Friday, May 30, 2014

Pieces of Mae Brown

I read a review once that expressed how Rita Mae Brown’s sleuthing feline series, Mrs. Murphy Mysteries, grow stale as the series continues.  I'm choosing not to buy into that thought just yet, especially because I’m only two books deep in the series and enjoying myself too damn much to believe it.  Or, in fact, enjoying Brown’s “creamy” way with words, character, and ability to uncurl a good cozy mystery.  

It didn't take me long to finish Rest in Pieces.  One day I took the book, laid across the bed, and didn't stop reading until I was halfway through.  The following day, I didn't get out of bed (except for a quick breakfast) until I finished the book before noon.  See, I just had to know what the hell was going on in the small town Brown created and disrupted with murder.  

So I sprawled in bed with no real-life concerns, flooded with elementary school nostalgia from watching talking animal movies like the 90's Homeward Bound and Babe.  Mrs. Murphy and Tucker--a cat and dog duo--were just too enjoyable to put aside.  Nevertheless, my churning curiosity bubbled up in concerns to the pieces of a corpse littering the small, tight-knit community of Crozet, Virginia.  And whether or not Crozet's postmistress, mother of our cat and dog duo, and amateur sleuth, Mary Minor Maristeen (Harry), has the sally to uncover a murderer alongside her talkative pets.

The hook of this series remains that the animals solve the crime.  However, that soft touch doesn't take away from the gritty appeal for murder and small town mayhem that has completely taken me over from within this series.  Can't wait for book three!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Yes, Her Storytelling is Afloat

Taken from The Floating Girl blurb

...After a hostile takeover aided by a deceptively perky college intern, the Gaijin [Foreigner] Times has adopted a comic book format to attract more readers.  It falls upon Rei [Shimura] to write something glowing about the history of comic book art.  During a weekend of research and relaxation at her boyfriend Takeo's beachside house, Rei stumbles on an exquisitely drawn modern comic book that reveals the disturbing social milieu of pre-World War II Japan.

Rei's exhaustive search for the comic book's twenty-something creators leads to three college students.  When one of them turns up dead in a scene straight out of the comic, the art story turns into a murder investigation.  Rei finds herself floating through strip clubs, animation shops, and coffeehouses to get the true story--and to save her own skin.

I sigh with both contempt and elation.  The Floating Girl is the fourth book in the Rei Shimura mystery series, and I’m starting to notice a peculiar trend of loving every other book in the series between the four I've read at this point.  For some reason, I find myself disappointed in the lukewarm, watered-down offers between said other books.  However, first I should be clear in stating that The Floating Girl was a step better than the second book in the series, Zen Attitude.  Zen Attitude was so disappointing and tepid that I took a two-year hiatus from the series after stumbling my way through its rootless mystery.  Nevertheless, The Floating Girl was not the knockout that The Salaryman’s Wife [Book 1] and The Flower Master [Book 3] were.  In all respects, the problem came from the contriving events sprinkled throughout to encourage and push an already mushy mystery.  Mushy in the sense that there were too many structural threads dangling, trying to come together by force; furthermore, through the behaviors and actions of rather quasi secondary (or third) characters.  

One example of the above concerns took place in an ocean scene, within the coastal town of Hayama, Japan.  
At this point in the book Rei has theorized that the Japanese crime syndicate, known as the yakuza, who frequent a beach bar in the area, organized the book's murder.  However, having sly interviewed two individuals at the bar, she comes to the conclusion that both are unconnected to the yakuza or the murder.  She can't pilfer any information they don't own, after all.  So what does Rei decide to do next?  She decides to go for a swim to appear unpretentious to the curiously eying innocents to her cause.  That's right.  A swim.  Then this severely staged and cooked-up event happens...

Hayama ~
I coughed violently, whipping my head around so that I could search for swimmers near enough to call to for help.  Ten feet away were a couple of teenagers shooting each other with water guns.  They had been having so much fun, they'd missed the fact that I'd almost drowned.  I knew now that seaweed had not pulled me down--rather, it had been the curved rubber pipe of a snorkel.  Now that the job was done, the man calmly slipped his snorkel in the side of his mouth.

"How are you?" he asked conversationally.  It was like hearing someone talk with a cigar in his mouth.

"Fine," I replied automatically.  I looked at him.  He had flat, unhandsome features, narrow eyes, and chicken pox scar on his forehead.  He was balding.  This was no Kunio Takahashi, that was for sure.

He raised a hand over his eyes as a shield against the sun and looked straight at me.  His gaze was chilling.  "You asked the wrong fellows about business," he said.  "I can tell you what you need to know."

He really was yakuza.  Even though the hand over his eyes had all the fingers intact, I suddenly knew.  The fact that he still had his pinky finger meant that he hadn't been punished for making any mistakes.

I said, still spitting out some water, "I don't think so.  You're more interested in hurting me than helping me."

"I was simply trying to get your attention.  At the bar you didn't notice me."  The man spoke politely, with a faint accent from the Kansai region.  He sounded very different from the working-class joes I've mistaken for gangsters.

"You almost killed me," I said.

"No," he said.  "My superiors have no interest in harming you."

One: He did try to kill her.  Or at least you would think that's how high the stakes have gotten in her investigation.  Nevertheless, instead it was all just a ridiculous show to "get her attention."  Two: How awkward and forced this scene is!  Or is it really just me?  I don't care for the author's setup if it concludes to something so inorganic as a confrontation in the middle of the ocean with a fully gilled yakuza gangster who thought it better to toy with our sleuth instead of taking her head on.  So I guess what I'm trying to say is how do you go from interviewing potential suspects (who didn't know they were suspects), to taking a swim, to having some gangster submerged in the ocean watching you, who then attempts to drown you to "get your attention?"

Please help me out here!  

And there were plenty more of these contrive events.  One of them involves a randomly unnecessary army of motorcycle bousouzoku (Japanese for "reckless tribe") terrorizing Rei, but having no true purpose to the overall mystery other than delivering her lost address book.  They drove in on their bikes heightening the tension.  However, one of them simply threw a package; they drove out.  No conversation.  No nothing.  So what was in the package?  The address book Rei lost previously at the beach bar.

Please help me out here!  Please!  

Those are only two examples, which most likely attributed to the week and a half it took me to soak into the book and close it out.

However, let me share what I did like about this book--so enough of the unbelievable.  As always, Massey dishes out the details and dealings surrounding Japanese culture.  As mentioned in the blurb I shared, the theme of The Floating Girl is the Japanese youth subculture.  Apparently, that brief, awkward scene with the bousouzoku was meant to be an illustration of Japanese subculture.  Which was probably why it came across as a random injection of sorts and not a sound storytelling device.  Nonetheless, much of the subject of subculture in the book revolves around manga and anime; I glowed happily whenever Sailor Moon's name was mentioned.  The other half takes on Rei's constant struggle with owning her Japanese manners.  Being half-Japanese, she acknowledges what Japanese manners require, yet given the situation, she usually does the opposite.  This is always hilarious.  So if all else fails, I do enjoy Rei Shimura herself.  

So with all that said, I look forward to the fifth book in the series, The Bride's Kimono.  I think that overall I'm not going to find many mystery series taking place in Japan with a female sleuth of Japanese origin.  Nor a writer who likes the spread the knowledge.  Even if it sometimes come across through a spin of forced, graceless storytelling.     

Friday, May 23, 2014

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

So I finally finished Midnight Crossroad.  Although it’s been a slow reading month, I’m happy to say that it didn’t take me over a week to finish the book (unlike Sujata Massey‘s The Floating Girl).  I say that mainly because Midnight Crossroad was both easy to put down at times, then not so easy.  So it certainly had a revved-go-halt feel to it concerning my personal sense of its pacing.  That doesn't disregard my overall enjoyment of the book and its cast of dusty, supernatural characters hunching together over a Texian (hoo-hoo) murder mystery.  No, that’s only to say that as much as there were arid, unfulfilling chapters, there were just as many (and more) entrancing ones.  Nevertheless, I believe the true seduction to the first book in Charlaine Harris’s fresh series remains within her party of characters.  And I can gladly state that I live in anticipation for the following two books in her new trilogy, especially because she gives you just enough overarching plot and room for character development to bread-crumb you into the proceeding offerings.

So in reflection of my Friday Reads post--where I posted my many speculations about the book--I should share what Midnight Crossroad is really about.  The book opens with an introductory scope of the town Midnight, Texas.  You get the single stoplight.  The old, occupied settings/buildings the characters frequent.  And the registry of West Texas climate and terrain.  So it’s clear that this is a place for seclusion, touched with Harris’s mystical wonders.  Seriously, you just know something isn't right about this town.  

Harris's description of the town comes further expressed in the form of Manfred Bernardo’s arrival in the opening chapters.  Searching for solitude, he’s the psychic of this developing group of supernatural (and natural) characters.  Those familiar with Manfred will realize that he came plucked from Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connelly series.  Next on the list of peculiar people populating Midnight is Manfred’s landlord and owner of the town’s pawnshop, Bobo Winthrop.  Now this took me a really, really good minute to realize this, and I had to sort of mentally cross check Bobo’s background with my suspicions.  Eventually I came to realize that Bobo Winthrop was a character pulled from Charlaine Harris’s Lily Bard series.  It clicked the minute Bobo shared information regarding his racist father, and the reasoning behind his migration to Midnight.  With Bobo tied into the book's murder plot, it dawned on me that the bulk of Midnight Crossroad’s mystery element bubbled out of the mystery contained in the second book in Harris’s Lily Bard series, Shakespeare’s Champion.  When all this clicked, I found myself grinning (as you all know how much I love the Lily Bard books).

One other character comes into Midnight Crossroad from another of Harris’s series; however, the new character--and my personal favorite from within this new venture--is the character of Fiji Cavanaugh.  Fiji is the owner of a New Age shop called The Inquiring Mind.  She sells rearing unicorn statues and stuff like cold case resin statues of dragon fairies.  That’s not all, however.  Considering she identifies herself as a witch (or Wicca), she also sells herbs from her backyard and gives spiritual classes related to her religion.  Fiji easily became my favorite for a host of reasons--besides her being a witch.  She just had that resonance of practicality and reason that I attached to.  Plus, her cat can talk.

Several characters leaked from these three series by Harris
Stack in a gay couple, an odd blond woman who isn’t afraid of enticing murder, and a vampire serving some of the strangest of customers after hours in the pawn shop, and you have a recipe for unscripted scenarios and some tough character motivations.  And the ball begins rolling during a peaceful picnic where Harris’s collection of misfit characters run across the dead body of Bobo Winthrop’s missing girlfriend, Aubrey Hamilton.  Under his duress, this loving casts them comes together to gather their powers--and brains--to seek out the culprit.

And let me clarified how that is absolutely not all contained within their first story.  There are other complexities, complications, and layers worth exploring.  Oh, and several moral dilemmas that even I walked away scratching my head at their conclusion; slightly upset by Harris's set up to be honest.  Yep.  As much as I liked this cast of characters, they were sometimes dimwitted.  I have to stay frank.  However, the funny thing is that this book reminded me of how ruthless Charlaine Harris’s characters can often be.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if I can see a different outcome to a situation, I don't understand how a party of six or so sit on a moral panel and not think differently from one another.  Or at least contest their options thoroughly.

[That last paragraph was vague to save a spoiler!  Come express your thoughts after you've read the book (^_^)]

Another hiccup I had with the book had less to do with the material and more to do with Harris’s reliability with unfolding her characters' state of affairs to the reader.  Given that a multitude of characters bucket-brigade the book, their voices/roles are shared through the third person.  Very well.  That’s a first for Charlaine Harris.  Nonetheless, a problem fell in those moments where important information arrives second-handedly to the reader.  But first let me backtrack a bit and state that the principle characters are Manfred, Bobo, and Fiji.  So while those characters seemingly outside the trio may get a pass for having significant activities take place off-stage, I did find myself frustrated when Fiji reveals important information to Bobo about an e-mail she received from one of her customers related to the mystery.  I had a moment of “excuse me, but why wasn't I there when you got that email?” cross over me.  Clues, red herrings and misdirections must be uncovered to the reader in time with the character providing the sleuthing.  It's no biggie, however.  It didn't take away from the overall experience.

So on that note, I have confirmed that I am absolutely in love with Charlaine Harris’s new series.  It had its moments with both pacing and an unassured narrative flow.  Maybe I'm just a fan of Harris that I'm bias and prone to find a reason to love everything she writes any damn way.  But still, that permeating breeze of mystery surrounding both her peculiar characters and the backbone of the book is what really drove it all home.  Be ready for puzzles, intrigue, and somewhat caginess toward the characters’ rash decisions.  But mostly, be prepared to occupy yourself within Midnight, Texas.

Please share your thoughts if you've read Midnight Crossroad.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Reads: Midnight Crossroads

"Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and the Davy highway.  It's pretty standard dried-up western town.

There's a pawnshop (someone who lives in the basement is seen only at night).  There's a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger).  And there's a new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he's found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal.  Stay awhile, and learn the truth..."

Like a big dummy I waited a week and a couple of days to finally pick up the first book in Charlaine Harris’s new series, Midnight Crossroads.  Well… actually there was a money-saving, Chicago-headed reason behind that.  And now that I won't be heading to Chicago later this month, and I've already spent money renewing a driver’s license that was a month and thirteen days expired (!!!), I decided to stop fooling around and treat myself [snicker].  See, there was no doubt that I was going to grab Midnight Crossroads, especially because I enjoyed my yearly expeditions through Sookie Stackhouse’s (see my “Farewell Sookie Stackhouse” post) riotous love life and Harris’ darker (and further enjoyable) Lily Bard series.  I may not have made it beyond the first book of Harris’ Aurora Teagarden series--yet.  And I'm still hoping I’ll get to the final book in her Harper Connelly series one day.  But with all that aside I am definitely where I want to be with her current offering.

Because Midnight Crossroads is the first book in a trilogy of her new series, I deliberately avoided Amazon and Goodreads reviews.  So I basically have no idea what this book is about other than it takes place in a dust bin Texas town with one traffic light.  I know it'll include many characters, and because Charlaine Harris wrote it, they'll have funny names.  I have yet to determine if it is paranormal-based, but I can count that the backbone of the plot revolves around a cozy mystery of some sort.  I say that in consideration of Harris’ writing catalog.  The mystery (or paranormal element) will surround a pawn shop--which sounds fun and dangerous at the same time.  So I'm kind of guessing something along the lines of Stephen King’s Needful Things crossed with maybe a touch of Hulu’s original series, The Booth at the End.  I'll stick with those two with a grain of salt, though.

Well, enough speculation.  Midnight Crossroads will be my Friday Reads (and on forward until I finish it I suppose).  While it’s ever possible to go spend time with a friend, it’ll be me, birthday cake crème flavored Oreos, and maybe one episode of Ghost Adventures tonight.  Then… a cozy night of reading…

And reviewing at a later date…

Here's to a fresh start Mrs. Harris.

Have you read Midnight Crossroads?  Please, no spoilers, but between 1-5 stars, what would you rate it?  Better than Sookie Stackhouse, anyone?  No, no.  Don't answer that.  (^.^)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Few Favorite Kings

So Stephen King is releasing two new books this year; Mr. Mercedes arrives June 3rd and Revival releases November 11th.  As one moderately dedicated readers (I say this for good reason considering the intensively of his readership), I'm excited to have my yearly reads stretched by two new King novels.  Especially after the fun of last September‘s Doctor Sleep, a book I followed immediately after my complete reading of King‘s classic, The Shining.  One day, after I manage to read all of King’s 60+ stories, I’ll be able to fully construct what appeals to me about his books just as effortlessly as his thorough readers.  Until then, there’s a jumble of thoughts clouding my head as I type this.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  Nonetheless, I delved into King at the unappreciative age of 12/13 when my aunt lent my copies of The Green Mile and Rose Madder.  So I started young--like many of his readers--but ultimately didn't hold tight to his stories until my early twenties.  Actually, it was Lisey’s Story that anchored me deep into King.

Before I go on I have to stress that this list isn't in any rank or order.  Nor can I press on the details that make up each book.  Also, some of the classics I haven't read or choose to skip because they're always mentioned in King listings.

Lisey's Story

I think Lisey’s Story is a great start because I’ve always liked King’s female protagonist over his men.  That’s kind of a general endorsement of mine, as there’s always been something special about literary women defying circumstances.  Especially those circumstances known to plague men protagonist.  Nevertheless, Lisey’s Story served much of what I love regarding King’s female protagonists.  Lisey is intelligent, resourceful, brave, and human.  And while she is nowhere near weak in the beginning of the novel, she organically blossoms into her true strength and out of that sort of wife-nizing (yes, I make up words here) shadow she held underneath her late husband Scott and his success as a troubled, bestselling writing.  With all that said, you can tell how incredibly personal this novel is to King and his relationship with his wife--especially considering it’s a love story Stephen King style.  Still, I wouldn’t doubt that she [Tabitha King] wouldn’t hesitating to chase King’s demons off in a terrifying place such as Boo’ya Moon.

Salem's Lot

I love old, old horror films.  I grew up watching scary movies with my mom, which developed my specific love of 80's slashers.  Seriously, Friday the 13th movies used to babysit me.  Anyway, while the original Night of the Living dead done untold things to my childish imagination, I would have to say that one of my favorite horror movies above even that was Horror Express.  Not too many people talk about that film, but it terrified the shit out of me as a kid.  Yet, I indulged in it every time I popped the cassette in.  Bleeding that film with films like 1977’s The Sentinel, and there’s no other way to express the creepy horror I received from reading Salem’s Lot.  It’s a combination of straight up horror, subtle horror, blood and guts, and that mystic religiously-themed (or occult-themed) psychological horror.  Then there was the vampire, Barlow, himself that King illustrated so beautifully that I was almost positive that nobody was going to make it out of that book alive.  Which I should add that I actually lost a tear when Susan and Father Callahan fell to Barlow.  Salem’s Lot had all the flavor I grew up loving about horror films.  And it is probably one of the few King books that I could say actually kind of scared me.


For some reason Stephen King’s Cell gets a lot of good and bad reviews.  Mostly bad I believe.  Something about his version of playing into zombie apocalyptic horror didn’t seem to move some readers.  I didn't care because I loved the book to pieces, mainly because it did a great job of conveying suspense and mystery.  And of course horror when you factor in "The Raggedy Man" and his plague of industrial science-twisted techno zombies.  Second to that is King’s cast of characters carrying the story.  While they were all capable and witty when it came to their survival, they glowed even more as doomed, cynical survivors.  That leads me to the most memorable character of the book... Alice.  Every once in awhile you come across a book where you’ll absolutely never forget a certain character and his or her exploits during the story.  For me, that character would be Alice.  Some may disagree, but I regard her as the true hero in Cell.  King gave her the spirit to be so.

Gerald's Game

If I ever make a comprehensive list of my favorite Stephen King books from Carrie to 60-something-plus Revival, the often underappreciated Gerald’s Game would easily land in my top three favorites.  Yes.  You heard me.  Gerald’s Game.  A book revolving around a single bedroom setting.  A narrow cast consisting of a dead body, a dog and a difficult woman handcuffed to a bed.  This was one of those early 90s books like Misery, yet it’s linked directly with Dolores Claiborne in which they both share the themes of abuse.  Nevertheless, this particular period seems to me where King sucked out many of his monsters from the past and placed them inside of his characters.  And tackling that on top of conceivable situations only heightened the intensity in those books.  Gerald’s Game was a good display of that intensity, as Jessie Burlingame, handcuffed to a bed, went to the rawest of human desperation to break out of her helpless situation.  That’s not to say that she didn’t have any motivation by a lurking presence known as "The Space Cowboy".  On so many different levels can I express how I found Gerald’s Game to be troubling, uncomfortable, and creepy.

On Writing

As much as I wanted to share how I felt about the Jockey in Duma Keys and how that book seems to bounce back to Bag of Bones, I’m not.  I made this list and will stick to my initial idea to add On Writing.  It is one of my favorite King books after all.  Besides, what better book to mention that encompasses where all the previous books listed have come from?  On Writing is part memoir part writing course--according to how you approach it.  I certainly took it from both standpoints considering I wanted to get near King’s inspirational story as well as his craft.  The book is really that intimate.  My favorite quote from the books states:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.  There’s no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”

That’s all I got for today, folks.  I just wanted to share five King books that I really enjoyed while it’s on the top of my mind.  We're less than a month away before Mr. Mercedes releases and hopefully I can swallow it and throw my thoughts together in a blog post dedicated to the book--as well as Revival later this year.  I got this good mind to re-read some of my older King books (Gerald’s Game is suddenly looking really good) and post “final thoughts” on each.  In the meantime share your top five favorite Stephen King books or your favorite King book as a whole.  I’m interested in learning what and why a certain book appeals to different King readers.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Book Shelf #1

They say a person's library of books reflect the person.  In all of my confusion and assorted beliefs, that may be true.  Nonetheless, I share with you my recent video touring one of my bookshelves.  I chose the smallest one first, a subconscious realization that it takes work to steady a camera and squat down to film.  Anyway, here is the results split in a two part video.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Wilkerson's Other Suns

I’ve read some really fun and good books so far this year, but as of right now, the best belongs to The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.  There is no way around how illuminative and influential this book is.  No way.  Listen, if you love Gloria Naylor, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, or J. California Cooper, this book is for you.  Absolutely.  I know my list of African American authors is short, so extend it however you feel.  Just drop any author in and tag them with this book.  I encourage everyone to read The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.

The Warmth of Other Suns is non-fiction, categorized as History/United States according to Barnes & Nobles; however, it is chiefly a biography.  Without a doubt Isabel Wilkerson serves some powerful, informative details that illustrate African American life in the early 20th century U.S. South.  She continues to strengthen her book with the conflicts concerning the Jim Crow era, and on into black communities residing in the North and West through merging migrations.  Nevertheless, the true strength of the book lie in the biography of three African Americans Wilkerson staff to paint the tone and veracity of the book, via their personal firsthand accounts and experiences.  Their stories glow through Wilkerson’s years of personal interviews.  Each share a different decade of migration, and each travel to different geological and emotional destinations.  Whatever the cavalcade, their amazing stories are told through narratives so smoothly detailed and realized that I find it hard to ever forget about them and their respective journeys.

First on the list is Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, the wife of a Mississippian sharecropper.  Her story begins with her husband, George Gladney, and his romancing competitor vying for 16-year-old Ida’s hand in marriage.  Or better put, the endorsement of Ida’s mother to marry her daughter.  Eventually George marries Ida Mae, pulling her into his business of picking cotton on a white landowner named Mr. Edd's plantation.  Ida Mae isn't the best at picking cotton, but she manages alongside her husband.  That determination is clear in Ida Mae very early within her narrative; there is an unspoken toughness in her.  Nonetheless, being the wife of a sharecropper isn't easy beyond fieldwork either because what troubles her husband often troubles her.  

Considering that period, it wasn't uncommon for men like George to find themselves cheated by landowners.  Only a few African American men could follow mathematics and clean numbers in relation to their labor and its payoff.  For a black man to question or confront the landowner of his concerns is for a black man to gamble with immediate death.  The division of power and politics was that ruthless and clear.

So when one of George’s cousins find himself accused of stealing livestock owned by Mr. Edd, Ida Mae goes tense with the news that a posse of white men have gathered to hunt the cousin down.  Eventually they find him, beat him near death, and throw him in a jail cell.  According to Ida Mae, George’s cousin was never the same.  And when Mr. Edd’s livestock meander out of the woods and back to his plantation safe and sound, Ida Mae and George decide that it is time to take their family out of the South.  The incident hit to close, and it seemed only a matter of time before George is falsely accused on any white man’s whim and consequently beaten or killed.  That was just the way it was in Mississippi, so Ida Mae and George secretly embark on a train headed North and eventually to Chicago.

The second person carrying Wilkerson’s book is George Swanson Starling.  George begins his journey as an ambitious citrus picker in Florida (according to the book, this was the worse state for blacks).  Driven by his desire to excel beyond previous generations, George manages to complete high school and eventually move into college.  Teased for his ambition, George never allowed anyone to stop him.  However, what eventually halted his dreams was himself.  After two years of college, George sought his newly remarried father for more tuition money to keep pursuing his education.  With a new, blended family to support, George's father insist that he wait another year and work instead.  Unable to convince his father of the support he needed, George rebelliously married a local girl his father always disputed against.  Believing this would push his father into giving him the money to leave the state (and away from the girl) back to college, it only backfired.  Instead George’s father decided that it was best for George to work and take care of his new wife.  Without much of a choice, George went back into the citrus fields where his friends remained during his absence.  When George begins to use his education to challenge the work versus pay gradient, he attracts the unwanted attention of several white citrus field owners.  Unworried, George forwards his debates.  Eventually rumors of his potentially orchestrated demise begin to circulate through the fields.  Finally fearing the consequences of his outspokenness, George sets off to New York, leaving his new wife behind as he proceeds to change their future.  Unfortunately, George never quite seems to live freely without regrets.

Lastly, Wilkerson shares the story of Robert Joseph Pershing Foster from Monroe, Louisiana.  Robert comes from a family formed by education--which influenced and encouraged his own educational purists.  He and his siblings each make it to college, Robert in particular finding himself at Atlanta’s esteemed black college, Morehouse.  At Morehouse Robert studies to become a doctor and surgeon.  It’s here that he also meets his wife, the daughter of then Morehouse president, Rufus Early Clement.  Soon after his marriage and graduation, Robert joins the army.  While he faced plenty of prejudices as a black doctor in the U. S. army, it doesn't prepare him for the vacancy of opportunities he later face as a black doctor in his home state of Louisiana.  The medical community in the South adjudge black doctors to the poor, black, backwood populace only.  This realization builds pressure and frustration in Robert.  Always under the thought that he has much to prove to others, Robert eventually leaves Louisiana to California.  In turn, he removes himself from his Southern roots so completely that he almost chronically overlook how much he's already proved and achieved.

While the journey of the three are certainly different in both context and moral delivery, they each share something inspirational and reflective for generations ahead.  I say this beyond the complicated elements that made up southern plight and the response to civil rights.  As tantamount as those elements are, though.  Nonetheless, I found myself identifying with pieces of each of Wilkerson's storytellers' dilemmas, moral standings, and inner motivations.  Which really causes me to insist that people as a whole take part in everything that this book has to offer.  

Nevertheless, with that insistency I should also add that some strings of story and imagery come repetitiously.  Blame it on the years of interviews Wilkerson sources in the Acknowledgements, or the mountain of research she sites in the Notes.  But to be clear, this repetition is too minor to concede.

One serious thought The Warmth of Other Suns left me with concerns my personal lineage.  I'm from--and still live--in the South.  My family has always been here... as far as I know.  My grandmother was born in 1941, in the midst of blacks migrating North and West.  She grew up on a farm in Toney, Alabama, picking cotton with eight other children (she was the baby girl) born by Van and Maggie Abernathy.  While she clearly recalls her mother’s parents and where they lived, when I asked about her father’s parents she had this to say:

White folks owned everything--ruled everything.  My daddy didn’t even know who his mamma was.”  I asked her to elaborate a little more.  She added:  “There are bad colored men and bad white men and if a white man owned a colored man, he’ll do whatever he ask.

Needless to say, I got chills.

As for my grandfather, he passed in 1988.  He's in the above image.  Anyway, rumor has it that he was half Jewish, but nobody knows too much about his family because they weren't exactly happy with his decision be with my grandmother.  From what I can recall via one of my aunts, with the exception of one of his sisters, his family cut him off.  It is a saddening reality.  Especially when you want to know who your people are and where you come from.  

In any regard, my grandparents met while my grandmother was working “uptown” at this placed called Blue Front Café.  I should add that this was some time after she ran away from home.  So soon after birthing my aunt and mother, my grandmother convinced my grandfather to buy the house she currently resides in.  Our family has owned and lived in this home since its construction in the early 60s, right around the March on Washington, a Civil Rights movement geared toward the end of employee discrimination.  Since then, we've been here.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Free Comic Book Day

No, I don't have a comic book to give away.  If I was aware of such a day as Free Comic Book Day, I might've been prepared.  It was only recently brought to my attention, though.  So I'll do what I can and share a few old scans from back when I used to do comics for my high school newspaper.  They are messy, but enjoy them the best that you can.  (^_^)

V-Day Skit

Notice the Sailor V influence?  I really, really should go get some good bristol board and try this all over again.  Anyway, thanks for stopping by.  

A Course: Separation, Fear, Conflict

It’s been a while since I've grasped A Course in Miracles.  The truth is that I didn't re-recognize, during some emotionally distressful situations, that I had it available to me.  Nonetheless, through a few recent events, I found myself drawn back to the book.  So as of late I've committed myself to reading a page or two every morning before I get out of bed, to energize my spirit with a concisely positive approach to the day.  Not that I go into each day thinking negatively.  The Course just sets a whole different tone and succinct realization to each morning.  See, I read somewhere that what you think and believe within the first twenty minutes of your day will determine the proceeding twenty-four hours.  I kind of noticed that to be true one morning when I decided to picked up A Course in Miracles to soothe the rumbling in my mind.  Scratch that.  The fear in my mind is more precise.  I’m not a student of the Course, per se.  I don’t believe I have the capability to grasp something as spiritually illustrious.  Nonetheless, I find treasures in simply reading the book and finding that contrast between what I’m going through and what could inspire a positive flip on the situation.  The book is just insightful and penetrative should you take the time to read closely.  Much like Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, I take on A Course in Miracles to help realign myself to the changes I want to see in myself.  It's like a voice, or an invite to do better.  

So in this post I want to share two passages.  I don't read the book out of order, but somehow I came across these two at the right time.  Talk about how the Universe is in resonance…

These are passages from Chapter 2: The Separation and the Atonement.  Just to be clear, A Course in Miracles is not a religion, despite its use of Christian rhetoric or verbosity.  According to it's a "self-study spiritual thought system".  So there you have it.

III. The Altar of God
[Pages 40-41]

"You can temporize and you are capable of enormous procrastination, but you cannot depart entirely from your Creator, Who set the limits on your ability to miscreate.  An imprisoned will engenders a situation which, in the the extreme, becomes altogether intolerable.  Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit.  Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way.  As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning-point.  This ultimately reawakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight.  The alternating investment in the two levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict, which can become very acute.  But the outcome is as certain as God.

"Spiritual vision literally cannot see error, and merely looks for Atonement.  All solutions the physical eye seeks dissolve.  Spiritual vision looks within and recognizes immediately that the altar has been defiled and needs to be repaired and protected.  Perfectly aware of the right defense it passes over all others, looking past error to truth.  Because of the strength of its vision, it brings the mind into this service.  This re-establishes the power of the mind and makes it increasingly unable to tolerate delay, realizing that it only adds unnecessary pain.  As a result, the mind becomes increasingly sensitive to what it would once have regarded as very minor intrusions of discomfort."

I think that those two passages can electrify you without a studied explanation.  Especially for those who struggle with trying to live their purpose/passion, while finding themselves separated from doing so by worldly demands.  I find myself truly aligned with these two passages because I have (and still am to be honest) experiencing that tolerance of pain, having to concern myself with those worldly responsibilities that don't necessarily lift my spirit.  Even as recent as last month where I turned my back on something that I knew would only cause me to go backwards in my journey.  While I didn't handle that situation as best as I could, I couldn't ignore the calling that there had to be a better way out of my current situation that didn't require me to go back into my old situation.  With that said, we have to hold on to our visions with the faith that they propel us into our truths.  In a sense, a vision is a kernel to life.  Without one... I could only imagine...

IV. Healing as Release from Fear
[Page 42]

"Only the mind can create because spirit has already been created, and the body is a learning device for the mind.  Learning devices are not lessons in themselves.  Thier purpose is merely to facilitate learning.  The worst a faulty use of a learning device can do is to fail to facilitate learning.  It has no power in itself to introduce actual learning errors.  The body, if properly understood, shares the invulnerability of the Atonement to two-edged application.  This is not because the body is a miracle, but because it is not inherently open to misinterpretation.  The body is merely part of your experience in the physical world.  Its abilities can be and frequently are overevaluated.  However, it is almost impossible to deny its existence in this world."

How often do we hear that we create our life/experiences via our thoughts--our minds?  Often enough.  With that creation of circumstances does your body go out to experience what your mind has created.  While I've always been familiar with this philosophy, and try to utilize it myself, I've never seen it described in the context of how your body does the learning that your mind creates.

VI. Fear and Conflict
[Page 49]

"Fear is always a sign of strain, arising whenever what you want conflicts with what you do.  This situation arises in two ways: First, you can choose to do conflicting things, either simultaneously or successively.  This produces conflict behavior, which is intolerable to you because the part of the mind that wants to do something else is outraged.  Second, you can behave as you think you should, but without entirely wanting to do so.  This produces consistent behavior, but entails great strain.  In both cases, the mind and the behavior are out of accord, resulting in a situation in which you are doing what you do not wholly want to do.  This arouses a sense of coercion that usually produces rage, and projection is likely to follow.  Whenever there is fear, it is because you have not made up your mind.  Your mind is therefore split, and your behavior inevitably becomes erratic.  Correcting at the behavioral level can shift the error from the first to the second type, but will not obliterate the fear."

After my morning reading, this passage struck me the most.  It beat to me like no other.  Almost like a beacon to my current concerns.  This is probably where I'm at the most right now.  Merging my way out of the dilemma illustrated in the passage.  I won't shed the details, but this passage's truth is that profound for me at this moment.

So are you familiar with A Course in Miracles?  What are your thoughts on it, or the passages?  Could you relate to any of them, finding yourself muddled in your own thoughts while searching for clarity?  Comment and share your thoughts below.


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