Review: One for the Road

Drunk Driving since 1900

Some months ago, I was tripping along through a different book, Everything is Obvious, thinking it a great read and highly informative, until I got to the chapter about Fairness and Justice, in which the author discusses the case of a police officer who was sentenced to 15 years incarceration for accidentally killing 4 people while driving drunk. The author of Everything is Obvious argues that this is not a fair sentence because not everyone who drives drunk is a criminal. In his words, “it seems grossly disproportionate to treat every otherwise decent, honest person who has ever had a few too many drinks and driven home as a criminal and a killer.” I’ll take up this argument further in my review of EiO.)

Please note: problems with parentheses have been raised with Amazon. This reviewer gets them right but Amazon keeps losing them.

I was stopped in my tracks. I could not read any farther. I could not begin to think how I could review that book. Now that I’ve read One for the Road, I understand both my own reaction, and the supposed logic behind Watts’ argument, although I most definitely don’t agree with it.

Within some wiggle room, I have cut my driving teeth, so to speak, alongside MADD. When I first started driving, it wasn’t at all hard for people to get off drunk driving charges. Along the way, it became habit in any wreck to breathalyze all drivers. It’s simply not that big a deal anymore. My circle has adapted. I remember the stories about Larry Mahoney because I drove that stretch of I-71 back then. More recently, the story that sticks is Melissa Marvin, who just couldn’t grasp that it was a bad idea to drive drunk after drinking. Now she’s doing four life sentences at NCCIW.

One for the Road explains “the rest of the story,” why some people have adapted to not driving drunk and others may not ever learn, at least in this culture. If you have any interest in the arguments surrounding impaired driving, you’ll find it a useful read. The math is complicated–how many people really die / are injured as a result? Which are the most effective interventions? Which population causes the most trouble–so called “social drinkers” (a group with a murky boundary, to be sure) or “real” alcoholics? Are you at a higher risk on New Year’s Eve, when the amateur drunks drive, or during the rest of the year, when only the practiced alcoholics are on the road after closing time?

One for the Road is history first, story second, and is a bit dry to read as a result.

I had a few quibbles:

  • I had to look up the rest of the lyrics to “Wasn’t that a Party” (quoted in the introduction) to find that it is, indeed, a drunk driving song; the part quoted does not directly reference driving.
  • I would have liked a bit more discussion of the distinction between the fabled “social drinker” and “alcoholic,” which is a very fuzzy line. The rooms of Al-anon and ACOA are full of people whose relative or friend would call him or herself a “social drinker.”
  • Lerner says that a minivan-driving mother “inexplicably got drunk and high with seven children in the car.” (p. 13) My experience suggests that “inexplicable” is the wrong word to use when a grown person has a daytime BAC of 0.19%.

Johns Hopkins Press gives credit to the cover designer but not to the designer of the pages. The paper copy was daunting, with long line lengths and small margins. My eyes struggled in 1.75 reading glasses that can easily handle many other books.

That said, One for the Road is worth the effort.

Review: Good Advice from Bad People

Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong

Some of the time, cute little “nugget” books can be irritating; not enough meat, trivial, superficial. Even when I flipped through the pages of Good Advice from Bad People, I caught myself thinking, “reading enough of this to review it is going to be a drag.” It simply looked like a lot of stop-and-start chugging through.

Could. Not. Put. It. Down.

Really.

Even more, sometimes when you read “nugget” books straight through, they get draining because they are meant to be consumed like single-serving yogurt, not single-serving-big-bag-from-Sam’s-Club size.

Not so here.

I simply kept turning pages, eager to see what train wreck was coming next. And Bissonnette supplied one after another after another.

It’s not surprising to me that much of the “good advice” is somewhat trivial; in reality, most advice is trivial (the really good stuff is simply hard), and these are, after all, bad people. Lots of people received advice about being ethical and trustworthy from Bernie Maddoff…

From a longer point of view, the book also has a take-away effect. I didn’t know that the Men are From Mars guy was a walking relationship disaster, for example. Confirmation and affirmation that if I have any suspicions at all about advice books, I will do well to listen to my instincts.

Honestly? Put this book in a waiting room and it will get stolen. It’s simply too engaging to leave around where it can be slipped into a pocket.
Good Advice from Bad People

Review: Ignore Everybody, and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

I don’t normally pile on when a book has more than 20 reviews already, but the distribution of reaction here is a bit unusual so I thought I’d add one more five-star vote. I love this book. I’ve looked at it a dozen times in the bookstore and never carried it out; kept thinking I could get it all for free. I follow Hugh’s blog. I am a professional artist. I know this stuff.

And I can’t be reminded enough. I read the book straight through, then reread Orbiting the Giant Hairball, which covers some of the same material in a corporate setting, and then back to Ignore Everybody, pretty much in one evening. I wanted to see how the two books covered the territory. They’re similar, and if you hated Hairball, stay away from MacLeod. I’m juiced. I’m supported, encouraged, permissioned, understood.

There are, I suppose, creative people who are surrounded by encouraging, supportive communities, people who have adequate sales from their creative output (and sometimes that’s a regular paycheck) to never worry if they’re doing the right work (or partners with good benefit programs), who live free of the fear of having their ideas knocked off on another continent. There must be such people. I’ve never met them, but they must exist.

For the rest of us, there are books. Ignore Everybody is the latest. Art and Fear is my favorite, the one I carry when I fly because it’s small and can be finished in the amount of time it takes to fly anywhere. Ignore Everybody will sit right next to it on the shelf. Hairball is there, although I’m not in corporate anymore. Jessica Hagy sits on the same shelf, and If you only knew how much I smell you, and George Leonard’s Mastery, and Brian Andreas.

It’s not clear to me why this book was shelved, and perhaps sold, as a business creativity book. I would have expected to find it closer to The Artist’s Way. On one hand, creativity is creativity, but on the other, there’s a difference between making art and making business. Ignore Everybody is more about the personal elements of creativity–getting your head and your behavior out of the way.

Michael Pollan sums his own work up in seven words–eat food, mostly plants, not too much–and doesn’t let that stop him selling yet another book. What does it matter that MacLeod can do the same thing?

Now go to your studio and make stuff.

Ignore Everybody

Review: The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World

I’m just another artist with a day job, and while I may know, at some level, many of the ideas in this book, it is completely worth the time it took to read and the money it cost to buy. I read it twice right away, actually, and it will join Art & Fear in my flight carry-on because they’re good books for times when you can’t make your own art.

I particularly relish the way Ted speaks to artists in all media; there’s far too much “truth for every artist” that turns out to be for painters only.

I come away strengthened, encouraged, set back on my path. I am doing the right thing and I don’t have to know where this path leads. It did used to be different for artists but it’s not that way now and make your art anyway.

Heck, a therapist or a creativity coach will charge a lot more and take a lot longer to get you to the same place!

If I were writing the book, I would devote much less space to art students, but perhaps my distaste for that chapter has its roots in major-envy, in that I want to believe life would be different if only I’d recognized a path earlier. And yet probably my life would have been much the same if I had, only with no insurance.

Own the book. It’s doesn’t cost much, and it’s worth it. Someone over in the Art & Fear reviews noted that all the used copies are completely covered in highlighting and margin notes. My copy of View is well on its way to the same end.

The View from the Studio Door

Review: 7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers Make

Quick little book worth every penny. One sentence made me look up and say, “Well, I just got my money’s worth from this!” I’ll let you read the book yourself in case your sentence is different from my sentence.

Four not five because it’s not, for me, a life-changing book; four not three because it is an excellent solution to exactly what it says it is. Some of these mistakes may not apply to you, particularly if you are planning to sell your own cards, rather than writing for a greeting card company.

One sentence. That’s all it takes. I found the sentence that mattered to me. You probably will, too.

7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers Make

Review: Turn Your Art/Photography into Profitable Greeting Cards Online

I’m new to the POD art world, learning my way around the various e-commerce systems for selling digital versions of my art. I am only just beginning to see greeting cards as a possible product.

If you have art to sell and need a low-cost, entry-level product, consider learning about the POD options available to you today in greeting cards.

Reading Stephanie’s book was a very useful, cost-effective introduction to marketplace sites for greeting cards, as opposed to stand-alone e-commerce platforms (Cafe Press vs. Shopify, for example). I came away with a lot of ideas for what to do next and am completely satisfied with the cost-per-idea / encouragement ratio.

This book is a perfect match for Kindle–instant; brief, inspiration to be consumed during a road trip where I wouldn’t have internet access.

(Four not five because it is not a life-changing book; four not three because it is a perfect answer to the problem it proposes to solve.)

Turn Your Art into Profitable Greeting Cards

Review: Organizing For a Living

How to Build a Profitable Career as a Professional Organizer

To quote one of the other reviews, “it will save you money because you won’t need any other books about professional organizing!”

You also won’t need any other books about being in business, or doing your accounting, or managing your time, or…

This is a great book. It is completely thorough. The author addresses every question one could have in detail.

I am giving this book four stars because there is, simply, too much material. In order to fit into its 304 pages, the book designer went to very narrow margins, small type, and even smaller type for “pull outs”–stories and quotations. I can only read a few pages at a time before my eyes rebel. I am accustomed to being able to read hundreds of pages at at time in well-designed books, so this beef is very specific to the design of this edition.

There is a LOT of content in Organizing for a Living, and it is all well-written, and it is all tailored to the organizing profession specifically. I simply wish I could read it easily.

Review: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

Close Encounters with Addiction

Five stars for the hard science and experience, three for the recommended treatment? I was drawn into the first 3/4 of this book, wherein the author discusses the realities of street-level, needle addiction, and the current understanding of the neurological basis of addition. Good stuff. Barely put it down. I have definitely shifted my understanding and view of decriminalization and harm reduction as a result.

On reflection, I’m pondering a bit of a gap: the claim that addicts are locked up for being addicts, whereas most of the people I know who have done prison time as a result of their addiction did time for real crimes that were committed under the influence, because of the influence. (Think drunk driving, drunken fights leading to murder, armed hold-ups, etc.) Still not sure how to think about this. Decriminalized drugs would take organized crime out of the picture, certainly. They will not take violence and insanity out of the addict.

I found myself losing interest in Hungry Ghosts as the author moved into his own solutions for individual recovery from addiction, a four+one step program of his own design. It’s one thing to be forgiving of oneself when a relapse means buying another classical music CD or being late to work again. It’s completely different when a relapse means driving up the on-ramp in the wrong direction and killing a family of four. Finally, reading an explanation of the 12 Steps written by someone who has been to one meeting, three years ago, might almost be amusing. Except it’s not.

On whole, the parts of the book that were informative and interesting to me vastly outweighed the few chapters that weren’t. Hungry Ghosts is well worth the reading, and given its price, worth the buying, too, if your life is touched by any form of addiction.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close encounters with addiction

Review: Amazon Basics Packing Cubes

I was completely prepared to say that packing cubes were a waste of time for normal packers; they might be OK for neat freaks.


They ARE useful for project toting and storage, however: sewing projects in process, so you can keep all the bits together. Knitting and quilting that needs assembly.

And then I packed a rolling duffel bag for an out-of-town wedding. One of those whopping great shapeless rectangle spaces, where everything gets mushed and muddled and sinks to the bottom of the bag. I have a cube for underwear, one for exercise gear, one for street clothes and one for the dress & accessories I will wear to the ceremony. And everything stows, and won’t shift (much), and I will be able to find it when I get there.

I’m a convert.

These packing cubes turn out to also be great for packing motorcycle saddlebags. Makes it easy to load and unload, to keep his-and-her stuff separate, and to not have to rummage through everything in the saddlebag to look for those socks…

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Packing-Cubes-Medium-4-Piece/dp/B00SXKUIX8/ref=cm_rdp_product

Review: The Upside of Irrationality

The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

Writing as reviewer #31, having written a number of other reviews myself: what is it about this book that virtually all of the reviews thus far, even the negative ones, are multi-paragraph and thoughtful? Usually, by the time a book has 30, we’re seeing the “loved it!” “hated it!” “Didn’t arrive on time!” filler. Not here. Ariely’s work sticks in your mind, and you are inspired to write more than you normally would.

That said–it appears that behavioral econ gets really really close to marketing, as a field of study. Economists are testing and discovering what marketers have known since Ogilvy wrote his first ad.

Both of Ariely’s books are “news you can use.” I find myself referring to the stories–we cheat, given the opportunity. We make decisions about sex differently when we’re drunk (duh, but that’s rarely addressed in sex ed). (Still haven’t forgiven him for presenting 50-yo women as “beyond the pale” in that experiment, BTW.) Those experiments are from the first book. I know the one about Legos and meaning in work from this book will find its way into my life–watching work get canceled or undone has had a huge effect on my own career and motivation.

Many of the review copy books that come my way get passed on to book swaps, in hope that someone else will find them more useful. I’m keeping this one. I’ll be back in it.

The Upside of Irrationality