Current Life on This Day

I’ve felt a surge of productivity today (June 2). That is in stark contrast to yesterday (June 1). Yesterday I felt sluggish, slothful, unproductive and watched too much mindless You Tube. Today, I feel energetic, productive, fulfilled.

It could be that I found some honest work for the Company. Recently, the Company allowed me to subscribe to a low level SEO dashboard. It scans the site and reports all the SEO issues in the site. And there are many. Most of the issues are hard to find unless you have this sort of tool. For example, there are (were) about two dozen broken links that I never realized existed. And, about ten pages had the same <title> tag, which is a ‘no-no’ in the realm of Google SEO. Of course, there are other issues to resolve, but knowing what issues there are is a big help in my productivity, which makes me feel better about the world.

Also, I went grocery shopping and only bought that which I needed, which is canned chicken and cream of chicken soup, chicken noodle soup and Big K diet soda. I have almost cleared out all the esoteric food that still lies hidden in the cabinet. But, the canned chicken and cream of chicken soup is the current staple. A single can of chicken plus a half can of cream of chicken soup costs about $2.65. Recently, I’ve eaten one to three a day. That fits well into the budget and the new eating plan.

Of course, it is a Wednesday and so the new comic release is upon us. I bought :

  • Batman Catwoman #5 (have all five issues)
  • Bettie Page : The Curse of the Banshee #1 (first issue in this series, plan to collect all)
  • Nocterra #4 (have all four issue in the collection)
  • Batman #109 (always need to buy the new Batman)
  • Vamperilla # 20 (trying to collect all Vamperilla issues)
  • The Walking Dead Delux #16 (buy for my son)
  • Serial #4 (missing issues #2 and #3)

For the Bettie Page issue, I bought Cover E. Usually, I buy the main cover and avoid the variant covers. But, in this case, a variant cover was available and so I picked it up for $3.99 (plus tax). There were other variant covers available but those covers were pushing $8.

I went to the Library. I borrowed :

  • The Prodigal Daughter by Mette Ivie Harrison
  • What to Read and Why by Francine Prose
  • The Secret Talker by Geling Yan

Still practicing the drawing effort on the digital tablet and following Complete Beginner’s Guide to Digital Painting by Rich Graysonn. It really gives me a feeling of productivity to be consistent in drawing on the digital tablet. Some day I hope to be good enough to sell my drawings on eBay.

In fact, since I have been recalled to the Office on June 7, 2021, I bought a second Huion digital tablet to keep at the Office, which I will use to practice drawing during the lunch hour. Before I was sent home for Covid 19 in March 2020, I used the lunch hour to practice drawing in a sketch book.

I received the Summer 2021 Volume 28 Number 03 of Juxtapoz in the mail. Too cool. It has become a bit Woke but I guess it has always been on the edge, although being woke is a bit main stream in 2021.

Of course, I finished the day with 2 cans of DareDevil Lift Off and a Four Day Ray Peanut Butter Porter listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ The Gateway.

Cover E of Bettie Page The Curse of the Banshee #1. Scanned by Dave 0 with a Canon Pixma MX492 on June 2, 2021.
Cover E of Bettie Page The Curse of the Banshee #1.
Scanned by Dave 0 with a Canon Pixma MX492 on June 2, 2021.

Hope is a Verb

Amy Downs survived the Oklahoma City bombing, lost over 200 pounds of body weight and completed an Iron Man. She is now a motivational speaker.

I was wondering through the You Tube wasteland when I came across a documentary on the OKC bombing. Amy Downs was interviewed. I looked her up on the web and bought her book. I need some motivation, a swift kick in the ass to get me going. I thought maybe her book will do that for me.

She says, “I was about to die and realized I had never truly lived”.

Her story of rescue was vivid enough to place yourself in her position, hanging upside down for over six hours wedged between concrete rubble. While there, she wondered if she ever had lived now that she was on her way to death. She promised to live if she didn’t die.

After her rescue, she began to lose weight, had a baby, found the joy of cycling, went back to college eventually earning a Masters, trained for an Iron Man triathlon, became the CEO of a credit union and divorced her husband and married again.

Wow.

You can’t help but be motivated by her. She has certainly taken the lemon of her life before the OKC bombing and made sweet lemonade after.

I’ve read many motivation books and know the formula for ‘success’. Set achievable goals, take steps to work toward those goals. Amy gives many examples of doing that. Thankfully, however, her book is not preachy about it.

I used to cycle. My second ex wife and I had a tandem bike that we rode for many miles, the Hilly Hundred being the highlight of an Indiana cycling season. I bought my first ex wife a bike but it was never used. Cycling was important to me back in that day. Maybe I will buy a new bike in this Day.

Amy believes that Hope is something that is actionable, a verb, something you live day to day in your life. “Live the dream”, she would probably say. “Dream big” she would add.

I appreciate Amy Downs and her book. Maybe I have taken her advice and set an achievable goal by spending 30 minutes a day ‘practicing’ on the graphics tablet. It a small step toward what I ‘hope’ is a deeply satisfying world of personal creative fulfillment.

Here’s a list of practical things I would like to be motivated to do :

  • Finish the ‘mulch containment’ lawn edging system for the south half of the back yard. I’ve already started but dropped the ball.
  • Plant sunflowers before it is too late.
  • Build another sunflower planting box.
  • Finish the ‘office’ space I started, made progress but dropped the ball.

Here’s a list of other practical things I would like to do … someday:

  • Put in a new kitchen, with new cabinets, new appliances, the way I would like the kitchen to be.
  • Put in a new garage floor, one of those epoxy coated jobs. Plus, put up new drywall to cover up the crumbling plaster, maybe put in a wall of storage cabinets, put that old VW in storage.
  • Put in new flooring in the family room, get rid of that desk, maybe put in new book cases.
  • Remodel one of the bedrooms upstairs and maybe use as my new bedroom. Will need to replace the carpet, fix the dry wall, paint. Probably will need to put in a new heating and cooling system for the upstairs as it is so hot or cold up there.

Amy ends her book by crossing the line at the Iron Man. She had the Hope. It was inspirational.

Take Me With You

Written by Catherine Ryan Hyde and published in 2014, Take Me with You is a sentimental story of a recovered alcoholic, August, who lost his 19 year old son in a tragic car accident, splits from his wife due to the death of their son, breaks down while on a motorhome trip to Yellowstone and agrees to babysit two young boys, Seth and Henry, sons of the mechanic who repaired the motorhome and who is on his way to a 90 day sentence in the local jail.

The story covers about 8 eight years in the lives of the characters. August is a science teacher, remorseful over the death of his son, prompted to give up drinking after the death and ends the story diagnosed with Muscular dystrophy.

Seth is twelve when he and his brother board the motorhome to Yellowstone. He grows into a confident rock climber.

Henry is a shy seven year old at the beginning of the story, hardly talks but opens up as the story progresses.

August doesn’t really evolve during the story. He seems to be a critical man, upset at the world that his boy died. He rebuffs his ex wife’s desire to get back together believing himself superior to her continued drinking while he stopped. He’s critical of the two boys, especially of Seth’s rock climbing drive. His only growth comes in the final pages as he begins to accept Seth’s rock climbing passion.

The boys, on the other hand, are good and balanced despite their mother abandoning them at a young age and their father, while providing and supporting them financially, pushes them aside emotionally in favor of drinking.

I believed the story tried to be a statement on the pitfalls of drinking. But, it was unrealistic. A dad doesn’t let a complete stranger take his kids on summer long trip to Yellowstone, even if his is headed to jail. Certainly, he would have reservations about it, even if he didn’t trust social services. Yet, he still sends the boys with August.

And August must have been in search of surrogate kids. That is probably why he agreed to take the kids. And, Seth, age 12, and Henry, age 7 at the start of the trip is the same age of the dead son would be had he lived to ride along on the trip.

I never really got a sense that August used Seth and Henry to replace his lost son, although the three continued their relationship after the first trip ended. I believe August adopted Seth and Henry as his own but I had to read between the lines on that one.

The boys are unrealistic regarding their polite and adaptive behavior. Usually, boys growing up behind an auto repair shop without a mother and with a dismissive alcoholic father grown up to be bad in one way or another. But, in this story, these boys are model kids in every detail. Maybe these two are the exception.

One of the last scenes of the story show the three tossing the remaining ashes of the dead son into a small wooden barrel and then throwing the barrel into the Niagara river and watching it go over the falls. That theme was introduced in the early chapters, where August said his son wanted to go over the Falls in a barrel.

This is a thick novel, about 350 pages. The writing is overly detailed at times. Although, I did enjoy the details about hiking through Yellowstone and the other parks the story traveled through.

Maybe the moral of the story is to ‘be’. At least, in the final segments of the story, while broken down in the middle of rural Kansas (maybe), August philosophies about ‘being in the moment’, not rushing ahead. This came out in the final fifth of the story. Before this, August was critical of himself and others. Maybe this is another aspect in which August changed.

Kurt Vonnegut would (most likely) say the Shape of this story is a straight horizontal line, light reading, not taking away too much, ambiguous.

The Bell Jar

I borrowed Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar from the local library. After all, the Indianapolis Public Library is a taxing entity listed on my property tax statement and so I thought I would take advantage of the service since I pay for it anyways.

Before reading this novel, I heard Sylvia Plath was a feminist, angry toward men with hatred of the white man patriarchy and male privilege. I was hesitant of picking up the book to read if it was to bash me for being a white male.

I picked up the novel based on the mental illness aspect of the story and was curious as to how the story played out.

I did not see the ‘angry white feminist’ theme of the story. Maybe she expresses that in her poetry but I didn’t see it in her only novel. Of course, there were criticisms about Buddy, the boyfriend she dumped and a few scenes of bad dates, but there were not harsh denouncements the male gender.

This video points out that Ester Greenwood was overwhelmed by society’s pressure to conform to standard female roles. Since she couldn’t break free from that pressure she turned to suicide. I didn’t see much of that either. Although her mother constantly encouraged her to take shorthand as a means to support herself in the real world. And since Ester did not want to be stuck as a secretary she opted out of the shorthand class her mother offered. But it did not seem to me that Ester was forced to conform to what society expected of her.

In the novel, I read about a frightened female who was lost in society, not pressured by society. The Fig Tree scene is probably the most poignant, where she just can’t choose which way to go, realizing walking down one career path meant sacrificing of other paths.

Maybe I am reading 2021 values into a novel published in 1963.

I took the “Bell Jar” theme to be the what was inside the glass jars Ester saw while touring the laboratory with her soon-to-be-ex boyfriend (if they were boyfriend – girlfriend at all). She saw fetus in various stages of development floating in amber liquid. These undeveloped people seemed to have a profound effect on her as though she didn’t know who she was or what she would development into.

Certainly this story mirrors how most teenage girls (and guys) feel, who haven’t figured out what they want to do in life or who they really are. Even though there are almost sixty years separating the society this book was publish in and today’s 2021 society, I don’t believe Ester’s society held her back from what she wanted to do and be, she just didn’t know what she wanted to do or be.

I’m in my late 50s and I still don’t know what I want to do or who I want to be.

The Bell Jar book, by Sylvia Plath, I borrowed this copy from the Indianapolis Public Library. iPhone 7 photo taken by Dave O on May 12, 2021.
The Bell Jar book, by Sylvia Plath, I borrowed this copy from the Indianapolis Public Library.
iPhone 7 photo taken by Dave O on May 12, 2021.

Tales of Ordinary Madness

I’ve read two books by Charles Bukowski.

  • Factotum
  • Women

“Tales of Ordinary Madness” is my third Bukowski book.

According to the back cover of the copy I bought from thriftbooks.com for $5.39 (plus $1.44 in tax and shipping), the stories in “Tales of Ordinary Madness” are taken from the volume “Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness” originally published in 1972. The stories not included in the “Tales” book are included in a sister book called “Beautiful Women in Town“.

“Tales” includes 34 short stories of ordinary madness. The humor is crude and coarse, sexual, misogynistic and patriarchal. I don’t know if ‘ordinary madness’ is the best title as the madness in this volume if not the typical slasher serial killer madness. Bukowski would define madness as working a job you hate and screwing a worthless women.

“Rape! Rape!” is a story of a man who becomes infatuated with a girl he sees across the street. Stalks her to her apartment building, knocks on several doors before finding her apartment and then rapes her, though the women seems to be enjoying the rape.

That would not fly in 2021 society.

It didn’t fly in the story either, as the Man was arrested and thrown in jail, but later bailed out by the girl he raped.

There are several stories about the despair and elation that comes from betting on the ponies, a story about fighting a Zen minister at a wedding, and a story hooking up with a literature professor’s wife while on the poetry reading circuit.

The story “Animal Crackers in My Soup” is the most erotic yet deals with societal hatred of those who are different.

The general theme of the volume is one of existential nihilism. That is, finding a meaning for life. “My Stay in the Poet’s Cottage” and “Love It or Leave It” wonder what the meaning of life is. Sometimes, I wonder the same.

I could not live like the characters in these stories. I tried after Nikki left. I tried to be the swinging bachelor, seducing girls each night of the week, drinking more beer than legally allowed.

But, it wasn’t working for me.

Although, I would like to write like Bukowski, free, coarse, maybe crude and sexual, nihilistic. occasionally repentant.

Here’s a great video on Charles Bukowski. This video was my first introduction to Bukowski and his philosophy of life. I started reading his novels and stories after watching this video.

Here’s a list of the stories in this volume:

  • A .45 to Pay the Rent
  • Doing Time with Public Enemy No. 1
  • Scenes from the Big Time
  • Nut Ward Just East of Hollywood
  • Would You Suggest Writing as a Career?
  • The Great Zen Wedding
  • Reunion
  • Cunt and Kant and a Happy Home
  • Goodbye Watson
  • Great Poets Die in Steaming Pots of Shit
  • My Stay in the Poet’s Cottage
  • The Stupid Christs
  • Too Sensitive
  • Rape! Rape!
  • An Evil Town
  • Love It or Leave It
  • A Dollar and Twenty Cents
  • No Stockings
  • A quiet Conversation Piece
  • Beer and Poets and Talk
  • I shot a Man in Reno
  • A Rain of Women
  • Night Streets of Madness
  • Purple as an Iris
  • Eyes Like the Sky
  • One for Walker Lowenfels
  • Notes of a Potential Suicide
  • Notes on the Pest
  • A Bad Trip
  • Animal Crackers in My Soup
  • A Popular Man
  • Flower Horse
  • The Big Pot Game
  • The Blanket

Recent Books

Of the many books I have recently purchased from thriftbooks.com, three books could be construed as ‘risqué’, ‘naughty’ or ‘indecent’. These books are:

  • “The Mammoth Book of Illustrated Erotica” edited by Maxim Jakubrowki and Marilyn Jaye Lewis (2001)
  • “The Book of Nude Photography” by Michael Boys (1981)
  • “Glamour Nude Photography” by Robert & Sheila Hurth (1997)

I should confess that I would like to have become a professional photographer. Photography offers a different level of creativity that painting or drawing can’t duplicate. I would also like to have become a professional painter or artist as painting and drawing offers a different level or creativity that photography doesn’t offer.

Yet, I never became a professional photographer or painter or artist. I was (am) a worker drone for much of my life. I had to be a worker drone due to decisions I made early in life. Getting married and raising kids makes being a worker drone is the way I choose to provide for my family.

The “Glamour Nude Photography” and “The Book of Nude Photography” are helpful instructional references if I ever change career choices. “The Mammoth Book of Illustrated Erotica” is not instructional but illustrative and is certainly more on the risqué side of the spectrum. It showcases the work of 75 photographers who specialize in the erotic side of nude photography. The forward to this work says there are five other volumes in the series.

Three books that I've purchased via thriftbooks.com recently. iPhone 7 photo taken by Dave O on April 20, 2021.
Three books that I’ve purchased via thriftbooks.com recently.
iPhone 7 photo taken by Dave O on April 20, 2021.

Wide Angle Lens – Stories of Time and Space.

31BmzQt5SCL._BO1,204,203,200_A book report of Wide Angle Lens Stories of Time and Space, edited by Phyllis R Fenner.

Published in 1980, this book is a collection of short stories by famous science fiction authors, including Ray Bradbury, Philip K  Dick and Isaac Asimov.

The story I favored is “The Imposter” by Philip K Dick. As I read this story I couldn’t help recalling a film, Imposter, directed by Gary Fleder and starring Gary Sinise. After reading the wiki article, the film was based on the short story found in this book. However, the film was not a block buster as it only grossed about six million in 2001 dollars.

A close second is the “What’s It Like Out There” by Edmond Hamilton which spoke to death and the obligation to make the dead into a heros for the benefit of family and friends.

The lest favorite story is the “Each an Explorer” by Isaac Asimov which is a sleepy story about pollinating foreign planets that I found to be slow and sleepy.

The list of stories in this book :

  • Interior artwork by Erick Ingraham
  • Through a Glass Darkly • essay by Phyllis R. Fenner
  • Sound of Thunder • (1952)
  • Short story by Ray Bradbury (variant of A Sound of Thunder)
  • The Hoop by Howard Fast
  • Saturn Rising by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Impostor by Philip K. Dick
  • Delilah and the Space Rigger by Robert A. Heinlein
  • What’s It Like Out There? by Edmond Hamilton
  • The Trap by Kem Bennett
  • Brightside Crossing by Alan E. Nourse
  • The Hour of Letdown by E. B. White
  • Each an Explorer by Isaac Asimov

I bought this copy of The Wide Angle Lens Stories of Time and Space at a Thrift store for $0.50. I am not a huge fan of science fiction and only purchased this copy so I could ‘study’ how short stories end. But, I really couldn’t draw any conclusions on how to properly conclude a short story as most of these stories just ‘ended’. I expected some sort of deep spiritual insight into the meaning of life at the ending but there were none.

Although the Imposter story did have some meaning as it touched on the reality that no one really knows us and we don’t really know ourselves.

And maybe I should alter my reading comprehensive strategies to pick up on the stories’ themes.

But, for the most part, I read through the stories to check them off the list and didn’t walk away with any great insights. Yet, the act of reading helps the future effort at short story writting.

Started the book in late May 2018 and finished in mid June 2018. Read during lunch breaks and at home.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Joanne Greenberg’s 1964 novel tells the story of Deborah Blau, a teenage girl inflicted with schizophrenia and her stay in a mental hospital. Via therapy she is able to understand the world she created as a defense against the evil reality of this world is not the reality she needs to live with if she wants to overcome she sickness.

Through the pages you come to know Deborah and the world of Yr she created to live in. The people of Yr keep her convinced this reality is better than the Earth world as she has friends in the Yr world and not in the real world. The Earth world only offers her prejudice, physical trauma, friend and family abandonment. Her doctor, Clara Fried, slowly convinces her that Earth reality is really the better reality even with the tribulations and trials that come with living on the Surface. Slowly, Deborah begins to see that.

Deborah takes steps to live outside of the hospital eventually earning a GED. It looks as though she is going to move on from the hospital but the final pages revel the hospital and the sickness will probably stay with her for a while longer.

Near the end of the story, after Deborah earns her GED and the future looks promising and bright, which is most of our experiences after earning a degree, completing a class or succeeding in something difficult for us, her father (probably unintentionally) doesn’t offer the level of praise that would encourage Deborah to further greatness but offers a limp acknowledgement of her achievement that sends Deborah back to the hospital in despair. Isn’t that typical? We strive to earn, expand beyond our comfort zone, climb a hill or ladder that should mean ‘something’ to those who can (should) offer overflowing praise, yet don’t. It is discouraging. They see it as nonconsequential where Deborah sees her achievement as the beginning of something new, something better.

Afterwards, Deborah walks back to the hospital and we leave the story at that point. We see her sitting at a table in the ward. She asks for her school books so she can study as the ward continues in the normal chaos of a mental institution. This gives us hope that she will overcome the parental discouragement and will continue with her education, continue her struggles to improve and overcome her sickness and eventually live on the Surface outside of the hospital for the long term.

Although somewhat depressing, the conclusion of the story is true to reality where sometimes the sickness doesn’t go away immediately but we need to struggle to eventually struggle less.

There is a great resource for the novel here much better than my commentary. I would place this novel on the same level as Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. It is worth a second and third read.

Scan of the copy of Joanne Greenberg’s “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” that I read.

When I read this novel again I will buy a different copy. The copy I read was a normal paperback, probably printed a few years after the initial publication. The copy I bought from Thriftbooks.com was brittle, old, yellow with age and extremely hard to hold open. I don’t regret buying the copy from Thriftbooks.com but my old man hands had a hard time holding this copy. But I struggled and eventually finished.

The Invention of Morel

Interesting short novel published in 1940 by Adolfo Bioy Casares. This Wikipedia article says this little novel was Casares’ breakout effort.

I became aware of this title after ready this article which summarized the story as a guy who falls in love with a girl from afar on a tropical paradise. I was interested in how the guy captures the heart of the girl and if they lived happily ever after.

While the summary was faithful to the basics of the story, the story was deeper than a guy’s lust for love of a beautiful beach goddess. While the story is about the guy’s love for the beautiful beach girl it is more about his final realization that he can never love her in reality.

I would say the antagonist is Morel. Although his invention brings the Guy and his Love (her name is Faustine) together it is Morel who believes he is the true love of Faustine and so devises a way to keep them together for all eternity.

The story reminded me of this girl I met in collage. She was beautiful, smart, thin, shorter than myself, conversational with long hair she kept in a pony tail. She was quirky in a way that excited me. We became friends while in college but that is as far as it went as she was engaged and later married. I haven’t talked to her in over thirty years. She is my Faustine.

The novel also reminded me of Elton John’s song “Love Her Like Me” from his “Songs from the West Coast” CD.

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares published in 1940. This copy came was taken out of circulation and sold by the King County Library System. Eventually, it ended up on my bookshelf.
The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares published in 1940. This copy came was taken out of circulation and sold by the King County Library System. Eventually, it ended up on my bookshelf.

What Should I Read Next?

This Page lists 50 great classic novels under 200 pages. It’s a good source of potential Next Reads.

Of the 50 novels listed, I’ve only recognized a few. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is on the list and the only novel on this list that I’ve read, twice.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is on the list. I haven’t read the book but I bought the movie on DVD to watch because I was in a Kubrick obsession at the time. I couldn’t finish watching the movie because it was too violent for my taste. Yet, I’m in a girl-is-raped-and-slashed horror film obsession at the moment.

Truman Capote‘s Breakfast at Tiffany’s is on the list. Although I haven’t read this novel, I did read his true crime thriller In Cold Blood. That ‘non fiction novel’ is about the 1959 Clutter Family Murders.

Willa Cather‘s O Pioneers! is on the list. I started to read this novel when I was in middle school (circa mid 1970s) but never finished it. That copy of her novel stayed with me through high school and collage and much of my adult life with my intent to read the novel all the way through. But, I never completed the read. I pawned it at Half Price Books for a few pennies. Years later, to redeem myself, I borrowed a copy of her Sapphire and the Slave Girl novel from the local library. I went the distance with that novel.

After reviewing the title on the list, I believe I will seek out a copy of The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares as my Next Read. It’s the shortest novel on the list! So, I bought a copy for $11.39 from thriftbooks.com. Not very thrifty.

One the the book shelves in the house. iPhone 7 photo taken by Dave O on February 20, 2021.