Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Monday, January 29, 2007

For Worse. Definitely for worse.

Lest we at the premises of T.B.i.f.Y. Ltd. be accused of bibliosnobbery, favoring the book-like format of the graphic novel over other forms of sequential art, I present to you my review of Lynn Johnston's For Better or For Worse.

Let me start with the following observation about a very different author: Joseph "Mistah Kurtz, he dead" Conrad. The domestic hells chronicled so ably by ol' Joe - when he wasn't writing about boats or nutjob jungle dictators - were rooted in Conrad's own familial and marital woes. To put it midly, he and his wife had a complicated relationship, and I like to think that the outlet of fiction saved them both from a tawdry murder-suicide.

I point this out because I am equally certain that, were it not for the syndication of FBoFW, some poor Mountie would have one day found himself unloading the corpsicles of Patterson analogues from a basement freezer on the outskirts of Toronto.

But instead of being fed poisoned poutine the Moose Family Robinson find themselves living out their lives in a 2-d world where Mom is always, always, always right and everyone makes the good decisions.*

Ordinarily, I wouldn't post just to talk smack about somebody else's life's work, except Mike (the son in the strip) sold his novel. This is how he describes his book, the little Pynchon:

"Sheilagh Shaughnessy has married a soldier, but once he's removed his uniform he becomes a different man...The love he had talked about in England isn't something he really knows how to give. It was all talk. It was all promises - and she believed him."

No lie. There's also a bunch of stuff in there about World War II and sod houses and turnips.** It's apparently very deep and very moving. And he sold it on pretty much the first try, and got a $25,000 advance, because that kind of thing happens to first time novelists all the time.

And the local native people in the strip are unfailingly wise, serene, helpful, and vaguely mystical.

And the special needs girl in April's class. Oh, the special needs girl in April's class. like...this...which makes no sense because though she is a little slow, she's not Captain Kirk. But she is also unfailingly wise.

What was once a strip I actually kind of liked has now descended to the center of the suck maelstrom. It's down there with Pluggers, those new Far Side one-panel wannabes, and the Family Circus. I want very much for it to go away, please, thank you, and have thought for some time it needs to be taken out behind the comic strip barn and shot. There's so much more I could say, but reading the strip makes me sad and kind of headachey.***

And here Mike has sold his @#(^#! bodice-ripper for at least 25 grand.

I think I'm going to write a novel now.

Out of spite.


*It's also a world where everyone has the butt of a woman in her mid-50s who's had a job where she sat down a lot for several decades. Seriously, it's creepy.
** I pulled that from the "monthly letters" section over at the FBoFW website.
***For a more sustained critique, direct yourselves to the Comics Curmudgeon's FBoFW archives.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Freaks and Geeks

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

The Fanboy is a Bendis-obsessed comic book-loving maladjust with one friend in the entire school (really, more like half a friend since Cal is a lacrosse player who usually hangs out with popular jocks). The Goth Girl is Kyra, a Sandman-obsessed, somewhat unstable chain smoker. They meet when Kyra takes pictures of Fanboy being beaten up in gym class, and from there, embark on a friendship that is by turns, confusing and exciting.

Fanboy is working on a graphic novel (that has, I might add, a very cool-sounding plot involving an ordinary woman who can make people's hopes, dreams, and fears take corporal form), and he's hatching the following plot:

1. Take graphic novel to comics convention and show it to Bendis.
2. ???
3. Profit!

From the plot, you'd expect giddy fun, but the book is quite a bit darker than that. Kyra shows Fanboy scars from where she's cut her wrists, and Fanboy entertains more than a few Trenchcoat Mafia daydreams. bookshelves of doom's problems with Fanboy and Goth Girl are completely on target; however, there were a few things about the book that impressed me enough to recommend it anyway:

1. Lyga's portrayal of high school bullying is frighteningly realistic, and his characters aren't "outsiders" in the typical misunderstood, secretly super-cool way. They are really losers. They're frustrating, annoying, and damaged by the abuse heaped on them by their peers; however, it's surprisingly easy to relate to them, and sometimes, even to like them.

2. In lesser YA books of the dark variety, the worst thing that can possibly happen will. If real suburban life was like a YA novel, no one would get out alive. In the hands of a lesser writer, Fanboy would shoot up the school and Goth Girl would OD on sleeping pills. But Lyga realizes that saying you want to do something and actually doing it are two different things. Lyga's characters talk about a lot of hot button issues, almost casually. However, Lyga is more interested in exploring his characters than in manipulating them into living out 20/20 nightmares. Sure, real tragedies happen in high schools, but not every ugly adolescent thought ends in tragedy.

3. Outrageous Bendis cameo.

So, despite the whole "goth girl/comic book guy books are, like, so 2003" thing, the book has an interesting, fresh take on these kinds of characters that's worth checking out.

Stocking Seams and Lipstick Traces

The Song Is You by Megan Abbott

I don't usually recommend books I haven't read yet, but based on the subject matter and the strength of Abbott's previous book, Die A Little, this seems as surefire as Clive Owen playing Philip Marlowe.

The book was inspired by the real-life disappearance of Jean Spangler, an aspiring Hollywood starlet. Her purse was discovered in Griffith Park, and in it, a note reading, "Kirk – Can’t wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work out best this way while mother is away…" Spangler was rumored to be linked with Kirk Douglas, and there was some suspicion that she was pregnant at the time of her disappearance. The case also included an ex-husband, a jilted lover, and gangsters, and was never solved. You can read all about it here.

If you need more convincing, check out Die A Little, a Los Angeles noir worth its weight in shell casings. Lora King is a chaste Pasadena schoolteacher who lives with her brother, Bill, a rising star in the district attorney's office. Bill falls in love with Alice Steele, a costumer at a film studio, and for a time, Lora falls a little bit in love with her, too. The women become the best of friends, hosting parties, sneaking out for drinks, and exchanging confidences. But gradually, Lora begins to catch glimpses of Alice's shady past. At first, she fears for her brother, but as Lora becomes more and more obsessed with tracking down Alice's secrets, her own life is put in jeopardy.

A dark, seamy, lurid little piece of heaven. I can't wait to read Abbott's new book, and am kicking myself for missing her reading last Saturday at The Mystery Bookstore with Charlie freakin' Huston, of all people. Grrr...

The Soundtrack of Your Life

Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song At a Time by Rob Sheffield

During our courtship, Mr. Potts had a morning drive-time show on the Memphis City Schools radio station. The station's format was crap adult contemporary, but he started sneaking in songs he thought I'd like hearing on my way to work. The station was really so awful that for all he knew, I was the only one listening to his playlist. However, these morning love letters to me developed a cult following among the Memphis hipster working stiff contingent, as well as some virulent detractors.*

People who love records have better relationships, because their love lives get soundtracks. And I'm sure that most of those people have great songs they can never listen to again or bad songs that they've put on pedestals simply because the music gets all tangled up with the relationship. When someone makes you a mix tape, it means "here's some music I thought you'd like" on the surface, but it can also mean anything from "let's be friends,"** to "I have a major crush on you," to "this is my freaking soul laid bare."

Love Is a Mix Tape is a memoir about Sheffield's wife, Renee, who died of a pulmonary embolism in 1997 at the age of 31. It's about how they met, and about the years they spent writing freelance music articles, DJing at the local college station, going to shows, and being young, broke, and in love. And making a lot of mix tapes.

Each chapter begins with a mix tape playlist, some of which Sheffield made, some Renee made, some they made for each other -- music for falling asleep to, doing the dishes to, having a party to, etc. Sheffield's stories about Renee are tender, sweet, and funny, but the stories caught up with music they shared are the best ones.

Whether Renee is explaining how all girls who like The B-52s are either Kate girls or Cindy girls ("Like how all boys are either Beatles or Stones boys. You like them both, but there's only one who's truly yours"), or making up new lyrics to Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" (Out on the road today, I saw a SubPop sticker on a Subaru/A little voice inside my head said, yuppies smell teen spirit too), it's easy to see through these stories how special she was, and how much Sheffield loved her.

Of course, the book's subject matter is incredibly sad; however, the book is more a celebration of Renee's life than a meditation on her death. Sheffield tastefully blends humor with tragedy, and sweetness with sorrow.

If you like music writing with an intensely personal bent like Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live, this book is for you.
* e.g. the woman who called in to complain about "that man with the awful voice butchering that nice Rod Stewart song" and the person who demanded to speak to a supervisor after, Elvis Costello-style, Potts pulled the plug on a Celine Dion song and said on the air, "there's no reason to play this song here."
** Oddly, I have a "let's be friends" mix tape that actually became my favorite "doing the dishes" tape.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Red Dirt Girls

On Agate Hill by Lee Smith

I bet that even Lee Smith's grocery lists are good reading. Some of them would make you feel like you were outside in springtime (orange sections; basil; 2 pomegranates; brie). Some would be straightforward (wine, fashion magazine, chocolate ice cream, pack of Marlboro Lights), and others would require you to put the pieces together yourself, however weird or disturbing the tale might be (e.g. paint thinner, diapers, hearts of palm, veal).

Smith's writing falls into two basic groups. The first involves stories of modern southern women questioning the tenets of southern womanhood, to hell with what the Junior League has to say about it. Strong, emotionally complex, charming books -- like Barbara Kingsolver meets Steel Magnolias. In the other variety, Smith writes historical fiction that conveys both the weight of the past and the arbitrary breeziness of the choices that determine it. As she did in Fair and Tender Ladies, Smith demonstrates in On Agate Hill that a life story is bigger than a single life. But no matter what she's writing, there is always a story there, and it is always a corker.

Following the success of Smith's bestselling The Last Girls, On Agate Hill was released fairly quietly this fall. However, the riveting storytelling here stands up to some of Smith's best work.

The book begins with Molly Petree, orphaned during the Civil War, and living with her dying uncle in a crumbling plantation. It's a slice of the Reconstruction Era that calls to mind Gone With the Wind without the simplistic idealism and racism of that book. Later portions of the book follow Molly to a rigorous boarding school led by an unstable religious zealot and her lecherous husband; then, to her unlikely marriage and life in the backwoods; by the book's end, Molly has faced everything from stillborn babies to murder charges.

A thoroughly absorbing read - I didn't want it to end. If you like contemporary southern fiction, and haven't read Lee Smith, well, then you can't really say you like contemporary southern fiction because you clearly don't know what you're talking about.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

57th Most Literate City... Hmph!*

It's a good PR week for our respective institutions.

Susan Patron, a librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library, is awarded the 2007 Newbery Medal for The Higher Power of Lucky

USC sociologist Barry Glassner is interviewed at Salon about his new book, The Gospel of Food.

We may not know all the best people, but we can at least say we work with them.
* It's a fact.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

They Say It Can't Be Done

ScreenHead posted this list of the Top 13 Unfilmable Novels a few days ago, so enjoy if you haven't already.

In addition to the books, they also name the director who might could pull it off, for example:

Unfilmable: Catcher in the Rye
If Anyone Can Do It: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

Not to quibble with them, but I think I'd pick David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls) over the Coen Brothers for Dunces. That's just me.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Tenenbaum in Tennessee

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Colin Singleton is a teenage prodigy who has just graduated from high school. He has also just realized the difference between a prodigy and a genius ("Prodigies can very quickly learn what other people have already figured out; geniuses discover that which no one has ever previously discovered. Prodigies learn; geniuses do.") He has also just been dumped for the 19th time by a girl named Katherine. Not the same Katherine -- nineteen different Katherines.

To roust Colin from his deep funk, his best friend, Hassan, proposes a road trip. And thus, the socially maladjusted brain and the overweight underachiever find themselves in Gutshot, Tennessee*, drawn to this particular exit by an unlikely road sign that reads, "See the Grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand -- The Corpse That Started World War I."

Before they know it, Colin and Hassan find themselves with a place to stay for the summer, a job collecting oral histories, and a mathematical equation that predicts the course of relationships along a Dumper/Dumpee continuum. And of course, a great deal of the obligatory YA novel self-exploration and soul-searching to be done... although done in an illuminating and not at all sappy sort of way.

An Abundance of Katherines is excellent. It's smart and funny, filled with thorny, yet endearing characters, and addresses big issues with a light touch.

If you liked...: King Dork by Frank Portman or Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci, this book is for you.
* I wonder if this town name was inspired by Bucksnort, Tennessee, a place I once stopped on a road trip sheerly because of the name.

Southern Living, New York-Style

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris

In the first of this book's three increasingly loopy introductions, Amy Sedaris writes, "This is not a joke cookbook. I don't like joke cookbooks because I can't take them seriously." This is at once true and not true of I Like You. Turn to any page in this book, and you're sure to encounter an image or a line that makes you shoot Scotch out of your nose*. But at the same time, almost every recipe, craft idea, or entertaining tip that appears here is pure gold.

The food sections contain an appealing mix of traditional Greek cooking, comfort food, and accessible haute cuisine, as well as a collection of recipes from Sedaris's lucrative side job -- selling cupcakes and cheese balls out of her apartment. I've got a zillion index cards sticking out of the book right now, and two dishes on the menu for this week (Brady's making Dimpleton's Pan-Fried Steak and I'm making the simply-named, but delicious-sounding Chicken on the Stove).

But more than that, this is a book that will make you want to throw a dinner party. I've always been a better party guest than host**, but after reading this book, I feel that the deepest, mistiest secrets of throwing a good party have been made known to me, and that I could maybe pull it off.

Reading this book also made me think about the great dinner parties I've been to, and how, while the basic tenets of hospitality were the same, it was the unique quirks in party-hosting styles that made things memorable and reflected the hosts' personalities. That said, if you ever find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin for an extended period of time, you should make it a point to endear yourselves to Nathan and Abby, and get asked to their house. Hosts with the most, 'nuff said.
* for example, the sheet cake with "Come Home Dad" written in chocolate sprinkles or the instructions for making a cat toy our of a tampon
** Mary's Tips for Being a Good Party Guest (and Getting Asked Back)
1. Bring booze or a pumpkin log.
2. Take your turn engaging the party guest who a) has had too many drinks and wants to talk at great length about Pancho Villa, b) has not had a conversation with anyone except their children in a month, or c) is smoking outside, alone.
3. If the host leaves the party to do dishes, relieve him/her of these duties, or at least help clear and scrape plates.
4. Use a coaster.
5. Always stay one drink behind the host.
6. Know when to leave, and say 'thank you.'

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pretty! Pretty!

I realize that, to anyone who doesn't read them, fashion magazines seem pretty much interchangeable. They are not.

Cosmo is written for 21-year-old women with the emotional maturity of 14-year-old girls; Vogue is no fun unless you make six figures; Allure is the K-Mart of fashion magazines; and Jane is like the girl at my high school who threw on a Cure t-shirt and started calling herself "alternative," oblivious to the fact that Bust and Venus were giggling and whispering behind their hands about what a poser she was.

But Glamour is different, and this is why:

1. Jennifer Connolly is on the cover this month, and they did not airbrush out her crow's feet.
2. Mariane Pearl does an insightful, smart monthly feature about women activists around the world.
3. You know how "sexy curves" is usually a euphemism for "fatty fat-fat" in most women's magazines? This month's issue features a fashion spread with America Ferrera that makes absolutely no mention of her weight.
4. And along those lines, realistic and attainable beauty goals. Recently in Glamour, I read something along the lines of: "All you really need is a moisturizer with SPF, a moisturizer to wear at night, and something to wash your face with." I'd always suspected that microderm abrasion and at-home chemical peels were a racket. How nice to be validated.
5. And believe it or not, they plug really good books (this month, Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield).

I'm not saying it's the New Yorker or anything, but still, credit where it's due. Not once has reading an issue of Glamour ever made me feel guilty or vapid, and occasionally, I learn something interesting about Darfur or breast cancer. I can't think of a better way to spend the occasional half an hour.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Book With Braaaaaaaaiiiinsss

Every couple of years or so, I watch Night of the Living Dead. It always goes like this:

1. The credits roll, and I am all "Woo hoo! Zombies!"
2. The first horde of the shambling undead lurches over the horizon, and I am suddenly quiet and still, lest they see me.
3. The first arm gets bitten into, and I begin scoping out the exits of the theater while keeping an eye on the mass of undead extras on the screen, because I am not entirely sure that they are going to stay in there. Zombies, after all, care not for the distinction between cinema and reality. Zombies care only for eating people.

Zombies also seem to enjoy skeeving me out such that I always regret watching a zombie movie before the third reel starts, and freaking me out so completely that I dare not stop watching, in case they come to my house later that night and ask me why I didn't stay for the end.

I tell you all of this so that when I say to you that I devoured (heh) Max Collins' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War in two sittings, pausing only (and grudgingly) for sleep, you appreciate the extent of my enjoyment of this book.

In WWZ, Brooks apes the format of all of those hastily written world geo-politics books that you see waiting to ensnare your dad in large piles at the front of Barnes & Nobles. It's written, a la Studs Terkel or Douglas Brinkley, as a series of interviews with key players and everyday survivors set a few years after the dead started rising and things went to hell.

(FYI, it started in China. It also turns out that China was not the best place for such a thing to start if we, as a planet, had hoped to contain the zombie plague before it spread to too many people.)

Happily, Brooks never winks at the reader by having a President Romero or any other clumsy references to Barhhrbarhah, and anything that may or may not have come to get her.* He keeps his future history firmly grounded in reality - except for the walking corpses - and as a result the horror stuff takes a backseat to the policies, international jockeying, and containment strategies that eventually brought humanity back from the brink. It is both suprisingly un-gory and extremely inventive, as when a U.S. Military grunt points out the difficulty of making headshots after years of being trained to shoot at the chest.

These little details - like the way the grunts call the undead "Zack" in the tradition of "Charlie" or "Ivan" - are engaging enough, but the plotting is where Brooks shows a surprising facility for the format that he's chosen. The fictionalized responses of international organizations, militaries, and nations are all-too believable, and you probably can guess which side they err on.

In other words, this is a zombie novel for those who never thought they'd have cause to read such a thing. It takes a clever conceit and runs with it; WWZ outstrips its own premise without sacrificing the attractions of the genres that made the conceit clever in the first place.

If you liked Shaun of the Dead, or any of those books that detail the often sluggish responses of policy wonks to an outbreak of Ebola or some natural disaster, this book is for you.

* Take, for example, the blurb on the dust jacket, which proclaims "Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.")

Giving Nancy Pearl a Run for Her Money

If you or someone you hold dear will be in the vacinity of downtown Los Angeles this Thursday, January 11, stop by the Central Library, and I will give you your very own pony.

However, if I have run out of ponies by the time you arrive, stick around anyway for "Morris and McCoy On Books," a new monthly book discussion group at Central Library co-hosted by yours truly.

This month, we'll be talking about reading resolutions for 2007, aka, how to read 52 books in a year without hating all incarnations of the written word by April. Lots of fun recommendations, everything from Pinsky to pulp fiction - come on down, it'll be magical.

Central Library - Meeting Room A
January 11, 2007
12:15-1 pm

Sunday, January 07, 2007

And As Promised... The Best of 2006

2006 will stand in my memory as the year I finally stopped worrying and learned to love the genre fiction. This turned out to be a happy discovery, considering that so much of this year's literary fiction let me down (The Thin Place*, The End of Mr. Y), bored me silly (Wickett's Remedy), and/or annoyed me to the very core (Special Topics in Calamity Physics).

It was a year of Dashiell Hammett and Ross MacDonald and Megan Abbott, whose remarkable L.A. noir Die a Little would surely have made this list had it not been published in 2005. So, in keeping with that spirit, this list includes two murder mysteries, a fantasy, and a boxing novel. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

And in the spirit of one of my favorite book blogs of 2006, I'm keeping it short.

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril: I've found it impossible to describe this book to anyone without including the phrases "crackerjack tale" or "ripping good yarn" in the voice of a 1930s radio announcer.

Pound for Pound: F.X. Toole spent years working as a boxing cut man, secretly writing stories and sending them off. After 40 years of rejection letters, he publishes Rope Burns. Then, just as his writing career is taking off, he drops dead, which is exactly the kind of thing that would have happened to one of his characters. But check this one out - gripping fight scenes and a surprisingly big-hearted story.

Sharp Objects: Creepy, twisty, bleak, and impossible to put down.

The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast: Salon tore this book a new one, but well, they were wrong. A balanced and astonishingly detailed account of how it all went so wrong, who was to blame, and who stepped up.

Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!
: I'm serious - it belongs here. Why? Because it's not every day that a book about a television game show gets you choked up on an airplane.

The Lies of Locke Lamora: A fantasy novel involving several nifty long cons. Intricate, dazzling plotting.

The Night Gardener: Like watching an episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets. Like, one of the ones from season 3.

Happy reading in 2007, my dears. And if you find anything good, tell me about it. Ta.
* Which I realize was loved by everyone but me.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I'll Take Game Show Memoirs for $200, Alex.

Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy by Bob Harris

While doing some Christmas shopping at the local bookstore, Brady went all "Ooooh, Navy SEALs!!!" on a number of titles of which I was skeptical. But when he picked up a book written by a five-time Jeopardy champion, and said, "I'd like to read that," I feared my sweetie had lost his damn mind. Nevertheless, I shrugged and forwarded this request to my sister, who dutifully purchased it for him.

A few weeks later, I found myself completely head over heels in love with this book, which I assure you, is about far more than a simple game show. It is a memoir about discovering that you have not panned out as a very good adult. It is also about falling in love, getting your ducks in a row, and learning to become a good friend/son/daughter/person. And it is also about Jeopardy, which as game shows go, is a '57 Mustang in a parking lot of Escalades.

Harris's writing is funny, ingenius, and, at times, incredibly moving. Not only are you in for a good memoir, you'll also learn about how memory works -- why certain tidbits stick and others get lost in the gray matter. And you'll probably be a little bit smarter when you finish it, too. Maybe even smart enough to get on Jeopardy.

I feel icky about inserting this detail, but it's easily obtained elsewhere and it's also the thing that made me pick up the book in the first place. Harris is Jane Espenson's* sweetie, and I figured that anyone she lurved was probably good people.

If you like...: Jeopardy, Buffy, or would totally clean up on the Daily Double in Midwestern Culture & Norms, this book is for you.
* Writer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The O.C., and Firefly, to name a few.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Where I'm Calling From

It was not my intention to take such a long holiday break from the blog, but somehow, the last days of 2006 were lost in a blur of out of town guests, cross country travel and other adventures. Among them:

1. Johnny Depp sighting at Amoeba Records. He's very short.
2. Made my folks fans of both Oaxacan food and Veronica Mars.
3. Went to the Rose Bowl to watch people build floats for the Tournament of Roses Parade, where Brady proved that he is not too old to eat an entire funnel cake.
4. Began 2007 by running from one end of this island to the other and back again - 12 miles. This served the dual purpose of getting in my marathon training and balancing out the epic eating I would go on to do in Mobile.
5. Hung out with a blacksmith at Fort Gaines. Discussed merits of gas forges versus coal ones.
6. Went to Biloxi to gamble at the recently rebuilt casinos. This is just about the only thing in Biloxi that has been rebuilt. Grrr...
7. Luggage lost at LAX. Current whereabouts unknown.
8. Returned home to find there had been a windstorm in L.A. that had blown most of our windows open and knocked out a screen. One cat was at large. We found her cowering under our neighbor's window and surmised that she must have fallen from the second story sometime during the storm. Not sure how long she'd been there, but when I brought her inside, she proceeded to eat for twenty minutes straight.

I've read many books in the past few weeks. Reviews of The Night Gardener, Prisoner of Trebekistan, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (which I DID get for Christmas... hint-dropping was not in vain!), and many many more to follow, not to mention the previously promised and severly overdue Best of 2006 list.

But plans for tonight: pour bourbon into glass, repeat as necessary.