Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Letter

To Judith Claire Mitchell:

I normally don't do this kind of thing.
I mean, I read a lot. I'm a reader, y'know? It's not what I do, it's part of who I am. Non-readers don't get it, never will.
But write letters to authors? I think I wrote Stephen King once, when I was seventeen or so.
So I picked up "Scribner's BEST of the Fiction Workshops 1998" at the library book sale on a whim. Didn't even look at the contents, and frankly thought it was going to be a treasury of how-to and advice for writers. I am glad I was wrong.image
I read "A Man of Few Words" on the way in to work, on the bus, today. Just this morning. I started at the bus stop, I finished just before my stop.
I stepped off the bus with tears in my eyes and a hitch in my throat. I couldn't tell the bus driver to "Have a good day". I was afraid I would burst into tears, and that would look completely foolish. She already thinks I'm half baked.
Stories about fathers and sons get me every time, to some degree. Stories of love and loss. But this, this little gem that you crafted, this marvelous little diamond - it's the kind of story that could change things. Change people.
The first sentence grabs, the last sentence elevates. In between is home run after home run. The way Ike views his son's plastic surgery :

"How could he think the face belonged to him only?" : Priceless.

"By the color of fingernails."

My father's nails are crushed and mangled from decades of dirty work. What I tried to say in an entire blog post you said better in five words.

"If Ike had made a mistake, it was not in his failure to shout his love. It was his failure to teach the boy how to say "Boy, oh boy, that sun sure feels good on the back, doesn't it?"

If there is a lesson I long for my kids to learn from my life and example, it is this. Not wealth or power or fame, but small pleasures and simple things will you remember and cherish.

"I want to see her face," Ike says. "I want to see how pretty she looks."

I have never been so blown away so many times within one short little story. As a 41 year-old son and a father of sons and a daughter it spoke to me on so many levels I was literally dizzy.
This book will remain by my bedside on the "re-read" shelves for a long, long time. Even if every other story stinks - - which I doubt - - yours was more than worth the price of admission.
Of course at the library sale it was $.025, but it would have been worth full price had I paid it.
I will remember this story for the rest of my life.
Thank you.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bookworm Nirvana

Last weekend marked the Library Book Sale.

(Cue harps, trumpets, and heavenly choir)

The sale is always an exorcize in restraint for me. All children's books $.25! Adult Hardbacks $1.00! Paperbacks $.25!

It staggers the imagination.

I purposely go in with $10 or less. The key here is to take a big sack or box and pick up everything you even think you might want on the first pass. The room is crammed with people and if you don't grab it someone else will. These are not all library cast-offs. In fact the majority of the books are donated by patrons to be auctioned. There were many books by King, Grisham, Clancy, most of the popular authors. Surprisingly there was NO Tolkien to be found, and no Koontz that I saw either.

For the record, I apologize for moving all of the Scientology books from "Religion" to "Fiction". I do, however, reserve the right to do it again.

I worked the tables slowly, not wanting to miss anything. The Children's section was a little light this year. Science fiction had lots of good stuff, most donated and in good condition.

My haul this sale:

"All Too Human," George Stephanopoulos

Already finished this and it's a fascinating look inside the scheming, plotting, deal-making and promise breaking that was the Clinton White House. A great read for a political junkie like myself, and it gave me a new found respect for both the author AND Clinton. This is not whitewash. Clinton is portrayed warts and all. But if this book is to be believed then his motives and goals in running the country were pure and sincere, and did not involve increased chances at getting laid. That we know of.

handy Handy As I Wanna Be: A Novel With Tools (Hardcover), Vince Rause

Finished this one too. Meh.

Part handy guide, part fictional view into the life of a man obsessed with his "handyman" habit. It's a nice try but doesn't hit the mark. If you want something like this go find John Marchese's "Renovations", a much better book which I'll have to re-read and blog about someday.renovations

Robinson Crusoe, Leatherbound edition. (SCORE!)

Misc. books on writing and short story collections.

What appears to be the entire "Novels on the Change" series by S.M. Stirling, in amazing condition.dies_cv I didn't even know this series existed before seeing it here.

Includes "Dies the Fire", "The Protector's War", "A Meeting at Corvalis", all in hardback, $3.00. Score of the day.

jonathan_strange Last, I scored a paperback copy of "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel", Susanna Clarke for the above mentioned $.25, a bargain in anyone's book. This is perhaps the book I'm most looking forward to and most dreading at the same time. Widely hailed and awarded, I've seen mixed reviews among the regular folk. We'll see how it fares.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not sure why I like this…

But it’s stop motion animation with GI Joe figures, and it essentially re-enacts John Carpenter’s The Thing, so that’s enough for me. The Thing may be my all time favorite scary / alien / sci-fi movie. If they could have snuck the “Big Jim” figure in there somewhere, it would be nirvana.

Riding the RAGBRAI

If you’ve ever wanted to ride the RAGBRAI, here’s a blog from a pretty regular guy that’s sloughing it out. Not one of those skinny twenty-somethings you see zip by on their carbon-framed wonders, but a regular Joe struggling to make each day. His slightly twisted sense of humor makes the read especially worthwhile.

You may know Ray as the purveyor of another fine Internet establishment. Not that I’ve ever been there or anything.

Keeping up with his blog has almost made me feel like I was there. Well, that and pictures like this from his iPhone:


I say good for him, and I wish I was there.

What? Don’t know what RAGBRAI is?


Monday, July 21, 2008

Funniest YouTube video ever.

My wife thinks I’m nuts. Most of my kids like it, but one thinks it’s stupid. All I know for sure is that the first three times I watched it I laughed so hard I cried.

Of course, followers of this site will be well aware of my love of all things Muppet – related and will fully understand.

As an aside, I just had to add the words “Muppet” and “YouTube” to my Windows Live Writer dictionary. C’mon! That ain’t right.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Let's make this simple.
Wall-E is brilliant. If you haven't seen it, stop reading this and go. Now.

Wall-E reminds us that there are two great important things : life and love. Yes, it's a story about robots, but as is typical with Pixar the larger themes shine through without beating us over the head.
It is Keaton-esque in it's nearly silent comedy.
This is a classic. It's the kind of movie that Disney wishes it was making. Pixar is truly at the top of their game.
The kids will sit still through it. Trust me. Get thee to the biggest movie screen in your area. Now.


It's suddenly February and I have a cast. All of them are people I know or have seen onstage, none of them are the people I thought wou...