Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports by Edward Brooke-Hitching

Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports by Edward Brooke-Hitching

foxtossingThe moral of today’s story is that people used to do terrible things to animals in the name of “sport.” Interspersed with fascinating tidbits about dueling with rubber bullets and auto polo, Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports documents the nauseating practices of bear, dog and monkey baiting and more- so much more.

It describes mass hunts conducted in arenas by royalty and nobles were hundreds, if not thousands, of animals were slaughtered as entertainment. From shooting arrows at roosters to breaking apart a barrel with a cat inside, I could not believe the brutality.

If you can make it through the animal abuse sports, and I confess that I skimmed most of those, what’s left is amazing. “… from learning about how our ancestors entertained themselves we gain a unique insight into broader contemporary attitudes towards morality, humor, and the trials of daily existence.” pg 3. “The reasons why these forgotten sports fell out of favor are, of course, many and varied, but broadly speaking can be divided into three categories: cruelty, danger, and ridiculousness.” pg 5.

Ah, balloon jumping. This is a sport where a dude would attach a huge balloon to himself and leap across the landscape like a superhero. Why did we quit balloon jumping? “He did nearly clear the electrified cables, but unfortunately his feet became entangled, and when he tried to extract himself by grabbing one of the wires he was blown to the ground in a hail of sparks, dying instantly. Alas, balloon jumpers never quite managed to refine the sport to a level of safety below “frequently lethal”…” pg 24.

Then there was dwile flonking: “In mid-1960’s Norfolk, it became a favorite activity of locals to gather in a large group, dance to an accordion, and hit each other in the face with beer-soaked rags.” pg 87. What fun.

I would say that the practice of “flyting” is alive and well in some online forums: “Flytings were extemporary swearing matches that placed a value on the imagination and verbal dexterity of the participants, who would exchange insults with impressive wordplay in a sense similar to modern rap battles, but with an intensity of vitriol and florid vocabulary that is hard to fully comprehend by modern standards.” pg 101. But not on Goodreads, where civil discourse rules the day. 🙂

Recommended for trivia hounds and those interested in obscure history, Fox Tossing is full of hilarious and heart-breaking facts about some of mankind’s forgotten pastimes. Those who are triggered by animal cruelty would be best served by picking a different book.

Thanks for reading!

I Hope I Screw This Up: How Falling in Love with Your Fears Can Change the World by Kyle Cease

I Hope I Screw This Up: How Falling in Love with Your Fears Can Change the World by Kyle Cease

ihopeiI Hope I Screw This Up is a part-diary, part-spiritual evolution manual and 100 percent the Hippie Librarian’s type of read. Kyle Cease shares his thoughts and personal path towards becoming his best self. I didn’t find it to be as funny as promised in the blurb, but I do think it has worth as, “another finger pointing towards the moon,” as Eckhart Tolle would say.

The beginning of this book is hard to get through- for the writer and the reader. Kyle explores his fears and inability to get started. But, he slowly gets into his groove and, boy, does he begin flowing. Here’s the start of the turn-around: “You would have sensed my inauthenticity immediately if I was feeling fear in every ounce of my body and I just overlooked it in order to write the “right” thing. Instead, by baring my soul and telling you what I’m actually experiencing, I’m freeing myself from the pain I would otherwise be hiding and holding on to. Something I’ve learned is that sharing my deepest truth, no matter how scary it is in the moment, is freedom.” loc 48, ebook. And he’s off to the races.

“Just because I haven’t done this before doesn’t mean that I can’t access the ability to write the most amazing book that has ever been written. We all have the exact same level of ability to access the unlimited creativity available in every moment.” loc 158, ebook. I believe that too-
humanity’s ability to access unlimited creativity every moment. I suppose I believe that Kyle could write the most amazing book that has ever been written. Does he do it in this tome? I guess that depends upon how well you’re able to connect with what he’s done.

I enjoyed this discussion about the limitations of the mind: “Your mind is constantly putting you in survival mode all day so it can protect itself from what it thinks will be death, and unfortunately, your mind thinks almost everything is death.” loc 224, ebook. Isn’t that the truth.

And he touches on some of the problems with the New Age movement: “I know it sounds weird to say that sadness is actually a good thing, but the societal lie is that it’s better to be happy than to be sad. That’s just a belief that our mind created. … one of the strongest things you can do is to actually feel the emotions that you’re experiencing.” loc 510. Every emotion has a time and place. The insistence upon positivity at any cost, doesn’t work. Serenity now, insanity later… yes?

He also goes into the life-changing benefits of meditation, which I also agree with. By slowing down and taking the time to go within, your inner being speaks to you and gives you guidance: “Every single one of us has this calling within us, but most people are so locked into the habits and distractions they’ve created in their life that they can’t hear it. It doesn’t take anything special to discover what that calling is or what it wants you to do; all you have to do is turn down the volume of your distractions and listen.” loc 706. It may sound weird if you haven’t experienced it yet but it’s true.

For the most part, Kyle keeps his book in this dimension of reality and doesn’t dip into the far-out. But, there is a part where he briefly jokes about a picture of himself and how, at the universal energy level, we’re all the same. So, technically, you’re looking at a picture of yourself in the book that you wrote, even though it seems that you’re looking at a picture of him in a book that he wrote. That could be a bridge too far for some readers, but the Hippie Librarian took it all in stride.

Enthusiasts of Eckhart Tolle and Abraham Hicks will probably enjoy Kyle Cease. He’s authentic in the way that spiritual teachers are, understandable and amusing. He also makes a good case for falling in love with your fears. Now, the hard part, to practice it.

Thank you to Netgalley and North Star Way publishing for a free digital copy of this book. Reminder: the brief quotations that I pulled from the advance reader’s text may differ slightly in the final printed version.

Thanks for reading!

Mother Teresa: In My Own Words by Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa: In My Own Words by Mother Teresa

motherteresaA powerful testament to Mother Teresa’s humanity, humbleness and faith. I do not share all of her views, but I found it impossible not to be swayed by her unwavering belief in the unseen.

“Not given to much talking, Mother Teresa spoke only when necessary. Thus her words, never labored nor many, were convincing.” pg vii, introduction.

“I have the feeling that we are in such a hurry that we do not even have time to look at one another and smile.” pg 23. I believe that too. What does a smile cost? Nothing.

“Sometimes people can hunger for more than bread. It is possible that our children, our husband, our wife, do not hunger for bread, do not need clothes, do not lack a house. But are we equally sure that none of them feels alone, abandoned, neglected, needing some affection? That, too, is poverty.” pg 27. I was most moved by Mother Teresa’s thoughts about poverty in the first-world. We do suffer from a plague of unkindness, loneliness and greed. I believe that the soul needs more than food to thrive.

“Peace and war begin at home. If we truly want peace in the world, let us begin by loving one another in our own families. If we want to spread joy, we need for every family to have joy.” pg 47. Yes.

Finally: “As far as I am concerned, the greatest suffering is to feel alone, unwanted, unloved. The greatest suffering is also having no one, forgetting what an intimate, truly human relationship is, not knowing what it means to be loved, not having a family or friends.” pg 91. Wisdom from a woman who worked with some of the poorest people on the planet.

A beautiful collection of quotations from a beautiful soul- recommended for everyone but especially those in need of loving words and some peace.

Thanks for reading!

Bringing the Tarot to Life: Embody the Cards Through Creative Exploration by Scott Martin

Bringing the Tarot to Life: Embody the Cards Through Creative Exploration  by Scott Martin

bringingthetarotBringing the Tarot to Life is a unique tarot manual that invites the reader to use her own imagination in assimilating and interpreting the cards. I’ve never read anything quite like it.

Scott Martin was an actor and theater teacher for many years. “It struck me that just as an actor delves into his character, so a student of the tarot can explore the archetypes that are represented in the seventy-eight cards in the tarot. He can develop his intuitive abilities by participating in the written and performance exercises an actor uses to hone his talent and to create his role in a play.” loc 112-128, ebook.

He based the first two sections of the book on that idea and created a series of theater-inspired games and exploratory exercises to be played in groups or alone.

The last portion of the book consists of Martin’s interpretations of the cards. I found that section to be the least interesting, but there could be descriptions in those pages that others may not have heard. So, don’t let me deter you.

There was also some trivia included for tarot enthusiasts. Something that I didn’t know was that before Paul Foster Case helped to form The Golden Dawn, he was in theater. Paul Foster Case became interested in tarot in 1900 when someone asked him where he thought playing cards came from. … Prior to that, he was actively involved in the theater. He was the musical director on a showboat and later worked in musical theater and vaudeville.” loc 128, ebook. But old man river, he just keeps rolling along…

I agreed with Martin’s thoughts on improving your intuition: “How does one develop his intuition? One obvious answer is to expose the mind to more creative and imaginative ways to thinking and looking at the world. Creativity and intuition are inextricably linked.” loc 164. Indeed.

My favorite of the exercises presented in this book is “I Am What I Do” loc 231, ebook. It encourages readers to assign jobs to the different cards. “Many people in life, as well as characters in plays, define themselves to a great extent in terms of what they do. … the possibilities are virtually limitless: The Ten of Pentacles- a family counselor. The Five of Swords- a crooked hedge fund manager. The Knight of Cups- a poet.” loc 231. I thought that was hilarious. And, I was looking at the cards in ways that I never had before. Talk about ‘Bringing the Tarot to Life’!

Recommended for beginners or advanced practitioners of tarot cards. Every reader will most likely find an exercise or two to their liking because of the huge variety Martin offers.

Thank you to NetGalley and Llewellyn publishing for a free digital advance reader’s copy of this book. Reminder: the brief quotations that I cited in this review may change slightly in the final published version.

And, thanks for reading!

Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

nerddowellNerd Do Well is Simon Pegg’s life story interspersed with the tale of a fictional alter ego, Pegg, a James Bond figure with a robotic sidekick. His coming of age stories and fictional bits are hilarious but once Pegg gets into his movie making period, the book loses it’s momentum.

I preferred the nostalgia of the first time he saw Star Wars to the actuality of meeting his hero, George Lucas and finding him stand-offish. There’s something heart breaking about seeing childhood hero worship crumble in the face of cold hard reality.

Pegg’s education in film appreciation and critique make for truly fascinating observations about pop culture films. I took his thoughts about how the Anakin/Frankenstein scene in the third Star Wars movie could have been made into a memorable and fitting theatrical moment instead of the joke that it was (pg 328-329) to my husband, who is the most ardent Star Wars fan that I know. Husband said in response, “His way would have made it much better.” You’ll have to trust me when I say that that’s very high praise.

Another of my favorite parts in Nerd Do Well was Pegg’s explanation for American readers about why the pub occupies a prominent place at the center of British social life. I’d never really understood what the attraction was until he painted the scene.

I mean, in my hometown, we have all sorts of dive-bars lining main street where, any night of the week, I could roll in there and meet up with the prematurely aged classmates of mine who will never get out of that place. But, who wants to do that. The bar is the epitome of failure rather than community.

With his homemade quizzes, neighborhood regulars, and music, Pegg’s pub seems to be somewhere warm and inviting where I would actually enjoy hanging out. It makes much more sense to me now why Shaun of the Dead was based around a pub and also why most DnD campaigns begin in taverns.

If you enjoyed Nerd Do Well, you may want to read My Booky Wook (less Star Wars, more drugs, fairly funny) or Just a Geek: Unflinchingly honest tales of the search for life, love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise (more Star Trek, more angst-filled than funny).

Thanks for reading!

The Love Poems of Rumi by Jalaluddin Rumi, Edited by Deepak Chopra

The Love Poems of Rumi by Jalaluddin Rumi, Edited by Deepak Chopra

thelovepoemsofrumiI think Rumi’s poetry is unsurpassed in its mysticism and beauty.

“In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.”

“You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,”

“but sometimes I do, and that
sight becomes this art.”
pg 62

When my husband and I were first dating, we lived in different parts of the country. This was one of the books he sent when he found out that I loved poetry. He bought himself a copy too and we read it together- separately. Then we talked about it on the phone later. This was in the days before Skype or Facetime. It seems so quaint now.

“I desire you
more than food
or drink”

“My body
my senses
my mind
hunger for your taste”

“I can sense your presence
in my heart
although you belong
to all the world”

“I wait
with silent passion
for one gesture
one glance
from you”
pg 34

I’ll be married for 11 years this May.

If you ever meet someone romantically interesting who tells you they like poetry, buy them a book of Rumi. You won’t regret it- at least, my husband says he doesn’t. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle

Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle

stillness speaksShorter and simpler than his other books, Stillness Speaks is the essence of Eckhart Tolle. If you’re interested in his teaching, but don’t feel up to some of his more far-out ideas, this would be a good place to start.

Waking up to who you really are: “When you recognize that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking. When you notice that voice, you realize that who you are is not the voice- the thinker- but the one who is aware of it. Knowing yourself as the awareness behind the voice is freedom.” pg 29.

If you feel like things are out of your control, Eckhart Tolle hands the reins of power back to you: “Your thoughts make you unhappy. Your interpretations, the stories you tell yourself make you unhappy. “The thoughts I am thinking right now are making me unhappy.” This realization breaks your unconscious identification with those thoughts.” pg 120.

This book is filled with mind-blowing moments. Take this one (I underlined it in my copy): “Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.” pg 103. Eckhart Tolle mic drop.

I’ve always loved his thoughts about the relationship between nature and man: “Nature can bring you to stillness. That is its gift to you. When you perceive and join with nature in the field of stillness, that field becomes permeated with your awareness. That is your gift to nature. Through you nature becomes aware of itself. Nature has been waiting for you, as it were, for millions of years.” pgs 85-86. So, go hug a tree today. 🙂

This book is an experience which is hard to describe. Read it and let me know what you think.

If you enjoy Stillness Speaks, you may want to give The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment or A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose a go. They are more difficult to get through than this offering, but I found them to be worth it.

Thanks for reading!