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.

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.

Is Heat “Wasted” in the Winter?

Filed under:Church of Liberalism,Politics — posted by Anwyn on May 17, 2011 @ 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.

I Don’t Believe What I Just Saw

Filed under:Oh Hell No,Politics,Television — posted by Anwyn on April 17, 2011 @ 12:31 am

This past Tuesday’s episode of The Good Wife guest-starred Fred Thompson as an actor/politician/lawyer never addressed by name, though listed in the closed-captioning as “Thomas.” Clever.

The plot showed Lockhart/Gardner representing an Underdog against an Evil Oil Company based on work conducted in Venezuela, until their case is taken over by Fred Thompson because Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez nationalized the Underdog company. And Fred Thompson is his lawyer. And Hugo Chavez appears (from the neck down, anyway) via videoconference as a lunatic who babbles about all the Americans wanting his oil except Courtney Love. And the true-blue liberal Lockhart/Gardner lawyers stare at him as though he were a particularly odious bug … while Fred Thompson acts as his lawyer with a genial smile disguising a pirahna mentality and, to wrap up, proclaims, “He’s really a nice guy once you get to know him. Sings like an angel.”

Right, because it’s Republicans who sing the praises of Hugo Chavez while Democrats just deplore him, isn’t it?

I am so disappointed that Fred Thompson agreed to do this lying piece of script.

If it was the show’s intent to make a good-faith showing that not everybody in Hollywood is on Sean Penn’s side of this argument, then they should have stopped at making that argument and not spun into it the vicious lie that Republicans, reasonably well-known ones at that, are. Disgusting.

Update: I should clarify that I’m disappointed Thompson agreed to do this hack hit script as himself. As a well-known Republican. Had he been playing a character, John Smith Lawyer who came in to take over the case, well, that’s an acting job and not a hatchet job. But that’s not what this was. His name was never mentioned; Josh Charles’s character walks up to him in disbelief, clearly recognizing him as Fred Thompson; the federal judge in the plot fawns all over him for “inspiring young people” on Law and Order. Sad.

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.

What Could Go Wrong?

Filed under:Politics,Television — posted by Anwyn on March 10, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

Julianne Moore to play Sarah Palin in HBO movie penned by Evil Nerd Nemesis actor Danny Strong.

With Apologies to Schoolhouse Rock

Filed under:Jerks,Politics,Priorities — posted by Anwyn @ 10:04 am

I’m just a bill; yes I’m only a bill,
But if they vote for me on Capitol Hill,
Well, then, the protesters there will go completely insane.
They’ll lock the doors and enter through the window pane
And try to keep me from becoming law–
How I hope and pray that I will,
But today, I am still just a bill.

Wonder Why I Don’t Want to Do Business with the RNC

Filed under:Not Cool,Politics — posted by Anwyn on February 9, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

It isn’t just their telephone manners.

Republican National Committee: Sigh

Filed under:Not Cool,Politics — posted by Anwyn on February 7, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

All last week there were calls from an “unavailable” number that I didn’t recognize. Some I ignored; some I picked up but didn’t speak first–the machine was smart enough to hang up on me in those cases. Friday night I finally decided to talk to whoever it was to make them stop.

It was the Republican National Committee.

I told the woman at least three times that I would not be making a commitment over the phone, that I knew perfectly well where the website was and how to donate to them. I hope they pay her what she’s worth, because as an attack-caller she’s worth her weight in gold. She was perfectly polite but totally aggressive and untiring. I didn’t hang up on her partly because I’m usually a little too nice to do that and partly because I was sitting there in sheer amazement wondering how many times she would continue speaking after I told her, in increasingly bitchy terms, that I would not be making a pledge over the phone.

Tonight they called back. I had to get frosty with a totally different type of caller, one who was clearly out of her depth and didn’t deserve to be yelled at because it’s obviously not her policy to make repeated calls to people who refuse to pledge over the phone. But she was hapless enough to admit that that is their policy–to call people back who do not donate over the phone. Right–not only did talking to them once not make them stop, but they actually take a refusal as incentive to keep hounding you. I said to her, “Because that will win people over? I think I’m actually going to have to ask you to remove me from the phone list now, which is really a shame. The policy of continuing to call people who refuse is bizarre.” She agreed with me that it was bizarre and said that I would continue to get mailers, just not phone calls. I said, “That’s good, because I don’t want to cut ties to the national party, I just do not want repeated phone calls.”

She said she understood. It’s too bad that her party, which purports to be the one that actually does understand the incentives that drive human beings to take certain actions, does not. Bleah.

This Passes for “Education?”

Filed under:Jerks,Oh Hell No,Politics,Priorities,WTF? — posted by Anwyn on May 20, 2010 @ 6:55 am

[The teacher] planned to base final exams on the Michael Moore film, “Sicko“.

A single conservative student objected and also says that her teacher called her a “teabagger” earlier in the year, during a different controversy. But what manages, incredibly, to bother me even more than the choice of movie and the public insult of a student by her teacher, is this:

…Blessman distributed to students in her Senior Literature and Composition class…

So for a Literature and Composition class, the final was … a movie.

The teacher should have been fired before anybody discovered she was pushing her odious political bias on her students. She should have been fired when it was discovered she is not a teacher of literature and composition. Good luck getting that done now.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace