Weekly Rundown

Reading: The Modern Minimalist Budget by Brian Night. When I first acquired this book on Kindle, who knows how long ago now, it was simply The Modern Minimalist. Adding Budget to the title may have helped him sell more copies, but I don’t know. Anyway, just a collection of little pointers on how to live with less, something I struggle through each and every week.

Listening/Watching: How the Economic Machine Works, by Ray Dalio. This thirty-minute presentation from a master of finance and business is helpful on a number of levels, and I’ve enjoyed and learned from this immensely. If you’re ever left wondering when a news anchor mentions something intangible about the economy, this provides a great primer.

Doing: Catching up. Over the past two to three months I’ve let a lot pile up that I need to get done. So I broke out my copy of Getting Things Done by David Allen, and began dorting my loops. Collecting items in the inbox can be fun, but seeing the full inbox(es) and knowing that I’ll have to process them… not so much.

Sharing:

Aug-Dec 2018 Reading Lists

Quick note: Though this had started as a monthly posting, I’ve found the longer I waited the harder it got. My intention for the coming year is to post this monthly. So, good luck me!

Books Bought:

  • The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen – Dennis Genpo Merzel 
  • Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers – Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur
  • Essays and Lectures – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The Crystal Shard – R.A. Salvatore
  • Streams of Silver – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Halfling’s Gem – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Legacy – R.A. Salvatore
  • Starless Night – R.A. Salvatore
  • Siege of Darkness – R.A. Salvatore
  • Passage to Dawn – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Silent Blade – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Worm Ouroboros – Eric  Rücker Eddison
  • The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath – Ishbelle Bee
  • Spring – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins – Clint, Griffin, Justin & Travis McElroy
  • The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  • Enlightened Vagabond: The Life and Teaching of Patrul Rinpoche – Matthieu Ricard
  • The California Field Atlas – Obi Kaufmann
  • Dungeons & Dragons Waterdeep: Dragon Heist – Wizards of the Coast
  • Dungeons & Dragons Players’ Handbook – Wizards of the Coast
  • Monster Cinema: Quick Takes – Barry Keith Grant
  • James Thurber: Writings & Drawings – James Thurber (Library of America Edition)
  • Wilderness Essays – John Muir
  • Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process – Edited by Joe Fassler
  • Robin – Dave Itzkoff
  • Tools of the Titans – Tim Ferriss
  • The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling – John Muir Laws
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog – Dylan Thomas
  • Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, The Golden Ticket, and Ronald Dahl’s Most Famous Creation – Lucy Mangan

Books Read:

  • Sojourn – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Crystal Shard – R.A. Salvatore
  • Streams of Silver – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Halfling’s Gem – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Legacy – R.A. Salvatore
  • Starless Night – R.A. Salvatore
  • Siege of Darkness – R.A. Salvatore
  • Passage to Dawn – R.A. Salvatore
  • Little Women: The Musical – Libretto by Allan Knee, Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and music by Jason Howland
  • Getting Things Done – David Allen (unfinished)
  • Start with Why – Simon Sinek
  • The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging – Charles Vogl
  • Influence – Robert B. Cialdini (unfinished)
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss (unfinished)
  • The Collected Letters of Alan Watts – Edited by Joan Watts & Anne Watts (resumed)
  • How to Watch a Movie – David Thomson (unfinished)
  • Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process – Edited by Joe Fassler (unfinished)

This will inevitably be a long, and somewhat frightening list. Admitting to the sheer numbers of books bought, attempted, settled into, or set down… It’s like the first step is admitting that there is a problem.

However, I have a love affair with books and would never admit that these purchases, nor the hours spent sitting, laying, or some manner of status in-between, with a book in my hands would be a problem. Mark Cuban is said to read three hours per day. Bill Gates plows through 50 books in a year. Though I don’t know off-hand how many I’ve read this year, I could look back through these posts and find out. (Looks to be 28. Okay, 2019 – Let’s aim for 30 books.)

Amid two productions that I was involved with (one a full-blown musical, the other a small, variety, Christmas cabaret); a week in Costa Rica; two bouts of illness (the first being a cold, and the second some sort of respiratory infection): work engagements, including two other productions, both running four weeks; a second job; a burgeoning Dungeons & Dragons campaign; and familial obligations for the holidays, I managed to put down a decent number of pages.

I’ve made a large chunk in RA Salvatore’s Drizzt saga – books 4-10 mostly in August and September. November, I read two of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Saga books: Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear. Wind was released in 2007, and I just purchased the Tenth Anniversary Edition from DAW Books, partly on the recommendation from a bookseller I’ve befriended through a work partnership, but also owing to the glowing review Lin Manuel Miranda gave the book, thoughtfully printed on the back face of the dust jacket.

“No one writes like Pat Rothfuss. Full stop. Read this book.”

It was only after buying the novel (some time later in face, perhaps a month or two) that I heard the first of several recommendations for ir through The Adventure Zone, the McElroy Brothers liveplay podcast on D&D, followed by several romps through other dice-controlled fantasy games.

His novella on Auri (a somewhat minor/important character from the first two books), The Slow Regard of Silent Things, is up next on my Rothfuss reading list.

I tend to bounce around when reading. I’ve fallen in love this year with the language of Sontag and Watts, as well as this past month with the essays of John Muir. I’ve got a shelf with them, also holding Emerson, Thurber, Whitman, Joseph Campbell, Karl One Knausgaard, Neil Gaiman, and Rilke. It’s the fluidity of language, and how words can be used to showcase more than just their definition.

“When I was a boy in Scotland I was fond of everything that was wild, and all my life I’ve been growing fonder and fonder of wild places and wild creatures. Fortunately around my native town of Dunbar, by the stormy North Sea, there was no lack of wildness, though most of the land lay in smooth cultivation, With red-blooded playmates, wild as myself, I loved to wander in the fields to hear the birds sing, and along the seashore to gaze and wonder at the shells and seaweeds, eels and crabs in the pools among the rocks when the tide was low; and best of all to watch the waves in awful storms thundering on the black headlands and craggy ruins of the old Dunbar Castle when the sea and the sky, the waves and the clouds, were mingled together as one. We never thought of playing truant, but after I was five or six years old I ran away to the seashore or the fields most every Saturday, and every day in the school vacations except Sundays, though solemnly warned that I must play at home in the garden and back yard, lest I should learn to think bad thoughts and say bad words. All in vain. In spite of the sure sore punishments that followed like shadows, the natural inherited wildness in our blood ran true on its glorious course as invincible and unstoppable as stars.” John Muir, from The Story of My Boyhood and Youth.

They paint with words, and in the way that I can watch (and listen) to Bob Ross depict happy little trees, so too can I spend hours with these authors – absorbing their words in ways that just reading a sentence (or writing one) cannot accurately describe.

Then, there were the others… David Allen’s seminal work on time management and efficiency is a useful tool. But flowing from line to line it does not. I implemented a couple of his suggestions, but still find my workflow cumbersome. I’ll be resuming that endeavor and attempt to become more productive, now that we’re in 2019.

Sinek has a way of lighting a fire under your ass. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. They don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Great advice. So, what is it you do, and why do you do it? (No, making money doesn’t count.) It’s been a process. I was introduced to Sinek’s work at a nonprofit conference and instantly felt its power. I don’t have a Mac because I think it’s a good computer (though I do). Dell makes a good computer, and I was on PC up until 2006. I buy Apple products because I believe in the image that they project. It’s a creative’s tool – and I learned Photoshop on it, oh, so many years ago.

This holds true for many things that I like to purchase – camping and hiking gear; automobiles; notebooks. Anything I use on a daily basis, or look forward to using in the future.

The books by Ferriss have similar effects, and I love deep diving into his work: books, blog; website; podcast. I don’t know that he has the life I would want, but he’s done a lot of the work that I would also like to do… if that makes sense.

I’m going to gloss over the purchase list. I did buy most of the Drizzt books used from a shop I really like, and several books were digital online items during the Christmas season. Obi Kaufmann’s California Field Atlas is one I’ve wanted since seeing it first released, and I finally picked up a copy. It led me to the Law’s Nature Journaling. Now, I can’t draw. I doodle geometric patterns from time to time, a la Paul Klee. But anything that resembles an actual thing, it’s all wrong. That being said, I thought that I would give it a try. I’ve made a few hikes out through some parks nearby, and started taking photographs and labelling plants for future attempts at watercoloring. We’ll see what happens.

And that’s about it for this. I recommend Rothfuss, Ferriss, Sinek, Muir and Watts highly, if you’re interested in those topics (fantasy, business, nature, and buddhism). Really, nothing up there was something I had to just set down. I fully intend to complete all unfinished books on this list.

Also, gifts of books were made this Christmas, and friends received copies of 4-Hour WorkweekThe Jaws Log, and You are doing a Freaking Great Job. I received the Dark Horse Comics book on Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion.

I’ll let you know what I read this month sometime in February. Here we go, 2019!

Summer Time, and the Books are Easy

July 2018

Books Bought:

  • Principles – Ray Dalio
  • England and Other Stories – Graham Swift
  • The Silver Dream – Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves
  • The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan – Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi & Peter Levitt
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss

Books Read:

  • Later Essays – Susan Sontag (unfinished)
  • The Collected Letters of Alan Watts – Edited by Joan Watts & Anne Watts (unfinished)
  • You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero
  • Homeland – R.A. Salvatore
  • Exile – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Power of Now – Eckart Tolle (unfinished)
  • The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan – Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi & Peter Levitt (unfinished)
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Achieving Excellence in Fund Raising – Hank Rosso (unfinished)
  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen (unfinished)

Well here it is. I hope it was worth a few days’ waiting.

Some things continually crept up as the month played out. Ira Glass’s quote on beginning an artistic endeavor:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Aside from this quote, other recurring elements included: a need to escape to the outdoors – including a trip to an REI Co-op. I had never been. Seeing all three Hotel Transylvania films (and a musical based of Adam Sandler’s 80s extravaganza The Wedding Singer).

Also Dr. Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, and David Allen.

In restructuring my days, I’ve found increased time for reading – actually scheduling in at least an hour of reading daily (with few exceptions). At night I was putting a chapter in (at least) of R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden saga. The first three books were loaned to me by a friend of mine. We had had an open discussion on Urban Fantasy following my finishing of Arena last month (or the month before).

Another odd thing about me – when I walk into someone’s house, I am drawn to their books. The more books on a shelf, the more intrigued I am by what’s there. I know that I’m not alone in this interest, but it’s also apparent that many people I spend time with don’t have that compulsion. I could literally spend minutes to hours staring at collections of books.

So, when I entered my friend’s house, I found reason to linger in the room with the book shelves, housing Salvatore, Gaiman, Tolkien, and other notable fantasy and science fiction writers. He wholly recommended the Drizzt series, and I told him I’d give it a try.

Homeland was a slow start. I had committed to reading it, but it was a little bit of a drag at first. (Similar to the drag I experienced reading Tolle’s The Power of Now, but I’ll get to that later.)

The origin story of Drizzt Do’Urden began on his birth night, and showed the conniving and cunning nature of the dark elves – of which Drizzt is a noble born son. But as the story progresses, we learn that Drizzt is more kind; more empathetic. That he doesn’t share the bloodlust or the vanity of his kin. And he begins to hate his surroundings more and more, until (and this leads to Exile), he finds refuge without his city. This too proves trying, and with an undead assassin on his tale, he needs all the help he can get.

All in all, Drizzt is a very well-written character, and I received an email from Barnes & Noble stating the new Drizzt trilogy is to start releasing in September. I’ll be reading more of this adventure in the coming months.

Two remanded books purchased this month – England and Silver Dream. I’m still trying to hone in on the short story format, England being just that, but haven’t been able to ready my mind to read a short story collection. Several have been purchased in the past year, including a collection from The Paris Review. I just came across it while boxing some stuff up to take to storage.

I’m currently preparing to move, with all intention of getting into my new place next month, or by October at the latest. We’ll see how all of that plays out, and whether it affects my reading time.

Silver Dream had Neil Gaiman’s name on the top – it seems that he helped with the story of the original book (this one being a sequel). I suppose I’ll have to read the original. So, it goes in a box to move to the next house.

In my spiritual reconciliation, I often find myself quoting the likes of Julia Cameron, Pedram Shojai, and now even Jen Sincero. So as my girlfriend and I were watching the third Hotel Transylvania, there was a scene where Johnny (pictured above), speaks in a very zen way about the flow of the universe. She looks over to me and says, “Look. It’s you.”

In fact, it was indeed a very me thing to say. I’ve been speaking for two years on the essence of flow in the universe, and how our ability to connect to that Source energy allows us the freedom and ability to achieve our goals and desires.

All this to say, I thought Johnny would make a very good featured image for this post. And thus there he is. My animated self. (I’ve also backpacked in Europe twice over the last 30 months, and am planning a Costa Rica trip later this year.)

Spiritually, July didn’t offer me much I suppose. Really, since starting work at the theatre, it seems that much of my free-thinking time is devoted to nonprofit strategies. I’ve broken out the Rosso, a primer on philanthropy, and one that I had to read parts of during my master’s program at SCAD.

I know that I’ve lost track of books as well, and occasionally I’ll come across one that I’ve either read, or purchased, and forgot to add.

I love poetry, and I’m fascinated my Buddhism as well as Asian mysticism. Cold Mountain was a Shambhala publication, and I just had to buy it. I’ve read very little of it so far – again, nonprofits seem to be inhabiting the bulk of my reading capacity – but it’s there on my desk for me to peruse at my leisure.

With all that said, I think that is likely the best representation of reading for last month. Was there more? Maybe. Was it anything I want to talk about? Meh.

I recommend the Drizzt books, as well as Jen Sincero. Tolle’s Power of Now is something that, though beneficial, it’s better to knock it out in one sitting, at least I think. I’ve now started and stopped at least a dozen times. Everything else will need more focus for August.