the brothers k by david james duncan
"...maybe i don't like perfect circles...in any case, i apologize for casting a shadow over this otherwise brilliant achievement. after all, i think [that the brothers k is] quite capable of casting its own shadows. david james duncan's characters are crazy extremes, yet he somehow makes them so believable and life-like that their suffering is contagious (beware). duncan also invents new twists to common language (metaphors) that open his world to us in a funny, unique way."
according to my myspace page, the brothers k is my favorite novel. i love it. if you like stories that address issues of faith, philosopy, baseball, the pacific northwest, family, love, politics, nature, war, mental health, or redemption, then you must read the brothers k. now. stop reading this blog; you are wasting time that could be spent reading the brothers k, the best book on the planet.
go forth and read.
andrew david. "river teeth" banff/jasper national park, alberta.
(incidentally, river teeth is a journal of creative nonfiction that is edited by david james duncan.)
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Sunday, January 28, 2007
as you may know, beth and i are accompanying my parents on a trip to belize this april. in some respects, it could be a trip to paradise: white sandy beaches, crazy jungle monkees, lost mayan ruins, free lodgings (thanks dad!). however, the airfare to this small central american utopia is rather steep...and troublesome.
[UNHAPPY PRODUCT/SERVICE REVIEW / CONSUMER REPORT]
we bought our tickets on cheaptickets.com. they had the cheapest price for our itinerary. however, i now suspect that the cheap in cheaptickets may actually refer to dictionary.com's fourth definition of cheap: "of little account; of small value; shoddy." during the past week, cheaptickets has lost one of our tickets and treated us like rubbish. i am still optimistic that they (i.e., shoddytickets.com) may redeem themselves, but until then, i warn you, stay away from cheaptickets.com!
here is the latest email that we sent to the evil online travel empire:
Hi. I'm writing because I've had a frustrating experience with Cheap Tickets and am very dissatisfied with the conversations I've had on the phone with your customer service department. I'm trying one last time in hopes that I can clearly explain what is going on so that someone can solve the problem I am having with your company.
Several weeks ago I booked 2 tickets during the SAME transaction using CheapTickets. Then, when I received my sealed UPS shipment, there was only 1 ticket in the CheapTickets envelope. I am hoping that you can straighten this out and send me the ticket that you neglected to include in my original mailing. I also want to ensure that I have the original ticket that I purchased; I am traveling with a friend and need to be on all the same flights and seats that I originally reserved.
I have already spoken with CheapTickets customer service over the phone, but I seem to get a different answer each time that I call. I am tired of the exasperating ridiculousness that I have experienced during the past week. Each time I call I spend 10+ minutes on hold and then receive conflicting answers. Also, no one at your company has taken responsibility or apologized, and no one even seems to understand that I did NOT lose the ticket and the ticket was NOT lost in the mail -- it was never sent! I'm sorry for being so explicit about this, but as I said, no one seems to understand; the UPS package was sealed and there was only 1 of the 2 tickets inside. I can only assume that someone at your agency dropped or forgot the ticket when
assembling my mailing.
I have been told that (a) I am to go to the airport ticketing office and fill-out an indemnity form; (b) I am to call Taca airline (one of the airlines that I'm flying on this two-leg trip) and ask them to cancel and reissue a new ticket; and (c) not worry about it, CheapTickets will pay for any and all reissue fees AND send me a new ticket. The duplicity of these responses is both frustrating and confusing. I am especially bothered by the suggestion that I may have to pay for your error; if (a) or (b) is true, it is unclear to me why I am responsible for fixing this problem or paying any new fees/costs when this was clearly a mistake on behalf of someone at your company.
I have dealt with many online ticketing agencies and have never had problems of this magnitude. This is very frustrating, especially considering that I was told that CheapTickets would take care of this. I hope that you can solve this problem. Although I doubt that I have any legal recourse in this matter, I will certainly be quite vocal about my problems with your company if this matter is not resolved favorably. Besides telling friends, family, and other online consumers, I am also prepared to have my company's travel department stop using your services.
Thank you for your attention,
andrew david. "crash down the customer service falls, support cheaptickets.com" alberta, canada.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
when i woke up this morning i started thinking about chaucer. you know, the 14th century poet who is responsible for the canterbury tales, troilus and criseyde, and the book of the duchess. i was wondering whether his old english friends considered geoffrey to be an ordinary fellow or a crazy loon. as a senior at SPU, i wrote this essay on chaucer, which claims that "it is not difficult to imagine chaucer stooped over his manuscript smirking mischeviously as he subltly pokes fun at narrators like the man of law." the essay speaks with such authority that i'm rather positive that chaucer was something of a goofy academic. and--this is odd--i read the essay just now and am feeling a strange saturday morning kinship with this mysterious genius. however, this has nothing to do with anything, and i'm not quite sure why it popped into my head or why i'm posting this.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
joel hartse has a book review in the latest issue of paste. i hardly ever read paste, but i (am under the impression that i) respect their eclectic, thoughtful arts perspective--that and the free cds that they include with each issue. anyway, i wandered from joel's blog to the paste website, but i couldn't find his book review. instead i found paste's top 40 films of 2006:1. Half Nelson
2. Little Miss Sunshine
3. Iraq In Fragments
5. The Departed
7. Three Times
8. The Queen
9. The Last King of Scotland
11. Old Joy
12. When the Levees Broke
13. Pan's Labyrinth
14. A Scanner Darkly
15. A Prairie Home Companion
16. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
17. The Science of Sleep
18. An Inconvenient Truth
19. Mutual Appreciation
20. Thank You For Smoking
23. The War Tapes
25. Stranger Than Fiction
28. The Proposition
29. United 93
30. For Your Consideration
33. Fast Food Nation
34. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
35. Marie Antoinette
36. Casino Royale
37. Tristram Shandy
38. Be With Me
39. Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
40. The Secret Life of Words
blue = movies that i've already seen
red = movies that i already planned to see before i discovered this list
what do you think of their list? i'd remove #15 and consider removing #22 and #25. i'd also consider adding the three burials of melquiades estrada, blood diamond, and apocalypto to the bottom of the list.
andrew david "the cliffs from which we did not jump" somewhere near banff, canada.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
i was at the supersonics basketball game last night, so i missed most of the state of the union address. however, i did catch some snippets from the address; during the final tense moments of the supes' loss (112-117), the massive screen that dangles prominently in the middle of key arena flashed quick clips from the president's speech, exhorting the crowd to have faith and cheer madly for the home team.
with the sonics leading 106-103, nuggets' guard steve blake drilled a three pointer from 26 feet. the crowd groaned, but an image of bush pushed us on: "on this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle," he encouraged us, "let us find our resolve and turn events toward victory." suddenly empowered, we jumped to our feet and cheered. unfortunately, a minute later, blake drifted beyond the three point arc and buried another sonic-dagger. we were down by 5 with 1:28 left. it didn't look good. but the president shook his fist and cried, "we are united in the goal of victory!" perhaps there was a chance. then, with less than 30 seconds remaining, ray allen hit a three of his own. the shot capped an amazing 44 point night, but it was too little, too late.
okay, okay. i admit it. there was no video feed streaming from the capitol to the key (but those are real quotes from his speech, check the link above), but i'm afraid that my recap sincerely captures my sense of the address. it was a great speech. as i skimmed his various points, i found myself nodding in agreement (incidentally, i had a similar response to the content on baraka obama's website; i suppose i'm just easily swayed by political rhetoric*). bush was ray allen in a blue tie. he was on fire, scorching the house of representatives chamber with his thoughtful words. still, despite the fine speech, bush's presidencies will ultimately be evaluated based on his response to 9/11 and his management of the iraq war. and, unfortunately for the world (and bush), it's probably too late for iraq. the majority of our nation (including many republican politicians) believes that an increase in troop strength will make no difference in the war. like the sonics-nuggets match, the outcome seems predetermined.
however, although the sonics fell to the triple threat of carmelo anthony, allen iverson, and steve (who the heck is he?) blake, plenty of other nba teams have rallied from 5 down with 2-to-go. and, likewise, there's always a chance that bush can beat the odds and crush the insurgency in baghdad. after all, the military brass appears to support the president's decision (i'm not entirely certain of this claim; the link is for factcheck.org, a nice nonpartisan political site. it's unrelated but i found the optimistic polling response of the iraqis to be rather surprising).
in any case, let's hope we aren't watching the sonics-nuggets duke it out on the global scale. i'm afraid to send more troops, and conversely, i'm afraid to abandon iraq to terrorists and genocide. and i certainly don't support a slow withdrawal--either get those troops out of there or send in the reinforcements and give our military a fighting chance. ah, crap-goose, i wish we could just fast-forward to a happy conclusion and be done with this. if only it were a game of hoops, then we could tivo it and skip to the end.
andrew david. "troops marching to war" alberta, canada.
ps. if elected to the office of president in 2008, i'll win the war on terror by forcing the world to listen to john rouse's "love vibration." how could someone be nasty and malicious after hearing these lyrics?
step out into the sun*yes, i know. there are not three a's in obama's first name. i'm conducting a google experiment....
step out into the world and love someone
save yourself from hate
and save yourself from hate and all the hassle
yeah, you people all know what i'm talking about (yeah, you people all know what he's talking about)
yeah, you people all know what i'm talking about (yeah, you people all know what he's talking about)
spread the love vibration, uh huh
spread the love vibration, uh huh
now everybody's scared
scared of being lonely and abandoned
if you found someone who cares
you found someone to love and understand ya'
then you people all know what i'm talking about (yeah, you people all know what he's talking about)
yeah, you people all know what i'm talking about (yeah, you people all know what he's talking about)
spread the love vibration, uh huh
spread the love vibration, uh huh
[ooohs and ahhs followed by chorus #2]
Sunday, January 21, 2007
on december 20th, becky sent me the following email message:
I was blog-tagged and now, apparently, so are you. Supposedly, the "blog tag" assignment was to write five things on your blog that people might not have known about you. Tag. You're it.i usually ignore chain-mail assignments, but i decided that in a blog-context like the 17 point scale there is no harm in babbling about myself. still, nothing struck me as both interesting and unknown, that is, until i found this odd passage from pages 204-206 of don delillo's white noise:
lasher [a professor] wadded up a paper napkin and tossed it at someone two tables away. then he stared at the 17 point scale [in white noise lasher is staring at another professor, but to accomodate the blog-tag, i have substituted myself in his place; i also used font colors to differentiate myself from lasher--there are no colored fonts in white noise].
"who was the greatest influence on your life?" he said in a hostile tone.
"i'm sure you realize that it's difficult to objectively answer a question like that. it reminds me of the postal service song where ben gibbard desperately tries to reconcile with his lover, and she responds with 'charts and graphs....[and] a lecture on why i have to leave.' it's an uncomfortable embrace of heart and mind. still, i'd wager that my parents have had the greatest impact on my life. that's a safe bet. my dad gave me an easy-going nature and an arsenal of animated facial expressions, and my mom introduced me to faith and morality."
"did you ever spit in your soda bottle so you wouldn't have to share your drink with other kids?"
"i don't recall ever spitting in soda bottles. after all, pop usually came in a can or in one of those waxy coke cups. in any case, my pop was protected by my peculiarity: when drinking soft drinks, i always used two straws. people don't like to admit it, but they find this behavior troubling. thus, my pop was safe."
"how old were you when you first realized your father was a jerk?"
"errrr...that's a presumptious question," i said. "i really can't recall him ever acting like a jerk. this christmas i had a chat with my uncle robin where i tried to dig up dirt on my dad--not real dirt, mind you, just unfiltered memories from my uncle's past. you know, questions like, 'did you guys ever get in fights? ' that kind of thing. all i learned was that robin sometimes 'borrowed' my dad's cars for joy rides, but that this never seemed to upset my dad--hey, aren't these questions supposed to help people learn about me?"
"i'm sorry, lasher, i don't know that your question is appropriate for this blog, and i'm also afraid that it might generate an unseemly set of keywords. but, speaking of dental hygienists, i suppose most people aren't aware of my orthodontic past. yes, i was lucky enough to have braces as a kid, and later, i had a neon green retainer, which i sometimes used to save gum. but generally speaking, i save gum in on my soccer and quizzing trophies."
"when you bite dead skin off your thumb, do you eat it or spit it out?"
"i chew it and spit it out. however, i have swallowed it before. is that unhealthy?"
"do you ever close your eyes," lasher said, "while you're driving on a highway?"
"no, never. i sometimes imagine myself careening across into the dividing barrier on highway 520, and i've often thought about drifting into oncoming traffic on highway 99. i smile to myself and think 'that'll surprise them.' but it's just the flighty wanderings of a bored commuter.'
"how much pleasure did you take as a kid," lasher said, "in imagining yourself dead?"
"my good sir, i refer you back to postal service's 'nothing better.' i think i refrained from morbid fantasies except when i was in trouble. and then, like any kid, i watched the hearse roll by and thought, 'yep, they'll regret that when i'm dead.' well, that's it, dude. i think we've already exhausted the average attention span of most internet users. also, if anyone is still reading this and would like to know more about me, feel free to comment."
it's 4:36am, sunday morning. i'm blogging at this crazy hour because my dreams are bothering me. a moment ago i was kissing beth. this is usually one of my favorite pastimes, and i suppose that it also makes for a pretty good dream. however, as i was kissing beth, a wooden chandolier appeared behind her face. then, i had this sudden third-person omniscient premonition that the chandolier was creepy, bad news. dream prescience is never wrong. the chandolier started to spin. ordinarily this would be okay; after all, i tend to kiss with my eyes closed. however, in the dreamworld i couldn't close my eyes. and beth's face joined the chandolier, traveling in strange circles, like a crazy shipwrecked kaleidoscope. i felt myself getting dizzy and light-headed, yet her face continued to spin. then i realized that i was sleeping and snapped out of the dream. okay, i feel better now. hopefully i won't be updating this post at 5:21am to complain of more spinning faces....
[2:36pm update. the good news is that once i got back to sleep the whirling faces went away. the bad news is that it took me several minutes to recover from the incident. i found myself puzzling at the significance of sight. i was wondering about real life parallels. when my eyes were closed, i could see a merry-go-around of faces, but when my eyes were open, the world went black. there must be something to this, i thought. i don't know what to make of the kiss or dervish chandolier, but perhaps we sometimes see better when we're not looking for things. or perhaps life is clearer when our heads are bowed in quiet contemplation or meditation. yes, these were the thoughts that kept me up for another half an hour. at the time i thought that these deep nuggets might make an interesting expositive essay, but in waking i'm rather doubtful....]
Thursday, January 18, 2007
my camera is broken. apparently, the d70 is a fragile creature. during a recent trip to portland, it was stuffed in its protective case and stored in a clothes hamper with my laptop and some clean laundry. as i was loading my parents car, i perched the hamper on the hood of my ford ranger so that i could open their trunk, and the hamper crashed to the ground. my laptop frame was bruised but the operating system appears functional. the camera, however, is dead.
the folks at photo-tronics were kind enough to give me a free estimate: $79 for new parts, $325 for labor. blast! now i must decide how to proceed:
1. spend $400 to repair my d70 (two years ago i paid $1200 for this camera and its kit lens; critics now refer to it as ancient)
2. spend $600 on the new d40 (released in november, this camera is 6 oz lighter than the d70)
3. spend $1000 to buy a d80 (released last summer, this camera is already being described as old, but it has 4 more mp than the d40 and d70)
4. spend $2200 on the d200 (way too much money for all the camera i would ever need...until it breaks too)
5. buy a used d70 body and use my old kit lens (this probably costs about the same as a repair)
i'm leaning toward options 1 and 2. hmmm...if i just sell 10-15 times as many pictures on istock, i won't have to fork out a penny of real money.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
errrrr...yesterday's post didn't quite return to my roommate's skepticism of blood diamond. obviously, the film is a hollywood creation. as nora the newly employed (congratulations, nora!) observed, despite the film's frank depiction of harsh violence, there are certain fairy tale components to the plot. however, i stand by philosophical veracity of blood diamond--there must be some concise term for lowercase truth in cinema, but what is it?--that is, the setting, ideas, and characters struck me as real.
more particularly, i was convinced that leonardo dicaprio was really from zimbabwe. his speech (and looks) reminded me of a zimbabwean teacher that i met last year. in fact, as i watched, i thought, "wow, i thought rob was a teacher. he never told us about his time in the south african defense force...."
Monday, January 15, 2007
rating: 11 of 17
my roommate didn't bother to see this movie. he said that one diamond can never be that valuable. he then told me about diamond cutting and a fiery natural gas leak somewhere in the deserts of africa. after speaking with my roommate, i headed to the cinema and found that in addition to being fictitious, the diamond that propels the plot in blood diamond is pink but not sparkley. it looked like something you might find in my mom's rock collection. nonetheless, this stupid stone (and lesser pebble-like diamonds) sent characters careening across the screen with shovels, machetes, and machine guns. blood diamond reinforces this growing sense that despite my tendency to read big books or react to the world in a spirit of open-mindedness, i'm still an ignorant helpless american. i'm not a cnn-junkie or an activist--i had no idea that diamonds fueled death raids in sierra leone during the '90s. i hardly know how to spell sierra leone.
in the midst of it's ceaseless cruelty, blood diamond attempts to communicate hope and empowerment, but i walked away from the film in a psychiatric state of paralysis. films like blood diamond, hotel rwanda, and schindler's list make me feel helpless. i'm over here and they (substitute the victims of nearly any bloody current event) are over there. and there are too many over theres. perhaps i can deal with here--if that fictitious pink rock were my mother's and portland, a blood bath, yes, then i'd cry, take a side, demand justice--but how is a clueless english major to save the world?
really, it'd be much better if the world were on fire because of a natural gas leak. then i might have a chance. my roommate tells me that copper tools and explosives work best.
you can see other reviews on the left column of the blog. the 17 point scale reviews are marked by an exclamation mark (!). here's a link to a real review (christianity today):
11.blood diamond - brutal, bloody
and an addendum to this post:
andrew david. "smiling cause we're happy" somewhere in canada.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
during my recent absence from the 17 point scale, i finished two new books: night and east of eden. together, they're an odd pair. in the first book, elie wiesel, a nazi death camp survivor, writes a diary-like timeline of the horrors of auschwitz. and the second novel is something of an epic; john steinbeck follows two families and a small californian town from the reconstruction era to sometime during world war II.
the only similarity between the two books may be self-evident from their titles; night and east of eden each struggle with darkness and, more particularly, the manner in which humanity, now fallen, must wrestle with the dark, curious urges of our nature. in east of eden, steinbeck seems to anchor this battle in the context of community (and wiesel too, i suppose, but i'll save that for a longer essay). characters chafe at one another, letting loose the soul-seeds of discontent and pushing each other to the brink of bad decisions, yet community also represents the salve that can bring characters back into happy-smiley homeostasis. community is the fertilizer for good and ill.
as i read east of eden, i was struck by how little the characters took advantage of community. the characters weren't alone; they were surrounded by empathy and wisdom, and when advice is given in east of eden, it is quite good advice, the kind you can hunker down into and build a home, or make a decision at least. but invariably, the characters constructed their sense of self and the world in a one-man ivory tower. they rarely sought advice and watched their lives crumble, wondering "why, why....?"
perhaps the east-edeners were born into the wrong age; perhaps in this postmodern century we finally realize that each of us only holds a piece of the truth, but i doubt it. as the apostle paul says, we see through a glass darkly, and until the trumpets* sound and the gates of heaven come crashing open, we can expect more darkness. so until that glorious day, i suspect we'd be better off seeking the counsel of community.*
andrew david. "the lake somewhere in canada where bear sounds bothered us as we slept" somewhere in canada.
*errrr...sorry, i was listening to the war charge in bright eyes's "land locked blues" and was suddenly overcome by the brassy sounds of the end of the world. actually, now i've listend to that song six times in a row.
*here's where things get crazy and a bit off-topic. i've had several friends say that when women vent, they want an empathetic ear whereas men want to problem-solve and exchange advice. apparently this creates inter-gender communication problems. i'm not sure that i buy these theories, but assuming that this is a legitimate gender difference, i'd say that us guys have it right. you might ream me for leaving the toilet seat up, but i think steinbeck would agree, an open dialogue of advice is the way to go.*
*i don't really believe this, by the way. it's just food for thought. the point of this post, after all, was to encourage us to be more open with our thoughts, feelings, and concerns, not our advice...or was it....?
book ratings update
15.east of eden.john steinbeck
Monday, January 08, 2007
i am told that as christianity struggles to remain relevant in a fast-paced, anything-goes culture, a new kind of church is rising from the empty pews of the mainline protestant denominations. it's a church that seeks to provoke thought and kiss off complacency. it's a postmodern or emergent church. the pastor may drink beer or vote democrat. the worshippers may sing hymns or play crashing guitars and accordions. and the church treasury may sign checks to support human rights groups, evangelists, or artists.
i happen to attend a church like this, and every winter we do our part to encourage the arts. members of the bethany community volunteer to teach classes to fellow church-goers or folks in the north seattle community. the classes--thai fusion cooking, card making, ts eliot poetry, digital photography, salsa dancing, cheese making, classical guitar, lectio divina, etc, etc, etc--are advertised throughout the community and occur in homes, coffeshops, and the church basement.
last year, beth the s.o. and mari (she doesn't yet have a 17 point scale deidentifying nickname) both taught several classes for the bethany arts college. this december they nobly approached me to see if i might also teach a class. i say nobly not because it's a strange funny-looking word but because my 2 year attendance at bethany community church has been nearly devoid of service. that is, i show up on sunday but give almost nothing of my time. i am a christian parasite (yikes!), and beth and mari's recruitment efforts may perhaps represent an unconscious attempt to reform me and precipitate some kind of evolutionary event in my soul.
"you could teach a class in blogging," they said.
besides my initial gut reaction--"that's nerdy"--and an overwhelming sense that a class on blogging would be very unfun, there would be something akin to hypocrisy if i were suddenly deemed master blogger. you see, here's what i would teach as the three most important keys to successful:
- stay on topic. if you meander between discussions of books, sports, and religion, the bookworms, athletes, and clerics will usually look somewhere else for their blogging pleasure.
- visit other blogs. post lots of comments on blogs that share a similar topic to your blog (notice that's a similar topic not similar topics). posting comments gives other surfers a link to follow back to your blog. and back-links are the secret to good position on google.
- post briefly and post often. people will only return to your blog if they're confident that they can find new material.
moreover, i am again considering a blogging hiatus. sean tells me this is a bad idea, but i'm worried that i spend to much time staring at my computer screen each evening. email, googling, blogging, uploading pictures to istock, checking sports scores....it's too much! and i haven't had much to say recently.
here are the last of my saskatchewan wedding photos.
unknown. "i'm too lazy to title these tonight, but that's nathan, andrew, beth, danny, and alison." shekinah, saskatchewan.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
errrrrrr....what's become of the 17 point scale? well, i've been spending my week brewing tea, watching lost, and guzzling nyquil. it's been a blast, but i didn't have much energy left for blogging. besides what would i say? apparently the rattling in my throat is so raucous that the garbage collectors were afraid to visit our block. even beth's house, some fifteen blocks away, missed a pick-up. this is prime time news. in our new age of herocentric dramadeys (lost, heroes, etc), every network is looking for someone just like me. a man that can topple buildings with his herculine sneeze yet--and i don't think that waste management got this memo--has the selfless decency to shield his mouth with a tissue or a sleeve. yep, i'm their guy.
no, that doesn't really fly. but i did have a disturbing dream. last night as i tossed back and forth, i dreamt that i was sleeping with two crumpled lengths of toilet paper jammed in my right nostril. don't coil back in horror yet--that's actually rather realistic; i find that a dripping faucet is less troublesome when plugged. in any case, the makeshift kleenex was getting grimy and needed replaced, so i unconsciously pulled the mutant paper from my nose and prepared to snatch a clean square from the roll. and then, the nightmare. the old paper plug tore in two. one half was safely plastered to my thumb and the other was somewhere in that nostril. panic set in. what if i was unable to retrieve the lost toilet paper? it might slide surreptiously up my nasal cavity and then coagulate, thereby forming an indestructible barrier (of paper) between my lungs and nose. soon it would cut off the circulation of blood to my head. i would most certainly die. fearing the worst, i dug around in the nostril, trying to differentiate between my nose and that dastardly toilet paper. and then, as my finger was going wild, i awoke.
well, errrrr....look at what you have to look forward to this year!