Cowboy Fish Finder – In the Collection

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that are important. Sometimes it’s the simple things that make you laugh. Sometimes you can paint a dowel rod red, stick a black pipe-cleaner in the top, and stamp “Cowboy Fish Finder” on the side and you will be a genius. And whoever came up with this is, and it’s hilarious.

It’s really “Dynamite”

Book Review – How To Traumatize Your Children

How To Traumatize Your Children is one in a series of intentionally dubious “how-to” books by the publisher Knock Knock. Artfully called the “self-hurt” series, these books are put together like a standard how-to or field guide, but cover topics that one would likely rather not have happen. So it’s all a joke, kindof, and if you see the cover and think it looks funny, you’ll probably think it’s funny.

The construction of the book itself is very nice, with a plastic-y feeling cover that reminds one of water-resistant guidebooks or first aid manuals. It’s a nice size and it feels good in the hand, being both substantial and slightly textured, though it is prone to creasing, and when it does it is quite unsightly. The pages are nice and thick, with a substantial binding that really locks everything in place. The presentation is just really nice and evocative. I’m a fan.

Unfortunately, once inside things start to go downhill a little bit. The book is divided into 10 chapters, 7 of which are various types of parenting styles, bookended by an introduction and conclusion like this is some kind of essay. It starts off pretty funny, with an interesting rationalization for the book’s existence at the front and a nice step-by-step guide on how to traumatize kids in different ways. The first problem here is the graphic design: little yellow “bubbles” with competing thoughts start to pop up in chapters as little asides, but these quickly start coming in between connected paragraphs, or in some case in the middle of paragraphs, running the flow of reading into a brick wall at inopportune moments. And the second is that the joke gets old pretty fast, and the writer(s?) makes no attempt to get more creative with it as time goes on. While the book lists many “different” parenting styles, they all end up being described in the same way, and the list of effects they have on the children is essentially unchanged each chapter. There’s nothing new, it just keeps talking and talking and talking. If I had read the introduction, two middle chapters at random, and then the conclusion, I would’ve gotten all this book had to give me, and maybe even had a better experience.

It’s not too egregious, and I wasn’t frustrated or angry as I continued, but it just got boring. And for a book that is basically a joke, that’s forgivable. I don’t think anyone was really intended to read the entire thing. It seems more like something you’d leave lying around for when guests come around, or give as a gag gift (or get tricked into buying at a store) that someone will pick up, laugh, leaf through a few pages, laugh again, and then put down. And it does that quite well. Whether or not that’s worth the cover price is up to you.

I was disappointed, but only mildly. My expectations for a book called How To Traumatize Your Children were justifiably quite low, and this book actually surpassed them for a moment in the beginning, but failed to live up to its own promise. It’s a well put together item, with well done if… lifeless artwork, and questionable graphic design/layout. The contents are funny, but not too funny, and maybe at bit too cynical. It just left me really ho-hum on the whole matter. If you read the title and thought it sounded funny, this might be the book you’re looking for, but it really has nothing more to offer than that, and to some it might still fall flat.

Book Review – Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (By: David Sedaris)

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is a collection of “comedy” “short stories” by David Sedaris, a writer most known for his humorous essays on various “life” topics. Sedaris was recommended to me by a couple of gentlemen on the street who were purchasing some of my books (I mention this because it’s a sentence I really wanted to say) and as it turned out I already had one of his books, though it is a departure from his usual style (from what I understand, at least). So it might not be the most representative of his works, but is it a good one?

The book consists of 16 stories (Fables? Tales? Skits? Scenes? I’m having trouble coming up with the right word…) that are quite short, most being under seven pages with illustrations and the longest being only 20 pages. Every story has at least one illustration, usually at the beginning or end, though some have more (I assume where more story progression potential was presented by the images). These illustrations, by Ian Falconer, are very skillfully done, and in a very interesting style. I would say I am an overall fan of the aesthetic, but there are certainly points in this book where I think the artwork goes too far (though that is, of course, partly the fault of the story). It is very strange to see artwork that appeals to me present such repulsive images. But I do think that the “kids-book” style juxtaposed with the at-times grotesque content works well as part of the overall atmosphere the creators were going for, and Falconer, being mainly a children’s book author/illustrator (mostly the Olivia books, which I haven’t read but have knowledge of), is well suited to create that look (though I do have a fear of this book being mixed in with children’s books accidentally in second-hand shops and the like).

The stories (fables, whatever) themselves feature animals (simply named “rabbit” or “squirrel”) that are anthropomorphized, though less than in most fables, modern or traditional. The animals have the ability to understand all of the other animals (and humans, it seems) in plain English, but they can’t communicate with humans or perform many actions based on the flow of the story. When it is convenient for a rabbit to be able to heft a big stick, or a parrot wear a costume, they can, but cows and bears still prefer to walk on 4 legs, and most animals can’t escape farms, laboratories, and zoos. I have trouble nailing down what exactly these stories are (as should be obvious), Sedaris’ writing is dry, short, and distinctly modern, and most of the stories’ “morals” are not driven home or they are dunked in woe. Still, they most resemble fables with their talking animals and “morals”. While this isn’t a problem (and perhaps the world needs more works that don’t fit any one genre) it does lead to a problem I have, not necessarily with the book, but with the description of the book. From the back cover, to the genre it’s categorized under, to most of the reviews, this book is called “comedy” or “humor”, a point with which I will have to disagree. Separated from whether or not I liked the writing, all but the first few stories certainly aren’t “funny” (well, they might be in the odd sense) and while they have the “logical-illogical twist” that creates most (perhaps all) humor, this twist is not humorous, but macabre. I’m not one to say that “black humor” doesn’t have a place, or isn’t funny, or even good, but here I just don’t get the “joke” because as far as I can tell there isn’t one. I certainly wasn’t laughing, or even chuckling to myself, while reading.

That isn’t intended to say I disliked the book. While I’m not usually a fan of things in this “area”, I wasn’t having a bad time when reading this book. It was a very interesting modern (and cynical?) look at the fable formula. The morals are blunt and real, with the subjects being harsh and at times violent. Really it’s not unlike the fables of old before they were watered down in their modern retellings. And that makes for a fascinating idea and read. It’s a refreshing look at the idea and a good implementation of the elements of the fable. Most of the stories convey heavy and complex messages in very simple, down-to-earth language that sounds very real; the vernacular (or language of the common fable⸮ {irony mark}) if you will. And while the writing is simple and dry it isn’t boring. It compels the reader to continue while still providing ample logical stopping points at the end of each brief story.

It didn’t take me long to finish the book, which for something this “odd?” is a good thing. Sedaris knows when to stop, and how to correctly pace a story or book. Whether or not that quick read demands the cover price is up to the reader and whether they want a well-crafted piece of entertainment or a bang-for-their-buck piece of longer entertainment. Though if one does go in blind and ends up not liking the book at least it is relatively brief. It packs less of a punch time-wise than most books of its size but more than some graphic novels of its size, and Sedaris and Falconer are both masters of their craft in full control of exactly where they want it to go.

I have a hard time summing this one up. I’m glad I read it, I had a fairly good time reading it, and I would say it’s a good, but not great book. But I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without extensive knowledge of what they have enjoyed previously, and even then it’s unlikely since the tone isn’t reflected in much other writing. It isn’t a work that makes the world, either whole or in part, better for its existence. It’s strange, visceral, cynical, and at times unpleasant to read. If its own strangeness, or the “challenge” it presents to the beliefs or thoughts floating around in your head warrant its existence in your mind then it is a book that should be out there. But even with that and the undeniable skill of its creators I wouldn’t be handing it off, or giving it as a recommendation or present to anyone. Indeed I’d struggle to find where its audience is.

How-To: Screw up Your Sleep Schedule

People need sleep, but not everyone needs the same amount. The secret is finding out how much sleep you really need, and after following these few simple steps, you’ll find out it’s surprisingly little.

First, isolate yourself from other people; they will only slow you down. If you have a job, quit that job in a spectacular fashion and start making 50K online right now. Now that you’re working from home with no friends, you are the master of your own domain. Name it a pun based on your name, and proceed with the next phase.

Second, using the massive amounts of money you get working from home, purchase all of the soda you can from the nearest store. If you break the shopping carts there you get bonus points. Begin drinking all of this soda as if you were a programmer, only it’s not diet soda, and you don’t need it as a requirement for your job.

Using this technique, start going to sleep an hour later each day while working. If your work doesn’t allow you to work later, pretend you have friends (remember what it is like; it’s surprisingly easy to get caught). And set your alarm for the same time each day. When you don’t get up with your alarm, don’t worry. Just keep repeating the process until you sleep through every alarm, are tired all of the time, and have no sense of what time even is.

Quickly you will find that you have gone to sleep at 7 in the morning, and have no idea what time it is when you wake up because all of the batteries in your house have died. Congratulations, you have done it. Now celebrate with soda.

Book Review – Damn You Autocorrect by Jillian Madison

I guess you could say I “read” Damn You Autocorrect, even though the book is mostly photos. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just the nature of taking photos of phone conversations. I’d consider the book a picture book, but it does require reading. With that out of the way, Damn You Autocorrect is a book filled with peoples’ phones changing the words they were intending to type into a funny misunderstanding or the like. I read a lot of these things online and quite enjoy them there.  I also like to read books, so the book version was quite welcome.

damn you autocorrect

I won’t say it was an amazing read. It’s what one would expect.  If you like reading autocorrect fails on the internet, this is the same thing in book form, some of which you might have already seen, some you might not have. In the book there is no (bad) swearing.  As that kind of censoring isn’t possible on the internet, I still wouldn’t give it to a kid or even some teens. But it isn’t the swear-fest the same kind of thing is online, which could be good or bad. I found it no less funny.

The chapters are roughly categorized, though they aren’t very different from one another. The screen-caps are all easily visible and in the correct proportions. Full names are omitted, which is always a good thing in these situations. It’s well put together in what seems to be an attempt at justifying it being a physical book. But hey, I bought it, so no need to justify to me. One little snag is it’s all in black and white. I’m guessing this is to keep the cost down since you are just paying for a collection of screen captures.  I can’t fault this, but the online viewing experience is better.

Overall, I like the book, and I’m glad I purchased it. Would I purchase it for full retail price? Maybe, if I had the money to buy more than a few books at full price. Is it worth it? Not really, in my opinion, but I can look at them when the internet isn’t available, I have a reference at least, and I got some laughs I wouldn’t have gotten before. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it’s far from a necessary