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Friday, June 29, 2007
"New Rules, Polite Musings from a Timid Observer" by Bill Maher
Okay first of all, the rules are not new because the book was published in 2005. This makes some of the issues dated but for the most part many of Bill Maher's "polite musings" are right on the number. Now with that in mind some of this book is just not funny. It's sad to say that it seems Mr. Maher is funnier when he's talking than writing. But this book has enough fun parts that it makes up for the bad.
I will warn you that most of the book is taking jabs at the Bush administration and Republicans in general. I, being a complete independent when it comes to politics, didn't take offense but I will tell you some of it just got to tiring to read. Another that seems to be in the sights of Bill Maher's rules are the media and celebrities. Now these I found myself agreeing with 100%. I really think the media is no longer media but entertainment and spends way too much time on celebrities. So when he would jab at these topics I was right behind him saying, "Yeah, you tell 'em, Bill."
One example of some of the hit or miss rules is the "Face Reality" rule:
"Stop being shocked when reality TV contestants [notice he doesn't say stars] turn out to be wife beaters, drug addicts, shoplifters and porn stars. They're letting us marry them to strangers and make them eat eel shit. They don't have the gene for shame---that's why they're on reality shows."
See that one I can stand behind, but didn't find it funny, I expected more funny.
One that I thought was funny and made a point was the "Bulletin Bored" rule:
"We don't need a FOX 'News Alert' every time something explodes in Iraq. It's a war -- breaking news would be when stuff stops blowing up. Until then, we'll assume Baghdad is jus tlike Lindsay Lohan -- getting bombed daily."
So while this book has it's funny moments it also has some lame moments. My advice just watch Bill Maher live and that'll be enough. Also the "Polite musings from a Timid Observer" section of the title of the book is very misleading, these musings are not polite nor is he timid in his observations. One final point... the book is a very fast read...it is written in small blurbs, so it could be a nice bathroom reader.
"Blaze" by Stephen King...er...um...I mean Richard Bachman
It's kinda funny that even the throwaways by Stephen King are good reading, and that's exactly what this story is, a throwaway. Before I explain that, let me explain more about Mr. King's pseudonym Richard Bachman.
The Richard Bachman pseudonym was derived from crime author Donald Westlake's pseudonym Richard Stark (King later used that name as the character in "The Dark Half") and the band Bachman Turner Overdrive. When King would write under the name of Richard Bachman the stories were dark crime novels. He even created a history to this character and a phony picture appeared on some dust jackets. But later once Bachman was outed as King....he would use old photos of himself.
So, knowing that Bachman is "known for" crime novels, this new book "Blaze" won't let you down. Also knowing that it will have that Stephen King read helps. Back to the issue of Throwaway. This book was originally rejected by King and recently rediscovered in some archives. King updated it and made some edits and found that it made for a pretty good book. I definitely agree with that. The book is a fun romp in the criminal world with a Stephen King meets John Steinbeck feel.
The character Blaze is Clayton Blaisdell, Jr. He's a "Big 'un" and a bit brain damaged thanks to his father throwing him down some stairs. To remember this abuse Blaze has a dent in his forehead. Blaze is sent to an orphanage and lives out his youth with constant abuse from the school master and math teacher Mr. Coslaw or known to the kids as "The Law." The back story of Blaze's youth and his adult life with his friend and co-hort in crime George, is told through a series of chapter flashbacks as the main story takes place. The characters of Blaze and George are very much like Lenny and George from John Steinbeck's classic novel "Of Mice and Men." But told with a Stephen King twist, George is dead, but lives on to guide Blaze through ghostly visitations.
The main story revolves around a plot to kidnap Joe Gerard a baby to the extremely rich Gerard family. George and Blaze were cooking up the idea of one last big con to get them to retire, and this kidnapping is their ticket. The plan is to kidnap the baby (babies can't identify the kidnappers) and get a few million dollars and go to Acapulco. Well George is killed during a gambling argument leaving Blaze to take care of himself and to carry out the plan. Blaze is constantly assisted by George in the planning and when the police are close to catching Blaze, George warns Blaze.
Another turn in the plot is that Blaze becomes very fond of the 6 month old Joe and decides to collect the ransom and keep the baby. Without giving away too much of the plot it becomes yet another Stephen King heart tugging story.
Completely away from the story but worth mentioning, Stephen King has pledged that the proceeds from this "throwaway" novel to be donated to the Haven Foundation, which supports freelance artists.
"Scar Tissue" by Anthony Kiedis (with Larry Sloman)
Pretty much gone are the days when rock n roll stars trash hotel rooms or take advantage of groupies with fish caught fromthe motel room window. With today's stars like Chris Daughtry it's a clean cut, but rock on image. Not so with Anthony Kiedis the front man for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The problem with this Chili Pepper is that his rock-n-roll lifestyle started before he became a rock star. In fact his troubles started when he was a mere 14 year old kid growing up with his drug dealing part time actor dad, John Michael Kiedis aka Blackie Dammet.
Growing up near Hollywood would seem to scar any psyche but with Anthony it created a drug problem and juvenile delinquency that would go on to haunt him into his late 30s. Anthony even spent time staying with Sonny Bono and where Sonny would try to be a positive male role model, Anthony rebelled. Anthony developed a dependency on Cocaine and Heroin long before he had a musical career that could fund such an addiction, and would have to break laws to support that addiction.
The "semi" autobiography "Scar Tissue" tells in Anthony's own words about his growing up in a broken home and then finding musical soul-mates, forming one of today's hottest bands and the constant checking into rehab to overcome a life time of cocaine and heroin addiction that as any recovering alcoholic/drug user knows is a day by day struggle. Anthony's story also covers the tragedies of losing the Chili Pepper's First Guitarist, Hillel Slovak, becoming friends and then losing Curt Cobain.
The book does leave you wondering whether or not he finally has "licked" the addiction but a line from the book hints that maybe he finally he has:
If you want to be a strong swimmer or an accomplished musician, you have to practice. It's the same with sobriety, though the stakes are higher. If you don't practice your program every day, you're putting yourself in a position where you could fly out of the orbit one more time. The good news is that being in recovery is a blast for me.
So if you want to read of the struggles not just of an artist but of an average Joe then you may want to pick up this book. Also it's fun to read about all the artistic struggles of the band and even Anthony's desperate search for the perfect woman. A little clue here, this is also the key to his constant slipping in and out of sobriety.
Okay, Dune fans, this is it, last Dune book written by Frank Herbert. Published in 1985, "Chapterhouse Dune" left more questions than answers. Frank Herbert died in 1986 and left a legacy of some of the greatest Science Fiction and Literature, but many fans want to know if "Chapterhouse Dune" was how he wanted to leave things or not.
Before we talk about the questions left unanswered, I'll give you a synopsis of this book.
Ten years after the events in "Heretics of Dune" have left the planet Rakis/Arrakis/Dune completely destroyed by the Honored Matres the mysterious enemy from the scattering. Mother Superior Odrade has grown a ghola from the cells of her Father, Miles Teg, the greatest bashar the Bene Gesserit have ever known, to combat the Honored Matres. The ghola of Teg is now 10 years old and his memories are about to be awakened by the ghola of Duncan Idaho. This quite fitting in that the "original" Miles Teg is the one that awakened the memories of the ghola Duncan Idaho.
Also on the Chapterhouse planet the Bene Gesserit are planning to create a new Dune. Thanks to Sheeana they smuggled to Chapterhouse from Dune a sandworm. The sandworm was used to creat sandtrout which are slowly converting Chapterhouse to a desert planet.
Also smuggled back to Chapterhouse on the "no-ship" is the last remaining Tleilaxu, Scytale. Scytale, unbeknownst to anyone (except the reader), has implanted in his chest a nullentropy tube containing the cells for many Tleilaxu masters and many of the past famous persons from the Dune novels, including Paul Maud'dib. For his safety Scytale has given the Bene Gesserit the secret of axolotl tanks, the tanks used by the Tleilaxu to creat gholas and the genetic equivalent of spice.
Duncan Idaho is "haunted" by 2 mysterious figures throughout the book that seem to be observing him through a net. These could be Tleilaxu face dancers. They are revealed at the end of the book to be Daniel and Marty, and that face dancers were never ruled by Tleilaxu masters. Daniel and Marty were supposed to guide Duncan, and the others to some sort of path. But at the end of this book Duncan escapes in the no-ship with some rebel Bene Gesserit, some sandworms, Scytale, Sheeanna, and Miles Teg.
So as you can see there are many questions that end the Dune series, as written by Frank Herbert, such as: 1. How are Daniel and Marty to affect the future? (Many fans believe these two characters to be Frank Herbert and his wife, Eileen written into the series) 2. What is to come of the "Renegades" in the no ship? 3. What will happen now that the Bene Gesserit and the Honored Matres are merging. 4. What is the mysterious force that forced the Honored Matres to return in fear from the scattering.
Now the good news is that Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have teamed up and have been and are writing "Book 7" based on an outline and writings left behind by Frank Herbert. However due to the massive amount of information left behind Book 7 has been written into 2 books: "Hunters of Dune" and "Sandworms of Dune." Hunters of Dune was published last year and Sandworms of Dune is due out this August (2007). So the next book I'll have reviewed for you will be "Hunters of Dune" while anxiously await the release of the series closer "Sandworms of Dune"
Scott & Aimee is comprised of Scott Russo of Unwritten Law fame and Aimee Allen. Together they have a very unique music style and sound that doesn't sound like every other band. They mix pop rock and maybe a little reggae/ska. Aimee has a great voice that just oozes with passion and emotion Their new album, Sitting In A Tree is a rockin'(at times) and laid back (at the same time)collection of music. You have to give these guys a listen. you can sample some of their sounds at:
Nicole Blake just wants to live her life in solitude. Her faithful dog and her in a cottage in France seem like the perfect way to do it, but soon her past is coming back to her and in full force. In this novel of mystery, intrigue and espionage, Alex Carr weaves a tale that takes you in directions you may not be expecting.
Nicole has served some prison time for her career of choice, forgery. With a con-man American father it is the expected life for her. But Nicole has relationships with people that have made her life a little more exciting. Her former lover Rahim Ali another expert forger is now a suspected terrorist and the CIA wants him. To get him they recruit Nicole. She hasn't seen him since before being sent to prison but she takes the "job" more out of curiousity and the surprise that he could even be a terrorist.
I will warn you at this point in the story I was worried that it was going to turn into a spy/love story. But the twists and turns that author Alex Carr weaves into the story through flashback sequences the book soon becomes a book you can't put down until finished. Even when finished I had to go back and re-read some chapters...out of intrigue.
The setting of the book is just before the recent war in Iraq and jumps back and forth from the Beirut bombing in 1982 and the Gulf War of the early '90s. With the history of the region and the superb characterizations the novel becomes a very believable story. In the back of the book there is an author's note on the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut, and if you are not familiar with the history of the region it is good to read this before reading the book. However the history is well told in the book so that it is incorporated in the story so the reader actually learns a little about history while reading some great action.
Another aspect unleashed in the story is the roaming around in the city of Lisbon. There are times where the book almost seems like a Dan Brown novel, in that you want to grab a map and trace the character's steps through the town. In fact the Author has included a city map of Lisbon and Beirut in the beginning of the book.
So grab this book, sit back and be prepared for an exciting ride in counter-terrorism and CIA double-crossing. I will warn you that the first 2 or 3 chapters build the story and may seem a little too much to get through but once in Lisbon the action never stops.
So how proud are you of your heritage? Being a descendent of Irish, Scottish and Native American I can say it is a very shakey descendency and it's a wonder I even came to be. I have always been curious about my Native American ancestors, but that part of the family tree seems to only be passed down through family stories and not written anywhere. I have some cousins that easily pass as full blooded Indians. I have a cousin who was the Chief Prosecutor for the Navajo Nation, I'm not sure what he's doing now. For a while he wanted to open an Indian Motorcycle dealership on the reservation, so he could be an Indian selling Indians to Indians in Indian country. I thought it would be a worthy venture.
Anyway, back to my original question. It seems as though being a white person is really starting to be tough. It's amazing what evils the white race has done under the guise of religion or even worse "Manifest Destiny." Manifest Destiny was a phrase that expressed the belief that the United States was destined to expand from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean by the white race. It's amazing how many humans were wiped out for land. Most of these humans were here first. How would you feel if today, Middle Easterners came to our land and said we would like to buy your land, if you don't sell it we will kill you. Then after we give them some they form concentration camps and force all white folks to live there. These camps also provide no food or shelter and the dark-skinned folks would supply scarce foods, in hopes of starving us out. That is exactly what white settlers/pioneers and explorers did to the Indegeneous Natives on the North American continent. And it is all documented and researched in the book "My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown.
Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was first published in the United States in 1970. Dee Brown incorporates a number of eyewitness accounts and official records offering a scathing indictment of the U.S. politicians, soldiers, and citizens who colonized the American West. Focusing mainly on the thirty-year span from 1860 to 1890, the book was the first account of the time period told from the Native-American point of view. It demonstrated that whites instigated the great majority of the conflicts between Native Americans and themselves. Brown began searching for the facts about Native Americans after he met several as a child and had a hard time believing the myths about their savagery that were popular among white people. Brown published his book a century after the events took place, but it was a timely publication, since many U.S. citizens were already feeling guilty about their country's involvement in the Vietnam War. Brown's book depicted, in detail, the U.S. government's attempt to acquire Native Americans' land by using a mix of threats, deception, and murder. In addition, the book showed the attempts to crush Native-American beliefs and practices. These acts were justified by the theory of Manifest Destiny, which stated that European descendents acting for the U.S. government had a God-given right to take land from the Native Americans.
One of the many aspects that was the destruction of the Indian Nations was the fact that the U.S. would create these treaties in order to gain land that had some value, move the Indians to land of no value, and when the "other land" was found to have value, break the treaty and start the cycle over. There are many great quotes in this book that can help summarize the rest of this review.
From Chief Joseph of the Nez Perces. Keep in mind it was the Nez Perces that saved the Lewis and Clark Expedition from starving and provided fresh horses.
"It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are - perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sic and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."
To show the arrogance of the politicians of the time this is from Governor Pitkin, governor of Colorado:
"My idea is that unless removed by the government they [the Indians] must be necessarily exterminated."
And this response by Senator John Logan to Sitting Bull's apology for not trusting the white man:
"The government feeds and clothes and educates your children now, and desires to teach you to become farmers, and to civilize you, and make you as white men"
"Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade" by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the world's great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know. Now that may seem like a book that says BORING!!! but I'm here to tell you Slaughterhouse-Five is a very entertaining book.
Billy Pilgrim is "unstuck in time" and time travels back and forth to what seem like random points in his life. Most of the book is spent during World War II in which Billy is a harlequined prisoner of war. Forced to wear strange clothing to keep warm he may seem like a clown but Billy is one of the most fortunate, especially when he and other prisoner's are moved to Dresden just before the Allied firebombing of the "non-military" target. At the new camp which is a former slaughterhouse turned into a prison, Billy and the other prisoners have a pretty easy life as far as most horror stories of prisoners of war go. But once the Allies start firebombing then Hell is unleashed on Earth.
Ther are many other aspects of Billy Pilgrim's life that are worth noting, especially since he keeps time travelling back and forth between them. The night before his Daughter's wedding, which is also the night he is abducted by aliens from Tralfamadore. On Tralfamadore Billy is kept in a zoo where the Tralfamadorians can observe an Earth creature. They also teach Billy some important lessons on life. One being that all time exists at all times. A weird concept but let me try to further explain, the Tralfamadorians are not limited to 3D vision like us their visual skills are 4D. For example, they don't see the stars in the universe as a dot in space at one time but rather where that star exists at all times, so space looks like spaghetti strings of light. Also humans aren't 2 legged creatures but 8 legged with all the legs of youth through old age. "The Tralfamadorians tried to give Billy clues that would help him imagine sex in the invisible dimension. They told him that there could be no Earthling babies without male homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals. There couldn't be babies without women over sixty-five years old. There could be babies without men over sixty-five. There couldn't be babies without other babies who had lived an hour or less after birth. And so on. It was gibberish to Billy."
So when something exists, it always has and always will. This also leads to the great saying by the Tralfamdorians "So it goes." "When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is 'So it goes'." This is said throughout the book anytime someone dies or death is mentioned. At some times in the book this is quite funny, like when some critics are discussing whether the "novel" as a literary form is dead. Even when the champagne is dead, So it goes.
Also on Tralfamadore, the aliens wish to see human reproduction in action and abduct a famous movie star Montana Wildhack, who was also known to do some "blue" movies. She seems to be the only one that knows Billy time travels, or rather is "unstuck in time."
One of the most profound anti-war statements is when Billy watches a war movie forward and backwards over and over. The bombs return to the planes and eventually are returned as various minerals back into the earth. And the bullets are sucked out of victims back into the guns.
While Vonnegut may say his books have no characters, this book is filled with some great ones. There's Kilgore Trout the science-fiction writer that appears in other Vonnegut novels. Trout may not be a good writer but his story ideas are superb. Billy's wife, Valencia Merble, Billy's heavyset wife and mother of Billy's two children. Billy remains rather distant from her. She dies of carbon monoxide poisoning following a car accident on her way to the hospital where her husband is sent after an airplane crash. She never appears without a candy bar in her mouth/hand. Edgar Derby, an older man who pulled strings to take part in the war. He is in the German POW camp with Lazarro and Billy. He is sentenced to death for stealing a teapot in the Dresden corpse mines and executed by a firing squad. Vonnegut considers his ignominious death high irony. His son is also a soldier. He is referred throughout the book as "Poor old Edgar Derby." Roland Weary,a weak man with dreams of grandeur who weakly 'saves' Billy multiple times (despite Billy's protests) in hopes for glory. This leads to their capture as well as the loss of their warm winter clothing and boots. Eventually Weary dies of gangrene while on the train to the camp, and blames Billy with his final words. Paul Lazzaro, another POW. A sickly, ill-tempered car thief from Cicero, Illinois who hears Weary's dying words and eventually has Billy killed in revenge for the death of his friend Weary, many years after the war. He has a mental hit list and claims he can have anyone "killed for a thousand dollars plus traveling expenses".
There are many more but let me tell you pick this book up and give it a read. You'll soon see why it is a classic. If you prefer audiobooks there is a great unabridged version read by Ethan Hawke.