The Year in (A Book) Review, 2014

Those of you that have read the meanderings here for awhile will know that a yearly recap of my favorite books is something of a yearly tradition around here, even if getting it written before the end of the year has not been, at least so far.  This is now the third year I’ve done it, and if you’d like, you can go back and see what I enjoyed about 2013 and 2012, as well.  I’d like to think that my tastes are getting better, judging by my reactions reading the older columns, anyway, but I’m fairly certain that I’ll have the same negative reaction in a few years about this one.

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Reflections on Christmas, 2014

Once upon a time, there was once a beloved king in an ancient kingdom. Although he loved his people, he realized that he would have difficulty knowing what life in his kingdom was like unless his subjects did not realize that he was the king. So from time to time, he would disguise himself as a plain old man, and ride around his kingdom. In this way, he was able to see what life in his kingdom was truly like.

On one of his journeys, he was returning to his palace in the capital city when he came across a tired farmer carrying a load of potatoes to the market to sell.  The king offered him a ride in the cart in which he was driving, and the peasant, thinking that the king was only a kindly old man, was glad to accept.

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Ender Wiggin and Science fiction in Movies

For those of us that have been fans of the Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game for awhile, the best part of the film adaption of the book may not be the film itself, but the multiple related books of essays that are about various aspects of the novel and film.  Quite a few of these essays start off explaining how the author discovered Ender’s Game or why they identified with it.  As that seems to be a tradition with these sort of essays, here’s my story:

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A Dark Beach for Reading

I’ve found that I enjoy combinations of things far more than I suspect is normal.  My first conscious observation of this was when a friend of mine insisted that I try steak and draft beer in the same sitting, which is fine, I suppose.  It wasn’t that far off from steak and red wine, and after I discovered that, boy howdy, we were off.  Food combinations are great, mixed drinks are a source of endless fascination, and I can also be slightly obsessive about the music that I’m listening to when I’m driving through a specific area – most of the good road trips in Colorado seem to be missing something vital if they’re done without the music of John Denver, the Appalachians go well with either bluegrass or Bach, and, most of Texas (and a good part of the rest of the West) go well with Michael Martin Murphy, Asleep at the Wheel, or Chris Ledoux.  The desert on the drive from central California to Yosemite seems to go particularly well with, of all things, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

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Snow Daze

So many of the stories that I heard in my childhood ended with a feast.  Some of this had to do with listening to Sunday School stories about the Jewish people, whose holidays can be mostly summed up as: they tried to kill us, they didn’t, let’s eat.  Even leaving out Bible stories, traditional fairy tales and the books that are set in worlds that would be familiar to them – I’m thinking of settings like Narnia, for example – food, and the excess of food, is seen as a luxury item and a cause for celebration.  What is a “traditional” Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, other than plentiful food and an excess of courses?

Processing this on the level of a kid, though, really only lead me to conclude that a big fairy tale sort of feast was the best possible way that one could celebrate – after all, that’s what all heroes, kings, and princesses did – and so I was anxious to imitate them any time it was possible.  I really didn’t think through the ramifications of why, exactly, this was a cause for celebration, but as long as I can remember, I loved big family dinners, multiple courses, and eating too much.

It didn’t really dawn on me until later in life that a celebration of food – or celebrating by using excess food – really only makes sense if having enough food is something that is otherwise rare.  Celebrating by eating too much doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when over half of American adults are considered to be overweight.

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