Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Eat Food and Don't Stare Into the Sun

Not too long ago, a report surfaced of a breatharian couple who claims to be able to survive on nothing but “the cosmic energy of the universe.” Any food they do eat, they insist, is just to enjoy the taste or to simply accede to social conventions. “Oh, this bit of celery? I’m only eating it because I’m at this raging party and it’s really the thing to do in such a situation.”

 A bite of carrot here, a grape there, perhaps some stock to quell that intense craving people tend to have for vegetable broth. As the woman in this couple explains: “humans can easily be without food – as long as they are connected to the energy that exists in all things and through breathing.”

Breatharians often practice sungazing as well. This is, well, this is just as it sounds: gazing into the sun purposely. The idea is that the energy of the sun will be absorbed directly through the face-peepers. You know, cutting out that pesky middleman, plant-based life. I do recall being told more than once as a child not to stare at the sun. Even as a child I was a little insulted to have to be told this. That someone considered me the kind of kid who would become partially blind before realizing that the burning light entering my retinas was perhaps unhealthy for them hurt my young feelings.

“You want to sign the card for Jim?” 
“Sure, what happened to Jim?”
“Oh, Jim? He went partially blind.”
“Oh man, that’s terrible, what happened?”
“He stared directly into the sun for an hour and then burnt his retinas to shit.”
“Oh . . . like, on purpose? Someone didn’t set him facing the sun with that device thingy from a Clockwork Orange as some kind of sadistic method of torture?”
“No, he was trying to absorb the sun’s energy. He deliberately stared directly into the sun.”
“Uuuh, I mean, if he’s partially blind he can’t read whether I signed the card or not, right?” 
“I suppose, but . . .”
“Gotta go.”

 Now, my hope is that every single person who reads this will have already independently come to the conclusion that both breatharianism and sun-gazing have reset the barometer of human stupidity to an entirely new level. This is the level of stupidity that can result in blindness or starvation but without the sympathy that these tragedies normally entail.

But how is it that we don’t hear about more breatharians and sun-gazers dying from a lack of water/food or going blind respectively? Surely, if people believed in breatharianism and were actually practicing it, they would die from a lack of nutrients. In the same way, if there were actual sun-gazers, they would be losing their burnt out retinas quicker than they could find braindead recruits to follow their foolish activity.

I believe the answer can be placed squarely on one constant of the human condition: our never-ending capacity for self-deception. If any of the practitioners of these two mad exercises sincerely believes that they only absorb nutrients through breathing in the energy of the universe or staring directly into the sun, it is only because they are lying to themselves and everyone else. In the same way an alcoholic underestimates the number of times they have had a social drink or a gambling addict underestimates how far under they are, a breatharian will not accurately estimate the number of drops of water and bits of food they’ve had and a sun-gazer will not correctly estimate how long they have gazed at the sun.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Six of Crows More Like Pricks and Schmoes, Ammiright?

Six of Crows is a book about a gang of teenagers who need to break into a well-guarded prison in order to break out and kidnap some guy who invented a magical super drug that imbues magic users with extreme powers like some kind of supersonic heroin.

 I did not realize that this was Young Adult fiction when I started reading it. Through my powers of superior deduction I soon figured it out. Indeed, almost every single one of the main characters was seventeen years old. I asked myself why so many of the characters are seventeen

Self, I asked, why are so many of the characters seventeen?

Self, I responded, this is because I think there is a certain demographic this book is targeted at.

Like, such as?

Seventeen year olds and their ilk.

Speaking of seventeen year olds, I do not currently know any seventeen year olds and it has been a long time and a lot of hair ago that I was seventeen myself. I readily admit that my knowledge of the capabilities of seventeen year olds is lacking. However.


HOWEVER, it takes a helluva long time to master a skill, and even if you are naturally gifted like every one of the main characters in this book, you would still need more time to hone your craft to the level that these characters display. This book felt like an RPG fantasy in which every character had already levelled up to maximum before the plot has even begun. They are all smart, world-weary savants who also happen to be seventeen. I was impressed with Lionel Messi when he came on as a substitute for Barcelona at the age of seventeen and scored a goal. If Lionel Messi had been in this book, though, he would have already won a Champions League title been a runner up for the Ballon D’or and would have been smarter, faster, and more skilled than all of the other, much more experienced and mature soccer players in the world.

Not sure how soccer would make it into this particular book, except that Ketterdam is some kind of unholy representation of Amsterdam and the Dutch know how to play some good soccer. Not recently, but historically. Remember when they used to play in the World Cup? Those were great days. I think my favourite Ketterdam/Amsterdam link was the waffles with apple syrup reference. 

No, wait, that was my least favourite. It made me want to walk down “Silverstraat” and push a seventeen year-old criminal mastermind into a canal.

What the author seems to forget is that the pressure and suspense that make a story great are in the possibility of failure. If all of your characters are the best at what they do, it is difficult for a reader to fear that these characters will struggle to succeed. If you’ll forgive me for making another shameless soccer metaphor, it is like watching Bayern Munich in the group stage of the Champion’s League. You are entirely confident that they will advance, the only mystery is in how successfully they will advance. And where is the excitement in that?

Now, if I were to put these concerns aside, is this a good book? I would say that the writing is generally good with my main criticism of it being that the separate character voices for each chapter do not really feel that different from one another. Their differing perspectives were fairly well represented and their backstories were interesting for the most part. The setting was imaginative and the sort-of-early-industrial-magic-colonial time period was unique. The plot was decent, although I was expecting a little more, I dunno, tension in a break-out caper. This tension was not delivered in a large part because, as noted above, the characters are far too powerful.

There were moments of writing and plot that I genuinely enjoyed. I did feel immersed in the world a couple of times, but I was also bemused by the strange mixture of colonial archetypes with magic and irrationality as well as a truly confusing array of industrial and modern technology. How does the Fjerdan culture, for example, have such backwards religious sensibilities while simultaneously creating powerful military tanks? Sure, the fabrikators or whatever they’re called, can create amazing things with that supersonic drug, but the first self-propelled vehicle is a heavily armoured tank complete with tracks and a large calibre cannon?

I get it, fantasy and science fiction are genres in which the reader must suspend their disbelief. However, I could not suspend disbelief for this culture that worshipped a talking tree, considered wolves sacred while also inventing tanks. TANKS! Tanks, while the rest of this fantasy world is still sailing about the world, the Fjerdans are rolling forward in their tanks. Tanks.


Although I enjoyed some of their backstories, I did not feel particularly connected with any of the characters, especially not the psychopathic eye-ball plucking leader of this misfit crew. Of course, it’s been almost nineteen years since I was seventeen. Basically, I am old enough to be two characters in this book but only skilled enough to be, say, one of the nameless extras milling about in the background.

Would I have enjoyed this book when I was seventeen? I tried to think like my seventeen year old self, but all I could come up with were fragmentary lyrics from Mambo No. 5 and vague memories of a glorious afro. Conclusion: probably not.

Obviously, I am not this book’s target audience. This book was not written for me. If I had to use a culinary metaphor for this book, it would be a gristly pork chop. That is, while it was kind of entertaining to consume and had some tasty bits, a lot of it is just bone and gristle and generally unpalatable.

3 brooding antiheroes out of 6

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Moby Dick, the Least Amount of Plot in the Most Amount of Words?

How was your day, Ishmael?

Ishmael begins an exposition on exactly what a day is, making a lengthy reference to the Babylonian origins of the twenty four hour day. Next, he begins a lecture on the number twenty-four and the use of the number six as a base by the ancient Babylonians. The many manifestations of the number six throughout history are described at length. Goliath of Gath had six fingers upon each hand and Ishmael draws this out with an analogy involving the number six and gigantism in various creatures both mythological and actual. This is followed by a reading of the book of Revelations with specific attention to the number of the beast – 666. Pulling out the Matthew-Henry Commentary and the writings of Tertullian, Ishmael expounds on the possible meanings and interpretations of 666 whether for good or for ill. An anecdote involving an old sea captain from Maine and his experience with regular occurrences of the number six is given.

Ishmael returns to the topic of days, breaking down the average lifespan of various animals and trees into units of days. This leads into a discussion of the length of days that might have occurred at Creation with Ishmael giving attention to competing theories. One of these theories is roundly condemned as having no support among experienced whalemen. Naturally, a discussion of the movement of the planetary bodies around the sun follows, which Ishmael somehow manages to infuse with derogatory remarks about the entire non-white population of the earth. The etymology of the word day is given along with etymologies of the words good and bad. A brief synopsis of what might constitute a good day is given. This is followed by a more lengthy summary of what might make for a bad day. A philosophical reflection on the subjectivity of good and bad is expounded upon. Ishmael starts singing a sea shanty, does a jig, and then wanders off muttering about landlubbers.

 (1 whale fart out of 10)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

You Won’t Believe What John Posted on His Blog!

It’s a shoe.

Dear reader, you are doubtlessly triumphantly crowing to yourself right now that, yes, you do indeed believe that John posted this to his blog. There is nothing outrageous about this post and it in no way whatsoever threatens to even approach the limits of your credulity.

Ah, but allow me the chance to open your eyes to the devious little trick that has just been played on you. John has done what we in the blogging biz call the “ol’ bait and switch,” better known as “clickbaiting.” This is a form of riotous entertainment in which any ordinary post is transformed into internet traffic through sheer hyperbole. In the future, John may gain your clicks through such cunning titles as “the Beatles are the Least Talented Band Ever, Here is Why”, “The Way this Blogger Got Back at a Negative Commenter is Hilarious!”,  “I Didn’t Wear Shoes and I Lived in a Water Closet for an Entire Year and YOU CAN TOO!”, “70 Uses for a Cinder Block: You Won’t Believe Number 57!” and “Why Shovels are Problematic: Rethinking Your Use of an Ordinary Garden Spade.”

I may have been away from the blogging game for a while now, but I am learning some new tricks of the game. *Inset a gif of a really cool guy pulling his shades down over his face slowly* Gifs are also a really hip new development in the blogging world. I do not know nor do I care to invest the time into learning how to actually put a gif on my blog so a vague description will have to do for now.

“Has John’s blog been reduced to clickbait and gifs?” you ask, your eyes narrowing as anyone in your vicinity peers at you curiously, wondering why you are talking out loud to yourself. *insert a gif of you talking to yourself while anyone in your vicinity peers at your curiously, wondering why you are taking out loud to youself*

The answer is no, John’s blog has not been reduced to clickbait and gifs. In fact, it has been matured into this ultimate form. It’s cool, it’s hip, it’s on the cutting edge of the blogging trends. Also, you can follow me on Twitter and contribute to my Patreon.

Please note that I do not actually have an active Twitter nor do I have a Patreon. John is incapable of expressing himself in less than 140 characters or whatever it is now. As for Patreon, if you do wish to contribute financially to John, you can buy one of his amazing animal pun cards. Check out the hilarious example below.

I'll recycle an old pitch for them:

"You walk to the card aisle, and you spend precious minutes trying to select the perfect one. "If only these cards had more animal puns," you sigh to yourself as you finally select Hallmark Greeting Card Number 3789A. You sense the clerk is laughing at you as you dish out over $6 for the card. "There aren't even animal puns on this card," you hear her whisper to her colleague under her breath. Normally you would be upset at such mockery, but you have to shrug your shoulders and resign yourself to the fact that the clerk is right. Not only are there no animal puns on the card you selected, but you spent $5 not to share the joy of animal puns with your loved one.

Want to avoid this routine? How about spending $15 to receive 5 (yes 5!) cards. Or you can just spend $4 and receive one card!

No, I do not have any Christmas cards, but I do have animal pun cards for most other occasions.

Also, I now have small, business card sized "Thank Ewe" cards for one dollar each. Bam!"

That is all for now.

*insert a gif of John waving goodbye over-enthusiastically*

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Wuthering Heights: A Review

Wuthering Heights

So today I will be reviewing a classic of English literature: Emily Brönte’s Wuthering Heights. As it has been some time since I have written anything in this blog, I will open by leaning on that old standby that I formerly employed in my high school essays: the dictionary.

The Webster’s dictionary defines wuthering as an intransitive verb meaning “to blow with a dull roaring sound” while dictionary.com defines it as a verb meaning “to blow fiercely.” The word heights is defined by dictionary.com as an “a high place above a level; a hill or mountain.” Thus, “Wuthering Heights” calls to mind a high level of blowing fiercely. Can we say that this particular book has a high level of fierce blowing? Unfortunately for this reviewer, we cannot.

He can, however, refer to all of the things in this book that do blow fiercely:
1) The incest.
2) Heathcliff.
3) The wind.
4)  Catherine, the first one.
5) Linton Heathcliff.
6) Lockwood.
7) The weather, in general.
8) The overall health of most of the characters.

Thar be spoilers ahead.

So, on the topic of incest in this particular novel, Heathcliff is adopted at a young age and establishes, early on, a deep connection with his adopted sister, Catherine Earnshaw. Their fierce love for one another is the hinge that this entire book turns on. They do not get married, and that is great. Instead, Catherine Earnshaw marries Edgar Linton who is, to this reviewer’s great relief, of no relation. Catherine Earnshaw and Edgar Linton give birth to Cathy Linton. In the meantime, Heathcliff marries Isabella Linton, Edgar’s sister. While this is odd, it is by no means incestuous. They give birth to Linton Heathcliff.

It is worth mentioning at this point that Linton Heathcliff and Cathy Linton are what this reviewer’s wife refers to as “super-cousins.” That is, cousins whose respective aunt and uncle are brother and sister. These two super-cousins get married because Heathcliff is a horrible human being whose passion for incest is only matched by his overwhelming need to brood.

Being that most of the characters are quite fragile, Linton Heathcliff dies before anything can be consummated between him and his super-cousin (phew). Now, this reviewer neglected to mention that Catherine Earnshaw had an elder brother, Hindley Earnshaw. Hindley is a great character, in that he did not marry or obsess romantically over any relation of his. Other than that, he’s a bit of a degenerate. He and his wife begat Hareton Earnshaw. Hareton, like Heathcliff, enjoys a good brood. Hareton Earnshaw and Cathy Linton end up together, of course, as they are cousins.

Throughout all of this, Heathcliff obsesses over his adopted sister.

Now, how is it possible for this reviewer to recommend a book so replete with incest? Easy, he did his best to try to forget that area by repeating this mantra over and over while rocking back and forth in disquietude: “it was a different time, it was a different time, it was a different time, it was a different time.” For this reason, this reviewer does not recommend reading Wuthering Heights on the bus, unless you want your own section to yourself.

Areas of interest in this book that people can unpack ad nauseum as people are wont to do with literature:
1) Unreliable narrators Nelly Dean and Lockwood.
2) Is Heathcliff a vampire? Is Catherine Earnshaw a vampire?
3) Pretty cool that Heathcliff has no surname and Lockwood has no first name, no?
4) Gothic stuff.
5) Byronic heroes, why do they suck so much?
6) Damn, this book is dark, no?
7) How about this book is not particularly romantic?

Recommendation: read it, it’s a good one.

Who deh?