The Art of War, by Sun Tzu


Given the information I found on Sun Tzu, I’m pretty much among those who say he probably never existed. But here’s my review of the book he supposedly wrote.

I’ve heard much mention of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. People have talked about this book like it’s a useful tool for all aspects of life. I figured it was time to read the book for myself.

I never imaged it was such a short book. Much of what it says isn’t things I haven’t thought of before. I did not see much that I would apply to everyday life situations.

I can see this book as being something a soldier might want on hand, as a confirmation of what he already knows. It might even be useful to a football or rugby coach.

Unless you want to view every situation in your daily life as a competition, or you want to view every person you encounter as an enemy, or if you want to be a passive-aggressive dick, I don’t see this book being much use in everyday life.

For me, personally, as someone who often writes war stories, The Art of War, is helpful for that. It gave me a few ideas that I hadn’t thought about before, but that’s about it.

Not a bad book, just not really useful in all aspects of life, like some people claim. I certainly wouldn’t want to live my life by these instructions.

One of Our Spaceships is Missing, by Chris Gerrib

Okay, first things first. I know Chris Gerrib served in the U.S. Navy and I believe much of what he writes is drawn from his experiences in the Navy. So, do they have fuck parties in the U.S. Navy too, or is that just a Martian Navy thing? I’m deathly curious.

Anyway, One of Our Spaceships is Missing is an action-packed, fun to read, very thrilling novel. I was sucked in at the beginning and I stayed hooked until the end. I don’t think there was a dull moment in the entire novel.

When pirates hijack an interplanetary passenger liner that’s in route to Earth from Mars, the FBI, the USSF and the Martian Navy work together to rescue the ship and its passengers.

There are Point-of-View characters who are FBI, Martian Navy, pirate and hostage, and you get to see what’s happening with each group.

Really, it’s a great novel.

The Road to Sugar Loaf, by Eric T. Reynolds


The Road to Sugar Loaf, by Eric T. Reynolds, is a novel about the Women’s Suffrage movement. Largely set in the Flint Hills of Kansas, we follow a group of friends as they fight for a change that was once thought impossible, women’s right to vote. It was a hard, long battle.

Eric also understands the disability struggle. Some of the things said in reference to Kathryn stung me personally.

What I really want to see is more work by people with disabilities about life with disabilities. I’ve seen very little of that. I feel that the disability community has less of a voice than any other group, and that’s what I’ve been fighting to change.

While The Road to Sugar Loaf was really about Women’s Suffrage, I appreciate that Eric’s lead character was a person with disabilities. I would like to encourage him to continue with that pattern and perhaps write about living with disabilities on a deeper level.

I liked this novel very much. It was a fine read, and it stirred my emotions quite a bit.

Morris, by Chris Kuell

“Jesus Christ, why did Chris have to die?”

That question, and other similar things, have been going through my head since the night I got the news that Chris Kuell had died. I had an article under consideration at Breath & Shadow, and it was taking much longer than usual for Chris to get back to me. He also had not responded to the two query letters I’d sent to see if he’d received the article.

So, I went to the Ability Maine website to see if there was anything going on. That’s when I saw the post about Chris’ death. One of the last emails I’d gotten from Chris was back in December. He emailed because he hadn’t received my response to a contract, and he thought Covid might have kicked my ass. A couple months later, it’s Chris who’s taken.

Chris told me about Morris in an email he’d sent earlier that same month.

I told him his book sounded like something I want to read and that I put it on my to-read list. I was eager to get to it. But I’m a slow reader and by the time I got to Morris, Chris was gone.

Now that I’ve finished Morris, I want to tell Chris how much I love this book, how much it means to me, how much I appreciate that someone finally wrote a book like this, someone who truly gets it and isn’t just pretending to understand what it’s like to be a person with disabilities.

I also want to tell him how honored I am that a couple scenes in Morris were inspired by works of mine. There’s a police detainment scene that’s similar to the police detainment I wrote about in my article Walking with Cerebral Palsy.  Chris’ fictional cop even says the same thing that my nonfictional cop had said.

Another scene had a description of how a combat veteran still sees the war years later as he goes about his life. The description of this, how it happens, how it works, and what it’s like, was so similar to how my character in my still unpublished story Memories of War continued to see the war years later.

Although Chris didn’t buy that story, he had seen it a few years ago. Those descriptions in my story had come from my own experiences with flashbacks and the reliving of things, that often have me screaming in the middle of the night. My descriptions were not created from research on the subject. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure no one could have described it that way without having read my work. Other people experience such things, but I think they would describe it their own way.

Morris is a collection of stories, but I don’t think “collection” is the right word to describe this book. Though each story in Morris could stand on its own, all of the stories are connected, and Morris reads more like a novel, with each story being a chapter.

It starts in the Vietnam War era. Johnny comes home from the war in a wheelchair. He goes through a crisis stage, heavy drinking, anger, wondering how he’s going to get through life, hating how people see him and feeling that he’s not a man, or that the woman he loves, Allison, doesn’t see him as a man. All very accurate feelings, that I often feel myself.

I think every person with disabilities needs someone like Johnny’s uncle Ken. Someone who knows we can do things, who gives us the opportunity to do things, and is willing to make the accommodations so that it is possible for us to do things. The opposite of people who hold us back, treat us like children, give us reasons for why we can’t do things and why we shouldn’t bother trying.

Whatever our disabilities are, we can do all kinds of shit. The problem isn’t that we can’t do things, the problem is the opportunities are often not there, and people are often unwilling to make the accommodations. We can do things, but we often have to do them differently and it can often take us more time to do it than it would take a nondisabled person.

But we can do it. In our own ways, in our own times.

Uncle Ken believed in Johnny, and he gave him an opportunity with accommodations. Uncle Ken owned a furniture shop, where he made furniture, and he modified his shop so Johnny would be able to work there and build furniture himself.

While working for Uncle Ken, Johnny is struck with the idea to build a guitar for Allison. This guitar links the stories in Morris together, as it changes hands and is carried from place to place, through the generations.

Jesus Christ, why did Chris have to die? The stories in Morris are brilliant. They are amazing. They say things that need to be said, that people need to hear, to understand. Much of it is things that I have tried to say myself, many times, but I’m easily brushed off. I don’t think people brushed off Chris so easily.

The author notes at the beginning and the end of this book make it clear that Chris did not expect he was going to die anytime soon. He had plans to write and publish more books. He was the guy we needed in our corner. He was a fierce advocate for people with disabilities.

He understood the pain, the anger, the exclusion, the loneliness, the struggle. But he also understood that people with disabilities can have happy lives too. All of that, and more, is communicated in Morris.

There were times when I had thought to ask Chris, how was it that he seemed to have it all together? How was it that he didn’t seem beaten down like me?

I feel that I got two answers to those questions from Morris.

After Brian, who’s condition is more severe than Tony’s, helps Tony improve his guitar playing, Tony asks Brian how he has it all together. Brian, who doesn’t talk much, tells Tony, “I play the blues, I don’t sing them.”

I take that to mean Brian doesn’t have it together any better than Tony does, and he feels all the things that Tony feels. But instead of expressing those feelings with words, Brian expresses those feelings by playing the guitar.

Later, Isaac tells Tony how his anger, if he doesn’t keep it inside, will result in him losing the woman he loves. Isaac knew, because he had been there himself.

The closing chapter of Morris filled me with hope.




Conroyverse, by Lawrence M. Schoen

Well, damn. At first, I thought what I needed was a buffalo dog like Reggie. But I’ve come to realize that what I really need is a friend like Drinder. Because Drinder makes pizza.

Lawrence M. Schoen’s Conroyverse contains four different works of science fiction. A short story, two novels and a novella, I think it was. All the works are connected to the same universe.

I’m struggling to find the right words to explain what Conroyverse is.

Okay, Schoen wrote the first story, Buffalo Dogs, which tells the story of how Conroy came by Reggie. Then he wrote a series that had to do with Conroy, Reggie, Left John and all those guys, and he wrote spinoffs from that.

So, Conroyverse takes the first story of each spinoff series and puts them in one book.

I very much enjoyed this book, from the beginning to the end. It was comfortable reading, fun, science fiction, adventurous and humorous. I laughed a lot while reading, though some of it did hurt my heart too.

I feel like my review here doesn’t really convey how much I love this book, but I’m telling you, it’s a great read and I believe you would love it too.

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.