Cash by Johnny Cash (Book Review)

CashCash by Johnny Cash
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have fond memories of my dad and the hi-fi stereo we had in the 60’s, lying side by side on the floor with our heads underneath it for maximum volume and singing along at the top of our lungs to “Ring of Fire” and “Cry, Cry, Cry” and “Walk the Line.” I don’t know if my fandom for Johnny Cash has more to do with Cash himself or with happy childhood memories in general, but I remain a fan.

“I knew it was wrong and self-destructive…but I’ve never been one to let such considerations stand in the way of my road to ruin.” Can’t we all say that?

This is not what I would call an autobiography because it’s not really linear; it’s more like sitting around the table and just talking, one subject brings up another which brings up another. Still, it’s very readable and the voice is honest and engaging. Love the Man in Black.

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East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Book Review)

East of EdenEast of Eden by John Steinbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I closed the back cover after the last page, I was torn. I was irritated by the Biblical metaphor. I am offended by the whole one-woman-did-something-wrong-so-all-women-are-condemned-forever thing. But in spite of that, I loved this book. The philosophies surrounding good, evil, and predestination were explored by many paths before Christianity, and timshel rocks. Such beautiful, beautiful writing. It’s been too many years since I’ve read anything by Steinbeck. I won’t let that many years go by again.

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The First Annual (or Whatever) 99 Monkeys Stupidest Random Awards

The Stupidest Song You Can’t Not Sing Along With: Daydream Believer. That song is as impossible to break away from as the Borg. And I’m not bagging on the Monkees. I love the Monkees. I had as big a crush on Davy Jones as any other girl.

The Stupidest Best Philosophy I Just Might Adopt Immediately: WWKRD? What Would Keith Richards Do? Say what you want about the man, he’s a survivor. “Keep calm, get blazed, and play the riff ” has a simple purity to it.

Of course I am not the first to have thought of this. It’s a real book, and I want it.

I am aware that Keith Richards and Davy Jones are sort of the antithesis of each other, and I’m okay with that.

Elegantly wasted, indeed.


The Stupidest Dictionary: The one in my phone. It absolutely will not learn the word “damn,” but regularly tries to autofill “fisting” for any number of normal, everyday words. Are you fucking kidding me, Samsung? Learn “fuck,” too.
The Stupidest Super Power: My inability to sleep adequately for years on end. I can sleep only 10 minutes a night for a week at a time, and somehow my body thinks a 10-hour collapse once a week is sufficient for me to catch up and somehow avoid a psychotic break from sleep deprivation.

Unless, of course, this is due to a psychic awakening because I am, in fact, one of the Star People from the Pleiades. If that’s true, then I’d just like to go home now, please. A pair of ruby slippers would make short work of the 445 light-year trip.


The Stupidest Ostrich Argument: All these inane social media posts about wonderful white cops and wonderful black detainees and just all-around warm and fuzzy racial wonderfulness. It’s like posting about all the people who don’t have cancer to “remind us the world isn’t completely bad,” which really means “allow us to pretend the bad thing isn’t there.” No matter how many people don’t have cancer, cancer is still an ugly plague. So is racism. Stop trying to pretty it up or shrug away from it.

Of course. Racism solved.


The Stupidest “News”: That two little kids held hands. I don’t know what’s stupider, that someone actually got paid for writing this crap, or that people continue to eat up anything about the Kardashians. But that’s our society these days: the most money and the biggest boobs.

The Stupidest Place to Get Your News: Facebook. Remember, what you read is only as accurate as the most ignorant user.


This prank meme, Steven Spielberg posing with
a fake dinosaur from the Jurassic Park set,
was taken seriously by a disturbingly large number of people.

The Stupidest Alert System: Whoever invented obnoxious car alarms should be shot. OK, maybe not shot, but perhaps forced to be awakened by this rude noise every 15 minutes for the rest of his life. Nobody goes running out to catch the car burglar when these things go off, and go off, and go off, and go off, ad insaniam. What they do is start looking for the baseball bat they will use to shut the damned thing up, when it turns out the car’s owner is away on a three-week tour of Russia and the Balkan lands.

The runner-up is whoever thought up using a car horn as an alert to tell you that you’ve locked or unlocked your vehicle. Do it the old-fashioned way, by, um, remembering where you parked it. And if you can’t remember, then you’re missing out on the fun of trying to find your beat-up ride in the sea of a coliseum parking lot, with your ears still ringing from the concert and your head swimming from the ganja. Where’s your sense of adventure?

Overall, I think car horns are far too subject to rude usage, and should therefore be un-invented.
That’s it for this installment. Here’s the earworm. You’re welcome.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Book Review)

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children. It floats in a clear  liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world of light?

At first blush this book seemed quite similar to The Book Thief, one of my all-time favorite books and therefore tough to beat, and I began to be irritated. But except for childhoods stolen by the horror of war, and achingly poignant prose, the two books are dissimilar enough. All the Light We Cannot See is a moving, beautifully written story, well worth savoring.

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Out, damned Facebook!

It’s time to slow things down, Facebook. We’ve been seeing far too much of each other.
There have been a few good articles on how Facebook is bad for you, like this one and this one, but I’d like to think I figured it out on my own. Wait. Maybe that’s not such a good thing. It’s pretty bad when I have to figure it out for myself instead of reading about it on Facebook, right?

I’ve noticed it personally for a few months now. I see pictures of someone’s vacation and I feel envious. Not just that passing kind of envy, wow, how beautiful, that’s a place to keep in mind to go to someday, but something more ferocious, an anger turned inward. Why am I not good enough to be able to afford a vacation twice a year, or even once a year? People post pictures of their gardens, or the feasts they’ve prepared, and I immediately feel that I’m failing to live an acceptable life because I do not serve equally sumptuous dinners with tables graced by flawlessly arranged flowers grown in my equally exquisite garden. Never mind the fact that I live in a tiny apartment that doesn’t even have room for a proper table. Also never mind the fact that I am more of a necessity cook than a gourmet cook, and also have a pretty tight budget. Who, these days, has $39 for an ostrich egg? Hell, it’s all The Tominator and I can do to keep the place stocked with bread and tea.

I realize this is not the fault of the people who are doing fun and beautiful things in their lives. They should be doing fun and beautiful things in their lives. I am a depressive person. I’ve suffered from crippling panic attacks for 35 years, as well as the depression that goes with that. It is easy for me to find fault with myself, to weigh and find myself wanting. Why am I not that skinny? Why don’t I have 35 friends waiting to take me out on the town for my birthday? Why don’t I knit things that look that good? Why am I not a worldly and cultured traveler?  I certainly should be. I mean, just look. Everybody else is. Except, of course, that they’re not.

Yes, I know when to use which one. But I don’t own most of them.

But it’s not just that.

I don’t need the distraction. I recently participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and while the fault is ultimately my own, I still blame Facebook for the fact that I did not reach my word count goal. Hell, I’ve had to mentally slap my hand three times already, just writing this post, to keep from opening Facebook in a new window to see what new thing I’m not doing right that has come up in the last fifteen minutes. (It is interesting that I don’t have this problem when school is in session and I really do have to study, and I don’t have it at work either. Apparently my mind does have some self-discipline.) I’m still not as bad as some people though. I do not now have, and never have had and never will have, the Facebook app for my phone. But I still think that’s like justifying skin-popping smack by pointing out that it’s not as bad as mainlining. It’s still bad, Advertising irritates the living daylights out of me, clickbait destroys IQ points, and any article written about the Kardashians is a tool of Satan.
I don’t need the overstimulation. Yes, the world is full of injustices that need to be righted. But people who share a meme and apparently believe that means they’re actually doing something to fix things irritate the shit out of me. I personally don’t need to have horrifying pictures of abused animals shoved in my face. It agitates me, and the fact that you slammed me in the face with a gross-out makes for zero likelihood that I’m going to jump on your bandwagon. If this is a cause I will use my time to fight for, I will seek it out. Do you think the criminal justice system needs an overhaul, or GMO foods should be labeled? First, fact-check the meme you just read. Then, get off Facebook and write a letter to your legislator. Have a real conversation with a real person about it. Vote. I don’t know if it’s causing the insomnia that plagues me, but when I wake in the wee hours, that kind of crap is what is floating in my mind. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. But I don’t need it invading my sleeping hours as well as my waking ones.
I don’t need the negativity. I realize they are just stupid memes, and people frequently share stuff without really thinking about the implications behind them. Still, it upsets me to see that someone I like apparently harbors viewpoints I find hateful. Why, exactly, is it so horrible to have driver’s license tests available in languages other than English? Anybody who has ever learned, or tried to learn, a foreign language knows it’s damned hard, and having things available in people’s mother tongues makes rules and regulations clearly understood as well as making us just, well, classy for being so accepting of other cultures, kinda the same way other countries make things available in English. (Oops, I ranted.) And then there’s just all the generally irritating things that people do on Facebook anyway, like “vaguebooking” and proselytizing and posting quotes that aren’t even correctly attributed and the rest of these Facebook sins.

Except this one. If Abe said it, it must be true.

I’m not saying Facebook is completely evil. A year or so ago I reconnected with some cousins I hadn’t seen in decades, and it’s been delightful. I enjoy knowing that people I care about are doing things that make them happy. There is some intelligent stuff out there, and I come across some interesting articles and points of view. It’s a good place to promote my blog.

But I think there’s a lot more bad than good, and it’s time for me to draw a line.

In the hour I’ve spent writing this blog post, I haven’t looked at Facebook once. Now I think I’ll go email my legislator about the asshattery and unconstitutionality of the English-only movement. Maybe I’ll finish that beautiful scarf I started knitting for Dream Girl. And who knows, I might even read War and Peace and get some sleep.
Now, Twitter. Now, that’s interesting…

***
Get a Life: Nate Bolt, Creative Commons
Formal table: Andreas Praefcke, Public Domain
Abe: He’s everywhere.

I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres (Book Review)

Hopefully I’m off my rock and roll kick for awhile.

I'm with the Band: Confessions of a GroupieI’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Can Pamela Des Barres write? No. The book is liberally strewn with such gems as “When I came to my extremely sensual senses” (although I am given to understand Jim Morrison had that effect), and someone giving her a “look of unabashed, wholesome cleanliness mixed with drop-down-dead hot, horny sexiness.” The over-the-top teeny-bop rhapsodizing had already worn pretty thin by the time I read that Waylon Jennings “itched his crotch” — oh my God no, no, NO! You do not itch things; you scratch them. What editor left that in? If it hadn’t been on my Kindle, I would have thrown the book across the room several times because of the horrible writing.

But…Does Pamela Des Barres have a story to tell? Definitely. There’s plenty of dish here. This was a girl having the time of her life, prescriptions and proscriptions of society be damned, sex and drugs and rock and roll like nobody’s business. How many girls get to cross Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page off their to-do lists?

If you can swallow 300+ pages of drug-and-sex-addled-teenage-girl-diary gushing, there’s a lot of fun in here.

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The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai (Book Review)

The Hundred-Year HouseThe Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“This is a place where people aren’t so much haunted by their pasts as they are unknowingly hurtled toward specific and inexorable destinations.”

This book is not so much a ghost story as it is the story of the spirit of a place, told in an inventive way that hooked me. Reading it is like opening a series of Russian nesting dolls, moving backward through layers of time to find the secrets of Laurelfield and those whose lives have been caught up in the beautiful country manor house. I enjoyed the characters and the prose is absolutely wonderful. I’m always happy to discover a fabulous new author.

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