Book Review: The Missing by C. L. Taylor

If family drama doesn’t inherently grab your attention, you may find The Missing a bit of a slow starter. But, those who stick with it will soon be rewarded. Each short chapter throws more coal in the fire until the train is racing full steam ahead. Taylor shows a deft hand at mixing clues with misdirection, and while careful readers may solve the puzzle before Claire does, the end is no less devastating--and no less satisfying.

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Monday Recommendations: Better Things, ScriptNotes, Barefoot Hiking

 

Television: Better Things
On Hulu, created by Pamela Adlon and Louis C. K., it follows the misadventures of a single mom (Adlon) and her three daughters living in L.A. We went through the whole first season in about a week. Hilarious, poignant, honest, and captivating, the narrative arcs are messy, like the characters themselves. Reminiscent of Louis, High Maintenance, and Master of None, each episode is a short story that will leave you thinking. Great soundtrack too.

Podcast: ScriptNotes
This podcast has been around for years, but I love it so much that I want to recommend it to anyone who still hasn't tuned in. Hosted by veteran screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin, this is ostensibly "a show about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters." I think ScriptNotes would actually appeal to anyone who is interested in how we tell stories (i.e. writers of all kinds) and/or anyone who's interested in how television shows and films are made (i.e. tv/film buffs and culture critics). John and Craig are just great company for your commute, your household chores, your evening dog walk, etc. Always entertaining, thought provoking, and educational.

Activity: Barefoot Hiking
A couple weekends ago, my wife and I did some barefoot hiking on one of the many local trails near our house. We generally think that shoes are great, especially in our day to day activities where we're interested in getting from A to B and we don't have time to worry about stepping on something gross or dangerous outside the safety of our house. Even when we're out in the wild, enjoying nature, we're usually interested in getting exercise, which means moving quickly. 

When we hike barefoot, it's more like meditation. We're no longer focused on the path ahead but on the path exactly where we are. The pace slows way down. It's amazing what a variety of tactile sensations you can have walking just a hundred yards.

With shoes on, the ground beneath your feet is always the same texture, the same temperature. Without them, there's suddenly warm, cool, wet, dusty, grassy, bumpy, squishy, smooth, mossy, leafy, and more. It will completely change your experience of the trail.

We recommend starting small. You don't have to do the whole trail barefoot, but try it for ten or twenty minutes. Push your comfort zone a little. If you come to a rocky place, go extra slow. If you come to a patch of mud, don't be afraid to get a little dirty. Maybe bring a small towel to wipe off or dry your feet when you're ready to put your socks and shoes back on. 

What are you recommending this week? Leave me a comment below!

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You're Probably Wrong About Punching Nazis

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

—Martin Luther King, Jr

 

"War. Good God, y'all. What is it good for?"

Edwin Star

 

A couple weeks ago, one of my Monday Recommendations here included a clever bit of fiction, "The Practical Guide to Punching Nazis," by Alex Shvartsman. I’m opposed to violence as a general rule, but after what happened in Charlottesville, the idea of punching some Nazis—at least in a work of fiction—seemed maybe not so bad after all.

I think I let my emotions get the better of me, and I’ve spent a lot of time since then reconsidering. Given my continued ambivalence about this topic, I would almost prefer to keep my mouth shut and leave the opinionating to those with greater moral certitude. But my endorsement of that story means it’s too late for that. To set the record straight, here’s what I think today:

  1. Everyone has a right to defend themselves from a violent attack.*

  2. However, when activists on the left uses violence to disrupt and suppress white supremacists--regardless of whether they feel justified—it actually enables white supremacists by reinforcing their white victim narrative, by making it easier for people to draw a false equivalency between the two sides, and by helping the forces of darkness to undermine our political institutions, which leads to greater instability and the need for greater defensive violence. In some cases, for reasons of survival, it may be necessary, but... 

  3. Violence almost always leads to more violence. As a tactic by activists on the left, it may win the battle, but it will lose the war.

  4. Ergo, violence should be only in self-defense as an absolute last resort—i.e. in response to a violent attack or the clear and immediate threat of a violent attack.

  5. People spewing a hateful ideology in and of itself does not count as a violent attack or the clear, immediate threat of one.

With all that said, a few caveats:

  1. As a straight, white, cisgender male, I am not a primary target of white supremacist violence or threats of violence.

  2. I’m not absolutely convinced that I’m right.

  3. Whichever side of this debate you come down on, if you are absolutely convinced that you’re right, you’re probably missing something. I would encourage you to consider opposing arguments until you have room for at least a little bit of doubt about your position. (Remember, nobody loves certainty more than fascists and fundamentalists. A little doubt is a good thing.)

For those who are certain that violence from the left should be condemned, check out “How Liberal Attacks on Antifa Uphold White Supremacy.” Here’s a sample:

"As a Black woman and survivor of domestic and sexual violence, I am heartened to know there are people like the Antifa who will recognize that the police isn’t here to save us. The police violence against counter-protestors and leniency on white supremacists in Charlottesville and Boston only further undermines that—and that’s without diving into the police brutality, murder, sexual assault and other abuses that occur across the country. How can you expect me to feel protected by the institution that dehumanizes and abuses the most vulnerable in our society—and complains that they’re the true victims because now we want them to be held accountable for their actions on duty? They see Trump protestors as a bigger threat than KKK members."

Also consider:

For those who are certain that violence from the left should be encouraged, check out “No, Don’t Punch More Nazis,” (like the first piece quoted above, also written by a woman of color).  Here’s a sample:

“Some people think that the ends justify the means, but this is false. To believe this is to put oneself in the position of a dog chasing its tail. You can never get there from here — never reach justice by setting your face toward injustice. Worse still, to accept or to fail to repudiate political violence, supposedly in pursuit of justice, is like trying to climb a mountain by walking steadily downward. Once political violence activates, shutting it off is exceptionally difficult.
Why should anyone believe that people who have been committed to political violence will change their minds and recommit to peaceful forms of litigating conflicts? That kind of distrust erodes the foundations of stable political institutions. The path to justice always lies through justice, including the basic moral idea that immediate self-defense is the only justification for the use of force.”

Also consider:

 

*(Addendum: the defense should be in proportion to the attack: if a someone pushes you, shooting them in the face is out of proportion.)


 

The Things We Already Miss About Summer

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long days

green hills

hot sun on the deck

cicadas

fresh corn

local peaches

wild berries

pool floating 

dogs content in the long grass

the long grass

sun-baked asphalt

screen doors

soft breeze through the curtains

naps in the hammock

sailboats on the lake

creek walking

driving with the windows down

thunderstorms

late sunsets

crickets

long, easy walks at dusk

bare headed, ungloved walks

fireflies

all the things we planned to do

and hope to do

next summer