Thursday, June 19, 2008

House of Sand and Fog

House of Sand and Fog House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Reading this book is like being frozen to the spot while you're watching a train wreck about to happen. It's an emotional wringer. Ultimately, I have to say it's 3.5 stars out of 5. (SPOILER ALERT) I did pop out of the narrative a few times, mostly due to goofy stuff (such as inaccuracies about the SF Bay Area; eg, having BART in Pacifica?!). But really, the basic premise of the novel isn't plausible. I couldn't see the county evicting somebody one day and then auctioning the place off the very next day. No govt agency is THAT efficient! Thus I was very aware I was reading fiction the whole time. On the other hand, I thought the switching narrative viewpoints were handled expertly, and I liked how each of the major characters had flaws to the point of even being dislikable, but I still found reason to pull for each of them. Or at least I understood each of them and could empathize. Another problem is the Colonel commits suicide at the end: but if he's dead, how can he be telling the story? I also found it a little unbelievable that deputy sheriff Burdon (admittedly a good name for him) unravelled to the extent that he did. I'd still recommend the book despite its flaws.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gay Marriage, Redux (Part One)

It's been blabbered about all over the news these past few days, and it became official yesterday afternoon at 5:00 when Gavin Newsom presided over the nuptials of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. (The oldsters amongst us know them of Lesbian/Woman fame, a ground-breaking text in the 1970s.) These two women have been together for over 50 years; they actually got married four years ago when Gavin declared gay marriage legal in the city of San Francisco. But then their marriage was annulled by the State due to the court's ruling that Newsom had overstepped his authority. After more lawsuits and legal haranguing that has dragged on for several years, it came down to this question before the court: should gay marriage be illegal because Californians had several years earlier passed a proposition defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman? Or is discrimination against gay people just plain unconstitutional?

A month ago, the California State Supreme Court declared that discriminating against same-sex partners by denying them the right to marry is unconstitutional. One of the judges remarked that the arguments against gay marriage were eerily reminiscent of arguments he'd heard years and years ago against interracial marriage. Well, halle-flippin-lujah!

Bigotry is bigotry. Honestly, I have yet to hear a cogent, rational argument against gay marriage--the arguments against are either (1) religious based or (2) based on the assertion that marriage is for procreative purposes. Well, excuse me, but it's not exactly fair for certain religious groups to foist their beliefs on the rest of the population. Let's not forget that slave owners used to quote the Bible to justify slavery, too. And secondly, if you're going to argue that marriage exists solely for the purpose of procreation, then I suppose you'd better tell men and women who are infertile for whatever reason that sorry, they can't get married either. Besides all that, plenty of gay couples are having children, thanks to alternative insemination, adoption, and other options. And guess what? Studies prove that the children of gay parents are just as healthy, if not healthier psychologically, than the children of straight parents (and no more likely to be gay--and even if they were, I'd still ask so what).

So, what am I driving at? Well, you'd think, in California of all places, this issue would finally be put to rest, but it's not. Once again, gay marriage is going to be used as a wedge issue in an election year. (But did I really think the wingnuts were going to take this one sitting down? Of course not.) Enough signatures have been collected, so come November, Californians get to vote again on a second proposition, this time a more heinous one, if I understand it clearly, that will not only disallow gay marriages but may even retract domestic partnerships. A step back, in other words. And who knows what will happen in the rest of the country? I recall the last major election when I was living in Spokane, Washington, and how one Republican Party candidate's advertising snarked at "the San Francisco values of Gavin Newsom and Nancy Pelosi." Of course, these are just fear tactics, playing to our baser natures ... but watch out, here come the ridiculous assertions that "once gay marriage is legalized, what's to stop 'em from wanting to legalize bestiality?" and alarmist nonsense such as this.

Yesterday Fred Phelps (you know, the "minister" who pickets funerals of Iraq War veterans) showed up with his herd at City Hall to protest gay marriage. There they were on TV with their "God hates fags" signs, and I just want to ask them if they can imagine Jesus standing out there with a sign insulting two people who love each other and who wish to make an official contract and commitment to that love. Personally, I can't imagine it. It's as if these folks have never read the Gospel, which preached love over the letter of the law. It's as if they've forgotten how it was Jesus came to be crucified ... the Pharisees didn't like him threatening their status; the "Powers That Be" didn't like him consorting with Roman tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, and for speaking well of those evil, evil Samaritans.

But Jesus also said, quite clearly, "Judge not." To say gay people don't have the right to marry each other is to judge us. Maybe it's just as simple as that.

(more to come later ... )

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Quick Update on the Belmont

Casino Drive is scratched, so the exacta should be 1-7 (Big Brown with Tale of Ekati). A good trifecta would be 1-7-with the rest of the field, a mere $7 bet.

Everyone's snorting at me for wanting to single Indian Blessing, especially if she goes off at even money. Bah! So add in the 1 or the 5, or if you have big bucks, it's a 5-horse race: select "all."

I'm abashed to learn that the payout on the Brooklyn/Belmont double will be a mere $12. (This is assuming Big Brown wins.) But hey, that's $12 more than I had yesterday.

Good luck today, y'all!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Go, Big Brown!

Isn't he gorgeous? I can't stand his windbag of a trainer and his money-clutching owners, but as Margo Moon might say, "It's not the horse's fault."

There was some talk of Casino Drive scratching tomorrow due to a bruised foot, but apparently they intend to run him anyway. If so, he is the only one in the field that could beat Big Brown MAYBE, unless something weird or awful happens. For the superfecta, I'm thinking 1-5-7-4 if Casino Drive looks good in the paddock. If he's scratched, then your super is 1-7,4/7,4/the rest of 'em.

Of course, there's always the issue of Big Brown's quarter crack (pictured below), but they've been treating it well and sealed it up today; it should be fine.

And now I must admit, I was awfully tempted to go buy a Hooters t-shirt to wear to the track tomorrow. After all, Big Brown is now brought to you by not just UPS, but Hooters! What a hoot! What a wonderful way to restore horse racing's reputation as the true "Sport of Kings." I mostly want Big Brown to win just so I can gape at big breasted women in tight t-shirts and short orange hotpants in the winner's circle.

My partner and I agreed that it would be even more perfect if Big Brown decided to bite one on the nipple.

The Pick 6 at Belmont tomorrow is infinitely playable since you can single Big Brown in the final leg, Indian Blessing in the 3rd leg, and Benny the Bull in the first leg. Then pray for (and bet) longer shots in the other legs. Offhand, I like Lady of Venice or Bayou's Lassie in the second leg, J Be K or Ready's Image in the 8th leg, and Pays to Dream in the 9th leg. I'll probably toss in some others, but for now this makes a cheap (and admittedly pretty chalky) ticket if you don't bet the picks in parentheses. I also freely admit to a bias towards Indian Blessing and agree her form lately may be off, and she may need a race. (Still, Baffert placed her here....) and still, at 1-1, you may wish to beat her. I reckon those who are against her believe she was at her best at age two and now she's done, and I can't argue with that. If I could change ANY rules in horse racing, it would be to stop racing babies.)

1: 7 (but 4,5 too)
2: 1, 7 (but 5,10 too)
3: 2 (and ?)
4: 5,2 (but 4 too)
5: 8 (but 9,3,10,5,1 too)
6: 1

I can't afford to bet all of these, but perhaps some friends and I can cobble together a ticket tomorrow. Good luck everybody!

Let's hope for a Triple Crown winner.