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.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Friday Edition by Betta Ferrendelli



It's a blog tour, folks! Dozens of people writing reviews of the same book, and you chose to read mine? I can't say that speaks highly of your judgement, but I am grateful to you nonetheless. As I was grateful to read this suspenseful murder mystery! Samantha Church, our cunning protagonist, faces a slate of obstacles in her quest to make sense of the circumstances of her sister's death, but believe it or not, as she gets closer and closer to the truth, she has to deal with the possibility that people won't believe her because of her own personal flaws. And that, my friends, is something I can relate to.

You will probably find it shocking to learn that I have often been accused of having personal flaws myself. And not all of these relate to my personal hygiene! I have at times been demeaning to others, especially people who deserve it, mind you, like my no-good son-in-law Gerry, who insists that laundry be sorted into 5 groups from light to dark. God damn it - don't you realize that all those fancy buttons are lies? The washing machine only does one thing, for crying out loud.

Also, my language is not always pristine, I have occasionally spoken ill of my neighbors, last week I told a cashier that I had a coupon for Metamucil that didn't exist and asked him to give it to me half price anyway, I once put bullion in my grandson's showerhead, I hate puppies, I am a bad listener, I don't understand how the internet works, I won't share my pickle recipes, I occasionally berate people in public with scant provocation, I have poor feng shui, and I tend to write run-on sentences.

And because of these trivial shortcomings, my opinions are often discounted unfairly. And yet, I am almost always right! When they came out with New Coke, I was in one of the first taste tests, and I told them if they thought anyone would drink that swill, they were a bunch of fucking idiots, and you know how that turned out. And no matter how many times I have told my family that we should invest in one of those underground bunkers because one day the whole world will be run by trigger-happy fascists, they never listen, and now look where we are. And I told my grandson that Golden Corral was the absolute last place he should take his prom date, but even after two liters of IV fluids, did he ever admit I was right? No, he did not.

So, the moral of the story is, don't kill people. And the moral of the review is, listen to me, damn it!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Spying on the South by Tony Horwitz



Tony Horwitz retraces the pre-civil war travels of Frederick Olmsted and draws interesting parallels, commenting on his diverse experiences in the rural south. It is expertly written, but not always a flattering picture, with a heavy dose of racism, misogyny, and violence to really brighten your spirits about American culture, both past and present. But if you really want to hear about a trip to make you depressed about America, forget the rural south, you should have been with me last weekend. I went to an indoor waterpark.

Let me briefly summarize this experience. Waterparks are cacophonous, fetid cesspools of germs and filth, filled with screaming children, drunk adults, and people demanding that you buy something at all times. And I haven't even gotten to the pools yet - I'm just talking about the lobby! The actual pools are much worse. 

I have to admit that it was shockingly poor judgment to allow myself to be roped into this trip. My grandkids and some of their friends were going, and my daughter thought it would be good "family time" for all of us to go together. I protested that there was nothing for a mature gentleman such as myself to do (it has been 30 years since I was on a 'ride' of any kind), but she told me about the hot tubs and the "lazy river" that would surely make me feel relaxed and peaceful. In short, I got suckered.

We arrived at 9AM, and I ambled over to the hot tub to take a peek. My first observation was a guy wearing sunglasses (indoors, mind you), holding a nearly empty, mammoth margarita glass with neon letters on it, proclaiming "72 oz. MARG! Biggest in town!" His previously unattended 4-year-old came wandering over, half-crying with snot running down his face. Without putting down his margarita, the man pulled the boy into the hot tub, rubbed off the snot in the pool, then told him to "go find a slide or something." And so ended my interest in the hot tub.

The lazy river was no better. While the water does move slowly, there is nothing peaceful about it. It is basically a game of water-bound musical chairs, where 200 violent hoodlums of all ages compete for 50 floating tubes with no holds barred. I watched a full-grown adult tip a 10-year-old off a tube and run away with it. The "lifeguards" stood there ogling each other in their skimpy suits and making hook-up plans for closing time. 

With no watersports practically available to me, I had the options of inhaling chlorine fumes, surveying the variety of tattoos on display, or sampling the plethora of fried foods offered. The menu at this place would have given Michelle Obama a nervous breakdown. The closest thing I saw to a vegetable all weekend was a fried pickle, and after one bite I was offended on behalf of all pickles everywhere. Luckily, I had this book! So I put a layer of plastic bags over the bedspread (I can't prove it, but I guarantee there were bedbugs), and I read about someone on a better trip than mine. Thanks Tony, and God Bless America!


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Bulb by Bradley Wind


OK snowflakes - here's a dystopian thriller ready to obliterate whatever is left of your Adderall-riddled minds. Mr. Wind has created a world in which every single thing you do is recorded and available for viewing by anyone at any time. The sad part is that I'm sure a lot of you young people probably see nothing wrong with that! I mean, here you are, posting selfies of everything you eat, videoblogging yourselves picking your noses, and publicly rating every shit you take on a 5-star scale. But I am old enough to remember a world where dignity and privacy existed, and I found this book both spellbinding and terrifying.

I was going to call this book a futuristic cliffhanger, but the truth is - this future is not that far off! Look around you right now. Do you see the cameras? Look closer - they are watching you! The NSA, CIA, FBI, AAA, PETA, AARP, 4H, BBB, NBA, YMCA, LMNOP - they all want to know what you're doing. And why? Not for national security or anything like that - just because people are nosy fuckers, that's why.

The evidence is all around us. Just the other day, my son stopped by after his lecture at the university. After a nice discussion of how many holes in your shirt is appropriate for a professor and why he can't keep a girlfriend (perhaps two related issues), we talked about a book we were both interested in reading. Sure enough, just a couple days later, an Amazon package with no return address arrived with that exact book! How could that happen? Mr. Bezos - I know you are reading this, and while I appreciate the book, I will not be bribed! Did you know that if you sign up for Amazon Prime, they now insert a chip into your neck that can read your thoughts? It's amazing what people will do for a half-priced avocado at Whole Foods.

It's not just fancy technology that brings this on either. Wherever people exist, they will want to spy on other people. Take my neighbor, Margaret. I can see right into her dining room from my kitchen window, and half the time I look over there, she is just staring out the window at me, trying to see what I'm doing! And if I look from my upstairs hallway with my bird-watching binoculars, I can see her writing at her table, and I can make out little bits of it, and it looks like she is writing reports on my activities! Dammit Margaret - leave me alone! So enjoy this imaginative fiction for now, folks, because in a few years we'll be re-reading it as a documentary.

Monday, January 6, 2020

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer



Jonathan Safran Foer wants us to stop global warming by no longer eating animal products. And unfortunately, he makes a pretty strong case that is difficult to argue with. But I'll tell you this - I am not about to let a bunch of facts and rational arguments stop me from eating delicious juicy steaks! I earned that shit, people! But I'll make all you crunchy eco-warriors a deal - I will offset my steak consumption by no longer taking showers. We'll call that a win/win! Showers are a hassle anyway, especially because my son-in-law never got around to installing that shower seat he told he would put in - thanks for nothing, Gerry! You're just waiting for me to fall, aren't you? Anyway, maybe every time I would have taken a shower, I'll just eat a steak instead. It's much safer. Besides, I truly doubt that I will be alive long enough to eat a number of steaks that makes any discernible difference to the climate. I'm afraid this is something that your generation is just going to have to deal with on your own. Thanks, snowflakes!

Also, I hope all you pinko tree-huggers realize that there is some sinister shit happening in the vegetable world as well. For example, are you aware of how mini-carrots are made? I always assumed that they had spliced the genes of a carrot with those of a chinchilla or a pygmy hedgehog or something - I mean, what isn't a GMO these days, right? But get this, those are just - I shit you not - regular carrots! This is the most shocking revelation since Soylent Green! Apparently, they just shave those normal carrots down until they're tiny, because Americans are too damn lazy to peel their own carrots or to eat something too large to put in their mouth all at once. The amount of waste inherent in that process is mind-boggling. And it is pretty sad to realize that mini-carrots are not an agricultural advance, but just the impotent, empty shell of a once-proud species, like a neutered dog or a moderate Republican. So don't lecture me about my well-marbled t-bone.

Here's the craziest thing that ever happened to me involving a mini-carrot (it was tough to narrow this down, mind you). One time, when I was pissed at Gerry (deservedly), I threw a mini-carrot at him across the room (you'll have to trust me that this was an appropriate response at the time). Somehow I missed, and the carrot landed in the garbage can and impaled itself lengthwise on the open end of an envelope, like it was getting a giant paper cut, and it stayed upright on the envelope on top of the garbage. OK, now that I re-read that, it doesn't seem as amazing as it did at the time, but at my age you don't always have such crazy stories, so cut me some slack, eh? And still, what are the odds of that happening? I bet if I gave you 100 mini-carrots, you couldn't do that once. Any takers? That's what I thought. OK, steak time.