All posts by Rob Darnell

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James

1819Oh my, Fifty Shades of Shit. Not. Really, I didn’t think it was bad. It was silly in places, weird in other places, but otherwise I thought it was a decent book. Those who pay attention to me on Facebook might remember that I decided to read E.L. JamesFifty Shades of Grey because of all the negativity I was hearing about it. I mean, jeez, a lot of people seriously trash this book. They treat it like it’s the most horrible thing ever written. They insult people who admit they read and enjoyed the book. It’s just my opinion, but I think some of these people–not all of them, mind you–are fucking jerks.

No one should be ashamed of what they read. Read whatever you want. Don’t let anyone tell what you should and should not read. If you enjoyed a book, anyone who insults you over it is an asshole. Stories are subjective, same as any art. What one person enjoys, another person might hate. That’s understandable. But what’s not understandable is the amount of trash people are throwing at the author and the people who enjoyed the book. That’s bullshit, especially when the content of the book doesn’t even seem to be what all the negative reviews are claiming.

A lot of people say the book is badly written. But I don’t understand. Why do people say Fifty Shades is badly written? I read the whole book and I kept thinking “if this is bad writing, then all of your favorite authors owe you an apology for their badly written books.” The writing in Fifty Shades is no better or worse than the writing in any other book I’ve read that wasn’t self published.

Is it that the author doesn’t use very heavy prose, that she keeps the language pretty simple? Is that why people say the book is badly  written? If so, I’d hate to burst your bubble, but sometimes using simple prose makes it easier to read. I found Fifty Shades very easy to read. It had a comfortable, relaxing flow to it. How is that bad writing?

Or is it that Anastasia Steele’s thought process contains a lot of jeez, oh my, holy fuck-shit-cow? Is that why it’s badly written? If so, I don’t see why that’s a big deal. Every inch of this book is in Anastasia’s point of view and I found all those silly thoughts to be true to her character. I know people who seem to think the way she does, so I found all that realistic.

If there’s some other reason why so many people feel the book is badly written, I can’t put my finger on what it might be. I can see how the writing might not have worked for you, but I wouldn’t say it’s bad writing.

The story rolls in a way that makes me think of an Aaron Spelling soap opera.

Anastasia Steele seems to be a bit naïve, but she knows what she’s looking for in life, career and relationship-wise. She thinks for herself. She speaks her mind. She’s not an incredibly strong person and she doesn’t have the best self-esteem, but she makes her  own decisions much of the time. At least that’s what I saw.

I guess the biggest problem people are having with Fifty Shades is they feel it’s promoting rape culture. I really don’t think it is. I didn’t see it that way.

Yes. Christian Grey is a control freak. Yes, he’s also into BDSM. And he makes a contract full of rules that he would like Anastasia to follow. He’s pretty extreme about all this. Yes, he’s weird.

But he didn’t force her to do anything. He didn’t rape her. He talked her into letting him spank her and that stuff. But he let her decide what she was comfortable with and what she wasn’t. They were boyfriend-girlfriend. Christian was a jerk a lot, but he was also good to her too.

The book wasn’t all sex, sex, sex, spank, spank, spank. There was actually more to the story than that. Christian has a lot of issues, but he was aware of them. He even put in effort to be more of something Anastasia would be happy with, because he wanted their relationship to work. Anastasia was doing the same for him, trying to be something that would make him happy.

During most of the BDSM scenes, Christian did not hit her very hard. And he only did these things with her consent. Only at the end of the book, after he talked her into letting him do it, did he spank her hard. And you know what? She decided to leave him because of that. She realized that she wasn’t cut out for that kind of thing and decided she needed to leave.

How about that? Anastasia left Christian Grey and he let her go.

I think a lot of people read this book with a biased mindset. That they had already heard all the negativity about it before they read it for themselves and had already decided they weren’t going to like it. I say this because there are so many claims about this book that I didn’t see. I don’t know what these people are talking about.

Furthermore, this isn’t a story about you or anyone you know. It’s a story about Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, who are fictional characters.. Whatever goes on between them, who gives a shit if it’s right or wrong, it’s just a story. What are y’all so pissed off about? You’re like the people who insist Santa Claus is white not black. It’s also interesting that the people who want to rid the world of Fifty Shades of Grey are the same people who get uppity about censorship.

All right, now, did I like Fifty Shades of Grey?

Eh, not as much as you were probably thinking. I read the whole book. I don’t see anything wrong  with it, but at the same time, I don’t feel very strongly about the story. I can see why it has done so well on the market. I think it deserves to be the best seller that it is. In some ways I did like it, but in other ways it was kind of boring. Not saying it was badly written, it just didn’t interest me much.

So, no, I probably won’t read the rest of the series.

I feel like there was more I wanted to say,  but I guess it slipped my mind.

Gifted Hands (2009)

91vJ84Kyx9L__SY445_Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Ben Carson in Gifted Hands. Ben Carson is the famed surgeon known for separating conjoined twins in a way that allows for both to survive. The movie tells us about his life from childhood to his great success as a surgeon. We learn of his family troubles, his struggles in school and medical school. Eventually he is recognized as a genius and performs amazing deeds in the operating room.

As always, Gooding put on an outstanding performance. The movie was convincing and enjoyable. All of the actors and actresses did fantastic jobs. It’s definitely a movie worth watching.

3 Days to Kill (2014)

91vJ84Kyx9L__SY445_3 Days to Kill is another one of those “My dad is a badass” action thrillers that seem to be common these days, but this time it’s Kevin Costner’s turn to be the badass dad. Costner is Ethan Renner, a badass CIA… um… hitman? A mission goes wrong and there’s a whole crapload of shooting, with Ethan Renner making some pretty awesome moves while dealing with a medical condition that puts him on the ground like he’s having a heart attack.

Afterward, Ethan returns to his home in Paris, France, where he attempts to reconnect with his teenage daughter, who is angry with him because he wasn’t around for years. Eventually Ethan takes on the real fatherly role and bails his daughter out of bad situations in totally badassery ways.

If you like badass thrillers, you would probably like 3 Days to Kill.

Turkey!

Photo-0035

So, at my mom and dad’s house today, I walked around to the backyard and saw this. I got excited, dug my cellphone from my pocket as quickly as I could, before they noticed me and took off. I took the picture, went back inside to tell my dad, and he tells me they are the turkey decoys he bought.

Sheesh.

Breathe Me and the Six Feet Under Finale, and what it means to me

I loved the HBO series Six Feet Under, but I had missed the last couple seasons. I didn’t see this video until a friend posted about it on Facebook a couple of months ago. Breathe Me quickly became one of my favorite songs, and the video, it’s one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen.

I’ve watched it many times, taking in the music and the video each time. For me, it makes me think about what’s really important, what I need from life before it’s too late. There is someone I love very much, who I wish I could be with again, but I don’t expect we’ll ever get back together. The idea of living the rest of my life without her is kind of frightening.

I wanted to embed the video here, but it looks like the owner of the video has that option disabled, so I’ll just put in the link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNwARV9tPUw

And Buddy turned six this month.

Photo-0029That’s right. My cat, Buddy, he’s six years old. I don’t know if I’m one of those people who keeps track of the ages of their pets, but I got Buddy’s age pinned down. I’ve been living on my own since I was twenty-three  and I’ve only had three pets in all that time.

I got Buddy in September 2009 when he was still a kitten. I remember how small he was. But he quickly grew into the big purring monster that he is now. I mean he’s huge and quite heavy. He weighs more than my dog. Though he lies around the house a lot, he’s healthy and happy. He’s the best cat ever.

He ended up getting the name Buddy because when I first got him, I didn’t know what name to give him. I was just calling him buddy because I didn’t know what else to call him. After a couple weeks of that nonsense, I realized Buddy should be his name. It fit. He likes it.

Buddy”s my buddy. Though it looks like he was annoyed with me taking his picture this morning.

Hardball (2001)

51R4A6RG4XL__SY445_If you haven’t seen Hardball yet, I’m probably going to spoil it for you. There’s just a bit that I want to say about this movie. I watched it for the first time the other day and watched it again the next day. I was very touched by the movie. It’s another one of those kids’ sports movies, but then not exactly. It kind of makes you think of the original Bad News Bears, but with a harsher tone. Rated PG-13. Probably does have the go to be classified as a kids movie, but at the same time I’d say it’s a movie for adults.

Keanu Reeves is the star. He plays Conor, a gambler who is deep in debt. In order to help payoff his debt, a friend offers Conor a job coaching a kids’ baseball team.

What really caught my interest is the baseball team and the field they play in is at the old Chicago Public Housing Project known as the Henry Horner Homes, nicknamed the Hornet, because the buildings resembled hornet nests. The Henry Horner Homes were demolished in 2008, but the movie is from 2001, so the buildings were still there at the time. Though that was the year the demolishing began.

I first heard about the Henry Horner Homes from the book There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, by Alex Kotlowitz, which I read in high school. It was a non-fiction book and the story really stuck with me. The Hornet was a terrible place to live and kids who grew up there saw so much hell that many did not expect to reach adulthood.

So that was what really hit home for me in Hardball. The movie didn’t sugarcoat the life. It showed the fear the kids felt, how they were desperate to get home before it got dark and what living conditions were like inside the buildings. Toward the end, two brothers trying to get home were caught in the middle of a gang fight. The younger of the brothers was hit by a stray bullet and died in the older brother’s arms. That was life at the Henry Horner Homes.

So, while the movie has much comedy, it has a harsh side to it too. It’ll leave you thinking about those living in ghettos across the United States. I’m glad the Hornet is gone and I hope the people who once lived there have found better lives.

Smith & Wesson SD9 VE

Photo-0018Okay. Yeah. I’m the proud owner of a Smith & Wesson SD9 VE. I’ve heard that a lot of people consider this pistol to be junk, but I don’t see that it is. Faulty trigger, they’ve claimed. What’s wrong with the trigger? It seems fine to me. It functions just right, far as I can tell. Some have said they hated the gun for other reasons, but whatever those reasons are, I’ve come to love my SD9 VE and I know people who also love the SD9 VE as well its twin, the SD40 VE.

Not everyone agrees that any particular pistol is good, so if you don’t like the SD9, that’s fine. But me, personally, I think it’s a great gun, very reliable. The SD9 VE holds 16+1 rounds. That’s a nice load to have if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to defend yourself from more than one criminally intent person. I guess such a circumstance is rare, but it could happen, you never know.

Okay, so, I love my SD9 and I find it to be a great pistol. But I’ll be honest, when I first got it, I wasn’t so sure. I took it out of the box and went out to shoot it. The first problem I had was loading the magazine. I had so much trouble putting the first bullet in and after I managed to get the bullets in, I couldn’t fill the magazine. It’s a 16-round magazine, but I could only fit fifteen rounds in it. After so many failed attempts to get that sixteenth round in, I decided that this was a flaw Smith & Wesson needed to address, that the magazines did not actually hold sixteen rounds as Smith & Wesson claimed.

So, with fifteen rounds in the mag, I decided it was time to do some target shooting. I put a few rounds through the pipe and then got my first jam. It went on like that for a while, a jam for every few shots. I was really beginning to have doubts about the quality of the gun.

But you know what? All that was just the break-in period. As I continued to use the gun, it began to function better. The issue with the magazines not holding the sixteen rounds that they were supposed to was just that the springs needed to get some usage. Eventually it was easier to load the magazines and fit sixteen rounds in them.

I figured out later that when you buy a brand new gun, it’s best to oil it before taking it out to shoot for the first time. Oiling the gun before the first shooting will likely make the break-in period more pleasant. It’s a practice I stick to now.

So, for me, the SD9 VE turned out to be a very good pistol and I’m glad I bought it.

The Way (2010)

1819How long ago was it since I first discovered The Way on Netflix? Two years ago? I guess it wasn’t more than two years. Since the initial viewing, I had watched it several more times. It’s just one of those movies that entered my heart and will stay there. Anyone who hasn’t seen The Way, I recommend it highly.

Martin Sheen is the lead actor. He plays Tom, an eye doctor. Emilio Estevez plays Tom’s son Daniel.

Daniel quit medical school so he could travel the world. Tom is not a big supporter of this idea, but he accepts it  A couple years go by and Tom gets a phone call from a French police officer who informs him that Daniel was killed in a storm while hiking.

Tom goes to France with the intention of collecting Daniel’s body and heading straight home to bury it. But while Tom is in France, he learns about the journey Daniel was on when he died. Tom decides he and Daniel will finish the journey

Great acting, wonderful sound tracks, and a beautiful story.

An Interview with W.P. Kinsella

W.P. Kinsella is the author of Shoeless Joe, the novel that the 1989 movie Field of Dreams is based on. He has written several other novels and short stories, many of them having to do with baseball, First Nations people and magic. “The Essential W.P. Kinsella” was released from Tachyon Publications in March and contains some of Kinsella’s best stories, including the short story Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa, which was the seed for the novel Shoeless Joe.

Kinsella celebrated his 80th birthday on the 25th of May.

 

Interview conducted February 22, 2015.

Rob Darnell: Much of your work has to do with baseball. Do you closely follow the sport? What teams do you root for?

W.P. Kinsella: Not anymore. Loosely follow the Blue Jays. After the strike, I lost interest. In reality, neither players nor owners care in the least about the fans. The greed of both factions has destroyed baseball’s credibility, at least for the present.

RD: Are there any MLB players at all that you feel are not caught up in the greed?

WPK: As long as they are forced to belong to the Players Union, no. My hero will be the guy who tells the Union to get lost.

RD: MLB politics aside, do you still agree that the game is beautiful?

WPK: Yes.

RD: Are there college, minor league or independent teams that you pay any attention to?

WPK: No. Have never been a minor league fan.

RD: Did you play baseball when you were a kid? If you did, what positions did you prefer to play? And how well did you hit?

WPK: No. Played a little softball, but there was nowhere on the field it was safe for me to be.

RD: When did your interest in baseball start and what sparked the interest? What inspired you to mix baseball and magic together?

WPK: My dad talked a good game. A child got only the World Series on the radio.

RD: What is the best World Series you can think of and what made it great?

WPK: 1946, if my memory is correct. Harry “The Cat” Brecheen went against the Red Sox in Game 7. I stayed home to listen, practically had my head inside the radio.

RD: What is your fondest baseball memory?

WPK: Seeing Bob Forsch pitch a no hitter against Montreal.

RD: Both, Harry Brecheen and Bob Forsch, played for the St. Louis Cardinals. You have fond memories of both of them. Does that mean you were once a Cardinal fan? If yes, why are the Cardinals not your team anymore and when did your love for them die?

WPK: I became exclusively an American League fan when they instituted the DH rule, and will remain so until the National League moves out of the dark ages.

RD: Over the years you’ve seen many players come and go. Who are the players that you admired the most? And what was it about them that made them admirable?

WPK: Yogi Berra, Bill Lee, they were irreverent, poked fun at the stodgy owners and managers. Curt Flood, of course, was in a class by himself, a true hero.

RD: In the early years, you had to listen to the games on the radio. Do you remember the first game you saw on TV? Was there any difficulty in making the transition from radio to TV? Was it more enjoyable to watch than listen to the games?

WPK: Guess about 1954. Until Color TV came along, BW TV was too muddy to be enjoyable.

RD: What was the first professional baseball game you had been to? And how old were you? Can you describe the experience?

WPK: Edmonton Vs Calgary, 1946, age 10. First Major League game was San Francisco Vs L.A. Don Drysdale Vs Juan Marichal. Drysdale won. Didn’t realize how lucky I was.

RD: Have you been to many MLB games? What professional baseball parks have you been to?

WPK: At one time I’d been to every park except Baltimore and Houston, but can’t even keep track of who plays where these days.

RD: In your opinion, who is the greatest baseball player of all time?

WPK: It is hard to compare the eras, but Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb from the past, Sandy Koufax and Roger Clements from the present.

RD: Do you like any other sports, such as football, basketball or hockey? If so, what are your teams?

WPK: I’m a big fan of curling, follow all the major world events. Watch all four Tennis majors. Basketball is the worst sport. They need to raise the basket at least two feet.

RD: You and Ray have the same last name. Is there more that the two of you have in common? Does Ray Kinsella mirror much of yourself?

WPK: Ray is named for a Salinger short story character, but he mirrors some of my thoughts and experiences era 1980.

RD: I’m a Detroit Tiger fan, so I want to know, what does the voice in Ray Kinsella’s cornfield have to say about the chances of the Tigers winning the World Series this year?

WPK: Slim and slimmer.

RD: What do you say about Kevin Costner’s portrayal of Ray Kinsella?

WPK: Couldn’t be better.

RD: You were happy with Field of Dreams. What about the other film and TV adaptations of your work?

WPK: Pretty pitiful. I was lucky to get one good adaptation. Field of Dreams the Musical is lurking in the wings. Hope it will provide my daughters with a ton of money someday.

RD: You’re also known for writing about First Nations people. What sparked your interest in that area?

WPK: Found a good voice and took advantage of it. Each of my specialties was like a prospector discovering a vein of gold. I worked each until the vein was exhausted.

RD: In 2010, you said that the state of the book industry was such that you would not be able to break in if you were just starting out. It’s 2015 now. In your opinion, is the situation better or worse than it was five years ago?

WPK: I think it is worse for a mid-list author such as myself. You either have to sell like Stephen King or go with the small presses where there is no money. I was lucky to have been in the right place and time for many years.

RD: What would improve the situation for mid-list writers?

WPK: Less greed on the part of both publishers and chain booksellers. It is easier for them to publish and sell only blockbusters and leave the real work to small presses.

RD: Though you are a mid-list writer, has your writing made you a comfortable living? Would you say the larger portion of your income came from your novel sales or your short story sales?

WPK: In the 70s and 80s, I made a good living. Have managed my funds carefully, will never have to go out and cadge quarters from the tourists. My main income came from failed movie and TV options.

RD: I read somewhere that you were reading books when you were five years old. What are some of your childhood favorites?

WPK: Discovered W. Somerset Maugham in about 5th grade. Didn’t understand the plots, but loved the descriptions.

RD: And for that matter, what are some of the best books you’ve read over the years?

WPK: The Great Gatsby, the finest novel ever written. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler, In Watermelon Sugar, Richard Brautigan, What The Crow Said, Robert Kroetsch.

RD: Outside of baseball and reading, what are some of your fondest childhood memories?

WPK: Uneventful, though isolated childhood. Good, kind, stable parents.

RD: You’re a tournament Scrabble player. What is your highest achievement in the game? And how long have you been playing?

WPK: I’ve played tournaments for about 20 years. My daughter, Erin, who lives with me, also travels to tournaments. While I’m not a top division player, I’ve won a number of tournaments. Won Portland one year at about 19/3.

RD: You’re going to be 80 on May 25th. Do you have anything special planned for your birthday?

WPK: Going to a Scrabble tournament in Edmonton in May, so will celebrate with family there. My agent, Carolyn Swayze, is planning a “surprise” party on the actual day.

RD: This last question is from your novel Shoeless Joe. If you could do anything you wanted to do–if you could take time and turn it in your hands like rubbing up a new baseball; if you could stop somewhere in time, and in the silence and mystery and calm of that situation you could have a wish…?

WPK: I lost my wife Barbara to cancer two years ago. I would give whatever time I have left to spend one more day with her.