Monday, October 27, 2014

The Empty Quarter

The Empty QuarterThe Empty Quarter by David L. Robbins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This tries to be a fast moving suspense novel. It is paced ok. I liked learning about the PJs. But the plot seemed silly and ultimately unsatisfying.

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My Dad is Fat

Dad Is FatDad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jim Gaffigan is hands down one of my favorite comedians. He is clean, and talks about kids and food, two things I relate to well. But being a stand up comedian doesn't always translate to a book. Half of what is funny is the delivery,and while there are a ton of funny episodes, it's not the same as hearing the "voices" and seeing the "faces". Also, some of the jokes get a little trite after 100 or so pages of the same "my kids drive me crazy but I love them" or "yeah, so I'm just a big kid, what do I know about parenting?" However, there are definitely some funny stories, and parents raising younger kids would probably really relate and find it even funnier.

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Wheelmen

Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy EverWheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever by Reed Albergotti
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't have a lot of "heros" per se. I enjoy Marvel movies purely for my kids reactions. I don't watch major sports, and definitely don't think anyone in Hollywood is above reproach. But I couldn't help but admire and root for Lance Armstrong. He won the Tour de France so many times! After he had cancer! I watched the PBS special about his unique body chemistry, which allowed him to win so much. I followed his training for the NY marathon, and chuckled when he admitted it was harder than it looked. I admired his Livestrong campaign and bought all the hype of him being an amazing athlete, a caring Dad, a survivor of cancer who gave back and inspired others. When he went on trial for doping, I was among the many who rolled my eyes and called it a witch hunt. When he confessed to doping, I was shocked and saddened. And I thought I could just shake my head and move on. But I've always wondered how and especially why...so when I saw this at the bookstore on vacation, I picked it up to get some answers.
This book is great at going inside the inner workings of a bike team, how it is run, the competition and jealousy within the ranks, how the peleton works. It also explains how the doping worked, and how it was funded. So now I knew how and a little bit of why, but the book tries to sell an Armstrong so demanding, so controlling, so duplicitous, that it strips it's own credibility to describing what Armstrong was really like. Yes, I am sure previous books by and about Armstrong filtered out the negative, but this one filters out any good. They downplay his dedication and relentless training and imply any advantage was solely on doping. But they also imply doping was prevalent among all the team leaders, but there was never any in depth coverage on that. Was Armstrong winning against those who were also doping? Or were they clean? The book talks about doping among all the top teams, but never makes this clear. Also, the doping charges were a bit of a witch hunt in the fact that they focused entirely on cutting Armstrong down. He doped and so they were not happy until he was fired from his nonprofit and banned from any and all professional sports. The authors painted the prosecution as David going up against the evil Goliath with zealous righteousness and justice. But by focusing so much on Armstrongs failings, the book came off as one sided and the prosecution came off as those who wanted to kick a man when he is down, again and again.
I am still disappointed that there Armstrong did not turn out to be the image he projected, but I can hardly believe he was as evil as the book would like you to believe. He is just an amazing athlete who got caught up in the trappings of professional sports. He is intense and at times unlikeable, but not a monster. If anything, I am cynical now of any athletes accomplishments. Is there any sport that is truly "clean"? And if everyone is doping, can we truly single out one athlete as "cheating"?

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