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Schools teach about African history and schools teach about the difficulties of improving living conditions in Africa. Schools teach about the destruction caused by conflict in Africa and schools teach about lack of healthcare and clean water. Students learn about Africa in the broadest brush strokes, taking very little time to cover extremely nuanced and complex issues. In the service of introductory information we lose humanity.

Ishmael Beah’s The Radiance of Tomorrow provides that humanity. While in the classroom students discuss conflict and how to recover from conflict in a generalized way, at the level of country, Beah examines these issues at the level of the town and the individual. We discuss the moves a government or international organization need to make in order to recover and Beah looks at the compromises a teacher has to make in order to feed and clothe his family. In Radiance, Beah skips right over the broad context and opts instead to focus entirely on the level of individuals without apology or exposition. This small-grain, human level, is an essential piece of understanding that is missing from how we teach modern issues of conflict, development, and what happens when tradition and modernity butt up against each other.

This book is very much a companion to Beah’s first book, A Long Way Gone, his memoir, and I read Radiance with that context as well as substantial background on the civil war in Sierra Leone. However, in Radiance (a novel), beah is freed from the pressure of historical accuracy and in doing so he can write an extremely compelling narrative and he can develop characters to serve a purpose, as opposed to relying on Truth. A novel like Radiance fits in the same category as Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story” in that “a true war story does not depend upon [absolute] truth. Absolute occurrence is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” Beah captures this sentiment excellently, blending the reality of the situation in post-war Sierra Lone with a story of his own fabrication.

Beah’s novel is not driven by plot, but by character and through this we gain an intimate understanding of the cognitive dissonance required to live in post-war Sierra Lenoe. The people are simultaneously traditional and modern, hopeless and hopeful, defeated and determined. Not through any desire to be contradictory, but through necessity as they examine how to put their lives back together after such far-reaching destruction. Beah does an excellent job of avoiding the easy route here. It would be easy to commit to hope or hopelessness. It would be easy to write that Sierra Leone is a lost cause, or to create a hollywood ending of pure hope, but these are inauthentic. Instead, Beah remains committed to humanity and the complexities we love with. There is no simple solution and as a result we have to be willing to take the time for nuanced and complicated solutions that bring opportunity without squashing tradition. Beah opens the can of worms with the understanding that it cannot be easily closed.

Much like A Long Way Gone, Beah does not pull punches. There are brutal descriptions of mining accidents, the impacts of unclean water, and the daily reality of extreme urban poverty. Beah’s characters are continually grounded in a harsh and unforgiving world. These depictions, while graphic, are not gratuitous and are presented with grace and serve to honor the importance of individual people. Beah uses death to honor the value of human life.

From a teaching perspective, this book would be an excellent companion to a social studies course on contemporary modern issues as it brings a sense of humanity to the statistics on poverty and death. One wouldn’t need to be explicitly studying Sierra Leone, or even Africa, as these issues of recovering from conflict would be equally appropriate in Latin America, or Afghanistan. Additionally this book would be extremely valuable in a world literature, or creative writing course as Beah takes an uncommon, and extremely compelling, approach to language. Throughout the book Beah uses non-traditional translation as a way to approximate the imagery present in the multiple languages spoken in Sierra Leone. This is a powerful literary device and when reading I had to bring increased intentionality to my reading so that I could experience the language of the book at face value while also translating phrases like “nest of air” into “ball” for myself. This served to reinforce Beah’s commitment to the story of the individual throughout the book. Characters from different backgrounds leverage language in different ways, and this serves to deepen the human connection I felt between myself and the characters.

I’ve read A Long Way Gone, and I’ve seen the film Bling, in which Beah brings a group of rappers to see the diamond trade in Sierra Leone, and while both were powerful and highly informative, they missed the human connection that is so central to Radiance of Tomorrow. Despite the concrete sense of truth provided by memoir and documentary respectively, A Long Way Gone and Bling suffer from the common issue of being another story of human suffering. Radiance of Tomorrow stands apart due to its complexity and nuance and Beah’s commitment to avoiding simplicity and highlighting the contradictions inherent in human life.

Marbles sat on my shelf for a while. I wasn’t sure I was ready for it. I was already reading some heavy stuff, and I figured it’d be an uncomfortable read. To add to my hesitation, I’ve never been a huge fan of Ellen Forney’s work, whether it’s her comics in the Stranger, or the critically acclaimed Monkey Food or I Love Led Zeppelin.

Cover to Ellen Forney's MarblesOver a few weeks, the sky blue cover stared out at me for a while, slyly whispering. “Come on, read me, yeah it’s about mental illness, but it’s not all bad. It’ll be fun. It’ll be safe. I won’t make you cry…much. Sherman Alexie said I’m hilarious on the back cover!” A couple days ago I figured, may as well, let’s dive in. Beware pretty blue books right rainbows on them. They are liars.

I’d thought Forney’s work just wasn’t my thing and I was wrong. Marbles is incredible. Marbles is an extraordinarily intimate work. Marbles is indeed hilarious, and it’s a rough ride. Most importantly, Marbles is vulnerable. Throughout the book Forney documents struggle through therapy, balancing medication, and the impact of bipolar disorder on her life and work. Throughout the memoir she is incredible open and honest, giving readers remarkable insight into her life and experience managing mental illness. This is simultaneously a memoir of her experience and an examination if one has to be crazy in order to be creative. These two tracks weave in and out smoothly, at times distinct and at other times completely blended.

Sequential art (stuck-up nerdspeak synonym for comics) is, without a doubt, the correct medium for this story. Through her words and pictures Forney immediately gets the reader inside her head. The artwork is explosive, frenetic, and disorienting during her manic episodes, and it is perfectly juxtaposed with the extreme minimalism of the depressive episodes. Forney also subtly shifts the style as the timeline moves from mania to depression. Throughout, however, the therapy sessions are portrayed exactly the same, stable, simply, just two people talking. This artistic choice clearly highlights the stabilizing role of Forney’s therapist throughout the journey. As it should be with comics, the artistic vocabulary adds meaning to the words, creating a powerful symbiotic relationship.

Marbles Page 8

Marbles Page 77

Marbles really got into my head. For the past two nights I’ve had dreams that I’m going through Forney’s manic episodes with images in her art style flying through me. Before reading Marbles, I had a vague idea of what it means to be bipolar: you go up and down in mood, and you can’t really control it. Reading Forney’s first experience through a depressive episode completely broke me. I had no concept of how debilitating depression can be, and the impact of the illness on Forney’s life is impossible to misunderstand.

Marbles would be an incredible text for teaching abut mental illness. It’s so completely accessible. She makes progress, slips back, tries new options, goes back to old ones, all in an attempt to find stability. Forney also emphasizes that this is a lifelong process. There is no cure, mental illness requires constant management. It would take a savvy, nuanced teacher to navigate the more difficult portions of the text, and following Forney on this journey is well worth the effort. As a reader I was rewarded with increased empathy and compassion for people experiencing mental illness. I also have an improved understanding of the complex support system necessary to help someone manage their illness. Twenty bucks and a couple hours of reading is a small price to pay to gain this understanding.

Calling Ron Wimberly’s Prince of Cats “a hip-hop retelling of “Romeo and Juliet”  is too simplistic.  Wimberly goes beyond retelling, he reinvents and recreates. Like the DJs and graffiti artists he references, Wimberly draws on his influences and builds a new story from his favorite pieces.  In this case the blend is Shakespearean language, hip hop braggadocio, Kurosawa’s samurai, and street art. With these components Wimberly remixes a new tragedy, not of love, but of the inability to love. Wimberly expertly deepens Shakespeare’s timeless story by exploring Tybalt: the titular Prince of Cats.

Prince of Cats wears its references proudly. Basquiat’s SAMO tags decorate Wimberly’s Brooklyn. Sampson and Gregory get into a bloody sword fight on the subway, and then eat takoyaki in a gentrified Brooklyn sushi restaurant.  At the masquerade ball (a block party) Tybalt and Juliet are a strong presence dressed as Michael Jackson and Wonder Woman.

TandJCostume

Members of both houses fight with katanas (Mercuctio symbolically stands apart with a kopesh), but marking territory through graffiti runs as the strongest theme for the power struggle as Montague yellow, and Capulet red war over wall-space.

Petruchiotag

In an example of how Wimberly expands on Shakespeare’s original, the previously unseen, Petruchio is re-imagined in the guise of “King of Style” Kase 2, complete with a missing right arm, and his death becomes a central motivation. Wimberly also gives voice the Romeo’s first love, Rosalyn, expanding her character and adding depth to the whole.

Throughout, Wimberly combines Shakespeare’s language from Romeo and Juliet with his own Shakespeare-inspired inventions, infused with urban vernacular while maintaining iambic pentameter.  This helps Prince of Cats read as more than just homage, but as a companion to the original. Tybalt’s story runs alongside the main narrative that we all know, dipping in and out through his interactions with Juliet, Romeo, and members of both houses.

While Romeo struggles to find love, Tybalt struggles to make his mark on society. He is desperate in his attempts for recognition, boldly declaring his desire to maintain Capulet honor at all costs. This is, however, a cover for his deeply broken worldview as Rosalyn exposes in Act 4, saying:

     Thou art a man obsessed.
     I’ve thought about the words you said.
     ..It’s not the crest of Capulet…
     The precious thing thy sword protects…
     …it’s vanity
     …I mean, 
     why risk thy life over and over?
     These self-important suicide attempts
     reveal thy lack of self-regard
 
     —and 
     if they heart were truly concerned

     with those for whom you say you risk death

     you would preserve thy life

     and nurture the happiness of those around you

     —Right?

In reading Prince of Cats if found myself falling in love with Romeo and Juliet all over again. I wanted to go back and re-read the play, to watch the film, to find a production to see. Wimberly is a masterful DJ here, sampling from his most loved art forms to create a new work that is simultaneously a love letter to his influences and a wholly new and vibrant work. Prince of Cats is not a replacement, or a retelling. It is an addition to the original mythology, providing context, background, and new perspective.

With regard to teaching, Prince of Cats is extremely rich. It could easily serve as a prelude to Romeo and Juliet or as a lesson in perspective after reading the original play. In terms of character, Tybalt experiences events of the main story in a very different way than Romeo, and in terms of authorship, Wimberly emphasizes themes that are more subtle in Shakespeare’s original. It would be incredible to use both texts and run a comparison of Romeo’s and Tybalt’s abilities to cope with their environments as a look into how at-risk youth either escape, or are entrapped by their surroundings. Alternately one could explore how Shakespeare’s background informed his lens, while Wimberly’s experiences encourage a different focus.

English classes often use Romeo and Juliet to explore themes of love, conflict, and revenge, but students get easily tripped up by language and the difficulty of reading a play without seeing production. To this end, Prince of Cats can serve as a strong hook, allowing students access through hip-hop’s visual imagery, while retaining the Shakespearean linguistic syntax, and vocabulary. Through a willingness to invent and remix, Wimberly’s Prince of Cats is a piece that can stand proudly alongside Shakespeare’s original work.

TybaltFriar

What makes children successful?  Answering this question should be the key to unlocking issues of education: figure out what makes for success, teach it, problem solved.  Previous answers often come with strong world views around humanity: the concept of meritocracy, social Darwinism, and writers like Malcolm Gladwell all provide their own answers with high degrees of variation.

It is easy to see that wealth and privilege help and that its more difficult to be successful when coming from a background of poverty, but what is it about that distinction that allows privileged children to be more successful?  What is it that makes some children capable of escaping cycles of poverty, while others remain trapped?  Why do some children born to families of great privilege burn out and fail, despite their early advantages?

In his new book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough adds his own answers to these longstanding questions with compelling results.

Tough makes a strong argument that’s been made before: non-cognitive skills are more important than intelligence when predicting future success.  This means that hard work, curiosity, perseverance, and self-control are all more beneficial than raw intellectual power.  In addition Tough claims that children raised with minimal childhood trauma have a distinct advantage in their development of these characteristics as well.  One could almost summarize the entire book into: “hard work and good parenting make children successful.”  Almost.

Tough’s work is at its best when he is pulling together the research of others.  The book hits the ground running highlighting the importance and impact of a strong set of non-cognitive skills citing study after study along with the experiences of schools and scientists alike.  Tough does a great job of bringing together research on brain chemistry, poverty, education, and the psychology of success, and from that mix creating a single argument.  This interdisciplinary approach suits the subject as it acknowledges that incredible number of variables that impact a person’s ability to succeed throughout their life.

What Tough does not address, however, is a definition of success itself.  He is clear that growing up in poverty and remaining in poverty does not mean success.  He is clear that being a high school dropout means you have been unsuccessful.  He does not, at any point in the book, take the time to define what it means to be a successful adult.  Tough makes a strong argument that one does not need to graduate from college to be successful, citing himself and Steve Jobs.  (Though he goes to great length to justify that position.)  Additionally Tough makes a strong and well argued claim that simply earning money does not equate to success, citing numerous graduates of prestigious universities that go into finance and business simply because it is easy and the field has a high financial yield.  He is also (appropriately) skeptical of whether or not a single-minded pursuit of excellence is true success, citing example of child prodigies in chess.  Tough’s claim that non-cognitive skills are essential to success is compelling.  The argument would be stronger with if he could create a direct link between those skills and long-term success.  Tough actively avoids presenting a clear definition of success and as a result, his argument is diffused through a lack of strong vision.

It boils down to this: non-cognitive skills like curiosity, perseverance, and self-control are essential to a child’s ability to succeed long-term.  Early childhood dramatically shapes a child’s non-cognitive skills.  Traumatic experience impedes a child’s abilities, while strong parenting improves these abilities.  As such, students enter schools with a wide range of proficiency in these non-cognitive skills.  Schools, social-workers, and counselors can teach and develop these skills as a high leverage to help reverse the patterns of inequality.

Ultimately, How Children Succeed is not an answer in and of itself.  In order to really make the work meaningful I had to continually relate Tough’s writing to what I’d read in other books on the subject like Mindset, Outliers, and Meet Your Happy Chemicals.  By making connections between Tough’s expanded literature review, and the works of others on the subject of success, I was able to create meaning about the role of schools and what it takes to help students who enter with disadvantages.  Without that prior knowledge I think I would have left the book interested, but unsure of how to move forward and create success.

Tough is a strong journalist and it shows.  I’m glad I read the book, and I’ve already recommended it to many others in the education field, but I’ve encouraged them to skim it.  Frankly though, Tough’s writing did not necessitate and entire book.  It would have been more effective as a traditional literature review or New Yorker style article, dropping a good deal of the lengthy biographical context and jumping straight to the analysis.

Carol Dweck’s Mindset is worth your time.  Even more so if you are (or are planning to be) a manager, friend, partner, teacher, coach, or parent.  Dweck‘s thesis is very straightforward: much of what determines your success, or lack of success, is rooted in your mindset.  More specifically: whether you have a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset.”

Dweck’s overall claim (spoiler alert) is growth mindset – good, fixed mindset – bad.  This makes a certain amount of logical sense from the outset.  (Even more so if you’ve already read pieces like Outliers that focus on the amount of hard work needed for achieving true excellence.)  If you have a worldview in which you can improve and personality faults are malleable, you are better able to change your state and make positive change in your life.  When you believe that all your ability, intellect, and talent was fixed at birth, then you take on behaviors that reinforce those ideas and stunt your growth.

Dweck does not limit herself to education.  She also examines the benefits of a growth mindset in coaching, parenting, interpersonal relationships and business.  Each time the growth mindset is the clear winner through example after example.  I appreciate that Dweck chose to take an anecdotal, qualitative, approach to her work.  The mindset issue can be easily countered with examples of fixed mindset individuals who have achieved success, so a statistics-focused, quantitative, approach would soon look like Swiss cheese.  Dweck regularly reinforces that mindset is highly personal, and that changing fixed to growth mindset, while influenceable, is ultimately dependent on the individual’s desire to change.

For myself as a teacher, the most immediately useful section of the book is (no surprise) the chapter on teachers, parents, and coaches.  Dweck cites numerous qualitative examples of how the growth mindset helps those with power (teachers, parents, coaches) create success in their respective charges.  I do a lot of this already with my AVID class: my entire approach to the class is to help my students adopt a growth mindset with regards to their ability, intellect, and potential for positive change.  It was affirming to see that my theories are backed by research.  I do not, however, spend as much time explicitly discussing a growth mindset with my history classes.  I intend to change that, particularly with regard to the skill-based segments of my class: reading, writing, argumentation, and the like.

Making the growth mindset more explicit is a relatively minor change from the way I’ve been teaching so far.  The growth mindset is already present in the classroom.  We just need to name it and make the process more intentional.  The larger hurdle is disseminating the information to my peers.

Dweck’s provides many examples of the fixed mindset teacher that gives up when students do not present the desired level of ability, or the teacher who blames deficiencies on other teachers or schools. I’ve heard “they should have learned that in middle school,” or “they teach writing in English class,” enough times that I can’t count them.  I regularly hear “I’m just not good at math,” or “I love history, but I can’t write essays,” and it is a constant struggle to help students see that regardless of their current level of ability, they have the space for growth and improvement.  The rub is that helping my peers see that students benefit from a growth mindset is not enough.  In order for it to work I need to help my peers develop their own growth mindset so that they are willing to change how they teach.  Changing adults is harder than changing youth.

Today marked the end of my first Wendler 5/3/1 cycle.  4 weeks working on 4 different lifts: back squats, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press.

The main idea is that (following the programming) you perform each lift at a specific percentage of your max for a specified number of reps.  One cycle lasts for 16 workouts and takes about a month to complete.  The entire goal here is pure strength without worrying about anything else.  (Other work you do is on your own, and is not covered by the 5/3/1 system.  I do a lot of other fitness work.)

There’s no magic here.  Jim Wendler isn’t saying that you’ll add 100lbs to your squat in five months.  He’s saying you can do that in about a year.  As long as you stick with it and continue to put in the hard work you should see results.  In an interview with T-Nation Wendler had the following to say about the program: ” the reason I came up with 5/3/1 was that I wanted a program that eliminated stupid thoughts from my head and just let me go into the weight room and get shit done.”

I will pause here to say that I already had a solid lifting and strength base before starting.  Until January of this year I’d worked with a trainer  doing strength and conditioning work so my form is pretty good, I have strong body awareness, and I’ve had solid experience observing how to properly program workouts around a strength session.  If you are less familiar with things working with a coach is invaluable (even if it’s just a more experienced friend) and Wendler’s book has recommendations for assistance work and how to do the lifts properly.

So far it’s been doing just that for me.  I don’t get excited about programming strength work.  I’m far more interested in putting my energy into circuit training, skills work, and metabolic conditioning workouts.  I like getting strength results and I have strength goals, but the process doesn’t interest me.  5/3/1 has been perfect for that so far because it allows me to just get some heavy lifting in without agonizing over which lifts, for how many reps, at what percentage.

Beyond the simplicity I really like that at the end of each workout the last set is essentially listed as max reps.  So in the first week the workout would be:

5 reps at 65%
5 reps at 75%
5+ reps at 85%

That little + at the end of the third set is the real winner.  That’s when you push yourself to go beyond what’s comfortable and find out what you can really lift.  In the third week the last set is 1+ reps at 95%.  That’s 95% of your single rep max lift.  I was seriously excited when I busted out 9 bench press reps at 160lbs a couple weeks ago.  The last set of the workout is where you hit your goals and where you find your new max.  It’s not about increasing your single rep max, though that will happen, but it’s about increasing your overall strength which includes reps and weight.

Tomorrow marks the first day of the second round.  I’m adding 10 pounds to the training weight for squats and deadlifts, and 5 pounds to bench and overhead press.  That’s the standard.  (Wendler has a big focus on keeping ego in check when it comes to adding weight.)  So, in theory I should hit my deadlift goal of 340lbs (~2x bodyweight) somewhere in July as long as I stick with the system.

For now I’m sticking to the four main lifts, but the theory can be easily applied to any lifts.  The Olympic lifts come to mind first since I want to improve my snatch, clean, and overhead squat.  I can definitely see a cycle in the future where I sub out the overhead press for a clean and jerk for example.  Weighted dips or weighted pull-ups could make an appearance as well.  The four main lifts are primary because they have significant carryover benefit to other lifts, but they are not exhaustive.

There are lifting programs that advertise faster results, but I really appreciate the ability to just turn my brain off and just lift.  Strength is a goal, but not my primary goal so I’m very satisfied with steady progress.

 

I cook a lot.  We usually eat at home at least six night as week, and my wife and I both take a lunch to work nearly every day.  At least ninety percent of the time it’s me doing the cooking.  I like it.  It’s gratifying to create your own fuel and the positive reactions of others when you’ve done a good job are priceless.

While I cook a lot I’m not great with recipes.  I’ve been accused of being anti-measurement before.  Definitely guilty.  If it’s something I’ve really never made before I might follow the recipe the first time.  Even then I usually adjust spices and amounts of ingredients on the fly, completely deaf to any words of protest, much to my wife’s chagrin.

I still like cookbooks though.  They’re great for inspiration and most of the time I’ll spend a lot of time looking at the pictures.  Most of the time though I’ll cook one or two recipes out of them, and then they sit on the shelf.  Looking good, but little more than eye candy and the occasional reference.  That was before Well Fed came in the mail.

Well Fed is primarily a book of recipes that strictly follow the paleo diet with a strong focus on broadening peoples’ global recipe repertoire.  Melissa intentionally visits a breadth of regions with her food, crisscrossing the globe as she sees fit to put out delicious, easily made, recipes that are also really healthy.

Since we purchased the book in January I’ve made more recipes out of this single book than any of our other cookbooks.  (Even more than Joy of Cooking or the Ad Hoc at Home book, which I seriously love.)  Each recipe has been great and worth following, but more than the individual (fantastic) recipes Melissa guides her reader to restructure their cooking to be more efficient.

The Weekly Cookup concept is so logical and simple that I felt like an idiot for not having already thought of it, particularly my background cooking in professional kitchens.  The short version is one day a week cook and prep a whole bunch of food, and then leisurely enjoy the fruits of your labor all week by easily reheating and re-blending your tasty ingredients into full meals.

The whole concept is tied to running your home kitchen like a restaurant kitchen.  If you prep your ingredients the actual cooking is faster.  Need a quick weeknight meal?  Take your pre-chopped cabbage, onions, and zucchini, throw them in a pan with some spices and a pre-cooked protein and enjoy awesome dinner in about fifteen minutes.

Even if you’re not going to eat paleo full time this book is worth it.  The pages on setting up your kitchen and the weekly cookup are worth the cover price alone.

Normally I’d be completely satisfied just getting a couple good recipes from a book, but unlike most of the cookbooks we have (Relegated to a reference at best.) I’ve been using the book so much I thought it best rebuild the book as a binder with plastic pages to increase its durability and protect it from my abusive cooking style.

I was trying to write a review of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and I was getting frustrated just going around in circles, feeling like I was rehashing things that had already been written in other reviews.  I wasn’t offering any new insight, and I may as well have just posted a link to an appropriate review and called it a day.

This is because the book itself is a rehash of Grahame-Smith’s previous work Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Take a topic, mash some undead into it, publish, … , profit.  Sounds good right?  Well it worked the first time.  P&P&Z worked because it was a new idea.  Additionally a major theme of Jane Austen’s classic (that I hated in high school English) is about how as a society we ignore and obfuscate a lot of what makes us tick like sex and money.  We still ignore and obfuscate these things so the reinterpretation of the classic works.  Score one for appropriately contextualizing your themes so that your readership can relate!

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Spoiler Alert from this point forward: But seriously some of it is so obvious that high school U.S. history is a spoiler.)  doesn’t have this same contemporary link.  More books have been written about Lincoln than any other historical figure save Jesus.  There is a gigantic pile of very serious work on Lincoln’s life and a lot of history nerds (like myself) come well equipped to a book like this.

For the beginning of the book Grahame-Smith gets it very right.  Take the beloved figure of Lincoln, equip him with an axe and some serious 19th Century cross-training, then pit him against an insidious vampire menace.  Honest Abe stands on the side of good and works to eradicate the vampire threat from face of the earth.  The nerd in me screamed “HELL YES!” when Lincoln ices his first bloodsucker.

The book takes a pretty precipitous dip once Lincoln grows up and begins his political career.  We get a strong link between slavery and vampires that is all too obvious.  It’s almost like Grahame-Smith started the book with all the intent of creating a gory, action filled, nerdtacular guilty pleasure, but then felt obligated to add some social commentary on the slavery debate and the Civil War.  Why?  Who knows.

OK.  We get it.  Slave owners are like vampires because they make their living off the destruction of others.  And…?  The last third or so is simply bland and predictable.  The method is clear, the novelty of the concept has over-stayed it’s welcome, and a reader with even the most basic understanding of 19th Century U.S. history will know where it’s going.  Most vampires side with the South in the Civil War, there are a few good ones, and Lincoln gets shot by a Vampire John Wilkes Booth.  Shocking, right?

The first third is really fun.  Grahame-Smith brings energy and indulgent action, then it just dies and feels formulaic.  I’m glad I read it since if I hadn’t I would just keep wondering, however, the upcoming film may be a better way to get your guilty Abe-with-an-axe pleasure fix.

 

Today’s WOD:

6 Descending Sets by two (20, 18, 16, etc.. Reps) Versa Climber sets do not descend.
Box Jumps (24″)
Kettlebell Swings (20kg)
Push-ups
100ft Versa Climber (Drago is using it right at the beginning of the clip)
20;48 and a smoked posterior chain.