Monday, April 23, 2018

The Real Dwight

The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and IdiocyThe Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy by Rainn Wilson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If for nothing else, this should be heralded for being an almost perfectly constructed autobiography.

But wait, there's more! Rainn Wilson, aka Dwight from The Office, has done a bang-up job at creating a very enjoyable read in The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy. His pacing, timing and storytelling are rock solid. Tangents and digressions are kept at reasonable lengths, are labeled as such and even apologized for, which is unnecessary because they're honestly not that long and generally have some bearing upon the topic at hand.

But here's the important thing: Rainn Wilson is interesting a.f.! His Dwight character is not that far off from reality. I kind of guessed that ahead of time, but it is absolutely fascinating to see the hows, whats, and whys behind the making this delightfully strange individual. Hell, even the wheres are intriguing! Here, I'll give you a taste: Young Rainn was raised for a time in a dirt-poor, secluded Central American former pirate town that still to this day must be approached via boat, and it's not an island! Trust me, that little tidbit is nothing compared to the cuckoo crazy times that made up this man's formative years.

Now, perhaps I'm gushing about Rainn's book, because it struck a chord with me. His tastes, his brand of humor, the fact that he played D&D and was a bit of an outsider, all these things I could relate to. So of course I'm going to enjoy this more than someone else who is his polar opposite. Let's put it like this: If you are repulsed by his Dwight personality, then just steer clear of this book. I don't know why you'd want to read it anyhow. But really, there's no point, even if you're just looking to hear a bit about The Office. Trust me, there's not enough on that topic herein to satisfy that itch and make reading this whole book worthwhile. You should be reading it for the love of Rainn!

Warning. He talks a lot about his personal religion, the Baha'i Faith. I don't know much about it, but it seems like a fairly positive umbrella religion for all the other religions, which means it will likely be attacked by all other religions out of fear that it might supplant them one day. Meh, what do I care, I don't go in for organized religion, so it's no skin off my scrotum.

Final thought: Don't read this book, listen to it! Rainn is a comedic character actor. His talents translate to vocal work. Thankfully, he's a good narrator, and specifically he reads this book with all the inflections and dramatic flair it requires. Unless you know him and his humor intimately, if you read it on your own you're going to miss many of the jokes. Whoosh, right over your head.

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Walking A Snowy Memory Lane

The Abominable Snowman (Choose Your Own Adventure, #13)The Abominable Snowman by R.A. Montgomery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

YOU are a kid who likes to climb mountains, so let's hit the Himalayas!

*BRAKE SCREECH* Reread that title. This ain't just gonna be a hiking book, my friend. We're going after the yeti!

The Abominable Snowman is the first Choose Your Own Adventure [CYOA] I've seen that comes with a map. It's not a highly detailed map, but hey, it's a map! Whereas others were published as pure fun, this CYOA seems set on being a teaching tool. Along with the map, there's also an illustration of the Himalaya range with each peak's name and height listed.

The book kicks off with my buddy Carlos going ahead and getting stranded. Is he okay or should I go after him? Let's dive in!

Adventure #1: I decide to cancel my meeting with the director of expeditions and mountain research to go find my budski, Carlos! The director says he'll go with me. I think this is great, but...When we find Carlos' deserted camp, instead of suggesting we need to find Carlos, the director suggests we go in search of the yeti. Now, I think author R.A. Montgomery meant for us readers to take the leap together and jump to the conclusion that yeti have kidnapped Carlos, and so therefore we need to go find them in order to find him. But honestly, this scene just comes off as goofy. Oh shit, wait a sec...I'm sorry, I forgot I'm reading a children's book! ONWARD! I do my best to play it safe as much as possible, but Montgomery keeps pulling back in! Eventually, and quite out of the blue, I end up with some aliens traveling with Carlos to the Planet of the Seas to gain wisdom. Odd a.f.

Adventure #2:
The director and I find Carlos. The damn fool hiked off after yeti tracks by himself! We head back to camp and I find a weird hippie sherpa burning incense at the Kathmandu general store. We head off for the Annapurna peak and see what appears to be a signal light flashing. Thinking someone is in distress, we make for the signal and discover it comes from a yeti celebration bonfire. So, yeti do exist. Huh.

Adventure #3:
This time I leave Carlos for dead, and the director and I head off. We meet a monk and I agree to go on a Buddhist's journey of enlightenment. I have a transcendent moment, am given a benevolent yeti guide and we literally fly to Shangri-La. The alien abduction actually made more sense than this...

Adventure #4:
This time I say screw Carlos and the director, and go it alone!...and immediately hit a monsoon. Game over, dude.

Adventure #5:
Clearly I'm not meant to go without the director, so I apologize (yes, that's an option) and do ask if he'll join me on my expedition. He says he'll accept my apology and go...if he can be expedition leader. What a douche! Sneaking a peek ahead at my options, I see that I have no choice but to let him be our leader. It sucks, but what are ya gonna do? It turns out good for me, because we obtain better gear and provisions than what I could have got on my own. It also works out well for Carlos, because he gets rescued. But it doesn't work out so great for me, the reader, because somehow I end up back on the Buddhist's journey of enlightenment track from adventure #3, and there's no branch off storylines here, so it's the same old song and dance.

I could continue reading. There's 28 possible endings to this book. That seems like quite a few until you notice that there are numerous choices where it was basically do you want to continue? or do you want to end your journey?. A bunch of abrupt endings like that attached to one story path significantly reduces the overall adventure possibilities herein, and that's a bummer. However, there are more adventures to be had. They seem interesting from what I could tell from some of the illustrations by stalwart CYOA illustrator Paul Granger. Perhaps I will continue reading, but I'm not going to add to my review and spoil the whole dang book for you!

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