Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Five Steps to Happy Feet

by Tom King © 2011

A lot of people hate their feet. They hate other people's feet. They hate the very idea of feet. These are not people with happy feet. I, on the other hand, am a person with happy feet. They have served me well. My 10 ½ triple E's have a few scars and a flaw or two thanks to inuries over the years, but all in all they have held me up well. My right little toe is permanently numb, but then, when you kick a chair that hard, you can expect a little nerve damage.

So how do you get to the advanced age of 57 and still have healthy happy feet?

Step 1: Go barefoot as a child.

Nothing is better for your feet than exposing them to the varieties of surfaces and textures you'll encounter in the average backyard. The bones in growing feet need to flex and move freely if they are going to develop properly in order to hold us up when we reach our full height. Mom's overprotect kids feet, I believe. I have a nice wide stable foot thanks to running barefoot most of my childhood (and Mom saved a fortune in tennis shoes).

Step 2: Accep minimal support.

Sandals are wonderfully unsupportive. I used to wear thin-soled canvas running shoes as a kid. They had virtually no padding or arch support in them and my Mom didn't like them because she thought they'd ruin my feet. But since I had my own paper route, I could buy the shoes I wanted and track shoes were as close to barefoot as you could get and still be allowed to go to school. So that's what I wore and they did not ruin my feet despite Mom's dire warnings. Science backs me up. There are Indians in the mountains of Mexico who run marathons wearing only Huarache sandals. Curious researchers found that these thin, almost non-existant shoes allow the bones in the foot to absorb impact more effectively than expensive running shoes. Turns out there is evidence that all that support in so-called "scientifically" designed sports footwear may actually cause more injuries than they prevent. Giving the foot too much support can, apparently, weaken the foot's ability to absorb shocks.  A foot that can flex is a foot that will hold up under long usage.

Step 3: Ventilate your feet.

If you must wear shoes, go for ones that ventilate well. Fungal infections of the foot require a warm moist environment to grow – environments like the inside of a poorly ventilated shoe and thick socks. If you do, for whatever reason, need to don Nikes and sports socks, for goodness sake get out of them and air out your feet for several hours afterward. Wash and dry thoroughly, then run around unshod for a while. If you're out in hiking boots, get wool socks, even in summer. They wick off the moisture and keep your skin fairly dry. Around the campfire, though, kick off the boots and lounge about in flip flops or a pair of Huarache's you keep dangling from your backpack.

Step 4: Go bare-footin'.

No need to spend a fortune on a foot massage or a reflexologist. Find a safe place to walk unshod and take a hike once in a while. The textures of the ground, rock, grass and earth, not only thoroughly and naturally massage your feet, but the sensations give you an all over sense of well-being. Mother Earth was meant to be felt through our soles. In the process, you'll also build a nice thick protective layer on the bottom of your feet – something that may come in handy some day if you ever have to cover some ground sans Gucci loafers.

Step 5: Let your toenails grow out a little.

When they advise you to cut your toenails straight across, there is a good reason. If you let the edges of your toenails grow a bt beyond the skin and don't cut them low in the channels along the sides of the nail, you'll save yourself a lot of pain from ingrown toenails. Buy yourself some proper nail clippers for toes and keep up with your toes. An ingrown toenail is very painful and can even require surgery to remedy. If you go barefoot a lot, you'll be more likely to notice a developing problem.

People don't appreciate how important their feet are to their happiness. Show me a man with unhappy feet, I'll show you a miserable human being capable of talking on his cell phone in the theater, committing genocide or starting a nuclear war.

May the road rise up to meet you and may your feet be happy upon the road you have chosen!

Tom

Monday, April 18, 2011

Who's Your Favorite Conservative Science Fiction Author?


As a conservative, I find it almost impossible to stomach some of the leftist nonsense that comes out of the science fiction genre.  I grew up on sci-fi as a kid, but was lucky to have found a wide range of political ideology in what I read.  Some rang true to what I had learned in history and sociology (often in spite of my history and sociology teachers).  Some did not.  I remember being drawn to elements in science fiction that seem to be a recurring theme - even in the works of writers who probably see themselves as ardent progressives. Liberty and freedom of the individual is one of these themes and the only way to pit liberty and freedom against an adversary is to pit it against a believable one.

What you get are sorely confused people writing about the heroic, rugged individualist fighting against the evil corporate dominated governments, insect hive minded aliens, brutal tyrants and evil forces bent on world domination. And yet, how many of them go out and vote for political parties that would increase the size power and intrusiveness of government? Sci-fi writers flirt constantly with the idea of a government by the wise (and let's face it most sci-fi writers consider themselves among the "wise"). Such a government, if managed by the proper folk, the pure nobles, the great wizards or wise men or sorceresses, would manage everything so all the regular people would be fat and happy and satisfied with their lot in life.

But it never really works that way does it? 

We never can quite get away from the obvious defects of such a system. You'd have had to be blind not to have seen the horrors of unfettered communism once the Iron Curtain collapsed in the late 80s.  Turns out communism was far worse than we ever knew.  Even the Chinese have realized the problems with communism and are moving away from it, retaining the authoritarian bits, of course. The Chinese always preferred their governments authoritarian for some reason.  I suspect preserving an authoritarian government machinery has always been the point of progressivism, socialism and communism anyway. Many SF authors point out this problem that authority has in co-existing with freedom in their novels, movies and stories - sometimes unwittingly. That's why you get leftist writers writing the most damning things about big governments.

My top ten favorite SF authors whose works ring true for me include:
  1. Poul Anderson:  Anderson is not only a scientist, but a student of history as well. His future cultures recognize the problems with bureaucracies, corporate or government and his stories deal with the impact of such repressive societies on men and women with brains, creativity and a love of freedom. The man almost preaches sometimes. He produced a steady stream of characters like notorious trader to the stars, Nicholas Van Rinjh, Dominic Flandry, David Falkyn and a host of others provide an almost endless stream of reading - the man was a voracious writer. If you're a conservative/libertarian like me, you'll find yourself nodding in agreement as you read his finely crafted stories that weave history, anthropology, sociology and science into a seamless whole. 
  2. Orson Scott Card: Orson sits on the outside of mainstream science fiction. A Mormon like Glenn Beck, Card is not shy about his political opinions. His masterpiece, "Ender's Game" is on the commandant of the Marine Corps' recommended reading list for Marine officers. While, I'm not particularly a fan of his fantasy work, his hard science fiction is a delight and I hope he never runs out of Ender sequels.
  3. Dr. Jerry Pournelle:  You probably know this very intelligent man from his work with Larry Niven, but he has quite a few novels of his own. He, like Poul Anderson, believes that space exploration is the royal road to freedom for man and has long promoted the idea that if we focus on the stars, it will reduce the problems we have here. He opposed the Gulf Wars saying that if we spent the money developing nuclear and other energy technologies we could tell the Arabs to go drink their own oil and not have to meddle with them.  His SF work will not make you cringe.
  4. C.S. Lewis:  A surprising number of people don't know that Lewis wrote a science fantasy trilogy. The books are "Out of the Silent Planet", "Perelandra" and "That Hideous Strength". His fantasy series "The Chronicles of Narnia" have been made into a series of movies. Lewis was a firm opponent of socialism and wrote several fiery condemnations of the creeping "nanny state" in Britain. His SF work, while implausible scientifically given what we now know about Mars and Venus, is a wonderful philosophical treatise on the consequences of the lust for power.  His very funny "Screwtape Letters" is a brilliant take on demons and the devil. 
  5. Michael Flynn:  I got into Flynn after stumbling on his first book, "Firestar". Firestar depicts an independent woman, a corporate magnate, who has a childhood fear of an asteroid striking the Earth and wants to see a system put in place to protect the planet. Tired of waiting for a foot-dragging government to do things, she starts her own school system that trains up kids to be astronauts and scientists in her own privately funded space program. In this, Flynn anticipated the power of private commercial space companies to innovate their way to space out in front of plodding government sponsored space efforts.  The series definitely leans conservative in its disdain for bureaucracies. Whatever political views Flynn may espouse privately, he gets me as a reader for that.
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien:  While more strictly a fantasy than a science fiction writer, I include him on the principle that if the Syfy Channel can show horror movies and wrestling matches, I can include Tolkien in this list. I like that, while his novels are full of kings and nobles, its the small fry that count. Big powerful forces in his novel, when they are doing as they should be doing, serve to support the meek who are the ones who really make the difference in the end.
  7. Michael Crichton:  If you're looking for a smart writer, pick one that finished med school and chose to become a science fiction author. His brilliant "State of Fear" is a scathing indictment of the global warming scam that has upset more than a few of his Hollywood colleagues. We will miss his intelligent observations about science medicine and technology. I bet he had some doozies left to write.
  8. Daniel da Cruz:  Daniel didn't write a whole lot of books and he's not well know, but worth discovering. He spent most of his career as a journalist and general man about the world. In the 80s, however, he wrote one of my favorite sci-fi series of all time.  The first entitled, "The Ayes of Texas" takes place during the Carter years when the US is being sold piecemeal to the Soviets. A charismatic Texas governor and billionaire inventor join forces to lead Texas out of the union and re-establish the Republic of Texas, prompting a war with Russia. In a classic shootout, the upgraded Battleship Texas dukes it out with a Russian Fleet that attacks Houston and finishes it off in convincing Texas Navy fashion. In the second book, "Texas on the Rocks" the inventor's son brings an iceberg to Corpus Christi and supplies water to a drought-stricken US Midwest and fights off assorted villains that want to bring down the fledgling Republic of Texas. In the last book, Texas Triumphant", our hero drills a tunnel from Texas to Moscow and sets off an unusual and non-lethal bomb that destroys the Soviet Union once and for all. The solution that wins the war is one of the most original weapons of war I've ever heard of. If da Cruz had written nothing else, these books set him as one of my favorites in the SF genre.  Every Texan should own the set.
  9. Robert A. Heinlein:   It's fascinating to me that one of the most hard-shell conservative sci-fi writers of all time is also responsible for the science fiction book that was embraced most warmly by the hippie counter-culture of the 60's - "Stranger in a Strange Land".  One of the "Big Three" of science fiction along with Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, Heinlein was one of the first to push the genre into the mainstream.  Heinlein's work addressed the themes of individual liberty, self reliance and the obligation individuals owe their societies.  He also wrote controversial works that examined the influence of organized religion on culture and government and the repression of nonconformist thought by governments and societies.  Because he touched on so many themes, it was difficult to pin down exactly what his views were politically sometimes.  His very conservative 1959 book "Starship Troopers" examines an interstellar military at war. Troopers infuriated the left when it was written. The leftists finally took a little revenge in 1997's movie version of the book.  The movie converted Heinlein's more likeable and humane Earth government into a white-people-only cartoonish Facist state; something it never was in the books.    
  10. Frank Herbert -  Best known for his seminal series "Dune", Frank Herbert viewed his
    troubling future universe through definitely conservative eyes. His heroes battle the system and it's collection of nobles, managers, emperors and unions with a surprisingly altruistic disdain for inherited titles and blood rights. Herbert shows us a universe governed by hereditary insiders and challenged by a series of messianic heroes, who mange to give the governing elites more than one black eye in the process. He's not the first sci-fi author to challenge the kind of unrealistic progressive pipe dream universes those dreamed up by the later Star Trek guys. By the way, has anyone ever figured out how The Federation pays its Star Fleet personnel and do they all make the same amount or does everybody just use that machine that makes coffee to make anything they want.  Herbert had it right. It takes a messiah to break up a hegemony of "leaders" intent on managing everyone's lives for their own fun and profit. He had it exactly right!
Now it's your turn. Leave a comment below telling us a sci-fi author that warmed the cockles of your conservative heart. I'm looking for new reading material.

Tom King

Saturday, February 12, 2011

If You Love Series Fiction - 12 Great Reads



My Dozen Favorite Book Series
(c) 2011 by Tom King

If you've come to the end of the Harry Potter books and you need another book to read, but you want one that will be with you for the long haul, what you want is a book series.  Have I got some winners for you. These books take you deep into the lives of some characters you will love. If you're a voracious reader, you've probably read most of these. If you're new to series fiction, however, then you are in for a treat.  To wit - my top ten book series............es. Oh, to heck with the grammar.  On with the story......


1. "The Chronicles of Narnia" by CS Lewis.  I discovered this gem in college in a children's literature class I took for my teaching certificate.  We were supposed to read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by Friday.  I read all seven in chronological order (not the order of writing which I recommend by the way) and was finished to my regret by Thursday night. Lewis' highly readable and engaging Christian allegory chronicles the dealings between eight English schoolchildren, Digory, Polly, Peter, Susan, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace and Jill and a powerful lion king called Aslan in the land of Narnia from the Lamp Post to Cair Paravel. Narnia keeps summoning the kids to itself via magic items like horns,wardrobes, rings and pictures from train stations, back bedrooms and holes in walls. The books carry you on to the end of the world itself where Narnia and Earth become one. It is a lovely trip The books in logical order are:
  • The Magician's Nephew
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • The Horse and His Boy
  • Prince Caspian
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • The Silver Chair
  • The Last Battle
2.  "Horatio Hornblower" by CS Forester.  It is a complete and total accident that my two favorite series are by authors with the initials CS. The C and S both stand for different names altogether, but that doesn't matter. I stumbled on these after watching a Gregory Peck movie on the late show one night. I didn't know that Captain Horatio Hornblower was the subject of a series of books. The novels trace the career of an awkward young commoner midshipman, without advantage or patron who rises in the British Navy on brains, nerve and an innate understanding of just what it takes to be a captain. I'm told Gene Rodenberry studied Capt. Hornblower in designing all the captains in the Star Trek series. He could not have picked a better character study in leadership.  The books, again in chronological order, not the order in which they were written are:
  • Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
  • Lieutenant Hornblower
  • Hornblower and the Hotspur
  • Hornblower and the Atropos
  • Hornblower During the Crisis
  • Beat to Quarters
  • Flying Colors
  • A Ship of the Line
  • Commodore Hornblower
  • Lord Hornblower
  • Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies
3. "The Polesotechnic League" by Poul Anderson.  I discovered Poul Anderson early in my science fiction reading. Nicholas Van Rinjh, a recurrent character in the series is a fat Dutch trader who is wildly wealthy, a thorn in the side to the authoritarians in the League and a genius at horse-trading with alien cultures. His purpose in life seems to be to figure out how to get everyone to play nice so he (and they) can make a little money. Van Rinjh is the ultimate capitalist.  These are most of the books and story collections in the Polesotechnic Universe:
  • War of the Wing-Men
  • Trader to the Stars
  • The Trouble Twisters
  • Satan's World
  • The Earth Book of Stormgate
  • Mirkheim
  • The People of the Wind 
 4. "The Time Patrol" by Poul Anderson.  I keep coming back to Anderson. His Time Patrol series is more of a psychological, sociological and historical study as it is impacted by future science. Manson Everard, an out of work ex-soldier/engineer answers a cryptic want ad and finds himself taking a job that sends him to the Cretaceous Era for basic training and up and down the time-line as an unattached agent and Time Patrolman, guarding the timeline against interference by future time travelers. The historical detail is breath-taking and the situations are mind-bending. I recommend buying the collections so you get all the stories in the series:

  • Time Patrol
  • Brave to be a King
  • Gibralter Falls
  • The Only Game in Town
  • Delenda Est
  • Ivory and Apes and Peacocks
  • The Sorrow of Odin the Goth
  • Star of the Sea
  • The Year of the Ransom
  • The Shield of Time
  • Death and the Knight
The shorter novels above have been collected in "The Time Patrol" or "Annals of the Time Patrol". If you love history and science fiction, this series gives you both with a taciturn hero and great back stories.

5. Robots, Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov.  Asimov built these three series over decades of his science fiction career, then came back after a lengthy hiatus and wrote the ending in which he connected the three series into one long chain. Asimov explores the idea that robots and/or smart people can "take care" of the human race over long periods of time and keep the galaxy from going to hell in a handbasket. It's a progressive fantasy, but I have to give it to Asimov, he does point out the flaws in the concept quite nicely. Asimov is himself a scientist with four or five Ph.D.s and an exhaustive collection of dirty limericks. He takes a long look at the human race and how our creations may one day wind up our masters. While not as much fun as Anderson's rough and tumble capitalist universe, it's a fascinating look at the possibilities and dangers of scientistific meddling.  Hint - Asimov comes down on the side of science.  Here they are in roughly the order I'd read them:

  • Robot Visions (Includes the original "I, Robot") with inventor Susan Calvin and introducing Elijah Bailey and his partner, R. Daneel Olivaw
  • The Caves of Steel (Bailey and Olivaw)
  • The Naked Sun (Bailey and Olivaw)
  • The Robots of Dawn (Bailey and Olivaw)
  • Robots and Empire (Last with Bailey and Olivaw)
  • The Current of Space (first of the Empire Series)
  • The Stars, Like Dust (Empire)
  • Pebble in the Sky (Empire)
  • Prelude to Foundation (Empire and Foundation - Hari Seldon)
  • Forward the Foundation (Foundation - Hari Seldon)
  • Foundations Fear (by Gregory Benford - Foundation, and Hari Seldon)
  • Foundation and Chaos (by Greg Bear - Foundation, Hari Seldon, R. Olivaw)
  • Foundation's Triumph (by David Brin - Foundation, Hari Seldon, R. Daneel Olivaw)
  • Foundation (Foundation - Hari Seldon)
  • Foundation and Empire (Foundation)
  • Second Foundation (Foundation)
  • Foundations Edge (Foundation)
  • Foundation and Earth (Foundation and R. Daneel Olivaw)
The ending is a stunner. Save for the three editions not by Asimov himself, the series is tight, a smooth read and masterfully plotted. I've not read all the new stuff yet, but most of it and am collecting original editions to complete my set.  Isaac will be missed.

6.  The Ender Saga by Orson Scott Card is sixth because I'm more or less writing in order of discovery. Ender's Game is a stunning novel about the misuse of brilliant children. It leaves us with no clear answers about the morality of it, because, after all, the Earth is saved and the pupils soon become the masters in this brilliant series and it's take on how to effectively respond to bullying is disturbing, if effective. The book was so ahead of itself that it's taken 30 years for the movie industry to figure out the technology to make it into a film. Here's the more or less chronological list as it now stands:
  • Ender's Game
  • Ender's Shadow
  • A War of Gifts
  • Ender in Exile
  • Shadow of the Hegemon
  • Shadow Puppets
  • Shadow of the Giant
  • Shadows in Flight (soon to be published)
  • Speaker for the Dead
  • Xenocide
  • Children of the Mind
7. "The Dragon Riders of Pern" by Anne McCaffrey.   McCaffrey is a relentless serial writer. It's like science fiction meets romance novel in some ways. Her female characters are strong and well drawn. She can be a little corny. The novels of Pern are an easy read, big fat books and a fun alternative to television and you're not likely to run out of reading material any time soon. Once every four years, the colony world of Pern is visited by a space born rain of fire called "thread". Genetically bread fire-breathing dragons and their riders burn the thread up in the sky to prevent wholesale destruction of the colonists below. Each 150 some odd year visitation is called a "pass". Here they are chronologically:

First Pass
  • Dragonsdawn
  • The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall
Second Pass
  • Dragonseye
Third Pass
  • Dragons Kin
  • Dragonsblood
Sixth Pass

  • Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern
  • Nerilka's Story
Ninth Pass
  • Dragonflight
  • Dragonsong
  • Dragonquest
  • Dragonsinger
  • The White Dragon
  • Dragondrums
  • Masterharper of Pern
  • Renegades of Pern
  • The Girl Who Heard Dragons
  • All the Weyrs of Pern
  • The Dolphins of Pern
  • The Skies of Pern
  • A Gift of Dragons (collected short stories)
8. The Aubrey/Maturin Series by Pat O'Brian.  This series brings me back to my love of swashbuckling sea captains. Also set during the Napoleonic Wars, Captain Jack Aubrey and his ship's physician, spy and naturalist Stephen Maturin would have been Horatio Hornblower's contemporaries. Truth be told, I don't like Captain Jack as well as I do Hornblower. Aubrey is a deeply flawed man and there are times I'd like to thrash him. His sins, for some reason, are, though common to sailors, less forgivable than are Hornblowers. That said, the series is a deeply detailed look at the lives of sailors and their captains and officers and O'Brien brings us another worthy study in the art of leadership. In chronoligical order, the books are:

  • Master and Commander
  • Post Captain
  • HMS Surprise
  • The Mauritius Command
  • Desolatin Island
  • The Fortune of War
  • The Surgeon's Mate
  • The Ionian Mission
  • Treason's Harbour
  • The Far Side of the World
  • Reverse of the Medal
  • The Letter of Marque
  • The Thirteen Gun Salute
  • The Nutmeg of Consolation
  • Clarissa Oakes
  • The Wine-Dark Sea
  • The Commodore
  • The Yellow Admiral
  • The Hundred Days
  • Blue at the Mizzen
  • The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey
9.  "Rumpole of the Bailey" by John Mortimer. I am not a big fan of the mystery genre, but then Rumpole is not a detective. Rumpole is a pudgy, opinionated, small-cigar-smoking Old Bailey Hack - a lawyer of all things. I am not fond of lawyers, except for perhaps, this one. Rumpole lives his live between the Old Bailey, London Sessions and his Froxbury flat with his wife Hilda (SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED). They made a series out of the books that's as funny as the originals. It's more leisurely reading the books and wll worth your time. You'll feel you've made a friend of old Rumpole. I find him one of the most sympathetic barristers in all of literature, right down to the spattering of ash on his waistcoat.  The series, originally written for television, later became a book series and I prefer them that way. The books include novelizations and short stories from the series.:
  • Rumpole of the Bailey
  • The Trials of Rumpole
  • Rumpoles Return
  • Rumpole for the Defense
  • Rumpole and the Golden Thread
  • Rumpole's Last Case
  • Rumpole and the Age of Miracles
  • Rumpole a la Carte
  • Rumpole on Trial
  • Rumpole and the Angel of Death
  • Rumpole Rests His Case
  • Rumpole and the Primrose Path
  • Rumpole and teh Penge Bungalow Murders
  • Rumpole and the Reign of Terror
  • The Anti-Social Behavior of Horace Rumpole
  • Rumpole at Christmas
10. "The Lord of the Rings" by JRR Tolkien. Tolkien, also a member of the "Inklings", the famous group of English authors that also included CS Lewis, writes my very favorite fantasy series. It is my favorite sword and sorcery novel because of it is also a powerful and unashamed Christian allegory about the misuse of power and the power of ordinary people.  A huge body of work and one of the most remarkable pieces of world-building ever done by a novelist.  The series in order:

  • The Silmarillion (a prequel consisting of Tolkien's massive collection of background notes for his Lord of the Rings series. He invents most of two or three languages and a complete mythology of Middle Earth).
  • The Hobbit (the lightest of the three follows Bilbo Baggins on a quest for treasure)
  • The Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Two Towers
  • The Return of the King
11. "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeline L'Engle.  A Newberry Award winner when it first came out, L'Engle tells the story of the highly intelligent children of two scientists. It begins by violating the first rule of novel writing (Never, ever begin a story with the sentence, "It was a dark and stormy night." L'Engle doesn't pay much attention to such rules, spending time describing home-cooking over a Bunsen Burner in Mom's home laboratory and sending children across the universe via tesseracts with extra-dimensional old ladies. The books are brilliantly written and do not talk down to kids, challenging them at every turn to think hard about what they believe. Before the series is over, every member of the family is tossed about in time and space and become, not only a visitor to the past, but a part of the future. The series in order is:

  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • A Wind in the Door
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet
  • Many Waters
  • An Acceptable Time
12. "Harry Potter" by JK Rowlings.  I came to Harry Potter late and with some reluctance. I was put off by the sorcery quite frankly. Though some of my favorite novels (Lewis and Tolkien, for instance), contain quite a bit of it, they manage to use it to good purpose and not to dabble in evil. I wasn't so sure about Rowlings. Then, on the recommendation of a Christian reviewer, I gave the series a go and to my surprise, found that Rowlings was more of a child of God than she gives herself credit for. The point of the whole book is that you should always do the right thing. When you choose yourself first, the consequences can be worse than if you chose to do the hard and unselfish thing. She also emphasizes that no person can take everything on their own shoulders - that we must depend on one another and hold each other up. Her magic is incantational and not invocational which makes me feel better. The protagonists do not summon up evil spirits (unless, of course, they are evil. In Lewis' and Tolkien's work it was the same. Evil people inevitably summon evil spirits and that is more true to life than most of us want to admit.  Here's the series in order:
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
 In conclusion...

My birthday is coming up in April and I am very partial to boxed hardcover sets and first editions, so.......now you never have to wonder what to get me. You have the list.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

15 Foot-Stompin' Country Music Songs

There are a few country songs that, whenever you hear them, you can't resist stomping your foot and clapping your hands, singing at the top of your lungs while throwing in an occasional, "Yeehaw!"  Here's 15 that make me do that. You may not agree with me, but if you did this bunch as a set, you'd have everybody hoarse by the time the set was over..

1.  Thank God, I'm a Country Boy - John Denver's anthem to fiddling and country living is one I defy you to listen to without your foot starting to tap involuntarily.  Don't be ashamed of it. Go ahead and "Yeehaw" if you want.  

2. Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys - Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings do this one. I just love jumpin' in on the chorus.

3. Take This Job and Shove It -  The David Allen Coe version is the best one. He was the won that wrote it. Johnny Paycheck just did the first version. If you've ever had a crappy job, this one makes you weep.

4. Hey Good Lookin' - Hank Williams Sr. wrote some of the best foot stompers. It's little wonder given the dance halls where he built his career. My favorite version was by Buckwheat Zydeco. I love the way that accordion warbles.

5. Jambalaya - Hank Williams Sr. gets on my list again for this Cajun anthem. My favorite version is the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band rendition

6. Kaw-Lijah - Once again Hank Williams Sr. tosses out a rowdy party anthem about a cigar store Indian's fateful romance.  My favorite version is by an East Texas Celtic Band, Beyond the Pale. They do a medley version with bagpipes and fiddles.   

7. Okee from Muskogee - When Merle Haggard sings this song, it makes us all wish we wer Okees.

8. Luckenbach, Texas - Then Waylon Jennings sings this one and makes you glad you're from Texas.

9. Waltz Across Texas - Ernest Tubbs wonderfully twangy country anthem makes you want to snatch up your woman and twirl her around the dance floor.

10. Blue Suede Shoes - Elvis. I would have liked to see this one when he was playing at the Louisiana Hayride.

11. Elvira - The Oak Ridge Boys lit a big fire with this one. Oompapa, oompapa, mow, mow!

12. Achy Breaky Heart - To be honest, I included this one by Billy Ray Cyrus because next to "Boot Scootin' Boogie" (which narrowly missed this list) it was the country song that most irritated my teenage boys during their punk/garage band years.  I used to do this little dance.......

13.  Lucille - Kenny Rogers asks, "Why did you leave me Lucille?" It was downright heartbreaking.  Made you want to help him harvest his crops.

14. All the Gold in California - The Gatlin Brothers told where all that gold was in this rowdy song. My favorite version was one they did at the CMA awards once.  They sang "All the gold in California. Is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in Kenny Rogers name!" I about fell off my chair.

15. Drinkenstein - Here's one you probably forgot by someone you would in no way consider a country singer.  Written by Dolly Parton and performed by a very Italian Sylvester Stallone in the very funny "Rhinestone".  The movie really hacked off country music fans, Stallone fans, Dolly Parton fans, critics and almost everybody except me.  I loved the film and Stallone's performance doing "Drinkenstein" was priceless.  "Budweiser you've created a monster....and they call him Drinkenstein." I just howled.

You probably hate some of my choices on the list, but I don't care. I like 'em all!

Tom