Tis that Time, Again.
December 31, 2011

If you’re in need of some amusement, feel free to review the FIVE whole blogs I managed to log this year. Five. The gaping holes in my written year lend themselves rather succinctly to outlining the kind of year I actually had. In the interest of a year-end comparative I went back to the end of 2010 to see what I had written, I wrote nothing. So there is a change! This year actually ends.

Never been a huge fan of year-ends, less concerned with new years than I am with new birthdays but I regard both with general disdain. The demarcation of time passed has always served as an opportunity to beat myself senseless over failures, rather than any kind of celebration of growth or success. In the last few days I’ve vacillated between my usual ‘look, look at what you have not done’ thought processes and the conviction that articulating any of those thoughts would be a disservice to my friends. That’s new.

If I said only one thing about 2011 and what I’ve come to understand from it, it would be this: I get by with a little (or, a fuck-ton of) help from my friends. 

This whole positive spin thing is new so in keeping with the #1 thing I learned this year, I’m gonna borrow a friend’s model. Mostly.  This post will cover 11 successes, celebrations or understandings I’ve experienced in 2011.

1.) I get by with the help of my friends. In more instances than I can count I have been carried through this year by friends in my life. I’ve shared this before but it is worth repeating, some of my closest friends can be counted among my family and it is my friends that constitute my family. Got it?

2.) I’m still standing. See, #1. In February of this year 2010 came to a crushing close. Sounds dramatic, I know. The fact remains, though. My father died in the first week of November 2010. It took weeks following his death to end his life. Arranging the funeral, sorting and filing paperwork. It seemed to me at the time that there was roughly 6842 questions that had to be answered. I can take charge of anything, just ask my friends, and I did. Then I returned home and sorted out my own life which had fallen into it’s own state of disarray. At the point that everything, everywhere was back to rights the reality of his death caught up with me. In the second week of February, I got up one morning walked the three(?) steps to the end of my bed and dropped to my knees. I hit a wall. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t get up. In the hours, then the days, weeks and months that followed that morning friends in my immediate circle saved my life, carried my weight, sorted my head and kept me going until I could stand and move on my own again.

3.) I managed to put together two years. See, #1 & #2. Thank the Great Pumpkin.

4.) This year has afforded me the opportunity to see a number of unfuckingbelievable concerts! Slash in Oregon featuring TK!!! They think they were featuring Myles and I’m glad he was there BUT that show features Todd (are you kidding me) Kerns.  Merle Haggard & Kris Kristofferson under the stars at the Greek. Foo Fighters x 3, the Forum shows were fantastic but seeing the Foos on Record Store Day at Fingerprints in Long Beach goes down as one of the most incredible shows that I have ever been to.The Golden God Revolver Awards featuring LOADED with some appearances by others like…the OG Alice Cooper band! Oh, and did I mention Loaded? Loaded at the Viper Room in April, can you say happy birthday to me?! And,to take the live music year out! BOB SEGER!!!!!!!!!!!!! Have not seen Bob since 1996 and listening to him and Alto Reed in a sold out Staples Center was staggering. All of the Bullets were fantastic but Alto, shit.

5.) Orange belt. I got my orange belt in Muay Thai this year. I didn’t start at orange, of course, that’s just where I got to. In Muay Thai, generally there isn’t a belt system but the Master at my dojo was done ‘coaching’ parents on the progress of the younger students. Turns out the belt system works for me, too. It has been a measurable system of growth. Besides the pretty color scheme (Ha.) the thing about Kick boxing in general that works for me is it helps me to focus on nothing but the next step in front of me. When I don’t, it hurts. Real straight forward means of getting centered. Being focused and getting centered amounts, for me, to getting right. I never feel more together than I do leaving the dojo a sweaty, stinky, bruised disaster. I love it. 

6.) Travel. There is pretty much nowhere on this planet that I don’t want to see. I grew up in a family, in a town where most never leave. For various reasons, see #3, I believed for a huge portion of my life that I would die in that same town without ever leaving it. For that very reason, trying to out run that belief I began taking road trips at ages most kids wouldn’t. I had to. That need to travel has never left me, for some time including this last year, I’ve been in a position to direct that travel impulse. 2011 saw trips to two of my favorite places, Salem, Oregon in February and Seattle this past October. Oregon was a show jaunt with my Loaded family. Seattle a trip to see a once in a life time event featuring a life long hero. June afforded me my first travel to Europe. I got to head over to England to witness (and participate!) in my friends’ wedding! In the process got to see London and any number of sites and places that I have only ever dreamed of. This holiday season took me to the Bay Area on a couple of occasions and to the Sacramento area which I’ve not seen in quite some time.

7.) Guitar. This year saw the return of the guitar to my life in earnest. This one is still all mine for now.

8.) Books. Reading is a huge part of my life and this year there were a number of books that left their mark upon me. Duff McKagan’s autobiography, It’s So Easy and Other Lies deserves a post unto itself frankly. To say the very least it is a staggering tale of fortitude and perseverance. Susan Casey’s, The Wave: In the pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean was sent to me by a friend and has left me convinced that the next hobby I shall undertake is big wave surfing! Rick Riordan’s, The Son of Neptune, Book Two in the Heroes of Olympus series came out in October! Bless Riordan! His adventure series’ are some of the funnest books I’ve read. And, last though not least, everything written by Edward Bear has been read, reread, quoted and carried around with me over the course of this year.

9.) Dream Job. By the grace of a friend, I had the opportunity to see how an industry I’ve dreamed of being a part of operates. I learned more than I wanted to and less than I needed to, if that makes any sense. And, even if it doesn’t, I know that I got an opportunity to see from an inside perspective how a project evolves and that is not a place I could have garnered on my own.

10.) I’m a grown up. You might think that that one would have occurred to me sooner but you would be wrong. I figured this out, wait for it…by virtue of my friends. On multiple occasions, in recent days I have found myself dumbfounded by the unsolicited characterizations friends have made of me. To the degree that I recently declared somewhere that I hope to be the person that my friends believe I am. That’s the benchmark, right there and at some point I must have met it otherwise they would not have had reason to mention the virtues they think I posses. So, at the risk of repeating myself, I hope to be the person my friends believe me to be.

11.) New year, new birthday. This one just amuses me. I mentioned at the outset of this post my disdain for new years and new birthdays. As fate would have it I head into this new year knowing that on my next birthday Guns n’ Roses, the band that brought me to music in the first place will be inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. A few friends and I will be on hand to witness the induction and I could not be more excited about it. Nor, would I be there at all if it wasn’t for the kindest gesture from a dear friend. Bring on the New Years.

Thank you, thank you, thank you does not begin to cover the scope of my gratitude for the friends that have brought me through this year.

Love you lots. Happy New Year!

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from the stacks: December
December 29, 2010

 

Books Bought, Got, or Borrowed

 

 

 

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time

-Mark Haddon

 

The Little Book of Economics:

How the Economy Works in the Real World

-Greg Ip*

 

When God Winks At You:

How God Speaks Directly to You Through the Power of Coincidence

-Squire Rushnell

 

SeaBiscuit: An American Legend

-Laura Hillenbrand

 

The Blind Side

-Michael Lewis

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

-Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

 

Reading Lolita In Tehran: A Memoir in Books

-Azar Nafisi

 

Books Read

 

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time

-Mark Haddon

The Little Book of Economics:

How the Economy Works in the Real World

-Greg Ip

 

SeaBiscuit: An American Legend

-Laura Hillenbrand

 

When God Winks At You:

How God Speaks Directly to You Through the Power of Coincidence

-Squire Rushnell**

 

I’m certain that there is an explanation for the books that I’ve read this month but I’ve no idea what it might be so I’ll just make something up. The only book on the list of books I got or read this month that I actively sought out was Greg Ip’s, Little Book of Economics. I was reading some magazine or paper and while perusing the book review section read a review of Ip’s work. The review, in effect, said that Ip’s work was easy to read, did not lend itself to partisan-ship and was, well…easy to read. The appeal about that ‘easy’ part should not be understated! My working knowledge of economics  is limited to the basic econ classes and texts I encountered in college and that was some time ago. The subject, by and large, is beyond my depth and the seemingly hysterical diatribes emanating from tv, radio, blogs, bar stools and Facebook regarding the ‘end times being nigh’ as proven by our current economic state has NOT (I repeat, NOT) inspired me to try to engage the subject in any meaningful way. That is, until I read the Ip makes it ‘easy’ review.

It’s worth noting that up until that review and my seeking out the book I had not been able to read for several weeks. I had books. I just couldn’t do it. Twain sits on my nearest shelf gathering dust. I am mildly ashamed of that fact. Still and all though, could not do it. Why then did economics work? The obvious answer, I must assume, is that there was great appeal in engaging a subject that generally leaves me bewildered and irritated (?) with some assurance that I would come out the other side with answers. Actual answers. An explanation for how the world works. I’m in.

 The book is great. I’m still not an economist so I can’t argue the merits of his explanations or the veracity of his arguments. I can say that his breakdowns were logical, they were readable and my head hurts slightly less at the thought of hearing more opinions on the matter of our economic state. Also, and for my purposes probably more important, my head was quiet long enough for me to read a book. Not of the varietal I’m used to, in fact, none of the books I actually read this month would fall into the realm of reads I would ‘normally’ engage. That’s ok. At least I can read something.

 

The day I picked up Ip’s work a friend of mine was with me and being fully apprised of all the ins and outs and  up and downs of my life of late she insisted we go to her house and grab a couple of books I HAD to read. That is how I came to have possession of both the curious case and SeaBiscuit. The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time proved to be a strange little read.  What makes the curious incident unique is it’s perspective. The story is the story of a young autistic boy writing a novel. What worked for me about the read was that the narrators view point is so far removed from my own that it leaves everything about the story and it’s telling unsettled. Literally, I never had to settle down to read it because even if I could, which I couldn’t, it wouldn’t have helped. The perspective is off and odd and so am I.

 

SeaBiscuit: An American Legend may be one of the most triumphant stories I have ever encountered. Certainly, Hillenbrand’s telling of the story is a triumph. There is nothing about this book that did not move me. From the lazy horse written off as ugly and useless, the greatness inherent in the very average (Tom Smith), if not expendable (Red Pollard), men who ‘sorted’ Biscuit out, too the will of a nation that just wanted to believe in beating the odds, the system, the Depression. Just, believe. I’m in.

* If you’re curious as to the color choices in the titles formatted above? So am I. (???)

**Got When God Winks for Christmas, it is a collection of stories regarding coincidence and I’m moving through them at random.

from the stacks: November
November 24, 2010

Books Bought, Got, Borrowed or Read

 

Postcards From the Edge

-Carrie Fisher

Life

-Keith Richards

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1

-Mark Twain

 

Books Read

 

Postcards From the Edge

-Carrie Fisher

 

It’s fitting that the book I started this month with was Postcards as it turns out I’m ending my month sending dispatches from my own edge. Richards and Twain sit on my bookshelf in various stages of begun and I’ve no idea how long that state of affairs will last. My father is dead. As a direct result of that what I have read this month is social security forms, medical forms, VA forms, insurance forms, retirement forms, death certificates, bill notices and messages of condolence.

from the stacks:July, August, September & October
October 26, 2010

Books Bought, Got, Borrowed or Read

 

  HA! As if I could possibly recall all the books I’ve encountered in the last four months. That said, I’ll just hit the highlights and then be back up to speed. The end of my summer was largely spent reading Steig Larsson’s ‘Girl’ trilogy. If you’ve not read these books, DO. And, no, seeing the movies does not count.

It was not all Girls with tattoos however. Happily, Justin Cronin returned vampires to their long absent eviscerating natures. I am a huge fan of mythology and I am fine with the notion of vampire love, really. The thing is, I am also fine with vampires as the soul sucking scourge of humanity. For so long now it seems we’ve been held rapt with vampire lite stories, it was thoroughly enjoyable to read The Passage! All hail wide scale carnage!

From the polar opposite end of the spectrum, early this Fall I was given Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea to read. Not entirely certain what to say about this book except that it makes me want to be a better person.  It is a carry it with you read beyond any shadow of a doubt.

And, this month I find myself in complete awe of Willie Nelson and Joe Patoski’s Willie Nelson an Epic Life. Wow. Just wow.

 

 

On Radar  

 

Postcards from The Edge

&

Wishful Drinking

-Carrie Fisher

 

 

 

from the stacks:June
July 28, 2010

Books Bought, Got, or Borrowed

 

Clay

-David Almond

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India & Indonesia

-Elizabeth Gilbert

The Glass Castle: A Memoir

-Jeannette Walls

Fatherland

-Robert Harris

The Hundred Secret Sense

-Amy Tan

To Kill A Mocking Bird

-Harper Lee

 

 

Books Read

Love Is A Mixed Tape: Life and Loss, One Song At A Time

-Rob Sheffield

 Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang

-Chelsea Handler

Tropic of Cancer

-Henry Miller

Pompeii

-Robert Harris

Fall to Pieces: A Memoir of Drugs, Rock n’ roll, and Mental Illness

-Mary Forsberg Weiland w/Larkin Warren

Clay

-David Almond

The Glass Castle: A Memoir

-Jeannette Walls

To Kill A Mocking Bird

-Harper Lee

 

 

‘I’m late, I’m late, I’m late’ these are the words I hear running through my head. And, yet, I am actually not late. Not on this post anyway it is still July so I’ve time to get June posted. And, yet, ‘I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.’ This sense of urgency will undoubtedly shape anything I might have to say about the books above. I will be brief (I think) in the interest of getting to where ever it is that I am going next…

A word on Miller. Tripe. The book was banned relative to decency, okay, I get it. I am against it censorship and so I endorse Miller’s right to write tripe. The book is juvenile (and, yet, not suitable for juveniles!). The point, it would seem, was to reference fucking in as many ways as possible. Yes, I did pick up on all those other words as well but the sum total of all of them amounted to-who cares. I wouldn’t mind having those pages of my life back.

As for pages well spent, it had been a long while since I had read Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and I had forgotten that it is one of those books that made me love words. I had forgotten the state of grace that Scout embodies. I’m hoping that keeping the book out front on the shelves will keep this recent reminder fresh in my mind. 

from the stacks: May
July 9, 2010

 

Books Bought, Got, or Borrowed

 

Love Is A Mixed Tape: Life and Loss, One Song At A Time

-Rob Sheffield

Ironweed

-William Kennedy

Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea

&

 Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang

-Chelsea Handler

Modern Baptists

-James Wilcox

Tropic of Cancer

-Henry Miller

Pompeii

-Robert Harris

Fall to Pieces: A Memoir of Drugs, Rock n’ roll, and Mental Illness

-Mary Forsberg Weiland w/Larkin Warren

 

Books Read

 

Bite Me

-Christopher Moore

Ironweed

-William Kennedy

Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea

-Chelsea Handler

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness

-Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories From History and The Arts (A-D)

-Clive James

Modern Baptists

-James Wilcox

 

Line sitting and state skipping are the contexts in which I engaged two of the readings that I got around to this month. This year’s Cinco de Mayo reading proved to be noteworthy at least in as much as I KNOW that I was reading on Cinco de Mayo. Not gonna lie, as holidays go the 5th of May has never made a huge impression on my life. That is, until this year. My May 5, 2010 was spent for the most part in line waiting for a not so secret Jane’s Addiction show! The band announced the weekend before the show that they would be hosting a surprise gig. Turns out, the show was on the 5th at the Bardot in Hollywood. By and large it was a private show that the band decided to allow 100 fans into as well.  The first 100 fans that is. In order to ensure my entry (You’ve heard Duff is in the band, right?) I arrived by noon on the afternoon of the 5th and brought with me Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia. I did NOT bring sunscreen. Huge. Error.

Cultural Amnesia is James’ endeavor at presenting a kind of autobiography.  The tome (1000 plus pages qualifies the tome status) is a collection of excerpts highlighting the politics, philosophies, arts and ideas of the times they represent, the scope of which runs the course of James’ lifetime.  Though a massive undertaking, James’ approach is so fascinating to me (cultural historian by training) that I could not have been more excited to engage the work.

In the interest of full disclosure this book is being read in pieces. Cut me some slack, it’s huge. And, not for nothing, my experience of his approach thus far is that it has a tendency to send ( me) the reader off into tangents of cultural biography that are distinctly their own. Case in point, I could not help but pause to ruminate on the fact that:

 

(from my reading journal on May 5, 2010)

I’m sitting on Vine, between Hollywood Blvd. and Yucca, reading this book which analyzes (or attempts to anyway) the convergence of voices which shape a man’s life. I am waiting to be one of one hundred fans admitted to the Jane’s Addiction show at The Bardot. This show functions as the public debut of Duff McKagan, my life long hero, as the new bass player for the group. I’m ‘resting’ my ass (Note: I’ve moved it off the concrete.) in the folding lawn chair of a guy I don’t know-who’s gone on a beer run. I’m 6 months and 13 days sober, fyi. What brought all of this to my attention were the tourists who just stopped to photograph the Walk of Fame stars in front of me. My feet have been stretched across Johnny Carson. Talk about a chorus of voices that has shaped THIS woman’s present, day and life. Damn.

It is too early to tell whether or not James will be able to pull off this endeavor as a whole. It is NOT too early to know that it has made me conscious of the spirit(s) of the age in which I dwell. I love that. Not incidentally, the book is beautifully written and James’ mastery of language is reason alone to celebrate this book.

If the aforementioned reading serves as an example of reading the right work in the right place, then my reading of Chelsea Handler’s, Are you there, Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea serves as a stark example of reading the wrong book in the wrong place. At the outset of what was to be another musical adventure late last month I found myself on a very early flight winging my way to NYC. Unable to get back to sleep, I got out Handler’s book and proceeded to lose my shit laughing on the plane. Tears, cramps and derisive glares from my seatmates are what Handler’s book got me. It’s been a while since I have read a book (or in Handler’s case books) that have kept me doubled over laughing, hers did!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Note: It’s July. If I spent another moment thinking about May I just might ‘lose my shit’ on a whole ‘nother level. Ergo, this blog while not done is due. Happy reading!

from the Stacks:April
May 5, 2010

Part of the function of this blog for me has been to let it serve as an easily navigable (is that a word?) ‘life’ journal. Not in any epic sense of the word, ‘life,’ that is! Rather, it is an easy way to document the really ‘mundane’ parts of my life, parts which in some instances I adore but routinely lose sight of. Hence, my decision a while back to include more posts about things I love. This post falls under things I Love, without question,  AND functions as the opening post of a reorganization of sorts. A reorganization of what, you’ve not asked?

Books. I’ve mentioned, ad nauseum, that I love to read. This is still true. The means by which I’ve talked about books in this blog have varied over the course of the last year and while that has been sufficient I recently encountered (Read:read) a ‘system’ of book journalling that I LOVE. So, I’m stealing it.

In his collection of articles, Shakespeare Wrote For Money, Nick Hornby organized his columns monthly into two categories, Books I’ve Bought and Books I’ve Read. After each list, he proceeded to explain the draws or detriments of each of the books he read, or, not. Actually, in any number of articles he just writes about whatever he wants to write about-the world cup, his paranoid(?) oppression by the ‘man’ (which may be more widely recognized as his ‘editors’), etc. While I can only hope to have the voice and the wit of Hornby someday I can have his system of organization, RIGHT NOW! (Well, an adaptation of his system anyway.)

Hornby has “Books Bought” and I’m guessing more disposable income than I. So, my column will be ‘Books Bought, Got or Borrowed.’ The secondary column is straight forward enough: ‘Books Read.’ I also, hereby, reserve the right to utilize a third column to mention books* that are on my ‘Radar.’ A part of my book compulsion is that sometimes books or at least the idea of certain books will attach themselves to the nether regions of my brain and then worm their way over a period of time (sometimes extended, often times instantaneously) to the fore front at which point they MUST be read. Or, at least bought/got/borrowed.

There you have it. The new book discussion layout, for me. I imagine these posts will be written monthly as it  a.)lets me off the hook for trying to keep up on book posts in real-time; and b.) ‘locks’ me into a regular routine of tracking the shi…er, books I’ve been reading.

Having prattled on about all that!

from the Stacks:April

 

Books Bought, Got, or Borrowed

 The Blue Day Book: A Lesson In Cheering Yourself Up.
     -Bradley Trevor Greive
China In The Tokugawa World
     -Marius B. Jansen
Bite Me & Island of The Sequined Love Nun
     -Christopher Moore
Shakespeare Wrote for Money
     -Nick Hornby
Scarpetta & The Scarpetta Factor
     -Patricia Cornwell
 MAO: The Unknown Story
     -Jung Chang
The Meadow
     -James Galvin
Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir
     -Sue William Silverman
Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and The Arts
     -Clive James
Around the Year With Emmet Fox
     -Emmet Fox
Vegan With a Vengeance
     -Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Slash Limited Edition Collectors Pack Magazine
     -Various Contributors
Page After Page
     -Heather Sellers
The Lovely Bones   
-Alice Sebold
 

 

Books Read

The Blue Day Book: A Lesson In cheering Yourself Up.

     -Bradley Trevor Greive

Island of The Sequined Love Nun

-Christopher Moore

Shakespeare Wrote for Money

-Nick Hornby

Scarpetta & The Scarpetta Factor

-Patricia Cornwell

Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir

 -Sue William Silverman

Around the Year With Emmet Fox

 -Emmet Fox

Vegan With a Vengeance

  -Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Slash Limited Edition Collectors Pack Magazine

-Various Contributors

Page After Page

-Heather Sellers

The Lovely Bones 

-Alice Sebold

Not going to say to much on the content of any of these books as this is the inaugural post and absurdly long as it is. It should be noted that April is my belly button birthday month so several of the books I ‘picked up’ were gifts. It should also be noted that I did not include in either list program literature, i.e. Big Book, How Al-Anon Works, The 12 & 12, Courage to Change, Hope for Today or Reflections-all of which get read every month/week/day. I’ll not run the litany of the aforementioned every month but the tone of anything else I might share in a given month will relate whether or not I’ve been getting to my reading! So, there it is. Oh, and last but not least…

On Radar 

The Mindful Way Through Depression:
 Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness

-Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, & Jon Kabat-Zinn

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and The Arts

 -Clive James

 

 

 

*Note: ‘Books’ may well be blogs, articles, magazines, etc.

 

The Best Laid Plans
February 28, 2010

This month (or this year) began with some ideas (read:plans) on how things were going to go and none of that has worked out exactly. Let’s start with reading, as an example, the *idea* was to jump into Hemingway. After a suggestion on a previous post I started with Islands In The Stream, great. That read, in theory should have plunged me into a Hemingway tangent and the plan would have been realized. What actually happened? The kids died. If you don’t know what that means, it’s cool, I will elaborate in another post at another time. Will have to suffice to say, the book got set down and it took several fits and starts over a few weeks for me to pick it back up. Not to worry though, there was a tangent and it came under the author heading of Christopher Moore.

And the Book of the Year goes to….

 

My friend said, read these books, Christopher Moore is doing a book tour and we’re going.  Truth be told, I was reticent as I had read a Moore book before, Practical Demon Keeping, and I did not care for it. At all. Alas, I am *still* not in charge. I like vampires and his (Moore’s) new book is the third in his vampire tales, alright. My Moore-ish adventure began with Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck the precursors to the upcoming release. Followed in short order by, Coyote Blue (well, sort of), A Dirty Job, Lamb and currently The Stupidest Angel.

On Demons & Coyotes

Not entirely certain what it is about these two books that did not work for me, but, yeah, did NOT work for me. I *suffered* through Practical Demon Keeping as it is not my habit to leave a book unfinished. Not entirely certain why I can’t walk away from a book if I don’t like it, BUT, I do have the satisfaction of knowing that if I can just get through it I never have to read another one again.

About that.

My friend’s enthusiasm for Moore, he is her favorite (and she is one of my favorite people, see how this works?) is the means by which I found myself roped in, again. Maybe I missed something? Maybe *I* got it wrong? well, had I begun my latest foray into Moore’s works with Coyote Blue it would have ended right then and there. I can tell you that what bothered me, right off the bat, was his depiction of an Indian, any Indian. It is a button and a peeve. As an American historian by training and a culturalist to boot most depictions of ‘Native Americans’ irk me. Moore, no exception. What is of note here and it has nothing to do with the merits of his work? I closed the book. Not going to do it. Several chapters in, I quit. Then I returned it to my friend and said, ‘Nope. Stopped reading.’ It’s her favorite. Ha! Nothing to be done for it, however, I had already told the truth.

 

And the Lord said…

 

Read this book. Okay, the Lord had nothing to do with it. If you only ever read one Christopher Moore book, in your life, let it be Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Sweet Mother O’ God, this is hands down one of the funniest books that I have EVER read. Not only did I laugh, chuckle, guffaw and peal may way through this book-the ‘message’ (you know the one) in the end (you know which one) remains completely intact. Brilliant.

A Season At Sea
December 31, 2009

Tis the season for holidays and gift giving and such. Turns out, for me twas also the season for some seafaring reading. Though I have said for sure that I read in tangents elsewhere, I can not recall if I have said so here and I am too lazy to go back and look. My reading (and a bit of watching as well) this month began with an adventure and has largely stayed the course from whence it began.

At the top of my ‘to read’ list coming into this month was Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I grew up an avid reader and in my earliest reading years I managed to get through a ton of classic adventure stories, among them Robin Hood, The Three musketeers, Tarzan. My two favorites were Johanna Spyri’s Heidi and  Johann David Wyss’ Swiss Family Robinson.  That being said, it is a wonder to me how Stevenson’s pirate adventure didn’t make it into my early reading list. Treasure Island is a fantastic story. Half the joy in reading it is in the story itself, which, does not lack in thrill despite my having been reared with the ride, the movies and the countless novel variations this particular story has spawned. In fact, the other ‘half’ of the joy in reading this book is knowing that it is the origins of so many literary constructs and cultural artifacts I’ve encountered over the years. From the annoying parrot, to the Jolly Roger, Treasure Island itself; Stevenson’s novel is the archetypal blue print for the 100s (1000s?) of pirate tales published/circulated  in its wake.  

Sad as I am that I missed the rollicking (yeah, I said it.) good time that is Treasure Island in my youth, I do know that had I encountered this work as a child it could not have led me down the literary path it has this month. Perhaps, literary is overstated.  There is one film, a documentary, that I watched this month that lends itself thematically to the texts I have traversed this season.

A gift from Eddie to Me and from Me to You…

 

The first I heard of The Cove was Eddie Vedder mentioning it on stage back in October. He, Vedder, said something to the effect of, I saw this documentary and was devastated by the lows we have sunk too  but here tonight I can recall our humanity. Again, that was a paraphrase I was a bit out of it as he spoke for two reasons, one, I had never heard of The Cove so I had no idea to what he was referring and, two, in the near to 30 years that I have attended concerts I have NEVER experienced anything like the sound of 20,000 people singing along at the top of their lungs for hours. Stunning, the vocal performance of the crowd that is. Having now seen The Cove that is stunning as well.   

The Cove in their own words:

 In The Cove, a team of activists and filmmakers infiltrate a heavily guarded cove in Taiji, Japan. In this remote village they witness and document activities deliberately being hidden from the public: More than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises are being slaughtered each year and their meat, containing toxic levels of mercury, is being sold as food in Japan, often times labeled as whale meat.

Not only are the hunting practices depicted in The Cove deplorable but the point of the hunt is twofold, one, to produce meat which is largely inedible. The meat is toxic. Second, the hunt is to procure dolphins, Bottlenose in particular, for dolphinariums around the globe. The whole sale slaughter of thousands of animals is funded for our entertainment. Stunning.

Back to the page turning…

The book I next delved into next was Ernest Hemingway’s, The Old Man & The Sea. This was my first encounter with Hemingway but it will not be my last. In fact, I would hazard to guess that January or at the very least the new year holds within it a Hemingway tangent. Typically, I prefer my prose in more poetic vein, lyrical and subtle. James Galvin has long been my favorite author with his work of prose The Meadow standing as my favorite book. I covet Galvin his elegance and attention to detail. I have often made the joke of my own writing in relationship to Galvin’s, asserting  that I aspire to be him ‘when I grow up.’ The reason I share this, is that Hemingway’s sparse ‘bare bones’ prose could not be further removed from Galvin’s style and yet I loved it. I have a particular fondness at this point in my life for getting to the point. Just saying what you mean. Hemingway does that in spades. I’ve yet to settle on the next work of his that I will engage but I’m thinking a novel…

  

As The Year Ends…

 

Finding myself still drawn towards stories of the sea I went ahead and picked up a history of the Caribbean. Specifically, I am currently finishing Stephan Talty’s,  Empire of Blue Water. Empire of Blue Water gives a detailed history of the Caribbean with a lens on the story of Captain Morgan in particular. Captain Morgan (no, not the rum) led as fantastic a life as any down in the South Seas. His island adventures are covered spanning his time moving up through the ranks of Privateers, into outright piracy and ultimately his turn to statesmanship. I am hard pressed to think of another regional history I have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed Empire. So much so that my Caribbean adventure does not end here…

On deck…

Within the next couple of days I hope to start David Cordingly’s, Under The Black Flag.

Words:Read(October09)
November 5, 2009

The Latest List

The Latest List

 

 

While rambling sometime back I asserted that there would be more books in this space and so there are. In the last couple of weeks I managed to get through some of the books on my ‘list’ and even a couple off of my nephew’s ‘you must read these list.’

 

The Boy, has been insisting I read two books for months now. I have in fact had them in my possession and they’ve been brought to my attention repeatedly for about 5 months.  I got to three of his this month (He added, a ‘right now’ to the pile and it actually got done.)!  The first book I got to was Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games.  Note: it is not pictured in the pile above because it is now lost somewhere in the bowels of his room and I am NOT going in after it.

SPOILER ALERT

The Hunger Games was…okay. Perhaps, Earth shattering for one a bit younger?  The premise of the book is that after a ‘New World Order’ has been well and truly established (read: the ‘Revolution’ was televised and ‘we,’ the masses lost) as a means of maintaining control the people of each district (those ‘states’ which survived) must enter their children into a lottery. The ‘winners,’ one boy and one girl, from each district must then travel to the Capital and enter into the “Hunger Games.” In said games, the children will be transported into a bio-dome of an undisclosed nature (desert, mountainous, swampy, etc.) and then fight to the death in an effort to ‘win’ the game. The ‘winner’ gets food, wealth, a home, etc. The games are, of course, televised and the people of each district must watch as further penance for the failed revolution.  For all the “tension” (maybe I’m just that jaded?) readily built into such a plot, the book wasn’t terribly moving.

 

Right Now

 

Dan Brown’s, new book,  The Lost Symbol was the Boy’s ‘right now’ interjection into the reading list. It was a Dan Brown novel. They all feel very much the same to me at this point. However, the nephew swears by it. So, by all means, take his word for it.

 

More Spoilage

 

The kid also recommended The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It is the story of a young orphan coming of age in Nazi Germany during WWII. The narrator for the text is Death itself. To say the book is profound is to say the very least. One of the most stunning books that I have ever read. It certainly makes the ‘carry it with you’ list in as much as I don’t know that I will ever shake it!

 

 

the-book-thief

 

My favorite ‘passage:’

*** A DEFINITION NOT FOUND***

IN THE DICTIONARY

Not leaving: an act of trust and love,

often deciphered by children

 

Breathtaking book.

 

Left To My Own Devices

I’ve spent much of this Fall giggling along to Kevin Smith, whether his tweets ( @thatkevinsmith) or his newest book Shootin’ The Shit With Kevin Smith. Dude is fucking hilarious. Thank God.

 

Also, I have revisited both Dave Hickey’s Air Guitar and Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. I’ve got this ongoing fascination with community creation and both books touch on the subject in their own right. Hickey speaks to ‘communities of desire.’ Specifically, he wonders at the ways and means by which we as individuals recognize ourselves in or apart from communities rooted in desire. Desire, as opposed to, divine, nationalistic, etc. Rather, communities of desire, are those places in our lives where we congregate relative to our passions EVEN and PARTICULARLY when we are bound to those communities solely by our passions.  (I will elaborate more fully on this concept after I have let it marinate for a bit.)

Air_Guitar

 

The second book, Imagined Communities, details the advent of and subsequent embrasure of nationalism. This book is extremely useful in tracing the historical juncture which gave root to a ‘nationalist’ sentiment. Beyond its timeliness relative to the current state of global politics, the book for my purposes is serving to highlight the kinds of questions that could/should be asked when attempting to understand how communities in general are ‘imagined.’ Not in the fantastic sense of the word, at all. Rather, the use of the word ‘imagined’ is to show overtly that communities are in fact the by-product of ideas as opposed to ‘concrete’ realities. This is useful to keep in mind (in my mind anyway) when contemplating the development, growth, etc. of ANY community. I’m thinking. Could be wrong. Going to let this marinate along with Air Guitar, we shall see what shakes out.

 

350imagined%20communities