The rape of the world

Dear Blogosphere, I’d like to have a conversation. It’s going to be a one-sided conversation, seeing how no one really reads my blog, but I want to have it anyway. I want to talk about us, as a people. Not as black or white, male or female, gay or straight, of a certain religion, as American or Brazilian, but as citizens of the planet.

To begin our conversation, picture me sitting at my laptop on a stormy night. As I was feeding my addiction to social media this evening, I came across the following photo-

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I normally ignore these chain-mail inspired “words of wisdom” because frankly, they are faithfully stupid and a waste of good reading time I could be using to catch up on a friend’s daily life or delve into a book. I read this one for some reason, clicked “like”, and scrolled on.

As the thunder continued to shake the walls of my apartment in the midst of a really intense storm growing more serious, literally, by the second, I ignored the emergency alert system texts that continued to beep from my phone across the room while reading Facebook status after status about people in my area hiding in their basements, watching trees go down in their backyards, making funny comments about ” playing Little House on the Prairie” because their power was out. Read, like, scroll.

As I ended my ten minute social media update check, my mind went back to that photo-quote. I clicked back over to Facebook, found it once more, and thought something I’ve pondered many times- what in the fuck are we doing to ourselves?

At this point, you’re probably either thinking, “oh great, another environmentalist about to go all Captain Planet on us…” or “oh great, someone about to rant about a topic I already agree with him on and don’t need to waste time reading…” I’m not here to do that. I love planet Earth, but I’m not an obsessive eco-terrorist here to try to impress you with a vast memory bank of carbon related facts or animal extinction rates. All I’m here to do is to ask you, try to convince you, of one small very small thing, but I’ll get to that later.

Reader, there is no need for me to expound upon the quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson pictured above. He is a much more intelligent man than I, and a much better writer as well. I feel it would be almost rude of me to try to make a better statement than he. But I’d like to ask how we have gotten to this point.

Even as I type, mother nature is confirming to me that she is pissed, and she means business. Lightening is flashing though my window like a dance club strobe light, and the thunder… It’s an undescribable sound. Not just shaking the earth, but booming so loudly it’s exciting even the molecules in the air, almost as if you can feel them, collectively, brushing up against your leg or rustling your hair. The tornado warning continues to cry from my phone and hell is breaking loose outside. Why have we continued to turn a blind eye to the havoc we as humans are reeking on our only home?

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In all fairness, I should give an abridged background about the area I live in. The hills of East Tennessee are no stranger to thunderstorms. Its not rare for us to see as much rain as Seattle through out parts of the year, and the thick masses of vegetation and forestry are lucky enough to rarely experience drought.

Growing up, I remember a few isolated instances where my parents would be watching TV, being interrupted by a emergency weather alert, and once the storm hit you could see the worry in their faces, trying to stay calm for their children but knowing that it could become dangerous very quickly. On one of those occasions, we even saw a funnel cloud forming over the ridge that sits in front of our family home. Summer storms are a part of life where I live.

The alarming thing about these storms is not that they are happening. It’s the rate and intensity in which they are happening. As my area of the world gets pounded by incredibly sever weather once, twice a week at minimum, California is going through sever drought. Wild fires rage through Washington state. Drastic weather change producing shortages in avocados, limes, mangoes, and other tropical fruit while typhoons wipe out Pacific islands. To deny that something is amiss, that our planet isn’t changing at an alarming rate, has become foolish.

How much more can the planet take? Picture Earth as a human body. How many toxins can a body breath into its lungs, how much oil and debris can a bloodstream flush, how many holes can you dig into the skin and extract a body’s resources before it no longer is a livable body? How close are we to that time of death?

Reader, I feel like I’ve probably already lost you. I’ve got more to say, but it’s already been said by many before me, and I’ve lost my train of thought in the midst of Stormaggedon continuing to rage outside. I also see this unedited mess of stream of consciousness going south before my eyes. But before I end our conversation, I want to go back to that thing I said I was going to ask of you.

Do one small thing a day to make our planet a better place to live. Whether you believe in man-made climate change or not, one thing a day. Cut the plastic can holders on your six packs so they don’t entangle animals. Cut your shower concert one minute short to save some limited clean water. Don’t ask the grocery store clerk to bag your milk gallon and save a bag. One tiny thought per day adds up to 365 tiny thoughts a year that go toward making our home a cleaner, better place to live.

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Review- “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)

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Reader, I had a lengthy inner dialogue with myself before writing this review about whether or not to give a forewarning of the almost excessive positive bias I have for J.K. Rowling. Obviously, I chose to make the responsible decision as a reviewer and make that disclosure.

Like many of you other twenty-somethings out there, Rowling was a spirit guide whose fantasy world of Harry Potter comforted me through the awkward stages of teenage life. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the novel that made me fall in love with literature. It awakened a previously hidden love for reading and writing I never knew I possessed, and all her work that followed, I have absolutely raved about with friends and coworkers. What I’m trying to say is that reader, be warned. The queen, Madame Rowling, my one of my idols, both in literature and in life, and rave review you’re about to be given is going to be soaking with bias. So let’s get to this damn fine story of Whodunit, shall we?

The Silkworm is the second volume in the Cormoran Strike detective/mystery/thriller series that picks up several months after the conclusion of The Cuckoo’s Calling. Strike and his lovable assistant Robin have achieved nation wide fame after solving the murder of world-famous supermodel Lula Landry, taking his dying detective business from near foreclosure to a booming brand, attracting suspicious husbands or divorcing wives who want to gain an advantage over their spouses. Read a synopsis of The Cuckoo’s Calling on Goodreads here.

Business is at an all time high for Strike, but he’s quickly grown bored of lucrative but unfulfilling assignments. All that changes when Leonora Quine, the eccentric wife of writer Owen Quine, walks into Strike’s office and hires him to find her husband who has gone missing.

Leonora tells Strike that her husband disappears for days at a time on the regular, but Strike soon realizes that there is something much more going on under the surface in this particular instance. Just before disappearing Quine wrote and submitted for publishing his self-described “magnum opus”, Bombyx Mori, that cruelly slanders and reveals the deepest secrets of publishing bigwigs, coworkers in his own publishing company, his rivals, and his own family and friends. The leaked manuscript is the talk of the London publishing world, and it’s soon apparent that many people have a very large motive to get rid of Quine.

When Strike finds the author brutally murderer, Quine’s wife is the main and only suspect of the police and it’s a race against time for Strike and Robin to find who really murdered Owen Quine.

As usual, Rowling’s prose is just breathtaking. She has a way with words comparable to the Steinbecks, the Garcia-Marquezes, the Prousts (like I warned you, I’m a Rowling fantard. You were warned). She writers dialogue better than anyone in the game. The awkward dialogue that is the bane of many writers, those moments that make readers think, “Who in the hell talks like that??”- they don’t phase her. She is truly a master of her craft and while she is very acclaimed, she still doesn’t get the credit she deserves for being such a brilliant writer.

The underlying themes are still apparent, even in a classic Whodunit crime mystery novel. There is the continually developing theme established in the series’s kick-off volume of a soldier’s life after the hell of war. How you get by with an amputated leg as a result of a war injury with a government that has all but forgotten you.

Another strong theme she plays with in The Silkworm is the idea that while women have advanced vastly, there are still double standards and expectations of women that make things difficult in their family lives. Robin’s finance’s disdain for her career choice and her work environment and obligations not only lead to further developments in her character, but highlight the still unfair social expectations of women.

Her criticism of the Darwinistic world of the publishing industry is what shines through most. From the delusions of authors past their prime, to the ruthlessness of publishers, you really get a sense that she’s telling us stories of personal experience. This is summed up in one of the books finest quotes from Quine’s rival writer-

…writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want life-long friendships and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels.

She also highlights one of the major challenges authors and publishing companies alike face in the modern world of literature with

The whole world’s writing novels, but nnobody’s reading them.

The Silkworm really was just a fantastic, greatly written thrill ride that improved where its predecessor failed. My main beef with The Cuckoo’s Calling was that Rowling provides clue after clue to solving the mystery along side the duo, but it was such a jumbled picture that it was impossible to guess ‘who dun it.’ I’m not going to pretend that I was clever enough to guess the killer in this installment, but the right clues were given for a wise enough mystery solver to guess the killer.

Reader, all I can really say is just read it. Head down to the used book store tomorrow or get on your e-reader and start this insanely entertaining series now.

5 out of 5 stars!

Meet your new favorite band! A review of “Days Are Gone” by Haim

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You know how once or twice a year, you buy an album and instantly fall head over heels for it? It sits in your car’s CD player for months without being removed and somehow sneaks four or five songs onto every new iTunes playlist you create? You know you will eventually move on and find another album to incessantly treat your hearing sense to, but that album will always be a favorite, reminding you of a certain time in your life. A song will start playing and instantly stir up a memory- a perfect night, cruising down the highway and seeing the beauty in the city lights, a nostalgic longing for an old friend or a lost lover. Nothing could better describe Haim’s debute album Days Are Gone.

The album busts right out of the gates with Falling. An echoing drum beat starts the journey, almost reminiscent of an echoing heartbeat. 45 second in, the melody really picks up into a more up-beat, and for lack of a better word, “fun” tempo that really sets up the mood of the album. You know from the first tune that your ears are about to be treated to a really nice experience, something that eclipses the monotony of modern pop, but is unpretentious and enjoyable.

Next come the real highlights of the album- Forever, The Wire, and If I Could Change Your Mind. Forever was the teaser single released in late 2012, over a year before the album’s release. It instantly turned the heads of critics, both amateur and professional, and drew (very warranted) comparisons to Fleetwood Mac. The Wire provides the most technical sounding track on the album- a bassy soft rock anthem that is enough to turn any sour mood upside down. You can just feel how much work went into the process of perfecting the production of the song. My personal favorite is the album’s fourth single, If I Could Change Your Mind. Instead of a description, I’ll let the music speak for itself. Click here to here the song via YouTube.

Part 2 of the Days Are Gone review to follow soon!

Review- “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

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Maybe I should have let this one marinade for a day or two before really sitting down to write a review. The Handmaid’s Tail, like it or not, is one of those novels that really makes you think; it makes you question what you’re reading and wonder how it relates to what is actually going on in our society almost twenty years after it was published. But I’m not going to wait. I’m going to write immediate thoughts because I’m upset.

I’m a huge Atwood fan. I love the worlds she creates and the themes she explores in her books, and this one was no different, but we’ll talk about that in a bit. For now, picture it- me, sitting in one of those awful 24-hour diners where the server is always female, refers to you as ‘hon’, and is too old to be working so hard and too tired to care. I’m fifty or so pages from the end, so eager to get to the finale and the resolution to protagonist Offred’s fate that my scrambled eggs and toast have officially become a very ignored third wheel in my date with Atwood.

Page after page, I can sense that Marla is becoming a bit annoyed by my presence in her booth. I’m so engrossed that I barely notice the sigh she lets out as she sets down my fourth cup of coffee. Then that “Bam!” That feeling of betrayal that engulfs you when the novel you’ve invested so much energy into ends in a way that makes you too upset to even move. I felt like a rabbit who had spent hours and hours chasing a carrot on a string that finally realized it had been dupped… But more on that in a bit…

The Handmaid’s Tale is a distopian novel by Margaret Atwood, set in the fictional Republic of Gilead. Fundamentalist Christians have, seemingly overnight, enacted a brilliantly planned government coup, seizing and freezing bank funds, closing the boarders (but this time to keep people in), and placing women back into a Middle-Ages role as property. Its a first-person narration, the story of Offred who, like all women, have been stripped of their families, their rights, even forbidden to read or socialize, and placed into one of four roles assigned for their purpose in society.

Offred is a Handmaid. Humanity is slowly dying off from infertility rates of extinctual proportions. Payment for our sins. Our destruction of the planet, viruses as a result of our dangerous disregard for overpopulation, destruction from new war techniques. Handmaids are the few, the fertile. Their function in this grim look at the future is to serve as slaves- reproductive organs transfered from home to home, family to family, and legally “raped” by the male family head once a month (reveiwer’s note: its never referred to as rape in Offred’s narration, but it is a forced sexual act for both the male and female, almost as if both parties are victims who empathize with their wrongdoer, which is the reason for the quotes) in hopes of getting pregrant and repopulating society. They are upheld as the most valued women of society while being the most reviled.

Atwood’s prose is really stunning in this work. The disjointed timeline of events in the narration flash back and forth from Offred’s present day hell, to a happier time- “The Time Before” the coup when she had a husband, a child, property, access to knowledge and rights. You root for her. The development of characters is amazing as Atwood slowly reveals the ugly traits found in the ‘good’ and human traits in the ‘evil’.

The warning calls sounded by Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale are every bit as real and scary as Orwell’s 1984. “It will never happen here…” But in the back of your mind you know it could. Faceless corpses being hung off of walls- those of people who were known athiests or Jews or homosexuals or even scientists in The Time Before. Those who rebeled from the new Old Testament law in even the most minor way hauled away in daylight and never heard from again. Her criticism of fundamentalist religion, especially toward its disregard for women’s rights isn’t even slightly disguised.

But back to me in the diner, the ending. Reader, I don’t want to disuade you from reading this thought-provoking work just because I hated the ending. The epilogue made me so upset that I wanted to carve “Margaret Atwood sucks!” or some similarly childish graffiti into the diner’s bathroom stall. But while the destination turned out to be disappointing, the journy was exhilarating as a reader. Fans of distopian fiction or authors with a feminist perspective will thoroughly enjoy this one.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

The first rule of Blog Club

Well, there is no first rule of Blog Club. Or any rules for that matter, at least on my tiny planet in the giant universe called Blogosphere. But if you happen to stop by, expect a bit of everything.

As you you can read from the opening entry in my first public blog, this is an avenue for me to continue to practice  something I love- writing. After years of journaling my experiences and short stories in private blogs, I’ve finally decided to share what I’ve got to say with the world.

Expect stories about my life or observations on everyday experiences. Expect me to try, and often fail, at being funny. Expect short stories I’ve written, my take on news headlines, or reviews and thoughts on the latest novel I’m reading. Sometimes even expect a photo from my garden or just a quote that piques my interest.

This adventure has been long overdue. It’s time to rock and roll!

Confessions

For a long time, 27 years really, I’ve never really been able to admit, to anyone else or even to myself, what it is that I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to write.

It hit me tonight just as I finished bombing while doing a standup comedy set. Everything. That I had been denying to myself for years that my truest passion is telling stories- putting out what I had to say, what I thought, verbalizing or dictating fantasies of a better world, exploring the nightmares that jar me awake at night, sharing anecdotes that made me laugh or cry. That I had never fully admitted my desire to myself because I was a coward, scared of facing the inevitable failures I would experience along the way and taking a risk that leaves the few happy and successful, but most constantly searching for that big break, that “Eureka!” moment of genius or inspiration that is constantly sought over the course of a lifetime but never found.

Most of all I realized that I had never believed in myself. My vocabulary was too limited, my prose was too bland… Spending a lifetime reading the greatest voices to ever walk the earth and thinking I’d never be able produce something worthy of collecting dust on a self next to their timeless works of art.  Ten pages here, a page and a half there, all never shared but ripped and wadded and thrown into the garbage with the same dignity as an expired package of mozzarella cheese.

Maybe I’ll never discover a passion I deem as worthy of a lifetime of work that leaves me as fulfilled as exploring literature and creating my own. Maybe I’ll never gain the confidence, that “it” persona that it takes to pursue such a Darwinistic path. Whatever happens, I’ve bared my soul for you all to see. This is my confession. I want to write.