Mar 312008

John Grisham and I don’t get along very well.

I read and enjoyed A Time to Kill, The Firm, and The Pelican Brief, solely on the strength of their respective stories. Then I read another one about the tobacco industry that I found crushingly mediocre, and that was it for Mr. Grisham and me until Mrs. Chili selected The Innocent Man as the current Dark and Stormy Book Club title.

Mind, my less-than-favorable opinion of Grisham was no reason to lobby for something else when Mrs. Chili made the selection, and I didn’t. For one thing, Dark and Stormy is about exploration, and I’m always intrigued by what may lie on the next cerebral block—even if it’s a street corner that looks familiar to me (or so I think). For another, this title is nonfiction, and I was interested to see whether and to what degree that changed my opinion.

I still have some pages go between now and Saturday, but I feel safe in saying I still don’t like John Grisham very much. He clearly has a gift for plot, whether invented or selected, but I find his delivery relentlessly joyless. The best story in the world is ultimately unsatisfying when told so flatly. I feel like I’m reading the product of one of the novel-writing machines in Winston Smith’s Oceania.

I don’t necessarily mean flair and flourish. Often there is beauty in economy. I just don’t ever detect the slightest implicit acknowledgment that he’s using a rich and amazing language. The inspired idea trapped in lackluster execution is like having Little Debbie for dessert at every meal, or like building a perfectly cubic house with eight identical cubic rooms.

But I’ll stop there. We do have a broadcast to do.

Speaking of, we’ve got a special show this Saturday. Mrs. Chili is coming to visit Saintseester and me! Yes, all three of your irrepressible hosts will be in one room for this broadcast, for which we will find time in and around much merrymaking. Please join us this Saturday, April 5, at 10 am CDT / 11 am EDT for what is sure to be a fine and memorable entry in the annals of the Dark and Stormy Book Club.

 Posted by at 9:43 pm
Mar 302008

Hillary’s become unusually easy to pick on lately, not that it was ever much harder than throwing a basketball in the ocean. This bit about her recalling sniper fire upon landing in Bosnia is sticking hard.

Chronic liars have it tough in McLuhan’s global village, don’t they?

I hit her once on it already, but this was too good not to share.

Peggy Noonan quoted a news blog poster identified as GI Joe, who had this to say about Mrs. Clinton’s claim that she ran off the plane in the midst of sniper fire:

“Actually Mrs. Clinton was too modest. I was there and saw it all. When Mrs. Clinton got off the plane the tarmac came under mortar and machine gun fire. I was blown off my tank and exposed to enemy fire. Mrs. Clinton without regard to her own safety dragged me to safety, jumped on the tank and opened fire, killing 50 of the enemy. Soon a suicide bomber appeared, but Mrs. Clinton stopped the guards from opening fire. She talked to the man in his own language and got him [to] surrender. She found that he had suffered terribly as a result of policies of George Bush. She defused the bomb vest herself. Then she turned to his wounds. She stopped my bleeding and saved my life. Chelsea donated the blood.”

Indeed. Bravo, Hillary. You’re a great American.

That said/shared, I’ll leave her alone for a while. Oh, not in her interest, as I haven’t a microgram of political compassion for her. Whatever she gets, she deserves.

It’s more to do with the act of beating a dead donkey being only so entertaining.

 Posted by at 6:14 pm
Mar 302008

Spotted this at cajunvegan’s house and liked it:

  • Ten seconds ago I moved a load from the washer to the dryer and put another one in the washer.
  • Ten minutes ago I finished watching Lockdown on Main Street, a short but well-done documentary critical of the USA PATRIOT Act.
  • Ten days ago was the first day of spring.
  • Ten weeks ago I was thinking about the fact that I used to consider January 15 to February 15 my least favorite part of the year, and that now it doesn’t bother me so much anymore.
  • Ten months ago I watched the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in my adult life, loved it, and became an Indy Racing League fan.
  • Ten years ago I was about to move from a technical software company to a consulting firm and begin the least pleasant 21 months of my career.
  • Ten years from now I want to be a widely published author with a lucrative public speaking sideline.
  • Ten months from now I will be evaluating whether 2009 is the year in which to purchase another vehicle.
  • Ten weeks from now I want to be off the nicotine patch. Again.
  • Ten days from now I will be enjoying the recent memories of Mrs. Chili‘s upcoming visit.
  • Ten minutes from now I will be eating baked spaghetti.
  • Ten seconds from now I will be reading just-arrived email.
 Posted by at 12:28 pm
Mar 292008

I pay a CPA to do our taxes every year. This is, unambiguously, a luxury purchase. Our financial lives are not that complicated, and I’m certain I’m in my accountant’s top 10 percent on profit margin.

It’s something I could do in a day, particularly when the year I’m doing closely resembles the previous year, as it usually does. The main reason I don’t is that I find it horribly unpleasant. Some substantial component of that unpleasantness is an irrationally grave fear of making a mistake.

I thought to write about this tonight because it’s surprised me how relaxed I’ve felt this weekend. Nothing about the weekend is remarkable, except that I took all of our paperwork to her office yesterday.

What kind of sense does that make? If I’m not doing the taxes, my entire to-do list is to 1) collect everything that comes in the mail that she needs and keep it in one place; 2) collect everything I’ve generated during the course of the previous year that she needs, which is easy because I put it in a dedicated folder for the purpose; and 3) get it all to her office.

That’s it.

Yet apparently, on some subtle level, I’ve made it an albatross.

I don’t feel at all guilty about that “tax preparation” line item in our family budget. It consistently survives my most valiant efforts to slay it as unnecessary hemorrhage.

However, I certainly need to ratchet it down on the stress-o-meter to the overhead item that it is.

On the way back to work from her office, I found myself wondering about the socioeconomic impact of a comprehensive tax overhaul. If we ever go to a flat rate and eliminate itemization (or something similarly simplifying), would enough people fire their accountants to create a significant ripple in the labor market? As distasteful as I find the whole thing (which is about as distasteful as it can be found), even I’d do it myself then. After all, I can do nearly anything for only 30 minutes.

Happy tax returns, everyone.

 Posted by at 8:42 pm
Mar 282008

I’ve been neglecting Cowl Shake, my automotive blog, badly. Apologies to Cowl Shake fans. I know both of you are disappointed.

Tonight I wrote a piece on the Smart fortwo. It’s the shoo-in for American automotive sensation of 2008, and it’s also a car of which I’m extremely skeptical. If you’re interested, I invite you to go check it out.

If I want to keep Cowl Shake—and I’m pretty sure I do—then I need to commit to a reasonable schedule. Perhaps I’ll shoot for semimonthly and see how it goes.

 Posted by at 9:09 pm
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