home james

Yes, home please. It’s been a long weekend, and I have shit I have to do.

Dog beds to buy. Dogs to pick up. Cats to snuggle.

Books to read. Books to write.

Comics. Maybe a nice cold beer.

Take me home or lose me forever, said a bad movie with severely toxic male role models.

Target: 1400 words
Written: 800 words, novel: Father Lightning

lazy sunday

Why not? We’re on the tail end of COVID, tired after a long journey, trying to get back into the swing of normal life.

Writing. Reading. Comics. That’s all I really need. Exercise and meditation for the body and mind. Music for the spirit. Cooking as an alternate outlet for creativity and experience.

Anything else is gravy. Movies, television, video games, sex, travel, other various storytelling mediums… gravy.

Target: 1300 words
Written: 2326 words, novel: Father Lightning

interesting lack of feelings

I should be more excited about going to France. I should be. I know. Ten days in Bordeaux and Paris, touring wine country and not seeing the Mona Lisa (again!) while at the Louvre?

I feel like I should be hyped, but I think I’m so wallowed in my present exhaustion to get excited. It’s like that for all travel now. No interest. No anticipatory glee. Only a grudging willingness to pack and a curse that this is going to mean no down time for the new future.

I’ve rarely remembered being so tired as I have in the last year. From the psychotic stress of the last job, to the intense learning period of the new one, to unhealthy and/or dying parents and pets, COVID, Donald Trump and the negative news cycle, to competing with depression for the ability to do or remember anything properly, it’s been one long trial after another, and while travelling to another country sounds like a great way to get away and will I’m sure be fun, it also means I won’t get much done while I’m gone. It will be a lot of walking and moving and eating, and probably acid reflux, and I will come back as burnt out or more than when I left. What I need is a few days of routine; of relative ease.

A long weekend where we don’t do anything but read, write, play video games and maybe enjoy a beer or two and some good, relaxing, playful sex.

Perfect, right?

Far better than returning to the Louvre after 30 years to find out that it’s not fucking open on the only day you can go, which is almost worse than when you went as a teenager on exchange and the Mona Lisa was “closed for cleaning”, because at least there’s a lot of other cool stuff to see. Good thing it’s overrated, or I’d feel worse about that. Picnics in the park, anyone?

Maybe I’ll go find Jim Morrison’s grave again. Or will that be closed as well?

Target: 1300 words
Written: 41 words, novel: Father Lightning

the mungk – reading list – the great stuff

Last, but definitely not least, here’s the stuff I read that blew my mind, or at least, kept it so engaged that I couldn’t put it down.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way – Robert Maurer

A simple idea that makes so much sense. No need for vast overhaul; grow the way growth tends to naturally happen – inch by inch, little by little, in a manner that’s sustainable. The kind of self-help book people actually need.

Is Your Genius At Work? – Dick Richards

Despite the obvious chuckle at Dick Dicks, this actually had a lot to offer. It’s a bit of a cheesy trick, but I remember when I came up with mine, and how focused it allowed me to be when it came to understanding myself and employing my skills. Seeing patterns, opening worlds – these are my skills. They are what make everything possible for me. Why I seem smart, even if I’m not.

Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach

At first, I was reticent. God, another icon of personal development, like Eckhart Tolle? But it was actually a brilliant read, and a wonderful idea. Total acceptance of what is, here, now, in the present moment, for better or worse, as a way to accept what needs to be accepted as quickly as possible, so action can be taken on it. Nice.

The Practicing Mind – Thomas Sterner

Everything Eckhart Tolle should have been. I read this right after The Power Of Now, and it was clearly that it was the exact same book, but without all the demagogue cult leader-style speech, wannabe messiah ego and condescension. Practical, humble, intelligent and above all, useful and clear presentation. The better and more useful book, by a country mile, any day of the week.

People Of The Deer – Farley Mowat

There’s a reason Farley Mowat is a Canadian legend, and this is one of them. This recap of his time in the tundra with the people is so heartbreakingly tragic and insightful, that it makes you want to go back in time and slap the Canadian government and the furriers who screwed these poor people over. Ironic confirmation of some other ideas in another book down the list here – The Vegetarian Myth, years before its author was even conceived.

Carrie – Stephen King

I grew up on King, and thought I’d revisit some of his early classics. I was not even remotely disappointed. The book is so much better than the movie, with Brian DePalma’s creepy naked locker room intro that doesn’t add anything to the story, but does give the impression of him creating a home video of young starlets to wank off over later.

Gate Of Ivrel – C.J. Cherryh

No author I’ve seen does world-building quite like Cherryh and this classic story of a man of honour’s forced descent against everything he’s ever believed in service of a woman he cannot help but fear as she pursues her goal with reckless disregard for she or Vanye’s (or anyone else’s) safety is absolutely brilliant. Vanye and Morgaine are complex, difficult, highly compromised characters, and it’s hard not to get completely sucked into their emotional torture.

Fully Engaged – Thomas Sterner

Sterner’s follow-up is as good as his first, and with even more practical advice. Highly recommended again.

The Desire Map – Danielle Laporte

I wanted to like her first book so much but couldn’t get past the branding shit. This was what I was waiting for. Redefining our priorities to ensure our lives are structured to induce the feelings we want in ourselves is such a simple shift, but makes perfect sense. It’s not about the stuff or the experience (although I’ll give experience the edge of stuff in value every day), it’s about how it makes one feel. That’s the goal; feel good, not have more stuff.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith

Stripped of the tedium of Jane Austen, Grahame-Smith turns in a riveting alternate history. Very enjoyable, and I love the way he seemed to seamlessly work in all the major events of Lincoln’s life with his dedication to destroying the vampire menace. I was bothered by the overshadowing of the black plight of slavery by men as merely fodder for vampires, I will say. I think that did it at least some disservice, and he might have done well to remind us at one point that humans are capable of equal cruelty to any monster.

Scardown – Elizabeth Bear

Okay, this ending. Tragic, but logical, with wonderfully forward-thinking concepts of alien species, AI and nanomachinery, in the setting of a world on the verge of complete climate collapse? Any novel would be happy to use any one of these concepts as its primary crutch. Bear weaves them together beautifully to create a heart-pounding, unexpected ending that changes everything, for everyone.

‘Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

Every bit the classic small town American horror classic I remember it being.

The Shining – Stephen King

A classic for a reason. Come on, it’s the fucking Shining. Bloody brilliant is what it is (sorry, been reading too much of The Boys. Butcher is starting to rub off.)

The Hepatitis Bathtub And Other Stories – NOFX

One of my favourite punk bands, writing about their road up? Shit. Funny, tragic, horrifying, like an episode of Jackass meets Nineties noir. And Fat Mike? Nice guy.

Words For Pictures – Brian Michael Bendis

As a guy who wants to write comics, I couldn’t have asked for a better or more insightful book to read.

Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success – Carol Dweck

This book knocked me sideways, the first time I read it, years ago. The recognition of my self was devastating, but also wonderful, because it meant I didn’t have to be that way. A growth mindset should be taught to every man, woman and child in the world. I can’t imagine how much better a planet we’d have if that were the case.

Constellation Games – Leonard Richardson

A recommendation I saw online, from John Scalzi or Cory Doctorow or someone, and I’m so glad I decided to pick it up. What a wonderfully unique, funny, interesting novel, about the nature of life and humanity, with truly well-thought alien species and interactions. Absurdity and social commentary at its finest.

The Vegetarian Myth – Lierre Keith

So, I have this bullshit detector. I don’t always follow it, but I tend to hold off making any decisions on a thing when something about it feels off. It’s not always ten bells, like say, when a Republican opens his or her mouth. Sometimes, it’s more subtle. For years, I considered vegetarianism, but this little detector in the back of my mind just kept going off, its little bullshit cheep causing enough mental distraction to avoid making the decision. I honestly thought it was just stubbornness; an unwillingness to give up meat, or just the fact that everything I’d ever had that was vegan tasted… off. Mealy. Unpleasant. Now that I’m older, and more health-focused, I’m paying a lot more attention to the quality of food in my life. So vegetarianism became a stronger option. Until I read this. This confirmed that little feeling in the back of my head was right all along. And it’s not rhetoric. It’s page after page of footnoted and sourced material, from moral and political arguments to straight biology. Now, I will say, obviously, veggies are good for you. That’s not the point of this book. The point is that stopping meat consumption isn’t some panacea of environmental healing. Agriculture and imperialism rose up together for a reason. Far more ecological destruction has occurred in the name of farming than meat consumption. Factory farms are abominations; I’ve switched to grass fed, wherever I can. But that’s recent. Less than a century versus ten thousand years of ripping life from this earth for wheat and corn. It’s a hard read, because it contradicts a lot of primary beliefs people have about food – even those like me, who just assumed vegetarians were healthier. There’s a reason that all the vegans I know look half-dead. Turns out, you can’t live on moral superiority alone. It’s not particularly nutritious. In any case, this has completely changed the way I look at food, and imperialism, and culture, even the patriarchy. If there were any reason to deem a book great, one that shifts your entire view on such a staple need as food consumption? That’s fucking terrific. I mean, my damage is probably done, from processed food and meat filled with antibiotics, but hey, maybe the second half of my life, I can eat the way we were meant to, and stop contributing to the earth’s early demise. Remember: when someone offers you only two options, they are always trying to hide the fact that there are infinitely more, and they’re getting something out of the dichotomy. And vegans either/or policy absolutely exists in that vein, the same way Dupont or Monsanto or any of those other megacorporations would like us to have them or nothing else. Death is unavoidable; how we handle it is entirely debatable. What this book taught me is that neither the current method (factory farming and processed foods) or complete denial of the life cycle and the nature of the earth and soil (veganism/vegetarianism) is the way to do it.

Target: 1200 words
Written: 108 words, poetry: Feathers Falling

the mungk – reading list (the good stuff)

Finally – the stuff that went beyond the generic, the meh and the just plain bad. Here’s the stuff I enjoyed, minus a thing or two that kept them from being truly next level.

Getting Things Done – David Allen

Maybe it’s the OCD in me (undiagnosed), but I love a good organizational system. And I like getting shit done, particularly mindwork. It’s a dry subject, and the whole business kung-fu thing is anathema to me, but I don’t think Allen’s the tech bro kind of dude. He’s just obsessed with being organized. I need a bit of chaos in my life, and I know trying to control life leads to frustration, so I’m not all the way on board, but still, this system helped me quite a bit. It helped me get on top of my shit anyway.

Face It – Debbie Harry

So, I love Debbie Harry. In the Eighties, she and Winona Ryder were my first real celebrity crushes. So to find out that yeah, maybe she’s a bit of a woo-woo weirdo, but that she’s still pretty well awesome, and every bit as dripping with art and sensuality as my pre-pubescent self had a kind of psychic sense she’d be… well, hell. That’s just straight fantasy right there.

The Princess Diaries – Carrie Fisher

The actual diaries here were important. I’m not such a Star Wars fan that I actually care about the salacious details of a relationship between Fisher and Harrison Ford. The diaries themselves show a young girl who can’t seem to help herself but is somehow self-aware of that fact, if a little unfair. Sylvia Plath meets Princess Leia, sort of.

SexRx – Lauren Streicher

Scientific and not really meant for me as the audience, but hey, there’s relevancy and it was informative. I enjoyed it.

Good Sex – Jessica Graham

The idea of merging mindfulness and sex is pretty basic, I assume, but it’s the focus on connection and sex positivity here that I appreciate. I’m not into BDSM, which is something that seems to play heavily into this. I mean, I understand the concept of trust and power dynamics, and really appreciate the trust aspect, but I’ve never been one to want control over others, and as a long-time punk rock fan, submission isn’t part of my dynamic. I’m more oppositional defiant disorder-oriented. To me, that kind of absolute trust is best achieved on even footing; pain is not pleasure to me, and power dynamics hold nothing sensual for me. If that’s your thing, enjoy. I won’t yuck your yum; it’s just not mine.

If Chins Could Kill: Confessions Of A B-Movie Actor – Bruce Campbell

I grew up on Bruce and co. Evil Dead is still a masterpiece, up to and including Ash Vs. Evil Dead. Hearing the stories about a bunch of kids, like kids I would have hung out with as a kid, busting their humps, however unprofessionally, and somehow making it, is always a good read to me. Plus, he’s funny.

Welcome To Night Vale – Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor

I adore Night Vale. It can get a bit repetitive at times, but I appreciate the tie-ins to the podcast. The only thing I found is that it was a bit heavy-handed in that regard. These little flourishes of Night Vale history or culture were cute at first, but grew a bit over the top by the end. Otherwise, solid book.

Dancing Barefoot – Wil Wheaton

Short, but impactful stories by our favourite ensign.

The Art Of Non-Conformity – Chris Guillebeau

I appreciate Guillebeau’s non-slimy approach, and as a fellow travel lover, I love his stories. I do think it’s not enough to simply set foot in a country. If you don’t do something there, it’s not enough to ride the train through. However much I appreciate Guillebeau’s ideas, there’s always something that feels a little too whitebread and safe, like a punk rock manifesto written by a Christian camp counselor.

Hammered – Elizabeth Bear

At first, the dysfunction between swapping first to third person and all over the map on the timeline hurt a little to read, but hell, this is a good story regardless. The ending is a bit abrupt, like you’re only halfway through the book, but hey, it’s a series, and Bear is one of the most underrated sci-fi authors I’ve read.

Ice Cream & Sadness – the Cyanide & Happiness guys

What’s not to love? Absurdist cartoons with unnecessary violence and juvenile humour? If you can’t dig that, well, I feel for you, son.

Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way – Bruce Campbell

I mean, it’s a semi-fictional story about Bruce Campbell infecting the A-list with a B-movie virus, taken through a tour of the “process”. What’s not to like?

It Devours – Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor

A strong follow-up to the first book, with the same problems. Too many sidebars that were cute at first, but then start to drag the flow of the story. Still, well done.

Just A Geek – Wil Wheaton

A longer version of Dancing Barefoot, but the tenderness of the memories, in which coming to terms with the past (which seems to be Wil’s entire genre at this point), bleed through. It’s an interesting look in the mind of a child star who was never quite the child star the rest of them were; more interested in GURPS than girls, in comics than condoms, in superheroes instead of super-heroin. Plus, he’s not a bad dude, and “don’t be a dick” is never bad advice.

The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau

Another Guillebeau book on a similar topic, this time with more of a focus on greatness from small beginnings. Again, there’s something staid about the execution, like a positivity seminar in a high school gym, but hey, the message is good.

Pawn Of Prophecy – David Eddings

I mentioned the other day that this was my favourite fantasy series as a kid; it holds up well, and the first book does a nice job sucking you right in. It’s not groundbreaking, necessarily, but it’s unique enough to make you want to explore this world in its entirety.

The Regiment – Farley Mowat

If ever I write a war epic, I’m coming back to this for reference. The juxtaposition of absurdity, heroism and horror, brought as only Farley Mowat’s deft hand can, is well worth the read. It’s still a history book, and so a little dull at points, but otherwise, you truly feel the muck and the mountains of trudging through war-torn Italy. Solid read.

The Adventures Of Captain Hatteras – Jules Verne

Weirdly, the book of Verne’s I enjoyed the most (thusfar) is the one I’d never heard of. Hatteras’ maniacal, obsessive push forward, even in the face of impossibility, rendering him truly lost at then end, well, that’s something special. I love an unhappy ending, and this was a good one, even if it doesn’t make any sense to have a volcano at the North Pole.

The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your House – Jeffrey Cranor, Joseph Fink

About the same as the other Night Vale books, but I think I may have judged this one a bit unfairly. I think I got caught in the hype a bit, which is something I try not to do. Aim high, but expect nothing, that’s my rule. Nothing ever lives up to the hype, and if you buy in, you’re guaranteed to be disappointed. If you lose the expectations, you can enjoy it for what it is, and I think that was my issue here. After hearing repeatedly how it was the “best ever”, it… wasn’t. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t amazing either, and fell from great to good on the disappointment of my unjustified expectations. But don’t worry, the same thing happened to me with Captain America: The First Avenger, and look how that turned out. Cap’s my favourite.

Yours, Cruelly – Elvira

I lied earlier when I said Winona Ryder and Debbie Harry were my only Eighties crushes. If Elvira came on at any point, my eyes were locked to the screen, and you know damn well why (hey, I was eight – you can’t expect enlightenment). Still, it wasn’t just the wonderfully low cut outfit (or the glory it barely contained), but she was actually funny. She seemed fun, and this book does nothing to dispel that thought. She seems a profoundly wonderful human being who had to put up with a lot solely because of her looks, taken advantage of even as she promoted a sex positive outlook. It’s impossible not to love her, or to wonder how it is that someone like this truly lived this life, but hey, anything can happen. Isn’t life grand?

The Happiness Of Pursuit – Chris Guillebeau

Again, good idea. Again, like a D.A.R.E. presentation on the joy of the process of creation and achievement. A little pizazz, please?

Gregor And The Curse Of The Warmbloods – Suzanne Collins

For a kid’s book, this certainly doesn’t pull punches. Lost legs, plagues, death. I really appreciate that. Don’t talk down to kids; they will be smarter if you elevate the conversation and don’t hide shit.

Worldwired – Elizabeth Bear

The finale of the Jenny Casey series. Listen, if you can read Elizabeth Bear and you like sci-fi, do so. Very forward thinking stuff.

Hunter Of Worlds – C.J. Cherryh

The unique nature of the book, where three people (aliens) are mind-linked against their will and have to navigate the unfamiliar honour system of a race of aliens far more powerful than their own? The only knock is the sheer amount of language created for the aliens. It’s overbearing at time, and can make it a bit hard to follow when you have to keep checking the glossary.

Uncertainty: Turning Fear And Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance – Jonathan Fields

The very concept of leaning into uncertainty is actually a wonderful metaphor for the act of creation, coming out of amorphous ideas and through increasingly intense fear about execution. Fields kind of nails it here, though it leans hard into tech, and not as much into art.

Permanent Record – Edward Snowden

Listen, I know the guy’s a Russian asset. I’m not sure he was then, however, but he’s been living in Putin’s shadow for some time now, and well, a guy like Putin? Given the leverage he has over Snowden? It would be nothing short of divine if he managed not to be turned. Anyway, beyond a bit of a martyr complex, he’s not wrong about the nature of mass surveillance and data collection. It’s absolutely abhorrent, and this is a concept that all citizens should understand fully, before we elect a single individual into power that could even remotely use this against us in a grab for power and glory.

Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman – Mary Wollstonecraft

There’s some incredibly and surprisingly progressive stuff in this, the original feminist screed. I wasn’t sure how far someone in this age would take it, but hey, her husband was a known anarchist, so I guess progressive is as progressive does back then. The only off-putting thing was the stance against sex positivity; the ongoing battle between women being allowed to dress how they want, finding empowerment in embracing their feminine figure, and presenting themselves as more serious and chaste, to avoid being objectified unfairly, raged even then. I fall in the former camp, because I don’t believe in restrictions, and if someone can’t take someone seriously because of a miniskirt, well, that’s on the asshole to enlighten himself, not the woman.

Target: 1200 words
Written: 432 words, poetry: Feathers Falling

the mungk – reading list (the decent)

Sometimes, a book is like an average movie; entertaining, but not mind-blowing. Not generic enough to be terrible and offer little, but not exactly groundbreaking, either. Think of pretty much every action flick made by Netflix. It’s entertaining enough while you’re in it; afterwards, it’s mostly forgettable.

You aren’t rushing out to tell your friends; neither are you sorry you read it. Here’s that list.

Get It Done When You’re Depressed – Julie Fast

A little amateurish, but not terrible advice for those of us mired in the darkness. A useable tool, if a bit repetitive.

The Power Of Less – Leo Babauta

I like the idea of minimalism, but for some reason, the book felt very dry to me. Like a platitude you know to be true, but still, you’ve heard it enough for it to have lost impact.

Start With Why – Simon Sinek

A great TED talk expanded too far; nearly two hundred and fifty pages of rehashing the exact same idea, and fluffing Apple.

The Sorrows Of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Kind of disjointed; I could only read about his love for the girl so many times before I wanted to smack him. Still, I understand the feeling, but yeah. It definitely didn’t inspire Werther fever in me, and I say that as someone who has thought about driving into traffic at least once a week since I was old enough to drive. (Don’t worry; I’ve long ago managed to find ways to combat and work through depression, not the least of it is just keeping on until it passes. This too shall pass is a mantra I cannot forget.)

The Fire Starter Sessions – Danielle Laporte

I like the way Ms. Laporte writes, but the ideas are not necessarily new and I will always dock a point for anyone who tells people that they’re a brand and they need to focus on that (ignoring the fact that brand is superficial and illusive deceit that lies opposite character and reputation – both based on actual behaviour, not some appearance of it).

Alice In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

I’m not enamoured of these books as much as so many other fellow lefties and hippies are. Mostly, I find the nonsensical somewhat distracting. Still, some of it feels like an old home, hence the refusal to completely excoriate it.

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies – Seth Graham-Seth

I wanted to love this, but yeah. No amount of zombies, violence and double entendres can clean up the tedium of Jane Austen for me. Sorry.

Gregor The Overlander – Suzanne Collins

A pretty good little page turner for kids. Nothing mind-blowing, but still, I’d recommend it for a kid of any age.

Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

The book itself isn’t amazing, but she really nails the feel of the first person for Sookie. That itself was enough to elevate it.

High Hunt – David Eddings

A little to wannabe J.D. Salinger to start, but an okay tale in the vein of wannabe tough guy writers. His later stuff in fantasy was better.

The Sword Of Shannara – Terry Brooks

A Lord Of The Rings ripoff (plot line almost completely), but still, entertaining. The exposition on history and recap was a bit much, and probably could have been edited down by a good hundred pages, at least.

Five Weeks In A Balloon – Jules Verne

Credit where credit’s due. It’s a well written book, exciting and full of unique characters. Unfortunately, it’s also somewhat racist. The adventures parts are exciting; the constant references to Africans as savages and cannibals less so.

Through The Looking-Glass – Lewis Carroll

Same as above. I actually liked this one mildly better; it felt ever so slightly more mature.

Gregor And The Prophecy Of Bane – Suzanne Collins

What I appreciate about Suzanne Collins is that even though they are children’s books, they feature actual consequence. That’s rare in cozy books at all, unless it’s a redshirt. So, props for that.

The Elfstones Of Shannara – Terry Brooks

The thing about Terry is, if you can get past the exposition and the unnecessary histories, the endings are usually very well done. Saving grace, really. Otherwise, these would be much, much worse.

Brothers Of Earth – C.J. Cherryh

I liked the book, and the almost manic feeling of the main character, lost in insanity in a foreign culture and planet, and Cherryh’s worldbuilding is always top notch. However, it was a bit of a slog still to get through. I know she’s capable of better, but even this is hardly bad.

Hail To The Chin: Further Confessions Of A B-Movie Actor – Bruce Campbell

I love Bruce, in everything. This one, albeit good, lacked the same panache as his first autobiography, which was too bad. Nothing stood out for me here, though I wasn’t completely unentertained.

The Happiest Days Of Our Lives – Wil Wheaton

I couldn’t find this one in paperback or kindle form, but I did find it as an audiobook on bandcamp. It’s still good, not as entertaining as the others, but then story about his cat? Come on. I find so many similarities in his home life between he and I. Both of us married to beautiful, older women with her own children and a crappy ex. A love of animals and a wife that’s almost insane about it. Job dissatisfaction, torn between two worlds, depression, etc. There’s a lot of commonality there, even though I didn’t grow up famous. I appreciate that.

Queen Of Sorcery – David Eddings

So, this was my favourite fantasy series growing up. Re-reading it, it still holds up, if it doesn’t stand out. I liked the ending to this one, but it’s a lot of meandering to get there. Polgara’s wrath-filled entrance at the end is magical.

The Wishsong Of Shannara – Terry Brooks

Same story as the first two in this series; tedious build-up, terrific ending. I know there must be an obsession with Tolkien on Brooks’ part. Certainly, he seems to want to write in the exact same vein.

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth – Jules Verne

For a classic, it was more boring than I thought. And I know it’s more scientifically accurate (but come on, scientific accuracy is hardly Verne’s greatest strength, given what he knew at the time), but slowly rising up a volcanic shaft isn’t exactly a heart-pounding finale.

Thus concludes the mid-range; semi-colons abound.

Target: 1200 words
Written: 108 words, poetry: Feathers Falling

the mungk – reading list (the okay)

I love to read, but sometimes, a book isn’t all it should be, as you may have seen in the last post. Today, I’m going over the stuff that could have fallen into that category, but managed to demonstrate at least one redeeming quality that made it worth the read, if not any particular love.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach

I know it’s a classic hippie book, and I suppose I appreciate the aspirational message a bit, but come on, what’s different than a Tony Robbins book? A touch more compassion, a lack of the author’s self-promotion? Perfect is dangerous; perfect isn’t a goal we can hit.

Hot Sex – Emily Morse, Jamye Waxman

Reads like a Cosmo article on sex, extended out to the length of a book, written by someone who’s only watched sex on TV (and porn). Nice illustrations, and I do appreciate that it includes a little kink, but yeah, if you’re looking for books on how to actually connect better in the bedroom, this ain’t it.

The Power Of Now – Eckhart Tolle

Take an idea thousands of years old, which has been written about by everyone from Lao Tzu to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Jon Kabat Zinn, pepper it with demagogue-style language, cult leader megalomania and repeated references to religious figures in an attempt to equate yourself with them, and then pretend you discovered the whole thing on your own and sell millions, which you won’t give back to the community, despite apparently eschewing earthly possessions, and you could be Eckhart Tolle, a wannabe Messiah and grifter. The idea itself – presence and mindfulness – is good, but it’s hardly this thing only he understands. And you’ll notice that in the language. Only he understands. If you don’t get it, you’re just not enlightened enough. Add in a Revelations-style doom prophecy, a sort-of afterlife and some mansplaining of women’s menstruation and what do you have? A con man looking to steal ancient ideas, pretend they’re his own and take hard-working individuals’ money, while selling them on a prophet. People revere this guy, but he writes like I would in my twenties, thinking I’d discovered some secret and then writing with such ego and myopia as to have missed my own point completely. As much as the guy rails against ego, that’s all I find in his books – Eckhart Tolle’s delusionally outsized ego.

Aesop’s Fables – Aesop

There’s a couple of cute things in here, and a bit of good advice, but it’s outweighed by the casual racism, sexism and classism. Also, the point of the tortoise and the hare isn’t slow and steady wins the race, it’s don’t fall asleep in the middle of a race you’ll easily win. Focus is the key.

Awaken The Giant Within – Tony Robbins

Tony’s back, back again, with another edition of the same thing, only with little hints that maybe he really fucked up all the fame of his first go around. I won’t say this is entirely without merit, because there’s were a couple of ideas that were mildly redeeming, but in general, anyone who thinks that everything about you, even your deepest held core values, can be changed on a whim with some cheesy mental exercises? That person has no real values at all.

Living Dead In Dallas – Charlaine Harris

Two completely disjointed storylines, unconnected except by being part of the same book, in a YA novel? Boring. Not entirely unredeemable, but yeah. Not a great sophomore effort for Sookie and gang.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales – The Brothers Grimm

Like Hans Christian Andersen, but significantly more violent, and they don’t come with the nice guy label. Still, reading fairy tales with their lack of even remotely logical plot flow, but completely missing absurdity element, is tedious. Much like the Bible, if you’re going to just make shit up to sound spiritual, but it’s really just nonsense covering up dark shit, don’t take yourself so seriously.

White Hot Truth – Danielle Laporte

I think I was disappointed by this more because I like her earlier books, and I’m at a point post-personal development, where you start realizing what a scam it is and start looking for real advice, from real authors, instead of marketers. I thought this book might be about that, but it’s not.

HIlarity Ensues – Tucker Max

So, the first two were hateful, unfunny trash, but I’ll admit, I laughed a few times in this one, including in particular the texting portions. I appreciate good absurdity, and some of those exchanges were actually pretty good. I laughed out loud, so yeah, not the worst thing he’s done.

Unholy Night – Seth Graham-Smith

I mean, I liked the idea, I guess, but the execution? Meh.

Club Dead – Charlaine Harris

I mean, the climax is a phone call to save dead Elvis. It’s a puff piece, for sure, and a low quality one. I really hope these get better.

Lost In The Barrens – Farley Mowat

I wanted to like this, because I loved the other books of his I read, but yeah, couldn’t get into it. The characters were bland, the story kind of trite, and there was no particular insight, before the miraculous rescue.

And that does it for that. These didn’t inspire, so they don’t inspire much in the way of actual response.

Target: 1200 words
Written: 80 words, poetry: Roses And Violets

the mungk – reading list (the not-so-good)

So, I like to read. I read a lot. Maybe not as much as others, but I took to heart the old adage about wanting to be a good writer means reading as much as you write.

Plus, reading is fun. It’s good for the brain.

Of course, not everything is great, so I’m going to work my way through, from the bad to the good, over the time I spent writing The Mungk.

The Not-So-Good:

Choose Yourself – James Altucher

I don’t like people who are full of shit, and nothing’s more telling than when someone is trying to tell you how great they are, while trying to couch the nastiest aspects of selfishness in mock kindness, and in every example of how great they are, they’re simply telling you how great they are. In their moments of “honesty”, to show what they’ve overcome, they give you concrete, specific examples of how actually poorly behaved they are. Don’t tell me what a great boss you are (using an employee fluffing your bum as the example, which everybody knows is them kissing ass to pump your ego and get something for themselves), then give me a concrete example of how you used to call your secretary to make sure the hallway was empty so you didn’t have to interact with any of the people who worked for you. Actions speak louder. Don’t tell me how honest you are, then give repeated, specific examples of how you lied, stole and jerked people around in your never-ending greed. Am I supposed to truly believe you’re some kind of capitalist bodhisattva now? Really? Rule of thumb when it comes to personal development authors. If the author spends more time marketing themselves to you than they do trying to get their message across, then the message is look at me, look at me, not whatever bullshit they’re trying to con you in buying more of. Quite possibly the worst book I’ve ever read, and definitely the worst I read during this period.

Unlimited Power – Tony Robbins

See above. Aspirational literature is among the most damaging literature, because it’s detached from reality and consists largely of demands for more, more, more, without ever actually considering that this is entirely self-defeating. It doesn’t turn you into a lightning rod of joy; it makes you a black hole of failed perfectionism. And again, if someone spends more time selling you on themselves than the message they’re purporting to market, then the thing they’re trying to sell is the image of them, not any kind of helpful support. Beware the guru more interested in brand than character; their interest is image, not reality.

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell – Tucker Max

Listen, I enjoy crude humour as much as the rest, and the self-deprecating parts could be kind of funny, but mostly, this is an exercise in ego and narcissism. I’m not a fan of stupid people either; but more than that, I’m not a fan of the myopic, of which this is somewhat a shrine.

A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle

I know this guy is somewhat revered in mindfulness and woo-woo circles, but to me, there’s absolutely nothing new about any of the material. It’s still all stolen from mindfulness teachers from Lao Tzu to Osho and then twisted to make it sound like the guy’s some kind of messiah. Make no mistake, this guy isn’t interested in human enlightenment; he wants to be a religious leader, a cult leader, and take all your money. Add that to the fact that there’s literally nothing new in here from his first book, and well, there’s little here to justify the cover price.

Fairy Tales – Hans Christian Andersen

Listen. I know it’s a classic, and I appreciate some of the flowery prose, but man, tedious. And pointless. I’m not even sure what the logic or meaning of these stories even are half the time. Life sucks, we’re all going to die? For a beloved teller of children’s tales, these sure are profoundly negative.

Assholes Finish First – Tucker Max

Somehow, worse than the first one. In the first, there was a touch of self-awareness; it’s completely missing now.

Sylvie And Bruno – Lewis Carroll

Listen, I’m not a huge Alice In Wonderland fan, but this, this follow-up… I’ve never been more unable to follow a story, part of which is because it’s absolutely nonsensically pointless, but also, because it’s so tediously written that it didn’t hold my interest at all. Sorry, Lewis, this one isn’t revered like Alice for a reason, I suspect.

Do The Fucking Work – Brian Biurge, Jason Bacher, Jason Richburg

A friggin’ pamphlet of uninspired, trite mediocrity, purporting to be rebellious and aspirational. Pure fucking garbage. Do the fucking trash bin.

Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe

I mean, it’s a classic, right? So it should be… good, right? Yet, it spends almost seventy percent of the book either praising God or completing tedious tasks which this guy magically knows how to do. Even the ending is anti-climactic, and drawn out. Ugh, never again with this guy.

Swiss Family Robinson – Johann David Wyss

It’s like a bad movie pitch. Robinson Crusoe, but a whole family, and somehow worse, with a psychotic child that shoots every animal on sight, without thought! What do you think? Franchise potential?

This is probably all unfair, and I do try to find plusses in all things, so none of these were wholly without merit, but still… I never found that one redeeming quality, which says, okay, this isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, unless it’s James Altucher, in which case, it is.

Target: 1200 words
Written: 326 words, poetry: Roses And Violets

helpless dancer

I suppose that’s the problem, isn’t it? You read something like Permanent Record, and it reminds you that your control over anything in this world is essentially non-existent.

That it’s all fucked up, and likely to burn and burn forever, and that’s okay. Because there’s nothing you can do about it.

You can catch some of the assholes, take a few down, but you’ll never stop the craven need for greed and power of men like the Bush family or the Trump crime syndicate. Pierre Poilevre and Stephen Harper. Vladimir Putin, Boris Johnson, Netanyahu, Mugabe, Noriega, MBS, Musk… the list goes on and on.

You do your best not to give them an inch, and take back the inches they stole, but in the end, their interest is in power and greed, and ours is in happiness and enjoyment. Where you put your focus, grows.

So dance away, and let the motherfuckers watch.

Target: 1200 words
Written: 1549 words, novella: The Mungk

slight consideration

I’m taking my own well-being into account these days. I knew I would start small, and I did.

I read short books. Crappy books. Short comic series. Standalone movies. Single season shows that got cancelled.

I wrote a haiku.

A piece of flash fiction.

A one-shot comic.

A short story, which was really more of a noir, back-twisted rant I didn’t believe in.

Weirdly, all the individual work was published. The comic is pending, because comics are collaborative, and I’m an anxious collaborator, in the sense that I’m terrified of anything beyond the script stage.

I try to remember. Little things build to bigger. Most overnight successes spent ten or more years laying groundwork.

Learning. Mastering. You don’t pick up a guitar and channel Jimi or Kim Thayil.

That shit takes time.

Piece by piece. Trying to remember, it’s not about hitting targets. No such thing as delayed gratification; the joy is found in each stage. To defer it to the end is to guarantee frustration and a fleeting moment of exultation, if we even make it that far.

Most of us will not.

Target: 800 words
Written: 631 words, novella: The Mungk