The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Monday


“My alma mater was books, a good library. I could spend the the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” — Malcolm X



Susan Taitel was one of my cool pals back in my Whole Foods Market days. We worked together in the wine and cheese department at the Evanston, Illinois store before I got bumped up to the education department and she took off for Minneapolis to write books.

Taitel’s been hyper productive the last year, having churned out three manuscripts (god, I hate her). Still she’s managed to consume some 48 books, evenly split between the audio variety and traditional hard copy stuff. Search me how she does it.

From her website

In any case, she has kept a running list of the books she’s read and posted same on her website. She also breaks down her 2012 reading by books read on Kindle or where she got her traditional books (borrowed from friends or the library, for instance). It’s OCD elevated to the most positive level.

Sure, and it’s braggadocio as well. So what? It’s books! I heartily recommend that everyone who visits this indispensable site (mine, that is, although you’re welcome to drop in on Susan‘s) do the same.

Let’s all brag about what books we’ve read in the past year.

My own list will be woefully incomplete because I had not kept a real time running count throughout the year. So, I’ll just say my fave things that I read in 2012 included:

Book Cover

Just to show how inaccurate this micro-list might be, it’s entirely possible I read one or more of those titles sometime in 2011.

Thanks to Susan Taitel, though, I’m going to keep my list faithfully in 2013.

How about you?


I’ve been seeing a lot of links to a site alternately identified as Samuel Warde and Liberals Unite. It’s pretty boilerplate polemic stuff — every time some hillbilly drawls out the word negro so that it almost, maybe, if you listen really closely, sounds like nigger, the site runs a headline as if the Republicans are pushing for a return to slavery.

Until the other night, I never clicked on one of those links. I have enough of my own bile stored up for the GOP, thank you. I don’t need some canary in a coalmine website roiling my blood for every insult, real or imagined.

Anyway, for some reason I’ve already forgotten I clicked on a link that read “Kentucky Man Decorates Lawn With Obama Mannequin Holding A Watermelon.” The link was put up by the Facebook site, I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists, which I subscribe to, but I’m not a fanatic about either.

From Facebook

So, I get to the story in Liberals Unite about this fellow, named Danny Hafley, who has told questioners he put the mannequin up around Halloween and has kept it up since, and he later put a big fake wedge of watermelon in the faux prez’s hands “because he might get hungry.”


I didn’t even look at the vid showing an interview with the laugh-a-minute Hafley. I mean I can’t get riled up about every dope who makes racist statements and then, as Hafley did, denies being a racist.

From Liberals Unite

Naw, It’s Not A Bit Racist.

Sure, I hope a bunch of big dogs piss on the mannequin and then when Hafley hauls the thing back into his living room, he can’t figure out what the odor is. Then again, such a refined soul just might not notice anything amiss.

In any case, I discovered something compelling. There was an ad on the site for Ann Coulter’s daily column (no link; she doesn’t need me to pimp for her). We all know Ann Coulter, right? She’s just Danny Hafler with a miniskirt, long, blond, stringy hair, skinny legs, and the worldview of a John Bircher, circa 1959.


Right-Wing Porn

Why, then, would Ann Coulter be advertising on an ultra-liberal website? Was the ad placed there in error?

Hell no!

At this point in this holy land’s weird, weird history, nobody listens to or reads Ann Coulter anymore except liberals who get off on having apoplexy every time she puts forth what passes for “thought.” Liberals support Ann Coulter and, for all I know, half or most of the whacked-out, wing-nutted, far-right demagogues and gangs out there. Without liberal anguish, these circus sideshow freaks would shrivel up and die.

Me? I don’t care what Ann Coulter says any longer. The next thing I want to read about Ann Coulter is that Dorothy’s house has fallen on her after the tornado.

One thought on “The Pencil Today:

  1. My list of fave books read in 2012 is also short, mostly because there are a lot of books I started and got bored with, or had to return to the library because I had used up all the renewals and *still* hadn’t finished.

    But I did read “Her Fearful Symmetry”(Audrey NIffenegger) and loved it. Splendid modern-day ghost story with some very sympathetic ghosts (familial and ectoplasmic) in London.

    “Shine Shine Shine” (Lydia Netzer) is a 2012 novel that puts a fresh spin on the trope of husband-obsessed-with-work-and-wife-is-pissed. Husband is a Nobel-Prize-Winning robotics scientist and Asperger’s adult who is on his way to the moon. Wife is genetically bald, and loses her wig in front of the whole neighborhood. There is an autistic child between them, and one mysterious baby on the way.

    I got through most of “The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony” (Roberto Calasso) before I had to send it back to MCPL. I will get it again soon. An amazing take on Western Civ, distilled through Calasso’s individual heart-mind-sex alchemy.

    Read Somerset Maugham’s “Ashenden: the British Agent” as a kind of prequel to the fabulous “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (LeCarre) – which, come to think of it, is also on this list. I couldn’t get enough of the tricky film, so went to the source.

    I also zipped through a classic sci-fi anthology from 1963: “Short Science Fiction Tales” (Asimov & Conklin, ed.s). I first read these in junior high and was warped for life — thank God. It was fascinating to see, in 2012, just how rigid the gender roles were in any kind of literature, especially SF, in 1963. In some respects, we’ve come a long way. But for the most part these tales are still fresh and disturbing looks at humanity in the midst of their beloved technology.

    If I ignore work and just read for the rest of the day, I will surely finish (and love) Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” in 2012.

    Oh, I read a wonderful book on screenwriting, “Save the Cat!” by Blake Snyder. Funny and gripping, like a swell movie in itself. And dammit, Blake Snyder died in 2006. Dammit.

    Do screenplays count? “Little Miss Sunshine” was a fun read, and the writer’s commentary about how the directors changed his script for the better is even more fun.

    Nick Hornby’s “Juliet, Naked,” and of course, Kate Chopin’s sordid and depraved 1899 novel, “The Awakening,” now lauded as a classic of feminist fiction … click over to’s “Books Unbound” podcasts to hear me read it aloud.

    Here’s to another year of the Pencil and Big Mike’s Hot Air! And books!

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