Craeft by Alexander Langlands

Book – Before the modern era, before the Industrial Revolution, before mass production and manufacturing, most everything humans did was a matter of craft (or, to use the archaic spelling, Craeft) – a combination of skill, thriftiness, ingenuity, and necessity. In this book, Alexander Langlands explores some of the components of craeft from historic England, reflecting on the skills and resources involved and the way all the various components of the landscape interact with one another.

Langlands had my dream job: he was an experimental archaeologist, using the tools and techniques of history to better understand the way the past worked. He was clearly in this job by temperament as much as anything, because throughout this book he displays a remarkable curiosity about not just the individual components of historic life but the whole system of the thing: the way one skill led into another, one craft creating byproducts that in turn become the core structural elements of another. He calls this kind of systemic, interdependent thinking “craeftiness,” a mode of relating to the world that abhors waste the way nature abhors a vacuum, finding a clever, economical use for every scrap, and making every expenditure of energy do at least two jobs.

This isn’t your ordinary history book; in fact, I’m hard-pressed to find anything to compare it to. It’s deeply personal, each chapter (focusing on a different craft, from haymaking to basket-weaving to wall and barrow building) exploring Langlands’ own experience with the skill as well as his archaeological knowledge of its history. It’s profoundly location-based, as suits a book about the way pre-industrial people lived. And, crucially, it’s not nostalgic or romanticizing of the past: Langlands is well aware of how hard all this work is, having done much of it himself, albeit without life-or-death consequences. What he’s explaining is not just these individual skills that have been lost in the wake of cheap petroleum-based energy, but a way of thinking that was lost along with them, one which might become necessary in the near future, as petroleum-based energy becomes not so cheap.

The Commuter (2018)

DVD- Ex Cop Michael now works in selling life insurance. He takes the commuter train to the city to his ho hum day every day. One day on the train he is approached by an odd passenger, Joanna, with a puzzle for him to solve. He is in need of some cash to continue his lifestyle with his family, and if he solves this puzzle correctly and quickly he is given the cash. He needs to find this one person with a package and obtain the package before they get to stop x on the trip. He has just a few stops to solve the puzzle. Of course Joanna is not a “good guy” and has eyes on him at all times through various ways throughout the trip. Will he solve the mystery, save lives, and get the money?

Liam Neeson is the lead in this role. He is unfortunately a typecast for this role. It is very similar to many of his other movies. This one was set to be a great movie, the preview looked amazing. I was interested in this one, cause who doesn’t love the typical Liam Neeson movie? This one was more over the top than his usual. I think there were too many plot holes, and way too many special effects clumped together. If you are looking for an action packed just for the heck of it movie, this is it. But don’t expect to walk out after the movie feeling “Wow, that was amazing! I can’t believe…..” I walked out saying “Ok, Huh, I saw it. Now what?”.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book – Some books ripen in a certain season, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a perfect summer book to me: gossipy, escapist and propulsive, but not lacking in substance.  It’s been months since I’ve been in the mood to read fiction, but Evelyn is so addictive that I gobbled my way through its 400 pages in less than a day, and resented the hours when it had to be out of my hand.

The novel’s title character is a household name, a beloved film star whose career began in the 1950s and who is now (in roughly the present) setting her affairs in order.  Most pressingly, that means offering her first interview in decades to a young reporter named Monique who doesn’t understand why she is Evelyn’s hand-picked choice–and is even more astonished when Evelyn tells her that she has been chosen not as an interviewer, but to write Evelyn’s authorized biography.  Monique’s sections in the present alternate with (and are utterly eclipsed by) Evelyn’s first-person recollections of her eventful past, including the true story behind those seven spouses–and the secret eighth.

Evelyn Hugo is a ‘popcorn book,’ to be sure, wrapped in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and more focused on entertaining its audience than stretching their minds.  But that doesn’t mean that it avoids deeper topics–especially identity, and the ways we shape, obscure, invent, discard, forget and rediscover parts of ourselves.  It’s historical but very timely, touching on questions of race, gender, sexuality, class, abuse, and what it means to grow up and grow old.  It’s a book about the compromises we make to have what we want and to be seen as who we want to be, and I highly recommend it for your next quick summer read.