Monday, August 31, 2009

Paul Mathers on Health Care Reform

Okay. Time to talk about a hot button issue that will make everyone everywhere angry at me.

First of all, one of the glaring points I've noticed recently on this topic is that a year or so ago if I had talked about HMOs and the health care industry in America everyone, EVERYONE would have agreed that it is a messed up system. It was customary in modern American English to preface the word HMO with a obscenity. It was one of the rare unifiers in our country. Rich, poor, Republican, Democrat, covered, uncovered alike could agree that for-profit health care exploits pretty much everyone. It was screwing us all over with good old American equality. Michael Moore made a film about it and it was the first (and probably the last) thing he did that had people crossing partisan lines to hear him out over the issue. So many people know someone who have horror stories about bankruptcy, losing coverage for lung cancer because their HMO discovered they went into their doctor's office for a cough and so it was a "pre-existing condition," or other stories of that type.
I've spent most of my adult life around artists and poets which means I've spent my adult life around adults without health insurance. When I was working we could not afford to insure my wife and continue to eat and live indoors. Mind you, that was when I was working and had health insurance through my job which, you know, in theory ought to take care of its own even if, you know, they were anti-labor union. Most of you know my story of being laid off by no fault of my own.
Lately Laurie and I have had a problem with indigents sitting on the curb across the street from us and smoking crack in broad daylight while children are playing across the street (parenthetical tip for the perplexed: don't buy a house wedged between the back wall of a roach motel and an alley that leads from the soup kitchen to the homeless shelter off a major street in the poorer side of town.) Once, one of the indigents had the paramedics come and take him away, probably from an overdose. The way our country's health care system works, that man's ambulance ride and hospital visit will probably be taken care of entirely by the taxpayers. That's because he long ago chose "substance abuser" as an occupation and has absolutely no means by which to pay for his health care or anything else for that matter. He might not even ever see the Medi-Cal papers filled out with his information. I live in a house that I own (well, the bank actually owns, but I'm paying them off slowly each month) across the street and we scrape by. If I passed out on a curb (which I haven't done in years) I could not afford to go the hospital in an ambulance. It would destroy our lives. I would say we're one medical emergency away from losing everything, but actually I've pretty much resigned myself in my head to the reality that if I have a medical emergency I am going to freakin' die. Because I'm not going to spend my last moments or my recovery time watching my wife lose the house and declare bankruptcy. So, there's that. The people who are really screwed are the people who are in houses, apartments or condos in middle to lower middle class neighborhoods who are doing everything they can and should to make ends meet.
Oh, and even if a sack of money fell on us right now while I'm between jobs I could not get a private insurer to pick me up because I have the pre-existing condition of asthma. Health Insurance in America is modeled for those who don't need it.

Let me say a few of my presuppositions. I believe that the majority of the people in our government are trying to do what appears to be right and good for the people if for no other reason than that is their job and how they stay elected. Sure, they make mistakes like any humans and there is a wide variety of opinion (which is part of the beauty of our species.) They sometimes fail to foresee all of the repercussions of choices they make, just like the rest of us. And some are corrupt just like in any other position of power in the world; but mainly I think that the people in our government are trying to do what they think is best. They are trying to do good. I don't believe in conspiracy theories in general about shadowy government activity and that sort of nonsense. The sort of thing that makes Barney Frank ask which planet you live on.

And the last thing you want is for Barney Frank to ask you which planet you live on.

I think President Obama has thus far been a pretty good president, in fact one of the better ones in my lifetime. I don't agree with him about everything, but I certainly don't think he's evil or devilish or the Anti-Christ or any of that sort of foolishness which tends to make me embarrassed for the people who suggest such things. I think Christians would do much better spending their energy on spreading the Gospel and loving their neighbor than burping out that kind of absurdity at every microphone they can still manage to see through the Right wing standard issue blinders.
Now, I also don't think he's proven to be "greater than Lincoln" or anything yet, and I begin to have doubts that he'll be anything but another marginally competent president (although, since I seem to be throwing opinion spouting caution to the wind, I do think he's a bit of a cold beer on a hot night compared to his predecessor, but you can only keep that feeling up for so long before you actually have to start doing things.)
I do think there are a few fairly blatant "conspiracies" that do exist if you can call some things so blatant a conspiracy. One example would be the health care industry seeking to discredit Michael Moore's film "Sicko." I think we can all agree that that is a fairly clear conspiracy in its motives. I also think that the Republican party dupes the Christian community into whoring themselves wholesale to that party. Karl Rove has straight up admitted, and rather proudly at that, to using Christian views of homosexuality to advance his candidate even though Rove himself did not share those views. In other words, he used mainstream Christianity's beliefs to get what he wanted. This was a great point of pride in the two presidential campaigns he designed.
I also think that a good deal of opposition to health care reform comes directly from the health care industries that stand to gain from such reforms failing. Quo Vadis?

I am not a Republican nor do I consider myself a Democrat save that that's the party with which I found I could just barely stomach registering as without vomiting. Politically speaking, I consider myself as rabidly pro-science and arts with a predominately Quaker sense of social values. Quaker like Lucretia Mott, not like Richard Nixon. In short, I try to take the Fruit of the Spirit and the Sermon on the Mount with me to the voting booth as an individual American citizen and I do no attach a political party to my soul. Or to my brain for that matter.

I've heard Christians say some pretty disgusting and disturbing things in this debate. I read a professing Christian online who said that most of the people without health care are illegal immigrants anyway as an argument as to why we shouldn't provide health care as a nation. First of all, Laurie and I are hard working natives to this country and neither of us are insured. Second, in spite of what Lou Dobbs may tell you, I assure you that illegal immigrants are human beings created in the image of God, your earthly brothers and people in poor and desperate circumstances which we as Christians are commanded to seek to relieve.
And here's the rub of that. I've also heard Christians say that the church ought to see to the poor and their needs and the government stick to whatever it is they do. On Saturday, Laurie and I went to a benefit dinner for a drug rehab work program/halfway house here in Chico. They do good work and their restaurant (The Well Experience which both benefits the cause and employs people in their program) is one of the best restaurants in the county. I sat next to a man in a wheelchair. I don't know what happened to him, I didn't think it would be polite to ask, but he was severely crippled. But I do know that he was a brother in Christ. He had accrued in the course of his disability a million dollars worth of medical bills and the man was probably in a similar financial class to my own which is to say a million dollars may as well be a billion dollars because both are an amount that we will never have at our disposal. The church rushed to his aid, put on a huge benefit, people from all of the county, some complete strangers, all pulled together and with this great and touching effort were able to raise... $11,000. Which is a bit like making a full pot of coffee and drinking one shot glass worth. The Church in general does not have the means to see to the medical bills of the congregation much less the collected poor of the nation.

So we have taxes which pay for services that we all enjoy like socialized police protection, socialized fire departments, socialized libraries, socialized education, a socialized military. Yeah, you get the joke I'm making. Christians ought to be the loudest advocates of using our tax dollars for the relief of the poor because, as I said above, the church is just not going to cut it. I would remind my Christian readers that The Good Samaritan paid for the health care of the beaten man. While I think a lot of Christians ought to be ashamed of themselves for leaving their Christianity at the door with this issue, I really would rather suggest simply that Christians ought to be enthusiastic about providing for everyone in any way they can and in any way that is feasible/plausible/realizable. As an uninsured man with an uninsured wife, I find so many Christian arguments against health care to echo James' hypothetical brother who says "be warmed and filled" but does not provide what is needed by the needy. A good deal of Jesus' ministry comprised health care, if you will, or more accurately the relief of temporal suffering.

You do realize that there are earnest and truly converted Christians in countries in the world right now where they don't have The Republican Party. There were earnest and saved Christians a millennium before the foundation of the American Republican Party. You do realize that there will be Socialists in Heaven, don't you? Actually, do bear in mind that when one looks at the numbers in history it would suggest that the bulk of the population of Heaven at this point will be monarchists. How alien is that to us in modern America! In short, modern conservative democratic capitalism for all of its genuinely good points in the proper places is not Christian or un-Christian in and of itself. I would highly encourage everyone, myself definitely included, to be ever vigilant and oh so careful to never confuse their political affiliation with their spiritual walk.
However, this is a spiritual matter, as are all of our actions as Christians! I would advise all Christians to not blow their witness to the suffering individuals in our country in favor of the privilege of parroting the rhetoric of the screaming heads on the major cable networks whose television shows are interrupted by the quarter hour with advertisements for prescription medications.

And another thing, almost all of my artist friends have no health care. I have one who has excellent health care because they retain citizenship in their native Canada and will travel there if they have health care needs. I keep hearing the cry of "just ask a Brit or a Canadian what they think of their health care." I took that challenge and we have talked to dozens. They all love their health care system.
Which is not to say that I think any specific system is the cure all/flawless system. I've heard some of the pros and cons of Germany's, Britian's, Canada's and France's (although the latter seems to have surprisingly few complaints considering the source) and I'm not sure which model or amalgam of those models would suit our country. But I wholeheartedly feel that reform is the necessary and the compassionate road to take. As well as the enlightened one.
I'm not a socialist, but I also grew up after the knee-jerk hatred of anything that smells vaguely Red. I remember a Bible study several years (and several churches) ago where we read the portion in Acts about the early church pooling their resources and giving to each according to their needs. One clean-cut young man objected loudly to the pastor in the middle of the scripture reading saying "But.. but that's communism!" And I thought, "Okay, pastor, drop a train on him. Talk about compassion and brotherhood." No. The pastor talked about how that was cultural and how it's okay to hoard wealth and possessions because the Needle's Eye was actually a gate in Jerusalem where the camels had to crouch a little to get through. And the young man went away pleased because he had great possessions.
I like a lot of elements of capitalism and think that it works very well (except when greedy practices by banks, mortgage lenders and real estate agents crash the economy) in private industry. But I don't think everything everywhere would benefit from privatization. My gosh, no.

I would also suggest that ones who place their faith in Holy Scripture are already admitting at the start that sinners require governing.

Returning to the topic of politicians though, don't think I have high hopes for said reform either. Every few presidents get the bug to be the great hero of American history who brings us into the golden age of being a great society which provides health care for everyone within their borders. Then they fail miserably. They fail because another of the seemingly endless line of demons that Nixon let free on our land is the HMO and that demon will not lay down for a second. Ted Kennedy's death might actually help (I doubt anyone could make an argument that Ted Kennedy didn't want universal health care and a "let's do it for Teddy" campaign might work.) But ultimately here is my prediction:
President Obama will buckle to pressure and compromise to some half-hearted and impotent public option OR rather than reforming the system there will be a push to outlaw dropping the insured for pre-existing conditions and other lugubrious HMO practices. And in seven years when Obama prepares to leave the White House me and people like me will find ourselves much in the same health care situation we're in today.
What I would like to see is the people of Earth to rise as a species and seek to wipe out poverty and illness in all people regardless of race, geography, political affiliation or religion.

I would also like a pony and a castle made of lemon drops.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Inflammatory Writ

The story as I understand it goes like this. My friend J.B. worked at Barney's in LA. He started a Twitter account completely (he thought) unrelated to working at Barney's. He, like so many of us, started a Twitter account because it's what young people are doing to communicate, keep in touch, share information and what-not. He also, like so many of us, didn't consider for a moment his worklife in starting a Twitter account. Why would he?
I also understand that there is a television show called Hung which airs on the cable network of HBO (I wouldn't know. I choose not to pour crap into my eyes and ears.) One of the stars of that show is named Jane Adams. I'd never heard of the show or the actress until this morning and I think I was happier before.
Jane Adams and entourage went to Barney's and was served by J.B. Her agent paid the bill and did not leave a tip. J.B. wrote a quick joke on Twitter about Jane Adams stiffing him for his tip. Jane Adams, or her agent or someone, found J.B.'s tweet (Who hasn't indulged in the sick vanity of searching their own name online? Be careful what you search for.) and, if I'm getting the story right, Jane Adams came back and gave J.B. the tip (which J.B. also tweeted.) Then she went to Barneys, complained, and Barney's fired J.B. It's probably also worth mentioning that at no point did J.B. tweet the name of Barney's where he worked, so pretty much until they fired him their name was in no way attached to the debacle in the public sphere.
It is also worth mentioning that 1) I emphasize that J.B. wrote this on his personal Twitter with no visible connections to his job and 2) J.B has a newborn daughter to support.

I know J.B. He is an old friend of mine and a good man who works hard and is very talented. I cried during his beautiful final scene in a play we worked on in college. He has a family. He has a great smile. He is funny and warm and cares about the people around him.

So, the rant goes something like this. First of all you have the prima donna actress whose actions bring to mind grim memories of Day of the Locust and the French Revolution. Really this sort of celebrity pomposity (the self-Googling, the having "the help" fired) may have flown before this, the Second Great Depression, started, but we're talking about people's lives and livelihoods here. We are talking about a man who is trying to provide for his baby, and some actress on a hit television show throws a tantrum which gets him fired.
Then there's the television show which my wife described to me because she'd heard it described in an interview on the radio. Suddenly the decadent and masterbatory culture that surrounds Jane Adams made a lot more sense. The entitlement that would lead someone to behave in that manner was evident.
Second, you have Barney's which first of all fired a worker on the whim of some elitist. (There is also the freedom of speech issues which, if I didn't know J.B. personally and care about him, I would find to be the most disgusting part of this story.) To them people are so disposable and workers so desperate that businesses think they can micromanage into our private online life. But this just shows how archaic the thinking of the management at Barney's is. Either they are ignorant of or quick to forget the Iranian Election and the online outcry over CNN's lack of coverage thereof, the viral video for "United Breaks Guitars," and how we, the internet, are standing up as a people to take down Glen Beck. How dare you, Jane Adams! How dare you, Barney's! You've grown far too comfortable slopping the bourgeois troughs. On a whim you think you can fire people, ruin lives, take food from the mouths of hungry babies? How dare you! We will tell the world!
I would say that I will never watch another HBO television series although, to be honest, I could have said that yesterday or last week or last year. I am in no danger of ever seeing an HBO television series. I could also say that I will never patronize Barney's again due to their draconian policies toward their employees but, really, honestly, I'd never even heard of the place before this morning. I can honestly say that I will certainly patronize neither hereafter but, in truth, I probably wasn't going to anyway.
However, what I can do is this. I can get up in the public square and say that this shall not stand. We are not going to sit back and allow a world where the greedheads roll their cold, heartless tanks over our children. Our actions have consequences? Well, so do yours.
We can make this world whatever we choose. Spread the word.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


When I was a child there was a turning point that came around junior high/high school. It's hard to put a timeline on it because of the many variables that went into the shift.
Before that I played D & D, I read Uncle Scrooge and superhero comics, I really really enjoyed Trek and owned books, t-shirts, and, yes, I even owned Mr. Spock's marshmallow dispenser from Star Trek V. I was on the fast track to full blown nerd. Then several things happened. I fell in with an "art-school type without an art school" crowd that went from David Lynch to The Beat Generation to goth culture to controlled substances. Also, I became very interested in dating. Mind you I always had that nerd undercurrent (you'll note I didn't go down the Trek/CosPlay/ComicCon road, but eventually very much down the photo/film/fashion/literature/classical music nerd road. So in a way my argument is invalid as I still find myself in geekdom, just perhaps a more socially acceptable geekdom. The kind people are afraid of making fun of lest they look like Philestines), but my life went in vastly different directions from where it seemed to be going. Then, after about 15 years of trying to be cool, I started slouching back to nerd-dom with my hat in hand to see if they would have me back.
At first this made my wife a little nervous but Battlestar, Dr. Who and The Watchmen (the graphic novel that is. We very actively didn't see the film. I think you get more geek cred points if you actively not see the film and have quotes from Alan Moore memorized as to why you did not see the film) softened her up.
I often wonder where I would be if I'd stayed the nerd course. I doubt I would be fabulously rich, working for Wired or Boeing or something. I might just be working in a comic book store and everyone at the Ren Faire would know my name. Which strikes me as "living the dream." Or maybe I would be exactly the same but the Kathy Acker section of my bookshelf would be replaced with Isaac Asimov and so forth. I wouldn't have caused/experienced a great deal of the heartache, sorrow, regret, and permanent damage that I've experienced (at least not the particular events I've experienced.) On the other hand, I would have a different set of heartache, sorrow, regret, ect. If things had not played out exactly as they have, I would not be where I am now which, in spite of the unemployment, is the best place in my life I've ever been.
But it's a moot point. I live in this universe and modern quantum physics would have us believe that it is impossible for us to ever travel to parallel universes.
My point is that it's an "innocence lost" marker for me.
Ray Bradbury tells a story of when he was a child he collected the Buck Rogers comic strip from the newspaper. He had a huge box full of them. One day, some of the other local boys found out and made fun of him. He went home and tore up all of his Buck Rogers comic strips. He said that that was one of the great tragedies, the great regrets of his life and, on one level, I can see that. He also said that after that experience he decided to run with his dreams and to hell with what other people thought about them. In a way, I spent 15 years of my life tearing up Buck Rogers comics.

All of this is a very long winded way of saying that I have twice in the past month picked up Frank Herbert's Dune with the intention of reading it. The first time, I read the first page and spent almost as much time in the glossary in the back and then I put the book away and went to read something else. It's one of those canonical works you hear about and I thought, as I am won't to do, it would be good for me to find out what it was all about. Finally, in frustration, I turned to the internet and asked on Twitter "Can someone please either talk me in or out of reading Dune?"
One response was "Don't because 90% of the other Dune books are about how the first story was a bad idea."
To which I thought, "Much like my life."

It's not an attempt at a nostalgic return to a safe, womb-like time in my life when everything was more innocent like someone in a high stress job who blasts music from when they were in high school when they get off of work. Rather, it is a freedom of the fear of man. Peer pressure used to be a great motivator for me in my youth. It pushed me to so many regretable actions. I've now swung the other way. I care about doing what's right, true, compassionate and good, not what's popular. I care about exploring and marvelling and wondering. Rather than being a top feeder, I care about fraternity, equality, love of my fellow human (and any non-humans that may be present.)
So often one goes around as a Greek Tragedian with the appropriate mask to fit the occasion. I spent so much of my life so far being cool and, worst of all, unenthusiastic. My gosh, but there's a stigma toward enthusiasm in our culture; and it's one of the things I hate most about our culture. Ceasing to care about what other people think and focusing your energy to the goals you were created for is a great liberator.
Now I am free to explore, be enthusiastic, enjoy and rejoice and be filled with joy. I can ask questions. I can run rampant like a madman, like a Commedia dell'Arte Zanni. I can talk about at what point does a robot become a human, without caring what people think of me talking about such things.
Being married also helps. I don't have that social pressure; and Laurie fell in love with me as I am. But this started before Laurie and I were a couple.
This was a difficult post for me to write because I had some ideas about what I felt the need to talk about, but I wasn't completely clear on the exact point (I'm still not sure I've hit it, but I think I'll post it anyway.) I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I revel in the freedom I now find from the fear of man and pursuing my true purpose in life. I'm through being cool.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

TCL (Taking Care of Livestock)

Hey, look at that fat cow! And he's petting a steer!

Laurie and I are taking care of a friend's ranch this weekend! This is Norman. He's a steer! He lives in a large pen, about an acre large, with two llamas who, as I found out this morning, like to chase Norman off when you give them hay.

Laurie made sure to warn me not to put my hands between the bars. I found out why. When he whips his head around he is a force of nature. He could rip your arm off without even noticing.

We are also taking care of a pony, a horse, two dogs, a herd of cats, and a garden. I haven't taken pictures of the others yet as we've been busy and our visit with Norman was the more relaxed part of the morning.
This morning we were mucking the horse stalls. I managed to start up the John Deere riding mower once and stalled it about 25 feet away (I think it ran out of gas.) Anyway, I couldn't restart it and had to push the tractor back to the barn. It was a heavy tractor. Mercifully, Laurie did not take a picture of that. So we wheelbarrowed the poops from one side of the ranch to the other.
I know you're thinking a city boy like me clearly doesn't know how to dress for ranch work, and you may be right. But Norman seemed to like my shirt.

Maybe it could have used some salt.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Review: The Red Tree, by Caitlin R. Kiernan

This has been a good year for me and books. I have just had the great pleasure of finishing a wonderful book which I will gush superlatives over anon.
Of all living fiction authors, Caitlin R. Kiernan must be in my top five. If I were a wealthy man, I would buy one case each of her novels Murder of Angels, Low Red Moon and The Red Tree and pass them out to everyone I know. Formerly I would have said that Murder of Angels might well be one of the best novels by a living author in print. And while I stand by that statement now, she may have in The Red Tree produced a serious contender.
Philip K Dick said that good science fiction (The Red Tree is not science fiction but I think we can safely apply the principle to dark fantasy and horror) ought to explore the themes "What is reality" and "What does it mean to be human?" even it's about vegetation on the dark side of Venus. Kiernan's book takes place in our reality or thereabouts, but succeeds in exploring those themes beautifully without giving pat answers. Which is not to say that the book is dissatisfying, although if you're looking for your art to be satisfying why are you reading my blog? Art should make you uncomfortable. It should change your life. Having finished the book about four hours ago, I think I can say that this is probably one of those books; and I'm a little nervous as to what that means for my future. Which is good.
If anything, The Red Tree is overwhelming. Which is also good. You ought to be overwhelmed. You'll ruin your transmission if your paradigm doesn't shift every once in a while.
I would argue that this is not genre fiction either. Yes, there are some gruesome passages, but really they exist in the periphery much like an old film where we see a strangulation in silhouette which actually serves to make it all the more gruesome as we fill in the blanks. I should not downplay any of that, although I am reluctant to reveal too much. You will find some grisly scenes in this book and you will find sexuality although both are essential to where the author goes and what the author says. It's a very tight book. While the author says several times that she is prone to digression, I would say that there isn't a wasted word in this book. The digressions pull the narrative as taut as fishing wire.
Sure, I like a good spooky story as much as the next fellow, but what I find so compelling and important is her explorations of flawed people struggling through hellish circumstances. She does this so well and I find so often turns a starkly clear mirror onto myself in spotlight. The emotional intimacy and vulnerability of Caitlin R. Kiernan's work is, in all frankness, about as artistically brave as anything I've seen.
Coupled with her abilities of communicating the dread and uncertainty of traditional "weird fiction" always leaves me dazed with the hyper-awareness of the invisible demons stomping the terra around us and the demons within us that we try to keep covered. Her characters drink to disfunction; they make really poor relationship choices; they smoke too much; they have chemical imbalances; people die (sometimes extremely major characters at inconvenient times just like, you know, life); people have tragedy thrust upon them; people live in squalor, lose limbs, witness horrible violence and sometimes survive it themselves. In short, they are us. You have no guarantee of a happy ending nor, she (and I) would probably argue, should you. As Sarah Crowe says in one of my favorite lines in the book, "My forty-four years have yet to reveal any consistent, compelling evidence of justice woven into the fabric of this world." You also have to deal with the fact that these characters are human, flawed, and that what they tell you may or may not be reliable.

This novel is a bit of a departure from Kiernan's others. The characters are older (closer to me and the age group I'm mainly around) and it's in first person. The setting is at once more set and claustrophobic (a great deal taking place in a small house) and agoraphobic (the rest and some of the most unsettling taking place in vast natural areas) and includes a disorienting blending of the two which leads to a general sense of existential dread.

One of my least favorite things about book reviews is going over the plot because I think it is terrible to reveal anything. Go read it!

Anyway, the book's protagonist is Sarah Crowe, an author who moves from Georgia to rent a small Rhode Island house in the aftermath of one of the high tragic watermarks of her life. She discovers a manuscript by the previous tenant dealing with the strange and horrible legends surrounding a tree about a hundred yards away from the house. Then, with little warning, the landlord lets an artist rent out the attic space above Sarah. Then, to say that reality starts shifting and the tree becomes an obsession would be... close, but not doing justice (which I guess isn't woven into the fabric here either. See why I don't like plot summaries?)
Anyway, I don't think I need to write an "if you like author A, then you'll like author B" sort of thing because I think everyone should read this. It really is a fine and honest piece of art. I think you should read it because we do horrible things in the name of love. We sometimes see the object of our affection as infernal and sometimes (often those same times) our own thoughts smell of sulfur. You should read it because there are things in the world that defy description and so often we are destroyed because so often we don't talk about the most important things and sometimes we attribute total importance to things which have no importance, taken on their own from an outsider's view. You should read it because we die alone.

If I had one critique it would be shared with the one other review I've read on this book and it has nothing to do with the text. It has to do with the cover. If memory serves I think the youngest character in the whole book is about my age and the girl on the cover of the book looks about half my age. I don't think the tone or image of the cover does anything to communicate the book that is inside. So it goes.

Much like House of Leaves, I found myself taking part of the story. In House of Leaves I remember a moment looking up the list of hundreds of photographers on Google image search where I realized I was getting a bit maniacal about it, much like the list itself. In The Red Tree, I finished it, stared out the window for a few minutes, and opened back up to the beginning to re-read the "Editor's" preface (don't skip it, it's part of the story) and soon found myself at Chapter Two willing to continue the strange loop of reading.

In short, it is a harrowing book. I think everyone should read it, even, nay, especially those whose reality tunnel is distinctly different than Kiernan's with an open mind and an honest look at how we are not all that different from any flawed character. You should read it because we are all going to die and that should make us love one another but it doesn't. Sometimes your insides need to be pulled out to remember that.

It was one of those experiences like crying all night and feeling the clarity and calm afterward even if the situation is still unresolved. You carry those moments with you like talismans. Some part of you never forgets that it is still out there somewhere, that when you are partying someone somewhere on the earth is having the worst moment of their life. It is good that you have that. Feed that tree.