Book Review: The Grim Company

The Grim Company by Luke Scull

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


What do you get when you cross an aging Northern barbarian trying his best to become a better man, a narcissistic youth with incredible hand-to-hand combat skill convinced of his own importance by a Truman Show caliber lifetime of lies spun by meddling wizards, and a treasonous, jeering cripple with connections to upper government in a crapsack medieval dystopia where a cabal of immortal wizards are perpetually warring for control of the realm?

The First Law, by Joe Abercrombie.

What do you get if you took exactly that, leeched it of all charm and believable dialogue, and cranked the rape dial up to 11?

Ah, now we get to the Grim Company.

I gave it two stars because the writing was sufficiently skillful that I finished the book, but Joe Abercrombie is one of my favorite authors. Even bland First Law fanfiction holds my interest, apparently.

Salazar, obviously, is Bayaz, though more openly fascist. Cole is Jezal, but with constant ridiculous Three Stooges sound effects playing whenever he falls into pig shit or steps on a rake, which is constantly and tactlessly. The barbarian whose name was almost Cole, I don’t remember it, Cohn or something, he was the Dogman, but if the Dogman were Logen instead. The personality was stolen from the Dogman and pasted into Logen’s backstory.

The barbarian’s friend, “The Wolf”, that was Sandor Clegane, the Hound. Woop, left field! Yeah, he’s foul-mouthed, perpetually snarling at everyone around him, miserable, even down to the point where he was covered in burns. It’s that opaque. He was also closet-gay coded and in love with the Dogman character; this was evinced by his being the only character in the rapey grimdark fantasy novel to ever drop the f-slur.

Now, interestingly enough, the Fenris the Feared character, the unstoppable giant in the magic armor, he was swapped out for Gregor Clegane, so he could threaten rape more frequently. This character gouges out the eyes of someone who almost defeats him, just like in that episode of Game of Thrones. He is eventually defeated by the Hound character, also just like in Game of Thrones, though they are not siblings so it doesn’t make for much of a payoff in this. Not that Cleganebowl did in Game of Thrones, either, but that’s another rant for a harsher review that GRRM will get if he ever writes again.

What other baldfaced plagiarism sticks out, let’s see. Oh! The callow manservant/apprentice who travels with the party and hides a dark, sinister secret, the suggestion that he is something more than human and everyone can kind of tell but no one is certain until the big reveal? That’s Malacus Quai. He’s called Isaac in this one, and he’s an alien instead of an Eater. Great.

I’m not sure who Sasha was ripped off from, probably Ardee West, but she didn’t have much of a personality to speak of anyway. She mostly existed to give Cole something to pine after (almost characterization), and to keep the lingering threat of a rape scene constant throughout the book.

Charmless. Gormless. Shameless. And not the good kind of the shameless, where you push the envelope and inspire others to try new things. The kind where you keep stilting situations so your most annoying protagonist gets cock-and-ball-tortured by beautiful women. “Ah, no, mistress, please stop.”

I wouldn’t be this cruel if it weren’t for the dialogue, but holy shit, it’s like he’s never heard a human being talk before. You know what it is? Anime. The dialogue is written like anime. The one character calls the other a bitch or something like that, and she responds with verbatim, “Thanks for the compliment”. I remember the episode of Pokemon where Misty said that, dude. You can just have them say “thanks”. The ‘for the compliment’ part is implied.

I talked myself out of two stars, working my way through this review. One star. It was bad. It was a pale and insulting imitation of one of the greatest fantasy works of our time. I know what Picasso said about good artists borrowing and great artists stealing, but he never really clarified what bad artists do. This, I guess.



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Book Review: Becoming Wild

Becoming Wild: How Animals Learn Who They Are by Carl Safina

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A thoughtful book that, by suggesting that animals are more human than we think, actually winds up reinforcing the truism that you and me, baby, we ain’t nothing but mammals.

We think of “higher emotions” like altruism, familial bonding, and whole-ass Romanticist love as hallmarks of mankind alone, but the fact of the matter is our only monopolies are on pollution and pants.

In the first part of the book, Safina talks about his adventures with a bunch of vegetarian sperm whale researchers and the connections that they formed with the whales. They tagged and recognized the whales, but what’s difficult to conceive of is these 50 foot sea monsters started recognizing them. Eye contact. You’ve looked into the eyes of a dog or cat and you’ve known when it registers, “Hey, I know that guy”. You know the oxytocin is rattling around in those furry, cavernous heads. Consider that same social connection with a 90,000 lb cetacean, because they do recognize you. And if they recognize and socially categorize something as petty and insignificant as a human being, an inconsequential speck trapped in the flat plane of their sky like the Phantom Zone from Superman 3, you can be damn sure they recognize the families they travel, bond, sing, and play with for their 70 year lifespans. Assuming we don’t stab them to death for oil or ambergris in the interim.

Most of this chunk of the book was dedicated to analysis of the whale’s songs, and the cultural mores that develop within them. Different pods of whales have different communication tags for opening and closing their conversations. The examples given from the two groups Safina tagged along to study was a “one, two, cha-cha-cha” clicking, versus a longer “one, two, three, four, five” clicking that designated to the whales where the speaker was from.

“Hey, I’m originally from Scranton. Yeah, where they filmed the Office.”

Whales are doing that.

Their songs are unfathomably loud, traveling for miles, but due to the lives they live if a family member is within 5 miles or so they’re “travelling together”. They protect each other, rush to one another’s aid. They celebrate when reunited after a long time apart. There was a haunting example of a mother who lost calf (to humans, of course), and she pushed the corpse along the surface, through human travel routes, for 14 days.

Sounds like mourning to me.

The next segment of the book was devoted to beauty as a philosophical concept, and the interplay between sexually selected traits to increase reproductive success in other animals (exemplified by macaws, but also by flowers, butterflies, peacocks, etc.) and the weird fact that we also find them beautiful, though not sexually so unless cartoon-exposure imprinting and garden variety childhood trauma badly crossed our wires. Safina waxes philosophical with a beauty for beauty’s sake perspective. I can’t disagree, if only beauty weren’t so damn subjective, but I’m also not an evolutionary biologist or an ecologist nature writer. At best, I’m a boneshaker, and Jungianism can justify just about any philosophy.

It also explores avian intelligence, which is staggering. We all know crows remember people and bring shiny manmade gifts to humans who were kind to them. I didn’t know they understand fluid dynamics and will put objects into a graduated cylinder to displace water until they can grab the food floating on the surface. I didn’t know wild crows design and use hooked tools, which is so advanced that most primates haven’t figured out yet. I certainly didn’t know parrots could be taught geometry, but that’s exactly what they did in the book; the parrots memorized and could distinguish between shapes, and when parts of the shapes were covered, they could still correctly identify them based on the angle they could see. That’s extrapolation.

Part three was an exploration of chimp culture, and their proclivity for warfare despite their preference for peace. Their leadership styles, their predilection for male vanity, their premeditated murder and infanticide, and a whole bunch of other distinctly evil traits that only show up among one other species that we know of. Go on, guess.

There are many books that examine chimp social dynamics in greater detail, so I won’t pull that apart too much here. Suffice it to say, the message at the end was that these animals, who we generally don’t think of as all that intelligent, are just like us, and we’re just like them. No higher, no lower. No tip of the hierarchy. If chimps were around at the same time as proto-hominids, and they got to spears first, it would probably be Planet of the Apes right now.

The take-home is we’re not special, and somehow, that’s reassuring.



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Hubbardton, Vermont: Zen Mind, First-Generation Mind

April 17, 2021. Hubbardton, Vermont.
Soundtrack:
Druids – Yeyin

“We need to hike,” she told me.

“Yes.”

It was never an argument. As I may have mentioned by now, Vermont is nothing but woods. She alleges that she is a green witch. Woods are green. For my part, I liked the experience of being out in nature before all the eggheads started publishing fringe studies suggesting that a walk in the woods and eating fruit is better for your mental health than blowing rails of Pixie Sticks and watching 10 hours of Netflix alone in your bed.

There was also Beefton to consider. He forgets he’s a lethargic couch ornament when you take him into the woods, and goes caroming through the underbrush, gasping like a sleep apneiac in a doomed effort to catch wildlife. The furry little golem is too slow to catch other dogs, let alone squirrels or rabbits, but we must imagine Sisyphus fulfilling his evolutionary pack-hunting imperative. “Sweet dreams of the chase, and a mouthful of blood,” as Thomas Harris put it.

The Witch and I had both grown increasingly feral over the quarantine, I from my anachronistic training regimen and unyielding dedication to my unga bunga bullshit, and she from her penchant for collecting and cataloguing rocks, a pursuit she regarded as equal parts secular and spiritual. The prowling and hauling had left her long limbs knotted with muscle, and I found her nonchalant ability to move faster than me along hiking trails both impressive and irritating.

So why, then, had we spent so much of our brief time in arboreal oblivion locked in the haunted farmhouse, gnawing steak and charcuterie?

“It’s still raining,” I said.

“Well, we can’t just not hike in Vermont,” she said. “But a lot of the trails are washed out because it’s ‘the muddy season’?”

“The muddy season.”

“Yeah.”

“When you say washed out,” I asked, “do you mean we’re wading upstream? I’ve got the big waterproof boots. I’m good to go. Never had to use them when it’s 40 degrees, but I gotta get out of this room. The chair is whispering again.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Never worry about it. Washed out?”

“A lot of it is hills and canyons,” she explained, gesticulating in a fashion both attention-deficit and highly Italian, “so the trails just… wash away. Wash off the mountain.”

“So it’s like a cliff. Hiking cliffs, like mountain goats.”

“Maybe? Good thing we got Cap stelliums to go around, huh?”

“Athena sends her soggiest battles to her antsiest soldiers. Beefy! We ride!”

Beefton launched from his concrete mattress and stretched into a flawless downward dog pose to evince his readiness.

“It is a good day to die,” Beefy said, though not in so many words.

The rain didn’t stop, but it shuffled its feet and hesitated long enough for us to find the Taconic Mountain Ramble, known and beloved far and wide for its Japanese Zen garden trail.

“Look at all that infrastructure,” I said. “There’s no way this leads to a state park. We’re going to get out of the car, and a cannibal hermit is going to put us on meathooks in his basement.”

“We’ll have to steer clear of basements, then.”

“He’s gonna take our skin, Witch,” I said. “You roll around in cocoa butter all the time, and I subsist on water and fish oil. Finest hides in Vermont right now. You saw the Vermontians at the restaurants. Woeful skin. Like the before pictures on a ProActiv commercial.”

“It’s because they’re always drinking maple syrup, I’ll bet.”

This was true, and disgusting. Maple syrup is to Vermont as ouzo is to Athens, in that no matter where you go, what you order, or what time of day it is, they will give you a little cup of it. I asked for hot sauce for my french fries, they asked “hot sauce or wing sauce?”, and I said hot sauce again. They brought me a little ramiken of wing sauce, and my highly refined palette immediately determined that some rabid anarchist jackal poured maple syrup in it.

“Gross,” she added.

We parked the car and I covered my bases.

“Beefy, there will likely be an abduction attempt. I need you to eat our kidnappers before they eat us. Your bloodline reaches back to the molossus, the great Roman dogs of war. You were bred for this.”

Beefton leaned across the center console and licked my face.

“No, dammit,” I said. “I need your war face. Who wants blood? Huh? Whom wanna drink blood?”

His ears lifted higher onto his head.

“I do,” he said.

“You wanna get a little blood? Huh? Who’s a blood drinking boy?”

“I am! I drink blood!”

I opened the back door and he uncoiled like a spring, bolting out into the forest teeth-first, jowls waving in the cold mist.

“Go get ’em!” I said. “Save yourself! Kill them all!”

We followed the trail down past an incongruous trailer. The Witch suggested the park rangers probably used it when the trails were open during the non-muddy season, but that first sign suggested that the great state of Vermont wasn’t funnelling too much of that good maple tax lucre into the parks system. Just beyond the trailer was The Spot.

Which, conveniently, faces away from the trailer, keeping you leaned back in the Adirondack, off balance and too distracted by nature’s splendor to notice the chloroform rag until it’s too late.

We wended our way into the Zen garden, which was gorgeous even in shitty weather, and must be incredible when it’s nice out.

There were two huge boulders with chairs at the top, but only one was accessible. The ladders were washed out from the other one. We could have feasibly freeclimbed it in the summer, but with the frozen moss and our wet, clunky hiking boots, we opted to take turns on the first.

Beefton flew into a screaming frenzy when we climbed the ladders, which were arranged in short, tiered platforms, not unlike the level design of the original Donkey Kong. He found his way up one, then panicked and jumped back down, slamming his chest against the earth and using the bounce to propel himself in a noisy, savage loop around the whole little lagoon. Fortunately, he is indestructible, and learned an important lesson about ladders.

We loitered on the rocks, amassing karma until we got hungry enough to go find something else undoubtedly made with maple syrup.

Love,

B.

North Clarendon, Vermont: Whispers in the Dark

April 21, 2021. North Clarendon, Vermont.
Soundtrack: Bad Religion – My Head Is Full of Ghosts

We turned the widening gyre back to the airbnb farmstead. Beefer narrowly evaded Cody’s lascivious onslaught. Cody would not run. It was a plodding, relentless pursuit predation, like if Michael Meyers’s end goal were a poorly understood iteration of humping.

Which would technically describe Austin Powers, but that’s incidental, and the wrong vibe.

In Vermont, steak is dirt cheap. We stocked up on $3/lb porterhouses and stashed them in the fridge for the lean times ahead. We had rented the upper floor of the farmhouse, and had the equivalent square footage of my row home in Philly all to ourselves. It was a slipshod entanglement of rooms and hallways that didn’t lead anywhere. Single steps changed the floor’s height at random, giving the whole complex the sensibility of a McDonald’s Playplace in dark oak.

“I love it!” said the Witch.

This didn’t surprise me. The shelves were full of obscure bronze implements, faded stash boxes, and glazed ceramic mugs, inexpertly crafted and unlikely to function as drinking vessels with any degree of reliability. The Witch wandered around, vaping herbs and cooing at the scavenged Goodwill decor.

There was a daybed off the kitchen, and judging by the damage it did to my coccyx when I sat, it was made of concrete. Beefton didn’t mind. He hopped up and lost consciousness, likely from the blunt force trauma of settling his cannonball head on the “mattress”.

The walls were covered in light switches. Some worked lights in adjacent rooms, which you couldn’t see. Some didn’t seem to do anything. When bedtime rolled around, getting them all shut off was like solving a logic puzzle, and I couldn’t shake the thought that one of them turned on the host’s microwave and catalyzed the immolation of the whole desolate, wooded state.

It was around 3 AM when I woke up and stumbled down the hallway toward the bathroom. I didn’t try to turn on the lights. Why bother? I didn’t want to cause another Fukushima. Up I tottered, stripped to the waist, laboring through the dark like Theseus in the labyrinth.

Then came the whispering.

Probably a ritual. A Witch ritual. A witchual, I decided. Wasn’t 3 AM Shakespeare’s witching hour? When churchyards yawn and Hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world? Did Shakespeare even have 3 AM? How old were clocks?

This was not unusual for me. My stream of consciousness is more a chain of whitewater rapids into a Niagaran fall, and in the daylight hours, I make an effort to reconstruct and articulate whatever splinters survive the drop. At night, no such luck. Monkeys and typewriters, the full span of the synapse.

I turned one of the endless House of Leaves corners and the whispers stopped. Beefton sat bolt upright, his focus concentrated to a near physical force, staring at a wooden chair.

“What the dog doin?” I murmured.

He didn’t look at me.

I drew closer, hesitant, the boards no longer creaking under my feet, the silence whole and encompassing. Darkness swallowed us, and the single rail of moonlight cast a faint circle of illumination around me, my attorney, and the antique chair.

“Beefyboi?”

He jolted upright, whirling, eyes huge and wild.

“Whoa, it’s all right! Shhh. It’s night. You okay?”

His tail wagged once, twice, tentatively. He looked back at the chair. Beefton is an expressive creature, a full suite of emotion made available from his labrador and pitbull heritages, and I could tell a side eye when I saw one.

I filled my jug at the kitchen sink. In the rushing static of the water, I could hear the whispers again, almost voices, almost comprehensible, some impetus bleeding through the dissonance.

I turned back toward the hall. Beefy was sitting again, staring again, ramrod straight and still as a gargoyle.

“The hell are you looking at?” I asked. I squatted down next to him to follow his line of sight.

The old Victorian chair had a demon’s mask carved into the backrest, a leering, manic snarl that seemed to jump and dance in the shadows cast by the weak white light of the moon. The pupils rolled up toward the top of the eyes like the face was in some ecstatic state, a debaucherous midpoint between orgasm and death, lips pulled back to expose a toothed beak, flanked by curling ram’s horns.

Staring into the carving, I heard the whisper again, bright and pure as a bell.

“Kill them,” it said. Not from the chair, but from inside my own head. “Kill them all.”

I looked to Beefton, but he couldn’t see me. His eyes had rolled back to show red blood vessels and white sclera, mirroring the face in the wood.

“No,” I said. “The Witch is gonna do half the drive home. And I paid $300 for this dog.”

The chair didn’t answer. I decided it could spend the rest of the night on the balcony, if it wanted to be so chatty. I opened the door to put it out and a wolf howled in the chill night air.

“I get it,” I said. I tipped over the chair for good measure.

Beefton’s trance was broken and when I came back inside, he wanted to wrassle. I told him there was no wrassling at 3 AM and he followed me back into the bedroom, where he climbed his 85 lb bulk on top of the Witch and immediately fell asleep. She made a sound like being punched in the gut, but didn’t stir.

I spent the night in swirling, torrential dreams of black mazes, faint whispers, and switches that didn’t do anything.

When I woke the next morning, the chair was back in the kitchen, next to the concrete bed. Of course it was. The face was still in the daylight, but the leer remained, and the suggestion of knowledge and premeditation behind it.

I crouched next to the haunted chair, gave it my own manic leer.

“Here’s to life,” I whispered.

Then I grilled up a couple of truly formidible breakfast steaks.

Love,

B.

Proctor, Vermont: Flooded Quarries and Forbidden Castles

April 16, 2021. Proctor, Vermont.
Soundtrack: Wind Rose – Diggy Diggy Hole

Vermont is peopled, not with people, but with quarries. You can’t spit without hitting one, and the rare few that are not still in operation because they, what, ran out of rocks? – have gone on to be repurposed into subterranean ice skating rinks and swimming holes, the use of which are deeply, deeply illegal.

Fortunately, the police are (arguably) people, and you can’t be arrested if there’s no one around to arrest you. Which, there isn’t. The entire state is an arboreal wasteland.

“Beefton!” I said. “Do not leap into the quarry!”

“I tire of this life!” Beefton called back over his rippling, comically oversized deltoid. “The time has come for the next great adventure!

We were shouting because there was some kind of bird going absolutely bananas up along the wall in what had to be the most obnoxious, least effective mating display I’d ever seen. And I spent a good deal of time at the West Chester Landmark.

If anyone knows what this loser bird is, leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. It haunts me to this day.

My attorney approached the ledge again, heaved in a breath, steadied his nerves.

“Farewell, Bastard. Witch. I’ll never forget all you’ve taught me.”

It was at that point he recognized that the quarry was full of water, and he resolved to live another day. Beefton is highly avoidant of swimming, and if a light drizzle wets his fur he goes frothing mad and barrels through the house as fast as his densely packed, efficient little body will go, smashing into every available surface.

There are times I’m thankful he’s more pitbull than labrador, and most of those times are when we’re near a body of water in 40 degree weather. Do you think purebred a chocolate lab would hesitate, for even an instant? There might be ducks in there.

We loaded back into the wagon and resumed our traversal of the woodland wasteland, hoping to find somewhere to eat. In our travels, the universe provided me with a gift to ensure that my conduct was right and in accordance with my destiny.

Astoundingly, the giant gorilla dumbbell shoulder pressing a car was not on Atlas Obscura, but Wilson’s Castle was. Wilson’s Castle was also closed off to the public under penalty of law.

Not very defensible,I decided. Minimal ramparts, no murder holes to speak of. There’s tactical value in the elevation, but you just couldn’t muster a sufficient force of archers on that balcony to deter an invading force. Especially with the ground-level windows!

Disgusted at the misleading designation of this large, butt-ugly house, as well as at the Orwellian hellworld we occupy that forbade me from getting closer to pass still more cutting judgment on its strategic worthlessness, we wheeled the wagon around, returned my legal representation to the humper haunted airbnb, and drifted into Rutland proper, whereupon I learned what risotto is.

It’s this.

Outside the restaurant, I found an excellent mural of a peregrine falcon. Since a fungal encounter with a falcon in the dead of winter in my picaresque early twenties, I take raptors as universal signposts from Athena assuring me that I’m on the right track.

“Okay,” I told her. “I’ll learn a risotto recipe.”

Love,

B.

Book Review: Hannibal Rising

Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Here’s the thing. Lemme tell you the thing.

As a generic action/thriller, it was fine. It served its purpose. The bad guys are Nazi looters, the protagonist is a traumatized war orphan who lost his aristocratic family’s vast estate and became a self-made doctor after a youth punctuated by radical violence characterized by “standing up to bullies” by stabbing them sometimes. Essentially the plot of Harry Potter, but it’s tried and true, and it serves its purpose adequately.

It has nothing to do with Hannibal Lecter.

The orphan protagonist is painted as righteous and heroic through the entire novel, which is not something you can do for the AFI’s number one villain of all time. He is a sadist who eats people to show his contempt for them. Even if you can relate, you’re not relating on a heroic framework.

Even more jarring was how the secondary characters kept making reference to how Hannibal is now “a monster” and how “nothing like him has ever happened before”. Why, because he decapitated a war criminal butcher who degraded his Oedipal geisha aunt? Because he avenged his dead family? Or because he’s good at math?

The character in Hannibal Rising didn’t do anything particularly out of the ordinary, certainly nothing to validate the doomsaying of all these layman personality diviners. He killed people who desperately needed killing, and barely ate any of them. He was an adept liar and left no evidence. That’s not a one-of-a-kind indefinable murder god, that’s a juvenile delinquent with an IQ better than 100.

But, Harris was backed into a corner on this. He didn’t want to write it. He knew he no longer had the chops to write it. But the studio said, “either you write his backstory, or someone else will”, and Harris didn’t want to see his best character burned down by someone else. Instead, he became his very own arsonist.

The worst Hannibal book. Pretend it’s not about Hannibal, and it’s a decent read.



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Book Review: Born to Run

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A fun book about the mentally defectives who think running 100 miles through the desert is a good time.

McDougall is a big, affable, somewhat self-effacing dude who sucks at running. He wants to get better at running now that he’s approaching middle age, so he tracks down an insane ex-boxer named Caballo Blanco (white horse) who stalks around the Copper Canyon down in Mexico, living near (though not quite with) an indigenous tribe of reclusive ultrarunners called the Tarahumara.

The book is equal parts biomechanical investigation of running, exploration of Tarahumara culture as seen by a sequence of unhinged gringos, and memoir of a decidedly unpleasant race through secluded badlands in Chihuahua.

Sadly, it coincides with my whole evolutionarily guided return-to-nature vibe (lovingly referred to as “my ungabunga bullshit”) and now I’m investigating minimalist sandals or those stupid little foot gloves so I can emulate barefoot running in Philadelphia without turning my heels into pincushions for discarded heroin needles and broken bottles of Yangler.



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Book Review: Exercised

Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding by Daniel E. Lieberman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Let me begin this by dropping some quotes from the group chat where I was bitching about how much I hated the author:

“Um well ACTUALLY hunter gatherers aren’t that much more fit than modern westerners bc they don’t even like running or training and they only run 50 miles a day once in a while so basically what you’re doing is wet, grotesque nasal snivel really normal and okay”

And he keeps dropping in anecdotes about his life as all these pop sci guys do. The intro was how he was in Hawaii to watch the iron man triathlon and he was gloating about how he got to go back to his hotel and have tropical breakfast while the competitors were doing the 112 mile bike ride

Now he’s on the strength chapter talking about how he lifted for six months and “hated it, the gym was a joyless dungeon and nobody seemed to be having a good time”

We get it, professor. You’re an honorless geek.

Trying to refute the canon that humans have been social sleepers throughout history and didn’t start doing this “one to a room” shit until the past couple centuries by saying “well I’M conditioned to ONLY want to sleep with my WIFE who’s a GIRL (yes she smokes weed)”

“And when the other anthropologists on the safari all slept in the same bed I CHOSE to sleep on the floor”

“I never thought of classifying boxing as a sport because I never thought of it as a sport”. You guys wanna road trip to Massachusetts and jump this dude real quick? We can find him at Harvard, he name-dropped it 12 times so far.

Now that we’re through that, I remember why I put off reviewing this book for so long.

The science was good. Exhaustively researched, well-designed, cited appropriately. The author of the book is a dweeb-ass coward, and I cannot conceive of why they would choose an audiobook narrator with a lisp. I had no choice but to give it two stars because there was nothing wrong with the information, per se, and I did learn some things. Gorillas have a 40 lb colon to extract all the nutrients from their herbivorous diet, which is why they got big ol’ guts and don’t move around too much. Nature’s natty vegan powerlifters.

My issue, aside from a disgust that borders on the innate arachnid reflex, is that Lieberman’s a poisoner. He’s using these exercise studies and vague interpretations of the anthropological record to encourage us to be callow and lazy, and to accept these obvious personal failings in ourselves as “not our fault” and “the result of an evolutionary imperative” because our squishy machinery is designed to minimize effort and, in so doing, minimize caloric expenditure.

Which would be just peachy, if there were any value in convincing people to accept their lack of willpower and fallacious appeal-to-nature lethargy in the midst of the greatest obesity epidemic humankind has ever seen.

But since a third of American children are overweight or obese, and a sixth have diabetes or prediabetes, maybe gently whispering “Shhh, you’re fine just the way you are because of evolution :)” is not only unhelpful, but actively harmful.

It is bad to be lazy. I encourage you to feel bad about it, then take steps to correct it. Our closest primate relatives throw shit around a lot, and an argument can be made that we are evolutionarily predisposed to that, especially with the layout of our pectoral/deltoid throwing muscles. So imagine an evolutionary biologist tells you that it’s totally normal to want to throw shit at everyone at your little cousin’s quinceanera. How you gonna feel about that? How’s she gonna feel about that?

Probably bad.

Like this book. And I was especially disappointed because all the topics covered in the book were pertinent to my interests. I would’ve loved to love it, but the author and the speech impediment of his mouthpiece made it impossible.



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Book Review: Low Town

Low Town by Daniel Polansky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I had a great time. I’m surprised this book is getting panned as much as it is. It’s got Scudder’s hardboiled detachment, but dropped into an Abercrombian grimdark world (you hear that, Joey? I made it an adjective! The big time at last!)

The Warden stalks around a crapsack medieval slum brooding about child murders and beating the hell out of pretty much anyone he can manufacture an excuse to beat the hell out of while abusing high fantasy narcotics and regretting it later. He takes occasional detours to adopt urchins and cuss at wizards.

10/10 a tour de force

Unfortunately, I saw the ending coming from a mile away. It didn’t make it any less enjoyable, but it wasn’t a mystery so much as a memoir for someone who isn’t real. In the literal sense, obviously. Figuratively, the Warden is the realest.



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Book Review: Ash and Bones

Ash and Bones by Michael R. Fletcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


It stayed fun! My review of the first one still stands, as it was more a review of the series. In this one the various avatars of the gods collect more magic juju DBZ style, sometimes at the cost of appendages.

Who will triumph? Who will be ate? Find out on the next episode of City– of– Sacrifice!

But like, in the voice of the DBZ announcer guy. You know.



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