, belligerent,opportunistic, barratrous, contemptible, criminal, fascistic, bigoted, racist, sexist, avaricious, tasteless, idiotic, brain-damaged, imbecilic,insane, arrogant, deceitful, demented, lame, self-righteous, byzantine,conspiratorial, satanic, fraudulent, libelous, bilious, splenetic, spastic, ignorant, clueless, illegitimate, harmful, destructive, dumb, evasive, double-talking, devious, revisionist, narrow, manipulative,
paternalistic, fundamentalist, dogmatic, idolatrous, unethical, cultic, diseased, suppressive, controlling, restrictive, malignant, deceptive, dim, crazy, weird, dystopic, stifling, uncaring, plantigrade, grim, unsympathetic, jargon-spouting, censorious, secretive, aggressive, mind-numbing, arassive, poisonous, flagrant, self-destructive, abusive, socially-retarded, puerile, clueless, and generally Not Good.

"In other words, go away."