I Remember the Train

Excitement in the Roth-Gates household: Kris testified this morning at the inquest for the Serey-Perez shooting, which has been the big news story around Portland this past month. She was nervous, but thought things went well.


Kris’ sister, Tiffany, is in town for a few days. After I picked her up from the airport yesterday afternoon, we had some time to kill before picking Kris up from the Crime Lab, so Tiff let me stop at Future Dreams to look at comics. I found some old issues of Action Girl, and picked up the latest black-and-white compilations of Daredevil and Tomb of Dracula.

We killed the rest of the time by winding our way across Portland. At one point, we drove past Union Station, Portland’s train depot. “I’ve never been on a train,” Tiffany said. I told her that I made at least one trip when I was a boy. I’ve considered making others now that I’m adult, but I never remember that it’s an option. There’s something romantic about a train, you know?

Here are my train memories (and they’re few):

  • I’m young — maybe five or six or seven. My family is at Union Station in Portland to pick up a relative. Grandpa? Mom’s brother? There are people all about, but the place is not full. I don’t know it at the time, but the place feels old-fashioned. Looking back, I remember high ceilings and shiny floors and architecture of the twenties or thirties or forties. I ought to be fascinated with the trains, like Jeff is, but I’m fascinated by the comic books instead. There’s a rack of them at a newsstand, and I look through the ones I can reach.
  • I’m still young — am I in school yet? I’m down at Grandpa’s house. He’s babysitting me. We’re by ourselves. We drive to Canby and we stop at the train station where we wait for somebody to arrive. The Canby train station is nothing more than a platform, really, a wooden structure with a couple of benches and a ticket booth. I’m very excited to see the train.
  • I’m in first grade. All of us in Mrs. Onion’s class are participating in a patriotic Bicentennial pageant. We boys wear powdered wigs and march in circles singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”. We learn about George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. One day Dad takes us to see the Freedom Train. We park near the Oregon City Marina (why? — Mom, do you remember?) and wait to watch the train race by. Dad helps me place a penny on the track. After the train passes, I have a flattened piece of copper (or zinc, as the case may be) that I treasure for years.
  • I’m in second grade. Mrs. Vogeltanz is taking the class on a field trip to the State Capitol building in Salem. We don’t take the bus. We four blocks from Eccles school to the train platform. We get on the train and we ride to Salem. It’s very exciting, especially for the boys. We look out the windows, watch the fields go by. We disembark just a couple of blocks from the capitol. I don’t remember anything else about the field trip other than we got to ride the train home, too. A field trip on a train, not on a bus.

That’s it. I have four memories of the train. Yet, like the children I know now (especially Antonio), I romanticize the train. I always think to myself that someday I will ride it again. Kris and I have discussed taking the train to see a Mariners game, but we’ve always rejected the idea as too expensive. I’ve considered a train trip to Minneapolis to see Dana, but I’ve never explored the cost or time. What if we took a train trip to see Kris’ family?

I want to love the train, to have more memories of it, but I probably never will.

Comments


On 30 April 2004 (12:41 PM),
Lynn said:

There’s a new Amtrak station in Oregon City now. We (my mom, my niece and I) are thinking about going to Seattle for a girls’ weekend. I’ve heard the prices aren’t too bad, but haven’t checked into them yet. I considered a train ride to Ashland to the Shakespeare festival, but the schedules didn’t work out. That is a trip I would still like to take.



On 30 April 2004 (12:59 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

Now I’ll have to be sure to watch the news tonight and read the newspaper coverage of the Perez trial tomorrow. Good going, Kris!

I’m not sure why you would have parked near the Oregon City marina to watch the Freedom Train go by, J.D., other than that it’s a place where the highway is really close to the train tracks and they’re safely and easily accessible.

Jeff is more likely to remember a train trip as I took him with me to Utah on one occasion via the train. He may have only been about 7 at the time, though. I’m thinking I may have taken Tony one other time and he would have been even younger then. I think you got left out, J.D. My apologies. 🙂 I don’t remember much more about family members going on trains other than a trip I made alone after my grandfather died, but then my aging grey matter sometimes doesn’t produce the appropriate memories.



On 30 April 2004 (01:02 PM),
pril said:

my dad always took me to TravelTown at Griffith Park (in LA) when i was small. What a blast that was. He loved trains and still does! One thing i remember was a trip to San Diego, we took the Amtrak. Dad got hold of the engineer and asked if he could see the inside of the cab. The guy said sure and let both of us come in and sit in his seat in the cab for a few minutes. I was thrilled.. my dad … i’m sure he probably nearly soiled himself with glee over that.

Down here in CB the local rail fan club is rebuiling Engine 104- a Baldwin 2-8-2 built in 192sth to run timber from Powers to Coos Bay. It sure is neat! I heard they are going to get it running instead of just doing the cosmetics, and i really do hope they get it running.

I love to stand down by the docks at the railyard and watch the trains. And now it’s even better, since the Lady Washington is docked there, too, for a couple of days (fully working replica of an 18th century barque like the ones that explored the coast here).



On 30 April 2004 (02:06 PM),
Dana said:

When I was at Willamette, I took the train back and forth from Boise a few times (because of the weirdness of the train schedules, I had to take a bus from Salem to Portland in order to avoid a 23 hour layover…). I eventually stopped when a train back after a Christmas break was 10 hours late because of snow in the Blues. From then until I got my own car I took the bus, which was far far far less comfortable, but never got stuck because of weather. Blech.

When I was sent to England for work (which was pretty fun, really) we took a train from Gatwick to London, swapped to the tube, then swapped back to another train which went from London to Leeds. Quite fun and comfortable, even if not always exactly on time…

More recently, at Christmas 2002, when I was last in the Pacific Northwest, I took the train from Seattle down to Portland. It was a fantastic trip for lots of reasons — they showed a movie, every seat had power outlets, and all kinds of keen things. I’ve heard they are putting (or perhaps already have put) wi-fi in the cars, too, and I know they have an option to bring a bicycle along.

This would be the same train JD and Kris would take to see a Mariner’s game, by the way…

To get here looks like a two-day trip by train. Leave late on a Friday, get in early on a Sunday, frex — you’d need a sleeping compartment or you’d have to sleep in your seat (which, granted, are fairly comfortable).



On 30 April 2004 (03:06 PM),
Jeff. said:

Mom said: Jeff is more likely to remember a train trip as I took him with me to Utah on one occasion via the train. He may have only been about 7 at the time, though.

Actually, I was 10 (I think I was in Utah for my 11th birthday). I know it had to be just after Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, because I remember thinking that Uncle Frank (with his stubly beard) looked just like Indiana Jones.

I main things I remember about the train ride was the long stretches of sparse vegetation through Central Oregon and Idaho.

I have a few other memories of trains:

-I remember going into the Canby Depot with Grandpa. I think it is the same memory JD has, but I distinctly remember the old, white, drinking fountains inside the depot; so I’m pretty sure I went inside.

-I remember being able to hear the train whistle blowing even though we were 5 miles away from the tracks.

-I remember being at the Oregon City Marina (South of Canemah) and us boys getting to close to the tracks as a train was passing by. Boy was dad ever mad at us (now I understand why).



On 30 April 2004 (04:41 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

You were 10? I told you my rememberer wasn’t much good. :-/ Do you remember the fights between your Grandma McClellan and Aunt Jo that took place during that trip? That’s mostly what I remember about it, although we also took you to Saltair, a big amusement park near Salt Lake, as well as to the Salt Lake zoo. I remember you having a nice time (and I would have, too, if it hadn’t been for the fights) but you were a dream to take with me — good as gold.



On 30 April 2004 (04:55 PM),
Andrew Parker said:

I remember the Mrs. Vogeltanz field trip — barely — and recall that we had to write haikus about the trip. Very Canby, very 70s.

The tracks ran along the property line behind our rear pasture. My sister and a few other kids smashed countless pennies and at least one precious quarter back there, and of course we heard the soft rumble (and occasionally a whistle) late every night and early every morning…

Down here one of the old freight lines into San Jose has been revitalized into a high-tech commuter route, acerail.com. Geeks love it!



On 01 May 2004 (09:26 AM),
mac said:

This past Christmas, Pam and I took the train from Flagstaff, AZ to Los Angeles, CA to see our families. It was an overnight train, but we didn’t want to spring for the sleeper car because the seats were supposed to be “fairly comfortable.” It was the worst trip I’ve ever taken in my life. When we got on the train, they told us it was overbooked and that we’d have to wait in the lounge car until people got off at the next couple of stops. So Pam and I slept on the floor of the lounge car, amidst the old french fries and fast food wrappers, for about an hour and a half. When we got our 2 seats, Pam found hers totally uncomfortable and spent the remaining 8 hours on the floor between two rows of seats. I would take a train to Seattle, but never a longer trip unless I had a sleeper car.



On 01 May 2004 (02:49 PM),
Paul said:

Listened to Kris’ testimony last night on Oregonlive.com. Kris, you sounded very professional. I kind of chuckled though at the word “baggie”. It’s such a loaded word. The word baggie connotes illicit contents (of course there’s crack or pot in a “baggie”).

Super Powers

Who’s your favorite superhero?

The other night, Harrison and I had a conversation about our favorite superheroes. He’s only five, and hasn’t been exposed to many, so he’s mainly familiar with the Big Names: Superman, Batman, Spiderman, The Hulk. None of these are his favorite, though. He has an astronomy book featuring drawings of the Justice League of America, and he likes some of the more obscure members of that group: Plastic Man, J’onn J’onnz. He doesn’t even know these heroes’ stories, he just likes the way they look.

Who’s my favorite superhero? That’s a hard question to answer. It was never Batman or Superman — I always thought Superman was pretty lame: “Oh, look: it’s God in a colored tights. Whee!” I liked Spiderman for a time when I was younger, but that infatuation was short-lived.

I can’t remember having a favorite hero. I always had favorite superhero teams. Though I preferred Marvel comics to DC, it was the DC superhero teams that I liked: Justice League of America, The Legion of Super Heroes, etc. These teams always seemed BIGGER and more important than Marvel’s Avengers or The Fantastic Four.

The one exception, of course, were the X-Men. What kid doesn’t love the X-Men? The answer in the late-seventies was “many kids”. The X-Men were a marginal group with a small but devoted following in the comic world. I came on just as they exploded into popularity, with the Dark Phoenix saga. (Issue #135 was my first X-Men comic.) For six years, the X-Men were my favorite superhero group, and my favorite comic book.

But I didn’t care for Wolverine, everyone’s favorite. I didn’t buy his mini-series. I didn’t like the subplots with his rage and his quest to find himself. I liked Cyclops, the stoic leader of the team. I liked the energy rays that shot from his eyes. I also liked Arial — Kitty Pryde — who had the ability to “phase” through matter, like a ghost. Her powers were lame, but she was my age, and cute. It’s true: I had a crush on a comic book character.

If I were forced to choose a favorite superhero, it would probably be Daredevil, the “man without fear”. He was one of my favorites when I was a boy, and one of my favorites when Frank Miller was in control. I haven’t read any Daredevil since Miller left in the mid-eighties, in fact. But based on what I did read at the time, I liked Daredevil: a blind attorney who works for the poor, whose superhero powers (radar sense, acrobatics, intelligence) are a little unique yet also very plausible. Daredevil’s a good guy. I like him.


Dana recently pointed me toward the This American Life episode about superheroes. In one segment, people are asked, which superpower would you rather have: flight or invisibility? Why?

I’d rather have flight. I’d love to be able to soar around, to see the world from above, to get away from it all. I’d also like — provided I could fly at a suitable speed — to be able to bypass traffic, to commute by air. I’d like to be able to fly for purely self-indulgent purposes. I would not use my power to fight crime.

Which power would you prefer? (And, once you’ve answered that, if you could choose a single superpower, what would it be? Or, if you have a superpower already, what is it? (For example: my superpower is the Power to Organize Objects. I can sort books or CDs or clothes or cans of soup like nobody’s business. You can’t touch me when it comes to organizing objects.))

Comments


On 29 April 2004 (09:09 AM),
Joel said:

My favorite is definitely Spiderman. He’s strong, but not that strong. His main ability is his super-agility, just dodges his opponents until something clever occurs to him. He’s also one of the few superheroes who consistently has a sense of humor. That was my big problem with Daredevil. When I was reading comics regularly, the 80s, DD never cracked wise, just ran around being tortured and noble.

Gotta go with invisibility. I don’t think this is because I’m a sneaky person, or that I want to watch women shower… hmmm… NO, it’s just that invisibility is so much more useful than flight. Especially for fighting crime: “Oh, look, there’s a guy flying up to catch me and take me to the police. Allow me to blow him away.” With invisibility, there’s no “Oh look…” moment at all, it’s just WHAM!- crook knocked unconscious with a frying pan they never saw coming.



On 29 April 2004 (09:18 AM),
Jeff said:

No question about it. The best superhero of all times was Ralph Hinkley, aka The Greatest American Hero.

A small side note about JD’s real world super powers. Like Superman, JD doesn’t use his super powers at work, lest we should discover his true identity.



On 29 April 2004 (09:33 AM),
Kris said:

Perhaps Jd could apply his superpower to his closet? Shazam~

Are super heroes a guy thing? If forced to choose, I’d have to pick Nancy Drew. She can disarm crooks with her wits and bravery, charm thugs into confessing their crimes, and stake-out secret bandit gatherings. Even better, Nancy also is skilled at ballet, voice, sailing, tennis, and is always up for a little charity work or doing a favor for someone in need. She drives a cool car, has an adoring, yet seemingly platonic, boyfriend and always knows the right thing to say in any situation. Go, Nancy!



On 29 April 2004 (10:20 AM),
Masked Avenger said:

I think we can all agree that for most men Wonder Women was there favorite super hero, at least for a little while when they where kids. I can remember JD running around the house in his costume with his golden lasso. He was just so cute.

My favorite super hero is the MASKED AVENGER for he has the power to make snotty little comments about JD and then vanish off the face of the internet.

Wait a minute, I guess everybody has that power.
Maybe I am the only one who likes to use it?



On 29 April 2004 (10:23 AM),
Denise said:

Joel – you would have to make sure your frying pan was also invisible, although a floating frying pan would be pretty mesmerizing…so it still might work.

Ah, nothing tells the truth like a brother and a wife, eh? That is too funny.

Ok – I’m going to get blasted for this, as I did in my own blog many moons ago, but my favorite super hero is Aquaman. I know, he is a lamo, and has no ‘real’ power…but he can breathe underwater and talk with aquatic creatures. I for one, with my huge fear of drowning, would love to be able to breath under water, much less be able to make whales, sharks, jellyfish, dolphins, etc. do what I wanted them to do. Plus his hair NEVER gets messed up, ever, even in the water. That is definitely a super power. What can I say – I always go for the underdog.

My super power? Super Clutter Gal – I can make a clean room cluttery faster than Wonder Woman can lasso the bad guy.



On 29 April 2004 (10:26 AM),
mac said:

what about the Wonder Twins?



On 29 April 2004 (10:35 AM),
Tiffany said:

I agree the power of invisibility is more useful at fighting crime then flight. However, I would still pick flight. Especially if I could fly really fast, I couple come home every night from my meetings, no more hotels!!
Jd, I will take on you ability to organize any day.
See you in a few hours.



On 29 April 2004 (10:38 AM),
J.D. said:

The Masked Avenger is pretty cool. He forgot to tell his origin story, though:

Once a mild-mannered box salesman, he mocked his older brother for publishing his thoughts for the world to see. “Dumb!” he cried. And then one day he fell under the sway of the evil Weblog, was sucked into Foldedspace. Now he lurks in the shadows, clad as the Masked Avenger, occasionally springing forth with a pithy comment or a clever lie!

The Masked Avenger eats a lot of Ding Dongs, likes to wear perfume, and is addicted to the Oregon Lottery scratch games. He can frequently be found skulking around beauty pageants. He likes to listen to Britney Spears.

The Masked Avenger’s greatest power is the ability to Tell Funny Stories. In this, he is only matched by one Mr. Miron (who is also a “cunning fellow”, as Tammy pointed out yesterday).



On 29 April 2004 (10:39 AM),
Lynn said:

Wonder twin powers — ACTIVATE! In form of — a great white shark! Heads up Aquaman.



On 29 April 2004 (10:45 AM),
Denise said:

Lynn, if you turn yourself into a great white shark, you would only be enabling Aquaman to control you.



On 29 April 2004 (11:27 AM),
Dana said:

Which power would you prefer?

Flight, for many of the reasons you’ve stated — commuting is the biggy, plus just the ability to be so unencumbered when moving about, free from the tyranny of urban planning and architecture…

I probably wouldn’t fight crime, as the power of flight alone doesn’t really make crimefighting any easier. I would probably talk to the fire department, though, and offer my services at ‘airlifting’ people who might be otherwise inaccessably trapped on upper floors.

…if you could choose a single superpower, what would it be?

This seems to have devolved into “which superhero do you like the best” instead of “what power do you like the best”, but I’ll play both =)

Power: If I could have a single power, it would be one of telekinesis, telepathy, or the ability to change shape (both Plastic Man and The Martian Manhunter can do this, interestingly enough). Changing Shape is probably an obvious one, if you think about it and my situation. Telepathy not so much because I want to spy on people’s thoughts, but because I think it would make it easier to make people understand one another.

Telekinesis is just pure utility, really. It’s just really handy — I complain about needing more arms all the time, and with TK that problem is basically solved =)

Hero: As for superheroes, well… It depends on the criteria. Who do I think is the neatest? Or who do I think is the most heroic? Or perhaps even who do I think is the most entertaining?

Zot! (a.k.a. Zachary T. Paleozogt) is definitely high on my list. The 2000 online “Hearts & Minds” wasn’t as good as the old ’80s series, but a lot of the charm is still apparent. Zot! left a big imprint on my psyche when I read it. If JD had a crush on Kitty Pryde (who is now called Shadowcat, by the way, having dropped Ariel some time ago), I had a crush on Zot. And Woody. Kind of like Jenny did, come to think of it.

I always found Ambush Bug to be pretty amusing, if less surreal than The Flaming Carrot. Unfortunately, a lot of it’s humor is entirely dependent on knowledge of obscure bits of comic book industry trivia, so that kind of limits it right there.

Ambush Bug started out, technically, as a supervillain, whose primary ‘job’ was annoying Superman. Most of his early appearances can best be thought of as a Bugs Bunny cartoon, with Superman in the role of Elmer Fudd and ‘Bug in the role of Bugs.

As a kid I quite liked both of the Sid & Marty Croft live action hero shows, the made-up-for-TV Isis and the Fawcett Captain Marvel based Shazam!. Sadly, the TV show never included any of the more esoteric members of the Marvel family, such as Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, nor did it really include any of the rogue’s gallery, such as Mr. Mind and the Monster Society of Evil. Amusing Trivia: Captain Marvel’s face was purposely modeled after a popular actor of the time — Fred Macmurry. Most people don’t realize that in the late fifties and early sixties, Captain Marvel was actually the most popular comic book character in print.

The Linda Carter Wonder Woman TV show (plus Wonder Woman’s membership in the Superfriends) indicated she was a major heroine, but she was kind of, well, dopey. The Invisible Jet was pretty cool, but her various abilities just didn’t hang together. I mean, Batman had ‘bat-stuff’. Aquaman had water-related powers. Wonder Woman was descended from greek amazons, was super strong, could deflect bullets with her magic bracers, had an invisible jet that responded to her telepathic commands (I suppose it was magic, although I don’t recall the Amazons being famous for having invisible transportation), and a magic rope. Riiiight. I mean, even for a superhero that doesn’t really hang together very well.

I appreciate her more now that I know a bit more of her publishing history, and because more modern authors have worked to give her a bit more depth. But still, I have trouble feeling that she’s very relevant nowadays.

I did, however, rather like the Yvonne Craig Batgirl from the Adam West-era Batman TV show. Go figure.

I quite liked the Watchmen cast, particularly Night Owl II, Rorshach, Dr. Manhattan, and Ozymandius, although after you’ve read the series it’s kind of hard to really think of any of them as all that heroic. And aside from this one work, they don’t really have a continuing presence in the Superheroic Landscape. The inspiration for Rorshach, however, The Question, did have a brief late ’80s/early ’90s resurgance, and the series was pretty good for the first 20 issues or so.

The golden age Sandman, particularly as presented in The Sandman Mystery Theater series, was also full of Pulpy-goodness.

In the Flaming Carrot-esque surreal vein, there’s the uber-obscure Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery, who appeared in a couple issues of the ’90s ‘Existential’ Doom Patrol, and then spun off into a four-issue limited series that has never been collected or reprinted. It’s still pretty keen, but like Ambush Bug it relies a lot on a certain amount of meta-awareness of comic book superhero history. I still laugh at the varieties of Mentallium — Black, Shocking Pink, Ultraviolet, and Lamb-and-Turkey.

Unlike Ambush Bug, however, Flex Mentallo is very definitely not a parody.

The ‘mainstream’ superheroes I have a soft nostalgiac spot for, though, are probably The Fantastic Four on the Marvel side, and Superman on the DC side.

Whatever Alan Moore is writing tends to be pretty high on my list, too, though. I quite like the America’s Best Comics line he created in the ’90s — Promethea (keen Alex Ross picture) with her nifty supporting cast, like The Five Swell Guys, and the Ultra-Archetypical Tom Strong and his family are particular favorites.

Is it obvious to anyone else besides Dana when I’m baiting her?

Grrrr.

Alan Moore once described Superman as, “A man who came from the sky and did nothing but good.” Sounds kind of like God to me, eh?

Kris: Are super heroes a guy thing?

Mostly, but not as much as most people think. To wit, see Action Girl online.



On 29 April 2004 (11:52 AM),
Lynn said:

Darnit! I didn’t read that part about Aquaman’s abilities. My plot was foiled.

I liked the Invisible Girl and how you could see her because of the dashes that outlined her form. So, when I think of invisibility, that’s what I think of. Of course, I would prefer flying to being outlined in dashes.



On 29 April 2004 (01:36 PM),
Dana said:

The Masked Avenger is pretty cool. He forgot to tell his origin story, though:

Are you sure he wasn’t bitten by a radioactive mask?

The Masked Avenger eats a lot of Ding Dongs…

Which, as we all know, have inferior crime-fighting capabilities when compared to the far more widely-deployed Hostess Fruit Pie.



On 29 April 2004 (03:27 PM),
Denise said:

The raspberry-filled, powdered donuts have much more crime-fighting ability…they suck the crook in with their sugary, sweet taste and then immobilize them as they turn into a rock in the bad-guy’s stomach.



On 29 April 2004 (04:34 PM),
Susie said:

I can see some drawbacks with invisibility – especially in a sprawling metropolis. Let’s face it: people would bump into all the time. Shape-changing is definitely the better option. I think it would also come in much handier in day-to-day scenarios. Between flying and invisibility I’d go for flying from a laziness point of view. I also think I’d find the spying aspect of invisibility a bit embarrassing.

My boyfriend often extolls the virtues of Spiderman over most other super heroes on the basis that he is just a regular Joe and nothing ever goes right for him in his human incarnation, but I’m not sure that’s something I look for in a super hero. I’m not sure who my current favourite is, but as a child I had a long-standing thing for The Man From Atlantis. As appealing as the more unconventional super powers are, I think I would chose some sort of super strength that does not manifest itself in my appearance. I would use this power to fight petty crimes and vandalism and would have to invent some sort of catchphrase like the Hulk’s – just to give my adversaries fair warning (which they would, of course, simply scoff at – allowing me free reign). In fact, can I pick Beatrix Kiddo?



On 02 May 2004 (08:01 PM),
nate said:

Hah, I’m living this out right now thanks to City of Heroes. It’s been fun to create and play my own superhero concepts.

My no. 1 fave is Spider-Man, for most of the reasons already mentioned here. I’m also a big fan of The Shadow (and, I have to admit, the campy Alec Baldwin movie adaptation), thanks to his cool, Jedi-like mind powers. The Hellboy movie turned me on to the comics, which are great and wonderfully drawn by Mike Mignola. A very interesting canon there.

By leaps and bounds (heh), my favoritie supergroup is the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (no, I didn’t like that movie, too). Mix my favorite literary genre (late 19th century) with Alan Moore and a steam-punk universe, and you have pure geek heaven for me. I own the first volume of the series in paperback form, and will get the second volume once it too comes out in paperback. Every panel is so packed with references to period literature and crime fighters, they actually released an annotated guide to the first volume. It’s great.

I tend to avoid Superman and Batman, though the recent developments of the latter are good (Gotham City is reduced to ruins after a devastating earthquake and subsequent reign of terror by villains escaped from prison). Supe is just too boring, by and large, and as far as Batman goes: being rich isn’t a superpower! Take away the Batmobile, Batboat, Batcopter, Batbelt and Alfred, and Bruce Wayne’s got jack.



On 03 May 2004 (02:35 PM),
Lynn said:

I’ve often thought that “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” would be a great lit course to take/teach. Of course, it would take several terms to delve into the books/heroes/authors that inspired the comic book series.



On 03 May 2004 (04:53 PM),
Joel said:

Volume II of TLoEG is out, I read it while waiting for Aimee at the mall. I give it a Meh-plus.
Nate, I slavered over City of Heroes for several weeks buy could never pull the trigger to buy it. I guess I’m still recovering from Star Wars Galaxies.



On 04 May 2004 (09:32 AM),
Dana said:

Volume II of League benefits greatly if you’ve previously read H. G. Wells War of the Worlds, not to mention The Island of Dr. Moreau. I actually really enjoyed the prologue section from the first issue, which takes place actually on Mars, mixing John Carter, HG Wells, and even C.S. Lewis’ visions, among others.

Great stuff!

If you really want to break your brain with obscure references, though, you can’t beat Top Ten, also leaping from the mind of Alan Moore. I think you’ll all agree that I’m pretty geeky, but I’ve got nothing on the combined might of Alan Moore, Zander Cannon, and Gene Ha. Every single panel has, generally, five or six references to comic books, television shows, books, or movies. Just a random example — in issue 10 or so, King Peacock goes to Grand Central, the interdimensional transport hub (think an airport).

I started to write from memory, but when I checked the online annotations (done by the same guy who annotated League) and found out I was mixing two or three panels. Still, go look at the annotations for issue #8, specifically the first panel on pages 20 and 21. Good grief.

I’m guessing City of Heroes is an MMORPG — if you’re looking for something self contained, hunt up a copy of Freedom Force. Lots of Silver Age inspired goodness.

Oh, and Nate — Yeah, The Shadow is almost always cool. Even Alec Baldwin couldn’t ruin him =) I actually liked The Phantom movie, too, which was even cheesier, if that’s possible.



On 04 May 2004 (08:57 PM),
nate said:

Dana: Oh, and Nate — Yeah, The Shadow is almost always cool. Even Alec Baldwin couldn’t ruin him =)

Ruin? Hell, Baldwin has that Shadow laugh down so good it gives me chills. Totally perfect, exactly how I imagined it (I never liked the laugh from the old radio dramas — too Vincent Price).



On 04 May 2004 (10:17 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

I’m reading a bunch of old anthologies right now, especially early Daredevil. It seems to me that Stan Lee’s writing on Daredevil is much different than his writing on the Fantastic Four of the same era. This, to me, lends credence to the theory that Kirby was actually doing a lot of the writing when they partnered. (Kirby only had a hand in a couple of Daredevil issues — he did layouts for a young John Romita; it’s strange to see Kirby compositions with somebody else’s art: big arm in the foreground but no Kirby lines!)

I must say that reading early Daredevil, and flipping through my Essential Tomb of Dracula volume 2, has made me appreciate Gene Colan’s art. I never would have liked it when I was a kid (I liked Byrne and Bill Sienkiewicz and Paul Smith — I hated Steve Ditko (still do), Don Heck, and, yes, Jack Kirby (I still don’t like Kirby), but most of all I hated generic DC art as typified by Curt Swan (and this isn’t meant as bait, Dana — I really hated it)). I don’t know much about Colan. Was he still drawing in the late seventies and early eighties. Which books? I’m anxious to get the first volume of Essential Tomb of Dracula back from Joel. (I loaned it to him on the day I bought it!) Had I known I liked Colan’s art so much, and that I’d be curious about the Dracula mythos (about which I know nothing), I would have waited to loan the book out! 🙂

I wonder: if I were 35 in 1980, which books would I buy? Would I still think X-Men was all that? Would I be more in tune with Tony Stark’s alcoholism problem? Would I like DC better than I did as a kid? Less?

I’ve considered choosing a few comics to buy each month, but I think I’ve decided against it. I’ll pick up a few here and there, and if something strikes my fancy, maybe I’ll buy it. I recently bought an issue of Justice League Adventures (cool story, lame cartoony art), The Flash (lame all the way around), and Green Lantern (lame naked chick and bulging muscle art, but cool story).

For now, though, I should probably stick to compilations like Marvel’s Essentials and Masterworks, or the DC Archives, or the various trade paperbacks. I’m ready to dive into Love and Rockets, too, I think. Have any of you ever read it?

Enough geeky comic book talk. It’s time to actually go read some comics (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume one, issue three)!



On 05 May 2004 (08:25 AM),
Dana said:

JD — Colan’s been around since the 50s. He’s one of the “Old Guard”, like Swan, John Romita (not JR Jr. — his dad), Carmine Infanto, and those guys.

I think he did some Flash back in the 60s, but I don’t know why I think that. Shrug. Or, then again, Google could prove me wrong… Lots of war comics, some Captain America, couple of Firestorm issues. Looks like he’s done a bit of everything.

if I were 35 in 1980, which books would I buy?

Hmmm.

I dunno. I didn’t really start collecting comics until 84 or so. I suspect you still wouldn’t like DC (you don’t now, for example — except for Kamandi, apparently). You’d probably be reading Marvel’s Epic, though.

Justice League Adventures (cool story, lame cartoony art), The Flash (lame all the way around), and Green Lantern (lame naked chick and bulging muscle art, but cool story)

JLA — That’s a kids book, you know, specifically a comic book version of the Justice League cartoon on the Cartoon Network. All of the DC “Adventure” books are comic books tied to the tv-show “Dini-verse” (The animated Batman, Superman, and, now, Justice League all share a self-contained continuity) and use that distinctive Bruce Timm art style.

The Flash — The Flash has had periods of being “cool”, but overall Wally West just isn’t the Flash that either Barry Allen or Jay Garrick were. I’ve never really liked him. Bah.

GL — Oh, you mean “Crab Face Guy”? I gather they modified his mask, finally. The current incarnation of GL is the least flavorful that GL has ever been. For some reason the writers of GL have slowly dismantled all of the interesting elements of the GL canon — only one guardian left, only one GL left, Hal Jordan first a super-villain, then ‘resurrected’ as The Spectre. Blah.

Now if you want real GL goodness, either watch one of the GL-centric episodes of the aforementioned JL cartoon (Hey, look! Kilowog! Tomar-Re! Kanjar Ro! Katma Tui!), or go hunt up the absolute classic “Morgo doesn’t socialize”, written by Alan Moore. That Tomar Re — such a kidder!



On 05 May 2004 (08:50 AM),
J.D. said:

JLA — That’s a kids book

I’m not sure how one makes this distinction. And, yes, it’s quite obvious that all of the “Adventures” books are based on the cartoons.

Justice League Adventures doesn’t have a story exploring sexuual orientation like the issue of Green Lantern I bought, but the story was of a similar level to both the Flash and Green Lantern issues. Its quality was better than either of the other two. It’s just he artwork I didn’t like, but I could become used to it with time.

Leafing through the comics racks, I have no interest in anything X-Men anymore. It used to be one of my favorites, but now there’s just too much. It’s overwhelming. And, from what I can tell, it’s all soap opera-esque.

I should point out that I hate the Marvel tendency toward what looks like computer-assisted art. I hate the glossy paper they print on. The books themselves are unappealing, so I’m less likely to purchase them.

Some of the DC titles have the same problems, but others — including the ones I bought recently — are printed on a standard papery-feeling paper and have traditional pencil and ink artwork. I’m always going to prefer this format. And, what’s more, these books are cheaper than the others.

All this having been said, I still prefer anthologies and compilations. More bang for my buck in a longer-lasting format. And if I’m going to buy single issues, they’re usually going to be from smaller companies or independents: Action Girl, Powers, Alan Moore stuff (yes, I know it’s technically DC0, etc.

I’d love to see Marvel compile some of their old Western comics. I’d buy that compilation in an instant. It amazes me that some of my favorite compilations recently have been non-superhero: Sgt. Rock, Conan, Tomb of Dracula, Howard the Duck, etc. I want to see more of this stuff. It’s what I think helps stretch what comics are…



On 05 May 2004 (08:51 AM),
Dave said:

I read a relatively large number of comic books, primarily because a) I borrow them from JD, and b) the Multnomah county library does a pretty good job of stocking them on the shelves. Usually they’re the anthology type of books. One the I read just recently really typified the objection that I have to most recent comic books. “Ultimate Spiderman”, of which I’ve read vol 4 and vol 6, encompasses early Spiderman. It looks to me like it’s much more closely based upon the movie than on the past books. The stories are good, the art is decent and it does a good job of capturing the “essence” of Peter Parker.

So why does reading it make me feel uncomfortable? Mary Jane Watson gets thrown from the Brooklyn Bridge by the Green Goblin, not Gwen Stacy. She’s rescued by Spiderman and lives (not dies like Gwen Stacy). Spiderman’s secret identity is known by Mary Jane and by SHIELD. Nick Fury is a 35 year old black (Asian Indian?) guy (but still with an eye patch) who’s pressuring Peter to become a SHIELD agent when he graduates from highschool, etc.

The same thing, from what I’ve seen, is happening in the X-Men titles. Since when was Wolverine the key to the X-Men, the founding operative? Answer- never. But in the newer books, just like in the movies, he’s very much the key to the group. So much for Cyclops and Beast, much less people like Colossus.

It seems like a lot of the historical aspects of the heros are simply being re-written. Granted, this will need to occur just simply because the characters are pretty static but the world is changing around them. Things need to change. I recognize that it’s not particularly plausible to have Nick Fury still hanging around after having served in WWII. On the other hand, there are a lot of good stories and history that seem like they’re being left behind. I feel guilty about supporting that by reading the newer books. On the positive side of things, at least the newer stuff is fairly good, generally speaking.

As for choosing my power, I think I’d choose telepathy. In my line of work it would be very useful.



On 16 July 2005 (01:44 PM),
ron gregory said:

How did the cartoon character Underdog,get his super powers ?

Kind of Blue

I was feeling kind of blue last night. The day hadn’t gone quite right. Things were messy at the office; I hadn’t started the short story that is due tonight; and I felt old and fat. I was feeling kind of blue.

Remember that I ended the Sunriver trip feeling like an ass. This feeling lingered even into Tuesday morning as I set about sorting the quotes and orders left over from the previous two days. Custom Box is surpisingly busy right now. In general, our business declines after April 15th. It also declines after a price increase. Since both of these events just occurred, we’d expect to be compeletely dead. But we’re not. We’re busy.

I had a moderate lunch, in keeping with my diet, but then I broke down and had a Hershey bar with almonds. And another one. That’s 460 useless calories and many grams of fat. I began to beat myself up mentally. I’d already spent the last three days consuming more calories than normal (though that was by design). I felt fat. I felt defeated. I felt thrown from my diet.

Rather than triumph over these bad feelings, I stopped by Safeway on the way home. I bought Safeway Chinese food for dinner. Then, when I’d finished my rice and sesame beef, I had some left-over cake and ice cream. I felt emotionally and physically defeated.

To make matters worse, I’d been unable to start my latest short story assignment. I’ve got a clear plot in my head, but at this point it’s blatant plagiarism (stealing a poignant bit from Craig Thompson’s Good-Bye, Chunky Rice). I want to make it my own, adapt it into something new, but the words just weren’t coming.

I lay on the couch and moped.

The phone rang. Jenn was calling to invite us over to dinner. Emotionally, I didn’t much feel like going, but intellectually I knew that it was a good idea.

And you know what?

When we walked onto the porch and I saw Emma’s big smiling face, everything was better just like that. Harrison appeared at her side. “You know what, J.D.?” he said. “I saw you from far away, but I didn’t see Kris. She was way behind you.”

We sat on the floor and we played.

“Harrison, who’s your favorite superhero?” I asked.

He pulled out his astronomy book — which features members of the Justice League of America on every page — and he pointed out his favorite. “I like the Blue Superman,” he said (referring to a plotline in which Superman splits into Red Superman and Blue Superman). “And Plastic Man,” he added, finding the stretchy guy on another page. (I know from past conversations that Hank also likes J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter.)

Without warning, Harrison jumped on my back. Ouch. “Harrison’s a wild boy,” said Emma.

“Are you a wild girl?” asked Kris.

“No,” said Emma. “I’m a wild woman.” Then she thought about it a little more. “No. I’m a princess.”

I read Emma a story about the pyramids in Egypt while Harrison lay on my back, his chin resting on my head.

“Harrison,” I said, when we were finished with the story, “Bring me the Great Big Book of Absolutely Everything.” He brought me his National Geographic photographic atlas. We looked up Egypt. I pointed out the actual pyramids, tried to explain their scale. We looked at photos of boys riding donkeys, of a woman carrying an urn on her head.

Harrison tried to explain to me that Oregon is bigger than Egypt. “Go get your globe,” Jenn told him. When he found his globe, we tore a piece of paper so that it was the same size as Oregon. When we placed Oregon over Egypt, it was clear that Egypt was larger. Still Harrison didn’t believe.

“Egypt’s about the same size as Oregon and Washington together,” I said.

“I don’t think so,” said Harrison. “Oregon is big.”

He went upstairs to fetch a larger map. “See?” he said. And, indeed, on this map Oregon was bigger than the Egypt on the globe. Hmmm. How to explain scale?

“Every place looks big when you live there, Hank,” I said. “You look out in every direction and everything seems so big.”

“I know what,” said Harrison. “When God looks down from the universe, he sees the whole thing” — meaning the Earth — “at once.”

Kris, of course, tried to secularize the conversation, but without success. “Well,” she said, “Anyone looking down from space — like an astronaut — could see the whole Earth at once.”

“But God is even above the astronauts,” said Harrison, “Because he’s in the universe.”

We left it at that.

Instead we compared the sizes of the states, and talked about the different places Harrison has been. “You remember Joel and Aimee?” I asked. “They’re moving here,” I said, and I pointed to South Dakota and Mt. Rushmore. “That’s a long way away.”

Harrison played with the globe. “Why are the North Pole and the South Pole so far apart?” he asked. And we couldn’t really explain. I mean, they’re far apart by definition, not for any other reason.

I started the night feeling kind of blue, but I finished it feeling rosy. All because of interaction with a couple of kids.

Comments


On 28 April 2004 (07:33 AM),
Joel said:

JD said:

“They’re moving here,” I said, and I pointed to South Dakota and Mt. Rushmore. “That’s a long way away.”

1680 miles away, in fact. Which is not so far if you’re God. Or an astronaut. Alas, we are but people.



On 28 April 2004 (09:12 AM),
tammy said:

Jd, I came to your weblog straight from the family sight. As I was reading over there how Jeff played with Noah last night I thought to myself,” JD needs kids. If JD, could just have one kid he’d wonder how he ever lived without them.” Then I read your entry! Now I’m convinced JD needs kids!

And did I read this right? You polished off all that Chinese food and still had dinner at Jenns place? Oh well,”tomorrow is another day.”



On 28 April 2004 (09:13 AM),
tammy said:

Oh and may I ask what takes Joel and Aimee to South Dakota?



On 28 April 2004 (09:17 AM),
J.D. said:

And did I read this right? You polished off all that Chinese food and still had dinner at Jenns place?

No, you did not read this right, though I can see how you might have been confused. I ate a grand total of one corn chip at Jenn’s place.

Oh and may I ask what takes Joel and Aimee to South Dakota?

You may ask…



On 28 April 2004 (09:43 AM),
Denise said:

Hey J.D. – everyone has days where they do not follow their diet. Mine are usually Tuesday through Sunday. 😉

But really, one day, or weekend is nothing to beat yourself up over. If you are able to start fresh on the next day, it won’t really hurt anything. If you don’t allow yourself something ‘bad’ to eat occasionally, you will binge eat (somewhat like you did on Tuesday). When I am seriously watching my food intake, I usually let myself have something ‘bad’ every other day…or give myself a ‘bad breakfast’ of Fridays – poppy seed muffins seem to be my evil breakfast of choice. That way, I can stay on track knowing that Friday morning I get to have the evil and sugary muffin.

If you started eating two large pizzas every night, then I would worry.

AND – Joel, it would also be a short distance between Oregon and South Dakota if you were the Bionic Man.



On 28 April 2004 (09:46 AM),
Lynn said:

We went to Disneyland in 2001 and I shared a bed with my then 10-year-old niece. She is a bed hog and I attempted to set some ground rules before we went to sleep. “Shelby,” I said. “See this line?” I drew an imaginary line down the middle of the bed with my finger. “This is the equator. Do not cross it.”
She rolled her eyes and used her best teenage tone when she replied, “Helllllo, the equator runs this way,” she said while drawing a horizontal line accross the bed. “This,” as she redrew the imaginary vertical line as I had done, “is the prime meridian.” And then she huffed a little pre-teen huff and rolled over to sleep. Damn those 4th graders and their map classes.



On 28 April 2004 (12:02 PM),
Jeff said:

Tammy said: I was reading over there how Jeff played with Noah last night

And here is a link to Noah’s site:

Pictures of Noah

Hey! What’s going on? The link doesn’t work! I wonder why that is!?!?!?



On 28 April 2004 (12:37 PM),
Dana said:

“Why are the North Pole and the South Pole so far apart?” he asked…they’re far apart by definition, not for any other reason.

Well, sort of.

They’re far apart because the earth is a (mostly) rigid sphere, and it’s axis of rotation has to be a straight line passing through the center of mass or else the rotation won’t be stable — either you’re going to be compressing and expanding bits of the surface (kind of like a partially scrunched up nerf ball) during rotation, and that takes energy being put into the system from somewhere, or you’re going to be rotating in such a way that the resulting angular momentum will throw the earth out of orbit without external energy being stuffed in to keep us in place.

Or something like that.

Joel, it would also be a short distance between Oregon and South Dakota if you were the Bionic Man.

Or Superman Blue…



On 28 April 2004 (12:58 PM),
Tiffany said:

Joel and Aimee,
I know I only see you once a year, but I will miss you on my future visits to the giant state of Oregon.

Jd,
Your change in diet (eating extra over the weekend) may have something to do with your feeling blue. Any change is food intake can affect your hormone levels



On 28 April 2004 (02:31 PM),
Joel said:

Thanks for your words, Tiffany (and for filling me in on the long-term dangers posed by depleted-uranium shells), and your curiosity, Tammy.
We’re actually moving to South Dakota for school. I’m attending the University of S.D.’s medical school, and Aimee’s planning on going to nursing school.
We’re very sorry to leave the fantastic community of friends we’ve made here, but just because we’re leaving Oregon doesn’t take us out of foldedspaceland! Look for a brand-new weblog from Joel and Aimee to appear sometime in the next month or two! We will join the distinguished company of Tammy and Denise and… possibly another person who suckle off of JD’s webspace!
Details to follow at this location!



On 28 April 2004 (02:33 PM),
J.D. said:

We will join the distinguished company of Tammy and Denise and… possibly another person who suckle off of JD’s webspace!

I have teats a-plenty. Metaphorically speaking.



On 28 April 2004 (03:14 PM),
tammy said:

Joel, have you ever admittted to Amy that you are John Doe? What a clever disguise to start another weblog with her? You are a cunning fellow!

Bwahahhahah!



On 28 April 2004 (03:44 PM),
Aimee said:

Tammy,

I don’t find your comments very funny at all. In fact, I find them hurtful for many reasons, but I would like to simply elaborate on one idea: Regardless if Joel is John Doe or not, I am disgusted that you continue to take unabashed joy in revealing the identity of John Doe. This may seem like school-yard fun to you, but I’d just like to remind you that through all words and laughs there is a relationship at stake in the revelation of John Doe’s identity. It seems to me that you are being a bit selfish by continually pressing this individual to reveal himself/herself to you. Take a walk in somebody else’s shoes, and think about John Doe or his partner’s feelings should he/she choose to share his/her name …



On 28 April 2004 (03:54 PM),
Johnny said:

I like to think so, too.



On 28 April 2004 (03:56 PM),
Denise said:

Ah…and wouldn’t it be really funny if John Doe was actually a woman? You know, just because Johnny goes by Johnny does not mean Johnny is a man.

Besides…it wouldn’t be half as fun if we knew who Johnny was. Life is more interesting with a little mystery, don’t you think?



On 28 April 2004 (04:01 PM),
Johnny said:

My post above was meant to follow on Tammy’s post, not Aimee’s. It’s just that Aimee’s trigger finger was faster than mine.

As for what Aimee said, however, I take Tammy’s ribbing in the good natured way that I’m sure it’s intended. Is SWMO ever determined that I was talking about her there really wouldn’t be a relationship at stake. She’d just skin me alive and hang my sorry ass out on the clothesline.

Tammy, rest assured, Joel and I are two separate people. And not just because of the medication, either. Who knows, maybe I’m actually Aimee…

And not just because of the medication, either!



On 28 April 2004 (04:15 PM),
Denise said:

Ok – I cannot get the teats-a-plenty picture out of my imagination…even if it was a metaphor.

Thank you J.D. for that lovely picture now burned into my brain!



On 28 April 2004 (04:55 PM),
Tammy said:

Thank you John Doe. And you are right; it was good natured ribbing.

I know Denise that teat thing is just a little too metaphorical!



On 28 April 2004 (05:29 PM),
Aimee said:

Well, if it was all a good natured ribbing (insert intonation of your choice) …

I would simply ask then that my personal relationships be left out of further scrutinization of the John Doe Identity Puzzle.



On 28 April 2004 (05:36 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

“Jd, I came to your weblog straight from the family sight. As I was reading over there how Jeff played with Noah last night I thought to myself,” JD needs kids. If JD, could just have one kid he’d wonder how he ever lived without them.” Then I read your entry! Now I’m convinced JD needs kids!”

You said it, Tammy; I didn’t. -G- I’ve often thought about the astronomical IQ there would be in a child J.D. and Kris would produce. However, that said, I respect their decisions and am fine with whatever they decide to do in that realm.



On 28 April 2004 (09:26 PM),
Adam Luckey said:

I’m sorry but the Justice League is nothing compared to The Ultimates with Captain America.
Have a Nic night

Snopes

Recently I’ve been falling asleep to the joys of Snopes, the urban legend web site. Most urban legends seem self-evident to me. Still, there are times I’m suckered by a tall tale. What’s more, Snopes lists stories that sound like urban legends but aren’t.

Some of my favorite urban legends are:

Multiplying your dog’s age by seven will produce its equivalent in human years. This is an example of a myth that had me snowed. I believed it to be true. One human year is not equivalent to seven dog years, though. (It’s more like one to five, though it actually varies depending on stage of the animal’s life.)

The race horse Seabiscuit was the biggest newsmaker in America in 1938. This myth did not have me snowed, however. It’s the result of the kind of sloppy reporting that makes me angry; there’s no need for people who no better to try to pass this off as fact. The claim set off all sorts of BS buzzers in my head, and I never believed it for a second. Snopes is there to prove me right in this case.

On average, men think about sex every seven seconds. Not even close. “54% of men think about sex every day or several times a day” — and the rest think of it less often. I’ve heard this “fact” bandied about many times over the years, and though it sounded wrong, it seemed plausible enough (I’m in the 54%, several times) that I never tried to argue with it.

Snopes has scores (hundreds?) of myths to explore, most of them false. It’s worth a look if you’ve time to spare. Or if you’re gullible.

Comments


On 21 April 2004 (08:10 AM),
mac said:

guest weblogger???



On 10 September 2004 (09:08 AM),
raygill52 said:

I just stumble to this site by chance. it kept my interest. also made me think about, a time I heard that if you boil bay leaves in water, it turns into some kind of poison. my question is this true or false.
I’ll be back, to visit this site again. also I will share my new found knowledge among friends.
thank you raygill52



On 10 September 2004 (02:05 PM),
Tiffany said:

Bay leaves are edible. Maybe you are thinking of oleander leaves. They look similar, but are poisonous.



On 11 September 2004 (04:09 PM),
Dana said:

Um.

WTF?

Political blogspam?

]

How Did We Get Here?

Warning: political discussion ahead.

At book group last night, conversation eventually drifted from the book (the strange and wonderful At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien) to the situation in the Middle East. (The progression made sense in the context of our discussion, though I’m hard-pressed to reproduce it now.)

The group — mostly liberal, mostly Democrat — wondered: would a hypothetical President John Kerry have a substantially different Middle East policy than President George W. Bush? I’m not sure Kerry would — or could — have a different policy at this point. The United States is in the thick of things now; the time for alternate approaches may have already passed.

The book group spent some time discussing what other choices might have been possible, what actions might have appeased the “terrorists”. I mentioned the research I did in the days following the attacks on September 11th. I always meant to share that research here, but my weblog was young at that point, and I was in shock, so it never saw the light of day.

While sorting through cruft on my hard drive today, I found those notes I wrote in the days after September 11th. They were meant to help me organize my thoughts, to put the attacks on the World Trade Center in perspective. I didn’t share them then; I’m sharing them now.


Background
I was raised a pacifist. I once got knocked unconscious in a “fight” because I would not defend myself. My personal pacifism translates to a desire for global pacifism. When required to register with the selective service, I made it clear that I am a conscientious objector. When the Gulf War occurred, I marched through the streets of Oregon’s capital carrying placards and chanting anti-war slogans. This was not because I’m a hippie or some liberal nutcase — I’m as independent as they come — but because I’m a pacifist. I understand there are complex moral problems with a pacifist ideology. That’s fine. I’m not here to argue the merits of my personal beliefs.

I was as shocked as anyone on September 11th. I was devastated. My heart ached for the people trapped in the World Trade Center, for the people held hostage on the hijacked planes. But my first reaction wasn’t, “Let’s bomb the terrorists who did this.” My first reaction was, “In order for someone to have murdered thousands of people in this fashion, they must hold some pretty strong convictions. I wonder what those are?”

While everyone else was watched the news and discussed how many ways we could nuke Afghanistan, I spent my time on the internet researching the history of the Middle East, exploring the genesis of the attacks. For whatever reason, many of the sites and pages I found are now gone. Fortunately, I printed out the pages I found most useful. I compiled a binder filled with information.

What follows was my attempt to distill that information. I wrote these notes on September 13th, two days after the attacks. The notes are incomplete, but they represent what I was able to find in my research. Throughout the process, I tried not to judge anyone, neither the U.S. nor the attackers. I tried to ignore my political feelings. I noted when I didn’t understand the implications of particular events, or could not find a particular piece of information. I tried to summarize what I had read over the previous 48 hours.

Here are those notes.


How did we get here?
The 11 Sept 01 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were shocking, in part because they seemed to occur with no warning. Our news media and our government officials have treated the attacks as isolated terrorist attacks. They’ve failed to provide a historical context for the events. The attacks were actually a piece of a great war that has been raging for centuries.

Origins
Discuss ancient history of Middle East: Romans, etc. [Note: I never completed this section.]

Israel/Palestine
At the end of World War II, the British found themselves occupying the area around Jerusalem, the traditional homeland of both the Jews and the Palestinians. The Jews had been wandering for centuries. They had no homeland since being deposed by the Romans. After the end of the second World War, the Allies said, “Aha! We occupy this land that used to be your homeland. Why don’t you share it with the Palestinians?” So, the area was divided into Israel and Palestine. This, of course, did not sit well with the Palestinians who lived there. They were forcibly moved, and the Jews took up residence in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Over the next few decades, they fought several wars (most notably with Egypt) over the area. Tensions remain high to this day.

Afghanistan
After World War II, during the Cold War, the USSR was more concerned with foreign policy than with domestic policy. Money and attention was lavished on foreign relations, while concerns at home were neglected. The Soviet republics in the southwest had large Muslim populations. Afghanistan, on the boarder with the USSR, saw an opportunity to goad a Muslim insurgence while the USSR’s attention was focused elsewhere. This brought Soviet attention to bear on Afghanistan, and the Soviets invaded. The mujahadeen, or God’s Warriors, were Islamic fundamentalists who opposed the Soviets. Osama bin Laden was one of the mujahadeen. The United States provided funds and weapons for the mujahadeen and the Afghans in the war with the Soviets. However, the Soviets were able to march though and to capture the Afghan capital, Kabul. They set up a puppet government. They then retreated to take care of more pressing matters. This puppet government fell to the Taliban. Afghanistan’s leaders became intertwined with the Islamic fundamentalists.

Iran/Iraq
The United States and Iran had been allies for decades. Iran’s Shah was a great friend of the U.S., and relations were good. Relations with Iraq were not so good, though I’m not sure whether they were considered an enemy. Iran was a valuable source of oil for the U.S., and held a key strategic position bordering the Soviet Union. The Shah, however, was not popular in his homeland; his regime was oppressive, and this fomented revolt. During the mid- to late-seventies, his people rose up (led, in part, by Islamic fundmantalists) and deposed him. In the process, they took hostages at the American embassy.

Meanwhile, Iran and Iraq went to war. Though Iraq, and Saddam Hussein, had never been a great friend of the U.S., they became uneasy allies now. With the loss of Iran as an ally, U.S. influence in the region was diminished, and oil supplies were in danger. Iraq provided a mid-East ally and a source for oil. The U.S. provided money and arms for the Iraqis, supporting their war on Iran. The Soviets, in turn, provided support for the Iranians.

As part of this war, Iraq protected Kuwait (which it actually still considered a part of Iraq — Kuwait and Iraq, once part of the same country, had been divided by a British fellow earlier in the century). When the war ended, Iraq found itself with large debts which it serviced largely through oil sales. During the late eighties, Kuwait began a policy of lowering oil prices. This pleased the U.S., of course, but it violated the OPEC charter and, among other states, Iraq became angry with Kuwait. Iraq needed the money from oil in order to stay financially stable. Kuwait ignored the concerns of its larger neighbor.

Iraq became incensed for several reasons: a) Kuwait was cutting oil prices, b) it still considered Kuwait as part of Iraq, and c) Kuwait had annexed a major oil field from Iraq. These problems led to a deterioration in relations between the two countries. Also during this period, Iraq began to believe itself an important power in the region.

During 1990, Saddam Hussein (still on favorable terms with the United States) prepared to invade Kuwait. He met with a representative of the Bush administration. Reports vary as to what occurred at the meeting. Hussein, however, came away from the discussion believing that the United States would, at the very least, not interfere with his actions, and possibly even support them. He invaded Kuwait. To his utter surprise, the U.S. leapt to Kuwait’s defense and the Gulf War occurred.

Osama bin Laden
During the Gulf War, the United States used Saudi Arabia as a base of operations. The Saudis are U.S. allies, though uneasy ones at times. Saudi Arabia is the site of several Islamic holy sites. (I’m unclear as to whether the U.S. bases of operations were actually located near these holy sites.) Conservative Mulsims were outraged at U.S. presence in what it considered holy lands. This outrage increased when, after the Gulf War, the U.S. did not remove its bases, but instead made them permanent installations.

Osama bin Laden was one of the leaders of the outraged. Bin Laden’s father was a billionaire construction magnate. Osama was one of fifty-two children, and a devout Muslim. (I think he may have become a Muslim cleric.) He had left Saudi Arabia to fight with the mujahadeen, receiving U.S. support in the Afghan fight against the Soviet Union. He retuned to Saudi Arabia sometime in the late eighties or early nineties, and became outraged at the U.S. presence on the Islamic holy lands. He was vocal demanding that the U.S. leave. I’m unclear as to whether he began attacks against the U.S. at this point or not. In any event, the U.S. did not like bin Laden and asked the Saudis to exile him, which they did.

Osama bin Laden went to Somalia, from which he began his attacks on U.S. interests. Later, he moved to his current base of operations in Afghanistan. Why is Osama bin Laden so powerful among conservative Moslems? He has wealth, he is a religious leader, and he is a war hero. These three things give him tremendous power. Why does he hate the United States? To some extent, he hates the U.S. because it is there. This isn’t the only reason, though, and it trivializes his beliefs to focus on it as the sole motivation for his behavior. More to the point, he hates the United States because: a) the U.S. is one of Israel’s closest allies, b) the United States will not leave the holy lands in Saudi Arabia, and c) he considers the United States to be a great force for evil in the world, a perpetrator of wanton terrorism (bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, fighting in southeast Asia, and carpet-bombing Iraq).

U.S. foreign policy does seem to have been conducted without regard for the feelings and beliefs of the Moslem people. (This is understandable, of course. The United States’ primary concern is itself.) It is impossible to please everyone, and the U.S. has made a decision (whether conscious or not) that Islam is not important enough to be considered in its foreign policy decisions. Whether this is right or wrong is debatable. Regardless, there are consequences to this behavior. Whether these consequences are out of proportion with the U.S. foreign policy is also debatable.

Conclusion
To many Moslems in the Middle East, the Gulf War is not over. The United States marched in, stomped Iraq, and then left. The war was over for the U.S., but not for Iraq, and not for certain Islamic fundamentalists such as Osama bin Laden. To them, the war has continued for the past decade. But, it’s a war in which they must fight using unconventional attacks.

The United States is too large and too powerful, and the Muslim resources too insignificant, for a traditional attack on the U.S. Of course, geography is also an important factor; it’s simply impossible to launch a direct assault on The United States. Instead, the war has continued on the Muslim’s terms: through acts of what we consider “terrorism”, but the Muslims consider legitimate warfare. The attack on U.S. soldiers in Somalia, the bombing of the World Trade Center, the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, and the attacks on September 11th are all salvoes in this war. They are not isolated incidents of terrorism, but part of a larger war that has been playing out for centuries, and into which the United States has placed itself largely, though not solely, due to its dependency on oil.

Whether the U.S. should be involved in this war is debatable, and it’s not for me to say. I’m merely trying to provide background information to explain how we got here. What will happen now? I’m sure we’ll attack somebody, but I just don’t know who.

[Error corrections welcome. Additional information — especially on ancient history of the Middle East — also welcome.]


Two-and-a-half years later, the results of this research still form the basis for my understanding of the situation in the Middle East. My opposition to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq isn’t so much because I think our actions are evil — though I do think this — as I think they don’t address the core issues. The people we’re fighting are only going to be satisfied if we remove all of our presence from the Middle East and if we decrease our support for Israel.

Some of the book group members noted — correctly, I think — that a U.S. withdrawal is not going to appease anyone now. We’ve gone over and thrown our weight around too many times; now people might just fight back for the sake of fighting back. This is true. But at one time, it would have been a significant step toward pacifying the anger fomenting against our country.

The Middle East has been a source of cultural turmoil not just for decades, not just for centuries, but for millennia. Think about that. Millennia.

It’s ignorant to think that we can go over there with our military might and moral rectitude and somehow make things right. We’re better off worrying about our own neighborhood.


Imperfect reproduction of a joke told by Joel last night, as he had heard it earlier in the day on Garrison Keillor’s annual Joke Show: “The government knows Iraq has weapons of mass destruction — the Pentagon has the receipts.”

Comments


On 19 April 2004 (08:47 AM),
J.D. said:

I’m going through my two-inch binder of information, the stuff I collated on the days following September 11th, trying to find links that are still active. (I’ve also added a few links collected in the years since the attacks.) Here are some of those links:

Middle East History
Arab civilization [good]
Dialog from political-islam list on Islamic fundamentalism
The challenge of inclusion in the Middle East [excellent]
A brief history of Palestine [biased, but informative]
Middle East peace process, historical background [a timeline — when I found this on 9/13/01, it only went to The Mitchell Report — this site has a Muslim bias]
History of Middle East conflict [BBC site — not updated since 9/11]

Iran
Teheran students seize U.S. embassy and hold hostages [archived news article]
Time Magazine’s person of the year 1979: Ayatullah Khomeini [must read — excellent and important — read this article with the knowledge of twenty-five years of history]

Iraq
Background to the Gulf War and the Iraq-Kuwait frontier question [another excellent article including much history of the region from the past century]
Set-up of Iraq [biased article, but provides a certain perspective — has now been incorporated into the Iraq resource information site — a lot of info from Iraq’s perspective can be found here]
Iraq’s grievances with Kuwait [again: biased, but informative]
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait: an eyewitness account [excellent but long]

Note: I didn’t research Saddam Hussein after September 11th because there seemed no need to do so. Hussein had not link to the attacks. To this day, there still is nothing linking Hussein to the attacks.

Afghanistan
A lot of the info on Afghanistan that I found on Sept.13 is now gone. I’m not saying this is some attempt to obfuscate facts, but the pages have simply vanished.

Afghanistanian history
The Soviet war in Afghanistan: history and harbinger of future war? [a U.S. military document?]
The cost of an Afghan ‘victory’ [excellent article from 1999 — biased (it’s from The Nation, after all]

Osama bin Laden
The challenge to crush bin Laden [a 9/15/01 article from BBC]
In Islamic world, bin Laden’s esteem rises
Osama bin Ladin: wealth plus extremism equals terrorism
The U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia fuels Osama bin Laden’s jihad [CNN article from early 2001 — points directly to bin Laden’s anger over U.S. military occupation of Muslim holy lands — important
Osama bin Laden: portrait of a militant
Who is Osama bin Laden [BBC News]
Talks with Osama bin Laden [again from The Nation, so watch for bias]
Why they hate us [how about bias in the other direction? National Review article that, in my opinion, misses the boat]
Hunting bin Laden [a March 2000 episode of Frontline — great background info]

Miscellaneous articles
Falwell blames gays, liberal groups for terrorist attacks [I can’t find my original source, but this is the entire text of the article — just so we remember the nutcases in our own midst]
Bush set sights on Saddam after 9/11, never looked back [from Mar 2003 — makes me sick]
A quick introduction to Islam [pro-Islam bias]
Islam: a religion of terror? [pro-Islam bias]
Teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [great resource, but overwhelming]
Brutality smeared in peanut butter: why America must stop the war now [opinion by author Arundhati Roy]
The war in Afghanistan talking points: 47 questions and answers



On 19 April 2004 (09:05 AM),
Emily said:

I think “It’s ignorant to think that we can go over there with our military might and moral rectitude and somehow make things right. We’re better off worrying about our own neighborhood.” says it all.



On 19 April 2004 (09:38 AM),
Tammy said:

Waaa! This entry’s too long. I’ll never find time to read it!



On 19 April 2004 (01:22 PM),
Dave said:

There are several things at work here that are interesting. First, I must tell everyone that although I am not in favor of the current war in Iraq, unlike JD, I am clearly not a pacifist and I am not opposed to taking military action against other nations so long as it is justified. That said, what would an election of John Kerry change in terms of the war in Iraq?

For starters, one of the things that really irritates the rest of the world is a sense of American arrogance. Several of JD’s links mention this. It is hard to see most anyone as being more arrogant than George Bush. Kerry claims that he will be more conciliatory to the rest of the world, but then again, Bush claimed to be the “Great Uniter”, too.

If Kerry were to take a more inclusive role in determining foreign policy, by which I mean providing a greater amount of deference to other nation’s views, then he might resolve some of this. Second, if the rest of the world saw him as being willing to flex on the inclusion of additional nations in the benefits as well as the responsibilities in Iraq, then perhaps we would get a different result than we are getting with Bush. Certainly a genuinely more inclusive force in Iraq would, if nothing else, share the pain a little. The down side of this is that there is an element of blackmail in this. Most other countries really want to be included in the rebuilding phase (funded by American tax dollars), and are willing to commit a token amount of troops to ensure that their version of Halliburton gets some contracts.

The other thing to remember, however, is that Muslim anger at the US serves a very valuable purpose for nations in the Middle East. Very few of the Middle Eastern nations are genuinely democratic and as such most of the population has very little say in the way their government is run and the way they are governed. If all of these people are angry with the US and blame the US for the fact that they live in less than perfect conditions, they’re not looking at their own government as a source of at least some of their woes.

Consider Saudi Arabia. Huge oil reserves, huge cash inflow, low general standard of living, women don’t get to vote, are told what to wear and not allowed to exercise what we would consider to by fairly essential civil liberties, like driving without a male escort (or at all). This is not the fault of the US. We have had no say in the Saudi’s laws. However, as long as the general Saudi population is angry with us, and out protesting because of our Palestinian/Israeli policy, they’re not protesting their own government. A government which is extraordinarily wealthy by any standard, but yet does relatively little for it’s people. This would be something like a wealthy minority ruling our country, directing a foreign policy that exploits our innate prejudices and dissatisfaction in order to control potential unrest here at home.

Hmmmmmm…

Well, at any rate, in order to accomplish true change in the Middle East we would have to essentially turn the majority of people against their own governments. The only way to do this is to show those people what the benefits are of a true, oil fueled, democracy with the freedom to provide for it’s people. Iraq can be that example. Obviously it’s not in the interests of the majority of the oil producing nations in the Middle East to let us do this. And, as JD mentions, these people have been unhappy for many, many, many years and it probably ain’t gonna happen any time soon.

To assume, however, that this is Bush’s strategy gives a significantly greater amount of credit than is probably deserved. I’d be willing to believe that there was someone else pulling the strings, but I honestly don’t believe that anyone there has a long term vision of America that would be sufficient for that type of analysis. There’s too much ideological, short term thinking going on for that to be the case.



On 19 April 2004 (01:46 PM),
Dana said:

Excellent post, JD.

A few comments on your summation of events:

======

I find the US foreign policy to be most understandable as being a modern form of the Roman Imperial system or the British Colonial Empire. All of the Cold War was largely publicly justified as a war of Ideologies, but I think it was really far more a war of influence and control. Witness the large number of fascist or dictatorial governments we were in bed with in order to promote our interests in virtually all parts of the world.

If the Ideological War with the USSR was won at the conclusion of the Cold War, why did the US continue to maintain military installations all over the world if not to maintain their political and economic influence in the regions the bases were established?

=======

There is a worldwide commodoties market in Oil Futures. This market operates using the US Dollar as it’s core trading currency. This is one of the (many) reasons the dollar tends to be a stable currency — because Very Important Resources like Oil are bought and sold using it. It’s in everybody’s interest to sort of stabilize the market, which in turn stabilizes the currency.

Sadam Hussein decided, in the late 90s, to stop selling Iraqi Oil using dollars. He switched to the Euro. This made all the papers and news outlets at the time. Why was this a big deal? Well, the Euro is already a common interchange for a large chunk of nations in Europe. By trying to promote the Euro as a currency for international Oil Trading, he was making a play to challenge the dominance of the dollar as the primary stable worldwide currency, and thus at the same time make US monetary policy and economic influence that much less important globally.

Not long after, we invaded him and kicked him out. And what do you think Iraqi Oil is priced in now that the US is running the show there?

======

I disagree with you about pulling out. No, pulling out is not enough to satisfy Middle Eastern interests — we’ve stirred up the hornet’s nest — but it is a good first step. And there are diplomatic ways of approaching it as a step which can go a long ways towards opening up a dialog with the leaders and, more importantly, the people of the Middle East.

The people of the middle east, taken as a heterogenous whole, have been trying to say they disagree with us on a whole host of moral, ethical, diplomatic, and economic issues. We’ve been doing the diplomatic equivalent of sticking our fingers in our ears and going, “La la la can’t hear you” for decades now.

So, eventually, they bop us on the nose, crying, “Are you going to listen to us now?”

Do I agree with their methods? Of course not. I’m as much, if not more, of a pacifist than JD is. But I understand the frustration they feel, and I think it’s justified.

======

The US does not own the world, as much as our nation seems to like to act like it does. Every once in awhile the rest of the world has to grab us by the lapels and shake us around to remind us of this. But we’re kinda dopey, and keep forgetting. And we don’t take the hint very well — requiring more and more serious wake up calls to happen.

Our response to this is to fight back. “Oh yes, we do own the whole world!” So far, we’ve beaten back all the serious threats to global influence that we’ve faced. But eventually we won’t be so lucky. Even if we do continue to exert worldwide domination, we’ve never deserved that position from a moral point of view.

Sigh.

=======

Some illuminating quotes from the current administration:

Is Bush qualified?

“You know I could run for governor but I’m basically a media creation. I’ve never done anything. I’ve worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business. But that’s not the kind of profile you have to have to get elected to public office.” George W. Bush, 1989

Cheney’s role

“Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole? It’s a nice way to operate, actually.” — Dick Cheney, VP of the US

Bush and Fascism, part I

“You don’t get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier.” Describing what it’s like to be governor of Texas.(Governing Magazine 7/98)
— From Paul Begala’s “Is Our Children Learning?”

“I told all four that there are going to be some times where we don’t agree with each other, but that’s OK. If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator,” Bush joked.
— CNN.com, December 18, 2000

“A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there’s no question about it, ” [Bush] said.
— Business Week, July 30, 2001

There ought to be limits to freedom.
— George W. Bush, complaining about a website (www.gwbush.com) critical of him, at an Austin Press Conference, May 21, 1999

It’s not a dictatorship in Washington, but I tried to make it one in that instance. — George W. Bush, discussing Faith-based initiatives authorized by executive order

Dissent is Treason

September 20, 2001 – “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” President George W. Bush

To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends. — John Ashcroft, 2001, defending the USA Patriot Act

Mr. Rumsfeld did not mention any of the domestic critics by name. But he suggested that those who have been critical of the administration’s handling of the war in Iraq and its aftermath might be encouraging American foes to believe that the United States might one day walk away from the effort, as it has in past conflicts. — NY Times article, 2003, summarizing Donald Rumsfeld

War is Peace

“The cause of peace requires the full force and might of our military” — George W. Bush, “Ultimatum” speech to Iraq, March 17, 2003

Bush and Fascism part II

Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.
George W. Bush

On September 11 2001, America felt its vulnerability even to threats that gather on the other side of the Earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat from any source that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America.
George W. Bush

The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war.
George W. Bush

“Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” — Hermann Goering, president of the Reichstag, Nazi Party, and Luftwaffe Commander in Chief, is attributed with making the statement at the Nuremburg trials

Ignorance is Strength

“The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our Number One priority, and we will not rest until we find him!”
George W. Bush, September 13, 2001

“I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and I really don’t care. Its not that important. It’s not our priority.”
George W. Bush, March 13, 2002

Repeating History

“An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein � and the replacement of the radical Baathist dictatorship with a new government more closely aligned with the United States would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans.” — David Frum, Speechwriter for George W. Bush

Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators. … O people of Baghdad, remember that for 26 generations you have suffered under strange tyrants who have endeavoured to set one Arab house against another in order that they might profit by your dissensions. This policy is abhorrent to Great Britain and her allies, for there can be neither peace nor prosperity where there is enmity and misgovernment. — Lieutenant General Sir Stanley Maude, as he marched into Baghdad in 1917

“Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators.” Adolf Hitler, February 27, 1933, on the occasion of the Third Reich�s invasion of Austria.

We come as an army of liberation, and we want to see the Iraqis running their own affairs as soon as they can. — Paul Wolfowitz

Freedom is Slavery

I don’t think our troops should be used for what’s called nation-building.
— spoken during a nationally televised debate, October 11, 2000.

As freedom takes hold in Iraq, the Iraqi people will choose their own leaders and their own government. America has no intention of imposing our form of government or our culture. — George W. Bush

We will leave Iraq completely in the hands of Iraqis as quickly as possible. — Condoleeza Rice

If you’re suggesting, how would we feel about an Iranian-type government with a few clerics running everything in the country, the answer is: That isn’t going to happen. — Donald Rumsfeld

We are going to fight them and impose our will on them and we will capture or, if necessary, kill them until we have imposed law and order upon this country. — Paul Bremer

“You’ll see the celebrations and we will be happy Saddam has gone, but we will then want to rid ourselves of the Americans and we will want to keep our oil and there will be resistance and then they will call us ‘terrorists'”. — Citizen of Baghdad on the day it fell to US forces

Bush and Fascism III

I want to thank all my citizens for coming. — George W. Bush, Northern State University, Aberdeen, South Dakota, Oct. 31, 2002

I was disappointed that the Congress did not respond to the $3.5 billion we asked for. They not only reduced the budget that we asked for, they earmarked a lot of the money. That’s a disappointment, a disappointment when the executive branch gets micromanaged by the legislative branch. — George W. Bush, discussing one of the Checks and Balances of the US Constitution, Congresses “Power of the Purse”

Far be it from the American President to get to decide who leads what country. — George W. Bush, ITN interview

I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go. — Georege W. Bush, same ITN interview

I’m the commander — see, I don’t need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation. — George W. Bush

Just plain weird

See, free nations do not develop weapons of mass destruction. — George W. Bush (apparently forgetting that the US has more WMD than any other nation on Earth)

First, let me make it very clear, poor people aren’t necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be not rich doesn’t mean you’re willing to kill.
— George W. Bush, Washington, DC, May 19, 2003.

All of us here in America should believe, and I think we do, that we should be, as I mentioned, a nation of owners. Owning something is freedom, as far as I’m concerned. It’s part of a free society… It’s a part of — it’s of being a — it’s a part of — an important part of America.
— George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., October 15, 2002.

You can fool some of the people all of the time and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.
— George W. Bush, Washington, DC March 31, 2001

This is an impressive crowd, the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base. — George W. Bush, Al Smith Memorial Dinner, New York, NY, October 19, 2000

No Mistakes

I don’t want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I’m confident I have. I just haven’t N you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I’m not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one — George W. Bush

“He that makes war without many mistakes has not made war very long.” — Napoleon Bonaparte



On 19 April 2004 (02:02 PM),
J.D. said:

Owning something is freedom…

Best. quote. ever! Hours of laughter.



On 19 April 2004 (02:12 PM),
Dana said:

Yeah — it took awhile to put that list together, but as soon as I saw that quote I knew I had to include it. It’s just…Wow. (shake head)



On 19 April 2004 (02:33 PM),
Dave said:

Dana, what’s the citation for the “you can fool some of the people…” quote?



On 19 April 2004 (02:53 PM),
Dana said:

Wow, it looks like Ownership isn’t just freedom!

And we began to recover from the attacks on September the 11th because we’re a strong people. We’re resilient because there’s an ownership society, a culture of ownership in America. George W. Bush, Bakersfield, California, Mar. 4, 2004

The march to war affected the people’s confidence. It’s hard to make investment. See, if you’re a small business owner or a large business owner and you’re thinking about investing, you’ve got to be optimistic when you invest. Except when you’re marching to war, it’s not a very optimistic thought, is it? In other words, it’s the opposite of optimistic when you’re thinking you’re going to war. War is not conducive to — for investment. George W. Bush, Springfield, Missouri, Feb. 9, 2004

We want to make sure our wallets all across the country are healthy. — George W. Bush, Philadelpia, Pennsylvania, Jan. 31, 2004

To serve the economic needs of our country, we must also reform our immigration laws. Reform must begin by confronting a basic fact of life and economics. Some of the jobs being generated in America’s growing economy are jobs American citizens are not filling. This past week, I proposed a new temporary worker program that would match willing foreign workers with willing American employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs. If an American employer is offering a job that American citizens are not willing to take, we ought to welcome into our country a person who will fill that job. — George W. Bush, President’s Radio Address, Jan. 10, 2004

Yeah, because we wouldn’t want those businesses to generate jobs American citizens would actually be willing to take! Huh?

See, when a person has more money in their pocket, they’re likely to come to Home Depot. — George W. Bush, Halethorpe, Maryland, Dec. 5, 2003

Brian Stowell is here. …He says the tax cuts helped a lot. That’s his words, not mine. …He’s going to buy a new router, made in North Carolina. There’s a router worker who’s going to be a — benefit from his decision caused by tax relief. — George W. Bush, Manchester, New Hampshire, Oct. 9, 2003

Tax Relief allows employers to buy routers!

When somebody has more money in their pocket, they’re more likely to demand a good or a service. And in our society, when you demand a good or a service, somebody is going to produce the good or a service. — George W. Bush, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Oct. 3, 2003

As opposed to in all those other societies, where demands for goods and services are never met.

Higher productivity means that workers earn more. — George W. Bush, Richfield, Ohio, Sep. 1, 2003

Worker productivity accelerated last year at the fastest rate in more than a half century. This higher productivity means our workers receive higher wages. — George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 30, 2003

The snide comments practically write themselves.

We got attacked in 9/11. And then corporate scandals started to bubble up to the surface, which created a — a lack of confidence in the system. And then we had the drumbeat to war. Remember on our TV screens — I’m not suggesting which network did this — but it said, “March to War,” every day from last summer until the spring — “March to War, March to War.” That’s not a very conducive environment for people to take risk, when they hear, “March to War” all the time. — George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 1, 2003

Gosh, why would the media be reporting that? And who is friends with all those CEOs?

We said loud and clear [to corporate scoundrels], if you cheat the shareholder and your employees, you will be held responsible for those decisions. The world is now more peaceful because we acted. — George W. Bush, Fridley, Minnesota, Jun. 19, 2003

So, wait. Wasn’t it winning the War on Terror that would make the world more peaceful?

The crux of the plan I laid out said that if a person has more money in their pocket, they’re likely to demand an additional good or a service. In our type of economy, when you demand a good or a service, somebody is going to produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces that good or a service, it’s more likely a fellow citizen will find work. — George W. Bush, Chicago, Illinois, Jun. 11, 2003

You know, because all that stuff we buy in the US is manufactured right here by our own citizens, except for those jobs we aren’t willing to take, which are being offered to our new legal immigrant worker class.

We got into deficit because the economy went into the recession — is how we got into deficit.
— George W. Bush, Little Rock, Arkansas, May 5, 2003

Yeah, that’s it. It has nothing to do with spending more money than we had.

Twenty-three million businesses will receive over $2,000 in income tax relief. Now, that means a lot when you start thinking about the implications. I mean, you’ve got a one-man shop. $2,000 may mean the capacity to buy a machine, leverage the money to buy a machine, which means another job. — George W. Bush

Riiiight.

So I met a guy today named Joe…. He said, by allowing businesses to expense up to $75,000, it means somebody is more likely to buy a copying machine, or in this case, an architectural fancy machine.
— George W. Bush, St. Louis, Missouri, Jan. 22, 2003

I’m guessing that’s a technical term there…

If you put your mind to it, the first-time home buyer, the low-income home buyer can have just as nice a house as anybody else. — George W. Bush

This is — an ownership society is a compassionate society. — George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2002

Wow, that ownership stuff sure is powerful. I ought to get me some of that.

We need people up there who understand that if Congress overspends it will serve as an anchor to economic vitality and growth. — George W. Bush

So, deficit spending is good?

We’ve got some challenges that face our economy, there’s no question about it. I mean, the first three quarters of my presidency we were in recession. That means the economy was going backwards, it was negative growth. The next three quarters we’ve had positive growth. But about halfway through that time, the enemy hit us, and it affected our economy. — George W. Bush, Central Point, Oregon, Aug. 22, 2002

I think one of the things you’ll hear is that even though times are kind of tough right now, that we’re America. — George W. Bush, Economic Recovery and Job Creation Session, President’s Economic Forum, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, Aug. 13, 2002

So, being in a recession doesn’t make this a different country?

If you welcome trade into your country, it creates the notion of freedom. It gives people, consumers, the opportunity to demand product, which is part of a free society. — George W. Bush, White House, Apr. 4, 2002

Right. Freedom is demanding product.

Look, I don’t care about the numbers. I know the facts. — George W. Bush, St. Petersburg, Florida, Mar. 8, 2002

Ah, well, that’s alright, then.

America is, the harder you work, the easier the middle class ought to become, and the more money you get to keep. — George W. Bush, National Newspaper Association 40th Annual Government Affairs Conference, Washington, D.C., Mar. 22, 2001

They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it’s some kind of federal program. — George W. Bush, St. Charles, Missouri, Nov. 2, 2000



On 19 April 2004 (03:00 PM),
Dana said:

Dave, I get this:

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”
—George W. Bush (joking at a Gridiron Club dinner, Washington, DC March, 2001)



On 19 April 2004 (03:30 PM),
J.D. said:

On a related note: Easter in Fallujah, a harrowing tale of the peace-fire on Easter Sunday (via frykitty).



On 20 April 2004 (06:08 AM),
dowingba said:

J.D., in a war, soldiers are your targets. Whether the Gulf War was “over” for the Middle-east or not, 9/11 were terrorist attacks.

Would the Democrats have done anything differently after 9/11? I doubt it. The question is: How would the Republicans have reacted to the Dem’s decisions?

Unfortunately, since the Dems want to get elected — that is their job, and their #1 priority — they have to “disagree” with Bush’s decisions, even if they are the very decisions a Dem would have made had they been in office.

Something people seem to forget, is that there is nothing definitively “conservative” about this war. There’s no reason to think a Democrat would have made any different decisions. Democrats have been in office during wars, you know. The only difference? A Democrat would have raised taxes instead of cut taxes to help stimulate the war-slammed economy.



On 20 April 2004 (06:51 AM),
Paul said:

I agree with dowingba’s last comment about the Democrats following a very similar policy post 9/11. The saying goes, “Politics stop at the waters edge.”

During the months following 9/11 I tried to imagine how Gore would have handled the situation. I can’t imagine that it would have been different up to a point: I don’t think we would have begun the long, seemingly inevitable march toward Bagdad. Gore had the benefit of the intelligence briefings of the Clinton regime and it’s knowledge of Bin Laden. Gore might have pursued Bin Laden just as aggressively and not been so fixated on Saddam.

Have any of you read (or have any interest in) Bob Woodward’s latest book about the planning for Irag? I’m amazed/stunned that Bush agreed to the interviews with Woodward. Bush’s white house has been one very insular and secretive and to let Woodward in the door with his Watergate history is astounding.



On 20 April 2004 (07:11 AM),
Jeff said:

Tammy Said: Waaa! This entry’s too long. I’ll never find time to read it!

Tammy, if there is one entry that you need to find time to read, it is this one. If there is one entry that all of America needs find time to read, it is this one.

But then I guess most of America doesn’t really want to know the truth. How sad.



On 20 April 2004 (08:20 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Dowingba raises some interesting points.

In a war, soldiers are your targets. Whether the Gulf War was “over” for the Middle-east or not, 9/11 were terrorist attacks.

While it is true that conventional warfare is waged between militaries, I’m not sure that’s true of nonconventional warfare. I think that the term “terrorist” is a convenient label applied to anyone with whose military tactics we disagree.

First of all, let’s note that under Dowingba’s delineation, the United States’ conduct then cannot be considered wholly non-terrorist. The Easter in Fallujah story is a first-hand account of U.S. soldiers targeting non-soldiers. Does that make our military terrorists? Also, what of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These most certainly did not target soldiers. They targeted civilians, and tens of thousands of them. Were these terrorist attacks? I think it’s pretty clear that throughout history, the civilian population has often been a military target, from ancient Rome until the present. It’s not a new tactic. It’s only terrorism if you’re the country being attacked.

Still, I agree that wars ought to be fought between armies. In what way, though, could Osama bin Laden or Timothy McVeigh or Theodore Kaczynski directly attack the U.S. military? They couldn’t, of course. Such an act would have been suicide, not war. When a person or group is powerless but still feels compelled to wage war upon a nation, they choose a target they feel they can attack without risk. And even if the 9/11 attacks had been against our military (and the attack on the Pentagon was, to an extent, on our military), would they have had the moral impact as a symbolic attack? I don’t think so.

Would the Democrats have done anything differently after 9/11? I doubt it.

While the overall outcome might have been the same (war against Osama bin Laden), I think the details might have been different. And I don’t think the U.S. would have gone to war with Iraq. Remember that the war against Iraq has no basis in 9/11. It has, in fact, no basis in anything, apparently. If anyone can prove to me that it’s anything more than a personal vendetta, I’ll be happy to moderate my position.



On 20 April 2004 (10:12 AM),
Dana said:

JD: If anyone can prove to me that it’s anything more than a personal vendetta, I’ll be happy to moderate my position.

Well, there’s always The Rise of the Vulcans (no, that’s not a Star Trek reference…)

An excerpt from that review:

The Reagan administration planning suggests strongly that policy-makers such as Cheney and Rumsfeld talk the talk about invading other nations to impose democracy but find democracy a nuisance at home.

Neoconservative (Who they are and what they believe)

And, on a slightly different note:

Planet of Slums (Chilling predictions about the future of human population growth)

Anyway, the upshot is that I don’t think it’s just revenge — I suspect it’s more about Oil and Empire, at least for most of the administration.



On 20 April 2004 (12:04 PM),
Desiree said:

Wow… JD and Dana you have both put so much time and research into this, well done.

As Jeff said “If there is one entry that all of America needs find time to read, it is this one.”



On 20 April 2004 (08:45 PM),
Sheilah said:

WOW!!!! I came in at the very end, and can’t believe it. Great job, JD, and Dana.

But, JD -I have an off the subject question….when I am posting into another persons site like this…how do I do the highlighting that you do? That would be really helpful to know. If you don’t want to post it on here because its’ off the subject, I’d love it if you’d email me the answer! Thanks



On 20 April 2004 (08:47 PM),
Sheilah said:

Oh…and JD…I’d love to invite you over to my sight, especially for todays post, as I be you have some really neat answers! I’d love to hear them. 🙂



On 20 April 2004 (09:07 PM),
dowingba said:

J.D. can you prove to me that it was some personal vendetta? The Bush administration (and allies) are trying to end terrorism (or at least, snuff it out as a major problem on the world stage), not just react violently to 9/11 attacks. They took care of Afghanistan, and are working on Al Queda. They are taking care of Iraq as we speak. Other countries in the region have offered to disarm as a result. Iraq is a pretty major player in the Middle-east, if you haven’t noticed. They are one of the most advanced, powerful and influential Middle-eastern states. Do you really not see the benefit in converting them from a violent, war-mongering dictatorship into a (more) peaceful democracy? Has Bush’s new foreign policy not shown the world that the West means business?

Such an act would have been suicide, not war.

It was suicide…



On 20 April 2004 (09:17 PM),
dowingba said:

Oh, and I would like to add, in reference to the bombs dropped in Japan…

While those bombs played an integral part in ending that seemingly endless war, I, for the life of me, can’t understand why they decided to drop them on civilians. The original intent of the Manhattan Project was to drop a bomb somewhere outside Germany, in an unpopulated area, just to demonstrate the power of said bomb, and force the Germans to surrender.

‘Twas certainly a black mark on American history, and human history as a whole.



On 20 April 2004 (10:37 PM),
nate said:

dowingba: While those bombs played an integral part in ending that seemingly endless war, I, for the life of me, can’t understand why they decided to drop them on civilians.

The best I ever been able to come up with when answering that same question is that with the Japanese already proving dedicated enough to use kamikaze tactics, the US felt they might not respond to a mere demonstration, instead opting to show they had the balls to actually use the bomb — and twice.

I do know why the second bomb was dropped — common thinking was that any country had only enough resources to build and drop one bomb, and with our trump card played, we wouldn’t be in as good a negotiating position. By dropping two, we were bluffing that we could keep up the bombing until there was nothing left of Japan to negotiate with.



On 21 April 2004 (07:15 AM),
Jeff said:

I’m not JD, but I would like to address some of dowingba’s comment.

can you prove to me that it was some personal vendetta?

No WMD’s, no evidence of terrorist cells (before we got there, anyway), just finishing what his Daddy started. To go in with only the support of a few allies is pretty much a personal vendetta.

The US government welcomed Sadam into power in the early ’80s and turned a blind eye while he killed thousands of his own people. It was only after Sadam realized that the US had been supporting both Iraq and Iran during their war that he turned on us (can you really blame him?). Bush Sr. thought he would just go back to being a good puppet dictatorship, but 10 years later he was still a bit of a thorn in Bush Jr’s side – thus the Bush empire rolls on.

The Bush administration (and allies) are trying to end terrorism (or at least, snuff it out as a major problem on the world stage), not just react violently to 9/11 attacks.

You cannot end terrorism by doing the very thing that caused terrorism in the first place. Iraq was not a terrorist threat before we got there, but it sure is now. If we really want to end the threat of terrorism, we need to quit shoving our version of freedom down every other nations’ throats.

They took care of Afghanistan, and are working on Al Queda.

Took care of? “Still taking care of” is more appropriate. Look beyond the US approved mass media.

They are taking care of Iraq as we speak.

That is a matter of opinion. They may have eliminated most of Sadam’s loyalists, but they have opened up a whole new can of worms with the Shiites. This is going to take years to resolve.

Other countries in the region have offered to disarm as a result. Iraq is a pretty major player in the Middle-east, if you haven’t noticed. They are one of the most advanced, powerful and influential Middle-eastern states.

Why do we need other countries to disarm? Any nation should have the right to defend itself with conventional weapons.

Do you really not see the benefit in converting them from a violent, war-mongering dictatorship into a (more) peaceful democracy?

Yes, there is a huge benefit. Oh… you weren’t talking about getting rid of the Bush administration.

Sadam was basically a de-clawed cat when Bush Jr. rolled into Iraq. Dumbya should have waited until he had the support of the world behind him.

Has Bush’s new foreign policy not shown the world that the West means business?

Yeah. Big business. Halliburton.

Bush’s foreign policy has shown the world that we have no regard for what they think. It has shown the world that we are out to police the globe, invading other nations as we see fit. It has shown the world that we would rather offer our own form of terrorism to other nations than try to achieve peaceful solutions through diplomacy. It has shown the world that we are now overt about our removal and installation of puppet dictatorships, rather than covert as we were during the Cold War.

You see dowingba, the Bush administration and the mass media have twisted what terrorism is all about. Terrorists do not hate freedom – they simply want freedom in their own lands – without the USofA dictating what that freedom is.

I cannot offer a perfect solution, as there is no easy way out. But I can assure you that more war and suffering is not going to end terrorism, it will only fuel it.



On 21 April 2004 (08:50 AM),
Jeff said:

So, how did we get here?

To answer this question, we must first realize that this is all just an extension of the Cold War and, to a certain extent, World War II (specifically the Yalta Conference of 1945).

As Stalin repeatedly went back on his word, it became more evident that the US needed to do something to stop the spread of communism. The Korean War (which took place just 5 years after Yalta) and the Vietnam War were the most obvious, overt battles against communism, but there were many more covert battles taking place in different parts of the world.

The Shah of Iran (an oppressive dictator) was one of the US’ most important allies during the Cold War, mainly because of Iran’s proximity to the USSR. When the Shah fell from power, we needed a new ally in the region, so we made friends with another oppressive dictator, Mr. Sadam Hussein. The rest is history.

See also: Iran-Contra

While this was going on, the Soviets were trying to invade a dusty, rugged region called Afghanistan (see JD’s notes about the Mujahadeen and OBL), and we were there.

In Chile, a Marxist by the name of Salvador Allende was democratically elected into power (in 1970). Nixon and the CIA had a hand in overthrowing Allende and bringing General Pinochet into power. Pinochet’s coup ended the lives of thousands of innocent civilians (for more info, go here and here).

Then there was the afformentioned aid of Contra rebels against the democratically elected (socialist) Sandanista government.

The list goes on and on.

If you want to know about the world and understand and educate yourself, you have to dig;
dig up books and articles, read and find out for yourself.
-John Stockwell, former CIA official and author

Can you handle the truth?

Geek Squad

Though I was fairly well integrated with my classmates in grade school, by the time I reached junior high I had gravitated toward a clique of geeks. Junior high is a time of cliques. I spent all of high school striving to transcend these cliques and never quite succeeded; all I did was alienate my existing friends. (Fortunately, college offered a fresh start.)

During my recent “clean and purge” binge, I took time to browse through my old yearbooks. I thought’d be fun to scan in some of the old photos. The birthday entry for Denise came of that, as did last week’s collection of my school pictures. I also scanned in pictures of all my geeky friends.

You might remember some of these goofballs from previous entries such as TAG Science (which was followed by a sequel of sorts, Cassie).

Our little clique comprised:

David Carlson
Dave and I were best friends from fifth to eighth grades. We lived close enough to do a lot of stuff together. And we did. We played D&D, we went hydrotubing, we argued the merits of comic books (I liked Marvel, he liked DC), we played computer games together on our VIC-20s. Later, we listened to music together. (The first time I heard Michael Jackson’s Thriller was in Dave’s room.) Dave and I had a falling out in high school. Or, more precisely, I underwent a drastic change, became (as Dave puts it) “a Bible-thumping sheep” and discarded old friends. For a time, we hated each other. We’ve patched things up over the last decade, though, and now we do geeky stuff again. Dave is a lawyer operating out of Salem. (For a time, he was the “youngest partner in the state”.) Dave’s a regular commenter here, though he thinks weblogs are an exercise in narcissism.

Andrew Parker
Andrew and I were in Mrs. Onion’s first grade class. We weren’t geeks then, of course; we were squirrely little munchkins, just like all the other boys. As we grew, I spent some time at his house. I remember seeing Star Wars with him once. I remember fishing for crawdads in his creek at one birthday party. I remember that his family owned a single-volume version of The Lord of the Rings made up to look like The Red Book of Westmarch. I remember that in the late seventies his father had, in the house, some sort of computer that could dial in with a modem to play a networked D&D game with wire-frame graphics. As we grew older, Andrew became less squirrely, more stoic. Still, his birthday parties were always fun. One year, Dave and I pitched together to buy Andrew the live Styx album, Caught in the Act. That was the year we all stayed up late watching Octopussy. Andrew left Canby for Lakeridge (or Lake Oswego?) after his sophomore year of high school. He went to Stanford for college and now brings the world lots of exciting gadgets as the VP for product development at The Sharper Image. Andrew comments here from time-to-time.

John Kern
Ah, John Kern. I haven’t seen John in twenty years. I always thought John and I were very similar — smart but prone to stupid things. He and I could be very silly together. John lived in Charbonneau, a wealthy community between Canby and Wilsonville. I loved to go over to his house because it was so enormous and beautiful. John didn’t go to Canby for high school; he went to LaSalle, and gradually the rest of us geeks lost touch with him. In junior high, he held two computer parties. We all brought our machines over to his house and stayed up all night doing geeky computer stuff. (Or at least as geeky as you could get with VIC-20s and Commodore 64s and TI-99/4As and, yes, even a Timex Sinclair 1000.) Once we played Pitfall to the wee hours of the morning. Another time (possibly the same time), we snuck into his parents’ bedroom to get their copy of Flashdance. We watched ,it hoping to find some dirty parts. There weren’t any. I think John eventually did something with ROTC, joined the Navy or Air Force. I’d love to see him again. He’s probably married, with five kids and a crazy life.

Darren Misner
I met Darren in fifth grade, drawn to him because he was interested in comic books. For a couple of years, we were pretty good friends. I spent a lot of time at his house playing D&D (and Villains and Vigilantes — or was it Champions?), leafing through his comic books (like Dave, he preferred DC), and playing on his TRS-80 (he had a great dinosaur game for it). We spent Halloween together our sixth grade year, trick-or-treating up and down his street. Nobody was home. We smashed a lot of pumpkins and took a lot of candy from dishes left on porches. Darren drew his own comic books and tried to sell them at the school store, but his only potential customers were his fellow geeks, and he usually gave us copies for free. I always liked Darren, but he was tentative, unsure of himself. He seems more confident as an adult. Like Dave, Darren attended Whitman College. He’s now the bookbuyer for Powell’s Beaverton.

Mitch Sherrard
Mitch was a strange duck, but I liked him a lot. (After all, he introduced me to Bloom County!) He didn’t always hang with the geeks, because he was kind of a loner. Mitch was hard-rocking, Stephen King-loving kind of geek. He liked D&D too (kind of a requirement to be a geek in the early eighties), but he was more interested in the life-and-times the game emulated. He liked the armor and the weapons and the castles more than the actual gameplay. (He’d be a perfect candidate for the SCA.) Because Mitch was somewhat different than the rest of us, he offered a unique perspective. He could argue a position that the rest of didn’t take. He was passionate. Mitch and I stayed friends throughout high school, and kept in touch a little bit after we graduated. He called me one Christmas break but I never returned his call. I’ve not heard from him since. I’ve been trying to track him down without much success. (Dave thinks he might have a connection that would lead us to Mitch, but, to be honest, I’m a little apprehensive.)

Jonathan McDowell
Jonathan was a kid that everybody loved. He was certainly a geek, and part of our group, but he was also cool enough to hang around with the regular kids. The teachers loved him because he didn’t goof around. Rather, he goofed around, but he knew when to stop. He was the funniest in our group (though John Kern was close). He was a great joke-teller and song-singer. One day in TAG Science he taught us to sing “My lover, he was a logger, there’s none like him today. If you’d poor whiskey on it, he’d eat a bail of hay.” We were supposed to be working on plant propagation, but we sang goofy songs instead. Though we all like him, Jonathan never did much with us outside of school. He was a member of a private church, and I don’t think he was allowed to mix with the riff-raff. I didn’t see much of Jonathan in high school, and have no idea what happened to him after graduation.

Jeremy Martin
Poor Jeremy Martin. He was most certainly part of our group; he was a geek, and in all of our classes. But just as the other kids picked on us, we picked on Jeremy. He carried his Dungeons and Dragons books with him to every class. He didn’t try to hide his geekiness. Most of us knew enough to try to pretend we weren’t geeky, even though everyone knew we were. Jeremy had no shame. So we picked on him as others picked on us. Still, I liked him. I went over to his house to play Runequest. He came over to my house to play our made-up version of life-sized D&D back in Grandpa’s woods. Jeremy was a good guy, but nobody was willing to give him a chance. That’s too bad. I don’t know what happened to him in high school and beyond. When Kris and I still lived in the apartment, just after moving to Canby, we ran into Jeremy and his mother one day. He was moving from a house in town to someplace in Portland. That’s the last I saw or heard of him.


The following were not geeks, but they deserve special mention:

Paul Carlile
Dave was my best friend for the four years beginning in fifth grade. Paul was my best friend for the following four years. Neither of us can remember how we met. Apparently we knew each other in junior high because he signed my yearbook. It wasn’t until our freshman year that we began to hang out together, and by our sophomore year, he was my best friend. (Tom Stewart was another best friend for Paul, I think.) Whereas I was staid and liked planning, Paul was all about spontaneity and fun. The combination worked well. We also had great arguments about life, the universe, and everything. Once, after a Newberg-Canby football game, we sat in the car and argued about the nature of God for more than an hour. (I was for God, he was against). By our senior years, we were so in-sync that once, while were driving down a country road, he began to tell me something and I said “I know” — “How do you even know what I was going to say?” he asked. We compared notes. I had known what he was going to say, though it was a completely unrelated to our previous conversation. Paul and I have kept in contact (with varying degrees of closeness) all our adult lives. It’s always great to get together with him. He still brings spontaneity to my well-ordered life. Paul’s a regular commenter around here.

Tamara Brunson
I never knew Tamara well. She was a sweet, good-natured girl who was in all of the advanced classes with us geeks. We had a teasing kind of acquaintance, each of us making fun of the other. She was important to me mainly because first Dave and then Paul had a crush on her. It was strange to go from one best friend to the other and to have both of them infatuated with Tamara. I didn’t keep in touch with Tamara after high school, but for a couple of years in the mid-nineties I’d bump into her at concerts and events around Canby. She was happily married, had adopted a child, and was running a Montessori school near Banks. She’s a good person, and I hope she’s doing well.

Tami Sale
While both Dave and Paul had a crush on Tamara Brunson, I had one on Tami Sale, my dentist’s daughter. Tami made my heart ache, and I’ll bet she never knew it. She was beautiful. She was smart. She was popular. And, best of all, she was nice to me. She didn’t treat me like dirt. We had a computer class together in eighth grade, and sometimes we’d collaborate on projects. I went to the eighth grade graduation dance — my first dance — solely because I knew she’d be there. I asked her to dance three times, and she said “yes” every time. We danced to “Open Arms” by Journey, and for the entire summer I melted whenever I heard that song. Poor Dave had to put up with me pining for Tami Sale all summer long. Then high school came along and I forgot all about Tami. I saw her in class, of course, but my crush had evaporated. Ironically, we were cast as husband and wife in the play our senior year (You Can’t Take With You — we were Ed and Essie Carmichael). We gave each other a perfunctory kiss during every performance. And I didn’t even care! Four years earlier I would have killed to give Tami a kiss. Such is the way of young love.


I think most of us in the geeky clique suffered terribly during our junior high years. (Maybe everyone does.) We were the bottom-feeders on the social ladder, and well aware of it. School was miserable, except when we were with each other. I wouldn’t trade those years of pain for anything now. They helped make me who I am today. I like myself now. To hell with all the popular kids!

Comments


On 16 April 2004 (08:59 AM),
Tiffany said:

My junior high was far more divided by race then by social class. The ‘Military Kids’ were far out numbers by all the race groups, so we stuck together. We had our cliques within the MKs, but we would stick up for each other then an outsider was picking on us. There were a lot of fights in my junior high. I still have a scar on right hand from one of those fights. I never started a fight, but I am still a little proud to say that I never lost one either.

Then in high school I hung out with the ‘New Wave’ group for the first 2 years, music and/or race made the cliques. Then I moved to what I can only describe as the ‘Smart Stoners’. The Start Stoners were in all of the advanced classes and did well in them, but spent most of the evening and weekends either drunk or stoned. I was not drunk or stoned with then, I just found that I loved these people. I could debate life with them far more then the New Wavers. The Smart Stoners were not racist like a lot of my high school classmates, however they were not to found of the police. I married one of these guys by the way.

But I got off of the subject; we had geeks in both junior and high school. In junior high they were included in the MKs, no questions asked. In high school, there were enough geeks that they had their own large clique. I knew many of them from the advanced classes, and they picked on each other far more then I ever saw non-geeks picking on them.

Growing up as a MK, I learned that things were disposable. Every move Mom got rid of clothes, toys, sometimes pets and we lost friends. Yes, you say that you will keep in tough, but it often does not work. I always find people that grew up in one place and still know the people they went to elementary school with fascinating, geeky or not.



On 16 April 2004 (09:07 AM),
Joel said:

The Geeks Rule the Earth.
Or so it would seem. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, all those business types who ought to be going to jail but mostly aren’t; they all seem to be geeks.
I was/am definitely a geek, and junior high was definitely the low point of my life. I recently asked my geeky clique (self-dubbed The Institution) whether we were geeks in high school, and was surprised to hear them mostly deny it. “We weren’t geeks! Many of us were quite popular! Several of us earned athletic letters (in something other than debate and band), we generally had dates, we rarely received beatings… etc.” I’m fairly certain that many of them are in denial, but I’m not going to push the point.
Being a geek where I grew up, as I think we’ve discussed in this forum elsewhen, wasn’t as bad as in some other communities. We were kind of a Third Path between the Jocks and the Burnouts.



On 16 April 2004 (09:20 AM),
Dana said:

Tiffany: Growing up as a MK, I learned that things were disposable. Every move Mom got rid of clothes, toys, sometimes pets and we lost friends. Yes, you say that you will keep in tough, but it often does not work. I always find people that grew up in one place and still know the people they went to elementary school with fascinating, geeky or not.

I didn’t grow up in the military, and I expect I didn’t move as often, or to as foreign of places, as you did, but I learned this lesson, too.

My family moved when I was two from a rural cottage in farmland (with no neighbors) into a neighborhood filled with kids. When I was 9, the summer between third and fourth grade, we moved to Minnesota. In February of my 8th grade year, we moved to Nevada. Then, the summer between my Junior and Senior years of high school, we moved to Idaho.

I attended a total of three grade schools, two junior highs, and two high schools.

People with a strong place-history are fascinating to me — their world seems very foreign in an odd way. Every few years I was uprooted, put into uncomfortable situations, and forced to build a new life. Most of my extended family has a less mobile history (although generally more mobile than JD, 90% of whose life has passed in a 45 mile circle centered on Canby).

I often wonder what I’d be like if I’d grown up in only one town, with one group of schoolmates. I also wonder what JD would be like if he’d moved around like I did.



On 16 April 2004 (09:25 AM),
J.D. said:

Joel: Being a geek where I grew up wasn’t as bad as in some other communities.

Or times. We geeks who came before blazed a trail of acceptance for the geeks of future generations! We made it cool to talk about our thirtieth-level Paladins and to obsess about our video games. You reaped the benefit of all our hard work.

Or something.

Dana: generally more mobile than JD, 90% of whose life has passed in a 45 mile circle centered on Canby

Make that 100% of my life in a 20-mile radius centered on, say, Woodburn. And my family (grandparents, father) have spent 95% of the last 100 years in this same circle. Spooky, huh?



On 16 April 2004 (09:26 AM),
Denise said:

Jr. High is Hell on Earth, or at least it was for me. 8th Grade was the worst for me…well, that is if you overlook that bad perm I had to live with in 7th Grade.

Ok – Jr. High all together was completely horrible and left some deep self-esteem wounds for quite some time.

You are very brave for sharing those pictures…I would NEVER share the bad perm picture!



On 16 April 2004 (09:41 AM),
Joel said:

Dana said: “I often wonder what I’d be like if I’d grown up in only one town, with one group of schoolmates. I also wonder what JD would be like if he’d moved around like I did.”
Perhaps you’d be married, settled down in the family business, while JD would currently be undergoing procedures to change his gender?
It’s a big deal, this moving around business. A friend of mine moved around a lot as a kid, and he always seemed kind of skinny and undernourished. It was generally understood that he was constantly rationing his food against some upcoming journey. He’ll bury us all, that skinny guy.



On 16 April 2004 (09:45 AM),
Dana said:

Joel: Perhaps you’d be married, settled down in the family business, while JD would currently be undergoing procedures to change his gender?

Somehow I doubt it, Joel.

Although, I do have to say that I think JD would pass fairly well as a woman. He’s rounded as opposed to angular, and his voice isn’t particularly deep.

Plus, there’s all that musical theater he’s into… =)

Really, though, it’d never happen — he’s too lazy to do all the work necessary to pull it off…



On 16 April 2004 (09:47 AM),
Joel said:

[laughs with delight]



On 16 April 2004 (09:48 AM),
J.D. said:

Dana: It’d never happen — he’s too lazy to do all the work necessary to pull it off

I don’t want to pull it off: I love my penis.

(Laugh! — it’s funny.)



On 16 April 2004 (09:52 AM),
Denise said:

Your penis is funny, do tell!



On 16 April 2004 (09:57 AM),
Dana said:

Groan

Yes, yes — funny penis. Of course, looks aren’t everything. (rimshot)

Seriously, though, I can’t see JD putting in enough work on a regular basis to be presentable as a woman. The only way would be if it turned into his obsession du jour, like making audiotapes and cross-referenced summaries of Trek episodes. It’d last a year or two, then he’d drop it and drift off to something else.

I just can’t see it. It might be amusing for Halloween, though.



On 16 April 2004 (09:58 AM),
J.D. said:

Argh!

Another one of my geek talents was to always say things in just the wrong way, so that they could be interpreted in a way other than I had intended. I was always saying self-depricating things unintentionally.

John Kern had this talent, too.

Otherwhen…

Tony just came into the office. “My GOD, you were a geek,” he said.

“Of course I was,” I said. “Don’t you remember?”

“No. I was too little. To me you were just a big brother. But looking back, you and your friends were geeks. No wonder you love that show [Freaks and Geeks].”

Ah, the blissful ignorance of youth.



On 16 April 2004 (10:01 AM),
Dana said:

Tony: My GOD, you were a geek

Were a geek, Kemosabe? How about IS a geek?



On 16 April 2004 (11:57 AM),
Lynn said:

Funny how other people often see you differently than you saw yourself. Tony didn’t necessarily think you were a geek, but you knew you were/are. heh.
I don’t think I was a geek. I didn’t have geeky interests. But I didn’t consider myself terribly popular either. I had friends in the popular crowd, but I didn’t always feel a part of that clique.
Junior High was fun for me. Lots of changes: new friends from Beavercreek, starting to wear make-up, ears pierced, etc. Freshman and Sophomore year were extremely difficult for me, emotionally. This was a time in which I made a transition from one group of friends to another and not by choice. Let’s just say girls can be cruel.
And…I’m with Denise, my 7th grade picture was heinous. As was 8th grade. Yikes.



On 16 April 2004 (01:33 PM),
Amanda said:

I don’t like looking at any pictures of myself from about ages 13-17. Frightening.



On 16 April 2004 (01:50 PM),
Dave said:

Well this is a little bit of a flash from the past. As I read through JD’s entry I was quite amused by the memories (good and bad) that it brought back.

As for what I’ll now call “The Brunson Affair” (or lack thereof, actually), let’s just say that it was a very dark period for me in which I managed to mete out more wrong than right and that a very nice girl handled my unwanted attention with a remarkable amount of maturity and grace. Much more than was deserved, I should think.

For the record, I’m not sure that it would be an appropriate characterization, however, to say that JD and I “hated each other”. Certainly I can’t think of any reason why JD would have hated me (though I’m open to correction on this. Highschool was a time I’d be much in favor of forgetting). For my part, I must admit that I was very angry with JD. After all, someone who was my best friend for many years simply got up one morning and made the decision that he wasn’t going to associate with or talk to me anymore. Lest you think I’m subjecting this to a certain amount of hyperbole, that’s literally the way it was. For no reason that I could ascertain, one day JD just simply stopped acknowledging my existence. No conversation, no returning telephone calls, wouldn’t even look at me in the hallway at school.

That was a long time ago, but truth be told, that rift mars our relationship to this day. We both know this, but it’s not something that we’ll ever talk about, nor do we need to. For my part I think I understand (now) his reasons for doing what he did, although I still believe that things should’ve been handled much differently and with a greater degree of external awareness.

Maybe I’m just bitter that I was dumped for the attractive, Christian kids. C’est la vie By college I had mostly forgotten about it and it wasn’t until law school when I saw JD on the Willamette campus one day that I gave it any additional thought. Fortunately the passage of years has dulled the issue from both ends.

But damn, JD. Were you and I in a contest to see who could get the bigger,geekier glasses or what?



On 16 April 2004 (02:27 PM),
Dana said:

Sorry Dave, but I think you win that contest…

I should try and dig up some old pictures of me during this period. I hate mine probably even more than Denise, Lynn, and Amanda — enough that I’m not sure I have any.

My glasses were wire rim, with glass ‘photogrey’ lenses (they’d go dark in sunlight, and they weighed about three pounds because I’m practically blind).



On 16 April 2004 (02:47 PM),
Eila said:

A few comments: one: don’t you people have jobs!!!! This is jealousy speaking; on an ordinary day, I would not even have time to read J.D.’s prose
two: I remember vividly one particular outfit I wore proudly in the eighth grade (it did not necessarily make me a geek, but it was unfortunate, nonetheless) white shorts with a blue stripe down each side, a navy tee shirt, tucked in, blue knee socks and the first pair of Nikes I ever had. I looked spectacular–I was certain the outfit would attract the attention of a certain someone.



On 16 April 2004 (02:59 PM),
Dana said:

Eila: one: don’t you people have jobs!

Hi, Eila!

Speaking only for myself, yes. Yes, I do have a job. But it’s to sit at a computer and type for 8 hours a day. It’s pretty easy to have a browser window open and spend spare moments reading or typing. And I type fast ’cause of all the practice.

white shorts with a blue stripe down each side, a navy tee shirt, tucked in, blue knee socks and the first pair of Nikes I ever had.

Stylin’! =)

One of the advantages(?) of repressing your sexuality during your teen years is that you kind of don’t have any embarrasing crushes to talk about. I mean, I’m pretty sure I understand why I was so attached to my friend Todd, now, but I can’t say that I ever dressed to impress him.

Sigh.



On 16 April 2004 (03:05 PM),
Dana said:

Ah, yes — I should have posted this earlier. It’s a local Minneapolis tech support company. Their company vehicles are very distinctive. They used to be even better — they had random older cars, but all with that two tone paint job and the logo. Now they all seem to be bugs.



On 16 April 2004 (05:25 PM),
nate said:

My junior high years were incredibly painless, as I spent them within the comfortable walls of a private school. Funny; looking back, we geeks outnumbered/outclassed the athlete types (you don’t get many of ’em at a private that doesn’t even offer P.E.), and generally assumed that being athletic was more loserish than our nerdiness (how nerdy were we? Playing the Star Trek CCG until 2 AM, that’s how!). I still keep in touch with a handful of people from that school, and count one of them as my best friend.

Also, I benefit from passing my junior high years during the late 90’s, when geek went mainstream. Not so painful to be a geek when everywhere you looked was another millionaire dot-comer (obviously this was before the bubble burst).

You might think that my subsequent transition back into public school come high school has difficult, but that wasn’t too bad either. I had a good idea what I was interested in (journalism), and my years of private schooling allowed my placement into a number of more advanced classes. That gave me an in with the upperclassmen who I continue to be friends with to this day, even though most of them graduated from HS last year, while I finish up my senior year.



On 17 April 2004 (12:03 AM),
Andrew Parker said:

Your memory fails, John: I had Mr. Schultz for first grade. Didn’t you have a crush on his daughter, or was that someone else?

Dad worked for Control Data Corp for those several years that we enjoyed the free “watts” line to the mainframe in Minneapolis so we could play at all of those crazy simulations while other kids pined for an Atari 2600. Pre-teen geek bliss.

The last time I saw Jon McD was the summer after my frosh year at college. He was driving a lowered pink Beetle that he’d recently painted neon pink and was dating a 28-year-old woman; not exactly how I’d imagined he’d drive off into the sunset, but he always had a unique flair…



On 21 April 2004 (11:18 AM),
D. Misner said:

I have to say it was bit unsettling to be sent a link to this by someone I know. Obliterate that little moron in a V-neck velour sweater now. Nonetheless . . .

To be honest I have very little fond memories of any of these times, but then again I’ve always considered “nostalgia” a disease of the mind. I won’t overturn any rocks here, exposing the slugs and pill bugs underneath, but the character sketches above are a bit inaccurate and saccharine, the haze of time placing a veil over the jagged edges. Of course, the “offenses” that drove me nuts then are understandable now that I can see beyond myself — everybody had their own package of problems. If I have any regrets, it’s probably being cruel to Dave our first year at college. Unfortunately, Dave suffered due to me attempting to rebuild who I was and he represented in many respects what I wanted to forget: Canby, Oregon and the old patterns I had fallen into my first year at college. My apologies, Dave. Really, I’m not that bastard anymore.



On 21 April 2004 (11:41 AM),
J.D. said:

Andrew said: Your memory fails, John. I had Mr. Schultz for first grade.

Darren said: The character sketches above are a bit inaccurate and saccharine, the haze of time placing a veil over the jagged edges.

Both of my geeks-in-arms are correct.

My memory does fail. But I hope that in all the essential details, these character sketches are correct.

Darren’s correct, too, that the character sketches are “a bit inaccurate and saccharine”. The inaccuracies are a fault of my memory, of course, not through willful misrepresentation. As I age, I find that memories of my childhood have taken to hiding in dark corners of my mind, to be discovered when rooting for unrelated things. These memories have frayed, so that I can see the basic form, but not always all the details.

As for the saccharine nature of my character sketches: I’m guilty as charged. Mostly, I have fond memories of this group of geeks. Most of my memories are “sweet” in nature. And those that aren’t, well, I’ve learned through trial and error that this is not the forum for sharing such accounts.

Being a geek was rough. No question. I was suicidal for a time because of it. But I’m happy to have persevered, and now it’s the good memories I try to preserve. I’m sad that other — Dave and Darren, for example — have fewer good memories to cling to. I only hope their adult lives haved proved more rewarding and fulfilling than their childhoods.

Dave said: Someone who was my best friend for many years simply got up one morning and made the decision that he wasn’t going to associate with or talk to me anymore.

Dave, I can see how you might perceive this to be the case, but I don’t remember it that way. (And we’ve already established the problems with my memory.)

I remember the rift as more of a gradual thing. Freshman year was a rough and trying time. We were leaving the Mormon church. I was being picked on by bullies. I had problems with low self-esteem and suicidal tendencies. I had few classes with any of my old, geeky friends. There was a slew of things marring my psyche on a day-to-day basis.

When my family ended up at Zion, I felt envigorated by religious fervor, as you’re well aware. I became obsessed with my new life. I never consciously cast off any of my old friends, though in retrospect I can see that might have seemed the case.

From my side, Dave seemed to grow cantankerous and short-tempered. I felt he didn’t want me for a friend anymore. Hearing his side, I can see that’s because he felt the same thing. We weren’t communicating.

But he’s right: the rift does mar our relationship to this day, and we have side-stepped it, and we have learned to live around it. (Except for this weblog entry, I guess.)

For myself, I’m grateful that the passage of years has allowed Dave and me to become friends again.



On 21 April 2004 (02:30 PM),
Dave said:

Unfortunately for me, at the time JD describes there were moments in which I was cantankerous and short-tempered. Find a 14 year old who isn’t. Fortunately for JD (and me) neither one of us are 14 (thank God).

Darren- good to hear from you again. If it comes as any consolation, I’ve never thought that you treated me especially poorly when we were in college. I full well understood (and sympathized with) your desire to leave behind highschool and it’s attendant nightmarish associations. Frankly, I thought you were just a conflicted guy trying to find himself. I’m glad you succeeded.



On 21 April 2004 (06:00 PM),
Denise said:

Ok – and what does this say about me? Skinny Grasshopper that got dumped by one of the founding members of the geek squad?

And just wanted to add – everyone does things or says things in their youth that they regret. I got hurt by people, and I’m sure I hurt some people myself. Add the hurt to the inability to express true feelings when you are an adolescent, and it is a recipe for misunderstood rifts.



On 22 April 2004 (07:35 AM),
Dave said:

Denise- Don’t feel too bad about getting dumped by JD. He dumped me too and I wasn’t even going out with him!



On 22 April 2004 (07:38 AM),
J.D. said:

What can I say? I was an idiot in both cases…



On 22 April 2004 (08:47 AM),
Dave said:

Well, at least I could’ve gotten a kiss or something out of it. Geesh!



On 22 April 2004 (09:38 AM),
Dana said:

Now there’s an image. =) If you two do kiss and make up, I sure hope there’s photographic proof!

Ten Most Important Books

Y’all are a little too smart for yesterday’s book meme. And you read this site from work. The results weren’t what I had expected. To compensate, here’s a second book meme with which to play:

Over the weekend at Baraita — one of my favorite weblogs — Naomi posted a list of her ten Most Important books. Tracing the meme, I found that it started with here’s luck, who describes it like this:

[This list explores] the notion of one’s own Ten Most Important Books. Not favorite books, or best books, but the most important. Truepenny pointed out that such a list requires not only picking the most important books but deciding what “most important” means in one’s own case. I said that in her case I would imagine there would be some books that are most important to her as a writer, and others most important as a reader. And then she noted that of course there are those books that are important because they got us through difficult times (middle school, anyone?). And so on and so forth.

Here are my ten Most Important books, in the order I read them:

1. The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron
This book is representative of an entire class of books that I read between second and fifth grade: childrens’ books of adventure. Similar books include: Bertrand Brinley’s The Mad Scientists’ Club; John D. Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain; Isaac Asimov’s David Starr, Space Ranger; Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien; and Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

2. The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
What was the first thing I ever collected? Hardy Boys books. Between third and sixth grade, I collected all 56 volumes of this detective series (and then a couple of the new paperbacks). I read each book many times. I could read one adventure in two hours flat. (Sometimes I would read the final three chapters before I read the rest of the book — each book had twenty chapters and about two hundred pages.) I discovered my first Hardy Boys book laying around in Grandma’s house. Perhaps it had belonged to Dad or to Uncle Norman. Whatever the case, this series was an important part of my childhood.

3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Sometime during my third grade year, I picked up The Two Towers from Philander Lee Elementary School media center shelves. Though it was confusing — I had no idea it was the second part of a trilogy — I loved it. I loved the dwarves and the elves and the Ents and the orcs and the hobbits. Thereafter, I read The Lord of the Rings nearly every year. And it led me to Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels; Stephen R. Donaldson; and The Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings. The Lord of the Rings also led to role-playing games.

4. Red Rackham’s Treasure by Hergé
While browsing through the school library in fifth grade, I came upon a comic book bound like a book. “A comic book book?” I thought, confused. I checked it out. I was already collecting comic books by this time, and was curious to see what comic was worthy of being bound in hardcover. What I found surprised me: even at that age I could tell that Tintin was as much art as comic. Slowly, I read other adventures in the series. (I wouldn’t read them all until the end of college.) I was fascinated by Hergé’s iconic figures cast against detailed backgrounds, intrigued by his stories of adventure. Tintin taught me that comic books were more than just superheroes in tights.

5. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I read and liked a lot of classic fiction before my senior year of high school, but none of it had the impact of Crime and Punishment. I was an intelligent young Christian man who had a lot of questions that it seemed could not, or would not, be answered. Here was Dostoevsky, by all accounts an intelligent young Christian man who had similar questions a hundred years before. He wrote books to explore his questions. And with Crime and Punishment, he tackled themes that I had already begun to explore in my own life: the nature of existence, the possibility of a “superior man”, the nature of good and evil, of God. This book did not change the way I thought at the time, but it opened my mind for further exploration in the future.

6. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
If Crime and Punishment opened my mind to further exploration, The Unbearable Lightness of Being took full advantage, took me to the farthest frontiers of thought. When I read it during my sophomore year of college, I was still a Christian, though working my way to agnostic. From its very first paragraph, this book had my mind in a tizzy:

The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed philosophers with it: to think tat everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum! What does this mad myth signify?

And from there Kundera explores the nature of mind and spirit, body and soul, the “weight” of life, the nature of love, the concept of language, and the existence of God. I started the book a Christian becoming and agnostic; I ended it an agnostic becoming an atheist. I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being again years later, and it didn’t have nearly the same effect as it had the first time. It couldn’t possibly.

7. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
Ishmael is not a particularly well-written book. Intellectually, it’s sloppy, relying on the same sort of propaganda techniques and logical fallacies that the government uses to convince its citizens that war with a distant country is acceptable. Some of the books’ ideas are interesting (the concept of Takers and Leavers, for example: that some people consume, or Take, the worlds resources, while others produce, or Leave, resources for others), and they can provoke a certain amount of thought. Why is this book important to me? In November of 1996, it was our very first book group reading. Paul and Connie and Kris and I had a brilliant discussion about it, and as a result we decided to continue this crazy book group idea. Nearly eight years later, the book group is still going strong, is, in fact, an important part of my life. It all started with Ishmael.

8. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
You know how sometimes you finish a book and you think to yourself, “Wow. I loved that book. I’ll have to read it again.” And then you read it for a second time. And then maybe a third? Cold Mountain was like that for me. I read it several times over the course of a few months, and since have read it once every year or two. I love the book. I love the story, I love the characters, I love the language. This is my favorite book.

9. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
I’ve raved about Proust many times over the past year, and with good reason. The man was a genius. Hidden beneath a sea of labyrinthine sentences, couched in an ocean of dependent clauses, rests a beautiful novel that explores that nature of love and the meaning of life. Presumptuous, perhaps, but full of poetry. I never know when the next sentence is going to leave me awestruck. I’ll be tackling the second of the seven volumes in Proust’s vast novel later this year. I can hardly wait.

10. Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction
When I took the writing class last fall, I didn’t know what to expect. My previous writing classes had left me cold. They didn’t teach me how to write; they didn�t teach me anything. This class was different, and one of the differences was this fantastic anthology of short fiction. Each story is a gem. If you read them all, you’d have a good education on plot and character and dialogue and crisis and voice and point of view.

There you have it: my ten Most Important books. What are yours? (If ten’s too many, share five. Or three. Or one.)


Co-incidentally, scrubbles just linked to a similar collection of peoples’ 10 favorite novels. (I’m guessing that this will be the eventual permalink.)

Comments


On 13 April 2004 (10:00 AM),
J.D. said:

Oops.

Somehow I forgot The Little Prince and The Velveteen Rabbit.

I hated The Velveteen Rabbit when I heard it in first grade. I loathed the book for years. In time, as I gravitated toward the fringe of school social life, the book became more and more important to me. The story — about what it really means to be loved — resonated with my heart. In high school, I led a Bible Study discussion about the book. (Perhaps that was my first book group experience!)

The Little Prince, of course, has similar themes. I didn’t read it until the end of high school, though. When I left for college, it became an important book to me because it represented the meaning of friendship. At Christmas, I photocopied pages from the book, and colored them, and sent them to Kristin and her family.

My list now has twelve books.



On 13 April 2004 (10:13 AM),
Paul said:

James and the Giant Peach was an important book for me. It was the first book that I let my imagination run away with. I think the fact that the book was read aloud to us by the 4th grade teacher helped shape its impact.

Crime and Punishment was also important to me, but it was the Stranger by Camus that really opened me to questioning my existance.



On 13 April 2004 (10:35 AM),
tammy said:

The Bible of course.
The Childcraft Encyclopedias
The Bobbsy Twins
The Childrens Hour Bedtime Stories
Trixie Belden Series
Anne of Green Gables
Jane Eyere
Strongs Exhaustive Concordance
What to Expect when you’re Expecting
Dare to Discipline

Books had a far greater impact on my everyday life as a child than as an adult. I’ve just read very few books as an adult that have effected my life or my way or changed my way of thinking. Ihave no idea what this says aboutme. Bu it’s got to mean something I’m sure! 🙂



On 13 April 2004 (11:40 AM),
Dana said:

HmmmmMMmmmm.

…Ponder, ponder…

My relationship with books is kind of tainted. Plus, I’m not sure I can keep it to just 10. =)

These are in no particular order.

1. Space Cadet, Robert Heinlein – Much as JD has picked the Mushroom Planet as a stand-in (I have a hardbacked copy of Mr. Bass’ Planetoid I picked up at a Library sale years ago), I pick this Heinlein work to stand in for the whole corpus of his so-called juvenile SF books (I think they’re better than his so-called adult SF books, personally). While many elements of those stories are pretty dated nowadays, the core character values of self-reliance, curiosity, and a focus on intelligence as being a good thing have all stuck with me. Plus, while many details of planetology are way way way off base, a lot of the rest of the science is quite good.

2. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov — There’s a lot of Asimov that I enjoy, but I think this, his first novel, is his best long work. While I adore the idea of Psychohistory, I think this particular book is a much more important and deep work, commenting on elements of racism, cultural dynamism versus stagnation, and things of that nature.

3. The Time Machine, HG Wells — When I was a kid, I managed to convince my folks to buy me this enormous omnibus edition of HG Wells fiction on sale at B. Dalton. I eventually ended up with a couple of these volumes, together containing nearly everything he wrote. Even today I haven’t read my way completely through them. Again, the thing I enjoyed the most about Wells was the social commentary — unlike Verne, who primarily wrote about scientifically and engineeringly possible things, Wells just made stuff up, but then went on to more or less deal with how those things changed the world or society. Anyway, Wells in general I found thought provoking, and The Time Machine is just plain classic.

4. Sherlock Holmes (any book), Arthur Conan Doyle — I always admired Holmes, and I find the fact that Doyle was a staunch mystic who believed in fairies and ghosts to be a wonderful irony. The Solar Pons pastiches are also quite good (and there are more of them than there are Holmes’ stories, I believe).

5. The Once and Future King, TH White — I like Arthuriana, and this is one of the more accessible and modern distillations thereof (plus, both Disney’s The Sword in the Stone and the musical Camelot are in fact based on this work). This is not to pick on such excellent works as The Idylls of the Queen or the fantastic two-volume Le Morte D’Arthur, or even Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. It’s just fun, and a bit more accessible to kids, I think, while making fairly plain the whole Might is not the same as Right element of chivalry.

6. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, Roald Dahl — This is a collection of short stories that was given to me as a gift when we moved away from the UP of Michigan and relocated to Moorhead, MN. I read it in the car over the two-day drive, sad and dejected to be leaving behind familiar friends and places, and not really knowing what to expect.

7.Little, Big, John Crowley — I’m not sure what to say about this book. It simultaneously has a very prosaic and a very mystical view of the world, and I love it. It appeals to both the side of me that everybody mostly knows — the logical sciencey side — and the more mysterious, emotional bits that I’ve kept suppressed for so long.

8.The Monstrous Regiment, Terry Pratchett — JD hates Discworld. Well, he’s wrong to do so, but I’m willing to allow him his wrongheadedness. I have liked every single Discworld book I’ve read. Some hold up better than others, but really they’re all pretty good. The most recent, The Monstrous Regiment, holds a particularly soft spot in my heart because of the main character and what she goes through to find her missing brother. The way this reflects on larger societal issues is also far more complex than it appears on the surface. Terry Pratchett is getting more clever with every book, I think.

9.The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul, Douglas Adams — Douglas Adams is clever, insightful, and extraordinarily funny in a dry, english sort of way. While the Hitchhikers books are great, I think the Dirk Gently books are better written and all around better books, and I like the second more than the first. I find Dirk Gently a very compelling and interesting character, possibly unique in the anals of modern fiction. I’m not sure why I feel that way, but there’s just something about him.

10.My Husband Betty, Helen Boyd — This was a difficult decision to make. There are a number of other excellent choices, such as True Selves, Gender Shock, and As Nature Made Him. Really, though, I think My Husband Betty, written by the wife of a transgendered person about what that’s like, and how she and her spouse have dealt with it, is really unique amongst the various TG-related books I’ve read.

11. (“This one goes to eleven!”) Dungeons & Dragons Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson — I blame society. (Hey, it’s a book!)

I had a hard time keeping the size of my list down.

Runners Up, in no particular order and given without comment:
Earthsea trilogy, Ursula K. LeGuin; pretty much anything by Jack Vance, most especially the Demon Princes series; The Elfin Ship by James P. Blaylock (Lord Kelvin’s Machine is also quite fun in a Victorian steampunkish sort of way); The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers; pretty much anything by Stanislaw Lem, most especially Tales of Pirx the Pilot and Memories of a Space Traveller; The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon; Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart; the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser books by Fritz Leiber; The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, who is pretty interesting in his own right; The Feynman Lectures on Physics (with Leighton and Sands) by Richard Feynman; CRC Standard Mathematical Tables by Chemical Rubber Company; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and The Tao of Pooh.

Oh, I could be at this all day.

Epic Pooh: Michael Moorcock compares LotR to Winnie-the-Pooh.



On 13 April 2004 (11:45 AM),
mac said:

In NO particular order

Call of the Wild
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Pearl
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Mutiny on the Bounty Trilogy
Lonesome Dove
Ishmael
Crossing to Safety
The Mismeasure of Man
Lies My Teacher Told Me
Amazing Grace

Man…that’s hardly with any thought at all. Good question Roth!



On 13 April 2004 (01:42 PM),
nate said:

Bertrand Brinley’s The Mad Scientists’ Club

Sweet zombie Jesus! You’re the only other person I’ve ever run into who read that book as well. Though the original is a classic (at least to me; I can reread the stories even now and find them entertaining), you should try to track down its sequel, The New Adventures of the Mad Scientists’ Club, if you can. A fun walk down memory lane.

I’ll try to get my own list up later today (though it’s hard to compile a “ten best” list at only 18 years of age, with at least 3 years of that spent without knowing how to read).



On 13 April 2004 (02:05 PM),
Dave said:

In the order (I believe) that I read them.

The Bible
The Hardy Boys- F.W. Dixon
Bulfinch’s Mythology
the Sherlock Holmes stories- Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings- J.R.R. Tolkien
Foundation- Isaac Asimov
the works of Karl Marx
Hero with a Thousand Faces- Joseph Campbell
A Bright Shining Lie- Neil Sheehan
Discipline and Punish- Michel Foucault
The History of Sexuality, vol. 1- Michel Foucault



On 13 April 2004 (02:12 PM),
Dave said:

For the benefit of Nate, I also read the Mad Scientist Club. And the Great Brain books. Loved ’em all.

On a tangentially related topic, does anyone remember a series of books about a bunch of teen age geeks who investigated mysteries and used a junk yard (which they had tricked out and had secret entrances/exits) as their base? I think the name was The Three Investigators, the Alfred Hitchcock mystery series. I should’ve put that on my list, too.



On 13 April 2004 (02:46 PM),
Joel said:

So I also read the Mad Scientist’s Club, along with the Great Brains. Dave, the Three Investigators was the name of that series. The smart one was called Jupiter, as I recall.
I’m not going to make a list, but I will echo Paul- James and the Giant Peach was the first chapter book I read on my own.



On 13 April 2004 (02:50 PM),
Dana said:

Dave,

You’re indeed refering to The Three Investigators, the leader of which was named Jupiter Jones, as I recall.

Nate,

I’ve also read The Mad Scientist Club, as well as the sequel. And, in case you didn’t know, there’s also The Big Kerplop!, which was only published recently, by the author’s son, I believe.

Don’t forget Alvin Fernald, Shoey, and The Pest, Danny Dunn, and all of those guys.

I have a “lost series”, too — it was another of those “teenage detectives”, just two this time, and the team was a kind of Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson pairing. The brainy kid was a terrific pitcher on the school baseball team, so it was okay that he was smart, and the other kid narrated the books. I’ve no idea what the characters were named or who wrote this — a friend lent me several books in this series in 5th grade, and those are the only exposure I’ve ever had to them.



On 13 April 2004 (03:29 PM),
Dave said:

Also along those lines was the “Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective” stories. Judging by the quick peek at Amazon, there are far more of them than appeared in the Canby Public library circa many moons ago.



On 13 April 2004 (03:41 PM),
Dana said:

Oh, sure, everybody knows Encyclopedia Brown — there was even a TV show on HBO about a decade ago.

I tracked down the series I couldn’t remember, but it took some doing: ‘Brains’ Benton and Jimmy Carson. I’ve only read a couple of these, and it was long enough ago that I don’t remember which ones.



On 13 April 2004 (03:43 PM),
Dana said:

Ooh, almost forgot Henry Reed and Homer Price!



On 13 April 2004 (03:54 PM),
Dana said:

Okay, this is my last post, I promise.

Dave, if you’re interested (and haven’t already done a google search), there’s a ton of Three Investigator information out there:

TunnelTwo.com

Green Gate One

I seem to remember some rhymes they had for leaving messages with each other’s parents. Or maybe it was just Jupiter Jones who would do that, to alert the other two to head over to the Junkyard.

Sigh. I loved their HQ. And I kind of had a crush on Pete.



On 13 April 2004 (05:04 PM),
Dave said:

Fascinating. Once again the Canby public library, which I cherished as a youth, has left my education somewhat lacking. I’d no idea that there were 43 (!!) of those Three Investigator books.



On 13 April 2004 (05:15 PM),
Dana said:

Well, I was lucky.

I was living in Moorhead at the time I was reading this stuff. Fargo/Moorhead was about 150k at the time, plus collectively there are three colleges there. I had two public libraries, two good school libraries (gradeschool and jr. high), and three college libraries, plus B. Dalton over in West Acres mall in Fargo.

All but three of those were an easy bike ride from my house.



On 13 April 2004 (05:25 PM),
Kris said:

Oops, promise broken! 🙂



On 13 April 2004 (06:40 PM),
mart said:

richard scarry – what do people do all day?, etc.
gertrude chandler warner – the boxcar children
hardy boys series – at least 20 of these…
arthur conan doyle – the collected sherlock holmes
albert camus – the stranger
william blake – the complete poetry and prose of william blake
harlan ellison – the glass teat
john steinbeck – the winter of our discontent
noam chomsky – understanding power: the indispensable chomsky
dave eggers – you shall know our velocity

books that shaped my love of learning, reading, expanded my consciousness, set my mental stage, etc.



On 13 April 2004 (09:03 PM),
Dana said:

Kris: Oops, promise broken! 🙂

D’oh! Doubly broken, now! =)



On 13 April 2004 (10:01 PM),
Kris said:

In Chronological Order, ten books that started something:

“Ballerina Bess” This is the first book I remember actually reading myself, sounding out the words aloud as I gazed at the beautiful blonde ballerina in her pink tutu and toe shoes. We were living in Guam and I think I was almost four; my little sister Tiffany was a baby, which is why Mom didn’t have time to read to me just then and I had to do it myself.

This one has been mentioned above: “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH”. This book fascinated me from the start. When my fourth grade teacher began reading this chapter book to our class, the daily suspense of arrested storytelling was too much for me. After much internal calculation of my finances, I broke down and spent 75 cents for a used paperback copy at the school’s “book store”. (This was a military elementary school in West Germany– I don’t really remember how it was that it had a bookstore, more like a book stall, in the cafeteria.) I devoured the book that night, then had to both suffer and savor through the continued readings in class. It was fortunate I bought the book; we moved to California before my teacher finished.

Some Sunset cookbook, I believe entitled “Easy Desserts”. I made that from-scratch Chocolate Chiffon pie at least 20 times during the period from 6th grade to 7th. I lost my taste for it after I discovered huge black ants in the cornstarch AFTER I had added it to the recipe.

I raided my Dad’s bookshelf regularly during high school, reading “Gone With the Wind”, “The Peter Principle”, and many others. But what a shock when I picked up George Herbert’s “DUNE” and realized I could like science fiction. To watch a talented author create an entire new universe, peopled with cultures both alien and familiar has become one of my favorite activities. Alas, Herbert’s DUNE series is inconsistently brilliant and implodes throughout the nine (ten?) novels. If I read the first, however, I have to read them all.

Another from my Dad’s shelf: “The Source”, by James Michener. Okay, Michener is entertaining historical soap opera, but in this case (age 15) I happened to read Alex Haley’s “ROOTS” just after it. A one-two punch that convinced me that people will cross any line in the name of their religion. With a history of violence and hate to justify beliefs based on superstition and fear, organized religion just became something I want no part of. Of course, I still appreciate a good week spent with a Michener novel now and then.

“The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” Yukio Mishima. What? Literature exists outside the Western Hemisphere?! A classic Japanese tragedy, as passionate, and restrained, as the finest Hamlet, and yet totally foreign to my high-school self. The cat-torture scene stands alone.

My senior English thesis at Willamette was on Dickens’ “Bleak House”, which I have now read cover-to-cover six times. Although tedious to some, Dickens’ work appeals to me because it is precisely so PRE-modern. The novel form is fairly new and Dickens treats it like a rococo carving, with as many character and plot culicues as he can manage. Of course the plot twists are contrived! Of course the tangled threads of Dickens’ people all fall into place in the next-to-last chapter! Of course no one ever figures out the hidden identities of those who are in disguise! One of the first, one of the best, a Dickens novel is a pure romp, with social commentary to boot. Sadly, my thesis was only mediocre. I wish I had a chance to try again.

A biography of Margaret Sanger, a major champion of contraceptive rights. I was aghast to learn that contraception was once illegal in the U.S. and elsewhere even as late as the 1930’s! Okay, call me naive. After watching her mother die at age 50 after enduring 18 pregnancies, Sanger became a nurse who broke federal laws by handing out and sending brochures about contraceptives to women who requested them– she served time in jail for mailing such “obscene” material, then moved abroad to continue the fight. Near the end of her life, she teamed with others to found Planned Parenthood and develop oral contraceptives and, voila, The Pill!

“A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diary 1785-1812” I picked this book up on a whim at a bookstore (I was waiting for Jd, who was taking FOR-ever.) and was hooked. Social history based on primary documents. This woman’s life through her own writing is a testament to the courage of pioneers, farmers and their farming wives, independent women, and mothers of all sorts. Amazing insight to the challenges of life before electricity, grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies and assisted-living retirement homes.

My all-time favorite book (so far): Ursula LeGuin’s “Left Hand of Darkness” Friendship juxtaposed with alienation and estrangement, written in prose as careful and balanced as the finest haiku. This book is a masterpiece. Plus, LeGuin lives in Portland.



On 13 April 2004 (10:49 PM),
Heather said:

Its funny how kid’s books seem to make a greater impact than adult’s books…maybe too many of us don’t have the time and energy to devote to reading that we did as children. Anyways, here’s my list (in no order):

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L’Engle)- I loved all the books in the series but I must have read this one a million times as a child

A Light in the Attic (Shel Silverstein) – I got this book as a gift for my 10th birthday and I remember being so amazed that an adult could write down so clearly things that I thought about all the time. After going back and rereading it as an adult, I’m amazed by the author’s talent.

The Conglomeriod Cocktail Party (Robert Silverberg)- This was the first adult science fiction book that I read (at the ripe old age of 11!) and I still remember being totally engrossed in it when all my friends couldn’t understand why I didn’t read The Babysitter’s Club like the rest of them.

A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) – It was the first book I read in high school that I actually enjoyed, and I remember thinking, wow, I guess they’re not making me take English just to torture me. And then we read The Scarlet Letter and I went back to the torture theory.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Series (Douglas Adams) – These books have contributed immensely to my mental health…no matter how depressed I feel it’s impossible to be in a bad mood after reading them. However, I do feel like an idiot laughing out loud in public, so I try to avoid reading them at Starbuck’s.

The Future History Books (Robert Heinlein) – These are also major comfort books, although not in the same way as the Douglas Adams books. I like the fact that the stories are all interconnected, and that the more of them you read, the more you get out of them.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat (Oliver Sacks) – This book is a really interesting look into the lives of people with different psychological disorders. The author writes with such sensitivity and care for his patients, it’s easy to feel what they must be going through in their lives.

Science and Human Behavior (B.F. Skinner) – A really in depth study of an almost universally misunderstood branch of psychology. I had an awesome professor in college that taught all the Behavioral Psychology classes, and this is the book he referred us to when we had questions that we wanted answered.

The Best Recipe (Christopher Kimball) – One of the Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks. It’s rare to find a cookbook in which every recipe works how it’s supposed to. It’s the first cookbook I take out if I need to make anything I haven’t made before.

Well that’s only nine…I’m sure there are lots that I’m missing. But it’s a start 🙂



On 13 April 2004 (11:01 PM),
nate said:

nate: I’ll try to get my own list up later today

And I did. I’d have posted it here, but it’s far too lengthy.



On 14 April 2004 (08:50 AM),
Dave said:

What I find interesting is that of the books listed, a very high percentage are fiction. Of the 95 books in people’s lists (including Nate’s off-site list and counting the Lord of the Rings+Hobbit as one book rather than four volumes and the works of Karl Marx as one book, the Hardy Boys books as one book and the Sherlock Holmes stories as one book), 21 are non-fiction. This includes counting the Bible (twice) as non-fiction as well as Bulfinch’s Mythology as non-fiction. Of those books, the Childcraft encylopedia is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction and thus, at least arguably, only 20 of the 95 are straight non-fiction. That’s only 21% non-fiction. If you eliminate the cook books and the concordance (Tammy do you really “read” the concordance?), each of which I would consider a reference type book, that brings the total to about 18%. Fascinating.

Of the fiction, a surprising amount of sci-fi and fantasy. Perhaps this is a function of the demographic, but even Kris listed a couple within those genres, something which I must admit surprised me. The other thing that surprised me was that Shakespeare didn’t make anyone’s list.



On 14 April 2004 (08:51 AM),
Dave said:

Oops. I missed “My Husband Betty”. Alter the statistics accordingly.



On 14 April 2004 (09:57 AM),
tammy said:

Well Dave, the concordance hasn’t had such a great impact on my life as such, but I listed it because in my adult life I have opened the Concordance about as much as any other book. Because I somehow have a flair for getting into theology type debates, on and off the computer, and because I have large portions of the Bible committed to memory I find that I use my concordance about more than any other book. Now you may wonder why I need it if I have so much stored in memory. It would be well to note here that I am a few weeks shy of 44 years old and the age factor has played a mojor role in my inability to recall the references. I always know the book of the Bible but not the exact verse and chapter. So; enter, Strongs Exhaustive Concordance!



On 14 April 2004 (09:34 PM),
JENEFER said:

I AM SO AMAZED THAT SO MANY PEOPLE COULD, SEEMINGLY, JUST PULL UP A LIST OF THE TEN, OR SO, MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS IN THEIR LIFE IN SO SHORT A TIME. I CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER ALL THE BOOKS I HAVE READ AND WHETHER THEY SEEMED IMPORTANT AT THE TIME OR MADE A CHANGE IN MY LIFE. I AM GRATIFIED, AS AN AVID SCIENCE FICTION READER, THAT THERE WERE SO MANY MENTIONED IN SEVERAL OTHER PEOPLE’S LISTS. I THINK I HAVE READ ALL OF THE ONES MENTIONED. I WOULD GUESS THAT I HAVE READ 3000 BOOKS SINCE I BEGAN READING AT AGE FOUR. SOME YEARS IT WAS A COMPETITION AND SOME YEARS IT WAS SCHOOL, BUT MOSTLY JUST PURE PLEASURE. LATELY, I HAVE BEEN REREADING MANY BOOKS FROM MY GRANDPARENTS AND PARENTS LIBRARY. THEY ARE LIKE OLD FRIENDS. MANY I HAD NOT THOUGHT OF IN YEARS, BUT REMEMBER NOW THAT I SEE THEM AGAIN. IT IS SO COMFORTING. I WILL HAVE TO SPEND MANY HOURS COMING UP WITH A SHORT LIST OF BOOKS THAT AFFECTED MY LIFE. I WOULD DEFINITELY CONSIDER Ivanhoe by?. I DISCOVERED PERIOD NOVELS THROUGH THAT BOOK. ALSO Dark Star of Itza (out of print). I’D HAVE TO LOOK UP THE AUTHOR. NEVER WAS GOOD AT THAT. JD, DO YOU HAVE A LIST OF EVERY BOOK YOU EVER READ? OR JUST SINCE YOU DISCOVERED THE COMPUTER. I AM IN AWE OF YOUR LISTS.



On 15 April 2004 (01:54 AM),
mart said:

well it took some thinking first obviously jenefer, but these are books that made an impact, so they tend to stick out a bit more. me? i’m not a huge reader any longer, so that helps narrow the field too. college and HS days were made easier by me remembering what i focused on and therefore what stuck with me. perhaps not the mystical event you imagined it to be coming up with them. i mean, i’ve seen thousands of movies and listened to thousands of cds too but i know i could easily come up with a top 10 list there too. bet you could too.



On 15 April 2004 (09:28 AM),
Dana said:

I have an odd relationship with books. For most of my life, I’ve used them
as a coping mechanism. They helped me to escape, to blot out strong or
difficult emotions, to keep myself running on an intellectual level no
matter what my emotional level was doing.

At times, I have read voraciously — two or three books a day in stretches
during summer vacation in High School, I recall. At other times, I haven’t
needed to.

So, I’ve been thinking about the criteria I used to generate my initial list
of ten books. I’m not sure how valid that list is. They’re books I like,
certainly, and that have some meaning for me, but they probably aren’t the
ten most important, really.

Here’s another slice through my reading history, from a slightly different
perspective.

1. The Disappearance of Mr. Allen — The first book I remember reading by
myself.

2. The Hobbit — I can remember my parents reading this to my brother and I
in the evenings, a chapter at a time. This was a gateway to Middle Earth in
general, and the entire corpus of Fantasy, really. I read it myself for the
first time in 3rd or 4th grade somewhere.

3. Red Planet, Robert Heinlein — I can’t be completely certain, but this
is probably the first science fiction book I ever read.

4. The Identity Matrix, Jack L. Chalker — This is not a book I would ever
recommend anybody read. It’s not particularly good, but it’s on this list
because of it’s subject matter. I read this book at the tender age of 11,
which many would probably consider young for a book with lesbian strippers
in it. I wasn’t really interested in the lesbian strippers (I was surprised
when they showed up, actually — I thought they got in the way of the
story). The protagonist in the book starts out male, but by the second
chapter aliens have caused him to switch bodies with a young girl, and he
spends the rest of the book in female bodies. The appearance of a machine
that can reprogram brains, which briefly convinces the protagonist that he’s
always been female, was also of interest to me. This wasn’t my first
exposure to SF with these kinds of plot elements, but it probably is the
first book I read where it was a central theme of a serious story.

5. Encyclopedia Britannica (195x edition), various — My family has had
this since before I was born, usually tucked away in a corner in the
basement. My brother hates it, because he tried to look up Martin Luther
King Jr. in it for a school report and couldn’t find him — the encyclopedia
predates most of the civil rights movement. I’ve always loved it, though,
and it’s perfectly good for older stuff. My parents never really made much
use of this, either, so I’ve inherited it. I don’t use it very often, but I
like having it. It’s a comforting old friend. It is a pain to move,
I’ll admit.

6. A Comedy of Errors, William Shakespeare — In summer school right after
5th grade, Bob Hauer adapted Comedy of Errors and we performed it. I was
a Dromio (of Ephesus, I believe). I got interested in acting largely
because of this, although very little came of it later. Overall, though,
it’s had a big effect on me, as I feel that this is when I started
consciously developing a lot of my ‘lying’ techniques that served me so well
for so long. I was already lying about what I wanted and liked, of course,
but around this time I started taking more deliberate steps to express
myself (in secret) and cover my tracks. Plus, it’s a very funny play.

7. Foundation, Isaac Asimov — Okay, I know I pulled Caves of Steel out
earlier as an exemplar of Asimov, but I’ve got to go back to Foundation and
Psychohistory. This book, in a very real sense, introduced me to the ideas
of cultural relativism, statistical theory, and the idea that conditions and
environments can be manipulated to produce understandable results in
people. All of these ideas have had significant knock-on effects on my life
in a variety of ways.

8. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain — I read this around 5th grade, too,
because I’d seen Tom Sawyer on TV or something, and because it was a
challenge (my Mom had had trouble reading this in College or something). It
was tough going, but it was worth it. I’d already had experiences with
racism and discrimination for real, and this book gave me some history
around that, along with a fairly good-sized helping of class warfare kinds
of ideas (although not as much as I got from HG Wells, who was a dedicated
Socialist).

9. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking — Probably one of the greatest
books on Einsteinian relativity and the related cosmology that’s ever been
written. This is still probably the best introduction to the fundamental
workings of the Universe, as it’s currently understood by our science.
There have been some advances since this was published, but nothing that
really invalidates what’s in here. Reading this book always fills me with a
sense of wonder and possibility, and knowing what I do about Hawking’s life,
it’s an even more inspiring achievement.

10. Gender Shock, Phyllis Burke — Almost all of my coming out process
involved either internet research, or anonymous library browsing of various
medical and psych textbooks. This particular book is not about being
transgendered, it’s about how our society has pigeonholed the genders, and
what has been done to non-conforming people (of whatever type) in the name
of psychology. While I think My Husband Betty is an exceptional
work, it’s a lot more specific to heterosexual crossdressers/TG’s who are in
committed relationships with women. It adds a lot to the overall discussion
of gender and crossdressing, but I’ve only just read it, so it’s fresh. I
know Gender Shock had a pretty strong impact on me when I was reading it, an
impact which has lingered.

The most interesting thing about this list, to me, is that most of the
entries are from the same two-year period — fourth and fifth grade. We
moved from Michigan to Moorhead, MN in the summer preceding fourth grade. I
had no friends for the first half of the year, and I the friends I did have
the second half of the year were all in a different classroom. I was
miserable. I got teased and picked on pretty mercilessly. I started
reading to cope with those emotions, eventually reading about a book a day
(we had an excellent school library). I developed my taste for science
fiction at this point. I had tests of character that I had to deal with on
my own. Some I failed, some I bested. In both cases, I learned from the
experiences.

In a very real sense, this is the period in my life where I stopped being a
child, and became a thinking individual. I made plans, I took actions, and
I was responsible for the outcomes. I thought about philosophy, I tested my
theories, and I revised them as I needed to. I mentally partitioned myself
off from my parents partially because Mom was working and Dad was back in
school, so they were around less, and partly because I was exploring things
about myself that I knew I had to deal with, but that I knew they would be
disapproving of.

I developed the character traits that would more or less define me, and
still do — traits that make up the core of who I am, as well as the traits
which define the “Dane”-character I ended up playing for the next 20 years.
It was the period in my life that gave me the tools I have used to live
through the intervening years and the challenges those years have brought.



On 16 April 2004 (06:51 AM),
Jeff said:

In the order that I read them:

1. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
2. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
3. Richard Scarry’s Best Story Book Ever by Richard Scarry
4. Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey
5. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
6. Nigger by Dick Gregory
7. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
8. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
9. The Holy Bible
10. The Loudspeaker Design Cookbook by Vance Dickason

Honorable mention: World Atlas by Rand-McNally, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Books 9 & 10 are the only ones on the list that I have read since high school. Any other books I have read since then have been instructional, reference, or periodical. I don’t have the patience or time to sit and read a novel, and would much rather learn something practical if I am going to read.



On 03 April 2005 (11:24 PM),
jason said:

my list would be as follows:
1-marcel proust-remembrance of things past
2-fyodor dostoevsky-crime and punishment
3-george orwell-1984
4-james joyce-ulysses
5-friedrich nietzsche-thus spoke zarathustra
6-charles dickens-great expectations
7-mark twain-the adventures of huckleberry finn
8-edgar allan poe-unabridged
9-bram stoker-dracula
10-charlotte bronte-jane eyre



On 16 July 2005 (12:50 PM),
Craig Jue said:

What a great trip walking down memory lane…..other people’s favorites being the same as mine.

Brains Benton and Jimmy Carson have to be up there because I can still remember reading these books in my childhood (I do not know what happened to them, I’ve asked my mother several times to no avail).

I am trying to remember a couple of other books that I really enjoyed in my childhood. Mid-1960’s to early 1970’s). Both are fiction.

One was about the life of a hermit crab, from egg to the dangers of almost being eaten and then to finding a new shell as a home. The story was written from the perspective of the hermit crab as if he were a person. The book had lots of illustrations and was fairly large in size.

The other book was about a poor, but happy and close Jewish immigrant family growing up in New York. I believe there were three young daughters (ages about 10 to 14) and no sons in the family. I think the time setting was around WWII, give or take a few years.

If anyone knows or remembers either of these books, I would appreciate a note or e-mail: [email protected]

Thanks.

American Ethnic Food

A couple of weeks ago, before one of our geeky Dungeons and Dragons sessions, Aimee fixed dinner for me and Joel. She made a traditional Minnesotan meal: Tater Tot Hot Dish.

Hot Dish is apparently Minnesotan for casserole. And Tater Tot Hot Dish is like low-rent Shepherd’s Pie. Since I love Shepherd’s Pie, it’s no surprise that I love Tater Tot Hot Dish. Here’s my adaptation of Aimee’s recipe:

Tater Tot Hot Dish

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Brown 1# of lean ground beef (mixed with garlic, onion, salt, and pepper to taste).
3. Drain fat. Place in the bottom of a casserole dish.
4. Spread one can of soup over meat. Cream of mushroom is fine. (And is Aimee’s soup of choice.) So is cream of chicken. So is tomato.
5. Fill the rest of the casserole dish with tater tots.
6. Bake for approx. 45 minutes, checking periodically. Remove when top tater tots are nice dark golden brown.
7. A layer of cheese is optional. (Add cheese before baking.)

We’re having the Gingeriches over for dinner tonight. I’m making Tater Tot Hot Dish.

This meal will continue a sort of long-running joke with Jeremy and Jennifer. They prepare wonderful, delicious meals every evening, many of them quite elaborate. Left to our own devices, Kris and I eat lots of canned and frozen food. It’s no secret that one of our favorites is Hamburger Helper (especially Three Cheese Hamburger Helper). Jeremy and Jennifer find this, well, a little disgusting. Tater Tot Hot Dish is a sort of home-made hamburger helper. Except for the Tater Tots.

I e-mailed Dana to find out her family’s recipe for Tater Tot Hot Dish. I figured that since this is traditional Minnesotan fare, her mother would have prepared some sort of variation. What follows is an exploration of ethnic food, American style. (Amy Jo would probably dig this conversation.)

J.D.: For dinner Tuesday night, I’m going to make traditional Minnesotan fare: Tater Tot Hot Dish and Jello Poke Cake. Aimee has shared her family’s recipes with me; do you happen to have yours handy?

Dana: I fear you are on your own — I’ve never heard of either of those dishes, at least not by those names. I’m going to guess that the ‘Jello Poke Cake’ is basically Jello with bananas and whipped cream, which I have had, and which doesn’t really have any variations. Dunno on the Hot Dish — Hot Dish is basically just another name for casserole, and there’s millions of regional variations. The kind we usually had involved beans with a layer of fritos on top…

J.D. And you call yourself Minnesotan! 🙂

Dana: Well, sort of…

J.D.: Jello Poke Cake is a cake with holes poked in it, into which one pours jello. The frosting is either whipped cream or whipped cream mixed with pudding.

Dana: Nope, definitely never heard/seen/had that.

J.D.: I figured that since you and Aimee were practically neighbors [they’re both from Garrison Keillor‘s mythical Lake Wobegon region], you might share certain dishes. Still, you’re of Norwegian descent, yes? and I think she is of German descent.

Dana: Right. And also, it’s my Dad who is died-in-the-wool Minnesotan, not my Mom. As a consequence, most of our ‘ethnic’ food was not Minnesotan, but was actually Norwegian (Potato Cakes/Potato Lefse, Futimon, Kumla, Milkegrotte, Ebelskeeva, Krumkake, and stuff like that) (I’ve probably misspelled many of those, as I’ve only heard them, never seen them written).

Actual ethnic Minnesota food is a melange of Scandinavian, German, and Native American recipes (not a lot of Wild Rice in Norway or Germany), filtered through a few intermingled generations here in the state.

Also, there’s at least two semi-distinct traditions — The Lutheran’s hotdish traditions vary from those of the Catholics, for example. My Minnesota roots are Lutheran. If Aimee’s are Catholic, then that might also contribute to the variance in our cuisines.

Not that you probably care, but there’s another interesting dichotomy I’m aware of — Minnesota Lutherans have a recognizable sense of humor distinct from that of Minnesota Catholics. The Catholics are more dour, less jovial. This is a fairly gross generalization, but it’s apparently a widely known one.

J.D.: Aimee’s roots are, indeed, Catholic. Mystery solved! 🙂

Dana: Elementary, my dear Roth! The German Catholics and the Norwegian Lutherans, while sharing many cultural practices, still maintain many distinct differences to the trained eye.

I’ve been trying to think of foods that I would consider particular to Oregon or the Northwest. I’ve not thought of any. Then I realized this may be because I’ve never lived outside the region. I would have no way of knowing which of the foods I eat are regional, would I? Do any of you know what our regional foods are? Amy Jo?

Comments


On 06 April 2004 (12:28 PM),
Tammy said:

Maybe all our seafood could be considered regional. I bet out chinook salmon is a fairly regional dish. I know black olives are not eaten much in the east. They eat the green ones. My sisters husbands couldn’t believe it when they saw us eating black olives.



On 06 April 2004 (01:05 PM),
Dana said:

Actually, if we want to be pedantic, my family is from nowhere near Keillor’s Lake Wobegon.

As for localized cuisine — while I can’t really comment on Oregon (Tammy’s probably right on the seafood), there’s another peculiar midwest treat I know about: The Pasty (that’s with a short ‘a’ sound, like in ‘camp’ or ‘flat’). Of course, these are apparently originally from Britain, but then they mutated in the mines of the Upper Penninsula of Michigan and spread throughout North Eastern Wisconson, as well.

(homer)Mmmmmm…..Pasties(/homer)



On 06 April 2004 (01:24 PM),
J.D. said:

I also here there’s some sort of frozen custard thing that’s popular out in the midwest. For the life of me, I can’t envision what form that might take. Like frozen yogurt?



On 06 April 2004 (01:32 PM),
Joel said:

Yeah, that frozen custard is huge in Wisconsin, there’s a chain called Culver’s that specializes in it. Pretty much a variation on a malted.
I grew up South Dakotan Methodist and, while my mom never made tater-tot hot dish, we had it plenty of times at church potlucks. The poke cake was something new Aimee brought to my life, however.



On 06 April 2004 (01:35 PM),
Dana said:

What, you mean like this?

I’ve never had any of that either, as far as I know. Believe it or not, the states here have pretty recognizable cultural gaps, and there are many things that don’t really get shared around. That looks like maybe a Wisconson thing.



On 06 April 2004 (01:42 PM),
Dana said:

Someone clearly needs this book… =)



On 06 April 2004 (02:42 PM),
mart said:

i’ve lived a lot of places around the country and the world. never been anywhere where salmon is consumed so feverishly (by me most especially!), so i’d have to cast my vote for that one (possibly with a nod to tammy’s seafood in general). also in a funny way, the asian food (thai and chinese) are kinda in contention for this honor too, though undoubtedly they’re more recent imports. to me salmon and thai food pretty well sum up what i can get here that i can’t get elsewhere.

(and i know there’s thai everywhere else too. but out here every corner has its own thai place. as opposed to living in colorado where every corner has its own mexican place, etc.)



On 06 April 2004 (02:42 PM),
mart said:

but black olives? everyone eats them everywhere…



On 06 April 2004 (02:55 PM),
J.D. said:

out here every corner has its own thai place

Is the Asian-Northwest fusion thing regional? Do you know what I mean? Stuff like what Caprial’s Bistro serves. Food that uses Northwest ingredients but in ways that are distinctly Asian.

Mart’s right, though, that this is pretty new stuff. It sounds like Tater Tot Hot Dish has been around for a while. I don’t know any unique Northwest dishes that have been around that long…



On 06 April 2004 (03:24 PM),
Dana said:

The only restaurants that I know of that sort of ‘started’ in the Pacific Northwest would be the Old Spaghetti Factory and Red Robin, neither of which have what you could call a distinct cuisine.

Part of the ‘problem’ is that Oregon, as near as I can tell, wasn’t settled from another country — it was settled from elsewhere in the US. The ethnicity is more diffuse. Here in Minnesota, frex, there’s a lot of Scandinavian and German. Not a lot of anything else. So the resulting mixture developed a ‘fusion’.

In the UP of Michigan there was, at one time, a thriving mining industry. So people who were miners in their own countries ended up settling there. There’s lots of Finns up there (there’s a finnish-language TV program on every Sunday morning broadcast from Marquette). But also waves of Poles, Italians, and people from Cornwall. That’s why a British food like Cornish Pasties ends up in Michigan. And then gets made, and fiddled with, by Finns and Italians, resulting in the similar, yet distinct, UP Pasty.

I suspect the migration patterns of the Oregon Trail kinda robbed the Pacific Northwest from developing that kind of fused ethnic background in the same ways.

But Mart is definitely right — Asian food in general is much more diverse and rich all up and down the West Coast, just as ‘Tex-Mex’ is much richer in Texas/Arizona/Louisiana/wherever than it is up here.



On 06 April 2004 (03:26 PM),
Joel said:

Bento?



On 06 April 2004 (03:48 PM),
Aimee said:

About Tater Tot and Other Types of Hotdish:

The working middle-class habit of the Midwestern American is accompanied by a varied seasonal schedule, dramatically ranging from the 100% humidity of August mornings, to the negative 30 degree January nights. The climate would never be described as Temperate. This motley meterology endows the folks of the Midwest with a hearty “feast or famine” attitude (also a pithy interest in Storm Chasing, as it were).

During the summer months, gardens overrun lawns with an abundance of botanical delights: squash, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, and sweet corn. Most Midwesterners anxiously cast aside the mantle of famine and indulge their august appetites with juicy watermelon slices and buttery fresh-picked, road-side stand corn-on-the-cob [Aside: These pleasures are proudly on display for interested out-of-towners at the Great Minnesota Get-Together (end of August to Labor Day)].

However, as the tomatoes ripen on the vine, the wicked Jack Frost comes a calling in early October, leaving families a few precious days to safely stock their fresh State Fair winners on the canning shelves. Alas for those Midwesterners caught by the blight of a November frost during the work week! They’ll be feasting on the store-bought flavors of the Jolly Green Giant the remainder of the year. And so, to make these dreadful, mushy peas and beans palatable in remembrance of summer’s bounty, these innovative Midwesterners will add a can or two to a casserole dish and combine with salted meat, potatoes, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup and call it “okay.”



On 06 April 2004 (04:23 PM),
Betsy said:

I should have had someone make Jell-O Poke Cake for our monthly cooking club’s white trash night recently!

I grew up in Michigan, but pasties are much more a thing in northern Michigan/the UP (Upper Peninsula) and not southern Michigan, where I lived. And we didn’t do hot dishes or tater tot casseroles either – instead, we did regular old casseroles with cream of mushroom soup, including tuna noodle casserole. Don’t forget the Durkee’s french-fried onions!

Oh – black olives are definitely NOT a NW thing; they are the only type of olive you’d see on a relish plate (which has pickle spears, celery and carrot sticks, black olives, radishes, and maybe a few pickled beets on it, typically) back in the midwest, for starters.

Oregon food tends to be upscale instead of middle-brow, in my experience (I’ve lived in Michigan, NYC, California & now Oregon, but have traveled through the country as well.) Even Bento – which is unique – typically has fresh steamed vegetables, steamed rice, and nice cuts of meat or fish. I wouldn’t have pegged Old Spaghetti Factory as a PDX thing, frankly, but maybe that’s because I first went to one in Cincinnati. (Oooh! Cincinnati chili is good stuff!)

Frozen custard is a St. Louis thing, but you can also find it elsewhere in the midwest. It’s a richer, eggier version of regular old soft-serve ice cream and is quite nice.

And I’ve already told friends that I’m dragging out my old recipe for red, white and blue layered Jell-O this year for the 4th of July. Yep, you put fresh fruit in the blue and red layers (blueberries and strawberries, respectively) but the white layer is made from lemon jello that has ice cream melted into it instead of cold water. It’s surprisingly good, in a cheesecak-ey kind of way…



On 06 April 2004 (06:44 PM),
Tammy said:

THese brother in laws of mine and their friends taht hadnever eaten green olives were not from the midwest. They were from Pennsylvania and Maryland. I don’t know if it was just their community that didn’t eat it or if it’s an East coast thing. Not only had they not eaten black olives a couple of them didn’t even know black olives existed!



On 06 April 2004 (08:08 PM),
Sheilah said:

“Oregon food tends to be more upscale, instead of middle-brow” ? Strong statement.

I guess that depends on if you consider seafood and Thai food upscale? Not me.

Frozen custard, for anyone who hasn’t tried it…is simply delicious! Sinful! 🙂



On 06 April 2004 (08:49 PM),
J.D. Roth said:

For the record, my version of Tater Tot Hot Dish was, well, substandard. Somehow I managed to forget to buy the cream of mushroom soup. I was faced with a choice: substitute cream of chicken soup or substitute tomato paste. I chose to use two cans of tomato paste. And no water. sigh Maybe next time…



On 07 April 2004 (05:27 AM),
Dana said:

I chose to use two cans of tomato paste. And no water. sigh Maybe next time…

Um. I don’t think you can make hotdish without Cream of X soup… Tomato paste? What were you thinking, man?



On 07 April 2004 (07:04 AM),
J.D. said:

I was thinking: “Gee, this is so much like my Shepherd’s Pie recipe (which calls for tomato paste) that I’ll just substitute that for the soup.”

Of course, this problem might have been averted if I’d taken a list with me to the grocery store instead of trying to remember everything. I also forgot whipped cream (but had time to go back for that; I wasn’t in the middle of the recipe when I needed it).

On a positive note, I did remember to get Kris her sliced olives…



On 07 April 2004 (07:28 AM),
Joel said:

Jeremy, Jennifer, Kris, and anyone else it may concern,
On behalf of the entirety of the Plains States, let me assure you that we in no way endorse or support Mr. Roth’s culinary innovation. In this regard, he stands alone, and must bear full responsibility for the consequences. We do, however, stand by you in your time of trial.
Sincerely,
Joel Miron
Self-appointed cultural ambassador



On 07 April 2004 (07:54 AM),
Dana said:

…ponder, ponder…

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever had hotdish that included tomato anything. Not that such a beast doesn’t exist somewhere, of course.

More reference material



On 07 April 2004 (08:28 AM),
Dana said:

Here we go: Old Lutheran Recipes

I recognize most of those, although once again Tater Tot hotdish shows up. Dunno, but I know I’ve never had it.

On a slightly different note, this is not quite, but just about, the beverage my Dad’s mom used to make, and which they called ‘The Usual’. It is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever had (I can’t stand rhubarb, and this just makes it worse).

The recipes there aren’t quite what I grew up with — Mom’s flat bread recipe used bacon grease, as I recall, and I know her Split-Pea Soup used yellow peas (the only place I’ve ever had yellow split pea soup that tastes like my Mom’s and her mothers is at a greek restaurant, of all places).

But anyway, this is at least close-ish to my heritage.



On 07 April 2004 (08:44 AM),
Dana said:

And yet more recipes, this time from the region of Norway called Trøndelag (which is near to where my grandmother grew up, in Stavanger).

Specific recipes I know from that list include Kumla (Norske Potato Dumplings, one of my favorite meals, actually — but Dad hates it), Krumkake (type of cookie), Fattigman (kind of like a donut, but not really), Julekake (‘Christmas Bread’ — not my favorite, but it’s okay in small doses), Risgrøt (Rice pudding), Rommegrøt (kind of a cream pudding, but not really. If made with milk instead of cream, we called it Milkegrøt, which I’m more familiar with), Lefse, Flat Bread, and (of course), Vafler.

But those recipes for Lefse and Flat Bread still vary from what my Mom learned from her mom. I gather there are a lot of regional variations… Our kumla had little chunks of ham inside the dumplings, for example, which isn’t traditional.



On 07 April 2004 (10:26 AM),
Nikchick said:

I’ve had both tater tot hot dish and jello poke cake. I can’t imagine a household in 1970s Minnesota that didn’t serve these dishes, at least once!

Pasties were one of my favorite “Minnesota” foods. My greandma made great pasties. There are two schools of pasty-eating: with gravy or with ketchup. Our family uses ketchup.

My family is neither Norwegian nor German: we’re Finns. My recipe for Tater Tot Hot Dish comes from the 1971 Centennial Cook Book from Albion Lutheran Church, St. James, Minnesota. I never lived in St. James, nor was I a Lutheran, but we inherited this cookbook from family friends.

1.5 lb hamburger browned with 1 chopped medium onion. 1 can of cream of mushroom soup combined with optional half a can of water (I like it without). 1 can whole kernal corn (drained). Mix together in a large casserole. Top with tater tots. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

No recipe for Jello Poke Cake in this book, but there is a recipe for tomato soup cake (made with a can of condensed tomato soup), which I remember having and liking as a kid.



On 07 April 2004 (10:44 AM),
Dana said:

My family is a pasty-with-ketchup family, too, Nicole! But the real question is: rutebegas or no rutebegas?

In the 70s I lived in the UP of Michigan, and then we moved back to Minnesota in 79, and moved away again in early 84, so that may be why I missed out on the TTHD and JPC. Hmmm.



On 07 April 2004 (10:51 AM),
Betsy said:

Sheilah, I probably should have used a different word instead of ‘upscale.’

But if you think about the things people have mentioned that are ‘Oregon’ foods, they’re unique because they’re usually fresh – not canned, or frozen, or from packages. Fresh salmon or crab, fresh berries, nuts, etc. And bento is pretty healthy – steamed veggies, rice, etc.

Contrast that with your typical tuna noodle casserole (and I am not knocking tuna noodle!) – canned tuna, packaged noodles, canned cream of mushroom soup, and either potato chip sprinkles or canned Durkee onions.

I guess I think of it as ‘upscale’ because it’s typically the kind of cooking (fresh ingredients) you’ll find in better restaurants, or by people who are trying to impress or make a ‘nice’ meal for guests.



On 07 April 2004 (11:15 AM),
Joel said:

Interesting point, Betsy, and it seems to fit with Aimee’s interpretation of the development of the hot dish, which, she admitted last night, she’d pretty much just made up.



On 07 April 2004 (11:39 AM),
Dana said:

Made up or not, I thought it sounded appropriately Keillor-esque, Aimee!



On 07 April 2004 (03:42 PM),
Kristin said:

J.D., I’m sure you could’ve sampled Tater Tot Casserole at any number of Zion potlucks, had you not jetted off to Whiskey Hill Store for grape soda and Hostess treats. “Nothing good to eat here,” you thought. My, how far you’ve come 🙂