Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


When I am killed in a grisly, horror-movie fashion, you'll know it's NOT an accident!

I am marked for death, apparently. Why, say you? Well, I have figured out that I am an ancillary character in a horror movie, in which my lovely wife is the star, or at least an important character. Therefore, I am expendable. I anticipate something gruesome happening to me any day now. Please do not accept the authorities' explanation that it was a "bizarre and totally accidental farm implement impalement." Because it won't be!

I'll explain. First, my sister-in-law. She recently bought a house in Locke, New York. It doesn't sound like an especially scary name, but it's a bit odd. She moved into a relatively rural house on Salt Road. Again, not terribly scary, but somewhat strange. Put them all together, though - Locke, Salt Road, rural house - and you have the makings of a fine horror movie. She and her husband moved in and discovered that the previous tenant was a woman who is a bit strange. They're not sure what is wrong with her, but they wonder if she's bipolar. There could be nothing wrong with her for all I know - this is all second-hand knowledge. But let's just assume she could suddenly go off the deep end, for the sake of argument. They also said they found lots of empty alcohol bottles when they moved in which hadn't been recycled yet. So there's that. The woman also claimed that zombies roamed the grounds, and she laid salt around the perimeter of the house to "ward off evil spirit." Fun! Plus, their neighbor is a beekeeper and makes his own honey and jams and such. There's nothing inherently sinister about beekeepers, but when we put it together with all the other stuff, it becomes slightly creepy. When Krys told me all this, I said that her sister was starring in a horror movie and that I hoped she didn't come to an awful end. I said we would be the ones who went to New York to pick up the pieces after the horrible events that ended her life, and we'd either be the people who get killed right as the screen goes black at the end of the movie (which is a standard horror cliché) or we'd be in the sequel, in which case I'm dead meat.

Then there's Krys's best friend, who was out here for a conference a few weeks ago. She was telling Krys about her haunted house. They have a dog, Milo. They got Milo at a shelter, and they wanted some information about him. Meanwhile, Milo made himself at home. They would put him in a cage in the basement when they went to work, because they didn't want him roaming around the house. She told Krys that when she came home, Milo would be sitting on the sofa in the living room, just hanging out. They decided to tie the cage gate closed and tie it to the base of the cage, which was attached to the floor. She came home and Milo was on the sofa, hanging out. She went into the basement and discovered that the gate was still tied as they had tied it in the morning. Meanwhile, a "psychic" who had visited their house when they bought it asked to perform some sort of exorcism because there were evil spirits in the house. Krys's friend declined, not wanting to stir anything up. And the shelter can't find any record of Milo. Plus, there's a paw print in the cement in the basement that looks about Milo's size. Of course, the cement was poured decades ago. Krys said her friend is expecting to find a photograph of the house from 1900 with Milo in it, not unlike Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Once again, we'll be ancillary characters in the movie. We'll visit the house at some point while we're visiting Pennsylvania, and because I'm not important (Krys is the best friend, so she might survive), I will be killed in gruesome fashion.

Finally, Krys came home the other day and said that some of the people she works with have visited a psychic and she expressed interest in going to see the woman. I told her she shouldn't, because it would be a Lumumba moment. She won't learn anything good, and she might unleash evil forces. Guess who they would come after first? Yeah, that's right.

I have often said I wouldn't be a good horror movie person because I simply don't care about strange noises in the attic. Krys would investigate; I wouldn't. My best friend Ken recited "Candyman" while looking in the mirror after seeing that movie. He would be a character in a horror movie, I'll tell you that much! Me? Not so much. However, I'm thinking that even if I wouldn't investigate the noise in the basement, the fact that I'm close to several people who would means that I will be brutally killed while they escape. That sucks.

So I'm warning you, good readers - if you happen across a news article in which my skinned corpse is found hanging from a flagpole with a spade up my rectum and the cops call it a "suicide," don't believe it! Investigate and avenge!!!!!

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Picture Day relaxes in the Caribbean!

I mentioned last week that after our harrowing journey under the waterfall, we did some serious relaxing. You might not think that would be too photogenic, but given that we were relaxing on a sailing ship on the Caribbean, it becomes photogenic! Let's check it out!

I apologize for being shirtless again, but I like this picture of the little woman and I hanging out in the rigging at the front (stern? bow?) of the boat. Just a pleasant scene.

Speaking of great pictures, Krys liked this so much she framed it and took it to work. They set up a lamp off to the side so that we could all get our pictures taken in front of the sunset. It worked well, although the person taking this snapped it before I could move my hand. Oh well. It's still a nice picture.

Soon after the sunset picture, we all went to the beach for a big party. We had good food, good music, and entertainment. I'm still a bit amazed I managed to get this so well.

The Oregonian, Portland's newspaper, used to run travel photos that people submitted. I sent this one in because it's so cool. They didn't run it. Bastards! But then, less than a year later, they ran a picture of someone doing the exact same thing that a different person sent in ... except it was during the day, so the effect wasn't as good. Double bastards! I still haven't recovered from the shame.

This is the deck of the ship, with the captain at the wheel. We called him "Crunchie." You see, he's the captain, and he was one of those earthy-crunchy types, so we called him Captain Crunch, which of course got shortened to Crunchie. It's funny, damn it! He had that perfect three-day beard growth that's trendy these days (before it was trendy!). One day I actually asked him how he did it. Turns out you can set your razor for "three-day trendy beard growth." I didn't know that.

Dolphins off the port side. Stupid dolphins! We totally shot them, dragged them out of the water, and had dolphin steaks. Mmmmm ... tasty!

KIDDING! Sheesh, you people.

We hung out at a beach in the afternoon and an iguana scuttled by. So I took a picture of it. Some people (we'll call them "stupid Yankees") freaked out a bit. Come on, it's just an iguana! It finally reached the water and swam away. Those suckers are fast!

Finally, one more sunset. Because sunsets are neat.

So those are our relaxing photos. I hope you feel mellow now. Next week, you must come by to see the most disturbing photograph you might ever see. Seriously. DO NOT MISS IT! You think I'm kidding? Just wait and see ...

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Top Ten Day: My favorite guilty pleasures

"Guilty pleasures" is a lousy term, I've decided. We should be PROUD of things we love, no matter how crappy or embarrassing the outside world thinks they are! But there are some things we all enjoy that, let's be honest, are pretty crappy. Objectively speaking, of course. So I thought I'd list my ten favorite!

(Note: ABBA does not appear on this list. I contend that ABBA is not a guilty pleasure because ABBA is a great pop group. If you disagree, you might want to keep it to yourself, because when I'm dictator, I'm changing the national anthem to "Waterloo." So there.)

1. 1980s hair metal. Some of the music was very good. Pyromania is a great album, and Cinderella's Long Cold Winter is very good. Most of Van Halen's albums are excellent. But it's mostly crap, and I still love it. Bon Jovi, Tesla, freakin' Winger ("Dad says she's too young, but she's old enough for me!" - sing it, Kip!) and all the others - too many to name! I can't defend my love for the "genre," but I was growing up, and as an angry white youth in Reagan's America (okay, so I wasn't that angry), hair bands were the way to go! And then Nirvana came along and ruined it all. Damn you, Kurt Cobain!!!!!

2. The A-Team, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Knight Rider. There are a lot of television shows that could probably be on this list, but this is really the trifecta of crap that I used to love. (If you make fun of my love for Manimal, however, you and I will have to have words.) These three shows, viewed objectively, really sucked. I suppose The A-Team is the best of the lot, but even that wasn't that great. I'd like to say that I've grown out of these shows, but every once in a while they show up on some high-numbered cable channel and I have to watch for a while. I'm so ashamed!

3. Madonna's "Borderline." Holy crap, what a great song. Sure, it's cheesy, but I don't care. Maybe liking a Madonna song doesn't qualify as a "guilty pleasure," because a lot of people unabashedly do, but as a manly man (which I am, consarnit!), I shouldn't like this song. It's the only Madonna song I like, actually. Sing it with me: "Thinkin' I'm goin' to lose my mind ... You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline ..."

4. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. I don't think liking the first movie is really a guilty pleasure, because it's a fun, goofy comedy with a nice, fresh feel to it. But the sequel? More of the same, and even though the joke has worn thin, I still love it. How can you not love William Sadler as Death? And instead of playing chess with death a la The Seventh Seal, they play Battleship! Awesome.

5. Keanu movies in general. I have spoken of my man-crush on Keanu before (along with my man-crush on Brad Pitt), and I have to defend my boy. Despite being a mediocre actor, Keanu shows up in some very good movies in all genres. River's Edge, Dangerous Liaisons, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Parenthood, I Love You to Death, My Own Private Idaho, Much Ado About Nothing, Little Buddha, Speed, The Devil's Advocate, The Matrix, The Gift, A Scanner Darkly ... some better than others, obviously (he does a very good job in River's Edge and My Own Private Idaho, two great movies), but all starring Keanu. It's bizarre. Whenever someone bashes Keanu, I feel the need to step in, even though I can't defend his acting. Strange.

6. 24. Yes, Kiefer's show is beloved by many, even highbrow critics, but come on - it's pretty much trash. Ridiculous threats to America, a hero who tortures, a body count in the thousands (and that's just this season!), corrupt politicians, a mole inside CTU every single season ... if this were a comic book, people would be complaining about how stupid it is. But because it's on television and stars Kiefer, everyone loves it. Including me. But it's still idiotic.

7. Dazzler. Comic book geeks all have their favorite characters that almost everyone else thinks is stupid, and Alison Blaire is mine. As with almost every comic book character, it's not that she's irredeemable - she converts sound into lasers, wants to be a singer, starred in a movie, fell in love with Longshot - it's that writers don't do very much with her. Her stint in the X-Men is still one of my favorite times for that group. I have to go buy her solo series, which apparently sucked but, you know, features Dazzler!

8. The White Rabbit. I don't know very much about the White Rabbit except that I know she's lame and she just showed up briefly in the latest issue of She-Hulk. I DO know that I have a great idea to use her, and when Joey Q gets his head out of his ass and lets me write the X-Men, she'll be prominently featured. You heard it hear first!

9. Michael Slade novels. I have written about my love for these blood-soaked police procedurals before. The first book, Headhunter, was a great book. The subsequent ones have varied in quality, but I keep reading them because they do a good job of showing how cops go about their business (I assume; the writers are lawyers, so they know a bit about it, one hopes). And they're entertaining. And the twisted ways the criminals go about committing horrific murders are fun. But they're pretty crappy books in the harsh light of day.

10. Pedicures. Before you criticize me for being less than a manly man, I'd ask you: have you ever gotten a pedicure? Or a manicure, for that matter? Judge not unless you have walked a mile in my shoes (or not in my shoes, as the case may be with pedicures). I even get my nails painted occasionally. But damn, they feel good. Go get a pedicure, you manly men out there, and then condemn me! You won't be able to, because your feet will feel too relaxed for you to care!

Anyone have any guilty pleasures they'd like to share? Don't be shy - we're all friends here!

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Waterfalls from a new perspective on Picture Day!

I try to get these up on Mondays, but 24 is on, damn it! I know everyone breathlessly awaits our photographic journeys through the years.

We have been in Venezuela in August of 1999 for a bit, and today it's time to head into the interior of the country and do some hiking and flying! We caught a plane early in the morning on Margarita Island and headed to Canaima National Park, which is deep inland. We were going to head back to see some waterfalls, but first we had to get into a dugout canoe and cross a vast lake! Check it out:

You may ask yourself, "Why is that water so polluted?" Well, it's not. Yes, it's the color of iced tea, but Venezuela has, as yet, not quite destroyed all their fresh water! Give Hugo time! The water is actually stained with tannins, which are leeched from the trees in and surrounding the lake. So the water is brownish. It doesn't burn your skin like acid when it touches you (that would be too cool!) but it does make the water weirdly greasy.

So we jumped in our canoes and headed away. The other canoe had a bit of a problem. It actually ran into one of the trees in the middle of the lake:

This was uproariously funny to those of us in the other boat (or was it just me?), but there was a danger for a minute or two that they would capsize, which would not have been pleasant. Luckily, they extricated the boat from the branches and we were off again!

We hiked for quite a while through the scrub brush, and even though it was an overcast day, it was very humid (it's the rain forest, after all) and we were all sweating profusely. But we finally reached one of the waterfalls, and wandered around for a while. I post this next picture not to make you lose your lunch (it features a grotesque man topless) but to show you the fine Venezuelan safety precautions at the edge of the waterfall:

Look at where we're standing! "Go ahead," the Venezuelan authorities say, "Walk close to the edge, Yankee boy! One wrong step and there's one less stinking capitalist pig to worry about!"

Then we headed behind the waterfall. I don't know if you've ever been behind a waterfall, but it's pretty keen:

Again, I apologize for the ugly man in the center of the picture. But the effect is neat!

We had a bit of a harrowing experience behind the falls. We had to walk single file along the trail, with a few guides interspersed among us. We were near the front of the line, and toward the end, our guide had to go back and help a person who had freaked out (it's actually somewhat claustrophobic, and pretty dark, naturally). She told Krys, who was in front of me, to just follow the trail and it would lead right out. So Krys and I kept on, when suddenly my wife disappeared. I mean it. She was walking, and she just fell straight down out of my sight. I freaked out (understandably) because of the darkness and the fact that you couldn't hear anything over the water, so I didn't know what to do. I bent down and saw that Krys had fallen into a pretty sizable hole in the rock, but she was at least not at the bottom of the falls dead. We got her out and made it to the other side. Presumably the guide would have steered us around the hole. Krys had a bloody knee from where she hit the rock (she still has a scar) but was otherwise okay. Needless to say, we were a bit grumpy with the person who freaked out behind us. Just walk and it will be fine, people!

So we had a nice time at the falls. When we got back to the plane we flew deeper into the rain forest to check out the longest waterfall in the world: Angel Falls. We could have hiked to the falls, but that takes days. So we flew. We had to pay extra for this portion of our trip (the whole day, not just the flight to Angel Falls), and there's no guarantee that you'll be able to see the waterfall, which is often shrouded in clouds. So our picture isn't great, but it's still pretty neat:

Then we flew back to the boat. A long day, but a good one. It was time to relax again!

Next week: relaxing! Didn't you read what I just wrote?

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Worst. Lyrics. Ever.

The category: Pop Music. The question: What is the lamest line of lyrics ever?

My answers:

"I feel a hunger, it's a hunger" by Eddie Money in "Take Me Home Tonight" and "Only time will tell if we stand the test of time" by Van Halen in "Why Can't This Be Love?"

I think Sammy takes the crown because there's a bit of disagreement about what Eddie Money is actually saying. He mumbles a lot, don't you know.

What's your worst line of music ever? All five of my loyal readers, chime in!

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The Women of Jerry, Part 3

After the truncated first season and the pilot, the second season of Seinfeld actually featured 12 whole episodes! It's not as long as the rest of the seasons, but at least it's something! So let's check out the women in Jerry's life in 1991.

Episode One, "The Ex-Girlfriend" (aired 23 January 1991). In this episode, George dumps Marlene but leaves some books behind in her apartment. Jerry agrees to go pick them up, and he becomes involved with her. He tells Kramer she has a "psycho-sexual" hold over him. George, it turns out, doesn't care. Marlene eventually dumps him because she doesn't like his act. Marlene is played by Tracy Kolis, who actually reappeared a few years later in an episode in a different role. She had roles in Mad About You, Coach, and NYPD Blue, so I guess that's something! I'm going to give Ms. Kolis a Fame Rating of 3 out of 10, because her role as Jerry's girlfriend is pretty memorable, far more than Lynn Clark in the first season.

Episode Two, "The Pony Remark" (aired 30 January 1991). Jerry kills a relative because he says only spoiled rich kids have ponies. Then he frets about whether he should go to his softball game or the funeral. He has no girlfriend in the episode.

Episode Three, "The Jacket" (aired 6 February 1991). Jerry again has no girlfriend. This is a great episode because of the presence of Laurence Tierney as Elaine's father.

Episode Four, "The Phone Message" (aired 13 February 1991). In this episode, Jerry and his girlfriend argue about the Dockers commercial, and then she gets even more upset when he tells his friends about it. His girlfriend Donna is played by Gretchen German, who looks a lot different in this photo than she did on the show. Ms. German also guest-starred her way through the 1990s, although she never made a big splash. She was in Wings, Murder, She Wrote, Coach, NYPD Blue, Home Improvement, Deep Space Nine, Chicago Hope, and Beverly Hills 90210. Her role wasn't as memorable as Marlene's, but I'm still giving her a Fame Rating of 3 out of 10, because her role (among others) helped establish early on that the show was going to be about nothing, and she did a good job selling that concept.

Episode Five, "The Apartment" (aired 4 April 1991). Jerry's upstairs neighbor dies and Jerry gets Elaine into the building, then regrets it. He has no girlfriend in this episode.

Episode Six, "The Statue" (aired 11 April 1991). Jerry gets his apartment cleaned by a student who's dating an author who Elaine is editing. The student supposedly steals a statue from Jerry's apartment. No girlfriend.

Episode Seven, "The Revenge" (aired 18 April 1991). George quits his job and then tries to get revenge. Jerry thinks the laundromat guy stole money from him and tries to get revenge. Jerry has no girlfriend.

Episode Eight, "The Heart Attack" (aired 25 April 1991). When George thinks he has a heart attack, he ends up in the hospital. The doctors tell him to get his tonsils out, but he sees a naturalist friend of Kramer's first (a very funny Stephen Tobolowsky). Hilarity ensues. Jerry remains girlfriend-less.

Episode Nine, "The Deal" (aired 2 May 1991). One of my all-time least favorite episodes. Elaine and Jerry think they can have sex and still remain friends, but they can't. I suppose Elaine counts as his girlfriend in this one, so she gets a Fame Rating of 10 out of 10 (it's Elaine, for crying out loud!). Why don't I like this episode? At the end of the episode they're still together! Did they work out a new deal? What is, indeed, the deal?

Episode Ten, "The Baby Shower" (aired 16 May 1991). Elaine holds a baby shower in Jerry's apartment. The woman was George's worst date ever. Kramer wants to hook up Jerry with illegal cable. Remember when that was a big deal? No girlfriend in sight!

Episode Eleven, "The Chinese Restaurant" (aired 23 May 1991). A classic. "Who's Cartwright?" "I'm Cartwright!" But, alas, no girlfriend.

Episode Twelve, "The Busboy" (aired 26 June 1991). George and Kramer allow a busboy's cat to escape. Many hijinks thereafter! Jerry remains sans girlfriend!

Boy, the early years were rough on Jerry, weren't they? 17 episodes in and he's only had four girlfriends, really. We'll check back in with the next season soon. Things might pick up for him then!

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Taking a hike and going underwater with Picture Day

Yeah, I skipped last week. I stink.

So last time we were in Grenada, ready to head off on our cruise south toward Venezuela. We sailed southwest to Los Testigos islands, which are part of Venezuela's offshore possessions. It was a nice stop - the islands are tiny and sparsely inhabited, but they're very pretty. We took a hike in the morning up to the top of one of the islands. The Bataan Death March paled in comparison to the hike! Our captain told us that it was a rough march, but we did it anyway! It was humid and hot and hard work, but the view was worth it.

This is the island as we approached it on the boat.

Here we are climbing to the top. Well, not me - I had already made it. Hence the ability to take a picture of other people climbing to the top.

This is one of the nice views from the top.

Another nice view from the top. On the other island is where most of the people live - that beach facing us is the site of the "village," which is a generous term.

Later that day it was time for snorkeling! We bought an underwater disposable camera, and the pictures came out okay. Here's me.

Sea urchins are nasty little creatures, apparently. We didn't step on this one, because we're not stupid.

This is just a nice underwater scene.

We sailed to Margarita Island that night, and then flew deep into the interior of Venezuela. But those pictures will have to wait until next week!

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Book sale!

This weekend was the VNSA book sale at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, and this year Krys and I went to it after securing a babysitter for the kids. We went two years ago, but we had Mia with us and Krys was pregnant, so it wasn't quite as much fun. This time we were unfettered! It's a very cool sale, because it's a charity event, and the books are way cheap. This year the weather was much nicer than it was two years ago, and we actually had to wait in line. They were only letting a certain number of people into the building every fifteen minutes because the fire department didn't want the place to be packed, so we stood in line for 45 minutes until we reached our destination. Then it was time to shop!

We took 100 dollars in cash and tried to not spend any more than that. They take debit cards, so we could have bought more, but we try to limit ourselves. We split up and dug around for an hour. Finally, we were done, and we got back together. Here's our haul:

(Books marked with an asterisk are those picked up by Krys.)
1. * Daughter of Fortune (1999) by Isabel Allende. I actually bought a book by Allende, so I'm not adverse to her, but this story about a Chilean refugee in 1850s California doesn't sound like it's for me.

2. Eight Men Out (1963) by Eliot Asinof. The story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox who threw the World Series. I still haven't seen the movie, even though John Sayles made it. What the hell is wrong with me?

3. * Oryx and Crake (2003) by Margaret Atwood. I found this and gave it to Krys because I thought she'd like it. Later, when we compared what we had gotten, she had picked it up again, and I had to point out that I had already given it to her.

4. * Jack Maggs (1997) by Peter Carey. Carey wrote Oscar and Lucinda, if you're familiar with the movie. This looks kind of cool - a stranger roaming the streets of London in 1837 getting in all kinds of trouble.

5. * The Virgin Blue (1997) by Tracy Chevalier. After the success of Girl With a Pearl Earring, this got an American release. It was written before that book, so I guess the publisher figured it was time to capitalize on Chevalier's popularity!

6. * Killing Floor (1997) by Lee Child. People magazine called this a "page-turner," so you know it must be good!

7. * The Archivist (1998) by Martha Cooley. This novel involves a mystery about T. S. Eliot's private letters, and since Eliot is my favorite poet, I'll probably read this.

8. * The Bondwoman's Narrative (2002) by Hannah Crafts. According to the back cover, this is the only known novel written by a female slave. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of interest in that. But I bet Krys will like it.

9. Prague in Black and Gold: Scenes from the Life of a European City (1997) by Peter Demetz. Prague is cool. I have a recent interest in Eastern European history, so this should fit in well.

10. * The Black Dahlia (1987) by James Ellroy. I'd like to read this too, so good call, Krys!

11. A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland (2005) by John Mack Faragher. One of the cool things about massive book sales is that you can get books you have wanted but weren't so jazzed by them that you wanted to pay full price. This book falls into that category. I was on the fence about it, but for six dollars, you can't go wrong!

12. A Treasury of Great American Scandals (2003) by Michael Farquhar. Who doesn't love political scandals?????

13. The Sound and the Fury (1929) by William Faulkner. Another thing these sales are good for: buying classic literature that, for one reason or another, you've never gotten around to reading. Yes, I am woefully remiss in the classics, including Faulkner.

14. What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004) by Thomas Frank. According to Republicans, there's nothing wrong with Kansas!

15. * Sophie's World (1991) by Jostein Gaarder. A novel about the history of philosophy? How can you go wrong?

16. The Arcanum (1998) by Janet Gleeson. A history about the alchemist who accidentally discovered how to make porcelain. Alchemists are awesome.

17. Pompeii (2003) by Robert Harris. Both Krys and I liked Fatherland, and we both picked this up to buy. That's why we're made for each other!

18. God Knows (1984) by Joseph Heller. I read this years ago when I got it out of the library while I was in high school and liked it a lot, so I figured I'll buy it. Why not? It's a nice book about King David looking back on his life.

19. The Mulberry Empire (2002) by Philip Hensher. This is a novel about the British excursion into Afghanistan in 1839-1842. Sounds cool.

20. * The Love of Stones (2001) by Tobias Hill. The back cover doesn't really say much about it, but the front cover has Queen Elizabeth on it. Apparently it's a story about searching for jewels. I'll have to ask Krys if it's worth it.

21. * The Dress Lodger (2000) by Sheri Holman. This is a novel about a 15-year-old girl in 1831 London. Sounds intriguing, if distinctly chick-lit-ish.

22. The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World (2004) by A. J. Jacobs. Here's another book that intrigued me, but I never wanted to pay full price. But it was four dollars. Sold!

23. Dark Matter (2002) by Philip Kerr. Sir Isaac Newton has to solve a murder in late 17th-century London? Sounds cool to me!

24. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling (2003) by Ross King. It's all there in the title!

25. A Conspiracy of Paper (2000) by David Liss. This is a novel about a conspiracy in the London stock market in the 18th century. Both Krys and I picked it up, so you know it has to be good!

26. * The Missing World (2000) by Margot Livesey. A woman gets amnesia after a traffic accident, and her boyfriend, whom she was about to leave, decides to reconstruct her life without that little detail. Sounds neat. I'll have to check with Krys to see if it's any good.

27. The Biograph Girl (2000) by William J. Mann. This is a novel about a very early Hollywood star who supposedly died in 1938 but may be alive decades later. It promises to be a look at old Hollywood, which is kind of neat.

28. * April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici (2003) by Lauro Martines. The Medicis were pretty darned neat, so I might have to read this as well.

29. * Song of Solomon (1977) by Toni Morrison. The only Morrison book I've ever read is Beloved, and although it's not bad, it didn't make me want to read another. Krys swears by this book, so I'll have to read it some day. She bought two copies of this, one to give to her best friend (who was in town yesterday, so Krys got to spend the morning at the book sale and the rest of the day hanging out with her, leaving me stuck with the kids!) and another to give to her sister.

30. Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of WWII's OSS (2004) by Patrick K. O'Donnell. I've always been keen to read more about the OSS. Now I can!

31. Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley. No, I've never read it. Stop looking at me like that!

32. The Notorious Life of Gyp, Right-Wing Anarchist in Fin-de-Siècle France (1995) by Willa Z. Silverman. How can you not love a right-wing anarchist????

33. * Saving Fish From Drowning (2005) by Amy Tan. I've never been interesting in Tan's books, but this one, about a tourist expedition in Burma that goes horribly wrong, sounds keen.

34. * The Devil Wears Prada (2003) by Lauren Weisberger. The girls who checked our books when we were leaving (who couldn't have been more than 18 or 19) assured Krys that the movie is the best ever. Now that's an endorsement!

We also bought four children's books for the, well, children. So all in all, we bought 39 books (two copies of Song of Solomon). All of this cost us ... $99.80. We were very impressed with ourselves, because we weren't even counting up the costs as we shopped. So it was a very good excursion.

Of course, when you consider that I have books from the sale two years ago that I haven't yet read, and when you consider I'm getting close to 300 books that I haven't read, perhaps I should slow down a little. But I don't care - I love me some books!

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Yet another reason why I don't read the newspaper

From the Arizona Republic, Thursday, 8 February 2007:

As many as three eighth-grade boys accused of sexually abusing female classmates at Desert Arroyo Middle School committed sexually graphic acts in class, according to a police report released Wednesday.

Victims told police that the 13-year-olds grabbed girls' breasts and told them to touch the boys' genitals during a social studies class, according to Scottsdale police sex-crimes investigators.


The boys face criminal charges that range from indecent exposure to sexual abuse. Several students reported that the boys repeatedly groped 13-year-old girls and tried to solicit sex acts in class.


Several students told Scottsdale sex-crimes detectives they saw the boys expose their genitals and inappropriately touch girls during teacher Craig Bragg's social studies classes.

Bragg, who remains on paid administrative leave, denied witnessing any misconduct. He told police that students would have to be "sneaky" if they didn't catch his attention.

"I feel bad. I don't feel negligent," Bragg told detectives. "I keep a good rein on the kids. There is not a lot of bad behavior in my class."


Incidents reported by students in Bragg's class include:

• One boy exposing his genitals to classmates "at least 10 times" over several weeks, including five times in one class.

• One of the boys putting his pubic hairs on a girl's pen, which she inadvertently put in her mouth.

• During a movie in class, one of the boys masturbated in front of classmates.

According to the report, one girl told investigators that one of the boys put his hand up her pants and groped her during a Spanish class the previous school year. The boy often slapped her rear end and touched her in other inappropriate ways, but she was scared to tell anyone because even though he was a "pervert," he was popular and physically larger than her.

Sigh. Is it any wonder those home-schoolers have the right idea? This is just disgusting on so many levels, and sadly, the boys in the class aren't the most disgusting of the bunch. I hate to say this, but for 13-year-olds boys, a "boys will be boys" mentality prevails. I'm certainly not excusing these kids and if one of my daughters ever told me a boy did this to her, I would hunt that child down and make him suffer (and I don't care if I'm bigger than they are). But a lot of these hijinks, I suspect, were things the boys did because they didn't think there was anything wrong with it. Sure, they knew it would piss the girls off and that they would get in trouble if they were caught, but I wonder if they thought it was any different than tugging on a girl's ponytail or flicking boogers at a girl. Gross and mean, but not psychologically damaging. Maybe they did and didn't care. I'm not sure. The kids I taught, who were a few years older, weren't all that sophisticated when it came to sex (despite the children they bore), so these kids might not have known how awful they were. Again, that's not an excuse.

The people who really piss me off in this situation are the parents and the teacher. First, the parents. Where do you think these kids get their ideas about abusing girls? Sure, they get it from popular culture, but that's filtered through their parents. If these kids hear people in pop culture calling women "bitches" and "whores" and their parents don't say anything about how awful it is, even if it's not to them specifically, then they'll think it's okay. Of course, a lot of these parents call women "bitches" and "whores," which might be even worse. I don't know how we're going to do as the kids get older and get exposed to more of this stuff. We will try to let them know what's right and wrong, though.

The teacher also is to blame for a lot of this. I just can't believe it went on without him catching on, especially the extent of it. Yes, the girls might have been embarrassed to say anything, because the boys were popular and bigger than they were and because they had a male teacher. But how, exactly, does a kid masturbate in your class in front of other kids? I used to show movies occasionally, and there were some dark corners of the room where this kind of thing could have happened, I suppose. I could even believe a kid jerking off without anyone knowing about it. But in front of classmates? Wouldn't that be hard to miss? As for a lot of the other stuff, maybe the girls didn't want to say anything for any number of reasons (although, again, it comes back to parenting, and we're going to try to raise the girls to be the kind of people who would not only report this, but kick the boy's ass in the process), but if a boy whipped his dick out in front of a girl in the class, there would be a reaction - either loud cries of how gross it is or even giggles. Either way, it's something the teacher should have heard and investigated, even if he wasn't sure what was happening. There's a difference between normal goofiness that goes on in class and something like this, which would definitely draw a different reaction by the victims.

I hate to get all conservative, but modern society makes me sick sometimes. What a horrible story. Yet all anyone in the big-time media wants to talk about is the death of a woman who once took her clothes off for money. But that's a whole different post!

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Final thoughts on the Super Bowl, plus a look ahead

Let's put this season to bed!

* Peyton Manning's status is unchanged after the Super Bowl. He didn't deserve his MVP, and I would have loved to see voters have the balls to give it to the entire offensive line. Whether he won or not, he's still one of the best in the game (even though I don't like him). Winning championships in the ultimate team game doesn't make you "great." John Elway was great before he won Super Bowls. Dan Marino and Warren Moon and Dan Fouts are great quarterbacks. If you want to discuss greatest quarterbacks ever and base it on championships, it's easy: Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw.

* Of course, that doesn't mean Rex Grossman didn't stink and cost his team a win. Chicago needs to think long and hard about whether he should be their long-term starter. It's not that he played poorly, it's that he couldn't get the center exchange down correctly! What the hell?

* Why don't teams put more pressure on Peyton Manning? I know some teams try and fail, but the Bears didn't even try. The only way to beat Manning is to pressure him. The Colts have the ultimate rhythm offense, and Chicago allowed him to get in a rhythm early. Stupid. Sure, you might give up a big play, but fortune favors the bold! Many quarterbacks don't like to be rushed - who would? - but Manning really doesn't like it.

* This was on of those Super Bowls that, for me, was no-win. If the Colts won, we'd get to hear how Manning is the greatest quarterback ever for the entire offseason (and beyond). If the Bears won, we'd hear about Da Bears! forever and how blue-collar they were and how Chicago deserved a championship, even though the damned town won SIX of them in the 1990s. I didn't like either team, so now I'm stuck with hearing about the greatest team ever for eight months. Win a few more, Indianapolis, and we'll see.

* So who wins next year? Let's break down the divisions and look at the only teams who could possibly win it (teams in bold could win):

AFC East: New England, New Jersey Jets, Buffalo, Miami. The Jets are a nice story, but can't go much further than they did this year, Buffalo doesn't have the quarterback, and Miami is a mess.
AFC North: Cincinnati, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland. The Steelers are breaking in a new coach, and without a power running game, Roethlisberger is vulnerable. Cleveland is Cleveland. Sorry, Browns fans!
AFC South: Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Houston. I'm not buying Vince Young yet, and the Texans are a horrible franchise.
AFC West: San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, Oakland. Denver will be breaking in a new quarterback, Kansas City doesn't have a good one (Green is too old), and Oakland vies with Houston for worst franchise in the league.

NFC East: Philadelphia, New Jersey Giants, Dallas, Washington. Two words for the Giants: Eli Manning. Three more words: No Tiki Barber. The Cowboys will have a new coach, an old Terrell Owens, and a new quarterback. Washington has a new quarterback and not much else.
NFC North: Chicago, Minnesota, Green Bay, Detroit. Chicago by default, really. The Vikings don't have much at quarterback, Green Bay gets another year of Favre (good for the rest of the league, bad for the Packers), and the Lions retained Matt Millen, so they obviously don't care about winning at all.
NFC South: New Orleans, Carolina, Tampa, Atlanta. The Panthers are too weird, the Buccaneers have quarterback issues, and Atlanta gets another year of Michael Vick. Maybe he'll surprise us all, but I doubt it.
NFC West: Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis, Arizona. Yes, the 49ers. St. Louis had its chances, but they don't protect Bulger at all. Arizona is a year away. They might actually make the playoffs this year.

That's 11 teams out of 32 that have a realistic shot at winning the Super Bowl. Since 12 teams make the playoffs, some loser team will get in! So who wins? Well, you know I'm going to say the Eagles, but here's why: If (and it's a big "if," to be sure) Andy Reid commits to the run like he did at the end of this season, McNabb can stay healthy because he won't be doing everything himself, and they can win the Big One. I hope Andy Reid saw the light this season. We'll see at the beginning of next year. If he reverts to form, then I don't know. Indianapolis seems to have the best team, but they'll be the targets, and that's never good. Why not New England?

* Is it September yet?????

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If Prince had any balls ...

... he'd say "Screw CBS!" and play some hard core Prince music. Here's what I'd love to hear at the Super Bowl Half Time Show™ tomorrow (not that I'll be watching, but still):

1. "My Name Is Prince" - complete with the lyric "I'm prone to layin' some chrome upside some motherfucker's dome!"

2. "Let's Pretend We're Married" - how can you resist a song in which the Purple One whispers, "I sincerely want to fuck the taste out of your mouth"?

3. "Gett Off" - jazz flute, man!

4. "P Control" - the "P" does not stand for Prince.

5. Anything from his 2001 jazz-fusion-Jehovah's Witness-almost unlistenable release, The Rainbow Children. Just to freak people out.

I have no idea how many songs he will do - I picked five. But because he has no balls, plus because he's all "religious" now and won't do the dirty stuff, plus because most people think Prince fell off the planet in 1986 and hasn't been heard from since, here's what I think he will do:

1. "Let's Go Crazy" - I will fall off my chair if he doesn't sing this.

2. "1999" - even though it's about nuclear war and we're in 2007, this is still a big hit.

3. "Black Sweat" - he has to do a song from the new album, right?

4. "Kiss" - this might be a reach, but I still think it's probable.

5. "Purple Rain" - I like this song, but come on, Mr. Nelson! I think he'll bow to the old-timers, who think they're being "hip" and "with-it" by name-checking songs that were released 23 years ago.

Anyone have any ideas what he might sing, and what you want him to sing? Even the songs I mentioned he'll probably do would be fine, because they're pretty freakin' good. They're just, you know, tired.

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The Women of Jerry, Part 2

Roger pointed out this site to me, implying that my quest to catalogue Jerry's girlfriends was quixotic at best and insane at worst. Roger's a swell guy thinking about my mental health like that! But the site isn't very comprehensive, so I will continue with my quest!

I decided to do more than one woman per post, but I haven't decided how to break down the seasons. Maybe in half. That doesn't apply for Season One, which is shorter than the others. So I'll just do all of Season One in this post. Let's hope the woman (yes, only one) is more memorable than poor Pamela Brüll.

Season One:

Episode One, "The Stake-Out" (aired 31 May 1990). In this episode, Jerry meets a woman whose name he doesn't know, so he stakes out her building. This is the first reference that George makes to Art Vandelay, who will become his go-to fake name. The woman is named Vanessa, and she was played by Lynn Clark. She was an attractive redhead (wasn't she? or am I misremembering?) who showed up again in the fourth episode, "The Stock Tip." She also never went on to much fame. The highlight of her career after Seinfeld was probably an appearance on Friends, or possibly her appearance on Melrose Place.

Episode Two, "The Robbery" (aired 7 June 1990). No girlfriend. This is the episode when George and Jerry both want the same great apartment and neither end up taking it.

Episode Three, "Male Unbonding" (aired 14 June 1990). No girlfriend. In this episode Jerry tries to "break up" with his childhood friend, Joel, played to obnoxious excellence by Kevin Dunn.

Episode Four, "The Stock Tip" (aired 21 June 1990). Lynn Clark returns, but her weekend trip to Vermont with Jerry dooms the relationship, especially because he's fretting about his stock going bad. And it's raining. So she was gone.

That was a quick season, wasn't it? Seinfeld, remember, didn't take off initially - if it had premiered today, it would have been canceled, and then we wouldn't have had a comedy masterpiece. But that's neither here nor there.

I couldn't find a birthdate for Lynn Clark, either, so I can't compare her age to Jerry's. I'm going to give her a Fame Rating of 2 out of 10, because she did guest star on three of the shows that captured the 1990s zeitgeist - Seinfeld, Friends, and Melrose Place. But there's not much else for her.

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