Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 Into 2007

Just home for a bit after a hell of a disappointing football day. Feh.

In a few hours, it'll be 2007. This prompts some stock-taking, of course. I won't bore you with it -- some good, some bad, plenty of questions still unanswered.

I got to Russia in 2006. I did some other cool shit. All in all, not a bad year.

Aside from goddamn football, of course.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

#50

And that does it.

#50 -- "Blood Feud" by Adrian Dater

I'm going to review this on Jes's site at some point, so I won't here -- it's a hockey book, and a good one, but definitely of interest only to hockey fans. (Update: the review's here)

So, with a little burst at the end, I made it. I doubt that I'll do this again next year -- the 50 books challenge, that is (I'll keep doing the book review diary). I put all sorts of arbitrary restrictions on myself, and it became more of a slog than something fun. Plus, I'm planning to read "Against the Day," "Mason & Dixon," and "War and Peace" in '07 -- I might not hit 10 books for the year.

For the record, this year's books were (review links included for those actually reviewed):

"Resurrection" by David Remnick
"Our Band Could Be Your Life" by Michael Azerrad
"Snow" by Orhan Pamuk
"Spring Flowers, Spring Frost" by Ismail Kadare
"Burr" by Gore Vidal
"Life is Elsewhere" by Milan Kundera
"The Moor's Last Sigh" by Salman Rushdie
"The Life of Graham Greene" vol. 1 by Norman Sherry
"The World: Life and Travel 1950-2000" by Jan Morris
"Our Man in Havana" by Graham Greene
"New York Underground" by Julia Solis
"Europe Central" by William T. Vollmann
"Ballad of the Whiskey Robber" by Julian Rubinstein
"Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell
"Notes From Underground" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
"The Hidden War" by Artyom Borovik
"The Lost Heart of Asia" by Colin Thubron
"A Time to Keep Silence" by Patrick Leigh Fermor
"In Ruins" by Christopher Woodward
"Tropic of Hockey" by Dave Bidini
"The Gold Bug Variations" by Richard Powers
"Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" by Haruki Murakami
"The Successor" by Ismail Kadare
"Zorba the Greek" by Nikos Kazantzakis
"The Atlas" by William T. Vollmann

"Hotel World" by Ali Smith
"The Lost Continent" by Bill Bryson
"St. Augustine" by Garry Wills

"God Lives in St. Petersburg" by Tom Bissell
"The Lawless Roads" by Graham Greene
"Speed Tribes" by Karl Taro Greenfeld
"Postwar" by Tony Judt
"Imperium" by Ryszard Kapuscinski
"All the Shah's Men" by Stephen Kinzer
"Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro
"Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
"I Served the King of England" by Bohumil Hrabal

"A Fan's Notes" by Frederick Exley
"The War of the End of the World" by Mario Vargas Llosa
"Rites of Spring" by Modris Eksteins
"The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson
"My Life As A Fake" by Peter Carey
"The Whore's Child" by Richard Russo
"Mani" by Patrick Leigh Fermor
"The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James
"An Albanian Journal" by Edmund Keeley
"Dictionary of the Khazars" by Milorad Pavic
"Twelve Days" by Victor Sebesteyn

"Speak, Memory" by Vladimir Nabokov
"Blood Feud" by Adrian Dater

Best fiction read this year: "The Gold Bug Variations." "Europe Central," "The Moor's Last Sigh," "Cloud Atlas," "Never Let Me Go" runners-up.

Best non-fiction read this year: "Postwar." "Twelve Days," "Rites of Spring," "The Lost Heart of Asia" runners-up.

One Down, One to Go

So it looks like (barring the sudden onset of illiteracy) I will indeed hit 50 -- I've got one to go, nothing to do until tomorrow (even if it's New Year's Eve, it's still Football Sunday) -- and a Christmas present that should be a good quick read (no, it's not "Against the Day").

#49 -- "Speak, Memory" by Vladimir Nabokov

I love Nabokov, but somehow I've managed to avoid two of his acknowledged classics (this and "Lolita") up 'til now. Not sure why. I've tried "Lolita" several times, found it great, then put it aside (lingering discomfort with the subject matter?) -- this one, I'd never even cracked.

Yesterday, I chose it for the plane ride back, and I dunno why I found it so imposing. If there's an easier book to lose yourself in, I'm not sure what it is. These are Nabokov's reminiscings of his childhood in Russia, but the subject matter really isn't that important -- he could be writing about cricket and it would be engrossing. John Updike once said that Nabokov wrote "ecstatically" -- nowhere is it on better display than here.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Winter Wonderland

last night

this morning

I fly out of here at 4:30 this afternoon -- all systems are still go despite the above images, which would tend to not be conducive to flying, you'd think. With a little luck, though, I'll be back in Atlanta by nightfall.

Without a little luck, I'll be the unshaven guy with the thousand-yard stare, sitting on his backpack in the background of a TV report.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Two to Go

The snow has begun. This may be my final communication. Actually, it doesn't seem that bad yet, but I imagine that's what people were saying at the start of last week's Death Storm '06.

Two things read so far on the trip:

#47 -- "The Dictionary of the Khazars" by Milorad Pavic

Oh boy, is this an odd one. Notable (to me) for being one of the few examples of Serbo-Croatian literature on my bookshelf, I was motivated to finally read it after going through the Sandman series. This seemed like it might draw on similar material, being heavily influenced by dreams.

It's really indescribable. It purports to be three encyclopedias -- Christian, Muslim, and Jewish -- giving histories of the long-gone Khazar people and their mass religious conversion. There's all sorts of puzzles in here, and oblique references, most of which would take multiple readings.

A lot of it is nonsense (as dreams often are), and it can be frustrating to read -- Pavic is creating a mythology, but "real-life" (for lack of a better term) mythologies have power because they're based on some sort of reality. These aren't. It's an enormously creative novel, and I do wish I had the time to give it the repeated readings it probably needs.

#48 -- "Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution" by Victor Sebesteyn

A Christmas gift and a much-appreciated one. I've long known only the basics and the romance around the 1956 uprising -- this is a very comprehensive retelling of the tale, and it's great. The revolt and its bloody suppression come across as accidents, with indecision on the part of those in power (in Hungary, the USSR, the U.S., and the U.N.) determining the course of events and preventing a rational solution.

Sebesteyn is both sympathetic and unsparingly honest -- Hungarian Prime Minister Imre Nagy, the hero of legend from the revolt, comes across as being helplessly swept along until the end, and while many of the revolutionaries are honest and upstanding, others are out for personal gain. It's a very readable book, and I hope to see something similar about the Prague Spring at some point.

Watching the Skies

Colorado is supposed to get hit by another snowstorm today -- and they're predicting anywhere from two inches to two feet. I leave (in theory) tomorrow, so we're waiting for the deluge. The skies have gone gray, the mountains are barely visible, we know it's coming. It's like a Stephen King novel, except that the oncoming storm won't strip the flesh from our bodies, but rather make driving and flying rather inconvenient.

It's probably no surprise by now that I spent a good portion of my childhood in fantasyland, and to those purposes, I liked gray weather more than any other. Weird, out-of-this-world stuff just seemed more possible when the sun wasn't out, I suppose. I'm more down-to-earth these days, but I think a bit of that appeal holds over.

That said -- I'd be happy with four-five inches of snow. I'd like to be back in Atlanta for New Year's, and trying to reschedule canceled flights is more horrific than anything King ever dreamed up.

* * *

I went out for beers with the legendary Tapeleg last night at the legendary Sobo 151, winner three years running of the "Colorado Bar I'd Most Like to See Relocated to Atlanta" award. TL is a gentleman and a scholar, and we held lengthy discussions on the Avalanche, poor deluded people who don't like the Avalanche, how we can get those people to appreciate the Avalanche, etc.

We also drank lots of Czechvar, the world's second-best beer (behind Fat Tire, of course). It remains a cruel injustice that Czechvar still isn't available in Atlanta. When CV finally sorted out their legal dispute with crappy Budweiser and the beer became available in North America, Atlanta was one of the test markets, and life was glorious. But the company ran into a new legal dispute with its Georgia distributor, and (I'm told) until the contract runs out, it won't be on sale in Atlanta. Meanwhile, it's become available everyplace else. It's a sad, sad story, up there with "Old Yeller" for pathos. Friends of mine think Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen are as good as it gets for Czech beers. I so want to show them what the world has to offer.

Back to the round-the-clock vigil in front of the Weather Channel. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Drying Out

Photo above actually taken Christmas Eve. It's sunny now and some of the snow has melted, to my chagrin

When the Colorado Avalanche first came out here, there was an interview with Adam Foote complaining about "how bloody dry it was." I'd just moved back from Arizona, so Colorado seemed tropical by comparison, and I didn't know what the hell Foote was talking about. I concluded that off the ice, he must be an enormous pussy.

Having now lived in the miasma of humidity that is Georgia for most of a decade, I must extend an apology to Foote, wherever he is. It's goddamn dry. As much as I love the place, if I don't drink about six bottles of water during the night, I wake up feeling like I'm in the later stages of some wasting disease. Blowing my nose (which I've been doing constantly) produces a kleenex coated in blood. Since I don't do coke, I blame that on the dryness.

Sorry. Unpleasant post, I know. I just had to share. Just be happy I didn't scan in one of the kleenexes.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

a scene from the PPA family's Christmas tree, seriously. Far too hard to explain.

Christmas in Colorado! It's all been great since getting back -- the Xmas Eve travel was relatively painless, there's tons of snow (more arriving yesterday afternoon), the Buccaneers won while I was in the air, the Broncos won a weird-ass game as I was parked on Mom and Dad's couch seeing how much beer I could drink. Last night we held the traditional family Christmas Eve gorge on Chinese food, so I look and feel like Grimace today. Hurrah! Merry Christmas!



Woke up to a great sunrise over the snow today, poorly captured above. Perhaps it's time to rethink things, move back here and become a photographer for religious-themed greeting cards.

A bit of plane reading, natch...

#46 - "An Albanian Journal" by Edmund Keeley

When I got back from Albania in 2005, I promptly bought every book on Albania I could find in the Alibris stacks... then didn't read any, because if you read nothing but books on Albania, you turn out weird.

This is one of the few travelogues ever written about the place, and one of the fewer relatively modern ones. Keeley went over with a group of writers in 1995, in the early post-Communist days and pre-pyramid schemes.

It's pretty good -- he's a witty guy and sensitive toward the Albanians. There was a lot on literary politics and the difficulty of being a vegetarian in Albania, neither of which I care much about, but the stuff on the country and people themselves was interesting. Much of his observations seemed pretty accurate to me, even ten years on.

Next up I'll probably have to read Robert Carver's "The Accursed Mountains," which was pretty controversial, at least in Albania-fan circles.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Revisiting Old Ghosts

The same person with whom I had the discussion about the book diary gave me a nice big box of short books, in hopes they might help me reach my goal. It's now officially "too close to call" -- on one hand, after today, I'm off work the rest of the year, but on the other, I'll be in Colorado for most of that time, visiting family. It's going down to the wire!

One of those books was...

#45 -- "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James

Years ago, when I was a horror nut, I tried to read this one. At the time, I was much less into subtlety than I was into sheer terror, and couldn't get into it.

Now -- I enjoyed it, if that's the right term to use for something that fills you with nervousness from start to finish. I was reading it last night and unable to put it down -- while also dreading each page. The horror is only briefly front-and-center, and its source is left very ambiguous. "Turn of the Screw" is open to a number of interpretations, and I kinda wish that one of my college lit classes had this in it. It would benefit from discussion.

I remember, from those teenage years, hearing that Peter Straub's "Ghost Story" (a favorite of mine) drew heavily from this, and oh yeah, it sure did. Kind of fun to see the inspiration for an old favorite.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Officially Missing Snow

Hey, I reserve the right to change course at any time. My Dad sent some pics from shoveling the driveway, and it looked beautiful -- then I saw Tapeleg's post here and was reminded just how visually stunning snow can be. So allow me to amend what I've had to say: I miss snow like you wouldn't believe, though I'm just fine avoiding the shoveling and the driving. If I could sit by a window with, say, a Fat Tire beer, and look out at the views I'm seeing in those photos -- I'd be a happy and contented man.

Head back Sunday, and I'm assured there'll be plenty of snow still there. Let's hope. In the meantime, I'll try to concentrate on work, watch the Thrashers try to hold on against the Winnipeg Penguins, and ponder New Year's resolutions (seriously - and as you may guess, I suck at keeping them. This year's will be "eat healthier" -- I presume by the end of February I will have developed a french fry-only diet).

And I still read. Yes, I read.

#44 -- "Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese" by Patrick Leigh Fermor

I've raved, and raved again, about Fermor, and guess what -- a third rave.

I know little about modern Greece -- my interest in the peninsula ends at the Albanian border -- but like all Fermor's work, this makes me want to walk in his footsteps. It's an appealing ramble through the tiny towns of the region, drinking tons of wine, hiking, and going off on diversions and theorizing about Greek history. Good God, the man is educated. He'll take off on a tangent about the possible offspring of the last Byzantine emperor, or the appeals of different kinds of Orthodox ikons, and writes it so naturally that you'd swear he just was going from memory. (Perhaps he was.) At times it's exhausting, and I'm astounded at the man's capacity for information. He wrote another one about northern Greece, "Roumeli," also recently brought back into print by the good people at the New York Review of Books, which I'm itching to read -- but I'll wait a while. I need to read something that doesn't strain the boundaries of my knowledge quite so much.

I had a discussion about this book diary the other day (seriously -- and no, it wasn't a discussion with myself) and some of the rather arbitrary rules. Specifically, the rule banning highbrow comics (Maus, Persepolis, Sandman) from counting. I was told that it makes me a book snob. I beg to differ (and if I did include those, I'd be over 50 already) -- I appreciate the art in all of these, and consider all of them bigger achievements than most novels. The best response I can give is that the comics, no matter how complex, require less of a time commitment than even the simplest word-centric book. And, also, dammit, I make my own rules.

All that said, I re-read "Maus II" at the exhortation of the Ski Bum yesterday, and was blown away. I've read the original volume a dozen times over the years, but this one only once before (and probably a decade ago). I tend to forget just how powerful Spiegelman's work is, so this was a bracing shock to the system. Even now, trying to describe it seems to cheapen it -- "a tale about the Holocaust and family using mice as characters" is woefully inadequate. It's just amazing -- go read it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Officially Not Missing Snow

Ok, I love snow to death, and the images coming out of Colorado tonight look really lovely. But my Dad just sent a photo of him shoveling the driveway-- for the second time in two hours. That would kill the romance stone cold dead. So would sitting for days in an airport (even Denver International, which has many bars that serve Fat Tire beer). Thankfully, it all promises to clear up by Sunday (when I fly back). I love winter weather, as long as it's kind enough to not inconvenience me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Patron Saint of PPA

above: not the right St. George

I'm currently reading Patrick Leigh Fermor's "Mani" -- not to ruin the suspense for anyone who lives and dies by my book diary. In it, he goes on a wonderful digression about unofficial patron saints that the residents of southern Greece established on their own (mostly, I guess, gods of old adapted to the Christian tradition).

Among them: St. George the Drunkard

According to Fermor, St. G the D "presides over alcoholic excess and smiles on its votaries."

That's all PLF has to say, and the alternate St. George must be pretty obscure because he only turns up two Google hits (for some festival on Crete), but count me in. It makes sense that I've got a patron saint watching over me. I get ruinously drunk from time to time, but word has it I always remain polite, friendly, lovable. There's only two possible explanations for that: my startling mental powers, or a patron saint. Out of humility, I'll go with the saint.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Southern Winter

It's 65 degrees right now, on December 18th -- earlier today it was in the upper 70s. I've been wearing shorts all day, and I was uncomfortably warm in a long-sleeved t-shirt (vintage Revelation Records!) earlier.

I have a habit of assuming things are extreme -- warmer/colder/wetter/drier than previous years, depending on the conditions -- but I think this is pretty definitely unseasonal, even for Georgia.

It's all rather incongruous -- leafless trees and short days seem wrong with weather that wouldn't be out of place in May. I fixed pierogies and Hungarian goulash for dinner -- a hearty meal that would have been apt if it was 30 degrees colder. I'm meeting friends at the wonderful Brick Store Pub later tonight; a perfect pub for a cozy beer on a cold day. I know the northerners won't be sympathetic, but I kind of like my winters cold. Bring on some snow -- I'm disoriented here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bah Humbug

I generally prefer to work off-hours, but when I'm at work on a Saturday night, and my commute home is going to coincide with the simultaneous letting-out of the Falcons and Hawks games (both right by my place of employment), and the only distraction I've had all night was watching the Thrashers continue to self-destruct -- my mood sours.

Times like these, I start to question the validity of this whole "work" thing, and fantasizing about living on the barter system. But I doubt my family would want hand-made Christmas gifts (at least hand-made by me), and Czech hockey jerseys don't buy themselves, so I'm screwed.

I'm gonna do some updates to the links on the side sometime soon -- anyone have any fun sites I'm missing? I figure my tastes are sorta obvious by now.

Dream, 12/16/06

I was driving over to my parents' house, which they had rented out to Barry Bonds (why not?). A hurricane seemed to have struck, which is a bit unlikely as my folks live in Boulder -- but the vegetation all looked much more Southeastern, so maybe they moved.

I drove past (and over, I think) downed power lines, to arrive at the house, which was a mess. There was popcorn with mold on it, which chilled me considerably. I knew (in the dream) my parents had a new dog, and I was worried that I couldn't hear it barking.

I walked out, and there was the dog, dead (note: not the family's real-life dog), and my parents, cooking (note: they weren't cooking the dog).

According to the book I'm reading right now, some residents of the Peloponnese believe (or believed) that your dreams are prophecies of the opposite -- i.e. dreaming of death means life. I'm not sure what this dream means, except that my parents probably won't be renting out to Barry Bonds.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Hits Keep Coming

#43 -- "The Whore's Child" by Richard Russo

If I'd gone at this pace all year, why, I'd be in the 70s by now. Seven books to go, two and a half weeks. If I were a younger man, I could do it, but now... I don't have the spunk I once did. It's time to leave this reading business to younger men.

Anyway. I've always enjoyed Russo's novels quite a bit, and the same skill is on display in this short story collection... but I'm just left feeling a bit hollow. I'm much more novel-oriented than short story, and reading this as opposed to a novel is like a plate of hors d'oeuvres as opposed to a real meal.

They're all pretty good, particularly the shattering "Buoyancy." But compared to his novels -- "Straight Man" and "Empire Falls" probably being the best -- I'm left a bit unsatisfied.

Albania's One-Man P.R. Agency

The "Queen of the Adriatic" (I just made that up) is the NY Times' Budget Destination of the Year. You should all go.

Perhaps that's my calling -- Albania travel agent.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Should Listen to Other People More Often

#42 -- "My Life as a Fake" by Peter Carey

I read part of Carey's "Jack Maggs," geez, almost a decade ago -- wasn't too thrilled, didn't finish it, remember nothing. About two years ago, a friend recommended this one -- I picked up a used copy, since she has a history of great recommendations, then promptly forgot about it.

Until this week, when I picked it up and blew through it, perhaps quicker than anything else I've read this year.

The tale, briefly: a literary magazine editor makes a trip to Malaysia in an effort to learn the truth about a family tragedy, and gets drawn into a decades-old scandal. In the midst of this very down-to-earth novel, a supernatural element is introduced, very skillfully and naturally.

It's not a happy novel, but an extremely good one. It's rare something so intricate goes so quickly; it reminds me a bit of "Never Let Me Go," just because I was left with a similar reaction.

And there's another connection: the same person recommended both books. I don't think there's anyone I know who has such a high success rate, so if you're reading this, Katy -- kudos.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Bottom Line

It's humbling, and a little painful, to read stuff I wrote when I was 18. It's not something I indulge in too often. But cleaning out a few weeks ago, I came across the sole issue of "The Bottom Line," my hardcore 'zine of the early '90s.

TBL had a complicated path just to its one, solo, under-printed, not-reviewed-in-MRR issue -- my friend Daron had conceived it around 1988 or so, never did anything with it, I came on the scene and we started working on it, Daron dropped out, and Brendan from Groundwork came on to wrap it up with me. That led to a little bit of incestuousness, as Groundwork was one of the bands interviewed within, but since I'd already compromised myself by helping put out Groundwork's first 7", such concerns were obviously not too high on the list of priorities.

The cover (shown above) caused confusion right off the bat, with the art leading people to think it was a Hare Krishna-oriented 'zine (for the unitiated, that was a very big deal in those days); the back cover, with requisite ironic use of art from a Jack Chick tract, led some to ask if we were anti-gay. The schizophrenia continued inside, in our columns -- my snotty denunciation of the Hardline movement (details here -- rest assured the reality managed to be far more ridiculous than it sounds, if that's possible) was side-by-side with Brendan's criticisms of drinkers, non-vegans, religion, abortion, and plenty more. It's the kind of stuff borne of my fervent belief that people were looking to the tall, skinny guy in a Turning Point t-shirt for deep insight on, say, abortion rights.

The bulk of the mag was interviews, reviews, and photos -- the interviews were 411 (fun, bombastic), Triggerman (actually pretty insightful as hardcore band interviews go), the aforementioned Groundwork (very sincere), and Pittbull (meatheaded). The reviews... well, I'd forgotten I ever owned, much less adored, the vast bulk of New Age Records' early catalog. The photos were of whatever bands came through Tucson (most photos with a young, floppy-haired, serious-looking me somewhere in the background) plus whatever photos I could grab from better-located and more-experienced zine-producers like Dave Sine and Dave Mandel.

There was a second issue, largely completed, with a Born Against interview, Kent McClard interview, and I forget what else (I think I was going to put a photo of Supertouch on the cover, which boggles the mind). Brendan and I had some sort of hazily-remembered dispute about something unimportant -- I believe it was whether to put in an interview with Struggle, which may have been the worst band ever -- and it fell apart. A few years later, some Tusconans were assembling a "community 'zine" called "Alarm!", and the Born Against interview was resurrected for that, along with a kind of stupid interview I did with Integrity, and a column I wrote asserting that the band Spitboy's suckiness set back women in hardcore (possibly the most accurate thing I ever wrote). I dunno if "Alarm!" ever came out -- in any case, I don't have any copies.

Now, it's 15 years later, I'm no longer straight edge, no longer vegan or even vegetarian, and no longer skinny. The Bottom Line has become the Post-Pessimist Association. At least I'm not having to pay for printing here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hibernation

It's barely peeked above freezing the last couple days, and while I know most of my regular readers are in places far colder than this, it's still pretty damn cold. Wake me up in March.

#41 -- "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson

This is the first in a brief series of "best-sellers of recent years that friends lent to Greg." Not the snappiest title for a series. I've got "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and "Primary Colors" lined up -- anyone want to lend me "The Da Vinci Code"?

In the late '90s and early nothings, I spent a lot of time in Chicago, making a few trips a year. I wish this book had been out then, when I was about as familiar with that city's layout as I was with Boulder's. I recognize a lot of the place names, but the details have been replaced by hockey stats or Czech pronunciation in the intervening years.

This is the tale of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, told through two parallel stories -- that of Daniel Burnham, the fair's chief architect, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer. It's good potboiling stuff. Larson does a good job of creating suspense in things not normally suspenseful -- will the architects meet their deadlines, f'rinstance. The hunt for Holmes's victims after he's already in the slammer is also quite well-done.

Nice, quick, and an evocative piece of American history. Since #40, I've had a hard time concentrating on any book for more than a chapter -- hopefully finishing this one will get me back on the stick.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Holiday Cheer

I sent the last of my Christmas presents off to Colorado today-- not because of any overwhelming organization or sense of responsibility but because I freakin' hate malls and I freakin' hate lines at the post office and I'd just as soon avoid both in the weeks to come. Have fun on December 22nd, suckers!

A friend was sharing her sense of satisfaction after finding an impossible gift for a niece, and that reminded me of my impossible gift: when I was, oh, three or four, I asked my parents for a penguin.

Not a stuffed penguin, mind you. But one that could walk. And talk.

In the unlikely event they couldn't find a live penguin that could talk (and survive in Owego, New York), I gave them the option of making it a ROBOT penguin.

It's kind of a miracle they still speak to me.

(I also, at roughly the same age, wanted to go as the Republic of Chad for Halloween. I was kind of a weird kid, I guess.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My Eyes!

Last night, a friend said (in reference to my last jersey post): "I like the blog, then I see something like that, and wonder 'how do I know this guy?'"

I resisted the temptation to come right back with another jersey post this morning. But even better, Brushback has the latest installment in his tribute to ugly jerseys. Some real eye-bleeders there. I figure it's only a matter of time before the NHL starts with the one-game wonders, and then we can all share in the idiocy.

A Place for Everything

I'm a bit obsessive-compulsive, in a rather passive sense (I can't be bothered to go to the doctor and find out if there's an actual disorder-type thingy). Whatever the deal is, it's seemed to worsen this year.

Just as an example, if I light a candle in the house -- odds are 50/50 that I will later, after leaving, panic and think that I left it burning. (it's never still burning.) I've driven home from work or other errands, or called the property manager to go in. Then I feel like a fool, but I still do it the next time.

There's also the standard cooking worries (left the coffee maker on, left the stovetop burner on). They never pan out.

So the question is, if I'm so constantly concerned about the state of my home, why the hell am I such a slob?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Brrrrrrrrr

I finally woke up with some drive and sense of purpose today (despite a crushing football-Sunday-induced hangover). Unfortunately, it's barely getting above freezing outside, so I'm not gonna leave the house unless I must. So the drive and sense of purpose has manifested itself in a cooking binge and now, on this.

And since I'm not doing anything of interest today -- how about another jersey? Hooray!



This is one of the biggest bargains I've ever found; I got it on eBay for about $20. It's a late-1980s jersey of Czech club HC POLDI Kladno, one of the country's older teams.

I haven't been able to turn up any information on who would have worn #22 in this period. I've seen pictures of Jaromir Jagr wearing this style jersey, but (alas) he was #15 at the time.



It's a pretty thin mesh, made by Tackla, and as such is pretty trashed. Lots of holes and tears, some examples seen better here, and tons of stick marks. Everything's sublimated, including the number, which looks vaguely like something I would have drawn on my notebook when I was 12.



The lady's profile here is the logo of POLDI steelworks, the club's sponsor just about forever. In the late 1990s, they dropped the POLDI part of the name and became HC Velvana Kladno, with a stylized penguin as the logo (during his later Pittsburgh days, Jagr had some sort of role in the team's management or ownership, I believe) and now they're HC Rabat Kladno, with a kinda silly bulldog logo that Bush League Factor would probably hate. I like the old-school woman plus star the best, and have another, later jersey with the same logo. It's no hedgehog, though.

There's virtually no advertising on this one; just a small, tasteful Tackla logo on the front, and this enormous, ugly "LogoStar" logo underneath the back number. I'm going to guess that LogoStar handled some sort of printing or design duties. It sounds like some awful toy you'd see in a late-1970s Sears Christmas catalog -- "LogoStar by Mattel."

As ever, the idea for these jersey biographies stolen from Jerseys and Hockey Love. Previous entries are here and here.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Metamorphosis

There's a sense of change coming, needing only a kick-start from me -- so naturally this week I've done virtually nothing, delaying it as long as I can. Whatever happens likely won't be a bad change, and in fact it's greatly needed, but there's a certain comfort in the status quo that breeds reluctance.

A week of doing nothing (pressed for achievements... I made enchiladas. That's about it) kind of explains my silence here -- I'd rather sum up nothingness in one post rather than spreading it out over a week of dull posts.

One thing I did do: back when I dumped all my comic books, I did keep some of the higher-quality stuff that was collected into trade paperbacks. Among those few, the fairly well-known "Sandman" series. Over this past week, I re-read all of them -- and was surprised at how well they hold up.

When the series first started -- back in, I think, the late '80s -- I was kind of intrigued by it, but it was a bit too intricate and not superheroic enough for my tastes. Giving it a fuller read in my 20s, it seemed much better, but I was never into fantasy and I was probably a bit put off by the baggage that came with being a goth cause celebre.

Now? Older and a bit more tolerant, I think it's great. Neil Gaiman did an amazing job of setting things up and weaving a complex little universe in this series -- things I didn't properly appreciate when I was younger. Nice to be able to appreciate something more as I grow older. Also nice to be able to read 10 volumes of a comic book series in a week, but feel no compulsion to start collecting the damn things again.

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Late breaking newsflash: I've just learned that there's finally actually an honest-to-Vaic Czech restaurant/bar in the metro Atlanta -- "Prague in Motion," up in Norcross. A field trip is in order.