Monday, March 31, 2008

NCCCCC: Alarming Alcoholic

Welcome to the National Corniest Cliché Comic Character Countdown, where I annually pick some comic chestnuts to run through the wringer. Our first category this year is everybody’s favorite role model, the liquid substance abuser.

Comics like to traffic in stereotypes. They form a great visual shorthand to help set up a joke. And nothing is funnier than a falling down drunk in the funny pages where kids learn to read and adults commiserate their sad existence. Comic strip drunks are keeping things on the down low in today’s MADD invested political correctness. For many of these strips, I couldn’t find recent examples of their signature lush actually hoisting a glass, so in some cases, you’ll have to use your imagination and your alcohol soaked memory.

Hagar The Horrible

Hagar, the least horrible barbarian ever, is a heavy drinker in all senses of the word. He’s even willing to endure spousal abuse in order to be able to drop in for a drink or twelve. In addition to being a horned drunk, he also traffics in the heavy-set nagging wife stereotypes.

General Amos Halftrack

The drunken lecherous leader of Camp Swampy has been through several rounds of court-ordered sensitivity training and is now rarely seen with a martini glass in his hand. Like all good comics writer doppelgangers, he still enjoys golf. Surprise! He also has a heavy-set overly stern wife. Battle-ax spouses must drive comic characters to drink.

Thirsty Thurston

One of the frequent recurring GoogleStorm hits that infrequently hit my blog is for “Hi and Lois drunk neighbor”. It seems Thirsty is rarely referred to by name anymore and even more infrequently seen with his trademark pile of empties under his hammock. He must be doing all his drinking off camera because he still has his advanced rhinophyma.

Andy Capp

Everybody’s favorite wife-beating drunk epitomizes British lower class substance abuse better than an entire season of Eastenders. While he too has lowered the spousal abuse content, he still likes to bend his elbow plenty.

Leroy Lockhorn

Leroy likes to give his buddy across the pond some competition. Nothing says hilarity more than Leroy three sheets to the wind wearing a lampshade and hitting on some hottie half his age and twice his height.


The Wizard of Id’s town drunk is everything a dysfunctional wino should be, including it seems, a professional musician.

Remember when voting that “best cliché” means many things to many people. Vote according to your conscious and blame the results on a blackout hangover.

Please be patient with the voting software. Your vote may not register immediately, but it is being counted.

As always, explanations and rationalizations are allowed and expected in the comments.

Update: You may keep voting, but the Dopiest Dad and Perplexing Pet categories are now open as well.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cliche Comic Character Nominations

Every year about this time I run a series of tournament parodies about the funny pages. Two years ago Gil Thorp stole the crown in the National Crappy Comics Competition™ from top contenders BC and Mary Worth. Last year Bucky Katt ran away with best of show in the National Coolest Comics Character Contest. This year I'm throwing open nominations onto the floor for the National Corniest Cliche Comic Character Countdown or NCCCCC (and yes I do seem to be adding a C every year). The categories that need to be filled in are:

Dopiest Dad

Pick the cartoon father that is the dumbest most clueless foil there is. Think CBS sitcom dad stupid. It's a wide-open field so think hard.

Perplexing Pet

It doesn't matter whether it talks, walks, or humps the furniture, pick the pet that should have been put to sleep years ago.

Alarming Alcoholic

The comics have tried to become more responsible, but let's face, drunks are funny. Or at least they should be.

Kick The Shit Out of This Kid
Annoying isn't always funny. Find the child most deserving of a size 13 enema. If this child were your progeny, he wouldn't make it to middle school.

As always, definitions of "worst", "most" and "is" are left deliberately vague, ambiguous, and contradictory. The only rule is that the character has to be in a currently syndicated comic strip that appears in a major US newspaper and is available online somewhere somehow.

Thanks for the help and we can look forward to a fun-filled week of comics bashing.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Beware The JabbaWockeeZ

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

My son asked me to watch some MTV last night. Normally he is nowhere near the home of sudsy teen drama like The Hills, so I decided to see what became appointment television for him. It was the final episode of the unwieldily named Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew, a blatant American Idol rip-off showcasing hip-hop dance teams, or “crews” instead of bad pop singers. My son’s loyalties were with the dorkily named JabbaWockeeZ. My son had never even heard of "Jabberwocky", so I called it up in the Googles and read it out loud to him.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

Every crew seems to have a gimmick and the Jabbas do all their numbers wearing gloves and plastic masks that make them look like kabuki thugz. As if the odd garb and Lewis Carrol/Monty Python inspired name weren’t enough, their final routine was called “The Red Pill” as in The Matrix down the rabbit hole. You can watch their routine here.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

To get into the finals, the all-guy pan-ethnic JabbaWockeeZ had to defeat the all-Asian co-ed group Kaba Modern, which has its roots in a UC-Irvine talent show entry. This group is really good and was the favorite of many. Nevertheless, JabbaWockeeZ went on to defeat the Boston-based Status Quo.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

Who knew that geek culture touchstone like Jabberwocky could burrow so deep into the zeitgeist of the latest MTV Generation. Or maybe is just a cool name that lets them go snicker snack on the competition.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

First Daughter Endorsement

I try not too get to political here at Foma Central. I save all that stuff for my alter ego, Mo MoDo. But a lot of candidate's kids have been making the news lately. So I think it’s fair to come up with the most shallow and superficial possible way to rate the candidates: the entertainment value of their children. Say what you want about Dubya, but his daughters, The Drunken Duo, have been an endless stream of eyebrow raising antics. Between college drinking hijinks and Jen’s upcoming nuptials, the twins have been a lot of fun.

Oddly, all the current candidates have had girls. So what does our future hold for First Daughters? Let’s take a look:

Chelsea ClintonChelsea Clinton has grown from a rather awkward duckling into a graceful if rather mute swan. As a twenty-eight-year-old college grad, she is trying to help out with the family business which is convincing the American public that her parents deserve one more shot at balancing budgets while parading their personal peccadilloes in public. Oops, I promised not to get too political.

Chelsea has gotten a lot of press for not answering questions about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. And can you blame her? It’s not right to make any kid imagine their parents’ sex lives in detail, no matter what their age. Give her a break.

Still, Chelsea has grown up too responsible and respectable to be any fun. Unless she starts dating a member of an emo band and gets some serious ink done, her salad days are long past. Sorry Chelsea, we have to take a pass.
Malia Ann and Natasha ObamaWe haven’t had any genuine kiddy kids in the White House since the Camelot days of JFK, Jr. hiding under his daddy’s desk. Barack has two absolutely adorable moppets, Malia Ann and Sasha. These kids are photo-ops just begging to happen. First day of school, Easter egg rolls, family Christmas cards. The possibilities are endless.

I just feel bad putting kids this young in the spotlight. The mainstream press tends to be pretty respectful of underage political progeny, but whisper campaigns occur. Who knows what sort of mischief these precocious politico spawn can get into on the playground? We don’t need gossip columns full of tales of lost lunch money and gym class pranks.

And do we really want a White House full of puberty driven middle school drama as they get a little older? Let's let these tykes get a few years under their belts before the spotlight gets turned on.

Meghan McCainJohn McCain has a whole passel of offspring from two marriages to keep track of. He adopted two kids as part of the package deal with his first wife. Their kid together is now in her 40s. With his second wife, he has two sons serving their country, a novel concept for a politician nowadays. He also has an adopted Bangladeshi daughter that arguably cost him the nomination eight years ago. But it is the oldest daughter of the second parcel that we are concerned with today.

Twenty-three-year-old Meghan McCain has been the subject of several press profiles, including most recently the Washington Post. She is vivacious, blonde and involved. It’s as if Reese Witherspoon were cast in the part. And best of all, she’s a blogger. She and gal pals Heather Brand and Shannon Bae ride the campaign bus and blog all the behind the scenes action. Meghan gets knocked for keeping the blog a little too upbeat and superficial. Ipod playlists are more likely to be featured than policy papers. But can you blame her? It’s a tough line to walk between being fun and being a laughingstock. And Meghan pulls off that balancing act perfectly.

So the official Foma* endorsement goes to McCain because I could really use four years of easy-on-the-eyes Meghan making weekly appearances in "The Reliable Source" and Wonkette. The only knock is that, like Chelsea, she’s just a little too long in the tooth to be really salacious, but we have to work with what we have.

Maybe we can get either Michael Lohan or Lynn Spears to run for president. Now that would be real fun.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: How old if ever does a First Child need to be before the press can take off the kid gloves?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dog Breed Quiz

You know that I've just been too busy to post because this is my emergency break glass blog quiz meme:

What dog breed are you? I'm a Border Collie! Find out at

When my son was just a toddler, the next door neighbor had a pair of border collies (and folks, never get them in less than a pair). These dogs would watch my son through the chain link fence and run point. One would watch him while the other followed him. It was amazing to watch. These were also the only dogs I have ever seen actually trained to retrieve the morning paper. Not only did they live a cliche, they reveled in it.

So if I'm a smart dedicated border collie, I'm proud.

The Right Rice

One of the only-funny-if-you’re-there running gags in the yellojkt household is that whenever I make a pot of rice I say really loud, “Ooops, we’re out of rice!” It’s funny because we never are and heads would roll if we were. As much as I prefer pasta and potatoes as a starch, I am consistently outvoted in favor of rice for most meals. If the large Tupperware style tub in the pantry runs low, I just top it off from the twenty-five pound bag in the hall closet.

However, the other day that bag was empty and all the rice we had on hand was in the cupboard. Saturday, since we were in Northern Virginia (for the Vonnegut play) anyways, I decided it was a good time for a trip through Eden Center, the center of the greater DC area Vietnamese community. An entire strip mall development except for the K-Mart anchor has been completely turned over to Vietnamese run business: restaurants, jewelers, travel agents, video stores, nail salon suppliers, and so on. All the stores have mostly Vienamese signs in the windows and cater to first and second generation immigrants.

Our destination is usually a small grocery store that stocks Asian specialties. Here they carry about five different brands of rice. The brand we get is Double Golden Fish®, or as we call it, The One With Two Goldfish On It. It is Thai jasmine rice, which after years of experimentation is the type and style we have settled on. About every six months we have to find ourselves in either Falls Church or Wheaton, the two places we have found that stock this particular brand. Once I bought a brand with a big elephant on it from the massive Korean grocery store in Security Square Mall, but even though it was jasmine rice, it wasn’t the right rice.

A trip to Eden Center also means getting some bánh mì and bubble tea at Song Que. Song Que is the small deli/sandwich shop associated with the over-rated What White People Like Huong Que restaurant (Viet Royale next door is less pretentious, cheaper, and more "authentic"). Even the minor charms of Song Que have gotten out to the general public and it is always packed, often by people that don't quite know what to order.

Bánh mì are small baguette sandwiches that have a choice of Vietnamese style meats topped with condiments such as pickled carrots, cilantro, and jalapeños for less than three bucks. The bubble teas, which come in exotic flavors such as durian and jackfruit, cost more than the sandwiches.

My wife always adds in some soups to go and gets some brightly colored gelatinous sticky sweet desserts for herself. Loaded up, we made our back to Ellicott City knowing that for the next several months my cries of “We’re out of rice” will cause sympathetic cry-wolf smiles instead of cries of concern.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Triple choice (pick one or all): What staple do you buy in bulk? What brand of food are devotedly loyal to? What is your favorite ethnic specialty?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wanda June Lives

One of the duties of being a fan in the fan-atical sense is the need to be aware of every detail of the object of your obsession. Most people (at least people I consider worth conversing with) can name two or three Kurt Vonnegut novels and perhaps have read more than high school English staple “Harrison Bergeron”. I have read all his novels, essay collections, short stories, and Playboy interviews (I can truthfully say I own the July 1973 issue for the articles). When it comes to Vonnegut, I have to have it all.

Thus, when I learned that a local theater production company was putting on his obscure play Happy Birthday, Wanda June, I had to have a ticket. My wife, knowing where to fight her battles, agreed to go and since kids under 18 were free, we made it a family event. I got a few puzzled looks from them when the GPS led us to a middle school parking lot. It seems that The American Century Theater Company operates out of the Gunston Arts Center in Arlington which is one wing of Gunston Middle Shool. Despite the unusual location, the theater portion of the building consists of two professional caliber black-box style stages.

I had seen the film version back in high school when it played the art house film circuit at the Tampa Theater. That movie is just one in a long string of lackluster Vonnegut film adaptations and part of the problem is that its theatrical roots didn't "open up" well on film.

The entire play takes place (except for a few vignettes set in a particularly Vonnegutian version of Heaven) in the apartment of presumably widowed Penelope Ryan. Penelope is a modern take on Ulysses’ wife holding off suitors while waiting for her hero’s return. Vonnegut’s take, as you might guess, is less than Homeric.

In addition to being inspired by the Greek epic, the play is also a very sly dissection of Hemingway-esque machismo. The “hero” Harold Ryan, played with suitable swagger by Bill Aitken, is a trophy hunting Spanish Civil War veteran that has been lost in the Amazon jungle for eight years with Nagasaki bombardier Looseleaf Harper, played by Joe Cronin. He returns home to a reception much different from what he was expecting.

All of the cast is delightful, but the real standout of this production is Kari Ginsburg as the conflicted Penelope. She brings a lot of sexiness and intelligence to a role where it would be easy to play Penelope Pitstop rather than Penelope of Ithaca. And she looks really good in a leopard print mini-skirt.

I am always amazed by the depth of talent in local productions. The set, costumes, and acting are all first rate. Even the minor parts are amusing and very well cast. Our matinee show was only half full which is a shame for such a razor sharp production.

The Artistic Director’s Notes makes it clear that most novelists that attempt playwriting are usually less than successful, and Vonnegut is no exception. That raises the question of why to restage a nearly (and perhaps deservedly so) forgotten footnote to a bigger career. The play has a lot of that acid-tipped Vonnegut wit, and even though it was written over thirty-five years ago, the show still resonates with themes of war, peace, love, and sex. If you can get past the go-go boots and mostly unironic peace signs, there is as much truth in the play today as there was then. Perhaps more so. And that is the mark of genius, especially when such timeless universality appears even in his lesser works.

The show plays one more week and Wednesday night is “pay what you can night”. More information can be found at the official website.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What does it take to get you to live theater?

Photo credit: Ian Armstrong

Thursday, March 20, 2008

London Diary Wrap Up - The Flight Home

One of the problems of group tours is that you don't control the schedule. Our flight back to DC was scheduled for 11:30 am, but since we were a small group, the tour company combined us on a bus with another group with a much earlier flight, so we had to be packed and out of the hotel by 6 am. Even after check-in and VAT rebate, that gave us over two hours to kill at Heathrow.

The Queen just dedicated Terminal 5 which is supposed to be grander and posher than Terminal 3 which we were flying out of. It must be grand indeed. Just past security at Terminal 3 is an enormous duty free shop equal to an upscale mall. It also has a full food court and the last chance to buy luxury Harrods and Burberry souvenirs.

We played a game called Spend The Pence. The goal was to leave the terminal with as little British money as possible. We were down to 57 pence so I bought two tabloids, The Sun at 20p and The Daily Sun for 35p. Both of these papers are known as redtops for the color of their title banner. They also both feature topless Page 3 Girls on, duh, page 3. The Page 3 girls make it tough to read page 2 in public, but fortunately that is just the national and international headlines. The real stories are inside. Both had highly detailed and unflattering breakdowns of the Paul McCartney/Heather Mills divorce (or as they call it, Macca vs Mucca, which I think is more than a little vulgar). The people must have something good to read.

Just before take-off, the pilot pointed out a new A380, the biggest passenger jet in the world taking off. It is the standard for first class luxury, but it is bone ugly. But I guess if it means having a full private room for a flight to Singapore, a little ungainliness can be tolerated.

An apocryphal tourist story so good that we heard it three times from three different guides is that some ignorant American once asked "Why did they build Windsor Castle so close to the airport?" Sure enough, out the right window I had a fantastic final glimpse of the Queen's weekend cottage and all its grounds. While we weren't very high, I couldn't quite see into her bedroom window to see if she was waving good-bye to me.

Upon landing eight hours later at 4 pm local time, the students traveling with us burst into applause. It's fun to travel, but it's also good to be home.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

London Diary Day Six - Dons and Bards

It was another day of bus trips, which meant happy napping. Lots of snoring going on between the stops. The first stop was Cambridge, home of musty colleges that make American Ivy League schools look like communes. If it weren't for a student going back to her dorm in her bright red spiked hair and fur boots, I'd think I'd set onto the set of a Harry Potter movie, and I may have.

The second stop was Stratford-Upon-Avon where we saw Anne Hathaway's cottage. Anne was Shakespeare's wife who inherited his "second best bed." I went ahead and asked. His best bed went with the house to his daughter and son-in-law. In the town itself, we toured his boyhood home which is only a little more than five hundred years old.

Back in London, we finished off our must-do checklist with a nighttime ride on the world's biggest Tacky Tourist Attraction, the London Eye. The only thing I didn't get to do on this trip that I wanted to do was to have that pina colada at Trader Vic's. Gives me an excuse to go back and look for Lon Cheney Jr walking with the queen. AAAAH-OOOOOOOH!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

London Diary Day Five - The Blitz

With time running short on our visit and with just one day left of unscheduled touring, we had to hit our list of must-do sites hard. The morning covered St. Paul's Cathedral, the Globe Theater, and Tate Modern.

In the afternoon we headed over to the British Museum and Harrods. While it may seem sacrilegious to mention both in the same sentence, they are similar in many ways. Both are over-the-top unimaginably vast archetypes of their respective niches. The British Museum proudly displays the fruits of centuries of imperial exploration and conquest. Harrods, on the other hand, is the pinnacle of conspicuous consumption marketing run amuck. My wife chided me for gasping in horror at a purse that was 985 pounds (price not weight).

The evening took us to The 39 Steps, a very British comedy. It had to be British because it included one guy playing multiple female roles. They've loved that cross-dressing thing since at least Shakespeare.

Since it was Saint Patrick's Day, I celebrated with a double shot of Bumiller and then a pint of cider. I did hear the bartender jokingly warn one of the female customers that no snogging was allowed at the bar. Good advice for life as well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

London Diary Day Four - Ancient History

The tour director kept telling us to take our minds back in time five thousand years as we approached Stonehenge. The gusty cold rain helped us get in that mood as we walked around the circular out cropping of rocks that had been standing there since the pyramids were built. While the Egyptians were putting those up, Bronze Age Celts were making giant pi signs aimed at the winter solstice. Modern day hippies and New Age nuts take over the site on Summer Solstice because the weather is better then. I don't blame them.

Then it was onto the Roman Baths at, duh, Bath. At the edge of the Roman Empire they had built a luxurious spa resort that fell into ruins when the Visigoths and Vandals drew all the legions back to Rome about 400 AD. The area lay in ruins for over a millennia (which is a long time to go without a bath) until the 1700s brought the area back into fashion.

And it's not a trip to Bath without walking the steps of the Jane Austen costume dramas set there. We had afternoon tea at the Jame Austen Center before napping on the bus ride back to London.

To bring ourselves back into the present, we went to the pub behind the hotel and one of us had a whiskey drink, my wife had a lager drink, and I had a cider drink. We all fell down but got up again.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

London Diary Day Three - Rocking The Tower

So far the weather has lived down to all expectations. It has rained sometime every day. It stayed clear for our self-guided tour of Westminster Abbey, but after the afternoon romp through the Tower of London (most commonly heard phrase: "If I had known it was a full castle, I would have been more eager to see it.")

We walked across Tower Bridge without it falling down. The tale of London Bridge is too nerdy to go into.

There are two ways to get discount theater tickets in London. The have a half price TKTS booth just like New York and if the show doesn't have tickets there, there is a plethora of brokers surrounding the area. That is how we got tickets to We Will Rock You which is to Queen what Mamma Mia is to Abba and all that implies.

Looks like more rain for today. Ta-ta for now.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

London Diary Day Two - The Queen And I

Day Two was the archetypal motor coach tour. We wheeled around London for the windscreen tour (Look Big Ben! Look Tower Bridge!) We did stretch our feet long enough for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Horses and a band and lots of guys in silly uniforms marching down public streets.

Then it was off to Windsor Castle. Our Blue Badge (some sort of certification) tour guide gave us the 45 minute history of British royalty. Lots of guys named William and Charles and Henry. And many met a rather unpleasant end.

Windsor Castle exceeded expectations. It was both very castle-y and very royal. According to the flag pole, the queen was in residence. The paper says she spent the morning at nearby Heathrow dedicating a new terminal. I guess that' what queens do to earn their keep. If that keep includes astounding artwork, furnishings, and of course, real estate.

Back in London, after a long forced march with the kid portion of the tour group we saw Lord of the Rings: The Musical Comedy. The effects and costumes were fantastic, but even I'm getting jaded with the endless retelling of some sill guy with hairy toes that has a hard time getting rid of his jewelry. He should just give it to the queen, she has plenty and wouldn't mind a little more.

Friday, March 14, 2008

London Diary - Day One

We flew overnight int Heathrow Airport, leaving Dulles at 11 pm and arriving in London about 10 am. Which meant I got about five hours of sleep on the plane. England starts Daylight Savings Time (or British Summer Time as I'm told its called) for a few more weeks, so its a four hour difference right now.

We checked into our clean but tiny hotel room in the quaint neighborhood of Lambeth on the south bank of the Thames. Our tour guide is a big burly but friendly woman with a Phd in Medieval Studies. She sheparded us a on orientation ride through The Tube. From the Embankment Station we took a walking tour of Trafalger Square, Charing Cross, Chinatown and Covent Gardens.

In Chinatown I HAD to stop for a photo of at Lee Ho Fooks complete with Chinese menu in my hand. Those of us over 40 had to explain to the ones under 30 the mythological musical significance of this landmark. What are they teaching kids these days.

The evening meal was fish and chips and since we were all exhausted and turned in early. I watched several hours of really bad BBC. Just like I might have at home.

Time for breakfast. More updates to come.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Post 500

I don’t make a big deal of milestones on this blog because I just don’t pay that much attention. But when I noticed that I was approaching 500 posts, I took notice. Five hundred is a lot of anything. I don’t bicycle 500 miles in a summer. I own less than five hundred CDs (well maybe that many, I haven’t counted lately). Five hundred is two hundred more than the Spartans that stopped the Persians. Okay, those aren't good examples. Let's just say five hundred is a lot and leave it at that.

It’s taken me nearly three years to reach this milestone. Over the years I have waxed redundant on all sorts of pop cultural phenomena and strip mined my meager uneventful life for hopefully amusing anecdotes. My biggest fear is to start repeating myself. I often find myself putting together a particularly pithy phrase only to vaguely remember using it before. I'll use Google to check for prior art just to keep me from plagiarizing myself.

When you include the bon mots and vignettes I leave in the comments of other blogs or in the boodle of the Achenblog, I have a body of work that exceeds the ability of my rapidly declining memory to catalog. I fear that when I hit blogpost 5,000 sometime in the late fall of 2025, I will have become the doddering uncle that tells the same story at Thanksgiving dinner year after year.

I'm just daily astonished that the world is a big enough place that there exists a couple of dozen people willing to spend a couple of minutes a day just to check out what sort of disjointed ramblings I have most recently cobbled together.

And that is where it comes full circle. I never would have made it to 500 posts if I hadn't found my particular sad and demented but sociable niche of the blogging community. One of the odd virtues of the virtual world is that it can be an itimate and personal place. As those porchfront sages Ed and Frank used to say, "Thank you for your support."

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Am I deserving of kudos or am I just tooting my out of tune horn?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Welcome Achenblog Readers

Joel Achenbach was kind enough to link to my blog today, but he's not too savvy with the permalinks (bless his little old media heart). The articles he is referring to are:

Begging Forgiveness
Asking Permission
in that order. Just hit the back button after reading each and you will be returned here. If you want to read more of my intermittent ramblings on intellectual property, check out the plagiarism tag.

This post will self-destruct in 36 hours.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The London Trip

Last Spring, my son came home telling us his English teacher was sponsoring a trip to London. The trip would include a morning at the Globe Theater and two theater shows. We went to the information meeting and the teacher said that because of the short notice, if the tour didn’t fill up, she would open it up and let parents sign up as chaperones. It didn’t and we did.

These school junkets aren’t cheap as they include the cost of the tour guides, transportation, meals, and the kickback to the teacher organizer who gets to go for free. If by “free” you mean spending nearly a year handling paperwork and headaches and then chaperoning thirty or forty teenagers for a week. Somethings are too high a price to pay.

Then, right as the school year started, the teacher called us with some bad news. The school board had published some new rules that parents and spouses could no longer be chaperones on overseas school trips. While the teacher figured we could get reimbursed for the rather significant payments we had already made, my wife had her heart set on this trip. Since she was a teacher, she could still stay on as a chaperone. I was the one that would have to make separate arrangements.

Then the teacher called back with yet another option. She split the tour group in two and all the parents and spouses (including her newlywed hubby) would form a separate “group” independent of the main school tour. We would fly the same plane over and see the same shows, but we would have to stay in a different hotel, take different tour buses to and from the sights, and, worst of all, pretend we had nothing to do with our kid who just happened to be in London the same time we were doing the same things. We said “Go ahead and throw us in that briarpatch.”

So, tomorrow night we will board a plane for London and head off for the beautiful balmy sunny skies of mid-March London for a week. The only other time I had been in London was on a side daytrip near Christmas when we went to Paris nearly five years ago. And, of course, I blogged about that already. It was wet and damp and miserable. The weather forecast for the first three days of this upcoming trip is “heavy rain.” I’m not sure what that qualifies as by British standards, but it doesn’t sound conducive to the walking sightseeing tours we have scheduled.

The tour group intensive itinerary includes the following:
  • Globe Theater
  • Tower of London
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Changing of the Guard
  • Windsor Castle
  • Stratford Upon Avon
  • Bath
  • Oxford
  • Stonehenge
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Thirty Nine Steps
In addition to the planned itinerary, a group of us parents came up with a list of things that we wanted to do since we weren’t tied down with the kids including:
  • Portobello Road/Notting Hill
  • Abbey Road
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Tate Modern
  • And, of course, shopping
I’ve been accused of having a bad attitude towards the trip because I grouse about the expense, the lack of transparency in the planning, and the painful logistics of traveling in large groups. We did learn that we had our hotel upgraded from a 66 pound a night fleabag to 109 pound a night American chain, so things are looking up. And with the dollar plummeting, having all our meals paid in advance is sounding like a better deal all the time.

I hope to blog while over there since we are taking my wife’s MacBook and the hotel has WiFi. Just don’t expect lots of pictures until I come back because I hate iPhoto with a burning intensity.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: In the meantime, feel free to tell me what I should be doing instead of what the tour company has planned.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Asking Permission

This post is a sequel to Begging Forgiveness.

I like a little visual interest on my blog posts. I usually add at least one graphic just to interrupt the huge block of my babbling underneath the title. I also like to use my own work if possible. If I have a photo even remotely related to the topic, I will use that. My Times Square Flag Still Flies post was mostly inspired by the fact that I did have a picture of the building that got bombed and it creeped me out a little bit that you never know when and where news will occur. For my Gary Gygax eulogy, I went and took a picture of my own D&D dice rather than find a stock image and I wove the distressing condition of the dice into the story.

Other posts of mine like where I mock celebrities I use commonly available publicity shots of my objects of scorn. I really have no qualms about using these photos which, while not in the public domain, are clearly in the public sphere. Since I’m usually snarking about something, I feel I can mount a pretty decent “review and comment” or “satire” defense. At least in my own mind. Nobody’s ever called me on it and Ces is actually impressed with my signs of creepily obsessive devoted fandom.

But some topics need a visual clue that I don’t have, so I go Googling. For my follow-up D&D post where, according to the quiz, I’m an elf wizard. I did a Google Image search and in the first page of results, was this terrific image (click on the link, it really is just perfect) which came from the blog of DPI Studios. I downloaded the image to my hard drive and then uploaded it to Since Blogger (which is owned by Google) has nearly unlimited storage, I feel better and safer doing that rather than deep-linking to the original image. I have some scruples.

When you do that, the link on the image in the post goes to the full size source stored on the Blogger server. This can be easily edited to redirect wherever I want. What I did with the elf was link the image to the source blogpost of DPI. At the bottom of the post I also included a link to their main homepage. I don’t usually include explicit image credits, but I thought these guys merited it.

Having just been burned on the Rock Album Meme photo guy going ballistic, I decided to do the decent thing and send one of the image owners an alert that I had used their illustration that they had posted on the web where anybody could find it. I phrased the e-mail so that if they never responded, I could assume it was okay with them:
I have a blog and wrote about Dungeons and Dragons and needed an image of an elf wizard. I found your site through a Google search and downloaded to my own server (actually's) an image you recently created. I have credited DPI Studios and linked the image to your blog.

Please let me know if this is not an acceptable use of your artwork. Thanks for your cooperation.
But they did reply. And they seemed a little puzzled that I even bothered to ask, but they didn’t like the idea.
Yeah, I really wish you would have contacted us before you put that up. Since that piece was done for Green Ronin Publishing we can't give you permission to use it. I feel bad having put it up with out a Green Ronin copyright notice, I'll have to change that.

Thanks for your interest in our work and thanks for asking permission.
They were kind enough to suggest some other images, and I did replace the original one with one of the “permission granted” alternatives, but it wasn’t quite as perfect a match.

Most of the time when I “steal’ an image it’s from a website that clearly didn’t create it but got it from someplace else themselves (like the Google Search image I put on this post for purely prurient purposes). When, like the fine folks at DPI Studios, it’s clearly original artwork, I think it’s only right to link back to the source and credit the heck out of it.

I’m still not sure about the whole issue of whether it’s easier to beg forgiveness or ask permission. I do a blog post a day somewhere and to wait around for a reply granting permission for an image when I don’t even have an example of what I intend to do with it seems like a prescription for rejection. I think I will continue to figure this out on a case by case basis. And if I’ve used something of yours on my blog, just let me know and we can discuss it reasonably.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Do you put images on your blog, and if you do, where do you get them?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Begging Forgiveness

image copyright rlphotographyOn of the funnest and most popular memes I did recently was the Rock Album Cover meme that combined a band name, an album title and a Flickr image for a cover. The image is taken from a group of highly rated photos. Most of these pictures are from professional photographers and carry a copyright. The photo that got selected for me was by Roland Lacson of rlphotography. About a month after I posted the meme, I got this message through Flickrmail:
This has been brought to my attention, so I'll be civil here & hope you understand that I have every right as to the reason for this message. This is in regards to MY Image ( River Rocks #4) you posted on your site @ W/O MY PERMISSION! I don't appreciate it & am disturbed. Taking into account that at least you had the decency of crediting me, I'm still disappointed that you disregarded what I clearly & specifically stated on my profile, I mean were adults here so just put yourself in my shoes...
Sure enough. On his profile page is this disclaimer:
Not a lot of ambiguity there and I’m definitely in the wrong here. I sent back this apology and explanation:
I apologize for my unauthorized use of your copyrighted image. I have removed the image from the blogpost in question.

Intellectual property rights and the protection of creative work in the digital age are frequent themes on my blog and I was wrong to use your image without seeking your permission.

I used it as part of an internet “blog meme” where bloggers made mock-ups of fictitious album covers as a creative exercise. Your picture was randomly chosen from a pool of the highest rated images on Flickr, of which you should be rightly proud. I and several of my readers and fellow bloggers expressed concern that the “rules” of this game tended to select possibly infringing images. At least one other participant found a way to do the task by only using images available under a Creative Commons license that allow non-commercial derivative work.

My only rationalization (and it is pretty weak) is that my use of your work has no commercial value to you, me, or any third part and can’t possibly have affected any potential revenue for you. I would like to know how you became aware of my blog and if you would have done so if it weren’t for my clear crediting of your work.

I realize that I have destroyed any potential goodwill between us by not asking your permission in advance, but I would like to restore the image to that one blogpost as credited under the clear understanding that it remains your intellectual property. Please let me know if this is acceptable to you.

You did ask me to put myself in your shoes. I am a hobbyist photographer and blogger and make no money from my publicly posted pictures and written works. I have, on admittedly rare occasion, been asked for permission to use my works on other websites (and in one case a printed book) and have always granted permission provided I am credited and linked to. I understand that your standing as a professional artist would cause you to have a different reaction to circumstances under which I would have been flattered rather than outraged.
He replied with this:
Appreciate the gesture & I accept your apology. Regardless of usage be it commercial or non, it is common courtesy to seek permission for something that does not belong to you, by nature I have no problem if my image is used as long as I'm asked first & equally important given the info as to what purpose & due credits (Which I Acknowledged), that's all.

So in light of your sincere message, your request to have the image reposted to your blogpost is hereby granted.
I appreciate the cooperation of Mr Larson and have endeavored to follow his advice. It’s not always easy but it is what’s right.

Next Post: Asking Permission

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What would you have done if you were in his shoes?

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Times Square Flag Still Flies


I take a lot of pictures when on vacation and you never know when something you have seen will hit the news. I also like pictures of flags, American and otherwise. When I was escorting my son’s band around New York last spring I saw the Times Square military recruiting booth all lit up. This very small building sits on one of the triangular islands that define Times Square as Broadway narrowly crosses Seventh Avenue.

In order to keep up with the other gaudy Joneses in the neighborhood, the side of the building is decorated with a neon American flag. On a whim I took a picture of this glowing in all its glory at night. It stands as small outpost of patriotism in a sea of commercialism.

This recruiting station was the victim of a fairly ineffective terrorist attack from some unknown group with political motives. I have nothing but contempt for anyone that would attack a symbol of the United States in that way. We may not agree with our politicians and what they do with our armed services, but it is our duty as Americans to support and honor those that choose to serve our country.

I hope they catch these low-rent terrorists and expose them as the cowardly thugs that they are. The American flag stands for universal ideals and ever since Francis Scott Key saw the the bombs bursting in air, our flag has been a symbol for the home of the brave and the land of the free.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Character - Good, Evil and Otherwise

This is my last Dungeons and Dragons related post for a while, so the non-role playing folk in my readership (and there are a few) can relax. While wandering the web the other night I, unsurprisingly, ran across a lot of other memorials to Gary Gygax. I found that my "Gary Gygax failed his saving throw" line to be outstandingly non-unique. I also stumbled across a blog meme quiz from, of all people, Michelle Malkin. She too was a gamer in high school which explains some things. Not everything, but a lot. This quiz is very long, but worth it because it does ask some intriguing questions.

I Am A: True Neutral Elf Wizard (6th Level)

Ability Scores:

True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

As I mentioned in my last post, my favorite character was a half-orc fighter, which is nearly the exact opposite of an elf wizard. Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy game. If I wanted to be a tall, pasty, wimpy nerd, I could have stayed home. I also found on the web this article from The Believer which is as good a exegesis on the role playing phenomenon as I have ever seen. Paul La Farge also is amazed by the thought and obsessive detail that went into the manuals. He uses the following example as just one case where nothing, or rather everything, is left to chance in the game.

01-10slovenly trull
11-25brazen strumpet
26-35cheap trollop
36-50typical streetwalker
51-65saucy tart
66-75wanton wench
76-85expensive doxy
86-90haughty courtesan
91-92aged madam
93-94wealthy procuress
95-98sly pimp
99-00rich panderer

D&D was more than a game, it was a primer on mythology, culture, and morality. One of its great innovations is the alignment axis. It includes good and evil which is as hard to define as it was in the times of St Augustine or of Nietzsche. It also uses the concept of lawful vs. chaos. A lawful character was a goody-goody that followed rules no matter how unfair. A chaotic character believed the ends justified the means. Here are my archetypes for the different alignments:

Lawful Good: Superman
Chaotic Good: Batman
Lawful Evil: Adolf Hitler
Chaotic Evil: Charles Manson

You can quibble with the nuances, and you are expected to. The game concept of a moral alignment was, of course, shamelessly stolen from other sources, but that is what made the game unique. It invited thought and exploration in the wider world where the players lived when they aren't casting spells or atacking trolls.

BlatantCommentWhoring™:What is your alignment or character type?

Credits: Elf image from DPI Studios

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Dungeon Dice

Gary Gygax has lost his final saving throw. The founder of TSR games died today after a long illness. For a guy I know nothing about other than that he invented Dungeons and Dragons, he sure shaped and changed my life. When my son dragged me into his Magic league, I unearthed my ancient dice so I could show off my pathetically worn icosahedron with corners that has been rounded nearly spherical. It’s my geek badge of pride from my roleplaying past.

It may come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I used to play D&D. I was in fact a Dungeon Master, and a very good one if I do say so myself even though I came into the hobby by accident. In junior high, I played tons of military games, mostly the Avalon Hill games like Panzerblitz and Squad Leader. I thought that role playing games were beneath me.

When I moved to Florida for high school I spent a lot of time that first summer at the local library because as a new kid in town I had nothing to do and nobody to do it with. One afternoon I saw a bunch of other teenagers going into the meeting room behind the circulation desk. Curious, I asked what they were doing. It seems the library was a great place to meet for gaming since the meeting room was nearly always available and it was large and comfortable. I swallowed my pride and learned the ways of fantasy role playing games (which as an adult has a whole different meaning).

That was in 1979 and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (or AD&D, to distinguish it from its more convoluted predecessor) had just hit the market. D&D impressed me with its comprehensiveness. No aspect of the fantasy world was too obscure to be cataloged and quantified in obsessive detail. There were names for every level of character class. The spells and creatures covered every possible sub-genre and milieu. Somewhere deep in my closet of childhood paraphernalia is a first edition of Deities and Demigods complete with the copyright infringing Cthulthu mythos. I found it odd that the titular dragons were often much wimpier than many other far more obscure creatures in the namesake dungeons.

The kids I had hooked up with were a local group of gamers that called themselves The Bombers for no apparent reason. For the next couple of years, I spent at least one night a weekend with a floating group of maybe a dozen other people that shared common interests in addition to the need to pretend to be battle-ax wielding dwarves. We would trade book recommendations, order pizza, and even engage in substance abusing activities when the game got too dull.

My signature character was a half-orc fighter with astoundingly low charisma. I eventually tried my had at dungeon mastering and became the de facto leader of the rather loosely strung group. My crowning achievement was to get a girl to take up the game. My future wife and this other girl were taking a summer drivers ed course. I would ride my bike down to the school on the way to the library and flirt with the both of them while they stood around in the hot Florida summer sun waiting for their turn behind the wheel.

This girl was a voracious reader of fantasy and got intrigued by the D&D reference manuals in my backpack. I got her to start coming to our regular weekly games. She was short, nearly anorexically thin, and very pale. Between her pallor and her shock white hair she appeared nearly Melnibonéan. She would come to the games dressed in dark denim and a black Frazetta tee shirt. Her presence cut short the gameplay barmaid wenching in the town pub that often took up half the game before the characters would head off to the dungeon. This classic Dead Alewives routine pretty much summed up a typical evening for us. It’s like they had hidden microphones in my dining room.

From Wikipedia, I found that there is an audio only sequel to that sketch that includes a girl.

I eventually cast aside my dice tossing days to spend more time with the girl that I have spent the last twenty-five years with. Who has never played D&D once. I don’t regret leaving that nerd rite of passage behind, but every now and then I see a group of pimply, poorly groomed geeks with both the traditional six-sided and the d20 decimal dice generating characters with those critical 3-18 stats. I watch them and can’t help but fondly remember those days when I too mastered the dungeons.

Thanks for the memories, Gary, and I hope you fondly look back on us fellow gamers as you walk the planes.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Part of the joy of blogging is reading and commenting on other blogs. Often a quick comment I leave makes me ponder a topic that I sometimes later expand into a full blogpost. Today I take three smaller ones and give you a trifecta of what are extended blog comments.

Mooselet has a great exegesis on the practice of following shoppers through a parking lot to their car in order to take their parking space. She calls it “stalking”. I call it “vulturing”. Either way, it involves driving very slowly behind people laden with shopping bags hoping their car is in the aisle they are actually in rather than some adjacent row that would make the exercise pointless. Parking lot technique is one of the many areas in which I am inferior to my wife. She knows which aisle to go down and how fast. She can spot potential victims across the parking lot and maneuver herself so that other cars are cut off.

I take the typically male tactic of snapping up the first available space regardless of proximity to any nearby entrance. My obviously deficient parking theory is that by getting out of the car as fast as possible, the extra time spent walking is less than the time spent stalking, resulting in getting into the store faster. I’m still not sure how this is wrong, but it clearly is.

When I do park near a department store door, it somehow tends to be the one to the lingerie department. Most of the time, I can humor my wife and accede to her directing from the shotgun position. However, after Halloween, the crush of holiday shoppers frays my nerves so much that I voluntarily relinquish my masculine birthright to drive and let my wife drive to the mall. Where she vultures with the skill of California condor.

2fs rants on his pet peeve of occasionally and randomly getting charged full price for drink refills at dining establishments. In the relentless effort of businesses to make customers perform the duties previously performed by employees (think of self-serve check out lines), many fast food restaurants now let patrons pour their own drinks. In those places it never makes sense to buy a cup size larger than small (which was easily the jumbo a decade or two ago) since more soda is free. Some sharp industrial engineer has performed the calculus and decided that the labor saved on the minimum wage counter help outweighs the value of the soda taken by surreptitious seconds and thirds and the walking-out-the-door top-off.

In the places that still meter liquids I will sometimes pay the extra dime for the bigger cup so I just don’t have to go back to the counter and jump the line for a refill. The one place I commonly get the biggest size available is ChainChickenPlaceClosedOnSunday where I have developed a taste for diet lemonade. I think they do offer free or low cost refills, but I just want as much as possible.

Free refills is a symptom of the high-fructose corn syrup gluttonous society that is peculiarly American. One of the many pieces of travel advice visitors to Europe get is that not only are drink portions small and expensive, the concept of free refills is up there with voluntary tips as an inexplicably yankee practice. Still, I agree that if the market is going to free refills, the few places that rip you off for a new cup don’t deserve our collective business. Name names, so I can organize the boycott.

Finally, Her Royal Highness, Queen of Everything Courtney has seen the specter of single gender schools get raised again. This is one of those evergreen educational “reforms” that become the rage on a regular basis. At least since all the elite male-only public high schools were turned co-ed decades ago. Here in Baltimore, old timers will mist up nostalgically for the old days when Baltimore Polytechnic was a bastion of testosterone. And they see some weird slight that adjacent Western High is still all-girls.

Same sex schools seem to be similar to school uniforms: solutions in search of a problem. One decade they are the answer to meek girls getting overshadowed by guys, particularly in math and science. The next year, they are the way to engage rambunctious young men. There are always studies “proving” (and don’t get me going on the educational industrial complexes complete abuse of statistical methods) the advantages of them, but the results can usually be dismissed as the result of the Hawthorne Effect.

There is a certain civilizing influence in having to attend classes with members of the opposite gender. If anything it humanizes the objects of your teenage lusts and teaches some social self-control. My parents threatened to send me to Jesuit High, the local all-boys Catholic school. I was given a reprieve when it turns out that they didn’t offer German or Calculus. I breathed a sigh of relief. From the days of my Model United Nations geek-festing, I came to notice that when outside the hearing range of their chaperones, the Jesuit teams, despite being impeccably well-dressed and conservatively groomed were just social animals. They practically bayed at the moon. Controlling for tuition payment, the co-ed private schools never seemed to be as out of control.

Of course, my opinions are prejudiced since I met my wife in high school, which would never have happened at Jesuit. What other doors that would have opened, I don’t know, but I’m happy where the traditional co-ed system took me.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Tackle any topic or go for all three.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

BooksFirst - February 2008

Books Bought
Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome To The Monkeyhouse dramatized by Christopher Sergel
Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen (signed)
Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen (signed)
An Unfortunate Woman by Richard Brautigan
Dreaming of Babylon by Richard Brautigan
Richard Brautigan: The Edna Webster Collection of Undiscovered Writings
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
Ridley Walker by Russell Hoban
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
Housekeeping vs The Dirt by Nick Hornby
Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey

Books Read
None. Not one. Zip. Zilch. Nada.


The letdown from National Just Read More Novels Month has been tremendous. I didn’t finish any books this month. I think this is the first time in the history of BooksFirst that I have been shut-out. I’ve stretched the deadline a few times, but even that wouldn’t help me this time. On the glass half-full side, I’m primed to finish some off in March.

On the book buying front, my two month drought ended with a vengeance. We were in Atlanta having brunch in Little Five Points and had some time to kill. In meandering through the parking lot trying to avoid the guy that had set up a paylot stand while we were eating, we stumbled past A Capella Books in a little strip center. I begged permission and we wandered in. This place is one of the last real used and rare bookstores. A genuine treasure.

The store was smaller, but was clean, neat, and well organized, words frequently not associated with used bookstores. He also had copious rare and collectible book display cases. The Kurt Vonnegut novels he had were not true first editions so I passed, but he did have this odd little bound play that was a stage adaptation of Welcome To The Monkey House. Since the last few remnants I need to fill out my Vonnegut collection are both rare and expensive, I find myself buying odd little scraps of ephemera like this. Stuff only a true collector would bother paying for.

There is a short list of authors that I have to have hardcovers, and if I can get signed copies so much the better. Someday I will be forced to triage the book collection and a signature may be the only thing saving a book from a quick fate. I had of course read the two Carl Hiaasen novels long ago, but these were signed copies which make the editions I now have expendable.

Anytime I go into a new bookstore, and especially a used one, I check the poetry section for my favorite poemer Richard Brautigan. I am almost inevitably always disappointed, but A Capella had an entire shelf of his stuff, including several books of his I had never heard of, let alone read. I bought a collectible first edition, a paperback of a relatively recent novel and a collection of posthumous works presumably discovered among the detritus after his tragic suicide. That should be enough to keep me in hippie poetry and prose for a while.

Since I came to Gaiman late, I have a lot of catching up to do and while I read his most recent short story collection back in October of 2006, I’ve never picked up his earlier collection Smoke and Mirrors. My copy of Neverwhere (see last month) had a teaser story from it and I’m trying to read more short stories this year, so it seems like a perfect fit.

The inspiration for this monthly post is Nick Hornby’s The Polysyllabic Spree and its sequel Housekeeping vs. The Dust which is a collection of articles where he chronicles the books he buys and reads every month and using them as a jumping off point for riffs on pop culture. I’ll never hold a candle to Hornby, but it’s a fantastic concept I can only humbly ape.

So I am now seriously backlogged more than even before. Hopefully I can show some progress for March. Until then, keep reading.