Under the Dome by Stephen King

This review will probably make more sense to those who have already read Under the Dome. There are no spoilers below, but the main focus of the article is general enough that anyone who has read any fiction can relate to it. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed Under the Dome very much. What follows is a thought I had while reading it.

One of the better parts of Under the Dome is how well Stephen King juggles its many characters. The main antagonist, Big Jim Rennie, has been described as “The power-obsessed second selectman of Chester’s Mill, owner of a used car dealership and […] the de facto leader of the Mill.” He’s basically a big bad fish in a small gullible pond. He’s also (arguably) a stereotype, since people like him exist somewhere between our collective conscious and the real world. There are people like him in every small town and his character is imbibed with all the bad stereotypical traits that people assume people like him have.

But while reading Under the Dome, I started to wonder if people like Big Jim really exist in the world*. But I mean just like him. I wondered what they would think of Big Jim Rennie (even though they are the type of person that would never read a Stephen King novel). Would they recognize themselves in his character? We all like to think of ourselves as the hero, but someone has to be the bad guy.
But is this knocking too hard on the door of fiction? In the quest to create believable characters, what happens when many actual humans could be a terrible, terrible antagonist like Jim Rennie? I guess the answer to this would be that I’m placing too much faith and hope in morally bankrupt people. Everyone identifies with the hero of stories because no one believes they are the antagonist in real life. They may admit to acting wrong from time to time, but like every blameless character in fiction, their heart is in the right place.

Before this post devolves (elevates?) into a psychological realm that I’m not smart enough to properly address, I’ll cut these random musings off here. Under the Dome is certainly not the only book to include believable characters like Big Jim Rennie, but it was the first book to make me think about how characters are perceived by other readers, especially those who are the real life versions of the book’s antagonist. I have a feeling this is a mental game I’ll be playing with every piece of fiction I read in the future.

In all my years of literary analysis (ha!), I can’t remember a term or criticism that described the practice of critiquing the ways characters are viewed by the people who embody their traits. Should there be? Readers?

Up next: The Man Who Made Lists by Joshua Kendall

*Big jim Rennie was based off of Dick Cheney. Follow this to see an explanation from King. While there are no spoilers in the explanation, the Wikipedia page does have many, many spoilers. That’s why I put it down here with an asterisk.

Another Important Voice Weighs in on Gay Marriage

Right on the heels of David Tyre’s anarchy predictions, another prominent voice has come out against same-sex marriage. This time it’s my dog, Mr. Bo Jangles, who has expressed concern over the legalization of gay marriage.

Mr. Jangles has been known to voice his opinion in the past, usually when he’s hungry, when he really has pee, or when there’s a pile of shit on the sidewalk that he wants to stick his nose in. But in a rare instance of speaking out on public policy issues, Mr. Jangles told of his apprehensions about what same-sex marriage could mean for other dogs around the country.

“Imagine if I had been raised by two men,” he seemed to say with those puppy dog eyes. “I would probably still be the fearless home protector that you rely on, but would I be able to snuggle with you as good as I can now? Would my licks to your face be as soft and full of devotion as they are now? I don’t believe so because those are the kind of things only a female master can teach.”

Proceeding down the same logical path, Mr. Jangles likened the social and legal approval of same-sex marriage to the anarchy that comes when thunder strikes or when the garage door closes.

But Jangles isn’t the only one making his sound heard in McVeigh Manor. Mr. Jangles’s opposition to gay marriage, which was backed by the National Orgasm for Marriage, comes on the heels of my cat Mittens’s support for the same-sex marriage law passing through the chambers of my house.

“Why the hell would I give a shit what you worthless humans do?” Mittens glared. “Yeah, I’m for it. I’m for any laws that offer Emperor Mittens a chance at more food. Got it, dummy? Now, get off the couch. All this meaningless talk of human concerns has nearly bored me to death. I need a nap.”

The coming out, so to speak, of Mittens was shocking since she has always been either too uninterested or too asleep to engage anyone in any kind of social interaction. But last week her energy in declaring her stance reminded me of the time I tied a piece of string to the back of the chair.

No word yet on where my fish stands on this issue. Or my imaginary iguana.

Stay tuned to hear what these important voices have to say.

Related posts:

Removing the Middleman from the Gay Marriage Debate

Patriot’s vs People’s Part IV – This is the End

Patriot’s vs People’s is an analytical review of two books about American history that most would assume are politically opposed – Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen’s A Patriot’s Guide to the History of the United States and Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. It started as an idea after I bought Zinn’s book and was given Schweikart and Allen’s by an uncle who so rightly explained his gift as a way for me to read “the other side of the story.” I decided to read them side by side, chapter by chapter, in order to compare and contrast the two works to each other. It didn’t go so well. This is Part IV, here are Part I, Part II and Part III.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fishy Facts

This post has been a long time coming. The first three posts of Patriot’s vs. People’s can be found here. I’m sorry to all my readers* to have to cut it off like this.

After reading fighting my way through Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought, I decided that I would never again waste time reading a book that wasn’t enjoyable or beneficial to me. That is why I have put down A Patriot’s History of the United States forever.

The first problem with Patriot’s is that it’s not well written. I know that alone is no reason to give up on a book. I don’t expect Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen – or any historian for that matter – to write like Shakespeare. But poor writing is merely the tip of the iceberg and I won’t focus on it more here. Pick up Patriot’s in the store and find out for yourself.

The other problem(s) depend on which type of person you are. You either know American history or you do not. I’m choosing these two extremes because Patriot’s is a waste of time for both of them, and therefore a waste of time for anyone in between. Let’s start from the viewpoint of someone who does not know American history. This is the only type of reader for whom Patriot’s can be of any value, but certain restrictions apply.

If you know nothing of American history and do not intend to read any American history books besides Patriot’s, you will not feel like you have wasted your time. Because the information in Patriot’s is factual. Patriot’s has a conservative bend to it, but the authors admit that (or at least they admit to being anti-liberal and they start the book with a transcript of a congratulatory interview with Rush Limbaugh). But that’s where the fun stops. Learn from anywhere but Patriot’s and you’re going to be disappointed, dear reader, because Patriot’s chooses its facts wisely.

And that’s where the problems start for readers who know any American history. The amount of holes in Patriot’s depends on how much you know about American history. The more you know, the sooner you will realize you are wasting your time. This is why I recommend Patriot’s only for those who both know nothing of American history and do not intend to learn any more from any other sources. Because the more you learn, the more you will realize you wasted your time reading Patriot’s.

The other problem you will have (and I sure did), no matter what type of reader you are, is personal. A Patriot’s History of the United States is insulting. When you think about it, it’s infuriating that Schweikart and Allen would write Patriot’s the way they did because their style assumes that you are an idiot. Why else would they pick and choose facts to support their biased opinion, lie and say it’s “an honest evaluation of the history of the United States,” and then not expect anyone to call their bluff? Because they are either shitty historians or they think you’re dumb.

I have nothing else to say about this. If I came off as irritated, it’s because I am. I’m upset that I wasted my time, but I’m slowing learning to move on. I will finish People’s, because even though it was as admittedly biased as Patriot’s, it was at least full of facts I don’t already know (and the writing is better – less condescending). But I doubt I’ll go back to it soon. I’m off American history for a while.

Up next: Under the Dome by Stephen King

*This post is especially dedicated to one Anonymous commenter, who was kind enough to not only read my other posts, but encourage me to keep writing. I just can’t do it, my friend. I’m too jaded. If you end up reading Patriot’s, feel free to let me know how it went – if you think it’s worth it.

Weekly World News on Google Books

I’ve been an avid fan of the Weekly World News since I was just a young buck who still believed that there was no such thing as redneck aliens. It was a sad day for me when “the world’s only reliable newspaper” released it’s last issue.

But I am very pleased to report that back issues of the Weekly World News are available on Google Books. And by back issues, I mean they go all the way back to 1985. Got plans this weekend? You do now.

One of my favorite stories. When I asked my high school morality teacher, who was a Catholic priest, if the church considered this wrong, he said, “No because deers don’t know any better.” And that is one of my favorite high school memories, boys and girls.

I’ll never forget when I read Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things and he admitted to “having much fun making up stories” for his friend at the WWN to use. I thought, “Aha! I knew it!” But really, I didn’t need proof. I always liked the way the Weekly World News never let on that their articles were full of it. To me, they were the poor man’s Onion and were sometimes, if not often, just as good.

The full archive of Weekly World News papers starts at 2007 goes back from there. They also have a website (where they are slightly more forthcoming about their truthiness), a Facebook page, a store which sells books and t-shirts, and, I kid you not, Bat Boy: The Musical. Coming soon to a theater near you.

Michele Bachmann Follows @congressmembers on Twitter*

Michele Bachmann has become the first politician to jump on the @congressmembers bus. I applaud this move. It shows that she’s not afraid to take chances, be brave, and help the country move beyond Weinergate.

I am actively awaiting Michele to tweet me her twat, but until the sexual spirit moves her, why don’t you enjoy this lovely picture that appeared in my inbox today. I know I did.

I was going to update the previous post with this news, but I thought it deserved a post all on its own. Here’s hoping @SarahPalinUSA gets on board with this movement.

*Intended to be a factual statement… cause it totally is.

Introducing… @congressmembers

Friends, Congressmen, Countrymen,

Tweet me your dong.

I understand. You want to send people pictures of your wiener. You need to send people pictures of your ding-a-ling. But alas, not everyone wants to receive pictures of your pecker. What are you supposed to do when the pressure builds up? It’s too much for a politician to take.

That’s what I’m here for. I have created @congressmembers, a Twitter profile that promises to be a safe haven for your interwebs sexcapades. No longer will you have to worry about sending pictures of your sausage to young girls who may turn around and show them to ABC. Send them to me instead. I promise to not let anyone else see. You’ll get the release you need. No one will have to resign. And no one will have to do an interview with Meredith Vieira. And that’s what really matters.

The safe haven for pictures of wangs.

Look, as a bonafide, certified doctor. I can understand the pressure that you’re under. You’re sitting there in your office – smartphone in one hand, meat whistle in the other – and no one to share your excitement. With the Twitterverse is just a finger tap away, what’s stopping you from tweeting a picture of your winky to that cute girl who follows you? She looks reasonable. Hey, she’s in college, that’s saying something, right?

No! Don’t do it, congressman! You don’t want to go down that road. Why don’t you tweet your pork snake portfolio to me instead? It’ll stay between the two of us. Promise. Really, no questions asked. You’ll feel satisfied that your smartphone didn’t go to waste and I’ll feel satisfied that some poor, innocent college chick didn’t have to see your one-eyed warrior.

There. Now isn’t that better?

For the non-congressmen out there reading this, I’d like to take this time to note that @congressmembers is not solely for males or politicians. Hey there, Elena Kagan, gotta feed the need to show someone your Supreme bush? Deliver unto me your vaginal verdict. Why, hello, Brett Favre, upset that no one is talking about your Viking horn anymore? Throw me a long dong pass.

Look, we all know the craving. And we all know that Twitter was originally called TwouserSnake*. Think of it like homosexuality – once a sin, now a sensation. Tweeting pictures of your private parts is the same thing. You just need to wait for the rest of society to catch up. Until then, there’s always @congressmembers.

Weiner-gate solved. You’re welcome, America.

*Not intended to be a factual statement.

Humans Are Fucked

And I have proof.

Normally I’m an upbeat guy. I like to always look on the bright side of life. But every now and then something comes along that reminds me the human race is doomed. Case in point: Pennsylvania state law requires hospitals and birth centers to tell new parents to not shake their baby. That’s right. The Pennsylvania State Legislature has decided that its citizenry is so dumb that they need to be told not to shake their newborn children. And not only do parents have to be told, they have to sign a form saying they were told – probably for when their dumbasses come crying because they shook their baby.

CT scanning is one technique used to diagnose Shaken Baby Syndrome and prove that we are delaying the inevitable.

Want to know what’s worse? Pennsylvania isn’t the only state with such a law. Here’s an incomplete list from the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Again, that’s an incomplete list. There are more. Also, the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome is a real thing. Capitalized title and everything. If you’re not thinking, “What the holy fuckstick?” than you are proof that the human race is doomed.

I know this is just a couple of states, but if you are of the mind that a human being’s home state does not effect how likely they are to shake their baby, then you are of the mind that we are so fucked.

So very, very fucked.