Sunday, May 1, 2011

Of Whales and Whoah!

In 1985, as a fourth grader, I was mesmerized with the true-life tale of Humphrey, the Humpback whale who wandered into San Francisco Bay (not a typical Humpback Habitat), got turned around and began to swim up the Sacramento River as though he were some kind of salmon returning to spawn. Humphrey captivated the people of the Bay Area and the world, as would be rescuers fought night and day to get him pointed in the right direction. So inspired were the locals that a restaurant was named after him, a book for children was published, and school teachers like my mother created ornate Halloween costumes to honor him. Humphrey must have enjoyed all of the attention he was getting, because he returned once again in 1990, as lost as ever.

I have always been fascinated with whales, the largest most interesting mammal on earth. It has long been a dream of mine to see a blue whale with my own eyes and, although I have been on several whale watching expeditions have only managed to spot Orca, Grey and Humpback whales on those trips. Like the southwestern Gila Monster, the mighty Blue eludes me (though I did eat at a restaurant called The Blue Whale once).

This poster is in my bedroom.

The seas are alive and teeming with life, quite possibly the last great frontier as many an explorer might claim. One only needs to visit Monterrey Bay in California to witness the incredible number of species working in conjuction so closely together to realize the madness the oceans and their lifeforms inject into the people who appreciate it. Authors like Melville and Hemingway; explorers like Cousteau, Charles Darwin and Steve Irwin; Fictional giants like Steve Zissou- all held the creatures of the sea in high regard.

Whenever the sea is involved the line between fact and fiction is always a little bit blurry. You have to believe this when wading in to the biographical account of Lynne Cox's encounter with a baby gray whale off the coast of California. The whale, whom she named Grayson, has lost its mother and it's up to Cox to help the little guy find her.

Steve Zissou and a cetacean friend.

Grayson, not so coincidentally, is also the title of her book. It's an incredibly fast and interesting read that will satisfy lovers of the sea, both adults and children alike. If you've read Cox's first biography Swimming To Antarctica (read my review of that book here) you know that she has a tendency for the dramatic, almost to the point of unbelievability. In Grayson, the penchant for tall tales that she developed in that work is in full effect. As she conducts her open water swims, like a character from the undersea world of The Little Mermaid, Cox seems to hold dominion over the entire undersea world, and is at various times in the narrative flanked by sting rays, dolphins, sunfish, and sea turtles, all in addition to the baby whale. If this weren't a children's book I would not be at all surprised if Grayson did not at some point swim up to her and begin feeding from her breast.

But absurdities and outlandish tales aside there is a moral lesson to be learned here. If there is a villain present it is industrialized humanity and our reliance on oil. An oil rig is a central landmark in the tale, and having heard that whales who get off course (like Humphrey) may do so because of noises made by humans, one supposes that the rig may have played a part in causing Grayson's separation from his mother.

I won't tell you if Grayson ever finds his mother again or not, or whether or not he is still out there swimming in the pacific siring calves of his own. I don't believe much of what Lynn Cox writes, but it's still fun to read. The people who spend time on (and in) the sea are entitled to certain liberties when they tell their tales. I know I won't be swimming to Antarctica any time in the near future, so I'll just have to take Lynne Cox's word for it.

In the meantime, enjoy this video that was taken around the time that Lynne Cox encountered Grayson:

Could this have been Grayson's Mother?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Years as A Giants Fan.

Well faithful reader, if you are wondering why it has been so long since I posted an entry it is this: last Summer, long after the Diamondbacks were eliminated from any chance of post season play and well before the San Francisco Giants began their historic run to a World (translated U.S) championship, I picked up Willie Mays: The Life the Legend by James Hirsch. It is quite possibly one of the largest books I have ever read, and although I first intended to write this review during last years World Series (and then again during Spring Training) I was just too busy to finish the book.

I forget where I first heard about this biography of Willie Mays, or where I heard that it was perhaps the most insightful look into the reclusive superstar's life ever put to page, but as a lifelong fan of the San Francisco Giants I was immediately intrigued, eager to learn more about the man who introduced world class baseball to San Francisco more so than any other player; not only did Mays come to San Francisco when the franchise relocated from New York, he was responsible for making San Francisco baseball legitimate, taking the city to its first World Series. Though the stars of each major epoch of Giants history (Mays/McCovey, Clark/Mitchell, Bonds, and Posey/Lincecum) have made it to the World Series, Mays, with his storied chase of Babe Ruth's home-run record, likable fun loving demeanor, and amazing defensive plays paved the way for the success of future Giants teams and made him an innocent hero from the golden age of baseball.

Unfortunately, this image, and the desire that Mays and his biographer have to maintain it are the ultimate downfall of this book. In 600 pages we hear story after story of a man criticized for being too much of a cartoon character, never revealing too much about who he really was. As a player, that image makes a lot of sense. I do not agree with Charles Barkley's now cliche' claim that athletes are not role models, because like it or not, they are. Since it has been more than 30 years since Mays retired however, I suppose that I expected a little more insight into how things really were for players during the era that he played. Instead, although we hear about his troubles with women, his troubles with money, and his troubles in the press, ultimately the reader is led to believe that Willie was an overgrown boy who loved children and liked to have a good time. Why it took 600 pages to say that, or why this biography had to wait so long to be told is a complete mystery to me.

That said, I'm glad that I grew up when I did. The Giants I rooted for were named Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Bob Brenly, Bob Melvin, and Matt Williams. They were managed by a man named Roger Craig. Even though they never won a World Series as Giants, many of these players and their former manager were hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks around the time that I moved to Phoenix in 1997, and they made it very easy for me to redirect my allegiances. I couldn't have been more thrilled when Matt Williams won a ring as an Arizona Diamondback.

The 1994 strike and the Barry Bonds years made it difficult to like the Giants, and the steroid scandal has made it difficult to appreciate the slugging achievements of players like Bonds, McGuire, and Sosa. Perhaps the innocence of Mays and his era is appealing in a time like this, and is a reason why the accomplishments of the 2010 Giants are that much sweeter. History will remember their remarkable run much longer than it will Barry Bonds' steroid fueled* chase of Hank Aaron's home-run record.


Friday, December 17, 2010

The Past is the Past...Or is it?

There is a member of my family- several members, actually- who seem to have a genetic predisposition for dwelling on the past. I think that people who wistfully hope that things will always stay the same evolve into people who always wish that the past was a better place and that ultimately, those people evolve into grumpy old timers who angrily snap every time the youngsters start wearing their hair and clothes in strange and unusual fashions and start using slang that might as well be Farsi. It must, then, be tough to be a Paleontologist like Jack Horner, always trying to imagine what creatures that existed millions of years before the first humans existed were like. Horner, who was a consultant on Jurassic Park the popular film about dinosaurs brought back to life, has a reasonably preposterous dream: to do it for real. In his book How To Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn’t Have to Be Forever, he explains that the science to make it happen might just be more accessible than you think.

In the last 20 years or so, thanks to movies like Jurassic Park, people had to get used to certain ideas about dinosaurs that they were not previously used to, predominantly that they were more likely related to modern birds than they were lizards and snakes. As it turns out dinosaurs may have behaved and appeared more like ostriches and chickens than they did Godzilla. And at the same time these discoveries were becoming better understood the scientific community was also racing to map the complete genomes of several species (including our own). It was widely believed that genes and DNA could be duplicated and replicated in a laboratory allowing for copies (or at least near copies) of a life form to be made. After all, even though life forms must one day die, their “code” does not. So as cloning of animals such as sheep became possible both in theory and in practice thought turned to the possibility of cloning extinct animals like dinosaurs. This of course is where Michael Crichton fabricated the notion that a mosquito trapped in tree sap just moments after feasting on dinosaur blood could possibly contain DNA that would allow these creatures to be “reborn”.

Dolly the cloned sheep, one of science’s most notable cloning attempts, was by and large a big failure, and it soon became obvious that cloned animals had physical problems that shortened their lifespans. Additionally, larger and more complex animals proved to be challenging if not impossible to clone. Though it has been outlawed in many countries for ethical reasons, human cloning has not yet occurred (that we know of) mainly because science has yet to figure out how to do it without major complications to the new being.

Determined to go back to the ancient, dare I say “better” version of earth, science, led by Jack Horner, has devised a different way to bring a dinosaur back to life. Or at least, bring back something that would be similar to a dinosaur in many ways. To do it, they have had to reverse their thinking about how better to work with DNA they actually have access to, DNA that has a memory of dinosaur-like traits and tinkering with it until a dinosaur-like creature is born. The idea is that dinosaurs never really went away at all, but are here among us disguised as the creatures they evolved into, the kind of creature whose DNA had the ability to survive the eons more efficiently than any of its ancestors. That creature? The modern chicken, of course!

Evolution, and the idea that all creatures great and small can be connected through some sort of genetic family tree is a hotly contested debate that can inspire shouting matches at everything from PTA meetings to political conventions. I’m not afraid to admit that I am a Christian, albeit one who is fascinated with scientific developments and further understanding of the physical universe. Evolutionary theory does not weaken my beliefs in a loving and forgiving deity. God, in fact, much like the universe, does not change, only man’s ability to understand and interact with Him does. As our understanding of the universe grows whether it be through discoveries of prehistoric beasts, inter-galactic space aliens, or new understandings of where these bodies and brains we live in came from, so too does my appreciation grow for the “man” behind the curtain who set it all in motion.

The idea of evolution makes sense in a lot of ways, though scientists have struggled to put together a definitive evolutionary fossil record. For example, in the ongoing debate of humans and the great apes being from the same family tree there doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence of a.) a common ancestor, or b.) a successive chain of increasingly different transition species leading up to modern human beings. That’s not to say that it didn’t happen, just to say that the fossil record is hugely incomplete at this time. And the same could be said about birds and dinosaurs. Where you have bird-like dinosaurs like the archaeopteryx and modern birds like the pigeon, I’m wondering where the hundred of variation in between are, or if they will ever even be discovered. To that end, science needs to do a better job of putting that argument together. And without it, it becomes harder to reverse millions of years of evolution, as Jack Horner would like to do, much harder than it would be to turn a modern elephant into a wooly mammoth, I suspect.

One place where you can see obvious “gradients” in the evolutionary scale however is with the domesticated chicken, which almost certainly descended from the red jungle fowl, a wild bird. The two species have many similar characteristics, and yet are also quite different. Horner is confident that by tinkering with the DNA of the chicken it would be possible to hatch something similar to Gallus-Gallus (The scientific name for red jungle fowl). Even further tinkering and the hatchling might grow a long tail, and big teeth, and arms with claws, and so on. So what you would get is a dinosaur-like chicken, but it would be something new, and man-made, not a real dinosaur. Perhaps science might be able to demonstrate a successive chain of increasingly different transition species in the lab proving once and for all how species evolve over time.

Or maybe, like Dolly, Dino-chicken will be a tremendous failure.

One of the arguments that inevitably comes up in the “Genesis is bullshit” debate is how the Bible accounts for dinosaurs. It is a question that was also asked when the western world discovered previously unknown peoples in the Americas and Australia (answered un-necessarily by Joseph Smith and the LDS church) and one that will be asked again when SETI discovers intelligent life on other planets. I don’t know how the Bible accounts for dinosaurs. By and large I can tell you that in my reading of it, it does not. But, as a human being who believes in God I can say that the existence of dinosaurs makes a whole lot of sense. We only need to look at ourselves to see God at work in prehistory. In fact, many of you have children don’t you? Or at least know someone who does. And for those of you who have spent any time around little boys you have likely seen how fascinated they are with dinosaurs. When I was young I had all of their names and characteristics memorized as if they were Pokemon, and spent countless hours playing with T-Rex and stegosaur replicas in the sandbox. My guess is that a god tinkering with life on a young planet might want to spend some time playing with giant lizard (or perhaps bird-like) creatures before settling in to the stress inducing business of dealing with self aware and troublesome humanity. Whether he waved a magic wand and made us appear in a flash (like the Terminator!) or nudged us into existence from some earlier creation is irrelevant: We still were “created” in his image, still require forgiveness. To that end, I hardly think of Genesis as bullshit, nor do I take issue with the fact that no where in its pages is it mentioned that dinosaurs roamed the earth, or that it’s caretaker allowed a giant space rock to wipe them all out and pave the way for the age of mammals and his most special experiment – Us.

I hope that Jack Horner is successful. Should Dino-chicken become a reality I would certainly pay money to stare at it and wonder about the science that made it possible. Though it would be near impossible to reverse-evolve a human being due to our slow breeding cycle I would also like to hear about the other strange creatures that could be developed using the technology that created it. In other words, don’t hold your breath for a “planet of the apes” scenario! Ultimately however, species go away for a reason. Dinosaurs, wooly mammoths and the millions of other extinct creatures of this earth that have gone extinct over the millennia might not be able to survive on an earth whose climate and vegetation has changed dramatically since they went away.

Someday, I suspect, regardless of scientific innovation, like the dinosaurs before us, it will one day be our turn to drift silently into the night, eternally.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hey, You lookin' at me?

A few months ago I wrote about an inspirational biography I read called The Game of My Life by Jason McElwain. 'J-Mac', as he is known by friends and family, diagnosed at a young age with autism, was able to overcome the hand he was dealt and played varsity high school basketball with a team that went all the way to the New York state championships. Though not typically the kind of story I gravitate toward, The Game of My Life was given to me as a gift by someone I respect a great deal, so I read it and was pleasantly surprised.

The experience with that book then, most certainly led me to consider reading Double Take, by former X-Games athlete Kevin Michael Connolly, a young man who was born without legs. Talented in so many other ways (accomplished athlete, photographer and writer), it is perhaps his only deficiency.

In an episode of the popular HBO sitcom 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' the main character Larry walks into a public restroom and has a colorful conversation with a man in a wheelchair. It is a conversation that many of us have wanted to have with a disabled person but probably haven't had the guts to: " Why do you get so many special privileges?" Indeed, so-called handicapped people do seem to get an unnecessary level of special treatment especially considering that they represent such a small portion of the general population; Bigger, more spacious stalls in the bathroom; All of the good parking spots; a go ahead lane in the lines at the airport, DMV and Disneyland. Where there are those who definitely need the extra assistance (Stephen Hawking can cut into my line any time he wants), the efforts to make the world more wheelchair friendly have definitely led to more than a few abuses of the system. It's no wonder that later in the same episode of ‘Curb’ Larry gets angry at a man for parking in a handicapped spot who has no obvious trouble walking.

"I-I-I'm allowed!" Screams the man, pointing at his blue and white placard. “I have a st-st-st-stutter!”

I don't know how Kevin Michael Connolly feels about handicapped stickers or weather or not he and his friends use them to advantageously get better parking spots at Wal Mart. Since he was born without legs I would certainly say he falls under the category of people in this world who should benefit from the perks our society affords the disabled. But after reading his book I think he would like for nothing more than to be thought of as able-bodied, that the values and rewards that come only from hard work and discipline can be superceded when we are allowed to take shortcuts that even though accepted by society in general may upon further review be more harmful than helpful. It is a lesson that even those of us with all of our capacities can learn.

Still, Double Take is a coming of age story first and foremost, one in almost cliché in nature, in which a thoughtful young man travels to Europe in order to find enlightenment and his place in the world. For someone born differently than the rest of us Kevin is acutely aware that people are always staring at him. Admit it! If you were to see a man moving down the street without any appendages below his waist you would probably stare too! As it turns out the enlightened Europeans treat him like a beggar, as it is customary in many countries to offer money to the disabled. But before you puff your chest up too big, don’t we sort of do the same thing here in the states? After all, Connolly’s family never once had to pay for Kevin's prosthetic legs: The community did.

Kevin just wanted to be a normal kid, so he rejected the legs. And he rejected the wheelchair too, opting for what any normal suburban kid might choose as a way of getting around: A skateboard. And on that skateboard he wheeled around Europe where he spent his time attempting to be an artist, falling in and out of love, staying in hostels, and getting drunk.

In the end, if it had been Kevin Connolly Larry David had run into in that fictional ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ world Kevin's response to the old grouch might have gone something like this: “…I don’t think of myself as ‘disabled’. As I interpret the word, you are only disabled if you are incapable of overcoming the challenges presented in any given situation. Being disabled is…a matter of choice. Anything that you try to hide from the world also imposes a limit on you.”

With words like that, we should all have blue and white placards in our car.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Kind of Animal Are You?

The world is moving on from the horrors inspired by the wars of our fathers and grandfathers, isn't it? I mean, as I grew up in the nineteen eighties and nineties I can remember distinct periods of time where both World War II and Viet Nam were at the forefront of the collective American consciousness, two recent stains on history's time line that we "must never forget" were simultaneously erased from conversation by a new, seemingly more horrifying never forget event on September 11, 2001.

I cannot imagine what it must have been like to jump from one of those doomed burning towers any more than I can imagine what it must have been like for a Jew waiting to die outside the death chambers of Auschwitz. As current events make many Americans wonder if our post World War II support for the re-formation and sovereignty of Israel was actually worth it the story of the Holocaust seems to be oh so 1993. This was certainly my attitude as I dove in to Maus, Art Speigelman's brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel. Although it came highly recommended by a friend I silently wondered if the world actually needed another re-telling of a tragedy whose relevance is quickly fading fast from memory.

Turns out, we do.

Maus, for me, is not really a story about the Holocaust at all. Sure, it's there in all it's bloody zyklon-b body-filled gas chamber madness. If you are looking for a history lesson, you will find it. But it is also a story of a young son (Artie) trying to make a connection with his aging father (Vladek). He wants desperately to pay homage and respect to a man who he loves dearly, but whose habits and history have almost nothing in common with his own. As the tale unfolds, jumping back and forth between World War II era Poland and modern day United States the author reveals more and more frequency how frustrated this man he is trying to honor is making him. However, Vladek, with his constant fits of frustration towards his second wife's spending habits artfully reveals that with all of their generational differences he and Artie are not all that different.

Maus succeeds for me then because it so closely resembles the stage I have reached with my own father. As he has grown in to an older man I find it harder and harder to understand his habits and eccentricities. But like Artie, in spite of my frustrations, I have a deep, almost unspeakable love and respect for him. I am intensely fascinated by the life he has lived and the things he has accomplished in his 61 years on this planet. At times I have considered working with him on a biography to document his achievements and tragedies. Unfortunately, the outline I am working on in my head has an ending that would be totally fabricated (as of this writing). Perhaps, like Speigelman, I could use the graphic novel as my medium, allowing the narrative to trail off into oblivion (with an ending that Coppola cut and pasted into The Godfather: Part 3). This one isn't about anything more than the journey though, so don't expect much in the way of resolution or loose ends tied. You won't find them.

What you may find however is pragmatic life advice from a people who seems to be made to suffer. Speigelman somehow manages to build up Jewish stereotypes before breaking them down. Then, just when you are ready to cry "bullshit", he builds them back up again. These are, after all, history's mice we are talking about here, often bullied by races much more powerful than they are. This requires a resourcefulness and the ability to adapt quickly. The Jews are often criticized for hoarding money. However, saving and being miserly allows a people to live well when times are good, but also when they are not so good. The characters in this book seem to realize that in the end, we are all skin and bones and that wealth can be stripped just as easily as clothes. And remember, mice are not rats, a mistake that the Nazis seem to have made.

The events at Auschwitz (or Maushwitz as it is referred to within the story) are similar to things many humans endure in their own lives. At certain times of our lives we are living well with plenty of food on the table, reliable income and a house filled with people we care about surrounding us. At other times however, everything can get turned on its head and we are tested to the limits of human endurance to keep going. The subtitle of Maus is "A Survivor's Tale". Ultimately, this is why our fathers are so intriguing: They managed to survive dozens of "Auschwitz-like events" and dozens of "Falling Towers". Understanding this helps us forgive their quirks. If you've ever suffered and loved, and lived to tell the tale, Maus.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tamed: A Study in Self Publishing

A good friend of mine and I were arguing the other day about the state of the music industry. Obviously the way we listen to and purchase music has changed quite a bit in the past ten years. The abundance of the PC in the home, relatively inexpensive and accessible studio equipment, and the advent of online music services such as iTunes have made it possible for bands to produce and sell their music to a relatively large audience without major label support. The question is however, while it can be very good, is self published music ever going to be as good as music that was nurtured into existence by professional music producers and studios?

As with music, it is now possible to create high quality books and take them to market without the support of a publishing house. This is what Sarah Witenhafer author of 'Tamed' chose to do. By using Amazon's CreateSpace service she was able to produce bookstore quality copies of her 449 page opus which allows her to generate interest from fans and publishers alike. It is possible that Tamed (and its planned sequels) will one day be published by a major publisher, and if so it will be neat to say that I was able to read a copy long before the rest of the country heard about it.

Of course, it is by pure coincidence that I even had the opportunity to read 'Tamed' at all. I will admit that I don't spend much time on CreateSpace looking for interesting work by unpublished authors, though I'm sure there are many. Instead, I came to the book much in the way that most of us get saddled with a hundred boxes of Girl Scout cookies every year: One of my coworkers is married to the author.

Years ago I wrote a novel of my own. It was an exercise mostly, and when it was finished, not believing it was good enough to be published, I tossed the manuscript into a shoebox and walked away from it. Still, I always thought it would be cool to have a realistic copy to put on the bookshelf (Next to William H. Gass' legitimate 'The Tunnel') to have as a souvenir of that experience. When I received my copy of 'Tamed' I realized that technology had improved to the point that I could now make this happen.

At this point I guess I should mention that the copy of 'Tamed' that I had in my possession was in fact borrowed, and was in fact autographed by the author herself. I was a little intimidated by the length of the book and so I postponed reading it for quite some time. Eventually I began to develop a guilty feeling, thinking that the true owner might want their book back, so I finally decided to read it.

I don't want to give too much away about the plot, but 'Tamed' is at its heart a love story between Reign Phillips, a young woman who has just received her PhD in ancient languages and Damon Sarantos, a gorgeous Mediterranean man who may or may not be a demon. She's tough, a bit of a warrior with sword and gun skills, but she is also very religious and a devout Christian. She makes it her mission to convert this handsome bad boy while he does his best to have his way with her. In the end, they both win, I think, before an epic battle between demonic forces ensues.

This book will most certainly appeal religiously to the readers of stories like 'Twilight'. At church, when I was in the High School youth group I knew several young women who were a lot like Reign; Head over heels for Jesus with a flirt to convert mentality. I'm sure that this is an archetype, and that every church has girls who think this way. Although there are adult themes throughout, Witenhafer's prose is G-rated (at one point in the narrative a street girl who Reign has taken under her wing uses the word 'screw' when she should be using that other word...) and the story basically serves as an alter call.

These are minor criticisms however, as Witenhafer is a good writer and keeps the reader engaged for most of the book while Reign and Damon push and pull each other towards the inevitable consummation of their relationship.

Ultimately though, I hope that the publishers do find and nurture this book. In it's present form Tamed, at 479 pages is just too long in the tooth in spots and could benefit from the ax of a good editor. In that argument I had with my friend the other day I took the side of the artist. But after finishing 'Tamed' I realized that there might just be something to be said for those who know the business of producing and selling the popular arts.

(Of course, try telling that to Stephen King, to whom Whitenhafer will one day be compared.)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Born Without Shoes

Okay, so I'm hanging out at Barnes and Noble last Winter, just minding my own business, looking at books and doing a little Christmas shopping, when one book literally jumps off of the shelf and intentionally bumps into me causing my coffee to spill all over my shirt. Angry at first, I look up ready to yell at this rude and inconsiderate book when but one glance at its dust jacket, perhaps the most beautiful and interesting I have ever seen, melts my mood away as if I have just stumbled upon the loveliest girl in the room. That book was Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and it is the first book I knew I had to read based on the cover alone.

That day in Barnes and Noble our meeting was brief, as I had to run to the restroom to address the burns that were setting in on my chest and thighs. But that cover image was permanently burned into my brain: A small shadowy figure standing atop a rock beneath a deep blue cloudless sky. Under a simple yellow title the subtext read: 'A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen'. Though my skin was burning, every cell in my brain was issuing a collective "WTF?".

I didn't buy the book that day, but Santa Claus must have received my letter. On Christmas morning as I unwrapped my gifts that same obnoxious book came out of a package and smiled at me once more. We embraced for what seemed like hours and it apologized for spilling coffee on me in Barnes and Noble. My mother always told me that I should never judge a book by it's cover, but in this case I knew she was wrong, had to be. This book was different, special.

That night, Born to Run and I made love, and it was every bit as good as I thought it would be. Maybe better. All of the promises that were made on the dust jacket were kept and there were even a few surprises to be had. McDougall somehow manages to tell the history of running from the dawn of man until today, tie it in with a plucky band of ragtag ultra marathoners going to Mexico to run side by side with secret tribesmen, sells me on the benefits of barefoot running, and provides a very convincing arguement for why everyone can and should run. Surprisingly, it's not to sell more Nikes. In fact, after reading this book, you may never buy another pair of expensive running shoes again!

Without spoiling its contents, if you have any interest whatsoever at all in Anthropology, Endurance sports, humanity or coffee, I strongly urge you to go to Barnes and Noble and pick up a copy of this book.

I would let you borrow mine, but we are to be married next week...(Hey, it's legal in California!)