Tag Archives: audio

#25: Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities by Chris Kluwe

Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies

I didn’t know who Chris Kluwe was until his wrote his amazing piece for Deadspin that many know as Lustful Cockmonsters.  Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote an open letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti asking him to force his players to shut up about civil rights.  Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo spoke out in favor of gay marriage and Burns decided he should use his position to try and silence free speech.  It was disgusting.

Kluwe’s response was beautiful.  Click that title up there and read it if you haven’t.  I respect a man who uses “Holy fucking shitballs” when making an informed argument.

As his response exploded all over the internet, I found his twitter account (@ChrisWarcraft) and found out he was in a band AND was a gamer.  Holy shit, this guy was awesome.  NFL punter AND a nerd?  Fuck yeah.

When I found out he was writing a book I was super excited.  Here’s a guy who is smart, loves to read, plays games, and has a realistic understanding of how an NFL career works.  I heard him on a few podcasts and he’s really funny and clearly does his research about things that are important to him.  I especially like his attitude about the NFL and how it doesn’t last forever and you better have backup plans.

I really wanted to love this book, but it was just a solid OK.  He chose a few pieces that had already been published and I agreed with those choices.  For a few of them he added commentary or quick notes about things that have changed since the original publication.

Like all collections, there are going to be some parts that you like more than others.  For me, the fiction all fell flat.  Kluwe is incredibly smart and well read and unfortunately it didn’t come across in his fiction.  There were too many times I felt like he was trying too hard.  It felt like he was jumping up and down and waving his arms while yelling “Look!  Look what I did here!  Do you see how clever it is?  Right here?  Look at how clever I am being!  Wink wink, nudge nudge!”  It bummed me out because he really is clever.  I can listen to him on a podcast or giving an interview and it’s great, but when it comes to his fiction, it fell apart.  (Check him out on The Colbert Report.  It’s worth the internet time.)

My favorite chapters were the ones about football and I think it’s because he’s got such a great attitude about it.  He understands the limitations of the job and knows that it will end.  For him, it is a job, not his entire life.  He has a family to spend time with and books to read and video games to play and band practice to get to.  Yes, he loves the sport, but his life isn’t going to stop when he’s no longer playing.  This is a good attitude to have, especially since he was released by the Vikings in May and was then released be the Raiders a few weeks ago.  For some people, they’d be done.  For Kluwe, he knows this is how things work.

Overall I was disappointed with the book.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it.  I know he will continue to fight hate and ignorance and I’m glad he’s out there.  Right now he’s probably 15 hours in to GTA:V but at some point he’ll put the controller down, go to sleep, and then reemerge to fight the good fight.

PS:  Lollygagger wrote a great review of this book on the Cannonball Read blog.  I agree with it and wanted to steal it for my own.

#24: I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids by Jen Kirkman

I Can Barely Take Care of Myself

Jen Kirkman and I don’t want kids.

Happily for me, that’s pretty much all I ever have to say about this fact.  Kirkman, on the other hand, has enough experience with being told that she’s going to change her mind that she was able to write an entire book about it.  I don’t understand how she hasn’t slapped anyone.

I became a fan of Kirkman from watching Chelsea Lately.  My husband got into her stand up after hearing her phone calls with Paul F. Tompkins on The Pod F. Tompkast.  I then saw her episodes of Drunk History and decided that yeah, she’s really fantastic.  She was so sincere and wanted to be sure that Oney Judge is honored and that she was wearing pants when talking about Frederick Douglass.  What’s not to love?

Her book is her memoir, based on the theme of not wanting kids and how there are a lot of people in this world that just cannot comprehend this.

I’m lucky that I don’t have to deal with this same pressure.  My mom and mother-in-law aren’t baby crazy and are fine not having grandchildren.  A lot of my friends don’t have kids, so it’s not a big deal.  I’ve never been in a situation where I felt like I was being attacked because my husband and I aren’t having kids.  It’s just not a thing.

Kirkman, on the other hand… holy shit!  I never realized that people could be so vicious about another human being deciding that having a kid isn’t something that’s going to happen.

She tells stories of growing up with anxiety and knowing from an early age that she had no control over the world and what happened in it.  She found herself completely unprepared when kids she’d babysit would ask her Big Questions and knew this wasn’t something she wanted to do full time.

Her life is comedy, but for many people, that’s just something she’s going to do until she has kids.  Many of these people are complete strangers.  A woman approached her in the bathroom to tell her that she was really funny, but things would be different once she gave up “all this” to have kids and presumably start her real life.  She’s been told that she’s selfish for not wanting kids.  People assume that she’s judging them because they have kids.  It really sucks.

Happily, Kirkman knows who she is and what she wants.  Even though there are times when people have reduced her to tears, she knows she’s not going to be a mom and she is really happy with her life.  I laughed out loud several times while listening to her read and related to so many of her stories.

I listened to the audio version of this about two months ago and am just now writing my review.   I should apologize to Jen Kirkman because I can’t remember all the stuff I wanted to say about her.It would be great if I had written this review sooner so I could be more specific.

I’m going to go ahead and award myself the Worst Review Written in 2013.  I am so, so sorry.  I really liked the book and did have a lot to say about it, but my procrastination has wrecked it.

#18: Man Up!: Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence by Ross Mathews

Man Up

Quick and dirty celebrity memoir review:

  • If you like Ross Mathews, read this book.
  • If you really like Ross Mathews, listen to this book.
  • If you do not like Ross Mathews, why are you even looking at this book?

And now, my thoughts:

I adore Ross Mathews, although I just this second realized I’ve been spelling his last name wrong.  I’m a fan of Chelsea Lately and always love when he’s on the round table.  This is where I first “met” him, if you will.  I knew he was on the Tonight Show, but I didn’t know anything about him until I saw him on Chelsea, perfectly dressed, complete with pocket square.

I was super excited to find out he was writing a book, and my fingers were crossed that he’d do an audio version.  He had to do an audio version!  It’s Ross Mathews!  Part of the reason why I love him is because of his voice!  Even when he’s being snarky, he sounds so sweet and innocent.  There’s nothing like a cheery voice delivering a well deserved disappointed pun at a celebrity who has let him down.

The planet had to have known the second he emerged into the world that he was far too fabulous to stay in Washington and be kept from us.  It’s possible this happened at this moment of his conception.  His stories about growing up in spinach land and crafting swears to make his father proud clearly point to where he would later end up.  This was a boy who was happy screaming obscenities at a lake to make fish appear (it totally works) and then pick out just the right outfit to wear for an elementary school rap performance.  (Spoiler: the rap results in heartbreak.)

He knew from an early age that he wanted to be on TV, and he really wanted to host his own talk show.  Sitting on the couch with his beloved mom watching Oprah, he saw the potential of fame and how it brought people together.  It was an opportunity for him to share his love of life with all of us!

His writing is hilarious.  I love memoirs when it’s clear the author did the writing.  This book is 100% Ross.  From the alliteration to the puns, it’s everything I could have dreamed.  I knew I had to have the audio version and it was even more fantastic that I could have imagined.  He’s the type of celebrity that is able to be your best friend, and he actually wants to be your best friend!  He’s sweet and honest and humble and truly grateful for where he is in his life.  It feels like he’s reading the book for you and only you.

Listening him talk about his first (and only!) encounter with a vagina to coming out to his mom (who already knew) to his secret Lane Bryant shame (banned for life!), I liked him more and more with each chapter.  He is sweet and kind, but he will curse you out on a bus of teenagers if you are hateful.

I especially liked the parts with his mom because he does a hilarious and loving imitation of her.  I felt like I knew her after a few sentences.  It was beautiful hearing such unconditional love and pride.

The book is a wonderful journey of little Ross to Hello Ross and I’m thrilled that he decided to write his book.  Squash, dogs, drugs, mascara goo, stolen food – it’s all here.   And there is alliteration!  And puns!  Such wonderful puns!

I adore Ross, I love this book, and if you are at all a fan of his, you need to get it.  And you must get the audio version.

#50: The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

I’m doing the Dark Tower series on audio.  I’ve been slowly working my way through them and for some reason the audio helps when it’s been months and months since listening to the last one.  King also does a great job of summarizing what’s happened so far without retelling the entire story.  The only downside is not seeing how certain words are spelled so forgive me for any errors.

If you haven’t read the series, there are about to be spoilers.  You have been warned.

Wolvescalla

The tl;dr review: Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy continue on the Beam to the Tower.  They need to protect the Rose in NYC but can’t figure out how to get there and back.  The Beam brings them to a township that needs help.  Father Callahan from Salem’s Lot has Black Thirteen which will take them to NYC.  While they are in the town they need to help save the children.  Susannah is pregnant with a demon child and doesn’t know because her mind has created a new personality to protect the Chap.

The full review:

The book opens in Calla Bryn Sturgis, a small township that is plagued by the Wolves.  Every generation or so, they descend on the town and take the children.  Almost all of the children are twins and after being taken, they are returned to the town a few days later.  One from each set is now roont, the Wolves having taken something from their minds.  They become giants, growing in agonizing pain and they all keep the minds of young children.  The twin that is saved takes care of their brother or sister, hating the Wolves, but not knowing what to do.  As the saved twins grow and have families of their own, they wonder if this is the year the Wolves will return to take their own twins.

When the story starts, they’ve been given warning that the Wolves are returning.  The folk gather together to prepare to lose their children until one member decides to fight.  This is when Father Callahan stands up at the meeting, letting them know Gunslingers are near.

Roland,  Jake, Eddie, Susannah and, of course, Oy continue their journey along the Beam toward the tower.  They worry about what’s happening in New York in the times of Jake, Eddie and Susannah.  They fear for the Rose, knowing that it is protecting the Tower and that enemies are trying to destroy it.  After going todash, a state of moving through time where you cannot affect what is happening but can see everything clearly, they realize they need to move quickly to protect it.  As they try to figure out how to move back and forth from this world into their own, Father Callahan appears to let them know he has Black Thirteen, the wizard’s glass that will let them move through a Door.  Black Thirteen is the evilest of all the rainbow bends.  Callahan knows it will help the ka-tet, but even if they don’t want it, he will beg for them to take it away.

The two groups join together.  Roland is weary to the point of being broken when he realizes the townsfolk want to be convinced that the Gunslingers can either be hired or convinced to leave.  He has been through this many times and feels even more isolated from everyone, including the ka-tet.  He is more depressing here because although they’re all growing closer and these are the people who now know him best, you can tell they will never truly understand him and he will always feel separate from everyone.  It’s heartbreaking, especially because you’re not sure how much he will continue to sacrifice on his quest.  Even worse, his body is starting to break down and he’s not sure how long he’ll even be capable of being a Gunslinger.  Will ka even let him see the Tower?

When Callahan appears, I thought I was going to need to read Salem’s Lot, but happily, his story is retold (I’m not sure how much of it) and then goes on to show what happened to him after he left Maine.  I really enjoyed this part of the book even though it at first seemed to have nothing to do with the Tower.  However, because everything is connected and there is no coincidence in this world, I knew at some point it would circle back.  I’d say that most of this book is Callahan’s story, which was weird.  Actually, now that I think of it, this entire book is just a quick pause on the Beam.  It’s not really Calla Bryn Sturgis’ story even though it’s what brings Black Thirteen to the Gunslingers.  It’s more about Callahan and Black Thirteen and the Rose.  Roland begins to wonder if Callahan has become part of the ka-tet and what his role is in the quest will be.

Even though there wasn’t as much devoted to the Calla and the Wolves, it worked really well.  There was a tight timeline for how long the Gunslingers could stay and if ka will have the Wolves kill them and end their quest.  Roland has realized that Susannah did become pregnant by the demon when they rescued Jake and brought him back through the door.  Her mind has created Mia, daughter of none, to carry the Chap.  Although he lets ka decide most things, he struggles with this information and doesn’t want to tell Eddie or Jake.  When he does, they keep it from Susannah and aren’t sure if they should try to kill the child, or if that will cause Mia to kill Susannah.

The Calla bookends Callahan’s story and ends with a solid cliffhanger as Mia escapes to birth her Chap.

#38: Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow

This one is really hard to review because I had the audio version and couldn’t tag parts I wanted to talk about when I sat down to write my review.  I’m worried I’ve got it all jumbled together and I know I have facts wrong.  Feel free to call me out on my version of the facts.

This is a really important book and I’d like to see it become required reading.  While everyone knows Rachel Maddow is part of the liberal media, hell bent on world domination and probably destruction, I didn’t feel like this was a liberal “Fuck You!” to the world.  Although if it was written by Rush Limbaugh, I’m sure I would say the entire thing was right wing bullshit.

What fascinated and scared me about this book was how quickly the interpretation of the Constitution was able to change in just a few presidential terms.  Lyndon Johnson was able to reinterpret the definition of war, simply by not calling up the Reserves.  If he wanted them, he would have had to go to Congress.  If he went to Congress than they would have had to formally declare war in Vietnam.  Instead, he kept it a police action and left the Reserves at home.  The draft was cranked up and everything changed.

The Reserves were meant to seriously inconvenience America if they were called up.  These were (in this case) men who held jobs in the community and if Congress decided it was time to pull them in, the effect would be felt.  Life for civilians would be impacted and because of the absence of Reserve members, civilians would notice what was happening and potentially question the government’s actions.  This was not a mistake – it had been designed this way to keep a standing army small and make long term wars difficult.  By skipping this part, Johnson redefined the armed services and paved the way for Ronald Reagan to do pretty much whatever he wanted.

Reagan was, to say the least, an interesting man.  If he said something, he believed it, even if everyone else in the world knew he was wrong.  He’d keep saying it and believing it until a few other people started to believe it too.  Then he’d say it even more and louder and to more people, and suddenly it became the truth for many people.  This is what politics is about, and you can see it today with the belief in Welfare Queens and subsidized housing that’s better than expensive apartment in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  Reagan said it, he believed it, and he got elected.

This is the section of the book that I really wished I was able to tag.  Reagan surrounded himself with people who would agree with him and help him “interpret” the Constitution so he could pretty much do whatever he wanted with the armed services.  This led to the Iran-Contra Affair and weapons for hostages.  That second part not only didn’t work, but weapons were returned to us for not being good enough.  Ouch.

The saddest/scariest part of Reagan’s presidency is his Alzheimer’s.  When called in to testify, he honestly didn’t know who he had talked to or what he had done.  The parts he did remember, he of course knew he had done the right thing because he said it was the right thing.  It’s impossible not to wonder how lucid he was during strategy sessions.

As interpretations of the Constitution shifted, the most important decision was the definition of the Commander In Chief.  Reagan and his advisors decided that if the President of the United States of America truly was the Command In Chief, then he did not have to go to Congress to get permission to do anything in regards to the military.  He was in charge, so screw everyone else.

Apparently there is an unwritten rule that when you become president, you do not give up any power that was given to the Office by the presidents who came before you.  Even if this power goes against the spirit of the Constitution, you keep it and you do your best to make it bigger.

It’s insane to me to comprehend at how the military was seen during WWII and the post-war role of a standing army to our lives now with ongoing war.  Maddow really wanted to explain what in the fuck happened.

She continues following the path of Bush, Clinton, and Bush the Second.  They all continue to redefine the military, the role of the president, and how war will now work.

The privatization of war is fascinating to me.  According to Maddow, it’s the fault of toddlers.  I knew kids couldn’t be trusted!!!  Members of the military were entitled to benefits for themselves and their families.  A major part of this was childcare.  The government realized how much it was spending on this and was not happy.  They realized they could turn over operations to private companies who would take their money and step in to run things.  From dining facilities to housing to support for families back on base to childcare, the government was able to step further and further back while private companies grew richer and richer and took more and more control.  This led to the business of war and the continued privatization of destruction worldwide.  Companies would hire ex-military and send them to countries to train leaders in non-warfare topics like how to run your first democratic election.  And then, later, if there just happened to be a military action in that country, and say, for example, the winners somehow used tactics that mimicked American tactics and were able to crush their opponents, then… huh, well that was weird.  The government certainly didn’t have anything to do with it since we aren’t over there and the private companies certainly didn’t have anything to do with it since they are only there to build voting booths.  How strange.

This, of course, is seriously hurting our global image.  The States has decided it has no legal power over companies that aren’t in our country, and the companies have decided that the country they are in has no legal power over their employees, so there exists a free-for-all.  Sex slaves are commonplace and the locals can’t do anything about it.  How odd that they hate all of us.

I got this book on audio because I wanted to hear Maddow read her own words.  The way she explains things is smart but accessible.  Although I feel like I don’t understand any of this, I feel more informed about how things have changed, and that’s a start.

Oh, and I’ll leave you with this.  The United States officially admits that we have lost eleven nuclear bombs some where on the planet.

That’s just our country.  And our official number.

Good luck sleeping tonight.

#8: Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

This is another book that I had to get in audio.  Why wouldn’t I have Ellen read me her own book?

Like any memoir from someone famous, if you don’t like her, you won’t like her book.  But if you’re a fan of her show and her comedy you won’t be disappointed.

There are chapters where she wanders about in her traditional stream of conscious observations.  I love when she spins off into tangents and random thoughts that are barely connected to the original point and then winds up far away from where she started, only to circle back and start again.

From watching her standup, reading interviews and watching her show, it is clear that Ellen is truly a kind person.  This book isn’t a gossipy tell all.  That’s not who she is.  She talks about being on American Idol and I was curious to hear what she’d say.  The media was not shy about how much they didn’t like her as a judge.  She explains how it wasn’t the right fit for her and that the entire process was a learning experience that she is grateful for.  I’m astounded that she has so much grace about a moment where people were so hostile.  For her, it came down to not wanting to judge people.  She quickly realizes that it wasn’t a great idea to become a judge when you don’t like to judge people and jokes about not being able to realize that ahead of time.  She wants people to love music and when a performance wasn’t great (or was flat out terrible), she couldn’t bring herself to say it.  What did come out of her American Idol experience was a record label.  She loves music and artists and her audience so much that she decided to create her own record label to bring new artists to new audiences.  She could have pretended the entire thing didn’t happen, but instead she pulled out what she loved about the show and made it her own.

The book is a good mix of her observations about the world that would easily make for a good stand up special as well as information about her life, her show, and her marriage.  It isn’t a tell-all where she gets in deep to her daily activities, but she does share information about what it’s like to be her.

And it’s awesome to hear.

#2: The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman

Certain books need to be heard.  This is one of them.  Sarah Silverman reading her own book makes it so much better.  The funnier parts are funnier because she knows how the sentences are supposed to sound, where to put the beats and the stresses, and how to pitch her voice to structure the horror or glee.  The serious parts are stronger because you’re comparing them to the time she told her nana to shove those brownies up her ass.  How can you NOT want to get the audio version?

Even better, she tailors parts to address the listener.  I love that she goes off script for her own book to acknowledge that you’re listening to it.  Sure, you might miss a few pictures, but you get to hear first hand how she stabbed Al Franken in the skull with a pencil.

She is completely honest about her life and doesn’t gloss over the ugly bits.  She gets very personal and it feels like you’re hanging out with her as she shares a bunch of stories about growing up and then moving to New York and getting into the business.

She doesn’t take herself seriously when it doesn’t matter, but is incredibly on target in the moments where she needs to be.  She came to realize a long time ago that what she has been able to do is a gift and she recognizes it all the time.

The back stories of things that didn’t go so well were really interesting.  I had seen both of her MTV moments where it looked like she was trying to make Paris Hilton and Britney Spears cry.  She came off looking like a total bitch (even though, hey… Paris Hilton) but the reality is that she was sort of set up.  I like when you get the other side of a media story and realize that you totally fed into the machine and were willing to believe what the entertainment news people told you to believe.

I laughed out loud a lot while reading this.  The kind of laughter where you think maybe you should pull over because it can’t be safe to be driving a car while shrieking and crying.

If you like her even a little bit, I recommend this and if you have the choice, get the audio version.  You know you want to hear her actual voice explain the difference between pee and pee-pee.