Book Review – Love all of the People by Bill Hicks

Oh my god! You know that I have found some draft book review hanging around on my blog that I never published? Well, either way, I have. The other two posts were skeletal lists of thoughts about Consider Phlebas by Iain.M.Banks and Eden by Tim Smit. Then I found this. Why I didn’t click the publish button I don’t know, but I didn’t, so here it is. My quite detailed thoughts on Love all the People by Bill Hicks that I finished reading in January 2015!

Actually, thinking about it, I think I kept putting the review off as I never felt it was complete. Bill Hicks was quite important to me in my formative years. Here we go…

—- 3rd January 2015 —-

2014-12-05 20.26.03This book review is not really going to be a book review, at least not of the book Love all the People by Bill Hicks and John Lahr! I suppose that in a way it is, but my relationship with Bill Hicks and his philosophies go so much deeper than that.

My first introduction to Bill was on a video (VHS) that my best mate got when we were about 17. It was at the time Bill, or at least his material, first impinged on the British consciousness.  Our relationship with him grew and peaked in unison with Bill’s spark of a life. Many a late night drinking coffee and smoking fags was inspired by Mr. Hicks! In reading this book I have rediscovered some of the most brilliant routines and original thoughts that had faded from my memory over the last 20 years, becoming part of the patina of who I am more that I had credited. You could say that I was not surprised when I read certain parts of Bill’s routines about capitalism and consumerism I had to introspectively acknowledge that there is some interesting reasons why I created a blog Titled “Post Consumer”. An un-recognised, unconscious homage to the philosophy of Mr. Bill Hicks. Thank you Bill.

For the record, I also know that I am not going to be able to do justice with this review. How do you review something that was as much remembered as read? I will try to review the book, Bill and his philosophies. I hope I succeed in some small way?

Bill Hicks is the iconification of a concept that I touched on in my unsustainable post. Most people can not relate global issues to individual actions. They ask “Why should that matter to me? ” Some people understand the global issues yet can’t take the message out there or affect individuals on a big enough scale. Bill Hicks was that perfect mixture of intellect and understanding. He also had the drive, wit and outspoken opinion to make people listen. He did everything in his own unique style, but it was “the message and not the words” that were important. Bill managed to do something that almost everyone else couldn’t, and he managed to make it funny too! I suppose that requires the introduction that powerful little word “genius”?

I have a feeling that Bill was beginning to separate comedy from philosophy and politics towards the end of his life. In reading the letters and interviews in the book, it looks like Bill’s message was getting through, but that after being his first love and break though, comedy was beginning to get in the way. His style of delivery didn’t portray the real Bill Hicks’s, not fully anyway. The source of his material was always the inspection of people, the very translation of national and global problems into individual, personal idiosyncrasies, the amazement that people couldn’t see the stupidity in their actions and their beliefs. For those that understood and agreed Bill’s condemnation of these mentalities were very funny. Either they were thoughts and ideals that you had experienced, or ones that you didn’t consider as being so dangerous until Bill told you. I think that by the time he died he was beginning to feel that stand-up was now holding his serious ideas back. He was practically screaming about these subjects and all he was getting was a laugh. Bill definitely spoke to me, but I don’t think he really ever got feedback from his audiences that anything was going in. I don’t know, maybe for many others it didn’t? If he could have found a different way to “advertise” his message and still do the comedy he may have found a more successful, more harmonised balance. Keith Olberman says in the front cover of the book “With his clarity of vision and gift for words, if Bill Hicks had had any more time he might have started a revolution.” I think that revolution may be a strong word, but I also think that it wouldn’t have been as a comic.

Bill was quite obviously someone who pushed himself relentlessly into whatever he did, but that single mindedness was as much a floor as a strength. He was hoist by his own perturb. He knew it I think, but it meant he missed out. Smoking is great, I used to do it, but Bill took it to the limit and it cut him short. He rebelled against a lot of things (like ‘the beach’) that many people do, but discovered after it was too late that there is merit in these things, that’s why we do them. But Bill had to be the way he was, his intellect and opinions produced the brilliance that we all know, but maybe sometimes at the cost of the person??

One thing I was surprised at in reading the book was Bill’s religious beliefs. He was always very obviously attacking the church e.g. Fundamentalist Christians. There was also quite a high Devil content in his material “Thank you Vanilla, now send in MC Hammer.” So Bill believed in God, but not in organised religion. As I thought more and more about Bill and his routines the whole thing made more sense. I am an atheist, but I do occasionally give a nod to the sky. Not sure why, but that’s just the way it is. If I’m going to have a paragraph about God, then I have to include Bill’s (IMHO) slightly OTT relationship with various other aliens 🙂 I can see where he was coming from and the way that considering that opened the mind, but you have to admit that that was a particularly powerful batch of mushrooms!

Capitalism, consumerism and advertising. It is pretty obvious that I have an issue with advertising similar to Bill’s. The stuff is poured down our throats and you can’t get away from it in the modern world. But it is a necessary evil. If you want to make a good product and sell it to people you need to advertise. The problem is that there is a pretty obvious line where honest selling becomes manipulation and everything very quickly becomes cynical from that point forward.

Bill used advertising. His books, DVDs and shows were all advertised. His face appeared on posters, he did the circuit of interviews and appearances to achieve the success he did, but he did not step over the line. His hatred was of the other side of the line.

I have a similar problem. If I want to increase readership of my blog, then I will need to use the same processes. For me it is like the decision I made to call my blog Post Consumer instead of anti-consumer or any other more negative title. There is a place for buying things. If you don’t buy stuff good people and good products wouldn’t be made and then where would we be? The arts of all denominations need patrons and followers to be involved, and to get that you need a way for everyone to find out what you’re up to. The problem is that the whole advertising world needs a huge slug of ethical, responsible restraint and in a capitalist system that is never going to happen.

The advent of the internet has accelerated consumerism and the way that advertising is used is at the heart of it all. They are two halves of a slightly odd Yin Yang. The internet does so much good and provides spectacular access to information and learning. The internet is driven by the money that is made from advertising. The vast majority of websites make their money from advertising, and that is because it is easy. WordPress puts the odd advert on my blog so that I can run it for free. I can take that off for a small fee and add my own to monetise my site. A lot of people use this to make their living and some do it without giving a shit for anyone. Google makes it so easy, and that is why they have made it so big (and you thought it was all about searching!) The question is what could you replace advertising with to make money on a website. I dont have an answer for that yet. We need the adverising equivalent of Bill Hicks’ shooting bananas into people mouths.

So, that ‘s it, a disjointed wander through some of Bill’s drivers along with some of mine. The book is in there somewhere. It contained a large number of Bill’s routines. It was repetitive in places, but for your persistence you got to see how the routines evolved over time. The book mixed in some background and interviews that gave a good insight into Bill off stage as well as some of his letters and a couple of snippets of very powerful writing that I am truly glad that I have now read.

Oh, and I’m not even going to mention Alex Jones? A million plastic surgeries and at least two brain transplants and you might be close on that theory!

Rating 9/10 (as much because I really like Bill Hicks as anything else)

link to  Love all the People by Bill Hicks and John Lahr on Goodreads

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Draft Book Review – Consider Phlebas by Iain. M. Banks

ConsideringPhlebas_CoverI have been having a bit of a tidy up and managed to find a couple of partly finished book reviews from Summer last year (2015.) I’m not sure how I managed to miss them, but as I have other things to do I thought it would be fun to whack them out as they are, basically just a bunch of notes that give you an idea what I thought of the books. There is this one and Eden by Tim Smit.

—- Imagine its the 19th July 2015 —-

Quite a bit about religion and god. Communism and the way the Culture sees life.

The pace is very good. It’s a long book, but when the build up comes for the final events they build slowly and you have read enough of the story to fully appreciate the effort and gravity (accuse the pun) of the crescendo.

Another example of spectacular writing that transcends the book itself and the genre. When Iain talks about self and evolution and comparison of humans to the minds of AI it is separate yet completely integrated with the rest of the book.

——–

That’s it! I loved this book and have other Iain.M.Banks in my book list, so everything is good with the world 🙂

Rating: 8/10

Book Review – Lieutenant Hotshot by Julia North

Lieutenant HotshotLieutenant Hotshot is a Young Adult novel from first time author Julia North. When I ventured into the local bookshop and bought a copy, I had heard an excerpt of it in our book group and knew only a little of the story. I can not say that I expected what I read, but it is an amazingly good book. I originally planned to read it then pass it on to my 12 year old son. I will come back to that at the end…

Lieutenant Hotshot is about child soldiers in Uganda, but that doesn’t even start to convey the harsh, gory, grittiness of the novel. It contains violence that at times felt overdone, and language that further draws you to a place that you would probably rather not go. But this is the book’s strength; the picture it paints is hard to read and at the same time utterly compelling.

If I had been reading an adult horror book, then I would expect some of the scenes as an attempt to appal me because of the genre; something to excite the senses. Lieutenant Hotshot contains these same horrific scenes, yet it is a Young Adult novel! The book is not for the faint hearted, but it works perfectly for the simple reason that it is based wholly in fact. Adults and young adults combined will read this book and become consciously aware of what happens all too regularly somewhere on our planet.

People do terrible things to Modetse (the main character), he does terrible things to others, yet ultimately, the book is one filled with hope and love. Positive thoughts are strewn throughout the book and are all the more obvious when set against the horrors. To be dramatic, love and hate are rendered as close together as Yin and Yang; there is very little room for grey to separate the two extremes in this book.

The whole story is written in the first person and this is fundamentally important to it’s success. It is only as you take the journey with Modetse that you fully appreciate how the environment and the actions of others pulled him into a way of life that he didn’t understand. If there had been other perspectives, the spell would have broken and the reality of what was happening would have spoilt the story as soon as it was started.

As I read and experienced some of the harrowing scenes, I could see how something so counter intuitive is able to happen and how the whole awful wheel of manipulation works. There were even very well architected indications that some of the adults who were leading the soldiers had started out as child soldiers themselves and were still under the spell of their conditioning; so well converted that they could know the truth as an adult and still be able to believe themselves to be right. The blinkered way that an individual’s perception can can be warped reminded me of Lord of the Flies, but more extreme, in more depth and based on reality.

There is a quality to the book that I have wanted to capture for some time in my own writing. The articulation of the real world in a magical context. Not really ‘magical realism’, more the realisation that magic exists in our mind, in our intrinsic interpretation of the world (wow, deep man.) Lieutenant Hotshot is essentially a story of war. Not just the physical war that it directly describes, also a theological, nay, magical war for the ‘soul’ of Modetse and others like him. Julia has perfectly balanced the whole storyline of the book to convey both of these battles beautifully.

A final perfectly executed balancing act is that of religion in the book. The book portrays a strong understanding of the power or religion in a very specific way. You can see how Christianity is supremely effective in the battle against real evil in Uganda and I was minded to think how it’s use in that powerful way might have been a reason why the world’s major religions have spread so far and wide from their original countries.

As an agnostic I was concerned that Christianity may sit too heavily on this book. I was wrong. Julia writes in such a way, walking the tightrope perfectly to balance the anger, gore and belief of the first part of the book with love and a different belief at the end. I can imagine that some of the passages would have been extremely powerful if I was Christian, but I can still appreciate the drive and purpose of the mission and it’s positive effect, maybe more now! How else do you fight bad spirits but with good ones??

To start to bring a close to this review and my Yin Yang analogy a, I have created a list of some opposites that I noticed as I read. They are quite a powerful, thought provoking list in themselves. Hopefully they will give you an idea of the places the story goes without giving too much away, even, maybe whetting your appetite?

  • Bad spirits from the witch doctor – Good spirits and Jesus
  • Drinking blood of enemies – Drinking the blood of Christ
  • Cutting as a rite of passage – Baptism

So, there you go. As I said at the start, I found Lieutenant Hotshot to be an amazing and surprising read. Try it for yourself.

My final thought; will I let my 12 year old son read it?

Yes

There is definitely an emotional maturity required to read this book (child or adult!) My son has that, and he knows just about every swear word under the sun to boot. The evil that people do and the good that balances it? It is a reality that we all need to understand, accept and try to resolve. So yes, yes I will let him, if he wants to…

 

Book review – Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

2015-03-24 07.39.03For me, today was the last day of the Easter holiday. I have been off since Friday and today is Wednesday, so it wasn’t a long break, but nothing to be sniffed at 🙂 As usual, my aims for the holiday were high; I managed to some how finish Pawn of Prophecy really quite quickly and so optimistically lined up the next 3 books as well as a list of blog posts I needed to finish. To be honest, I managed to finish one book (Fated by Benedict Jacka) and got quite a few of the posts finished, so I didn’t do that badly really. With the exception of the Fated review that I now need to do, this review of Pawn of Prophecy brings me almost up to date.

I suppose the best way to review the Pawn of Prophecy is to say that my first thought on finishing the book was “I must read book 2 of the Belgariad!” As you know, I try to mix my genres as I read through my books. I therefore forced myself to read different book after Pawn of Prophecy, but I’m straight back into the series with Queen of Sorcery later this evening.

So it’s now a given that I really liked the book. “Why? Why PoCo? What did you like” I hear you… murmur a bit.

The quality of the writing was great. In stark contrast to some of the other fantasy that I have read both before and since starting this blog, David Edding’s prose was simple, direct, descriptive where required and a joy to read. The best way that I can describe David’s writing is “clean”. There is not anything that gets in the way, it is well polished and is one of the most direct, well implemented texts that I have read. The story arc moved between sections of history where centuries passed at a time and the intricate detail of the current situation; these changes were smooth and the various parts of the story were told very well. I was always kept interested to find out what the next part of the story was and that story was believable and engaging.

I also liked the way that the legends surrounding some of the characters (obviously Mr.Wolf and Aunt Poll) were well integrated with the other sub stories. This built understanding through the book as Garion (the main character) finds out himself. This not only built a good story, but also performed a fantastic job of setting up those epic characters that will live through a lot of David Eddings’ work. I know that I want to read a lot more about Belgarath the Sorcerer!

I must add that I was introduced to David’s books a very long time ago by my friend Mike. He suggested that I read one of the later books that David wrote called Belgarath the Sorcerer. This book was written after the Belgariad quintet and after the next series too! It is essentially a memoir that charts Belgarath’s life before the main books start. Chronologically speaking this was a good recommendation, but it didn’t sit well with me. I think these prequels will be good to read once I have developed a wonder for the characters, seen them wield their might a few times: without properly knowing who they were, the prequel was a bit dry to be honest. Maybe my previous experience can be seen as a reason why I liked the Pawn of Prophecy so much? I have put off reading David Eddings for a long time. I knew they should be good, but I didn’t quite trust them. I was almost scared to read the book because I wanted it to be good, but a large part of me thought that it wouldn’t be. Thankfully I was OK and to book was so good that I wanted to read the next one straight away 🙂

A thing that slightly annoyed me that was done for no apparent reason

My memory is really poor. For the odd, wierd thing it is the best, but for most things it is below par. Now, as you should know if you have read almost anything I have written on this blog (?), I have read a lot of fantasy, and fantasy usually has a lot of odd names that are hard to remember and harder to pronounce. That;s fine, I can deal with that: Drizzt Do’Urden’s cat in R.A Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms books is a case in point. Firstly, I never even tried to pronounce it for most of the books, I just mentally said “placeholder for the name of the cat.” I did eventually take the time to work out the pronunciation only to find that I pronounced it completely differently to my friend! (other friend, I have more than 2…) Anyway, my point is, picking names is important. I found 2 name based similarities in the book that could have tripped me up and I can’t see any reason for making the names so similar? If there is in future books, then I will take this back (I won’t) but check these out:-

  • The story started on Faldor’s farm, so called because it is owned my Faldor. The first Sendarian king was called Fundor and to make matters worse he was also a farmer!
  • Barak is one of the main characters and has quite bear like, especially in one important part of the story. Cherek Bear-shoulders was the last King of all Aloria.

So you see, there is some issue not just with the similarity of the names, but also the context in which they are to be remembered!

Details checked at the David Eddings Codex Wiki. Thanks a lot 🙂

A final note on politics  and religion (because why wouldn’t you if you could?)

I really wanted to talk about socialism a bit in the Bourne Identity review, but didn’t get the time to do it justice. In that case I wanted to cover quite a wide subject where as my comment on the Pawn of Prophecy is more of an observation:

Faldor’s Farm where we the story begins is essentially a depiction of socialism. There is a leader, but there are multiple descriptions of everyone contributing, of the communal good and the shared prosperity of the group. There is no real need for David to push the point, but he does with the introduction of Faldor;s Daughter and Son-in-Law. They live in the town and work to make money to buy “stuff” and see the farm as backwards. Not making the staff work for their money is seen as deficient. Faldor is obviously in charge, so nothing is going to change for a while.

Religion wise, Faldor is also adamant that everyone should observe the religious festival when it comes around. There is a huge slug of tradition intimated in this part of the book. I was surprised to see that the majority of characters bowed their heads, said the words and got on with their lives. Religion was more of a custom than a belief. I think this was true for many people 50 years ago and more??

I haven’t managed to blog as much as I would like about the ISMs and their related subjects, but I really do find it interesting that each book I read has it’s own take on the political spectrum, and I think that maybe more than some other aspects of writing, political views and ideology are a little more personal to the writer than characters or plot. The more subtle truisms leak through? I have always felt that fantasy as a genre was a way to return to our pagan nomadic routes; make the magic real and sit round a camp fire. Pawn of Prophecy managed to do that amazingly well 🙂

Rating 9/10