Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: The Year in Pictures

* * *

When I was a little kid, I'd get inordinately upset over the end of each year -- I'd be sad that it was never going to be that year again, or something to that effect. Not this year, certainly. I'm greeting the end of 2008 with a mixture of relief and regret.

There's a sense of stuntedness, I suppose, looking back at the year. Grand plans never got going. There were some great moments, but it was a weird and unsettling year overall, with the health thing hanging over everything.

The heart surgery is three weeks from tomorrow, and hopefully, that will go smoothly and after that the year will trend upwards. I go into the new year with something of a plan, which in itself is a rare thing. We'll see how it goes.

* * *

One last book, under the wire.

#55 -- "Cadillac Desert" by Marc Reisner

A little glimpse into what a joy it is to know me and my declining memory: last summer, when I first started reading this, I e-mailed Vitriola. The message said "Hey, you should really check out 'Cadillac Desert'" or something to that effect.

Her response: "I was the one who told you about that."

Oh. Whoops.

I have something of a layman's interest in water rights and the American West, so this is something of a natural. Something like 2/3 of my life has been spent in Colorado or Arizona, but I never gave much thought to how such a notoriously dry area managed to get water. It's the natural order of things, I figured.

Reisner goes to great lengths to show that it's anything but natural, outlining how greed, shortsightedness, stubbornness and stupidity have thrown the West's ecology way out of whack. It's pretty chilling and fills in a lot of background on phrases that I heard but didn't know much about as a youngster.

I'm no geologist or hydrologist, so a lot of the more technical stuff is largely lost on me. And, I felt like I needed a wall-sized map of the U.S. when reading a lot of this; I know where Colorado is, I'm not so clear on where the Colorado River flows. And, the middle of the book gets into a blow-by-blow account of a bureaucratic fight that went into about twice as much detail as I would have wanted.

Still, it's a fascinating and well-written book, and I'd be curious to look into what's happened in these areas since the book's publication (this is the revised edition, from 1993). It leaves with a sense of impending doom, and I'd like to see what (if anything) has happened in the interim. (Reisner has died since it was published -- so I'm not calling for another updated version.)

Anyway. Onward to 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Mighty Laid Low

It isn't easy being one of the PPA's chosen few hockey players. Milan Hejduk is a shadow of his pre-lockout self and has hinted at retirement. Tomas Kloucek has played a grand total of zero NHL games since the PPA started up. And Frantisek Kaberle?

Frantisek Kaberle has been placed on waivers.

I'm too upset to even copy-and-paste diacritics. I knew Frankie hadn't been having the greatest season, but I figured he'd snap out of it. I didn't think something like this would happen. You don't waive the guy who single-handedly powered you to the Stanley Cup. You don't waive the best defenseman in the history of hockey.

Let's take a moment and reflect on some happier times for Frank right here. I'm not entirely sure if the Hurricanes will keep him around if he's not claimed. I'd think that a recipe like that would have worked in his favor.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jet Lag

Two cross-country flights in 24 hours and I'm wrecked. Maybe I'm not cut out for a jet-setter's lifestyle.

#54 -- "The Great Divide" by Studs Terkel

I probably haven't read anything by Studs since college; I'm pretty sure this wasn't one I've read. It's an affecting overview of the 1980s done in Terkel's oral history style. Some of the interviews are very inspiring; some very sad. It's an interesting feeling to be learning considerably more about a decade that I lived through.

Adding to the list of "things I find inside used books":

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Penguin Sighting

This has been perhaps the worst month of blogging in the history of the PPA, and I doubt there will be some last-minute save coming; I'll be spending Christmas with the Ski Bum, hurrying to Colorado to see the family again for 24 hours, then back here for work. Next month, things will be better, probably.

In the meantime:

(Thanks, Noah!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Careful What You Wish For

I was wearing shorts around outside Friday and Saturday, whining to anyone who would listen (and some who wouldn't) that 70 degree temperatures less than a week before Christmas are just horrible and wrong, I wanted real winter, blah blah.

Today I woke up and it was 18 degrees outside. Har har har.

Of course, it's supposed to hit 60 again by Thursday. This is why everyone in this city spends most of October through March sick.

* * *

#53 -- "Author Unknown" by Don Foster

I was all set to write a post thanking the site that referred me to this, six years or so ago, and I went back there and it wasn't that site. So hell if I know where I first heard about this. It languished on my to-read list for years, and I just now got to it.

Foster is a "literary detective" who traces authorship in legal cases or disputed writings and things like that. Here, he's got a few of his stories -- some really fun (Shakespeare, Joe Klein), some a little dull for my tastes (Monica Lewinsky). My favorite, natch, is trying to figure out if a series of letters in a Northern California paper were from Thomas Pynchon.

Foster doesn't take himself too seriously, and that makes this a lot more fun. He's a jovial and chatty writer; the tone is less "look how amazing I am" than "hey, this is pretty cool. Check it out." It's fun and quick.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The PPA Endorses: A Place That Sells Beer

The only problem with Decatur's fine Brick Store is that I can't get to it by foot; I've either gotta cadge a ride, take a cab, or drive and limit myself to one or two beers.

So I'm pretty excited to find that the Porter Beer Bar is every bit as good as I'd heard. Nice extensive beer list, what looks like an amazing menu (I had the hush puppies, and they were great), and a nifty little setup. It's narrow and I imagine it'd be hell when crowded, but I can easily limit myself to off-hours patronage.

So it earns that coveted distinction -- an actual Post-Pessimist Association endorsement, as opposed to just a place I'll happily drink at. I guess it just joins Manuel's and Sobo 151 in that hallowed group. I'm happy to welcome it into the regular rotation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rush Hour

Last night I was chatting with ICJ (pictured, right) and discussing who knows what, when I realized something kinda amazing.

I've lived in Atlanta for nine years; during that time I've almost exclusively worked evening or overnight shifts.

Before that, Boulder; part of the time, I could walk to work, and even when I couldn't, my hours were flexible enough that no one would care much as long as I showed up any time between, say, six a.m. and noon.

In later years of college, I mostly worked either at the student newspaper or random temp or freelance jobs -- I lived right off campus, so I could usually walk.

So the last time I really had to deal with rush hour traffic on a regular basis was when I was a 19-year-old intern at IBM, down in Tucson. 16 years ago. That's quite a record, and whenever I do end up dealing with it again, it'll be a real shock to the system.

* * *

Also in kind of odd, going-a-long-time-without-doing-something-common news: about a week ago, I fried an egg. For the first time in my life.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Sky Above You

I was trying to think of some hardcore band that referenced the sky in their album titles or something, but all I could think of was The Fixx, and they aren't exactly hardcore.

Something of an occasional theme on this blog: my fascination with the sky in the western part of the United States. I never fail to be awed by it when I go back. These are far from the most astonishing sky scenes I saw back on this trip, but I didn't always have my camera with me.

As I said in the last post, it's only on this past trip that I realized that maybe, just maybe, there are some people who don't find the Colorado scenery as lovely as I do. (Poor fools.) I guess if you grew up in (say) Atlanta, the landscape may seem barren, and the sky may not be beautiful but unfriendly. And some people might say "Hey, Greg, that's the same bloody sky you're looking at down in Georgia." They'd be wrong, though.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I Got Nothing From That

Fox football announcer, providing insight after the Eagles' Brian Westbrook scored a rushing touchdown:

"His legs never stopped moving."

I've been watching football for 30 years or so, and I can't think of a time when a player ran for a touchdown without moving his legs.

* * *

I'm back in Atlanta, providing me with all sorts of opportunities to bitch about how I'm not in Colorado any more. Kind of perfectly, I had to take the MARTA trains back to where my car was parked after I landed last night -- I don't know if I've ever bitched about the public transportation in this city. I probably have, so I won't repeat myself again. I'll just say that trying to get from one place to another using public transportation makes me want to die.

At least I didn't have to work today, and was able to spend the day watching football with friends and getting pleasantly blotto on beer. It wasn't, say, Fat Tire (like you'd get in Colorado!) but I'd feel kind of like a poser if I were drinking pitcher after pitcher of non-cheap beer.

* * *


#51 -- "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" by Peter Matthiessen

#52 -- "Bitter Lemons" by Lawrence Durrell

I'd never heard of the Matthiessen book before reading this post -- with about ten minutes more research, I ordered a copy. I had heard of Leonard Peltier, of course, but I primarily knew him as a name on a bumper sticker, with some vague idea of the 1975 AIM shootout (I thought it took place in the 1980s, so very vague, I guess). "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" is something else -- exhaustively researched, angry, and gripping. He acknowledges at the end that it's fairly one-sided (and gives reasons for this) -- the other side would have to be pretty convincing to balance this out. I knew little of the material Matthiessen covers, and I feel ashamed now. By the end, I was ready to buy a "Free Leonard Peltier" sticker myself. This is really, really good, and given my interest in the modern American West, it's a bit unforgivable that I didn't tackle this subject 'til now.

"Bitter Lemons," meanwhile, is another widely-acknowledged travel literature classic, but I'm gonna have to be the dissenting voice there. Durrell moved to Cyprus for a few years in the 1950s, as the push for independence grew and exploded, and he often writes beautifully about the country. Unfortunately, he likes writing about himself a whole lot more. It's one of the most colonial books I've read -- the author is really impressed by himself, and counts the Cypriots as really lucky to have met him. There's lots of really nice bits right next to parts that made me want to build a time machine so that I could travel back to 1950 and punch Durrell in the face. Some nice stuff but really aggravating, and if you feel compelled to read about Cyprus (and who doesn't?) try Colin Thubron's "Journey Into Cyprus" instead.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Departure Lounge

I actually had an epiphany during this trip: driving through eastern Colorado, looking out at vast, flat, snowy fields, I could actually understand why some people might find the non-mountain portion of Colorado's landscape desolate and dull.

Not me, though. It just looks like home, beautiful if unforgiving. Wallace Stegner would understand how I feel (and presumably state it far better). As time goes on, itt feels more and more pressing to return here on a permanent basis. I'm happier here, and while some of that is simply because I am freed from a lot of the concerns and worries of day-to-day life, some is also because I'm more at home here, more in my element, more comfortable.

Most of the trip was family and friends, so not a lotta photos, and I forgot the camera's USB cord anyhow. Also in the "sometimes I suck" category: I brought five books to read on the trip. I'm halfway through one.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Inside a used copy of "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse," by Peter Matthiesen:

On the back is a guy's name and a phone number with a Modesto area code. Probably best not to call and ask for details, though -- this will remain one of life's little mysteries.