Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein

Title:  Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes

Authors:  Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein

Paperback:  196 pages

published:  2008

ISBN:  9780143113874

An Irishman walks into a Dublin bar, orders three pints of Guinness, and drinks them down, taking a sip from one, then a sip from the next, until they’re gone.  He then orders three more.  The bartender says, “You know, they’d be less likely to go flat if you bought them one at a time.”

The man says, “Yeah, I know, but I have two brothers, one in the States, one in Australia.  When we all went our seperate ways, we promised each other that we’d all drink this way in memory of the days when we drank together.  Each of these is for one of my brothers and the third is for me.”

The bartender is touched, and says, “What a great custom!”

The Irishman becomes a regular in the bar and always orders the same way.

One day he comes in and orders two pints.  The other regulars notice, and a silence falls over the bar.  When he comes to the bar for his second round, the bartender says, “Please accept my condolences, pal.”

The Irishman says, “Oh, no, everyone’s fine.  I just joined the Mormon Church, and I had to quit drinking.”

-”Illogical Reasoning,” Plato and a Platypus Walks into a Bar… by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, page 29

In Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein the authors use jokes to illustrate a wide variety of philosophical schools of thought.  Sometimes they do it with great intelligence and deftness, sometimes not so much.  Most of the jokes are quite funny, with an occasional belly-buster, but some do fall a little flat.

But the jokes are only a vehicle for the authors to open the door for the layman to understand different philosophical thoughts.  For the most part, they are successful in this venture, but there are a few sections which I didn’t understand any better after reading them than I did before.  Overall, however, the book seems to be meant only to introduce the reader to philosophy, leaving it to them to explore different concepts on their own. 

Two cows are standing in the pasture.  One turns to the other and says, “Although pi is usually abbreviated to five numbers, it actually goes on into infinity.”

The second cow turns to the first and says, “Moo.” -”Metaphysics,” page 20

What this book really accomplishes is make philosophy accessable to readers who have had little to no exposure to it.  After reading, I also want to look into some of the philosophers mentioned in this book.  For readability and for inspiring me to get MORE books, I give Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein 4 out of 5 stars.

An eighty-year-old woman bursts into the men’s day-room at the retirement home.  She holds her clenched fist in the air and announces, “Anyone who can guess what I have in my hand can have sex with me tonight!”

An old man in the back shouts, “An elephant?”

The woman thinks for a moment and says, “Close enough!” -”Philosophy of Language,” page 141

By the way, the website is pretty cool, as well.  You can watch videos as well as take tests and read the authors’ latest news.  Check out Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar… the website.

Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich

Title:  Three to Get Deadly:  A Stephanie Plum Novel

Author:  Janet Evanovich

Paperback:  321 pages

published:  1997

ISBN:  0312966091

“You’re ruining everything,” Stuart said to me.  “Why can’t you leave me alone?  Who’s going to be Mr. Cluck if you take me in?”

I pulled the cuffs out of my pocket.  “Don’t give me a hard time, Stuart.”

“You can’t put cuffs on Mr. Cluck!”  Stuart said.  “What will all these kids think?”

“Wouldn’t get my hopes up that they’d give a hello,” Lula said.  “Isn’t like you’re Santa Claus.  Truth is, you’re just some whiny little guy dressed up in a bad suit.”

“This isn’t a big deal,” I said to Stuart as calmly as possible.  “I’m going to cuff you and walk you out the door, and if we do it quickly and quietly no one will notice.”

I reached out to snap the cuffs on Stuart, and he batted me away with his chicken wing.  “Leave me alone,” Stuart said, knocking the cuffs out of my hand, sending them sailing across the room.  “I’m not going to jail!”  He grabbed the mustard and the special-sauce squirters off the condiment counter.  “Stand back!” he said.

I had pepper spray and a stun gun, but it seemed like the excessive force to use them against a chicken armed with special sauce.

-Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich, page 236

In this third book of Evonovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, Stephanie back in the Buick, even though she tried to replace it with a cute little truck that spends more time in the shop than on the road.  She’s caught what she’d thought was a couple easy skips, but have turned out to be like trying to find Jimmy Hoffa and capturing Dilinger.  What’s worse, Morelli is treating her diffidently, while Ranger seems to be a superhero, and Grandma Mazur keeps bringing men over (her studmuffins) who seem to want to move in with the family (some have all their original parts, while others plop their replacement parts on the dinner table while eating).  If that’s not bad enough, Stephanie gets a bad dye job making her look like Ronald McDonald’s Jersey cousin.  It’s all very hilarious and quite a fun read.

I give Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.  It’s not the best Plum, but still quite fun to read. (Wow, that was about the shortest review EVER!.. at least, for me.)

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

Title:  Dune Messiah

Author:  Frank Herbert

Paperback:  279 pages

Published: 1969

ISBN:  0425074986

“I prefer the cynical view,” Paul said, testing.  “You obviously are trained in all the lying tricks of statecraft, the double meanings and the power words.  Language is nothing more than a weapon to you and, thus, you test my armor.”

“The cynical view,” Edric said, a smile stretching his mouth.  “And rulers are notoriously cynical where religions are concerned.  Religion, too, is a weapon.  What manner of weapon is religion when it becomes the government?”

-Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert, pages 108-109

Earlier this year, I read and reviewed the first of the Dune novels by Frank Herbert, which is arguabley one of the greatest science fiction books ever written.  And while Dune Messiah isn’t as beloved as the original, it is, in my oppinion, every bit as good as the first.  It is intellectual, even philosophical, and the characters are tangible and relateable.  There is one caveat I’d warn you if you plan on reading it.  Dune Messiah is NOT brain candy.  It requires thinking as you read it.  At times, it gets a little deep in thought, but it’s well worth it.

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert picks up about 12 years later after Paul Muad’Dib has led the Fremen in a galactic jihad.  He has not only become the emporer, but also has become the religious central figure, along with his sister Alia.  Officially married to the Princess Irulan, she functions more as his ettiquette and political advisor, while Chani, his Fremen concubine, is his love and true wife.  He refuses to allow Irulan’s desire to be the mother of the imperial line, deferring that to Chani.  The trouble is, Irulan isn’t the only one who want his genetic material, but the Bene Gesserits and the Bene Tleilaxu do, as well.  The latter two want to make a kwisatz haderach that they can control.  Irulan seems to want it out of pride.

Also going on is the declining appoval of the new world Muad’Dib has brought to the planet Dune, also called Arrakis.  Fremen ways are passing, as water has become more abundant and the society is becoming more fragmented and people become more isolated.  Really, it’s no surprise ot me, considering a second term president can go from a 60%+ approval rating before being re-elected and plummet to a less than 30% rating before leaving office. 

Paul, too, has undergone change.  He has become more sullen and feels trapped by his own mythology.  He has known for a long time that no matter which way he turned, fanatics would take up his name as a banner in jihads, that they will worship him whether he is alive or dead, so he tried to pick the best of all the crap paths through his presience powers to lead them.  Unfortunately, however, he’s become a bit of a despot, and he hates what he’s become.

So he has to figure out how he’s going to manage to ensure his child lives to carry on the emire without being under the thumb of either of the Bene schools, that he can escape the weight of being a living god, and somehow return the Fremen to their ways while still having his contributions of planetary changes remain. 

I think one of the biggest reasons why those who loved Dune and hate Dune Messiah do so because this book shows Muad’Dib in a very human and flawed light.  Pride, arrogance, and even cruelty at times are all part of who Paul is and he shows it.  He goes on walks around the city after dark, despite council against it from Stilgar, his closest friend and advisor.  He take in Hayt, the ghola (a reanimated corpse, or a clone of a dead person, not sure which) of Duncan Idaho, despite his warning to get rid of him, as well as his own feelings that Hayt’s meant to be a weapon and every advisor telling  him it’s unnatural.  In this second book, Paul is a bit less likeable than in the first.

I do plan on re-reading both Dune and Dune Messiah, as well as read the third book in the series, Children of Dune.  There is a mini-series made that combined the second and third books, which I’ve watched just the part for this book.  Like most movies-from-books, it left a lot out and failed to completely capture the book, but I’m sure it was doomed from the start, given just how much is in the book.  I give Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner

Title:  Politically Correct Holiday Stories For an Enlightened Yuletide Season

AuthorJames Finn Garner

Hardcover:  99 pages

Published: 1995

ISBN:  0028604202

Twas the night before solstice and all through the co-op
Not a creature was messing the calm status quo up.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Dreaming of lentils and warm whole-grain breads.

We’d welcomed the winter that day after school
By dancing and drumming and burning the Yule,

A more meaningful gesture to honor the planet
Than buying more trinkets for Mom and Aunt Janet,

Or choosing a tree just to murder and stump it
And dress it all up like a seasonal strumpet.

My lifemate and I, having turned down the heat,
Slipped under the covers for a well-deserved sleep,

When from out on the lawn there came such a roar
I fell from my futon and rolled to the floor.

I crawled to the window and pulled back the latch,
And muttered, “Aw, where is the Neighborhood Watch?”

I saw there below through the murk of the night
A sleigh and eight reindeer of nonstandard height.

At the reins of the sleigh sat a mean-hearted knave
Who treated each deer like his persunal slave

I’d seen him before in some ads for car loans,
Plus fast food and soft drinks and cellular phones.

He must have cashed in from his mercantile chores,
Since self-satisfaction just oozed from his pores.

-”Twas the Night Before Solstice”, Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner, pages 1-2

I first came across James Finn Garner’s schtick of running long-standing and beloved stories of western culture through the PC sanitizer in high school when I read his Politically Correct Bedtime Stories.  What made that first book so funny was that it was original and pointed out the ridiculousness of the then small voice of the PC police.  Oh, if only we knew then how that voice would grow and become the bully it is today!

In this holiday version of the original book, Garner revisits our favorite Christmas stories, some with more success than others.  The first is a modernized and sanitized version of Clement Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, and the best offering in the whole book.  The narrator of the story (a man or woman, we never really know.. though, it sounds like a shrill hippy-feminazi) argues with the Santa about everything from Christmas trees to Barbie dolls and toy guns.  Ultimately, Santa capitulates and exits, leaving this admonishment:

“I pity the kids who grow up around here,
Who’re never permitted to be of good cheer,

“Who aren’t allowed leisure for leisure’s own sake,
But must fret every minute -it makes my heart break!”

-pages 8-9

And in place of the traditional “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” this Santa calls out as he flies off, “Happy Christmas to all, but get over yourselves!”

This particular section of the book is, in my opinion, the only part of the book worth reading.  It’s clever and pulls into focus exactly what is at stake with the PC craziness and who suffers the most.  Children are more and more being forced to worry about what they say and how it might be received.  They are forced at ever earlier ages to consider how their words and actions might be taken out of context.  From the kindergartener who was expelled for sexual harassment because he kissed his classmate on the cheek, to Maggie’s own classmates (fifth graders) calling her a racist because she likes asian things (HELLO? she’s asian!) or labeling another classmate as a racist because someone said she is one.  It’s become the new bad-name to call each other whether it is true or not, and whether they even understand what it means.  It’s the “Your mother wears army boots!” of the next generation.

Other stories included in this book:

Frosty the Persun of Snow - Frosty, a gender non-specific persun of snow, organizes a march to D.C. with the goal of making congress enact changes to end global warning.  Unfortunately, an army of snowmen showing up on Capitol Hill tends to draw the media’s attention, and where the media goes, so do those pesky hot lights.

The Nutcracker - Clara organizes committees to talk to the mice and get them to come to an agreement instead of fighting, then refuses the Nutcracker’s invitation to visit his kingdom, calling it a tactic to portray womyn as “docile, helpless and easily manipulated with identities and backgrounds of lesser importance” than that of males, and that they perpetuate their abduction fantasy.  Yeah… political correctness and communism just sucks the fun out of our holiday stories.

Rudolph the Nasally Empowered Reindeer – Basically, Rudolph is a bitter, angry loner who takes the opportunity of Santa’s need for his glowing nose to rape the jolly old elf into concessions that ultimately leave his fellow reindeer unhappy and then he leaves them to organize his Laplander cousins.

A Christmas Carol - All I can say about this one is that Dickens’ original story of keeping the spirit of the season in your heart all year round has been redone, revisited, and remixed so many times that, unless you can really knock it out of the park, another version of it just becomes white noise.  Garner’s attempt is mediocre at best, and portrays Cratchit as a impotent subversive, Fred as a milksop without any sense of self, and Tiny Tim… oh, excuse me, Diminutive Timón as an opportunist. 

Overall, Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner was just meh.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Here’s a clip of my favorite PC Christmas Story :-)

TSS ~ I’m Planning a Realignment

The Sunday Salon.com

This is the last Sunday Salon of 2009, and it’s got me thinking about how things has gone this year, as well as what I want to do next year.  For one thing, in looking back at all the books I’ve read this year (76 as of right now), it seems like it’s been a LOOOONG year, lol.  AND I started the year late, finishing my first book, Bedlam, Bath and Beyond by J.D. Warren on February 10.  I also took a detour into the land of Azeroth, discovering the world of MMORPG (the acronym for “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game”) when I decided to check out what all the WoW fuss was.  And while I still enjoy playing, I’ve gotten over it as such an obsessive distraction.  Recently, a friend of mine tried to get me into another game like World of Warcraft (or WoW is like it, since it was first) called Guild Wars, but I didn’t really dig it.  I also gave Warhammer a try, and was unimpressed by it, as well.  Books just beat any other medium of escape!

This past year I’ve read a variety of genres from sci-fi like Freedom’s Landing, Dune and Dune Messiah (not yet reviewed) to classics such as Silas Marner, Emma, and Northanger Abbey (not yet reviewed).  I’ve read horror, like Heart-Shaped Box, children’s books, like The Tutu Ballet, and serial books like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6 of the Harry Potter series), Marked (Book 1 of The House of Night series), and Brisingr (Book 3 of The Inheritance Cycle).  I’ve read books that have been made into movies, sometimes for the better, like Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, and Confessions of a Shopoholic.  I didn’t limit myself to fiction, either, and read The World Without Us, The Stettheimer Dollhouse, and  An Inconvenient Book (not yet reviewed) and read poetry and plays like Dr. Faustus and Custard and Company, too.

For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read this year and it’s hard to pick favorites.  But I shall try!  The following are my stars of 2009 (in no particular order):

1.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ~ My all-time favorite book, I fell in love with the story and Zusak’s writing style.  I hope to give his other books a read as well someday.  After finishing this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I couldn’t start another book for awhile.  I still find myself thinking about the beauty of the writing, the characters, and I want to reread it sometime soon.

2.  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury ~ First off, I love dystopic books, it’s probably my favorite genre.  My definition of dystopia is:  Someone’s Utopia is another’s HELL.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this book lately, as I look at pictures I’ve taken of my 16-year-old this year.  In every one she’s got her mp3 player going in her ears.  At one point in time this year, all four of us were sitting in the same room, all of us listening to our own little soundtracks of our own lives.  We were all in huggable difference, and yet we were in different universes.  All I could think about were the seashells that Montag’s wife wore in her ears.  It was a disturbing and surreal moment.

3.  Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen ~ This book was vivid and well-researched, and it made me feel the magic of going to a circus as a child for the first time.  It had intrigue, romance, and the Great Depression.  The moving back and forth from the present Jacob Jankowski (who was 92, or 93, or 94.. he couldn’t even remember anymore) to the young Jacob who walked away from his vet finals after the death of his parents, becoming the vet for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

4.  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen ~ I recently finished this one, but in my rush to reach my goal of 75 books I’ve put off writing a review.  Hopefully I’ll get to it this coming week, but it’ll probably not happened until after the kids get back to school in the new year.  Northanger Abbey is my FAVORITE Austen book.  It’s witty and fun and Austen uses it as a great vehicle for arguing the criticisms of her day.  Reading this book was like watching myself as a teen.  I was soOOo Catherine Morland!  Dreamy, romantic who read way too many books and had no grasp of how the real world worked.

5.  Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper ~ Probably the book with the longest full title I’ve read:  Homer’s Odyssey:  A Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat.  This is my pimping-book for the year, meaning it’s the book I’ve been telling EVERYONE I see to read.  In addition to mad reco’s, I gave away copies as Christmas presents.  It’s such an inspirational and heart-warming story that I just can’t stop talking about it.  I know I’ll reread this one again and again :-)

So, what are my plans for the New Year?  Well… I don’t really want to say I’ve made RESOLUTIONS because they never really work.  I’ve been thinking in terms of REALIGNMENTS.  I’ve gotten a bit lazy or distracted about things and have gone a bit off mark from where I wanted to go at the beginning of this year.  So, here’s what I’m wanting to do as we begin 2010:

1.  Um… I really need to do some house cleaning.  Bad.  I keep waiting for Miss Niecy to show up, lol, but I don’t think she’s coming.  Honestly, with all my online game-playing (WoW and facebook games being the main offenders) in the last few months, the laundry has piled up as have the dishes, and it’s starting to look like we have a dirt floor in the kitchen.  So, that’s first on my list of what I need to get done.

2.  I need to get back to cooking dinners.  Again, I’ve been lazy about not wanting to stop playing the games, and Domino’s has become #1 on my speed dial.  My kids are probably the only ones in the world that have said “Please, no more pizza!  I’m sick of pizza!”  And no,  frozen dinners don’t count as “cooking more”… lol.

3.  Get back to blogging regularly.  I’ve been bad about writing meme posts (which I enjoy) and writing reviews (which is sometimes a bit of work, but I also enjoy), mostly because *cough* it’d require me to get off the game and write them.  Yeah… like I said, I’ve been bad about the games here lately.

4.  Try to take things in balance.  I have a bad habit of going “all one thing at the expense of everything else”.  When I’m reading, that’s all I’m doing.  That’s how I’ve managed to read almost 20 books in a little over a month.  It’s pretty much all I’ve done.  When I was playing WoW, that was all I did, too.  All day, every day… sometimes for more than 24 hours straight.  I just don’t seem to know how to do moderation.

5.  Get through all my ARC-alanche pile.  Period.  Some of them have been on this pile for almost 2 years now.  I still have Stealing Athena, The Aviary Gate, Zoe’s Tale, and The Good Thief on it.  SOME are now available in AUDIOBOOK FORM.  I really need to focus on getting these books done.  I have FIVE LibraryThing Early Reader books to read, including Any Given Doomsday which I received back in February. 

So, how about you?  Any resolutions?  What do you hope to do in the year to come?

Mags and I love watching Style Network’s Clean House (the ones with Niecy Nash… not the other lady) and we love to veg in my bed together and watch marathons of the show.  Miss Niecy is lovely and hilarious, and after a few shows we can’t help but walk around doing Miss Niecy impressions… lol.  But, of course, it’s never as good as the original ;-) 

Santa – Weird, Creepy and just plain WTF?!

Yeah… I know this is NOT getting any reading done… or baking and housework, which is what I had planned to do today… BUT!  I just had to share :-D

Everyone, in the western world to be sure, has had their picture taken with Santa.  Most of us have had our kids -and dogs and cats, even- on The Big Man’s lap for a snapshot, as well.  While most of them turn out fair to middlin, occasionally The Man in Red has a bad photo moment.

Also… No doubt there will be many happy, colorful and pretty pics posted on blogs and the internet at large wishing Merry Christmas to all.  Ummmm…. I don’t know if you know this but, *whispers* I’m not normal.  Yeah, shocker, I know… so I googled around for the um, overlooked and underviewed holiday pictures. *evil grin*

First off, I have to share a wonderful blog that I stumbled upon in my googled search for “creepy Santa” images.  Sketchy Santas has a treasure trove of Santa pics ranging from quizically odd to WTF?!

I could NOT stop laughing at this pic of Jazz Hands Santa.  I found it at Sketchy Santa, and it has the highest number of comments, many of which are as funny as the picture itself.  I mean, SERIOUSLY!  How does one explain this?  The teenage boy looks as if he has his pants down around his ankles, but at least his shorts match Santa’s suit.  WHY, oh gawd why, is he holding a SAX?  It begs the “And one time, at band camp…” line to be said without thought when you look at the pic.  And WHERE is Santa’s OTHER hand?

Santa looks like he’s enjoying himself, too. 

I don’t know if this was a case of teen boys having too much time on their hands and deciding to have fun at the expense of a mall Santa, or if he lost a bet… Maybe he won the bet?  Who knows, but it’s got to be the funniest Santa Pic ever.

Here are a few other Not-Quite-Right Santa Pics for your perusal and enjoyment:

They're all cryingEven Santa’s crying!

 fake santa or fake baby I’m not sure which is creepier… The Santa or the baby! They both look fake.

 Santa PeepersWhat’s up with Santa’s eyes? Did one of them kick him in his jingle balls? 

You know… I just don’t know what to say about this one.  It looks like he’s making faces at the little boy.  Or telling him he’s going to sneek into his house on Christmas eve and steal all his bottles and toys if he keeps on crying.

Maybe he’s making the face because the kid has a stinky diaper?

IDK… Could you imagine having this in your baby book for your first Christmas?

*shivers*

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hungover Santa

I wasn’t sure WHAT to make of this photo, until I saw this pic

 ho for blow

hohoho… Hello, Little Girl… Would you like some candy?  MMmm… just sit right here on your special Santa’s lap.  Don’t worry, that IS just a candy cane in my pocket, but I’m also very, very happy to see you *creepy grin*

Makes you wonder about the Santa in your own mall, doesn’t it?

LOL.. I’m sure this one’s not a pedophile and all, but the pic is wrong in soooo many ways.  The way he’s holding her shoulders.  The way he’s leaning into her.  The way she’s sideways and looks like she’d want nothing more than to be a billion miles away from Mr. Creepy with the beard.

The look on his face doesn’t help, either… it’s like he’s beein waiting his whole life for this moment to happen and he can hardly contain himself… lol.  Definitely a “Bad Santa Pic”

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OMG!  The look on the little boy’s face is PRICELESS!  Granted, Santa’s creepy, but the veins are popping out on the toddler’s forehead even!  Oh, he was scarred for life, I’m sure!  And the sister looks like it’s just the funniest thing ever!  It could be a pic out of my OWN childhood… lol.

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The Burger King King is coping with the recession by moonlighting as a mall Santa!  Who knew!

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And a few NON-Traditional Santa pictures… some creepy, some funny

Grinch Kitty

Santa's Trial 

 

Santa's deadBurn Santa BURN!

Madonna and Santa Baby

Santa Bum

Santa versus a 747

Evil Santa

Zombie Santa

Have You been Naughty?

And a couple videos for fun.  The music in them are fun, too :-)

and the ending of this next one was a bit of a surprise.  I called the kids in to watch it, and they hadn’t ever seen the clip, so evidently it’s not a US one.

Hope you haven’t been NAUGHTY.. lol… and Hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

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 Sunday Salon ~ Jane Austen and Henry III in a throw down… who’d win?

The Sunday Salon.com

Read.  Read read read read read.  and then Read some more.  Having been distracted by life and video games, it would seem that the end of the year has snuck up on me.. again.  This is very familiar.  It seems that I was racing to the end of the year last December, as well, only Second Life was my distractor then… World of Warcraft has done it this year (the facebook games don’t help, either).  But I think I’ll make the 75-book goal this year.  I’ve already read more this year than last.  I ended with 63 last year, but I’ve read 71 already, and with only eleven more days to go, I’m confident I’ll hit 75.

This week I finished three books ~

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is the fifth of the sixth Jane Austen novels.  Though it was written first, it was published, posthumously, next to last.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and have to admit that it’s my new Austen favorite.  I crushed harder on Henry Tilney than I did on Mr. Darcy, and that’s saying something.  Tilney has a bit of an edge over Darcy… Henry is actually a nice person, as well as being funny and smart.  Darcy, while sweet in his private way, was a bit of an ass.  I guess that went along well with Elizabeth, since she liked to jump to conclusions and was a bit proud herself, but it did a little to put one off.  Of course, the ingenue.. the innocent, country flower.. who is a blank slate and, therefore, non-threatening to Tilney’s intellectual authority, ready and willing to be molded by him, which suits his fancy, I think. 

All in all, I enjoyed Austen’s wit and sarcasm, as well as her parody of Gothic novels of her day.

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar is a humorous walk through many schools of philosophy.  The authors, Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, use jokes to illustrate what each school of thought is about.  Like with Teleology, the philosophy that all things exist for a purpose, one joke used to illustrate this is:

Mrs. Goldstein was walking down the street with her two grandchildren.  A friend stopped to ask her how old they were.  She replied, “The doctor is five and the lawyer is seven.”

I also finished my appointment read, Three to Get Deadly, the third book in the Stephanie Plum numbers series by Janet Evanovich.  I’d been missing Stephanie lately, so I picked this, the next in the series for me, up to read when I was away from home.  I learned an important lesson with it.  Just because a book can fit in your coat pocket doesn’t mean it’s a good appointment book.  By the time I’d gotten to the end of the book, I’d forgotten some of the beginning.  Also, it lost a bit of it’s momentum this way.  In the future, I think I’ll stick to short stories for appointment books.

I’ll write up real reviews for these books later this week… I hope.  I’ve already jumped into my next book, and I’m about 40 pages in it already.  Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert is the second of the Dune series.  I read the first book earlier this year, and I was in the mood for a good sci-fi book, so I picked this up.  I had forgotten how fascinating and fantastic the first book had been, and the second book is, so far, every bit as good.  It is also, however, as much a thinking book as the first.  My brain hurts after a while.   Trying to picture Edric, the fishy-humanoid Guildsman in his tank… picturing the Tleilaxu Face Dancer Scytale manipulate his physical body to be one form one second, then turn into the ghola version of Duncan Idaho (also a mind-bender of a thought), then back again… it’s all an exercising of my imagination muscles… both enjoyable and tiring at the same time.

Reading may be a little easier to do here… but I won’t guarantee it.  Sam, my oldest, has gone to her dad’s for the two-week vacation, and Gwen will go closer to Christmas day, but only stay gone for a week.  Maggie, however, will be here throughout, as her dad has moved back to town.  She’s happy about this, but it has it’s downside, too.  He’s here more, which means he’s nit-picking about my housekeeping more… which means less time to read.   And it means that he no longer needs to take her home with him to spend time, since he can see her whenever he wants. 

LOL.. the remainder of my reading may be Magic Treehouse books with Maggie.

I’ve been watching the Tudors, also.  I got hooked on it when I was sick with the flu last month.  I watched Seasons 1 and 2 straight through on Netflix’s Instant thing.  When the third season came out on DVD this past week, it was on the top of my queue.  I watched the first two discs last night, but I’ll have to wait for the third to come on Monday.  Watching it reminds me how we tend to judge history with modern day values.  Henry VIII was quite a tyrant through 21st century eyes, but was he all that bad or different in his own time-frame?  Sure, he had the north of England hung without trial for rebellion, but the Catholic Church had the Inquisition.  I suppose it all balances out.

I have to admit to a bit of cheating.  I had forgotten which wife Henry took after Jane, so I watched this video.  Now the rest of this season’s lost all suspense for me! 

Happy Reading and have a safe and Merry Christmas, everyone!

Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng

Title:  Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism

Author:  Georgia Byng

Paperback:  373 pages

ISBN:  0439567300

Orphan Molly Moon hates living in Hardwick House.  For starters, the orphanage is run by hairy-faced Miss Adderstone, who makes Molly clean the toilets with her toothbrush.  Mean Hazel Hackersly torments her, and to make matters worse, Molly’s best friend Rocky has just been adopted and is moving to New York City!

But when Molly stumbles upon a mysterious old book on hypnotism, her world is suddenly turned upside down.  With a dazzling flash of her bright green eyes, she discovers that she has the amazing power to make people do things — crazy things.  There’s nothing holding Molly back now, and what better place to begin her adventures than in spectacular New York City as a Broadway superstar?

What Molly doesn’t know is that a sinister stranger is following her with dastardly plans of his own.

-from the first page of Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng

Okay, this was NOT the best book to pick right after reading The Glass Castle, a book about real child abuse and neglect.  I just couldn’t help thinking about the Walls children, and whether they would have appreciated life at Hardwick, or whether Molly would have preferred being a Walls.  Hard to say, both books had hard living for children as a central theme.  Whereas the Walls experience was an inescapable reality, Molly’s is an average child’s fantasy.  “Oh, how I wish I could get back at Mom for making me eat lima beans.  She knows I hate them, that’s why she gives it to me!”  The idea of being able to get revenge for being served vegetables they hate and being force-marched to bed at 9 o’clock makes Molly Moon a fun and silly read for the 8-12 crowd.

I also made the mistake of reading it by myself.  It was actually a restart.  Mags and I had started reading it last spring and had to set it aside when we were 1/3 the way through while she went to visit her dad.  We never picked it back up, and I figured it’d be a quick book to help me hit my 75-book goal (this one makes number 68, only 7 to go :-D )  I remember we’d laughed and laughed until tears came into our eyes and my throat was hoarse from doing the voices and cackling so much.  Without her, however, I only chuckled a couple times and found myself wishing I was sharing it with her.  Children lend their magic to some books, a magic we adults seem to have lost.

I do plan on re-reading it with Mags, all the way through.  But as it stands now, I give Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng 3 out of 5.  I read someone’s review that said how Molly was an unlikeable character, but I disagree with that.  Molly is a fairly blank character, with as little of her own personality and quirks as could be gotten away with.  This isn’t a bad thing, in this case, because what she provides is a template for kids to put themselves in her shoes.  She’s not blank as in “underdeveloped”, rather like a costume has nothing inside.  Which makes me wonder what the reviewer didn’t like about her… hmm…

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Title:  The Glass Castle

Author:  Jeannette Walls

Hardback:  288 pages

ISBN:  9780743247535

Dad came home in the middle of the night a few months later and roused all of us from bed.

“Time to pull up stakes and leave this shit-hole behind,” he hollered.

We had fifteen minutes to gather whatever we needed and pile into the car.

…An hour passed before we finally tied Mom’s paintings on the top of the car, shoved whatever would fit into the trunk, and piled the overflow on the backseat and the car floor.  Dad steered the Blue Goose through the dark, driving slowly so as not to alert anyone in the trailer park that we were, as Dad like to put it, doing the skedaddle.  He was grumbling that he couldn’t understand why the hell it took so long to grab what we needed and haul our asses into the car.

“Dad!” I said.  “I forgot Tinkerbell!”

“Tinkerbell can make it on her own,” Dad said.  “She’s like my brave little girl.  You are brave and ready for adventure, right?”

“I guess,” I said.  I hoped whoever found Tinkerbell would love her despite her melted face.  For comfort, I tried to cradle Quixote, our gray and white cat who was missing an ear, but he growled and scratched at my face.  “Quiet, Quixote!”  I said.

“Cats don’t like to travel,” Mom explained.

Anyone who didn’t like to travel wasn’t invited on our adventure, Dad said.  He stopped the car, grabbed Quixote by the scruff of the neck and tossed him out the window.  Quixote landed with a screeching meow and a thud, Dad accelerated up the road, and I burst into tears.

“Don’t be so sentimental,” Mom said.  She told me we could always get another cat, and now Quixote was going to be  a wild cat, which was much more fun than being a house cat.  Brian, afraid Dad might toss Juju out the window as well, held the dog tight.

-The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, pages 17-18

This incident haunted my mind throughout the whole book.  I couldn’t help think, “If they could just toss the cat out without a thought, telling me we could just get another, who’s to say they wouldn’t do that to me, as well?”  Later in the book when Jeannette takes a tumble out of the moving car, the same thought occurred to her as she watches the family disappear down the road.  “What if they decide I’m too much trouble to come back for?”  It had to be a terribly difficult uncertainty to grow up with.

Not only is there the impermanence of home and things, there are virtually no rules nor supervision, as the Rex, Jeannette’s father, spends much of his time “researching” at the local tavern and her mom, a narcissistic enabler with some sort of mood disorder fritters her time and money away escaping reality in books and painting.  Too many times to count, the kids are forced to go hungry… or worse, dig through garbage to find food… while Dad drinks and smokes the money away and Mom sneaks nibbles of Hershey bars hidden under her covers. 

On the rare occasion the mother works, it’s the kids who have to force her out of bed and onto school where she’s a teacher, then clean her classroom after school, grade her papers and make out her lesson plans in the evenings.  After spending 8 weeks away from Rex and the kids, living in a dorm, eating regularly and taking classes to keep her teaching licence up to date, she comes home to report she’s had an epiphany.  She tells her teenage daughter who has been handling the bills, working and feeding her siblings, that she’s spent her whole life taking care of everyone else and now she’s gonna live life for herself… say WHAT?!

yeah….. m’kay.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a shocking and heartbreaking memoir of growing up with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother.  Over and over, I was stunned and even angered by the so-called adults complete and total lack of parenting skills.  At one point, Jeannette, who was 7 or 8 at the time, wakes up to find a strange man touching her beneath her covers, and when she tells her parents maybe they should shut and locked the doors at night so as to keep the creeps out, they tell her some crap about fresh air and not letting fear get the better of you.  In her teens, when Jeannette tells her mom that her uncle has been inappropriate with her, her mother tells her he’s just lonely and that “sexual assault is a crime of perception.”  Time and again, these two genetic donors (calling them parents is going too far, to be honest), show a complete lack of common sense and sheer laziness to step up to the plate.  I am amazed that the kids lived to adulthood, let alone to be anything close as successful as they nationally syndicated columnist and regular contributor to MSNBC.  Brian and Lori also made good despite their upbringing.

One thing I can say about reading this book is that I can say with 100% certainty that I’m not that bad as a parent.  It’s done a lot to make me feel better as a parent… at least I shut the doors at night and feed my kids and make sure they bathe regularly.  I make sure they’re fed before I feed myself and I’d damn sure have food in the fridge AND pantry before gnawing on a Hershey bar.  I feel guilty if I decide not to share my candy bar.. or Lindt truffle balls, nom nom nom…  but that’s because they’ve ate plenty and had dessert, and By GOD, this is ONE thing I kept for myself.  And I feel guilty for THAT!  I can’t imagine the utter self-centeredness, truly clinical narcissism, the mother wallowed in.  Also, I can say with certainty to my kids that they’ve never gone hungry.  They may not like what’s in the cabinets, but there IS food… it’s just not ready-made junk for them to snack on. 

I read a few reviews of The Glass Castle, and one reader dinged the book because the author conveys such neglect and abuse in a very unemotional manner.  How could anyone suffer such a life without feeling a sense of indignity and injustice?  To this I must point out that Walls is a professional journalist, and relaying information in an objective, matter-of-fact way is part of the job, so I wasn’t surprised by that at all.  Also, I think it’s a normal part of the coping skills of an abuse survivor to learn to be able to talk about it with some distance and disconnection.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a great story of resilience and survival.  I don’t recommend it to be read in one sitting, as it can get emotionally overwhelming, but definitely a worthwhile read.   If I could ask Walls one question, I’d want to know how she thinks her life might have turned out without public libraries and books to turn to.  At times, it seems the only escape the kids had and a part of her best memories.  I give The Glass Castle 4 out of 5 stars.

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