Thursday, September 24, 2009

Barbudo

They say that everybody needs a bosom for a pillow, everybody needs a bosom. And while I definitely agree with that, it seems like there are a few other things that everyone should have, at least once. Everyone should order escargot at least once, just to say you've eaten snails. Everyone should write in a cartoon character as their vote for president at least once. Everyone should have intercourse outdoors at least once (preferably on the 1st of May). Along those lines, everyone should go skinny dipping once...or more than that if possible. Everyone should live in New York once (but leave before it makes you hard) and live in Northern California once (but leave before it makes you soft). Which leads into my whole point here. If you're a man, you should, at least once in your life, try to grow a beard. See how it looks. Well, I've long considered giving it a shot, and recently, when I'd been lazy and failed to shave for about a week and the time came to shave it back, I just thought, screw it, let's see how a beard looks.

Beards are a bit of an exclusive club. So many people have issues with facial hair coming in sparsely in some areas, but fuller in others. That tends to make beards look awful. I let my beard grow for upwards of a month, knowing that I was going to fall into that awful-looking-beard club. My sideburns don't grow at all, so any beard that I have is never going to be attached to the rest of my head. My cheeks grow sparsely too, so there's that. The hair on my neck grows really thick though, so I could have one of those hideous neck beards that you sometimes see in period films set in the 1800s.

A lot of people at work told me that it looked good. I don't know how much I can trust them though, I think they all just wanted me to stop being such a dullard and live a little. One of the women who told me it looked good was once arrested for streaking at a local arts festival. Another is married to the guitarist for a rock and roll band that played on The Tonight Show. They've got wilder tastes than me, I think.

Beards are really hard to deal with too. Growing in, they itch like a son of a...hey that rhymes! Well it would have rhymed if I'd finished my thought anyway. After that, you've got hair all over your face. It's like taking a cat, and gluing it to your upper lip. It will drive you a bit crazy. I'm already one of those people who can't leave any anomaly alone. When someone spells something wrong, I point it out, even though it makes them hate me. If I have a new jag on one of my teeth after a dentist appointment, I worry that thing until my tongue is scraped raw. So, if there's hair on my face, I'll stick out my tongue and mess with it, until my lips are dried out and my tongue hurts.

But the final straw, was...well there were two final straws really. First, I went to work, and someone that I hadn't seen in a while noticed my beard. "Hey, like the beard," he said, "It's very Muslim. You growing that for Ramadan or something? It's coming up you know." The Muslim beard was definitely not the look I was going for. Then, the next day, I kissed my wife, and she said, after having been supportive up to this point, that it wasn't nice to kiss me. It was like kissing a stranger. Instead of kissing my lips, she was mostly getting the hair around them poking her.

It was time to give it up. I'd had a good run, and now I needed to throw in that towel. I took a couple of pictures, just to prove that I had once worn a beard, and then I spent a half of an hour hacking and slashing that thing off.

Get an eyeful, because there will never be another picture like this one.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

American Gods

A few weeks ago, Rish and I ran Book Scouts Of The Galactic Rim by Jason Sanford on the podcast. If you haven't heard it yet, it's a story that talks a lot about various seminal science fiction works. The story got the both of us thinking. We did mention the fact that we both felt lacking in our knowledge of science fiction literature. Independently, without ever conversing about it, we both decided to start working on remedying that fault.

I happened over to Rish's blog, and saw that he'd posted about his first venture. He's reading Robert Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land. That's one of the few books that I already have read, and I must admit that it wasn't my favorite. It was hard to get through, but I struggled away, and made it to the end. I never felt rewarded for my persistence though. I had recently finished reading Heinlein's Starship Troopers, which I loved, so I was hoping for more of the same with Stranger. It's not what I got, for sure. Okay, I'll further admit, not only was it not my favorite, I hated it. But you can't always win, it's just life. I just hope that Rish doesn't feel quite the same way as I did, because it could easily damage his resolve to continue.

My reading time is so very limited these days, but my listening time isn't. So I went in search of Audio Books. I wanted to hear Neuromancer by William Gibson, a book that Jason Sanford referred to in his story. While I searched for that, I got Neil Gaiman's American Gods, a book that won a Hugo Award a few years ago. It isn't classic science fiction, but as a Hugo winner, it likely will be someday.I really enjoyed the book. Gaiman has a very readable (or maybe I should say listenable) style of writing. And his story was very fun. I heard it described somewhere as a cross between Americana, Fantasy, and Myth. I really liked the combination. Sometimes it seemed like it could have been Garrison Keillor writing about the residents of Lake Wobegon, except that those residents were Ibis of Egyptian mythology or Odin of Norse mythology or Kali of Indian mythology.

I have to admit that, like most Americans, I have little to no knowledge of the mythos of gods that don't belong to the Greek pantheon. They teach Greek mythology in public schools, and, even though there's a great deal of time spent in history class discussing Egypt, their mythology is not heavily explained. Go beyond that, and there's no time spent whatsoever on myth. Not the Norse gods, Indian gods, African gods, or Mayan gods. If you want to know a little or a lot about those pantheons, then you've got to seek it out on your own. Neil Gaiman must have spent a few lifetimes researching for this book. He refers to so many different gods from so many different places, that it leaves an ignoramus like me feeling dumb...but entertained all the same.

One thing, which was probably a wise move, that I found interesting was the almost complete lack of mention that we got of the Judeo-Christian pantheon. There was a small mention, but it was probably better to just leave it out and save himself the trouble it could create. Besides, in America Jesus is just too powerful. He didn't fit into the story about old, forgotten gods at all.

I was led by curiosity to see if there was a site out there somewhere that gives some sort of glossary for us dummies that just don't know mythology like an intelligent guy like Gaiman does. The book in several places gives you only a description of one god or another, and I was just so curious that I had to find out exactly who they were. If you're the same as me, check out frowl.org, but wait until you are finished reading, because some of the entries contain spoilers that might blow some of the surprises that the book has in store for you.

My only complaint about the book (and it's just because I'm a sad old prude) was that I could have done without the various graphic descriptions of sexual encounters. These were mostly found in the "Coming To America" segments, that were interspersed throughout the book. I think the book would have been fine without them, but I'm a prude. Oh well. I got through the book just fine, and they weren't enough to scare me off or take away from my enjoyment of the book, but depending on your level of prudishness, they could be.

Up next, Gibson's Neuromancer!