Archive for August, 2021

The Dispersal of Quiet

One night a few weeks ago, Burke and I were watching TV in the blissful quiet of our living room. The cat was dozing on the armrest of my chair. Modern Family playing background to our evening. And yet there was an unease tripping through my nether-bellies, alerting me to a disruption in this perfect period of quiet and content.

I looked to my left to see that taking up the entire left side of my living room was a robin egg blue doggy pen that came up to my waist. Underneath it, protecting my floor from future gallons of urine, was a green checkered picnic blanket. Bags of dog food lined my once tidy bookshelf. And I at once recognized the anxiety traveling through my body.

We were getting a dog.

I stood and was bitten by the equally anxious cat in a not-sure-what’s-up-but-me-no-like way. Then, edging the pen out of my way to the right and moving a pile of puppy pads off of my bar cart, I excavated my carafe of Irish Whiskey. And, taking a deep breath to provide space, I drank directly from it.

Life had become too quiet. I spent my mornings in the kitchen writing. The cat always sitting on my lap for a period of that time until my prose insulted or disgusted her in some way and she moved to the other chair and rued her lack of larynx and vocal range. My days involved a walk by myself in solitude, after a morning of work. Lunch and dinner were not disrupted at all by the discovery of urine or the recognition that a small animal was about to create some on my floor or couch or pillows. The cat had become content with running the household. She dallied when she wanted and screamed at us for salmon and chicken when she wanted. We gave in instantly and as a gift she would go off to sleep or sit contentedly on the couch or the chair. Too quiet. Blissful.

Enter Dog. A Shih Tzu. Small. Sort of like a dwarf if you catch her in the right moment. White with brown ears. One black eye, one pink (oddly same as the cat). No teeth yet (vet was a little freaked out by that, but they’re coming in). Maisy.

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Corona Book Blast

One of the bright sides of a pandemic and the world falling to pieces is the books. And the loungewear, but that’s a different blog. And the lacking need for hygiene, but that’s a different blog, and probably a doctor’s visit.

The problem with a pandemic, aside from all the, you know, illness, is that while I am reading lots of good books, there’s nobody to tell about them. Trying to bring up books on the phone is like trying to tell someone about one of your dreams. And the last time I tried to recommend a book to the nice waitress at my local pub, she told me “sorry, I have a boyfriend. Also, he’s big and a police officer.”

So, now that leaves you poor souls who still read my blog. Here are some books I’ve read over the pandemic that you might like and even read over the next, sadly inevitable, lockdown.

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

A brief history of all humans everywhere and the entire world and why some people have stuff and some people don’t seem to have so much stuff. Sound intimidating? Here’s the thing, it’s not in the least. It’s just brilliant. Jared Diamond lays out the entire history of the world in an accessible way that doesn’t make you want to clean your household weapon. Not only that, it is possibly the most interesting book I have ever read. On each page, I found myself saying: wow, I didn’t know that. Wow, I didn’t know that either. This book will make you smarter. Maybe even smart enough to get the vaccine.  

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

If you love a good cozy mystery, British English, and old people, get this book now. Richard Osman spins a tale of a murder in a senior community and makes it hilarious and compelling. He creates these very real characters that extend so far beyond the common drooling cliches that often inhabit a senior community. Funny, charming, and told so well, this book is a brilliant beach book or just for when you need a break from Netflix.

Night Shift by Stephen King

OK, OK, I know, I know. Stephen King on a must read book list, how cliché. But the thing is, there’s a reason he keeps showing up on them. Night Shift is a collection of stories written in the 1970s and they are frigging awesome. There’s one thing I have learned about Stephen King is that he does not faff about. Nobody is safe in his stories – not women, children, nor main character. If you want throwback horror that doesn’t give a shit about hurt feelings or your fears, then read this. With the lights on. And with your mommy nearby.

The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich

OK, when you get done reading Stephen King and you need to lighten the mood with some humor, you get this book. I heard about Simon Rich because he wrote the Seth Rogan Netflix movie An American Pickle. The movie was bad, but I just chalked that up to Netflix magic. I looked him up and got this book of short stories. I was finished the next day. You will be too. It’s comforting knowing that the boyfriend of the last girl on earth, God, and magical goats all have trouble with love.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

A novel about a Jewish family whose patriarch dies and who sit shiva as part of his last request. There are a lot of “zany family comedies” out there and a whole lot of them fall pretty damn short because they try too hard to make the family comedic and zany. This book is about people, damaged and sad, but getting on with life, and it is laugh out loud hilarious. Wouldn’t you like to read a book that makes you laugh out loud so you can us lol just once and actually mean it? Also, this is a movie too with Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and a busty how old is she again? Jane Fonda.     

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The Drunken Race

In the stadium 80,000 spectators waited for a marathoner to come through the aperture. It was hot at the London Olympics in 1908, but if the spectators were miserable in the heat, the marathoners were in hell. The track had been newly resurfaced which made it hard and inflexible enough that Russian dignitaries hired its engineers to put in gulag floors. Of the 55 runners who had started the marathon at Windsor Castle, 27 dropped out, most before the mid-point.

So when the little Italian pastry chef in red shorts came stumbling into the stadium, 160,000 eyes goggled and 80,000 mouths encouraged him towards the finish line. Perhaps anticlimactically, Dorando Pietri ran in the wrong direction and collapsed. He collapsed four more times. Medical staff, concerned he would do a recreation of Pheidippides’ 490 BC marathon and literally die, helped him across the finish line. He was holding a hollowed cork wedge.  

Runners carried cork wedges to relieve stress in their hands, but hollowed out they can be used to store energy drinks, which instead of Gatorade, would have been wine or brandy. This revelation would have caused no scandal – of course the runner had been drinking. So would the next three runners to cross the finish line. Pietri had snagged the lead from South African Charles Heffron after he’d collapsed with stomach pains from drinking champagne with two miles left. The favorite, Canadian Tom Longboat, also collapsed after having champagne. Pietri was lucky to make it to the stadium before he collapsed.

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My Favorite Podcasts

Favorite podcasts – we all have them. Podcasts have become a huge part of my intake. I think that podcasts are a great way to learn, laugh, and inform ourselves. Here are my current favorites.

Andy Richter’s Three Questions  

This is a great interview show. If you need to laugh and like a good conversation, this is it. Andy Richter was/is Conan O’Brien’s longtime sidekick. While I have always loved Conan, my only complaints about his show were that there wasn’t enough time with Conan and there wasn’t enough Andy. With Andy’s podcasts, there aren’t a lot of zany antics, but just very human and delving conversations with his very cool guests. Honorable Mention for interviews: Conan O’Brien, Marc Maron.

Word of Mouth

This is a BBC podcast headed by writer and linguist Michael Rosen. It’s all about (the English) language and features linguists and historians talking about fascinating aspects of the long and cool history of the English language. Some of my favorite episodes include metaphors with Stephen Fry, Viking language, pub names, biscuit (cookie) names, and how places got their names. So cool and fun and informative.

Bedtime Stories

This is also a British podcast (don’t judge) which is done in short 20-minute episodes in which Richard While tells us, well, a bedtime story. A creepy, disturbing, real-life bedtime story that you want to listen to, ironically, at any time other than when you are not going to bed. Brilliantly researched and told (While is a great narrator and writer), these are very interesting stories that have occurred throughout history.

You’re Dead to Me

Another history podcast from Britain. Greg Jenner hosts each episode on a specific theme or person (e.g. young Napoleon, the Pyramids, America becoming a country) and an historian who is a specialist on the theme and a comedian to act as sort of humorous foil. A well done, informative, and fun way to learn about history.      

Based on a True Story

An American (finally!) podcast, in which Dan LeFebvre talks about a film which is based on a true story (hence, the name) and an historian or expert in that area. Essentially, they discuss how true to history or real life the movie is. Great episodes (that I have listened to, but I haven’t listened to that many) are The Last Samurai, J. Edgar Hoover, and Master and Commander. But possibly the best so far is the 3-part episode about Band of Brothers. This was fascinating.

Over to you!

Please Share your favorite podcast! I’m especially looking for horror tales (fiction or non) to round out my collection.

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