Ken Wheaton’s Bacon and Egg Man

Filed under:Authors,Books,Cool,Food,Politics,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on April 11, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

I bought Bacon and Egg Man because I liked Wheaton’s first book, The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival, but I bought it thinking I wouldn’t be able to read it for months because law school. I haven’t read anything without a case name or a blog heading in months. Instead, I started it on the plane out for spring break and had it finished before I had to get back on the plane to come home. It is a snappy, hilarious read that brings up serious issues without taking itself any too seriously. In two words: thoughtful and funny. And since it’s well written and doesn’t make me claw my editor’s eyes out of my head, what more do you want?

Wes lives in the northeast corner of what used to be the United States. New York and its surrounding blue-state cohorts have seceded, and in the resulting Federation, original Bloomberg’s original soda ban has led to the illegality of fat and sugar and basically everything that tastes good. The people eat tofu and vegetables and visit the doctor by mandate to have their body fat monitored. Strangely, this has not stopped people from dying of heart attacks or cancer, but nobody seems to grasp the implications of that. Wes lives the life of an average guy who works a job, makes a living at it, and keeps to himself. But he’s a drug dealer and a user—not only does he get bacon, eggs, real milk and butter, ribeyes, sausage, and yes, soda for his clients, he eats them himself, cooking them up in a black cast-iron skillet (whose appearance, all by itself, won my heart in the first chapter). And soon he gets caught.

Wheaton has a positive gift for loading a lot of entertaining, detailed exposition into a short stretch that doesn’t weary because it doesn’t feel like lengthy or unnecessary narration. As in his first book, we are introduced to the characters swiftly, but in a perfect medium—we’re not plunged directly into the middle of unfamiliar action but not subjected to a tedious process of setting the stage. From there, he scatters details that round out the future vision he’s created, note-perfectly hilarious. He’s like a Sherlock Holmes in that when I read his projection of the future, I thought, “Of COURSE that’s the way it’s going to go, based on the trends we have now,” but I wouldn’t have thought of it myself. (Holmes used to get irritated with Watson for saying how simple things were once Holmes explained them.) In that sense, he’s also like a good mystery writer, since in a mystery, when you find out who the perp is, you should say “OF COURSE,” but you shouldn’t have seen it coming too easily.

Here, we’re left in no doubt as to who the villains are up front. The scenario of the government taking away stuff that’s good, and that in moderation is quite good for us, theoretically for our own good, is all too believable. (And, as a law student, I also find completely believable the cops’ ever-spiraling obligations to arestees as they’re pointing weapons at them. “We are considering firing upon you. This shot is not designed to be lethal, but it will hurt. In some cases, the charge has proven lethal. The government is not responsible for any damages to your person or property. Do you understand this?” I was dying laughing, imagining the Miranda-style case law that generated requirements like this.) Honestly, as I read this book, I was kind of amazed America ever came back from Prohibition. But at the same time, life goes on. The cops do their jobs; there is not an uprising brewing over these laws; it’s a dreary institutional utopia instead of either a smooth façade with sinister underpinnings or a hotbed of seething chaos waiting to explode. Again: all grimly believable. People can get used to a lot, if they have to.

I won’t get into any more of the plot, but there is a girl (and you know I’m a sucker for a love story), and there is a villain with a face (as opposed to the oppress-you-for-your-good government), and there is a back story. And both the girl story and the back story are awesome. As a reader, my highest respect is reserved for authors who both have insight into human nature and can paint it accurately and entertainingly, and both the girl story and the back story are chock full of the reality of human nature without being maudlin. And, even more difficult to pull off, both the girl story and the back story are woven into the larger story seamlessly. And the whole fabric is light enough to build a nice warm blanket of story that makes you laugh and think, not a smothery coat of moralizing that makes you squirm and roll your eyes. (Like my metaphors might be doing now. I ain’t no novelist.) And there’s a twist—a lovely twist that I saw coming a page before it happened. (And that is not either a compliment or an insult to Ken Wheaton; it’s a compliment to myself. I am an author’s and a screenwriter’s dream in that I never see anything coming, ever. So the fact that I saw it one page ahead means I’m ever so slowly getting smarter as I age.)

There are only three things about the book that I didn’t think worked just right. First, one of the characters—well, see here how Wheaton himself describes him. But this is a matter of taste. I’m a bit uncomfortable with this kind of character, but I can distinguish him, at least, from a character that invades my mind and makes me think “garbage in, garbage out” and want to stop reading. This guy is a lighthearted blowhard that it’s easy for me not to take too seriously, so I got used to him quickly.

Second, what’s left of the United States outside the Federation suffers under none of these food restrictions, which is supposed to be a good thing, right? But the people are described as fat—really fat. As I was reading it, I shrugged that off, thinking, “He just threw that in for ‘balance,’” since my impression from his blog is that he’s more libertarian than anything else and therefore not in favor of the kind of restrictions he’s talking about. And I know he loves proper food. But it stuck with me that this portrayal really just flatly undermined the larger point. The point seems to be that regulations like this won’t stop people from being unhealthy in some form or other and certainly won’t stop them from dying of natural causes at young ages, and therefore they certainly aren’t worth restricting people’s freedom so greatly. But if everybody else is depicted as fat and unattractive, then it makes the restrictions look a bit more desirable, doesn’t it?

Third, and I don’t know if this is a matter of taste or of the “rules,” whatever they are, of novel construction, but I felt it in Rabbit Festival too—the ends of both books seem rushed. In each, I’d have liked more information about how things all shook out and a little more depth of feeling from each of several characters (which I know from earlier parts of the book they’re totally capable of). But the wrap-up is too fast for me, and I don’t see a need to whiz on to The End quite so quickly.

I can’t tell you every single thing I liked, loved, and related to in this book, or else I’d spill the whole plot and write a book myself in detailing them. But as a, shall we say, well rounded girl who grew up on bacon, biscuits, and gravy and whose cast iron skillets are the best things in her kitchen, I like that Ken Wheaton can write about the things he does in the way he does without either schmaltzy nostalgia or petty resentfulness. His characters don’t have a chip on their shoulders that they spend the books magically getting rid of; they’re just people struggling with their everyday lives, in this case seen through a prism of somewhat fantastic events. And one more thing I have to thank him for: While I have done ribeye steaks in my cast iron for years, throwing half a stick of butter in at the very end was a new idea to me. But not for long. Yum!

Oh Yes He Did

Filed under:Politics,Right On — posted by Anwyn on August 13, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

Romney’s choice of Ryan as running mate immediately reminded me of McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin, both in similarity of choice and by contrast in the circumstances of the two choices. Romney didn’t have to do this–didn’t have to make a pick ostensibly anathema but actually scary to the left because it helps solidify and rally a doubtful base. It’s true that the Republican/Tea Party base could certainly use some shoring behind Romney, but this time, the base is not as hostile to Romney as they were to McCain and Obama keeps digging his own holes that need shoring. McCain needed a lightning rod or he was finished. Romney doesn’t. Romney could have made a safe pick, one that would make the base yawn but keep planning to vote for him and that would not draw the opposition lightning.

Instead…

Let the hyperventilating begin.

RIP Andrew Breitbart

Filed under:Saddest — posted by Anwyn on March 1, 2012 @ 9:04 am

We couldn’t spare this man. He fought.

I am very grieved at the hideously untimely loss of a warrior against the hateful elements of the left and a husband and father of four children.

Where Do These Grants Come From?

Filed under:Church of Liberalism,Priorities,WTF? — posted by Anwyn on October 2, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

And do the grant-granters know how their money is being spent? “Women Who Make More Decisions Have Less Sex:”

“[T]he findings showed more dominant and assertive women had approximately 100 times less sex.”

These results are clearly specific to the area in which the women were surveyed. A Florida State University study also found that in countries with higher gender equality, there is more sex, so it’s no surprise that in poorer African countries, women are withholding it.

The idea that dominant women are having less sex is likely evidence, as reported by the Daily Mail, that women around the world are taking control of their sexual preferences.

What???

There are two parts of the study reported here:
1) The numbers, which say women who make more household decisions have less sex, and
2) The conclusions, which are:
a) These women withhold sex.
b) These women are “taking control of their sexual preferences.”

I stipulate up front that I haven’t come up with any possible conclusions to this study that don’t make women look bad. All the possible conclusions to numbers like this are unpalatable. But one obvious conclusion also makes men look a bit bad as well as fitting traditional intuition: Men don’t want women who make decisions very much. But that conclusion, while making men look bad, tends to work against the goals of feminism. Feminists would not want to let on that men maybe have less desire for a woman who, as the saying used to be, wears the pants, because maybe that would make women think twice about wearing the pants too often. Maybe that’s why it’s discarded in favor of the two that leave women in control–that they’re withholding sex and that they prefer 100 times less sex than their less decision-making counterparts. They prefer it that way. I find it hard to believe that’s possible even by biological norms.

But what gets me the most is how the researchers apparently not only accept this conclusion as biologically possible but also endorse it as a good rather than realizing it makes the women they’re talking about look like punishing, anti-sex shrews. This is the preferred conclusion over “men don’t prefer women who make more decisions.”

Another killer is the closing:

“Understanding how women’s position in the household influences their sexual activity may be an essential piece in protecting the sexual rights of women and helping them to achieve a sexual life that is both safe and pleasurable,” co-author Carie Muntifering told Health24.com.

We’ve gone from basic, obvious rights–i.e. the right to say “no” to any sexual advance–to “reproductive rights” to “sexual rights” and now apparently it is the job of some section of “academia” to “help women achieve” a good sex life. Please, women of academia, no thank you. Please, grant distributors, stop funding these kinds of idiotic, meddlesome studies.

Got the link from Instapundit.

Update: And thanks to Professor Instapundit for the link!

Free Advice for Republicans Courting the Tea Party Voters

Filed under:Jerks,Language Barrier,Politics — posted by Anwyn on June 13, 2011 @ 10:15 am

Don’t answer like this Republican when asked why he’s careful to state that he’s a Republican, not a Tea Party candidate. (And, of course, don’t let your deputies grab the camera of a citizen blogger who is asking the candidate questions. Personally, I find this blogger’s manner in asking questions and narrating his video highly irritating, but that’s no excuse either. Jim Holden, as a displaced Hoosier, I’m ashamed of you.)

But back to the political advice: When you’re a Republican stating from the platform at a Tea Party rally that you’re a Republican, not a Tea Party candidate, and when somebody asks you why you’re overtly distancing yourself from the Tea Party at a Tea Party rally:

1) Saying, as you did, that the Tea Party doesn’t actually have any candidates on the ballot and so you couldn’t run as a Tea Party candidate if you wanted to is okay, but we already know you wouldn’t even if you could, so that doesn’t advance the ball all that much.

2) Saying, as you did, that there are people who would like to “paint” you as a Tea Party candidate gives your game away–that you are trying too hard to walk the line and really do want to keep your distance. So–

3) You should say the following: “Because the Tea Party folks don’t want a bandwagon-hopper. I’ve been a Republican [for X years], long before the Tea Party came into being. I admire the things they stand for such as [X, Y, Z], and my mission here is to show them that I share and support those positions and hope to get their votes for the U.S. Senate. But it would be dishonest to identify myself wholly with the Tea Party, and the Tea Party itself wouldn’t like it if they thought I was trying to cash in on their movement. I’m a Republican who admires the Tea Party and agrees with many of their positions, and I hope they will see that I’m the best candidate to advance those positions in the Senate.”

When even I can see what the answer should have been, you’re heading toward a FAIL.

Andrew Klavan is Wrong

Filed under:Jerks,Politics — posted by Anwyn on June 6, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

On women, regarding Weinergate, written by Andrew Klavan and linked with a Read the Whole Thing by the Instapundit:

I blame women. No, really. Women — by which I mean each and every single member of the female gender — you know who you are — need look no further than themselves to explain why Weiner-types behave toward them in this fashion. We men are always hearing complaints from women about how badly we treat them, what pigs we are, how pushy and abrasive… on and on. But what these same women conveniently fail to mention is that this stuff really works on them!

I’m angry about Klavan’s offhanded blaming of “each and every single member of the female gender,” which he then qualifies with “you know you are”–why would we need to know who we are if he is blaming every member of the sex regardless? But that’s beside the point. The point is that it is only THOSE WOMEN, the ones who fell into bed with the Governator or eagerly solicited dirty pics from a congressman or even didn’t eagerly solicit then but played along in accepting them, that he should be talking about blaming for the reprehensible behavior of these men. Does he even think women who don’t like this stuff exist? We do exist. And if he even grants that we exist, does he think we’ve never had men approach us like this? He’s wrong. We have. And we have shot them down in disgust.

I’ve spent way too much time online ever since college and I’ve seen this more times than I can count, first in the I-don’t-know-you-but-let’s-just-talk-dirty-awhile way and then in cases where I actually have known the men offline. At least one man I was attracted to for his smarts, humor, and articulate, pointed reasoning spent a lot of time trying to get down in the dirt of online sex-baiting with me. That fizzled, at least partly because I tried to simultaneously like him as a person, be attracted to him, and yet not play that dirty-talk game too much. There have been a few other men who I could tell were staying away from me because I would not play their type of game. There was a man in college who tried to ask me out after previously being shot down by my roommate. Why did we both reject him? Because we knew this was the kind of “dating” he was into–sleazy and fast, in every sense of the word.

These men are into sex and its pre-actual-sex trappings and flirtings; they do not, as Klavan plaintively says, just want women to love them, much less just one woman to love them or even one at a time. There are different varieties of men with different styles of approaching women, and there are different varieties of women with different styles of reception to men’s different approaches. I am not a feminist and usually don’t get mad about most high-level characterizations of group-wide behaviors, but this one is dead wrong. This is not a group-wide behavior; it is men who act this way seeking out and gleefully latching onto multiple individual women who are receptive to it.

Klavan should be ashamed of himself for stating straightforwardly that all women like this kind of garbage and that’s why men do it. All women don’t, and that’s not why some men do it. Those men do it to gratify their own urges, and they just have to look around for women who are open to it. And when you’re a celebrity, even the weird kind of political celebrity that is a congressperson, you have a much wider field to look around in. And as a side note, when you are a politician, what are the odds that a woman might be “open” to this kind of thing precisely for the purpose of getting you in trouble later? It’s a trump card. But Andrew Klavan seriously states without a glimmer of LOL that All Women like this, that this is why these piggy men do it, period. And the refutation is right there in Klavan’s own piece: “…why Weiner-types behave toward them in this fashion.” Weiner-types? Oh, so it’s not each and every single member of the male gender who behaves this way? And yet, it IS each and every member of the female gender who encourages and causes it? No, Andrew Klavan, the answer to that is no. The answer you gave is wrong. You fail on both bottom line and reasoning.

Aaron Sorkin Goes Back to the Well

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn on May 31, 2011 @ 8:38 pm

…the same well that only lasted a combined three seasons on network.

The series stars Jeff Daniels as the co-anchor of a cable news show who must deal with a new team after his fellow host jumps ship for another job and takes most of the staff with him. Waterston will play his boss.

Olivia Munn and Alison Pill were recently added to the cast as a sexy financial analyst and an associate producer on Will’s show, respectively.

Sports Night and Studio 60 combined on a news set. No, but it’s a show about a news show so it’s completely different, right??

Right.

Update: Speaking of never-dry wells.

George Lucas

George Lucas says he already has 50 hours worth of scripts ready for a live-action Star Wars television series — but he’s waiting for a technological breakthrough to lessen the cost of shooting.

Disastrous Atrocity

Filed under:9/11,Need a Good Editor?,Sad — posted by Anwyn @ 12:03 pm

September 11 is listed in the “Major Disasters” section, subheading “Aircraft Disasters,” of son’s new almanac. It is the only hijacking in the list–the rest are accidents–and the phrasing is poor: “Two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, one went down in a PA field.” No, Almanac editors, the planes didn’t crash; they were deliberately flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The one in the PA field did crash, and it’s due only to the heroism of the doomed passengers who did not allow it deliberately to be flown into yet another important American building full of people. I do not understand people who still insist on avoiding calling 9/11 what it was: an atrocity. It was not a tragedy, as many news outlets and politicians have called it. It was a disaster, as the Almanac calls it, but that does not give its true character: It was a cold-bloodedly planned, determinedly executed mass murder-suicide.

I hadn’t before said anything to my son about 9/11. He’s only seven and it happened before he was born. But he likes to read to us the lists of events and cool facts in his almanac. It really gave me a jar to hear it in a list of accidents consigned to history. Unprepared, I ended up giving him the nutshell on what happened, including the heroism of the Flight 93 passengers, but I couldn’t do it without tearing up. He listened intently, but next time he wanted to read the list to us, he sternly warned me not to repeat the story of 9/11 and not to cry. He then omitted it from the list, because the fun, for him, was quizzing us on “What happened?” in each particular disaster, and he didn’t want to hear the painful story of 9/11 again. At least he grasped that there was something different about that one.

Noooooooooooooooo2?

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn on May 17, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

Lisa Edelstein is leaving House.

I think it’s a little weird that she would choose to leave for what has been reported as the last season of the show. Maybe her character isn’t getting enough to do since the breakup?

I’m a little dismayed, a little okay with this. House was never going to wind up the series in a happy place, and it’s oh-so-much-more realistic that he gradually forgets about Cuddy and moves on, because that’s life. However pleasant it is to imagine that people carry the torch for their true loves forever, it’s not really all that true. I wouldn’t mind a return of the “asylum” phase of the show where House was with somebody who could have been The One under other circumstances, then let her go when he saw what the real circumstances were, and/or him meeting somebody who could be The One but we won’t know because the show ends, like Veronica Mars ended, with ambiguity and on the sense that the main thing is that House, like Veronica, is still walking through it all.

It is too bad, though, when an integral character doesn’t make it to the end. But I’m interested to see how they’ll play her out.

Is Heat “Wasted” in the Winter?

Filed under:Church of Liberalism,Politics — posted by Anwyn @ 7:31 am

I keep seeing this line parroted over and over in articles about the incandescent bulb shortly to be lawed out of use:

The technology in traditional “incandescent” bulbs is more than a century old. Such bulbs waste most of the electricity that feeds them, turning it into heat.

Oh, so just because a lot of the electricity makes heat instead of light, that means it’s “wasted?”

I’m No Scientist or anything, but I seem to recall a rule, the conservation of something something, that said energy doesn’t get destroyed but converted into other stuff. So isn’t it true that if your house is a little warmer because you’re burning a lot of incandescent bulbs, it means your furnace has to work less hard to bring your house up to temp? Heat is heat, no matter the source, and likewise the thermostat works no matter where the heat is coming from. This is the stupidest argument ever for government mandate of a business & consumer decision. Yes, it’s more an issue in the summer, when we don’t want the extra heat, but we burn fewer incandescent bulbs in summer, too, since the daylight hours are longer.

But no, it’s waste, waste, waste, because that promotes the rationale for dictating our light bulbs and because reporters are cookie cutters, not writers.

Dear GOP Field: Raise Taxes

Filed under:Politics — posted by Anwyn on May 13, 2011 @ 8:34 am

Your first mistake is thinking the government has to do something big to “health care” to replace Obamacare when you repeal it. You don’t. You simply have to do something small.

Romney apparently delivered a mish-mash of a speech that I have neither listened to or read, but I don’t have to right now because I don’t plan to refute him point-by-point. Apparently in bizarro-world, he thinks individual mandates are a good idea, but plans to give every state a waiver out of Obamacare anyway. Huh?

And then there was probably a bunch of gook about what he’s going to do instead. Which leads me back to that First Mistake: You don’t have to do something big. You merely have to do something small, and it’s something a whole batch of politicians would like to do anyway: Raise taxes.

I’m No Economist(TM), and I freely admit I may have this wrong. I’m a blogger who is, yes, still in her PJs today (but cut me a break, I just finished the first year of law school YESTERDAY). The fact that more people, smarter people than I, aren’t talking about this suggests I must be wrong about some part of it. But I’ll put it out there anyway:

1) Health care is paid for through, and handed out by, our employers, mostly, because there’s no income tax on that money that’s paid to the health insurance company, either for individuals or the employers.

2) Therefore employers want to offer you a big plan that covers everything, including every trip to the pediatrician every time your kid sneezes. (What? I’m not criticizing you, I’m lampooning the way I myself take my son to the doctor. A lot.) They want to offer you a “good plan” because it’s cheaper to pay the health insurance company than it is to pay you more salary. If they paid you more salary, you’d have to pay taxes on it, and so would they.

3) These plans are wasteful and encourage both a) overuse and b) overcharging. Why should the doctor’s office care what it charges for a routine visit about what’s probably a routine cold or flu if their customer isn’t paying for it? If the customer isn’t paying for it, the customer doesn’t care what it costs. So the doctor’s office will charge more than it would if it were charging you, as high as the insurance company will pay for. It’s not because they’re nefarious, it’s because the market encourages it. When the customer is not shopping carefully, the prices rise. Sure, why not? What would an oil change cost if your insurance company paid for it every time and you paid for THAT by fifty bucks per month more on your car insurance? Do you get your oil changed every month or pay $50 a time? But you’d pay for it as if you did if it was covered by insurance.

4) If we were paying for routine doctors’ visits ourselves, we’d use more thoughtful judgment in how often we went to the doctor and we’d jolly well pay attention to how much it cost. We’d shop for the best balance between a good doctor and a good price for a routine visit, not just take whatever doctor will take a payout from our insurance companies.

5) If insurance didn’t have to cover every last little routine visit to the doctor, it’d be a lot cheaper. If we paid for it fully ourselves, without our employer paying some of it, we’d make sure we had the best balance of the coverage we wanted vs. the monthly payment. We could decide between a plan with a high deductible and no coverage of routine visits vs. a plan with everything covered and a low deductible. Our employers wouldn’t be choosing for us, and they’d have to pay us more salary to make up for the fact that they no longer kicked in on health insurance.

But all of this starts with taxing health insurance payment money just like every other bit of income. That way companies no longer have the incentive to collude with the “health care” insurance companies to roll out plans that cost too much and pay out too much, we’re on our own to choose the best plan for us, and a certain amount could be added to the Standard Deduction on the IRS form to cover what we pay out for health insurance. In other words, tax it on the front end like everything else and then include it in the back end as part of the standard cost-of-being-a-living-human-in-America on the tax refund.

What’s so hard about that? It keeps our individual power of choice and smart shopping intact, it gives great incentives for the “health care” insurance companies to bring out a number of competitively priced options, and it gives great incentives to doctors and hospitals to price-compete. Win, win, win.

Dancing in the Dark

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn on May 10, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

**SPOILERS** for Dancing with the Stars, Week 8.

(more…)

False Alarm, House

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn @ 9:53 am

Robert Sean Leonard has signed a contract for next season, which TVGuide.com calls “its eighth and likely final season.” Hmmm. That wouldn’t be a bad thing. I’d hate for the show to jump the shark, which it has somehow avoided so far even though some of the plots are getting wilder and Wilde-r, so to speak. Well, at least they won’t have to do anything without Wilson. Hurrah!


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace