Friday, December 23, 2005

The Dogs are in the House

My sister sent me a link to something called Dogs: The Musical. I suppose it was about time someone answered the long-running Broadway hit Cats.

The show seems amusing and whimsical. Something I might enjoy, particularly now that I have a dog.

Anyway, there are sample musical tracks on which my sister sings, if anyone wants to check them out. The tracks are This Cat Needs a Job and Collar/Leash Tango.

To my relief the barking dogs Jingle Bells song is nowhere on that web site.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I Was Tagged

Tagged by Todd - Write 5 random facts about yourself, and then list the names of 5 people whom you in turn infect.

1) I marvel at the writing of Truman Capote.
2) One of my prized possessions is Peter Sellers' autograph.
3) My will does not allow for a funeral -- only a memorial service.
4) As of late I have come to crave panang curry; I eat it twice a week.
5) M.F. brings me my coffee the moment I walk into the office presumably because I am such a grouch in the mornings.

I tag Isaac, Ray, Frank, Arthur and Piers.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Rest in Peace

Henry Ligon Brown died Wednesday, November 30th, 2005.

He will be missed.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

On Film

I spent the day with Mike in restaurants, taxi cabs and cinemas, and over thirteen and a half hours we spanned Seattle, managing a fine brunch at Lola, panang curry at Phuket on Queen Anne, five movies that were worth seeing, and a confession by an East African cab driver who is a descendent of the lost tribe of Ireland. “I thought I was black all my life until my DNA test and they told me I was Irish. When I found out I was white I changed my last name to Patrick and became a Catholic,” he said, crossing himself and adding a “praise the Lord” in for good measure.

Mr. Patrick found out that the ship bearing his ancestors left Ireland for America but that the ship took a wrong turn and ended up in Africa. He suspects perhaps they were actually bound for Australia, and that his forefathers were criminals.

It might have made a good movie.

At any rate, of the five movies we saw today (none were about teenage wizards, thank you) I have to put George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck at the top of the list. In fact, I think it’s one of the finest films I have seen all year. And if you want to put present-day politics aside, it’s a tightly-executed telling of Edward R. Murrow’s coverage of the McCarthy hearings, well-scripted and superbly cast. David Strathairn is outstanding as Murrow – a crisp, understated and very compelling performance. A nod, too, to Robert Downey, Jr. (it’s good to see him busy again), and George Clooney, who plays Fred Friendly in the movie, excels as co-writer and director as well. The black and white photography is outstanding.

And I cannot close this review without pointing out that Dianne Reeves’ jazz soundtrack was exquisite. Like metled butter. Sweet as honey. That good. Really.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Halloween Part Three

Why is it that Peppermint Patty and Marcy never appear in “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?” They are in everything else...


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween Part Two

"There are three things I have learned never to discuss with other people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin." -Linus Van Pelt

Monday, October 31, 2005

Rain on the Halloween Parade

This Halloween has progressed with much less drama than last year. (See my Halloween blogs in the 2004 archive).

First of all, it was raining at a steady pace. I got home from work after my wife and daughter had gone out to see friends, and prepared for my vigil in the doorway with my cauldron of candy, waiting on trick-or-treaters to arrive.

After 45 minutes none came. Even the dog was bored. It was quiet and depressing in the house, so I thought I would liven things up by putting in the DVD of the original FRANKENSTEIN to enjoy while I waited to pass out candy.

I put the DVD into the player to warm up, deciding to change out of my work clothes into something more comfortable. I would make some supper and watch the movie after a while, listening for the doorbell. So I left the TV off while engaged with wardrobe change.

What I did not realize was that the stereo receiver had been left on for some reason, and the volume was up pretty loud.

As I stood in the downstairs bathroom in my skivies, the DVD had cued up past the FBI warnings and into the main menu screen, even though the TV was still off in the next room.

The house was deathly quiet; the dog slept fitfully.

An enormous crash of thunder (in Dolby surround, no less) and the groaning of Boris Karloff quaked through the house and quite nearly sent me into cardiac arrest. With only one leg in my jeans, I was so startled and off-balance that the din sent me careening onto the floor with a smart, my head narrowly missing the toilet. And just as began to recover, realizing what it was that had startled me, the doorbell rang, loudly and unexpectedly, sending me flailing again and into yet another panic as I was at the moment both shirtless and pantless and unable to receive children in their Halloween garb begging candy.

I hurriedly dressed, and greeted a 12-year-old witch with an umbrella at the door. I had dumped a few Blow-Pops and Dum-Dums into her bag before I realized my sweatshirt was on inside out.

I turned my shirt around and put on my sneakers, settling in front of the TV to enjoy James Whale's remarkable 1931 film.

I had only one other trick-or-treater: a woman whose age I would estimate at about 25, costumeless, out in the rain gathering candy for her two-year-old who had a cold. She showed me a photograph of her child in a lion costume. He was terribly cute. I gave her a half-dozen Blow-Pops and some Bazooka Joe.

It was only later that I remembered seeing the same photo of the child, in a lion costume, in the October issue of Martha Stewart's Living.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Today's Sunday School Lesson

(as reported by my daughter, age 4)

The people melted down their jewelry and made a statue of a kitten. Then people loved the kitten statue more and they forgot about Jesus, who was angry, and he told Moses. Then Moses went down there, and took a bat with him, and he knocked over the kitten statue and stomped on the pieces so that the people would be sorry.

And that’s all I remember.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Personal Reply: Your Dream

I find your having dreamt of Elton John (as opposed to Sinatra or Manilow) most revealing.

Sir Elton himself does not appear in the dream (his physical presence would have added layers of complexity to your dream that I am not prepared to deal with), nor is his music presented abstractly or as background. You are, in your dream, leading a group of people in the singing of an Elton John song. You are in your pulpit; the song is your sermon. The song is a shared experience among those in the dream, your friends and family gathered round in a restaurant (Ryan’s perhaps?), an image I found both remarkable and profound. Furthermore, it is not just any Elton John song you are singing: it is “Crocodile Rock,” a fascinating tune for your subconscious mind to dig up.

“Crocodile Rock” appeared on the album Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player and shattered the charts in 1973. You, too, shattered something in 1973: your mother’s large ceramic ash tray. Coincidence? Perhaps.

But here is what I really think:

The song is a recollection of times more carefree, when not only “rock was young” but you were young as well. It represents a longing for the simple, blithe days of one’s past, even as one has moved well beyond it.

In those days you were moving, shaking, leading, singing…it was your show and others are merely along for the ride. But the choice of song… your mind understands that this is “what was,” not “what is.” Again, the song is an "American Pie" of sorts. Ahh, yesteryear!

You then proceed to “another engagement” (again, on the move, about town, taking care of biz) in your Nissan Sentra. (Startling that your mind dredge up this long-wrecked vehicle!) It is yet another relic of the past, another bygone symbol of what was. Part of you clings to that past, perhaps to simpler times – rock and roll, flashy red car, that sort of thing. To a past that was not only devoid of the burden of responsibility but perhaps one that was without a true direction as well.

Then you drift into the present. The woods – a classic dream symbol. A place of the mind, where one gets lost and confused. Darker now, times have changed, more responsibility and real life descends upon you. Yet you are still moving forward, toward the other “engagement.” Perhaps you do not truly know the way.

Then a presence. Interference? Alien hands over your ears. Why not the eyes? Why not keep you from seeing where you are going? An evil or malicious presence could derail your path by covering your eyes. But your eyes are untouched. You are still proceeding as you were. These mysterious hands cover your ears instead.

The presence is not trying to keep you from seeing where it is you need to go, but it is trying to prevent you from hearing what it is you need to hear while you are on your way to “another engagement.” You can see where you are going, but what is so important for you to hear that someone or something might try to prevent it from being heard?

Then you describe a second pair of hands on your shoulders. Are these hands of the same being who covered your ears? Or the hands of another? These are the leading hands. Leading you somewhere you don’t want to go, but, as you point out, somewhere you do not mind going. But they are leading, and you are allowing them to lead.

You are allowing them to lead.

Which begs the question: are the hands on your shoulders large and warm with well-trimmed nails, or cold and clammy and sporting claws?

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Todd wrote in an email, “Speaking of Fish, do you recall the short-lived Abe Vigoda series, ‘Fish,’ based on his Barney Miller character?”

He asks the same thing in a recent blog.

My reply: I certainly do remember the short-lived Vigoda series. Who can forget Detective Phil Fish?

HARRIS: Hey Fish, does it hurt when those stones come out?
FISH: It can't be too bad. The doctor says it's like giving birth.

Abe Vigoda was big in the seventies, doing a lot of TV besides playing Phil Fish on Barney Miller. He did a couple of episodes of The Rockford Files, playing a character named Phil the Dancer in one of them.

But there are some things that can never be forgiven, and some people whose deeds are so dark that they may never re-enter the light of day. Vigoda is one such person, and his deed was poison.

Yes, Abe, I remember.

You see, Vigoda was Tessio in The Godfather, and was trusted for many years by the family. But he became greedy and wanted his own family, and plotted with Barzini to betray and murder Michael.

“It was just business, Michael,” Tessio (Vigoda) said, “You understand. Just business.”

But Michael was too clever, and Vigoda ended up like Luca Brasi, sleeping with the fishes.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Notes from New York: Jaywalking

“Seattle is the only city I’ve been to where you see people standing idly on all four corners of an intersection with not a car in sight, waiting for the signal before they cross the street.”

This was spoken to me with a laugh by one of my company’s executives on a visit to Seattle as we made our way six blocks to a restaurant for lunch. This is how we do it here: we wait for the green crossing light before venturing to cross the street. It’s a civilized practice that defines Seattle despite the chuckle it caused from my East Coast colleague.

The practice – now ingrained habit for me – does not work in New York where I have spent the last week. Stopping on the corner can be treacherous: one can be trampled if one interrupts the pedestrian flow. It took me a few days to get into the swing of crossing streets in Manhattan, but I was still beset with a tinge of guilt each time I jaywalked or crossed against the light. It felt wrong. Out of place. Unnatural. But as the hoards crossed the busy New York streets against the light, I crossed with them, mingling conspiratorially on my way block by block toward my destination.

By the end of the week I found myself oblivious to the crossing signals, darting artfully across intersections, dodging cabs and jaywalking like there was no tomorrow. It was liberating in a way, and a got to where I was going without delay or interruption.

Years ago in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood my wife and I stepped off the curb to cross against the light, thought better of it, and back-stepped onto the sidewalk. A bicycle cop, who just happened to be idling behind us laughed and said, “I’m glad you did that, otherwise I’d have to write you a ticket.”

I am back in Seattle now, and crossing with the light. And I feel better about it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Notes from New York: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Patti LuPone is reprising her role as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd on Broadway. The staging is unique: there is no orchestra, per se. The cast is the orchestra, and they perform the brilliantly complex Sondheim score on stage as they are acting out the play. Cello, violin, piano, bass, clarinet, and even LaPone on the tuba – the entire cast remains on stage during the show playing, acting, singing.

The effect is unique and mesmerizing, I told the bellman at my hotel. He had asked me if the cast’s double-duty as orchestra “got in the way” of telling the story. On the contrary, I found the staging clever and involving, and I admire the cast for the spectacular results they achieved on stage. It is a fine production.

Sweeney Todd is the story of an 18th century barber wrongly convicted and sentenced to prison who returns to London fifteen years later to discover his wife dead and his daughter the ward of the unscrupulous judge who convicted him. Desiring a relationship with the daughter he never knew, he sets up shop above Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop. But when Judge Turpin decides to wed his teenage ward in order to protect her from the evils of the world, Sweeney Todd descends into a murderous ire, dispatching his enemies with a straight razor.

And what does he do with the bodies? Let’s just say that Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies become famous all over London!

The show is dark and gruesome, yes, but it is also at times blisteringly funny and tender.

Returning home I discovered a flyer in the mail announcing Sweeney Todd was coming to Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater. My wife was envious that I had seen the show in New York, which features two of Stephen Sondheim’s best and most memorable songs: “Pretty Women” and “Not While I’m Around.” My wife likes those two songs very much, and has never seen the show. So it looks like I’ll be seeing it again, and it will be interesting to compare the two.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Notes from New York: Walking in the Rain

I don't carry an umbrella, and haven't carried one as a matter of practice for years. Although it rains a great deal in Seattle, most of the time all we see is a fine mist. The sky "spits," as we say. A raincoat is usually sufficient; an umbrella is usually unnecessary.

When I lived in the city I bought a felt hat to protect me from the rain. It served me well for many years and spared me the inconvenience of carrying a brolly around with me during the winter. I never thought twice about wearing the brown felt hat to work until one morning, upon entering my building, the security guard greeted me with a sarcastic "Good morning, Dr. Jones."

I suppose it does look like the hat Indiana Jones wears, and I was thereafter careful to remove it before I entered the building.

It's been raining in New York. When I arrived at my hotel I discovered that a small umbrella belonging to my wife was packed in my suitcase. I did not want it (since hailing from Seattle I consider myself impervious to rain) but I nonetheless took it with me the following afternoon on my trek from Midtown East to Times Square. I had a few hours to kill until the eight o'clock curtain at the Eugene O'Neill Theater.

Dragging the umbrella around was an inconvenience I am unaccustomed to, but I tolerated its presence, and forgot about it during the show.

When the curtain dropped at ten-thirty, I exited the theater to discover that they sky was not merely spitting at me but raining cats and dogs. East Coast rain, I recalled. Because I was too cheap for a taxi I realized I was going to be soaked after my twelve block walk back to the hotel. But wait...what was that uncomfortable lump in my jacket pocket? My wife's umbrella! Victory!

Bless my wife.

There were a few times while walking through Manhattan in the rain that I left the umbrella unopened, when the sky was spitting as opposed to raining on me. Regardless, many New Yorkers (and tourists, presumably) had their umbrellas open, and it was then that I realized I was in a perilous situation.

Today's compact umbrellas are small enough for a purse or briefcase or coat pocket and have a very short telescoping handle, requiring them to be carried right at head level when opened, and the prongs of these compact bumbershoots are directly at eye level. I became fully aware of this fact on East 52nd and Third when I nearly lost an eye. The woman whose umbrella frame nearly punctured my retina was unaware of the incident. She merely shoved past me, crossing the street against the light. (There was some consolation in the fact that the strong wind traveling down 52nd Street turned her umbrella inside-out, rendering it useless. She no doubt shoved it into a trash bin along with all the other turned-out umbrellas that are disposed of by New Yorkers by the thousands on a rainy day.)

Before I arrived at my hotel a young man with a basket of umbrellas held one out to me as I passed. "Ten bucks," he said. I was damp, but not soaked. I smiled and shook my head.

"It's just a little rain," I said.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Call Again

My wife is in Portland. She is speaking at a conference of educators.

After putting our daughter to bed, I attempt to call her. The idiot at the desk has been drinking, I suspect. He answers the phone with such a rush of air and mangled verbiage that I suspect I have caught him sleeping off his binge.

He sets the phone down and turns on the TV. I can hear the TV. I can hear him blowing his nose. He starts singing an old Gloria Gaynor song. I manage to read over about a dozen emails while I wait. I can hear the TV moaning in the telephone receiver and the occasional honk followed by "I will survive!" in a cracked falsetto.

I am forced to call back. Again and again I call back and am greeted with the rushing air and mangled verbiage. I am connected to random rooms, awaking strangers who are not pleased at my asking, "Um, is my wife there?"

I call again. The desk attendant asks, "Why do you keep calling?"

"You keep connecting me to strangers. They don't like being woken up."

He laughs. "I connected you to room 214 that time, didn't I? That's not the room you want! I apologize."

I listen to an advertisement while I hold.

A groggy man answers the phone. "Who is this? Why do you keep calling?"

I hang up, feeling not the least bit guilty. I am not the one who is disturbing his sleep. It is the desk clerk who has failed us both. My concsience is clear.

I call the hotel again.

I am still hoping to be connected to room 134. My resolve is tested and unshaken. At least until the rush of air fills my ear for the seventh time.


I ask for room 134. I still have faith that I may someday get through to my wife. I will persevere. I endure the hold music for a brief moment before someone in one of the rooms picks up the phone.

I hold my breath.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Today's Caper

My friend Gary left me a voice mail today, asking me if I knew where he could buy a good cape. “I would like your opinion as to what style,” he added.

“I think the cape is underrated, and I would like to get my hands on one and wear it about.”

I will return Gary’s call tomorrow, but for the moment I am unsure about the cape.

I am thinking about recommending to Gary that he consider a cloak instead. They are warm, stylish, and above all, a good woolen cloak is available from J. Peterman.

I ask you, dear reader, is a cloak not superior to a cape? A cape is just a cape, but a cloak is a cape and a hood.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

More George

I had another “brush with Seinfeld greatness” a few years ago. This one with Jason Alexander.

A colleague of mine who knew Alexander told me that the actor was something of a fan of William Shatner and Captain Kirk. The colleague knew, of course, I was a fan of the Seinfeld show. Long story short I received a call from the actor’s office that Jason would like to send me a signed photo. It arrived the next morning by FedEx.

He also signed one for my friend Tim, which I sent to Tim anonymously.
A few days later Tim was thrilled to receive the note and the photo from “George,” and he immediately framed the 8x10 and, without telling his family, placed it on the credenza of his home with other myriad photographs .

It apparently took Tim’s wife several days before she noticed it. When she saw it, she cried out, “Tim! Why is there a Costanza on the Credenza?”

Imagine her surprise just last year upon finding a Peterman on the porch.

Next up: Kramer on the couch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cook Out

Burgers. Sirloin, of course. With lettuce, tomato, yellow onion, sliced. Mustard, ketchup and mayo. I made the mayo myself, a walnut mayo. Not bad.

Hot dogs. The Sinai kosher ones, just the right length. Fabulous! With some chili, mustard and ketchup.

Potato salad made with lots of spices, onions and peppers, boiled egg and yellow mustard. Used my walnut mayo in the potato salad, by the way. Beach Cole Slaw from a cookbook to bring up the rear.

Chips. Some cold soda pop and chardonnay.

My wife threw this thing together at the last minute after a week and a half of watching the continuing coverage of the disaster in the gulf coast. This would be her fund raiser for victims of Katrina disaster.

Even so, with only a few heads present, she raised $503.97, some of it coins collected by the kids who were present. She stepped up and did something important, helped a few people with the donations she collected, and had a nice evening in the process. I commend her.

All I did was make the potato salad.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


I have been working on a list, also inspired by our friends at Caffinated Adventures: "10 Things I've Done You Probably Haven't."

One of the items I elected not to include on my list is my Seinfeld incident from a few years ago. Letterman used to call that sort of thing a "brush with greatness," which is when a regular Joe, like me, is involved in some mundane or bizarre incident with a stranger who turns out to be a celebrity.

Thus my BWG with The Sein.

But I digress.

Suffice it to say, I have always enjoyed his show and would, like many fans, enjoy a sequel, if only for a little while. So I thought it might be fun to publish here, without the author's permission, a rough treatment for a Seinfeld spin-off that I have on my computer:

"I had an idea about writing a pilot for another George sitcom wherein he moves to Seattle in search of the [ultimate] job. Every other episode he gets fired, each time for a different reason/situation that only George can get into. The rest of his life would be about his strange relationships with different women. With the exception of a couple of friends or a cousin just like him, he would be the only permanent cast member."

I thought the George idea was a good one. In the mean time, however, it looks like we've got George selling cars with Lee Iacocca.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Taste of 80's Rock?

Curious as to my own tastes after seeing the test results over at Caffinated Adventures.

Your Taste in Music:

80's Rock: High Influence
Progressive Rock: High Influence
80's Alternative: Medium Influence
90's Pop: Medium Influence
80's Pop: Low Influence
90's Rock: Low Influence
Alternative Rock: Low Influence
Classic Rock: Low Influence
R&B: Low Influence

No, Mountain and Pacific

My four-year-old daughter asked my wife today what time a favorite cartoon was going to be on television.

"I'm not sure, honey," my wife responded.

"Is it eight, seven central?" came the reply.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Seven Years

Today is my wedding anniversary. As it happens, today is also Labor Day. I have a paid day off away from the office and intend to celebrate my anniversary with my wife and daughter.

Today marks seven years of marriage, traditionally the “wool” or “copper” anniversary.

I concluded that gifting my wife with a full set of copper kitchenware might send the wrong message on this important day. (Though as I write this, I have been up for more than two hours and still no one has bothered to come downstairs and cook my breakfast!)

Still, I am glad we got through the “iron” anniversary last year. That was a difficult one to shop for. Once I had (wisely) eliminated the electric iron, my options were few: a branding iron, a steam locomotive, an anvil.

Other anniversaries to note on this date:

· King Louis XIV of France was born in 1638.
· In 1774, the first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia.
· Jesse James was born in Kearney, Missouri, in 1847.
· In 1975, Lynette “Squeaky” Frome, a follower of Charles Manson, attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford.

It’s comforting to know I will never forget the date of Squeaky’s pathetic attempted shooting of the president.

Anniversaries are nice. I enjoy thinking back on my wedding day.

We were married in Columbia, South Carolina on Saturday, September 5, 1998, gathered together with our friends and family. And while we were enjoying our nuptials:

· “Matlock” and “Diagnosis Murder” director Leo Penn (father of Sean) was dying.
· Americans were seeing There’s Something About Mary in droves.
· Mark McGwire was about to slug his 60th home run of the season.
· The Seattle Mariners were beating the Orioles at the Kingdome.
· Anthony (C-3PO) Daniels was telling his fans at, “I bumped into Harrison the other night in my local restaurant. We chatted, and he asked me what I would recommend. I told him the John Dorry with Aubergine caviar. Perhaps he thought I was a waiter.”
· President Clinton was concluding his trip to Ireland.
· The University of South Carolina Gamecocks were beating the Ball State Cardinals at Williams-Brice Stadium.
· Bob Newhart and Raquel Welch were celebrating birthdays, but most likely not with one another.

Happy seventh anniversary, darling!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Smudge

We were at Huber’s Restaurant in Portland last weekend watching the magician perform sleight of hand at the table next to us and discussing nicknames.

I will digress here and mention that Huber’s is Portland’s oldest restaurant, opening its doors in 1879. I had the roast turkey, for which Huber’s is famous, and it was as tender and succulent as any I have ever eaten. I finished my meal with Huber’s other specialty: Spanish Coffee, a choice that delighted my daughter during its table-side preparation because it is set aflame.

But back to the nicknames.

My daughter asked to be called “Rose,“ as she was pretending to be a pirate. I had bought her a pirate hat and an eye patch at a toy shop in downtown Portland, and she figured “Rose” was a great name for a girl pirate.

I then told my daughter my nickname (which I made up on the spot): “From now on,” I announced, “you must call me The Smudge.”

My daughter despised the very idea of calling me The Smudge, moreso after I told her what a “smudge” was.

“That,” I said, pointing to a smudge on my sneaker, “is a smudge.”

“I am not calling you that,“ she flatly declared. And each time, during the weekend, that I brought up the subject of my wanting everyone to call me by my new nickname, my daughter stubbornly refused to even discuss it.

And so it was.

I walked into the house after work last night, passing my wife and daughter, who were seated together in the kitchen.

“Hello, everyone!” I cried.

“Hello, The Smudge,” my daughter shot back, without so much as a smirk or a sideways glance.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Dinner Like Real People

That's what Mike said last night at the Buenos Aires: We're having dinner like real people.

And we were.

Once upon a time, the four of us would often have dinner and socialize as two couples when we all lived in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle.

"Before we all moved out to the 'burbs," I said.

"Before we started popping out babies," my wife pointed out. Amy laughed and nodded in agreement.

My wife has popped out only one baby. Amy has popped out three. That's four between them.

Mike reminded us all that it had been five years since the four of us had dinner together without the kids in tow.

Sober nods of agreement; time was surely passing, wasn't it?

The Argentine restaurant was well-chosen. Mike and I had celebrated our birthdays together at the Buenos Aires in November, but our wives had never dined there.

A pocket of foreignness in the Pacific Northwest was how Mike described it. The atmosphere was removed, stylish without being trendy, lighting low but not dim, the aroma of succulent grilled beef permeated the room. The food was fabulous from the get-go. The chimichurri sauce (an Argentine salsa) served with bread set the stage for a mixed grill feast that was complimented by a well-chosen, full-bodied Malbec.

According to my wife, the highlight of the evening was watching a beautiful young couple (professional dancers, without a doubt) perform the tango not only throughout the restaurant but on top of the bar.

"When they jump up and start dancing on that bar," our waitress told us in her thick Argentine accent, "you don't want to miss that."

We didn't.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Readings: Convergence

I suppose I am officially on a couple of kicks at the moment, having begun reading Goldfinger, my sixth Ian Fleming James Bond novel this year (fifth in a row). The Bond books are easy reads and very enjoyable.

The other: my daughter and I are also reading our third book in a row by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

And speaking of Dahl, I’ve also picked up a book of his short stories to read whenever the mood strikes me.

And besides juggling the reading of Fleming and Dahl books, I have numerous James Bond movies queued with my NetFlix service, and am watching the Bond titles after reading them.
The DVD of Ian Fleming’s YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, starring Sean Connery, arrived the other day in my mailbox.

Imagine my surprise to discover that, after having recently read five Ian Fleming Bond novels and three books by Roald Dahl, the screenplay to Ian Fleming’s YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was written by…

Roald Dahl.

Perhaps it’s time to move on to something else.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

More Readings

I recently read Roald Dahl's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my daughter and we both enjoyed it immensely.

My wife had purchased a nice, hardbound edition that contained the original illustrations to the story. We are both anticipating Tim Burton's new interpretation of the story, and we like the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder. But we had never read the book until this month.

My daughter and I talk about Charlie and his golden ticket often. We have even made a date to go out and purchase another box of Wonka's Everlasting Gobstoppers. Those rock-hard, chameleon-like candies have become a favorite in our house. The great thing about my daughter's perspective on the book is that she has not seen the 1971 movie, and I do not yet know if the upcoming movie will be suitable for her. Her enjoyment of the book is pure, untainted by "Wilder vs. Depp" discussions. Or, which Oompa-Loompas are better: the 1971 Gene Wilder Oompas or the 2005 Johnny Depp Loompas?

The answer, for my daughter, are the ones in her head.

Last weekend my daughter and I went to the bookstore to pick out a new book to read and for no particular reason we settled upon another Dahl book, The Twits, which, like Charlie, I had never read as a child. Two days later I received a call from my friend Gary. "I have got a funny book for you and your daughter," were the first words out of his mouth. "It's called The Twits."

I received the call right after reading in a magazine that Monty Python alumnus John Cleese was working on a film version of The Twits.

The Twits is a very funny book. I had to assure my daughter that getting a bad case of The Shrinks is a purely imaginary condition. Otherwise she enjoyed it very much.

And it looks like we're sticking with Roald Dahl for the time being. My daughter wants to know more about the adventures of Charlie Bucket, and my wife just happened to puchase a nice hardbound copy of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Up and out.

Monday, July 11, 2005


“Good old Gleaner.” - Ian Fleming, The Man with the Golden Gun

In high school I had a friend named Blake who was a fan of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Fleming also wrote the children’s book Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, so there was more to him than just a preoccupation with espionage and the most famous member of the British Secret Service. But James Bond is without a doubt his legacy, and what Fleming will always be remembered for.

Blake loved the Bond movies, too, and he and I had actually watched a couple of James Bond flicks together at his house on videocassette. Blake was a Connery man, and he pointed out to me how different the Bond movies were from the Bond books.

Having recently read five of the Bond novels, and having seen DOCTOR NO on Spike TV seventeen times in the last thirty days, I realize how right Blake had been. The movie Bond and the book Bond were often very different characters.

I first read Fleming -- and Bond -- when I was in high school, and until this year I had not read him since. I had read a couple of James Bond short stories in 1985, which were published in For Your Eyes Only, a collection of five short adventures bearing no resemblance to the movie of the same name.

Anyway, it had been a while since I had read any Bond, and after Blake’s name came up in a conversation with another old friend a month or so ago, I decided to pick a James Bond novel as my next read. I chose Doctor No, a 1958 first edition which had been sitting on my bookshelf unread for a couple of years.

(I will interrupt myself at this point to note that, as I write this, McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” is being played on the radio. Ironic, no?)

I also find it ironic that my friend Tim and I managed to read Doctor No at the same time: me, in Seattle and while on vacation in South Carolina, and he while on vacation in Jamaica, which is where Doctor No is set.

As a gift, Tim brought back to me a copy of The Gleaner, "the Caribbean’s great newspaper" (Fleming's words), which has some relevance to the plot of Doctor No. The Gleaner is also the catalyst in The Man with the Golden Gun which leads Bond to his prey, Scaramanga, at 9½ Love Lane early in that novel.

In fact, Jamaica and The Daily Gleaner figure prominately in Bond lore. When Fleming first introduces James Bond in 1953’s Casino Royale, Bond is working undercover in a French casino, but we learn that he has been previously stationed in Jamaica, and that he is currently being run by a “control” who works the picture desk of The Gleaner in Kingston, Jamaica.

I am very pleased to have my own copy of The Gleaner.

Several James Bond adventures have been set in the Caribbean: Live and Let Die (1954), Doctor No, Thunderball (1961), The Man with the Golden Gun (1965), and the short stories “For Your Eyes Only,” “Quantum of Solace” and “Octopussy.”

Having recently experienced Doctor No both on the page and on television, I am torn between which I like more: the book or the movie. Normally the book wins out in these comparisons, but the movie has Connery, so the comparison is more difficult.

A Roger Moore man once pointed out to me that Connery was not an ideal movie Bond because Connery is Scottish and Bond was English. But in fact Bond was Scottish, and at the conclusion of The Man with the Golden Gun (Fleming's final Bond novel), 007 refuses knighthood by Queen Elizabeth on those grounds. “I am at home being a Scottish peasant,” he cables M. from his hospital bed in Jamaica, declining the honor, “and I will always feel at home being a Scottish peasant.”

So there you have it, Moore fans. Put that in your gun and shoot it.

I, like many Bond traditionalists, have always preferred Connery’s Bond to Moore’s. At least, I have thought so these many years. Roger Ebert agrees that Connery's Bond was best, and that man knows his movies. Yes, I would describe myself as a Connery man. But the irony is (more irony, folks!) that I involuntarily picture and hear Roger Moore in my head when I read James Bond books, try as I might to see and hear Connery in my imagination. Roger Moore has been in my head now five books running, and I don’t think he’s going anywhere.

You figure it out.

The Bond of the books exudes a calculated coldness that Connery captured well, but Bond’s cool-cat exterior masks inner-conflict fueled by indecision, missed opportunities and an aversion to killing in cold blood. The Bond of the books is often vulnerable and makes many mistakes. He’s much more human on the page than he is on celluloid.

Taking Bond’s humanity and vulnerability into account, perhaps Timothy Dalton was closer on film to the Bond of the books than any of the others.

And let’s not forget George Lazenby, who did one turn as Bond in the film ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. People are surprised to find out that it’s actually one of my favorite Bond films. People are often more surprised to discover that many critics consider it to be the finest Bond film ever made. It is, however, little seen, mainly due to the fact that nobody knows who George Lazenby was and no one particularly cares. But the film was solid and very entertaining. I find it interesting that the character of Bond actually married (anybody remember that?), and his bride was murdered on their honeymoon by agents of Bond’s arch-nemesis Blofeld. ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE contains that tragic scene.

Little-seen, too, is a tepid Bond spoof from the 1960’s called CASINO ROYALE, which was the title of Fleming’s first Bond book. In it (the film, not the book) actor David Niven (who is incidentally mentioned by name in Fleming’s You Only Live Twice) plays an aging, retiring James Bond, and Peter Sellers is selected to succeed him as agent 007. The film, despite a stellar cast that includes Orson Welles, Woody Allen and Ursula Andress (who, coincidentally, played Honey Rider, Bond’s love interest in DOCTOR NO), is a mess.

And if it’s true that the Bond movies are different from the Bond books, then it is also true that there are Bond books that are different from the Bond books.

Earlier this year I read The Spy Who Loved Me, which again bears no resemblance to the film of the same name. The imaginative story, told from the perspective of a woman, follows young Vivienne in her quest for independence. She ends up working at a resort in the Adirondacks. As soon as the resort closes for the season, it is set upon by a group of mobsters and Vivienne finds herself in dire straights. In the last part of the book, a man shows up looking for a room for the night (it’s Bond, of course) and he ends up rescuing her from the gang of thugs.

That’s it. The whole book, part and parcel. No SPECTRE, no Blofeld, no Russians or cold war. No plans for world domination, no twisting, turning plot. Just the story about a woman who finds herself in a world of trouble in the Adirondacks and happens to be rescued in the end by a passerby who happens to be Agent 007 of the British Secret Service. He’s barely in the book!
Spy was the first of the five Bond books I have read so far this year.

Which brings me to a question that has occupied my mind since I finished the final chapter of Casino Royale a few hours ago: what next? More Bond?

I wonder what Blake would recommend?

Saturday, July 09, 2005


Back in May and early June I wrote a few blogs while attending the Seattle International Film Festival. But in juggling work, family, and some times three films a day, I never got around to posting them.

There does not seem to be much of a point in posting them now, though I will make a few quick observations, including notes about my cinematic choices for Memorial Day, which were rather appropo: MISSING IN AMERICA and LAND OF PLENTY.

- M.I.A. stars Danny Glover as Jake, a Vietnam vet who has retreated to Washington's Cascadia and lives the life of a lone survivalist. After a shaky start, during which Glover's dying war buddy strands his half-Vietnamese daughter with Glover at his remote mountain cabin, the film hits its stride as Glover struggles to cope with having a young girl to care for and with the backlash her presence in these woods has created by another survivalist vet played by Ron Pearlman. I found Glover's performance convincing and at times powerful leading up to the film's tragic end. There is one scene that takes place at The Wall which I found very moving. Linda Hamilton also stars.

- Wim Wenders's LAND OF PLENTY was a disappointment. Set in L.A., this post-9/11 drama about a lone, confused, self-proclaimed pro-American militant who sees terrorism brewing in the city all around him was heavy-handed and left me ultimately unfulfilled.

- Also disappointing was an early cut of a romantic comedy starring Julianne Moore and David Duchovny called TRUST THE MAN. Oddly, I like this film less and less every time I think about it. When it comes out this fall, I will surely despise it. Avoid it.

- I thoroughly enjoyed THE THING ABOUT MY FOLKS, a warm-hearted and very funny movie about a father/son road trip. The films stars Peter Falk, Paul Reiser, Olympia Dukakis, and is written by Reiser. In the film, Reiser's Ben Kleinmann takes a journey with this father, played brilliantly and hilariously by Falk, after his parents split up under dubious circumstances. The journey is one not just across upstate New York but into Ben's family's past as well.

- Of the low-budget indies I saw, there was one that exceeded my expectations. I chose to see NOVEMBER only because I wanted at least one thriller thrown into the mix of films I attended at the festival. It stars Courtney Cox, and frankly, going into it, anticipated some B-move, horror film wannabe. My skepticism was quickly displaced by an intelligent script about a random murder told via several perspectives. Think RASHOMON meets THE OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK and you'll know what I'm getting at.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Rains

Seattle has experienced such a dry winter that the governor of the state has already issued a drought warning.

The past three days have seen something of a deluge here, with heavy showers coming down from the great Pacific Northwest skies instead of the usual Seattle drizzle. When I first moved here, someone described the rain as spit. And that's what we normally see in wintertime: the gray Seattle sky will spit intermittent drizzle off and on all day.

But not this past winter. We've had plenty of magnificent sunshine and very little snow in the mountains, and the region is expected to pay for it this summer.

This was my planned summer for a glorious, golf course-quality front lawn. I had been reading up on lawn care, and had even considered hiring an expensive lawn care service to trim, mow, fertilize, aerate and pamper my lawn until fall. And I would keep the sprinklers going daily. (I was even going to give up espresso just to fund the expected astronomically high water bills this summer.)

But the county is already talking about a moratorium on lawn watering this summer.

I suppose I will have to settle for brown patches of dead grass and spots of bare soil in my front yard. It should be fertile ground for wretched dandelions, however. Which, when I think about it, is perhaps not all that bad. At least the dandelions may lend a certain greenness to the lawn when the grass itself cannot.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Back to Steve Johnson

I received in the mail this week a CD entitled Bluestoons, by Steve Johnson. I was pleased to receive the unexpected disk, and listened to it right away. (The prolific Johnson just does not slow down!)

It’s a solid blues album with catchy rhythms and some nice blues riffs. It’s solidly produced, the gratifying “East West” being my favorite cut on the disk. After two listens I can say I truly enjoy it.

Which is saying a lot. I know my own taste in music, and most of the CDs that I buy I know I am going to like. But I have received numerous recordings and CDs as gifts, and I am not always as pleased with such gifts as I was after receiving Bluestoons. For example, I am unable to locate my Zamfir album, with apologies to my friend George. It has not stood the test of time as far as my musical tastes are concerned. (Also, Shawn Drover with Megadeath gave me their Countdown to Extinction album while I was in Los Angeles in 1992, and I think I passed it on to someone months later with the cellophane still on the cassette.)

But there have been times when others have shared their musical tastes with me and the album has stayed with me over the years and remains a favorite in my collection.

The first is Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales, which my roommate brought home after its release in 1993. (I had been a fan of the Police, but had not followed Sting’s solo career unitl that point.) We listened to the songs on that album together that night, and there was not one on the disk that did not immediately capture my imagination. Sting has been a favorite of mine ever since.

The other is Now is the Hour by the Charlie Haden Quartet West. Joining the jazz bassist on the disk are pianist Alan Broadbent, Ernie Watts on sax, Larance Marable on drums as well as a string orchestra filling out the cuts on this CD. It’s good jazz, but mellow, West Coast jazz, and was a gift from my friend Mike in 1996. It remains one of my favorite disks to this day.

Honorable mention goes to Tim for Sam Phillips’ Martinis and Bikinis and to Curt for Cachao’s Master Sessions.

Will Steve Johnson’s Bluestoons stand the test of time and rank as one of my favorite CDs years from now? We’ll have to wait and see. In the mean time, might I recommend the book Show Me Microsoft Windows XP by the ever-versatile Steve Johnson? The man just will not slow down!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Sun Breaks

This weekend seems to be going remarkably well, and I think the reason is that I awoke yesterday morning to a whole lot of blue in the sky and a very bright sun.

Seattle this time of year is typically gray and rainy. I heard Sting comment once that Seattle reminded him a lot of home, meaning England. I have never been to England, but I hear it’s often grey and rainy there, too.

I had not heard “sun breaks” forecast by TV meteorologists until coming to Seattle. Sun breaks are short periods of time during the day when the gray ceiling opens up a tad and actual sunlight breaks through the clouds. It can be a glorious thing after six or seven straight days of drizzle.

When much-needed sun breaks do happen, they are always commented upon, with gratitude, by appreciative Seattleites.

Sunshine often provides amazing restorative physical and psychological properties to Seattleites. I heard somewhere that Seattle sells more pairs of sunglasses per capita than any other major American city. I don’t know if that’s true, but I personally have gone out and purchased sunglasses because of an unexpectedly sunny day.

Here is a rundown on my sunglasses:

Pair 1: Cheap drugstore variety. $8. Plastic tortoise shell frames with very dark lenses. I carry them in my laptop bag. They are with me almost always, serving as my emergency redundant backup pair.

Pair 2: Foster Grants for about eighteen bucks, metal frames, modern design, purchased while out of town and finding myself unexpectedly bathed in sunlight. This pair is kept in a little case in my wife’s car.

Pair 3: Very similar to Pair 2, purchased at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, under similar circumstances. I keep them in the sun visor of my car.

Pair 4: My “good” sunglasses, purchased at the Bon Marche in downtown Seattle after someone had placed a $70 pair of sunglasses on the “$14.99 or LESS” rack. It is without a doubt I chose the best pair of sunglasses on the $14,99 or LESS” rack. I was too embarrassed to tell the cashier of the mistake and went ahead and paid for them. These I keep in their case in my car.

The other sixteen pair I have purchased since moving to Seattle are spread out across Seattle in a variety of restaurants and coffeehouses, including the Broadway New American, B&O espresso, the Elephant and Castle, the late Minnie’s Cafe and the now-demolished Palmer’s.

The blue sky and sunshine I woke to yesterday are gone. Forecast for today? Rain. All day. But I am still hopeful for a few sun breaks.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

From a Post Card

Steve Johnson loved ketchup. "I love that rich tomato flavor," he once said. We had been discussing the double-LP Peter Gabriel Plays Live. Steve would spread ketchup on toast. "Why not?" he replied when I called him on it. "It's the jelly of the tomato family."

Steve used to keep ketchup packets in the pocket of his waistcoat. He called it his packet pocket. "In case I get an itch for a tomato shot," was his explanation. "It's that pick-me-up that gets me through the day."

Others disagreed.

"That's pointless," Tim H. told me, about fifteen years ago, when confronted with Steve's penchant for tomato shots. Steve would tear open the ketchup packet and squirt its contents into his mouth, an act that Tim found mildly revolting.

Tim would take "salt hits" before exams from little Morton's packets he would pick up at Hardee's.

John T. preferred tartar sauce.

What did Jay K. prefer? "Mayonnaise. In packet form. Preferably Duke's. I cannot abide Hellmann's," he told the Post and Courier.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

As Big as Four

January 22nd. Today is my daughter’s birthday -- she turns four!

This morning I woke her up and held up four fingers. “How many fingers am I holding up?“ I asked. Big, wide grin. She doesn’t miss a thing.

She got up and stood in front of the mirror and asked me if she were bigger. I told her she was as big as a four-year-old today.

And she is.

We are having a birthday party for my daughter and her little friends this afternoon, and the children want to dress up and pretend to be princesses. So my wife made some little princess skirts out of colorful material, and the kids are going to make little crowns to put on their heads so that they can pretend to be princesses.

There will be only one prince at the party. His name is Miles. He will be here with all of these other little girls. But he can hold his own.

For her birthday I bought my daughter a big house for her Barbie dolls to live in. (Right now, Barbie is living in a cardboard box with a window cut into it.) The new Barbie house is pretty neat. It has lights and a doorbell and a shower and furniture and everything. I know she will enjoy it. She already enjoys playing with her Barbie and Kelly and Wonder Woman dolls and dressing them up.

Wonder Woman is my favorite.

My mother-in-law came into town for the birthday party, and she and Caryn made a birthday cake. I think everybody will have a good time.

Even Miles.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sunday: Penguins, Loaves and Fishes

I have just concluded Sunday breakfast with a steaming cup of chamomile tea.

This is day three without coffee, and no headache yet. Since becoming ill with an upper respiratory infection Thursday, I have given up the coffee in favor of juices, chamomile and green teas, and have yet to experience any adverse effects. So far so good. Let's see how long I can last...

I always enjoy Sunday breakfast. It is the one day of the week my family is together during breakfast time. (We are often together Saturday mornings, but not always). Sunday usually means the biggest breakfast of the week, and sometimes my wife will fry bacon or sausage or cornedbeef hash and make homemade biscuits and we will eat so much that we don't want lunch until two in the afternoon.

Sunday also means Sunday paper, and I have been pleased with the return of the penguin Opus to the Sunday funnies. I was a huge fan of Opus in the 1980s, when I was in high school and college. Steve Dallas, the womanizing lush of an attorney from the 1980s comic strip "Bloom County," has appeared recently in Berkeley Breathed's "Opus" Sunday strip. Seeing attorney Steve Dallas back in action -- now graying and raising a son -- reminds me that 1985 was twenty years ago, and that I, too, am graying and raising a child.

And on Sundays I often take my child to Sunday School.

Recently, the Three-Year-Old class learned about the loaves and the fishes. In the story, Jesus is preaching to a huge crowd of people and everybody gets hungry. So a couple of fish and five loaves of bread are gathered by the disciples and Jesus then performs a miracle by feeding everyone with such a small amount of food.

The miracle did not register with my daughter, but the gathering of the loaves and fishes did:

DADDY: What did you learn about in Sunday school today?
HARPER: About Jesus.
DADDY: What did Jesus do?
HARPER: Jesus talked some kid out of his lunch.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Lost on Gilligan's Island

My friend Michael pointed out to me on the telephone yesterday that "Gilligan's Island" and "Lost in Space" were essentially the same show.

I added that among the obvious thematic similarities there was another aspect to both shows to consider:

One show was supposed to be funny, but usually wasn't.

The other show was supposed to be quite serious, and was often unintentionally funny.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

A Bitter Pill

On October 10th of last year my friend Peter and I attended a St. Louis Rams game at Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks. By the middle of the 4th quarter, the Seahawks were up 27 to 10 over St. Louis. But the Rams pulled it off, spectacularly, winning the game 33 to 27 in overtime. Seattle crumbled in the fourth quarter. The Rams stepped up and did what they had to do to win the game.

Peter and I were bitterly disappointed.

The Seahawks fell to the Rams again five weeks later, this time in St. Louis. The final score was 23 to 12, Rams over the Hawks.

Now, with the Rams returning to Seattle for the NFC Wild Card playoff game, I thought it fitting that Peter and I attend together, and offered him the ticket.

All week meteorogists had been calling for a winter storm in the Puget Sound region. We’d had snow in the North Sound, and in the mountains and foothills, of course, but nothing in Seattle but a little rain. As of Wednesday, they were calling a game day forecast of low-30’s and snow flurries and a wind chill in the 20’s.

Peter grew up in North Dakota, and I was sure such bitter temperatures for a football game were not intimidating to him.

But in the end the weather forecasters were wrong. It was cold, but not bitterly so. And we of course saw no snow. (We did see a bit of rain, which, interestingly enough, marked the first time it had rained on the Seahawks at home in Qwest Field.)

In the end, however, it was Peter and I who were bitter: Rams 27, Hawks 20.

Maybe next year.

Excuses and Dead Dogs

I have not posted anything in some time, and it is mainly because I have had little to say.

Or perhaps what has been on my mind translates poorly here. I have become less than an intermittent blogger. I have become a lazy one.

Besides, what else can be said about the tragedy in the Indian Ocean?

In November I traveled to South Carolina for nearly two weeks, leaving me rather busy at the office the remainder of that month. I posted nothing in November.

And in December I was occupied with completing a short story called “The Third Christmas Tree,” which is the fifth in my Christmas series, behind “The McBeezles and the Christmas Tree,” “The Mean Spirit of Christmas,” “J.T. Thornton’s House of Freaks” and “Merry Christmas from Medford Orchards.” I send these stories to members of my family as Christmas gifts.

A few friends in Seattle saw this year’s story well before most of my family on the East Coast. Problems with the mail. Also, I think I inadvertently sent most of them Media Mail instead of Priority Mail. I should have double-checked with my postman, Juan, but I did not.

I received a call yesterday that brought me some cheer. A friend named Danny had loaned “The Third Christmas Tree” out to someone at a Christmas party, and I guess the thing had gotten around. This woman in his office had asked Danny for more Christmas stories, and Danny obliged her. He reported to me on the telephone yesterday that his friend said she read the one from two years back very, very slowly, so that it would not end too quickly.

For any writer, that is a fine complement.

(This is the same Danny whose wife would not allow “Merry Christmas from Medford Orchards” read to their small children. She’s right. The story is PG. The death of the dog is rather traumatic, even for me. Furthermore, Danny‘s Labrador Retriever and my Labrador Retriever are sisters, and the dog that dies in the story is a black Lab, and was based on our two dogs.)

Speaking of dead black dogs, I have just completed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a novel by Mark Haddon. The book opens with the night-time discovery by an autistic boy of a murdered poodle on the lawn of a neighbor. The book is presented as the boy’s own diary, and his investigation into the death of the dog leads him to uncover family secrets that turn his world upside down.

I do recommend the book. Its power is in its unique point of view: that of a fifteen-year-old autistic boy who fears the colors yellow and brown, cannot relate to other human beings, and whose life must be perfectly ordered. I recommend the book unless, of course, you are bothered by the image of a black dog on a lawn with a garden fork through its chest.