Friday, December 26, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I watched No Country for Old Men. Then I read the book No Country for Old Men. I found out about his other books including The Road. In my researching about The Road, I found that Oprah had this book on her book list. Naturally my first reaction was, "great, this is some chick book." But knowing the premise of the book, I was a little confused as to how this could be a chick book.

Finally the day came when my copy came in the mail ... an eBay purchase while wondering what I was going to do for a good read over the holidays. I dipped in it the first couple of nights getting to page 50. It was as morbid as it had sounded. Depressing, dreary and hopeless. How could I read such a book around Christmas time?

Last night, after taking a late-afternoon nap, I knew I would be up awhile. I continued from page 50. I told myself I would stop on page 187 ... one hundred pages before the end. It was getting late and Jill had already fallen asleep. I kept reading. Page 200. I'll stop at 220. Page 234. I'll stop at page 250. Page 261 ... OK I'll finish it. I closed the book and couldn't fall asleep. I was too horrified of our own world's future and what I would do with my wife and four kids. I didn't fall asleep quickly.

The Summary

Spoiler Alert ... if you want to read the book and don't want to know what happens, skip this section.

The story is about a man and his son who are trying to survive in a bleak and barren landscape in some unknown post-apocalyptic time. They are in the southwest of the United States and are trying to get to the Pacific Coast. They travel through mountains, abandoned towns, ranches and roads. They push a shopping cart that has all their possessions. They stop at stores, homes and anyplace that might have food and scavenge as best as they can. They are always fighting starvation.

Where is the mother? She killed herself. Shortly after the destruction of the world, she gave birth to their son. The father and mother argued for weeks about suicide. She reasoned that if they got caught, they would rape them all, kill them and eat them. The father wants to go on, but the mother opts out.

The father tries as best as he can to keep hope alive in his son. He tries to protect his youthful eyes from the atrocities of their world, but he doesn't fully succeed. The father tells the boy to kill himself with the gun they have, if he is ever caught by the cannibals. At one point, the boy is caught, but the father manages to fire off one of his two remaining bullets and kills the intruder. At another point in their journey, they come across a ranch. They find it is being lived in. They find a locked door. They haven't eaten in days. The father breaks open the door, holds the light up. To their horror they find naked people crying "help us." One person is laying down ... his leg missing.

Thankfully, the two escape from that nightmare and find celestial bliss. The father finds a sealed bomb shelter stocked full of canned foods and meat and water. It is Christmas for them. They eat well, sleep in peace and bathe with hot water. They find new clothes and are able to restock their shopping cart.

Shortly after, they find an old man on the road. The boy begs the father to help him. They give him food and let the old man dine with them that night. It is a wonder this old relic is alive. He says he's 90, but know one knows, including the old man. This brings up another, key aspect of the book. The boy is always wanting to help anyone they find. He is shocked beyond belief when he finds out there are people who would want to eat him or anyone else. The father tries to reason with the boy by telling him they cannot help other people or they will die. It is a struggle to keep alive, but at the same time, it is a struggle to keep human.

They finally make it to the ocean. It is not blue and this disheartens the boy. They find a boat and are able to restock again. The boy gets sick, but gets better. They find a seaport. Someone tries to kill them with a bow and arrow. But they are manned with a flare gun from the boat.

Later the father becomes deathly ill and dies. But he tells his son that they can always talk. The boy just has to talk to him in his head and the father will respond. Another man, fully armed, takes the boy in. The man has a wife and two kids.

I could hardly get through those last pages of the book. It took all I had to hold back the tears as they both knew the father was going to die. That feeling of being abandoned in such a dark world would be permanent after the father died. It was something the boy faced the entire book. Often the father would go out to scavenge while the boy slept. This was the most stressing part for me. I couldn't help but put myself in the dad's shoes and think of one of my kids in the boy's shoes. It really tugged at my heart.


The book was indeed great. I am amazed at how McCarthy can paint such a vivid story with his style of writing. As I said, once I got into it, I could not put it down. Today on our walk, my wife and I were talking about this book and 2012. Many think the world will end in 2012. Thus the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies and books will be abundant these next four years. This book kept me awake long after I had finished it. It still haunts me. If you are LDS, you will feel this strong urgency to get your food storage ready after you read this book. I swear that family with the stocked bomb shelter must have been LDS ... well, on second thought maybe not ... it had lots of coffee!

Like I was telling Jill, the book isn't about the end of the world. It is about a father and son and keeping hope and the fire alive within yourself and your posterity. As depressing as the book was, the message was as hopeful as you can get. In the face of all despair, this little boy proved to be a brilliant light in utter darkness.

This book will also be made into a movie. Viggo Mortenson will play the father. It comes out sometime in 2009.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Midnight Carol by Patricia K. Davis

This book has been sitting on our shelf for quite some time. I have no idea who gave it to us. But I'm sure it is a Christmas present from someone in our family. The problem with Christmas books is that there are so many of them. A few years ago we must have had a half dozen Christmas books littering the shelf. I think I took the lot of them to Half-Priced books. Most of them were short story books. Somehow this one escaped the selling and I'm glad it did.

I went looking for a book to read having just finished Where Eagles Dare. I spotted the word 'carol' and the green bookcover and I was hooked.

The Summary

Charles Dickens is a little down on his luck. After experiencing great success, he struggles to write his next great story. Haunted by his own past and his future, while on a walk in the London fog, Charles Dickens became determined to not become like his father. In a great rush of enthusiasm, Charles writes A Christmas Carol and almost single-handedly sees to printing of his story. With the help of a local urchin boy and his close friend, Charles is able to overcome the greediness of his publishers and successfully sell his story to the entire public ... both rich and poor. As a result, he rekindles the spirit of Christmas that had been quashed 200 years earlier by Cromwell.


The author uses a lot of flowery words. I struggled the first several pages getting through her descriptions of things. Obviously she was trying to make it colorful, but sometimes I found myself re-reading a paragraph a few times to be sure I wasn't missing anything only to find out she was simply saying "the fog moved in." Although short, it is not a quick read. I think it is meant to be sipped and not slogged.

The book is fiction. The inside cover states it is fact-based, but I still wondered what was fact and what was reality. So I tried to do some googling, but I didn't really find anything. Mental Floss had a little blurb about Dickens saving Christmas, but that post didn't give too many details. I wish the author would have written an appendix stating what was fact and what was fiction in her novel.

The real question about this book is, "does it bring in the Spirit of Christmas?" and the answer is, "sure." The book gives you warm fuzzies and would give you even more warm fuzzies if it were snowing outside and you cuddled up with this book next to the fireplace. It has the same effect as watching one of those hundreds of Hallmark movies that fill the channels this time of year. It leaves you with a good feeling.

So if you're looking for a quick holiday read this week, and you find this book laying around, pick it up and give it a read.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Like Where Eagles Dare, I ended up reading No Country for Old Men after watching the movie. I enjoy the Coen brothers' movies and as such decided to watch the movie. After watching and enjoying (if that is the right word) the movie, I found the Cormac McCarthy section at the local library and checked out the book.

The Summary

A hunter named Moss finds a stash of cash from a drug sale out in the middle of nowhere Texas. The drug sale apparently went bad as there are dead bodies all around. Moss finds one survivor who begs for agua. Moss goes home, hides the money and as unbelievable as it sounds, decides to go back to the place to give the dying Mexican his last wish. Moss becomes the hunted when a bounty hitman named Chigurh spots him. The rest of the book is how the Chigurh hunts down Moss.

The local sheriff Ed Tom Bell investigates the failed drug sale and subsequently the stolen cash. He tries to hunt down Chigurh and to help Moss, but as the title of the book suggests, this line of work is not suitable for old men. The old sheriff decides to call it quits before he too becomes a casuality.


The movie remains pretty faithful to the book. The plot and the storytelling in the book and movie are deep. Ed Tom Bell's monologues really make you think about good and evil in the world. I couldn't help but put myself in the sheriff's shoes and ask myself what I would do.

Moss is an interesting character. I was really pulling for him in both the book and the movie. But the reality of evil has a firm grip in the story.

Chigurh is pure evil. I've never seen a more villinous character in all my readings of books and watchings of movies. He is cold, calculating and wholly evil.

McCarthy's writing is very different. He doesn't use quotations or punctuation. I liked his style. That is why I can't wait to read The Road.

This is one of those books that I may go back and read again at some point.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean

What a great way to kick off this blog with a heart-pounding read!

The history behind me reading this book goes back to my high school days. In the dead of winter, Dad and I got home from playing basketball at the old church gym one evening. After showering and eating a delicious corned beef and hash with hashed browned potatoes dinner, I settled into our big brown couch to watch some TV. After some flipping of the channels, I landed on TBS. The movie started off with a the rumbling of WWII airplane above the Alps. The music was determined and bombastic. I was hooked.

The movie "Where Eagles Dare" with Tim Burton and Clint Eastwood is one of my all-time favorite. I enjoy watching it in the winter. Last year, after doing some googling, I found the soundtrack to the movie. Then a few months ago while visting Half-Priced books, I came across the book. I grabbed it and started reading. I got half way through the book and then life got a little busy. But I finally picked it back and up and finished it in a couple of days.

The Summary

A team of British Special Forces along with an American Ranger infiltrate the HQ of Nazi intelligence high above in the Alps. The purpose of their mission is to extract an American general. But we soon find out that the real reason for the mission is to reveal double-agents who have penetrated MI6.


The book and movie stay pretty close to each other in the plot. The biggest thing I noticed was the lack of killing in the book. In fact, Major Smith goes out of his way several times to not kill a German. At one point he puts his own life in peril to rescue an unconcious German. In the movie, Smith and Schaffer mow down Germans left and right. They are killing machines.

In the book, Schaffer is much more light-hearted. He is a rancher from Montana and he has a cowboy quality about himself. Clint Eastwood plays a morbid and tough-guy in the movie. Schaffer and Heidi also develop a love interest in the book while the two don't even look at each on other in the movie.

Overall, I think I enjoy reading how MacLean describes things in the book. The action begs for more in the book, but the unraveling of the true plot is better spelled out in the book than in the movie. It took me a few times watching the movie to figure out what was really going on. But the book made it much clearer what Smith's intentions were.

If you like war books, this would be a good read. It was easy and light reading for the most part.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Oregon truckers don't want to waste time to properly dispose of their waste ... so they are bottling it and chucking it out the window. I don't know which is funnier, though, the fact that Oregon truckers are doing this or that the State of Oregon has a law that prohibits throwing human waste from a moving vehicle, which leads me to think this is not the first time this problem has occured. I doubt the link will remain active, so here is the story in full.

Interstate messes draw ire State police report bottles of urine littering highway
High gas prices may be influencing the Oregon State Police in an unanticipated way locally, as the department reports an increase in the number of bottles filled with urine scattered along Interstate 84.

OSP Sgt. Jason Reese said in the past month the department has received notice of a large quantity of urine-filled bottles sitting along the shoulder of the interstate between Ontario and Farewell Bend. Reese said the Oregon Department of Transportation litter crew has picked up between 200 and 300 urine-filled bottles in a 16-mile stretch.

“And just going up Three-Mile Hill, they collected 100 bottles,” he said.

The suspected culprits: truckdrivers who are driving slower because of rising gas prices and bypassing stops at rest areas or truck stops, thus drawing out a trip, by storing their urine in containers and then dumping them. 

Reese said he has spoken with truckdrivers over the CB radio and learned some drivers will collect their urine in a bottle while driving and then toss the capped containers out the window while driving on an upgrade because they are driving at slower speeds and the truckdrivers can maintain control of their semis.

“Which is pretty disgusting,” Reese said. It is against the law in Oregon to throw human waste from a moving vehicle, Reese said, and OSP is trying to find a way to inform truckdrivers who may do such things they could face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of $250 if caught.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Day 4

I'm encouraged by my weigh-in last night. I should be able to make a late-night run to the gym tonight.

5:00am - 3 capsules flaxseed oil with a glass of water

On my way in to work this morning, I had to fill up. I decided to buy some donuts for my team (Krispy Kreme). I need to drink a few cups of water before I indulge in a donut or two.

7:16am - 12oz water with walnut oil

8:25am - the donuts are calling me.

9:05am - two, deliciously chocolate glazed donuts ... so delightful!

11:44am - cup of lowfat vanilla yogurt, an apple, cup of walnuts

3:45pm - one more little donut.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Day 3

5:00am - 3 capsules of flaxseed oil, glass of water

8:40am - 1 serving of hot chocolate (100 cals)

11:30am - a bowl of fettuccini pasta, 1 can diet Coke lime

6:10pm - 3 homemade corndogs, 3 pickles, 2 bites of chocolate-banana bread, a cup of OJ

8:30pm - 15 minutes jogging/running on treadmill, 15 minutes on stairclimber

weigh-in: 203.1 (this is unofficial. I really only count official weigh-ins when I work out first thing in the morning and then weigh myself. With that said, this weigh-in was still very pleasing.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Day 2

I didn't work out this morning ... kids were up because of thunderstorm and I didn't get much sleep. Not sure if I'll work out tonight.

8:55am - ~1 tbls walnut oil mixed with water

11:10am - Company-provided lunch at Red Hot n Blue. I had the Memphis BBQ sandwich with potato salad and a lemonade. I might be done eating for the day ... I'm stuffed.

6:15pm - 3 chocolate cupcakes, breaded chicken patty with salsa and a pickle.

7:15pm - 2 cups of mint cookie ice cream (it's finished ... no more ice cream)

10:00pm - 1 cup of yougut, totilla with peanut butter and jam and a swig of milk.

Didn't work out tonight ... needed to stay home with kids.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tight Belt

Up at 3:30am; to the gym by 4am. The reason so early is because I work the early shift this week.

10 minute of jogging, 15 minutes on the stair-climber, 15 minutes on the stationary bike.

Weigh-in: 204.0 lbs.

7:50am - ~2 tablespoons of walnut oil with water

8:30am - 1 serving of hot chocolate (100 calories)

11:15am - 1 cup of lowfat yougurt, 1 apple, 1 cup of walnuts, 1 can diet lime Coke

6:15pm - 4 taquitos, sugar free soda, 1/2 cup low-fat ice cream (Dreyers mint cookie)

Goal: 180 lbs.

I'll provide updates each day. Each post will note what workouts I've done, what I've eaten and when I've taken walnut oil and/or sugar water.