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by Inlander Staff

Between a Rock... -- The first thing Keith Mark Johnson told us about his new book, Crossing Zion, is that "it's not religious." Not that we'd dismissed it as such, but the Buzz Bin library does get its fair share of review copies and anything preachy tends to end up in the bottom of the gravity-defying stack. Turns out, Johnson's book is anything but preachy -- the climber-turned-author describes clinging to sheer rock faces, navigating misguided love affairs and crossing Utah's Zion National Park while woefully under-prepared.

Johnson isn't afraid of revealing his failures and foolishnesses -- in fact, throughout much of Crossing Zion, he's reveling in them. The self-published book, which has garnered Johnson some comparisons to Jack Kerouac, is one wild ride -- careening from hair-raising adventure to equally hair-raising confessionalism. Johnson reads from Crossing Zion next Thursday, Dec. 16, at Auntie's Bookstore; prepare for not-your-usual book reading.

Imperfect Storm -- TV news loves the big weather story. They can dispatch reporters to get buffeted by high winds, drenched in rains or frozen by snow. So it wasn't too surprising last week when predictions of a big snowstorm for Saturday set our local TV stations into action: Snowstorm 2004 was afoot! The ensuing mayhem was predictable: There were runs on milk and snow blowers at Wal-Mart, and the general sense of peril was palpable. (Damn! I should have gotten my tires siped after all...)

Only one little problem got in the way of such a great big story: Nothing happened. That 100 percent chance of snow turned out to be 100 percent wrong. (To her credit, KXLY's Kris Crocker did hedge a little on Friday night at 11 pm, saying the storm wasn't looking as bad as it once did.) It's all good for a laugh now, but maybe there's a lesson in all this: Snow in December is not really news.

Yard Wars -- After a long shopping trip on the North Side this weekend, a few of us found ourselves drawn like moths to the Christmas lights twinkling in the area between West Glass and Garland avenues. It was all very Norman Rockwellian -- that is, until we started to see larger-than-life Nativity scenes in every other yard. It seems as if the residents up there are having a battle to see whose Jesus is better -- and in some cases, bigger. In one yard, we noticed the baby Jesus was edging toward Volkswagen proportions; in another, the entire scene was made up of simple white cutouts, creating a ghastly, ghoulish effect. Some yards even got down with their pagan selves -- posting enormous fake Christmas trees, leering Santa Clauses and Griswold-like holiday displays for all to see.

Publication date: 12/09/04

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