Thursday, February 27, 2020

Kingshold by D.P. Woolliscroft


Guess what people - I grew a beard! Just goes to show that you are never too old to try something new. And what a beard it is! Noble, elegant, distinguished. It is a beard to put all other beards to shame. Think Harrison Ford. Or Sean Connery. Or maybe Harrison Ford playing the lead role in a biopic about Sean Connery. For a dissenting opinion, you can talk to my daughter Rachel, who told me I look like the Unabomber. But what the hell does she know? I bet she never grew a beard or met the Unabomber, so she can shut the hell up.

I am at least partially indebted to this book for this glorious, regal beard. This is the kind of adventure story in which everyone should have a beard - character or reader. In fact, the more the action grew, the more I imagined that everyone had a beard! Bards, wizards, servants, male or female, old or young - beards for all! In my opinion, it made the book even more exciting. I also appreciated the idea of replacing a monarchy with a democracy, especially since around here, we seem to be currently experimenting with the opposite. But dictatorships aren't all bad, I suppose. When I succeed King Trump, I will decree that all American shall don beards! And pickles will be named our national food! And our national drink will be gin in a coffee cup with the words "World's Best Grampa" misspelled on it. I am already ahead of the curve.

To be fair, this book is not the only reason I decided to grow a beard. Beyond the fact that I have scant purpose in life and literally no need to look respectable any more, it's fucking cold outside! Don't get me wrong - I try not to leave my house intentionally, but sometimes you have no choice but to go get the mail or yell at a teenager on a skateboard. My neighbor Margaret has her little schnauzer dressed up in a sweater that matches her overcoat again, which is a sign of two things. First, it is too cold to walk your dog. Second, my neighbor is an idiot.

The elephant in the room here is that my face is becoming virtually unshaveable. I have been diligent about this for a long time, but the writing is on the wall. The wrinkles in my face are starting to resemble the Mariana Trench. I may have to actually iron my face before shaving it from now on. The hairs themselves are thick enough to be used as toothpicks, and last week I used my cheek to smooth a wooden banister when I ran out of sandpaper. It's pretty much like trying to shave an elephant's balls at this point, which I can tell you is nearly impossible. But that, friends, is a story for another day.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Rise of Gaia by Kristin Ward

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Well, it appears that I am not qualified to be a sheep herder. I was actually able to talk to a guy who runs a ranch in Wyoming, and I explained my predicament. He agreed that my neighbors sound like a bunch of assholes, and when I asked about his, he told me that due to his location, he has no neighbors. Could it be Heaven on Earth? I begged him to let me come, but he said that I wasn't qualified, not only due to my age (I think he smelled a discrimination lawsuit), but also due to my "lack of necessary skills, knowledge, and relevant experience." Well, damn. I told him that if you basically just sit on a horse all day, I am already a champion sitter here in my La-z-boy, and he told me that if I came out there and tried to do that job, "the land would destroy me." Funny, I told him, I just read a book about that.

It was a good book too! I was grateful to be included in this blog tour, as I don't think I would have found this one otherwise. But the theme was timely, the characters were compelling, and the plot moved quickly. I always like seeing bad people (read: most people) get their comeuppance, so I settled in for some nice schadenfreude as the Earth punished everyone. And I was reminded of battles with nature from my own past.

When Eleanor and I moved into this house, there was a big old stump in the backyard. Eleanor wanted to put it in the contract that the previous owner would have to remove it, but things got a little tense when I commented on the recent abysmal paint job and the cracks in the ceiling they had tried to plaster over, so we were worried that anything more might jeopardize the sale. I assured her that I could take care of it, and she gave me the look. And God bless her, she was right, as usual.

I started with my saw, figuring I could get the majority that way, as well as some roots. I have to admit that I didn't fully understand the depth, length, or width of the roots, and after losing three teeth (two on the saw, one of mine when I pulled too hard trying to get it unstuck from a particularly large root), I was pissed. So I got out my ax, and I went to town. After about an hour, I had made virtually no progress, but I felt better. It's always good for your mind to swing an ax at something, I think. Anyway, I thought I might be able to wrap a chain around it and pull it out with my car, but then I realized that I had axed away anything I might be able to chain it to. It was about that moment that I saw my new neighbor Margaret peering through her windows and laughing at me. Thirty-four years later, I have not forgiven her.

The next day, a friend stopped by with a housewarming gift, and he told me that he had removed a stump in his yard with dynamite and that he had a couple extra sticks leftover. Something primal and  manly deep inside me was triggered, and I knew that this was the solution. What I did not know was that dynamite sticks are directional, and it actually matters what way they are facing when you blow something up. I ended up with a crater big enough to be designated as a lake in Minnesota, and the entirety of the former contents were splattered all over my newly (abysmally) painted house. HOWEVER, the stump was gone, and I painted the house an appropriate color. So, in the end, Seymour 1, Earth 0. Take that, Gaia!


Monday, February 10, 2020

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Erlich



Well butter my biscuits, did I ever get some, let's call it "feedback," after that last post. Apparently, some people don't see the obvious dilapidation of society all around us as clearly as I do. Some people think we all love each and march down the street hand in hand singing Kumbaya and eating apple pie every day. Hell, even my neighbor Margaret had to offer her opinion. She said that this is a lovely neighborhood, and we all get along and trust each other. Well, guess what Margaret? I don't trust you, and I don't trust your schnauzer either! Admittedly, that is beside the point, but I hate that damn dog. Anyway, I told her there was no reason for her to be reading my blog anyway, but she laughed and said it was "charming." I was infuriated. I assume she didn't read this, this, or this (Look Jackson, I can do hyperlinks!).

Anyway - if this neighborhood is such a perfect, trusting society, explain this to me. A few years ago, my granddaughter Tina was visiting, and Eleanor and I had just bought her some new roller skates. No, not roller blades, you idiots. Real, actual roller skates, like God intended. Why do people have ruin everything and call it a technological advancement? But that's beside the point. We just wanted Tina to do something other than talk to insects and squirrels all day, and she liked the roller skates, so one point for us! She asked if she could go skate around the neighborhood for a while and show her friend Sally.

So 20 minutes go by, and I start to think I should check on her. I am about 60% sure I know where Sally lives, so I walk up there, and there's nobody home. Another kid comes by on her bike, and I stop her and ask if this is Sally's house, and she confirms that it is. She must have gone somewhere else then. I figure Tina will come home when she's hungry and I so I walk home. Sound normal to you?

Lo and behold, the parents of the girl on the bike were about a block and a half behind her and observed our 10-second conversation. About 15 minutes later, Tina comes home in a panic saying that a woman had stopped her to warn her that a creepy old man had been sneaking around the neighborhood looking for little girls! She asked where Tina lived and told her to go home right away. Five minutes later, the woman shows up at my house to further expand on her warning, and when I open the door, she shouts, "It's you!" I politely explained that it was my damn house, so who else should it be? The look on her face told me that she knew she had fucked up, but she was so high on righteous anger and pathological fear that she told me her story anyway, only adding at the end that I must already know the story because it was me all along. I explained what had really happened and invited her to talk a walk, unescorted, away from my property. She did so.

So, the point is, don't give me any pie in the sky story about the state of society. I know what's up out there, and it's not good. Luckily, this beautiful book has given me a new idea. I now intend to move to Wyoming and become a sheep herder. It seems that sheep have a lot more humanity than humans. I have already sent some letters inquiring about positions. So if this turns out to be the last review I write, I'd like to thank you for reading it, and I hope you all have a nice life or whatever. AOM out.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The End by MLT




Hold on to your seats, suckers! This book is an action-packed thriller, as a bunch of misfit heroes, laden with all kinds of emotional baggage, try to save the world from a bunch of vampires, multi-headed hydras, dragons, giant metal monsters that are beyond my gin-addled brain's ability to properly understand, and a plethora of multi-colored hellhounds. No small task as you might imagine. But what really gets in the way, beyond the myriad creatures from the abyss, is their lack of a sense of community. If they had just been able to get along better, I'm sure they could have closed the portals and confined these otherworldly beasts to other worlds. But that's just typical for society these days, isn't it? Let me share an example.

Now that I have become fluent with "electronic mail," my grandson put me on some kind of list where I get a bunch of stupid messages from everyone in my neighborhood. And you would not believe the crap people write. When I moved here, the neighbors all spoke to one another with their actual mouths. You would see everyone at school or neighborhood events, and you might spend a moment or two thinking before actually speaking. Conversely, I guess thinking before sending an email is not a thing.

The first message that came through was from someone claiming to be putting a fully functioning, never used ice cream maker on the curb for anyone to take. This was obviously a lie. I mean, who would do that? First of all, get off your ass and make some damn ice cream! Is it too much work for you? I hope you realize that that machine was explicitly made for lazy fuckers who can't be bothered to make ice cream the real way. And even that was too much to ask? Pathetic. Second, if you really had one that worked, wouldn't you give it to a friend instead of putting it on the street? Too lazy put dial the phone too, or just no friends? My thought on this ice cream maker was that it was broken at best, and a trap at worst. Sadistic child poisoners or something like that. I lumbered up there just to save the kids but it was gone before I arrived. I'll be scanning the obits even more closely than usual this week.

Then a message came through from someone "concerned about safety in the community." According to this armchair vigilante, someone was peeking over his fence to scope out the premises, then knocked on his door in broad daylight to see if anyone was home. He then left, but we should all be on the lookout! An hour later came a response that read, "That was me. I am your neighbor and have lived next to you for 10 years. I got some firewood, saw that your pile was low, and came to offer you some." And that pretty much sums it up, folks. We don't need vampires to destroy our communities - we are doing it ourselves! Any chance that portal is still open? I might prefer to take my chances on the other side.