My Christmas Books

BooksI am one of the easiest and yet hardest people to give gifts to. On one hand I love books so you would think, “Easy, I will just get her a book.” Then you realise you have no idea what books I happen to have. Even having a wish list on Amazon doesn’t help as one friend somehow managed to pick the ones I had no interest in reading but had to put on there to placate other friends.

But I am easy to shop for since getting me gift cards to Barnes and Noble always works. So this holiday season, I got book spending money from a couple of people and went digging around for good books to get and now will tell you all about them.

Sex and Politics

My first books was, The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power.

When it comes to powerful women there have been few more powerful than Elizabeth I. (That’s real power and not simply puppetry power like say Queen Victoria after the reforms from the Glorious Revolution continued unabated to now the British monarch runs the military and not much else). The Russians topped her with the German Catherine the Great. (She stole her crown from her husband. Then again, he was incompetent.) And possibly you could consider Tsu-Hsi or Mbande Nzinga.

Fine British Cuisine

Next up is, Seven Centuries of English Cooking: A Collection of Recipes.

This one hasn’t arrived yet but I will experiment with one of the recipes and tell you how fast my kitchen exploded from goodness.

Blood Good Battle

My third books was, Fatal Colors: Towton 1461 England’s Most Brutal Battle.

This was a battle that decided a war, killed a lot of men and took place during a raging blizzard. It is also one of the battles that led to some amazing archeology that you can watch on YouTube.

When you are living through history — like we are — it is helpful to go back to other times where history was being made and see how people reacted to it and what the ordinary had to deal with when it came to the extraordinary. The men and women who dealt with the tumult of a civil war that led to peace and prosperity for most of the time that Edward IV reigned (1461 to 1470 and 1471 to 1483) had to deal with the taxes, the loss of family members, and the social upheaval that war always brings. Some were able to and others were not.

Teen Fiction

The next book was perhaps an odd choice, Forever Again.

One of my favorite authors wrote a teenage book that has a lot more adult elements and a very good twist for the ending. [Bruce Willis is actually dead. -FM] I recommend it because it takes little time to read (I finished it in about four hours) and it reminds me of how different our world is from the late eighties.


My fifth book was, The Wee Free Men.

Terry Pratchett’s death left a huge hole in the world of gentle satire. He also was able to blend different lessons into one book again and again without it seeming dated. On one hand, this book is about a bunch of little blue men with violent red hair. On the other it is a book about the importance of family and defending them from those who wish them harm — even if the harm is in the form of sticky sweeties. It is further about learning who you are and who you can become.


And last on this sort list is, Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life In No Way Whatsoever.

I followFrank Conniff on Twitter and he is great. He’s always willing to bash a troll in the most droll way possible. But this book has been kind of a dud so far. Maybe you will like it more.

And those are just a few of the books I got with my Christmas loot. I mean gifts.

Morning Music: Hurt

The Downward Spiral - Nine Inch NailsI’ve known the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” for a very time. But I seldom pay attention to lyrics of a song that I hear casually. Today, I looked them up. It’s pretty good. I like the connection of self-mutilation (“I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel”) and heroin use (“The needle tears a hole… Try to kill it all away”). I’m not so fond of the externalization of the self (“What have I become, my sweetest friend”). But that’s a choice, and very typical of the genre.

The wonderful thing about a song like this is that everyone can related. You don’t have to be self-mutilator or a junkie. Even 14 year old kids feel like they’ve experienced it. When Trent Reznor wrote the song, he was only 29. And his greatest period of depression and despair came years after writing the song.

Depression Is Not Absolute

In the 12 Step mythology, one must reach “rock bottom” before one can “recover.” But the truth is that there is no rock bottom. As bad as you feel, it almost certainly will get worse. All that happens is that you get better at dealing with it. Depression and despair become decoupled.

I remember one of Vincent van Gogh’s last letters to Theo where he noted that he could get some canvases and paint and do some work, but comments what would be the point. I’ve misinterpreted that comment however, thinking that it came right before van Gogh’s suicide. But it didn’t. After writing that, he did get some canvases and paints and did continue on. In fact, he appears to have shot himself while painting.

Anyway, we continue on. Artists whine for us because it is certainly true that no one is interested in hearing us whine. Everybody’s got their troubles. And everybody thinks theirs are as bad as they get. Don’t make that mistake.


I couldn’t find a good copy of the album version. The change of “I wear this crown of shit” to “I wear this crown of thorns” is pretty much unforgivable. It trivializes everything else in the song. Sorry about that.