Day 266: The Man and the Song a Day Challenge, Day 5; ‘Passport’

Last day of the song a day challenge! I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the songs I’ve shared with you as much as I have. I wanted to end on a real positive uplifting and dance-worthy song to usher in the weekend and all the fun activities I’m sure we’ve all got lined up.

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The Avalanches aren’t exactly new, and Since I Left You really isn’t either. In fact it was their first studio release and the song that immediately garnered a lot of attention for the Australian electronic music group. It is my favorite song of theirs, followed very closely by Frontier Psychiatrist and Because I’m Me. They are all really fun songs made primarily by sampling a whole slew of other songs, music genres, and even films. There is something about the artistry and craft of being able to find a whole other composition hidden in the lines of other pieces and fitting them all together to create something new that is really impressive but also produces a very unique and interesting sound. This ‘reclaiming’ style reminds me of ‘found poetry’ and I respect not only the original artists/creators but those who can reuse, retool, and rediscover them too. Now it’s not like there are a lot of lines to pick from in the song, but that’s okay because the only one it’s got is perfect.

Since I left you

I’ve found the world so new

Look, I get it. It’s ‘since I left you’ but the only person that got left was me. But let’s not parse words too much shall we? 

It’s the world I’ve found so new since being left that’s so important to me. If I reflect on the past 266 days, I’ve done so many new things and gone to so many new places. Been to Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, and Baltimore for the first time. Cancun, Mexico. Picked up archery. Started a blog. Did NaNoWriMo. Learned to snowboard. And I’ve got plenty more yet still. I have so many new and exciting experiences lined up in the coming months. Hell tomorrow I am going to really step out of my comfort zone, meet a whole new group of strangers to try and make some friends, and we’re going to a library that will be set up as a mini golf course to play and they’ve got wine and beer tasting all over! I mean I hope I don’t spill anything on the countless precious books in their collection but, I’m excited! All I can say is, my world didn’t get smaller when I lost her. It got bigger while I learned to find myself. And you can bet I’m gonna make sure I’ve got my passport valid and at the ready, because I want to make sure I’m ready for anything.

Get those toes a-tapping, folks!

Day 266

Man: 233 Loneliness: 33

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Day 265: The Man and the Song a Day Challenge, Day 4; ‘Fortune’

It’s almost Friday y’all. I hope only good news and good fortune await you. I am currently surrounded by three very angry women who are very angry at each other. So you know, I’m taking a sick day tomorrow. Three day weekend.

OneRepublic

What is there not to love about OneRepublic‘s Wherever I Go? It is the perfect pick me up song. Even the music video is great. Starring in my mind the Asian equivalent of Robert Downey Jr., the ever-versatile Kenneth Choi. You may remember him from Captain AmericaWolf of Wall Street, or more recently, his hilarious time on Last Man on Earth. Here he is playing your every day run of the mill depressed salaryman, being hopelessly and listlessly shuffled from one place to the next, trying to find the ‘magic’. He’s searching for the thing that will wake up his dormant spirit and help him escape the dull humdrum of his life. From the spontaneous dance-offs to the girl who’s clothes are blown away literally by a point of his finger to the out-of-nowhere anime, this music video has it all. But mostly, it has that ultra-satisfying grasp of destiny. Who here hasn’t wanted to just eat their coworkers chips and throw their coffee away before dancing into the sunset?! And so it is with the lyrics I’ve chosen. You can fool yourself, kid yourself, or never even talk to yourself. But there are those people who just know deep down that there is something great and wondrous and powerful to be unlocked. And this doesn’t have to be about love, or a specific person either. It’s about passion. About almost-madness. Working where you don’t want to be? With the person you don’t care about? Remember, ‘no easy love could ever make [you] feel the same‘.

Some people lie but they’re looking for magic

Others are quietly going insane

I feel alive when I’m close to the madness

No easy love could ever make me feel the same

One more day for most of you. But I’m checking out of this rat race a day early this week.

Day 265

Man: 232 Loneliness: 33

Day 264: The Man and the Song a Day Challenge, Day 3; ‘Territory’

Last day for mopey, I promise. I’m feeling especially soulful this Wednesday, and with plenty of things to look forward to over the weekend and beyond, I promise everything else will be happier. But just humor me one more day of slightly mopey. But more soulful. Now though the band was formed in Boston and you might not think of Boston as soul territory, you’ll find that Lake Street Dive knows how to create music you feel in your bones.

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It’s not enough to just sing the right words. Or even play the right notes. You need to feel the right emotions. You have to sell something deeper than your voice or your melody. It’s the sincerity and authenticity of the message of your song that carries further, clearer, and for longer than anything else. When you think about the inner tensions and turmoil The Beatles were going through when they recorded the White Album you appreciate Revolution and Hey Jude more. You want to believe that the person singing to you has some sort of personal connection to the song itself. Look I don’t know if Rachael Price had some sort of relational beef going on when she recorded What I’m Doing Here. I don’t even care. I just know that I feel like somewhere deep down she connected to the words and belted this beauty out in one take. And that’s damn good power and talent. The lyrics I’ve chosen below are just so sad. It is the moment of realization that this relationship, this connection, with some other person just isn’t going to last. It’s no good. It’s lacking. And what’s more, I feel like there is a sense of loss and weakness because…she can’t find the will to leave. She knows this is a fruitless love that isn’t satisfying anyone. And she has no idea what she’s doing there still. But she’s begging this other person to mercifully cut the ties, because she can’t do it herself.

There’s been so many nights

When I’ve longed for your touch

There’s been so many days

When our love was not enough

Like I said. I promise no more mopey after today. Hahah.

Day 264

Man: 231 Loneliness: 33

Day 263: The Man and the Song a Day Challenge, Day 2; ‘Elixir’

We’re gonna get real, like reeeal sappy today people. I’m talking could have been straight out of a Korean drama sappy. Amnesia, car accident, evil twins, elixir of youth, the whole nine yards.

Sam Ock

So, Sam Ock. I really don’t know what to say about him. I’m not even entirely sure how I came across this song. I just know I heard it one day, and I really liked the lyrics, and I felt all sappy and sentimental, and I wanted to play this at my wedding. Hahah. I will admit to shamelessly belting, and I mean screaming, out these lyrics when I am driving by myself. I’m not entirely a fan of the motif of ‘I am completely and utterly unworthy and undeserving of your love’ but…this song doesn’t harp (HA, get it) too much on that. Like, let’s all just recognize we are flawed and imperfect human beings and rather than being surprised that someone loves us, let’s just continue to always work and strive to be appreciative and reciprocative of that love. Which I do think the song ultimately says. So you know, aww.

Maybe I’m a little caught off guard

‘Cause I never thought that I’d be loved, by you

Am I just caught in a lie

Can this be real, can this be right?

I’m trying to cover all sorts of musical styles. So yesterday we covered synthwave. Today we covered love ballads. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Day 263

Man: 230 Loneliness: 33

Day 262: The Man and the Song a Day Challenge, Day 1; ‘Purple’

Alright so this will be a fun way to spend the week before National Poetry Month begins! I was challenged by Rugby843 to post song lyrics from 5 different songs for 5 days and share the meaning. I’m always trying to spread some musical love around so by all means, you can all get a glimpse into my playlists once more. This time, I’m limiting myself only to songs I’ve recently discovered/liked from my ‘New Sound’ playlist. It’s a playlist of only 100 songs, and whenever I add a new one I remove the oldest. Nice way to keep cycling things, you know? Sorry, recent stuff only. No Purple Rain. Hahah.

Gunship Logo

Let’s start with the British synthwave band, Gunship. Great for their retro-synth sound that brings me back to the 80s (which is weird because I was born in 1990) but you know what I mean. We’re talking neon and polyester and old arcade machines. In fact, that’s pretty much the music video for Tech Noir. I love the opening, in which our hero pens a post-apocalyptic love letter to the one he loves.

I’m recording this, because this could be the last thing I ever say

The city I once knew as home as home is teetering on the edge of radioactive oblivion

A three-hundred thousand degree baptism by nuclear fire

I’m not sorry; we had it coming

A surge of white-hot atonement will be our wake-up call

Hope for our future is now a stillborn dream

The bombs begin to fall and I’m rushing to meet my love

Please, remember me

There is no more

The song has no particularly strong personal or emotional meaning to me. It’s more about the sound and feeling of it that I really connect with. The long lingering synth tones make me think of driving at night and just enjoying watching the lights of the streets pass by. There’s something pervasively lonely and isolated about the song. And the music video is a masterpiece of claymation, reminiscent of the old classic Celebrity Deathmatch. Hahah.

Hope you enjoy. Oh and M. Gin and Karuchan, if you want to jump in on the action, you’re my challengees!

Day 262

Man: 229 Loneliness: 33

Day 259: The Man and the Proliferation of Poetry as per April; ‘Ordinary’

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In case you didn’t know, National Poetry Month is April! The Academy of American Poets founded the celebration in 1996 and since them it has become one of the biggest literary celebrations in the world. Authors, libraries, schools, booksellers, and yes even bloggers, all share their love for poetry during the month of April and help to continue to bring awareness and exposure into a very sophisticated and yet completely accessible and fun form of literature. Since its inception, National Poetry Month and the Academy of American Poets has focused on highlighting the legacies and achievements of poets, encouraging the reading of poems, helping teachers bring more poetry into their classrooms, increase the attention to poetry in media, increasing the publication and distribution of poetry, and encouraging more support for poetry and poets.

NPM AprilI would by no means ever consider myself a poet, nor do I think anyone would ever say as such about me. So, you know, this is a good place to start. From a place of very low, low expectations. If you’d like to see my first attempt in a very, very long time, you can read Day 65 Supplemental, in which I respond to a challenge from a fellow blogger with a poem. Even though I would never consider myself a poet, I do appreciate other poets and poetry in general. It is a beautiful form of literature and writing that requires a truly demanding mastery of imagery and subtlety to deliver as clear a message in five words what I usually do in ten. And when that’s done well, that’s really really cool. Poetry is one of those fascinating forms that can be exciting in the writing, reading, and even reading/performing of it. It can be visually stunning as well with certain poems formatted or written or just typed a certain way.

I’m not as exposed as much these days to poetry as I used to be when I was a child. One of Light in the Atticmy favorite childhood authors was the poet Shel Silverstein. You may have read his book The Giving Tree but I remember him best for his whimsical poetry collections A Light in the Attic and Falling Up. In high school I took poetry electives and considered myself somewhat of a poet, but most of my poems were angst-ridden lamentations on love. High school drama. I still cringe. In university I took a poetry class (required for English Education majors) and this was my first real opportunity to explore and investigate poetry purely from an observational and analytical perspective. It was kind of nice to know I didn’t have to write a poem at any time, and could just really dive into the nuances and subtleties and hidden meanings. When you only have so many words and lines to work with, you really have to dig deep to the full meaning, but its often very surprising as you start to unravel it all, just how much can be packed into a few lines.

This upcoming month-long celebration of poetry will be a great opportunity for me to go back and bring up old favorite poems of mine, learn about forms of poetry and poets from all around the world, and yes, even (very very sparingly) attempt to try and write poems in forms or on subjects that interest me. Throughout April this blog will transform from an ordinary day to day reflections and musings collection to poetry central. Mostly sharing some personal favorites of mine from childhood up til now, including a few that were recently shared with me from other fellow bloggers. I’ll also want to look into poetry around the world, especially Asian poets and poetry. The biggest stretch will be me trying to actually write poetry, but I think taking a few leaps and dives outside of your comfort zone is a healthy thing to help improve the things you are comfortable with.

Robin WilliamsIf you’d like to participate in any way during Poetry Month, there are various things you can do. Of course, sharing poetry or writing poetry would be great. And if you use the #npm17 to draw attention to National Poetry Month, that would help as well. April 27th is Poem in Your Pocket Day, where you are encouraged to print out a poem of your choosing and keep it in your pocket to share with family, friends, coworkers, or even just random strangers you happen to meet during the day. If you go to the Academy of American Poet’s official website, poets.org, you can also sign up to receive a poem a day in your invoice. I’ve always commented that WordPress seems to be a thriving community of poets and poetry so it’s definitely encouraging to see poetry so strong here.

Day 256

Man: 226 Loneliness: 33

Day 256: The Man and the Icy Spring; ‘Minimal’

As you may have known from the news, your calendar, but almost certainly not by looking outside, yesterday was the official first day of Spring over on the northern hemisphere. Some of you might have bravely tried to celebrate by throwing an outdoor picnic in defiance of the actual weather. Maybe you started your Spring cleaning. Perhaps you were just generally filled with an unreasonable amount of optimism, hope, and enthusiasm because somewhere underneath your three foot pile of snow, there is a flower ready to bloom.

I made ice.

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More specifically, I made 40 buckets x 5 gallons each worth of ice. That’s 200 gallons of ice. I’m not even sure you measure ice in gallons. Once it’s a solid I guess you’re supposed to do weight?

Allow me to explain. If you grew up anywhere in the PA/NJ/DE area, you’ve probably heard of Rita’s Italian Ice. And as the business has continued to grow, your chances of visiting, or at least seeing them with their trademark red and white awning, spread to pretty much all of the east coast US, parts of central and north US, and hell, even the Philippines has a couple now too. My family actually owns and operates three Rita’s Italian Ice franchises here in northern New Jersey. After my parents both lost their jobs, they pooled our family’s money together and we bought our first two stores having never tried or even heard of Rita’s beforehand. None of us had prior food industry or business ownership experience either. We bought the first two five years ago, the third three years ago, and ever since from the months of March to October, we are Rita’s HQ. Our guestroom becomes filled with promotional marketing posters, cases of bottled water, and teeth shattering bulk tons of sugar and flavor syrup. Step too hard on the floor and you’ll hear all of the sprinkles (or jimmies if you’re from Boston) shaking in the bags upon bags we order for our ice cream toppings. For eight months out of the year I never have to worry about where I’ll get my next ice cream, milkshake, sundae, misto, or ice fix. Perks of being part-owner you know.

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The grandest and most marketably philanthropic gesture of Rita’s Italian Ice is that every First Day of Spring (what we in the ‘biz call the F.D.O.S.) every Rita’s store (I assume around the world as well) gives out free ice to celebrate the start of Rita’s season. Let me tell you this has been a tradition from way way way back before we bought the stores and no other entity has a grip on the First Day of Spring like Rita’s does. That is our holiday. Our jam. Our claim to fame. Dairy Queen can try to copy us, but pretty much all up and down the East coast, FDOS is Rita’s territory.

As you can imagine, with so much tradition behind it and a huge following, plus the always-enticing appeal of you know, ‘free’, the First Day of Spring can become pretty hectic at a Rita’s. We were grossly and sorely unprepared for our first FDOS. We only had two stores so my mother and father were at the one, and my brother and I were at the other. We had our standard eight different flavors of freshly made Rita’s italian ice (very different from a shaved ice mind you) and figured it’d be just like any other day.

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HOLY HELL.

We opened at noon. From opening to closing at 9, the line was never any less than 50 people deep. We had regular employees as well but still, we were running and jumping and scooping ice. My brother was in the back at the ice machine making bucket after bucket and we couldn’t make it faster than people were coming to eat it. To work at a Rita’s you need to be able to scoop and sling ice like nobody’s business. It’s a completely unique product with a very unique texture and character so it’s a signature skill of a Rita’s Treat Team member. When I was running and managing our third store on my own, I would train and time our Team members. If you couldn’t fill a regular sized cup in less than 6 seconds, you were out. On the FDOS, you need to be able to do it in 3. By the end of the day your hands are sticky from all the melted ice and sugar and they’re dyed all sorts of bright colors because of the flavors. Bright blue cotton candy. Brilliant orange colored mango flavored ice. The deep staining red of cherry or Swedish Fish. Green apple. Green obviously. It’s all over you. You try to fight it the first couple times you get splattered but by the end you look like you finished the diabetic version of a color run.

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Ever since then I’d like to say we’ve learned, perhaps even perfected the system, to ensure a successful and relatively easy FDOS with minimal setbacks. And yet…you just cannot ever really tell. Yesterday there was still a good four or five inches of snow on the ground and the warmest it ever got was 47 Fahrenheit. Here’s my store’s front at 11:45, fifteen minutes before opening.

Rita's Butler

Obviously now that we have three stores we are more spread apart. I used to run this location and so I have the most experience here so I was left alone to deal with everything until our first Treat Team member came in at 4. Most of our employees are high schoolers. Here’s what was waiting for me at 11:59, a minute before we opened.

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And from then on until closing it did not let up. I had 20 buckets of italian ice already on reserve made over the weekend and still last night I had to make ten more. Sugar and flavor base were flying all over the place. When we all finally finished I had to shake myself like a dog to get all the dust and powder off me.

You know what though…it was still a pretty fun day. I like the rush and the adrenaline and trying to rise up to the challenge of 30 people waiting for their free treat. And as much as Rita’s really is a unique product, the FDOS is a unique experience. One only Rita’s members can really attest to. We tell our members, especially if we hire them in the summer for extra help, you’re not really a part of the team until you’ve survived your first FDOS. Even now with my own career and path, I always take a personal day to help out my family. This business is my parents’ nest egg. We are trying to make sure the stores can generate enough for my parents to save and comfortably rely on later on. It puts food on our table, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads. At the end of the night, after we clean the stores and wipe down all the sticky sugary counters and count up the money we made, we all meet up at the local diner and share a celebratory, recuperative meal and share stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I didn’t get home until midnight last night, and after washing off all the dye and lotioning up enough to make Buffalo Bill uncomfortable (the constant submerging in water and sugar will dry your skin like nobody’s business) I didn’t get to bed until 3am. I’m exhausted and my legs are so tired from standing and running and moving and lifting those heavy ice buckets all day. I’m half-paying attention to my work and really just hoping to book a conference room and nap. But I would never not be there for the First Day of Spring. I’d never not throw myself into the ring for my family and more importantly, with my family. I’m never going to remember or share stories about the work I had to do for myself the day after. But I will always remember the late dinners my family and I shared on the First Day of Spring.

Day 256

Man: 223 Loneliness: 33

Day 252: The Man and the Luck of the Asians; ‘Luck’

I suppose I should be grateful that today’s prompt wasn’t ‘corned beef’ or anything but we’re still kind of hitting the nail right on the head here, aren’t we? Subtly, thy name is not WordPress.

Well while everyone else is being kissed because they’re Irish or celebrating that the Pope said they can eat meat on a Friday or out in the fields looking for four-leaf clovers, I wanted to talk about some lesser known Asian superstitions that pertained to, you guessed it, making sure you had some good luck.

Snakes on a Plane

More common I suppose in the Philippines than say, the US, but perhaps also relatable for the Irish, it is said in the Philippines that if a snake crosses your path this will bring good fortune. Unless it bites you. Or you’re on a plane.

Chinese Sweep

In both China and the Philippines, when and where and how you sweep can determine your good fortune or bad. For example, in the Philippines it is considered bad luck to sweep at night or whenever people are playing cards or gambling, for fear of sweeping away good luck. In China for the Lunar New Year the house is cleaned top to bottom but sweeping is done inward and then gathered in a pile to be brought out the back door, as the front door is said to be where good fortune and grace enter.

Teru Teru

Teru teru bozu are little white dolls made from cloth or paper. They are especially popular among Japanese schoolchildren as they are supposed to help influence the weather. Hang a teru teru bozu right side up to ensure good weather, or hang it upside down to try and encourage bad. Great for right before school field trips or final exams.

Money Wallet

In almost all Asian cultures, when giving either a wallet or bag as a gift, it is customary to put some small change or at least one bill in it, to help ensure good luck and prosperity. The same is true for the coming year; everyone in my family will make sure there is at least some money in our wallets to start the year with.

Santo Nino

In any and all Filipino houses or businesses you will most likely find a statue of the Santo Nino (child Jesus). This supposedly brings good luck. The supposed origin of this is when the Philippines was still a Spanish colony, the Spanish set fire to most of the city of Cebu as punishment for hostile actions by the Cebuanos wanting independence. After the fire, amidst the wreckage, Spanish soldiers found the statue of the Santo Nino remarkably and miraculously unscathed.

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Ema are wooden boards that the Japanese can purchase at Shinto shrines. The Japanese use these boards to write their wishes, after which they hang them at the shrine for the gods to receive and fulfill. It is fun when visiting shrines to read what some people wish for. You will see students hoping for good results on their college entrance exams, couples wishing for a long and successful relationship, or workers hoping for a new job or promotion.

Fresh Off the Boat

Wearing red in China is considered auspicious and can bring the best of luck. That is why celebratory garments are often red and on the Chinese New Year gifts of money are given in red envelopes to impart good luck and good fortune. The same is true of oranges, which are often given to elders or in offerings.

Koinobori

Children’s Day is a holiday in Japan that is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month (May 5th). It is a time for families to celebrate the happiness and health of their children and to wish them good luck to grow up strong, healthy, and successful. A common practice on Children’s Day is to fly koinobori, which are kites that are made to look like the Asian carp. This is from a traditional folk tale about a little carp that swam upstream and became a dragon.

Of course, being a gambler, I have my own set of superstitions for good luck and good fortune whenever I’m at a casino. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. I think pyschologically it helps me to deal with the complete lack of control over my actual results. Before I open up my cards, I always rub them on the table face down and over the money. I tell everyone I am about to hit the tables because I don’t want anyone to think about me and miss me, or else I might lose because they want me to return. If I want the dealer to get a high card, I yell ‘monkey, monkey, monkey’ to scare a high card to the top of the deck. Don’t ask me why.

Hope you’re all lucky and happy and healthy. And if not, grab one of these superstitions and get to it! And remember…

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Day 252

Man: 219 Loneliness: 33

Day 251: The Man and the Space on the Bookshelves; ‘Massive’

GiveaBook

As soon as I saw M. Gin’s post here about wanting to do a book exchange I immediately expressed my interest. I hope this becomes a massively popular project almost as big as this whale here. I am absolutely going to be participating and I hope that if you are interested in joining as well that you express your interest and let me know. And if you haven’t yet visited her blog, I whole-heartedly suggest you visit M.Gin’s for some fantastic pieces of writing and reflection.

Anyways, so I’m all pumped to go out and get this book this weekend (Barnes and Noble coupons for the win y’all!) but I’m having a hard time picking what book I’d like to send to represent my literary contribution to the betterment of this world. So I’ve narrowed it down to three very different but equally fantastic reads and I’d like you all to help me pick which one gets sent across the world to a lucky stranger.

I’ve read all three in the past and they’ve been some of my absolute all-time favorite reads. They are a great representation of very different writing styles, themes, and emotions. Some you might have heard of, or at the very least of their author, but I would also like to try and highlight some recommendations that are I think, unjustly underrated. I am always trying to spread the good word of some of these authors and their works but my friends don’t usually like to read and I have very few opportunities to discuss my literary passions. So the more people I can infect with my particular style of reading, the better for me. Hahah.


Option 1: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me GoPerhaps the most well-known author in my selection, Kazuo Ishiguro is an incredibly talented British author. He was born in Japan but his family moved to England when he was very young. As such he has the dignified suffering and slow, steady, pacing towards sadness that I love about British authors. There is a wonderful moroseness to his stories that make you love the lingering longing feeling of want. Most people who have heard of Kazuo Ishiguro or read anything of his will know about The Remains of the Day, which was later turned into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins. Remains was a poignant reflection not only on the national identity crisis of a post-empire Great Britain but also on the identity crisis of an aging butler who had hitched his entire life to one of the men of their so-called ‘last great generation’. There were beautiful themes of mortality, dignity, pride, and most of all, the reliability of memory and narrator. When you pair the gentler, slower pace of British writing with the often-times circular and reflective path of Japanese storytellers, you get a piece that is strikingly deep, painstakingly subdued, and tragically suspenseful. I read Kazuo Ishiguro when I want to experience a much deeper and personal level of melancholy. You might not think a book that is designed to make you feel the most beautiful levels of despair would be appealing, but trust me when I say Kazuo Ishiguro has a way of making you love the knife as it cuts.

Never Let Me Go is a dystopian novel set a non-specified amount of time in the future and centers around the reflection and narrative of Kathy as she recounts her time growing up with her best friend and the boy she grew to love. Once more Ishiguro loves to play with the reliability of the narrator as Kathy attempts to present her story in a way that is both truthful but also affectedly sympathetic towards herself. It takes us around the countryside of Britain, a nostalgic setting for Ishiguro, as it travels from schoolhouse days to days by the sea. It is a wonderful perspective on love, loss, and growth. I really don’t want to give too much of the story or its nuances away as the best part of the book is really how it builds up to its most tragic reveal and completely changes the context and backdrop of the story. No better style and storyteller could have built up the effect of Never Let Me Go when its true nature is finally revealed.

NeverLetMeGoMovie

So I would highly recommend this choice if you prefer to read something that is deeply, emotionally charged. And only if you’ve had some great days before it to buffer. One of the best examples of pace and setup that I’ve ever read. There is also the added benefit of a cinematic counterpart, though I highly recommend reading the novel first before watching the film. The movie is actually very well done, with some of my all-time favorite actors in it. Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield. Though the movie reveals in five seconds what the book takes so much love and care to reveal only by the end, which takes away so much of the impact.

Option 2: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

CuriousIncidentAnother markedly British selection from what is perhaps to me one of the best examples of British humor. Perhaps second only to Nick Hornby of A Long Way Down and About a Boy (one of my favorite movies as well as books) fame. Mark Haddon began his career and set most of his works with youth titles, but it is his adult fiction novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time that had me laughing, smiling, and generally recovering from say, a long stint of reading Ishiguro. Hahah. In that signature dry and subtly almost completely lacking a punchline kind of way, Haddon delivers fine examples of literary humor. I’ve since read other works by Haddon which continue to deliver his style of ensemble story with all points connecting chaotically, humorously, in the end. A Spot of Bother, which is about a recently retired hypochondriac and his wife and children was an absolute riot of poor judgement. What I love about British humor is how comfortable it is making its hero the punchline of the joke. It doesn’t construct comedy by laughing at others but rather enjoys and desires to be the butt of it all. The ability to laugh at oneself is a skill I think most people can benefit from nowadays and the novel, in true form, does much the same. Only you will find that as you keep reading and laughing and thinking…the joke inevitably starts to turn in on itself until you find yourself laughing at your own reflection. And you’re quite alright with that. That to me is the skill and beauty and relatability of Mark Haddon’s work.

The book centers around the adventures of Christopher, a young boy who describes himself as a ‘mathematical genius with behavioral problems’. Right from the start he sets himself up as the outsider and his behaviors certainly do seem strange and often times unpredictable and uncontrollable. He struggles to connect to the people around him, especially his father who has had to raise him on his own. The boy is obsessed with trying to solve the mystery of his neighbor’s dead dog, which he found one night killed with a garden fork. The novel is not without its own tinge of sadness, though great comedy often needs that foil to really shine. And we never lose our sympathy or sensitivity towards Christopher despite his many struggles to fit in.

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This novel offers so much to its readers. Great comedy. An opportunity for real introspection. Prime-numbered chapters for the mathematically inclined. It was recently turned into an off-Broadway play which I unfortunately did not get to see though I heard it did fairly well. There’s definitely a bit of tongue-in-cheek laughing at oneself so for a brighter mood, a happier disposition, or to give someone who could use a laugh and a bit of humbling, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time would definitely be the choice.

Option 3: A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

A Dirty Job.jpgAlright everyone. Here is your dark horse. Your wild card. Your joker in the hand. Christopher Moore is an American comic fantasy writer who has had way too much time on his hands. Quite frankly, I’m glad that his level of creativity and insanity was channeled into creating some of the most outrageous, random, and hilarious reads I’ve ever encountered. Because otherwise we would have all been dead. To really enjoy Christopher Moore you have to be the kind of person who can just be okay with things. No real explanation, no time for exposition, he arrives at your door in a car that is literally on fire and you have to decide if you want to jump in. I’ve seen anything and everything pop up in his novels. A hooker covered entirely in blue body paint named ‘Blue’. Frozen turkey bowling. Vampires encased in gold. One of the recurring characters in a whole series of his novels is the ‘Emperor of San Francisco’ and his two loyal subjects, his pair of pet dogs. I cannot tell you how fanatical I am about Christopher Moore’s many works and how disappointed I am that so few have heard of him. Now, I do recognize that his material represents such a strange fringe niche that intersects between comedy, fantasy, heresy, and blasphemy but he is so good at being so brash and so casual about the absurd that you truly wish to have the opportunity to be part of these worlds. Almost all of his novels have been happily and voraciously taken in by those lucky few who have discovered him and almost all have been optioned for movie rights but are all tragically not, in his words, ‘in any danger of being made into a movie’. If you read these and find the same desire and hunger for a film adaptation as I do, maybe we can work together.

A Dirty Job centers around the admittedly ‘beta’ Charlie Asher. He owns a second-hand property store and is raising his newborn daughter on his own after his wife passes away a little while after giving birth. He is chosen by some magical unnamed force to become a ‘death merchant’, tasked with collecting the souls of the deceased and helping them pass on to the afterlife. Trying to balance running a small business with the new responsibilities of fatherhood are only further complicated now that he is also responsible for the spiritual fate of countless souls and protecting the world from the evil powers of the underworld. I never imagined that I would find in the same novel a conversation about diapers and teenage girls alongside a battle for all the souls of San Francisco and a man’s reincarnation into an alligator doll. Because many of his novels center around San Francisco and inhabit the same universe, the book also has a Marvel-style plethora of easter eggs and allusions to his other works.

I think A Dirty Job is a great amuse bouche into the depraved hilarity of Christopher Moore’s works but it is only an entrance ticket to his whole collection. Unlike the other selections A Dirty Job has a direct sequel already out to continue reading and inhabits a whole series of works spanning at least four other novels. These are some of the craziest and most interesting characters I’ve ever come across. There’s Minty Fresh who is a seven foot tall black man who runs a second hand record store. Audrey the white Tibetan monk who creates Frankenstein-esque creations of small animals. Jody the red-haired vampire. What is fun about A Dirty Job is that if you find yourself enjoying the outrageous sheer shock and wonder of it all, there’s plenty more where that came from.


Well, there you have it. Someone is going to get one of these books, and I could really use your help in selecting which one! And if you would like to join in on the fun, let me know and you can be a part of this book exchange.

Day 251

Man: 218 Loneliness: 33

 

 

Day 249: The Man and the Snow Day

For the record, I’m not dead. I’m just immersed in about two feet of snow. A surprise nor’easter hit the northeast US and my snow blower broke about three feet from my front door.

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I can’t help but think I asked for this. I think I might have done my snow dance a bit too much. I mean, I’m still enjoying the work from home, and knowing how miserable my coworkers, and especially my boss who hates the cold, must be. One man’s misery is another man’s pleasure after all.

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Anyways we’re supposed to get even more overnight into tomorrow. The first day of Spring is this Monday and we’re supposed to get two straight days of snow. So you know…that’s a thing to consider. Anyways, if you’re in warmer places, I don’t necessarily envy you since I love the snow and the cold. And if you’re anywhere near the northeast US, remember, this is what makes us tougher than everyone else. Hahah.

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Day 249

Man: 216 Loneliness: 33