Saturday, February 11, 2006

Reading is Funny Mental

Wow - geesh. Talk about dead air. That last post took me so long to write that I guess I needed a 2 week hiatus. I wish I could say I have been lounging on some tropical beach sipping fruity drinks while LA-B rubs cocoabutter on my pale sun-shy skin. But, no. In truth, it's been business as usual. Recently, though, I have came across something interesting that I thought I would share.

Last week, LA-B and I joined the wonderful Ms. Shaw at
Skylight Books to hear Sarah Vowell read from her book The Partly Cloudy Patriot. During the Q&A portion of the event, someone asked Sara what authors she is reading these days. She told us about Jon Ronson and his books Them: Adventures with Extremists and Men Who Stare at Goats.

Now, this Valley Grrrl has never been much of a reader. Well, that's not entirely true. I did plow through
The Bobbsey Twins series at a very young age and then devoured several Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books before moving on to most of the Judy Blume classics. Oh, and just to prove I'm not all fluff, I did read The Diary of Anne Frank several times before returning it to the Richmond Memorial Library in the summer of 1978.

It was, it seems, the summer of 1978 when my reading lust seemed to cool. Why? I've put some thought into this over the years because I'm often mistaken for someone who reads a lot. My theory is that the summer after 6th grade is about the time when my eyesight had dwindled to the point where I could no longer function normally without my glasses. I had first been prescribed spectacles sometime in the 2nd grade. That is when my teacher informed my mother at the parent / teacher conference that my reading level, once far above my grade level, had declined greatly since the last grade period and that, perhaps, I would benefit from a visit to the optometrist.
I remember little or nothing of that first visit to the eye doctor. My only memory is of my first pair of glasses. I chose a smart looking pair of silver plastic horn rimmed frames. If I had those frames now, I would wear them with more pride than the boys of West Hollywood. But back then, I chose to hide them in my cubby hole in the cloak room of my 2nd grade classroom. That is until my teacher ratted me out to my mother at the parent / teacher conference, She told her that my reading had still not improved and she strongly suggested I get some glasses. My mother was puzzled and told her that I DID have glasses. The next day at the start of our reading lesson, my teacher stood in front of the class and said "before we start this morning, Kelly, I think you should get your glasses from the cloak room." Even as I type this oh so many years later, I feel the hot rush of blood in my face as my cheeks turned ruby red with embarrassment. I honestly only remember wearing those glasses once before insisting that my mom take me back to the eye doctor so I could choose a more fashionable pair of frames. On that return visit, I chose a pair of oval gold frames that, along with my dirty blonde bowl haircut made me look like a miniature version of John Denver. I'll tell you about my paranoia that the song "Take Me Home Country Road" was following me in a future post. For now, let's get back to why I stopped reading.

Summer, 1978, I've had these specs for about 3 or 4 years now but I've ONLY worn them at school during class. I MAY have brought them home for doing homework, but NEVER to play outside or watch TV, or, for goodness sake, setting up my Barbie accessories. But in the summer of 1978, I could no longer ignore the double vision, the trailing head lights in the middle of the day and the illegibility of the entire world. I could face this reality in one of 2 ways, flight or fight. I chose flight. I ran away from those activities that required 4 eyes, not the least of which was reading for pleasure.
That's not to say that I've abandoned reading altogether. But I tend to gravitate toward shorter spurts these days. That's what led me to Sarah Vowell. Her essays are relatively brief yet jam packed with laughs. But I may have to break my pattern with the 2 books that she recommended the other night as they sound pretty darn good. Below are synopsis from Jon Ronson.com:
THEM: Adventures with ExtremistsThem:THEM began as a book about different kinds of extremists, but after Ronson had got to know some enemies of western democracy - Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis Ku Klux Klan - he found that they had one belief in common: that a tiny elite, which meets in secret, determines the course of global events.

Ronson's quest to locate these secret rulers of the world was both hazardous and hilarious. He was chased by men in dark glasses; he was unmasked as a Jew in the middle of a Jihad training camp; he was forced to listen to David Icke expound his theory that the world is controlled by 12-foot lizards; he witnessed international CEOs and politicians participate in a bizarre pagan ritual in the forests of Northern California. He also learned some alarming things about the looking-glass world of 'them' and 'us'. Were the extremists right? Or had he become one of THEM?
The Men Who Stare at GoatsThe men who stare at goatsBuy the book: USA / UK

In 1979 a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the US Army. Defying all known accepted military practice - and indeed, the laws of physics - they believed that a soldier could adopt the cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them. Entrusted with defending America from all known adversaries, they were the First Earth Battalion. And they really weren't joking. What's more, they're back and fighting the War on Terror. 'The men who stare at goats' reveals extraordinary - and very nutty - national secrets at the core of George W Bush's War on Terror.

With first-hand access to the leading players in the story, Ronson traces the evolution of these bizarre activities over the past three decades, and sees how it is alive today within US Homeland Security and post-war Iraq. Why are they blasting Iraqi prisoners-of-war with the theme tune to Barney the Purple Dinosaur? Why have 100 de-bleated goats been secretly placed inside the Special Forces command centre at Fort Bragg, North Carolina? How was the US Military associated with the mysterious mass-suicide of a strange cult from San Diego? 'The men who stare at goats' answers these, and many more, questions.
Now, while my excitement over these tomes would send the average person straight to the book seller so they could start devouring these certain-to-be hilarious texts, I am sitting back and waiting. Why? Because I just read this on Mr. Roson's FAQ page...

Well, Universal Pictures are developing Them into a movie, produced by Jack Black and Mike White, and directed by Edgar Wright.
YAY. I can put my specs back in the cubby hole! But, you, YOU should totally get these books and tell me all about them.







6 Comments:

Blogger Wednesday T. Guevara said...

I have read "Them". We had it at the Cheap-Ass Book Emporium. HI-larious. The bit with David Icke and his weird interdimensional lizard beings was my favorite. Slog through it; I think you'll dig it.

9:15 PM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger Dana said...

Reading is Funny Mental

I get it. I do. It took me a sec, but I totally get it now.

10:59 PM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger The Editor said...

Read!!!!!

Read!!!!

Please...

9:57 PM, February 12, 2006  
Blogger Kelvis said...

Telling me to read is like telling the kid with a club foot to run. RUN. RUN.

It hurts. I get headaches. I can only read one or two pages before everything starts to mush together. That's why I have to read short stories and essays.

1:25 PM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger Joe Powell said...

I like to find a good book to read, and if it is really good, I read it over at least three times. The headaches descrease and I always look smart when people see me carrying some book around.

Though it is more fun to write than to read ... sometimes.

10:58 AM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger the IMAGINATIVE ACTION REGIME said...

i miss kelvis.....

11:31 PM, February 21, 2006  

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