31 August 2010

Day 157: Speak

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. ISBN: 9780141310886.

In some ways I like reading these books because it gives me a chance to talk about high school.  High school was a pretty terrible experience for me, except for the one year I was in an academic magnet program.  And on the first page of Speak, Melinda gives us a list of lies they tell you in high school.  Number ten is "These will be the years you look back on fondly."

I have yet to meet anyone whose high school experience could be remembered fondly, unless that fondness is in knowing that it's over.  High school is almost like being ripped out of the womb all over again.  You have to face the world and all of its obligations and horrors, but very little of the freedoms.  Social relationships take such dramatic changes that I don't think anyone left high school without a great deal of dysfunction regarding social interactions.  It's probably why some people don't get over it, and most of us do seem to base our future relationships on the way we interacted with people in high school.

Luckily for me I had a second awakening in college and was able to escape my high school socialization.  Like Melinda, I was pretty much outcast, not fitting in to any group, and not really having any true friends.  I was not shunned, but neither was I particularly welcome to participate anywhere.  My experience on the whole was very lonely, I spent most of my lunch breaks doing homework.

It took me about two years to break out of my shell in college and learn to socialize in a more healthy manner.  I wasn't even particularly excited about college when I first entered, although I should have been.  High school was such a soul crushing experience that I half expected college to be the same.  And in some ways it was, which made it even more difficult for me to change my attitude.  But I did love my classes, and once I got involved in Dialogia and Fat Group I was able to connect with people in different ways.  I didn't leave Antioch with that group of good friends that everyone else seems to have left with, but there are people that I love and admire, who I think appreciate who I am as a person, and that's far more than I can say about the people I left behind in high school.

This is a pretty good review, if somewhat on the short and scanty side.  This has been discussed before by guest blogger Dan Walker.  Read his post here.

30 August 2010

Day 156: The Curse of Chalion

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold.  ISBN: 9780380979011.

One of the early problems that our hero Cazaril runs into is the disfigurement on his back.  While he was a slave he was beaten and left with scar tissue.  In his home country, this is the same punishment given to traitors and people who rape virgin women and young boys.  Why virgins are singled out...well, it's all about property value I suppose.  Anyway, as Cazaril makes his way home, he stops at a bath house and the young attendant sees the marks and asks if Cazaril is a traitor.  He replies in the negative, being weary from the road and not thinking of what the next conclusion would be.

So here we have a man, who happens to have served his country quite well and who abhors rape of any kind, and even though he ends up marrying a younger woman* is still very aware of all the issues of doing so and has made a point throughout the novel of not pressing his suit.  This man was refused service and almost had his reputation ruined in court because of somebody's assumption.  And if you think we're over that pettiness think again.

I've had male friends who wanted to go and have gone into the teaching profession.  They are very, very careful about how they present themselves to students, parents, and everyone else because they are terrified of being accused of improper relationships or sexual abuse.  These are men who have the disadvantage of genuinely caring about our youth and matching the physical and/or social stereotype of "the creepy guy living in his mom's basement."  They have weight problems or their facial hair grows especially fast (and patchy), their eyes are "too close together."  Whatever.  It's a problem.  Because while we're watching these guys who are phenomenal with kids, who can really connect with them in a useful and positive manner, the guys who are after our children are getting away with it because they appear normal.  Obviously, there are both types, but to me the ones who appear to be squeaky clean are the ones who are the most dangerous, because they're the ones people refuse to believe can do terrible things.

I don't think judging people on circumstantial "evidence," particularly when it's based on appearance, is helpful in protecting children.  The best thing we can do is be involved in our children's lives and have open and honest dialogue with them every day.  Only in this way can we be vigilant about potentially inappropriate behavior, and if something does happen to our child, hopefully they will have a good enough relationship to entrust that information to their parents.  And we need parenting classes to help parents have these conversations with their children and do the things that are necessary to foster these relationships. 

It needs to start young.  By the time they're old enough to have these conversations it's too late.  When they get to be pre-teens, not only will they have the idea that adults don't always have their best interests in mind, they'll be getting messages from the media that YOU, the parents, have no idea what you're talking about and there's no possible way you can identify with them.  While that certainly feels true to every pre-teen and teenager, it is possible to counteract that message and be involved.

And before you ask, I am not a parent, and I have no intentions of being a parent because I know that I cannot possibly be involved enough, even with a partner, to provide everything my child needs and accomplish what I want to in life.  But I'm only 8 years out of teenagerdom, and I remember it more vividly than some of my college years.  This is something we can't leave to instinct or stereotypes; we need good solid information, and the only source of that information is our kids.  If that door gets closed, it makes it so much harder for either party to open it back up.  I know because it was closed on me and by me for years and has only recently started to creak open.  And I have endured far more pain and heartache than I needed to because of it.

Finished yesterday and mostly agreed with the previous review on Goodreads.

*He was 36 and she was about 19.

29 August 2010

Day 155: The Curse of Chalion

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold.  ISBN: 9780380979011.

I found the pacing of this somewhat plodding in paces, but I rather like the unlikely hero in Cazaril.  He's not a bumbling idiot, but neither is he particularly smart.  He's not overly athletic, although he is capable.  He is very middle of the road with no real ambition, just a will to survive, and yet he leaps at the chance to do good and prove his loyalty to those who deserve it.

I think we like these underdogs because they are so rare (although probably less so in this economy).  There are few people who seem to be in dire straights through anyone's fault but their own and those who are have often been poisoned by it.  I know I've had difficulty remaining positive through my long unemployment, despite my middle class privileges and degrees.  People who have done nothing but work for a living must be even more devastated by job loss, with no savings or friends and family to fall back on (as you tend to be friends or related to people in the same economic class).  Cazaril's attitude makes it impossible not to root for him.

There really is something to be said for positive thinking.  I can get really down on myself and make myself miserable.  Danny knows this better than anyone, and so do a few other select individuals.  I don't know if my attitude has prevented me from getting a job, but it has certainly made this period a lot more difficult.  That's part of the reason I started this blog.  It is a major distraction from things that get me down.  More importantly, it has been a source of joy for me, to see new people following, to read comments (particularly ones from people actually reading and digesting what I'm writing), and to discuss it with family and friends.

And yes, I see myself as a bit of an underdog.  I haven't had it as rough as Cazaril, haven't been betrayed several times or forced to be a slave on an oar ship only to find myself tangled in court politics that require desperate measures that lead to...well spoilers, so I can't go on.  But I am struggling, and there are certainly much bigger dogs out there than me, dogs with more experience who don't care that all that's offered these days is gristle and bone, because they still have to eat.  So in the meantime, I will worry at the edges of this blog and hope something comes from it, even if it just puts me in a better position to take a reader's advisory position in a public library.

This post was awfully me-centric.  They slip in occasionally.  Help me out with some comments.

How do you feel about unlikely heroes/underdogs?  What's your favorite novel about them?

I'm not quite finished, but so far I agree with this review on Goodreads.

28 August 2010

Day 154: Kyle B. (guest blogger)

Company by Max Barry.  ISBN: 9781400079377.

Probably the biggest concept I dealt with in Company was the concept that not only are we saddled with these awful jobs that don’t give us respect as people or recognize that we are there to work and have meaningful existence elsewhere, we deserve them. 

In a way, we might deserve to get taken advantage of by work if we allow that to happen, but it was something that I had never really considered before. Even in my temp jobs, if people asked me to stay after and do some extra work, I’d push things around in my personal life to make that happen. If I was told to deliver things without compensation, I’d hop in my car. I mean, all this work has to get me somewhere in the company, right?

I had put a lot of my life up to that point into the idea of being a writer/journalist. Anyone who does it can tell you that it’s an incredibly absorbing profession – it’s really difficult to really be able to find that line between you as a whole and you as the worker sometimes. I feel like a lot of people have the same problem distinguishing themselves from their work, even if what they do is a dead-end temp job. It’s what we do to get by. It’s what we do to pay for the other parts of our lives that define us. It’s who we are for now and who we hate until 5 p.m., then we go home and remain upset because we’ve got so much of ourselves packed in from the day that we don’t know how to experience without exploding.

I know it didn’t really strike me until I read that book. It seems so simple, but I realized I am not a thing. I’m a person first, and I happen to do this thing, second. 

It doesn’t directly change the way I work. I want to do a good job for my boss, so I push hard and do things here and there, even if I don’t care for the job. But it does change how work meets the rest of my life. I try to put people first, rather than a job, in scheduling. If I already have plans, I am unavailable to my job. What’s more reasonable? Build relationships with people I’ll know my whole life, or clock in a little more face time in the job I won’t have in five years?

It also changed how I determined what type of work suits me best. I realized I can work with people well and can empathize with them, even if I am a little awkward, so I should stick where I can deal with different people and personalities. I want to be socially responsible, so I feel best about my work when I know it’s going to benefit others somehow. I like things to be different from day to day, but I really appreciate the chance to meditate while doing smaller tasks during the work day. 

I don’t know if I really would’ve considered these things as strongly if I hadn’t taken the time to realize who I am, and make what I do fit that, rather than the other way around.

Kyle B. is some guy you've never heard of, but he's okay with that. He's a writer and journalist (also both a lover and fighter) that graduated from Kent State University a few years ago, with some slight gainful employment since. He loves to read but pretty much puts a new book back on the shelf if a couple of the first words on the jacket are "murder mystery" or "romance." 

27 August 2010

Day 153: The Facebook Effect

The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick.  ISBN: 9781439102114.

In one big sloppy makeout fest with Facebook, Kirkpatrick insinuates that "some" think Facebook will make us more honest people.  The thinking behind it that people who live their lives more publicly will be forced to be more honest and to behave within moral norms.  Here's the exact quote:

"Some claim, for example, that because of Facebook young people today have a harder time cheating on their boyfriends or girlfriends." Page 210-211.

Uh, yeah, no.  If anything I think Facebook just makes duplicitous people more ingenious in their duplicity.  Let's continue on with the example of cheating, since that was so conveniently presented to us.  Rather than simply cheating on two different people, a person could either find someone who is close to the boyfriend/girlfriend (or who just doesn't care) and cheat with them, or just have one night stands.  The first is probably more evil because it involves two people who know that the cheater is in a supposedly involved relationship. It is doubly evil if it someone who is close to the cheated participates because there's twice the duplicity.  If the cheating partner is only using the friend, well, s/he's a total jerk.

I have a problem with the theory of living publicly creating more moral citizens.  I think most people who cheat or do other questionable things do it partly for the thrill, this probably applies more to serial cheaters.  And let's not forget that politicians and other famous people have done ridiculously inappropriate things and you can't get much more public than that.

Besides, do we really want something like Facebook policing our moral behavior?  Granted, religion and law are all based on what is considered "right" by the current beliefs held by the populace.  But we all know how the internet makes with the stupid, and the idea of Facebook law is a scary, scary thing.  Think mob rule, but the mob is a bunch of 17-year-olds.

This review at TechCrunch compares Kirkpatrick and Facebook to a Twilight romance.  Sounds about right to me.

26 August 2010

Day 152: The Facebook Effect

The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick.  ISBN: 9781439102114.

If you've read my review already on Goodreads, you know that I was deeply
disappointed that Kirkpatrick didn't tell us how Facebook has changed lives, and doesn't even theorize about future effects.  So I'm gonna do some spooky sci-fi shit and make some of my own posits all over this blog.  Big, messy posits.  Step carefully, readers.

I think we will come to rely less on physical mail in the future.  We already ignore most everything that comes our way thanks to online billing and bill pay, grandparents who know how to type and use The Google, and printers.  I strongly believe in the possibility of being assigned an email address at birth by the government.  It will be printed on your birth certificate right next to your name, date of birth, social security number, and the name of the doctor that slapped your ass and you'll get to tap into it around the same age you have to actually sign you social security card.  In this way the government will have direct access to communicate with you about specific laws, etc. that relate to you.  The email address will also be used as a means of identification for online job applications (if you use it, it grants access for background checks by the employer), college applications, signing up for the draft, etc.  It would also make it waaaaay easier to serve legal summons, divorce papers, and other legal information.

That particular theory requires everyone to have computers and to check their email everyday, but I'm pretty sure we will get to a point where that will happen.  The fact that you can barely apply to a job via mail or paper application now is a pretty good indicator of that.  Fingerprinting will be mandatory, and that's what we'll use to sign onto and confirm that we own those government email accounts.

Basically I think social networks and connecting all the factors of our life together are going to become more normal and more pervasive.  Part of me wonders if these are the first steps to creating a giant hive mind type of social order.  By knowing what everyone is currently doing/liking/reading/watching/etc. maybe Facebook has taken away some element of being human.  We don't get the chance to tell stories anymore, because everyone already knows that we dropped a the pot of boiling water on our foot this morning.  It's like we've made our own digital hive mind.  Obviously we still have control over what we act on, but I think just knowing that someone else has the same thoughts as you can lead to dangerous behavior.

And with the internet you are almost assured of someone having the same thought about just about anything (did someone say Rule 34?).  Knowing that gives you the notion of strength in numbers, which usually leads to stupid.  We no longer have to think about whether or not we should tolerate some other guy's religion or opinions about what constitutes good literature or sexual preference or funny hair cut.  We know that are enough assholes to toss him out of the Society Club, so if we don't like it, we get rid of it.  This is not a good thing for our society or our brains.

We need outsiders to enrich our culture and debate.  We need people who have different outlooks on life and opinions and ways of thinking.  For all we know all the large livestock will die off in the next 50 years, and then we'll be kicking ourselves for ostracizing that group of people who eat all those bugs over there in that weird foreign country.  I don't know about you, but I'm not willing to go hungry just because the only people who can teach me how to properly cook and eat bugs worship a three-headed demon named Jim and greet each other by yelling epithets about their mothers.  I am down with the respect and the disrespect...respectively.  But how many people realize they are doing stupid shit, just because they think they have the right numbers to back it up?

Kirkus agrees with my review.  Here's a brief excerpt:
"In the introduction, Kirkpatrick promises to explore these questions [about how FB will and has shaped our societies, governance, and identities], but readers hungry for a meaty cultural critique may feel cheated by what is essentially a lengthy corporate biography."
-Kirkus Reviews, vol. 78, no. 11, Page 507.

25 August 2010

Day 151: The Facebook Effect

The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick.  ISBN: 9781439102114.

I can't read about Facebook without thinking about how I use it, and similar sites.  Nor could I read about it without wanting to check on what my friends were doing, mostly because the writing made me want to bang my head against the wall, due to awkward sentences, overt butt kissing/hero worship, and updates on Zuckerberg's never-changing wardrobe.

But yes, I have a Facebook account.  I've had one since about August 2006.  I opened it around the time I was working on my senior project at Antioch College.  I had previously been on Friendster but spent less and less time because there just weren't enough people to make it useful to me.  But Antioch tends to throw people into the wind, and I couldn't see myself not continuing to connect and be involved in the lives of these amazing individuals.

So between running Antioch's philosophy club, working on my senior project, working in the library and as a nude art model, and taking other classes I was spending roughly 2 hours a day on Facebook trying to friend as many people as I could think of whom I didn't want to lose contact with.  Since Antioch was such a small school (about 200 students by the time I graduated in December 2006), I may not have known everyone there personally, but I knew everyone by reputation, name, and/or face.  This means most of my friends are Antioch alumni, and they are all doing wonderful and amazing things with their lives.

I also use Facebook now to connect with my family members.  I am friends with my mother on Facebook, which happened after I received my undergraduate degree so she couldn't very well withdraw funds for that picture of me with a beer.  I am careful about the pictures I post of myself; I do have my profile locked down to friends-only, and I do not friend just anyone on Facebook (but that's a different post).

I primarily use Facebook as a means of keeping up on people.  I like knowing when someone finds a job (even though a part of me rages that I don't have one yet and a bit of self-hate goes on).  I like seeing pictures of people as they get married or have babies or nephews, etc.  I'm able to download family photos for my own keeping if my cousin posts a picture of my grandpa or my brother's baby momma posts a picture of the Most Awesome Nephew in the World.  These are photos that were previously kept and treasured by the primary family; now people are more geared towards sharing them because they have a way of keeping them relatively private.

I occasionally use applications.  I've gone through a number of games, but I usually keep them for a month before removing them.  I just don't have the desire to spend much time on Facebook besides checking my Newsfeed, replying to comments, and occasionally making a move in Scrabble (which is the only application I have kept since the beginning).  I do use Facebook for social networking beyond people I actually know.  I have on occasion friended friends of friends (uh...wow) when I wanted to expand my network for business purposes or if we were commenting back and forth on a friend's wall.

Mostly my Facebook friends see what you see right now.  This being updates about my blog posts, Twitter feeds, and book reviews.  Occasionally I also post about job interviews or trips to visit my fiance.  For the most part I'm content to just watch what everyone else is doing for now.  I find comfort knowing that the people in my life are generally doing well.

My review can be found on Goodreads.com.

24 August 2010

Day 150: Kyle B. (guest blogger)

Company by Max Barry.  ISBN: 9781400079377.

When I first read Company, I was in the middle of doing time in a dead-end temp job. Barry’s caricatures and social commentary hit me in a way I couldn’t understand at the time.  Even though the book is mostly ridiculous (and amazing) satire, I took some things away from it that changed the way I look at almost every job I’ve had since.

Maybe emulating or predicting The Office, a lot of Company’s early plot comes from the bickering and mixing of people in the machine of a company. I’ve never been one to get involved in office politics, especially where people get slighted about rank and experience. This isn’t to say that I don’t invest myself in the people I work with; I just don’t see the point of playing games. We have to live and work together, and like it or not, I am going to probably see you the next day and we will have to do this again. These are people I don’t necessarily choose to associate with, but it’s where I am and what I’m doing for right now. And I tend to believe (or at least, I try to remind myself even when it’s tough) that nearly everyone has something they’ve got to offer. Almost everyone has something they can teach me, one way or another.

So I avoid a lot of confrontation. It costs me in some ways, but I feel like I can connect more honestly with my coworkers when I’m open with them and we gain more as a group. We don’t even have to agree most of the time; I’ve worked with people whose personalities completely conflicted with mine and thrived as long as communication was open and honest. I’ve actually met some weirdly interesting people and made connections I never would have expected just by taking the time to discuss something, anything.

I’ve done my fair share of boring office work and will probably have tons more to do before I’m finished. I might not have a huge paycheck and I’m just doing a 9 to 5 much of the time, but I’m almost always going to come away a different (and possibly more complete) person.

Kyle B. is some guy you've never heard of, but he's okay with that. He's a writer and journalist (also both a lover and fighter) that graduated from Kent State University a few years ago, with some slight gainful employment since. He loves to read but pretty much puts a new book back on the shelf if a couple of the first words on the jacket are "murder mystery" or "romance." 

*Post was originally written July 24, 2010 so the regular author could get caught up on her own reading and writing.

23 August 2010

Day 149: The Ask

The Ask by Sam Lipsyte.  ISBN: 9780374298913.

There weren't a whole lot of redeeming qualities in this book for me.  It just wasn't my thing.  It reminded me too much of screaming at Catcher in the Rye when I was forced to read it in high school.  I was probably the only one out of 30 students who didn't think Holden Caulfield was just the greatest thing on two imaginary legs.  But we're not talking about Salinger, his ego gets enough feeding, dead or no.

One of the things I did like about the book was the Tourettes-like cursing of randomly cobbled together images.  I'll give some examples, because they really are the highlight of the book. 

"I don't give a slutty snow monkey's prolapsed uterus for your office politics." Page 25.
"wrinkled old spider cunt" (this one was about our "hero's" mom by the way, classy.)  Page 77.
"He's the cream of the crop, and best left alone to gather his own intel, set his own traps, and take down the enemy like a freaking phantom ninja born straight out of Satan's blazing quim." Page 227. 

I gotta say, those are some pretty fantastic highlights there.  Too bad the rest of the book is filled with pretentious and supposedly clever dialogue.  But there is such a thing as too much clever dialogue, so it ended up not being darkly humorous or insightful.  I did laugh at these, because the phraseology is frankly amazing.

I have my own occasional moments of Tourettes-cursing.  It usually happens when I'm driving.  Possibly the most memorable one I've come up with is Ass Habit.  I like it because it can imply several things: that you have an ass habit, that you are someone else's ass habit (and are therefore frequently buggered), that you are frequently an ass and it has therefore become a habit, and my fiance's favorite: that you wear a habit on your ass.  Apparently my language centers and my driving centers are very close together, but not close enough to function coherently under stress.  

I believe Ass Habit occurred around this time of year when all of the college students returned to Kent State.  These kids either cannot drive, or simply ignore any kind of good or polite driving behavior in favor of being a total menace to everyone else on the road.  It's hard to tell.  I do remember Danny being in the car with me for the inception of Ass Habit, and while he gets really nervous at my road ragin' and often foul mouthed derision of other drivers, I'm pretty sure I remember him laughing for a good 10 minutes straight.

Anyone else have some creative cursing I can add to my vocabulary?  I particularly like the ones that don't actually contain curse words, but are actually dirtier than the seven banned words. 

My review can be found on Goodreads.

PS: I also post links to my reviews/ratings/other stuff on Twitter.

22 August 2010

Day 148: The Lost World

The Lost World by Michael Crichton.  ISBN: 9780788737251 (audiobook).

There was a description of one of the characters that was ever so familiar to me.  Kelly (one of the kids) was describing her thoughts about getting R. B. (another kid) to do something, particularly something impulsive.  The gist of it was 'Any change in plans always bothered him, he would grumble and argue if pushed, he had to make up his own mind.'

Gee, who does that sound like?  Why, it sounds like my dear fiance, Dan Walker, of course.

That man is so hard-headed and stubborn about his schedule and changing it that it's remarkable I get him out of the house at all.  Granted, because I am possibly even more hard-headed and stubborn I have forced him out of this on more than one occasion.  I also think it's hilarious to jerk his chain, and this is one major way of doing it.

Danny has a somewhat mild case of Asperger's.  He's very high functioning, he's even what you might call charming in polite company.  He does have serious problems identifying proper inflections in voice; this means my caustic wit and sarcasm is often lost on him so I have frequent intellectual affairs on him with Kyle B and pretty much anyone else who thinks my mind is a sexy, sexy beast.  What can I say, I have needs, one of them being the general acceptance and appraisal of my awesomeness.

Let's just say even though I love Danny, I will never be able to understand him.  I especially won't be able to understand his brother who has the crippling version of Asperger's (his empathy unit is beyond broken).  Danny is probably someone who would end up forming a new small splinter group during prehistoric times, particularly when times were relatively flush and there was little to lose and a lot to gain by breaking off from a large tribe.  He's one of the people who would either leave or lead, because he does have that bit of charisma, but he also thinks so differently that he would likely see advantages and learn new skills before someone else.

For instance, he can pick up languages like crazy.  This is something I cannot do, no matter how hard I try.  I can learn to read new languages somewhat easily because my visual recognition is pretty good and I have a good understanding of root words (I was a Phonics learner, it's true), but Danny can speak and read, and he can often figure out languages with little to no instruction.  It makes me think that these learning "disabilities" were necessary in early times, and have only become obsolete as we become more and more globalized.  Even Danny's brother might have had a place in a less globalized world, granted it probably would have been somewhere along the lines of provoking/slaughtering enemy tribes, but there you go.

What will we do with all these people whose brains are genetically wired differently from ours?  It seems like a waste to ignore their unique talents just because their social skills tend to be less than stellar. 

The best review I've seen on this is from the now defunct blog, Prehistoric Pulp.

21 August 2010

Day 147: The Lost World

The Lost World by Michael Crichton.  ISBN: 9780788737251 (audiobook).

I've gotta say I love Michael Crichton.  Not so much for the pseudo science, although that's part of it, and I definitely like the imagination used in bringing monsters to life and the semi-plausible ways in which to do it.  But that's only part of it.  I think I really like his writing because he raises some excellent moral quandaries about the place of science in terms of our humanity and what certain scientific abilities mean for us.

One of the quandaries presented in The Lost World is the debatable debate on whether or not extinct animals that have been resurrected would actually count as animals.  The idea being that they are technically constructs, created outside of their original time and environment: they no longer have any context in our world.  Crichton poses that this would open up genetically revived species to be used in absolutely horrific manners for product testing and likely many other things I can't even think up because I'm not scientist or a sadist.

While I think this line of reasoning probably wouldn't be followed through, I can definitely imagine pharmaceutical companies, etc. raising from the dead our extinct Cro-magnon relatives and touting the advances to be made, if only we can ignore the fact that these beings might feel pain.  Even if they aren't used for medical exploitation, they would be used for exploitation nonetheless if they were raised from the dead.  How many of us wouldn't want to go to a Jurassic Park to see the giant lizards walk?  To know what we were not meant to know and to see the awesomeness of animals we can only imagine.

But then, wouldn't that take away some of the awesomeness of these creatures?  I think there is so little left in our world that is truly amazing and awe-inspiring.  Let's let the dead rest, and keep our wonderment of the unknown.  It's too hard to respect and fear and be amazed by something you're willing to put in a cage or inject with cancer cells.

The best review I've seen on this is from the now defunct blog, Prehistoric Pulp.

20 August 2010

Day 146: The Lost World

The Lost World by Michael Crichton.  ISBN: 9780788737251 (audiobook).

This was another audiobook I planned to listen to on the way to/from ALA.  I feel like you guys got cheated out of a really great story in the war between me and The CD Player, so I'm going to treat you to a little story from my childhood.  Technically this is a story about the movie, but since that was my first exposure to the work, let's call it "fair" and I'll make two other posts about the book to make up for it.  

The movie came out during my parents' divorce in 1997.  At that point we were on Guam, a strangely exotic place to be going through a rather hideous stage in one's life.  I was at my fourth school, having just that year transferred from the off-base F.B. Leon Guerrero Middle School* to the newly developed on-base Department of Defense school.  Which makes it sound like we were all being trained to be secret agents, but it was much less cool than that.

For whatever reason, I did not particularly like this school, mostly because it was in a cinder block building that was one part strip mall and one part prison.  At the time I was being 12/13 and dealing with my parents' divorce the best way I knew how and with little to no guidance from anyone else because I was stuck in a brand new school without any friends at a time when I probably needed them most.  What does this have to do with a movie about dinosaurs, you ask?  Shut up and listen, whippersnapper, this is my story!  I'm gettin' crotchety in my old age.

During recess one day I was sitting in the corner in the sunlight, reading, and some prepubescent boys wanted to play Wall Ball.  Wall Ball was the phenomenon on Guam where you would throw a blue racquetball ball against a wall and people would try to catch and hurl it back at the wall, ad nauseam.  For some reason they chose to do this against the wall where I was sitting rather than one of the many other walls they could have chosen in the courtyard.  When I asked them to stop, they didn't.  I continued reading and they started aiming the ball at me.  It wasn't so much that the ball would hurt if it hit me (although it did): it was the principle of the matter.  The fact that the teachers were blatantly ignoring this behavior pissed me off even more.  When the ball finally did hit me, I chased down a couple of the kids, cuffed the ones that were slower than me (being a reader I was not prone to speed), and then proceeded to shriek about how they were assholes before walking off campus towards home.

My house was probably about a mile away from the school.  I had probably gone maybe a quarter of a mile, seething all the way despite the beautiful, calming view of the Pacific Ocean on my left, when my mother pulled up in her car and told me to get in.  I didn't want to at first, I just wanted to be angry, but I didn't have anywhere to go but home, and then she said something I never thought my mother would say to me: "Get in the car, we'll go to the movies."

My mother may not have be the best parent in the world, and she's probably made more than her fair share of mistakes in raising me, but if I had to choose moments for a list of Top Ten Things My Mom Did Awesome, that would be number one.  It was pretty much just what I needed at that moment, to sit in the dark and be distracted by the amazingness of CGI dinosaurs (which were still pretty new back then) and Jeff Goldblum's mediocre acting.  I definitely didn't need a huge judgment or a lecture from someone who had been ignoring me for the last six months or so (with good reason, since my dad was being a big baby and an even bigger asshole).  

So even though I can't tell you what the movie was like in comparison to the book, it will always hold a fond place in my heart.  Oh, and during the first one, I totally spilled Diet Coke all over myself when the T-Rex foot dropped from nowhere.  My dad mocked me terribly, so in that way the second movie was much better than the first.

Do you have any memorable movie-book related experience, readers?

*Which hilariously has the same website as it did when I attended it.  If you want a bit of a 90's flashback and a peek at my old days, clicky. 
**As a side note, Happy 120th birthday to H.P. Lovecraft.

The best review I've seen on this is from the now defunct blog, Prehistoric Pulp.

19 August 2010

Day 145: The Bloodlight Chronicles

The Bloodlight Chronicles: Reconciliation by Steve Stanton.  ISBN: 9781550229547 (publishes Sept 1, 2010).

Bloodlight Chronicles contains an awful lot of sci-fi with not a lot of focus on any one aspect.  But Stanton posed an excellent question in the form of Niko, an illegal clone.  The basis of the question was whether or not clones would be allowed into heaven (I have to paraphrase for legal reasons and all).

I like this question.  Technically a clone is not a god-made being.  There is no way for clones to exist except as the very rare identical/paternal twins.  But this is more of an instantaneous cloning and has the ability to produce minor variations in genetic material during the process, and the fact that it happens so rarely in nature almost feels like god reaching down to say, "Hah! Look what I can do."  That god guy, he's kind of a show-off.  I like to imagine him as a combination of Stephen Colbert and Bill Murray in a metaphysical body resembling Billy Gibbons.  That's a hell of a lot of ego in one being, omnipotent or no.

In any case, one could argue that god made us in his image, and if god can create intelligent life with a soul, theoretically so can we.  This argument doesn't hold up in my opinion.  The whole thing that makes god god is the ability to do things we can't...or at least that we shouldn't.  I can't say that I'm totally opposed to the idea of cloning humans.  If, for instance, a major disease decimated our population, cloning might be a good way to provide additional genetic material.  If we somehow lose the ability to reproduce normally as a species, cloning may be the only way to continue the species.

But this doesn't answer the question of whether or not they have souls, and if those souls would be granted access to heaven.  I guess it depends on how angry and vengeful your god is.  I like to think he's not such a bad guy and grants access to heaven on a case by case basis with brownie points for intent and how you treat your fellow schmucks, regardless of religion, etc.  So I like to think that clones would be allowed access to heaven; after all, they didn't choose to have the same genetic material as someone else, but they can choose how to live their lives.

My review can be found on Goodreads.

18 August 2010

Day 144: The Bloodlight Chronicles

The Bloodlight Chronicles: Reconciliation by Steve Stanton.  ISBN: 9781550229547 (publishes Sept 1, 2010).

I'm trying something new: I'm going to either link to my review, or a review I think is good at the end of the blog post so the whiners will stop whining about me not doing reviews.  So there!  Whiners.

For those of you who have read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, you'll be familiar with the concept of what I like to call the InterFace (i.e. the Internet you interface with).  I really hate that idea.  Oh sure, it looks cool, particularly the Holodeck version from Star Trek, but think of how much time certain people would waste with non face-to-face interactions.  We already spend so much time hiding behind cell phones and computer screens, I can't imagine what it would be like to have access to "real" life experiences.

But then literature doesn't really give us the good aspects that I'm sure exist in the InterFace.  For instance, I bet it would make certain science experiments a lot easier and safer.  And there's something to be said about watching a historical moment in 3D.  But look at all the non-research related/productive things the internet is currently used for.  I waste so much time with media in my life that it's amazing I can keep up with this blog at all.  In fact, I've been in a bit of a crunch lately because I have a temp job right now that completely wipes me out emotionally.  I don't want to talk about it, because it just makes me angry and sad and confused and a bunch of other things I don't want to deal with, at least not right now and not in this forum.

It's kind of ironic that the thing that I use to produce my blog is also the thing that distracts me from it.  I sometimes wonder what else it distracts me from.  Maybe I would have written that great novel that I'm sure is floating around in my head somewhere, but then where would I do my research?  This is probably the greatest catch-22 of our time, we have this amazing powerful tool...that is also a huge stumbling block for the development of our species.  I can just imagine our species forgetting to physically breed if we ever create an InterFace.  But then, maybe that's for the best too.

My review can be found on Goodreads.

17 August 2010

Day 143: Adaptations

"Jerry and Molly and Sam" by Raymond Carver in Adaptations: From Short Story to Big Screen.*
ISBN: 97814000053148.

So, I kind of debated about how I was going to present this.  Gaiman's work was easy because it was all one author.  This is honestly the best way I could come up with; hopefully it's clear enough.

This particular short story is about a man whose life is starting to fall apart around him.  He's on the verge of losing his job (through no fault of his own), his wife (very much from his fault), and he seems to have no interest in his kids whatsoever.  And then there's this damned dog named Suzy that he hates and wants to get rid of.

Man, can I relate to wanting to get rid of a dog named Suzy (or Suzie in my case, but let's not quibble).  My grandpa had a dog named Suzie, thanks to my brother who had a friend who gave it to him as a Christmas present.  Grandpa told my brother to find a new home for Suzie, but after two months it was too late.  Grandpa not only ended up getting attached to the damned dog, but ended up taking care of her as well.

I didn't really mind that grandpa had a pet.  Yes, he was in his mid 90's when the dog came along, but that man was robust.  I would not have been surprised if he had made it to 100 (as it was he was about 2 years shy).  Unfortunately, Suzie was just a little too hyper for Grandpa, especially considering her massive size at 80 pounds (Grandpa probably weighed slightly more at somewhere around 5'3").  It just seemed like it was a little too much work for a man that old.  But he loved her and I don't think any of us who have dared to try to take her away from Grandpa.  I do wish Suzie had been more the size of a Yorkshire Terrier and about as hyper as a Beagle, but then I think Grandpa would have had less incentive to walk that mile and a half a day which was his habit up until the day he died.

Pets are special, even more so when you have one that everyone else seems to hate.  It's nice to have an animal that you alone love.  It's the one time where possessive love is seen as a positive and healthy thing.  I think that love was very necessary for Grandpa, I just wish it hadn't been that damned dog.

*Film adaptation is Short Cuts (1993).
**Photo is Grandpa's last Christmas in 2008.  Sans Dog.  Sadly I was not there and I lifted this from a cousin's Facebook album.
***Post originally written July 18, 2010 and saved in case of impending Zombocalypse.

16 August 2010

Day 142: Lavinia

Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin.  ISBN: 9780151014248.

This book called something to my attention that I think we need to reintroduce into our lives: animal sacrifice. We already raise animals specifically for sacrificial service on our plates and our bodies, but they no longer receive the respect or the reverence they deserve during slaughter.

It used to be that the only times we ate meat was when it was available - during slaughter season when all of the animals were, uh, “ripe” at once. We butchered them and then we had fresh meat and we cured or treated or sold whatever we knew we wouldn’t be able to consume before it went bad.

Before that, when most of us were mere peasants who couldn’t afford to own meat animals, we might have been able to eat meat whenever some squirrels stupidly tripped our traps, but you can pretty much forget big game hunting. Who has time for that when you’re busy plowing fields and trying to prevent your daughters from being raped by your “betters?” Other than that you might get some during feasts if it was a particularly good year for your village. Honestly it was a miracle that peasants were able to maintain enough nutrition to breed at all.

But back to the sacrificing of animals.  I like it because it respects that individual animal.  It’s like saying, “Here god, we give this back to you because we know and respect its value.”  Why not show that animal a brief moment of respect before quartering it into “good” and “bad” meat parts? Sure, maybe it would make our steak dinners more expensive or it would be harder to find bacon in the grocery store, but we already eat far more meat than what is absolutely necessary for our dietary needs (I’m mostly looking at you Americans who eat it at every single meal).

I honestly don’t find anything reprehensible about animal sacrifice for religious purposes. What I find is wastefulness. I don’t condone killing an animal only to let it rot, or killing an animal only to take one part of it for a trophy. If we’re going to kill and eat these animals anyway, why not provide them with a show of respect for the life we take? If we can buy our Chihuahuas designer carrying bags and outfits to match ours, or our cats custom engraved grave stones so they can be buried next to us, I think we can afford to have a priest/reverend/rabbi/voodoo doctor/whoever say a few words over our dinner before it gets its head dragged through a pool of electrified water.

15 August 2010

Day 141: Lavinia

Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin.  ISBN: 9780151014248.

Males in love are ridiculous…They can’t help it.” Page 57.

I think this is probably my favorite quote, ever. Strangely it was about a deer and they compared it to a dog chasing a bitch (LeGuin’s words, not mine). Still, I think it applies across most species. It’s one thing all men can be comforted in knowing: ya’ll look stupid in love. I mean, really, really dumb. It’s hilarious, and endearing, and pretty much the only reason women don’t kill you outright when you get to be a little too clingy.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of men fall in love with me, and oh my god you can tell.  Even the most seemingly respectable man will do the strangest, most irrational things to please you.  And folks, I am all too aware of my looks. I’m not super model material, not anywhere close, and I have had men literally fall over themselves when they are around me because something in their brain goes, “Durrrrrr, I wanna be with that one!”

Oh sure, women do this too, on a smaller scale. We tend to fawn over the men in our lives and gush about crushes, but we do it with other women (or select males).  And most of this occurs fairly early in our lives, so that later girl talks tend to turn more towards pointing out all of your defects.  This is certainly how it’s worked in my life anyway and I know I’m not exactly the average female, but I don’t think it’s far off the mark either.

For me, it was easier to be stupid with some of my potential partner choices because it seemed like I would be young for a very long time and would have plenty of chances to get another one if it didn’t work out. Unfortunately it was also a lot easier to overlook major character flaws, so I ended up with some men who cared nothing for me, and, looking back on it, for whom I cared very little as well.

Having gained some experience with people I did want to be with, I can now recognize the signs of someone who wants to be with me. It starts with about a 20 point drop in IQ level whenever I’m around. This of course necessitates finding an already intelligent man, and having his intelligence drop to slightly above average. I’m okay with this. It actually produces some fairly hilarious conversation/moments, and sometimes the brain can be reverted back to its normal state during times of stress or social anxiety. In other words, if I throw my fiancĂ© into a crowd of academics his brain usually puts on its monocle and black tie and behaves itself at least well enough to interact with other cerebellums. And before I incriminate him any further, I’m going to sign off.

With much love to my Squishy Hubbaboo (and my respect and admiration to any other ridiculous males in love),

Amy L. Campbell.

14 August 2010

Day 140: Lavinia

Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin.  ISBN: 9780151014248.

There's a theme running through this book that I find somewhat hard to swallow.  Lavinia finds comfort in releasing her will to her destiny and feels that she has more control over her life by doing so.  I guess I might consider that an option too, if I had some old dead poet telling me what was supposed to happen next.  But I don't; and even if I did, I might question whether or not someone whose goal in life was to create something that people would be reading well into the future (in other words, it had to be "entertaining" enough to keep the bloodthirsty masses coming back for gore... get it?).

I mean, if she was honestly willing to fulfill her destiny, she should have just married whoever her parents picked for her.  But instead, she takes advice from "God," who in this case happens to be the poet who created, or at the very least, re-imagined her.  On the one hand, I kind of get that, but on the other I am very disappointed that this is what LeGuin is doing with whatever time she has left to write (she's 81, if you're curious).  I was just hoping for more willfulness on Lavinia's part.  There was a little bit, but it was all within the confines of the male structure and we very rarely see her even thinking outside of the box she doesn't even seem to know she's in.

Maybe that's really how women thought in those days, but it does not make for a particularly insightful or interesting re-imagining of the Aeneid.  I'm also retelling, etc., but there needs to be something that's added to the narrative, and Lavinia just fell flat on her 2-D face.  About the only thing she got were far more lines than Virgil ever gave her, but it wasn't necessarily anything I much cared to listen to.

*This was actually transcribed via phone by Dan Walker from Amy Campbell.  Shortly after finishing the transcription the internet was magically reconnected.  Ffffffff.

13 August 2010

Day 139: White Oleander

White Oleander by Janet Fitch.  ISBN: 9780788739705 (audiobook).

Sometimes I feel like I get what it's like to be an orphan, to not know where you'll be in the next month or year, to not know who your friends will be or who you can trust.  I get that.  I know what it's like to live with people you aren't sure have your best interest in mind.

I'm not trying to negate the hardships faced by people in foster care, but sometimes I feel like I went through it, being jerked around so much by the military.  I haven't known what it's like to have a stable home, even though I could rely on my mother to always be part of the family.  On the other hand, each move made it seem like we changed into other people.  It was almost necessary that we became different people in order to adjust to our surroundings.  It was difficult to find ways to fit in and it often necessitated what seemed like radical changes in behavior, dress, and mannerisms.  Like chameleon pod people, we seemed to replace our selves with new selves depending on where we were stationed.

Some of this was also the changing dynamic in on our family as my parents drifted apart and my brother and I hit puberty.  And then again when my parents went through separation and divorce, and yet again when my brother got kicked out of my mom's house.  Even when we were stationary our home was in constant change and chaos.

I'm ready, I'm ready to be quiet for a moment, to be still and to stop changing quite so much.  I know I have plenty of life changes ahead of me and some additional chaos, I need to get that steady job which will require an upheaval and probably a move.  I also plan to get married which will involve some more chameleon action as we adjust to living with each other and creating a working partnership where we don't kill each other.   But after that, it'll ease into stability and some form of normality.  I won't have to worry about having my physical or emotional life upturned again and again, right?  Someone tell me that it eventually all slows down and I get to rely on always being in the same place or job or state, at least.  I feel like I've had more than my share of upheaval, and all I want to do is breathe.

12 August 2010

Day 138: White Oleander

White Oleander by Janet Fitch.  ISBN: 9780788739705 (audiobook).

If you're thinking to yourselves, "hey, this has been done already on this blog."  You are correct.  However, it was done by the fabulous and infamous Dayna Ingram.  I thought maybe you would like to hear my thoughts on it.

First of all, let me say I had some issues with this.  No, no, not the content, that was fine.  See, I started listening to this way back in June.  I had planned to listen to it during the eight hour drive to ALA.  Sadly, at exactly halfway through my trip my CD player decided to eat the disc and not give it back.  This was of course after I had stopped for lunch and called my mother, only to have her ask if I had audiobooks to listen to.  Well, I did before you jinxed it, thanks mom.  In any case, I was eventually able to get the disc out and my CD player is working fine now, and I finally finished this monster (I don't do a lot of driving these days since no job=no reason to leave the house).

I liked the fact that Astrid found a book that became her handbook.  Hers was the "Art of Survival" and she used it for comfort and as a basic manual for her life.  I think humans pretty much require some kind of guide in their lives, and there's no reason why it can't be a book -- fiction, non-fiction, or religious text.  Religion is great, but I don't think it's for everyone and there needs to be a way for the rest of us to find solace and support.

I know I found a lot of comfort in Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower and it likely contained a lot of the same principles that Astrid's Art of Survival.  In fact, Parable is probably what pushed me towards being a librarian.  It contained the idea that no knowledge or skill is useless, just that you haven't yet found a way to use it.  I've kept this in mind through all of the jobs and experiences I've had, and have found a great deal of comfort that they will all aid me in leading a rich and fulfilling life.

11 August 2010

Day 137: a general update

For those of you who are kind of newish or haven't physically visited my blog in awhile, there's some more information about the project available here.  For those of you who are looking for book reviews, they are not a typical feature of my blog.  There are review elements in my post and I do occasionally review books I read (I always review ARCs).  If you're interested in following my reviews you can do so via my RSS on Goodreads or you can just friend me there.  I do also have a separate page for my book reviews here on my blog, but I don't update that automatically and there's no guarantee on how frequently I will update it. 

I also have some information on the contact page, I prefer contact through e-mail, but I've also set up a Meebo window if you want to leave a quick message.  I tend to log on daily, but remember to give me your contact information if you want to get back to me on anything.  You do not have to download a program to contact me via Meebo widget.

In other news, I celebrated my two year anniversary with Dan Walker on the 8th and recently returned from a trip to visit him.  He gave me a signed copy of Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower.  It happens to be a first edition, although sadly a second printing.  However, since I love this book beyond belief and there is no way I'm going to be able to obtain Butler's signature any other way, this is the best present he could have ever given me.  I'm not really much of a book collector, but having the first printing would have been extra cool.

Some of you may be saying, hey, you can't write a general update yet, you haven't read all of the books on your previous list.  Well, I haven't because they haven't all come in from the library yet.  Most of this is because my library decided to go on furlough from August 1-8 and I had trouble getting my grubby, broke hands on what I was supposed to read.  So yes, The Ask and My Empire of Dirt are going back on the list for this update.  Unfortunately I'm unsure about how soon the second one will be available because there are only 2 circulating copies and I'm still number 6 on the waiting list.  Drat.  Otherwise, here's what I have planned.

Speak by Laurie Anderson.
This was actually on my to-read list before Dan Walker wrote a post on it, but his high praise resulted in me needing to read it.  It's highly praised enough that I'm at least hoping to enjoy it.

Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human by Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan.
This is another Dan Walker recommendation.  If you want to send one my way, by all means e-mail me at acampb8@kent.edu.  I actually recommended that he try to get his hands on this via First Reads giveaways on Goodreads.com.  He won and devoured the book in a matter of three or four days (between lavishing attention on me).  I too will soon be digesting this saliva covered delicacy, much like monkey brains or head cheese.

The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick.
Like pretty much everyone else in the entire world (except for China), I have a Facebook account.  I know how it's affected my life, but I was interested about what it meant for my generation and future generations to all be pulled into one giant social networking site (in a way that Friendster and other sites have not).  I have my own suspicions about it and I'm curious as to whether or not they will be confirmed.

Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong.
I grabbed this before my library closed for furlough.  Little did I realize this was the 10th novel in a series.  No way will I be reading all 9 previous novels.  It also seems like it's one of those series that I don't actually have to read previous books for.  I need a little trashy paranormal romance, since it is adult I am expecting it to not be on the level of Evermore.  I will go all ranty on its ass if it is.

Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin.
I enjoyed Left Hand of Darkness so much that I decided to see what her current work is like.  I'm sure her writing style has changed over the years, and I've always loved the idea of writing minor characters into major characters, particularly in the case of ancient literature where the women usually get no back story.  I'm not familiar with the Aeneid on which this is based, so I may be doing some background reading on...Wikipedia of course.

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold.
This was recommended to me by fellow Antioch Alumna and non-book blogger, Traveler@larger.  I'd been considering Bujold previously, but didn't want to get sucked into another author that mostly writes series.  But I can't resist a recommendation so I went ahead and slapped this on my reading list.

10 August 2010

Day 136: Noah's Compass

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler.  ISBN: 9780307272409.

This book has an awful lot to do about memory and memory loss.  Thankfully it's not the sole focus or the gimmick of the book, but rather a vehicle for exploring themes and issues that arise in transitioning from working life into retirement.  One scene caught my eye as being a good discussion starter in book group.  It entails Liam's sister Julia recounting memories with very specific details.  Liam is extremely jealous of Julia's capability be able to remember things he didn't even notice to begin with.

I don't think people actually have memories like that.  I do believe that there are people who have more detail oriented memories, who are more likely to remember small things about random events.  However, I also think their minds may be better at filling in gaps when they go to recall memories.  I get the feeling these are the people more likely to be visual learners and/or the creative types.  Rather than having to repeat tasks or hear instructions about what they're supposed to do next, they can see it once and their minds visualize the process in such a way that if they don't remember it exactly it is close enough they can repeat it.

I have to admit my own mind isn't overly detail oriented.  I'm very much a kinesthetic learner (learn by doing).  I can do some visual learning, whereas listening to instructions is nearly always disastrous for me.  There are of course times when I'm able to remember small details.  I can tell you what I was wearing the night my fiance proposed to me, for instance.  Or I could tell you what my first cat's fur smelled like when he came in from outside in the late evening.  But I don't remember every single detail of every memory.  I find it hard to believe that anyone out there could (although there are rarities like Jill Price). 

Strangely the only time I was able to keep details in my head was when I was actively keeping a journal during my time at Antioch.  I also had a tendency to reread them frequently, which is something I've stopped doing, because it's pretty painful to read any 18 year old's thoughts and there's nothing worse than seeing how wrong headed and stuck up you were at that age.  I would certainly like to remember more details about my life, but I'm also happy that I've forgotten many of my other experiences.  I'm not sure I would give up the ability to forget, just so I could remember what color shirt my mom wore on my first day of kindergarten.

09 August 2010

Day 135: Noah's Compass

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler.  ISBN: 9780307272409.

This book somehow ended up on my reading list.  I have no idea how.  Someone on one of the many book blogs or NPR must have made it sound interesting.  In any case, sometimes reading outside of my usual fare is a good idea, and I needed it to be after the last couple of books I've read.  This one is also a pleasantly easy read, which is also important to throw into my reading diet occasionally.

The novel opens with Liam Pennywell, who has just been laid off from his teaching job at the age of 60.  He's trying to decide whether or not he should retire, but in the meantime he's decided to economize his life and prepare for retirement.  The first thing he does is move into a smaller apartment.

Oh man, I wish I was moving.  The description of getting rid of furniture and possessions and then moving what's left over into the apartment sounded so appealing to me.  Here I am stuck living with someone else as a kind of parasite and after a year of unemployment moving back into a place that's mine seems nearly impossible.  I want so much to have my life back* that reading about other people unpacking boxes in new apartments almost makes me salivate.  And then there are the times where I get that second call back or an in-person interview for a job and I hop online and start looking at apartments.

You have no idea how badly I want to furnish an apartment right now.  This is beyond nesting syndrome (and I lack the egg to nest).  I've even looked at houses in areas I was oh-so-positive I was going to be hired for; these were places no one in their right minds would accept jobs for except for me because I don't care where I live.  I am seriously willing and able to live in the most isolated rural town you can throw at me.  Just give me a relatively decent library and I'm happy.

I think most of this stems from not having space that is actually mine.  Yes I have my "own" bedroom in my friend's apartment, but I can't or at least shouldn't bring all my furniture in,** and this is a space I can be easily turned out of.  If she told me to pack my shit and get out I could be out of her apartment within 48 hours, possibly sooner if pressed.  This makes me long for nothing more than to sign a year long lease and know that I will be in one place for the next year or so, with the same leaky faucet and noisy neighbors; at least they would be my crappy curtains hanging in the living room.***

*Even if I just end up moving in with my current room mate in a more legitimate manner...i.e. being able to afford paying rent. 
**I have all of a 5x5 storage container left of furniture and other items that I couldn't bring myself to get rid of, but couldn't very well take along either.
***My room mate has lovely curtains; curtains that I make myself would probably not be so nice.

08 August 2010

Day 134: The Wake of Forgiveness

The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart. ISBN: 9780151014439 (Advance Reader Copy - publishes Oct. 21, 2010).

Ugh, yeah, I've had to stretch on this one in case you couldn't tell with my rambling post yesterday.  Mostly this was a book I just couldn't get into; there was a whole section of the of the book that did not seem to be related at all to the story.  Anyway, I'm going to go for the obvious here.


Well, horses actually.  There's a lot of horse racing in this book, and apparently a lot of fools gambling their land and livelihood (i.e. their land) on these horse races.  These are races that took place in the woods and were not properly witnessed or anything like that, but I've definitely enjoyed watching a horse race or two in my time.  And like the Skalas, my dad was the one who introduced me to it.
I think my first horse race was around the age of 8, we would have been either in Oklahoma or California at the time.  For some reason my brain is telling me we were probably in California.  We mostly went to greyhound races in Oklahoma, which was a completely different kind of spectacular.  There is something about watching so many horses that represent decades of breeding and expense.  There is a joy in taking in the scent and sound of the race track, and watching the faces of people who have staked claims they can't afford to lose.
Anyone who's ever been on a horse knows how difficult it can be to control one.  I always marveled at jockeys willing to ride horses that weigh at least twelve times their own body weight.  You have to be pretty ballsy to slap an animal with a leather strap who can turn you into jockey powder simply by rolling over.  I've enjoyed riding horses on family vacations, although I haven't been in ages.  Even though I'm always slightly intimidated by the animal, I always enjoy myself once the horse stops trying to brush me off.
I've never been one of those girls who was a horse nut, but I can definitely see the appeal.  I think everyone should have exposure to an animal that is larger and more powerful than themselves.  It gives us a perspective that we are not as bad-ass as we think we are.  We're so used to household pets, that we forget what it actually means to have animals out there that can kill us and I think it would smack some humility back into the human race.  Shark week be damned.
Also, happy 2nd anniversary to my sweetheart, who is definitely neither a shark nor a pony.

07 August 2010

Day 133: The Wake of Forgiveness

The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart.  ISBN: 9780151014439 (Advance Reader Copy - publishes Oct. 21, 2010).

This is mostly a book about the Skala family in Texas during the late 1800's.  Vaclav Skala is a pretty reprehensible character who treats his four sons like beasts of burden.

I think I can kind of understand that behavior.  Part of that is because I cannot imagine having something I care about as much as I would care about my children, only to see them die before me.  It would be easier to treat them like work horses so as to avoid any emotional attachment.  I almost wonder if higher live birth rates and life expectancy for both women and children had to occur before we could obtain child labor laws and women's rights (which have both increased further).

I am thankful that I no longer have to wonder if a pregnancy is going to kill me.  I am thankful that I no longer have to produce children for a marriage to be valid and legal.  I don't have to worry about my husband sending me back to my parents because I could not get pregnant (regardless of who was at fault physically).  I have control over my pregnancy or lack thereof during marriage and out of it.  These are pretty much all of the things that have popped into my head while reading The Wake of Forgiveness.  I'm also thankful that if I did die and produce children, that my husband would have the children taken away from him if he strapped them to a plow and worked them like horses to the point their necks were permanently bent.

There's chores and then there's chores.  I have no problems with making a child do his own laundry at a certain age.  I'm pretty sure I was doing my own laundry about the age of five.  At the very least I was definitely folding my own clothes and helping sort them.  Not much longer after that I was expected to help with vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning the bathroom, and doing dishes.  My brother was supposed to do chores as well, and sometimes he did, but he was also much better at terrorizing my parents and sometimes weaseled out of it if they were particularly tired.

I don't see many kids who seem to have chores these days.  Granted, they do seem to have much heavier schedules to begin with - soccer practice, band practice, piano lessons, AP courses, etc.  But they also seem to have far more privileges than I was ever afforded.  No way would I be allowed to even take my Nintendo to dinner, much less play with it during a family meal out at a restaurant.  And then there are the 10 year olds who have cell phones.  Nice cell phones. 

If you give your kid a $100+ piece of electronics when they aren't even old enough to sign an online service contract for Neopets by themselves, don't get pissed off with them when they destroy it.  They are children, you are the adult; if you are that worried about them being off by themselves without a cell phone then they should be with an adult.  The cell phone won't help them if they're going to do something stupid without adult supervision.  The cell phone can't tell them, "Hey, it might not be a good idea to put that cherry bomb in the toilet."

Honestly, with the shit I got into as a pre-teen and teenager, I don't think they should be left alone by themselves for longer than two hours.  Seriously, you can get away with some shit in two hours.  And that's okay.  Teenagers need to fuck up a little, but it's a lot easier to avoid the big mistakes when you can say, "I'm supposed to meet my mom at 11:30, and she's a total hard ass."  I think the biggest mistakes parents make these days is not giving teenagers ample room to make them the scape goat.  Yes, they need their space, but they also need you to be the adult so they and their friends can hate your guts.  They will love you for it later when they realize they're one of the few people they know in high school who made it through without ODing or having to get an abortion.  Just think about it. 

And OMG, stop giving 5-year-olds DSi's.  I didn't have an original Nintendo until I was 12 and those things were god damned bricks.

06 August 2010

Day 132: Great House

Great House by Nicole Krauss. ISBN: 9780393079982 (Advance Reading Copy - publishes Oct. 12, 2010).

As I mentioned in my previous post, this book is really about moments between people.  They are usually moments that are characterized by vulnerability with a touch of both joy and sadness.  These are moments that can only be brought to us by living lives in which we know the meaning of loss, and the desire to hold on to what we have now.

Possibly my favorite moment in the book is when one of the narrators confronts his grown child about why he was so hard on him growing up, and why they are still not close.  Dov (the child) is a child so different that the father is forced to think about himself and his parenting in a way that Dov's older brother does not.  And the paragraph in which the father explains death to the young Dov is one that will probably stick in my mind forever.  It contains within in both what the father said, what he felt he should have said, and the hard truths of what it means to live.  Here is the simple response to a child's question, "Will I die?"

"Yes.  And because, no matter how you suffered deep inside you were still an animal like any other who wants to live, feel the sun, and be free, you said, But I don't want to die."

And it occurred to me that this a bullet I will have dodged by the end of my life.  By not having children, I will never have to answer these questions about death to a young child - a being that should have nothing to do with death.  If children are an affirmation of our will to live and continue on, then it seems almost fundamentally wrong to let them even become aware of the concept of death.  These are supposed to be being removed from death, at the very least within our lifetimes, and for all we know they are destined to live on into the future until the end times.  That is why the dying of a child before his or her parent is so devastating, it's a denial of an eternity that once seemed so obtainable and tangible.

Where God provides us with hope, children provide us with proof, that at least in some form we go on.  To confirm to a child that, yes, they too will die, must be like a small death to a parent.  Knowing that, even though chances are they still have many years to watch their children grow, they too will die and even our tentative links to life after death will fade.  But none of this seems to stop us from trying to live on.  And I don't think it should.

05 August 2010

Day 131: Great House

Great House by Nicole Krauss.  ISBN: 9780393079982 (Advance Reading Copy - publishes Oct. 12, 2010).

Don't let anyone tell you that this is a book about a desk and people's relationship to it (this is what I've seen on sneak peek reviews and the book blurb itself).  This is a book about a group of people who happen to have had this one particular desk in common.  The blurb itself is so misleading that it frustrates me to no end, in fact I may be writing the publicist and bitching about it.  It describes the desk as having, "enormous dimension and many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or give it away."

Not so much.  In fact, that desk is barely mentioned, particularly after the first couple of chapters, when it is it's mostly in passing as *gasp* a piece of furniture.  This book is really about the people and their relationships with other people: sometimes they're the ones who own the desk and sometimes it's someone they know.  The point is, the blurb is doing a great disservice to this book, as so far it has been a pretty amazing read, especially since I was smart enough not to read the back of the book before I started reading the thing itself.  Hah!  That'll show you book reviewers.

The one thing the desk has been doing in the novel is serving as an emotional placeholder for a person.  Obviously it's a different person for each segment in the book (as the desk passes from hand to hand we get a new chapter/short story about relationships).  It reminded me of my own emotional placeholder, from which I am writing to you now, dear readers.

At Antioch I had a room mate and when we first moved in together his parents, who are amazing and generous people, bought us a little extra furniture.  We happened to be staying in a largish dorm room, so the bedside table and extra lamp was a nice touch that prevented us from having to walk all the way to the door...and Matthew rather liked sitting in the dark.  After ceasing to be room mates for a multitude of reasons, although still on speaking terms and good friends, I asked if I could keep the bedside table, and Matthew agreed being an amazing and generous person like his parents.

By the time I graduated I felt I no longer needed the bedside table, and so I offered it back to him.  When he said he didn't need it, I gave it to another Antioch student to continue the chain of generous giving (because while it is not the nicest table, it is still better than most furniture found in dormitories and I could have sold it).  It wasn't until after I found out that Matthew committed suicide that the bedside table all of a sudden became important to me.

It was as if that little piece of our lives together suddenly became the only way to hold onto him, and I just wasn't ready to let him go.  And while a piece of furniture could never replace him in my life, having something of his that I use and see and touch on a daily basis has been immensely comforting to me in a way that other things of his haven't been.  Especially since I started using it as my computer desk, which has been off and on for about two years now.

Matthew was a creative person, so it seems somehow fitting to use the table he gave me to pursue creative endeavors (my blog, the rare piece of poetry...which I've been writing again recently, etc.).  I may not be as talented as he was and I certainly can't fulfill his potential, but I hope that in a way his life is still impacting others through me.  And I may have reached the point where I can let go of his table, but it has become such a reassuring presence that I would be hard-pressed to part with it unless it became extremely damaged or worn.

Do you have any pieces of furniture that you particularly cherish?

**I would like to note that I do not typically form attachments to furniture and I've been known to sell, swap, or dump unwanted or unnecessary furniture at the drop of a hat.  The fact that the bedside table is small and can be unscrewed and made smaller is probably one attribute that has kept it in my life.  I do get attached to things, but not to the point where it will cause me inconvenience or extra money.
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