Saturday, September 29, 2012

Modern Manhood by David Wallace Fleming

I'm not gonna lie, when I first started reading this, I thought I was going to be reading a short little humorous fictional essay (wow, that's a lot of adjectives). However, it's actually more of a nonfictional article describing the path society has taken in regard to what it means to be a man. Still fun to read, however, and I'm pleased to continue giving David my compliments. Modern Manhood deserves every one of the 4 out of 5 stars I've given it.

From the author:
Modern Manhood—it’s a subject that needs to be addressed in earnest by someone, I suppose, eventually...

What’s it mean to be a man in times when most employment consists of clicking a mouse and making a PowerPoint? (Nobody really knows anymore). Trust me. I’ve looked. I’ve read. I’ve asked around the usual places.

There are people who can give a biblical interpretation; there are people who can give a biological interpretation; there are people who can give an interpretation based upon historical inequality. But if you’ve ever asked yourself, “Am I there yet? Is this it?” or “Wasn’t there supposed to be a boom—some luminous flash of light...” chances are you live in the United States, are between 18 and 40, and male.

Ah, the hopeless, pathetic, forgotten male—is he a relic, an anachronism, a vestigial bundle or excessive upper-body strength no longer needed in an era of unmanned attack drones, seven adjective lattes and dual income families? Was Beyonce right? Do girls run the world? To answer all these questions and more, we must do what men do best: Get our bearings. Not just in space—but in time.

My thoughts:
Like I said, for some reason I thought this would be another techno-satire akin to Not from Concentrate and Growing Up Wired. In fact, this 12,000 word essay has a lot in common with what I believe to be its fictional counterpart, Growing Up Wired, which is a fantastic fictional story about coming of age in a technology-dominated world (I wrote a review of it! Go check it out!)

Modern Manhood discusses the origins of the traditional 'rites of passage', and I was reminded that while different religions and cultures have different rites of passage for males to pass from boyhood to manhood, women don't really have those. Aside from developing physically, of course (BOOBS. I'm talking about boobs.) So, then, how does a man claim his stake as the 'master' of the planet?

This essay was particularly interesting to me, a 23 year old white male growing up in the Northeast United States. As in, I'm the norm. Nothing special about a white guy in his 20's, and I'm basically stuck competing with every other white guy in his 20's to attract a potential wife and achieve alpha status. No more life or death battles to impress and provide for the women of the village; we're stuck telling jokes in the hopes of finding love. Which is a modern concept in itself. Early civilizations, couples were formed out of necessity to propogate the race, and it was 'survival of the fittest' as any Intro to Biology student could tell you. Even in later times, when we were finally 'civilized', people chose their mates based on who could provide for them. Women were chosen based on their child-birthing ability (the bigger hips, the better), and men were chosen based on their capacities to hunt, or otherwise provide food, shelter, and eventually money for their female counterparts. Nowadays, women care for themselves, and it's that much harder to be a man in today's society. David pretty much hits the nail on the head with his discussion on modern manhood.

Oh, I have to say that I really enjoyed the little tidbit about the new American 'rite of passage', which entails losing one's virginity. Quite a ways away from ancient traditions of leaving sons out in the wilderness to fend for themselves and earn their status as men, wouldn't you say? ;)

- Justin

Monday, September 24, 2012

Legend of the Chosen by Jennifer Selzer & Daniel Huber

Legend of the Chosen was sent to me by the author for an honest review (which is still a fantastic feeling, being asked for my opinion). It was an interesting blend of science fiction, fantasy-adventure, with a splash of prophecy and mythology. It was very well put together and I can easily see this appealing to basically any demographic. Reads like a young adult novel, but with enough impact to appeal to older generations as well. I had a blast reading this, and give it 5 out of 5 stars for entertaining me like it did.

From the publisher:
Bethel, the charmed central planet of the galaxy is on the brink of the year’s most anticipated event: the celebrated Twilight Bloom. Quade Decairus has no reason to believe that this year will be any different than those in the past: food and music, friends and the good cheer of those he loves the most. So why has he been plagued with nightmares of the end of his world coming on this very night?
Prophecies masked as legends. Impossible visions, bringing universal destruction. Only one man can seek those chosen to stop the evil and save them all.
In a world rich with magic and technology, a seamless blend of Fantasy and Sci-Fi, Destiny’s Kingdom explores Quade’s journey as he quests to save a galaxy that has always known peace and prosperity from a powerful evil only he can face.

My thoughts:
I thought this was a wildly inventive story that kept my attention from start to finish. I couldn't help but feel myself drawn into the plot, worrying about whether Quade would be able to embrace his destiny as one of the Chosen and save the galaxy, whether Trina would be alright, and whether Clea would be taken for a ride with Ryder's contracts; I really don't trust him and while I know Clea can take care of herself, I hope he doesn't interfere with her destiny. Clearly, I get too invested in fictional characters.

Some of the chapters threw me for a loop though. Who's Shylo, and what's his relationship to the Legend of the Chosen? I assume these questions will be answered in the next book in the series, as well as the rest of the questions left unanswered by the novel's cliffhanger ending. Not that that's a bad thing, of course. It just pulls me into the next book that much quicker.

While this book can certainly be categorized as a sci-fi or a fantasy/adventure, adding an element of mythology and destiny was a nice touch. Quade has his emissaries, messengers of the gods who spent months telling him his destiny and trying to get him to accept it, while Clea receives regular visits from the muse Avalon. Then of course, there's the Avé, who sort of makes me think of Alan Rickman in Dogma. Yes, the Avé wasn't exactly the voice of God, rather he was a semi-deity in my eyes, but there was just something about him that made me think that. It was interesting seeing a futuristic, alternate universe that still involved gods and religion and prophecy; these concepts are generally relegated to medieval stories such as Game of Thrones and the like.

Legend of the Chosen was very well put together and integrated; while there are plenty of questions left unanswered, this was the authors' choice and not simply a lack of information and plot holes. Very pleased with this novel, and I cannot wait to open up the second book in the series.

- Justin :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Control the Crazy by Vinny Guadagnino

Honestly, I opened this book up knowing full well it was written by one of the castmates of the hot mess of a show Jersey Shore. I had expectations for this book, and they weren't set very high (after seeing that Snooki and the Situation had both put books out, I sort of lost faith in humanity). I have to admit, while some parts of this book gave my friends plenty of ammo to judge me on (re: 'spiritual swagger', I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of this book, and it earned the 4 out of 5 stars I'm giving it.

This book looked, smelled, and sounded like another so-called self help book written by a self-centered individual as an excuse to get a nonmemoir memoir into publication. While Vinny brought his own battle with chronic generalized anxiety disorder into his writing, I was rather surprised that it was a very well-put together anxiety and stress control program. Themes from Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, and other successful and renowned authors were discussed in a way that was easy to understand and (dare I say it?!) relate to. Clearly written for the same demographic that watches his show, in my opinion, Control the Crazy appeals and relates to 20-something year olds seeking confidence while hiding their stress, anxiety, and insecurity.

That being said, there are some things that I'm really surprised were allowed into this book by the publishers. I would have probably smacked Vinny if I edited his book and saw that he really decided to write about spiritual swagger. Because honestly, what the hell? It's a good concept, I just died a little inside when I saw that combination of words. There were a few other choice topics and statements mentioned throughout this book that made me shiver a little at their actually being in print, but for the most part I felt like I was reading a spiritual self help book, written exclusively for young adults.

Sooo I guess you can't judge a book by its cover, or an author by the train wreck of a television show he's starred on for six seasons. Like I said, I was pleasantly surprised and I definitely would recommend this to anyone who's feeling anxious, run down or depressed, or for anyone who's just looking for a few more tricks to managing their stress levels. I, for one, started going to the gym again this week, am going to at least monitor what I'm eating. If not actually start controlling my diet, and I may or may not look into yoga classes or iPad apps, because I'm cool like that. The tips mentioned by Vinny are almost all common sense, and are easy concepts to grasp and to start putting into effect in your daily life.. Check it out for yourself if you don't believe me!

- Justin

PS- While I know I was a bit harsh about Jersey Shore, understand that I do have a mild to moderate addiction to it, and look forward to watching season six. I think America needs to admit to its preoccupation with watching other people's drama and ridiculousness, and bring more sitcoms back on the air. That's a post better saved for another day. Just know that I do like this show, regardless of its hot-mess status in my mind :)