Welcome one and all. Enjoy, and feel free to leave comments, favorable or not. A little good discussion can't hurt, and it will expose my loyal reader to different points of view.

Sunday, November 11, 2007



I feel for Eve. Really, I do. She had it tough all around. First of all, she was there in Eden all by herself. Well, yes, there was Adam, but there’s times when a man just isn’t good enough. There’s times when you need to talk about the man, and who did Eve have but some birds and bees and a serpent or two? Who did she go to when Adam forgot their anniversary? Oh, sure, there was God, but he probably didn’t want to be bothered; he’d just finished putting together Creation, and he was busy admiring his handiwork.

“It’s good.”

“What, God? What’d you say?”

“I said it’s goo-ood.”

“What’s good?”


“Cool. But I gotta tell you, I don’t mean to complain...I don’t want you to think that I’m not happy or anything, the weather’s good, the fruit’s tasty – I can’t figure out how to keep the fig leaf in place, but that’s a minor detail. I was hurt today, really hurt. You know today was our anniversary? He didn’t even mention it. Now, I know that’s a small thing in the grand scheme...”

“And what a grand scheme IT IS.”

“Yes...yes. You’ve got every reason to be proud. That rainbow thing is brilliant, and I like the little sparkles when the sunlight hits the water – but I just have to say, I think there’s a problem in Paradise. Oh, just a teeny tiny problem, nothing major....I’m sure it was just an oversight. But, see, it’s like this, God. Adam is a bit ... well ... he’s a bit forgetful. And sometimes he’s kind of insensitive. I mean, there’s times we need to talk about our problems, but it’s like pulling teeth to get him to discuss issues. Not that I can imagine any reason why we’d ever want to pull teeth – no, they’re perfect, I’m glad you decided on white and not red, or that vulgar plaid. But anyway, back to Man, don’t you think he’s kind of silly, the way he sits out there on the riverbank for hours and hours, holding this stick out over the water. What’s he think he’s doing? He’d rather spend time doing that than come with me while I try different flowers in my hair. Do you think it means he doesn’t love me? ”


“What was that?”

“Thunder, do you like it? I was thinking, maybe when I speak, there should be a little pomp and circumstance. Being as I’m the Creator and all. I’ve been working on this bolt of lightening thing; it’s dramatic, but I’m not sure what it’s good for yet. Nevertheless, I think I should have something at hand that gets attention, don’t you? I could hurl it – like this – and it goes... whoops!”

“What is all that bright dancing stuff?”

“H’mm. I’ll call it ‘fire’. Pretty, isn’t it? I tell you what, I’ll give it to Man as a present – an anniversary present, how about that?”

“Wow, it’s so pretty – let me feel it – ouch! It bites! And look! It ate up all the trees.”

“Right. Well, looks like this stuff isn't good for anything useful. Here, let me get rain, with its gentle ways, to see if it can tame this fire a bit. Okay, now what were you saying?”

“I was saying – oh, never mind. You wouldn’t understand.”

“Hey! I made you, Missy.”

“I know, God. Forgive me, I’m a little testy today, on account of it is my anniversary and Adam’s totally blowing it off...”

“Well, I’m sure he’ll be back soon. I gotta go work on the firmament a bit – it needs a little tweaking in the southwest quadrant. You gonna be okay?”

“Fine, God.”

“Good. I’m glad we had this little talk.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Keep in touch.”

“Sure thing.”

So, you see, I don’t blame Eve for getting chummy with a serpent. What choice did she have, really – it wasn’t like there were any ladies’ luncheons or even soap operas to take her mind off her troubles. I suspect she was starved for attention, and when she heard that friendly little “Hssst”, it must have seemed like a voice from ... well, we won’t get into that. Suffice it to say that Eve was in desperate need of a friend.

“Hey, there, good lookin’.”

“Oh, hey, serpent.”

“You look like you could use a friend. What’s the matter?”

“Oh, the usual. It’s my anniversary, and here I am all by myself, while Adam’s off at the local sand bar or something – if he comes back home again high on milk and honey….”

“Well, listen, I have something that will cheer you up. See that shiny round red thing hanging from that tree there...?”

“Where? Oh, that. God says we’re not to touch that tree.”

“Yeah? Well, did you ever think why? Because he wants to keep it all to himself, that’s why. He doesn’t want you to have any fun.”

“So what’s so special about that tree anyway?”

“It’s the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

“I know what good is...God says that’s creation. But what is evil?”

“That’s the whole point, sweet lips. You want to understand, you have to be willing to take a bite of the old apple.”

Hmm. Would it help me understand Adam better?”

“Take it from me, sweetheart, one nibble of the forbidden fruit and you’ll understand the universe.”

“Well….maybe we should see what Adam says. Here he comes now.”

“Hey, honey. I’m home! Look what I’ve got ... these fish jumped into my basket. What should we do with them? I’d hate to just throw them out …Say, who’s the skinny guy?”

“Oh, just a serpent from over in the arbor.”

“Yo, man. You must be Adam. Put it there...no, no, the nose is fine. Just watch out for the tail, okay? Don’t step on....aargh.”

“Oops, sorry.”

Oww..no problem, really. What? The rattle? Oh no, don’t worry, it always made that noise. So I was telling your pretty little woman here about the apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

“Oh, no way. That’s forbidden.”

“Yeah, well, who’s to know? One little taste and you’ll understand things you never knew you never knew.”

“Well, I don’t know…God’s been good to us. He’s going to be pretty angry if we break his law…”

That was bound to annoy Eve. She was a woman, after all. “Good to us? Good to us? More like good to you. What about me? Sitting around here all day on my anniversary…”

Adam, being a man, was a little slow on the uptake. “It’s your anniversary? Hey, congratulations.”

“It’s our anniversary, you nimwit.”

“Ours? Oh, wow.” Adam slaps his forehead. “Sorry, I totally forgot. But here! I brought you a present! Some fish.”

“They smell.”

“Well, they won’t smell if you clean them. A little water and soap….Ohhhh, stop crying, I’m sorry I forgot our anniversary. How can I make it better…you really want this, don’t you, you really want us to risk God’s wrath? Well, granted, those rosy red apples are pretty, and I guess it would be special…Will you stop crying if I agree to take a taste?”

Serpents are no fools, and this one knew his way around a fresh mark. “Here, have a bite. The first one’s totally free.”

“Oh, all right.”

“And if you like that taste, I can get us a lot more. Hee hee.”

And so they ate.

There, see how easy it was. But it wasn’t really Eve’s fault, the way I look at it. Did she have a Dr. Laura to give her advice about how to handle her man? Did she have a negligee, for that matter? Not that it would have done anything but perplex Adam – sex hadn’t been invented yet, as procreation by rib was still the standard.

Poor Eve. In my mind, she was a tragic figure from the get-go. As Jessica Rabbit (remember her? Voluptuous wife of Roger R.?) once stated, "I was drawn this way".

And as for the apple, well, as everyone today knows, the taste of evil is addicting. What choice did God have after that but to heave the two of them out of Paradise, which was a drug-free zone?

And so, for so long as Adam and Eve retained a taste for the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were doomed to wander the streets, never having enough … always seeking more. As for their descendants – well, we’ll get to that later. Suffice it to say, I feel for Eve – really, I do. I have a little thirst for the Knowledge of Good and Evil myself. And without the Fall, hey … eternal sunshine and fish that jump into your basket are fine in the short-term, but if that’s all I had to write about in my daily blogs, we’d all soon be mighty bored. So I’m grateful that, for now, the leaves must fall…


Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Tale of Two Books

Now that self-publishing is as easy as cracking nuts, everybody and his brother and his psychoanalyst can be a published author. That leaves the 127 of us English speakers who do not have published books with only one thing to do: become book reviewers. With that thought in mind, I have turned my attention to the masterful works of two local authors, whose books I stumbled across while discovering I was one of the 127.

The first is a book by former local columnist and legislator extraordinaire, Mike Doogan. I enjoyed Mike's articles in the Anchorage Daily News so much that I read them, and as for his being a member of the State House, well! I am in awe of legislators, whose life I imagine as one big meeting. Having run screaming from class meetings in 4th grade, I am totally impressed by those who willingly endure the torture of endless yapping and yacking and yada yada yada for the betterment of you and me. God bless you, Mike, and your kind.

So when I saw him sitting there at his table in Barnes & Noble, I just had to purchase his first novel, Lost Angel, which he duly autographed for me -- an authograph that I shall cherish and which I intend to include in my will.

I started in on the book that evening with high expectations. Over the next few days it went down fairly well in small portions -- until I got to page 78. I appear to be trapped on page 78. I have read and reread that page five or six times, without being able to be done with it. It is not that I can’t get into the scene, it’s that I can’t get out. My credulity is sorely taxed and I find myself helplessly staring at the printed word, wondering "Why?". Why would any woman be attracted to an alcoholic middle-aged ex-con with lots of emotional baggage who lives in a cardboard-walled walk-up in the seen-better-days neighborhood of Fairview? Six to one he has a beer gut.

In my line of business, I happen to meet lots of middle-aged alcoholic ex-cons without a steady job or a retirement plan. Never once has my heart gone pitter-patter, not even back in my pitter-pattering days.

I just don't get it. Which is maybe why I can't finish detective novels, which seem to run to protagonists with liver-damage and tobacco-stained fingertips and scars across their cheeks, men who are irresistible to every woman in their path -- especially the straight and narrow paths, like that of the woman on page 78, apparently a devout member of the religious commune at Rejoice, Alaska.

That may be the problem. Maybe you have to be a woman on the straight and narrow to understand, a sorority from which I am sadly excluded. I extrapolate from this the conclusion that women who live in religious communes or sit in the front rows at Sunday services or brush their teeth after every meal will adore this book. People who adore Mike Doogan will adore this book. People who are snowed in at remote cabins for three or four months without television or internet will adore this book. And when they’re done reading it they can use it for kindling or to stove up the cracks between the logs. It’s definitely a niche book.

To these audiences, I recommend it highly.

As to the rest of you, it’s an open question. I will give it the good old college try again this evening, see if I can get past page 78, and -- if successful -- report back to those of you still stuck on the other side.

If I never make it to the far end, it is to be taken as no responsibility of the author's. The number of things I have finished in my life can be counted on my fingers and toes. I have a very short attention span. The Salvation Army bin is littered with prematurely abandoned books that were once tenderly tucked into Borders or Title Wave tagged bags and carried hopefully home, lovingly cradled in my arms.

It's not you, Mike. It's me. I'm not good enough for this book.

The other book, For What He Could Become -- also a first -- was penned by a recent acquaintance of mine, Jim Misko. I purchased the book as a gesture of solidarity, but I had low expectations of it. Jim, after all, is a realtor, and everyone knows realtors can't write -- they just fill in the blanks.

Three days later, I finally put the book down. I had taken it with me everywhere: to bed, into the loo, to the bank so I could read while standing in line, to my last CLE where I concealed it behind the handout as I read (a trick I learned in ninth grade algebra).

In the course of those days, I burned a batch of cookies, spaced a dentist appointment, and almost fell down an escalator opening when I was walking with my nose between the pages.

Good work, Jim!

The tension in this book is impeccable. Never so lax I wanted to quit reading, never so intense that I skipped to the end to find out what happened.

Both books are set in Alaska, but while Mike's story exploits the Alaskan mystique, Jim's adds to it. His prose is as spare and powerful as the tundra on a winter day. Somehow Jim has managed to write an entire book without adjectives, and write it convincingly. As his protagonist Bill wanders away from Alaska, the characters seem to become more two-dimensional, less individualistic, as if that part of Bill's life is dreamlike, unreal, until he returns to the local color.

I like to think that this is a style that portends something uniquely Alaskan (although Jim's second book, which I have not read, is set outside Alaska).

I have my own idea of what happened to the protagonist, Bill, after the book ends; Jim, when I explained it to him, disagreed with me, but, after spending three-hundred and some pages with the man, I know Bill -- better than I know Jim. And I like Bill the better for his flaws and his destiny, that the beauty of the human soul lies not in its backdrop, but in its its moments of transcendence.

There are a number of small grammatical and sequencing errors in the book, which will certainly be corrected in the second printing, and therefore enhance the value of this first edition. I would suggest snapping up a copy, having it autographed, and putting it away for a generation until you can have it auctioned at Christy's of London for a couple hundred thousand.

The only thing I really disliked about this book was the title, which I'm sure will also be corrected in the second edition.

If you've taken the time to thoroughly explore this site, which I'm sure you have, you may notice that Jim Misko was the first to leave me a complimentary comment. This might suggest that my review is not entirely objective. I wish it to be known, however, that I advised Jim of my high opinion of his book long before he left that comment, and he did not know I intended to review the book here. My praise cannot be purchased.

I can't vouch for his, though. Jim, if you're wondering about your pay-off, the check's in the mail.

One Candle Less

Finally, someone has “said what somebody has needed to say for a long time.” Thank you, Craig Medred (Anchorage Daily News, 11/4/07), for noticing that the emperor is wearing no clothes and daring to say it. The peerless Mr. Medred has penetrated to the essence of Timothy McCandless, the hapless hero of the book and movie, “Into the Wild”. For those of you who are not familiar with his story, Timothy was a young man who went into the wilderness to find himself, taking only a bag of rice for sustenance, and never came out again. This was apparently enough of a recommendation for him to become the subject of a best-selling book and a Sean Penn movie. It has taken Craig Medred to recognize that McCandless was not the adventurous Everyman portrayed, but just a plain old everyday schizophrenic. As evidence of McCandless’s not-normalness, Medred points to the note he left behind explaining that he went into the wilderness to stage “the climatic battle to kill the false being within.”

Good work, Medred. You’ve unmasked another false hero and revealed him as the the “poor unfortunate prone to paranoia” that he truly is. You’ve shined a beacon into the darkness.

But don’t stop there. I think you should turn your astute powers of perception and your background in psychology (I trust you have such a background, given your diagnosis) on other half-wits foisted off on us as heroes.

Take Ulysses for example. Man, what a whitewash job that was! That guy was clearly delusional. I mean, how many cyclops have you ever seen who could eat two men in one sitting? Not to mention old U had an anger problem, skewering his wife’s suitors when he got home...he’d been gone for twenty years, what did he expect? And talk about a deadbeat dad. He left when his son was a toddler and came back to find him grown. Do you think he was sending child support during all that time? I think not.

Next example: Jesus. Off he goes into the wilderness to wrestle with the devil for forty days. Did he take a compass, a sleeping bag, a thermos of water that could be turned into wine? Any real Alaskan would have taken liquid refreshments and at least one gun if he was headed into devil country. Not Jesus. Shoot, he didn’t even take a bag of rice. And as for wrestling with the devil, who saw him do that? You really think that skinny guy with the beard could have beaten a devil? No way. Goes to show, he was a pathological liar with a megalomaniac personality disorder. Probably overcompensating for the instability of his childhood.

Oh, let’s not forget Francis of Assissi. I hear that guy was not only crazy, but smelly as well. Of course, he didn’t have a Wal-Mart handy that he could pop into for a bottle of dandruff shampoo and some herbal conditioner. But still, he could have found a pond to dunk in once and awhile, if he didn’t have a few screws loose. And talking to animals? I mean – that’s kooky. Especially when you’re exchanging recipes for creme brulee.

You won’t want to overlook our own favorite misanthrope, Henry David Thoreau, who clearly was missing some marbles. He was like the original greenie, mooning over trees and lakes and birds and stuff, and he didn’t even hunt. Talk about a loser. Hiding out at Walden Pond because he was a total failure in the real world. A tax evader, too. They should have kept him locked up when they had him, maybe in a padded cell. With a dull pencil and a piece of paper, though – that guy could come up with more bumper stickers than anybody else in history. You know what they say, God gives special talents to his special children.

Well, I could probably come up with more subjects than that, Craig, but these few should keep you busy for a couple of weeks. After that, well, maybe you could get Sean Penn to do a story on your life. It’d be nice to watch a movie about somebody whose wiring is working right. Might be a little boring, but as you say, “a good writer can always make something up.” I'll take it from the expert.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mea Culpa

The popular thing among celebrities these days seems to be very public apologies for slurs of various kinds. I have been thinking that I owe it to my own fans to follow their example, step up to the plate, and make my own act of contrition.

In that vein, I’d first like to beg forgiveness from my second grade teacher for writing “Mrs. B. is fat”on the blackboard while she was out of the classroom. It was totally inappropriate, especially the drawing.

If I needed to refer to her size at all, I should have used a less offensive term, like “generously proportioned” or “maximized potential”. Of course, at the age of seven, I was a little handicapped in this regard. My vocabulary was limited, and I couldn’t have pronounced those words, much less spelled them. However, this does not excuse my rude behavior and I regret any distress this might have caused to those who tip the scale the wrong side of the National Institute of Health’s weight guidelines.

Second on my list of apologies goes to Dirksen Hansucker in Seventh Grade. I, along with all my other classmates, at one time or another, referred to the smell emanating from his corner of the room as a stink. This was absolutely unacceptable, and I hope that he will forgive my lapse, wherever he is, as will all the other people out there who have a distinctive personal odor. I should be more tolerant of the differences among us. I seek pardon from all those who choose not to bathe or who are naturally aromatic.

My list of apologies to family members is so long that I’m sure I cannot get through it in one writing period. Let me hit the high points: apologies to my mother for referring to her as “out of it”, “an embarrassment” and other unflattering terms. This is an affront to all mothers, who have contributed so much to the development of the human race. In my own defense, I confess that I was under the influence of adolescence at the time, and not totally responsible for my own actions. Furthermore, if it is any consolation to those I have offended, my own children have referred to me in precisely the same terms, and so I have felt the pain.

To my little sister, for referring to her as a spoiled brat. In retrospect, I’m sure it was something medicine would have cured, and it was totally inappropriate of me to denigrate her in front of her little friends. To all those who suffer from personality disorders or are the survivors of poor parenting, let me extend my sincere apologies and beg your forgiveness. Some of my best friends are psychologically or emotionally challenged and the last thing I would want to do is insult them or others like them.

I am sorry for calling my brother a dirty pig. This is an affront to all pigs everywhere, who have had to deal with prejudice for many hundreds of years. It is not acceptable in this century to stereotype any race or species – not all pigs are dirty, and they have a right to be upset with me for implying that they are. Furthermore, pigs do not resemble my brother in any fashion, and I was remiss in suggesting that there was any resemblance. I will be happy to meet with any porcine leaders and extend my personal apologies.

One would think that I would have outgrown the insensitivity of my youth, but I’m afraid using inappropriate language to describe others is a tough habit to break, and I may even be genetically disposed to foul-mouth syndrome. It’s a good day when I don’t wake up feeling like I need to offend someone. My vocabulary has developed along the way, and I now have a whole laundry list of terms that I’ve utilized over the years to describe everyone from my neighbor with the barking dog to people who double-dip.

I would publish that list, but my friends think I should charge – it’s not every day you get a whole laundry list of insults for free, although you can pick up quite a few by hanging around uncouth celebrities, if you happen to know any. For the rest of us, if you want to know what not to say, I have the list. You can order it on my website, pay through Paypal, and sign the disclaimer to the effect that you will not use any words on this roll for evil. I’ve been asked if I can justify making these terms available to the general public, including some who may not abide by the disclaimer. But my conscience is clear. After all, words don’t offend; people do. Anyway, the right of the people to possess words is protected by the First Amendment.
I update my list of politically incorrect terms periodically. Right now I’m debating “lead foot” when referring to speeding drivers who cut you off in traffic. Is that offensive to the toy industry?

Speaking of which, what village idiot designs the packaging for toys? It takes a blowtorch to get them open...

Whoops! There I go again. My apologies to all the inhabitants of small towns, who are not necessarily feeble-minded because they don’t have Universities or Museums of Art and Natural History in their back forties.

Ah, well, I see I have a way to go. I won’t be making any public appearances until I’ve completed the healing process, so my apologies to all those young people out there who looked up to me to set a good example. I am a good person, really I am, not the callous jerk that my language would indicate.

I never meant to say any of these things aloud, or at least not where they could be recorded.

Mea culpa, meal culpa, mea culpa.