Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Yes, you can mix theology and science.  We didn't always live in an age when people believe the earth is 4004 years old based on a literal reading of the the Hebrew Bible. By the way, this calculation is called the Ussher chronology, not to be confused with the Usher chronology which calculates the earth's age as 10 years for every time Usher says "Yeah!" in a song.  (At least using this method, the earth is 14,000 years old). Anyway, Edwin Abbott was both a mathematician and a theologian, and he wrote a perfectly fine piece of classic literature which is kind of kick-ass when you think about it.  I'm sure when he was at Cambridge in the 1860's everyone called him Kick-ass Eddie. 

Flatland, which is a slim 96 pages, is weird. Good weird.  A square lawyer explains Flatland to us, knowing we live in Spaceland, and we come to learn all about Flatland's politics, women's rights and all about triangle angle-racism.  Its a criticism of Victorian social mores which is pretty clever. It does get a little tedious is the beginning because when you use an analogy to spoof something, I mean, I get it.  My favorite part is the last third which becomes philosophical.  The square has a dream where he visits Pointland.  There, he encounters a point king that cannot conceive of the observable world of Flatland.  Square, when he is awake, is visited by a Sphere, which he naturally mistakes as a circle.  The Square cannot conceive of Spaceland until it becomes first-person observable. Deep, huh.  After becoming a believer, Square dares to postulate a forth and fifth dimension, which the Sphere thinks is really nuts. Very deep.  Three dimensionally deep. 

No one cared about Flatland when it came out but he was later rediscovered after Einstein's theory of relativity.  Abbott was then considered a visionary because he used time to describe other dimensions.  I wonder what Kick-Ass Eddie would do with string theory.  He'd write Stringland. I suspect in Stringland it would difficult to tell a person's mouth hole from his "other dimension."

Drinks:  In Flatland you should drink something extraordinary. Ok, here is one my favorites which makes no sense on paper, so like the Square, you must taste it to believe it.  The Kretchma:  1 oz. vodka, 1 oz. Creme de Cacao, one dash Grenadine, 1 tablespoon lemon juice.  Mix all the ingredients with ice, shake, strain and serve.  Some say it tastes like a cupcake, some say it tastes like the fourth dimension.         

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Snow Child

On paper, this book made sense for the book club.  The safe bet is to pick a book that you've already read, but that's cheating.  So I picked a book that promised the wonder of mythical creatures, short, well reviewed and it has a fox on the cover.  A fox is always a good sign.  I thought, I am a genius at picking books!  Nope, I am not.  In reality it features a depressed Alaskan couple trying to homestead in the super-grim 1920's.  The sad couple discover (or create out of snow) a semi-feral girl (or mythical creature). The fox has a minor role. MINOR ROLE. I think the cover is cute.  Its not a bad book but it didn't exactly generate an lively invigorating discussion either.  It is the Jennifer Garner of books.   
If you are really into Russian folktales retold in a different setting, say Alaska in the1920's, this book is for you! The biggest plot point is whether the girl is made out of snow or is an orphaned Swede. Whether she is mythical or real never actually is resolved.  It does get a minor cool point for mentioning how awesome wolverines are.  They are, everyone knows it, but they deserve a mention once in a while.  
Eowyn Ivey, whose name appears to be from the Hobbit-name generator, is a first time novelist.  It looks like her second novel is going to be called Shadows on the Wolverine.  Yes, start with cool animal and everything else is downhill.  I think I should write one called The Honey-Badger's Midnight Adventure.  Maybe he can be a sofisicated animal and have a top-hat.  You can't really go wrong.  
So, unless you really like reading books in the summer set in the winter, The Snow Child is nothing special.  Its kind of like getting a snow cone with sugar-water but no flavoring.     
When I think of Alaska I think of maple syrup so if you are going to read this, why not a maple syrup based cocktail?  This one is called a Jack Rabbit: 2 oz. apple jack, 1/2 oz maple syrup, 1/2 oz. lime juice, 1/2 oz. lemon juice.  Shake with ice and strain.  Garnish with an apple wedge.   

Friday, July 12, 2013

Lets Explore Diabetes with Owls

Answer this theological question for me: Is there a topic so weird even He cannot make it funny?  He in this case being David Sedaris who is a god of the humorous essay.  The answer is yes.  Colostomies are a little too weird. This shakes our faith in Him. One problem when you are fan of an author and have read (or listened to) everything, you know when they have recycled a story and are trying to market it as new material.  Cough cough.  Yes, I haven't read all of these stories before but that Australian bit, I've read, I can't remember where, but its the same essay.  Drats. 

I did chuckle in a story about his Dad and his post work interactions without pants. His Dad sounds a lot like my Dad.  My Dad would take off his suit coat but keep his work shirt and dress pants on for dinner. One of my brothers had undiagnosed ADHD--back in the days we just called kids like this "spaz." Tom, the spaz, had to sit between my parents at dinner, naturally, and would periodically (read that as often) spill his milk all over my Dad.  Now, my Dad had this incredible "push off" technique from the table, you've never seen a middle-aged man move so fast, but the floor splash would get on his dress pants.  THOMAS!! GODDAMMIT! CAN'T YOU DRINK MILK WITHOUT SPILLING IT EVERYWHERE GODDAMMIT!  No, he couldn't...he was and still is a spaz.  That's what they do.  Its like telling a dog not to sniff another dog's butt.  Which is eerily similar to some of the stuff my brother used to do, he had a whole fart repertoire.  Anyway, if my Dad had a no-pants policy he would avoided this.  Frankly, I'm glad he didn't. David Sedaris' Dad wore boxers and my Dad was/is a tidy-whities Dad.  Before you wonder, I know because I sometimes did the laundry. 

Overall the book is mediocre at best, there are some politically charged pieces which kind of fall flat and feel outdated.  Also, he has these short essays satirically authored which just aren't working for me. Like crazy-uninformed-mid west-woman's essay which starts out rational and then falls into absurdity.  Meh.  If I wasn't such a fan, I would say its a pretty good book.  But since I am a huge fan, I say--wow, you can do better, I know you can.  I believe in Him.  I guess I put David Sedaris on a pedestal, but he's so short no one noticed. 

Drinks: David's Dad likes a vodka tonic and why not? Its easy to make and easy to drink. 2 ounces or high quality vodka and 2 ounces of tonic water and a squeeze of lime.  This is also a good time to use that flavored vodka you have.  David's Dad likes a vodka tonic and a "fancy after work snack." God, that makes so much sense to me. In the book, David goes to reach for the snack and his Dad says "you want a fancy after work snack, get a job." He claims his Dad forgot he was eleven at the time.  Knowing my Dad--his Dad forgot no such thing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cloud Atlas

What do a nineteenth century traveller, a rakish young composer, a cute reporter from the 80's, an aging publisher on the lam from thugs, a fast-food drone from the future and a primitive man from the distant future have in common?  Answer: I have no idea.  If fact, if you find out can you let me know?  David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas incorporates these stories in his self described "Russian Nesting Doll" styled book. What does that even mean?  This is the easiest way to describe it, think of each story as a letter, the book reads like this (ABCDEFFEDCBA).  The "F" story is extra long because it is in the middle.  Once you realize this is the format, you might feel like you got "F'd" yourself.  The "A" story, set in the olden times, stops mid sentence and then picks up on page like 480.  I forgot to mention that F is written in heavy dialect. Luckily for Mitchell, these are compelling and creative stories, otherwise the work involved in reading this book would be annoying. Alright, still annoying, but a decent book nonetheless. 

Its hard to describe this book, its a collection of short stories some of which are set in the future some in the past but yet still integrated into a novel.  I think Mitchell went to an old-school brick and mortar bookstore looked at the sign above the sections and said: "I will write a book about True Crime, Music, Travel Narratives, Sci-Fi, Conspiracy Theory, Short Stories, sure, yeah, all of those."  Put them all in and let the reader sort it out.

Apparently this is not the first time he's told a story with multiple narrators whose stories intersect.  But Mitchell wrote that first novel in 1999. 1999 was the year when the Sega Dreamcast debuted, we still had a space program and the year Bill Clinton was acquitted of impeachment.  Anything was possible in 1999.

I've been reading a lot of books set in the future.  All have grimtastic vision of a ruined environment and the humans become impoverished and more primitive.  Essentially, the Planet of the Apes archetype.  Why can't the future be positive? A simple tax code, a fast and pleasant way to travel and dress shoes that don't feel like torture devices.  Now that I think about it, without that space program my dream shoes are never going to happen.  Planet of Apes it is. 

Drinks: A Dark and Stormy is apparently a trademarked drink name of Gosling Rum.  How about a Dark and Cloudy?  I like Flor de Cana Nicaraguan rum anyway.  Unlike Cloud Atlas, this recipe is very easy: 1/2 ginger beer and 1/2 rum over ice and a squeeze of lime juice to taste.