Saturday, August 14, 2010

156 Years Of Something

Now Playing -
Ka Huila Wai
by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

Life - 
Yesterday, Lindsay and I attended the  156th annual Topsham Fair. Growing up, going to the fair was always a kind of bittersweet event for me. It was fun, I loved the carnival rides and the exotic foods and the animals, but it also meant that summer was almost over. That another break had passed with a few camping trips as the highlight of my adventures. Not that I hated the summers I had growing up, they were very memorable and frankly, the stuff 1950's sitcoms were made of, but I'd always secretly hoped that this summer would be the one when mom wouldn't have to work and we could go on a real vacation, to England, or Alaska, somewhere more exotic than Salt Lake City, Utah.

That never panned out, but really, the fair we went to kind of made up for it. It was, and continues to be, The Eastern Idaho State Fair, and folks in Idaho know how to do up a fair properly, with dozens of proper carnival rides, carnies hawking balloon games and ball tosses, all built up at the end like a glittering, loud party. Just past that, was a collection of buildings, filled with exhibitions of photography, ancient bottle collections, quilts, artwork and more. Most of these bored me to tears as a kid, but when I reached adulthood, I found myself enjoying them more and more. Then it was the food booths. Everything you could think of - Mexican, BBQ, Chinese, Japanese, Southwest, Tex-Mex, Irish, Thai, Fried, Sauteed, Grilled, Slow Roasted... I tasted food at the fair that I'd never seen before or since. Then the animals and farm exhibits. Hundreds of livestock and booths extolling the very newest in farm tools and machines. And every night, there were events in the huge stadium/racetrack. Depending on the night,m you could find yourself watching monster trucks and real bands. For instance, this year they have Foreigner for their rock band and Kenny Rogers on the country night. We never really attended the events, but it was kind of cool. It was one of the rare times that legit names showed in an area like Eastern Idaho.
The main strip. Note how each booth sells one type of food.

So it was with a mix of goofy excitement and interest that we decided to go to the Topsham Fair yesterday. Now, don't get me wrong, I know normal fairs aren't as extensive as the State Fair was in Idaho, even the Pocatello Fair was unimpressive out there, but I was excited to see what a fair out here was like, and they do advertise it a lot, There's been a banner up about the 2010 Fair since we arrived in Topsham. If nothing else, we figured, it would be an entertaining evening of people watching, well worth our $7 per person admission.
Shabby, shabby, shabby.
Well, it was probably worth our $14 in giggles, but I was shocked at how, like many other things out here, there's so much room for improvement, but no one seems to care. Like, once you've been around for 156 years, you don't really need to try anymore. Sure, they had all of the requisite exhibits. They had a few carnival rides, a few booths with impossible games, food wagons and a perfunctory attempt to display some livestock and tractors, but it was all so half-hearted feeling. Yet people were there in droves. It was around 4pm on a Thursday evening when we attended, and though the crowds weren't overwhelming, there was a good group of people in every little corner of the place.
These sausages were nowhere near as hot and delicious as they looked.

For one thing, the fair was really poorly laid out. Most fairs you attend, everything is laid out in a pretty uniform fashion. The rides are in one section, the livestock in another and so forth. Here, food wagons jockeyed for position with ferris wheels and you could get heckled by the clown in the ball toss while trying to eat your fried dough. At first glance, there seemed to be a lot of food choices, too, but the more wandered around, the more we realized that for the most part, each wagon served one specific food, like one wagon for sausages, one for fish and chips and one for fried dough. Each one sold a few beverages and maybe some cotton candy on the side, but to get a meal, you had to make multiple trips and stand in five or six lines. And apart from the different wagons, there wasn't actually any variety. There were five separate wagons that sold nothing but fried dough. And not with any changes, either.
To be fair, the White Pants were more bloomers than pants. WHITE PANTS! WHOO!

Their exhibits were horrible too. Usually, the places the awards are displayed are dedicated buildings, the Photos in one room, etc... Here, all of them were crammed together in one building that also housed a model railroad and a food counter. So the artwork was hung crookedly next to 4x6 photos in dollar frames above rotting blue ribbon vegetables.
That's right, in the year of my birth, Dinosaurs were the featured article, with Aluminum being only slightly less important.

I realize that someone reading this post would assume that we hated all of this. I didn't. I get a kick out of ludicrous stuff like this. How the "Museum" housed a few artifacts, a couple of banners from previous fairs, a selection of National Geographics with a sign that said "Find your birth year and month - $3.00" and a bunch of kids in the corner playing Rock Band on the Playstation. Heck, if I hadn't already paid an entry fee, I would have paid to see the guy that looked like Kyle Gass from Tenacious D holding a Boa. It just bothers me when a few simple changes would have made the experience many times better but it seems like it isn't done out of laziness or complacency.
I genuinely cannot fathom what could bump a paper plate with 5 AC/DC cards on it down to second place.

So we spent about an hour and a half wandering in a circle. In fact, we made several laps of the fair, trying to find the wagon serving fried dough that didn't have them pre-cooked and sitting under heat lamps. We got heckled by carnies and bought a sausage that looked much better than it tasted. We watched a blacksmith in a college basketball t-shirt and Lindsay petted a cow, but after a while, we realized that unless we wanted to pay $8 to ride the ferris wheel, or throw our money away on stupid games of chance for stuffed toys we didn't need or want, it was time to go home. Although I did just realize how fun it would be to give a 3' tall care bear to the boys to destroy.

Reviews Of Unusual Size

by Victor Gischler
2010, 250 pages, paperback

1 -Don't get me wrong, I've dug Gischler's last couple of books, humorous fantasy/sci-fi novels about vampires and the apocalypse, but when I heard he was releasing a new crime novel about a slacker, part time deputy that gets into the middle of something far over his skills set, I was very excited.

2 - And with good reason. Gischler writes conscience free bad guys and real people in rough situations better than anyone around. In fact, I think it's a safe bet that Victor Gischler is the best crime novelist  alive today.

3 - His characters are dirty and stupid and mean, and generally perfectly human. There's no supernatural feats of daring or Batman-like fighting skills. Life is unfair in a Gischler novel, and I love it.

4 - The only thing that should stop you from rushing out and buying this today is that you can't read. Even if you can't, this is a real book, out of real paper, and I imagine it would balance out that TV you have stacked on top of your other TV quite nicely.

5 - Let's face it, even if I didn't already love Gischler, I would have bought this book based solely off of the blurb on the cover - From the author of GO-GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYPSE. Though I am a bit perplexed by the one from Publisher's weekly, which is worded like this on the cover - "[S]olid noir from Gischler" Does that mean that Publisher's Weekly left off the S in Solid? How odd.


by Jack Kilborn

2009, 245 pages, ebook

1 - This is the second novel by Jack Kilborn, the pseudonym used by author J.A. Konrath, author of the Jack Daniels series and this blog, which is a huge reason that I've come around to the idea of digital books. This review is also of only the first half of the file, the Revised novel, Trapped. I will review the second half at a later date.

2 -Essentially, a tale of survival, horror and cannibals, Trapped was deemed too graphic and hardcore for his publisher, so Kilborn did what he does best, released it in digital form himself for a good price, and sold the crap out of it.

3 - I was turned to Kilborn by my 12 year old nephew. I later realized that it was a pen name of an author I already loved, but when you have a kid ask you to read the only book he's ever finished, you check it out. And then you realize that the novel is totally inappropriate for a twelve year old.

4 - Trapped is a video nasty in book form, with graphic violence, mutants, genetically engineered killers, bad street slang, kids in jeopardy and bad government. It's one of those things that you have to be in the mood for, but man, is it perfect for when you are. If you aren't, you feel dirty afterwards, so be warned. It's a good book, but not for everyone. Especially if you don't relish the description of an eyeball bursting after a careful application of heat over a barbecue. While the person is still alive.

5 - Why do I love Konrath so much? Because Joe understands that digital books are the future, whether I like it or not. Besides having the brilliant idea for publishers to include a free download of the digital book with hardback purchases, an Idea that should be happening NOW, Joe realizes that digital books are like the DVD to VHS, and includes all sorts of extras in the file. Trapped not only includes the updated, revised version of the story, but at the end, there's a few decent length previews for other books and his original version of the book. The one that his publishers  made him go back and tame down. That's right, lurking at the back of the file is a second, full length novel even crazier than the one before. I assume. I'm saving that version for a later date. Maybe date is a bad word choice. Because that would be a horribly messed up date.

Writing - 

This afternoon, I should break  70,000 words on Graves! This is a big deal for me, I've never written a novel this long before, The Whispering Ferns was a children's novel and topped out at 49,000, and this is especially exciting because I have plans for this book. I'm going to actually start working on a query letter for an adult novel, query agents and a few select houses and then, if all else fails, I think this story has the potential to be successful as an e-book, so if I can't find an agent, I plan to make an attempt at publishing it myself.

The Last Sentence - 
"But you do have to say one thing about him. That zombie had awesome comedic timing."
From - "Graves" (WIP)


randymeiss said...

It was amazing how many similarities there were to our North Dakota State Fair. I have to confess I do like train displays, was this one actually running or was it just on display?

What kind of sausage did you get? Those Italian rope sausages in the spiral-shape pattern are hands down my favorite food at our state fair, loaded with sauerkraut, peppers, onions, and mustard. If you didn't like it, they must not have cooked it properly.

Nice you and Lyndsey were able to get out and have some fun. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

70,000 - that is a big deal!

Thanks for the book recs.