Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Doll who Ultimately Lied to me.

"Alternate routes" will continue shortly. We now pause for a brief rant and some advice.

So, I just got my hands on "Ultimates" volume three. I LOVED Mark Millar's Ultimates volume one and two. So... just... Oh my God... so GOOD! I was very excited to find Ultimates volume three.

I opened it up to see that Jeff Lobe (intentionally misspelled) was the writer. "Well, this will be crap" I thought. And I was right. Considering all the success "Jeff" has had, I think he can take a little bashing and I'm sorry for saying such things about another human being.

Honestly, how does this guy get work? How does he continue working? I can't name a single story this guy has ever written that I enjoyed in thirty years of comic reading. Look, this is the guy who wrote "Commando" and "Teen-Wolf." I frikkin hate this guy's writing, and yet not only does he continue to have success writing comics (and by success I mean never actually winning an award for anything, but continuing to churn out crap and get paid for it year after year) but he's also a consultant on Smallville (which is why the early seasons didn't follow any sort of continuity and sucked so much, not that I'm bitter) and also a a consultant/producer on Heroes, which also follows no logic what-so-ever. Yes that was a long run on sentence- sue me.

Seriously, how is it that Peter Petrelli can't beat Syler? Peter Petrelli only has to be NEAR someone to absorb their powers. Syler has to open their head up and examine their brain. Peter Petrelli can stop time, has super-strength, can fly, super healing ala Wolverine, and explode like a nuclear bomb. How exactly is Syler, hell, screw that, how in Hell could even Superman beat him? No one can beat a guy that can stop time and has all those other abilities. PLUS he can absorb all of Syler's abilities the second he comes within ten feet of him! A five year old can see the holes in logic there and yet, mister comic book guy executive producer just lets this stuff happen without blinking an eye.

Look, I can suspend my disbelief and believe in a world that has superheroes. But if you make the rules, you can't break them. The rules for the world exist, I follow them, I understand them, no problem. Break those rules and you've lost me. Heroes broke those rules too many times for me to continue watching.

Anyway, Ultimates volume three sucked. Period.

I have been hearing that Joss Weadon's new series "Dollhouse" is not living up to expectations. Ergo, I have not been watching it. But, he recently said that episode six and seven will really show people what he wants to do with the series. So, we started watching it from the begining.

It's interesting.

Episode six was awesome. Loved it. Episode seven was only fair. A few of the previous episodes were also amazing. We both loved the camping trip episode.

I am curious to know how he is going to maintain an audience for this. Considering the main character gets her memory wiped every single episode, how are we supposed to care for her? She's a new person every week. And looking at past shows successes, I don't understand how he can make us care for the characters. The secret to success for many, many shows is the premise that all of the characters are friends. They care about each other. They work together to solve problems. Sometimes they have romances.

Friends
Buffy
Cheers
Star Trek
Angel
Star Trek : Next Generation.

All shows about people who love each other and form bonds.

You know why Star Trek : Deep Space Nine sucked? No friends. No working towards a common cause. Everyone fighting all the time. At odds with each other and each had their own separate goals. That's not something you want to watch. That's like a bad marriage you're forced to tune into each week.

Wendy and I are really liking Dollhouse so far, but with each characters memory being erased each week, I wonder where Joss can go with this.

My housemate and long time friend Doug saved us a new series called "Lie to Me" and wanted to show it to us when we got home. Honestly, I was not impressed with the premise. We watched it mostly to respeect Doug's opinion.

Holy crap.

LOVED IT!

This is the kind of writing that makes me jealous. I want to write this well.

It doesn't even matter what the show is about because the writing, directing and production are so great it could be about fixing busted RV's and I'd watch it. It is just superb. Please, trust me on this, it is magnificent.

My highest praise to this show. Watch it.

Alternate Route

Usually we fly Delta or Continental. These guys are located in the “old” airport. As Madrid has grown over the years they have added an expansion wing that is ten minutes down the road but very modern. Sorry, let’s go back to Delta and Continental. Every time we have flown them the plane is full. The plane leaves at about eleven in the morning.

We arrive at nine a.m. and there is a line of two hundred people waiting to board and two (TWO!) people dealing with arrivals.

“Where did all these people come from? My God, if only we had known months in advance that customers would fill up the plane! All these people must have bought their tickets yesterday! If only we had known we could have put more people on to receive and process them!”

Idiots. Every time.

Despite arriving two hours ahead of schedule, we always barely make it through security and barely make it onto our plane in time.

After our last trip on Delta, we swore not to fly an American carrier again. There just HAS to be a better way.

Normally –

9:00 – Arrive at airport and stand in insanely long line. Get asked inane questions like “When was the last time your shoes exploded? Did you allow a Muslim to pack your luggage? How long have you known this woman? She looks a little dark… Are you sure she’s not a terrorist?”

10:30 Rush to security, empty pockets, take off shoes, remove computers from backpack, etc. (Tip : Wear shoes that are easy to remove and put back on. Wear pants that don't require a belt. Pee before you leave the house.)

10:55 Board plane.

4:00 (Eastern time) Arrive in Newark. Collect bags and check through security again. Make way to restaurant for dinner. Hang out for a long ass time. Make fun of young, hip, New Jersey couple talking on cell phones instead of to each other.

9:50 board plane to Vermont. (Notice the five hour and fifty minute layover.)

10:50 Greet parents who have kindly offered to pick us up at airport.

11:50 Arrive home.

12:00 Wendy falls into a deep sleep. I, for some reason, cannot. Wander around downstairs looking at all our cool pictures. Pet the dogs (who really couldn't care less. Worst… dogs… ever…) Open a bottle of wine. Browse the web. Realize I have reached the end of the internet. Go upstairs and fall into a light sleep.

2:00 a.m. Wake up for no rational reason.

3:00 a.m. Wake up again. Wander around downstairs for half an hour. Drink another glass of wine. (I'm not a drunk, I'm an insomniac.)

5:00 wake up again. Wendy is now up and since it’s eleven a.m. Madrid time decide to get up for the day.

This time, we are determined not to spend two hours in line for no fucking reason, and not spend five hours and fifty minutes in Newark, one of the (documented) worst airports in the world.

Our options are to

1. Fly to England, then New York, then Vermont.
2. Fly to Atlanta, then New York then Vermont
3. Fly to Philadelphia then New York then Vermont.
4. Fly to Boston.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mi tormenta

It all happened so fast. I was in the rectory; this priest came in and the next thing I know…
Wait, that’s a whole other story. It all happened so fast. I was in Madrid, then I was home, and two days later I was in Madrid again. It was awesome.

We are planning on having some work done on my house this spring. We spoke to three different contractors before finally settling on “The Kid.” The first was an older guy who didn’t do email, didn’t know a thing about computers, didn’t know drafting, but had a good reputation. He had some good ideas but put us off in a couple of ways.

“I can’t picture what you’re describing for this room; can you draw it out for us?” We give him a pencil and a sheet of paper. He makes a rough sketch that illustrates what he means. We get the idea but we might as well have handed him construction paper and crayons his drawing is so bad.

We’re going to be having work done in four rooms. All while we’re in Madrid. We are going to need to see what he is proposing before he starts work.

“I’ve done million dollar homes based on drawings like this.”

Well, that’s great, and probably those people were around at the time for you to consult with and for them to advise you on what they want. We won’t be. And if you don’t do email, it’s pretty unlikely you own or know how to use a digital camera and can send us updates.

“Can you give us an estimate?”

“If I give you an estimate you won’t want to do it. I can’t guarantee what it will cost."

The Beautiful Wendy : “Well, I guess we can’t guarantee we’ll be able to pay you then.”

The second guy was Debbie's sister’s husband. Professional. Our age. Established. Bright. We liked him a lot.

The third guy was recommended by my sister and her husband. Young, enthusiastic, just starting out on his own with only a few projects under his belt. We liked him as much as the second guy and his estimate came in quite a bit lower. We checked his references and everyone he had worked for gushed about him. He also came in first in his class at a school for architectural drafting. Sounds good.

He contacted us a couple weeks ago and said he was ready to start but had a few questions and sent along some drawings for us to look at and annotate. His drawings were easy to understand but we couldn’t picture a couple of things because we hadn’t really finished our thought process on the design when we were home in November. Do we really need a closet there? How are we going to get into the eaves? With this door gone, won’t the bed move more to the center of the room? How far into the center? We never decided on a particular model for the skylight, did we?

We tried to hash these things out and get them written but then I just suggested that maybe we should go home.

“No way” Wendy said. “We’re too busy here. Way too much on the plate. We can’t head back to Vermont right now.”

Next morning. The Beautiful Wendy : “We should go home, huh?”

I start looking for flights.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This is coming out well

Transcribing notes this week. It is going to take me forever to get these done. They're coming out well though. Here's one I think you'll like from Quito. (This is first draft, it will be revised a dozen times before I submit it for publication.)

We wander around for a bit and Wendy reads from the guidebook about some historic buildings, but nothing really noteworthy. It starts to rain, like it has every day in the afternoon since we’ve been here, so we make our way inside to a food court. Now, this is interesting. It’s three stories in a square with multiple restaurants and one large gift shop. In the center of this little enclosed plaza is a four tiered fountain with all four tiers covered in roses. We make our way to the third floor to a nice looking restaurant and ask the hostess if we can have a table just for drinks.

“Oh yes, no problem.” As she leads us to a table she tells us “You should know we’re having a special offer where if you order a bottle of this specific wine, you get a free hat.”

Our waitress comes and we order a half bottle of “Casillero del Diablo” a nice white wine we’ve enjoyed in the past. The waitress asks us “Are you sure you don’t want a bottle? You get a free hat if you order this specific bottle of wine.”

I look at the hat they are offering. “Look, if you give me the bottle for free, I’ll take one of those horribly ugly hats off your hand. Otherwise, no deal.”

Our waitress is a middle-aged woman slightly older than us, short, and her body is starting to get that middle-aged spread. She brings the bottle over to us and I notice it has a metal screw top and no cork. She doesn’t notice and starts to use her corkscrew knife to try and cut paper that isn’t there around a cork that isn’t there.

“I don’t think that’s…”

Wendy takes more decisive action and grabs it out of her hand and twists the top off.

“Oh, that must be because I cut it for you.”

Ah… um… no. You’ve never seen a screw top wine bottle? Wendy and I just can’t stop laughing.

I wish I wouldn’t have said anything and just let her try and use the corkscrew on it. That would have been some entertainment.

We also get some “helado de paila” as well which is an ice cream that is made by pouring cream and coconut over a very cold surface and mixing it vigorously until it turns into ice cream. When we get it, I find it completely different than Italian or American ice cream. It’s almost a hybrid of sherbet and ice cream with the coconut tasting so fresh it must have come off the tree that day.

It is still raining out and we are comfortable here, people watching and sipping some light wine and decide to order another half bottle.

“Are you sure you don’t want a whole bottle? You get a free hat if you order a whole bottle.”

“Yes, we know, but really, we don’t need another hat. We have plenty.”

“You could put it in your room, as a souvenir, to remind you of this nice day you are having together.”

“Look, the wine you’re offering tastes like cleaning fluid and the free hat looks like it was made out of corn stalks and will fall apart if exposed to strong sunlight. Thank you. No.”

It is a very relaxing afternoon. We look at the menu but can’t find anything else that seems interesting enough to stuff ourselves with and just sit, talk and people watch in the plaza below us. Eventually the rain stops and we decide it’s time to move along. Wendy heads to the ladies room and I ask for the bill.

The waitress responds with a string of Spanish I don’t understand so I ask her to repeat it. She does and I still don’t understand. “I’ll just wait until your girlfriend comes back you ignorant gringo.”

“The waitress wants to ask you something. I didn’t understand her.”

“She probably wants to know if we want a hat with our bill.”

So funny that girl.

“What do you want to do now?”

“Let’s go look at some blasphemy.”

“The gold tinted church?”

“Yeah.”

Army Magic

As requested. Army magic was a variant that the old "Team Quarterstaff" invented years ago and I published an article about it in Scrye.

Army Magic: A Multi-Player Variant
By Jamie C. Wakefield

Axelrod Gunnarson glared out over his barbarous and supernatural army. The foul smelling Karplusan Yeti’s; the Sengir Vampires flying high above; the myriad wizards, clerics and monsters that made up his forces. How the Angels and the Elves held out for so long against him was vexing and inconceivable. He had long ago crushed Palladia-Mors and his Goblins and Dragons. Soon after that, he had defeated the nigh unstoppable Lord of Tresserhorn and his army of Merfolk, Doppelgangers, and Zombies. But still Asmira and her Angels resisted him. If only he could lure them away from her accused Castle, he would have them! But as long as she and her followers remained behind the mystic walls there was little his army could do. For now he would have to wait, and plan.

There are many variations for how to play Magic: The Gathering. What makes this multi player variant (3-9 players is best) different is that you get to play with the most mana intensive cards in the game. Everyone’s binders are full of Legends and beasts that are too expensive for tournament play, or don’t have enough of an effect for fun play. Army Magic makes it necessary to have those rarely played cards in your deck; you’ll require them in order to win.

The idea of Army Magic is simple. You must build your deck as if you were recruiting an Army. You are recruiting an army full of grunts, monsters, spell casters, Legends, and a Supreme Commander. An army made up of the best cards in the game that will never see tournament play.

Normal Type One Magic: The Gathering Rules apply, with these additions.

1. Three color decks with a minimum deck size of 150 cards.
2. Everyone starts at 50 life and with three basic lands of their choice in play. There is no maximum hand size. In Army Magic you will often find yourself with twenty or more cards in your hand. For a creature to attack, its controller must control a creature with higher power. If you have 15 one-power creatures out, none of them can attack. The turn you cast a two-power creature, is the turn that all fifteen can attack. And the two-power creature cannot. The same rule applies for blockers.
3. Artifacts and spells cannot be cast until you have a Wizard, Cleric, Druid or Shaman on the table. If you have a hand full of Fireballs and Counterspells they are useless until you draw and play a magic-user.
4. Legends allow Magic to be played as normal. As soon as you play a Legend, all requirements on Army Magic are fulfilled. Your 50/51 Lhurgoyf can now attack as long as it is not affected by summoning sickness, you can cast every spell you draw, and the Legend can attack as well. Legends are the driving force behind Army Magic.
5. You must have a Supreme Commander. When he appears on the scene, all of your troops get +2 +2. If your Supreme Commander is killed, you lose 10 life. Your Supreme Commander must be a Legend. Pick a Legend that fits your Army. Elder Dragons are good Supreme Commanders. Irini Sengir is not.
6. Banned cards – Black Vice, Ivory Tower, Shahrazad, and the type one banned and restricted list. Also, any card that punishes a player for playing a specific color, such as Gloom, Light of Day, Anarchy or Life Force. Note: Creatures with protection from a color are still legal.

Army Magic requires different deck building skills than normal Magic. While it’s important to have a flexible deck, sheer power will rarely win you the day. In order to cast spells, you have to use a wide variety of Legend, Cleric and Wizard cards. The game sometimes lasts for hours, with reusable effects becoming far more powerful than in a simple eight-turn game. Cards that are far too expensive or difficult to play in regular Magic can become insanely powerful in Army Magic. Misfortune from Alliances is one example. When you have 50 creatures (troops) in play, many of them 1/1 wizards, the effect of Misfortune can be devastating.

Xira Arien is one of the most powerful cards in Army Magic. It is a Legend so it allows you to play Magic normally, plus its special ability can get you an additional card every turn. While her casting cost is prohibitive in regular Magic, it is very affordable in Army Magic.

Cards that might have seemed worthless are now powerhouses. Reusable effects are key to winning. It is not uncommon in Army Magic to see Control Magic cast on a Thorn Thallid while the table is bristling with Frankenstein’s Monster, Llurgoyfs, and assorted Dragons. Choose what cards you make your Army out of carefully. Imagine the effects of such cards as Pyroclasm, Winter’s Blast and Shatterstorm.

Tactics also change with Army Magic. As with any multi-player game, diplomacy is important to survival. Staying in your opponent’s good graces is a necessary skill. Be careful about getting a fast start, and rarely play with discard. Abyssal Specters, Mind Warp, and Hymns to Tourach make you a target. The entire table will unite and defeat you in one turn. No one wants to lose all the shiny pretty cards in their hand. Especially since they are finally getting a chance to play them!

Army Magic turns regular Magic into a tactical war game. A very long tactical war game. The beginning of the game revolves around all players carefully casting non- – threatening spells and collecting powerful spells in hand. The middle of the game focuses around all players practicing diplomacy and forming alliances. Some players pointing out which opponent is in the best tactical position and perhaps others should take notice. The end game is a blasted landscape with many foes fallen, and waiting for a victor. Two powerful mages with immense armies and low life totals slugging it out until only one remains.

A nine-player game of Army Magic took thirteen hours to complete. I suggest you find a very large table. Call up as many people as you can and get a huge stockpile of snacks and soda. Pull out your favorite shiny cards that never see play, and make a day of it. Magic takes on an epic scale with this variant.

Special Thanks to Hilary Denault-Reynolts and Rodney Sheldon for inventing this variant. Special thanks also to Michelle Denault- Reynolds and Doug Shepardson for amazing games and countless hours fine-tuning the rules while we played.

Sample Army: Magic Deck

4x Wastelands
1x Strip Mine
1x Maze of Ith
2x Arena
15x Forest
15x Mountain
15x Swamp

2x Ihsan's Shade
2x Baron Sengir
4x Sengir Vampire
4x Skyshroud Vampire
4x Krovikan Vampire
4x Lhurgoyf
4x Keldon Warlord
4x Verdant Force
4x Barishi
2x Mirri
4x Elder Druid
4x Tracker
4x Dwarven Armory
4x Karplusan Yeti's
4x Marton Stromgald
4x Shivan Hellkite
2x Rock Hydra
2x Eron the Relentless
2x Xira Arien
2x Axelrod Gunnarson
2x Marhault Elsdragon
2x Tor Wauki
2x Stang
2x Autumn Willow
2x Misfortune
1x Fork
1x Berserk
1x Regrowth
2x Mind Warp
2x Overrun
4x Fireballs
4x Disintegrate
4x Kaervek's Torch
2x Jokulhaups
2x Flame Wave
2x Simulacrum
2x Stream of Life
2x Nevinyrral's Disks
2x Aladdin’s Ring

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sorry, I'm busy. Or lazy...

There is a thing going around Facebook right now which is a note called "25 random things about me." Everyone fills it out and you get to learn more about your friends and former classmates. I've enjoyed reading other peopls's notes and finally did one of my own. It garnered a good response so I thought I would post it here for those people who don't use Facebook or aren't one of my friends on that site.

For those of you who have already read this, sorry. I'm transcribing over four hundred notes from South America this week and really need to get them done so I don't have time to do an original update.

And the add image button isn't working either...

Life hasn't changed much. Still doing private Spanish lessons with Montse, have a dentists appointment at four today (yay) and hoping to get a run in. Wendy has a new intern here for two months so we're back to three beautiful professional women at the end of the house while I sit here in my comfortable pants and a Woody Jackson dog t-shirt, unshaven, trying to become a writer. So stereotypical. And my check-spelling button on this site isn't working so, excuse me if there are any errors.


1. I was married to Marilyn Whitaker for twelve years. She died of Ovarian Cancer after a short eight month struggle. That eight months was Hell.

2. My favorite color is black… no Green! AGGGHHHHHH!!!

3. I once invaded Darkness Falls with only six people and managed to kill the princess, all three princes and made it to the chamber of the Behemoth.

4. I worked at The Middlebury Inn for five years. First as a bellboy, then front desk, then night audit, waiter, bus tour guide and eventually manager on duty. It was a both a nightmare and one of the most enriching experiences of my life. It is the only job that I still have nightmares about to this day.

5. I love the UFC. I have taken mixed martial arts classes and even competed in a submission wrestling tournament at the age of forty-one. (Picture high school wrestling where rear naked chokes, leg locks and arm bars are allowed.)

6. When The Beautiful Wendy and I finally get around to getting married we are planning a three day festival of games, dancing, drinking, food etc. One of the games I’d like to play is Army Magic. I don’t think that’s going to work though – The last time we played we had thirteen people around the table and the game lasted eleven hours.

7. Of the three counselors I have seen for anxiety, each of them has told me I need to be easier on myself. That I push myself too hard and that’s what’s causing my problems. I told them I didn’t have time for this shit, I’m going back to work.

8. I used to play video games with my wife for fourteen hours every Saturday and Sunday for eight years in a row. We would log on at seven in the morning and play until past midnight.

9. I never left North America until I met The Beautiful Wendy. In the three years I’ve known her we’ve been to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ecuador and Columbia. I had no idea how much I needed that.

10. I once ran 8.8 miles in a snowstorm. It was at college and I was upset over a girl. (Carla Fuchs I think.) Who finally accepted a date with me my senior year in college and I broke it to be with an ex-girlfriend I really wanted to be back together with. And that didn’t happen either.

11. I actually like Rick Astley. When someone “rick-rolls” me, I’m very happy. I get up and sing and dance. A-ha too. And Billy Ocean. And especially, Abba.

12. Before I met Wendy, I woke up in the morning and thought about life “Is this all there is?” I wake up now and think “Gotta get going, so much to see, do, experience visit, write about, taste, etc before I die.”

13. I don't believe I have ever been happier than I am right now. Life continues to amaze me with how much it continues to get better ever single year.

14. I have read “Legend” by David Gemmel eleven times.“Legend” is a story only a man could love. The greatest warrior the Drenai have ever seen arrives at the fortress, Dros Delnoch, at the age of sixty so that he can defend and die against an army a million strong. He dies. Despite this I am a big girl and love Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, and almost every romantic comedy I have ever seen. (Love Actually, Two Weeks Notice, Juno, Once, etc.)

15. I have a BFA in Writing. Not English; not journalism; writing. And my grammar is still at about the sixth grade level. It’s embarrassing. (Did I spell “grammar” right?)

16. I have one published novel that has five stars on Amazon, have been contributing editor for an international magazine and been paid two hundred dollars weekly for a column at a web site. I used to receive on average seventy-five emails a week in response to the column. Right now I’m unemployed and have been rejected by seventeen literary agents. Hot, right?

17. Like Henry from “Time Traveler’s Wife” I have panic disorder and need to run every week or I get… screwed up. Bad. It’s not pretty.

18. I had a C- average in High School. I failed so many classes in my senior year I almost didn’t graduate. In college, I was on academic probation for the first semester. Being a business major sucked. I switched to writing and graduated with a 3.14 average.

19. My family “matures” late. I was 5’3 when I graduated High School and the first person to walk down the aisle (being the shortest boy in my class) at graduation. In the year I took off before college, I grew eight inches and put on sixty pounds.

20. I wrestled all four years of high school and the first two years had to gain weight to be considered a 98 pound weakling. I was consistently about third to fifth best in the state but never, ever won a tournament. Which sucks.

21. I have braces at the age of 43. They suck ass. I am swallowing blood as I type this.

22. When I was in High school, I wore slippers (even in Vermont winters) and a fedora to school for two years. Right now, I just went out to get beer and Doritos (in Madrid, in February, at night) in my slippers.

23. I am a democrat and extremely liberal. Despite this, I still love John Rizzo in a totally non gay way.

24. My girlfriend is, by far, the smartest person I have ever met. Reed Richards would feel stupid if he met her.

25. I once qualified for the Magic Pro Tour using a mono green deck. True Story!

Friday, March 6, 2009

"The Road" Review

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2007. Oprah book club selection. Garbage.

A couple disclaimers. I have a feeling this review will garner the same type of response I used to get when I reviewed Green when a new Magic set came out. Some people will get pissed at me for expressing an opinion. Don’t. It’s just my opinion. Relax. I’m going to insult the book, not you.
The other disclaimer is, I am going to tell you major portions of the book and even talk about the ending. If you want to believe the hype and read this book, don’t read this. Or go read the book (takes about 3 hours) and come back.

That said –

It is set in a post apocalyptic Earth. Either the effects of a nuclear war or a meteor hitting the Earth because everything is covered in ash and dust. So, it’s either a nuclear winter or simulates one. The planet hasn’t seen the sun in years. All the animals have been killed. Crops do not grow. The only thing to eat is canned goods, or other people. Most of the Earth’s population is gone. Everyone is starving because all the canned goods are gone, or died in the apocalypse. Everything has been used up including almost all fuel, batteries, and ammunition. This is the story of a man and his young son trying to make their way south to escape another very cold winter.

First, the dialog –

I’m scared.
I know.
I’m really scared.
It will be okay.

This exact scene with that dialogue is repeated possibly fifty times in the book. Incredibly repetitive. Incredibly annoying.

It doesn’t take a masterpiece to weave a good story that sucks you in and never breaks the suspension of disbelief. Yet in this masterpiece, I was constantly being pulled out of the story by elements that I just couldn’t believe.

Humanity is on its last legs. There are so few canned goods left that everyone is thin and starving, and by everyone, I mean if you travel ten miles a day, you’ll see a person about once every three days. One day the father discovers a home-made bomb shelter. Inside is water, food, fuel, whisky, beds, a heater, a gas stove, etc. The amount might be able to last them months or even years. They stay for a few days, and then load up their shopping cart and continue their journey. The father tells the son it’s too dangerous to stay. They’ll be found.

Whoa, wait! What? Wait a week another dozen people looking to eat you will be dead. Wait a month you might be the last people alive. How is it safer to be pushing a shopping cart through ten miles of terrain a day? When that terrain has bands of cannibals. And most of the time you’re on a road. And about that shopping cart. They push it through fields and snow. Clearly the author has never tried to push a shopping cart along anything other than a flat man made surface.

They almost get caught by a roving band of men. Maybe five guys. They are hiding in a ditch and one of the men leaves his party to take a leak in the ditch. He grabs for the son and the father shoots him with one of his three remaining bullets. Wait, the men are right over there and you got away? With a kid who can’t be older than eight in the story? You got away from four grown men looking to eat you with a five second head start?

There is no characterization other than this is a boy and a father in a harsh world. You don’t get any glimpse into their personality past “I’m a father and I love my son.” “I’m a son who is scared and I love my father and hate the horrible world we live in.”

They travel the road. They are tired. They run out of food. They almost starve to death. They find a huge cache of food. They travel the road. They are tired. They run out of food.
Repeat until the end.

The book is an easy read. Not much happens but you keep thinking they might get caught. Or what will happen if the son dies? What happens if the father dies? Maybe the sun will come out. Maybe they’ll find a commune full of good people who have found a way to make crops grow or have some animals somehow. I kept reading because I kept waiting for something else to happen. Nothing does until the end. The father dies.

Another man shows up that day and offers to bring the boy to a safe place where there are other good people. We never get to see where or how many people or how they are surviving. That’s the end. Very unfulfilling.

One of the reviews I liked on Amazon.com that extrapolates on what I've already said.

"Synopsis: A man and a boy push a shopping cart with a bad wheel down a road. The road is covered with ashes, though there is no explanation as to the origin of the ashes. It rains. The man coughs. The little boy whines. They have bad shoes. After a couple pages, the man and boy push the same shopping cart with the same bad wheel down the same road. They're hungry. It rains some more. The think they see someone else on the road. They see a house. They build a fire in a ditch. They wrap their feet in cloth. They pass through a town. There are lots of ashes.

After a couple pages the man and boy have trouble pushing the shopping cart with the bad wheel down the road. It's cold and wet. They avoid someone. They wrap their feet in coats. They see a house and find something disgusting to eat. It snows. There are ashes everywhere. A ragtag army comes up behind the man and the boy pushing the shopping cart with the bad wheel down the road. They get off the road. They kill a man. They run away.

The man thinks he knows where they are on the map. They wrap their feet in a plastic tarp. They return for the shopping cart with the bad wheel and push it down the road in the rain. Not so many ashes, but they will be back. They build a fire in the woods. They build a fire in a fireplace in an empty house. The man tries to fix the wheel on the shopping cart so he and the boy can push it down the road more easily. It works better for a couple pages. They build a fire under a bridge. The man isn't sure where they are on the map.

They are hungry but refuse to kill and eat anyone, though that's what everyone else seems to be doing. The rain and ashes are back. The man finds a trove that would last months, maybe years. They don't have to build a fire because they have a stove. The man has no idea where they are on the map. The little boy fails to close the gas valve properly. They don't build a fire beside the road. They load their shopping cart with the wheel that's gone bad again and leave everything behind them that they can't carry and push the shopping cart down the road.

They have bathed. They have new shoes. It's raining. They are ash deep in the remains of a fire. The wheel gets worse as the man and boy push the shopping cart down the road. The man coughs. They build a fire in the road. The man knows where they are on the map. They avoid some people they see. They avoid some people who aren't there. The boy whines. They meet and feed someone on the road who says his name's not Ely. They continue down the road. They go through some towns. They see some houses. They push the shopping cart. They get a wheelbarrow. It rains. The earth quakes. Lightning flashes.

They build a fire under a bridge again. The ashes make things tougher. Did I mention their shoes? Their shoes are worn out by the ashes and the rain and the snow and pushing the shopping cart down the road. They wrap their feet in layer upon layer of whatever the author can think of. The man isn't sure where they are on the map. The shopping cart has a bad wheel. They reach the ocean. The man ransacks a beached sailing ship. He coughs. The boy loses their pistol. They find the pistol. It's dark. It rains.

The ocean isn't blue. There are ashes as far as the eye can see. Someone tries to rob them. The man forces the robber to strip naked and they leave him. The boy whines. They return to succor the naked thief. He's not there. The boy whines again.

The man coughs and dies. Another man shows up. The boy goes with the other man.

Now you don't have to suffer through 241 pages of rain, ashes and pushing a shopping cart with a bad wheel down some stupid road. You're welcome. -----

What I thought: Gryke. Discalced. Mastic. Meconium. Rachitic. Siwash. Parsible. Woad. Kerf. Chary. Firedrake. Palimpsest. Middens. Pampooties. Salitter. Dolmen stones. Crozzled.

I read a fair amount. I have pretty good reading, writing and speaking vocabularies. The above words are in The Road. Two of them I could not find even in the OED. The ones I could look up mostly had mundane meanings. I like books that stretch my vocabulary, but not books that stretch my vocabulary to no end.

Why is "chary" better than "wary," which is what chary means. Why is "gryke" better than its preferred spelling grike and why return to the 18th century to tell me there was a crevasse in the limestone cliff. I don't find stumbling over unnecessary, obscure words conducive to my reading pleasure, nor am I impressed by big words.

I understand that The Road has been favorably compared to Stephen King's "The Stand." "The Stand," in one of its editions, is more than 1300 pages long. It's a brilliant book. "The Road" couldn't hold "The Stand's" jock. That being said, "The Stand" is not the best end-of-the-world book. King got his idea from George Stewart's masterpiece, "Earth Abides." "Earth Abides" is the quintessential end-of-the-world book. It reflects reality. It is a great story, It invites the reader to think. In its most recent edition it is 368 pages. If you are looking for the best in post apocalyptic literature, no one will ever be able to top "Earth Abides!" (This message brought to you by Post, the official Cereal of the Apocalypse!)

If you are looking for a book with little punctuation, no attributions, no chapters, etc. stick with "The Road" If you want to read a real book, read just about anything else. Maybe if enough people buy "The Road," McCarthy can buy a typewriter that has a working comma key, apostrophe key, quotation marks, etc. That's not enough of an incentive for you to spend any amount of money on this book. I am ashamed to have to tell my wife I paid money for it.

This is worse than a bad book. There was one noteworthy moment in "The Road. On page 145 an old man notes, "Where man can't live, gods fare no better." You just dodged another bullet. I told you the story above. You know the one vaguely insightful line. Don't send me any money, but next time you're in a book store and you see someone considering this book, warn them. That will be thanks enough.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Random Rambles

UFC : Just watched Brock Lesnar vs Heath Herring again. Brock Lesnar is ENORMOUS. Heath Herring is 230 lbs and looked like a child next to him. Imagine Rich Franklin fighting Diego Sanchez. Sanchez is probably the better fighter by a small margin, but there’s just no way in hell he is going to beat a guy who outweighs him by that much. The days of heavyweights weighing 230 lbs (Cro Cop, Randy Couture) and being competitive are over. There is no way in hell a guy 230 lbs and a little flabby can beat a guy who weighs 285 lbs and is solid muscle. Sure, he can if their skill set is vastly different, (Fedor) but if they are even close in skill level, the bigger guy wins every time. Cain Valasquez is 245 lbs and an up and coming prospect. Undefeated in six fights. TKO in the first round in five of them. He has some flab around the middle. I suggest he cut down to 205. The future belongs to Lesnar, Carwin and guys like them. The guys who have wrestling pedigrees, hands the size of small planets, athleticism like GSP and have to cut weight in order to make the 265 lb limit.

Spanish : For a couple of days last week I was very into my Spanish. Class went well and I came back, fired up and did some Rosetta Stone for a while then tried watching some TV in Spanish on my computer. We have “Buffy” season three on DVD and I thought I would put on the Spanish dubbing and the subtitles and try to improve my listening skills. Sadly, on this, and every DVD I have checked, subtitles are different from the spoken word. I don’t know why they would translate it using two different methods, but they do. The words on the screen hold superficial resemblance to the words the actors speak. It is the same for “Heroes” season one and the six movies I checked. The text might say “Hello” and the speech will say “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?” It just devolves from there. So, it’s either listen or read, not both. Very annoying.

Politics : Wendy and I watched Obama’s speech, addressing Congress last week. Good lord it feels good to have him in the white House. We just felt so great and hopeful after watching the speech. Nice to have a smart man with a plan leading the country.

But what the Hell was up with Nancy Pelosi? Holy fucking annoying. I really think John Stewart missed some great comedy there. He did mention something about “whack-a-mole” in reference to her constantly leaping up, but that could have been mined for a lot more comedy. The other thing that amazed us both was how both her and Biden were both READING THE PROGRAM while Obama was speaking. Nancy would leap up every thirty seconds or so, then sit down and grab the program and start reading. What, was Obama boring you? Heard the speech too many times before? What the hell? You realize that you’re on camera, right?

Music : Do you know about Pandora? The Music Genome Project. Wendy turned me on to it. It’s an internet radio web site that is just incredible. You create a free account and it asks you to name a very few artists you like and then everything coming out of your speakers is in the same vein. You can fine tune it by clicking on “I like this song” or “I don’t like this song” and it learns. It is unlike any other radio station I have come across and I love it.

Writing : The silence is deafening. I have six short travel pieces out and have heard nothing for what seems like an eternity. Rejection would almost be better than the silence. It is the same story with agents. I have a meticulously crafted query letter that I have sent out to maybe a dozen agents and the wait is killing me. It takes about two hours an agency to find out who to send it to, what they are looking for, modifying the letter, finding out if they want attachments or text in the body of the letter, if they want to see some of the writing or just a query about a proposed project. I don’t care if I get fifteen rejections and one acceptance as long as I get one acceptance. For magazines I am batting .500 and for agents I haven’t come to the plate yet.

Movies : Slumdog Millionaire? Really? That was the best movie of the year? Must have been some crap in the theaters this year. We liked the movie, but didn’t love it. Will probably never watch it again. Now, it might have been the best movie of those nominated, and if so, maybe they should have nominated some different films. Like, The Visitor or even Mama Mia.