Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Review - The Magus by John Fowles


The Magus by John Fowles is one of those books in which, after finally finishing the lengthy tome, I am not sure if I liked it or not. I will state, however, that I became a fan of Fowles work after reading the novel The Collector; his style of prose is unrivaled in the world of contemporary literature. However, The Magus left me feeling a bit disappointed, with special regards to the ending. Do Nicholas and Alison get back together or are they separated forever? Once I discovered Alison’s true “role” in the book, I felt somewhat cheated in knowing that the entire book was based on a lie that should not have been so grandiose. This is a story about control through the mind, of lies and deceit with a glimmer of truth that is too real to be taken seriously. And dear innocent and na├»ve Nicholas is the heart of it all, a player that is flawed enough to take part in a play that, honestly, has no end.
I have always enjoyed reading cat and mouse books, tales with twists and turns at every point that will confuse the reader while explaining the events in a way that others would never dream of doing in the real world. In The Magus, however, the game makes no sense to be dragged on for so long, in my opinion. Conchis and his “assistants” have created a game that pushes the envelope completely off the desk and yet it answers nothing. All it claims to do is break the will of others with no purpose in sight. Nicholas does not redeem himself and his past actions; all we can do as readers is sit back and watch the painful play progress into nothing, or perhaps something that is too over our heads to comprehend and enjoy.
I am still a fan of Fowles for the writing was still superb and flowed with his voice. This is not an easy tale to tell but Fowles does so with grace and style with just a hint of being a young overachiever (this was his third published novel). While his words are profound set against quite a monstrous backdrop, the plot leaves nothing to the imagination and is way more than I bargained for. Perhaps others will call me wrong for such critical treatment of this book; however, this is not a work that one can take lightly no matter how seasoned a reader may be. Am I glad I read The Magus? Yes. Will I read more works by Fowles? Yes. Has The Magus imprinted something in my brain? Yes. In reflecting on the quote Utram bibis? Aquam et undam?, I must say that I most certainly drank the wave and it was not what I had hoped for.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Alberto Granado dies at 88

Che Guevara's motorcycle companion, Alberto Granado, died 5 March 2011 at the age of 88. Click on the link below to read more on The Washington Post's website.


Sleep well, fair traveler.

ALBERTO GRANADO DIES AT 88

Saturday, March 5, 2011

First Sentence - The Magus by John Fowles


"I was born in 1927, the only child of middle-class parents, both English, and themselves born in the grotesquely elongated shadow, which they never rose sufficiently above history to leave, of that monstrous dwarf Queen Victoria."

Book Review - The Sticks by Andy Deane


Let me get right to the point: Andy Deane’s book The Sticks is one hell of a ride werewolf novel. Brian, the narrator and all around slacker who is still a good guy at heart, leaves a party one night after being hoisted out by the host, affectionately known as Lisp. Several hours later, he discovers that Alicia, his recent ex-girlfriend who attended the party with him, has disappeared. What follows next is a roller coaster ride leading Brian and his friend and later girlfriend Jessica through a nightmare that is headed by werewolves that are not sexy, charming, mysterious or even likable. These werewolves are mean, vicious, cruel, destructive, and just pure evil . . . and I loved it! The 210-page novel will keep you turning pages till the very end and even when it ends, you wish there was more to it.
Deane, the front man for the dark alternative band Bella Morte (I am a BIG fan), has crafted a werewolf novel that will appease lovers of classic horror and gore movies, as well as those who just like a damn good werewolf that rips its prey to shreds without any form of nicety. Brian’s narration is at times funny when he compares people and situations to quite ridiculous things, but his voice is one of an average guy who just happened to get caught up in a worse case scenario of the worst kind. When I read the book, I felt as though I was actually listening to Deane tell a really cool story he overheard one night while on the road touring with his band. I could truly believe in his werewolves; they did not come from supernatural means but more of a bad case of rabies, making it all the more believable and terrifying. One major point with me was that when the werewolves died, they simply died. There was nothing supernatural about their bloody death, making it all the more plausible that this story could have happened in any small town in the United States. Big thumbs up to Deane for keeping me entertained all the way through and I can’t wait to read his future books. You rock!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Being Single in 2011

This is the year that I turned 37 years old while still single in Memphis, Tennessee. Since my last relationship ended some time ago, I decided to focus more on myself and the world around me; in short, I decided and chose to be single. I was tired of the relationship mind games being played for no reason and I was tired of compromising my life for someone else’s sake. I simply wanted out. Although I initially had a year as my ending point for this change of life, I recently decided to make it permanent. This choice came from my own reasons and I am happier for it. So, while coming to true grips with being a single woman in the year 2011 and beyond, I decided to ask others who were in the same situation to see if perhaps they too were happy with their life. What I found was quite interesting, sad, funny, happy and realistic. Rather than do my own interpretations of their stories, I figured I would post them to this essay. All names have been removed.



Story #1:

Regarding being single in Memphis:

Dating is agony. The dating pool in my age group is torture – guys my age are single for a reason and/or come with snotty, whiny baggage. Um, no thanks. I concentrate on activities that I enjoy, therefore, leaving very little room for dating or over analyzing the “why I’m not like the majority.” Instead, I just vow to have fun. My attitude is, “if it happens, it’ll happen. And if I meet someone who I “click” with, then dating said person wouldn’t be agony. If not, I’m coodayla.”


Story #2:

I'm 28 years old, and I've had two and a half girlfriends. I've seen complex and simple relationships come and go toward positive and negative ends. I admire those that have made relationships work for them and also those that thrive alone. It may be because I sit on the fence on the issue that I've not found peace in either path. I busy myself with big and small projects, many consumed with studying those around me. Singledom is a mixed bag for me. It's a quilt, a consequence, a vice, an excuse, a fear, and a driving force for going the other direction.

My parents' divorce was finalized the summer after I graduated from college. They waited a year so that it wouldn't affect my progress. I was depressed for a couple of days before realizing one thing. They should have divorced long ago. My mother's former boyfriend was the one that fit into her social network of barnhouse parties and affectionate friendships in the mid to late 70's. He was the one that her family knew and loved. An opinionated, sociable person, he made himself loved by all. My father came in as a loner and an introvert, too dense for others to get to know in any meaningful way. I can only imagine the transition this made for with the family. When in normal situations the ex leaves the scene after the relationship ends, mom's ex remained a central part of the social atmosphere and for years there was a tension that seethed as my parents appeared at events where her ex was already making the rounds.

In the early years of my parents' marriage, this tension combined with my mom's alcoholism and my dad's occasional inability to see other people's points of view. The result was half a decade or so of tremendous fights that often left furniture broken and the house a general wreck, years where divorce was tossed around as a threat during arguments. Dad retreated to music and computer programming, and mom went into an early menopause.

Alanis Morissette sings of "princes familiar," seeking a mate that is similar to the archetypes built by her parents. In many ways, this is how I view relationships. Because of my parents, I expect to meet someone who challenges me mentally and emotionally, who is interested in the outdoors as much as I am history and science. It is also the reason I fear for the negative cost of a long-lasting relationship. It is why I sometimes shy away from serious debate. I confound the flighty Sagittarian by not seeking fifty relationships at a time but also taking it further by not engaging in extremely close romantic relationships. Instead, I have very close friendships with mostly intelligent and challenging women. Do I want more? Absolutely, but I've not settled on a therapist to talk over things first, and I think it's advisable.

The two relationships I have had were short and energetic couplings with women who were rebelling against their raised faith and authority. As a consequence, I now seek relationships with people who have found their peace and am often turned off now by people who are just achieving that type of freedom. The half was a year-long engagement with a friend who was still affected by a former relationship and who was afraid of commitment. By the time she had started to change her mind, I was subconsciously making decisions that were destroying what progress I had made. Where the two and I occasionally still speak, we do not try often.

Personal balance is important to me, and I know that I struggle with the issue. I get very consumed with my teaching job and with my schooling, and I wonder if I would be able to maintain a relationship with someone who wasn't as busy as I am. I see many who engage in relationships with overly full lives, but I also wonder how close they are with their lover. I do not seek anyone that completes me. That strikes me as codependent. Instead, I love the idea of a partner to exchange with but who I know would be quite alright, perhaps even thrive if the relationship were to end.

In considering all of this, I've managed a primarily positive experienced as a usually single person. I've a wide spectrum of friends of various intimacies. I'm achieving academic and professional goals. It's once or twice a week or month however when I look at the pictures of those left behind and wonder if it might have worked given better mental and emotional balances on either side.

I want a relationship, but I know that I am still working on some things. I don't pass up opportunities around, and I maintain profiles on okcupid and eharmony, but allow myself to be somewhat carefree about whether or not those attempts will yield anything. This summer will be the first where I am not searching for a job. I'll be moving into an apartment and starting a new life. With that, I think a new hope will emerge.


Story #3:


Most of my life I have struggled with being single. I always seemed to want to be part of a duo. The first such relationship was with my older brother, Vincent. We share the same birthday although four years apart. I was raised from an early age to essentially be his sidekick. But in a way that to me seemed natural. We had similar interests and even similar personalities. I
often wonder if I am who I am today because of his influence or was it a natural progression that we share due to the same nature and nurture. It didn't hurt that I idolized him, as younger brothers are want to do.

In any event, I was proud to be Robin to his Batman. But four years apart is a long time and eventually he had friends that he chose to hang out with over the company of his "baby brother". At this point, I searched around for someone else to fill that void. Like Most children, I had several friends but I always seemed to want to gravitate towards one person at a time. A best
friend if you will. I wasn't good at juggling the intricacies of having more than one it seemed. For me, having one person that was my confidant and companion worked so I left it at that.

So from the earliest time in my life, I can see that I had a yearning to have companionship of someone else. This was satisfied by a series of friendships that were very intense but short lived in the span of a childhood. One of the earliest friendships was with John. His mother was a
teacher at the local high school. John was brilliant and easily a genius. However, he was unfocused and extremely undisciplined. I found a kindred spirit in John. He was like my brother Vincent but the same age as I. As we grew older, John grew more rebellious and I eventually stopped hanging out with him. The similarities hat had brought us together had faded and we
drifted apart.

I spent the next few years of high school hanging out mostly with other kids that lived on the same street as me. In each case, I found something missing. I just didn’t think like they did. I was focused on the creative and fantastic aspects of life and they were quite honestly mostly focused
on their hormones. I guess I was late bloomer. To me, it was more important to hang out with people that challenged the way I thought and wanted to explore the wealth of knowledge the world had to offer. Most of them seemed to want to just "have fun" and not get close. Looking back, I guess I was looking for some mental intimacy. That sort of thing just isn't very prevalent
in young children and especially not in teenagers. I graduated high school with few friendships and only one or two have truly endured the test of time.

For the next 20 years of my life, I stumbled through relationship, platonic or otherwise. My romantic ones were notoriously unsuccessful. It took the spectacular failure of my marriage to force me to take an honest and detailed look at my actions through my life to try and figure out what was really my issue. It turns out that I wasn't very comfortable with myself. I didn't hate
myself or anything quite as deep as that. I just wasn't comfortable. And I had
been searching for some sort of external validation for myself in my companion. I had received it in droves from my older brother, but only so long as I was his sidekick. Even to this day, I'm only seen as an equal when I agree with him. I had sought to emulate my friends to get their approval. That approval was like a drug. And I thought I could only get it in a relationship. This
epiphany was a hard one to swallow. But swallow it I did.

I do like myself. I am odd in some ways and exceedingly normal in others. The judgment or condemnation of me by others doesn't define me. And in that truth, I was able to find a sort of peace for myself. And to find comfort in who I am.

I still like the idea of a relationship. There is something unique about having a spark with someone that both inspires me and interests me. That instinctive attraction that is like an adrenaline rush. I think for the most part we all like that. But first you have to want to be with yourself. Then you can add someone else too the mix.

I think if I had to give anyone else advice on relationships, I would have to say, "Work on yourself first." If you don't like the person that you are, why would you like someone else that does?




Story #4:

I guess my story for being single starts my ex-wife telling me she wanted a divorce November of 2000. It was the proverbial last straw for me in an awful year. I lost my job in corrections due to diabetic complications, had to give up sports due to a herniated disk in my back, and then my marriage is over too.
I was diagnosed as severely depressed and given a bottle of Zoloft. I was determined to beat what I did not understand by myself and threw myself into work. Once the Zoloft was gone, so ended all “treatment.”
5 years later, I entered another relationship, even got engaged to be married. However, in Feb. of 2008, I could see signs that relationship was on the rocks that led to another bout with depression. Suicidal depression. This time I decided to seek treatment.
This time, the right questions were asked – when did I first become depressed? Adds for depression medication is so misleading, yes those people are suffering from depression, but even more, they have succumbed to depression. People can fight depression for years without exhibiting any of those symptoms.
My depression goes back to 4 years of age. Meeting with my therapist allowed me to focus on the root cause that kept bringing me back to 4 years of age, right before my sister was born. My brain had blocked the actual event for nearly 35 years.
A single case of sexual molestation and assault had been buried. My entire life affected by an event I couldn’t remember. I still don’t remember much in detail; I have like a few snapshots of the event. The official term is a “dissociative reaction.” I have the cliff notes of that day.
The past year has been one of great release. That traumatic event had imprisoned me. Like Forest Gump running out of his braces, I’m finally free of that bondage.
Resolving those issues earlier would not have saved my marriage; in fact, I probably wouldn’t have married her at all. Same with the relationship a couple of years ago. Neither woman was right for me.
I am content to be single. I would love to find the right woman and get married until death do us part. However, I’m no longer going to try and make bad matches work in the desperate hope that a good marriage will miraculously appear. Odds are, I will remain single for the rest of my life – and I am OK with that.
Quite simply, we live in the fast food, instant gratification era. Gone are the days where you work the same job your whole life, live in the same house, married to the same spouse. Half of marriages end in divorce. Jobs are here today and gone tomorrow. Everything, including spouses, constantly gets “upgraded.” Me, I’m old school. I want to find a life partner. Unfortunately that is an exceedingly rare commodity. So if I get lucky, I’ll get married. Otherwise, I’m very content to be a single guy.


***

As I read these stories over and over again, I kept asking myself questions regarding my own situation; would I ever find love, or was I doomed to be “single” for the rest of my life? Would I truly be able to enjoy my life alone? Was I just lying to myself? These were hard questions to ask but the answers from within were even harder to accept. However, I am better for it and embrace what I used to treat like a disease or ill condition. So, if being single these days is gaining acceptance by more and more people, why are we still seeing more and more ads for dating websites, published books on how to find the “right one” and singles groups in churches and gathering places? Why, then, are we still being bombarded with messages informing us that perhaps a single life is not normal?
After reading the book Singled Out by Bella DePaulo not too long ago, I realized that we as a society are inundated with the married life for the simple fact that no one should be alone, whether they like being alone or not. We should all have a partner and eventually a family; having a family offers instant and possible lifetime support and protection from the curve balls Life throws us. Once one gets married, all of our frivolity goes away and is replaced with sensibility, being an adult and settling down for the rest of one’s life. No offense, but I don’t buy it.
As I am typing out this essay, I am alone and listening to a nice CD while the rain falling outside creates a constant cool breeze throughout my apartment. This, to me, is bliss. Of course, it is not for everyone, just like marriage, but I am content and happy with my quiet solitude just like those who are content with being married.
Am I dissing marriage? Of course not. However, I have realized that it is not for everyone, no matter what the ads say. It is simply not for everyone and that is okay. My life is my life, just like the stories listed above. What I decide to do with said life is my own choice and not to be pushed towards an ideal that doesn’t jive with my own. Every day is a new challenge for me; what will happen, what could happen, what will not happen. I look forward to doing something new, something crazy all the while learning about a new subject or idea. Not too long ago, I asked a fellow generalist and open minded thinker if it was possible that the more one knows, the lower the number of friends. He agreed with me and understood the frustrations of said Catch-22 predicament (he is also a single parent!) and we both wished that it could be different. Alas, it is not. When one learns more, one ultimately becomes more and more of a minority.
So, where do we go from here? Do we continue to live out our lives happily and fulfilled as single people, or do we submit to the browbeating of those who know what’s right for us? Extreme cases, yes, but still a valid point with many people who choose or are forced to be single. I hope that the contributors to the story and overall project find happiness, no matter what form it may take, and that their lives are enriched with magick every day. As for me, I plan to continue seeking out new ideas and concepts, making new friends, continuing with my violin lessons, sharpening my culinary skills, watch more foreign movies, listen to more jazz CDs, attend the theater, read Shakespeare for fun, read quantum physics for fun, traveling to different sci-fi conventions as a literary guest, writing more books, reading more books, spending time with good friends and family, watching a full moon in the night sky and simply love myself and be glad I am who I am.


Thank you and good night.

AnachroCon 2011 - STEAMPUNK EXTRAVAGANZA


So. Wednesday night at home and I am still recovering from an awesome time down in HOTlanta at AnachroCon, the premiere Steampunk con in the Southeast! The past weekend was filled to the brim with music, gaiety and goggles! So much to see and do, not to mention that yours truly was a Literary Guest! However, I want to point out the highlights for me:

1) Finally, after months of hearing about them, I finally had my chance to listen to and meet the punk cabaret group Frenchy and the Punk! If you like quirky music set with awesome lyrics and a voice that sounds like red silk drenched in absinthe, then this band is for you! I purchased three of their CDs and they are already my favourites in my music library. My hat is off to you and I can't wait to see you again!

2) In being a guest at conventions, I get to meet swank people from time to time. One in particular that I want to mention is Emilie Bush, author of the book Chenda and the Airship Brofman. She is always a delight to be around and is also one heck of an author! If you've not read her book, pick up a copy at Amazon.com.

3) It still amazes me to no end to see people in their creative best, especially when it comes to Steampunk "fashion". This year's AnachroCon proved just that as people from all backgrounds showed off their finest. I was so amazed at the level of creativity that even I began working on my own costume, of which I hope will be ready by DragonCon later this year. But, yes, The Goth Librarian was most impressed with what people did with corsets, top hats, goggles, gears and anything else under the sun. Simply marvelous.

4) Ever wonder who cleans up the mess after a sci-fi convention? Well, Bob and Carl, of course! That's right, the creators of the hilarious show Bob and Carl: Sci-Fi Janitors was on site this past weekend with videos and shirts! I even got my picture taken with Carl . . . or was it Bob? (grin)

Once again, a fine time was had by all and I can't wait for AnachroCon 2012! A BIG thanks to both Cindy and William for an awesome time. Cheers!