Sep 21 2011

Most loved and overlooked

Probably one of the gifts I most appreciate–and most take for granted–is a gift that is quite common in the 21st century United States. Most people have it, it is free, and it is available to all. In fact, it is even imposed on a good deal of people quite against their wills–as it was with me.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me how much I love books. I love shopping for them, acquiring them, repairing them. Of course I love reading them; the aforementioned verbs were merely symptomatic of a bibliophilic life. As I have mentioned earlier, some of my earliest happy memories involve books.

But it wasn’t always so.

Literacy was forced upon me in first grade. I had no desire to read. It wasn’t that I was proud of my ignorance or deficiency, but I simply didn’t realize I was ignorant, and wasn’t aware that I was missing anything. Learning to read was easy for me–too easy, probably. It unlocked nothing for me, solved no problems.

From the time I was three I was always drawing and always watching cartoons. Decades after I developed a genuine love for the written word, I would still denigrate writing as the dumb stepbrother of drawing. I remember in one of my many cartooning books the author had stated, “Good writing will carry bad art, but good art won’t carry bad writing.” It was the most heretical blasphemy at the time, but now so obviously true.

There was only one story that I cared about as a small child–The Legend of Sleepy Hollow–and that was because Dad told it to me. Right before bed. When I was three. I loved, and was terrified by, that story.

So when Mom gave me $5 to go take to the first grade book sale to get whatever I wanted, all I wanted was information, not stories. Specifically, information on snakes and dinosaurs. After that lack of literature, I would get my book choices supervised.

Still, Mom did do one very clever thing: she bought lots of children’s books, and then promptly did not make me read them. Just left them around the house. When we hit garage sales, action figures were maybes, but books were almost guaranteed to be approved (providing they weren’t about snakes or dinosaurs).

Tonight I started The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay. I’m still in the middle of reading The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes. As I write this I am flanked by a giant pile of books, two large bookshelves full of books (one of which I built), and in the midst of typing this I had to give in to the sudden urge to purchase Burton Raffel’s translation of Beowulf.

I realize that I owe a debt of gratitude to the following people:

  • My mom and dad
  • Mrs. Handley
  • Benjamin Rush
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Robertson Memorial Library
  •  Trails Regional Library, Corder branch
  • Mrs. Sheehan
  • Mrs. Redden
  • Mrs. Smith
  • Mrs. Alfino
  • Mrs. Craig
  • Any of you who have ever given me a good book

If you can read this, give thanks to God that you have working eyes and a working brain, and give thanks to the parent or teachers who taught you how to read, or how to read better.

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Dec 4 2009

My Christmas List 2009

Once again I have been asked to provide a Christmas List. You would have thought that people learned after reading last year’s, but you would be wrong. To you readers who did not specifically ask for or hint at what to buy me for Christmas, don’t buy me anything: this is strictly for your amusement.

You might wonder why I don’t just refrain from giving a list and thus thwart those very generous persons, but the answer is this: I have some stubborn relatives  (which is probably where Heather gets it). Besides, I like to buy people things, and it aggravates the heck out of me when they won’t give me a list either.

At the very least, you deserve something that is hopefully well-written, interesting, and humorous to read.

So at any rate, whether you buy me a thing or not, please enjoy the list. You may notice some repeats from last year. For the repeats that you do not notice, thank you very much for those nice gifts.

MadMan Dan’s Christmas & Birthday List 2009

Delicious Monster. As I have mentioned ad infinitum, I love books. New books, old books, handmade books, you name it. Thankfully, I did receive both shelves and shelving materials this past year. What does this have to do with monsters of the yummy variety? Delicious Monster is software that helps you organize your library, and keep track of your books, especially if you have a habit of loaning them out and forgetting to whom you loaned them. Or even worse, loaning them in and not returning them.

Dress shirts. You don’t want to see me topless do you? I didn’t think so. I just need some long sleeve, button up dress shirts, in either black or green. Neck is 15-1/2 – 16, and the other numbers inside my shirt say 32/33.

Bowler derby hat. The older I get the more I like old things; first it was the handmade journals, then it was the book press to hand-make journals with. Now it is the now-archaic custom of wearing a hat. My favorite is the Belfry Deuce-Stingy Brim Bowler.

Lamb Shanks. No, there is no hidden irony in this request. I really want lamb meat. The reason is that since last Christmas when I first made O So Glorious Irish Lamb Stew, I have been addicted to the dang stuff. Problem is, lamb meat is expensive and hard to come by. At least one day of my typical week goes like this:

Heather: What do you want for dinner?

Me: Irish Stew!

Heather: We can’t afford Irish Stew. Besides, Piggly Wiggly doesn’t have any lamb meat.

Me: Fine. I don’t want anything. I’ll just starve to death.

Set of 36 Marking Punches. Now that I am starting to acquire tools with which to fix things around the house, it would be nice to have some way to mark them with my name and lucky number.

Wireless X-Box 360 controller. Come on; what am I going to say about this? Um…I need this to pwn n00bs. Happy?

Digital Innovations SkipDr. Motorized AutoMax Scratch Repair System. Someone in my house keeps leaving discs out and they tend to get kind of scratched. Someone told me he came to an unhappy end and drowned in the creek, but I could see him if I peered in.

1.1 Liter MSR Stowaway Pot. Someday I hope to eventually go on a backpacking trip that doesn’t start out with me going to the hospital with heart problems. If that ever happens, I would use this pot to cook up some amazing stew.

Apple Brood. What the heck is Brood? It’s this malt-flavored soda pop that’s bottled in Lebanon. Yes, that Lebanon. I don’t know where to order it; right now I just have to buy a few bottles here and there whenever I go to eat at the Habashi House.

Blackthorn bush. Blackthorn is a shrub that grows in the UK, and the Irish use it to make shillelaghs. I intend to do the same thing, but the stuff’s so hard to get ahold of. I tried to grow my own, but it’s too hard. It’s also known as Sloe-berry or by its Latin name, Prunus Spinosa. Where can ya get it? Kick me if I know.

The Oxford English Dictionary. What’s so special about this dictionary? It’s the dictionary. Every word in the English language dating back to the time when Beowulf was the new hot item. This thing is 20 volumes, weighs in at about a Brazilian pounds, and costs about 1,000 bucks. So don’t buy me it. I mean it. So why did I list it? Because how can you not list an item that you have to say in the drooly Homer voice?

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