Live To Tell

For a variety of reasons, I had the song “Live To Tell” in my head all day, and before analyzing the lyrics to this very straightforward and melancholy ballad, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about the song and its place within the music I listen to and think about, and its context in the career of Madonna as well. First, there was a wide variety of songs that were released during my childhood and early teen years that related to a similar set of concerns [1]. For me, as astute readers of this blog will guess, I can relate all too well to songs that wrestle with difficult upbringing and its consequences. Among those consequences, lamentably, is the compulsion to tell what I am thinking or feeling to keep things from being bottled up inside of me [2], even though I can sometimes manage to tell only one person instead of telling the whole world and making my problems even greater.

For Madonna, this song had a particular context as well. It was released from her third album, which contained her first reinvention from sassy material girl to a more subdued balladeer. The song was written by one of her early producers, Patrick Leonard [3], and was released as well on a movie by her then-husband Sean Penn that dealt with a very abusive and unhappy childhood involving the threat and presence of a lot of violence. The marriage between Sean Penn and Madonna did not go well, but this song, which serves as a sort of soliloquy to the main character’s thoughts, sung vulnerably by a woman from the point of view of a man, is certainly an arresting and perhaps somewhat ambiguous sort of context. The result is that we have a slow and sad ballad that helped reinvent its singer and also provide an important context to a movie about a deeply disturbing subject. The juxtaposition of images of threatened violence with the sad and gentle words and music made it a Number one hit on the mainstream and adult contemporary charts, and certainly did not hurt Madonna’s reputation for controversy.

The lyrics of the song read as follows. There is a short verse, a chorus, another short verse, a second chorus, a bridge, and the second chorus again, making this a very simply structured song:

I have a tale to tell.
Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well.
I was not ready for the fall,
Too blind to see the writing on the wall.

A man can tell a thousand lies,
I’ve learned my lesson well.
Hope I live to tell
The secret I have learned, till then
It will burn inside of me.

I know where beauty lives.
I’ve seen it once, I know the warm she gives.
The light that you could never see.
It shines inside, you can’t take that from me.

The truth is never far behind,
You kept it hidden well.
If I live to tell
The secret I knew then,
Will I ever have the chance again?

If I ran away, I’d never have the strength
To go very far.
How would they hear the beating of my heart?
Will it grow cold?
The secret that I hide, will I grow old?
How will they hear?
When will they learn?
How will they know? [4]“

The meaning of this song, especially in the context of its video, is very straightforward. The narrator is singing about the compulsive need to tell a tale. I have myself felt the compulsion many times to tell my tales, whether those tales were the dark stories of a horrible childhood, or the tales of my own fears and longings, my anxieties and personal drama. Not all of these tales are enjoyable to tell, and not all of them bring any great degree of happiness or pleasure to either the teller or the audience, but this is a song not about the reasoned crafting of a rhetorical argument but rather the anguished cry of the heart that struggles with the tension between blunt and open honesty that is perhaps a bit too painful and embarrassing and the comfort of hiding behind secrets and lies but feeling like a hypocrite and a fraud. This tension is surely not an unusual one, and by wrestling with that tension, the songwriter is in good company with many people, myself included.

There are a lot of fears and longings wrapped up in this song. The narrator wonders if a long life is possible with all of those secrets staying inside as a burden. There is the concern about lost opportunities, the ravages of time, the desire to escape but the knowledge that ultimately one cannot go far enough to leave one’s troubles behind if one carries them along like so much luggage. There is the longing to have one’s internal beauty and worth respected by others, to have one’s story heard, to be cared for, to be appreciated. These are common, even universal, wants, but sometimes hard to find in our lives. We wonder often if we have lost our chance for what we wish for the most, and whether we will live long enough to speak of the thoughts of our heart and mind. If this song is not necessarily a happy one, it at least is sincere and heartfelt, and expresses a great deal of my own concerns in life. Like so many other songs, I first appreciated this song while young, and find it still speaks to where I am. I wish I could be further along by now.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/luka/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/simone/

[2] http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/breathe-2-am/

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_to_Tell

[4] http://www.lyricsfreak.com/m/madonna/live+to+tell_20086969.html

Posted in History, Love & Marriage, Music History, Musings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Practical Guide To Picking And Profit

The Practical Guide To Picking And Profit, by Kevin Reid

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Just as this short guide (only eight pages on kindle or so) advises people to buy what they know, and to seek to gain specialized knowledge in a given subject that would allow one the chance to buy lower and sell higher, and thus earn more money, this book is itself an example of the analogous principal that it is best to write about what one knows, because it gives one a certain degree of competence and probably a fair amount of passion as well. Included in this guide is some commentary on the internet and also some advice on the best places to purchase items (along with the pluses and minuses of each), such as garage sales, thrift shops, rummage sales, estate sales, and auctions. Additionally, there is some thoughtful advice on becoming well-read, using the internet as an aid and not as a crutch and some advice on being able to walk away.

Among the most touching aspects of this short guide, and one that ought to please many readers, is the way that this book begins with praise of the author’s father in helping him get started as a picker, and in providing him with early encouragement. Additionally, the book itself deals with at least the most fundamental aspect of picking, and that is taking advantage of the knowledge gap between the buyer and the seller to buy lower, and then taking advantage of one’s information and labor premium to gain a high price from a buyer who values convenience, and doing a large enough volume of such good deals to make enough money for profit or even for a living. Although I am not very experienced at picking myself [1], I have enjoyed the experience myself at least as enjoyment, and no doubt there are others who will find in this short guide much encouragement and thoughtful advice for future reading and research. Perhaps a future edition of this guide will include some useful reading references for a would-be picker to provide further knowledge about where to go to gain even more practical knowledge about picking based upon what items one would want to learn how to resell for fun and profit, whether one buys antiques, guns, jewelry, or slide rules.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/picking-and-grinning/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/nose-picker/

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Book Review: 21 Things The Devil Cannot Do

21 Things The Devil Cannot Do, by Duane Vander Klok

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Chosen Books in exchange for an honest book review.]

One of the more serious and unpleasant interests of mine as a reader and thinker is the study of demonology. Whether it regards my own writing [1] or my comments about the writings of others [2], the area of demonology is one that has always been an interest of mine. I suppose being the sort of person who against my will and without any say in the matter was thrust at a very young age into the heart of warfare against darkness, that I would always have some degree of interest in the field for my own well-being and protection. This book is definitely one of the more practical guides to dealing with Satan and the demon world, and will largely be of interest to those who already have a practical need for concern about such matters. The book certainly spares few words in an extreme degree of confidence about wrestling with the spirit realm.

The title of the of the book is a bit of a misnomer. The book does contain 21 things that the devil cannot do, drawn from scripture and painted in very strong senses, looking at the restrictions that are placed on Satan’s conduct and his limitations based on God’s protection for obedient believers. Yet those examples only take up the first half of the book or so, and the rest of the content deals with some of the signs of demonic influence, whether that is self-harm (like cutting), mental and emotional torment, depression, irrational fears and anxieties, and the like. Obviously, these problems are pretty serious ones that are dealt with pretty commonly and frequently by ourselves or by people we know and care about. After this the book closes on an optimistic study of Jesus Christ as our redeemer, no matter how dark or difficult our lives have been, which is a necessary close when a book dwells on such dark subjects as demons.

Nevertheless, I have a few things against the book. For one, the book seems to take a “name it and claim it” attitude that is perilously close to the theology of Job’s friends, who blamed all the bad things of life on personal weakness and lack of faith, a mentality that comes part and parcel with the prosperity gospel that the author appears to believe in. Given that the author is pretty strident about the issue of faith and the spirit world, it would appear as if there would be a distinct lack of compassion to those who were struggling, and Psalm 88 as well as Paul’s thorn in the flesh that God refused to take away would not likely be favorite areas of scripture to examine in light of the author’s worldview and approach. Likewise, the author makes a few misstatements of fact, and has a pretty simplistic formula for belief that can be summed up as “Good God, Bad Devil.” Thankfully, enough of this book is worthy of praise that it remains worthwhile even with its flaws, at least as an encouragement to remain courageous against evil.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/we-are-not-enemies-but-friends/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/a-picture-of-a-child-at-play-is-how-i-feel-today/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/the-sins-of-the-father/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/i-wanna-get-better/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/its-like-theres-no-tomorrow-barely-yesterday/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/book-review-deliver-us-from-evil/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/its-where-my-demons-hide/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/book-review-spiritual-warfare-jesus-way/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/book-review-no-one-sees-god/

Posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Satan's House Divided | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Which Things The Angels Desire To Look Into

Earlier this month I received a question in my suggestion box [1] from one of my frequent readers, which went as follows: “If we having been made a little lower than the angels and the angels are higher than us then why do the angels desire to look into the Gospel of Christ, why are they not able to do this when they are far superior to us and we are less superior than they. What is that gospel that they desire to look into and can’t? After all surely they can read far better than we can.” This is a good question, and a complicated one, and in discussing it I wish it to be made clear that we are dealing with an area of inference or implication from scripture in many elements of it. Since it is a question of considerable subtlety and complexity, we ought to at least start with some sure scriptural ground. Let us begin by quoting the verses that were included as the text for today by the person who asked the question. First, here is a translation of 1 Peter 2:12: “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” Next comes a citation of Psalms 8:5: “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.”

The third and longest scriptural citation comes from a book of the Bible I am particularly fond of, in Hebrews 2:6-10 [2]: “But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” This particular passage has a lot of implications, including the fact that Jesus Christ was perfected through sufferings, and presumably so are we after His example. For the purposes of this particular exploration, it is sufficient to note that mankind is created with an incredible destiny but for the moment we are a little lower than the angels (although it may often seem that we are far less powerful at present). Like little toddlers who are tiny and silly and maladroit now, we have a future of glory and power and strength to grow into, even if we are still young and more than a little immature on the cosmic scale.

So, why would angels want to look into something when they live longer than we do and when they are for now more powerful than we are? The most reasonable explanation, one that accounts for the difference in mentality between angels and demons, is that what they desire to look into is the process by which human beings can become the children of God. Angels were created to be servants of God (and mankind) and are as they were from the start. Yet human beings are creatures who are created in one form and are destined to become another. This sort of metamorphosis would be of interest to angels in much the similar way as we are fascinated by looking at grubby little caterpillars becoming beautiful butterflies. It is not the intellectual knowledge of this process that draws the interest, mainly the sort of alchemy or even magic (if such a word may be permitted) by which one nature is exchanged for another, the mortal for the immortal, the corruptible for the incorruptible, the fallen for the glorious, the transient for the eternal. This is our destiny, and it is such a destiny that the angels want to see it as proof of the glorious abilities of God as a Creator, and also because it means that we will become part of His family.

Yet not everyone among the angelic realm was apparently happy about this. A large part of the resentment and anger that went through what become the demonic realm appears to have been related to this same reality. If you are the servant of a powerful master, and you know that there will be a lot of messy and immature little kids who will one day grow up to rule over you, that might be enough to embitter someone, especially if you wanted to become a ruler yourself but were created to always be a servant. It seems like the worst nightmare of a British period drama, a sort of eternal Wooster and Jeeves, with some foolish master who requires a wise butler who nonetheless always remains a servant [3]. While one being rejoices in his master having a family plan, and the thought of more loving beings as part of that family, another feels as if he has been prevented from an opportunity at advancing his position, destined to remain stuck at the same place for all time. Much happiness in life, and not only for human beings but for angels as well, depends on one’s perspective, and whether one loves one’s place or one has a relentless engine of ambition and striving that knows no rest. As we too are beings who often must choose between contentment and love and fruitless and lonely wandering, I suppose we can identify with that same choice in others as well.

[1] See: http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/suggestion-box/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/book-review-hebrews-its-not-how-you-start-its-how-you-finish/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/hebrews-10-24-25-not-forsaking-the-assembling-of-ourselves-together/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/what-son-is-there-whom-a-father-does-not-chasten/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/book-review-elementary-principles/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/whats-so-unpardonable-about-the-unpardonable-sin/

[3] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/ask-jeeves/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/dont-go-chasing-waterfalls/

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Book Review: Kick Chemicals To The Curb: Book Three: All-Natural Male Grooming Recipes

Kick Chemicals To The Curb: Book Three: All-Natural Male Grooming Recipes, by Claire & Andrew Bowman

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]

As the third book in a series [1], one tends to know what to expect with a book. For the most part, this book delivers precisely that, even if there are some elements that have changed and changed order that are worthy of comment. For one, this book has a lot more commentary about masculinity in it (which makes sense, given that many men require a bit more convincing to go for products like these), which pushes the length up to about 100 pages (including the obligatory extra materials). Additionally, the book includes some specific products designed to help men with their more delicate parts and has its ingredients list at the end instead of at the beginning. At least for me personally, one of the ingredients listed tends to frequently come from pigs, making some kosher alternatives a wise call for at least some readers.

As far as its contents, those who enjoy the mix of wide-ranging recipes that tend to show several approaches to the same basic set of products (including shaving cream, shampoo, and body wash, as well as toothpaste and many other items) as well as the pointed commentary about man-boobs from chemicals and other unsavory side effects that are possible will probably appreciate this book if they have enjoyed the other ones. There are a lot of ingredients in this particular book that I am not familiar with that seem interesting–the items with Bentonite for metal cleansing appear to be a bit tricky to work with but also potentially rewarding in certain circumstances, especially in non-toxic deodorant and certain shaving creams. Basically, this book takes the tack of trying to shame men into being more do-it-yourself with regards to grooming items, which is itself a provocative but also entirely sensible act.

Although the main audience of this book would be either ladies looking to give sweet presents for the men in their lives or men who would qualify as metrosexuals, with an intense interest in grooming products like exfoliants and the like. That said, the best approach for most men to take with a book like this is to find those items that one would use on a normal basis, and to be willing to try out those ones, and if there are items that might seem a bit too much, one can simply disregard those and move on to the ones that are more relevant. A book like this seems to be made for the broadest possible tastes, readers should seek the most that they can get out of it.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/book-review-kick-chemicals-to-the-curb-book-two-all-natural-makeup-and-beauty-recipes/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/book-review-kick-chemicals-to-the-curb-how-to-make-healthy-natural-cleaners-for-your-home/

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People Will Talk

This upcoming Sabbath, I have Sabbath school class [1], and the theme relates to the birth of Jesus Christ. There is a lot that can be said about this event [2], but today I would like to talk about one often underestimated aspect of the way Jesus Christ planned His birth, and that was the way in which He ensured that His life would be the subject of a great deal of gossip, as a way of allowing the gulf between appearance and reality to allow people to show their own true nature even as they often entirely misunderstood His. Jesus Christ could have planned a poster-perfect beginning that would not have lacked any sort of honor and respectability, but it would appear that He went out of His way to court the appearance of dishonor, and to bring honor to those thought dishonorable, as a way of showing an unexpected side to God’s workings with humanity.

One of the most striking aspects of the conception of Jesus Christ is the behavior of His mother upon finding out that she was pregnant, told in Luke 1:39-45: “Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.””

Here we see that as soon as she found out that she was pregnant, Mary went off to visit her cousin quite a bit far from her home in Galilee. There were at least a couple of reasons for her haste. For one, it was probably winter, and travel in the hill country of Judea is not easy. So, if she had by some chance some clear weather to make her trip, it would make sense for her to do it as quickly as possible so as not to be stranded along the way somewhere in either Samaria or Perea. There was, however, another reason that deserves mention, and that is the desire to avoid, at least for a time, the gossip of neighbors. We do not often think of the perfect Son of God and Lord of Lords as being the subject of nasty gossip, but with an unmarried (but engaged) mother who was probably somewhat young (given the custom of the time and place) and a legal father who was definitely not the actual father (even if he was a just man and not wishing to make a scene), some gossip was sadly pretty much inevitable.

We know this not merely from being somewhat cynical about human nature and the nature of gossiping busybodies, but because gossip about Jesus’ birth were still floating around thirty years or more after his birth, which meant that there was plenty of gossip around his hometown about his family situation. In John 8:37-41, in the midst of a serious argument, we see the following exchange: ““I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.””

Almost universally, the comment by the Jewish opponents that they had one Father, God (ironic, because that was Jesus’ Father) and that they were not born of fornication has been taken as a slur on Jesus’ parentage, the awareness that his birth was the subject of disrepute and social awkwardness for decades must have been quite a burden for Jesus Christ to bear. It is never easy, after all, to bear slander, especially when people use rumors and innuendo to cut someone down and show no interest in either correcting their false impressions or in gaining enough familiarity with the subject of their abuse to know when to shut their mouths and stop their biting tongues. It is little wonder that the Bible condemns backbiting and gossiping so often and so fiercely. Jesus Christ knows what it’s like to be the subject of the talk of the town, and seems at least somewhat consciously to have made it an option with the way He chose His life and family. And if Jesus, a being without sin or fault, can be the subject of decades of harsh and malicious rumormongering, than none of us is safe from that fate, try as we might.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/in-the-lions-den/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/the-handwritings-on-the-wall/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/built-to-last/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/i-love-to-be-the-underdog/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/young-samuel/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/a-virgin-shall-conceive/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/putting-the-saturn-back-in-saturnalia/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/you-cant-put-christ-back-where-he-never-was/

Posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History, Love & Marriage, Musings | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Down The Rabbit Hole

Recently someone compared me to Lewis Carroll’s famous white rabbit, that somewhat enigmatic and overly scheduled figure of children’s literature. Being someone whose relationship with Carroll and his life and literature has been somewhat complicated [1], I was not sure how to take the comment, whether it was meant as a compliment or a wry and witty observation or even a bit of a putdown. When I queried the person and asked him to explain, he said that he had thought of me as being like the white rabbit because of my overscheduling nature. Since I had to accept the justice of that characterization, since it is one I have made of myself [2], I did not take it as an insult. Instead, I saw it as a somewhat odd but rather appropriate comment in that particular context.

Occasionally, though, my reflection about the white rabbit goes beyond the fact that he is busy, and sometimes goes to the issue of the rabbit hole. As someone who tends to somewhat obsessively look at the views of my posts, and tries to fathom where they are coming from [3], every once in a while (or, more commonly, every day) I go down the rabbit hole of trying to think of what others are trying to look for on my blog. I pour over patterns of blog views, and try to examine the times of days that are the most popular, along with which entries are the most popular to see if I can come up with any conclusions as to what is driving people to look at what they do. I have enough information to know that there are varied times of day, to know that sometimes someone is looking in the evening when I start my blog entries (sometimes in a large batch of up to 60 views at a time), and sometimes at other hours like 5AM when hardly anyone is awake (except for pour souls like me getting ready for work). Given the specific viewing patterns and times, there are some pretty clear indications of what sort of people are likely to be looking, and for what reasons, and yet in the absence of communication (another popular subject of mine to write about) it is unclear exactly which person or people are looking at the same set of concerns over and over again.

A blog like this is part of a conversation. Many of the entries are inspired by books that I read, or songs that I listen to, or conversations or situations in life that spark me to think about something that either was not or could not be said at the time. These ruminations combine with memories and reflections of life and history, of culture and literature, of God’s ways and the complicated ways of men and women. It would be nice if these ruminations and conversations, if they sparked interest or concern (or some combination of the two) in others, would lead to further friendly conversations, as it ought to be obvious to anyone who reads my blog with any regularity that I am a candid and honest person. If you want to know the implications of what I think, it is far more productive to seek to communicate those questions and concerns with me than to either view the same small set of posts over and over again or to share them as subjects of gossip and community concern. After all, if someone is willing to explain themselves (should that be necessary), it would seem that to go to the rabbit about their own rabbit hole would be more profitable than to attempt to pour over the same writings over and over again, unless, of course, they are being read with pleasure. For what is true of Darcy is also true of me in that regard, in that I would not wish to deny readers the pleasure of enjoying my words over and over again, only that I wish to spare them tears of sadness, hours lost to anxious concern or sleepless nights. For my own writing, all too often, is born of just those things that I wish to spare others from, if it is within my power to do so.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/white-rabbits-on-the-run/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/book-review-the-mystery-of-lewis-carroll/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/busy-beavers/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/a-busy-morning/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/the-lonely-hour/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/book-review-bonhoeffer-abridged/

[3] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/a-salute-to-freedom-loving-british-settler-colonists/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/you-still-havent-found-what-youre-looking-for/

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Book Review: Evel: The High-Flying Life Of Evel Kinevel: American Showman, Daredevil, And Legend

Evel: The High-Flying Life Of Evel Kinevel: American Showman, Daredevil, And Legend, by Leigh Montville

This book was one of a set of books either given or loaned to me by one of my many book-loving friends [1], presumably because the subject of the book was a famous daredevil and would presumably make a fascinating subject for a compelling biography. Yet this book presented a difficult challenge, in that the obvious skill of the book, and its depth and importance, were juxtaposed against an extremely unpleasant subject. Robert “Evel” Knievel was a man who became famous as a daredevil in large part because he broke himself so recklessly, so inexpertly, and so thoughtlessly. Yet he was a broken man in many more profound ways than physical ones, coming from a broken family where both of his parents abandoned him to be raised by his grandparents, where he became a hoodlum, dropping out of school and being involved in shady criminal activity before marrying and knocking around as a daredevil after failing as a salesman because it did not promise fast enough gains.

The book takes, as might be expected, a chronological approach, continually filled with cut scenes marked “Story.” Many of the stories are repetitive tales of lots of drinking, casual womanizing, Evel being an abusive bully and pathological liar who takes advantage of others (especially his longsuffering wife, who somehow managed to stick with him for more than 30 years). Evel comes off as a thoroughly dishonorable person–cheating others of their share of the cut, showing superficial charm and being a lot of fun at first but also being a reckless gambler and a generally careless person only concerned about his own bottom line and his own immediate gratification, for which everything must be sacrificed. This is true even though he continually spouted pro-family and patriotic statements which were totally at odds with the life he lived. Despite his crusade against narcotics, he even spent much of his sad later life as an addict to pain killers in addition to his longstanding alcoholism. Despite his marriage and his bromides about being a family man, he bragged continually about his sexual exploits and was an immensely disloyal husband to both of his wives.

The book is a very sad one, largely due to its protagonist. One knows that Evel Knievel will have a lot of success, let it go to his head, and then waste his money on women and luxuriant living, ending up a parody of himself and in trouble with the law. The real high point of Evel’s career was his attempt to leap the Snake River Canyon. After that, his career literally jumped the shark, and he ended up in jail for beating someone unconscious with a bat because the man wrote an honest but unpleasant book about him. Far from being a lasting celebrity and hero to children lasting for generations, Knievel sabotaged himself with his moral failings, his arrogance, and his basic and total lack of respect for the truth and for other people. Nearly everyone who knew him thought him a lout. Writers savaged his career, looking sympathetically at canyons and sharks as opposed to Knievel himself, who nonetheless saw himself as the last great American gladiator, even if he was from beginning to end a total fraud with a thin veneer of superficial charm and not much else of substance to offer.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/book-review-the-mystery-of-lewis-carroll/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/book-review-sand-omnibus/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/book-review-halfway-home/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/book-review-the-irish-americans/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/book-review-cryoburn/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/book-review-diplomatic-immunity/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/book-review-a-civil-campaign/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/book-review-komarr/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/book-review-memory/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/book-review-mirror-dance/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/book-review-brothers-in-arms/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/book-review-borders-of-infinity/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/book-review-cetaganda/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/book-review-the-vor-game/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/book-review-cordelias-honor/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/book-review-the-warriors-apprentice/

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Book Review: Kick Chemicals To The Curb: Book Two: All-Natural Makeup And Beauty Recipes

Kick Chemicals To The Curb: Book Two: All-Natural Makeup And Beauty Recipes, by Claire Bowman

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]

As the second book [1] in a series of books about all-natural alternatives to chemical-heavy commercial products, this book is not one that has a great deal of personal relevance. This is an example [2] of a book that is written by a woman for women that does not have much material that is directly of interest to the vast majority of men. In fact, of all of the many interesting recipes that this book contains, there were only a very small amount that I would be willing to try, namely different varieties of sunscreen (a product that is of considerable interest given the fact that I burn very easily and painfully). That said, as plenty of women read this blog, I feel that I can provide a fair audience for a book that is not directly relevant to me, and this book has much to appreciate even as an outsider to its content.

Like the previous volume, this book tends to take a humorous approach to issues of makeup, and is organized in a similar fashion. It starts with introductory material that follows from the first volume, contains an ingredient list that includes the most essential items for the various recipes (such as arrowroot powder, charcoal, cosmetic mica, various types of clay, beeswax, aloe vera, vegetable glycerin, and distilled water, among others), contains a great many recipes, many of which are different options for the same set of products depending on taste and sensitivities to different ingredients, and includes some bonus recipes at the end for more specialized products. Included is the trademark lighthearted approach of the author, which includes comments like this gem from page 10:

“So as I introduce these ingredients, pause for a moment and remember that if you can’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t put it on your skin. Once absorbed through your skin, your body has to fight to clean up toxic agents. Your liver can only do so much. So let’s help ourselves look amazing, stay clean, and fatten our bank accounts.”

Not only does this book have a sensible mentality that is based on a consistent bias towards all-natural ingredients and an avoidance of chemical toxicity, but the book also manages to avoid taking strong positions on matters of taste. By including a variety of recipes with different base ingredients, the author eschews a one-size-fits-all mentality and provides a variety of options to reach the same end, recognizing that areas of health and beauty are matters where individual sensitivities and tastes are of importance. For this reason, many of the recipes themselves include options to tweak the shade and other qualities of the given makeup product, which in effect make the reader of the book a partner in the aspect of creating their own beauty products, helping to make themselves more beautiful through a knowledge of very basic ingredients and mixing practices. Although there is little in here I can use directly, there is much that I could appreciate, and I imagine that a woman who feels confident in creating her own beauty products, and finds them successful in their intended purpose, would have even more reason to feel confident in herself as a person of skill and creativity, which is indeed something that any gentleman can appreciate on a variety of levels, even without a having direct interest in makeup himself.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/book-review-kick-chemicals-to-the-curb-how-to-make-healthy-natural-cleaners-for-your-home/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/book-review-the-secret-place-of-the-most-high-for-women/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/book-review-wounded-women-of-the-bible/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/book-review-what-about-women/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/book-review-love-letters-from-the-edge/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/book-review-overcoming-abuse-gods-way/

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What Your Poo Says About You

Earlier today I had a conversation with one of my friends who has a coffee table book for conversation called “What Your Poo Says About You” as a way to test how fun guests are if they are willing to talk about excrement and its analysis. This is admittedly a subject that a lot of people are rather uninterested in, and may run away from screaming. Apparently, though, this person has other friends with whom she discusses such matters in detail. I must admit that I have never had such friends myself, nor would I know exactly how to go about signalling that this was a safe subject. As is the case with other such subjects, I tend to be a person of very broad tolerance when it comes to conversation topics (perhaps too broad–it appears to be the source of considerable trouble), but a person who is terribly shy about bringing up such subjects, even if I am generally welcome to talking about them if others happen to bring them up first.

My own interest in the subject springs from two sources. One of these is my lifelong struggle with my digestive tract, which began when I was a colicky baby and has continued through the various intestinal difficulties that have resulted from my tendency to suffer in my guts when I am stressed out. The second source is somewhat more problematic. When I was about two years old, the first prayer request that I know of was made of me concerning some damage to my sphincter that had already occurred and that was making potty training impossible. It was not until I moved to Florida as a three year old when my parents separated that the physical damage was able to heal enough for me to develop that particular competence. Given these two concerns, though, both of them related to my health and ability to function in a normal manner given my somewhat serious limitations due to health and personal experience, I have always taken a very serious interest in bodily functions and what they communicate about my internal state.

In looking at such matters, I tend to be a pretty analytical person. For example, when I look at urine I tend to be most interested in the amount (how much are my poor kidneys overworked) and the color (am I dehyrdated), and I tend to leave it at that, unless I am ending a period of gloominess and my body has secreted certain foul-smelling toxins, as a sign that I am moving to a happier place and a better internal chemical balance. When it comes to stool analysis, though, there is more to examine. There is the color, the size/shape, the cohesion, the presence of proteins (in terms of smell and stickiness), and even the presence of undigested food that is an obvious sign that something is not working out well and probably needs attention paid to it. As a result, over time one gets a sense of what foods are helpful and what foods are definitely not, depending on one’s emotional state and specific combinations or times of day, and one gradually gets a sense of what works out best.

As a result of my seemingly limitless appetite for being analytical in life, I tend to have gathered a great deal of information about my own very peculiar body based on the way it reacts to food. Perhaps unsurprisingly as well, I have tended to be rather cautious and conservative about what I eat, adding new foods and new ingredients one at a time in controlled experiments, and adding to my list of acceptable foods little by little. Perhaps it is not so coincidental that so many issues of my life tend to revolve around the same small set of concerns, or that I should have a consistent tension between being open and being timid, qualities that are not generally found in the same person at the same time. Perhaps that is more about me than any of my readers would ever want to hear, but such is the life, I suppose. I am, without a doubt, full of much that is unusual and unexpected, even if it works with its own curious logic.

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