Grandpa’s Deep-Space Diner, edited by Jessica Augustsson

It was the name of this anthology, Grandpa’s Deep-Space Diner, that caught my attention. There’s just something about the title that grips your heart and makes you want to crack open this book and see what it’s all about.

Edited by Jessica Augustsson, Grandpa’s Deep-Space Diner contains a collection of stories by a number of writers. The stories are brilliant, and they all have something to do with food.

Some of the stories were quite lovable. I had tears in my eyes as I read James Rumpel’s Gramma’s Special Cookie Jar. It reminded me so much of my own grandma. I have a cookie jar that was hers, that I had given her for Christmas one year, and that I had gotten back after she died.

Other stories had me thinking about the restaurants my uncle owns in Flint and Lapeer, called Maude’s Alabama BBQ, which were named after my grandma, Lona Maude.

I’m going to go ahead and order some food from Maude’s right now.

Glorious Madness, by Jude-Marie Green

Jude-Marie Green is a magnificent writer. Her stories have an incredible flow to them, and her use of the language is brilliant. She loves dogs and cats, and she knows the value of grandparents and stories.

Glorious Madness is a collection of fourteen stories, science fiction and fantasy. I was pleased with every one of them, and some of them touched my heart deeply, or broke it.

If I could ask Jude-Marie Green one question about this book, I would ask her how she came up with the idea to make storms the intelligent life on a planet. That was completely new to me. I never would have come up with something like that.

Impressive collection.

NIV Holy Bible

I’m relieved to have finally made it to the end of the Bible. If I had known it would take me almost three years to finish the Bible, I never would have started it. I know exactly when I started reading the Bible. August 20, 2019, right after I posted my review of Eric T. Reynold’s novel, The Artifacts.

It has long been my practice to not pick up another book until I’ve finished the book I’m reading and have posted a review of it. Holding true to my practice meant that for three years, the Bible was the only book I could read.

I’m exhausted with the Bible. I don’t really want to write a long review of it. I want to just post a quick note that says, “I read it, but I don’t agree with much that it says.” I’m regretting that I told people at one time and another to wait for my review, that I would try to outline all the problems I’m having with the Bible in my review.

So, I’m going to try sticking with the plan that I wish I had never made.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve read the Bible. The first time I read the Bible, I was around twelve, but I didn’t read it very carefully at the time.

This time, I read the Bible carefully, and slowly, and I often turned back the pages to read something again and try to understand it better.

This time, I read the Bible because I wanted to know what it really said. I also wanted to see if the Bible could give me reason to hold on to the faith that barely existed in me.

The Bible did not strengthen my faith. It pushed me farther away. Finally, I decided that I’m done with Christianity.

When I announced that I was done with Christianity, people were like, “Hang in there. Don’t give up.” Can’t you all just respect that I made a decision and that I have no desire to hang in there any longer? The thread is broken and I’m done with Christianity. Thanks to the Bible and the attitudes of many Christians, I’ve come to realize that Christianity is not for me.

Some of you probably want to say something along the lines of, “It’s not a matter of whether you agree with what the Bible says or not. These are the rules that God has set for us and He knows what is best.”

Yeah, bullshit.

Most of you haven’t even read the entire Bible. While reading the Bible, I had mentioned here and there that I was reading it. People would tell me to read some chapter or another.

Is that all you do? Just read certain chapters of the Bible? Many of you have admitted that you have never, not once in your lives, read the entire Bible. If you read the Bible from cover to cover, you might see that the chapters you think are special are actually meaningless.

God is love? Not the one in the Christian Bible. The Christian God is a horrible, cruel being. He is a passive-aggressive control freak.

“But that was the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus teaches us differently, how to love one another and turn the other cheek.”

While I was in the Old Testament, I kept hoping to see a big turnaround when I got to the New Testament. The Old Testament is full of hate. Hate for your fellow man who doesn’t follow the same faith that you do. It made me want to tell people who follow this crap that they should be ashamed of themselves.

But I kept in mind what some people have said, that in the New Testament, Jesus is going to turn the teachings of the Old Testament around.

After the long, slow crawl through the Old Testament, I finally reached the New Testament. Jesus was all right in some places. But in other places, I thought he was an asshole. Jesus seems to really like talking down to people.

Sometimes I wondered if it was just the way the writers of those chapters made him out to be, because in other chapters, he sounded like the kindest, most caring dude you’ll ever meet.

Part of me doesn’t want to bad mouth the Bible and Christianity. I wanted to come at this with more respect, whether I believe or not, but after reading all of this, all I really want to say is, “This is ridiculous.”

The Bible can’t even agree with itself. Here’s an example; in many places throughout the Bible, the drinking of alcohol is described as a sin. When the wedding guests, who were already drunk, ran out of wine, Jesus turned water into wine so the drunk wedding guests could continue drinking.

So much in the Bible doesn’t make sense. Passages conflict with other passages. How does anyone know what to do with this stuff? People who claim to follow every word of the Bible couldn’t honestly, realistically, possibly do that.

I have so many problems with the Bible. I tried taking notes, to keep track of all the problems I was having. But the notes became overwhelming and I chucked them. So, I’ll just recall what I can as best I can.

One problem, something I could never understand, and I remember being confused about this part when I read the Bible as a kid. It’s one of Moses’s chapters. Moses is on his way back to Egypt, doing what God commanded. One night God comes to kill Moses. Why? Moses was doing what God commanded, why did God come to kill him? I could never understand that.

I turned back the pages and read them again, to see if I missed something, and I didn’t see what I’m missing. God just decided for no reason that he’s going to kill Moses.

But what I find most interesting about that scene is how Moses’s wife put herself between God and her husband and made God back off.

God, the Divine, the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful, is made to reconsider his decision by a mere mortal? Doesn’t make God look very divine, it makes him look indecisive and certainly not all-knowing and all-powerful. It makes God look like he doesn’t really know what the hell he’s doing.

How many other times are there in the Bible when God was bent on doing something and someone talked him out of it? A few, I recall. What’s wrong with this picture? Why is God letting mortals deter his decisions?

Then there is the issue of who the Lord considers to be righteous. Twice in the Bible, there’s a tale, set at different times, but is similar. It involves a mob surrounding a house and demanding the homeowner send out his guests to be raped by the mob.

The homeowner refused to send out his guests, which I applauded… until he offered to send out his daughters in the place of his guests.

The first time this happened, the mob refused the offer of the daughters and insisted the guests be sent out. The second time, a daughter was shoved out the door and she was raped by the mob, over and over again, until she died.

These men who offered their daughters to the mob are seen as righteous in the eyes of the Lord.

Yes, I heard the reasoning behind this. That it was just an example of how you’re to treat your guests while they’re under your roof and yah, yah, yah. I don’t see how protecting your guests means you should offer your daughters in their place.

The idea that you need to be a Christian to be a good person, to be rewarded with a peaceful afterlife, is pretty stupid. There’s this threat of Hell. It’s like saying, “If you don’t hold true to the Christian faith, you are damned and will suffer in Hell for eternity.”

You know who uses threats to get people to stay in line? Dictators. The Bible also expresses that you should not question the faith, that you should follow unquestioningly, or else you are not true to the faith. That’s another tactic of dictators. Follow the leader blindly, ask no questions, don’t think for yourself.

All through the Bible, it’s implied that you can’t be a good person unless you follow the teachings of the Bible. That’s not true. Any intelligent person should know that.

Then there’s the great Biblical promotion of genocide. There are places in the Bible where it’s suggested that it is okay for those who follow to slaughter those who do not.

According to the Bible, slavery is acceptable.

Does anyone ever wonder why Jesus can’t give a straight answer to anything? Seems like every time someone asks him something, he breaks out some parable that you’re supposed to figure out the meaning of.

Why is it that almost every time the Bible talks about a person with disabilities, that person is described as having demons that need to be ejected from him?

Why do women follow a religion that tells them they cannot speak in Church? If they have something to say, they need to tell their man and have him speak for them. Why would men follow a religion that degrades their wives in such a way? This was in the New Testament.

Later in the Bible, someone is telling about his visons that supposedly came from God. In these visions, Earth is described as having four corners. I know that at the time the Bible was written, people believed Earth was flat. But if the Christian God is real, he would surely know that Earth is round. Why is God giving this person visions of an Earth that has four corners?

So, what is the Bible?

I think the Bible is a lot of things. I think it’s a mixture of ideas, theories, true history, pure fiction, exaggerations, fantasies, folklore, metaphors.

I think Jesus maybe really did exist, but that the Biblical stories about him are mostly exaggerations and tall tales. If Jesus really existed, he was likely nothing more than another person who fought for the betterment of humanity, much like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Surely, there were such people in Biblical times who tried to make a difference and who were assassinated by people who felt threatened by them.

Indian Horse (2017)

What a movie. I almost shut the movie off without finishing it. Not because it wasn’t good. It is a very good movie. Too good. Too believable and accurate. The first part of the movie had me so enraged, I wanted reach through the screen, grab the Christian zealots and snap their fucking necks.

Somehow I made it through the movie without destroying my monitor

I remember talking to a friend about the movie “The Education of Little Tree”. My friend felt that they didn’t properly portray the boarding school that Little Tree was forced into. She thought the movie was too soft, that it didn’t accurately show the horrors that happened at those boarding schools.

I remember saying something about how it might not have been as bad at some schools as it was at others. But also “The Education of Little Tree” is rated PG and technically a kids’ movie, though it is quite fine for all ages. They would not have shown such brutality in a PG movie. Though, I thought what they did show at least gave an idea of how harsh it was.

Indian Horse is rated MA. The horrors at the boarding school are very clearly shown, in depth. It made me very angry. It made me want to yell at Christians I know who think they’re victimtized by other cultures.

Indian Horse is set in Canada. From the late 1800’s to 1996, Indigenous children were taken from their parents and put in boarding schools that were run by the Church. There, they faced all manners of abuse.

The Artifacts, by Eric T. Reynolds

Don’t be a cube. Pick up a book and go back in time.

Remember the line from the Reading Rainbow song, “I can go anywhere…”? That’s more or less the case with The Artifacts, a novel by Eric T. Reynolds. I found this book quite fun.

Kayla buys a Victorian house on the outskirt of Sycamore Falls and moves in. Her property is vast and it includes the highest of the Flint Hills. On top of this hill is an old farmhouse that has not been lived in for generations.

In the farmhouse, there is a library with books that will take you back in time. When Kayla discovers this library, she is unable to resist going back to the earlier days of Sycamore Falls. She learns much about the town and secrets are unlocked.

Orange Is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black. I had followed the series since it launched on Netflix in 2013. I finished the final season about two weeks ago. I wanted to write something about the series, but wasn’t sure how to go at it. Then my sister told me Saturday night that she’d just gotten home from the women’s prison in Ohio, where she’d gone with members of her church to deliver the gospel. That sparked some inspiration for me.

Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange Is the New Black is a comedy-drama about women in prison. Though the show is a comedy, it touches on the dark truths of prison life.

There’s the drugs and violence, sure. But it’s more than that. In one episode, Piper explained to a girl what prison is. Facing who you really are and not having anywhere to run. She delivered that speech cold.

Many characters were mothers who wanted to finish out their sentences so they could get back to their kids. That is a reality about women in prison. There are also those with mental impairments who really should not be in prison, but in an institution where they can get the proper care.

In far too many cases, the only difference between the guard and the inmate is the guard is in uniform. This is true of prisons across the country. Prison guards are often not properly trained, they can be abusive and they can partake in criminal activity.

My sister said that one of the things the women at the Ohio prison wanted was guidance for when they get out of prison. A lot of women (and men) released from prison are unable to get their lives straightened out. They’ll need an income, a place to live, and there are expenses they’ll need to cover. Restrictions and curfews can make it difficult for them to find work.

Because of that, they might turn to crime to get by, and that eventually leads them back to prison. The Poussey Washington Fund was created to help these women.

The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy

I don’t feel like my review is going to do this novel the justice it deserves. I’m not feeling very crafty today and I’ll probably butcher it, but it’s my practice to write something about the books I read and I don’t want to make an exception for this one.

The Prince of Tides. I have seen the movie. It’s a movie that I remember well and often find myself thinking about. But the novel Pat Conroy wrote takes the story much deeper than any a movie ever could.

Tom Wingo is a southern from Celleton, South Carolina. He and his siblings, Luke and Savannah, grew up in a small house on an island. Their father, Henry, is a shrimper and their mother, Lila, was a house wife.

Tom gets word that Savannah had attempted suicide again and that she is in the hospital. He goes to New York City where Savannah has been living her entire adult life and spends the summer telling Savannah’s psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein, the stories their lives in Celleton county so Lowenstein can understand Savannah better.

This is complex story with very believable characters and situations. Henry Wingo had been a violent, abusive father and husband, and Lila, although not quite as brutal with her fists, was abusive with words. Henry and Lila had scarred their children for life.

The story is full of heartbreak, joy, struggle, heroism, suffering, forgiveness and so much more. At times, I had tears in my eyes as I read. Other times, I laughed out loud.

I’m not pleased with my review here. It’s lacking much. There’s so much more about this novel that I didn’t touch on. I’m having one of those days where I can’t find the right words.

But this novel, I recommend it highly. There’s much to be learned from it.

The Passion Play (2019)

This is a first. Me reviewing a play. Never saw that coming.

My sister goes to the River Church in Holly. She invited me, my brother and our parents to see the play with her and my niece. I guess the church  has The Passion Play every year. I don’t know if the play is made up of members of the church or if they’re performers from anywhere who just happened to land the roles. I will say this, they are very professional.

The people who put this thing on know what they’re doing. The acting was great, the music was great, the singing was wonderful, the lights were great, the background videos were great. This is a very high quality performance with believable special effects.

I’m deaf. I can hear well enough to enjoy the music and I can hear when there’s dialog, but I could not make out a word that was said or sang. Even so, I know the story of Jesus and I knew what was going on.

There was a particular female singer who’s singing was so beautiful, it filled my heart. I was disappointed when her performance ended and she hurried offstage as others were coming on. I don’t know who she was cast as. Maybe Mary, maybe another woman from the Bible.

It was pretty neat how swiftly the stage changeups were. An act would end, the lights would go out for about twenty seconds. When the lights came back on, there would be one large object or another in the middle of the stage. I was like, how did you get that up there so fast?

Also, at times, I saw Jesus on one end of the stage. In the next couple seconds, I’d notice he was on the other end of the stage, and I’d wonder when he moved over there. I don’t know if that was part of the show or if I just lost track of him.

Whether you’re religious or not, whether you believe the Bible or not, I think you could enjoy The Passion Play.

I was very impressed.

Gustav Gloom and the People Taker, by Adam-Troy Castro

I really enjoyed this book. Gustav Gloom and the People Taker is the first of a series by Adam-Troy Castro.

Gustav is thought to be the saddest boy in the world. He lives in a dark house and has only shadows to keep him company, at least until the What family moves into the house across the street.

It’s an adventure that takes place in a big, scary house where nothing makes sense at all. I laughed a lot while reading this book. I’d say the Gallery of Awkward Statues was my favorite chapter.