Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another one down

Hard to believe that 2008 is almost over, and 2009 just days away. If you had predicted many of the year's events 12 months ago, I'm sure many folks (including yours truly) would have have scoffed. Barack Obama the new president elect? The Miami Dolphins division champs? The Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs, with a rookie quarterback no less? The worst economic scenario in years, possibly decades?

No, I wouldn't have predicted any of the above. Having said that though, I'm hopeful about the upcoming year. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, and I hope all of you have a Happy New Year.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Good bye November (personal asides)

Well, the month of November is almost over, along with it comes the end of my Thanksgiving holiday. Wish I could say I had been more productive, but overall it was a good month. Mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law came to visit for a short week the first of the month, and we had a good time with them, if they do destroy me at cards whenever we get together!

A good month at work, with some positive changes at school. Most important to me is that a new Counselor co worker came on board, and she's been a blessing.

On the work out line, both the teen age moralist vegetarian and myself have fallen off the wagon so to speak. Definitely need to hit the gym. In his defense I will say that he's taken several long distance walks lately, so at least one of us hasn't been a total loss.

The animal whisperer is surviving middle school, and like her sibling turning into a pretty good writer. I'm proud of both of them, perhaps they will have the self discipline their old man lacks.

The saint survived the month, but the stress of Christmas time is fast approaching. She both loves and dreads this month, perhaps I should actually help with the Christmas decorations this year...

On the personal indulgement side, I've watched some really good college football games (last night's Oklahoma - Oklahoma State contest was particularly good - even though I was kind of rooting for the underdog). I am very disappointed to see Sylvester Croom resign from Mississippi State though. He was (and is) a class act and I think something is wrong with college athletics when a good man like him has to resign while the Bobby Petrinos and Lou Sabans thrive - nothing against them personally - but I'd rather my child be coached by Croom or someone like him if he/she was in college sports.

It has been nice to see the Atlanta Falcons return to a competitive level in pro football. I think GM Thomas Dimitroff and Head Coach Mike Smith are class acts too, and I'm happy to root for the Birds this year.

On the writing side nothing to report of any substance. November was a good month for reading however. Read my first book by Christopher Buckley with the new "Supreme Courtship" and slso my first book by David Sedaris with "Me Talk Pretty One Day". Loved the first, thought the second was ok, although I'm willing to check out more by Sedaris, and definitely looking forward to reading more Buckley.

On the Pulp Magazine era retrospective personal list I've read most of the University of Nebraska Press Bison Books Frontiers of Imagination Series re-issue of Clark Ashton Smith's "Lost Worlds". I'd forgotten how much I really really like CAS, especially his Hyperborea and Averoigne stories.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

I'm really thankful for a vast number of things this year, foremost my family, followed by my good friends and co-workers (two groups that overlap a great deal). My health is a little better, I still have a job, a roof over my head, food to eat, and a few good books.
On a more mundane level, I'm really thankful for some small things, like:

Facebook - I really like this social network, even though it contributes to a lot of time wasting, but I keep telling myself I could be doing worse things...

Planet Stories publishers - Any group that prints old great stuff like the works of Robert E. Howard, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, Otis Adelbert Kline, and others is alright in my book. I really really love these guys...

My bosses - both the ones at home and the ones at work - I'm serious about this...cause I've lived through other principals and significant others who were much harder to please...

The Jonesboro branch of the Clayton County, Ga. library system, along with the interlibrary loan pines system that they use. A nicer bunch of people with a better selection of free books is impossible to find out there. I know...

The Atlanta Falcons are winning again!! Who'd a thunk it??

Dishnetwork tv, along with that little thingie that allows you to pause and / or record. Oh, and for my children who know how to work it...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Debate Thoughts

Interesting that the debate of Friday night seems to have changed few minds. I thought Obama was clearly the more Presidential of the two candidates, and in my mind won the debate, although it seemed to me that McCain did get in a few zingers along the way. Of course in corresponding with some of my friends who are McCain supporters they had a completely different take on things, feeling that McCain won. Probably what matters most are two things, first, how the undecideds perceived the debate and second, how the public/media/blogger etc. buzz puts a spin on things, cause there are few things I believe in more than self fulfilling prophecies.

With those points in mind, it seems that early results are tending in Obama's favor, but I think it's still too early to tell. Like most of those in the country who are interested in politics, I can't wait for the Biden-Palin debate coming up next week. I'm planning on making a point of watching that one as well.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New Blog for Book Reviews

I've decided to put all my future book and movie reviews on a seperate blog from this one, the new blog is entitled "Coach's Reviews" and the link is
which can also be found on my profile on this blog.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Review of "Pulsifer: A Fable" by Wm. Michael Mott

This is a really good read. The main character is a "rogue" in the model of other literary rogues such as Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever and George Macdonald Fraser's Harry Flashman. Many of his adventures and misadventures are the result of his own machinations. Despite this, I found myself caught up in the story and actually caring about what Pulsifer did or what happened to him, which to me is the mark of a good storyteller.
The fantasy world in which the action takes place is a continent surrounded and threatened by encroaching ice, where magic works, and science has been forgotten. The story is reminiscent of Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique and Jack Vance's The Dying Earth series, high class company indeed, but Mott pulls the whole thing off with his own imagination. I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys fantasy and adventure.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Belated thoughts on the US Olympic Track and Field Trials

As always, this was a great track meet. I think holding it in Eugene, Oregon was a plus, as there's probably not a town in America more supportive of Track and Field. As always happens, some favorites didn't make the team, either because of injury or having an off day. This year's prime example was probably Tyson Gay defending world champion in the 100 and 200 meter sprints. Gay is a supremely talented athlete, who apparently works hard, isn't afraid to compete against his rivals unlike some sprinters of the past, and just seems to be a class act and nice guy from the interviews I've read. He made the team in the 100 meters, but pulled up lame in a 200 race, so he won't running that event (which is arguably his best perhaps) in Beijing. This mishap has ignited what seems to be an every four years debate regarding how the U.S.A. selects it's track teams. Those who don't like our system of only taking the top three in each event, based on the trials races/events only, always point to something like this and complain that we are leaving our best people off the team. Their proposed solution is usually some way of allowing a top ranked athlete a guaranteed spot on the team in case of a mishap such as the one that affected Gay in the 200.
And they're probably right.
However, the key word here is probably.
Gay, defending world champion in the 200 is a great runner, but there is still no guarantee that he would have beaten first place finisher Walter Dix, or second place finisher Shawn Crawford, or third placer Wallace Spearmon in the 200 if he had not been injured. Indeed Spearmon said as much after the race. And if you think that Gay should have been guaranteed a spot on the team in the 200, what do you say about Crawford, who is the defending Gold Medalist from the 2004 Athens games? Or Dix, who is a rising young star and national collegiate champion and who actually won the trials race? Or Spearmon, who has medaled in the 200 in both the 2005 and 2007 World Championships, and just happens to have the fourth fastest legal time in history for the event? Which one of these athletes would you kick off the team for a guaranteed spot for Gay?
My answer would be that you don't. You go with the top three placers in the trials, just like always. That's the fairest most objective way. No one can claim politics, or favoritism, etc. that way. You're one of the top three, you're on the team and may the best person win in a similar winner take all format at the Olympics themselves. First place? You get a Gold Medal, and so on.
I wasn't alive in 1948, but there's a classic story about the 1948 games that I think pertains to this debate. Harrison Dillard was the all out favorite to win the 110 Meter High Hurdles and go to the 1948 London Olympics and win the Gold in that event. In the trials, Dillard (you guessed it) failed to place in the top three and didn't get to race in the 110 Hurdles. However, the United States still took all three medals in the event, thanks to William Porter, Clyde Scott and Craig Dixon.
As for Dillard? Well, he did make the 1948 team in his second event, the 100 Meter Dash, in which he was manifestly not the favorite, having barely made the team by placing third in that event. What happened in London? Dillard won the 100 meters, beating out the favorites. He also won another Gold medal as part of the 4 X 110 relay team. In 1952 he made the team finally as a hurdler, won the Gold and took another Gold as a member once again of the 4 X 110 relay team. The point of the story isn't that he should have been on the 1948 team as hurdler but was kept off due to a poor trials performance. The point is that the beauty of Olympic track competition like most athletic competition is that favorites don't always win, and sometimes heroics come from those from who we least expect it. I'll be rooting for Tyson Gay in the 100 if he makes the final, but I'll also be rooting for Dix, Crawford, and / or Spearmon if any of them make the 200 final, because they all deserve to be on the team.

Del Toro's golden touch illuminates 'Hellboy II'

In Hellboy II: The Golden Army (* * * out of four), the giant crimson daredevil is a snarky bad-boy superhero taunted and misunderstood by the masses. This weekend, the cigar-chomping, beer-swilling big guy faces off with another reviled superhero: Hancock.Hellboy wins pretty much hands down.

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Hellboy Heats Up the Superhero - TIME

The clamor of moviegoers to be the first to see the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight — theaters that scheduled midnight shows next Thursday have added others at 3 and 6 a.m. — proves that superheroes are plenty hot these days. But one of our favorites is downright infernal. That would be Hellboy. A demon summoned to Earth by Nazi scientists in 1944

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Love in the time of the Great Pulp Magazine era

I'm in love. With my dear wife of course. That one is a constant. I'm talking about a book here as a new found object of my affections. About once every few years I find a book or author that I just simply find amazing. As a kid it was Edgar Rice Burroughs "Tarzan of the Apes", then J. R. R. Tolkein's "The Hobbit", next Robert E. Heinlein's "Citizen of the Galaxy", and Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles" - later on it was Robert E. Howard's "Conan the Conqueror". Later still it was Jack Vance's "The Dying Earth" and Karl Edward Wagner's "Death Angel's Shadow". In college it was David Morrell's "First Blood" and Raymond Chandler's "Farewell, My Lovely". Adulthood (am I an adult? opinions vary) brought the discovery of different types of authors such as Ken Kesey's "Sometimes A Great Notion", Paul Auster's "City of Glass", Ursula K. LeGuin's "A Wizard of Earthsea", Jane Austen with "Pride and Prejudice" Fredric Brown's "The Fabulous Clipjoint" and P. G. Wodehouse with the Jeeves short stories. I could go on, but probably should have stopped a bit back. If you get the feeling that I love certain books to the point of obsession, then you'd be correct. I don't know of any other way to describe the feeling of discovering a new great author though...

The point is, I've started reading a book that ranks up there with these others in terms of the effect it has had on me. I just started it recently, but it is so good I literally have to force myself to put it down and go do other things, otherwise I'd get nothing done but read it. Of course, it is summer so I guess that's ok...

The book I'm raving about is "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril" by Paul Malmont. It's set in 1937 about the time of H. P. Lovecraft's death, and besides Lovecraft includes Walter Gibson (author of The Shadow novels), Lester Dent (author of the Doc Savage novels), L. Ron Hubbard (a pulp author before he came up with Scientology), E. E. "Doc" Smith (noted pulp science fiction author) and others. If that doesn't sound interesting to you let me assure anyone who loves a good read that you don't have to be a fan of the old pulp authors to love this book, which so far is well written and interesting. The rivalries between authors, most of whom were writing like crazy just to eat during the Depression, (a great incentive in defeating 'writer's block' one would imagine) along with Malmont's gift at storytelling and portraying various characters realistically make this a compelling story once you get into it, which for me was by page 2.

Still it does help to be interested in the days when heroes like Doc Savage and The Shadow and Conan and Sam Spade and others were the only entertainment many folks had. I'm up to episode (chapter) 7 of the book and I hope to finish in the next day or two, at which time I'll post a review. I'd probably have finished it already but the Olympic Trials track meet took up much of my attention over the weekend (more on that later), so I'm behind on promised reviews of Charles R. Saunders' "Imaro" and "Imaro II", as well as Manly Wade Wellman's "Hok the Mighty", not to mention a bit of promised housework and some minor paperwork that I told my bosses (under duress) that I'd drive in and do at school soon. Hopefully my wife and Principal Ben will understand that Walter Gibson's quest to find out what happened to his good friend H. P. Lovecraft take precedence. Meanwhile my daughter is crying for the computer, so I guess I'll just go back to "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril"... When I last left Ron Hubbard had just called a meeting of the American Fiction Guild to order, a group including Cornell Woolrich (of Rear Window fame) whose mother attends most meetings with him...not that there's anything wrong with that...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Everything Old is New Again Again

Back in the 1960's I discovered the world of the Pulp Magazine fantasy authors. Thanks to Ace, Ballantine, Lancer, and some other paperback publishers I was introduced to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, among others. Later on I would come across even more writers from the heydays of the pulp magazines, such as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and other masters of the hard boiled detective genre. I could name drop for a long time, but anyone who has read these authors knows that they were the trailblazers for many of today's mystery, horror, science fiction, and fantasy authors.

Now it seems that the influence of the pulp masters has even gone mainstream, with the works of Michael Chabon, Paul Malmont, William F. Nolan, Walter Satterthwait, and numerous other writers even using famous pulp authors as characters in their novels. Pulp reprints of stories of famed Pulp Magazine Era characters such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, C. L. Moore's Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry, along with the works of authors such as Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, Jack Williamson, Edmond Hamilton and H. P. Lovecraft can be found in most bookstores and certainly online. Printing firms such as Haffner Press and Planet Stories are reprinting the works of many of the great science fiction and fantasy authors, while Crippen and Landru reprints many of the great hard boiled mystery writers from the days of Black Mask Magazine and other hard boiled pulps.

And all of this is isn't even to mention new movies coming out in the Pulp tradition, such as the new Indiana Jones, Hellboy II, The Mummy:Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and 10,000 B. C. just to name a few. The movement isn't just about reprinting old classics, or movies, or a few "mainstream" authors. There are a host of new rising writers who are contributing to the field and many of them are quite talented, such as Wm. Michael Mott, Bill Cunningham, William R. Jones, Angeline Hawkes,Peter Mark May, just to name a very few that spring to mind off hand. And these are just some of the ones I'm aware of, and having been out of the loop for a while, I'm sure there are many more.

The point is that the Pulps (and we can discuss later what that term means in a literary sense) are back and I know I'm a very happy camper about it. When I can explain to my daughter how her "Haunting Ground" game and her favorite graphic novel "Hellboy" are both full of influences from the Pulps such as Weird Tales and the "Shudder" Pulps, and that much of the background story for Haunting Ground and Resident Evil 4 (her other fave) comes right out of the Gothic tradition going back to "The Castle of Otranto" and she actually thinks it's a neat thing to discuss with nerdy old dad, then I can have hope for the younger generation.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Summer Reading

My official summer vacation actually finally starts Monday, June 16. Among the plans this summer are to clean sweep the house, haul away most of our "stuff" that we really don't need. Somewhere along the way I have some ambitious reading plans. I've been in a sort of escapist mood for some reason, fantasy and pulp authors holding the interest for the time being. Here are some of the books I've got on the night stand:

Imaro, by Charles R. Saunders

Imaro 2: The Quest for Cush, by Charles R. Saunders

The Third Cry to Legba and Other Invocations : The Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman (Vol. 1) (Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman)

Echoes of Valor II, edited by Karl Edward Wagner

Frost, by Donald Wandrei

Hok the Mighty, by Manly Wade Wellman

Some of these are new reads, some are rereads of old favorites. I'll review each as I complete them, for anyone interested.

Hope everyone is having a great summer. Is it football season yet?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

After slavery, servitude |

The Journal-Constitution last week assembled a remarkable group to discuss a remarkable book: "Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans From the Civil War to World War II."The new book documents a South unknown to many - a place in which white sheriffs, politicians and businessmen got rich by enslaving thousands of black men

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Story of Barack Obama's Mother

Each of us lives a life of contradictory truths. We are not one thing or another. Barack Obama's mother was at least a dozen things. S. Ann Soetoro was a teen mother who later got a Ph.D. in anthropology; a white woman from the Midwest who was more comfortable in Indonesia; a natural-born mother obsessed with her work; a romantic pragmatist

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Friday, April 11, 2008

McCain's bizarre reluctance on the new GI Bill

Why McCain won't support a bipartisan bill on education benefits for veterans. He has said that he supports better educational benefits for veterans, but why won't he co-sponsor a bill that would do just that?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Some (unsolicited) advice for the Atlanta Falcons

Draft a lineman first! Jake Long, Glenn Dorsey, Chris Long, Sedrick Ellis - the guy from Ohio State, just please please go after a lineman!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The old GOP used to include moderates-Leonard Pitts-Miami H

Good article by Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald regarding conservative takeover of GOP and the party's failure to convince African Americans that conservative Republicans have their best interest at heart. He has an excellent quote to begin article: "This is for those who think I forgot the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ron Cook: This Rooney book is a must-read

For those interested in the Pittsburgh Steelers and their history, there's an upcoming book by Art Rooney Jr. entitled "Ruanaidh" -- that's Rooney in Gaelic -- which is due out later this month. A memoir that tells all the inner workings behind the scenes of the famous football family and dynasty.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why I'm supporting Hillary (for right now)

I was at a counseling conference for the last two days (which I really thought was worthwhile, but I'll get to that in another post) and had a chance to interact with some colleagues that I rarely see because they work at another school. One of them used to work with me at my present school a few years ago, back when I was a Republican (or RINO - Republican in Name Only - as I was later informed by another blogger, but I digress). At any rate my friend was surprised that I had changed political allegiances, but she didn't seem upset until the subject came around to Hillary Clinton. "There's no way I could vote for her!" When told that I'm supporting Ms. Clinton for the moment, my friend burst out "What does your wife say?!"
For the record, my sainted spouse is not a Hillary fan either, nor is my teenage philosopher son. My daughter voices the possibility that she might could possibly support Hillary under certain circumstances, but as she finds politcs boring (and can't vote for Pres until the 2016 election) I find myself pretty much alone in my own household.
My support for Hilary up to this point, basically rests on her Senate career. It seems that she is a good Senator, willing to do the work needed to get legislative results and find common ground with those across the aisle. To me this indicated a pragmatism that I think our next President will need. Of course, it could also be a good argument for keeping her in the Senate and electing someone else, such as Obama...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gimme 5: Things to know about Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff

AJC article on New England Patriot vice President Scott Pioli interview in which he tells 5 important things to know about Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Another 'Morehouse Man' reaching for the stars

Good article by AJC columnist on Genarlow Wilson starting his college education at Morehouse.

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Cynthia Tucker | The myth of color blindness

The myth of color blindness: Cultural biases are embedded in us unawares - op ed article by AJC columnist Cynthia Tucker.

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Of Rants Never Written

For the longest time (or so it seems) I've been remiss in actually posting any personal thoughts to the blog. Plenty of DIGG story links, but nary a opinionated peep. Lots of reasons (excuses really) - the blues, work and home responsibilities, the trouble of having one computer in a four person household, - the list could go on.
It's not like there hasn't been a lot out there to raise my ire and blood pressure. Here are just a few that I should have spoken out on:
(1) The failure of the NCAA and division 1 colleges to consider hardly any minority candidates for head coaching positions in college football, a travesty that continues seemingly unabated.
(2) The fervent desire among a certain segment of Republicans who want to self destruct over the immigration issue, even to the point of refusing to nominate anyone remotely electable. Of course, as my son the teen age philosopher pointed out, this will probably be good for us Democrats in the next year.
(3) The chaos of the Atlanta Falcons and their search for a new head coach.
(4) Facebook vs. Myspace - what does your preference say about you?
(5) Life with cats and teenagers, also crazy dogs...
Stay tuned, perhaps the muse will return...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Commentary: Fantasy Christmas gift: Self-deporting immigran

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- For Christmas, nearly a dozen readers sent me the same gift, an article about goings on in the Southwest: "Illegal immigrants packing up and leaving Arizona."

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