Archive for the ‘Michael Lasley’ Category

Currently Reading

February 27, 2009

I’m off for Spring Break in a few hours. One more class. I’m mean. I’m giving a quiz in a 2:00 class on the Friday Spring Break begins. When did I become that professor?

A few things I’m reading lately. Flannery O’Connor’s Wiseblood, which I’ve read a couple times before. It’s eat-up with good. I made a deal with myself round about the new year that I would read a little of William Vollmann’s Europe Central everyday. It’s a long-ish book, and it’s not an easy read, and I would never make time to just sit down and read it at the beach. So I’m slowly making my way through it. It’s more or less about the period between the two world wars. It tells the lives of a few people from both Russia and Germany. Artists. I’m not sure why, yet, but he focuses on artists of some sort or other. This isn’t the easiest of reads, which I don’t mind. What I do mind is that it’s not all that enjoyable. But a deal is a deal, and if I keep reading 4 or 5 pages a day, I should finish in July or August.

And then there’s another book I’m re-reading. I assigned Helen Dewitt’s The Last Samurai for my classes this semester, so I’m reading it along with them. It is genius, I think. (My students really, really disagree with me.) But the story of a young prodigy (speaks / reads several languages [such as Greek and Japanese] by the age of 4). So it’s the story of him growing up with a single mom who refuses to tell him who his father is. It is genius and enjoyable to read. Unless you’re a student who is forced to read it by a professor who gives quizzes the day spring break begins.

And seems like there was something else.

The LA Times usually has something interesting to say. I just read the Wednesday edition and thought the following three articles were interesting.

For fans of The Wire or Fringe or Lost, there is a brief interview with / article about Lance Reddick. I wish it were longer. He’s a very talented actor, and he seems intelligent and someone you’d like to know more about. Although, why do actors feel the need to become musicians?

Everyone always thinks they are taxed more than everyone else. Californians are no different. And when we finally got a budget last week (over halfway through the fiscal year), they announced a tax hike. And people started screaming about how we were already taxed more than anyone else. Turns out they were wrong. We’re only the 19th on the list of most-taxed states.

And finally. Tap water. Somewhere in New York City, some genius decided to bottle actual tap water and sell it for $1.50. And he’s making a killing. Why didn’t I think of that?

Happy Spring Break, everyone.

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Usually…

January 15, 2009

I’m not all that interested in the sports page of the LA Times, what with their obsession with USC and all things Lakers. Which is their job, I am aware, but I have no interest. So yesterday I was surprised when I did more than look at the pictures on the sports page. They had a short interview with Vin Scully. But it wasn’t just an interview; it was an interview about his calling the only perfect game in World Series history — way back in 1956. Anyhoo…the short article / interview is here. Enjoy.

I’m a Shepherd

September 11, 2008

I’m one of those weird people who don’t really recall much about their younger years. But most of the things I do remember involve me and my friends quoting significant portions of the movie Fletch.

Which I only mention because the author of the Fletch  books — a series of books on which the movies were based, as well as a series of books I’ve never read — died Sunday. Gregory MacDonald sold over 100 million books. I’ve never even seen one of his books in a bookstore, to be honest, but I’m glad he wrote them.

Clouds and Whathaveyou

July 24, 2008

This morning I saw what I think might have possibly been a cloud. I’d forgotten those things existed anymore. I went and looked up pictures of the things just to make sure. Turns out, some places still have ’em. The pics made me all nostalgic about my favorites: The Noctilucent Cloud. Straight up cool, is what those clouds are.

Also on the way to school I thought I saw something that might have possibly been a penguin. Turns out it wasn’t (I stopped to make sure because I thought a penguin would be way cool as a pet). But that didn’t stop me from looking up pictures of penguins and wishing I had one. Cute little things. I like picture #9 the best. I’d teach my penguin to do that.

The Fourth

July 4, 2008

Well…my big plans for the 4th — driving to Newport Beach (specifically to Balboa Island) to live the good life — were thwarted when I was halfway there and my friends called to tell me that they’d closed the streets on Balboa because of overcrowding. Or something. So I turn around and head back to Malibu except I can’t get to the beach in Malibu because of a fire in the canyon. Those things are scarey. So I’m roughing it like the rest of you.

Not all is lost, though.

It’s the 4th, which, of course, brings us the single greatest sporting event of the year. This year was even greatester, as there was an actual overtime period to the hotdog eating contest. Chestnutt, I think, was just toying with Kobayashi. 

I’m reading a couple of books that are just eat up with interesting. One is about water. Anyone name the three qualities water possesses that make it such an incredible molecule? Me either, although I remember my professors always talking about them. But the book, Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource, by Marq De Villiers, kept me up last night. I couldn’t put it down. Quick summary: Water is both abundant and scarce; we need to think a bit more about how we use water; wars over water aren’t far-fetched.

Also reading: Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives, edited by Peter Orner. A collection of stories told by undocumented people living in America. The stories are fascinating and heartbreaking. I’ll actually try to write something about this book later (honest). It’s amazing the things people put themselves through to live in America. I know immigration is a huge issue, and there is no simple solution to the problem of people illegally coming to America. I think understanding where some of these people come from and what they go through and why they go through it is important.

I know that JU has read Richard Price’s Lush Life. I finished it a week or so ago. It was way good. Mary Ann Gwinn (from the National Book Critics Circle) agrees. She has this to say: This is the first book of Price’s I’ve read, and the best novel I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with in many a while. It is utterly contemporary (about a murder on Manhattan’s Lower East Side), so it’s not really an escape; more like deep-diving into the social and psychological currents of our culture. Like other Price readers, I keep thinking of Dickens when I read him, for his grasp of character, dialogue and incredible feeling for textural detail. In a hundred years readers will go back to this book to fathom what Life Was Like in our age; I suspect they’ll find, as we do when we read Dickens, that the more things change, the more people remain the same – mucking things up, then reaching for redemption.

Also: We should hire a staff writer to write about architecture. That’s my idea for the month. If Al will make me editor of the architecture section, the first assignment for our expert would be to discuss what has to be hands-down the coolest skyscraper ever. The crazy building will rotate, move, and change shape. I’ve never wanted to live in Dubai more than right this very moment.

The Future’s All Yours, You Lousy Bicycle

June 25, 2008

Our faithful editor seems to have sent us into a funk, what with his talk of what the doctors were going to do and the where-they-were-going-to-do-it. Chances are he isn’t in a hurry to hop in a bike at this very moment. JU, of course, well…I dare any of you to shut the guy up about bikes. He bikes to work, bikes to the store, bikes just for, ummmm, fun. Me, I’m with Butch Cassidy. The future is all yours, bikes. I only ride if Burt Bacharach serenades me while Katharine Ross rides shotgun.

But some people…well, they try to come up with new variations on an old theme. I mean, how can you improve a bike? It has two wheels. Pedals of some sort. Possibly a chain. But, no, some people aren’t satisfied. They want to make bikes out of cardboard or with square wheels, of all things.

So here’s a post that will interest, like, one person (JU). Because it’s about bicycles. (Although, the linked article is worth reading just so you can learn the phrase “inverted catenaries.” Which I can’t imagine not being useful at your next cocktail party.)

Just wanted to post something because I was tired of people coming to our blog because of Al’s colon.

Books I’m At Least Half-Heartedly Reading

May 28, 2008

This post, much like me, is all business.

Thirteen, by Philip K. Morgan. Besides just knowing it has to be good since the author’s name includes his middle initial….this is science fiction of some sort. They have special categories involving cool words such as steam and punk and post-steam and cyber. I haven’t the foggiest what any of those labels mean. I don’t care enough to wiki it to find out. This is of the murder mystery variety. Involving genetically altered humans with whom you absolutely do not mess. Except for some people do. And end up dead. I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, by Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman sets out on an epic journey to visit interesting (maybe even important) sites of death involving rock stars. Ostensibly — and this is a really cool idea for a book — he is going to try to understand why some rock stars seem to take on a greater cultural meaning only after their death. Fun to read. Klosterman is funny and smart. The book, a third of the way in, really has nothing to do with rock stars killing themselves. But the journey is sufficiently epic enough, and Klosterman is funny enough, that it doesn’t really matter.

Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson. Set during the Vietnam War. Only 100 pages into the book. Johnson’s characters are amazing. He creates military characters that are not the typical depiction of rough and tough characters. They are rough and tough, but they are also compassionate and intellectual. And the novel has way more dialogue than most novels. Dialogue is hard to pull off, I think, especially when writers depend on big chunks of the story being told strictly through dialogue. Johnson does this brilliantly.

Shakespeare: The World as Stage, by Bill Bryson. This is a history of the histories of Shakespeare. It’s short. It’s funny. Bryson is a wonderful story teller. I realize I’m a dork, but I’m having a hard time thinking of people who wouldn’t enjoy this book — including the majority of people I know, people who care nothing about Shakespeare or plays or English history. One of the few books I’ve read in a while that I’d recommend to just about anyone who asks me for a book recommendation.

The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud. This is the first book in a trilogy. Think: Harry Potter. It’s children’s / young adult fiction. I’m a Harry Potter fan, so I kind of want to like this book. But it’s about a young magician. In London. Who outwits all the adult magicians and assorted ne’er-do-wells. I’m sure there are better young children’s / young adult books to be read.  

It’s Always Friday in Malibu

March 28, 2008

Random notes.

1. I’ve got a killer tan going on these days. People comment on it. Those comments make me happy because I have low self-esteem and need to be noticed.

2. Little kids singing The Beatles make me happy. Here’s hoping it makes you happy, too.

3. In Las Vegas, it is now legal for brothels to advertise. But noone will buy their ads, apparently. People’ll buy ads for thinly disguised illegal prostitution-type things but not for legal prostitution.  

4. I’m still half-heartedly reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and it’s more painful than I ever thought possible. I have to make myself read a page every now and then. I’m a trooper. I’ll finish it. But I’ll try never to speak of it again. In my life.

5. Counting Crows have a new album out. I’m a big fan. The album, Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, is worth checking out. I know a lot of people don’t like Durtiz’s voice, but he’s a very good songwriter.

6. I just linked to Amazon for music. Does anyone still buy music from Amazon? Just curious. I can’t remember the last actual cd I bought. I either go the iTunes route or order from Amazon’s Mp3 store.

An Additional Note:

One of my favorite reads everyday is Mark Elrod’s Lame-O Weblog. He has a post on a Wal-Mart situation that I hadn’t heard about. It doesn’t make me like Wal-Mart any more or less than I already did or didn’t. But it’s a tad disturbing.

Chicken Wings

November 20, 2007

I know I’ve expressed my fascination with eating competitions here before. I love these things. People actually practice eating, exercise their abdominal muscles for the express purpose of being able to cram more food into their stomachs. And they get paid. They get to eat hot dogs. And pancakes and pies and all the other fun foods. They do so with apparently no consequences — these people aren’t fat. This has to be one of the purist sports going right now. It’s just everyday people who happen to be able to eat 4 pounds of chicken wings in 8 minutes.

Yup. 4 pounds. Chicken wings. 8 minutes.

So when you sit down to eat in a couple of days and you start to feel guilty about how much you’ve eaten and how many sit ups you’ll have to do to make up for it and will you be able to button your pants. Stop thinking those things. Take a breath. Sit back down and keep eating. You haven’t eaten nearly enough to win any prizes.

I’m Stealing This

November 8, 2007

from Harper’s. I doubt they care, but if they do, I’m sure they’ll let me know about it.

See, my nephew Joshy started school this year. As everyone who ever attended the school he’s attending (which is a couple other contributers here) knows….beginning of a school year means magazine sales. I HATE the whole idea of magazine sales. I think it’s a form of prostitution. Here are cute kids. Buy something from them so that we can MAKE MONEY. It makes no sense to me. But that’s neither here nor there.

I’m a good uncle and bought a couple of magazines. One of them was Harper’s, and I got my first issue in the mail today. And like any good reader, I turned straight to the Harper’s Index. Because, I mean, really.

So I’ll share a couple of education-related thingys, since it was sort of an educational related thing that brought Harper’s to my mailbox.

First, there’s this: “Estimated amount that teacher turnover costs U.S. school districts each year in recruiting and training: $7, 000,000,000.” I’m pretty sure that’s billion, although I have no concept of that sort of money. Seems a pay-raise might help some of that. But maybe not.

Then there’s this: “Chances that a new public-school teacher in Philadelphia will leave within six years: 7 in 10.” Roughly 70% by my calculations.

And then: “Chances that an entering high school student will not graduate within the same span: 4 in 10.” Holy cow, that’s a lot of kids not graduating. In SIX years. A lot of kids. What, exactly, does one do these days without a high school diploma if they want to eat? Or, like, pay for stuff?

Depressing. That’s why I’m here. Wanted to bring everyone down today.