Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bagged, Tagged and 4x4.

Yesterday, I got tagged by Steve Buccheit over on Storybones with a bloggy challenge. Four things in several categories (for some reason I’m picturing Steve as Jack Palance in City Slickers with a finger raised, One thing, Jim, one thing…) I find this a fun and interesting assignment, so without further ado:

Four jobs I have had or currently have in my life:
1. US Navy Chief Warrant Officer: not for the faint of heart, but if you’re the right kind of person the single most satisfying job on the planet. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I feel diminished now that I am no longer on active duty. I think I wrote a post about my feelings on this subject a while back.
2. US Navy Enlisted Cryptologist: Same as above.
3. Chef: before I enlisted in the Navy I was a professional chef, one of the worst jobs on the planet. No matter how good or talented, or how classy the establishment (and I worked in the best), you go home at night smelling of grease, the customers are assholes, and the owners always sleep with the pretty waitresses and treat you like shit.
4. Assembly Lineman: I once worked (briefly) as a lineman on the paint line for the auto industry. It sucked beyond all descriptions of suckatude and soured me forever on anything having to do with Organized Labor.

Four Countries I have been to:
Only four? I’ve been to many places, thanks to the US Navy. Some good, some bad, all interesting and mind expanding.
Australia: Damn but I love this place. The Auzies are wonderful people, and the country is everything America aspires to be, and isn’t.
Spain: I lived in Espana Sur for three years. Incredible food, incredible people, and an astounding wealth of history on every street. Nobody ever dies of a stress induced heart attack in Spain, no hurry, no worry, we’ll just do it manana…
Iceland: Breathtakingly beautiful, bleak, and amazing. I also lived here for a while. The people are the descendants of Vikings (or at least the people Vikings kidnapped from elsewhere and dragged to this tiny island nation). Proud, aloof, unbelievably well educated, ancient, and spellbinding raconteurs.
Iraq: Chaos, war, displacement, hatred, Arab. And yet, I recall the Shiite Ship’s Master of a leaky smuggling vessel with piecing black eyes and a beak of a nose who offered me Muslim hospitality in the form of bitterly strong coffee, and spoke lovingly of his daughter and how he hoped the War would bring enough change that she could attend school and grow up to be her own person, Ishna Allah. I hope that he survived, I did my best to make it so, and I hope his daughters grow up in a better world.

Four places I would rather be right now:
Are you kidding? I live in Alaska. I’m at home with my wife and son, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

Four foods I like to eat:
1. Spanish (NOT Mexican): In small town southern Spain, the evening streets are awash with the aroma of garlic and sea green extra virgin olive oil pressed from Spanish olives grown on the Costa del Sol. Paella made with fresh saffron, patatas tortilla on fresh crusty bread with black olive tapanade, tapa hopping, calamari fresh from the Marcado Publica, with lemon (stomach growls, feed me! Now!).
2. Seafood of any kind: Fresh Alaskan silver salmon smothered in a raspberry/birch-syrup glaze on the grill. Alaskan red salmon hot smoked over alderwood using the traditional Athabascan method, with brie. My specialty, seafood pasta: smoked salmon, scallops, and shrimp in a sherry reduction cream sauce over farfel bow-tie pasta. Fresh
Maine lobster boiled in beer and seawater, direct from the lobster pound across the street from our little house in Millbridge (still lively, and fast!).
3. Irish: Irish stew made in the traditional Darina Allen Ballymore method – with fresh lamb, baby carrots, pearl onions, white potatoes and barley done sloooowly in a cast iron Dutch oven. Sheppard’s Pie. Irish potato cakes fried in bacon grease, made by a redheaded lass with a lilting accent and mysterious smile from the
Shannon River valley.
4. Cheeseburgers: That’s right. Handmade, greasy, char-grilled over open flame and covered in sautéed mushrooms and topped with blue cheese. With kosher dill pickle spears and steak fries accompanied by a bitter Irish Red Ale so cold it makes your teeth ache. Henry’s in the Gas Lamp district,
San Diego makes the best.

Four personal heroes-past or present:
1. My wife, Becky: Childbirth, and that’s all I have to say about that.
2. My dad: nothing has ever gotten him down. Ever. He’s the toughest SOB I know, for a little runty little Irishman. He’s beaten everything,
Korea, alcoholism, poverty, men three times his size, electrocution, broken bones, cancer. The stories I could tell…
3. Teddy Roosevelt: a man of deep conviction, a man born into wealth and privilege who chose instead to spend his life in service to his fellow citizens, a man born with debilitating asthma who overcame it through perseverance, iron will, and strength of character. Rancher, writer, raconteur, trust buster, a man who led the charge up both San Juan and Kettle Hills into the teeth of death, adventurer, and the first President who ushered a black man through the front door of the White House as an equal.
US Navy Captain Pat Rabun and the last crew of the Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser, USS Valley Forge, CG-50. Without doubt, the single finest Skipper and crew ever to sail under the banner of the US Navy. They were men and women of honor, conviction, and unlimited courage. I will always remember you and what we accomplished, even if history does not - we few, we precious few, we band of brothers.

Four books I have read:
1. The Two Ocean War, Samuel B. Morrison: WWII, in a nutshell.
2. Nova, Samuel Delany: a dark disturbingly strange and vivid tale of the things a man will do for love, hate, revenge, and exploding stars.
3. The Dying of the Light, George R.R. Martin: a dark disturbingly strange and vivid tale of the things a man will do for love, hate, honor, and an old flame on a melancholy dying world beneath the fading light of Fat Satan. Goddamn but I wish GRRM would go back to writing fiction set in this universe. With Morning Comes Mistfall, Tuf Voyaging, Nightflyers, The Glass Flower, The Way of Cross and Dragon, The Stone City and the bone chilling alien In the House of the Worm are some of my very favorites. GRRM’s aliens are not of the Star Trek variety (i.e. recognizable humans with funny looking foreheads and all too human motivations), nor are they jumped-up cats like so many characters in modern Scifi, no they are alien, their motivations and minds are not human and you may never understand them, this may cause you discomfort. Martin’s work makes me feel small, in a vast and ancient universe.
4. Newton’s Wake and the other works of Ken MacLeod: While I am certainly no communist, I love an author who’s outlook and opinions are alien to my own (I can imagine no more boring world than if everyone was just like me. That’s why I love works by a writer who’s ethnic, political, cultural, and/or sexual orientation is the polar opposite of mine). MacLeod is a visionary genius of the post-human world. He does me, his reader, the greatest service of all – he assumes I am not an idiot and he makes me think.

And just because I can never not fiddle, let me add Four movies that I love:
1. The Thirteenth Warrior: On the surface a bloody adventure/action flick, but if you watch carefully you’ll realize that it is really a coming of age story with layers of subtlety and an incredible musical score. Antonio Banderas’s brilliant performance as a man truly out of his depth but game anyway. Watch his face carefully during the warrior selection scene, here’s a guy who knows he is witnessing a moment in history, and yet has no idea what’s going on. You can see it in his face as he laughs uncomprehendingly along with the Vikings, caught up in the moment – and then the hammer falls. Stunned disbelief, What the hell are you saying? And here he takes the first step into a world much larger than he ever imagined. But more than anything, this movie is about intelligence, using your mind and not just brawn. And the Vikings know this, they value and respect Ahmed Ibn Fadlan not because he is a warrior (he's emphatically not), but because he has something they don't, insight, education, and a viewpoint different from their own. They are no dummies either. And phenomenal performances by actors Dennis Storhoi and Vladimir Kulich. Goddamn I love this movie.
2. Mister Roberts: For Jack Lemmon’s brilliant performance as Ensign Franklin Thurlow Pulver, Soldier, Statesman, and friend to the working girl. Captain! It is I, Ensign Pulver! Now, what’s all this crud about no movie tonight? And Cagney puts his long suffering face into his hands as the credits begin to roll. Classic.
3. McClintock! The Duke at his absolute hysterical finest, and Maureen O’Hara. Yeah, it stereotypes the crap out Native Americans, the mythical Old West, the Chinese, and John Wayne himself, so what? The fight at the clay pit is the best brawl ever filmed, and the dynamic between Wayne and O’Hara is worth the price of the DVD. And the line Don't say it's a fine morning or I'll shoot ya! Sums up my feeling most days perfectly. Donovan’s Reef and The Quiet Man are close seconds.
4. The High Road to China, Tom Selleck and Bess Armtrong. A massively underrated and unappreciated movie. The dynamic between Selleck and Armstrong is as good or better than Wayne and O’Hara in McClintock! or, for that matter, between Selleck and Laura San Giacomo in Quigley Down Under. A utter blast of a popcorn movie, I wore out my VHS copy and the goofy bastards of a movie studio just won’t release it on DVD. For the life of me, I can not imagine why.

Anyway, there you go, Steve, hope you’re happy.


  1. Cool. Thank, Jim. Me? Happy? I'm not at work any longer and I'm not in meeting, so, yeah, I'm happy. :)

  2. Just stopping by from Steve B's blog to say hello. And I love, love, LOVELOVELOVE Firefly and Serenity.

    Welcome to the Blogosphere. Long may you reign.

  3. You're always welcome, Greenyflower. I've been by your place too, I find it most interesting.

  4. Oh yeah, I love me my Firefly and Serenity.

    "I'm a leaf on the wind."

    "What the hell does that mean?"

    So many quotes, such good writing (yeah, I know all the disparagement about not enough minorities, the horses, the science, blah blah, it works when you think about it and it's entertainment).

  5. As you may have gathered from the page quote, I got the Serenity Special Edition. Um, kind've creative marketing, there's nothing added to the movie at all. The "special" part is some extra dreck they put on a 2nd disk, mostly outtakes of Nathan Fillian cutting up on the set. Which is great, 'cause he is a very funny guy, but I was disappointed the movie wasn't extended play (especially, since the advertising and the box say "Extended Scenes"). On the other hand, this is the first time we've watched Serenity on our new monster sized HD Plasma, and it just plain friggin' rocked.

    Can't wait for the whole world to be HD - though I hear it's ruining the porn industry.

  6. Oh, and I've had the "Fruity Oatey Bar" Jingle running through my head for days...

    Fruity Oatey Bar, make a man out of a mouse, Fruity Oatey Bar make you bust out of your blouse...

    Serenity is one of the few movies I can watch over and over and still enjoy. Jayne just kills me, and the line from River after the barn-swallow maneuver "I swallowed a bug," in that dazed, crazy-person voice that Summer Glau does so well, brilliant. Mostly I loved this movie, and the series, because I'm just so sick of Star Wars/Star Trek/Star Gate recycled lazy writing (Oh look, magik(tm) technology, oh look they went back in time and met...same shit, over and over). But, of course, that's why Firefly failed, it wasn't Starfly. If the show makes you think (and doesn't have rubber-forehead aliens) it's almost guaranteed to tank (anybody remember "Strange Luck?).

  7. I remember Strange Luck! Ran for what, half a season before it was out? *le sigh*

  8. Huzzah! My sweeting & I love The 13th Warrior, and it's nice to see it reviewed so beautifully. Haven't tried Mr. MacLeod, but I will now, as I figure anyone who loved Nova (I say this as a person who has been in love with anything written by Samuel Delany since I first discovered Dhalgren at age 16) must have an excellent compass for literature. Have you read any of the Culture Novels by his countryman, Iain M. Banks? Use of Weapons might be best for you to begin with, although Excession seems to be the one that really grabs folks, if they read it first. Fair warning, however -- it is rather uncharacteristic for the Culture novels as a whole. Enjoying your 'back numbers' immensely!


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