Archive for June, 2008

There are certain phone numbers I learned and memorised when I worked in an office.

An office where you had to dial “9” for an outside line.

I haven’t worked there for three years now, but every time I dial those phone numbers I always put the “9” first.

Who says I’m not a creature of habit?

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I am almost insanely excited about visiting…the Midwest.

You don’t read much nostalgia for the endless flat land, the sky that goes on forever like the sea. The straight roads plaiding the countryside in orderly sensibleness broken only occassionally by the river roads which wend like ribbon, parallel to the water. There are few people wistful for driving the endless miles of eastwest, blurring past corn and soy, slowing down only for Amish buggies and the Dar-i-Twist.

Part of me seems to lie dormant when I’m outside Indiana. I run just fine, like a cell phone off the charger, but that extra juice–the jolt of being Home–kicks in once I get back.

I never planned to leave, but life being what it is sometimes the plan gives way to a different story, like turning pages in a book–on the next chapter. Whichever chapter I’m in, though, I hold the heft of those first pages in my hand like a comforting weight which keeps me grounded.

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My husband, being generally more optimistic than I, really wanted to believe that the preachiness of Wall*E would be trumped by the general cuteness and maverick goodtimesness that Pixar is known for. His disappointment was palpable as we left the drive-in, the few initial moments of pensive silence gave way to a stunned disbelief and, eventually, an angry and disappointed rant against all that was bad about the movie. (more…)

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Sharon invited me to participate this week, and to use a video of Ian Anderson doing Aqualung live.

Well, as much as I love Ian Anderson, I can’t use him first.

Of course I’m gonna use this guy.

“Boom Boom Mancini” may seem like an odd choice for a Feel Good song. A boxer killing another boxer?

I promise you, though, that this is really a song about getting up again, after the worst has already happened. Even after you feel responsible for someone’s death, say. Getting back in the ring is hard to do.

And of course this is why I keep Warren in my heart, always. Any other person would say “get back on the horse” or “try, try again.”

Not Warren.

That’s why, whenever I have to gird my loins I instead say “Hurry on home. Boom Boom Mancini’s fighting Bobby Chacon.”

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With this video now making the rounds, I have to say that I honestly am tired of hearing candidates on whirlwind tours of the United States talking about how we can’t run our air conditioners or drive big SUVs.

The fact of the matter is that the amount of oil on the planet is not the issue. The issues are

–Where we get the oil.
–How we get the oil.
–Who pays for getting the oil.
–What they do with the oil they’ve paid to get.
–What happens to the oil to turn it into the products we need it to become.

Where We Get The Oil

If you grew your own tomatoes instead of buying them from the supermarket, the tomatoes you eat would be cheaper. It’s the same for oil. Oil we drill here or in our territory doesn’t cost us as much because we don’t have to pay as many middle men.

How We Get The Oil

Walk into any food store–Krogers, Whole Foods, Fresh Market–and take a look at the mushrooms. The plain old white ones that grow like crazy right out in the open are the cheapest. The exotic ones which grow under trees or in special soil or only at certain times of the year can cost megabucks, because they’re harder to get. The same goes for oil. As we exhaust the supply of easy-to-find oil, we have to go digging deeper and that costs more.

Who Pays For Getting The Oil & What They Do With The Oil They’ve Paid To Get

When you were a kid you may have gone grocery shopping with your mother. I did, and getting a basic candy bar was a big treat that happened very rarely. She controlled what we bought at the supermarket, and I only got a candy bar if she was willing to pay for it. Even though there was candy all over the freakin’ store, to me it seemed like a rare commodity because I could only get one if she was willing to buy it for me.

As I got older and had some of my own money from babysitting, working for the phone company and typing other people’s research papers I could buy my own candy bars. I went to a small school, though, and we didn’t have food vending machines. Occasionally the band or the Senior Class would sell candy bars at the lunch break. Even though I could theoretically get a candy bar for a quarter, I had no way to get to the grocery store so I would pay those folks a dollar a bar. I had no choice.

Oil is like that. As it gets harder to get (see #2), the money to go drilling is coming from banks and investors. As banking regulations changed in the late 90s, the way investment bankers like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs made their money had to change. By the early 2000s they were doing two things–investing in oil exploration companies and investing in oil futures. They did this because they wanted to get more out of it than they put into it.

Continuing with the grocery store analogy–those banks gave money to certain companies to go out and buy up as many candy bars as possible. They then bet that the price of candy would go up. And they kept all the candy bars so that it would appear that there was no candy left. And then they said “hey! We have candy. But now it costs two dollars a bar instead of a quarter.” And so they made money in two ways. They make money selling the candy to people at a higher price and they made money off their side bet when they bet that candy would go up.

Meanwhile the politicians are proposing either that we start making cookies (both Republicans and Democrats), open a new candy factory (the Republicans) or eat a lot less candy (the Democrats). Currently no one is going to the banks and telling them to stop buying all the candy bars directly from the factory, stop hording all the candy bars or stop selling the candy bars to everyone at such a stupidly high price. Pissing off the little guy by taking away his candy doesn’t cost you that many campaign contributions.

Here’s where I side with the Republicans, and here’s why. By suggesting we eat less candy the Democrats are expecting that reduction in demand to cause the price to go down. And theoretically it would, but it would also not introduce any competition into the marketplace. So the guys who owned all the candy would still own all the candy and still be buddies with the dudes at the factory who sell them all the candy first.

But the Republican line about opening a new candy factory….that would also theoretically cause the price to drop by increasing the supply. BUT–a new candy factory means that the guys at the other candy factory have some competition.

Me, I like a healthy bit of competition in the economy. Plus I also hate to be told that I can’t have something. If I decide to eat less candy–something I’ve been doing for years–good for me. But tell me I can’t have candy and you’ve got a fight on your hands. It’s all about control. The Republican plan gives the consumer a slight edge in the control game.

What Happens To The Oil

This is the bit no one seems to be talking about. We’re all so worried about getting it, we don’t talk about what we do when we have it. If you got one bag of chocolate chips at the grocery store for a dollar and then turned it into a batch of chocolate chip cookies, that wouldn’t be too much of a hassle. You could sell those cookies at a bake sale for a dime a piece and still make money. But if you had to turn those chocolate chips into ten different cookie recipes, all with slightly different ingredients, then you’d have a problem. It’d be a big hassle, take a lot more of your time and cost a lot more because you had to get so many extras. After all, some people want coconut, some want walnuts and some like raisins. It’s a pain and so you’d charge more at that bake sale. You’d charge even more if you had to make all of the cookies in one kitchen and didn’t have friends helping you out.

That’s what’s happening with oil. For nearly every one of the fifty states there’s a different “recipe” for gasoline. With so few refineries to make the batches of oil, it takes longer and is a more costly process as the dishes need to be rewashed, etc. (Keeping with the whole cooking analogy.)

In all the talk about drilling, I don’t here much talk about standardising fuels across state lines or opening new refineries. That’d help, too.

Now I’ve gone on way too long, I’m sure. But hopefully this makes more sense than just my saying “I’m an open drilling, standardising, free marketer in the oil debate.”

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Knowing how I feel about The Wire and Deadwood, do any of you who have seen The Shield recommend that I get into it? It keeps making people’s top lists.

Speaking of Top Lists, there is no way on earth that Lost and Sex In The Cityare better TV shows than The Wire.

The fact that Survivor is also ranked ahead of, well, basically anything I watch is completely stupid.

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I just got done skimming EW’s list of the best 100 books of the last 25 years. I’ll admit that I haven’t read all 100 of the books they’ve got on there, but I do have some thoughts on a few of them.

96. The Da Vinci Code

I was all set to start ragging on this book for all of its fakery and patches of really sloppy writing. I’ve seen DVC so frequently criticised from so many circles I hang out in–church people, avid readers, writers–that the bad parts are fairly well-known to me. (Starting with how the title is strange because “da Vinci” wasn’t the dude’s last name.) Then I remembered how much fun I had reading it. I did, you know. The puzzles were interesting and if you just accepted that we were living in Brown’s (or his wife’s) fictionalised framework, then it was a good way to spend the afternoon. And while so much of the writing was clunky-patchy, the fact was that whichever Brown was responsible for the plot finally wove together the general story of Christ’s lost bloodline and the vast conspiracy to cover it up in an entertaining way. That’s something that the dozens of other books on the subject which came before could never do.

93. A Thousand Acres

After reading this book I vowed to never read anything else by Jane Smiley ever again. Despite the conceit of reworking King Lear into the modern setting of an American farm, this book just fails miserably in its attempt be original. In fact, if it were not for that brush-up-your-Shakespeare setting, this story would have been a great Lifetime movie. Hey, wait. Now that I think about it, EW actually criticised the movie based on the book as being “Lifetime”ish. They blamed the makers of the movie, but honestly I think the whole molestation twist corrupted the source material.

87.  The Ruins

No.  I don’t care what Stephen King says, this was a bloody, gory, awful thing with no redeeming qualities at all.

86.  And The Band Played On

It’s a shame this was published in 1987.   It should be higher on the list, because it was a much more important book.   This single book changed the way publishers allowed authors to represent gay people in fiction.   Prior to Randy Shilts’ groundbreaking work, gay people in mass market fiction were generally cautionary tells or cardboard characterisations.

73. A Prayer For Owen Meany

This should have been ranked higher.   In my own personal list this book usually vies with To Kill A Mockingbird for Best Book Ever.  I won’t presume that in the scope of things it really was the best book of the last 25 years, but it certainly was better than many which are listed above it.  (Waiting To Exhale is at number 52?  For reals?)

40. His Dark Materials

How come Rowling only gets one book (Goblet Of Fire) on the list, while Pullman’s entire series is considered worthy of inclusion as a whole?  I realise that there are three times the number of pages in Rowling’s infinitely better works, but believe me when I say that they are really thematically one epic book.   And a better epic book than Pullman’s.

1.  The Road

I suppose I just ought to read this.   I normally love dystopian post-apocalyptic fiction.  I just can’t get past my prejudiced view that this particular book is just a sexed-up reworking of A Canticle For Leibowitz. I wonder why EW put it at number one.   There are at least a dozen other books farther down the list (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay; Bel Canto ) which seem like worthy candidates of the top spot.   I suppose I should get my hands on this to check it out.   Hey.  Maybe that’s it.   They wanted a more front-list title to top the list for sales reasons.

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I’ve written more blog posts and comments in the last 24 hours than I have in the whole of last month, I think.   Of course, the quality of some of those posts is debateable.

But I’ve learned a lot about myself today.

  • Insomnia makes me sound stupid.
  • Jason still reads my blog, even though I criticised Orson Scott Card.
  • Casey thinks I’m not funny anymore.
  • Casey ever thought I was funny in the first place.
  • I have enough potato salad to feed an army.
  • My husband actually likes it when I say he’s attractive.  Who knew?
  • Other people like Harold Ramis.
  • No matter how much I love Warren Zevon, it totally sucks to have “Things To Do In Denver (When You’re Dead” running through you’re head.   I think I’ve repeated “I’ve got this weird idea in my head” about five thousand times in the last three hours.
  • It just struck me that I’ll actually be in Denver in two weeks.  I hope this isn’t an omen of sorts.
  • It’s a bad idea to add a character to a novel you’ve already made it most the way through.   Even if the character and her backstory are both good.
  • My dream about being in an unrequited love affair with a man whose head was made out of delicious chocolate cake weirds a lot of people out.   Especially the part where I broke down and ate his chin.
  • My husband told people he works with about that dream.
  • I’m so desperate to avoid actual work that I will rewatch the Kid Rock video.  Twice.

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Since my husband hates having his picture taken and doesn’t want his picture floating around the internet, I’ve inelegantly cropped this. Maybe you’ll get the basic idea, though.

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I swear I will. Although I have no idea what hethinks is funny, so I’m just writing all kinds of things hoping something hits the mark.

It’s a good thing he doesn’t want rock poetry, because I’ve just realised that the most perfect line of rock poetry has already been written and I’m not even going to try to top it.

I ask you:

Thus: even Zarathustra another time loser could believe in you

It does not get better than that. No.

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