Category Archives: Books

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Because my driver’s licence expires in a month or so, the librarian at my local branch was only willing to renew my library card up to the expiry date on my licence.

Her reasoning eludes me still. Something about me needing to be the person I had to be, while also proving it via means beyond my own, personal power. Real means. State means. Government issued and approved.

I was told I could come back to that branch when I renew my licence – new expiry date in hand – in order to, finally, renew my library card for the full year.

Cost of renewal of library card: $0.

Cost of renewal of driver’s licence: $90 (plus a new photo, a new take on my face, to go with the new card I will be issued).

These two things are related and they are not. It seems to be that I am getting a free library card with my driver’s licence fee AND that I am getting a free driver’s licence with the $90 renewal of my library card.

Both these things are equally true, if not equally valid. The privilege of going to the library is having the power to drive and the privilege of driving is exercising the power, your power, to go to the library.

Either way, you pay.

As you should, or should at least expect to.

Either way.

 

 

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Filed under Books, Change, City Life, Transportation

Working Titles For My Forthcoming (And Totally Imaginary) Autobiography*

  1. Who Are These People, and What Do They Want?
  2. No Is A Sentence.
  3. And I Was There Too.
  4. Porcupine Blues.
  5. Lose A Man, Eat A Pizza.
  6. Hardly A Sham.
  7. I Remember Everything.
  8. Small Wounds.
  9. Various.
  10. Meh.
  11. Just the Crunchy Bits.
  12. BRRAMP!!!
  13. The Loud Part Quiet and the Quiet Part Loud.
  14. How About I Just See You There?
  15. LOL STFU!
  16. OK Guess I’ll Put On A Bra Then.
  17. Sludge and Drudgery.
  18. Paper Beats Rock?
  19. Everything That Isn’t, All the Things That Aren’t.
  20. It Had To Be Somebody.
  21. The Bitter Sweets.
  22. Armloads!
  23. You Missed.
  24. More Money Than Cents.
  25. Not Over It.
  26. Fire, Fire, Everywhere!
  27. FINE, fine, fine, fine.
  28. Pub = Public House, Flo Rida = Florida. And Other Discoveries.
  29. Only You Would Think That, Karen.

 

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* Please follow any of these with “The Cindy Phan Story,” where you feel it best fits.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, People, Plans, Pop Culture, THE FUTURE

The Day The Sun Exploded, Astounding Helmet To An Incredible Degree (All Things Considered)

I don’t even know if his name was really “Helmet” but I remember that’s what people called him because of the way he cut his hair (or maybe it was just the way his hair was cut. He may not have had all that much to do with it. I remember my own parents subjecting me to Very Bad Haircuts from the ages of 2 to 13).

Eighth grade English class. Middle school reading, writing and that catch-all “comprehension” (whatever that means, and however so measured).

Helmet wasn’t a nice guy, and he wasn’t a jerk. He was mostly background, a personality that would pop up now and then to make himself heard. He stood stooped and gangly, a redhead with freckles and shirts short at the hem and long in the sleeves, each partially chewed. Uneven eyes set above a restrained nose and a wide mouth with overlarge, slightly hanging teeth. Jeans, mostly. Brown shoes.

The reading was Lord of the Flies, and Helmet was dismissive.

“Who cares what’ll happen to those boys? Humans will go on forever.” Such was Helmet’s very precise, very exacting logic. What, in the grand scheme of things, was one island population – one that’s anyway not even all that populated and populated with an unruly group of miscellaneous British children besides?

“Until the sun explodes,” someone added. I want to say it was Jean, but it was probably Paul, whose one aim that semester was to seem wise beyond his years.

“What?” Helmet blinked, peeling himself away from his spot along the wall. “What?”

“Super nova,” I said. “It’ll go super nova.”

What?” The idea slowly embedded itself in the soft tissues of Helmet’s head, creating a neural pathway where there had not been one before. “The sun…is going to explode?” No one had ever told him.

“Red giant,” I said. “And then -”

“Everybody who’s not dead yet dies,” Paul, definitely Paul, added hastily, so eager to get ahead of the point he missed it entirely. “Everything dies.”

“No! Really?” Helmet gasped. “Really. For sure?”

“Helmet. The sun will explode one day. It’s going to go out and become a black hole and the heat and light of our universe will be gone,” said was our teacher, Mr. E, who was also mostly background, but who somehow found the energy to pipe up every now and then to move the class along. Such was his dedication, and the limits of his particular skill set as an educator.

Helmet gaped. “No…”

“It won’t happen, not for a long, long time,” said Mr. E.

“How long?” Helmet asked, time suddenly very much a factor now that forever was off the table.

“Billions of years. At least.”

Helmet didn’t answer at first. “Oh.”

“Why don’t you ask Mr. D,” suggested Mr. E. Mr. D was our science teacher.

But Helmet was beyond science at that point. Beyond the stars themselves, the universe – no, life itself now cold, pointless. A sow’s head on a pike, staring with dead eyes into the nothingness beyond.

Or maybe…perhaps not.

“Where’s your summary?” asked Mr. E, tired now, wanting only to collect everyone’s homework and declare the class over (and only five minutes early this time).

“Yeah…I didn’t read the book,” Helmet replied. He shook his head as if to clear it. Tugged at a sleeve, rubbed it thoughtfully against his chin.

Grinned.

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Change, Education, People, School, Science, THE PAST

Re-Up!

Sometimes I wonder if I have the requisite nostalgia in order to enjoy the latest crop of reboots/revivals/reimaginings.

Films, TV shows, books, etc.

You know.

As a sought-after demographic, I theoretically should (all things considered). I should have the nostalgia, the memory, the desire to pursue or re-live or indulge, having spent my formative years in the era(s) that produced the works these new ones are based on – or off of, depending on your POV of such things.

Yours and mine.

Then again, is nostalgia requisite (or in this case, a pre-requisite?).

Most times it’s enough to simply get the references. Cred, then, not nostalgia.

#BirdBirdChallenge

There’s also something to be said about quality. Isn’t there?

No matter.

What’s old that’s new again?

What’s new?

What’s up?

 

 

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Filed under Books, Change, Movies, Television, THE FUTURE, THE PAST

Please Select That Which Best Applies

If I do not know the ordering procedure of a particular eating establishment, I will:

a) Decide to go somewhere else.

b) Eventually convince myself that I am not that hungry after all.

c) Stare on in puzzlement until it’s officially socially awkward for everyone involved.

d) Turn heel. Run home.

e) b & d

f) a & c

 

Your puppy:

a) Is the most adorable thing I have ever seen. Your puppy has therefore ruined my life.

b) Is the absolute best.

c) I WANT A PUPPY.

d) I cannot afford a puppy right now.

f) All of the above.

 

What That Guy Said?:

a) “Old.”

b) “Ode.”

c) “Auld.”

d) “Bald.”

e) “Sassafras gonads.”

 

PUNCTUATION THROWDOWN:

a) .

b) !

c) : OR ;

d) c OR Both

e) c & d

f) How come no one cares about ampersand?

 

Discreet Flatulence:

a) Acceptable.

b) Diabolical.

c) You ruined it by calling if “flatulence.”

 

Book or Movie:

a) Book.

b) Movie.

c) Both is not an answer.

c) Both.

 

You’ll be in:

a) My heart.

b) My thoughts and/or prayers.

c) Deep shit.

d) Shallow Paraguay.

 

I would love to:

a) Help.

b) Be able to help.

c) Consider helping.

d) Consider being able to help.

e) b, c & d

f) Never a.

 

Choose Your Fighter:

a) Emperor Penguin.

b) Death Cap Mushroom.

c) Giant Spider.

d) Tiny T-Rex.

e) Haunted Waterslide.

f) Ugly American.

 

Nonsensical:

a) “Owning the Libs.”

b) “I can fix them.”

c) “I’m sorry if…”

d) “All lives matter.”

e) “Books are dead.”

f) All of the above (plus a few others, TBA).

g) All of the above (but e especially).

 

Good answer:

a) Yes.

b) No.

 

Best answer:

a) No.

b) GOD NO.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Communications, Dogs, Interruptions, Mind and Body, Places

The Loving Huntsman

A minor triumph recently: I finally secured a nice copy (an excellent edition) of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes; or The Loving Huntsman.

It’s taken about a year to achieve this. Over a year, actually, plus a month or two.

I was, and remain, committed.

***

Lolly Willowes is a story of struggle, privilege, humiliation and personal retribution (which looks very much like vengeance, though it is not). There is a cool intelligence in the writing, a wry and discerning mind behind the prose. A rarity, even now. Even today. Possibly always.

***

Lolly Willowes (or The Loving Huntsman) also has the best narrative portrait of the Devil I’ve ever come across:

 

To be this – a character truly integral, a perpetual flowing of power and cunning from an undivided will – was enough to constitute the charm and majesty of the Devil. No cloak of terrors was necessary to enlarge that stature, and to suppose him capable of speculation or metaphysic would be like offering to crown hi with a few casual straws. Very probably he was quite stupid. When she had asked him about death he had got up and gone away, which looked as if he did not know much more about it then she did herself: indeed, being immortal, it was unlikely that he would know as much. Instead, his mind brooded immovably over the landscape and over the natures of men, an unforgetting and unchoosing mind. That, of course – and she jumped up in her excitement and began to wave her arms – was why he was the Devil, the enemy of souls. His memory was too long, too retentive; there was no appeasing its witness, no hoodwinking it with the present; and that was why at one stage of civilization people said he was the embodiment of all evil, and then a little later on that he didn’t exist (1999: 220-221).

 

Forgive and forget. Who doesn’t need that, once in a while?

Who doesn’t crave it, the reprieve of disremembering just the right thing, at just the right moment, so that everything (present, future and past) will be alright. Will just turn out that way?

Pick and choose, overlook. Exonerate.

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Speaking especially of the Devil himself.

 

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Warner, Sylvia Townsend. (1999). Lolly Willowes or The Loving Huntsmen. NYRB: New York.

 

 

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Filed under Books, Language, Philosophy, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Words

Dead & Deader Till We Get to Deadest

Books are dead.”

I keep coming back to this, not because of any apparent (or is that obvious?) absurdity of the statement itself, but the mean-spirited intent behind it. It is one of the funniest things (intentional or not) that I’ve had another person say to my face in a good long while. It has become my dead horse. A true gift.

But anyway, it is Friday – week’s end! And with that in mind, here is a list of the books I’ve been reading over the past couple of weeks and months.

There is no order to the list, no rankings or ratings or reviews. I just like to keep a tally so that I know what I’m reading after having read it. I also know that this list will tell you less about me than it will ultimately reveal.

That’s good for both of us.

That’s what’s best for everyone:

  1. Vi – Kim Thuy
  2. Barracoon – Zora Neale Hurston
  3. Trail of Lightening – Rebecca Roanhorse
  4. Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
  5. The Red Threads of Fortune – Jy Yang
  6. Marriage of a Thousand Lies – S.J. Sindu
  7. Eloquent Rage – Brittney Cooper
  8. Kilkenny – Louis L’amour
  9. Chicken With Plums – Marjane Satrapi
  10. Mr. Fortune’s Maggot – Sylvia Townsend Warner

These are books that I will say that I recommend – or don’t, depending on what you’re looking for in a book, depending on what your particular whims or needs or desires are.

In any case, if it is indeed true that books are dead, they can’t possibly get any deader, can they? They’re the deadest they’ve ever been!

And how could you argue with that?

 

 

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Filed under Books, Death, Language, Words

Stranger Readings

When and wherever I see a stranger reading (the subway, the park, the doctor’s office), I always try to figure out what is it they’re reading. What, then why.

How being obvious.

(Or is it? There are times the pages are obscured, and I just have to imagine they’re there and also being read. Also, there are so many assumptions in “How,” isn’t there?)

So, why? Why that book? Is it the content? The author? Is this a project, or a pastime (or both)?

Is this good?

More: good in all sense or semblance of that word, “good.”

Tell me stranger: Do you know something I don’t know? Maybe you know something I do.

Also: Maybe I could tell you a thing or two. I have books too.

Then: “Books are dead.” Did you know that?

Finally: Yes, dead. Read for work. Reading is work. Work to get paid, or don’t work at all. Getting paid is everything, or it is nothing. Anyway, no one likes their job, which is the same as work. Don’t be a sucker! A show-off! A conceit!

Never concede.

Books are dead.

***

Now, of course, I wouldn’t take things so far down that particular logic hole; the rabbits there are deranged.

This is nothing that should be done. Stranger readings ought to stay that way.

This is just an exercise.

The premise being ridiculous.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Communications, Death, Interruptions, Language, People, Routines, Words

Dog Days

Louis recently had 14 teeth taken out in a procedure that quickly became a marathon operation, complete with dramatic skips and beats in which he, in his fright and confusion and special doggy frustration, tried to fight his way out; in which his breathing became abnormal (though it stabilized at just the right critical point for the work to continue); in which his teeth, while seemingly normal from the outside (and thus, primed primarily for a cleaning) were actually abhorrently rotten on the inside (hence the transformation of his dental work from standard to complex to troublesome), and in which the resultant financial cost went from the low $$ to the high $$$.

Yet, it was nothing, this being his 4th major procedure (2 back surgeries for herniated discs; 1 for a snapped ligament) in his 14 long years of doggy life. He’s since recovered, as he has 3 times before. He acts as if nothing had happened, though there is less and less of him for anything to happen to as time goes by.

Dog Days

The absurdity of this dog. The absurdity of it all – all of it, our life together.

In a 1972 letter to Jane Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut mediates on the nature of death, having perused the copy of Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld’s memoir, that Jane has sent him:

“I open it at random, and I find a lot about dying meaningfully, and about sacrifice and pain and mysterious destinies…Are you really tuned in to this sort of stuff? Should I be? Well – I’ll try, but it’s not my style. I, for one, am glad I didn’t die in Africa, although that opportunity was mine. I still believe that a dog is going to kill me, and it scares me – and it pisses me off” (2012: 192).

There are fates worse than death, just as there are a million ways to die. Vonnegut’s is the closest that comes to mind as being, if not right, if not justified, if not even true in its most tangible sense, than fair.

Harsh, but fair. More than fair.

This dog is going to kill me.

 

 

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Vonnegut, Kurt. (2011). Letters, ed. Dan Wakefield. Delacorte Press: New York.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Death, Dogs, Health, Pets, Philosophy, Relationships

Experiments On Reality, 1.0.

Fantasies are experiments on reality. One of my running fantasies is one in which I have to run. Get away. Go. Find a safe or better place.

The jig is up!

They are coming. Finally!

(It was only a matter of time.)

“Who are they?” Stephen often asks. As if it matters!

(It doesn’t matter.)

It’s they. Them. The ubiquitous They. What more can or needs to be said?

I think about Essun from Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. I think of Mulan, Imperator Furiosa, Stray Cat Rock‘s Mako, and Louise Belcher. People who ran, when they had to, who would not be caught up in fates not of their choosing. People who were ready, even if it’s not what they wanted. People who have had enough, already.

Who wants to be chased? It’s not about the chase. It’s about the ability, the capacity to run, to deal. The wherewithal to have runny-sacks; maps, fake IDs, loose cash. A stolen War Rig. Your father’s sword. Cocktails (molotov)! All of it at the ready, or ready for the taking. It’s in the daring, or the will. The need.

(I will neither confirm nor deny the existence of a bindle of likewise necessities somewhere on the premises – cell phone, wallet, keys will not suffice.)

If and when They come, I want to be ready. They are not going to get me. Or at least, I won’t make it easy.

More: one way or another, they will be sorry they tried. They will regret what they started. No matter the outcome.

Now.

How’s that for fantasy?

 

 

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Jemisin, N.K. (2015). The Fifth Season. Orbit: United Kingdom.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Change, Characters, People, Plans, Routines, THE FUTURE, THE PAST