Jake Conrad

Jake Conrad
Blog dedicated to my writing and whatever else I want: movies, games, books, electronics, music, ... anything Jake. The interior of my mind is a mixture of grindhouse, steampunk, Lovecraft, and 80's pop. Be very afraid.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Year In Facebook Status Updates

My OCD knows no bounds.  I saw that a few friends had used an application to post "a year" of their Facebook status updates on Facebook.  I rarely try the applications because they always seem to come with a catch, be it spam, a virus, or just ongoing, annoying requests, but I tried it.  Unfortunately the app would only let me pick 10 or 15 status updates to post.  I almost did it, then the OCD demon who controls me said I had to find a way to post all of them.

As I read through them I realized how uncreative I am.  Anything that isn't a song lyric is probably a movie quote.  Anything that isn't one of those two things is probably me saying I have a cold.  It was still sort of fun to read them again and it is probably the closest thing I will ever get to a daily journal or diary.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tumblr Satisfies my ADHD/OCD reposting fetish - but isn't set up to Blog

I'll probably be back on here for my book and movie reviews at least.  I dig Tumblr but it is the junk food of the blogging world.  Quick, mostly meaningless posts, with a majority of them being photos.  I still like it for what it is, and I think I have successfully stopped pissing off my facebook friends with my nightly posting spree, but I do like having a personal blog for my writing and media reviews.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Defecting from Blogger to Tumblr

I'm going to make a trial run with Tumblr and look at possibly doing away with my Blogger blog.  Why?  Have you ever tried to post things through blogger?  Every time I mess with text, like the short stories I have written, formatting is a nightmare.  I can't tell you how many time I have had to cut all the text, paste it into Word and remove the formatting so I could put it back in.  Then there is posting photos and video.  Sure you can do it, but it isn't very user friendly.  So far Tumblr seems quick and easy and can keep up with me.  Which brings me to my last reason - I have an OCD -level habit of posting multiple crap, things that I find to be funny or interesting, all at once within minutes of each other on Facebook.  I'm sure that many of my friends have found that annoying and hid or deleted me long ago.  Now I can put all that crap on my blog and only those who are interested will check it out.

If you are one of those folks, here is the link below.  I plan on trying it out for a few weeks.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Talented Family

I have a talented family and I figure there is no better place to show off than on my personal blog.

Sol had to make a blog for his Communications merit badge.  He chose to do the obligatory 3 entries on his favorite video game, Elderscrolls 4 Oblivion, a roll playing game.  I thought it was kind of cute so I'm posting it for the Grandparents even though I promised him I wouldn't.  I do things sometimes.

Also Ian has been doing a lot of sketching lately and his pictures actually look like what he wants them to look like (I'm always amazed by this).  He takes after his momma who has been painting quite a bit lately.  Here is an Eagle he sketched (not traced, I asked).

And then there is my talented wife Jana.  She sings, she plays multiple instruments, and now she paints.  (She has other amazing talents too, but I can't talk about those.)  Here are some of her paintings.

She painted this one for her sister Gaylene

This one for her Brother Kurt

This one for our niece Maison's room

This one just because.

This one for our nephew Xandy's room

This one for her Dad.

And this is her latest she did for her sister Erika.  (My favorite so far.)

I could post photos of the art Sam has done with a permanent marker on our walls and the art Oli has done on himself with a permanent marker, but I don't really want to encourage that.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Condensed Classics for Children - Reason #124,543 Why I Love My Mom

I was thinking about classic literature today and how I seem to be drawn quite easily to writers between roughly the 1880's and 1940's.  I'm not saying that is all I like to read (I hate seeing people read only one author or genre) or that everything written in that time was good by any means, but lately, since I have really put forth an effort to read a highly regarded classic every 3rd book or so, I have a discovered a real affinity for the writing of this period of time.  It never ceases to surprise me how the themes and characters of many of these books seem so contemporary.  I think that it must be that my imagination of what seems like "a long time ago" must reflect a less complex society or something. I guess I forget that there is "no new thing under the sun." What I'm trying to say in a round-about way is that I have found the old crap to be as good as the new crap in my literary wanderings, sometimes better.

I think that the only reason I feel, and have always felt a desire to read these classics is thanks to my Mom.  My mom played school with me when I was little, teaching me to read at a very young age.  (This age gets younger and younger as she brags about it over the years.  It started at 4 then went to 3.  I think her most recent memory of it had me reading Shakespeare at 13 months :) She took me to the library and bought me countless books over the years.

The way she introduced classic literature to me was by participating in a book club back around the time I was in 1st to 3rd grades.  This book club sent us pocket versions of classic novels abridged and simplified for kids.  I have been looking all over the web tonight for these things, but haven't been able to find them - maybe someone who reads this might know what I'm talking about.  I can see them very vividly in my mind though, as I spent hours reading and re-reading them.  They were about 5" by 5" paperback books with a colorful cover and light-grey pages inside.  There was a black-and-white illustration on every other page with a small descriptive legend taken from the text below each illustration and the facing page was the continuing abridgment of the classic story.  I don't remember how many I had, or which ones exactly, but I remember Oliver Twist, Last of the Mohicans, Moby Dick, one with all the stories from Poe, and many more.  There had to be 20 or 30 books.  I remember knowing at the time that these weren't the real books but simplified versions of the books, and even then some of them were boring beyond belief to me.  The funny thing is I still read them all several times.  I don't know if it was the illustrations that kept me going, or that I was just hard up for entertainment, or maybe it was my burgeoning OCD already making me finish any series I begin, but I spent hours with those things.

They must have been poorly made little books because I don't remember what ultimately happened to them.  Still, they did their job very well.  Ever since, when I have seen the titles of these books it has sparked a flash of memory and I have been drawn to them, sometimes not even knowing why.  Whenever I pick up the actual book and read it, I am always surprised because they are familiar to me, like a dream that I can barely remember, which makes the reading extremely satisfying.  With each of these I re-discover, I feel like I have found a missing piece of a puzzle.

I can't help but think that my Mom was inspired to get these books for me back then, never knowing that small act would give me such fulfilling experiences so much later in my life.  Moms can be influential that way I guess.  I thank God every day for the parents He gave me.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Cinnamon Girl - A Short Story by Jake Conrad

The Cinnamon Girl

A Short Story

by Jake Conrad

Dec 25, 1994
Mery Chrismas!!! My Mom and Daddy give me this jornal for Chrismas. It is red and prity and Im gona rite in it ever day!!! I got a Lion King sleeping bag from Santa to!!! I got a ech o skech from Santa to!!! I got a calidiscope for Santa to!!! I got a Bambi movie from my Daddy!!! I love you Daddy!!! I got super spray chalk from Nana!!! But Mom says it has to be for outside use only!!! But the snow has to melt or I cant use it rite now!!! Last nite was fun we watched the Grinch cartoon and the little dogy was so funny and we ate yummy food and cookies and talked about baby Jesus our Saveyor who come to earth. I love Chrismas!!! I love my red jornal!!! Im gona rite in it every day!!!

Sept 21, 1995
I had a lesson today in church about jornals and how we got to rite in them every day and that it is good to do that. Even thow it says in gold on the front of my jornal that my name is NICOLE CATHERINE WATTERSON I want my name on the inside of my jornal to say NICOLE CINNAMON WATTERSON. My Daddys favorite foods has cinnamon in them like cinnamon rolls and cinnamon bears and cinnamon toast and he calls me his little cinnamon bear even thow I'm NOT so little anymore. My mom put me in time out in my room and I'm as mad as he_ _ (the hot place). My Sunday school teacher Sister Jensen said it is bad to almost say bad words but not as bad as saying bad words. My friend Katie in primary says Im lucky because I dont have any brothers or sisters to yell at me or to have to share with or who pull my ponytail and make me cry. I thawt so to until today. After church Mom said I dumped out all her Prell shampoo and she just bought it and it cost alot and dont I know that Daddys not working rite now and money dont grow on trees??? Well I said I did NOT do that and maybe she left the lid off her own self and maybe it just eggsploded or sumpthing. Cause I DIDNT do it! She said that SHE didnt do it and she knows Daddy didn't do it and since we dont have a cat anymore now that Mr Wiggles got smashed flat as a flatjack (SAD) and there is nobody else in this house but you young lady. I got mad and I yelled and she yelled and Im here in my room now and I HATE her rite now. Im GLAD her Prell got spilled but it really wasnt me and I dont even care if all her dumb hair falls out and Im GLAD she is going to start working at night cause Daddy would have beleeved me if he was home. Daddy always beleeves me.

Sept 22, 1995
This jornal is fun because no one can read it but me and I can rite crazy things like blah blah blah blah and no one ever says, Stop that Young Lady or anything. I can draw a picture here like this picture of a clown car or just whatever. I can tell what Im scared of witch is the dark sometimes. I can rite absolutly anything! Good night!

Sept 24, 1995
I am soooo tired but I had the funnest night with Daddy! He was looking sad and just sitting in his chair watching dumb old football and I asked him that since mom was at work could we have a Daddy dawter date like we did in the summer. At first he told me dates cost money but I told him we could just go for a drive or eat just like one McDonalds hamberger. He laffed and said OK and he took me SWIMMING at the reck center! We swam and played and he gave me a sholder ride even thow I'm getting very big and we got so hungry after that I ate 2 McDonalds hambergers (my favorite axept the pickles that I gave to Daddy) and he ate a Big Mac and 2 cheese bergers. When we got home I was so cold Daddy said my lips were blue. Daddy asked me if I wanted to take a shower with him like I used to when I was little. He must have forgot that mom said last year now that Im too big to take baths with mom or showers with Daddy. So then I took a Bubble bath by myself and Daddy read to me while I was in the bath and he read me my Junie B Jones book about a yuky bluky fruit cake and it was really funny because Daddy always does the voices when he reads to me. After the bath I was all pruny and so tired and Daddy wanted to put lotion on me even thow I hardly ever spill all the lotion anymore when I do it. And he got the lotion out but then our doorbell got broke rite then! And it went DING DONG DING DONG DING DONG and Daddy said a bad word and I told him he was NOT supposed to say bad words and he had to get his tool box and fix the door bell. Axept he didn't fix it he just made it so it didn't work at all any more. So I got tired and got into my jamys and got into bed and then I got out and got my jornal to rite in it because I told Sister Jensen it was my goal.

Oct 3, 1995
I'm so sad tonight. When I got home from school mom was getting ready to go to her new job and Daddy was already in bed! Mom had to go and she was mad Daddy did that and said that going to bed wont fix our money problem and that he was supost to call Bishop Madsen back because he wanted Daddy to go work at the wellfair cannery some time and that I should tell him. I was mad at mom cause its not Daddys falt that he is sick or sumpthing and went to bed and its not Daddys falt that his job got redoosed and that he cant find a job. I knew just what to do with Daddy in bed so I tried to be quiet and I ate my favorite dinner that is just pieces of cheese and potato chips that I squeeze dots of Katchup on. I went to be real quiet and go in Daddys room but his door was locked and so I just went and watched Nickalodian and now its bed time and mom will be home very late so Im just saying my prayers and going to bed.

Oct 13, 1995
I had a very bad dream last night. In my dream it was in a hallway that was a hospital hallway and it was kind of dark and at the end was a door and I knew that I had to look through the little window in that door but I didnt want to but I did. I saw my Daddy in the hospital bed and he had tubes and a thing on his face and he looked real sick and real bad and I got real scared. I could see he wasnt by hisself in the room cause a woman that had long red hair and scary eyes and a white white face and she was drest like a nurse. That nurse opened the door cause she saw I was looking in the window and she had a scary face like a mask and her eyes were like mask holes and she said im sorry Cinnamon but your Daddy is not well and I have to take him away. I told that nurse she was rong that Daddy was just sad sometimes and not sick and that she was totaly rong. She just stared at me with her gross white face and black eyes then she shut the hospital room door and locked me out so I couldnt see Daddy. I knocked on the little window and Daddy saw me and I saw he was tied to the bed somehow and he tried to get off but couldnt and he yelled Cinnamon!!! Help me!!!" I tried to do sumpthing and I tried to open that door but the nob wouldnt move a bit and then the nurse just shut the curtain around her and around Daddy and then I coudnt see nothing. Just then I woke up and it was dark still and I got so scared. I ran into Daddys room and he moved over and let me lay by him and held me tite. The next day witch is today I kind of forgot all the dream and everything but then I opened my closet to get me a shirt I wanted to wear and I saw sumpthing funny witch was 3 white flowers that were so pretty just laying on my floor of my closet. So they looked eggactly like the flowers mom plants in the back yard witch are carnashuns, only it didnt look like they got pulled up or were old or anything. I knew 2 things rite then that I did not put those flowers in the closet and that if mom saw that I would be in dutch so I put it in this shoe box that I hide all my good tresure in under my bed but when I got up from the bed I looked in the closet again and it was still open and it was sumpthing awful strange. There was no shoes and roller skates and toys and stuff on the closet floor. All that stuff was on the closet floor but it was stakt up neetly on the sides of the closet floor and not all over the closet floor that I am pretty much famus for a messy closet floor and then I thoght it was wierd because those flowers were just in the middle of that floor all by thereselfs and then I remebered my scary dream and I got scared again. I was gona go tell Daddy about it but I got worried that he was gona think that I had that dream cause I was mad at him or sumpthing and he is already sad lots and so I didnt want to make him more sad. Also I new that Mom wouldnt have beleeved me at all anyways and I didnt want to get in dutch over the flowers and I wasnt reely that scarred about the flowers just that bad dreem.

Oct 16, 1995
I went to church today with mom but Daddy stayed home. He didn't say why but I guess hes sick but when I asked mom she said keep yourself to yourself Nicole. I sat one chair away from her at church cause she isn't very nice to me or to Daddy.

Oct. 17, 1995 (Yey bring on Halloween!!!)
I went to school and stuff and a boy there (gross) named Daniel gave me a note that was for an other boy (gross again) named Jose and in it it said Do You Like Me??? and then a box for YES and and a box for NO. Well I told my BFF which is best friend forever you know Abby about it and she got mad and said that she liked Jose and that I knew she thawt he was hot. I said duh Abby dont worry about it Abby cause Jose is totally not someone I like and all and I dont even like boys as much as her anyways. Plus I didnt say anthing about this to Abby but Jose is short and always brags that he has a mustash witch he kind of does but whatever. Well then Abby wasn't mad but I had to respond so I checkt the NO and underlined it like 5 times with my red marker so he would know I was serius. I just dont understand why Abby likes boys cause they are wierd and gross and always push each other. I guess if I had to say I like any boy (AS A FRIEND!!!) it would be Jenner because we are in reading circle and he is always nice and quiet and doesnt ever tease people who acidently mix up the words GAZED and GRAZED when they are reading a farm story even when other kids laugh. He also has brown hair like mine and that is sumpthing about it too. But I dont like him exept as a friend anyways

Oct 18, 1995
I had a dream again with that red haired lady but this time she was nice and not scary. I was laying down and watching Scooby Doo because Daddy had to make a quick trip into town witch is just fine because I'm already 9 and can babysit myself pretty much. He said he was going to get me a present and when I said we dont have money for presents he said this is secret money and a secret present. So I was layin on the floor watching TV and musst have fell to sleep because I started to dream. The dream hapined at our church and it was durring primary and I was the only one in the primary class like sometimes happens in the sumertime and Sister Parker came in and said Cinnamon, your teacher Sister Jensen is sick today so you have a new teacher and then the red haired lady came in. I think she was the same lady exep her face was nice and pretty and she had green eyes not an old dead face with black eyes but her hair red thow. She said hello Cinnamon and said her name was Emma and she had a speshul lesson for me today. At first I was scarred because I remembered her in my dream at the hospital. But it cant be the same lady because Emma was very nice and very pretty she sat close in front of me. She talked about Jesus and stuff and how Jesus never wanted bad things to happen to children for he loved all the little children. She said that sometimes people are sick and they hurt children and that Jesus said it was better for a mills stone to drownd them in the ocean then to hurt a child. I asked what a mills stone was and she said it was a big rock. I asked Emma if she was a nurse durring the week and she said she used to be a nurse and now she is a ajent and a helper. I asked if she had kids and she said she had kids but they grew up. I thawt that was funny because she wasn't a granma or anything but I didn't say nothing because that would be rude. She asked me what I would do if someone was going to try to hurt a child that I knew like a cousin or a friend. I said I would call the police or tell my dad. She asked what should happen to that bad person and I said that if Jesus said they should be drownd, then they should be drownd. When I woke up I remembered my hole dream and since Daddy wasn't home, I just got out my jornal.

Oct 25, 1995
I have VERY exiting news!!! Daddy says I cant tell anyone, but he didnt say I cant rite it in my jornal so I will!!! He says he thinks I can be a model someday!!! The secret surprise he got me was a speshul cameral that Daddy bought for me and him for me to practice being a model. We have to be careful because Daddy told me that Mom wouldnt like me borowwing her make up to practis even thow it is just a little bit and she has lots so thats why its secret. Daddy has already taken lots of pictures of me and I get to pick my own outfits. He helps me to pose for the pictures and he knows about modeling because he read a library book about it. We took pictures with my dresses and my swiming suit just like Miss America on TV and we laffed and laffed. Daddy even asked me to take a picture of him witch was so funny because he pretended to be Mr. Universe and stuff. He is crazy and so fun. I know Mom wouldnt have fun like that with me. Sometimes I wish she was always at work. Daddy says I am so beautiful and I have high cheek bones and perfect hair and skin for modeling. He says models make lots of money and only have to take pictures for a few hours for their job, and that is just easy and fun.

Oct 28, 1995
I don't think I want to be a model after all. Daddy told me more about how sometimes models dont get to pick there own outfits and still just have to wear what there boss tells them. He showed me an outfit that he said he bought for me, but when I went into the bathroom to put it on, it was very hard to put on, and I didn't know how and he came in to show me how to put it on, but I didn't like it AT ALL so I said I didnt want to wear it and Daddy got mad and said he paid good money for that outfit. Money we didnt have. So we took some pictures but I started to cry and Daddy got very serius and told me to change my close and then he went into his room and didnt come out. I feel so sad rite now because I dont want to be a model even thogh at first it was lots of fun. I just went and nocked on Daddys door to say goodnight but he just said goodnight and didnt open the door.

Oct 30, 1995
I just woke up and it is still dark but the red haired lady in my dream told me I had to rite down my dreem imeeditly after I woke up. She said that this would be the last dream she would visit me in and that I needed to rite it down. In my dreem we were just in my bedroom and she came in the door and sat on the bed and played with my hair witch I liked because she was soft and nice. She said that she was at our home to help our family and needed to do sumpthing that was hard to do but nesasary. She asked if I would let her help us. I said yes and told her I wanted her to help my Daddy because he has been all quiet and sad again and not talking to me. She said that is the reason she has been in my dreams and that she can help. She says that because she used to be a nurse she knows Daddy is sick and that if I let her she can save him before he gets any worse. She said that very soon she would go to him and would help him if I gave her permishon. I told her yes please help him.

November 1st, 1995
I don't have much time. The mother will be home any minute. The father took the child trick-or-treating throughout the neighborhood and both seemed to be in good spirits. The child gorged herself on sweets and then, amazingly, even with all that sugar in her system, fell asleep on her bed cover. I had been watching from inside the father's bedroom. I sat in my customary place at the foot his bed and watched him wander the room, Polaroids in hand. I saw the signs I have seen many times before and knew it would be tonight. I went to the child and even though she was sleeping sweetly in her kitten outfit, surrounded by candy wrappers, it still registered when I again asked for her permission to enter. She turned toward me, eyes still closed, sighed and said, "Yes".

When he came to me and began the careful, exploratory caresses and touches that would push him to do it, I kept very still. He whispered, "My Cinnamon Bear. My Cinnamon Bear." over and over. Only after he had ignored my pleas in her tender voice of "No Daddy No", was I forced to act. I broke from his grip and ran through the parent's room and into their walk-in shower. He followed and entered the shower, blocking the door, driving me into the porcelain corner, and turning on the warm water. He knelt before me fully clothed under the water and began to kiss me. I did not resist this time. I put my arms around his neck tightly. His eyes were closed when my sharp little teeth easily found the external jugular which was pulsing with his excitement. He was too stunned to do more than stagger around on his knees, and the combination of the water and my fierce grip helped him to bleed out quickly. It was over in less than two minutes, but the the rest of it took me until dawn. By the time the sun arose, I had strained nearly every muscle in the dear little body for he was a large man and not easily moved. Digging with tools that were much too large and unwieldy for the little hands was challenging, but I made sure to dig at least four good feet into the garden soil. As for the mess, the shower made it possible to do everything with very little cleaning and I only had to sacrifice a few towels, some plastic from the garage, and of course, the child's kitten outfit, all of which went into the hole with him.

This diary will be placed under the mother's bed. It will be found soon enough. I have learned over time that this is necessary. I have inserted the irrefutable photos into the pages of the diary as further proof. I know the mother will suspect something when she finds her husband missing and her child completely exhausted, muscles strained. I know in my heart that she has suspected something for a while. If only the mother knew the horrid punishment in store for those of who us suspect harm to little ones, yet do nothing. Perhaps it isn't too late for her.

As soon as I hear the mother walk in the door, I regrettably must leave this sweet form even now so full of life. The child will remember nothing of this night, her innocence still intact. I profess this to be no small consolation for the bitter business I find myself in.

If only I could save them all.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I've Got Problems - The Curse of Minor OCD

So I made two big New Year's resolutions in January 2010, 3, if you count my quickly abandoned decision to lose 50 lbs.  The other two were much more serious and were linked to each other.  Prior to January 2010, I have been a big movie watcher.  When I say a big movie watcher, I don't mean a couple-of-movies on the week-end movie watcher, I mean literally a movie-a-day movie watcher.  How did I manage this you might ask?  Well, I'm not going to go into too many details but I will say that the custom stereo I installed in my car when I purchased it in 2007 can play a variety of "media"...  As the individual in charge of safety for Burton Lumber that is all I will say without further incriminating myself.  I will say, however, that I have always utilized my 2 hours a day spent in my car commuting from Saratoga Springs to Salt Lake in one way or another.  More important than a fancy car stereo, the real driving force that caused me to watch a movie a day is the streak of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that truly has been passed down from my mother and her family to yours truly and manifests itself in a variety of interesting ways.  Now I'm not saying I'm diagnosable.  What I have is nothing like real OCD that is often debilitating.  What exists in me is more of an under-the surface habitual mania that strongly encourages me to turn my interests into obsessions that usually last 6 months or so.

Examples of this OCD streak?  Reading all 21 of John Sandford's "Prey" Books over the course of 6 months.  During this time I was in 3 different books at the same time reading one in audio format on my commute, one at work on my lunch, and one at home.  Somehow I managed to keep the good guys, bad guys, and everything else straight the entire time.  Another time as a prank I resolved to catch up to a friend's XBOX achievement level.  If you don't know what this means, all the better for you.  Anyway, I lied and told him my XBOX had the 3 flashing lights of death which normally means a month without my XBOX as it would need to be repaired.  Instead I secretly unplugged my XBOX from Live and in 3 weeks earned 10,000 gamerpoints to catch me up to him.  (I also gained 20 lbs during that time and probably lost 5 years off my life, but that probably goes without saying)  As far as this movie-a-day deal goes you have to at least try to appreciate what has to go into such an obsession.  I have used Netflix forever and at one time was getting 5 movies at a time from them.  Then I learned you could rent up to 10 movies from the city library at a time, and you could reserve them ahead of time online.  That tore it.  I would gallop through the entire work of prolific directors in days.  I would wipe out whole sub-genres in a month.  I would role play the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon over and over and over through my rentals.  I devoured Sundance Films like popcorn shrimp and even eliminated TV shows with 5 or 6 seasons in a single bound.  In short, I watched a hell of a lot of movies.

So fast forward to January of 2010.  I had recently completed my 31 days of horror by watching a different horror movie every day in October and had started to feel like I had seen it all.  In some ways I felt like there was "no new movie under the sun" and that I had seen it all, every variation of every genre.  I know that isn't the case, but that is how I felt. Worse than this, I felt numb from all the movies I had watched, because while I had been somewhat discerning, I justified watching even the most base content through various excuses.  I passed up being desensitized to violence and language long ago and continued to fool myself into thinking it had no effect on me.  I came to this realization as well as the understanding that Sol was turning 12 and has always been interested in everything I'm interested in. I had already let him watch The Matrix, and I knew I would start to introduce him to other movies a little at a time.

Some may think this is fine and the natural order of things, but the problem with all of this is that besides being a big movie watcher, I'm also a Mormon and a believer.  This makes life difficult in a lot of ways.  Being a Christian already brings with it a laundry list of guilt, but being a card-carrying Mormon takes that to the Nth degree.  As Church leaders have warned members to not watch movies that are unwholesome and have specifically warned of R-rated movies, I've been ill at ease with my obsession for some time now.

On my birthday I turned 35 and was feeling old and used up and like I needed to make some kind of life change.  I decided to quit watching R-Rated movies.  Now, I'm famous for quitting things.  I have quit drinking caffeine soda (another Mormon no-no that I have yet to give up) like 25 times, so those who know me just rolled their eyes when I said I was a PG-13er or less from now on.  A friend from work who knows how much I love movies just rubbed his hands together like Renfield and said, "You'll be back."  Another friend who I used to go see horror movies at the theater with quite a bit just laughed at me, and my poor wife who always supports me in all my craziness and loves me unconditionally and doesn't judge me, didn't say too much, probably knowing about my history of backsliding.  Not a very supportive start, but it was always about me and never about anyone else.

I had wanted to start reading more anyway and to start reading some classic books to open my mind a bit, but the siren song of the movies was always stronger.  Once I stopped watching R-Rated movies, I found myself with a whole lot of time on my hands. I'll just be honest, there aren't many new non R-rated movies I'm interested in... at least not to where I would want to watch on a day, so my new resolution to read a book a week was easy.  Now catching us up to the present... I'm 6 months dry from the R-rated movie bottle but now I have a new problem...  My reading habit.

I started keeping track of the books I read to see if I could read 52 over the course of the year.  Well, I'm not even through half of the year yet, and I've read 41 books.  Once again my Micro-OCD is in effect, and I can't stop.  So far this is what I've read:

1)      Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Suzanna Clarke
2)      The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History – Jonathan Franzen
3)      The Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouc     
4)      20th Century Ghosts – Joe Hill
5)      Genius – Jesse Kellerman
6)      Evidence – Jonathan Kellerman
7)      Bones – Jonathan Kellerman
8)      Empire – Orson Scott Card
9)      Hidden Empire – Orson Scott Card
10)  Under the Dome – Stephen King
11)  Fiddlers - Ed McBain
12)  Black Dogs – Ian McEwan
13)  The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
14)  Light in August – William Faulkner
15)  Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
16)  The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
17)  Night Shift – Stephen King
18)  Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
19)  Complete Tales and Poems - Edgar Allan Poe
20)  Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
21)  A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare
22)  Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
23)  An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England – Brock Clarke
24)  The Trial – Franz Kafka
25)  The Colorado Kid – Stephen King
26)  A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking
27)  The Regulators – Stephen King (Writing as Richard Bachman)
28)  The Art of War – Sun Tzu
29)  Common Sense – Thomas Paine
30)  Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
31)  The Nightmare Factory – Thomas Ligotti
32)  Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
33)  The Stranger – Alber Camus
34)  The Final Solution – Michael Chabon
35)  Puddin Head Wilson – Mark Twain
36)  Short Stories of Saki – H.H. Munro
37)  The Age of Fable – Thomas Bullfinch
38)  Turn of the Screw – Henry James
39)  Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
40)  Abraham Lincoln – A Presidential Life – James McPherson
41)  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce – Ambrose Bierce

     Well that's great you say, but I can't help but wonder if I haven't switched the green monkey on my back for a blue monkey...  A little bit of "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." if you will.  Now with the discovery of free books I can download in MP3 format from the library, it isn't uncommon for me to finish a book and start another 2 seconds later.  Am I just a junkie constantly on the lookout for a new tray of junk?  I sometimes wonder if these obsessions will ever end so I can just sit still for a while.  It just seems against my nature to do so.  I always have to be doing 3 or 4 things at once.  Even when I try to do nothing, I look down and I'm doing something.  I have wondered for years if I will be one of those people that die young, and that somehow I know this and am making up for future lost time.  I kind of hope not, at least for Jana's sake, but at night, when I'm trying to go to bed at a decent time, and something inside says, "just finish that book, it's just a few more pages" I really wonder.  

     On the bright side, I have to admit that I have felt a huge change since I began this little experiment.  I have always loved to read and in spite of watching so many movies, I normally managed a couple of books a month.  Lately though, I have found a new fire in my soul for reading and reading good books.  Of course as you see from my list I still have a few servings of cotton candy scattered through my literary buffet, but I have read many good books that I hadn't read before. A long dormant desire to learn has been awaken inside me and my mind is buzzing with ideas and comparisons and parallels at all times.  It is wild and fun and I'm not through yet.  

                       At least I'll leave a beautiful corpse.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Light in August, Black Dogs, The Picture of Dorian Gray - Three books with nothing in common except that I read them in the last 2 weeks

I've really been reading a lot lately.  Since my last post I have read a very American novel by William Faulkner with strong Christian overtones called Light in August written in 1932 and 2 English novels, one written fairly recently in 1992, "Black Dogs" by Ian McEwan, and The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1890 by Oscar Wilde.

Light in August - I tried to read 2 books by Faulkner when I was young and didn't get beyond a chapter or two before giving up.  I think it was mostly because of the combination of the language being southern and old-fashioned to me that I gave up.  Listening to this book on CD helped immensely with this as the reader had a great southern accent and even interjected interesting voices and pauses that made the dialog and internal monologues flow in a way that gave the book a play-like quality.  The interesting way the story was told with no regard for a timeline (I knew Tarantino didn't come up with that on his own :) made me have to guess the point of the story and even who the main characters were as people flowed in and back out of the spotlight.  The main character turns out to be and orphan boy, half black and half white named Joe Christmas.  When the story begins you find out he has likely committed a terrible crime, and with what little you know of him, you easily hate him.  When the story takes a sharp turn and begins describing a pitiful orphan, it took me a while to realize that this was also Joe Christmas, when he was younger.  As the novel progresses and you realize you are learning about Joe's humble and pitiable beginnings, Faulkner turns your initial hate for the man on its head. I never really grew any empathy for Christmas through the course of the book, but plenty of sympathy.  With this very troubled character, Faulkner examines race, religion, and even the confusing relationships of men and women.  Although he has a JC name, Joe Christmas' issues are very different from Jim Casey's from the Grapes of Wrath with the largest of these differences being that Joe is a victim.  Never at any time do you feel that Joe had even a small chance to escape his fate.  Even when he does act, it is just in response to having been acted for so many years.  I'm sure there are tons of symbolism and themes I missed through my reading.  To be honest I always have vague notions of these things as I read the book, but I can never disguise my "Eureka" reaction when they are spelled out for me by Cliff in his Notes or by a well-meaning professor.  I kind of thought I would reach an age, like before I turned 35, when this stuff would magically come to me, but alas, it hasn't.  I do know that there were tons of Christian references and themes in the book and lots of ideas on racism and prejudice in general.  From the prejudice of the women-folk directed towards Lena, the unwed, pregant young woman searching for her baby-daddy, to the turmoil JC feels towards himself for not being able to find his place in either the white community or the black community.  I think that I connected less with Reverend Hightower.  His story, although also tragic, still seemed disconnected to me from the rest of the novel.  He is also a doomed character, but seems to choose his doom much more than the others.  One thing I found interested was a constant "deus ex machina" as the characters were led to their fates one step at a time, by what seemed to be instinct or a higher force.  When Joe walks through the darkened house, when McEachern is lead directly to Joe at the dance, and when Byron Bunch is led to Lucas.  This constantly gives the characters a fated or doomed feel to them and was not done by accident.

The best I can say is that this is a book that you should read.  The writing is just incredible and has a style I know now I've seen imitated but never duplicated.

The few quotes I found online don't really do the writing justice, but I will add them below anyway.  One drawback to the book on CD thing is that it is not easy to underline favorite lines.  Here are a few I did like:

There is a price for being good the same as for being bad; a cost to pay. And it’s the good men that can't deny the bill when it comes around. . . . The bad men can deny it; that’s why dont anybody expect them to pay on sight or any other time. . . . Maybe it takes longer to pay for being good than for being bad.

Man knows so little about his fellows. In his eyes all men or women act upon what he believes would motivate him if he were mad enough to do what that other man or woman is doing.

Like the cat, he also seemed to see in the darkness as he moved as unerringly toward the food which he wanted as if he knew where it would be; that, or were being manipulated by an agent which did know. He ate something from an invisible dish, with invisible fingers: invisible food. He did not care what it would be. He did not know that he had even wondered or tasted until his jaw stopped suddenly in mid-chewing and thinking fled for twentyfive years back down the street, past all the imperceptible corners of bitter defeats and more bitter victories, and five miles even beyond a corner where he used to wait in the terrible early time of love, for someone whose name he had forgot.

Black Dogs - A novel set as a memoir of a man's father and mother-in-law.  The main points of this short novel are the contrasting beliefs of science vs. faith and a look at how the fall of the Berlin Wall affected those who once saw Communism as an answer to our social problems.  The mother-in-law's account of a supernatural intervention when she was attacked by 2 enormous, black dogs supports the faithful belief in things not seen, and the pragmatic, scientific father-in-law, who also happened to be a socialist and support communist beliefs represented the other side of the argument.  With the exception of the account of the dog attack and narrator's fight with a man abusing his young son in a restaurant, I found little to peak my mind.  Here is a case of good writing with what feels like nowhere to go.  I would encourage you to read "Atonement", also written by McEwan, before trying this one.

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Gad I'm sick of British writers right now, and Dorian Gray was the vain, priggish, simpering nail in the coffin for me.  I have never enjoyed the formal aristocratic educated lords and ladies with their inner turmoil centered normally around their boredom because they don't freaking do anything.  The idea of going to a formal luncheon to gossip about lord whoever and lady whatever makes me want to throw myself off a bridge.  Maybe that is because I just read Faulkner, whose characters are the salt of the earth.  Maybe because I'm not a 14 year old girl.  Either way I'm done with the Brits for a while and Dorian Gray, although sometimes quite a funny and accurate social commentary on turn-of-the-century England, was still just a bunch of English mincing dandies trying to look beautiful, and bored out of their minds because they don't know what an honest day's work looks like.  Ugg.  I kind of want to take Dorian Gray and have him get the series of whuppins Joe Christmas gets from his step father when he is forced to memorize Bible passages just to see what happens.  I'm sure there was more to the story about youth and the duel personalities of man (Jekyll and Hyde) but I was too busy getting irritated by the general pansiness crybabyness of the characters to care.