Tuesday, May 16, 2017


     The only way I really know what I'm going to be reading next is by starting in on a several books at once and seeing which one holds my interest. I started Phantom of the Opera and while it seems like it might be a pleasant diversion, I'm not really in the mood for something quite this frivolous. On top of it, the writing is pedestrian. Reading it felt like a waste of time.
     I'm in the middle of the first book of Ian Toll's Pacific War trilogy, but had to pull out due to an over-saturation of anguish. I stopped somewhere before the Bataan Death March. I just can't deal with it right now. It makes me angry and depressed. I should just skip ahead to Doolittle's Raid or the Jap repulse at Port Moresby or Midway. But I decided I would just come back to it when I'm feeling stronger. I'm getting pissed off now just thinking about it. I only hope these Japs and the Soviet NKVD types got their just desserts. That's all I'm sayin'...

     In contrast to Phantom, the writing in MacKinlay Kantor's Spirit Lake was its saving grace. Despite the vacuity of the novel, I enjoyed the journey for the writing style. The theme was strictly a bankrupt product of the 20th century, however -- bleak, hopeless, meaningless. The Indians were portrayed as two distinct types: The good Indians who had the morals and sensibilities of 1950's-era Iowans; and bad Indians who were of the massacring variety. Eye-rolling stuff.


      Worse were the settlers. Not a likable one among them. The only one who came close was the doctor character but even he became overwhelmed by a repulsive, animal, demeaning lust in the end. I also had hope for the Frenchman, but he was given an atypical backstory (to say the least -- it was actually quite absurd) and then faded into the background after a couple hundred pages of buildup.
     But none were worse than the only overtly Christian character in the book, who, naturally, was depicted as a buffoon. As I said, this book says so much more about the 20th century than the 19th it's a little embarrassing for Kantor. You have to remember Kantor made his living in Hollywood. In the end, his story is of a sad waste of talent. But at least he had talent, I guess. How many of his ilk didn't even have that.
     Which brings me to my YouTube viewing recently. I've been watching some Jordan Peterson videos. A college professor and a very smart guy, no doubt about it. (Brilliant, in fact, since much of what he says I've been saying around the kitchen table for years.) But what's with the weird emphasis on Dostoevsky and Nietsche, et al? Isn't it about time we focused on something else? You know, something that didn't result in the slaughter of hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century? For all Peterson's intelligence, he presents these things as works of genius (he especially gushes about Nietsche, who died of syphilis, remember) to impressionable kids, many of whom will fancy themselves existentialists or anarchists or atheists (or libertarians, snicker) and do themselves incalculable damage by the time they discover they've been duped. Everybody's got to make a living, I guess.

     The book that has captured my attention this week is E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Devil's Elixir. So far, so good. It's funny, I have a million cool things to do, but I really look forward to bedtime, as that's when I do all my reading. Bedtime can come pretty early sometimes.
     Hoffmann, you may recall, is a German writer from the early 1800s who wrote "The Sand-man" (the tale which provided me the characters of Coppelius and Olimpia for use in My Clockwork Muse) and "The Nutcracker". His stories tend toward the phantasmagorical --  which means they tend toward awesome. Poe was a fan of Hoffmann. Me, too.

     I'll leave with this bit of wisdom, from Little Feat (my new favorite band) and their song "Time Loves a Hero." Now, the Feats are no Nietsche, but in this little snippet of lyric, they offer something worth thinking about.

Well they say that time loves a hero
But only time will tell
If he's real he's a legend from heaven
If he ain't he was sent here from hell

Hear me well
Seeing ain't always believing
Just make sure it's the truth that you're seeing
Eyes sometimes lie, eyes sometimes lie
They can be real deceiving

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


     After 13 years, I finally finished Dostoyevsky's Crime & Punishment. It started out pretty good, got really long and boring and then ended up okay. It would have been a great 150-page novella. But overall I liked it better when Poe wrote it and it was called "The Tell-Tale Heart".  Instead, I read 600 pages of this thing only to discover that I should have been following the Word of the Lord all along. Who knew?

A guy trying to ax himself in the back. The perfect suicide.

     At the same time, people who get all excited about Dostoyevsky also tend to spout off about Nitschke all the time, too. Now, look, I admire Nitschke as much as the next guy, but I think Butkus was every bit as good--(What's that you say? Nietzsche? Frederich Nietzsche, a philosopher? Not Ray....?)
     Ahem, yes, well, um, never mind....

Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke. Not philosophers.
     I'm holding off on Andersonville until Gulag Archipelago and Crime & Punishment wear off a bit. I started Gulag but had to bail. I can only take so much suffering. Must be something in the Russian water.
     In the meantime, I'm halfway through House of the Seven Gables. I'm reading it bits at a time. Sometimes it's a little dull, other times it's awesome. Right now, it's awesome. So I hope that'll carry me through to the end.
     After House, I'm planning on reading The Phantom of the Opera. This was recommended to me by a fan of My Clockwork Muse. So it's got that going for it....

Henry Waxman.
     I'll let the picture do the talking.

     Now that the Preds have swept my Blackhawks, and have taken out the Blues, I've jumped on the Nashville bandwagon. I usually pull for Chicago or San Louee, but Nashville has the look of a team of destiny. Plus I think Carrie Underwood is pretty...
     I'd like to see an Ottawa-Nashville final. Before that, though, I'm pulling for Edmonton and Washington. Edmonton has that Nashville look of destiny, too -- but their destiny, I think, is to lose to Nashville in the Western final. I'm not a big Ovechkin fan (although I bet he's an existentialist, though probably not much of a philosopher, unlike Nitschke), so I'm giving the nod to Ottawa. Plus, I'd need GPS to find Ottawa on a map...(Capital of Canada, you say? Now you're just making stuff up...)

     I had this album back in 1978 or so and hadn't heard it since. I looked it up on YouTube one day and was surprised at how sophisticated the music is. I've since become a big fan (again).
     I remember the NFL playoffs (79 or 80, somewhere in there) , Philly vs. Atlanta. Whenever they'd go to a commerical break, they'd leave off with a snippet of an appropriate song, like maybe "Philadelphia Freedom" for the Eagles and, I remember distinctly, "Oh Atlanta" for the Falcons. I was pulling for the Falcons, but the Eagles took it. The Falcons running back that year was Bubba Bean. Probably the best sports name til Coco Crisp.
     Anyway, I'll leave you with "Oh, Atlanta," from "Feats Don't Fail Me Now."