books & writing

Lisa reads Man v. Nature by Diane Cook

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Man V. Nature: Storiesby Diane Cook is a fascinating book of short stories – the kind that keep you thinking long after you finish reading. The stories present impossible situations — truly impossible situations that you can’t imagine happening in real life. In “The Not-Needed Forest, a 10 year old boy is told he is “not needed” and is sent off for incineration. Huh? What parents would allow this? Why is it only 10 year old boys who are deemed “not needed”? Why not girls or 12 year old boys? It’s a completely improbably situation, but he waits on the front lawn for the bus and off he goes – how could that possibly happen? The way the characters navigate these strange circumstances makes for really intriguing reading.

In “Moving On” my first thought was that this was an impossible situation that some people might really be drawn to. Our main character is a recent widow, and after a very brief period of mourning, she is sent off to a sort of boot camp for widows and widowers. (Her home and all the belongings she shared with her husband are sold and the proceeds become part of her dowry.) She gets counseling to help her get over the loss of her husband as quickly as possible. She is encouraged to get in shape, learn new hobbies, make new friends, all with an eye towards attracting a new spouse. Her spouse will choose her (and her dowry) from among a batch of profiles and she gets no choice in the matter.

In another favorite, “Somebody’s Baby,” a woman comes home from the hospital with her new baby to find a man lurking in the yard — a man who plans to steal the baby. This is a perfectly normal occurrence; some families lose two, even three babies before the man moves on to other families, but when the new mother suggests protecting their children and fighting back, she is ridiculed and shunned by her neighbors.

I find myself thinking about these stories, even as time passes. What would I do if clothes and trinkets began turning up in my washing machine? Why would a woman become fixated on a perfectly ordinary weatherman? What mother wouldn’t want to retrieve her stolen children? I think  that’s really the measure of a book like this — how long do the stories stay with you? How often do you find yourself thinking about them? What new insights have come, weeks down the road? If a book can keep me thinking and questioning, I will definitely be recommending it to my friends, and I will certainly be recommending this one.

My copy of Man V. Nature: Stories was an advanced reader copy, provided free of charge.

man v nature

 

virtual children by Scott Warnock

So this is Christmas?: Ideological smoke

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Christmas 2014, forever to be remembered by me as the year of complete dissolution of internal ideological opposition. A bunch of presents were purchased and exchanged in my house that I did not approve. Yet, it will be the year not that I gave in, but the year I realized I had been giving in for a long time. [Read more →]

diatribespolitics & government

Some Thoughts on Charlie Hebdo

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Today, while walking past the Center for Jewish History on West 16th Street in New York, I observed four policemen with submachine guns; several other patrolmen; a patrol car; and a police dog. Unless there’s some specific threat I don’t know about, this strikes me as a bit of an overreaction to what happened in Paris last week. Forgive me for saying what I believe: it amounts to feeding and encouraging paranoia, at the taxpayers’ expense. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingends & odd

Top ten one-liners (the sequel)

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10. I hate people who take things literally – they should leave them where they are.

9. Nowadays, Bill Cosby is spending most of his time on his farm, watching the chickens come home to roost.

8. Standing in the park, I was wondering why a Frisbee looks larger and larger the closer it gets, and then it hit me.

7. One of my favorite hobbies is writing “You have no new messages” on a slip of paper, sticking it in a bottle, and throwing it into the ocean.

6. Why do some women feel the need to talk so much – I mean, do they think, “Well, I’m breathing out anyway”?

5. My doctor e-mailed me asking me what my “blod type” was – he actually spelled it B.L.O.D. – so I had to e-mail him back: “Typo.”

4. A new poll about the 2016 election shows that just 27% of voters would be likely to support Chris Christie – and 4% of chairs.

3. I have a button on my microwave that says “STOP TIME,” and I’m assuming it means “TIMER,” but I’m not touching it, just in case.

2. Always remember: In this country, a white policeman who shoots an unarmed black teenager is still considered innocent – until a grand jury finds him innocent.

1. I just bought a ten-gallon bottle of Liquid Paper – Big mistake!
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

religion & philosophysports

Upward Devotional: Happy New Year!

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It’s January, and that means part of my Saturdays are spent in gymnasiums … one in my church, and another in the public high school across the street. It’s the start of the Upward Basketball & Cheerleading season here, in Midland, Texas. Volunteers are helping the program in a lot of different ways … as coaches, referees, time/scorekeeprs, and delivering devotionals to the fans during halftime breaks … I’m one of the volunteers doing the devotionals, and here was my presentation for today …

Good afternoon, everyone … and happy new year to all of you! Let me have a show of hands here … how many of you made New Year ‘s Resolutions for 2015? … okay … now, how many of you are still keeping those resolutions?
[Read more →]

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Totally bizarre officiating sinks Lions

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What’s worse than a terrible call that changes the outcome of a game? How about a terrible call that does that same thing but does it in a playoff game? The result is the same, but the stakes are so much higher. That is exactly what happened in the game between the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, and the Lions are finished for the season because of it.

[Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingreligion & philosophy

In light of The Lost Gospel’s claim that Jesus was married, top ten things overheard at Jesus’s and Mary’s wedding

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10. “Who’s going to cut the wedding loaves and fishes?”

9. “At least we can tell our kids their Grandpa attended our wedding; He’s everywhere!

8. “It drives me nuts, all the kids here who can’t take their eyes off their stone tablets.”

7. “No, when you pronounce my first name that way, it makes me sound like a Mexican!”

6. “Today, I’m walking on champagne!

5. “First we raise the dead, then we raise the roof!

4. “Whose bright idea was it for us to get married on December 25th? – Now people will be combining my birthday, Christmas, and my anniversary gifts all in one!”

3. “It would be a miracle if we could keep this a secret for the next 2,000 years.”

2. “Honey, when I look in your eyes, it’s Heaven!

1. “Sweetheart, you do realize that if we do get buried together, I gotta go!”
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: The Cleveland Browns are reaping what they sowed

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Some sports franchises just seem to be cursed. A few teams seem to live magical existences, making one good decision after another, and even the bad ones that are mixed in there don’t seem to hurt. Other organizations just can’t seem to get out of their own way. Usually, it seems pretty obvious to outside observers that some of the decisions these teams make are doomed from the start, but the people actually making those decisions don’t seem to see it. The Cleveland Browns are one of these franchises, and this past weekend was evidence of that. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Want You Dead by Peter James

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Want You Dead by Peter James is a woman’s worst nightmare. You date a guy who seems terrific — he’s handsome and charming, doesn’t mind spending money on you and seems to really enjoy your company — and he turns out to be a crazy stalker. In this case an OMGCRAZYWTF stalker. The kind that breaks into your house, burns down your favorite restaurant, tries to murder your parents…you know the type.

Bryce Laurent is a charmer — on the surface. He meets Red Cameron on a dating site and is immediately smitten with her. He is convinced she’s the one and for a while, so is she. Unfortunately, things take a very dark turn and eventually Red has to involve the police, get a protection order, move to a new flat and get a new job. But that’s not enough. Bryce still finds her, and if he can’t have her, no one can.

It’s a scary situation. A recent article I read reports that one-third of women murdered in the US are killed by their male partners. Do a quick Google search on “women killed by estranged boyfriend” and the results are horrifying. Bryce Laurent is different from many of the cases you see in the news (aside from being, thankfully, fictional)- he has money, and time, and he will stop at nothing to punish Red for leaving him. He is frighteningly clever and utterly ruthless – he wants Red to suffer and he is willing to hurt a lot of people to make that happen.

One of the things I loved about Want You Dead is that first, there’s a great thriller at the heart of it – what will Bryce do next, will the police be able to protect Red, who else is going to get hurt? In addition, the secondary characters are great – there’s a little romance, there’s a little conflict, and the personalities are really interesting. A main storyline won’t keep you reading without a great cast of characters. I also love the way that the relationship between Red and Bryce is slowly revealed. In the beginning, it’s hard to believe that such an amazing guy who could be so awful but over time, as the details come out, you are gradually more and more horrified. The reveal is really handled very well.

This is a great thriller, full of surprises and suspense. My copy of Want You Dead by Peter James was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

want you dead

books & writing

Added to My Bookshelf: Futures Near and Far

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More than once I have added a book to my shelf after reading one of Lisa Hura’s reviews on this blog. “Sure would be neat to do something like that,” I thought … so here we go …

We all have our reasons for reading science fiction. Me? I have at least a couple, and I found them both – well, eventually, at least – in Dave Smeds’ collection of short stories, Futures Near and Far. The title is appropriate, really, since some of the futures Smeds presents are far-off indeed, while others are quite near … maybe a little TOO near for comfort.
[Read more →]

adviceBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten axioms to get your New Year off on the right foot (even if that’s your left foot)

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10. Don’t sweat the petty stuff; just pet the sweaty stuff.

9. It’s never too early to start beefing up your obituary.

8. Two rights don’t make a wrong; they make a U-turn.

7. I may be getting old, but I did get to see all the cool bands!

6. We have enough youth; how about a Fountain of Smart?

5. One nation, under surveillance.

4. The best things in life aren’t things.

3. Quantum mechanics: the dreams stuff is made of.

2. All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

1. (And moving up to Number One – for anyone in a relationship:)
Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

religion & philosophy

THE Christmas tradition … Luke wrote it, Linus shared it, I believe it

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8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

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11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2
King James Version (KJV)

However you mark this day, a very Merry Christmas!
May this find you and yours happy and healthy, this holiday season and in the new year to come!

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports is off for the holidays

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Hey all – no column this week due to travel and timing.

One thing to highlight: Penn State’s women’s volleyball team won its 6th national championship in the last eight years this week. Amazing. Congratulations to them.

See you next week.

 

books & writing

Lisa reads Flings by Justin Taylor

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Flings: Stories by Justin Taylor, a book of short stories, is interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying. The blurb on the back names Taylor “A master of the modern snapshot” and they might well be right. The book is like a stack of Polaroids, taken by strangers and with no context to explain them. (Think Awkward Family Photos.) They are fascinating, funny, vaguely disturbing, but by themselves, they aren’t enough to tell a story.

As always, I wanted to love the book – I love short stories, in particular, and I always want to love the books I settle down to read – but I found this one easy to put down. That’s never a good sign. While the stories were interesting, they weren’t absorbing and they weren’t satisfying. A good example is Mike’s Song, a story about a divorced father taking his adult children to a Phish concert. There is some hint that the divorce was his fault – probably something to do with his new girlfriend, Lori, who may or may not be cheating on him, based on some misdirected texts – and there is some random reference to a neighborhood boy who committed suicide back when his kids were in their teens. It is most definitely a snapshot. It’s an odd, awkward night with this family, full of tense undertones and secrets no one talks about. I can see why some people might be fascinated with it, the way you can be fascinated staring into a lighted window, watching the family inside and wondering about them, but in the end? I wasn’t drawn in. I didn’t care how it ended — which is a good thing because it doesn’t end, not in the sense that anything is wrapped up and resolved. We learn a few things about them, Mike learns a few things about his kids, but you don’t get any sense of what will come of that knowledge. We walk past the window and on to another one.

One story I felt was much more successful was After Ellen –  Scott leaves his girlfriend because she suggests getting a dog and he can suddenly see his whole life stretching out before him. The dog is just the start, the test before they have kids, get a house in the suburbs, a minivan, a carpool, etc., etc., etc. So he takes off, sneaking out while Ellen is at work, taking his half of their stuff, the car, and leaving her a note. He crashes in an expensive hotel with Mom and Dad’s credit card, and eventually finds a new place, a new gig as a DJ, a new girlfriend…and a dog. It goes somewhere. It has some resolution to it.

Now, there may be people who really appreciate these kinds of snapshot stories; apparently, I’m not one of them. The book, for me, was like seeing Waiting for Godot: I spent the whole time waiting for something to happen, feeling like there were clues and allusions that I was missing. There’s a fair amount of graphic sex in the stories that seems sprinkled in at random, more for shock value than anything else; for me, it didn’t seem to serve the story. While I enjoyed some of the writing and found interesting bits in most of the stories, overall, they left me unsatisfied. It was easy to put the book down and walk away because even the stories I finished felt unfinished.

My copy of Flings: Stories was an Advance Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythinggames

Top ten most dangerous holiday toys

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10. Hospital Waste Grab Bag

9. Hello Kitty Tiki Torches

8. Miss Piggy’s Big Bag O’ Pork

7. Easy Bake Microwave

6. Baby’s First Choking Hazard

5. Lil’ Devil: The Satan-Worshipping Game

4. The José Canseco Finger Trimmer

3. The ISIS Indoctrination Reader

2. Toddlers & Tiaras‘ Official You’re Never Too Young To Twerk Outfit

1. Mr. Wizard’s Live-Culture Ebola Kit

 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

educationvirtual children by Scott Warnock

Video games and boys’ literacy

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So, to me, these two dudes – and I wanna stress that they are dudes — in my house seem to be at the video games a lot. I thought this would never happen to me.  I thought I would steer them to loftier pursuits. But there they, at FIFA and Minecraft. I have this awful feeling their brains are leaking intellect because of video games. I particularly worry about the brightness of their literacy lights. [Read more →]

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Networks change schedules for Johnny Manziel

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Unlike a friend of mine, I am not one of those people that has ten televisions and the ability to watch all of the NFL games at once. That’s not to say I don’t wish that I were, but it is not my reality. On Sundays, if the Eagles are not playing at 1:00, I look at FOX and CBS to see which games they are carrying and I pick one to check out. Most often, I end up watching FOX, as they are usually carrying NFC games, and I am partial to that conference. This past Sunday, I was totally confused when I put on FOX and saw a game between the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals, two AFC teams. I had never seen that before, so it made me curious. It turns out that the reason was a predictable one: Johnny Manziel.

[Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingmoney

Top ten least popular mall stores

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10. Big, Tall & Gay

9. Banana Dictatorship

8. Holly of Fredericksburg

7. Organ Donation Shack

6. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Kale

5. Turban Outfitters

4. Abercrombie & Bitch

3. Bed, Bath & Beyoncé

2. Chick-fil-A-Hole

1. Old Merchant Marines

 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: The death of a college football program

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Students and fans of the University of Alabama-Birmingham were dealt a tremendous blow this week when the school decided to shut down its football program. No one is more directly affected than the players and coaches, who will see the work they have done to build this program flushed away with barely a thank you. Although there was not a lot of history in this program, as it only started in 1991, the team just finished its most successful season in a decade and things were looking up. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingenvironment & nature

Top ten answers to the question, “How cold is it?”

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10. It’s so cold, this morning, the early bird catching the worm had gloves on.

9. It’s so cold, the optician was giving away free ice scrapers with every new pair of eyeglasses.

8. It’s so cold, hitchhikers are holding up pictures of thumbs.

7. It’s so cold, cab drivers are flipping people off with their mittens.

6. It’s so cold, people were contracting Ebola just for the fever.

5. It’s so cold, I chipped a tooth on some broth.

4. It’s so cold, if I had a stick up my butt, it’d be a popsicle.

3. It’s so cold, my aunt slipped on some ice and accidently keyed someone’s Mercedes…with her nipple!

2. It’s so cold, the Blue Man Group turned Caucasian-colored!

1. It’s so cold, Starbucks was serving coffee on a stick.
 

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.