Month: July 2018

The Reading List (Audio): Make Your Bed

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments! 

I am not worthy.

That’s the way I felt when I finished this one. I think at the end of his days, William McRaven will be able to say that he sucked the marrow out of life. This is a life well lived. Partly because of the things he accomplished, but mainly because he challenged himself to persevere and get through some of the most grueling events that life can throw at you. These were events that he *chose* to participate in. Of course, he’s dealt with bad hands here and there, but he put himself through many of the stories that made it into this book.

McRaven is an inspiration to people everywhere. The lessons that he lays out in this book are things that everyone can use to arm themselves for the challenges they are going to face throughout their lives. These aren’t just lessons that a Navy seal needs. These are lessons that we could all stand to hear, they just hear them louder and more intentional than we will. I have no idea where he got his strength and toughness, but it’s on full display here.

I thought it would be a bit off-putting to begin with because I’m not a military man, and I’m generally averse to some of the voice he uses in this book. He comes across as an incredibly rigid and disciplined man, and I don’t know why that kind of attitude bothers me. It’s so impressive and something to honor for sure, but I have some little piece of me that fights it. I’ve always been that way and I’m not sure why. That being said, it’s something I need to overcome. It’s not a problem with him, but a problem with me.

A few weeks ago, I started making my bed in the morning as suggested as the first lesson in this book. Having not read the book, I didn’t know the reasons behind it, but I knew it was somehow important to an incredibly successful person. It’s honestly changed me. Not just the way my day starts, but also the way my day goes from the morning on. It’s a simple, accomplishable task that you can do at the beginning of the day to get the ball rolling. If you can make your bed, you can make breakfast. If you can make your bed, you’ve already gotten to work so getting to work is less of a slog.

I highly recommend this to pretty much everyone. I think there are sections of this book that resonate more than others for me, but it could be largely different for you. Give it a read and see if it can change you even a little bit. If anything, it shows the limits that a human being can be pushed to and continue moving forward. We all have it in us, we just need to do things that help prove to us that it’s there.

The Reading List: The Big Sleep

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments!

The big yellow button on the Amazon web page was enticing. It pulled me in like a moth to a flame. The name of the book: The Big Sleep. A hard-boiled detective novel by Raymond Chandler. I’d never read his work. It didn’t matter. The premise hooked me. I sat in the dark with my Kindle. The faint glow of the backlight illuminating a world I never got to see. A world of conspiracy, greed, murder, and indoor smoking. I devoured the pages like a lion devours a gazelle. They say words are food for the brain, and I was hungry.

I really hope you read that in a 1930’s mid-atlantic radio voice because that’s how I wrote it. The Big Sleep is considered by many to be the best encapsulation of hard-boiled detective fiction ever written. Raymon Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe is not just a private detective, he’s THE detective. He’s arrogant, smart, confident, and blunt. When you think of a private detective from the 40’s, you’re probably thinking of Phillip Marlowe. He’s the template for every detective novel that comes after.

I’m admittedly terrible at following mysteries. They require a certain amount of thought and investment in “whodunit” and I read like  I watch a movie. I read to be entertained and enjoy, and I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure anything out. I just want to be on the ride. Picking a book like this was unusual for me, but I also love the style of Raymond Chandler’s writing. The way he builds the atmosphere is incredible. He makes sure you have all the details you need to paint the picture he wants you to see, but not so much that you get bored.

One thing that also stood out to me is that he has a limited set of characters that he wants you to know about. There are about ten or fewer characters that have any dialogue in the story, and it really lends to the vibe he’s trying to create. Marlowe only cares about the people that he’s investigating, he’s being paid by, or can help him. There are only so many people that he wants to talk to, so you only have so many people to care about. He rarely describes people on the streets unless they somehow stand in the way of a goal or are critical to the investigation or his observations.

If you’re into detective stories and really want that black & white style, 1940’s vibe, then this is a book for you. I will say that the content of this thing is incredibly dated. The way the women are written is two-dimensional, the language used is offensive at times, and it can be a wild ride into the past. I’ll tell you we’ve made a lot of social progress since 1939. A lot of people want to look back on life back then with rose-colored glasses, but we definitely are better off today than we were then in terms of people and their acceptance of others.

Check it out!

Next up: Console Wars – Blake J. Harris

Potty Mouth

The rise of the Twitch superstar has been an interesting one. There are a ton of normal gamers out there who have managed to amass some pretty huge followings thanks to either their personalities or skills in a particular game. I’ve been following along with it for a few years since we started streaming stuff over there. If there is one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that there are a bunch of folks with filthy language out there.

I want to be careful not to be condescending towards them because a lot of people are really down with it, but it’s just not for me. I watch streamers who are positive, care about their communities, and generally try to maintain at least a PG-13 style stream. The only thing about the other style of streamer that concerns me is that a bunch of them seem to be getting in trouble for saying horrible things on the internet in front of their adoring fans. It’s really putting a damper on eSports in general because every few weeks you see another player who has been suspended from their team or another Twitch streamer who gets a temp ban for some bad behavior. I really want something like eSports to succeed, despite my not watching it, because it’s a cool outlet for people who were never into traditional sports. These folks are talented and they deserve an awesome venue to display those talents.

What I think these people really need is some sort of media relations coach. Being “on” all the time is incredibly stressful, but they also have to realize that everything they say is recorded and matters. It’s not unlike celebrities who have to do those obnoxious press junkets every time they have a new movie come out. They have to be prepared and they have to play their part without saying horrible things or spoiling something for everyone. I think Twitch streamers are often brought into the “famous” arena without properly being molded to it and figuring out how to handle that fame. They end up just being an obnoxious gamer but instead of ranting by themselves in their room, they’re ranting to a room full of 10,000+ people. Someone needs to teach them how to deal with that kind of stress.

I don’t mean to blanket all streamers that way. There are a ton of folks that have a fairly squeaky clean image and still have a bunch of followers. I just think we can do better as a community of gamers to improve our image. I would rather there be headlines about how much awesome charity stuff we do. CohhCarnage raised over $62k for St. Jude in a recent charity stream. That didn’t show up on any blogs that I read, but I see plenty of stories about homophobic and racial slurs all over the place. What can we do to fix that, man? Further reducing incidents of hate would help. A lot of this is just human stuff and works itself out in time for people I’m sure. I know I said stupid stuff when I was younger that was broadcasted to the world. I’ve been podcasting since 2005 so I know it happened. Hopefully, some of these folks just need time and some hard lessons to learn what not to say and how to grow into a better person. We all have to strive for it and we’ll get there someday.

 

The Reading List: Robin

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments!

I rarely finish a book in a week. It’s a thing that just doesn’t happen for me mainly because I don’t have the time, and usually because the book doesn’t pull me back in that much. Very few books have ever commanded my attention as much as “Robin” by Dave Itzkoff. To be fair, I love biographies and autobiographies. Some of my favorite books are those about people’s lives. I’m not sure what hooks me. It might be the idea that these are true stories and experiences that we can all learn from or relate to. Robin is no exception to that.

I grew up with Robin Williams. By the time I was watching movies he was all over them. He was the genie in Aladdin, which I’m pretty sure I played enough the tape should have broken. Oh the good ol’ days of Disney’s clamshell VHS cases, right? He became one of my favorite actors when Mrs. Doubtfire hit theatres. It was an amazing movie that had plenty to give to all ages. There were jokes that went well over my head that I now think are hilarious as an adult. He had a gift for entertainment, but it was also a bit of a curse for him.

Dave Itzkoff built an incredible narrative around a very complicated man. He went from an unknown stand up comic in San Francisco to a superstar, but that road was never easy and his success was never obvious, especially not to him. What I learned most here is that he was profoundly insecure about his own fame, success, and even his own ability to make people laugh. He loved to make people laugh, but he would often leave shows wondering if he did a good enough job. He suffered from enough anxiety about it that he would often call people after the fact to be sure he didn’t offend them. He desperately wanted to be loved. Even after reading the book and understanding a bit of his childhood, the book never truly reveals why he may have felt this way. I don’t know that it could if it tried. People are enigmas, and Robin may have been the greatest one of all. He was a comedy genius and a tortured soul all rolled into one.

There were interesting tidbits about his life in this book that never came through with his public image. He was terrified of not being cared about or famous anymore. Not because he needed the fame, but he wanted the love. He wanted to know that he could always entertain people, and I think in the end that’s what ended it all for him. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s he saw the end of the line for what he identified with. His identity was found in his ability to make people laugh. There’s a huge lesson for us all in here. If you identify yourself as something that may be fleeting such as fame, your mental faculties, your strength, and others, you’re going to get to the end of your life disappointed. Cling to something permanent, something immovable so that you can be yourself all the way to the end of the road. Robin didn’t have that and I think that hurt him in the end.

The sad thing about it all is that he did have people that loved him all around, but once his disease took hold, it was almost impossible for him to see it. It was found in his autopsy that he was actually suffering from a pretty gnarly form of dementia. It caused motor function issues, hallucinations, paranoia, and personality changes. These were all things he struggled with and I think it’s safe to say for us that it wasn’t really him who put an end to his life. It was his body, but his mind was well gone by the time he got to that dark place. The Robin Williams we all knew and loved wasn’t going to come back.

I was floored by this book. I couldn’t put it down. It usually takes me a few weeks to get through a biography, despite my love for them, but I managed to read this one in seven days. That’s a record time for me. Especially with a 400-page book. I think the only thing that compares is the Harry Potter series. If you loved Robin Williams, I highly recommend checking this one out. It was a fantastic read.

Next Up: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Reading List: Muscular Christianity

The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments!

Muscular Christianity was introduced to me by my good friend, Twitter, and The Art of Manliness blog. It’s easily one of my favorite websites for long-form reading on culture and how it attempts to define what a “man” is in today’s world. In this latest ebook, the husband and wife team of Brett and Kate McKay explore the issue of church attendance amongst men. It’s an academic book in a lot of ways but the narrative is strong and it never gets boring. There are statistics galore and a ton of surprises, at least for me.

One of the striking things that I learned from this book is that men’s participation in the church has been an issue since as far back as the Puritan era in America. You’d think that every man in a village would have been in church during that time, but you’d be wrong. The women in a congregation outnumbered the men nearly 4 to 1. That’s incredible to me considering how patriarchal Christianity seems to be at first glance. Since the beginning of American church, it’s just been hard to drag men into the place. It’s not for lack of trying either. As we delve deeper in we find out all about the many attempts to make church attractive for men, and how some succeeded and some failed.

There was also a point in history when the sermons simply began targeting women because they were the ones in attendance, and largely the responsible one at home when it came to the family’s spiritual health. Some of this was because of the industrial revolution and men leaving home to work and pursue earthly goals. The woman was left at home to see that the children were brought up with God in their lives. I found this to be very interesting because in a lot of ways we still do this today. Both parents are typically working these days, but the men seem to still rely on their wives to make sure spiritual needs are met at home, or they simply don’t care if they are or not.

All in all, there were some great things to learn here. As a husband, father, and Christian, I found a lot of lessons to be had and actually discovered some things that had been eating at me that I had not considered. Like the regard of an intimate relationship with Jesus rather than one of admiration for his power, principles, and whip-cracking spirit that is as visible in the Bible as his squishy side. Modern church tends to focus so much on the squishy Jesus that the one that knocked over tables and spoke hard truths gets forgotten or lost in the messages.

I definitely recommend this read. Even if you aren’t a Christian, it’s an academic exploration that at least might be of some interest to you. You can grab the ebook from Amazon: amzn.to/2lM5Gip

Next Up: Robin by Dave Itzkoff (https://amzn.to/2KsYLcQ)