My visiting two year old niece is afraid of me. You can see it in her eyes when she comes bounding down the stairs and then spots me and freezes. Those eyes say: “Holy Shit! It’s that crazy guy who talks to dogs!”. I suppose in a way I can be kind of scary. I can be overly enthusiastic about chocolate, I do talk to my dogs, and I am prone to rageful outbursts whenever the Raiders turn the ball over or when I sit down to watch what I expect will be a new episode of Survivor only to discover it’s a damn clip show! Still, in this wonderfully antiseptic politically correct world, my sister-in-law refuses to say her daughter is afraid. Rather, she is shy. And so, whenever she refers to Alexa’s reticence to have anything to do with me, she simply switches out the word “afraid” for “shy” as in “She’s shy of you.” Shy OF you? Come on. That doesn’t even make sense.

I suppose the average person (ie. a human being) would be hurt or annoyed, but I consider it a blessing of sorts. In the words of history’s greatest parental advisor, Niccolo Machiavelli: “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” (because, as Machiavelli would have pointed out, there’s no avoiding a kid who desires your attention – as the weary couple seated behind us at dinner last night proved).

Speaking of fine literature – with the holidays almost upon us, I figure I’d get an early jump on the next Joe’s Book of the Month Club selections.

The candidates in the so-far-underperforming fantasy category:

The Crooked Letter by Sean Williams. According to the book jacket: “When Seth and Hadrian Castillo travel to Europe on holiday, they don’t expect the end of the world to follow them. But Seth and Hadrian are mirror twins, identical in every respect but reversed as though looking in a mirror. When Seth is stabbed in front of Hadrian, Hadrian is thrust into a nightmarish cityscape filled with corpses and monsters, and into a reality more secret and strange than nay he could have imagined.”


The Princess Bride by William Goldman. According to the back of the book: “Wesley, the handsome farm boy who risks death (and much worse) for the woman he loves; Inigo, the Spanish swordsman who lives only to avenge his father’s death; Frezzik, the gentlest giant ever to have uprooted a tree with his bare hands; Vizzini, the evil Sicilian, with a mind so keen he’s foiled by his own perfect logic; Prince Humperdinck, the evil ruler of Florin, who has an equally insatiable thirst for war and the beauteous Buttercup; Count Rugen, the evilest man of all, who thrives on the excruciating pain of others; Miracle Max, the King’s ex-Miracle Man, who can raise the dead (kind of); and, of course, Buttercup…the princess bridge, the most perfect, beautiful woman in the history of the world!”

The candidates in the scifi category:

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. According to The New Yorker: “Alas, Babylon. Those fateful worlds heralded the end. When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness.”


The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. According to the back of the book: “When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible, but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. Henry and Clare’s attempts to live normal lives are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control…”

Voting commences….NOW!…and ends Wednesday at midnight. Because of the holidays, I’ll move the discussion to the beginning of January so that everyone can have time to finish the books. Meanwhile, discussion on this month’s selections (The Gunslinger and The White Plague) begin tomorrow.

Today’s mailbag –

Elizabeth writes: “1) Have you ever seen the movie One Night With The King (it’s about Queen Esther)? 2) Have you ever been to Disneyland? 3) Which movie are you looking forward to more, Stargate: The Ark Of Truth or Stargate: Continuum?”

Answers: 1) I haven’t. 2) I haven’t. 3) Neither as I’ve already seen both.

Anonymous #1 writes: “ Joe- you went off on me a couple days ago (the 19th) for calling you a liar and not citing my sources when clearly you know what I was talking about. As you said so yourself: The first time I answered this question way back when, I said that Torri’s 4 episodes would be in the first half of the season. This is no longer the case..”

Answer: At the time I answered the question, the appearance was in the front half and so, I was not lying when I answered. But the fact that the appearance was moved to the back half suddenly makes me a liar? A wonderful example of why I grow increasingly reticent to answer specific fan questions.

Anonymous #1 also writes: “I would like the to know the title of Torri’s fourth episode in the back half of season four…”

Answer: Feel free to ask as often as you like. I’m not answering the question.

Anonymous #2 writes: “Does that mean that Rachel will miss a couple of the first episodes for Season 5?”

Answer: Nope.

Ambermoon writes: “Have you ever traveled to Okinawa and enjoyed their culinary delights?”

Answer: Fondy and I had considered going to Okinawa this year, but had to cancel our holiday plans when Fondy kick-started her new business. We did, however, enjoy something called an Okinawa Roll at Yuji’s last month. What made it Okinawan? The inclusion of spam. Tasty!

Alipeeps writes: “So Joe… what’s your thoughts on the latest season of House so far?”

Answer: I’m a couple of episodes behind but, so far, I feel that this is the strongest season the show has ever done. I’m loving the changes.

Demon Hunter writes: “What does the Q stand for in Martin Q Gero?”

Answer: My guesses – Quibbly, Quirky, Querulous.

Leesa Perrie writes: “So, what happens in ‘The Last Man’ to make McKay so old?!”

Answer: He was waiting for me to tell him the title of Weir’s fourth episode.

Anonymous #3 writes: “Oh, right I get it now. There’s oil in the Pegasus Galaxy, isn’t there? So who cares if a few native “primitives” get killed if the mighty US military gets the goodies it believes it’s entitled too.”

Answer: Uh, what show are YOU watching? What “oil”? And what “primitives”? The poor, misunderstood wraith? You’re looking mighty silly trying to force a parallel that isn’t there.

Katheen writes: “Hi Joe – have you eaten in any of the restaurants in Tokyo that the Guide Michelin just honored with three stars?”

Answer: I haven’t – but fully intend to on my next culinary tour through Asia (Fall of ‘08).

Carolina writes: “I’m also a great sushi fan and I go to my sushi restaurant once or twice a week, my favorite rolls are those that have a crunchy texture…[…]. So what do you like in your rolls? what is the must ingredient.”

Answer: Tojo’s here in Vancouver does a fantastic spider roll with a thin cucumber wrap (instead of the usual nori). As for my must ingredient: avocado.

Cathie writes: “Do you like yum cha?”

Answer: Love it. We got to Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant when we want to order from the menu, Sun Sui Wah on Main when we went to pick and choose from the passing carts.

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