Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ready to put 2009 to bed . . .

Have any of ye socks ever returned home to find a beloved pet has converted it into a minor disaster area?

That's kinda how yours truly feels this New Year's Eve about the old year that is drawing to a close.

2009 had some glimmering moments that manage to shine thru all the mayhem. But, for the most part, it is not a year that I remember with any great fondness.

Whether publicly or privately, it seems like there were more people doing worse things than usual.

The socialists felt their oats in DC. The Holocaust deniers in Tehran mocked the ballot box. Professional athletes failed as role models. Sycophants continued to pollute the airwaves via MSNBC. Terrorists attacked us again, this time in Texas and Michigan. Celebritards disrupted award shows. And on, and on, and on.

Fortunately, these things seem to ebb and flow like the tides. If that paradigm holds, 2010 might just be a very good year.

So, who cares who exactly let the dogs out?! Let's just get them back on their leashes until they learn some manners!!

Happy new year, then. But, consider yourselves on notice. You have one more evening of sanctioned bad behavior before the pendulum (hopefully) begins to swing in the opposite direction . . .

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Day at Universal

Many thanks go out to Valda of Jenks Manor this evening for graciously hosting my posse at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure today.

Without her authoritative presence as our escort, I don't think we would have survived the throngs of other tourists in the parks this eve of new year's eve.

The niblings particularly enjoyed meeting her better-known co-workers, like Spiderman and The Grinch.

But, I think the highlight was probably the primo spot we staked-out for the Macy's parade. (It's the same one New Yorkers have to brave nasty, wintery weather to see on Thanksgiving.)

Thanks again, Valda!

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is Leach getting lynched in Lubbock?

Some of ye socks have quite justifiably criticized yours truly for the overabundance of posts surrounding the Florida Gators this time o' year.

But, what is a frustrated Texas Tech fan to do in this little corner of heaven?

Until recently, I have had to explain to folks in this neck of the woods just exactly where TTU is. Lubbock?! Never heard of it . . .

All that began to change several years ago when a quirky, odd ball named Mike Leach took over as head coach of the football team at my alma mater.

And, unlike the crap and nonsense that's being peddled in Washington lately, Leach's brand of change has been the kind I can actually support.

He assumed command following the departure of the "legendary" Spike Dykes. Remember him? I do, and I don't think I was alone in my lack of enthusiasm for his coaching. I grant him the singular exception of a win over a Duke team coached by Steve Spurrier in the All-American Bowl before the legendary "Evil Genius" came back to Florida to christen The Swamp. But, I digress . . .

Before Mike Leach, the Red Raider "faithful" struggled to get 40,000 seats warmed in Jones Stadium during football season. Their team was on NCAA probation and, by all accounts, had a shamefully low graduation rate.

Today, more athletes are actually earning diplomas in Lubbock. Attendance at Leach-coached football games always breaks the 50,000 mark. And, his team has appeared in ten straight bowl games.

Of course, like most stories surrounding athletics at any level, this one boils down to money. Leach's outstanding performance at Tech has a lot of it flowing into the school's budget, enough to pay for an $84 million expansion if its outdated stadium to accomodate those aforementioned gowing attendance numbers.

So, it is with a great deal of sadness that I heard the news out of the Staked Plains today. Mike Leach has been suspended, and may very likely lose his job before his team takes on Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl.

The reasons given for his suspension are many and conflicting. And, at the end of the day none of them really matter, as much bigger questions will survive the explosive details: What will happen to Leach, his coaching staff, and the players? Has Tech's football revival come to an end? Will all those extra bucks have to be funneled away from expansion plans to pay legal bills?

And, more selfishly, does this mean coverage of Big 12 games way down here in SEC territory will revert to pre-Leach days?! Perish the thought!!

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Monday, December 28, 2009

He's baaaaaack!

Well, that didn't take long . . .

After yesterday's post, I hear Urban Meyer now intends to return as coach of the mighty Gators next year . . . assuming health issues are resolved.

Hopefully, that is not going to be too much of an assumption.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Salute to Urban Meyer

The Gator Nation was stunned last night by the news that our head football coach Urban Meyer will be stepping down after the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day.

He cited health concerns.

Coach Meyer has only been the top Gator for five years.

But, in that span of time, he has brought us two national championships, and a lot of other great memories.

His leadership will be sorely missed, especially as it coincides with the graduation of Tim Tebow.

Let the speculation begin as to his successor. Whoever it is will have some mighty tough shoes to fill.

Orange and Blue!

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day at the Flea Market

Those of us of British extraction typically mark this date on the calendar, the day after Christmas, by boxing-up the old to make way for all the new.

That's why we call it Boxing Day.

So, I suppose it's the Irish blood that led me to a flea market in search of more junk instead . . .

Today's target was Renninger's up in Mount Dora, and there were actually three specific booths on the agenda.

Without revealing too much about ye olde shopping habits around here, suffice it to say:

The first booth was no longer in existence. I guess that's a sign of the woeful economic times.

The second booth was still there, but wasn't open because the owners were apparently still merry-making.

And, the third booth was too cold to spend much time hunting thru the inventory.

Oh, well. This sleigh is heading back to Orlando as empty as it arrived . . .

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Adeste, Fideles!

O, come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant.
O, come, ye; O, come, ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him,
Born the King of Angels.
O, come let us adore him.
O, come let us adore him.
O, come let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peanut butter oatmeal cookies

Follow-up to yesterday's post . . .

This recipe from my Mom's old cookbook.

Ingredients:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- half cup of shortening
- 1 cup beanut butter
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 cups oatmeal
- 1.75 cups of flour

Preheat the oven to 350.

Mix ingredients together.

Roll into 1-inch balls.

Place on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10 minutes per batch.

Yield varies depending on number of dough-eating spectators . . .

Merry Christmas Eve!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Becky's Infamous Heart Attack Casserole

In case ye socks need a carb load to kick the merry-making into high gear, I offer the following simplified recipe received from Becky Mosteller.

Ingredients:
- 2 bags of hash browns
- 1 bag of shredded cheese of your choice
- 1 small container of sour cream
- 1 can of French's fried onions

Mix everything together, except for half the cheese.

Spread into favorite casserole dish.

Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Cover with tin foil.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350.

Remove foil and pop back in oven until cheese starts to brown. (Judgement call)

The only thing that could increase the likelihood of a heart attack (imho) would be to sprinkle bacon bits on top!

Salt and pepper to taste!

Now, get back to wrapping those presents!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter arrives in Orlando

Too . . . cold . . . to . . . type . . .

Woke up yesterday to 38 degrees.

Haven't checked the thermometer this morning.

Not used to this down here!

Take it back up north where it belongs!!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Thoughts on the Survivor finale

If yours truly seems to be dragging a little today, it's because the regular work week bedtime was ignored so I could watch the big Survivor Samoa finale last night.

I think everyone expected season favorite Russell to win.

He must be the most ruthless player in the history of the granddaddy of all reality shows.

From day one, he was pouring out his own tribe mates' water supply.

He burned their socks.

He found immunity idols before anyone else even knew they existed.

And, he orchestrated just about every vote at tribal council.

If he was to be judged only by the show's three word motto (Outwit, Outlast, Outplay), he would seem to stand head and shoulders above the other finalists: Mick and Natalie.

But, there's more to this game, and just about every other game. And, that's the WAY you play.

In the end, Russell learned that lesson, and it cost him a million bucks.

Good lesson.

Congratulations, Natalie.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

The fast track to sainthood

Ye non-Catholic socks may have missed this little news item, so I'll throw it in the dryer for you.

The pope has waived the standard 5-year waiting period to put the late John Paul II on the road to sainthood.

The last time this was done, at least as far as yours truly can recall, was back in 2002 when JP2 himself waived the waiting period for the late Mother Theresa.

Typically, it takes quite a long time for someone to be declared venerable, get beatified, and become sainted.

Sometimes, this takes centuries.

But, the world we live in seems particularly hungry for (maybe, starving for) icons of modern virtue.

And, I suppose that great need is why waiting periods are being waived.

I'm all for it.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Get ready to get scrooged.

In case ye socks ever doubted the fact that The ObamaNation is completely out-of-step with the real concerns of the American people, I offer you the following poll results.

53% of the American people put the economy & jobs at the top of the national priority list.

Yet, the current occupant of the White House is spending most of his time pimping his global redistribution of wealth plan as THE answer to global warming (an issue only 2% of us put atop said priority list).

And, his minions in Congress are ramming thru their stealth scare legislation in the middle of a blizzard, thumbing their noses at the typical holiday recess.

Only 10% of us put health care reform atop the national agenda. Even that is a misnomer. Health care in this country is the best to be found anywhere in the world. Access to it, and affordability are the things that really need to be reformed. And, you don't accomplish that by socializing the delivery mechanisms.

Yet, this is the path we are on. Printing up more greenbacks to hand out to developing countries so they will halt development in the Quixotic pursuit of global cooling. And, the double-whammy, we're poised to hand over 1/6 of our national economy to the DC beltway brain trust.

Yeah, those things will kickstart the economy and put people back to work.

Hope and change?!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Having a Randy Quaid type of holiday season . . .

Inexplicably, for the second time in less than a week, yours truly has found himself settled into the comfortably overstuffed sectional watching an old movie featuring Randy Quaid in a stereotypically redneck role

This time around it was National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

I have to admit that Aunt Bethany has always been my particular favorite in this latest film, much moreso than the loser brother-in-law Eddie.

Nonetheless, the Quaid coincidence has got me wondering if he might be the key to both flicks' ability to stand the test of time?!?

Pass the eggnog!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bring cash to Shannon's

My regular Thursday morning crew decided to mix things up a bit this week by moving our rendezvous point down a few storefronts to Shannon's Casual Cafe.

Ye local socks have no doubt spotted the place south of downtown Orlando. It's in that commercial center wedged between Fort Gatlin and Lake Jenny Jewell, on the east side of Orange Avenue.

Anyway, yours truly had heard good things about their blueberry pie. Decadent choice for breakfast, I know, but it's almost Christmas.

A couple of things you need to know about this place, if you care to visit it yourselves:

1. You have to go up to the register to place your order and pay before sitting down. They will bring your food to you, but that's the extent of the table service. If you want a refill on your coffee or other beverage, you have to do it yourself.

2. They are one of the few remaining places in this neck o the woods that don't accept credit/debit cards, so bring cash! Yours truly suffered a bit of an embarassment when they didn't make him aware of this rule until after his order was placed. Fortunately, one of my posse was flush with cash and able to come to my rescue.

Go if ye must. And, the blueberry pie is indeed quite good. But, this is no Carole's Place . . .

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

RIP, Roy Disney

Some sad news out of Newport Beach, California, today: Roy Disney has succombed to stomach cancer, almost 43 years to the day after his more famous uncle Walt.

Roy was the 3rd largest stock holder in the Walt Disney Company, and the last member of the founding family to take an active role in its operation as Director Emeritus. He was worth an estimated $1.2 billion.

Prior to his emeritus status, Roy successfully led the overthrow of two CEO's who he believed were leading the company in the wrong direction.

The first was his own cousin-in-law Ron Miller during a hostile takeover attempt back in 1984.

That ushered-in the era of Michael Eisner, a very successful period for the company that saw it return back to its roots in animation while adapting to industry innovations.

But, after twenty years, Roy left the company's board of directors to lead the charge to have Eisner replaced in 2004.

He nearly succeeded, getting a suprising 43% of stockholders to vote against retaining the company's CEO. But, the damage done to Eisner's authority still forced him to resign the following year, before his contract expired.

Roy then returned to the board as Director Emeritus, and reportedly enjoyed seeing the company once again return to its animation roots.

Condolences go out to the Disney family, both private and corporate.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Four years already?!

Birthday greetings go out to my favorite nephew this fine day.

I'm really looking forward to seeing him (along with his sister and mine) later this month!

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Dense Fog Warning!

Today, yours truly found himself in the heaviest fog he'd ever encountered.

I didn't notice it much as I stepped outside to head off to work, mostly because it's always dark and gloomy that time of day.

But, then the security light went off. It always does that, and I'm glad for it because it helps me to find the keyhole so I can lock the deadbolt behind me.

Today, however, said light struggled to illuminate the threshhold . . . much less the narrow space between my service door and the neighbor's wall.

I had second thoughts about even getting in the car at that point, figuring it was just too dangerous to drive in these conditions.

But, after peeking around the front hedge, I realized that it was just a particularly heavy pocket of fog that had settled in between the houses. It was a little thinner in the unusually quiet streets of our neighborhood. Just a LITTLE thinner, though.

Anyway, I decided to brave it, and stuck to the side streets instead of getting on I-4. Glad I did, too. Even at the slower pace, my knuckles were throbbing by the time I reached the office!

Be safe out there!

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

How many times can you watch the same movie?

Yours truly finds himself asking this question after staying up WAY past the usual Sunday night bedtime.

Somehow, I suckered myself into watching "Independence Day," for what had to be the millionth time since it hit the theaters back in 1996.

You know the flick with Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, and a bunch of other easily-recognizable movie stars.

Anyway, at least in my opinion, this is one of those movies that has withstood the test of time, despite the lack of critical acclaim.

Now, I really should get to bed. Gonna be kinda hard to do, though, with all these apocalyptic visions dancing in my head!!

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

No football today?!?

I think this is the closest that yours truly has ever been to PTSD.

With the recent losses of both my beloved Gators and the Apopka Blue Darters, and given the pathetic nature of the Bucs this season, I just didn't know what I would do with all my spare time this weekend.
Forutnately, my little sister came to the rescue with this snapshot of her son's flag football game up in South Carolina.
Not quite the same as watching an SEC gridiron battle on cable TV, but I'll settle for anything at this point.
And, given the scouting reports of Junior Simmons' fierce running game, methinks Tebow's records may fall in about 15 years. Ye Noles fans should also be quaking in your collective boots!


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Friday, December 11, 2009

Just breathe!

Wow! I don't know if it's just the holidays, or what.

But the madness that almost always accompanies the season seems to have kicked into particularly high gear this year.

Maybe, it's the economy?

I don't know.

Anyway, after my own online rant yesterday, and in light of all the meltdowns I encountered in the real world today, I'm encouraging all ye socks to just take a step back and BREATHE!

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who can it be, now?!

By way of a prelude, and at the risk of dating myself, I will admit the first album I ever bought with my own money was Men at Work's "Business as Usual."

Give me a break. It was the 1980s, and their video for "Who can it be, now?" was all the rage on MTV.

Yes, Junior, they used to actually play videos on MTV.

But, I digress.

So, today is the 10th of the month, a more-frantic-than-usual time for yours truly, as I have to mail out a big old batch of payables.

This had me working past the usual quitting time at the office. So, I had no one to run interference for me as certain individuals who shall remain nameless here kept calling on the phone or knocking on the door.

Now, I know I'm in a particularly cranky mood today, but I do have to wonder if these people do this every day after office hours and I'm just not there to be annoyed. Or, did they just see my lonely car parked outside and decide that they had struck upon an infrequent opportunity for extended holiday hours of annoyance?!

ARRGGHH!

Get out of my way, now I've gotta rush to the post office before they close!!

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sudoku Strategies

Some unusual breakfast conversation took place at Carole's Place on South Orange Avenue this morning.

The usual economic and political banter was pushed aside thanks to Lee Chotas, who brought in a Sudoku puzzle he had been struggling to solve since before Thanksgiving.

It was passed around for suggestions as to strategy, and it was eye-opening to yours truly.

Sudoku has been a morning kickstart for me for a number of years. Really helps to get the gears going full steam before I head out to conquer the world each day.

But, I mistakenly assumed that every other puzzle solver followed the same method of attack.

Can't wait to tackle the puzzle in tomorrow's Sentinel so I can employ some of these new ideas.

As for Lee and his stumper, though, he's still on his own!

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Great Christmas Light Debate

Ok, at the risk of opening up a huge can of worms here, I have to ask ye socks where ye stand on the subject of multi-colored versus clear strands of lights.

Particularly as relates to ye olde Christmas tree.

I finally got my atificial version of said holiday symbol assembled in my living room over the weekend.

It's one I've had for at least a decade, before the pre-lit versions were easily affordable. So, I have to untangle and string the lights myself every year.

No big deal, except this year only one strand had survived the 11 months of exile inside the ubiquitous plastic storage container in my attic.

To make a long story longer, I hiked up to the handy neighborhood CVS where I discovered the poor folks there had been completely wiped-out of clear light strands.

They did, however, have an overabundance of the multi-colored strands.

I left without purchasing any, though, because my preference has always been for the clear variety.

The CVS shelves indicate that most folks must share this preference.

Where do ye socks stand on this very important issue?!

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Happy Birthday, Grandma G!

Yes, ye socks, it was on this date back in 1919, that a baby girl was born into a large Irish Catholic family in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Hard to believe that was 90 years ago today!

The world has changed an awful lot since then. And, yet, a lot of things were the same as they are today.

When my grandmother was born, an over-reaching Congress ushered in a disastrous new era of Prohibition.

And, the Nobel Peace Prize was foolishly awarded to the Democrat who was then occupying the White House.

To be sure, Woodrow Wilson was a more deserving recipient than the current occupant. At least he had forced thru the Treaty of Versailles.

I mention those two particular historical tidbits in the context of this birthday remembrance, because they both would have significant influence on the life of that baby born 90 years ago.

First of all, her father Tom Norton was good friends with a fellow named Joe Tumulty who just happened to be the private secretary (chief of staff) to President Wilson. Tom also began a very successful rum-running business the year his youngest daughter was born, the success doubtless due to his political connections. All of the fond memories she would have of making frequent trips to Manasquan on the Jersey Shore were actually designed to camouflage her father's illicit operation.

And, secondly, the well-intentioned but poorly-crafted Treaty of Versailles would eventually spark the Second World War--the seminal event of my grandmother's generation.

But, I doubt the Nortons of Jersey City were considering the impact of history on their lives on that cold winter day ninety years ago. I'm sure they were just excited about welcoming a new member to the family in time for the busy Christmas season.

Just for kicks and giggles, a list of other folks who were also born in 1919: writer J.D. Salinger; 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney; baseball legend Jackie Robinson; musicians Tennessee Ernie Ford and Nat King Cole; actor Jack Palance; Argentine first lady Evita Peron; mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary; and reformed segregationist George Wallace. Interesting generation, no?!

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

The ObamaNation's impression of itself

Were any of ye socks as stunned as yours truly was to hear tonight that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue gave himself high marks for his track record to date?

Seriously.

He told his guru/benefactor Oprah that he would give himself a B+.

Self-deluded much?

I mean, really, how do you get that kind of a grade with only a 46% approval rating?

When I was going to school back in the Stone Age, a 46% was pretty much an F-.

He must be grading on one heck of a curve.

I tried to engage in some Al Gore style fuzzy math to figure it out, but got about as far as his presidential ambitions.

For instance, I'm willing to concede that roughly 25% of the population is never going to approve of the ObamaNation.

And, I figure there's another 25% who will always goosestep behind this guy, or any other Democrat for that matter.

So, really, you'd have to grade him on how well he's doing with the remaining 50% in the middle.

Well, by my caluclations, 46% - 25% loyal supporters = 21% real approval rating x 2 = 42% of actual middle of the road type folks.

But, that result is even worse than the poll numbers, and still yields a big fat F-.

Hmmm . . .

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Bama wins SEC title

There, I said it.

The Crimson Tide crushed the Gators' aspirations, not only for an illusive/elusive perfect season but also for a 3rd national championship in the last four years.

The guys from Tuscaloosa thrashed Florida, 32-13.

Next stop for them: the national championship game. They deserve to be there. And, barring the remote possibility of a rematch(?!), I hope they thoroughly trounce their opponent as a demonstration of the continuing preeminence of the Southeastern Conference in the world of college athletics.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Apopka 7, Treasure Coast 0

That score was just texted to yours truly from an excited mom who made the trip down to Port Saint Lucie to watch the Blue Darters continue their march to the state championship.

This means that next Friday that Big Blue will host Deland, who beat Winter Park tonight.

The winner of that game will be playing in the Citrus Bowl on 12/19.

Congrats to Jacob, his teammates, and coaches!

I'm hoping to make it to next week's game, and will for sure be at the championship game if . . . nay, WHEN . . . you guys make it there!

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Next on the reading agenda . . .

After yesterday's post, some of ye socks asked what book was next on ye olde reading list.

Well, it just so happens to be Diane Setterfield's novel The Thirteenth Tale.

I started reading it tonight.

Found it a bit pretentious and contrived in the beginning.

But, after making it thru about 20 pages, have deemed it worthy of continued perusal.

A more complete report to follow.

Feel free to find a copy of your own to read in tandem.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Of Michener and his Chesapeake

So, yours truly managed to pick up a first edition of this book for a few shekels recently.

I found it to be very typical of Michener.

His detractors will try to tell you that his formulaic writing style and lack of character development made the late author nothing short of a hack.

Indeed, I found this best-seller from 1978 to be very much like the other two Michener novels I've read.

And, as he covers nearly four centuries over 865 pages, the folks who populate his narrative are painted in very broad strokes.

Still, Michener fans will argue that his novels transcend these flaws.

They have a point.

If the reader will forgive the uninspired structure and lack of identification he allows (either with would-be heroes or villains), one can put down a Michener novel feeling that they truly know the spirit or character of a given place.

This is certainly true of "Chesapeake."

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

White Rabbit, Y'all!

If that greeting means nothing to you, suffice it to say that in my family we try to make those the first words we utter on the first day of any given month.

Not really sure why, we just do.

That being said, it is hard to believe that the phrase has now been uttered a dozen times already this year.

2009 has just flown-by, hasn't it?!

Thanksgiving is already over, and I found myself hauling ye olde artificial tree down from the attic.

That's not to say that it is at all presentable.

Nor is it properly bedecked.

But, we're getting there.

Let the Christmas season begin!

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