31 May 2010

Day 65: Juliet

Juliet by Anne Fortier.  ISBN: 9780345516107 (advanced reader copy, publishes August 17, 2010).

There's an interesting theme of virginity that runs through this book.  The modern day Juliet, who I'll refer to as Julie Jacobs for the rest of the blogging to avoid confusion, is a 25-year-old virgin.  On her prom night, her twin sister told her it was her last chance to "pop the cherry" before she became a prude, and nobody likes prudes.

Why is it sooooo important for women to lose their virginity at just the right time?  It seems if you have sex too soon you're a slut and if you lose it too late you're uptight and think you're "better than everyone else."  You would think we'd be over the whole medieval concept of virginity, but what do you think of someone who lost her virginity at 13?  How about a woman who's 30 and still a virgin?

While men may have some of the same issues, it's different.  Men who lose their virginity when they're boys are seen as studs or super suave.  They can also lose their virginity much later and with less consequence.  In fact, they don't even have to let anyone know they're virgins.  I imagine women don't actually have to tell their partners that they're virgins ... but it's awfully difficult to trust that someone will take appropriate measures regarding your body when they don't have the necessary information.

Oh, and women seem to have this overwhelming need to find "the right one" to have sex with for the first time.  If a man loses his virginity to a random stranger, no big deal.  When a woman does it, it's like she's given up something extremely special without a fight, like she's somehow made her first time tawdry and dirty.  Sex is kind of a dirty and tawdry thing to begin with when you get down to the biology of it.  It is a physical need and it really shouldn't matter how we choose to fill that need, virgins or not.  There shouldn't be any pressure for anyone to keep or lose his or her virginity.  I think it's probably a little wiser to wait until you're ready, but ready is a different time for everyone.

I chose to wait until I was 18.  I don't know that I ever thought that my ex was "the one," although I probably fooled myself into thinking he was.  I do know that I don't regret having sex with him.  He taught me a lot about what I wanted from a relationship, and also a lot about what I didn't want from a relationship.  Strangely there are other instances of intercourse I've had that I'm much more ashamed about.  Some of them occurred with strangers and others occurred with people I've known for years.  I'm happy that most of my sexual experiences have been positive and fulfilling, but the amount of time I've known the person doesn't seem to have anything to do with how satisfying they were.

If you want to wait: wait.  If you're ready now, okay.  If you never, ever want to have sex, that's okay too.  I may not be able to comprehend that decision, but really it's between you and your partner.

This was terribly hetero-normative, I don't mean to ignore issues of homosexual virginity, but I'm not personally familiar with the issues that entails.

30 May 2010

Day 64: Changeless

Changeless by Gail Carriger.  ISBN: 9780316074148.

One of the vampires in this series is named Lord Akeldama.  He is flamboyant, wears loud but stylish clothing, and uses pet names with impunity.  I like pet names, they are cute and endearing when exchanged among loved ones.

Not so much when you have a patron or customer using them.  I understand I don't have a name tag, but can't you think of something a little better to call me than "sweetheart?"  Maybe you think you're being cute and endearing, but just because you're about the same age as my mother doesn't mean I somehow view you as a mother.  I am not helping you purely out of the goodness of my heart, I am helping you because I get financial gain and professional satisfaction from it.  Why do you think you're so special that you think I'm giving you some kind of special treatment?

I also don't understand why women do this to other women.  Shouldn't you know better than that?  Haven't you ever been treated that way and found it condescending?  I understand that in some places it's a cultural thing, that's okay...sort of.  I just don't get it. I work hard, just like you do; please, please, show some respect.  Not just to me, show some respect to the fast food worker and the janitor and the person who works at the call center.  Even if they are in India.

29 May 2010

Day 63: Changeless

Changeless by Gail Carriger.  ISBN: 9780316074148.

I was not planning to write three posts on this book, the third will be posted tomorrow.  And really The Gone-Away World only got that many because I didn't want anyone to feel cheated from the infamous "terrible cover" post ... sounds like a Sherlock Holmes novel.  Sherlock Holmes and the Terrible Cover Post.  Anyway, this is set in Victorian times and those upright and proper ladies are always going on about fainting at the slightest provocation. I've never really experienced fainting, and passing-out-drunk has only occurred once or twice and not within recent memory.

Well, I've passed out now, as of yesterday.  I try to make a point of giving blood, and I've done so maybe 6-7 times at this point, possibly more.  I don't know what was different about today, maybe the fact that I didn't eat enough and it's been hot and whatever else I've done wrong with my body.  Luckily I was at the end of my donating when I passed out so they got a full pint of tasty O neg., which I know they desperately need.  I now understand why fainting women are always shown with a hand against their forehead, because that is exactly what I ended up doing.  One minute I was fine, then my vein started to sting, I got dizzy and slightly nauseous.  Next thing I know there are five* people standing over me and they're covering me with a tissue sheet and pulling partitions around my blood-givin' lawn-chair-cot.  I asked what happened, and my voice sounded really weird and echo-y inside my head.  They told me I passed out.

And I wet myself.


I am aware of the physiology that happens when you pass out, and I understand why it happens and that it just does.  But damn you body, you're supposed to be better than that.  However, the Red Cross team treated me very kindly, with great dignity and respect.  I did not feel shame, nor do I now, over what happened.  I'm a little upset, yes, but that's mostly because I have other things going on right now and having an extra shot of adrenaline or whatever happens after you pass out and wake back up does not help with stabilizing emotions.  I'm just glad that the people at Red Cross are fabulous and wonderful.  They can take my blood any day.  I just hope this is more of a one-time experience, because I don't really care much for the idea of wetting myself in public, even if it is for a good cause.

In other bladder related news: I found out that my dad has bladder cancer.  He caught it very early, it's very treatable, and he should be fine.  There is a high chance of it reoccurring, especially since he probably won't stop smoking, but he should be fine.  It's just one more thing for me to deal with right now, and I'm getting very good at dealing.  

Anyway, go give blood.  If you wet yourself you'll get a t-shirt and scrub pants.  And even extra cookies. 
*I was not actually lucid enough to count at that point, but it was certainly more than three.

28 May 2010

Day 62: Changeless

Changeless by Gail Carriger.  ISBN: 9780316074148.

I am very much enjoying this series, if you couldn't tell since I just finished the last book  less than a week ago.  What can I say, I only promised I would try to space out reading series.  Luckily the next book isn't out until September, and the final book of The Hunger Games isn't out until August.  This particular kind of book doesn't really lend itself well to this project, but it is so much fun to read and I felt the need to reward myself after The Gone-Away World and The Atlantis Code.

The thing is, reading this book I've come to the conclusion that I really don't care that much for steampunk.  I know this will disappoint my fiance, who seems to have an affection for the genre, but I just can't get into gadgetry.  I don't find detailed and complicated descriptions of wheels and gears and cogs and steam-power working together to do something all that interesting.  And I have an issue with authors who focus mainly on the technology in steampunk novels as it detracts greatly from character and plot development.  These things also tend to annoy me because I can't actually play with the gadgets.

I will admit, I'm not really all that big on new gadgets.  This is not to say I don't like new technology and that I don't see it's value, etc.  I do have a problem with people running out to get the latest new thing when they can't afford it (or can't afford to replace it), just because they're somehow "supposed" to have it.  Once again, I laugh at the people on FML who manage to damage their iPhones and whine about it.  Really?  Come on, it's an Extra.  Extras are things you get in life that you don't really need, but that add a little something that makes it easier or more enjoyable.  I will admit, most people need a cell phone nowadays.  You could argue against that, but with the scarcity of payphones and the inconvenience of landlines, that is the way our society is going.  But unless your work requires you to have constant access to the internet and all those crazy applications, you do not need an iPhone (or similar).  

I'm not going to say I'm slow on the uptake, but I don't have a lot of opportunities to play with new gadgets.  I've messed around with the iTouch.  I like that technology seems to be getting easier to use, but I don't tend to integrate it into my life right away and I don't think we should be so quick about that.  People seem to focus only on the positive things when they incorporate new toys into their lives, but we don't have any Mary Shelley's anymore to make people stop and think about how far it should go and how connected we should be.  People don't consider that if they buy an iPhone, they're going to have to buy a new iPhone if their original gets damaged, stolen, lost, or old.  They will have to because they got used to the constant access and functionality of the Extra and now they can't live without it..  It's too difficult to revert to not-having than to stay in a state of never-had.  

My cell phone cost $90 about 3 years ago. It sucked to pay that much because I was just starting grad school and I was not expecting to have to pay so much for a basic need (because I didn't have a landline).  However, I can afford to replace a $90 phone, especially now that the model I have is probably more in the $20-30 range, and I've dropped that damn thing more times than I can count.  I cannot afford to buy an iPhone, and I don't think it warrants the extra monthly expense for data packets and all that other crap that involves being in a "3G network."  I'm just not interested.  

I have slowly adjusted to having and using my GPS.  I still don't like having it, because after working in insurance for over a year, I know that people will break into cars just for the GPS.  Luckily I have a very unassuming car and I keep the GPS and charger in the glove box pretty much all the time.  I use the GPS for emergencies, and occasionally when I'm bored and curious about how much longer I have to drive to get from Ohio to Alabama or wherever.  But I still rely primarily on maps.  And I know how to use maps.  I sort of wonder if that's a skill that will slowly disappear from the next generation.  We have websites built for 2-year-olds now.  I kind of have a problem with that.  The younger years are so formative and important that there has to be a negative affect when exposing someone that young to the television or the internet.  

It's a problem.  You're supposed to be interacting with a child that young, not sitting her down in front of a computer and clicking the mouse for her as bright colors flash across the screen.  Most of those websites are trying to sell something anyway; don't you want to have a little more control over the messages your child receives?  You're already going to have problems getting the kid to listen to you when he's 15; if you start letting someone else tell your child what to do when they're 2, what kind of ground do you think you'll have to stand on?

I spent more time in front of the tv as a kid than I care to admit.  I think it prevented me from having some really great opportunities, or at the very least from reading more books.  I still read a lot, I still had a lot, but it took me about 20 years to really develop strong social skills.  That's right, I didn't get good at socializing until I was about 22, and even then I had some terrible, terrible snafus because I have trouble reading people sometimes.  If I had spent more time with kids my age (I usually socialized with older kids or adults when I was younger...and still do), I might not have had so many problems in high school and grade school.  It's not all technology's fault, but I do think people ought to consider its effects a little more.  Sure, you can access information, but you don't necessarily have total control of that information.  Are you sure you want to create more opportunities to have less control over what you're exposed to?

27 May 2010

Day 61: The Gone-Away World

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.  ISBN: 9780307268860.

One of the main elements of this book was the ability to retain your humanity while becoming less, er, "human" versus the inability to retain your humanity if you give up your individuality and become a part of the machine.  In this case the machine happens to be a big, bad corporation, but you could argue that there are many varieties of machines available for us human cogs to become part of in this day and age.

I've been a good little pair of human hands, but I haven't gotten my reward yet, that reward being a more permanent part of the Society Machine, a place where I can do my job and be content at that.  I mean, I've done what I can to get there.  I went through all the little factories, starting with grade school all the way up to grad school (funny that the only difference seems to be one letter and several thousand dollars).  Maybe Antioch was a tiny bit mold-breaking, but it was good for me nonetheless.  And I have never felt like more of a cog than when I went through Kent State's program.  I mean come on, my academic advisor didn't even read my senior project... or at least didn't bother making any remarks on it other than, "Your project is extensive."

What the fuck does that mean?

Anyway, where's my job?  I'm sittin' here waiting to hear back from the university in Tennessee, and I'm hoping to hear a big fat yes from them, but it's so frustrating.  I wasn't made for waiting.  I'm not a decorative cog, I'm a greasy, dirty, hard-workin' kind of cog.  I am totally willing to lose a tiny bit of individuality to get lost in the system, just so I can do something with my life.  There's plenty of time outside the 40 or so hours I'd be required to spend in a job to do individual stuff.  Please, please, please, someone let me be part of the damned machine.

I'll even do my own maintenance and oiling so I don't get squeaky.

26 May 2010

Day 60: The Gone-Away World

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.  ISBN: 978307268860.

There is a moment in this book, which brought back such strong memories that I can't avoid writing about it.  It is a terribly delicate and difficult thing for me to talk about.  That moment is when a soldier is shot and our POV-person is comforting him.  The words he uses are, "I know, I know it hurts, and you are dying.  I know, I am here."  Although my grandmother has never been shot, to my knowledge, I have watched her on the brink of death, and these are more or less the words that ran through my head as I watched.

It was in 2005, I was in Germany working on my last co-op and staying with my mother.  I didn't want to go back to the States because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to complete enough hours for my co-op or be able to finish my coursework for the correspondence course I was taking.  I also didn't want to be the only grandchild to see my grandmother like that.  I wanted to keep my fond memories of her puttering around the kitchen or walking the nature trails at Oxley Nature Reserve* in oversized sunglasses and a big floppy fisherman's hat.  I am sad that I didn't get to keep those memories untarnished by seeing her weak, and frail, and out of her mind in pain.  But I am also glad that I was there for her when she needed me, and for my mother too.

My grandmother was going through renal failure, which means her kidneys had stopped working.  Between the pain and the drugs she was very seldom lucid.  When she was, we tried to get her to eat, which she didn't want to do.  At one point I asked her if I could get her anything to eat; she asked for butter pecan ice cream.  I came back with vanilla because it was all they had in the cafeteria.  In the time it took me to go three floors down and a few wards over and come back, she had lost her appetite.  Luckily my grandfather was in the room and lunged for the ice cream, eating it straight out of my hand, after I asked him if he wanted it.  It was like being not-quite-attacked by a really stringy dog.

Another time I was there when she started to wake up because her painkillers were wearing off.  She was obviously in pain, and I kept asking her if she wanted me to call a nurse, but she kept refusing.  I was stuck with the horrible decision of whether I should listen to my grandmother's wishes, or take matters into my own hands and have her drugged against her will.  I don't know if it was right by her, but I had her drugged.  And when I held her in my arms so the nurse could give her a suppository, I did my best not to bruise her onion-paper-thin skin or to look at the puckered scar where her breast used to be when her gown slipped.  I tried not to see my grandmother as a fragile, suffering woman saying, "no, no, no, no," over and over again until the morphine started to kick in.  She was too weak to even struggle, but as we laid her back down and smoothed her hospital gown and tucked her back in, she said to me, "Jane,** you have such a wonderful daughter."  Jane is my aunt, married to my grandmother's son.  I'm not sure if her brain was too confused and she meant me, or if she thought I was my mother, or if she actually thought I was Jane.  It doesn't really matter, I thanked her all the same, told her I was sorry, and kissed her forehead as she went back into drug-induced sleep.

My mother assured me I did the right thing.  I know I did the right thing for myself.  It was too much to watch her writhe and convulse when she already had so little energy, but I did order a violation of her rights and her body, no matter how well meaning.  I don't know that I will ever be okay with that, or with the fact that this is the strongest memory I have left of my grandmother.  I know that it is the treatment I would have given an animal in pain, and I know that her body needed the rest only drugs could give her in order to heal, and I know it's the treatment I would want, even if I was refusing it at the time, but sometimes I worry that her humanity demanded more.  And that I denied it.

My grandmother did recover from her renal failure.  She lived another four months or so, I don't recall exactly.  She just slipped away, painlessly, and that was what I wanted for her.

*If you're feeling generous, please make a donation in my name.
**Name changed, because I'm not sure how much my relatives want to be involved in this blog.

25 May 2010

Day 59: The Gone-Away World

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.  ISBN: 9780307268860.

This is a most hideous cover.  I apologize, but I'm not the author, and what was he thinking?  Because of this I will make an exception of including the book cover for every post I write about this particular horrendously bedecked book.  So you only have to see it once, but I get to keep blathering about it.  You're welcome.

Since I'm already on the topic of book covers, let's go with that.  This book has actually been almost painful to read.  It feels like the cover itself is telling me to go away and play outside.  Even with the book open, the colors almost scream at me.  I am rather familiar with the whole not judging a book crap.  I am rather familiar about the whole not judging a book crap.  But you know what, it often does say a lot, if not about the book, then at least about the author.  Or at the very least,  whoever had control of selecting the cover.

What is this book about?  This book is about a world that was created after a terrible, terrible "Go Away" bomb was dropped.  This bomb has done something to change the world so that mutant-y things roam the earth...I think.  In this case the blaring cover causes about as much confusion as the writing.  We're introduced to a mass of characters in a bar, and as we're just getting to know them the power goes out, and Oh look! End of the world!  Do we get to see a handy resolution to this, with a lovely climactic build-up and a hero-saves-the-day ending?  Well...I don't know yet.  Because Harkaway went from end of the world to OMG BACKSTORY INSERT HERE!!!  And I haven't gotten past it yet.  I try not to post before I finish the book in case there are some big hooj themes that reach up and slap my head around with thoughty goodness.  But technically, the cover is both the start and the end of the book, so um, yeah.

Anyway, what I was saying about the cover...  This guy is smart.  There's a lot of smart in the book.  Maybe a little too much smart.  Those studies in philosophy and sociology and politics may have helped Harkaway write this book, but they did not give him marketing smarts.  What says end of the world like make-me-puke-after-three-hours-of-color-induced-migraine?  Well, yeah, not this actually.  The colors are just a little too cheery and jarring to really put me in the mood for a wild ride through...hundreds of pages of backstory.

24 May 2010

Day 58: The Atlantis Code

The Atlantis Code by Charles Brokaw.  ISBN: 9780765315311.

 "Sometimes you don't have to actually have possession of a thing to learn from it.  Sometimes it's enough simply to know it exists."  Page 69.

This sort of reminded me of the "Is an antelope a document" discussion we had in library school.  It's one of those endless arguments where you only "win" if your side of the argument is better than whoever it is you're arguing with.  In this case, I think I'll have a one-sided argument with Mr. Brokaw, here.

Possession of something does not exactly lend itself to real, comprehensive knowledge.  Of course, you can look at the documentations or examine your data that something exists.  But unless you actually encounter the artifact or experience the sensation, the benefits of "knowing" that something exists are almost negligible.  Our brains are not really wired to wrap around concepts, that's why the study of philosophy is so important (so that we can exercise that particular brainy muscle group).  When it comes down to it though, we are tactile and emotional creatures; we are becoming conceptual creatures, especially as more of our world moves online.  But we still experience the world primarily through the "touch" and "feel" method, or the poke and emote, if you will.

If you think about it, there are not a whole lot of new concepts in the world.  Even our most fantastical creatures -- our boogeymen, mythical creatures, nightmares, dreams, etc. -- are composites of other animals or experiences.  This means that the whole, "There's nothing to fear but fear itself" bit is all well and good, but nothing scares the crap out of us like a huge rabid dog that has us backed into a corner with snarling, slobbering blood-covered teeth.  We may be afraid of the shadows, but that has more to do with what we know the shadows can hide.

Aaaaaaand that's why cover letters are such bull shit.  Boiling myself down to a piece of paper does not give you any idea of how hard I work, or how competent I am.  You might see that I worked three different jobs during my last year of graduate studies, or that I packed in a job, three classes, writing my senior project, and running all over campus while coordinating philosophy club (which was out of my area of study, by the way).  But this tells you that I can pack in a lot of activity during a short period of time to put good things on my resume.  And what about my apparent job hopping, that whole thing where I'm at an internship for 4 months and then I hop back to my library job at Antioch.  Very unusual.  But that was part of the program, any Antioch College student's work history will look like that!  And yeah, there's some extra stuff in there with me moving around or working temp jobs. 

But I am not a document.  I contain more information about my merits and demerits than anything I could possibly create, or that could possibly be created by me.  So why do we think that putting ourselves on paper is the best way to hire someone?  And who in their right mind thinks a job description is a good way to decide if this is the right job?

23 May 2010

Day 57: The Atlantis Code

The Atlantis Code by Charles Brokaw.  ISBN: 9780765315311.

"Patience, I think, is the best tool.  Though it's often one we struggle for."  Page 15.

My fiance has been very good at discovering my utter lack of patience.  It's funny, because I used to think I was very, very patient.  It seems that somewhere between puberty and my 23rd birthday, I lost the ability to chill the fuck out and just let things happen.  I mean, I can...if I have to, but I really don't like it.  Reading this book did not help my general temperament at all.  I think if you read my review of the book, you'll understand a little better about why this frustrated me so much.  Or you can just keep reading, whatever.

I am the person who notices the utter lack of males in advertising for household cleaners.  Occasionally there's one or two, but they are either A) demasculinized or B) looking over the "little lady's" shoulder (I'm talking about you Mr. Clean).   This kind of advertisement says a couple things, namely that only women are good at cleaning, only women should be cleaning, and that a man still has to come and approve of our work because we either can't live without a man's validation or we won't do it right unless a man comes and checks up on us. 

Really?  I guess we should take away all the manly jumpsuits male janitors wear and place them in little frilly maid costumes.  I'm actually not certain why people (and I'm actually targeting men more than women in this statement) don't get more upset about this representation of cleanliness=womanliness.  Okay fellas, here's the thing these commercials are really getting down to: If you don't have a woman in this house you are living in utter and abject filthiness.  You are so lowly and disgusting that you are not even capable, much less motivated, to take five or ten minutes to spray a counter and wipe it down.  That is what the chemical companies and the advertising companies are saying about you, by not targeting you or including you in their advertisements.

I bet most men don't even think about the way that sex and sexism in advertising affects them.  I mean, that is one of the privileges of being male.  They don't have to think about it.  And you know what, I find it difficult to be patient and wait for men to come around and stop being misogynist assholes when I feel like I have to live with it almost every single day.  There's a reason I stopped watching tv, and it's because of commercials like the ones I've mentioned.  And there's a reason I wish that books like The Atlantis Code would stop being published.  But apparently there are still people out there who think that these books are "interesting" or that the commercials are "informative and entertaining."

Maybe I would have a  little more patience with it if they weren't created at the expense of half of the world population.  I don't mind there being misogynist characters in books, or seeing women do housework, but I'm getting really tired of hearing the phrase "get back in the kitchen" followed by peals of laughter by puerile males.  I'm not impressed with that kind of behavior, and I don't find it funny.  I have a great sense of humor, and I will laugh at dead baby jokes, but when you've just been "let" out of the "kitchen" having some schmuck who has never even thought about what that phrase might mean to a woman just makes me want to kill a bitch (of the male variety)So you'll have to forgive me if I don't have all that much patience.

22 May 2010

Day 56: Soulless

Soulless by Gail Carriger.  ISBN: 9780316056632. 

Sorry for the last post on this book, I know it was very close to being a book review.  My intention was really to discuss mythos.  I haven't been sleeping well lately, so we'll blame it on that and not on laziness.  

So this is going to be a rather specific moment to focus on, but while at a party Tarabotti comments about how raw oysters remind her of "nasal excrement."  This reminds of my first time eating raw oysters, which I will happily recount here.  This might not be the most interesting of posts, but since I'm not getting any feedback...yes, I'm blaming the victim.

The first, and only time, I ate raw oysters was when my fiance and I visited my mother for Thanksgiving last year.  This also happens to be close enough to her birthday, which is the 24th and fell on a Wednesday in 2009.  My mother happens to love seafood, so we went to a seafood place.  Her boyfriend asked if anyone wanted raw oysters, and since my fiance and I had never had them we were game to try them.  While I think "nasal excrement" appropriately captures the texture, I liken the taste to "licking the side of a boat."  As in the saltwater faring variety.

Perhaps I did not let it "slide down my throat" as you're supposed to.  I do have a tendency to chew my food and it's a habit that's awfully hard to break.  I even hate eating soups that contain more broth than vegetables, etc. (unless they're of the thick and creamy variety).  I think this says something about what I consider food.  If you have to chew it, even just a little bit, it's food.  Otherwise I'm not really interested.  I'm glad I tried raw oysters.  I would consider trying them again, but if they somehow became extinct or endangered and I never got to eat them again I wouldn't cry about it too much.  Well, except for the fact that we'd killed yet another species.

It's almost funny that I don't like oysters, to be honest.  There are so few foods that I dislike so intensely.  Most I will tolerate and eat if they are placed in front of me.  In order for me to eat oysters again, I think a few things would have to happen.  First, I think I would have to be fairly drunk.  Second, I think enough time would have to pass that my tastes in food change, or that I would have forgotten the unpleasantness of the taste and feeling of eating an oyster.  By the way, I love sushi and even enjoy eating octopus and eel, so it's not entirely the ick factor.  I also enjoy mussels (although I've never eaten those raw).

Other than the encounter with the raw oysters, which my mom's boyfriend had to more or less finish by himself, the dinner was delicious.  Apparently there were also about six or seven other birthday guests because we were bombarded by the song over and over again that evening.  My mother refrained from telling anyone, because honestly I think the waitstaff had been abused enough that evening.

I love food, and have a strong attachment to certain foods, even those that repulse me.  I'd be interested to hear stories from other people about foods they met and didn't like, or that have special meaning for them.  Please feel free to share in the comment section (now called "book chats").

21 May 2010

Day 55: Soulless

Soulless by Gail Carriger.  ISBN: 9780316056632.

I think the reason I love vampire and werewolf stories so much is how old the legends are, and how much they share while still having unique cultural and regional differences.  I love when people play with the hows and whys of vampiredom.  I might even have been okay with sparkling if it had been more subtle and had some sort of pseudo-science attached to it.  Of course, nothing could have saved that other series from bad writing, so we'll just move on.

In this particular series, vampires and werewolves and ghosts exist, or rather are able to exist, because they have an excess of soul.  This happens to be a world in which dualities exist, so because there are people with an excess of soul, there are also people with no soul.  These are called preternaturals, and any supernatural that comes into contact with one returns to their mortal state as long as the contact is maintained.  These people are strangely presented as having no innate sense of morality, so technically they would be more dangerous than werewolves or vampires, the latter being able to find willing victims now that society knows about them.

Since preternaturals are extremely rare in Carriger's world, the only one we have to judge is Alexis Tarabotti and to some degree her deceased, but frequently mentioned, father.  Tarabotti is presented as overly strong willed (meaning she has any will at all in Victorian England) and somewhat socially crass.  I think I would have liked to have seen her be more so, and perhaps evincing signs of Asperger's.  I mean, it would be an interesting correlation, not that I think people with Asperger's lack souls, but there might be some correlation of soulless behavior with a lack of empathy, etc.  Then again, I'm not certain why Carriger didn't go the psychopath route either.  In any case, Tarabotti apparently reads a whole bunch on philosophy and moral development and this somehow solves the problem of her having no built-in moral center.

Ah, another thing about the mythos of Carriger's world that I found interesting were the social dynamics of the supernatural creatures.  Werewolves are apparently the more social of the creatures and have lent England's military their social order.  While they're supposedly immortal (or at least long lived), they tend to fight each other, so they don't live nearly as long as vampires.  Vampires tend to live in hives, with a queen being dominant.  Werewolves also place Alpha Females above Alpha Males, but since there are so few of them it hardly seems worth mentioning except that, once again, this is almost hilariously indecorous for Victorian times.  Both supernatural groups tend to shun outsiders, although werewolves more so.  Lone vampires are seen as kind of eccentric, but can apparently gain some status if they're old enough and not too crazy.

In any case, I love new social dynamics and the new stuff made this an interesting read.  Carriger seems to have a good understanding of how much is too much to throw at her readers all at once, and none of the plot or character got derailed or detracted by it.  I was even pleased with the touch of smuttiness in the book, and while we don't see any premarital sex scenes, this is more due to individual decision by the characters rather than blatant abstinence only Mormon driven drivel. 

For something slightly related, the New York Public Library staged a fabulous event where Improv Now stormed the building in ghost and Ghost Buster costumes to the obvious enjoyment of their patrons.  More here.

20 May 2010

Day 54: The History of White People

The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter.  ISBN: 9780393049343.

Okay, well, if I didn't get my ass handed to me for my last post, this one is really going to do it.  If you didn't guess by now, I'm kind of liberal.  I actually consider myself a moderate liberal, and I probably have some sort of conservative ideas about certain things.   One of those certain things happens to be...guns.

In History of White People, Painter talks about the practice of Ancient Germans carrying weapons everywhere as a symbol of their coming of age and their citizenship.  I like this idea.  I think they should teach this in school.  Oh yes, what could be worse than giving a 16 year old a deadly weapon?  Well, it's no worse than giving them a one ton blunt object on wheels.  I do not think we should hand out weapons to everyone when they turn 18.  I do think we should teach them how to use them, proper care and handling of basic firearms.  If it is our right to bare arms as citizens, then as citizens doesn't it make sense to make it a mandatory part of citizenship?

Here's my reasoning: enough people own guns and it is so easy to fatally wound yourself by accident that for our safety and the safety of others we need this kind of instruction.  You may not be comfortable carrying a gun, or being around them.  I know I'm not, but I believe most of that has to do with the fact that I am so incredibly terrified of guns because I don't know how exactly how they function, etc.  In fact, I flunked my first driver's test because the cop's hand gun was the only thing I could think of.

We are, of course, taught to fear what we don't understand, especially if we know it's dangerous.  With training we would be more confident and less fearful around guns.  In a time when certain people can smuggle explosives in their underwear, but can't get a quart of breast milk for their babies onto planes, it might be nice to have a population that knows how to handle weaponry.  If there's an air marshal on the plane who gets taken out, maybe a terrorist or potential terrorist will think twice if they know the entire plane load of passengers is likely to pick up that gun and eliminate the threat.  Yeah, it's a little extreme, but I am firmly on the side of an educated and well skilled populace over one where ignorance might get them killed.

Plus, we would be pretty much set for the zombapocalypse.

19 May 2010

Day 53: The History of White People

The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter.  ISBN: 9780393049343.

Author Note: I was going to try to avoid talking about race, but the very nature of this book sort of prevents it.  I will attempt to tread carefully, I will try not to step on toes, but even on a good day I am not the most diplomatic of speakers.

Oh man, reading this has really taken me back.  Painter's work parallels what I was writing about in my senior project.  Granted, her work has much more in-depth scholarship and covers a much broader range of people. Despite its 400 pages, I have practically devoured this book because it's a topic that still interests me.  And this book definitely makes me want to pick up my research again and work on my flimsy 35-page project.

For those of you who wonder what the hell I'm talking about, my senior project was about perceptions of German immigrants and German Americans by native-born Americans during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.  I compared this with perceptions during times of peace, and a lot of that involved discussions of whiteness.  I cannot tell you how important something like this book is, not only to my research, but to the understanding of racial identity in America.  Period.

In some ways, racial identity might as well not even exist.  I am not saying that it hasn't influenced people (individually and as a group); I am saying that it is a social construct and for the most part any differences we actually have are cultural and socioeconomic.  Painter states this as well: "No consensus has ever formed on the number of human races or even on the number of white races.  Criteria constantly shift according to individual taste and political need." (Page 383).  On the other hand, I also understand that I'm coming from a place of privilege.  I understand that for billions of people, race does exist, because it has given them benefits or disadvantages.  The thing is, over the past 100 years the American definition of what a "good" immigrant (or ethnic) is has changed drastically.  As we include more racial groups and as racial lines continue to blur together, I think that race will eventually matter less and less.  To again quote Painter: "Acknowledgment of the existence of people of 'mixed race,' as in the U.S. Census, means acknowledgment of the impermanence of race." (Page 396).

I think in some ways this intermixing will lead to a better human species.  It is easier to accept what you are familiar with.  If we can see each other in the faces of our enemies, it will be one less thing we are likely to fight over.  I am concerned about the potential loss of culture, but I think we will find new ways to differentiate ourselves from our neighbors, and perhaps not so much as to start the warmongering all over again.

**I am extremely uncomfortable talking about race given my privileged background and education.  I have tried to be delicate and not wrong-headed, but if I've said anything wrong-headed it was meant to evoke discussion and not flare up hard feelings.  Like everyone else, I have prejudices; I hate that I have prejudices, and I am working on not letting those prejudices negatively affect my life or the lives of others.  If I have said anything completely fucked up, please let me know (preferably politely).  I am a work in progress.

18 May 2010

Day 52: The Stranger

The Stranger by Albert Camus.  ISBN:  9780679720201.

"I hadn't understood how many days could be both long and short at the same time: long to live through, maybe, but so drawn out that they ended up flowing into one another.  They lost their names.  Only the words 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow' still had any meaning for me."  Page 80.

Oh Camus, it's as if you've written these words just for me.  I have never quite experienced the movement of time this way until my unemployment began stretching out into what feels like infinity.  My days are so uniform that I actually bug my room mate about when we're going shopping so that I have something to break my days up with.  It's torturous trying to find new things to do in order to fill my time, and even the act of finding new things feels like a repetitive task.

It's interesting that I can still remember when I'm supposed to do certain things, like my volunteer job, but I still frequently forget the date and what day it is.  This is even with writing book notes almost daily so I can blog about them later.  That means I write both the day and the date, usually early on in the day, but they are quickly forgotten.  But I can remember that I have an interview coming up in ten days and counting, or that I'm going to go see my fiance in three days.  Usually it's things that are within two weeks time, but it's a strange phenomenon that I can remember this and not that it's Wednesday.

The fact that I have so much "free" time stretched out in front of me has been excruciating.  I don't know what to do with myself.  I've been applying to jobs as often as I can possibly stand to.  And right now I'm waiting to hear back from the university in Tennessee, and this has made it even worse than normal.  Part of me doesn't want to even think about writing another cover letter unless I find out I didn't get the job, and the other part of me knows it's better to have letters out there and get accepted than to have to start all over again.

There are pressures too.  My mom wants me to stop looking if I don't get the job in Tennessee, and go back to school.  This is an option, and it's an option I wouldn't really mind, but I very much want to work.  I've been in school my entire life, and I've worked through a large portion of it, but I am ready to do something else.  It's possible obtaining an MBA will help me get a job, but I'm sure there are plenty of other librarians who are out of work who are right now, going through school, who will again glut the market at the same time I'd be looking for a job.  So what's the point?

In the meantime, I'm going through the motions, waiting for the end.

17 May 2010

Day 51: The Stranger

The Stranger by Albert Camus.  ISBN:  9780679720201.

This is one of those books that definitely benefits from discussion with other people who read it, but I'll try and have one of my "one-sided discussions."  As the story progresses, Meursault's disbelief in God becomes more and more evident.  Strangely I didn't so much respond to Meursault as I did to the characters who interacted with him.  It's like he was trying so hard not to get involved with everyone else that it's no wonder "nothing matters" to him.

The best exchange I thought he had was with a priest in which they discuss Meursalt's lack of faith.  In disgust, the priest finally says that all men believe in God, even those who turn their backs on him (page 69).  While I don't necessarily think that's completely true, I do think there is still a natural tendency for people to believe in god.  That's god with a little "g," for which I will give my definition.

To me, god is a concept or idea in which we find comfort on a spiritual level.  That idea can range anywhere from a person-like father figure to all the Olympian Gods to nature to a kind of spiritual energy source.  I think god is too big of a concept to deny completely and must also be too big to be contained in one single form.  That is to say, there must be many paths to spiritual salvation, comfort, ascendance, etc. If God is all things (as the Christian faith claims), then god must be present in all religions, and even the lack thereof.

As a fourth generation Unitarian Universalist, I was brought up with the option of exploring as many different religions and non-religions as I wanted.  As a child, I frequently questioned my parents on their beliefs.  My father (raised and recovered Southern Baptist) seemed to lack them altogether, while my mom's were held as extremely private.  I've taken more of that approach, preferring solitary worship, but occasionally attending church for the community it provides and the exposure to new ideas.  My beliefs have ranged from monotheism to polytheism to agnostic; I've been a Deist, a Wiccan, a Pagan, and played with countless other religions.  I've attended Catholic Mass and Baha'i and Southern Baptist churches.

While I've kind of settled into believing in God as a kind of energy* or presence, I believe everyone has the right to find what works for them spiritually.  I believe everyone should at least think about their spirituality on a somewhat regular basis.  And I think that we have to allow it to be fluid.  I understand that I was raised a little differently from the majority of Americans and maybe even Earthlings, but I think in order to grow as people we need to be able to think our way through even our core values and beliefs to find the ones that fit who were are currently.  It does not make sense to believe in the same things we believed in when we were seven for the same reasons when we're forty-two.  That would be like continuing to believe the earth is round because you were told it's round.  It may be true (in this example it obviously is), but at as you grow in awareness, your level of curiosity should increase along with your level of observation.  You should read, and watch ship masts, and the horizon from your window seat on an airplane.  Why would you want to limit your knowledge in any way, and in such a crucial area of your very being?

If your soul is so important and unique and special, shouldn't you be willing to find the thing that will provide the best care for it? 

*I like to tell people I believe in the Force, I'm also a little nerdy.
 **This post is in no way intended to alienate people.  I have no intentions of being preachy, etc.  It is meant to provoke thought on the state of your spiritual well being as you define it.  If I have offended anyone by talking so openly about spirituality/religion, I apologize that my comments offended you, but I do not regret what I have said.  I find value and problems in every religion, and most ideas regarding spirituality, but you have the right to believe whatever you like.  If you have further questions about my beliefs, feel free to contact me at acampb8@kent.edu, but I do not welcome proselytizing.

16 May 2010

Day 50: a general update

Hey guess what!  I'm going to ALA Annual (American Library Association).  If you're interested in meeting me and maybe buying me a free meal/drink while we talk books shoot me an email at acampb8@kent.edu.

Hurray, my 50th post!  Just checking in with everyone.  I've talked to a couple of readers in person about my blog.  It seems like everyone is still enjoying it  I've got a lot of things coming up and I've also got something I was asked to promote.  I have some mixed feelings about promoting things for people when I haven't read them, etc., but in this case it's for a good cause and it's from an author I read recently.  So here's some stuff I'm planning to read, followed by something else.

The Atlantis Code by Charles Brokaw. 
I love stuff about Atlantis.  And I'm probably not the only one.  So much of our world is covered by water that I think we like the idea of some city being buried where we can get to it, but not without some work.  I'm pretty sure this popped up on one of my many RSS book review feeds (most of which are run by librarians, go figure).  This is not my typical fare, but I think it will be an enjoyable read nonetheless.

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.
I got this off of the Underrated List on Goodreads.  And who doesn't love post-apocalyptic love stories?

A History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter.
I'm mostly excited about this because of Painter's appearance on the Colbert Report.  I love people who play along with Colbert, and she was freakin' amazing.  I've also been neglecting my history reading, so this should be a fun way to gettin' my history on.

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate #1) by Gail Carriger.
The first time I saw this was on the shelves at the local coffee shop, Grounds for Thought. Ah, the recent influx of zombie, vampire, paranormal fiction.  How I love thee.  Victorian vampire hunting spinster?  Awesome.  I'm willing to give it a try, and holy shit the Wood County Public Library seriously has everything.

The Stranger by Albert Camus.
Yay!  Another classic.  I wonder why so many people are reluctant to read classics?  I'm not sure how I missed out on this one considering I took at least two philosophy classes and ran philosophy club during college.  Ah well, it happens.

Juliet by Anne Fortier.
I'm supposed to receive this from the First Reads program on Goodreads where they send you free books in exchange for reviews.  I'm looking forward to it, despite it's being decidedly more chick-lit than I like to admit reading.  Yeah, okay, occasionally I like girlie romance type things.  The premise is interesting, being that the Romeo-Juliet thing is actually a curse and plays itself out every few generations or some such until said curse is broken.  I'm hoping this will be better than Moonlight Falls.  It won't have to work terribly hard.

Unpaid promotion ahead
I was contacted by Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, one of the authors of Gentle Footprints.  This is a collection of short stories including one by Richard Adams, at the age of 90.  Ms. Hobbs-Wyatt gave me this link to buy the book.  Unfortunately that seems to only be for the UK, it's not being published in the United States, but if you're more comfortable ordering through Amazon, I can do that for you.

Oh yeah, if um, if you wanna pay me for promotions in the future, that would be awesome.

15 May 2010

Day 49: Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. ISBN: 9780380789023.

 The Wedding Present, pages 3-16.

This is an amazing Picture of Dorian Gray-esque short story about a couple who receives a short story as a wedding present.  The short story is the opposite of their marriage; the story couple getting progressively unhappier as the real couple continues living in bliss.

There's a lot of appeal in those kind of stories, those striking and enigmatic "what-if" stories.  It's particularly natural to play the what-if game in relationships, regardless of how good they are.  Part of me wonders if that's why so many relationships fall apart; one party always wonders if maybe they could just be happier with someone else.  I'll admit that I wonder which version of The Wedding Present I'm living.  Is this the happy version or the miserable one?

Well, it's not over yet, is it?  It's been difficult having the relationship I do with my fiance; on the other hand if we weren't together right now, I might be having an even tougher time without his emotional support.  Or maybe if we hadn't gotten together in the first place I'd be on my way to a doctorate's degree in library science and not worrying about the economy.  Or I could be living with my mother and yelling at her every day.  I don't know.

That's why I think it's so important to try my hardest to keep this relationship together until I know it's over.  I won't know if it was the good story or the bad one, so I work to make it the good one.  And I beat my fiance over the head to make him work at it too.  So far we're doing okay.  I do sometimes wonder how the other Amy Campbell and her fiance are doing.

This post was originally written on April 24, 2010 to give me a break, allow me to be sick, make time for packing and moving, or some other excuse where I can't sit in front of a computer all day.

14 May 2010

Day 48: The Mermaid Chair

The Mermaid Chair by Susan Monk Kidd.  ISBN: 9780143057420 (audiobook).

I have so many issues with this book I don't know where to begin.  Jessie is such a weak character it's easier to be irritated by her than sympathetic to her plight.  Oh no, you're in a perfect, but unsatisfying marriage with a great daughter and comfortable living.  Then she goes on to complain and whine about how she might lose both her husband and her lover.

Oh. My. God.  If you are that dissatisfied with your current life, would it not still be better than maintaining the status quo?  Are you honestly that defined by the men in your life that you can't be without one?  Ever.  I mean, she's honestly got some serious daddy issues (I'm not making assumptions here, it's mentioned in the story).  I just find it hard to believe that there are women out there who are that insecure in themselves that they can't stand on their own.  That there are women who feel they must be married or attached at any cost.

What kind of man wants that kind of woman?  That whole mythical bullshit about finding someone to complete you has done more damage than I think any of us can even imagine.  How many people out there have wandered around just waiting for that someone to come and make them a better person?  If you are one of those people, stop now.  I've been one of those people who dates and dates and dates, partially out of boredom, partially because I knew I needed the practice of dating a lot of people.  I spent so much time with people I didn't like.  

I actually got to the point where I was prepared to live alone for the rest of my life.  Danny and I actually started dating because I wanted to give him the benefit of my dating expertise.   I enjoyed our conversations and companionship so much that I continued to date him.  If anything ever happened to Danny, I would be sad, but I would be okay.  Please, please, please just learn to live on your own and find satisfaction with yourself.  If you can't, you will one day find yourself completely alone, no matter how many people you have around you.

13 May 2010

Day 47: Plague Year

Plague Year by Jeff Carlson.  ISBN: 9780441015146.

Sadly there's not a whole lot to say about this.  The nanotechnology is kind of described in amorphous terms.  The lack of detail about the surrounding world makes the whole thing kind of boring and the majority of the book is taken up by an 8 hour trek from one mountain peak to another with very little that actually happens besides a gun fight in which most of the party dies.  Eh.

I normally love Frankenstein novels.  By that I mean novels which explore and exaggerate the downside of new or potential technology.  I think I'm going to have to stick with Michael Crichton books for that kind of thrill.  The man can write some good scientific fiction.  A good Frankenstein novel will explore the deepest, darkest parts of the technology and how humans will use it.  Carlson touched on it but didn't go far enough.

He mentioned that nanotechnology could potentially make people live forever and change their bodies to be perfect machines.  Well, we don't get that.  Instead we get the chaos in transition.  Which can be interesting, but you have to be very good at putting pieces back together.  This just kind of fell flat and didn't really get me anywhere I wanted to go.  Dammit, this is turning into a review.  That's how little there actually is to write about this book.

Okay, if nanotechnology could make us live forever, would you want to?  I've been watching Highlander on Netflix for the past couple of weeks, so Queen's refrain of "Who wants to live forever" runs through my head pretty much any time I read about vampires or other immortal hoodoo voodoo.  I'm not even sure that it's feasible for nanotechnology to make us live forever.  There would still be cellular decay, although I suppose you could create nanos to replace those cells.  

I would love to live a healthy life until the end, with little to no physical decay, and to keep my wits and memories.  I might even enjoy having a slightly prolonged life.  But I cannot imagine living forever and I honestly don't think I'd want to.  What would be the point?  There'd be no point in having children in that kind of future, or if we did they would have to be rationed out when other people decided to pass on.  You might have couples who decide to let one partner die so that the other could reproduce and raise a child.  And what about aging?

We wouldn't age anymore if we had nanotechnology.  We'd all be stuck as nubile 20-somethings.  There would be no variety in our bodies, no fat people, no thin people, no balding people or overly hairy people.  How mind numbingly boring would that be?  Aging has its own particular grace to it and brings its own wisdom.  I think we need the chemical changes and the aches and pains that come with aging.  Old people bring a mellowing to our society, they're capable of thoughts that aren't completely dictated by hormones or selfish impulse.  People at the end of their lives, who know they're at the end of their lives, seem to become more generous and deliberate in their actions.  I think having billions of 20 year-olds run the planet is a phenomenally terrible idea.  But I'd love to read a novel about it.

12 May 2010

Day 46: The Meaning of Wife

The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston.  ISBN: 9780374205102.

Okay, this is the last one for this book, I promise.  My fiance just seems so fascinated with this topic that he wanted me to do one more.  I suppose it's appropriate, and god knows I could probably talk about roles and marriage forever.  There will be other chances though, so I'll shut my trap on it for awhile, but I'm not gettin' back in the kitchen.

I wanted to save this topic for last because I think it's very telling about our society and the way we're pressured into certain things despite the fact they're not good for us.  In one of the chapters (the second to be precise), Kingston mentions that the diamond companies started the surprise engagement phenomena.  Holy shit.  That makes so much sense.  What woman in her right mind wants to be taken completely by surprise by that kind of a question?  It's the whole reason I laugh my ass off at the FMLs where men are rejected for marriage by their girlfriends.  I can only assume that they just expected them to say yes because they had been together "long enough" to make that decision.

Here's the thing guys, not every woman wants to get married.  Not even the ones who are willing to date you for five years.  And it may not even be that they don't want a committed relationship with you, but marriage changes everything.  I know this is a woman who has never been married.  So before you propose, you need to have at least discussed the possibility of marriage with your girlfriend/boyfriend.  If you haven't even broached the subject, chances are she may not be interested in forever, because someone who wants to marry you will damn well bring it up.

Another part of the surprise engagement means that you end up spending a shit ton of money to create that perfect memory, which is fine if she says yes.  (I realize that there are times where the asked party is male, but for this case I'm just going to use traditional gender pronouns and you can all get over it.)  But yeah, if she says no you're stuck there holding a $1200 ring, surrounded by a string quartet, and looking like a complete ass in front of an entire restaurant where the typical meal is $50 a plate.  

Okay, seriously, I want everyone to look at what marriage is when you strip all the romantic crap out of it: an investment.  It sounds maybe a little cold, but when it comes down to it, you are investing what is potentially your entire life: your physical and mental well being, your finances, and your future progeny into one person.  Talk about your proverbial eggs in one basket.  Wouldn't it make some sense to do just a little tiny bit of research, such as, I don't know, talking about whether you want to get married?  And really, you can't get upset with her because she said no.  Doing something like that is like buying a stock by guessing at what it's ticker is and then getting angry because you meant to buy Coca-Cola (KO) instead of Coca-Cola Bottling Company (COKE).  If you don't do your homework, you're just more likely to fuck up.

So that seems to be how the normal non-engaged proposal goes (yes, I think I'm funny).  While my engagement was expected on some level, I was still taken aback and I actually got exactly what I wanted.  My fiance and I started talking about getting married probably 8 months into our relationship and more seriously by the 10 month mark.  I told him that if he was going to propose to me, it would be great if he did it on our anniversary at the restaurant we first went on a date at (which strangely we only eat at on anniversaries).  He knew I didn't want a diamond ring, and while I didn't get the "ring of my dreams," what he got me very much reflected our relationship and I've grown to love it.  

I never would have said yes to Danny if we hadn't talked about it first, even if I wanted to say yes.  It would have shown a complete lack of understanding on his part about my autonomy and my need to enter knowingly into that kind of a situation.  Not to mention having someone assume that you will say yes to something that important without even mentioning it puts into doubt the whole relationship.  If you were willing to assume that something like that would be taken positively...what other important decisions might you make without consulting your partner?

11 May 2010

Day 45: The Meaning of Wife

The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston.  ISBN: 9780374205102.

My fiance apparently really liked my last post and wants me to keep writing on this topic.  It's kind of interesting considering he's not really interested in helping me to plan the wedding and seems uncomfortable with the idea of being my househusband...which is what he'll be if he doesn't find a job.

This is another topic covered in The Meaning of Wife.  There are male wives, and they do just as much as their female counterparts.  I'm not sure why he's so reluctant to be there for me in the home if that's what I need.  Maybe he's concerned about losing his masculinity or he thinks I won't appreciate it.  But I have a small secret.

I like the idea of having him stay home and take care of me.  I mean, it would be nice to have an extra income, but how much better would it be for me to come home to a warm meal and a clean house?  I could focus completely on my career, and he could focus on his writing when he's not keeping house.  Do I want him to have his own career and goals, etc.?  Yes, of course, but at the moment he doesn't know what he wants to with his life yet.  In the meantime, I'd like to be his job.  Not only that, for our first year of marriage it may make us closer and my transition into a professional position easier.

Would I be willing to take his place as a wife?  Maybe.  But I'm a completely different person.  I'm very career minded, and I like working.  Then again, if I knew he'd make enough for both of us to live off of, maybe I would find something else to make my life more meaningful.  I can only hope he'll be able to do the same, and I'd be happy to help him any way I can.

10 May 2010

Day 44: The Meaning of Wife

The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston.  ISBN: 9780374205102.

This is probably not the best or most comprehensive look at the role of wife and what it means for marriage, women, and feminism.  It was a pretty enjoyable read as far as non-fiction work goes, and it wasn't so heavy-handed as to state outright that marriage is an all around bad idea.  Mostly it focuses on the idea that Wifedom is in transition, and that we haven't really discovered what it means to be a "post"-feminist wife.

There were quite a few topics I could have pulled from this book to talk about.  My notebook is actually full of potential writing prompts, but this sentence stuck out during my reading: "And the unspoken rule is that the more money you spend, the happier you'll be, not only on your wedding day but also in your marriage."  (Page 34.)  You know, there is a big deal about getting people to spend a shit load of money on their wedding day.  What is with that?  If you're going to spend a lot of money on anything like that, shouldn't it be the honeymoon? 

I know my fiance and I are planning a pretty small ceremony and reception (sometime after the courthouse wedding).  We're talking maybe fifty people total.  I know that it's still going to be expensive, but I'm also not planning to buy a brand new dress, or if I do it will be somewhere in the $500 or below category.  It will probably be significantly cheaper than that unless I just fall in love with a dress.  But I really can't fathom even spending $300 on something I'm not going to wear more than once.  I don't need brand new jewelry for my wedding, and what little I do plan to buy will be simple enough that I can wear it on other occasions, it will not be a one day purchase.

This whole idea of investing time and money into one day for things that will be used only for that day is something that really bothers me.  Other than the photographs and the wedding rings, nothing you buy for your wedding day is going to last forever.  Even your memories are likely to wear out one by one and slip away.  So why is it that people will go into debt in order to start a relationship that is supposed to last their entire lives?  Is paying off your wedding for the next ten years supposed to give you warm fuzzy feelings about it? "Oh look honey, we still owe $5,000 on our credit card for the five tiered chocolate cake your Aunt Jenny couldn't eat because she was allergic; that was such a great day." 

If you think prenuptial agreements are unromantic, how can you even think of having a wedding that costs more than a brand new car?  According to some sources, a brand new car may last longer than your marriage, with seven to eight years being the average before divorce.  But with all this, I'm still planning on spending maybe $10,000 total on my wedding ceremony and reception (not including honeymoon which I see as being at least another $2,000-$3,500, unless we decide to stay in the States).  I'd just like people to think about it a little more in terms of how much that one day is going to influence your marriage versus how long you will be paying it off during, or even after, your marriage.  By all means, if it's worth it to you to spend a year's salary so you can have orchids flown in from Hawaii, okay, maybe you need to do that.  But if you're willing to break it off because you can't have it, then it's not about the marriage, it's about the wedding, and you're not ready. 

09 May 2010

Day 43: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. ISBN 9780061551895 (audiobook).

"You're alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you're dead, it's gone. Over. You've made what you've made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished."

How can Gaiman write stuff like this?  I want to write something this insightful and beautiful.  Of course, if I ever do only about ten of you will ever read it and only after pestering you.  I have lived with something similar to this sentiment for over five years now.  The words that Horace Mann, Antioch College's first president, left us with where these, "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."  While it may not seem so similar on the surface, it's a plea to struggle to live and do until you can't anymore.

I've always interpreted Mann's words a little differently than other people.  I don't think he meant we have to make an incredible discovery or be Nobel Peace Prize material.  We're talking about humanity, and that's a much smaller thing than the world at large.  To me, a victory for humanity can be something as small as teaching a child a lifelong skill they will carry with them, or living in a way that inspires other people.  Most of us can't affect great change in the world; but if a few of us inspire a few more, that will eventually spread.  I think the real message behind Mann's words is to not give up until it's over, you'll never know if that last act will be the one that makes a difference.

We have so much potential as individuals.  I find it so difficult to watch as certain people, particularly people close to me, waste it.  Whether or not you have a job that "means anything," there are things that you can be doing that will infinitely change the quality of life for someone else.  There are so many volunteer opportunities out there, small amounts of money can go a long way in many organizations that do a lot of good, even just writing your opinions and opening up your thought process may get someone else to start thinking about  running for politics or finishing that science experiment they wrote about in college.  You don't know how your life will affect someone else, but I can tell you one thing: you won't do much if the only influence you have on someone is a brief encounter at McDonald's or as a voice on Counter Strike.  Be active, seek out opportunities to change the world, however small a change it might be.

08 May 2010

Day 42: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.  ISBN 9780061551895 (audiobook).

On the rare occasion there are books that remind me so much of places I've been.  Most books seem to be set in far fetched made up places or are described so generically that almost anyone can relate to them.  While I can understand why they do that, I like the vividness and detail that Gaiman uses in describing Bod's graveyard. 

It reminds me very much of Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York.  This may sound a little morbid, but I've always had a deep affection for cemeteries.  Not because dead people are buried there and I like hanging out in the middle of night performing black mass or anything crazy like that.  I look at cemeteries as a kind of under used park with what is usually very nice statuary, well manicured lawns, and a boatload of reading material/history right at your feet (literally).  Some of the cooler cemeteries even have guided tours.

Oakwood Cemetery was one of those.  I was on co-op at the time for the Syracuse Peace Council.  Part of my payment included a room with a member of the Peace Council.  I was staying with an old British couple, one of whom was particularly hard to deal with sometimes.  Their 33-year-old son was also at the house frequently enough and tended to be creepy and incredibly inappropriate towards me.  I did end up leaving that situation about a month before my co-op ended, but in the meantime I coped by spending as much time out of the house as possible.  Since the graveyard was nearby, that's where I spent most of my time (especially when it was nice out).

Gaiman's cemetery is much like mine was; full of hills, and headless statues, and crypts.  It was also full of stories, ones that I never really explored as much as I would have liked.  I did go on a Salt Baron tour hosted by the local historical society/friends of the graveyard.  I would have gone on more, but it got too cold and most of the other tours while I was there were cancelled.  Still, it was nice to find a place where I could be at peace, funny that the living should find rest in the graveyard.

*The picture is one of mine, taken in Fall 2004 at the Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York.  You can find additional pictures at my deviant art account.

07 May 2010

Day 41: Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.  ISBN: 9780439023498.

I had to rewrite this post, I tried writing it once when I finally got to the public library in Tennessee.  By that point I had been awake for over 12 hours (most of which were spent driving in the rain), and it showed.  So hopefully this post will be a little more, um, coherent and a lot less rambly.

During the first novel, Katniss pretends to be in love with Peeta, the other tribute from her district.  Later we discover that it's genuine on Peeta's part.  Katniss continues the charade until the Games are over because it gains her sponsors (people who would send needed supplies into the arena).  Because she and Peeta become national celebrities, they have to pretend to be in love again anytime there is a new Games.  I'd give you more details as to why, but that would give away more plot than I'm willing to; besides, this isn't a review.

Of course, Peeta and Katniss's relationship makes me wonder under what circumstances would I be willing to feign love or romantic/sexual interest in someone.  We'll go ahead and assume that in order to save my life I would be willing to play the part, but there are so many other circumstances where a relationship could put you into a better situation than you're currently in.

In my case, I think I would be willing to marry someone for financial comfort/luxury (this is assuming that I hadn't met my fiance yet, etc., etc.).  I am not going to lie to you or myself: if I could still maintain some level of freedom and individuality, I would be okay with marrying someone I was not in love with.  Now, I would have to find them at least reasonably interesting and be capable of maintaining a conversation with them, but as far as everything else goes it wouldn't really matter to me.  I would still have a life outside of the marriage, and giving up on the possibility of love isn't really a new idea for me.

Maybe this sounds cruel, and a little bit gold-diggerish, but it's actually a more traditional sense of marriage, except there's no male hand in it besides the one I theoretically choose.  Ultimately, marriage is a contract between two consenting adults to live their lives together and share their households.  If both parties profit, one receiving financial comfort and the other receiving physical affection, sexual satisfaction, and companionship, I don't actually see anything morally wrong with this.  Ideally, both parties would be aware of what the other party is about and gracefully step down if and when the opportunity for real love shows up, but in the end what real business is it if someone does marry for financial comfort?  There are so many reasons to be in a relationship, I can certainly think of worse reasons to marry someone.

Having said that, I do think there at least needs to be a level of compassion and comraderie.  I would never marry someone I hated; hell, I avoid spending even five minutes with people I hate.  Life is too short for that.  But there have been men, and even women, in my life whose company I've enjoyed enough that if they told me they wanted to take care of me for the rest of my life and all I had to do was marry them, I would be lying if I said I wouldn't at least think about it.

Whoops, I hit publish too early.  Feel free to ignore this one if it showed up on your readers twice.

06 May 2010

Day 40: Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.  ISBN: 9780439023498.

First of all, I would like to apologize for the recent slew of guest posts.  For those of you who read regularly/know me personally, you know I was in Tennessee for a job interview, and, well, I ended up staying an extra day.  You know that flood in Nashville?  Yeah, I got caught in that.  Luckily I was in no direct danger, but I was not actually able to get to the university's campus, so we ended up having my interview in the hotel lobby.  If I get the job, I will have a great story.  If I don't get the job, I am going to bitch about it forever.  Or at least until I get hired somewhere else.

So what does all of this have to do with Catching Fire?  I can't help but feel like I'm going through some of the same things that the tributes of the Hunger Games went through.  I'm obviously not being thrown in with a bunch of other candidates and fighting them to the death, but in some ways the situation feels just as dire.  The person who doesn't get the job is much poorer for it, despite the fact that they may be an excellent candidate who just had a really bad interview, or didn't write an outstanding cover letter.  You're facing people who are trying to find things they don't like about you so they can eliminate you from the pool of applicants.

And in some ways the kids in the Hunger Games have it a little easier, because they know who they're facing.  I have no idea who the other candidates are, where they come from, what their background is, or what their skills are.  I have a fairly beefy resume for someone so young, but I can't compete with someone who's been in a cataloging position for 10 years...except that it'd be cheaper to hire me.

The interview process itself reminds me a lot of the preliminary bullshit the tributes have to go through for the Hunger Games.  There's the total makeovers, where their bodies are stripped of hair and their nails are redone and hair cuts and new clothes, etc.  Here are just a few of the things I did for the interview that I don't normally do: wore a skirt; bought and wore panty hose; shaved my legs more than once a week (I wear pants, why would I shave my legs more than I have to?); painted my nails with clear nail polish; wore a full face of makeup (if I want to look nice at work I'll usually just do my eyes); and woke up before 7AM.  Not to mention there's that urge to act like the person the search committee is looking for rather than acting like myself.  For the most part I have tried to be myself through the entire interview process.  I am as honest with my answers as possible, even against the advice of the many, many online resources that tell you not to do certain things.

For instance, during my interview there was a portion where I had to review a catalog record for mistakes.  I said, "Wow, it's been so long and I'm not quite sure, but I think this is what's wrong."  The director of the library actually told me that he was glad I said I wasn't sure, because he'd rather have someone who would look it up rather than plowing through and making mistakes in the catalog (which can royally mess things up).  It's funny, because I don't think he was supposed to say things like that.  Normally in an interview you'll have no idea how the search committee feels about you one way or the other, but since we happened to have the interview off campus it seems that maybe they were a little more lax with me.  But there is always a question of how much of yourself do you present to the search committee.  Do you tell them what they want to hear and hope they don't know you're lying through your teeth?

As hard as it is, I think it's better to be honest and lose a potential job than get a job that you hate.  After interviewing with the university in Tennessee (I'll tell you the name if/when I get hired), I am more confident about the position than before.  I think this is a very good sign both for myself and the university if they hire me.  I think we'll both be happy together, and to be honest that means more to me than how much they're going to pay me.  I love that I got along so well with the search committee, I love what little I was able to see of the university before the bridge leading into that side of town flooded, and I especially love that they were willing to come meet me in a hotel lobby despite the fact that work had been cancelled for them and they very well could have asked me to come back later.

So now comes the part where I'm actually in the arena, so to speak.  Somewhere there's another candidate or two trying to "kill me" and get "my" job.  In some ways I will feel bad if I get the job, because for all I know the person I'm taking it from has three kids they have to feed, whereas I'll only have myself and my fiance.  But then if I don't get this job I'll starve.  Maybe not literally, but my life is poorer without work; in fact I'm almost loathe to call it much of a life at all, because it is missing that key element which will make it complete for me.
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