Category Books

Stuff I Do When I’m Not Here

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for helping to support my blog! On my nightstand/in my kindle:

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son by Kent Russell – I loved this book. I read an excerpt, Mithridates of Fond du Lac, on a recommendation by my friend Felix, and was so hooked by Kent’s style that I immediately bought the book. Whether the subject is the gathering of the juggalos, Tom Savini’s school of makeup, or a man who is attempting to become immune to all snake venom, Kent captures them with interest, respect, and care, not mockery, in a fashion similar to another book I loved, Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Romantics by Gideon Defoe – The Pirates! series holds a special place in my heart, and this new adventure with Charles Babbage, Mary Shelley, and Lord Byron is a perfect addition. I cried with suppressed laughter more than once, choking it back so as not to irritate everyone on the plane. Have an excerpt from an argument the Pirate Captain is having with a Swiss banker: The Pirate Captain tossed his beard about and waved his arms. ‘Oh, it’s all becoming clear to me! Shall I tell you what the problem is? It’s that you don’t know what it is to live and laugh and love and run a man through! You’ve never tasted the salty air on your tongue or waved heartily at a mermaid! It would be impolite to call you a shrivelled little bean counter who wouldn’t know drama if it kissed you on the mouth, but nonetheless – I’m afraid that’s exactly what you are. You people have no flair, no romance, no sense of adventure! Everything’s just numbers for you! Well, you can’t reduce passion and flair and eating ham to numbers, sir! Good day to you!’

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson – Jason is a huge Brandon Sanderson fan, and he convinced me to try The Way of Kings. It starts off a little iffy, but it didn’t take long for me to get sucked in, and the book later revisits those earlier chapters from a different perspective and by then, you understand what’s going on and it’s much more gripping. By the last quarter of the book, I was saying “What? WHAT?! OH SHIT” about every five minutes and seconds after finishing it, I bought the second book, Words of Radiance, which I’m now plowing through at record speed.

On my TV/movie screen:

Grace & Frankie – I enjoyed the first season of this show but didn’t love it. The acting is phenomenal, but the writing is sitcomm-y and sort of obvious.

Mad Max: Fury Road – I actually was not excited about going to see this from the trailer. But I fucking loved it. LOVED. IT. I would like a war rig for traffic jams, please.

Mad Max –  How did something as great as Fury Road come from something so bad? I fell asleep. Twice.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron – I really wanted to love this movie, but it was just OK. I’d listen to James Spader read the phone book, enthralled, so Ultron is not the problem here. The whole thing just came off formulaic, low-stakes, and sadly, a bit boring. I read this post about the movie’s problems later and couldn’t agree more.

Poltergeist – It was a nice homage to the original, but like so many horror movies, suffers from the ubiquitous jump scares. There’s no horror, no existential dread in that style of movie, and that’s a huge shortcoming.

Maleficent – Hated it. I feel it could have had a variety of different subtitles. Maleficent: Portrait of a Stalker. Maleficent: Cottage Creeper. Maleficent: 90 Minutes of Filler.

Man with the Iron Fists 2 – I couldn’t make it twenty minutes into this movie, it was so godawful. I’ll admit to enjoying the first movie, but it didn’t exactly call for a sequel, especially not a straight-to-video sequel.

Game of Thrones Season 5 – I’m loving and I’m hating the show this season. It probably doesn’t help that they’re drawing from my least favorite book in the series, but the substantial deviations they’ve made from the book are occasionally frustrating and upsetting. I’m not going to really get into it here so as to avoid spoilers for those who are not yet caught up with the show.

House of Cards – I’ve watched a few episodes and so far I hate it. Unless the showrunners are winking at the audience and making a show about about a guy who thinks he’s a puppetmaster but isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is, I just don’t get it.

Jurassic World – I’m going to see this on Friday and I am so damn excited. Jurassic Park came out at an age when I was primed for dinosaur based adventure, and this one looks like an actually good sequel. I may have shed a tear the first time I saw the trailer.

In my kitchen:

I’m keeping up with my “try at least one new recipe a week” goal (smashing it, actually). It’s been a great way to try new ingredients, use parts of a plant that I might not otherwise (like carrot tops), make the most of what’s been growing in my garden, and increase my low-carb repertoire. Here’s some stuff I’ve been cooking recently: Bora Bora fireballs, velvety carrot soup with carrot top pesto, easy thai shrimp soup, and low carb meatballs. Tonight I’m making asparagus, leek, and green garlic soup!

On the project docket:

I bought a beautiful desk on Craiglist that I’m refinishing; once I’m done with that, I’ll move it upstairs and do some furniture rearranging, which I’m sure thrills Jason to no end. “Help me carry this desk to upstairs to this room and then we can move the desk that was already in there to another room and take the furniture that was in there downstairs.” It’s the endless shuffle of the never-quite-satisfied. I’m also working to finish up a couple of house project loose ends so I can start the new stuff that interests me more. I’ve also been making progress on Jason’s Halloween costume because if I’m going to make two detailed outfits to wear absolutely nowhere, damn it, I need as much time as I can get. Plus I’m out in the garden more often than not lately. Sometimes weeding, sometimes grazing, sometimes battling wasps. You know, the usual.

Weekly Wrap-Up

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I am super pumped for this weekend–it’s the last weekend of the Moisture Festival! Game of Thrones returns! There’s an Easter II feast on Sunday! Plus I just made some homemade butter which practically begs for the buttermilk to be used in some lilac scones. I was hoping to get some time out in the backyard this weekend since I’ll be out of town for the next three and the blackberry bushes are already getting a little too bold in their advancement  (let’s just say it won’t be a surprise when they bust through my bedroom window and attempt to strangle me in my sleep), but it’s supposed to be cruddy out so this may be the excuse I was looking for to rent some goats to take care of business for me.

Speaking of upcoming trips, I’ve got a short jaunt to Portland in the works and a longer one to Hawaii, so I should have some good stories to share soon. There are already tentative plans in the works for insect eating and ghost teasing, both of which I’m sure will go swimmingly and not at all like last time.

This week, I rekindled my love for the gifsounds subreddit–here are my three recent favorites: 1 2 3

I’ve also been catching up on The Walking Dead this week, which means that my zombie burnout has come to an end, at least in this instance. No spoilers here, but it makes me laugh that Judith always looks like she’s confused and angry to be growing up in a world without Cheerios and animal crackers. I’ve also come to realize how profoundly irritating loudly chewed gum can be.

Also on my TV recently: Face Off Season 8. I called Emily Serpico as the winner in episode one, so it was exciting to see her make it to the finale this week. Everyone left is a talented artist, though, and at this point, I think they’re all deserving of the prize. It’s been especially gratifying to see a bunch of women kicking ass and taking names this season, since I’ve complained before about men dominating the positions of authority. No matter who wins, I’m so glad that Face Off has stopped the “not here to make friends” format. I haven’t watched most of the seasons because of the typical backstabbing present in the earliest seasons, and I didn’t think it served the artists to trash their reputation before they ever made it into the SFX industry–it’s so small, and it’s hard enough to get work (much less paying work) without someone thinking you’re difficult or obnoxious. The only aspect of this season I’d call a swing and a miss is the “coaches/team” aspect. Yes, the coaches are there for guidance, but it’s not quite clear what the coach gets out of participating, and whenever they’re on camera, it’s generally worrying about how one of their team members doing poorly might affect them personally. I’m just not feeling it.

In my kitchen this week: gyro lettuce wraps and animal style in and out in a bowl. I’ve been doing the low carb thing six days a week for a few months and it’s working out well for me–I’m fitting into my smaller pants and I don’t feel deprived, and those are both good things.

On my nightstand/in my Kindle:

Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide for Daughters – This book is a tough read, but it’s been helpful for me to come to terms with an aspect of my past that has had a long-lasting impact on my life and personality. I’m sure that it’s something I’ll keep referring back to, and if you have a strained/difficult/nonexistent/toxic relationship with your mother, you may find it helpful as well.

Bad Trips – I’ve been looking for travel writers I like outside of Bill Bryson, and now that I’m 75% of the way through this book, I’m fairly confident that I won’t be finding what I’m looking for here. They’re all such twats! There’s a guy whose bad trip was actually a good trip for him, it’s just that a woman he met during his journey was raped twice in short order, and he wondered if she hadn’t been able to shake it off and have a good trip like him that it would have been some fault in her upbringing instead of, you know, the trauma of having been raped at knifepoint twice. There’s a made up story about a tour group going on ‘safari’ to Central Park to watch a woman getting sexually assaulted and blaming her for her own assault. There’s a piece by Umberto Eco complaining that a hotel isn’t decorated to his taste. There are a few pieces where people merely imagine what a bad trip would be like, namely concerning doing the sorts of activities that your average tourist engages in and you already know that I loathe that sort of elitism. I’m finishing it out of stubbornness.

The Queen of the Tearling – I picked this one up mainly because I saw that it was being made into a movie starring Emma Watson, and I wanted to be in on the hype loop for once instead of wondering why everyone is so pumped for a movie I’ve never heard of. I’m really torn on this one–I read through it in two days, and while I was reading it, I was 100% sucked in, but now that I’ve finished it, I have no desire to read the next book in the series. Even with its interesting setting (a return to medieval structure postdating our current technological society, in a place where magic is a thing), the characters and the storyline just felt too familiar. Plus, with the chapter intros being excerpts from books written about the main character at a future date, there’s not really any question as to whether she will prevail.

Mr Mercedes: A Novel – I love me some Stephen King, and it was refreshing to see him go for a detective novel rather than supernatural horror. This is another book that I cracked through in a day or two. It’s fast-paced, deeply engaging, and I only wish that King wasn’t so comfortable with the n-word. I’ll be glad to see those same characters come back in Finders Keepers.

Too Fat For Europe – This is a self-published work by a friend of a friend, and is generally enjoyable. It reads like a long-form blog entry, though, and it could use the strong hand of an editor in a number of ways. If it were up to me, I’d also axe the photos entirely or swap them for illustrations. Granted, I have one of the older, cheaper Kindles which may be a contributing cause, but the photos are so muddy and don’t add anything to the experience.

 

What are you up to? Any weekend plans? What’s on your plate–food, books, or otherwise?

The Deep Discount Bin: A Field Guide to Demons

a basic demonSummoned by reciting Katy Perry lyrics into the mirror at midnight.

Every once in a while, I will troll the clearance section of Half Price Books and bring something home that’s dirt cheap and looks amusing. While there recently, I found yet another book that I couldn’t possibly leave in the store*: A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol K Mack and Dinah Mack. You know, another sort of useful, everyday item to have around the house.

Here’s the bad news for you at-home exorcists, demonologists, and aspiring Ghost Adventures cast members: in the guide to identifying basic demons, the book essentially says that anything and everything can be a demon.

Demons, using only their energy, can appear as smoke, as temptresses, animals, grains of sand, flickering lights, blades of grass, or neighbors**.

Now, I would buy that there’s the occasional neighbor out there who is actually a demon in disguise. Demonic possession makes a lot more sense than any other reason I can think of as to why  a former neighbor mowed his entire lawn with a weed whacker over the course of two days in thirty-second spurts. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Either that guy was a demon bent on driving me crazy or he was trying to wipe out his demonic grass infestation. Grains of sand, though? Ain’t no one got time for that. If I accidentally build a demon-inhabited sandcastle, I’m just going to call it Demon Manor and be done with it.  For an identification guide, it’s not very useful. Same deal with fairies:

There is no certainty about their essential form, but the consensus is they are transparent.

Man, whatever would you do without this truly helpful guide?

After the basic introductions to demons and fairies, the book is broken into sections of all of the places that demons can be found: water, mountains, forests, deserts, the home, and the mind. In each section is a smattering of creatures, their history, and how they can be defeated. Once you reach the section about demons of the psyche, however, things start to fall apart as the authors reach further and further for things to include. The Id. Jung’s Shadow. Mr. Hyde. Granted, you are just as likely to run into Mr. Hyde in your bedroom as a tengu or a djinn, but it seems misplaced to include a fictional portrayal of a real mental disorder as a demon you can fight, especially in light of the fact that the mentally ill have long been accused of demonic possession and treated brutally (or even killed) during exorcisms.

I bought this book for a couple of different reasons. I’m deeply into mythology, and I like having books on hand as reference materials for art and for pleasure reading. I wasn’t sure when I bought it if it was going to be a detached compendium of folklore, a painfully earnest guide to demon hunting, or some lighthearted farce. The problem with this book is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, either. The authors refer to the guide as an essential resource leading one to believe they are in earnest, but then they undermine it with half-assed graspings at things that could only be tangentially related to the subject matter. It’s missing too much to be comprehensive (the authors explain this as making the guide “highly selective”) but at the same time they include things that have no relation to folklore, a “demon” that they blatantly made up, and three different entries on Satan. The result is that it’s hard to use the book as a mythological resource as it’s not clear what is in the actual storytelling history and what they’ve manufactured from whole cloth. Add in the “this is how you disarm and dispell demons” ridiculousness especially as pertains to real mental illness and deep psychological trauma, and the book becomes a hot mess. It would be much more interesting and useful if it was fully a “we believe this is real” field guide or fully a mythological resource, but the half-mocking tone doesn’t serve it either way.

I guess they can’t all be mega-discount winners. Maybe this time the clearance section of Half Price Books trolled me.

 

*Incidentally, this may lead to my hoarder style undoing, crushed by mountains of my own schadenfreude.

**It’s also possible that this blog post is a demon.

Ranger Brad, I’m a scientist. I don’t believe in anything.

I love trolling the mega-clearance shelves at Half-Price Books, because I never know what manner of awesomeness or ridiculousness I’ll run into for a dollar.

This time, I struck gold with ‘Vampires: The Occult Truth’ by Konstantinos, which purports that vampires are not only real, but there are several different types and you need to be familiar with all of them in order to protect yourself. As early on as page two, the book has such laugh-until-you-cry statements as “I consider those who are interested in the occult to be the scientists of the future.” Not just scientists. Scientists of the future.

Later on in the book, he reveals a number of letters he’s gotten from ‘mortal blood drinkers of the present day’ also known as big giant freakshows.

I would like to tell you of my vampiric lifestyle. You may print this letter under the condition that you do not reveal my true identity in your book. Where I live, word travels quickly and I would most probably be ridiculed and forced out of town. For that reason, you can call me the Vampire Jeremy.

Why do I consider myself to be a vampire–a predator? I kill animals and drink their blood, that’s why. Don’t confuse me with the types of so-called vampires that you hear about today. They do not impress me. They do not hunt their prey, but only stick hypodermic needles into themselves to trade blood. They are not hunters.

To obtain my sustenance I mainly kill mammals, but I will also drink the cold blood of reptiles. I suppose that my drinking from lower creatures than humans makes me a little like the character ‘Renfield’ from the novel Dracula. But I am not insane.

I wait for immortality and drink of the lower creatures until a noble undead will one day take me as his or her own. I wait and believe that night will come, and have prepared for it.

There are letters from vampires who talk about getting badly sunburned while playing minigolf. There are letters from vampires who try to contact immortal vampires through ouija boards. There are letters from single-mom vampires. Some claim to possess spooooooky powers. They nearly all insist they are not crazy like all of those OTHER nutcases who think they’re vampires.

Here’s an excerpt from another pricelessly funny letter:

I will tell you one more thing: Do not fool yourselves, dear friends. You do not make a discovery here with me or any others of my species. We are as old as time itself. The books and films are simply what they are. Most do not even scrape the surface of the contents of our being. So do not try to understand. That would be like lifting eternal veils of a faceless bride.

I can pretty well claim that this is one of the best things I’ve ever spent a dollar on. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go print some new business cards. Mellzah Dildarian, Scientist Of The Future has a nice ring to it.