Books I Read This Month (June2022)

The Building – Will Eisner
New York – Will Eisner
Invisible People- Will Eisner
The Dreamer – Will Eisner
Batman: Year One – Frank Miller
Pandemia – Alex Berenson
Breathing for Warriors – Belisa Vranich
Outer Order, Inner Calm – Gretchen Rubin

This month’s reading was a combination of my two literary guilty pleasures: comics and self-help. Will Eisner, if you’re unfamiliar with comic books, is the godfather of the modern graphic novel. The comic book industry’s highest awards are named after him, The Eisners. Throughout his career, Eisner straddled the line between the underground and mainstream comics. He wrote the dialogue, did the artwork, and even did the lettering, a feat more common among the underground comix scene than the assembly line style of production in the major publishers. 

“The Building,” “New York,” “Invisible People,” and “The Dreamer” are among Eisner’s lesser work, and except for “The Dreamer,” they feel like an experimentation with the form of graphic novels, telling multiple storylines revolving around an inanimate object. “The Dreamer” is a fictionalized account of Eisner’s experience at the beginning of the comic book industry in the 30s. All that’s really changed are the names.

“Batman: Year One” is a follow-up to Miller’s first smash hit, “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.” However, in this revolutionary foray, MIller revisits Batman’s origin story, and fleshes out Bruce Wayne’s motivation for becoming the Caped Crusader. The scenes depicting his first attempts at stopping crime, and how that evolved into wearing a costume, are captivating.

If you watch Friends, “Outer Order, Inner Calm” reads like it was written by a Monica. It’s all about cleaning up, keeping things neat and tidy, and throwing away all the clutter we inevitably amass. The real writer, Gretchen Rubin, makes the performance of household chores seem like prayers that are good for our souls. She does include some practical tips for tackling the detritus of our lives, and how forcing ourselves to throw out what we don’t need puts into stark focus what we really cherish in our lives. While a lot of her advice is not really applicable to my situation, I gleaned what I could from it, which has only doubled my vigilance in keeping my bunk, locker, and footlocker tight. I’ve had to give away, donate, and send home a lot of books as a result.

“Pandemia” is a brave, honest account of the pandemic, chock full of CDC data and scientific studies. Luckily, I never had to deal with the judgment and stigmatization that dominated public life for 2 years, and got Berenson banned from Twitter. 

We were all resigned to the fact that getting infected was inevitable. Briefly, there was some ire and even hatred towards the unvaccinated from the diehard CNN viewers in here, but then Omicron hit, and 80% of the “vaccinated” got sick and tested positive, while only 10% of the unvaccinated tested positive. All animosity died right then. (It should be mentioned that almost everyone on the compound had had natural immunity from last year’s infection….) It was events like these, seen up close, with a statistically significant sample size, that made me doubt the official narrative coming from the government and everywhere else.

Berenson was ahead of the curve on a lot of things, from the harm of lockdowns, the child abuse of school closures, the futility of cloth masks (only N95s work, something the data’s been clear on from the start), and potential problems with the vaccines. Berenson remains relatively apolitical, considering the topic, often critical of President Trump, who may have been right in the long run, but did himself no favors with his mouth. However, it was the unscientific pronouncements of the public health establishment that did real damage.

After all, this isn’t the first pandemic humanity has had to deal with. In fact, there was already studies from previous pandemics that demonstrated how deleterious lockdowns were on public health. The only explanation was the upcoming election, and a whatever-it-takes attitude to unseating Trump, could explain the governors’ decisions, media coverage, and social media bans that all seemed to make the pandemic as painful and deadly as possible. To make matters worse, Fauci et al. went out of their way to downplay the demographic-specific risks (99% of deaths occurring in ages 65+ and/or diabetic, obese, hypertensive, etc) to scare the shit out of the average healthy adult. Now that everyone’s gotten Omicron, even the “vaccinated,” I hope we can start discussing covid rationally–“Pandemia” is a good start.

“Breathing for Warriors” was the most helpful book for personal development I read this month. It dispels the modern misconception of a “deep breath.” Try taking one. Your shoulders and chest probably heaved upwards and your stomach stayed relatively flat. This is actually a shallow breath, inefficient in providing your lungs with oxygen. The correct way is what’s known as belly breathing, where your shoulders barely move and you breathe instead with your diaphragm, forcing your belly out upon inhalation and sucked in after exhalation. (This aligns with the style of breathing I’ve seen recommended in meditation books.) The first half of the book breaks down the benefits of belly breathing and provides breathing exercises to instill it in you as a habit.

The second half deals with breathing within the context of physical activity. When lifting weights, belly breathing can cause some complications (i.e. you collapse under the weight) but Vranich gives instructions on the correct way to breathe in this scenario for optimal performance. She also provides the ideal breathing tempo for every major exercise, even burpees. This is an essential guide for understanding, and maximizing, an oft-overlooked aspect of athletic performance.

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