Wang – Koko Be Good

Koko Be Good by Jen Wang

Date read: 01 February 2016
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Wang's Koko Be Good

Paperback, 1 volume unpaged
Published 2010 by First Second
Source: Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [PN 6727.W284 K65 2010]

A sort of -coming-of-age story and one of finding oneself in the world. It was alright but between the artwork and even the narrative I was lost far too often. I either had no idea what took place to generate some reaction in one of the characters or I could not understand their motivation when I did.

I generally really liked the artwork but sometimes it just wasn’t clear what was going on.

Your mileage may vary.

This is the 13th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Tezuka – Ode to Kirihito

Ode to Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka; Camellia Nieh, transl.

Date read: 26-27 January 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016transl

Alternate cover image of Tezuka's Ode to Kirihito

Paperback, 822 pages
Published 2006 by Vertical (originally serialized in Japanese as Kirihito Sanka in Biggu Komikkui, Shogakkan, 1970-71)
Source: OSU-Cascades at Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [CASCADES PN 6790 .J33 K5713 2006]

Rape, murder, conspiracy, intentional infection, pride. No doubt, there are probably several other “deadly sins” in this work. I quite enjoyed this. Do not be put off by its size; it took me maybe three hours to read it.

People in a remote village in Japan are turning into dog people and then dying. A promising young doctor is dispatched to determine the vector of Monmow disease. From that remote village we travel the world with a small cast of characters all connected in various ways. The disease is found in a remote mining operation in Africa. What is the cause? Can it be cured or at least halted?

The author, Osama Tezuka (1928-1989), is “the godfather of Japanese manga comics. He originally intended to become a doctor and earned his degree before turning to what was still then considered a frivolous medium” (back inside flap). So he is imminently qualified to write a medical thriller.

This book is not in manga form and I assume the original was since we get this disclaimer on the title page verso: “The artwork of the original has been produced as a mirror-image in order to conform with the English language.”

Highly enjoyed it. Not for children: sex, naked bodies, more than one rape scene. I need to look into more work by Tezuka, including “his eight-volume epic Buddha, winner of the Eisner and Harvey Awards” (back inside flap).

This is the 8th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 5th book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Modan – Exit Wounds

Exit wounds by Rutu Modan; translation by Noah Stollman

Date read: 22 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016transl

Cover image of Modan's Exit Wounds

Hardback, 172 pages
Published 2007 by Drawn & Quarterly
Source: Deschutes Public Library

I enjoyed this. I don’t feel like I can say a lot about it without giving away the story, though.

This has been on my to be read list for a while now but I recently read Modan’s The Property so I went ahead and moved this one to the top of the heap.

This is what I said about The Property and I think it equally applies, although the walls and directions are different in this earlier work:

“I quite enjoyed this quick read; I read it in [just] under an hour.    Walls are put up only to be dismantled from another direction. Affections of all kinds, and how quickly we can gain and lose them, are beautifully illuminated. Old animosities are reinforced and challenged. It is a properly complicated look at our world and some of its complications.

The art work is lovely and effective at conveying subtle and rapidly changing moods.”

The ellipsis covers the few story detail I gave which are different, of course. For this one let me quote from the publisher’s blurb on the back cover:

“In modern-day Tel Aviv, a young man, Koby Franco, receives an urgent call from a female solider named Numi. Learning that his estranged father may have been a victim of a suicide bombing in Hadera, Koby reluctantly joins Numi in searching for clues. As Koby tries to unravel the mystery of his missing father, he fide himself not only piecing together the last few months of his father’s life, but his entire identity” [back cover, Exit Wounds].

Accurate as such. I think “entire identity” is a bit of a stretch but you will learn plenty.

Recommended if you like reading graphic novels that help illuminate what it is to be human. I think I enjoyed The Property just a bit more.

Talented author, indeed. Checking library catalog(s) for other works…

This is the 6th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 4th book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables

Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables John J. McKendry, selector

Date read: 18 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016transl, 2016gnc

Cover image of Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables

Hardback (Museum issue), 96 pages
Published 1964 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Source: COCC Barber Library

Gorgeous in so many ways! Boy did I luck out listening to the universe on Friday.

Four stars as many of the morals are as or more cryptic than the fables themselves.

There is a five plus-page introduction by McKendry, the Assistant Curator of Prints, that does a wonderful job of situating Aesop’s Fables as possibly the finest work to show “the history of the printed illustrated book,” along with providing an overview of the evolution of the illustrations made for it and the various translations, along with revolutions in printing and image-making technologies that accompanied it.

In this lovely edition the images paired with the fable are fairly contemporaneous. For instance, the first eight are translations by William Caxton in 1484 with illustrations from four different sources, with the biggest difference being all of thirteen years. There are a couple at the end translated by Marianne Moore in 1954 with the illustrations from between one and nine years difference.

The introduction mentions that:

“Although the fables had been illustrated from early times, the invention of the printing press produced a virtual onslaught of the illustrations and made them a major par of our pictorial history. Before the end of the fifteenth century, there were over twenty different illustrated editions of them. The earliest editions are those of Mondavi, Ulm, and Verona, all published between 1476 and 1479, which are among the best books of the fifteenth century” 97-8).

Holy cow! That is insane and seriously supports the selectors contention regarding their importance to the history of the printed illustrated book.

There are forty fables included, with translations ranging from William Caxton (1484) to Marianne Moore (1954) and including ones from every century in between.

If you read this book PLEASE read the introduction. It provides so much context and makes watching the evolution of printing/image-making technology as it advanced and is represented by the included illustrations far more understandable and interesting.

The copy COCC holds has a bookplate which states: “Donated by Dr. Orde Pinckney to Central Oregon Community College Library.”  

Highly recommended but more for its description and depiction of illustrated book history than for the fables, many of which are in hard-to-understand English, irrespective of when translated.

There seems to be copies in some shape that are affordable. May look into acquiring one.

This is the 3rd book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Lee and Hart – Messenger

Messenger: The Legend of Joan of Arc by Tony Lee and Sam Hart

Date read: 16 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc  2016nfc

Cover image from Lee and Hart's Messenger

Paperback, unpaged
Published 2015 by Candlewick Press
Source: Deschutes Public Library

Another quick read which I quite enjoyed. I am counting it under my 2016 Nonfiction Challenge also as it is based on historical facts. Clearly, the conversations are not “accurate” and so on but that could be the case in any biography. Just because a biography is relatively short and adapted to a graphic novel format does not mean it is no longer a biography nor no longer nonfiction.

This is maybe an hour read so still not a ton of time invested. I am sure I could have found some other way to learn as much about Joan of Arc in as little time but the Wikipedia entry would not have been near as entertaining.

The final page is also accurate but oh so highly entertaining. The things the Church does in the name of God. History weeps.

Recommended.

This is the 4th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 4th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Fetter-Vorm – Trinity

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Date read: 11 January 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016nfc

Cover image of Fetter-Vorm's Trinity

Hardback, 154 pages
Published 2012 by Hill and Wang
Source: Deschutes Public Library

An excellent and well-researched book that details the Manhattan Project and the Trinity test. From there it goes on to discuss Little Boy and Fat Man and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with some side excursions into events like the firebombing of Tokyo and many other Japanese cities.

We get the usual cast of characters and locations: Gen. Groves, Oppenheimer, Fermi, Lawrence, Szilard; Hanford, WA; University of Chicago; Oak Ridge, TN; and University of California, Berkeley.

Groves, then a Colonel, was given the task of overseeing the Manhattan Project after earning his reputation for overseeing the construction of the Pentagon (17). The logistics involved, not to mention the ridiculous sums of money or the secrecy, were incredible and the author tries to give the reader an appreciation for them.

The graphic novel leads the reader through the scientific and technical advances required to pull the off in a clear and understandable way. It then goes on to raise the question of whether it should have been done. It was understood by those at the top that if it was built it would most likely be used.

Bert the Turtle in “Duck and Cover” makes an appearance. If you are unfamiliar with “Duck and Cover” then YouTube that shit [or read about it at Wikipedia]. It is the kind of thing they were still indoctrinating kids with in the mid-to-late 60s when I was in grade school. It was my first introduction—at least that I remember—to the surreal. It would be years before I knew the word and its definition but there it was: a mind-boggling mixture of fact and fantasy, of hope gone awry. There I was under my desk, with my head down and hands on the back of my neck, somehow, knowing full well this was utterly batshit insane. Knowing that we could not survive this. I was 5 or 6-years old.

The book is not heavy-handed in any of its questioning, makes clear the scientific and technical details, and tries to give a sense of the immense scope of the project and its aftermath. There’s Teller and the 1st hydrogen bomb, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), “Duck and Cover,” and the permanent weapons industry which grew out of it. The US government alone has detonated more than 1,000 nuclear weapons (143). As we still do [from today’s newspaper].

Highly recommended.

This is the 2nd book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 1st book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Bagge – Woman Rebel

Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, First hardcover ed. by Peter Bagge

Date read:01-02 March 2015

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Image of cover of Bagge's Woman Rebel

Hardback, 72+ pages

Published 2013 by Drawn + Quarterly

Source: Deschutes Public Library (BAGGE PETER)

Margaret Sanger was an American sex educator and nurse. She opened the first birth control clinic and, in effect, began Planned Parenthood. She is a fascinating person, to say the very least.

This title was interesting enough. There is a 2-page intro called, “On Peter Bagge and Margaret Sanger” by Tom Spurgeon (editor of The Comics Reporter), the graphic novel proper in 72 pages, followed by two pages on “Why Sanger?” by Peter Bagge, and 18 pages on “Who’s Who and What’s What,” which is actually the endnotes. Yep. No indication in the text that there was more context, and perhaps photos or other images, in the back. Grr.

Also, the text in the introductory and back matter is tiny. Grrr.

The author does do a good job of telling us where he took artistic license in the back matter. Clearly, other stories—as he points out—can and have been told.

Fast read. Positive but honest portrait of a complex woman. Mostly marked down for not alerting me to extra context and small type.

This is the 39th book in my GN2015

This is the 14th book in my Traditional Chesterfield armchair

de Botton – How to Think More About Sex

How Think More About Sex How Think More About SexAlain de Botton; Picador 2013WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

I read de Botton’s How to Think More About Sex on 1-2 November 2014. It was not quite what I expected; I also expected more. Then again, I gave a mixed review to The Architecture of Happiness, which suffers from some of the same issues.

But first, the contents:

I. Introduction

II. The Pleasures of Sex

     1. Eroticism and Loneliness

     2. Can ‘Sexiness’ Be Profound?

     3. Natalie or Scarlett?

III. The Problems of Sex

     1. Love and Sex

     2. Sexual Rejection

     3. Lack of Desire: Infrequency, Impotence, Resentment

     4. Pornography: Censorship, A New Kind of Porn

     5. Adultery: The Pleasures of Adultery, The Stupidity of Adultery

IV. Conclusion

Homework

My comments and excerpts:

de Botton writes in an overly generalized fashion, he considers few alternatives, he is quite probably contradicting himself on a couple occasions, he is often anthropomorphic and reifies to no end, and he seems to have written this book from a healthy, Euro-skinned, heterosexual of reasonably decent (or better) looks perspective. Gays, transexuals, asexuals, whatever do not appear. Do not get mention. Nor do the vast majority of people who are of mediocre appearance at best. Apparently, the only ones who should be thinking more (clearly/intelligently/humanely) about sex are healthy good-looking heterosexuals. Not.

I know this book is short but it leaves so damned much out. And that is perfectly fine and certainly expected. But if you are leaving out that much of the human experience of sex without even mentioning that you have no space for it then you do not deserve to name your book How to Think More About Sex. It really is that simple.

Based on this alone, one probably ought skip this book. But it is short and it has great moments. There are things of import to think about that he brings up. Some of his offerings for ways in and/or out of things are fine and some are bunk. But he is trying to intelligently discuss sex. I appreciate the hell out of that! But this only hits on occasion and it misses by so damned much in its general approach to ignoring much of the world’s population’s individual experiences.

Let’s dive in.

I. Introduction

I really liked this bit in the Intro. The end of that first paragraph is a bit over the top but I can’t argue really with that full one after it. He does a decent but succinct job of showing how messed up our “thinking” is about sex and, thus, why we may need to think/talk/act more intelligently about it.

“…. We [are] bothered by sex because it is a fundamentally disruptive, overwhelming and demented force, strongly at odds with the majority of our ambitions and all but incapable of being discreetly integrated within civilized society.

     Despite our best efforts to clean it of its peculiarities, sex will never be either simple or nice in the ways we might like it to be. It is not fundamentally democratic or kind; it is bound up with cruelty, transgression and the desire for subjugation and humiliation. It refuses to sit neatly on top of love, as it should. Tame it though we may try, sex has a recurring tendency to wreak havoc across our lives: it leads us to destroy our relationships, threatens our productivity and compels us to stay up too late in nightclubs talking to people whom we don’t like but whose exposed midriffs we nevertheless strongly wish to touch. Sex remains in absurd, and perhaps irreconcilable, conflict with some of our highest commitments and values. Unsurprisingly, we have no option but to repress its demands most of the time. We should accept that sex is inherently weird instead of blaming ourselves for not responding in more normal ways to its confusing impulses.” 6-7

II. The Pleasures of Sex

He leaps right in trying to show that sex is messy and great and vengeful and loving and …. He does a good job showing that we truly are less in charge than we think when it comes to sex. This is also a bit thin for someone new to it (I am not) but he’s on the right track. Evolutionary biology can only explain so much (if it does at all) and one has to bring other theories to bear to explain more than mere biological sexual attraction for reproductive purposes. He does. Are they the right ones, or at least highly useful?

     1. Eroticism and Loneliness

          “It could sound disgusting — and that’s the point. Nothing is erotic that isn’t also, with the wrong person, revolting, which is precisely what makes erotic moments so intense: at the precise juncture where disgust could be at its height, we find only welcome and permission. The privileged nature of the union between two people is sealed by an act that, with someone else, would have horrified them both.” 22

          “Sex temporarily liberates us from the punishment dichotomy, well known to every one of us since childhood, between dirty and clean. Lovemaking purifies us by engaging the most apparently polluted sides of ourselves in its procedures and thereby anointing them as newly worthy.” 37

On fetishes:

          “In a clinical sense, a fetish is defined as an ingredient, typically quite unusual in nature, which needs to be present in order for someone to achieve orgasm.” 38

          “In this wider sense, fetishes are simply details — most often related either to a type of clothing or to a part of another’s body — which evoke for us desirable sides of human nature. The precise origins of our enthusiasms may be obscure, but they can almost always be traced back to some meaningful aspect of our childhood: we will be drawn to specific things either because they recall appealing qualities of a beloved parental figure or else, conversely, because they somehow cancel out, or otherwise help us to escape, a memory of early humiliation or terror.

          The task of understanding our own preferences in this regard should be recognized as an integral part of any project of self-knowledge or biography. What Freud said of dreams can likewise be said of sexual fetishes: they are a royal road into the unconscious.” 39

Tying our fetishes to issues of values and the good life which he’ll bring out later:

          “The pleasure we derive from sex is also bound up with our recognizing, and giving a distinctive seal of approval to, those ingredients of a good life whose presence we have detected in another person. The more closely we analyze what we consider ‘sexy’, the more clearly we will understand that eroticism is the feeling of excitement we experience at finding another human who shares our values and our sense of the meaning of existence.” 44

     2. Can ‘Sexiness’ Be Profound?

          “A consensus emerges about which sorts of faces we find most appealing. From these studies [cross-cultural], evolutionary biologists have concluded that a ‘sexy’ person of either gender, far from being an unclassifiable abstraction, is in essence someone whose face is symmetrical (that is, the right and left sides match precisely) and whose features are balanced, proportionate and undistorted.” 81

          “The discipline [evol biol] absolves physical attraction of the charge of being purely superficial. While conceding that we judge people by their appearance, it holds that appearances themselves are anything but trivial and indeed point towards some rather profound qualities.” 84

     3. Natalie or Scarlett?

          “Evolutionary biology confidently predicts that we will be drawn to people on the basis of their evident health, but it has not put forward any truly convincing theories about why we should prefer one specific healthy person over another.” 63

But what about people who clearly are not “healthy” who find love and are attracted sexually to others?

          Wilhelm Worringer’s theory on art appreciation; essay, “Abstraction and Empathy,” 1907 64-8

          Worringer’s theory applied to sexual attraction 69-72

          “We then declare people ‘sexy’ when we see in them evidence of compensatory qualities, and are repelled by those who seem prone to drive us further into our extremities.” 70

          “We need both art and sex to make us whole, so it is not surprising if the mechanisms of compensation should be similar in each case. The specifics of what we find ‘beautiful’ and what we find ‘sexy’ are indications of what we most deeply crave in order to rebalance ourselves.” 72

III. The Problems of Sex

This section attempts to offer possible remedies, or at least ways in, to mitigate some of the many problems with sex. Of course, only a few are covered in the short space allowed. I am not sure how effectively he deals with some of them either.

     1. Love and Sex

          “It’s time for the need for sex and the need for love to be granted equal standing, without an added moral gloss. Both may be independently felt and are of comparable value and validity. Both shouldn’t require us to lie in order to claim them.” 79

Amen! The data on this–and he does provide some; there is much more–show what a damaging idea modern love (and marriage) truly is. Maybe someday perhaps the two can be pulled apart in a more sane and sensible way but I have my doubts.

     2. Sexual Rejection

          “We don’t have to take sexual rejection as a sure indication that another person has looked into our soul and registered disgust at every aspect of our being. The reality is usually much simpler and less shattering than that: for whatever reason, this particular individual just can’t get turned on by our body. We can take comfort in the knowledge that such a verdict is automatic, preconscious and immutable. The one doing the rejecting isn’t being intentionally nasty; he or she has no choice.” 82

If we could already use reason in regards to love and sex then this probably would be less of an issue than it is. Realigning our views on the issue, as he suggests, would be useful but quite unlikely to be of use to more than a handful of people, statistically speaking.

     3. Lack of Desire:

          i. Infrequency

               “The solution to long-term sexual stagnation is to learn to see our lover as if we had never laid eyes on him or her before.” 97

               “While going about their quite different types of business, the lover and the artist nonetheless come up against a similar human foible: the universal tendency to become easily habituated and bored, and to decide that whatever is known is unworthy of interest. We are prone to long for novelty, kitschy romanticism, drama and glamour.” 99

               “We should try to locate the good and the beautiful beneath the layers of habit and routine.” 102

          ii. Impotence

     Argues that this is a “symptom of respect.” Not buying that for a second, except in some percentage (I’m going with small) of all cases. And the reason why is all the bullshit he says about men in these paragraphs. Again, overly generalized beyond all possible acceptance. Gamergate and #teamharpy, along with way too many other things today show us that most men have not “evolved” as de Botton seems to think.

          iii. Resentment

               “By overwhelming consensus, our culture locates the primary difficulty of relationships in finding the ‘right’ person rather than in knowing how to love a real — that is, a necessarily rather unright — human being.” 121

Yes. This bit is quite valuable. Again, shows the utter destruction caused by the currently prevailing (by those in power) views of love and marriage in Western society.

     4. Pornography:

          i. Censorship

I. Just. He seems to accept, and argues, that pornography is extremely dangerous to society and that some form of censorship is necessary. He is writing in particular about the Internet. Yes, indeed, let’s let nanny-state governments censor the Internet so we can get back to work. Jackass! There are so many intermediate steps.

I should explain that my vehemence here is he because he made no real argument for pornography being an immense destructive force; just assumed via anecdata.

          ii. A New Kind of Porn

I. Just. Don’t. But now he wants a new kind of porn. “Virtue porn.”

“Yet is is possible to conceive of a version of pornography that wouldn’t force us to make such a stark choice between sex and virtue — a pornography in which sexual desire would be invited to support, rather than permitted to undermine, our higher values.” 139

OK. This might work for a few folks; he should go back and re-read his discussion of fetishes though, as a first caution. And some of his examples later on make some sense; again, for a few folks. But his discussion. Oy! His example to lead us into pornography that might support our virtues is Sandro Bottticelli’s The Madonna of the Book, c.1483.

Seems to be contradicting himself in these two sections also. Porn must be censored. Oh, look, a new kind of “virtue porn.” Make a choice or choose a middle ground, sir.

     5. Adultery:

          i. The Pleasures of Adultery

               “However, the real fault in the situation lies in the ethos of modern marriage, with its insane ambitions and its insistence that one person can plausibly hope to embody the eternal sexual and emotional solution to another’s every need.

               Taking a step back, what distinguishes modern marriage from its historical precedents is its fundamental tenet that all our desire for love, sex and family ought to reside in the selfsame person. No other society has been so stringent or so hopeful about the institution of marriage, nor ultimately, as a consequence, so disappointed in it.

               In the past, these very distinct needs — for love, sex and family — were wisely differentiated and separated out from one another.” 152

          ii. The Stupidity of Adultery

This section brought out how also very middle-class and above focused it is.

IV. Conclusion

     “When every contemptuous but fair thing has been said about our infernal sexual desires, we can still celebrate them for not allowing us to forget for more than a few days at a time what is really involved in living an embodied, chemical and largely insane human life.” 175-6

I can certainly agree with this view, but while he did a decent job arguing this, if it was what he truly meant to argue then I suppose it would have been a somewhat different book. Or perhaps not.

Homework

This is the sources section.

Conditionally recommended is what I am going to say. That is, if you want to think more about sex. Then again, if you want to think more about sex then I would recommend this book [any edition would be fine], even if the focus of each is not the same.

Administrivia:

I had to create a record at Open Library so I could use John Miedema’s OpenBook plugin. I had hoped I was done with adding so many records there but is good to be writing again. And it is a nice record.

DigiWriMo 2014

I have committed to participating in Digital Writing Month 2014, more commonly known as DigiWriMo, this November. I did it its first year in 2012 and made my goal of 50,000 digital words. Most people who know November as a writing month know it as National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. There is also Academic Writing Month, AcWriMo. Wikipedia says there’s an Academic Book Writing Month, AcBoWriMo but that’s a new one on me. Well, on Twitter there is no #AcBoWriMo but there is plenty of #AcWriMo.

I have been driven to write lately—perhaps driven by the mysterious and as yet undiagnosed illness; which is neither here nor there. I have so many ideas and there are tons of old ideas not finished, or ever even fleshed out, to work with.

Preparation has involved recording these ideas as they occur and corralling old recorded ones too, prepping my Scrivener project file (my writing tool), and spending more time learning to use it well.

This year my goal is ≥ 1k words/day, with a total of ≥ 25k words/November. Yes. I am aware of the missing 5 days. I am trying to be gracious with myself. [If this illness can possibly help teach me that idea then, OK, I’ll take the rest. I’m not counting on this being an actual lesson, though.]

I do not know how much I will do with the, thankfully, re-expanded DigiWriMo folks’ official efforts but I will be “playing along at home” at a minimum. I certainly hope and plan to interact a fair bit. I just have to manage my stress triggers and adding a #digiwrimo twitter search window to my already overflowing two twitter accounts for a month ….

I also recently acquired a new phone making the leap from an iPhone 4S to a 6. I had been eligible for an upgrade for well over a year and $200 was the most they were ever going to give me anymore for my 4S. Or that anyone was going to give me. For a lot of hoops and a delay of several weeks, I got to pay roughly $100 and a $35 activation fee to move from a 16GB 4S to a 64GB 6. I took that deal.

It was particularly tempting as I use both TextExpander and 1Password on my computer. They have also both been on my phone but were basically useless. Finally iOS 8 allows them both to be useful. [Sadly, I will not be putting iOS 8 on my iPad 2. It is struggling already.]

The point of all this is that having those 2 programs actually doing good work on my phone may let me use it to do just a couple more tasks than I would’ve before. Also, the bigger screen isn’t to laugh at with my old eyes. They will also allow me to more productively write digitally even though what I “write” on my phone will still be pretty damned minimal.

Some of what I write will be public, much as now although even more will be. Much will be kept private. I really want to start doing a better job of journaling, in a couple senses of ‘journal.’ I hope DigiWriMo will spur me to do so, or at least take advantage of the illness’ urging me to do so. I hope to get a few more blog posts up here and definitely more written on By the barrel.

Poetry, 2015 goal planning, book reviews, tweeting, and all sorts of other writing endeavors are on the docket. Some of the topics I hope to address, whether public or not, include Facebook, gender labels (as language), gender on labels (as in depiction of on beer labels), sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, body image, altered consciousness, and many others. We will see what happens.

If any of you are participating in some kind of writing month in November let me know if you would like some support and hopefully we can find a mutual venue.

Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 6

This is update 6 in the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

Helen

Helen has been quite busy this month … catching up on blogging things that she has read over the last few months.

Trinity by Leon Uris

She gave this one 5 stars in goodreads. “It is a dreary & beautiful slog through fictionalized history of a conquered people.” See her review for more.

The Littlest Hitler by Ryan Boudinot

This collection of short stories garnered 3 stars from her. While the “stories were all technically very well written” she “just kept thinking over and over that it was all trying too hard. The writing was effortless and a pleasure to read, but the story was always a little too hip, a little too cool, a little too ‘look how shocking.'” She hopes to try some of his more recent stuff before writing him off.

Pure Drivel by Steve Martin

“Usually I love Steve Martin’s writing, but this one was a miss for me.” 3 stars. See her review for why this one just didn’t work for her.

Scenes From An Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine

Another 5 star book. “I hear that this comic isn’t his best work from lots of folks, but since a) I’ve read and loved all his work and b) I feel a kinship to his attitude about most things, I feel qualified to say this book was awesome.” As someone ‘recently’ married, she has convinced me to read it.

Murder Unleashed by Rita Mae Brown

“This story is a murder mystery that encompasses a wide variety of topics including but not limited to: the mortgage crisis, squatter’s rights, hunger both human and animal, coyote’s and ranch politics, cattle farming, campaign finance, school buses, and sex industry workers. I’m sure there was more, plus the everyday lives of regular characters. The story is easy and RMB has a gift for packing a lot of content into a weekend read without making it laborious.”

She thinks the series is improving but read her review to find out why she only gave it 3 stars.

 Jen!!

After a drought, two books down

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

“This is the fourth book in the Dresden series and I loved it. It lived up to Butcher’s standards for adventure, inventiveness, and fun.”

Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes

“[I]nspired by a reference in The Violets of March” she was led into the Stacks at UIUC and was “glad that I followed through on reading it. … Indeed, I found it a thoughtful telling of a life, the choices made, and the results that come from those choices.”

Sounds like a good read. And Brava, Jen, for daring the Stacks! I miss them so very, very much!

The Marriage Artist by Andrew Winer

Past, present, Vienna, World War II, art, death and lovers. Wow. “The book drew me in almost instantly, making want to know more about the characters–their past, their future, how they would deal with the present. … This book is a wonderful get-a-way from the day to day and I especially like the time shifting of it and getting to witness the impact that the choices made in one’s youth had on the future.”

Sara

Quiet Renaissance Power

Sara reviewed two books “that were very different but struck similar chords” for her, which she read during the same time period as part of her Creativity theme for the 2/3rds Book Challenge: Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain, and The Renaissance Soul: life design for people with too many passions to pick just one by Margaret Lobenstine.

“In the end, I benefited from reading both of these books and I think reading them at the same time worked out really well. From Renaissance Soul, I have a list of specific goals and a timeline which actually feels realistic. From Quiet, I have several other book recommendations (I think I’ll finally get around to reading Flow now) and better ways of articulating what I need to myself and others.”

She does caution readers about an “us and them” premise which is present in both books, though.

E

The Wild Palms (If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem) by William Faulkner

This was a tough one for E but it will be with her for a long time. Life often puts these complex and difficult texts in front of us during times of stress, whether we need them or not, and they change us; often for the better, more often not appreciated until much later.

Read her powerful review.

“Do I even need to tell you that there can’t possibly be a happy ending? “That story ends very badly for all involved, you know.” “Don’t all the good ones?” And then there’s this, where I am right now, drinking bourbon in the back room of my new apartment in Pilsen, listening to the whistle of trains in the distance, scanning for the moon against the night sky.”

Keep scanning for the moon, my friend. She’ll always be there for you. Day or night, day and night, she has always been there for me.

Mark

In Defence of the Enlightenment by Tzvetan Todorov

I really wanted to like this book but it let me down. Sure, my review is far more nuanced than that, and I am glad I read it, but that is the gist of my reaction to it.

See you next month.