I will tell you what to enjoy

I’ve been reading a whole hell of a lot lately and I figure I’m pretty qualified to tell you what books to read since i a) am bipedal and b) have this here bloggy to write upon.
Here we go in no particular order:
Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
This book kind of sucked. I get a ton of my reading recommendations from the NPR book review podcast and this came recommended and it definitely sounded interesting. In fact it SHOULD have been interesting. The premise of the seedy underside of Japan, repressed school girls gone wild, murder, deception, prostitution and jealousy. It should have been good. At first I attributed my issues to a poor translator thinking that maybe something was lost, but as time wore on (and I mean WORE ON) I discovered that it would not be fair to blame the poor translator. Nothing was even remotely believable, all of the characters talked in the same exact voice, situations were so forced as to even make the reader uncomfortable. Bad bad bad. And the ‘twist’ at the end? The twist sucked. It was a stupid ‘twist’. It wasn’t even really a twist, just a meager way of maybe apologizing for this crapfest
Un Lun Dun By China Mieville
If you love Neil Gaiman, specifically the Neil Gaiman of the Neverwhere/Mirrormask type stories, you will adore this book. It’s definitely written for teens, but amazingly so. It’s a simple girl saves the world (and the secret unknown world) type story but it is delightfully fun. If you’ve read other China Mieville novels you will be surprised. It is as unique and creative as any of his books but still covered in an innocence you would not have expected. I really enjoyed this book, also, the illustrations are done by him.

King Rat
by China Mieville
Again with the China Mieville thing you say! It’s his first novel and it is definitely rough around the edges, but the story is solid and fascinating. And speaking of Neil Gaiman similarities, written 2 years before Gaiman’s American Gods (also an awesome book), the stories are surprisingly similar, but this one is all Mieville, from the grit to the sewers. Like American Gods, there is folklore and father troubles played throughout. I’d say read it, but it’s not as good as the Bas Lag books.
Jamestown: A Novel by Matthew Sharpe
an unhistory? a fantastical retelling of the Jamestown story? Post apocalyptic Jamestown. Hard to say. The story of the Jamestown settlement is set in the near, post apocalyptic future. Strange. I found the writing to be easy to read, I blew through the book in a days or so. The story was…eh. It was good and it had funny moments, but the characters just weren’t developed well and I had a terrible time keeping all the Johns and James’ apart. It also seemed unnecessarily violent, or perhap crude and gimmicky in its violence.
Schrodinger’s Ball by Adam Felber
This book is just pure fun. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Chaos Theory and Schrodingers Cat all told around 4 friends, the president of Montana and a crazy lady who rewrites history. Of course there’s a dead guy who can’t be dead because nobody has actually witnessed him being dead and therefore all states of dead and undead are still possible, a cat in a box and the world’s largest molecule. Read it for fun. Being one who gets quite angry at the idea of quantum physics and string theory (see, I can’t imagine the universe as a sheet of fabric because a sheet of fabric is very very flat and the universe is very very 3 dimensional. But I also think time is a construct, that the laws of physics are immutable regardless of how fast you’re going and YOU CAN’T JUST PULL CRAZY THEORIES OUT OF YOUR BUTT LIKE THAT! I NEED SOME DAMNED PHYSICAL PROOF)
Whoa…yeah. I got problems with science. I adore science, but mostly I adore real, calculable science. Taking a 65 million year old bone out of the ground, finding the markings that indicate where the muscles attached and extrapolating information like that. THE BONE EXISTED WHETHER OR NOT I OBSERVED IT.
Dammit. Anyway, I learned more from the afterword about the theories than I did from the book, but still, it was fun and I finished it yesterday and I am just tickled by it.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
I just finished this book an hour ago, started last night. I could not put it down. I don’t even know how to describe the story in this book. It’s considered a teen novel, which surprised me, I think it’s a bit beyond young teens, though older ones might appreciate it. There is nothing childish about this book and rarely is there fun or joy. Octavian is a boy born as an 18th century slave into an experiment. Both he and his young, slave mother are housed and lavished upon, educated to the highest degree, the boy not realizing even that he is a slave. Then things change. It gets ugly. And yet it is beautifully written.
The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
AWESOME! It’s everything House of Leaves or Memento could have been if they weren’t so self aware. It’s fun, it’s a mystery, a thriller, a romance and much much more. It bounces everywhere equally, a wild ride that you can’t get bored with (with which you cannot be bored). Words as a shark released and attacking a man with no memory. He must use the words of others, of anonymous people to shield himself from the words of a life he does not remember. The words are a shark, a real shark and that shark is trying to eat him.
Drowning Ruth by Christine Schwarz
Meh. It wasn’t a bad book, but it was predictable. The characters were fleshed out and sympathetic, but ultimately you just got to the point where you knew that what the author was trying to get you to believe was a ploy to surprise you in the end and you can figure this out because they are pushing you too hard to believe this idea without actually saying the idea. See? Imagine a book is a flat sheet of fabric and sometimes the threads get…wait DAMN SCIENCE! Get out of here!
Okay, yeah. I read too much!
I totally forgot a book!
The Day of Small Beginnings by Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum
This was a really…cute(?) book. I enjoyed it while I was reading it though it was flawed. The writing style kept me engrossed, a story of 3 generations losing and reconnecting with their Jewish faith in pre and post war Poland. The scope of the book was immense and in an effort to keep it manageable, it felt like much was cut out or glossed over, bringing some characters to an abrupt end. Also the love story felt forced and unnecessary. And this is kind of a little pick, but every once in a while the author would go into too much detail regarding what Ellen is wearing (“I was glad I was wearing a silk bias cut skirt…” or something like that). Don’t get me wrong, I was fascinated by the story and I got to learn a lot about Eastern European Jewish customs and whatnot.
Also, I started Black and White by Dani Shapiro last night and I am almost done. It’s an intriguing portrait (see, I can write like book reviewers, too) of a dysfunctional family and the aftermath. The mother, a controlling, narcissist uses her young daughter from the age of 3 as a model in her photography. The photographs of the child are not only in the nude, but somewhat provocative, perhaps bordering on the pornographic. The mother becomes an overnight success in the art world with the photos of her 3 year old daughter and must continue to use her daughter to feed her own success machine. The daughter leaves home, the sister who was not photographed is angry for being ignored throughout her childhood and no one is happy. The mom is pure creepy overbearing. If she were a real person you’d have a hard time not punching her (well, except she’s all dying of cancer and you can’t really punch 65 year old cancer patients)

generally acceptable

Sunday night I could find nothing of interest to occupy our time that did not involve a bar concert or a crappy movie. It was already 9pm, too late for us old people to find a museum devoted to figurines or some sort of community eating situation. Those things happen much earlier in the evening. Even earlier on Sundays.
I went upstairs to inform Davidu-san of the hopeless situation. Surely another night of pitching ourselves around aimlessly until one of us gets a concussion. “That’s okay, ” he replied with much cheer, “I just packed us a picnic.”
All I could do was proclaim how happy that was and go about grabbing up a blanket and asking him to grab the mustard (still he forgot). We went over to the creek and found a quiet spot near a bend. We unpacked the picnic and opened the wine just as the last of the sunlight faded from the sky and the moon showed it’s exceedingly bright face to us.
We laid there talking and joking and eating while the bats dove and chittered around us. I love watching bats fly, it’s almost hypnotic.
And just when I thought the night could not get any more romantic…a couple of homeless dudes decided to raid the trash on the other side of the park. They were pulling out all the aluminum cans, tossing them to the ground and flattening them. The beauty of the moon, the lullaby whisper of bats and the sweet music that is trash being tossed around and occasionally stomped on.
God bless city life.

Mutual of Omaha’s Retarded Kingdom

I’ve got one dog obsessed with the junebugs. Every time he finds one (and they’re everywhere and they’re slow and they’re entirely unconcerned about the 3 bodies and 10 feet heading their way) he picks it up in his mouth. Upon being picked up the junebug reacts in the only way it knows how:
Is this mating: Y/N
If yes then commence with the mating
If no then fly away from it
So he picks up the junebugs, they buzz his mouth, he spits them out and looks perplexed and reacts in the only way he knows how:
Is this awesome: Y/N
If yes then do it again
If no then try again just in case it GETS awesome
Over and over and over he does this. I consider tying him to the railing on the other side of the block so he can do this all night. I’m sure it will become awesome.
Both dogs fancy themselves rabbit trackers of some sort. There are rabbits everywhere and they’re dumb as…bunnies! While Chester was entranced with his junebug game and Maddie was replying to her pee-mail (bitch got herself a lot of friends. She’s probably got a DogSpace account with shitty animated gifs and autoplay music and pics of all her frenz kikken it old skool…
wait, where was I? Oh yeah, the dogs are distracted and I watch two bunnies considere us and then hop around the corner. When we get close to the corner the dogs pick up the scent. This apparently qualifies as “awesome” so they continue to snuffle and follow it. We round the corner and they snuffle deep of the fresh rabbit scent on the grass completely ignoring the 2 goddammed rabbits not 10 feet from their heads. The rabbits take off and the dogs try to take off but I give a resounding “Leave It” and “uh-uh” because I’m all about commands and the “no reward marker”. I get Chester’s attention. My words are decidedly not “awesome” but he decides to listen because it might involve treats and those are “AWESOME”! Of course Maddie was all about the rabbits because once she focuses on something she forgets there are other things that exist until she reaches the end of the leash.
The rabbits got away.
We head into the alley and the dogs are still trying to find the scent of the rabbit. Then the dogs are snuffling hard on something. Before I can figure out that it’s not just some rabbit shit (rabbit shit is “awesome”) Maddie has it in her mouth and is trying to chew on it and I see a dessicated toad leg hanging out of her mouth and I react in the only way I know how:
Is it dangerous:Y/N
If yes then get it out of her mouth
If no then chastise her
Is it really gross: Y/N
If yes then chastise her loudly and tell her that you are currently looking into options for trading her in for a case of whiskey or a carton of cigarettes
If No then sadly shake your head and cluck a few times.
And Maddie ponders…
Could she really trade me for whiskey or cigarettes: Y/N
If yes then drop tasty but leathery toad carcass
If no then try to figure out how to get that last leg in my mouth
No…I wonder if I have a good face for hats.
We made it home no worse for the wear, but I am not letting their faces near mine for a very long time. Assholes.


I was laying in bed watching the moon move across the sky (hooray insomnia!) when there was a loud BANG SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
I sat up and said, “there must have been an accident”
David rolled over and replied, “what….mumble”
“That loud bang and the screeching tires”
“I didn’t hear anything”
We got up and headed to the living room to see what was what. Oh yeah, there had been an accident all right. A ford bronco had hit the hell out of a parked minivan. I made fun, colorful diagrams for you. I can’t make fun colorful diagrams very well, so bear with me.

This is my happy, neighborhood. My house is the one in the center on the bottom row of houses, the blue box is the minivan, resting quietly.

Here comes the Ford Bronco!

BOOM! he hits the minivan straight on from behind. (unrelatedly, I’m watching a male sparrow flirt with 4 female sparrows)

SCREEEEEEEE! They end up way over there! He didn’t hit the brakes until after the collision, no braking before impact. Luckily he was wearing a seatbelt, or he would have ended up in the back of the minivan and also have ended up dead.

Many people had run out and they discovered right away that the doors were jammed shut, no way to open them and get him out. The firemen got there first. I love firemen. Hot. It was all flashing lights and running around and the firemen were trying to get the door open. Muscles weren’t working so they tried some sort of big pry bar and that didn’t work.
And out came the axe!
They took turns axing the hell out of the door! AXE AXE AXE! then try the pry bar then AXE AXE AXE!
Then the ambulance showed up and they wanted to help, but it seemed that the firemen did not want to share their axe. If I had an axe I would not want to share it either. The cops showed up and then it was also yelling and flashlights and exponential chaos. Seriously, the cops were way more chaotic. Also, the sparrows are ready to get it on.
Finally they pried the door open and the driver actually stepped out. He was very shaky and they got him on the ambulance rolly cart and strapped him down and popped him into ambulance. Obviously, he must not have been too terribly injured because the ambulance just hung around and hung around and then started to go but stopped by the cop car and they talked for a good while, probably comparing salad dressing recipes.
The cops hung around after everyone left, so we went to bed again. 30 minutes later the tow trucks showed up to haul it all away. It’s a noisy proposition to get two busted up cars out of the way. I did really want to make a colorful picture of a fireman with an axe, but I really have no talent.
Being that I’m trying not to be judgemental and I am trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, I am not going to just say the driver was way drunk. I’m going to assume that maybe he’d worked 16 hours today and was dead exhausted and fell asleep or he had one of those diabetic woozly things.

Inner calm

I’m working on being a calmer person. This is my constant goal, I am always working on it to varying degrees of success depending on the month. Right now, I’m working on not judging people, on understanding that more often than not, there is quite a bit more to the situation than I can see.
Of course, being an NPR junkie, they rewarded me (push the button/get the peanut) in my quest by playing a commentary by Andrei Codrescu, also published here.
This was it, this is exactly what I am trying to achieve. Mostly it works fine, I rarely get angry at parents with crying kids on airplanes, but I think that the people who do get angry at the parent are gigantic dicks. So it works like halfway, I don’t judge the parents, but I do judge the crabby people (I just can’t stop believing they are dicks). I don’t judge people for their weight, lord knows I understand just how hard it is to lose weight, but I think the people who are all smug about their ‘healthy’ lifestyles are…dicks. Again, I need to work on this. As an atheist, I try to be understanding of all religions and people’s levels of faith, but I think hardnosed atheists who like to think they’re all smart for their lack of belief are a great big bunch of dicks (including Richard Dawkins, I’m sorry, I know, but still, he’s such a dick about it).
So, my goal now is not to be understanding of the underdog, I think i’m doing okay there. I need to be less judgemental of the major dicks. That’s my struggle, do not judge the person who says “god, if they would just discipline their kid it wouldn’t be screaming” or “why don’t you try a little self control on the cheetohs” or “having people believe there is a pink unicorn in my garage doesn’t make the pink unicorn real” (SHUT UP). I will be more calm about these people, I will understand that every point of view is valuable, even if I do not agree.
However, that chick at Hot Plate that was begging her mom for a car (“but i’m almost 19″…”it will be an incentive to keep my grades up”…”it would make it really convenient for me to go to Walgreens when I need something”) is just not getting a pass from me, sorry. If you’re ‘almost 19’ then have some fucking responsibility and get a job. Actually, that’s kind of what her mom was telling her anyway.