The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

landing_LLTitle:  The Last Lecture

Author:  Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow

Hardcover:  207 pages

ISBN:  9781401323257

Brick walls are there for a reason.  They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.

Grab your box of Kleenex because you’re gonna cry, most of the time they’ll be tears of laughter, but some of them will be from heart ache.  OH! and  Don’t forget the pen and paper, because you’ll want to take notes.  Professor Pausch is taking the stage for The Last Lecture.

Pausch covers the elephant in the room in his opening paragraphs:

I have an engineering problem.  While for the most part I’m in terrific physical shape, I have ten tumors in my liver and I  have only a few months left to live.

I am a father of three young children, and married to the woman of my dreams.  While I could easily feel sorry for myself, that wouldn’t do them, or me, any good.

So many things in this book are deeply inspirational, and that’s no surprise; he’s dying from cancer and that’s given him a chance to step back and say, “What legacy am I leaving?”  Much of them are simple concepts like, “Tell the truth, it’s not only morally right but efficient.”  Some are more profound like, “one customer-service decision over a ten-dollar salt and pepper shaker [ended] up earning Disney more than $100,000.”  But all of them are worth saving, writing down, reciting, and implementing, because Randy Pausch lived a life that saw almost all of his childhood dreams come true.

My Childhood Dreams

  • Being in zero gravity
  • Playing in the NFL
  • Authoring an article in the World Book encyclopedia
  • Being Captain Kirk
  • Winning stuffed animals
  • Being a Disney Imagineer

My mom turned me onto this book a couple weeks ago when I was telling her about whatever book I was reading, and she told me she’d just read a really great book.  Now, my mom doesn’t say a book is great very often… in fact, a lot of the time, they barely make much of a blip on her radar.  I’m not saying she’s a picky reader or critical, but when she ONE remembers a book and talks about it and TWO applies the “great” stamp to it, it’s a book guaranteed worth reading.

And I was definitely NOT disappointed.  The copy I have came from the library, but I will be buying my own copy.  I wish I could keep this one though… it smells lovely, reminiscent of the Viewfinder we played with when we were kids 🙂

Send Out Thin Mints

As part of my responsibilities, I used to be an academic reviewer.  That meant I’d have to ask other professors to read densely written research papers and review them.  It could be tedious, sleep inducing work.  So I came up with an idea.  I’d send a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints with every paper that needed reviewed.  “Thank you for agreeing to do this,” I’d write.  “The enclosed Thin Mints are your reward.  But no fair eating them until you review the paper.”

… I’ve found Thin Mints are a great communication tool.  THey’re also a sweet reward for a job well done.

Okay, so… Publishers and authors:  I now expect Thin Mints with each book you’re wanting reviewed 😀  It was worth a try!  Chapter 55 says, “Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

Long and short of it:  The Last Lecture is full of common sense, community sense, wisdom that is worth reading and re-reading.  It’d make a great belated Father’s Day present, or a gift to anyone, including yourself.  I give The Last Lecture  by Randy Pausch 5 out of 5 stars.

You can watch Randy’s Last Lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” which was the genesis of this book, it’s an hour and 16 minutes long and worth it 🙂

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Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Title:  Empire Falls

Author:  Richard Russo

Paperback:  483 pages

Date Published:  2001

PublisherVitage Books (a div of Random House)

ISBN:  9780375726408

MiscellaneousEmpire Falls won the 2002 Pulitizer Prize for Fiction

 

“Has it ever occurred to you that life is a river, dear boy?”  Mrs. Whiting said when Miles sat down opposite her in the gazebo.  In asking this question the old woman managed to convey, as with all such queries, that she was not anticipating a response that would enlighten her.  Whereas some people’s attitude suggested that perhaps they knew something you didn’t, Mrs. Whiting’s implied that she knew  everything  you didn’t.  She alone had been paying attention, so it was her duty to bring you at least partially up to speed.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo, page 161

Empire Falls by Richard Russois the multi-faceted and complex tale of the Central Maine town of Empire Falls. Woven together like a rich tapestry, it tells of the cross-generational intersections of the lives of its denizens, with the life of Miles Roby the central focus.

Miles has spent most of his life going with the flow. A devout Catholic, he’s predisposed to motivation-by-guilt and a nagging sensation that everything bad that’s ever happened can somehow, if one looked hard enough, back to him and is his fault. His desire to always do the right thing gives him the unintended air of moral superiority that can be repellent, and the fact that he attended 3 1/2 years of college before returning to Empire Falls when his mother was on her death bed gives him an added perception of intellectual superiority. All of this is not a truth about Miles, only what others sometime perceive about him.

Opposite Miles are Jimmy Minty and Mrs. Whiting. Jimmy Minty, Mr. Empire Falls as he referred to himself, is a police officer and possibly the next Chief of Police. Whereas Miles can seem morally and intellectually superior to the town even though it’s everything he is NOT, Minty is the “everyman”. People may not like him, but at least he’s one of them and knows it. What the town does NOT know is that this “everyman” has keys to each and every lock in Dexter County, a houseful of stolen electronics and no tangible income to explain his ownership of a shiny, new, red Camaro.

Minty’s off-the-book work as Mrs. Whiting’s muscle is, of course, how he affords the car. Think of a Bedford Falls in which George Baily just went along, obligingly, with what Old Man Potter said, and you’d have Empire Falls. Mrs. Whiting is Russo’s answer to Mr. Potter. Incapable of feeling love herself, she has an incredible knack of uncovering that affliction in others and does her best to eradicate it. “Power and Control” are the words by which she lives, and tells Miles that people often confuse will with power, and that the “power” they perceive the lucky few as having is simply that they know what they want in life and go after it.

 

“You appear to have been visited by some sort of revelation, dear boy,” Mrs. Whiting observed. “Here’s my suggestion, though. Why not think things over? Passionate decisions are seldom very sound.”

“When did you ever feel passion?”

“Well, it’s true I’m seldom swept away like those with more romantic temperaments,” she conceded. “But we are what we are, and what can’t be cured must be endured.”

“What can’t be cured mus be avenged,” Miles said. “Isn’t that what you mean?”

She smiled appreciatively. “Payback is how we endure, dear boy…”

Empire Falls by Richard Russo, pages 434-435

 

Another of Miles nemeses, Timmy the Cat, is one of my favorite characters in this book.  Timmy, found and adopted by Mrs. Whiting’s daughter Cindy, had, as a small kitten, been placed in a sack with her litter-mates and tossed into the Knox, the river that runs through Empire Falls.  She was the lone survivor and never right in the head ever after.  Described by Miles in such loving terms as “psychotic” or “homicidal”, Timmy is whispered by the townspeople (usually in the bar and after a few drinks) to be Mrs. Whiting’s familiar.  Appearing as if from thin air whenever Mrs. Whiting’s name is spoken, as if the uttering of her mistress’s name was the spell to summon the demon cat.  In a way, Timmy is representative of Mrs. Whiting’s nature and how she relates to people, as if she were a cat and they the wounded prey she toyed with until they bored her and she finally ended their lives.

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It took me a while to finish Empire Falls, and a bit longer than that to write this review.  It is a dense and complex novel, with several sub-plots and sub-stories.  There’s Tick, Miles’s daughter, and her steady march to adulthood.  Will she become passive and resigned to whatever the fate’s bring like her dad?  David Roby, Miles (maybe half) brother, and his life of sobriety after an accident caused by his own drunk driving, rendered his left hand useless.  And, of course, there’s the incorrigible Max Roby, Miles father, who’s life philosophy can be condensed into two words, “So What!”  Max is always on the look out for the hand out and badgers his son  for money, promising him if he’d just give him $500 then he’d take off for the Florida Keys, and he’d be out of Miles’s hair for a whole New England winter.  Tempting, Miles thinks, before realizing the old man would just call for more money once he got there.

After considering and weighing Empire Falls by Richard Russo, I came to the understanding that the best way to describe it is that it’s a “grown up book”.  Not necessarily for language, though it does have plenty of that, nor for sexual content, ditto, or for violence, though there is animal cruelty and a shooting in it, but rather that it’s the kind of book that rings several emotional and experiential bells that one needs to have lived a little to even begin to catch the nuances and appreciate the full sensations found in the book.

For its intimate and tangible moving portrayal of life in a small town, I give Empire Falls by Richard Russo  4 1/2 out of 5 stars.  I cannot, for the life of me, explain why I’m holding that last 1/2 back… perhaps because it’s not a WOW book, but rather, like water slowly flowing along, eroding the rocks and banks slowly and imperceptively over time, until, all at once and a long way down river, it’ll suddenly hit me.

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I’ve been watching the HBO mini-series Empire Falls, based on this book.  It’s a really good show, and does a good job of staying close to the book, in spirit if not literally.  The screenplay was also written by Richard Russo.  As for the casting, I wasn’t entirely stoked about Ed Harris as Miles, but I did like Paul Newman’s Max Roby, and thought William Fichtner as Jimmy Minty was SPOT ON. 🙂

and a twofer, this one is a brief “making of” but gives a great feel for the book itself.

The Sunday Salon – DEATH to Mr. Manners!

The Sunday Salon.com

Good Morning All!! Happy Sunday, and whatnot. I fell asleep with the TV on CNN and had some very weird dreams. Something about the book Daddy Long Legs, how that got in there I don’t know, along with sitting pool side in Beijing watching Phelps win the 8th gold medal, I doknow how that got in there… it’s only on every five minutes! mixed together with Obama, McCain, housefires and hurricanes to make some weird unconscious cocktail of imagination.

BERNIE MAC died? I just happened to glance over at the TV and just found out. I really love Bernie Mac’s comedy. Guess Who? is one of my favorite comedies, and I love the Bernie Mac show where he’s taking care of his niece and nephew. And I guess Isaac Hayes died, as well. Crap! I need to at least watch the news more.

Chocolate prices is on the rise. That sucks. But I’ll have to say what the smokers say… If it get up to $1.00 a bar, I quit eating it! and then still buying chocolate when it’s $2.50 a bar. Chocolate and books…. they are my crack!

My Friday-Fillinsthis week sparked a bit of interest. It seems you can’t say you intensely dislike your neighbor and suggest we all dress up like my neighbor so we can create mayhem in his (and her) image without getting a couple comments of laughter and curiosity, as well as a few who understand. So I thought I’d explained a little more about the joy and rapture I feel NOT! about my friendly cough next-door neighbors.

When they moved in I said hi and was friendly, and I gave them some tomatoes from my garden and some baked goodies. A few weeks later, Mr. Manners knocked on my door at 10 o’clock at night demanding I turn down my TV. Their grandkidstore up my yard, left their toys and stuff in the grass which made my lawn mower happy, and even played on my front porch with my kids’ stuff when we weren’t home. Mr. Manners made a vague threat he was going to kill my cat by locking him up in his garage and leaving him there for a couple weeks. Last year, when I was walking Missy, our mini rat terrier, he whistled to her in a friendly way, and she went happily to him… after all, every human loves her and has always been good to her. Suddenly he started chucking rocks at her, cussing her out and threatening to kill her if she ever stepped in his yard again. He cussed out my oldest daughter because she was standing too close to his POS van… she was a yard and a half away from it!

A couple weeks ago, Maggie had a lemonade and cookie stand to make money to go to our local amusementpark and asked my neighbor’s grandson if he wanted some. When he went to ask, Mrs. Manners told him he couldn’t have anything she was selling and he wasn’t allowed to talk or play with Maggie and she didn’t want Mags on her property. What? I gave them a box of homemade.. MY made.. cookies and goodies at Christmas, they didn’t die from them then, what gives my cooking cooties now? They were miffed about her out in from of the house hawking her goodies for sale, but then when Mags and I came out to go for breakfast at White House, it looked like their house threw up all over their front lawn. My kid was scum for having a lemonade stand, but here they are having a yard sale! I loudly told Maggie (loud enough for Mr. Manner’s to hear) she should set up her lemonade stand today so she could benefit from Mr. Manner’s yard sale traffic.

What makes matters worse, Mr. Manners happens to be my landlord’s maintenance man. So I have to let him in my house on occasion. The last time he came, Maggie answered the door, took one look at him, screamed in terror, slammed the door and ran to tell me he was at the door. Oh joy… I told him she shouldn’t have answered the door; she should have told me someone was at the door and let me get it. I don’t know if I told him she was scared of him or not.

So, that’s my neighbors. Feel free to wear a disguise that makes you look like them and go create madness and mayhem at the local 7-Eleven. 😀

A couple other things: My grandmother died on Thursday, so my presence on the blogs and ‘net may be a bit thin, particularly on Wednesday (which is the viewing) and Thursday (which is the funeral). The daily Booger factoids will still be posted, so continue to come by and comment, and I’ll put the entries in when I get home.

I don’t know if my little brother (he’s 32, not so little) is coming, and don’t know if I’ll have anyone staying with me in my home. I doubt my mom will. I’m about 90% certain she’ll choose to stay at a hotel, a room of her own and maid service as opposed to crashing here and cleaning up after all of us… which she will, no matter how much I say not to. If my brother and his two sons come up, he might stay with me if mom doesn’t pop for a hotel for them. And he’s a big tech nerd, so I’ll have to threaten to break his fingers if he tries to “improve” my computer. He’s always trying to get people to go Linux. I’m adamantly opposed for the sole reason that he’s so rabidly for it.

OH, and don’t forget to sign up to win that $10 Borders Gift Card! at Boogers and Book Bucks Giveaway!