Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: nineties (page 1 of 2)

A revelatory book explored

A self-help book

The light bulb came on

If How-To’s Were Enough We Would All be Skinny, Rich and Happy – Brian Klemmer

I’ll be the first to admit that this post’s title would most likely fail SEO critiquing. On the plus side, it can certainly not be described as clickbait. No 10 reasons for blah blah here.

Anyhow, onward and upward. Some time back, my local library had a sale, disposing of excess inventory. I bought about 15-20 books for the princely sum of $10 Australian. A few were fiction, but most were non-fictional works on topics that I possess a passing interest in (at the least). This book was one of them. The title itself was intriguing, as I’ve sat and glossed over quite a few how-tos in my day, on a wide variety of subjects – including personal improvement.

This one is short at 149 pages, divided into ten chapters including an epilogue. Each of these chapters cover themes and concepts that could easily stand on their own, though there is ample inter-relationship, making this book a cohesive whole.

This book is strongly recommended.

Chapter 1: The secret

The key point of this introductory chapter is that we see things and the world tinted through sunglasses. While wearing these, we are loath to view the world (or anything) in any other colour or hue apart from what these glasses show us. We stubbornly adhere to the ingrained belief that there is nothing beyond this view, and you’re foolish to even try to describe the world in any other terms. So take them off and see what the world truly looks like.

Chapter 2: The Formula of Champions

For me, this chapter was the awakening. The formula to success is Intention + Mechanism = Result. This may well be self-evident to many, but the kicker here is what an intention is. The author argues that people intend to do things at two levels. There’s your stated intention – I’m going to lose weight – but your true intention is – it’s all too hard or it takes too long – therefore the formula collapses before it even starts. I’m proof of this intention vs true intention paradigm, just have a read of the Operation 47 pep talks I’ve posted here.

Once your true intention becomes what you’re truly desiring, then half the battle is won.

Chapter 3: The Key to Relationships

In this chapter, the author discusses the self-destructiveness of what he calls the 3R’s – resentment, resistance and revenge. He asserts that feeling these three emotions is natural. It’s not about avoiding them, but redirecting them into positive energy. Some excellent guidelines are provided to do precisely that.

Chapter 4: Responsibility

This one is self-explanatory. Taking ownership, and having the liberty to make choices.

Chapter 5: To think is to create

This chapter sums up the differences between the conscious and the subconscious. The author asserts that it is pointless to pep yourself up at a conscious level if your subconscious isn’t in line with it. It then discusses visualisation as opposed to imagination. Visualisation of wants and desires aid in realising them. Again, this is a landmark way of seeing things for me, much like what was discussed in Ch. 2. They’re limpid concepts that remain obscured to most people.

Chapter 6: Your vision 

This chapter is about goal-setting and some different ways of approaching them. Short and sweet.

Chapter 7: The power of balance

This is another one of those epiphanous chapters. Here, the reader is asked to visualise, or actually draw, a diagram based on four different aspects of your self (that’s not “yourself”) – physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. Although the author is writing from a Christian point of view, he does stress that spiritual can mean whatever it means to the individual.

These aspects are rated out of ten with one being the least. The object is to balance the four aspects in harmony, without one or more having outliers and thus putting you out of balance.

Chapter 8: Oneness vs separateness 

Discusses how essentially that no human is an island. It goes on to explain that most of us have an ingrained us and them belief regarding others, and the object of this chapter is to remove this and become inclusive with those you formally excluded (mentally or otherwise). By doing this, life comes win-win for all concerned, rather than win-lose or lose-lose.

Chapter 9: an action attitude…first day, last day

How not to burden yourself with unwarranted fears and the like. Dreams are easier and simpler to achieve if the road ahead is cleared of all foreseeable trouble. Plus it tackles the subject of procrastination by asking you to roleplay your last day, and what would you do and/or achieve before you died at the end of that day.

In other words, there is no moment like now to get things going. See excuses for what they are.

Chapter 10:  Rags to riches…applying the philosophy 

Delves into a case study of an Hawaiian man who makes kites and yo-yos. This chapter is all about achievable goals and the art of goal-setting. Gives a ten point philosophy to make the transition from poor to successful, and most of these points were touched on in previous chapters, particularly win-win and visualisation.

The book then concludes with a summarising epilogue and an exhortation to being faithful and true to yourself while on the to a better life.

Elaine Bergstrom – Baroness of Blood

Baroness of Blood (Ravenloft, #12)Baroness of Blood by Elaine Bergstrom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My, what a nasty piece of work is Baroness Ilsabet Obour. But she’s a complex and well-rounded nasty piece of work, which elevates this novel above popcorn level. More than most Ravenloft novels I’ve read, this one ascribes to many classic Gothic traditions, yet Ilsabet is imperilled not by a man, but by herself and her own courses of action. She is haunted – internally and externally, and throughout the length of the novel she vacillates and questions if what she’s doing is the wisest way, and in the conclusion, things get resolved in the poetic justice sense of resolution.

The novel is dark, make no mistake. There’s no light, joy or laughter anywhere here. It’s only the dumb and clueless secondary characters in this novel which stop me from awarding this five stars. Ilsabet is surrounded by idiots when her character cries out for effective foils and counters.

Still, this is one of the better Ravenloft outings.

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Kate Novak – The Wyvern’s Spur

The Wyvern's Spur (Forgotten Realms: Finder's Stone, #2)The Wyvern’s Spur by Kate Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 3.75 out of 4. Not quite on the same entertaining level the first novel was, and that’s primarily the fault of the character Giogioni Wyvernspur, who spends the first 75% of the book a well-meaning doddering fool. In the end, when he mans up as such, things get moderately better.

The character of Flattery, the villain of the piece, is intriguingly written too – he’s a nasty piece of work, even resorting to hitting women, not something I expected to see in a D&D novel. Congratulations to Kate Novak for making a genuinely unlikable character.

As with the first book, Olive Ruskettle is the most well-rounded character here, morally and ethically ambivalent, though he rings true in the end. I enjoyed her knowing and cynical take on things.

Congratulations also for making an entertaining D&D novel where there’s almost minimal adventuring. All of the books in the Forgotten Realms series have been picaresque adventures. Not this one. The action mainly takes place inside and a few miles around Giogi’s manor house, and it works. There’s no need for a-roving I will go here.

Overall, a slightly weaker effort than the book before it, but it’s among the better non-Salvatore Forgotten Realms novels I’ve read.

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P N Elrod – I, Strahd

I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire (Ravenloft, #7)I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire by P.N. Elrod
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A five star Dungeons and Dragons book? Yes, this is it. Everything clicked with this instalment – the narrative, the characterisations, the pacing, everything. Elrod’s erudite and understated style is a welcome change from the usual quasi-fanfic renditions some of these D&D novels are – hi Ed Greenwood!

Elrod makes Strahd incredibly three dimensional. He was a cipher in the previous books in this series where he featured – a bad Hollywood Dracula – but here? It’s incredible to watch his descent from determined and honourable soldier to self-serving and self-absorbed vampire. You almost sympathise with his plight – almost.

I, Strahd is a cautionary tale like no other, and if the rest of the Ravenloft franchise is half as good as this, then I’ll be happy to read them.

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J Robert King – Carnival of Fear

Carnival of Fear (Ravenloft, #6)Carnival of Fear by J. Robert King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 4.25 out of 5 but marked down a tad for routine characterisations.

What a pleasant little surprise this was. Of the six Ravenloft books I’ve read, this one was the icing on the cake so far, just edging out the first in the series . Of all of them, this is the one that actually delivered dark Gothic horror the best.

This is an effectively and chillingly nasty book, peopled with ugly characters (if a touch wooden) and a very ugly and unpleasant setting.

Some genuinely horrific things go on in this book, and that my friends, is what Ravenloft is meant to be about, no? The previous five books in this series flirted with the concept, sometimes dipped their toes into it, but this book is completely doused and drowned in it.

It’s not classic literature by any means, but it’s darkly entertaining and fast paced. Well done.

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Ed Greenwood – Crown of Fire

Crown of Fire (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers, #9; Shandril's Saga, #2)Crown of Fire by Ed Greenwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More of a 2.75 out of 5. It’s better than its predecessor, but not by much. Arguably stronger writing, more focus in the storytelling and the narrative doesn’t drift as much. None of the characters within escape their cardboard boxes though, and there are too many deus ex machina elements for my liking as Gandalf Elminster saves the day once too often. Still, Ed Greenwood is having fun in the world that Ed Greenwood made and I can relate to his enthusiasm.

All taken, this book is slightly above average popcorn fiction.

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The Church – Magician Among the Spirits

This is record number nine for The Church and it sees a semi-sort of return by Peter Koppes after he left the band a few years previously. The title is lifted from a Harry Houdini book and that’s the great wizard himself on the record cover.

So is there any legerdemain, wizardry or conjuring on this album? Yes, plenty of all three. It’s not as samey-sounding or as watery as the preceding effort, Sometime Anywhere but it’s still an acquired taste for anyone who doesn’t instantly dig what The Church do.

It commences in a deceptively straightforward manner with the measured and steady Welcome which rates among the sillier things The Church has done, then affairs moves into the rockier Comedown which was an obvious single. Beyond that, we move firmly into legerdemain and trickster/mystery land and any attempt at making a commercial record went flying away in the clouds.

Cockney Rebels’s Ritz gets the cover treatment and it rates among the most glorious things The Church have ever done. Then life itself get better with the aptly-titled Grandiose, one of the more impressive instrumentals in existence.

Beyond that, the songs get longer and more languid. There’s plenty of turns, nooks, crannies and fugitive glances as the band delve into their experimental vibe. Romany Caravan is delightful and album closer After Image is a sweet and sad little piano outing.

Where does this record sit in their impressive catalogue? It’s hard to place simply as it’s hard to categorise. It’s brilliant in places and woefully unfocussed on a lot of it. To be honest, some of the songs could’ve used a good edit as they’re allowed to waft along without aim. In fact, you might accuse the band of being self-indulgent but if you read up on the history surrounding their existence at the time of this record, facts weren’t quite so delineated.

Steve Kilbey has pretty much written this record off (according to what I’ve read) and the band re-released it later minus Ritz and added four other tracks, and called it Magician Among the Spirits and Some. And gave the cover a nice pretty bronze tinge.

A transition record between their earlier, sharper commercial records and the latter, more independent period.

magician among the spirits

Dan Simmons – Children of the Night

Children of the NightChildren of the Night by Dan Simmons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quite frankly, it was a drag reading this. This book would’ve been a whole lot better had Simmons dispensed with the in-depth research on blood and Romania and simply let his storytelling skills shine through. As it stands, what we have here is a knotty and involving tale, though frequently there are stretches where it becomes tiresome.

What made Summer of Night such a wonder is missing here. The fine art of solid characterisation blended with flowing storytelling.

So yes, it’s a let down if you’re expecting it to be on par with that book. It isn’t. There’s not enough engagement here.

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Dan Simmons – Fires of Eden

Fires of EdenFires of Eden by Dan Simmons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two thirds of this novel are very good. The last third ventures into ludicrous territory. With that out of the way, it was good to see Cordie Stumpf nee Cooke back in action. There wasn’t enough of her in Summer of Night but I’m glad she’s here and in cracking good form.

In all, I’d describe this book as serviceable horror and it does serve quite nicely as a travelogue for Hawaii’s Big Island and a minor exposition of the native culture and religion of the islands.

Shame about that ludicrous last third though.

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Gone Home – short but sweet

I spent $18 on Gone Home on Steam after reading a glowing review of it on Gamespot. I’m still undecided on whether it was worth that as you only get about two and a bit hours of gameplay out of it. There’s probably minimal replay potential in it too.

Oh well, it’s mine now.


The game has gone pre-Raphaelite

There’s no fighting, no puzzles…just you (Katie) coming home from Europe to an empty house in Oregon. Little by little you piece what’s happened while you’ve been away. Essentially, little sister Sam is growing up and Mum and Dad are trying to get their middle-aged lives back in order. Nothing too serious – no skeletons jump out, no zombie apocalypse, no bodies in the attic (though I did expect the last). It’s all very tame in that department.

The game is 90% about Sam and her lovelorn issues. Really, I shouldn’t be too flippant about it, but I could never connect with her problems. From a selfish point of view, I never had these sorts of dramas in my life at seventeen and so there’s no empathic connection. But yes, it is all very touching. It certainly touched the psyches of many of who’ve played this according to reviews and commentaries.

Cobain in the groove

One of the wall posters in the game

It’s funny, the house layout (a little bit hard to believe) reminded me of the mansion in Realms of the Haunting. I wonder if there was any inspiration there?

A funny thing is the lack of computers in the Greenbriar house. They did exist in the family home in 1995, trust me. The internet was new, but since the father is a novelist, I thought he at the least would’ve owned one. Negative. There’s nought to be found.

Calling Gone Home a game might be a stretch too. There’s minimal interaction save a lot of reading and listening to Sam’s diary entries. There’s none of the adventure game thing where you mess with your inventory or solve puzzles to advance a plot. It’s certainly entertaining though…but it’s too damned short.

Actually, for a very poignant review, try this. Summarises it better than I can.

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