Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Be all you can be

Strength B&WI’ve been seeing this meme make the rounds that says “When a woman is loved correctly, she becomes ten times the woman she was before.”

I’d just like to say that that is the biggest pile of steaming horseshit I’ve seen for some time.

Obviously, the people posting this are women. What guy would post that? This strikes me as wrong in so many ways. It’s as if these women are saying that they are incomplete without a man who loves them “correctly.” (Who defines ‘correctly,’ anyway?) That they are not good people without this knight on his steed who saves them from their own horrible and imperfect existence. That they cannot be a whole person on their own.

Who still thinks this way? What low self-esteem a person must have to think that another person is all that will make them a better person...that they are incapable of doing it on their own.

I do think that a supportive partner can inspire you and make you strive to be a better person. I see the good things that Ken does and the good person that he is, and that makes me want to be that kind of person, too. However, as a small woman, I am limited in some of the things that I can do safely. I don’t pick up people to give them a ride, for example.

That doesn’t stop me from doing what I can to work on being a better person, but that effort is not contingent upon Ken. We are all a work in progress and we learn from our mistakes. That started many years ago, it was happening before I met Ken, and it is happening now. This is something that I would be doing even without Ken, and although I appreciate him and he inspires me to be more involved and to be a better person, I can’t say that it’s only because of him that I make that effort.

Never think that you need someone to complete you, or that you can’t be the best person you can be on your own. YOU are the one who needs to do that, and expecting a partner to do it for you is lazy and unfair. Unfair to your partner, but also unfair to yourself.

Is this a good time to wish my husband a happy anniversary? I’m not sure...but happy anniversary, anyway, honey!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beth’s Books: Double shock powah!

Beth's BooksA lot of good books have come out already this month, and I want to write about the new publications from my two favorite authors: Stephen King and Anne Rice.

First is Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat, in which she revisits the vampire world, including the Brat Prince himself. This book was a total delight. It’s been a while since we had a vampire book from her, and seeing the vamp gang again was like seeing old friends. Very old friends. Lestat is his usual irrepressible and impulsive self, but he isn’t one to back down from his destiny.

When a mysterious Voice begins plaguing blood drinkers all over the world, exhorting them to use the Fire Gift to burn the young ones, the vampires who are fairly new to the life (so to speak) are killed horribly. The group of elder vampires come together to figure out how to deal with this threat to their existence. As it becomes clear who (or what) the Voice really is, it is obvious that it is not just the young ones who are at risk; their entire tribe could be wiped out.

It was wonderful to read of these elders coming together again, after so many years of isolation from each other. They really are a family, and they each bring their own beauty and strength to the group. Rice’s description of the reunion, with all of these exquisite creatures dancing as they become caught up in the music, is a thing of beauty. Her writing is spare and concise in this book, able to convey a moment or a scene with minimal verbiage.

There seem to be a few things that are unresolved (what is up with you, Rhoshamandes?!), and I hope this means that Ms. Rice is happily back in the world of her Children of the Savage Garden. I think there are many more tales to be told there, and I look forward to them all.

Next is Stephen King’s latest, Revival. Oh my goodness.

This book gave me the creeps more than almost all of his other books. I still recall how The Shining bothered me so much at the time, and several others have lingered with me. But this one gave me a very uneasy feeling that has stuck with me several days after finishing it, and I don’t think it is going to leave me anytime soon.

I don’t want to give anything away, because you really don’t know where he’s going with this story until late in the book, but I’ll say that it is a bleak novel without any innate sense of hope. This seems like a bit of a departure for King...I usually finish a King book feeling that somehow, some way, every little thing’s gonna be all right. I finished this one with sense of horror, thinking, “Well, I guess we’re all fucked.”

King explores two things extensively in this book: music and religion. The protagonist of the book is Jamie, a good kid who gets into music at an early age and loves what rock and roll makes him feel and where it takes him. Except for that pesky addiction, but I won’t say anything more about that. What was fun to read was the sheer joy that Jamie experiences as he begins to get into music. Although I’m not a musician myself, I’m a huge fan, and I understand how music can move a person. I think it’s fair to say that all musicians start out as fans, so in that regard, I can relate.

As for the religion aspect, if the right wing religious people get a whiff of what this book says about religion and the existence of any god, they’re going to have a thrombo. This is King’s most damning condemnation of religion that I’ve ever read. Previous books have had a bit of a religious element to them. He has always explored the conflict between good and evil. The prime example is Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg from The Stand (and other mentions in various books). As Mother Abigail tells Nick in that book, when Nick says writes that he doesn’t believe in God, “Well, He believes in YOU!” That sense of possibility and mystery is gone in this book. This is more of an attitude of “if God exists, he’s a sadistic and psychotic asshole.” It’s quite an interesting change, and I wonder about the pathway that has brought SK to this point, and if this reflects his own views or is just a part of the story.

It’s obvious that he has nothing but contempt for religious charlatans and grifters. I share his contempt, and I find it dismaying that there are still so many such people out there. None have quite the dark side of Charles Jacobs, though...at least as far as anyone knows…!

A couple of great reads, and I recommend both of them highly. If you’re into that sort of thing, of course. Not for everyone!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Beth’s Music Moment: The Man Who Stole A Leopard

Beth's music moment6[4]

It’s a single song edition of the Music Moment!

“The Man Who Stole A Leopard” is a song by Duran Duran, from their 2011 album “All You Need Is Now.” When I got this album and was looking at the track listing, I was intrigued by the title. “Hmm,” I wondered. “What is this about?”

Well, it’s about exactly what it says it’s about. A New Jersey man comes across a leopard in the wild, and does some shifty and illegal maneuvering to get the big cat back to the United States, then keeps her in a cage in his apartment. Although the story is apparently fictional, I recall various news stories over the years about people keeping wild animals in small apartments. I wonder if such stories inspired the guys in the band to write this song?

Do you know where we are?
I'm longing for the dark of our nocturnal life
It begins and ends with you
Don't spill my secret

You were once running wild, hiding in the morning mist
Game demands I make you mine
I thought that I could resist, but the leopard in you silently preyed on me

I made my way back home (Did you follow her?)
I handled her with care (Were you in control?)
So elegant and sleek (Were you not afraid?)
I need her to be near (Does she belong to you?)
Don't spill my secret

Deserted by my friends (Don't they understand?)
She's so much more than them (How could they compare?)
So now she's just for me (No one else can see)
I watch her while she sleeps (Be sure she dreams of you)
Don't spill my secret

(It's been quite a while) Since we were last outside
(And do you miss the chase?) Now that we've both been tamed
(Inside this gilded cage) Prisoners of our thoughts
(You saved me from myself) 

Don't spill my secret...


Today a man was taken from his apartment at the New Jersey Shore and arrested under suspicion of entrapment of a wild animal. Police, after forced entry, discovered a caged leopard in the building. The fully-grown feline was said to be surprisingly domesticated by zoological experts who gave her a thorough examination, before preparing her for relocation.

A large crowd had gathered outside to watch the beautiful creature, as s giant cage was lowered slowly onto the street by a crane. From here, the leopard was transfered into the back of a truck for its journey ahead. A startled onlooker said, "It's extraordinary to think that any human being could have lived in such close quarters with such a dangerous animal."

Police are saying that the captive was simply besotted with the creature, and barely left her side. It's alleged that he hunted her in the wild and expertly forged documents to facilitate her illegal export to the United States of America. The incident has already created much controversy, and is now likely to lead to a major international investigation into the life of the man who stole a leopard.

Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, Simon Le Bon


I’m not sure what it is about this song, but it absolutely slays me. It is ethereal and somewhat eerie, and Simon’s vocals are just perfect. The music itself is atmospheric and builds slowly. As you’ll hear at the end of the video, there is a spoken portion, a fake newscast. One of the lines is, “Police are saying that the captive was simply besotted with the creature, and barely left her side.”

There is something about this that makes me think of the human desire to possess and control. Rather than admiring this beautiful animal in the wild and keeping the image in his mind of her roaming free, the man in the song must capture her and put her in a cage, far removed from her natural habitat. This is obviously unhealthy for both man and beast. What is this strange desire of so many to tame and defang and sterilize—even to kill—what should be wild and free and natural? There was a story recently about a young teenager in Michigan who shot a rare albino deer, and a picture of him with the dead animal made the rounds on the Internet. Who could shoot such a creature? Why not let it live?

Duran Duran4I’ll never understand this desire to kill or capture, and the metaphor can be stretched to how we deal with people in our lives. Do we accept people for who and what they are, or are we motivated by the need to control and make others into what WE want them to be? Forcing others to conform to our notions of what they should be is every bit as dangerous as keeping a leopard caged in your apartment. Those who are caged and controlled inevitably rebel. We all need a little coaching as to how to deal with situations and how to be more polished in social settings, but trying to change another’s fundamental nature and personality is a futile endeavor.

I can’t listen to this song without weeping. I feel sad for the leopard snatched from her natural habitat and forced to live in a cage in a small apartment in the city. I feel sad for the man who had to possess her at any cost and who felt that she was his only friend. Yes, I know it’s only a song, but that doesn’t mean that it has no power. Listen to the song, and if you don’t understand why it makes me feel the way it does, then we obviously need to talk about your attitude and how we can change it. [wink]

Embedding is disabled for the band performing this song live, but it really is a wonderful version (seeing them is almost as much fun as listening to them), so watch The Man Who Stole A Leopard via that link.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Infection Connection: Ebola Freakout Edition

Ebola virusI really didn’t want to have to write this entry, guys. I am sick nigh unto death of hearing the ridiculous and inaccurate reports about Ebola. The worst is the conspiracy theories...that President Obama has purposefully brought Ebola to this country, that terrorists are bringing Ebola and other diseases across our porous borders, something about reparations for slavery...wait, what?


It has been a constant barrage of misinformation, hysteria, and outright lies. I’m not going to post an entry about misconceptions about Ebola, because there are plenty of those out there. I highly recommend the coverage on Vox and Nerdist, both of which have posted fair and fact-based articles. (Just search the sites for ‘Ebola’ to find the articles.) Of course, the gold standard is the CDC website, which provides updates and detailed information for both health care professionals and laypeople.

My frustration is twofold.

The media I have never seen a bunch of talking heads absolutely lose their shit the way I’ve seen the American media lose their shit over Ebola. The reporting is often incorrect, it is speculative, and it is on the verge of criminal in the way they sensationalize and fearmonger. This time, I’m not singling out a specific “news” source, one often known to stretch the truth in mind-boggling ways. (Not to mention any names, but it rhymes with cocks.) They have all been guilty of some really bad journalism lately, and especially with this Ebola story.

Oh, and isn’t it odd how the Ebola outbreak in Africa—the worst Ebola outbreak ever—wasn’t covered much by the U.S. media until we brought infected American health care workers back here to be treated? Thousands die of Ebola in Africa...a couple of paragraphs in the local paper, and maybe a mention on the news. Ebola patients brought back to the U.S. for treatment? Oh mah gah it’s the end of the world and we’re all gonna die! Get a grip. I’ve been following this outbreak from the beginning, and I am not one bit surprised that there have been cases outside of Africa. In case you haven’t noticed, people travel around the world and do so frequently. We are not a remote island.

Some online people This has been limited to friends of friends and people from my community and around the country that I see commenting on articles. I’m happy to say that my friends either know enough about it to not be freaking out or they are willing to ask questions or do their own research to learn more about it. Those who are freaking out are people that don’t know the first thing about viruses, their effects on the body, their transmission, or infection control practices that have been a part of hospital protocol for decades. They get their information from news sources, and said news sources have ramped up the fear factor to a ridiculous level.

I’ve seen comments ranging from people knowing that Ebola is airborne and horribly contagious to people thinking that it is a verrrry strange coincidence that this is happening around election time. It’s all nonsense, but these people are genuinely frightened (if horribly mistaken), and the only ones to blame for that are the media. To be fair, I will also place part of the blame on the individuals for thinking that they know everything about it because they watched a news show about it. An hour with Brian Williams doesn’t make you an expert on anything other than how cool Brian Williams is. Watching a news show does not make you a doctor or a virologist or an epidemiologist.

The politicization

Dammit! Threefold! My frustration is threefold!

Somehow, this has become a political football. Instead of focusing on the threat to public health and on the people who are dying in Africa, certain politicians are using this to score points against the opposing party. This disgusts me. The sleaze factor is through the roof. Many are calling for “closing the borders,” whatever the hell that means, despite the numerous health care professionals who deal with outbreaks as a part of their job saying that such tactics are counterproductive and do nothing to solve the problem. If we really want to stop such infectious diseases from coming to our country and causing an outbreak here, we will ramp up our efforts overseas and spend a lot more money on public health, both here AND there.

The cognitive dissonance

I give up. My frustrations about this are endless, and I’m not going to try to keep count anymore.

Ebola chartAs some people lose their collective minds about Ebola, they are somehow ignoring the more present and real threat of viruses like influenza. In 2010, 50,000 people died from influenza in the United States. There is a vaccine for that, but there is still a significant portion of the population that refuses to get the shot. There are many viral and bacterial infections that can be prevented with vaccination, and we can even prevent a certain type of cancer with the HPV vaccine...but there are still people who refuse vaccinations for whatever stupid reason they have. I can’t begin to tell you how irritating it is for me to see people lose their minds over Ebola and at the same time they think that influenza is no big deal and they don’t need to get the shot. You have a much higher chance of dying from influenza than you do of dying from Ebola. Why don’t people understand that? Go get your damn flu shot, people!

I could go on and on about everything that I find so maddening about what I am hearing and reading about this outbreak, but you get the idea. If anything good can come of this sheer clusterfuck of public health failure, it’s that people will wake up to the fact that we are NOT prepared as a country for something of this magnitude. Remember several years ago when we had an H1N1 pandemic, and a lot of people scoffed at the concept of pandemic preparedness? I wrote about it here and here. We had a plan at the lab where I worked, and the place where Ken worked had a plan—Ken was even on the committee that formulated the plan. I suspect that the people who thought that was a waste of time and money are the same people who are screaming the loudest about being unprepared. You know what? If you want to be ready for something like this, you have to prepare for it. That involves time, money, communication, education efforts, and practice. Lots and lots of practice.

From what I’m reading, one of the biggest failures of this whole mess was expecting health care professionals with no additional training in dealing with such infections and stringent isolation practices to be able to follow some sort of checklist and do things correctly. There is a protocol for not only putting on personal protective equipment (PPE), but also for removing it. It has to be done in a certain order and in a certain way, otherwise you risk contaminating yourself and others. It is obvious that the hospital in Dallas had not properly trained its workers to deal with something like this, and as a result, two of them have contracted the virus...and I would not be surprised if more do in the coming days.

We can do better, and we must. I suppose that as wake-up calls go, this is one of the better ones to get, because Ebola is not easily transmitted. If this had been an agent that passed easily between people, we’d be in deep shit right now.

I know the dangers of this virus, and I know that this is a serious public health threat, at least in Africa. However, I also know that we have the knowledge and technology to stop it from spreading here. That is why I have no qualms about boarding a plane on Sunday and spending some time in Phoenix and Las Vegas. Of all the things there are to worry about in this world, Ebola is really far down on my list.

I choose not to live my life in fear, and I can’t imagine waking up every morning and fearing what disaster will strike today. Terrorist bombing? Power grid interruption? Ebola? Rise of the apes? Shame on the media for trying to scare people in the interest of ratings, shame on those who are trying to score political points from a tragedy in which thousands have died, shame on those who don’t respect the microorganisms enough to realize that we have NOT mastered them, and most of all, shame on everyone who didn’t give a rat’s ass about Ebola as long as it was killing poor people in another hemisphere.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Beth’s Music Moment: Shake Before Us

Shake Before UsIt seems like this is on the verge of turning into a music blog, doesn’t it? That’s not my intention. It’s just that at this moment in time, it is what I am obsessed consumed with. I’m revisiting old favorites as well as finding new bands to show some love.

This band falls into the latter category. I don’t recall now how I came across them. It might have been one of the satellite radio channels, or maybe it was Amazon’s new music feature, or maybe it was via a free download site whose mailing list I am on. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I found them, because I was immediately in love!

I found their website and ordered a CD/t-shirt combo. I got an email from Will, who plays keyboards and sings co-lead, and he said they were out of the women’s size I wanted, so did I want a refund, did I want another CD…? What would I prefer? After a little discussion, I went with both of their CDs, resulting in a slight refund. That was the perfect choice, because I absolutely love both of them!

Shake Before Us is out of San Diego, and they have been active since 2010. Their first album (self-titled) came out in 2011, and their most recent, “Radio Time Bomb” came out in August of 2014. They’ve got a fantastic sound that is a throwback to ‘60s garage bands, but with a bit of a harder edge. Bonus: THEREMIN! Yes, the theremin is listed as one of the instruments played by the drummer, and personally, I don’t want to live in a world without theremins. Major props to any band that tosses a little theremin into the mix! The keyboards are a big part of their music, and it really adds to their garage band sound. I like my keyboards like I like my men: loopy, jangly, and a little fuzzy. Wait, that doesn’t really make sense….

Anyway, the first album sounds raw and fresh. It was apparently recorded live directly to a reel-to-reel, and if this is what they sound like live, I have got to see them at some point! My favorite tracks on the first album are “All Day And Night,” “Angels of Altamont,” and “Devil May Care.” But no lie...they are ALL good.

The second album sounds a little more polished, and a little harder. Personal favorites are “Figure It Out,” “You Started It,” “It’s What You Wanted,” and “Gottago!!!” “Button Up My Black Shirt” is also tasty. Again, they are all good. Not a bad track on either album, in my opinion. Whether you like your music more raw or more polished is a matter of taste. I say, “Why can’t we have both?”

One of the great joys in my life is finding something that seems like it was made just for me. A perfect combination of things I love. I’ve encountered a few books like that, that’s how I feel about “The Walking Dead,” and that’s how this band struck me. So thanks for forming and playing songs just for me, guys! Ha! I hope a lot of other people check them out and decide that they like them, too.

As an aside, I would like to have it on record that one of my pet peeves is when people say, “There’s no good music out there nowadays.” First of all, stop using the word ‘nowadays,’ because it makes you sound like a grumpy old person. Second, I call bullshit! There is all kinds of good music out there right now, and lots of bands that are working hard and really bringing it. But if you expect to hear it on a Top 40 radio station, you are barking up the wrong soundwave, my friend. That IS mostly crap music, but there are more great sounds in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your little radio philosophy. Get out there and look for it. Seek it out. Go hear local bands. We’ve got a great music scene going on right here in South Bend, Indiana and the surrounding area. The truth is out there. It is up to you to find it...because it’s not going to come to you. A true seeker will look and will find.

[stepping down off my soapbox]

Check out a couple of videos and see what you think. I know my musical tastes aren’t for everyone, but I am really diggin’ these guys, and I think you might like them, too! First, “All Day And Night” from the first album, followed by “It’s What You Wanted” from the follow-up, “Radio Time Bomb.” TURN IT UP!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Beth’s Music Moment: Music is Magic

Bob, Beth, WinstonImagine, if you will…

You’ve admired a musician for decades. Three decades, in fact. You first saw their band on MTV, and then you saw them live, back in 1987. You have almost all of their albums, you know the words to many of their songs well enough that you can sing along. As you are recommending the band to a friend (who is also a musician), you decide to visit the band’s website again, just to see what they’ve been up to.

As you look through the pictures, the tour dates, the updates...you see a spot to contact the band. Because you’ve loved them for years, and because your Official Fan Motto™ is “show the band some love,” you send a message saying that their music has meant a lot to you over the years and you tell them how much you’ve appreciated them and loved them all this time.

Then imagine that you get an email back from the FREAKIN’ LEAD SINGER of this band that you’ve loved for decades, and he thanks you for your email and for your kind words about his band and their songs...and he happens to mention that he does house concerts on weekends, and to let him know if you’re interested.

Thus was born one of the greatest nights of my life.

The band is the Rainmakers (I’ve written about them before) and the lead singer is Bob Walkenhorst. We started an email correspondence, and I scared him at first. I mean, I was writing to Bob Walkenhorst! And he was responding! Tell me everything! What about this song? What about that song? What does this lyric mean? I assured him that I would calm down, and I was true to my word. It took me a bit, but I did calm down. Bob is also an artist, and we bought a gorgeous painting from him, one that I get to look at every day.

I mentioned the house concert to Ken, thinking that he’d say, “Nah, we’ve got enough other things going on...we really shouldn’t spend the money on that.” He totally surprised me by saying, “That sounds pretty cool!” But we knew that our house wasn’t big enough to host 20-30 people in one room to hear Bob play, and that’s where Shane and Matt came in. They were on board immediately, and we started to plan this shindig.

We initially planned it for late May, but because the Rainmakers were leaving for a tour in Norway soon after that, Bob really needed to be home the weekend of our scheduled show. It was obvious that he felt really bad about having to reschedule, but it all worked out okay!

The big show was on Saturday, September 20th, and we had a nice turnout of about 20 people. I wish we could have invited more, but space was limited. Bob got there about an hour and a half before we asked people to start arriving, so he had plenty of time to get his stuff set up and we were able to get to know each other and do all the fan stuff like get things signed. I’m often very nervous and shy when meeting a new person, especially if that someone happens to be one of my favorite musicians! However, I didn’t feel that way at all. He put me immediately at ease, and was wonderfully friendly and kind. Of course, we’d been corresponding a bit for several months, so I had a pretty good idea that he was going to be a nice, fun, and funny person...I just didn’t realize how nice and fun and funny! He had said he’d bring me a t-shirt, but ended up bringing me three, and I got one signed. Awesome!

Bob brought along two of his friends from the Chicago area, Joe (an author) and George (an engineer and Notre Dame graduate). Joe brought some of his books, so we got a few of those, too...a couple of them signed. I was in fangirl heaven. They were both a lot of fun, and I enjoyed meeting them and getting to know them a little bit. I hope I run into them again one day!

Bob2People started arriving right on time, and we had an hour to talk and have some food before Bob played. I tried to invite people who I thought would appreciate this kind of show, and I think I nailed the mix. Everyone from a friend from high school, to a friend from college, to a friend from the lab (and a guitarist in a local band...another friend who came is the bass player for the band), to a recent friend we met online, to my sister Diana. I don’t know if the party planets were aligned just right, or what, but it was a perfect mix of people who love good music and love a good time. Everyone was talking and laughing and primed to hear some music.

Then Bob played, and it was great.

The End.

HA! No, there is much more to the story.

Bob didn’t just play. He told background stories about these songs I’ve loved for years. He talked and laughed with us and just generally charmed the pants off of everyone (not literally, of course...it wasn’t that kind of party!). He blew everyone away by how good he was. You know, I remember him always having a great stage presence, but to experience it up close and personal was a whole other story. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he had us in the palm of his hand.

His voice was strong and clear, and it’s amazing how much sound he can get out of one acoustic guitar.

He took a half an hour break, giving everyone a chance to talk and laugh and eat and drink some more. He played a second 50-minute set, and then he was done.

I could have listened to him play two more hours. I could have listened to him play all night. I was mesmerized.

Then it was time for more talking, laughing, eating, and drinking. It really was a wonderful mix of people, and we had such a great time together. My sister told me that she’s never heard such a “buzz” among a party crowd. I couldn’t have asked for a better evening, and I think everyone felt the same way. We wound down around midnight, and Bob headed off to the guest room for some snooze time. (Shane and Matt were thrilled to have him spend the night there!) Everyone said their goodbyes, then it was just me, Ken, Shane, and Matt. We cleaned up a little bit, just what we had to, and talked about how it had turned out perfectly and how happy we were that it worked out that we could do this.

(See all the photos here.)

Bob and BethThe seven of us met for breakfast the next morning before the guys headed out and we got to chat a little bit more. Everyone agreed that it had been a great party and a fun show. Shane told me later that either Joe or George asked him, “So what did you think?” Shane thought for a moment and said, “You know, I’d have to say this was one of the highlights of my life.” I completely agree, and feel the same way. It’s something that we’ll be talking about for a long time to come. I can’t begin to convey how special it was for me, and what a pleasure it was to meet Bob. He is a genuinely nice guy who is an incredibly talented songwriter and performer. What a wonderful evening. I was a little blue as we parted ways.

After he got back home on Monday, I emailed him to tell him how much everyone loved it and that I was getting some wonderful feedback from people. I said he’d made several new fans that evening, and that made me very happy. I’ve known how good he and the band is for years, so what a pleasure for me to share that with others who didn’t know! I got an amazing email back from him in which he said many nice things that absolutely stunned me, but the upshot was that everything was perfect for him, and that the evening would stay with him as one of the best nights he’s ever had playing. Wow! He thanked me for giving him a night that makes him know that what he’s spent his life doing has all been worth it, and said that “music is still magic” when you can share it with people like us and all the others who are brought together by it. Music IS magic, Bob, and I think we were all touched by your magic on Saturday night. I know I was.

I think that feeling is conveyed quite well by this song, one that he played for us that night. I don’t know if I have one single “greatest night,” but I can say that Saturday night is right up there. (And thanks to Eddie for posting this video!)

“Thanks for being here with me
On the greatest night of my life.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Well, THAT was quite the weekend!

ND vs Michigan 14Aaaaand, I’m spent.

Well, I think there’s still a little kick left in the girl, so a brief update.

This weekend was a total blast. Saturday was the big football game between Notre Dame and Michigan. For those of you not from these parts, I can tell you that this is one of the biggest rivalries in all of college football, and this was the last game they will be playing in the foreseeable future. Notre Dame is an independent team, so they are not in a conference. They have made some kind of deal with the ACC to play more of those teams. In some ways, that’s good, but ending the games with Michigan is kind of a bummer. It’s a great rivalry, and they’re right up the road! A lot of friends and former coworkers are Michigan fans, so it was always fun to talk a little smack.

Saturday was an absolutely perfect day for football. Mostly sunny, but a few pretty little clouds, and temperatures in the low 70s falling to the mid 50s in the evening. The game was at 7:30, so we had plenty of time to tailgate. We had hoped to meet up with a couple of friends, but that didn’t work out...so we made some new ones! A couple from Illinois was parked near us, and we ended up chatting and played a couple rounds of cornhole. (Feel free to laugh...it cracks me up every time. It’s also known as bean bag toss.) We talked to a guy that went to the same high school that I did, and he was a couple of years ahead of me. It was nice to remember that it really is a small world, and that’s all I’ll say about that.

If I thought the day was perfect for football, the Notre Dame team showed me that there was plenty more fun to be had. We shut out the Michigan Wolverines, 31-0. I can’t begin to tell you how huge this was. Notre Dame vs Michigan is one of the great rivalries in college football (I think I said that already), and we smoked ‘em. They haven't been shut out since 1984. The games with Michigan have always been tough, but on the last game we played with them (at least for now), in our house, we completely spanked them. It was bad enough that a Michigan cheerleader flipped off an Irish fan for waving his hat while the Michigan band was playing their fight song. Way to represent your university, dude!

I am truly sad to see the association with Michigan end. Those have been some of the best games over the years, and I hope we’ll see them again in the future. But I really couldn’t have asked for a better way (as an Irish fan) to end the series. I know that my Dad would have loved it!

On Sunday, we were able to have lunch with our pal Andy, who was in town from California for the game. We always have such a great time talking with him and we love it when he is in town! Now if we can only get him to move back here and be a part of a revitalized and growing city…!

I really couldn’t have asked for a better weekend as summer winds down. We’ve got a couple more fun and exciting weekends ahead of us, so we are milking this summer for all it is worth!

More to come!

Monday, September 1, 2014

It’s the end, the end of the summer days

End of summerWell, hello, you little maniacs!

Did you miss me?!

I’m alive and kicking, but decided to take the summer off. No apologies this time for not updating sooner, because I made the decision to take a break and I don’t feel even a little bit bad about it! (Okay, maybe 5% bad. But that is within the margin of error.)

It’s been a busy and fun summer, and I just decided to go with that and not feel obligated to write about everything. Plenty of updates on Facebook and Twitter (you can find me @Luvrte66), but I think all of us who are still writing blogs know that the readers just aren’t there like they used to be. I’m okay with that, although I did get quite a thrill when my hits went through the roof when Duran Duran posted a link to my review of my friend Andy’s book Beautiful Colors on their Facebook page! I do still enjoy writing, so I’ll ease back into it as we head into the winter and things settle down.

Man, we’ve had some fun. We went down to Indianapolis with Shane and Matt to see Presidents of the United States of America and then Smash Mouth; we went to a couple of RiffTrax movies; we went to several local events like Art Beat and seeing my friend Jim’s band High Gravity play; got to see a couple of Silver Hawks games; we got to party with some of my former coworkers when our friend Aubrey got married. We had our annual vegecation in New Smyrna Beach in July, and on the drive back, stopped in Atlanta to do a Walking Dead filming location tour, which was so awesome. Then we spent a couple of days in Nashville, where we visited the Johnny Cash Museum (it was wonderful), went to Printer’s Alley, and went honky-tonkin’ on Honky Tonk Row. It was an unusual weekend when we didn’t have something going on! As much fun as we had with all of these things, we appreciated those downtime weekends so we could recharge our batteries.

Our latest projects are getting ready to have our friend Mark come out from Omaha to spend a long weekend with us. We’ll be taking an overnight trip up to Detroit so that he can see his family, and we’ll be meeting up with some friends while there. I’ve also been busy planning a house party at Shane and Matt’s for later in September, where Bob Walkenhorst of the Rainmakers will play an acoustic show for a small group of us. I’ve loved Bob and the Rainmakers for going on three decades, so it is going to be wonderful to meet him and hear him play in such an intimate setting!

I’ve also been working on setting up a big vacation in October in Vegas, baby! A bunch of family and friends are converging on Sin City for a long weekend of partying friendship and fun. We’ve got people coming from the Detroit area, Texas, and California, and will be meeting up with several friends who live in Vegas. The long weekend will culminate with a meet-up for all of us at the Hofbräuhaus, an exact replica of the Munich Hofbräuhaus. We have some other fun things planned, and Ken and I will meet with Shane and Matt a few days before in Phoenix. Ken has a business thing he needs to go to, but we will definitely be hitting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West while we’re there.

We’ve also had some very positive things happen on a personal level, and I’ll just say that I am very happy for Ken. Reconnections are great...never give up! There were positive things on a professional level for him, too, with a change of duties and director status at the company where he works. I’m very happy for him about that, too!

I always feel a little blue this time of year, because I love summer. It is definitely my favorite season. I love the warmth, I love sunbathing on the deck while reading and listening to music, and I especially love wearing as few clothes as possible. I don’t look forward to wearing all those clothes in the winter! I’m a big fan of not wearing pants. It’s not officially the end of summer yet, but doesn’t the end of August always feel like the end? It does for me. It seemed official this past weekend when I had my birthday, then celebrated with 80,000 of my closest friends on Saturday as the Notre Dame football season kicked off with a win against Rice. Go Irish!

As much as I hate to see the summer wind down, we have ND football, basketball, and hockey games to look forward to this fall and winter. In fact, we just got hockey season tickets! There are many fun things to look forward to, including a visit from our nieces and their family from San Diego over the holidays and some fun shows at the Morris for the Broadway Theater League.

But it still makes me sad when I fill the hummingbird feeders for the last time of the season, using extra-sweet nectar as they prepare to make their long flight south. I did that yesterday.

Farewell, summer. I’ll miss you. I’ll see you next year, though!

Please enjoy this song from Green Day. This is the aural equivalent of my feelings about the bittersweet end of summer.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Books and Notes, Notes and Books

Book notesMy niece posted on Facebook last night that she had been going through some old books that she needed to get rid of and she came across an old receipt. It was from the mid-’90s, from a grocery store that I believe has since been torn down, and it was for one candy bar.

She was quite delighted with this find, and I knew exactly how she felt. It is always interesting to find an old note or slip of paper tucked into a book. If it’s your own note, it can bring back memories of where you were and what you were doing at the time. If it’s in a used or a library book, it provides one small puzzle piece to another person’s life. Who was this person? Where did they live? Are they still alive? Did they have a happy life? What did they think of the book? It’s a little clue to a mystery that will probably never be solved. Isn’t it fun to speculate, though?

Anyway, it made me think about how fun and intriguing it is to come across a little note like that, and it made me decide to write little notes and tuck them away into books, especially ones that I borrow from the library and ones that I donate to them. I might even put some notes into books that we plan on keeping. I sometimes read books over or look for references in them, and it would be fun to come across even my own notes!

I’m not the first person to think of this, of course, nor is my niece. It’s just something that I’ve never done on purpose, and I’m looking forward to it. Maybe I’ll look up some neat quotes that I like. Maybe I’ll write a haiku. Maybe I’ll draw a little picture for the next reader. Maybe I’ll even slip a buck or two in there and leave a note that says, “Have a coffee on me!” What fun! Whatever I do, I hope it will brighten someone’s day. I know it certainly would brighten my day to run across something like that! Even if the librarian happens to find it before it gets reshelved, or the warehouse worker sees it as they go through the donated books, it might make them smile, too. Sometimes little acts of kindness can make a difference if someone is having a bad day. It sure can’t hurt! Of course, I will not write IN the book…just a little note on a separate sheet of paper.

A huge thanks to my niece Michelle for the inspiration. Love you, Niecey!


Duran DuranA bit of follow-up to my previous entry, in which I wrote about the Duran Duran art book written by Andrew Golub. I was checking my blog visits the other day and saw a significant uptick in the number of visitors. As I checked further, most of them were checking out that particular entry, with multiple visits from Facebook and quite a few from Twitter. I wrote to Andy about it, because I was so pleased that my review got some attention for him. He said that he knew that the band shared it on their Facebook page, and he was very happy about that. I checked, and sure enough, they had shared it there and also on Twitter! They even quoted me from the review. I was absolutely thrilled! And yes, I’m sure it was their publicist who actually saw it and posted it, but I don’t care. My blog post got shared on Duran Duran’s Facebook and Twitter pages! Fangirl was very happy!

So to all those Duran Duran fans from all over the world who checked it out, thanks for stopping by! If I knew you were coming, I would have tidied up a bit and maybe even made a cake! And a huge thanks to the band (band’s publicist) for sharing it. It made my day, and I still love you guys! Look at ’em…how is it that they just get better-looking? I bet they have portraits of themselves in their attics.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Beth’s Books meets Beth’s Music Moment: Worlds Collide!

DD1In an unprecedented move, I am joining in marriage two of my usual features here and writing about a book that deals with music. Never before has such a thing been done! Sit back and watch as I…

What? I have done this before? Like in the entry prior to this one? Oh. Never mind.

Anyway, it’s actually because of that entry that this entry came about. An author read my review of Mad World, a book about New Wave music, songs, and artists that I absolutely loved, and reached out to me to ask if I would like to review his book. I normally don’t take requests, but he asked so nicely...AND it is a book about one of my all-time favorites, Duran Duran. [Please note: I am receiving no compensation for this review; it is based on the press kit the author sent me, and the words and opinions here are, as always, my own.]

A Seattle resident, Andrew Golub is a long-time fan of Duran Duran, and has amassed a huge collection of memorabilia. Part of his collection is concert posters: some common and some rare, those that saw wide distribution and those that were never released. His book consists of these concert posters, and Beautiful Colors is aptly named.

[click on any picture to embiggenate]


These early posters from 1981 stand in stark contrast to the later image of the band. Duran Duran, perhaps more than any other band, epitomized the color-drenched, lush MTV look. Think of the videos for “Rio” and “Hungry Like The Wolf.” (A major exception is the video for my favorite song of theirs, “The Chauffeur.” This moody, atmospheric song gets the black and white treatment, and rightly so.) It would seem that the advent of MTV brought about a change in Duran Duran’s concert posters. If a band recognizes a hot commodity, they’d be foolish to not take advantage of that, and their looks were definitely a hot commodity. Photos of the band begin to dominate the posters.


Duran Duran was sometimes seen as a bunch of pretty boys making throwaway pop music. I never felt that was true or fair, and I feel that their music stands the test of time. Yes, they were gorgeous (John Taylor, good heavens...when I was a college coed, I absolutely adored him. Kind of still do, to tell the truth!), and yes, they had some great hits on radio and on MTV. But their talent as musicians and songwriters cannot be denied. They crafted some amazing songs, and they were and are all talented musicians. It is forty years later, and if I hear “The Reflex” or “Wild Boys,” I still shake my groove thang! “Rio” remains in my personal Top Ten albums.


The advent of MTV brought their vibrancy to light, and concert posters of that era showcased that. The colors leap out at you, and their looks are enhanced with makeup and coiffed hair.


And good gawd, that black leather. [fanning myself]

There is an enduring story in my family about Duran Duran. Three of my nieces, maybe around ten years old at the time, told my Beatlemaniac sister that “Duran Duran is going to be bigger than the Beatles.” I haven’t checked album sales, but I’m guessing that has not turned out to be the case. However, Duran Duran left their indelible and colorful stamp on rock and roll history, and continue to do so. Their sound is evocative of a certain time in my life and as I write this, I find that I have a wicked little grin on my face.

Andy’s book beautifully shows this. The transition from traditional graphic posters to those that showcased the band’s glamorous looks is readily apparent, and as some wise person once said, “Sex sells.” Duran Duran also had the music and talent to back up the sex appeal, unlike many others of that era (or of this era, frankly). The posters in this art book show the development of a Birmingham band working the clubs to MTV darlings and arena artists. It is beautifully done, and any fan of Duran Duran would treasure this volume. A forward by Nick Rhodes is icing on the cake.

Check out Andy’s website here. You can buy the book there or here.

In an amazing case of serendipity, as I finished up this entry, the song that came on satellite radio was “Hungry Like The Wolf.” Karma, baby!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Beth’s Books: Mad World

Mad WorldMad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s, by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein

When I saw a description of this book in a Rolling Stone blog entry, I knew I had to get it. In fact, I went right over to Amazon and ordered it then and there.

This was my era of music. I’ve read that the music that resonates the most with you throughout your life is that which you listened to as a teen and young adult. New Wave was an outcropping of punk rock, essentially making it a little more friendly and palatable for American tastes. It eventually took on a life of its own and much of it was subversive in its own right. This was happening when I was in high school and college, and this music is a major part of my life’s soundtrack.

Although I wasn’t heavy into the more electronic stuff like Depeche Mode and Joy Division (I was into the stuff with a little harder edge), I still enjoyed reading about every band and artist in the book. We get details of the friendships, the tensions, the musical influences (Bowie was a huge influence with many of these artists...so was Roxy Music), the equipment, the breakups, the reunions. We get tasty little tidbits of trivia like the story behind Adam Ant’s Apache war stripe, the real meaning of the phrase Spandau Ballet (it’s pretty awful, although the band didn’t realize it when they chose it), and of course, we’ve all wondered what the deal was with the Flock of Seagulls guy’s (Mike Score is his name) bizarre hairdo! Now the truth can be known! Get the book and find out!

There are three bands in this book that I was very much into: Devo, Duran Duran, and INXS. The entire book is great, but the write-ups on these bands alone are worth the price. I was very touched by two of the Farriss brothers talking about how they all coped with the loss of Michael Hutchence. You could tell that there is still a hole in their hearts because of his absence. Mine too, guys. Mine too.

The book has plenty of lush, colorful photographs, but isn’t short on content. It is full of great interviews with usually at least one musician from each band, and a “That was then but this is now” (from an ABC song) feature gives us an idea of what they’ve been up to lately. (The most bizarre has to be Alannah Currie of the Thompson Twins, who these days “upholsters furniture using the carcasses of animals who died naturally or who were run over by unobservant drivers.” What?) It was also pleasant to find out that Howard Jones is a genuinely nice chap who strives to be the best human being he can be, and is all about encouraging others to do the same and to look at life in a positive way. What a nice guy!

There is an afterward by Moby, and part of his experience growing up with this music was similar to mine. He writes:
New wave was, for me, also about geographic escapism. I lived in the suburbs of Connecticut, and new wave represented Berlin and London and Manchester and Paris and parts of the world that seemed as glamorous and far away from Connecticut as one could possibly get while remaining on the planet.
This girl from a small town in Indiana knows exactly how you feel, Moby! Music was my exposure to a broader world, and I think it definitely shaped my worldview and made me eager to travel and see some of these places myself. It also made me know that there were teenagers all over the world who were experiencing similar things to me—other kids who didn’t quite fit in with the “in crowd,” other kids who were shy, other kids who felt that these musicians understood what they were going through, because maybe they had gone through it, too.

What really spoke to me the most, though, was this from Midge Ure of Ultravox:
[The eighties] was a different planet. It was a planet where people cared about music. Music was a be-all and end-all to young people. It was our lifeblood. You waited for the next album you were into, you saved up your pennies, and you waved it around proudly when you bought it, and you played it to death. That world doesn’t exist anymore. There’s only a few old-timers and Luddites who do that these days. There are kids walking around with 20,000 songs on their phones, and they haven’t got a clue what any of them are called because they’ve been downloaded—they’ve just been passed from person to person.
If you felt this way about eighties music, BUY THIS BOOK. It will not disappoint. I enjoyed it so much that I used the twitter links provided at the end of the book for the book and the two authors, and told them how much I loved it. They responded immediately, and when I said that I’m really hoping for a Part Deux, one of them said “Us too!” So fingers crossed for a second volume. There are so many more artists to explore!

Cousin Shane and I spent many fun hours in his room listening to albums and poring over the liner notes. We read all the lyrics and sometimes memorized them. We may not have been musicians, but we know exactly where Midge is coming from with his sentiments above. For a few special years, we were totally consumed by the music...and what a lovely way to burn.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Beth’s Books: Grand Forks - A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews

Beth's BooksWhew, I’m on fiyah with the reading lately! I’m not trying to make this solely a bookish blog (there are plenty of other fun things to write about along with books), but that’s kind of been my focus lately, and I’ve really enjoyed some of the books I’ve been reading.

This one was especially fun for me, because in the Days of Yore, I spent about five years in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Shortly after I graduated from college, I got married, and my husband (now ex-husband) joined the Air Force. Grand Forks is where he got stationed. When I found out, I cried. But my Dad told me, “Look at it as an adventure!” He was right, and I made a lot of friends up there, as well as getting my first job and getting some great experience that would serve me well in my career.

Anyway, I recall Marilyn Hagerty’s name from the Grand Forks Herald, and a few years ago, her review of the new Olive Garden in Grand Forks went viral. (I couldn’t find the full column online, but you can find snippets here and there...and of course, the full review in the book!) It went viral because everyone knows that Olive Garden is kind of not that great of food, right? And not all that authentic, right? I mean, it’ll fill you up when you need it, and I have enjoyed meals there in the past, but I don’t think anyone would call it gourmet dining. But Ms. Hagerty reviewed it seriously, commenting on the food, service, and decor. In fact, she praised the decor quite a bit. The DECOR!

It was a funny but charming review, and you couldn’t help but like her for writing it. Having lived there, I can report that it is a smallish city, and any new restaurant opening was indeed a big deal. When I saw a while back that many of her reviews had been published in a book, I knew I had to get it.

I can’t begin to convey how much I enjoyed this book. She reviews everything from Sanders 1907 (which was the nicest restaurant in Grand Forks at the time when I was there) to the East Side Dairy Queen. She goes to buffets at Golden Corral and to the new Arby’s. No matter the restaurant, she writes about it seriously and with kindness. She seems to have her problems about certain things (if you’re her server, do NOT ask her multiple times how everything is...let her visit with her friends, gosh darn it!), but she goes out of the way to find complimentary things to say about every place she visits. The reviews in the book range from 1987 (I lived there at the time) to 2012, and in the earlier reviews, we are treated to descriptions of decor that includes mauves and greens and light wood and brass railings. Can you or can you not picture that exact style of ‘80s decor?!

She also mentions several places that I remember. There was the Chuckhouse at the Westward Ho Motel; Whitey’s Wonder Bar across the river in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (I had a lot of beers and a lot of onion rings at Whitey’s!); Bonzer’s downtown; and one of my regular haunts, John Barleycorn at Columbia Mall. There were many times when my friend Lisa and I would head out after a rough day at the lab and hit that place for Bloody Caesars or the occasional melon daiquiri. (I have yet to find another melon daiquiri like the ones at Barleycorn.)

Some of you may recall that Grand Forks and the area was devastated by a horrible flood of the Red River of the North in 1987. It was very sad to read of all the places that Ms. Hagerty wrote about that succumbed to the flood. The Chuckhouse and the Westward Ho were one of them. John Barleycorn is no longer in operation. Amazingly, both Bonzer’s and Whitey’s are still in operation, but many restaurants (not to mention homes) were lost in what Ms. Hagerty refers to as the Flood of ‘97. Based on what I watched on the news, read in books and online, and what my friends there said, it deserves its capital F. From the book:
Bit of Norway, along with many other Grand Forks and East Grand Forks businesses, succumbed to the Red River of the North flood in April and May of 1997. Says Marilyn of that time: 
“There was a period of time when I did not write because of the Flood of 1997. We had to evacuate and went down to Bismarck, where my daughter lives. My husband, retired editor of the Herald, died down there after a time in a nursing home.
“The Herald called and wanted me to write, so I started in. The Herald was being published in a school in a small town north of here. There were writers from all over the country in here during the big flood. Still, the Herald wanted writing from someone who lives here.
“The Herald, by the way, won a Pulitzer Prize for flood coverage. I can claim nothing to do with the Pulitzer Prize.”
I can tell you, that brought a tear to my eye. The whole book made me think of my time there (I was back in Indiana long before the Flood hit Grand Forks and that area) and I made an attempt to describe some of it to Ken. I felt like a stranger in a strange land at first, even though I’m also from the Midwest. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the upper prairies are a different kind of Midwest. People seem a little more insular and distrustful of people from elsewhere. So here I was, from Indiana, not really a hockey fan (that made people wonder about me from the very beginning, I’m sure!), a new graduate on her first job, and part of the Air Force community. In looking back, I had a lot of things going against me!

Grand ForksIt really wasn’t easy at first, but I settled in and learned the job, and got to know my coworkers better, and I made so many good friends there! I’ve lost touch with many of them, but I still get Christmas cards from a couple of them, and I found my former manager in Microbiology on Facebook. (She seemed quite happy when I told her that I’ve become a hockey fan!) Reading this book made me think about all the good times we had, and I’ll be spending a little time writing letters to both Carole and Susan, who are so wonderful about sending me cards every year.

Ken asked me if I’d ever want to swing through there on vacation some time. I said, “Well, it’s not exactly easy to ‘swing through!’ It’s like just two hours south of the Canadian border, so it’s way up there.” He asked again. “Would you like to go there again one day?” I grinned and said, “Yeah!”

I don’t know when this will happen, but I foresee Whitey’s onion rings in my future!

For those who don’t have the connection to Grand Forks that I do, you might not enjoy this book to the extent that I did. However, it is a delightful read that I plan on keeping in a handy spot for whenever I have a bad day. I don’t think it’s possible to read this without a smile sneaking onto your face!

And remember...if the chef includes an orange slice as garnish on your plate, that means he or she cares. Marilyn knows.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beth’s Books: We’re All Infected

Beth's BooksEvery week or so, I browse our most excellent local library’s website for new ebooks to borrow. I really am trying to do better about borrowing books rather than buying them, and although success in that regard has been limited, I am trying, I swear! I got a pleasant surprise when I saw this book, We’re All Infected: Essays on AMC's The Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human, edited by Dawn Keetley.

You all know how much I love the show, so this was right up my alley! I put a hold on it and got the notification a couple of days later that it was available. (Seriously...what a great feature of most libraries now!) 

Some might see the show and the zombie genre as mere pop culture fluff, but I’ve always felt that there was more to it than that. This collection of essays takes a scholarly look at zombies and the show in particular, looking at various sociological, psychological, and anthropological aspects. These aspects include the impact of violence and death, America’s cowboy mentality (Rick is basically a Western hero, isn’t he?), law enforcement, mourning or lack thereof, reliance on fossil fuels, the importance of language and communication (zombies can’t communicate beyond inarticulate growls), and a biomedical discussion of zombie function and breakdown.

There is a bit of history of zombies in pop culture, and that is fascinating in its own right. When zombies were first introduced to the U.S., it was as the Haitian voodoo zombies, and their portrayal in ‘30s and ‘40s-era movies was as a shambling slave under someone else’s control. Movies like “White Zombie” and “I Walked With A Zombie” reflected a fear of becoming a zombie and the loss of autonomy.

George Romero changed things in 1968 with “Night of the Living Dead,” with the zombies becoming something to fear, not just to fear becoming. This was seen as a metaphor for an increasingly violent world, and the zombie outbreak was said to be the result of some sort of massive radiation event, reflecting the fear of the Cold War. The zombies were still slow and shuffling, but overwhelming in their numbers.

This changed again in 2002 with “28 Days Later,” a movie in which the outbreak is a result of some type of viral infection. The outbreak moves quickly, and so do these zombies. This possibly reflects a fear of pandemics and terrorists, or a world moving rapidly out of control.

One of the most interesting essays to me was the one that focused on the question of time and the loss of it. The author of this essay, Gwyneth Peaty, showed how the show focuses on the lack of time. There is never enough time to mourn the dead, to process what is happening, to take a breath and focus on something other than mere survival. The one time everyone seems to relax a bit around the campfire while eating fish that Andrea and her sister Amy caught that afternoon, they all have a few laughs as Dale explains why he continues to wind his watch every day. This moment of relaxation and light-hearted camaraderie is taken away from the survivors—and from us—as the camp is attacked by zombies, and several people are brutally killed, including Amy. Andrea keeps vigil over her sister’s corpse, waiting for it to reanimate, and tells her she thought there would always be more time. Even at the end of Season 4, Hershel’s watch is still making an appearance and playing a big part. Time is important.

We're All InfectedThe zombies themselves are a constant reminder to the survivors that time is short and that humanity is lost. We mark our own mortality by the passage of time, with the inevitable outcome of death. We (hopefully) make the best of the time we have been granted. The reanimation of dead human beings into walking, cannibalistic zombies takes that outcome away from us. The zombies “live” in suspended time and take away our future. Without the prospect of a future, there is little hope to be found.

It’s a lot of fun to speculate and discuss what zombies say about our current state of mind as a society, but Romero himself is quick to point out that sometimes a zombie is just a zombie (paraphrased). He has said, “The zombies have always just been zombies...my stories are about humans and how they react, or fail to react...I’m pointing the finger at us, not at the zombies.”

I think this is an important thing to note in the context of “The Walking Dead.” I often see people freaking out online because the writers are focusing more on the people than on the zombies. Some people complain that there aren’t enough zombie kills, too much dialogue, and too much focus on the human survivors. It seems to me that they are missing the entire point of the show (and the graphic novels), as well as Romero’s point about his own groundbreaking movies.

In the TV show, it’s not really the walkers who are the walking dead...it is the human survivors. The show is ultimately about the breakdown of society and how those who remain deal with it: can they manage to form a new society? How? If so, what form will it take? Will they be able to keep their own sense of humanity? When the world goes to shit and almost everybody gets bit (from a scene with Daryl and Andrea), what will our individual and group reaction be? How will we deal with not just the zombies, but with the sometimes more dangerous human survivors?

These are fascinating questions to me, and it’s why I love the show so much. This book got a little bogged down in psychobabble in a few places (it’s okay to use regular words, folks...not everything needs to be couched in psychological terms), but I found it very thought-provoking, and it gave me some insights into the show that I had not thought of before. Because of these essays, I will watch it with a newly discerning eye when it returns in the fall.

Is it October yet?!