Category: Non-Fiction

Real events from an Englishman living in America

Tragidoodles: A Review

Tragidoodles: A Review

My mate Ben Cameron (no relations) has a book coming out next week (Nov 3rd). I participated in crowd funding it so I got it early and it’s great. My Goodread’s review is below:

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TragidoodlesTragidoodles by Ben Cameron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars.

This book is great. The illustration style is cute, simple, and full of character. It’s the Ronseal of books, in that this is definitely a book of TRAGIC doodles. Some of them sank even my cold heart. Most will make you laugh and then feel guilty about it.

My favourite thing about this book is the way Ben Cameron brings life to simple things like leaves, or the bubbles in a carbonated drink. Each of these panels says something about life or what it means to be human.

Also, dogs! I enjoyed the dog doodles most. There’s just something about the way dogs want their owner’s complete love and attention which makes them so desperate. Ben’s portrayals of dogs are perfect.

There’s quite a few dead animals spread throughout the book which I found less clever than the other doodles, but there are one-hundred doodles in here of which I throughly enjoyed ninety.

Leave this book on your coffee table and ruin/make your guest’s day.

View all my reviews

Little Free Library – take a book, give a book

Little Free Library – take a book, give a book

Free Little Library

I take a lot of walks in my neighbourhood and in the last couple of years I’ve noticed small little house-shaped boxes on a stilt in people’s gardens. It’s not a bird house, or a shrine, but a house of books, placed near the street so a passerby can take a look, grab a book, and return a different book.

Little Free Library is a non-profit organisation that supports people installing mini libraries on their lawn to share books with the community. Some buy official Little Free Library units but anyone can make their own and register it with the Little Free Library organisation to be added to the official map.

copy editing

There are dozens of these libraries within a 10 mile radius of my home and I always take a look inside. While editing my novel Catchee Monkey: A Rex & Eddie Mystery I found a book on copyediting in a local LFL. I took the book home and used it as a guide while finishing Catchee Monkey.

Catchee Monkey

This month I decided it was time I gave a book to the Little Free Library so I dropped off a couple of copies of Catchee Monkey, one at the LFL I got my copyediting book from and another local LFL I like. I also inserted a Strange Paul postcard which my artist friend Ben Cameron asked me to leave around Los Angeles. Check out his Etsy store

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I hope the Little Free Library trend continues to grow. Owners talk of how installing one connected them with their neighbours, and brought a collection of new books to their front door. Of course, there are some spoil-sports who call in complaints and misuse zoning laws to remove the libraries, but hopefully common sense will win out. As soon as I have a front garden, I plan on getting a Free Little Library myself.

Leonard Nimoy – Rest in Peace

Leonard Nimoy – Rest in Peace

spock

I grew up watching repeats of the original Star Trek series, at the time I thought it was a modern day children’s show rather than repeats of an older show for families. My favourite character was Mr. Spock, as played by the recently departed Leonard Nimoy.

Spock is half human and half vulcan – an alien race that prides itself on logic and control of their emotions. Through out the shows and movies, he struggled to come to terms with his human side and human nature, but he learns. From 1966 to 2009, the character of Spock evolved and by the end he has embraced his human side.

With my dark hair and pointed eyebrows I looked a lot like Spock, and was regularly called Spock by people at school. Like Spock, I also felt out of touch with my emotions and the people around me.

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Me in 1994

 

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, watching Spock on Star Trek really helped me. It was a safe place to explore human interactions, emotions, and friendships, I learnt a lot by watching this man learn about, and embrace, his humanity.

This side of Star Trek was embodied by Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock but Star Trek continued this exploration of being human through spin off characters like Data – an android trying to be human, Odo – a shapeshifting alien forced to live in a human form, and Seven Of Nine – a human who was raised by a cyborg race that repressed individuality. They all continued the journey Spock started, and as an awkward teenager I appreciated them all.

Leonard Nimoy’s impact on Star Trek goes beyond Spock. Behind the scenes he worked on several of the movies as a writer, director, and producer.

In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, an alien-being wreaks havoc on Earth’s atmosphere in search of the extinct humpback whales it once communicated with. The Enterprise crew go back in time to 1986 to find two humpback whales they can bring to their time to stop the aliens destroying Earth. Leonard Nimoy co-wrote the story and directed the film, creating a humourous story with an environmental message that helped raised awareness of an endangered species.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPztpGBrfD8

Nimoy worked as Executive Producer on Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and is credited with coming up with the idea for the movie. At the time of production, 1991, the cold war was over and the US was coming to terms with calling the Russian’s friends instead of enemies. In Star Trek the Klingon empire, an alien race of warriors, were stand ins for Russia so Nimoy suggested a movie that explored the “wall falling” in the Star Trek universe. The film examined prejudice by portraying the beloved main characters as bigots that feared the Klingons and come around to a new way of thinking. It was a bold move and I regard Star Trek: VI as the best movie because it has so much to say about race and fear of change.

In the film, Kirk and McCoy – Spock’s best friends – have been framed for the assassination of a Klingon chancellor and Spock must prove their innocence. To solve the murder mystery Spock uses his vulcan logic to search for clues but also his human capacity to break the rules for his friend’s sake.

As a boy growing up I thought related to this alien character, but as Englishman living in the United States, I relate now more than ever. I’ve got immigration documents that refer to me an “alien”, and any stiff upper lipped Brit is going to look like a Vulcan compared to the expressive Americans. At 32 years old I still find relief re-watching the old shows and movies that Nimoy shaped.

He has a lasting legacy and because of that, even in death, he will continue to live long and prosper.