Single dad of 4 beautiful kids, Heston & Alex my twin boys, and my daughters Peace and Sky. Dad of 2 angel babies in Heaven, Ryan and Talon. Divorced. Semi-retired app developer, business partner, Commercial Real estate investor, Chicago Bears & Chicago Cubs fan, vegan, lifelong Catholic, voting independent party member, guitar playing singer who owns a dog, and 2 cats. We live in beautiful Denver, Colorado. I started my first blog Janaury 1st, 2012. Official owner of NotBatmanYet.com and @NotBatmanYet Twitter account.

Rowboat Book Club Book #9

I have been thinking about using this book for a few months now. It’s kind of out there. But the beauty of reading is to challenge your thoughts with content.

I picked Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

The novel opens in the World State city of London in AF (After Ford) 632 (AD 2540 in the Gregorian calendar), where citizens are engineered through artificial wombs and childhood indoctrination programmes into predetermined classes (or castes) based on intelligence and labour. Lenina Crowne, a hatchery worker, is popular and sexually desirable, but Bernard Marx, a psychologist, is not. He is shorter in stature than the average member of his high caste, which gives him an inferiority complex. His work with sleep-learning allows him to understand, and disapprove of, his society’s methods of keeping its citizens peaceful, which includes their constant consumption of a soothing, happiness-producing drug called soma. Courting disaster, Bernard is vocal and arrogant about his criticisms, and his boss contemplates exiling him to Iceland because of his nonconformity. His only friend is Helmholtz Watson, a gifted writer who finds it difficult to use his talents creatively in their pain-free society.

Bernard takes a holiday with Lenina outside the World State to a Savage Reservation in New Mexico, in which the two observe natural-born people, disease, the ageing process, other languages, and religious lifestyles for the first time (the culture of the village folk resembles the contemporary Native American groups of the region, descendants of the Anasazi, including the Puebloan peoples of Acoma, Laguna and Zuni). Bernard and Lenina witness a violent public ritual and then encounter Linda, a woman originally from the World State who is living on the reservation with her son John, now a young man. She, too, visited the reservation on a holiday many years ago, but became separated from her group and was left behind. She had meanwhile become pregnant by a fellow-holidaymaker (who is revealed to be Bernard’s boss, the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning). She did not try to return to the World State, because of her shame at her pregnancy. Despite spending his whole life in the reservation, John has never been accepted by the villagers, and his and Linda’s lives have been hard and unpleasant. Linda has taught John to read, although from the only two books in her possession—a scientific manual and the complete works of Shakespeare. Ostracised by the villagers, John is able to articulate his feelings only in terms of Shakespearean drama, quoting often from The Tempest, King Lear, Othello, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. Linda now wants to return to London, and John, too, wants to see this “brave new world”. Bernard sees an opportunity to thwart plans to exile him, and gets permission to take Linda and John back. On their return to London, John meets the Director and calls him his “father”, a vulgarity which causes a roar of laughter. The humiliated Director resigns in shame before he can follow through with exiling Bernard.

Bernard, as “custodian” of the “savage” John who is now treated as a celebrity, is fawned on by the highest members of society and revels in attention he once scorned. Bernard’s popularity is fleeting, though, and he becomes envious that John only really bonds with the literary-minded Helmholtz. Considered hideous and friendless, Linda spends all her time using soma, while John refuses to attend social events organised by Bernard, appalled by what he perceives to be an empty society. Lenina and John are physically attracted to each other, but John’s view of courtship and romance, based on Shakespeare’s writings, is utterly incompatible with Lenina’s freewheeling attitude to sex. She tries to seduce him, but he attacks her, before suddenly being informed that his mother is on her deathbed. He rushes to Linda’s bedside, causing a scandal, as this is not the “correct” attitude to death. Some children who enter the ward for “death-conditioning” come across as disrespectful to John until he attacks one physically. He then tries to break up a distribution of soma to a lower-caste group, telling them that he is freeing them. Helmholtz and Bernard rush in to stop the ensuing riot, which the police quell by spraying soma vapor into the crowd.

Bernard, Helmholtz, and John are all brought before Mustapha Mond, the “Resident World Controller for Western Europe”, who tells Bernard and Helmholtz that they are to be exiled to islands for antisocial activity. Bernard pleads for a second chance, but Helmholtz welcomes the opportunity to be a true individual, and chooses the Falkland Islands as his destination, believing that their bad weather will inspire his writing. Mond tells Bernard that exile is actually a reward. The islands are full of the most interesting people in the world, individuals who did not fit into the social model of the World State. Mond outlines for John the events that led to the present society and his arguments for a caste system and social control. John rejects Mond’s arguments, and Mond sums up John’s views by claiming that John demands “the right to be unhappy”. John asks if he may go to the islands as well, but Mond refuses, saying he wishes to see what happens to John next.

Jaded with his new life, John moves to an abandoned hilltop tower, near the village of Puttenham, where he intends to adopt a solitary ascetic lifestyle in order to purify himself of civilization, practising self-flagellation. This soon draws reporters and eventually hundreds of amazed sightseers, hoping to witness his bizarre behaviour; one of them is implied to be Lenina. At the sight of the woman he both adores and loathes, John attacks her with his whip. The onlookers are wildly aroused by the display and John is caught up in the crowd’s soma-fuelled frenzy. The next morning, he remembers the previous night’s events and is stricken with remorse. Onlookers and journalists who arrive that evening discover John dead, having hanged himself.

Rowboat Book Club Book #8

This was a suggested book for us. I have not read this yet. We picked George Orwell’s book 1984.

In the year 1984, civilisation has been damaged by war, civil conflict, and revolution. Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain) is a province of Oceania, one of the three totalitarian super-states that rule the world. It is ruled by the “Party” under the ideology of “Ingsoc” (a shortening of “English Socialism”) and the mysterious leader Big Brother, who has an intense cult of personality. The Party stamps out anyone who does not fully conform to their regime using the Thought Police and constant surveillance through devices such as Telescreens (two-way televisions).

Winston Smith is a member of the middle-class Outer Party, working at the Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites historical records to conform to the state’s ever-changing version of history. Those who fall out of favour with the Party become “unpersons”, disappearing with all evidence of their existence removed. Winston revises past editions of The Times, while the original documents are destroyed by fire in a “memory hole“. He secretly opposes the Party’s rule and dreams of rebellion, despite knowing that he is already a “thoughtcriminal” and likely to be caught one day.

While in a proletariat neighbourhood, he meets Mr. Charrington, the owner of an antiques shop, and buys a diary. He uses an alcove to hide it from the Telescreen in his room, and writes thoughts criticising the Party and Big Brother, and also writes that “if there is hope, it lies in the proles”. To his dismay, however, an old man he meets has no significant memory before the Revolution. As he works in the Ministry of Truth, he meets Julia, a young woman maintaining the novel-writing machines at the ministry, whom Winston suspects of being a spy against him. He also suspects that his superior, an Inner Party official named O’Brien, is a secret agent for an enigmatic underground resistance movement known as the Brotherhood, a group formed by Big Brother’s reviled political rival Emmanuel Goldstein. Winston also has a lunch conversation with a co-worker named Syme, who is writing a dictionary for a revised version of the English language called Newspeak. After Syme admits that the true purpose of Newspeak is to reduce the capacity of human thought, Winston speculates that Syme will disappear as he is “too intelligent” and therefore dangerous to the Party.

One day, Julia secretly hands Winston a note confessing her love for him, and the two begin a torrid affair, an act of rebellion as the Party insists that sex may only be used for reproduction. Winston realises that she shares his loathing of the Party, but later shows that she is not interested in overthrowing the regime, thinking that it is impossible. They first meet in the country, and later in a rented room above Mr. Charrington’s shop. During his affair with Julia, Winston remembers the disappearance of his family during the civil war of the 1950s and his terse relationship with his wife Katharine, from whom he is separated (divorce is not permitted by the Party). He also notices the disappearance of Syme during one of his working days. Weeks later, Winston is approached by O’Brien, who invites Winston over to his flat, which is noted as being of far higher quality than Winston’s. O’Brien introduces himself as a member of the Brotherhood and sends Winston a copy of The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emmanuel Goldstein. Meanwhile, during the nation’s Hate Week, Oceania’s enemy suddenly changes from Eurasia to Eastasia, under the pretense that enemies of the state had sabotaged Oceania’s news reports. Winston and Julia read parts of the book, which explains more about how the Party maintains power, the true meanings of its slogans and the concept of perpetual war. It argues that the Party can be overthrown if proles rise up against it. However, to Winston, it does not answer ‘why’ the Party maintains power.

Soon, Mr. Charrington is revealed to be an agent of the Thought Police and Winston and Julia are captured and imprisoned in the Ministry of Love. Winston briefly meets his other colleagues who have been arrested for other charges. O’Brien arrives, revealing that he is actually a Thought Police agent as well and was simply part of a special sting operation to catch “thoughtcriminals”. Over many months, Winston is tortured and forced to “cure” himself of his “insanity” by changing his own perception to fit in line with the Party. O’Brien tells Winston that the Party “is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power.” He says that once Winston is brainwashed into loyalty, he will be released back into society for an unspecified period of time, before they execute him. When he asks Winston if there is anything worse that can happen, Winston points out that the Party has not managed to make him betray Julia, and that while he accepts the Party’s doctrines, he still hates Big Brother.

O’Brien then takes Winston to Room 101 for the final stage of re-education. The room contains each prisoner’s worst fear, in Winston’s case, rats. The fact that the Party knows this indicates the level of surveillance on the population is far more thorough than Winston previously believed. As a wire cage holding hungry rats is fitted onto his face, Winston eventually betrays Julia. After being released, Winston meets Julia in a park. She says that she was also tortured, and both reveal betraying the other before parting ways. Later, Winston sits alone in a café as Oceania celebrates a supposed victory over Eurasian armies in Africa and realises that, now, “he loved Big Brother” as well.

Rowboat Book Club Book #7

This is a beautiful book. Paulo Coelho’s The Zahir. I love it already!

The Zahir is a 2005 novel by the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho. As in an earlier book, The Alchemist, The Zahir is about a pilgrimage. The book touches on themes of love, loss and obsession.

The Zahir was written in Coelho’s native language, Portuguese, and it has been translated into 44 languages. The book was first published in Iran, in Persian translation, by Caravan publishing. Iran has never signed any international copyright agreements. By being published first in Iran, the book falls under the national copyright law of Iran. This copyright measure created an unusual situation where a book is first published in a language other than the author’s native language. However, the book was banned in Iran a few months after its publication, during the 18th Tehran International Book Fair.[1]

Intended as a work of fiction, the story has strong autobiographical features, which led to an attack on the book’s shallow egotism in the English press.[2]

Plot

The Zahir means ‘the obvious’ or ‘conspicuous’ in Arabic. The story revolves around the life of the narrator, a bestselling novelist, and in particular his search for his missing wife, Esther. He enjoys all the privileges that money and celebrity bring. He is suspected of foul play by both the police and the press, who suspect that he may have had a role in the inexplicable disappearance of his wife from their Paris home.

As a result of this disappearance, the protagonist is forced to re-examine his own life as well as his marriage. The narrator is unable to figure out what led to Esther’s disappearance. Was she abducted or had she abandoned the marriage? He encounters Mikhail, one of Esther’s friends, during a book launch. He learns from Mikhail that Esther, who had been a war correspondent against the wishes of her husband (the protagonist), had left in a search for peace, as she had trouble living with her husband. The author eventually realizes that in order to find Esther he must first find his own self. Mikhail introduces him to his own beliefs and customs, his mission of spreading love by holding sessions in restaurants and meeting homeless people living in the streets. He tells the narrator about the voices he hears, and his beliefs related to them. The narrator, who only too frequently falls in love with women, consults with his current lover, Marie, about his encounters with Mikhail. She warns him that Mikhail could be an epileptic. However, she also advises him to search for the Zahir as is his desire, even though she would prefer him to stay with her.

The narrator eventually decides to go in search of his Zahir. As it was Esther who had initially brought Mikhail from Kazakhstan to France, the protagonist suspects that she may in fact be in Kazakhstan. At first, he is curious about what made Esther leave, but later he realizes that troubles in her relationship with her husband may have been a major reason. As he discovers, she was interested in getting to know herself through the making of carpets. Eventually the narrator meets his Zahir and the outcome of this meeting constitutes the climax of the book. Through the narrator’s journey from Paris to Kazakhstan, Coelho explores the various meanings of love and life.

In a recurring theme in the book, Coelho[3] compares marriage with a set of railway tracks which stay together forever but fail to come any closer. The novel is a journey from a stagnant marriage and love to the realization of unseen but ever increasing attraction between two souls.

Rowboat Book Club Book #6

I love a good John Grisham novel. That’s why I picked:

The main character, Ray Atlee, is a law professor with a good salary at the University of Virginia. He has a brother, Forrest, and a father, known to many as Judge Reuben V. Atlee. Ray is sent to his father’s house in Clanton, Mississippi, to discuss issues regarding the old man’s will and estate. To do this, Ray has to go to fictional Ford County, Mississippi, the setting for four of John Grisham’s other books including A Time To Kill. When he finds his father dead in the study, Ray discovers a sum of over $3 million in the house, money which is not part of Judge Atlee’s will. Ray immediately thinks the money is “dirty” because his father could not possibly have made so much money in his career.

Assuming that he is the only one who knows about the money, Ray decides to take it without making it officially part of the estate, and does not tell anyone about it: he knows that if he made it a part of the estate, taxes would take most of the money. But later reality proves otherwise. Ray is being followed; someone else knows about the money. After his own investigations into the roots of the money and the identity of his shadow—including trips to casinos and shady meetings with prominent southern lawyers—he eventually discovers that Forrest has the money. He finds Forrest in a drug rehab compound and confronts him. At the end both part, with Forrest telling Ray that he will contact him in a year.

Rowboat Book Club Book #5

This was hard to pick but I can do the other book, next month. May’s book club pick is:

Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a 1962 dark fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury. It is about two 13-year-old best friends, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, and their nightmarish experience with a traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern home, Green Town, Illinois, on October 23rd. In dealing with the creepy figures of this carnival, the boys learn how to combat fear. The carnival’s leader is the mysterious “Mr. Dark”, who seemingly wields the power to grant the citizenry’s secret desires. In reality, Dark is a malevolent being who, like the carnival, lives off the life force of those they enslave. Mr. Dark’s presence is countered by that of Will’s father, Charles Halloway, the town librarian who harbors his own secret fear of growing older because he feels he is too old to be Will’s dad.

The novel combines elements of fantasy and horror, analyzing the conflicting natures of good and evil which exist within all individuals. Unlike many of Bradbury’s other novel-length works, such as Dandelion Wine and The Martian Chronicles, which are fix-ups, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a single, full-length narrative.

The title is taken from “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”, the witches in Macbeth.

#Wordhug

#Wordhug

A #Wordhug is a way to show your love to your friends on Twitter by hashtagging #Wordhug and saying something nice, using 140 characters. I used to do #Wordhug Wednesday. I think it’s time to start that up again. Middle of the week we all need a little extra, don’t we?

Spread the love, say something nice, lift ‘em up! The more you share love, the better our world and your life will be. Don’t hold back to the people that are there for you every day. Don’t ever lose the chance to say thank you, I see you, you are important to me.

Want to try it out now? Send me a #Wordhug, my twitter name is @NotBatmanYet

Rowboat Book Club Book #4

I’m really excited this month’s book is Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

Released in 2000, the book is both Bourdain’s professional memoir and a behind-the-scenes look at restaurant kitchens. The book is known for its treatment of the professional culinary industry, which he describes as an intense, unpleasant, and sometimes hazardous workplace staffed by who he describes as misfits. Bourdain believes that the workplace is not for hobbyists and that anyone entering the industry without a masochistic, irrational dedication to cooking will be deterred.[4]