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!

Weird Al & Lady Gaga Reverse-Reminiscent of Weird Al & Coolio

Filed under:Cool,Music — posted by Anwyn on April 20, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

Weird Al had a long blog post (in other news, Weird Al has a blog) about how Lady Gaga refused permission for him to parody “Born This Way” on his upcoming new album. Not that she refused, but literally about how she refused:

We send the lyrics to Lady Gaga … After a few days, we get our answer: “She actually needs to hear it. Otherwise the answer is no.”

Hmm. Well, this was mystifying to me. At this point she has the lyrics… and hopefully she is familiar with her own song… and the parody is basically her music… with my lyrics. It really shouldn’t be that hard to decide – based on having the lyrics right in front of you – whether or not you’d be “okay” with a parody. But, alas, we’d been given an ultimatum. If she didn’t hear it, she wouldn’t approve it.

So at great effort and expense, he recorded the track and sent it.

A couple days later we got the final word: Lady Gaga says “no.”

*silent scream*

Bizarre on the face of it. But wait, there’s an update!

Gaga’s manager has now admitted that he never forwarded my parody to Gaga – she had no idea at all. Even though we assumed that Gaga herself was the one making the decision (because, well, that’s what we were TOLD), he apparently made the decision completely on his own.

So Al can put the song on the album and make the slam-bang video he says is in his head, and all’s right with the world.

I suppose it’s possible that the manager is taking a hit for Team Gaga and she really didn’t approve it, but did when she saw that Al released it scorched-earth, by which I mean on the internet for free. Somehow I doubt it, though. If she really had disapproved it, I can’t see Al’s internet fans being enough to sway her–he’s bigger than Firefly, but the story isn’t exactly going to make Yahoo headlines, probably. What was her manager thinking about? Is he too young to know who Weird Al is? Even if he is, isn’t his job to find out? I know that while I’m not too old to know who Lady Gaga is, I’m too old to have deliberately watched or listened to her.

The whole thing is even weirder than the Coolio saga, in which Al says Coolio’s record label gave him permission for the parody “Amish Paradise,” but after the song came out, Coolio said he hadn’t given permission; as I recall, that was while polishing his Grammy for “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

I’m glad this one has a happier ending.

Alert

Filed under:Cool,Movies,Television,Tolkien — posted by Anwyn on April 14, 2011 @ 10:27 am

This has to be the ultimate (and, probably, only) crossover between Firefly and The Lord of the Rings. As a bonus, it’s a Jayne shirt.

Why is it a crossover? The Chinese says “Fighting Elves.”

Via Whedonesque.

Don’t Cross the Streams … of Awesome

Filed under:Cool,Movies,Music — posted by Anwyn on April 8, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

The high school musical gods meet Star Wars. It’s from 1996, and I’m unclear if the three writers were students or the adults involved (and there had to be some, right?), but here it is–a musical even a geekman from my generation can enjoy, unless of course that man is too culturally bereft even to have seen, say, Grease. The writers of Star Wars: The Musical took tunes from there, from Les Mis, from Beauty and the Beast, from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,from Phantom of the Opera … and those were just the ones I recognized in the first segment, or ones that my sister recognized for me after I sang her a few bars. (Joseph was never my favorite.) So no, it’s not really a musical for a musical-hatin’ man, because the extra kick comes from recognizing the songs, but nevertheless it is a thing of high school beauty and awesome. A taste, as posted at Neatorama (the whole thing is up in segments at the link above):

If I were this creative I never would have left music teaching. Godspeed, kids.

He’s Got Guts and He’s Not Afraid to Use ‘Em

Filed under:Cool,Politics,Priorities — posted by Anwyn on March 15, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

This is pure truth-to-BS awesome:

I interrupt and say “So, your response is that you feel that spending our tax dollars on illegal immigrants is a priority for you in the midst of the fiscal crisis, correct? Thank you for your honesty, sir.” and I turned and walked away for the microphone, as he sputters to answer.

Go read the whole story, because that’s not even the best part, or the end.

Bird v. Snake

Filed under:Cool — posted by Anwyn on February 10, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

Not the kind of bird or kind of snake you’d expect.

Awesome photo. I think there’s even a scowl on the little birdy face.

Urologist Advises Patients Who Support Obamacare to Seek Care Elsewhere

Filed under:Cool,Heh,Politics,Priorities — posted by Anwyn on April 2, 2010 @ 5:32 pm

Damn. Ballsy. So to speak.

Let’s Go, Apple

Filed under:Cool — posted by Anwyn on March 30, 2010 @ 8:12 am

I’m with His Instaness: iPhone on Verizon and I’m there.

Indiana, Our Indiana

Filed under:Cool,Politics — posted by Anwyn @ 8:09 am

Indiana, we’re proud of you.
We will fight for
The health bill rollback
And the freedom
of me and you.

Never daunted, we cannot falter
In the battle, we’re tried and true
Indiana, our Indiana,
Indiana, we’re proud of you.

This Is Awesome

Filed under:Cool,Heh,Movies — posted by Anwyn on March 14, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

Watch it now. That is all.

Via Hot Air.

To Quote the Man Himself, “Faster, Please”

Filed under:Cool — posted by Anwyn on March 4, 2010 @ 8:06 am

Instapundit writes up Honda’s new Advanced Light Jet for Popular Mechanics and mentions the likelihood of a new “air taxi” model to replace the airlines:

Although other efforts to build an on-demand air-taxi market at low cost have stalled with the current economic downturn, those efforts faced financial and technological problems that Honda expects to avoid, and by the time the HondaJets are rolling off the line at full speed, there’s a good chance that the economy will have recovered. So the air-taxi model—where you got to a website, enter your destination, and have a small jet swoop down to pick you up, possibly at a small business airport rather than a big one where parking and security hassles are greater—may well have a chance.

Vote for Food Pantry to Get Pepsi Grant

Filed under:Cool — posted by Anwyn on March 2, 2010 @ 10:07 am

The food pantry at my church, named Casey’s Corner for the autistic boy who every week helps his father unload a truck full of food and supplies into the pantry, is a finalist for a $25,000 grant from Pepsi. If the pantry wins the grant, we will use it to install a walk-in cooler/freezer to store meat and other perishables and open the food pantry one more day per week, thus serving up to 1500 more people each year. Bonus: A walk-in will be significantly more energy-efficient than the consumer refrigerators we have in there now, thus saving the church overhead money that can then go directly to the food pantry or similar service ministries.

You could really help us by voting once a day between now and the end of March. There are at least a couple hundred finalists, so it’s not like we’re down to the top five or something, and we need every vote. Pepsi is doing a good thing–help us make it worth their while so that they will keep on. Please vote!

Update: Pepsi has a registration process attached to the means of voting, but it’s fairly painless and it looks like they won’t force emails on you. Hey, they have to get something out of it or they wouldn’t be doing it, right?

Update: If you don’t want to register with Pepsi and you have a Facebook account, you can vote through the Facebook account. Easy! Also, Casey’s Corner has already jumped from 169th in the running to 91st, which is awesome, but we need sustained voting over the month to put us in the top ten–the top ten will get the grants. Please do vote as often as it occurs to you. Thanks!

Nerd Nirvana

Filed under:Cool,Television — posted by Anwyn on February 22, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

How many can fit in the Nerd Herder?


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace