Festivus – I’m Ripping It Off, and I Don’t Even Know What It Is!

Trish at  Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? has written a post called Festivus – Let’s Air Our Grievances in which she wrote down a few (and good) things that have ired her this season and invited readers to do the same.  Her point is that, at this time of year with the holidays (aw, hell.. It’s CHRISTMAS, dammit… enough with the PC crap) upon us, only fellow bloggers are reading blog posts right now.  Because of that whole “you can do it and not get caught” thing that we all enjoy, Trish encourages her readers to be emboldened and relish the joy of being naughty… no one’s lookin’ :-D

That reminds me of a joke:

Sign placed above a bowl of fruit in the lunch line of a Catholic school:  “Take ONE… God is watching”

A few food items down the way, above the platter of chocolate chip cookies, a sign written in a child’s scrawl says, “Take all you want!  God’s watchin the apples”

As for me, I’ve been so busy trying to reach my self imposed goal of 75 books (I’m almost there!) that I’ll be taking the time during Bloggiesta to write the reviews for the last seven books, as well as sign up for all the challenges and everything else.  I’m looking forward to the New Year, so I can slow down!

So, Trish started her post with the following:

Last year, because blog traffic is slow around the holidays, I celebrated Festivus, which kicks off with the Airing of Grievances. Since only other bloggers are reading blogs around this time of year (’cause we’re crazy like that), it makes sense that we should get some things off our chest! Vent! Proclaim what is wrong with the world (or our families), so that we can start the new year with a clean slate ready for new frustrations.

I had way to much fun in her comment section, and decided to take time away from my Glenn Beck book (couldn’t tell that’s who I was reading, could ya) to write up my own post.  I felt like I could go on sooo much longer, but didn’t want to hijack her post any more than I already did, so here goes…

Things that really PISS me off…

1.  People who want to tell you that you’re a narrow-minded religious fascist for saying “Merry Christmas”.  “Happy Holidays” has slowly become the more widely used phrase because -God forbid.. or goddess, Allah, the moon… The leprechaun in that Lucky Charms commercial (Hell, there’s weirder religions than worshipping a god who’s Magically Delicious)- we offend someone with our well-wishing.  I admit it, I used the “Happy Holidays”, too, because.. to be honest… I’m too lazy to say “Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year”.  Two words are more verbally economic than eight.  But the next person who says “Happy Holidays” to me, I SWEAR I’m gonna wish them “Magically Delicious winter festivities”.  It’s Christmas.  Merry or Happy… it’s Christmas. 

Oh, and Mr. Athiest-seperation-of-church-and-state-boy… It hasn’t been a “Christian” holiday… ever.  It’s a pagan holiday.  The Catholic Church hijacked the day from the Romans who wished to celebrate Saturnalia, a weird calendar event in which the last 5 days were left uncounted and therefore the thought was “Anything goes because the days never happened!”  It was a time for them to blow off steam, have orgies… there wasn’t any “rape” during this time, because if one person wanted it they could take it.. and a lot of other behaviors we would call unlawful at the very least.  The fact that the celebration of the birth of Christ was superimposed upon this hedonistic festival is probably a good thing.  But, to be honest, as much as the modern Church tries to remind people that “Jesus is the reason for the season”, the long line at Wal-Mart this evening proves that they gave Jesus and his other hispanic friends the day off so they can follow their true pursuit of the season… gifts.

2.  This year I have just about had ENOUGH of Maggie’s griping about the present Gwen gave her.  Seriously, I’m almost ready to say No more presents will be given under my roof EVER AGAIN!  TO anyone BY anyone.  And that includes Christmas, Kwanzaa (If we ever convert and celebrate it), Chanukah (ditto the previous stipulation), Chinese New Year (again, conversion needed first, I think), Sinterklaas, Birthdays, Boss’s Day (Bruce Springsteen’s birthday?), Arbor Day, Groundhog’s Day, Bring Your Kid to Work Day, or any day of the week ending in the letter Y.  What’s led me to this level of irritation?  Gwen, who apparently has bad taste in presents, gave Maggie a plastic Kabuki-esque doll because Mags collects China dolls.  Now, in Gwen’s mind, she thought they were similar enough to count, and thought Maggie would love it.  Maggie, on the other hand, thinks it’s the most hideous piece of crap that ever suffered molecular cohesion. 

Maggie's Doll  face  back

In fairness, the thing IS a bit ugly.  But, isn’t it the thought that counts?  Gwen could’ve just got something for herself, but she saw this doll and thought, “My little sister would love that!”  And Maggie was NOT gracious in her reception.  At all.  When people are not gracious about receiving, when they act like they’re ENTITLED to something better than the trash one deigns to give them, it makes those who give feel disinclined to do so ever again. *sigh*  It’s becoming a take-take-take, gimme NOW, society.

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3.  Okay, I’ve got a grievance with the whole PC-crap.  It has, of late, been made obvious (not that I wasn’t aware before) by my ten-year-old daughter how absurdly ridiculous all the Political Correctness crap is.   You know, I am NOT saying that we shouldn’t be a bit more considerate of others and think before we speak, Proverbs (sorry athiest-boy) tells up that a wise person keeps his mouth shut lest people think he’s an idiot but the fool suffers verbal diarrhea and removes all doubt (Koolaid paraphrase).  But the PC movement has become nothing more than censorship and terrorism committed by a few LOUD-MOUTH (see Koolaid’s paraphrase.. they’ve removed all doubt) bullies who want everyone to do things their way or suffer the consequences.  ‘K… I’m short, fat and starting to crest that hill.. not over it yet, but getting to the summit…  I don’t expect someone to say I’m a “gravitationally challenged post-youth of an alternative size”.  What the hell is up with that?  I’m fat because I like to eat.  A lot.  Gravity isn’t singling me and throwing down the gauntlet.

LOL.. my dad always said “The purpose of communication is to convey a thought from one person to another in the fastest and most accurate way possible.”  The PC-crap, instead of sponsoring understanding and acceptance (I presume to hope was their original intent), does more to breed discontent, distrust and resentment.  “Why should I talk to you?  I might say something to offend your stupid sorry ass and wind up in court, lose my job and become the social pariah of my community!”  Ah, can’t we all just get along?

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4.  Along the same lines are those people who fling hate-filled words at people who happened to disagree with them.  If I don’t want my 15-year-old daughter hanging out with a loose-moralled, already a mother, now decided to be gay classmate who continually sexually harasses her and makes her uncomfortable, it’s NOT because I’m a homophobic religious prude.  Oh, I forgot “hatemonger”.  The girl WON’T leave Gwen alone, after she’s told her she’s not interested.  She continues to touch and make rude comments to her, but if I say something about this, I’m a bigot.  If this girl was a guy, EVERYTHING… EVERY THING… would be different.  The police would investigate, he’d be in jail, and several administrators would be sent to a “sensitivity training seminar”.  The fact it’s an Out-of-the-closet, vocal lesbian means that my daughter must suffer her attacks.  Bull shit.

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5.  I tell you, one of the things I think is great about our country is that everyone is entitled to DUE PROCESS.  A chance to go before a jury of his or her peers and face his or her accuser in a court of law.  And, if you are wronged, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries.  HOWEVER… there are a few bad apples that have latched onto the system and have gone completely and certifiably NUTS.  Everyone remembers, I’m sure, the woman who went through the drive thru at McDonald’s and ordered a HOT coffee… repeat, she asked for a HOT, as in warmer than tepid, HOT coffee.  She put her HOT, as asked for HOT, coffee between her legs and then spilled the HOT contents on her foofer.  She then decided it was McDonald’s fault and she was owed $2.86 million dollars for her scorched hoohah.  In the end, she only received $640,000 for her injuries and NOW every foam cup you get from any restaurant bears the “CAUTION: Contents may be HOT!” just in case some other dumb ass decides to take their morning joe BOTTOMS UP.

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Ahh… this has been a LOT of fun.  I have to say, I feel a lot better now after venting… not to mention all the laughing I’ve done finding and watching the videos.  And to the question of “What is Festivus?” The following clip from Seinfeld sums it up…

Okay…  Who’s gonna RUMBLE with me in the FEATS of Strength?

The Appeal by John Grisham

campaignhTitle: The Appeal

Author: John Grisham

Hardback: 355 pages

Publisher: Doubleday

Publish Date: 2008

ISBN: 9780385515047

Mr. Trudeau slapped the table and barked, “What went wrong?!”

Well, Ratzlaff thought to himself and wanted to say aloud except that he very much treasured his job, let’s start with the fact that our company built a pesticide plant in Podunk, Mississippi, because the land and labor were dirt cheap, then we spent the next thirty years dumping chemicals and waste into the ground and into the rivers, quite illegally of course, and we contaminated the drinking water until it tasted like spoiled milk, which, as bad as it was, wasn’t the worst part, because then people started dying of cancer and leukemia.

Than, Mr. Boss and Mr. CEO and Mr. Corporate Raider, is exactly what went wrong.

“The lawyers feel good about the appeal,” Ratzlaff said instead, without much conviction… “We still have the money, Carl,” Ratzlaff said. “It’ll be years before a dime changes hands, if, in fact, that ever happens.”

Mr. Trudeau was pacing dramatically. “Forty-one million dollars. And there are how many other cases out there, Bobby? Did someone say two hundred, three hundred? Well, if there were three hundred this morning, there will be three thousand tomorrow morning. Every redneck in south Mississippi with a fever blister will now claim to have sipped the magic brew from Bowmore. Every two-bit ambulance chaser with a law degree is driving there now to sign up clients. This wasn’t supposed to happen, Bobby. You assured me.”

Ratzaff had a memo under lock and key. It was eight years old and had been prepared under his own supervision. It ran for a hundred pages and described in gruesome detail the company’s illegal dumping of toxic waste at the Bowmore plant. It summarized the company’s elaborate efforts to hide the dumping, to dupe the Environmental Protection Agency, and to buy off the politicians at the local, state, and federal level. It recommended a clandestine but effective cleanup of the waste site, at a cost of some $50 million. It begged anyone who read it to stop the dumping.

And, most important at this critical moment, it predicted a bad verdict someday in a courtroom.

Only luck and a flagrant disregard for the rules of civil procedure had allowed Ratzlaff to keep the memo a secret.

Mr. Trudeau had been given a copy of it eight years earlier, though he now denied he’d ever seen it. Ratzlaff was tempted to dust it off now and read a few select passages, but, again, he treasured his job.

Mr. Trudeau walked to the table, placed both palms flat on the Italian leather, glared at Bobby Ratzlaff, and said, “I swear to you, it will never happen. Not one dime of our hard-earned profits will ever get into the hands of those trailer park peasants…. If I have to bankrupt it or break it into fifteen pieces, I swear to you on my mother’s grave that not one dime of Krane’s money will ever be touched by those ignorant people.”

and with that promise, he walked across the Persian rug, lifted his jacket from a rack, and left the office.

-The Appeal by John Grisham, pages 16-19

The Appeal by John Grisham is a compelling, at times frightening, look at the appeals process, big business, the new and growing trend of buying elections, and a grim outlook at where it is all taking us. The book begins where most legal fictions end, with the verdict and then follows the appeal through corporate maneuvering and the campaign to plant their man on the Mississippi Supreme Court who will rule in their favor.

While the company in this story is clearly liable for the injuries cause by their gross negligence, flagrant disregard for mandated disposal of their product and illegal dumping of class I carcinogens that eventually leeched into the towns water supply, claiming the lives of nearly 70 residents and another 140 on their way to the graves, it is important to remember that there area great number of frivolous personal injury lawsuits and stacked class action suits filed everyday in this country. Grisham does show this to some extent with Bintz, the Philadelphia (that’s Pennsylvania, not Mississippi), but the fact does seem to be glossed over with the book’s focus on the more sensational and legitimate cases being rendered by the stacked court.

One thing I have learned in my 30+ years of life is that nothing is simple, nothing is all of one and none of the other. Business, the legal system, and politics, like life, are a complex mix of facts and interested parties, and as many outcomes to factor into account as the causes that brought things to that point. Grisham well displays, though again somewhat slanted, how people with beliefs and causes can be whipped up into a frenzy with campaign rhetoric, half-truths, and sound-bytes. I generally try to defer discussing politics and religion in my blog and reviews, but I imagine regular readers have picked up on the fact that I am a Christian with a moderate-to-conservative Republican view on politics. To a degree, Grisham seems to hold up the liberal side of things as being the thinking side and the Christian conservative side as being the easily manipulated simpletons who are ushering in the ruination of the country.

To be fair to the author, Grisham doeshave Denny Ott, a non-denom pastor who thinks for himself and chastises a fellow church leader for his use of the pulpit as a campaign tool. Also, the protagonists of the book, married partners of the law firm Payton & Payton, are also practicing Christians who pray before going into court, donate legal advice through Ott’s church, and sacrifice everything for what they believe is right; Krane should be held accountable for their heinous conduct that has destroyed the lives and even the town of Bowmore.

The Appeal by John Grisham is the first Grisham novel I have read, though I have seen several of the author’s books-to-movies. I definitely enjoyed the easy to read writing style, and was captivated by the storyline. Grisham is an excellent storyteller, and The Appeal will not be my last of his books. I give it 4 stars out of 5, it’s a good, solid book that makes you think and consider the world around you.

Here is a clip of Border’s interview with John Grisham about The Appeal. Very interesting and eye-opening:

Exit Ghost by Philip Roth

Title: Exit Ghost
Author: Philip Roth
Hardcover: 292 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publish Date:2007
ISBN: 9780618975477

What surprised me most my first few days walking around the city? The most obvious thing – the cell phones. We had no reception as yet up on my mountain, and down in Athena, where they do have it, I’d rarely see people striding the streets talking uninhibitedly into their phones. I remembered a New York when the only people walking up Broadway seemingly talking to themselves were crazy. What had happened in these ten years fo there suddenly to be so much to say – so much so pressing that it couldn’t wait to be said? Everywhere I walked, somebody was approaching me talking on a phone and someone was behind me talking on a phone. Inside the cars, the driver were on the phone. When I took a taxi, the cabbie was on the phone. For one who frequently went without talking to anyone for days at a time, I had to wonder what that had previously held them up had collapsed in people to make incessant talking into a telephone preferable to walking about under no one’s surveillance, momentarily solitary, assimilating the streets through one’s animal senses and thinking the myriad thoughts that the activities of a city inspire. For me it made the streets appear comic and the people ridiculous.

-Exit Ghost by Philip Roth, pages 63-64

Nathan Zuckerman is man in the twilight years of his life. As an author, words and ideas have been his medium to work and creation, yet, now age seventy-one, senility and his growing “word salad” difficulty has begun is slowly robbing him of his ability to write. Once virile and in control of his destiny, a prostectomy has rendered him impotent and incontinent. And, after ten years of New England solitude, the hope of regaining some bladder control from a medical procedure has brought him back to the cosmopolis of his exodus, New York City, where he likens himself to Rip Van Winkle, returning from his twenty-year nap and finding the entire world changed.

In his week-long stay, he makes connections with three people who that threaten to irreversibly alter his chosen isolation and reality. With the first, he makes a rash decision to answer an add to swap homes and meets the young and seductive, Jamie Logan, who inspires a fantasy affair in Zuckerman’s mind and reawakens his all-but-lost desire for female company. His second, the serendipitous running into of Amy Bellette, the mistress of his literary icon, Manny Lonoff, reminds him of both his youthful past and his ever-creeping mortality. The third connection he makes is with Richard Kliman, an abrasive, tenacious wanna-be literateur, who believes he has discovered Lonoff’s “great secret” and wants to write his biography, exposing the author’s shameful “crime” in the titillating tell-all fashion of the modern biography, a genre of current writing that is more Weekly World News than World News.

Meeting these three people force Zuckerman to face and accept the realities that his isolation has allowed him to ignore: He is getting old, each day bringing him closer to his own life’s end, and after his death he will no longer have control of that life he lived, as some young writer wanting to make a name for himself may decide to write the expose of Nathan Zuckerman. In the end, he asks himself this questions: Once I am dead, who can protect the story of my life? How will I have failed to be the model human? What will be my great, unseemly secret?

************************************************

Exit Ghost  is my first experience reading Philip Roth, but I don’t plan on making it my last. Slow going at first, I wasn’t sure I would really be able to get into it. How can a mid-thirties, single mom understand and relate to a septuagenarian man? How can I, a moderate to conservative Republican from the mid-west, relate to a liberal Democrat New Englander? I’m a product of the Eighties and Nineties, he is a product of the fifties and sixties. I’m a W.A.S.P. and he a Jew. I am in the Summer of my life when all my body parts are where the good Lord put them, and work within normal parameters. He is entering the Winter of his, incontinent, showing the beginning of dementia, with a mutinous body. I’m aware death will someday happen, though not many I know have experienced it. Zuckerman is facing it’s certainty, many of his friends and contemporaries having already passed through that gate.

However, for all this lack of commonality, Roth manages the miraculous; for a time, a young woman in her prime became an aging man in his decline.

Winner of several prestigious awards, Philip Roth is a skilled, intelligent yet readable, wordsmith. He references Joseph Conrad (an author I have not yet read, but I do have Heart of Darknesson Mt. TBR) often in Exit Ghost, and I found his writing style to be reminiscent of Faulkner (not surprisingly, he has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times).

For it’s ability to transport the reader to a life completely foreign and unimaginable, as well as for it’s well-written and memorable passages that are sure to be included in quotable literature books, I give Exit Ghost by Philip Roth  five out of five stars.

hated it!didn't like itit was okayliked itLoved it!

Does A Christian Have a Brain?

I’ve just read an interesting Sunday Salon post from Death by Novel. In it, he talks about the fascinating feature on LibraryThing known as the “unsuggester”, an algorithm that determines which books you would least like based on your library.

As I had never heard of this feature, I had to run right over and check out what my least likely to like books are.

Here is a random list of 10 books LT thinks I won’t like:

The number one book I will hate with a passion: Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar by William D. Mounce
You know, I could say this book would be Greek to me, but I might get boo-ed off the net for bad jokes. But the truths it I would definately have to agree with this one. The closest I want to know about biblical Greek grammar is my Strong’s Concordance.

Second on the list is The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper. Considering I have no intention of becoming a preacher, I’ll agree with LT on this. The thing that bothers me, though. is when I clicked ‘why?” it list several of my 1001 books, as well as The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Godfather (okay, I’ll give it to them on the last one). Is the Unsuggester suggesting if I have a brain and read thought provoking books, I couldn’t possible want to be a preacher? This puzzles me…

The third of my would-be most-hated books is The New ‘Mayflower’ by Alan Villiers. Given the fact it’s only owned by one other LTer (who gave it 2 stars, I might add), and the tags suggest it is a book for avid sailors, I’d say this one should be on most people’s unsuggested list.

The fourth dead fish in my net is Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem. I ACTUALLY HAD THIS ONE! and I gave it away on BookMooch… I had barely cracked the binding! It was like a technical manual (“like reading stereo instructions!” as Beetlejuice might say).

The fifth ill-fated fare is The Bible History Old Testament In Two Volumes, Complete and Unabridged by Alfred Edersheim. Okay, now I like history and I like biblial history… but the “Two Volumes, Complete and Unabridged” part says “Library dungeon geek” to me.

The sixth stinker is The Ramabai Reader: Selections from “The High Caste Hindu Woman”, “Testimony”, Letters, “Stree Dharma Neeti” and Other Hindu Women by Pandita Ramabai Saraswati. The title’s so long it doesn’t even fit on the book page. I don’t know why it says I won’t like this, I have The Namesake, and I’m going to get Interpreter of Maladies next week at Waldenbooks (I made this book and Dreams of My Father a promise I’d be back to save them from the cold, lonely shelf). Is LT telling me I wouldn’t like Indian Women’s Lit?

The seventh awful offering is Brothers, we are not professionals : a plea to pastors for radical ministry by John Piper. A second book I should never read from John Piper. Again, I have no interest in the pastoral arts.

The eighth rotten egg is Who Made God? : And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith by Ravi Zacharias. Actually, this one sounds interesting. I think I’ll rebel on this one and mooch it.

The Ninth nixer is Insensitive Semantics: A Defense of Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism by Herman Cappelen…… HUH?????… Is this random words strung together? or does this title actually make sense?

And to round things off, number ten to turn away is The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die by John Piper. Hey, haven’t I seen his name before?

Now, I haven’t put all my books in LibraryThing library. All of my Christian books are in the shelf next to me, but I’ve just never gotten around to them. Some of them are from college (I have a Bachelor’s in Christian Ministry, are you surprised?) Four years of reading text books and non-fiction, and all the years before when I only read classics, have now given me a serious thirst for contemporary fiction. But is LibraryThing’s unsuggesting algorithm saying I can’t be a Christian AND have a brain? Hmmm….

I’ll just leave you with my number eleven “don’t ever read this, you’ll hate it” unsuggestion: The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman. What reason does it give? Because I have Christian books! I’ve got The Purpose Driven Life, Purpose Driven Church, Purpose Driven Youth, Darwin’s Black Box, The Darwin Conspiracy. I’ve got Bentley Little, Harlan Coben, and conservative books like Black Rednecks and White Liberals. BUT wait, LT Al! I also have Stardust and Neverwhere, both by Gaiman. I also have several Palahniuk’s, Steven King’s and Mieville’s.

Am I schizophrenic? or is the Unsuggester the Anti-Christ?

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