S.G. Browne

You Might Be a Douche Bag

douche bag or douchebag >noun 1 a device for washing out the vagina as a contraceptive measure. 2 a person, usually male, with a variety of negative qualities, specifically arrogance and engaging in obnoxious and/or irritating actions.

With respect to Jeff Foxworthy, I’ve put together a short list of people who I feel are good examples of douche bags. Or douchebags. Either way works for me. This list was prompted by my recent early morning bike rides, but I thought I’d expand it to include a few other examples.

-If you’re cycling side by side on the Golden Gate bridge and you don’t drop into single file for an oncoming cyclist, you might be a douche bag.

-If you wear a team racing jersey while cycling and you’re not on a cycling racing team, you might be a douche bag.

-If you’re a cyclist who gets mad at a car that almost hit you when you blew through a four-way stop sign, you might be a douche bag.

-If you’re a smoker who believes the sidewalk and the gutter are official depositories for your cigarette butts, you might be a douche bag.

-If you don’t understand the concept of using the ashtray in your car rather than throwing your cigarette butt out the window, you might be a douche bag.

-If you answer your cell phone in a restaurant while your date sits across from you picking at her dinner, you might be a douche bag.

-If you put your cell phone on vibrate but answer text messages while you’re in a movie theater, you might be a douche bag.

-If you invade a foreign country on the premise that they have weapons of mass destruction and it turns out they don’t, you might be a douche bag.

-If you deny your relationship with a White House intern by debating what the definition of the word “is” is, you might be a douche bag.

-If you’re the CEO of British Petroleum and you’re more upset about the fake Twitter account mocking your company than you are about your historic oil spill, you might be a douche bag.

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Filed under: Just Blogging — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 8:35 am

G is for Great, Geek, and Ghost

We’re here just past the quarter way point through the alphabet and we hit the best collection of titles to date, including one of my favorite literary reads of all time and another book that I see on the Employee’s Favorites shelf at a number of bookstores.

Titles like Great Expectations, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Green Mile didn’t make the cut, while I’ve never read Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, or The Golden Compass. I did have to leave Good Omens off the list, but since I’m limiting this to the top three reads, sometimes I have to make some tough calls.

Though to be honest, the first two on this list were never in question. And the third was a seminal read in the early stages of my writing. So no real contest there, either.

On to the selections of my Favorite Books that Begin with the Letter G:

Numero uno:
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
One of my favorite books of all time, Gatsby is often on the list of most over-rated novels of all time, but I loved the story and the characters and the eloquent, descriptive writing. A marked contrast to Hemingway’s stark prose, but a style I much prefer. If I ever find myself in the midst of reading uninspiring novels or stuck in my own writing, I will always pick this up and read through a few chapters to remind myself what good writing is supposed to look like.

Sloppy seconds:
Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
The Binewskis are a married carny couple who set out, with the help of amphetamines, arsenic, and radioisotopes, to breed their own exhibit of human oddities in order to save their traveling carnival. Narrated by one of the children, this is the most unique dysfunctional family you’ll ever meet. Dark, perverse, and imaginative.

And baby makes three:
Ghost Story, Peter Straub
As I mentioned, this was one of the novels I read in the mid-eighties that inspired me to travel down the path that eventually led me here. My favorite novel by Straub, Ghost Story is one of those rare novels that is both chilling and beautiful.

Favorite monosyllabic book:
Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss
Actually, only 49 of the 50 words used in Green Eggs and Ham are single syllable, with “anywhere” being the anomalous offender. I wish I still had the copy I owned as a kid.

And as always, if you have your own favorites, feel free to share them.

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Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 2:52 pm

F is for Fear and Fight and Fahrenheit

I can almost hear that as a cheer for some high school football team. “F is for fear and fight and Fahrenheit! Go Flames!” Or something like that. I don’t know. Maybe I’m reaching here.

As opposed to the Letter E, I’ve read a number of books that begin with F. Flowers for Algernon, False Memory, Franny and Zooey, and Freaky Friday, just to name a few. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have yet to read Frankenstein, but am not embarrassed to say that I’ve never read For Whom the Bell Tolls. If you’ve read some of my posts, you know I’m not a big fan of Hemingway. (See my second Classic Literature Razzie below.)

The top three on this list were pretty easy. Nothing else even came close. Though you might be surprised at what took the top spot:

Takes the gold
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s dystopian novel about a futuristic society that bans reading, discourages critical thinking, and has firemen that burn books is probably one of my top 50 books of all time. While it’s always been considered a commentary on censorship, Bradbury contends that it’s a story about how television and the mass media destroys our interest in reading literature.

fight-club-us-trade4Settles for silver
Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
This is one of those rare instances where I liked the movie better than the book. Of course, I saw the film first, which might have influenced me. Still, if you’ve never read Chuck, then there’s no place better to start than his debut novel about a main character who goes to extremes to regain his masculinity. Great social commentary on male bonding, capitalism, and the consumer culture.

Just happy to be on the podium
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
The opening line and paragraphs alone are enough to include this here. This fast and furious, often surreal novel about the drug-induced pursuit of the American Dream almost made me feel like I was under the influence while reading it.

The second Classic Literature Razzie goes to:
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
I know Hemingway is credited with having a major influence on 20th century fiction with his unique writing style, but I just don’t care for him. Especially this novel, which is filled with run-on sentences, repetitive use of qualifiers, and frequent stretches of dialogue involving multiple characters with no indication as to who’s speaking. While I think you can get away with some of these transgressions in popular fiction, when it comes to classic literature, I guess I expect something more, I don’t know, literary.

Plus, the death scene at the end, where Catherine is in the hospital and the main character, Frederic, is trying to comfort her? I don’t have the book in front of me, but I recall the dialogue going something like this:

“I love you,” he said. “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
“And I love you.”
“I love you so much.”
“I love you.”
“I love you. I love you. I love you.”
“I love you.”

This book is my top Classic Literature Razzie of all time.

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Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 8:37 am

Slow Teenagers & Other Pet Peeves

I’m sitting at a traffic signal, the light turned green, waiting to drive through the intersection as several teenagers who stepped into the crosswalk just before my light changed shuffle across the asphalt like zombies, their feet barely lifting off the ground, walking without purpose.

Slow. Indifferent. Annoying.

Are they conserving their energy for something? Is it a peer display of cool? A nonchalance to give the adult world the finger? The slower you move, the less you care?

All I know is that my light’s going to turn red before they clear the crosswalk.

Lack of courtesy is a major pet peeve for me and it’s something I touch on in the book I’m currently writing. (Not Fated, but Book #3, which I’ve titled Lucky Bastard). My main character is annoyed by a lot of things – cars that take up two parking spaces, neighbors with loud stereos, and cell phone etiquette, among others – so I thought I’d channel him for one of my blog posts.

So besides slow, indifferent teenagers, some of the other things that annoy me:

Street telemarketers.
Bad customer service.
Friends who answer their cell phones in restaurants.

Really, anyone who answers their cell phone in a restaurant. Or while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. Or in any enclosed, public place. That’s why you have voice mail. You can call them back.

On second thought, maybe it would be more appropriate to think of this as People Who Annoy Me, since most of the things on my list are people.

People who litter.
People who don’t say please or thank you.
People who think movie theaters are interactive experiences.

Almost every time I go to the movies I end up sitting by some man or woman who insists on keeping a running commentary throughout the film. Or who is constantly asking questions. If you don’t understand what’s going on, stop asking your friend or your spouse to explain and figure it out for yourself. Take a class on critical thinking. Improve your ability to problem solve. Read more books instead of watching reality television or playing video games.

Bicyclists who don’t obey traffic laws.
Smokers who think their cigarette butts are biodegradable.
Drivers who don’t understand the concept of merging.

Sometimes I wish there were protocol police, officers of the social graces who would fine people for inappropriate behavior and arrest repeat offenders who would have to serve time at an Etiquette Rehabilitation Center.

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Filed under: Just Blogging — S.G. Browne @ 9:50 am

E is for Extreme and Exorcist

As it turns out, I haven’t read a lot of books that begin with the letter E. And I’ve read even fewer that make my list of favorites.

Admittedly, I’ve never read East of Eden by John Steinbeck (or Cannery Row, for that matter). Neither have I read The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King, which is probably the only King book I’ve never read. I did read his short story collection Everything is Eventual, but in spite of my last post, I’m trying to refrain from including collections. Plus I didn’t think it was one of his best.

And although I read Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome in American Literature as a junior in high school, alas, that book wouldn’t make the top three even if it was the only one I’d read that began with an E.

As it turns out, I don’t have three that made the list. And really, only one that was a sure thing. So here we go…

First across the finish line:
The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty
Although the book was first published in 1971, I didn’t read it until 1995. Along with Stephen King’s The Shining, this is one of the only two books I’ve ever read that made me want to leave the light on after I went to bed. Much more frightening than the film. But you don’t get to see Linda Blair vector vomiting split pea soup.

Bringing up the rear:
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer
I actually just finished reading this, mostly because I wanted to read another novel that begins with an E and a friend happened to have this on her shelf. While I liked it, I didn’t love it. I found myself skimming over pages of prose and that’s never the sign of a novel I’m going to love, even if I did find the story and the style in which it was told compelling. And I will pick up Everything is Illuminated to see what that one’s like.

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Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 6:49 pm