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Monthly Archives: June 2010

This post has (not) been censored

I don’t get why the word “asshole” is censored on television.  People can say “ass”, and “hole” is no big deal.  But put the two together, trouble starts brewing.  Everyone has an asshole: human, animal, even worms have to expel excrement somehow.  So why is it so taboo?  Is it because it’s directly connected to shit?  If so, then why isn’t “ass” censored as well?  Certainly an ass is bigger than an asshole.  Not only that but it, too, can be directly connected to shit.  Is it simply because “ass” can also mean “donkey”?  It hardly seems like a valid argument to me.

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Posted by on June 30, 2010 in Rants

 

The most common question has the hardest answer

“What are you reading right now?” coworkers and customers alike ask me.  Sometimes I think it might be easier to answer the question, “What aren’t you reading right now?”  I usually have two or three books going at once but currently I have a few more than even that.  Some books take longer than others, especially if the subject is a difficult one.  Even if I finish one book, another one may grab my attention so I begin that one rather than finishing another one that I’ve already started.  It really doesn’t help that I see all the new books that come into the bookstore where I work or that I’m constantly talking about books and authors with friends, coworkers, and customers.  So, in no particular order, here is what I am currently reading:

Heist Society by Ally Carter
I’ve enjoyed reading Carter’s Gallagher Girls series so I picked up this stand-alone.  In the book 15-year-old Kat Bishop is blackmailed into returning some stolen paintings to Arturo Taccone, who thinks that her father took them.  Believing her father is innocent, Kat sets off to find the paintings and get them back to Arturo before her deadline is up.  She locates the paintings but has to assemble the best teenage thieves she knows to get them back.  So far, I’m enjoying the humor and adventure in the book.  I also like how Carter has tied WWII history into it (Kat thinks that Arturo’s paintings were stolen out of homes by the Nazis).  There are minor things that irritate me, though, like how many times the action breaks right after someone hears a familiar voice and confusion over who is speaking and to whom.  I did not have this problem with the Gallagher Girl books, but those are written in first person whereas Heist Society is written in third.  Overall, though, it’s a fun read.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
This book is all arguments for why god doesn’t exist.  Dawkins views several areas of argument for and against religion to drive home his thesis.  I am already atheist so I agree with what Dawkins says but I still find it interesting to see how others argue for religion (and his rebuttal to said arguments).  I’ve been reading this for several months now, not because I’m not enjoying it, but because Dawkins is quite intelligent and it’s hard for me to read too much at once.  Also, I do the bulk of my reading in the morning to wake up my brain and this book is not one for a sleepy mind.  Keep checking back as I will write a full review of the book once I’m done reading it.

Yes Means Yes!  Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape ed. by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
Not only am I an atheist, I am also a feminist.  Jessica Valenti has written some amazing books on feminism so I snatched this book up when I found out she helped with it.  The book is a collection of essays from several writers.  Each essay has several themes and the reader is encouraged (from the introduction) to use the themes listed at the end of essays like links on a webpage.  “If you like x theme, try these essays next.”  Like clicking on a webpage, the reader can jump around the book rather than being constrained to reading from front to back.  This is one of the many things I like about this book.  Sometimes I’m not in the mood to read about “Media Matters” or I may be drawn to “Surviving to Yes” some days.  It’s also a perfect layout for someone like me (someone who is reading a lot of books at once).  The essays are easily read in short increments.  The subject matter, though, is tough and gets me riled up (we shouldn’t put blame on the victims of the crime but on the criminals!) or depressed (why does rape even have to happen?).  Females and males both should read this book.  Everyone is affected by rape and it can only end when we start talking about it (silence breeds the disease).

The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions by Kenji Kawakami
I’ve seen this book around for years but it wasn’t until recently that I acquired it.  The book is exactly what the title says: “Unuseless Japanese Inventions”.  Apparently, it’s a form of art to make something people could use but is so ridiculous that it can’t be used.  Pictures, of course, show these inventions and brief descriptions of each are given.  Take for example The Earring Safety Net.  Tiny bowls are strapped to a woman’s shoulders and should an earring come loose from her lobe, there’s no need to worry!  The Earring Safety Net will catch it.  You’ll never have just one earring again!  The idea itself is hilarious but to truly appreciate it, you must see the picture.  Go pick it up at your local library or bookstore.  You won’t regret it.

Finally, there are two books I am just a few pages into so I can’t really say much about them.  They are Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica and On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

Well, it looks like I have some reading to do!  Until next time…

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2010 in Literature

 

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This one takes the cake

Saturday started off well enough. I met Judy at Einstein Brothers Bagels for breakfast. We try to gt together every few weeks to catch up (and it gives us a good excuse to go out to eat). As we munched we chatted and Judy asked me to help her with an errand after our meal. Her niece was turning 9 and she was bringing the cake. She needed someone to hold it and keep it steady as she drove home. I agreed so we headed off to the bakery after breakfast.

Judy brought the cake out to me and set it on my lap. It was beautiful. It was a two-tier stacked cake with pink frosting and colorful dots. It was tempting to eat but somehow I restrained myself (maybe that’s why we had breakfast before getting the cake). We drove off. Thankfully Judy lived only a few miles away. Still, I was tense the whole time. The cake was expensive and I didn’t want to be responsible if something happened to it. I balanced that cake as if my life depended on it (knowing Judy, it did). I kept it level on turns and as we drove up the steep driveway. I finally let my breath go when Judy took the cake from me. We walked through her garage, I opened the door to the house, and as Judy moved up the two steps inside, she tripped over a cat carrier.

As I watched her fall and the top-tier of the cake go flying through the air, turning over on its head, my first thought was, “At least it wasn’t me.” But then my thoughts turned into a string of curse words because I knew that this was something that Judy would beat herself up for a long time.  With both of us cursing loudly, Judy’s husband, Tony, came running to see what was wrong.  When he saw the cake on the floor, he stopped short.  “Oh, I thought you killed a cat or something.”  All living creatures were fine but the cake was most definitely not.

We stood staring at it for a while, Tony holding the black cat that was very curious as to what that yummy smelling stuff was on the floor.  The party was in 24 hours and the bakery closed in less than 2.  But before we could even think about how to fix the cake, we first needed to get it off the floor.  Judy grabbed two spatulas and, me on one end and her on the other, we scraped it off the floor.  We started to turn it over but the icing made it slick and it started to slide off, dangerously close to landing on its side.  We set it back down on the floor and I asked Judy to fetch a plate.  I placed the plate upside down on the bottom of the cake.  Once again, we scraped the tier off the floor.  Then, holding onto the plate, we flipped the cake in one fluid motion so it was right side up.  We removed the spatulas and observed the damage.  It was not pretty.  The icing was completely smudged and there was a 2 inch dent in the side.

The silver lining was that the base of the cake was unharmed.  Judy called the bakery to explain what happened and they said to bring it back.  We hopped in the car and took the cake back (still being cautious not to damage it further).  By the time we got to the bakery, there was only 45 minutes left in their business hours.  They told us to come back near closing and we could pay for it when we picked it up.

As Judy and I ran another errand, we contemplated how much the fix would be.  I tried to be comforting, saying that they probably dealt with this sort of thing all the time (after all, they bake a lot of wedding cakes).  Still, I suggested that next time she look into their delivery service, just in case.  Thankfully, she laughed.  That’s always a good sign with Judy.

As asked, we returned to the bakery 45 minutes later.  As we pulled up, my phone started ringing.  The caller ID said Judy was calling so I knew it had to be Tony.  The bakery had just called the house saying that it would be 2pm before the cake was ready.  “Shit!” Judy exclaimed.  Yes, there was plenty of time before the party but if the bakers had to stay two hours past closing, this was not going to be a cheap fix.

We went back to Judy’s and waited.  At one point, Judy picked up one of the spatulas loaded with pink icing and started licking.  “That was on the floor!” Tony yelled.  “I forgot!” Judy yelled back.  “I just saw the frosting and I had to have it!”  I thought her argument was rather valid.  Who could resist sugary, pink icing?

When 2 o’clock rolled around, we went back to the bakery (for the last time).  Before Judy went in, we placed our bets.  I thought the fix would cost $50.  Judy guessed $60.  We were both wrong.  They only charged $10!  “They’re getting my business from now on!” Judy exclaimed as we drove off.  I suggested that they should sell cake insurance for occasions such as this.

We made it to the house in one piece, though both of us were tense.  This time I was driving and I was afraid to go too fast or to take sharp turns but everything was fine.  Judy started for the door once more and this time I made sure the damn cat carrier was not in her path.  She successfully placed the cake on the counter and made sure it was well covered and that all chairs were far away from the counter (so as not to provoke the cat into jumping onto the counter and eating/ruining the cake).  Thankfully the cat behaved and the cake remained intact through the night.

Sunday was hot and Judy needed to transport the cake an hour north to her sister’s house.  I was also going that way for a meeting in town so Judy and I drove together.  Once again, she held the cake in her lap as I drove.  This time, though, it was a bit scarier for several reasons.  First, there was no fixing the cake should it be damaged.  Second, most of the trip was along a US highway so the speed of travel was much greater.  Third, it was hot out and melted cake did not sound appealing.  We had the air on full blast, but Judy also tried to keep it out of the sunlight.

We finally made it to her sister’s.  Judy carried the cake through the garage and into the house, careful not to trip on anything.  Once it was safely on the kitchen counter, we both breathed a final sigh of relief.  I didn’t stay for the party so I don’t know how the cake tasted but I hope it was sweet and everything that Judy’s niece wanted.  She has no idea what a long journey it took to get to her party.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2010 in About me, Food

 

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Depressing subjects but still great writing

One of my favorite teen authors is Laurie Halse Anderson.  I first read her over ten years ago when her novel Speak came out.  Speak is written in first person from Melinda.  At the final party of the summer, Melinda calls the cops and several of her classmates are arrested, their lives forever changed.  Yet Melinda won’t say why she called the cops.  It seems like everyone in school is against her as she remains tight-lipped.  The truth is finally revealed but not before taking the reader on an emotional journey with Melinda. ***SPOILER ALERT***  The reason Melinda called the cops at the party is because she was raped in the woods by an upperclassman.  By the end of book she stands up to him and stops being a victim.  ***SPOILER OVER***

Twisted is just as emotionally confusing as Speak but it is told from a guy’s point of view.  (I’ve always believed that the mark of a great writer is one who can convincingly speak in voices of both sexes.)  Tyler begins his senior year after a summer of hard labor to pay off for his graffiti prank.  His newly-toned arms attract the attention of popular Bethany, which causes her boyfriend to come face to face with Tyler.  All the while, Tyler feels the pressure from his father (whose boss is Bethany’s dad) to be an asset and not a liablilty.  ***SPOILER ALERT***  The most gripping scene in the book (for me, at least) is when Tyler puts a gun in his mouth, ready to end his life, and he describes the taste and feel of the metal.  ***SPOILER OVER***

Anderson’s latest teen novel Wintergirls was right up there with Speak.  Cassie is found dead in a motel room and her former best friend Lia feels wrought with guilt.  The former friends had done everything together, including finding ways to stay thin through their own eating disorders (Cassie with bulimia and Lia with anorexia).  From page one the reader is taken inside the mind of a young girl struggling with body image and anorexia.  Words, phrases, and whole sentences are crossed out and rewritten, as if Lia’s mind is trying to reprogram itself to not have negative thoughts.  In this deeply personal narrative, Lia describes all the ways she hides her anorexia and the steps she takes to fool her stepmother into thinking that she weighs more than she actually does.  She describes how the weight loss is not enough and will never be enough, even if she weighed nothing at all.

Anderson’s writing is candid and she isn’t afraid to tackle the tough subjects that teens face every day.  I recommend her to any age, but especially for teens and their parents in hopes that it sparks conversations.  Even if you aren’t a teen or don’t have a child, they are still great books to read because by the end of them, the reader understands the hardships that the narrator, and others like him/her, go through.  I am not anorexic but after reading Wintergirls I understood the disease a little better.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2010 in Literature

 

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Fangs for the memories

Vampires are the rage right now. There’s the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast, Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber, the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, just to name a few. Some have even turned into shows (Sookie Stackhouse is True Blood on HBO, Vampire Diaries is on the CW) and, of course, the Twilight series has been turned into several movies. Let’s not forget the vampire predecessors like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV) and Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Yes, I’ve read 3 of the 5 Twilight books and have seen the movies (I was the first one in the theater to giggle when Jacob took off his shirt in New Moon). No, I don’t read any religious symbolic bullshit into it. I simply enjoy them as a fictional story. Reading is a way to escape the real world and Twilight has provided that for me.

The same goes for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I didn’t start watching the show regularly until after it was off the air. Sure, I caught an episode here and there but I never really got all the “inside” humor. But a couple of my friends were fans and I think that is what drew the impulse to buy the first season on DVD. (As I said in a previous post, I’m slightly neurotic when it comes to TV shows. I have to start at the beginning. No exceptions.) I was hooked on Buffy from episode one. What one kick-ass woman!

Now I’ve seen the whole series through at least three times and individual favorite episodes countless times. One of my favorites is “Hush” when everyone’s voice in Sunnydale is stolen. I heard a rumor that creator/writer Joss Whedon was always being complimented on his dialog so he wrote a silent show (I have not been able to confirm this rumor). If it is true, how brilliant of a move was that? It just goes to show that Buffy was more than just clever conversations between characters.

I think it’s safe to say that gothic fiction has been popular for ages. However, it seems to me that it’s only been recently that it’s really exploded. Maybe I’m just out of touch with the undead world.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in About me, Literature

 

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Don’t call me a picky eater

One of my pet peeves is when people call me a picky eater.  I am a vegetarian and I made that choice 12 years ago.  I am not “picky” about what I eat; I am conscientious of what goes in my body, as we all should be.

I became a vegetarian after watching my sister go through the transition.  I looked up to her and wanted to be like her so I followed suit.  The first year was a bit rough.  Jess was away at college, which made it hard to consult her, and we didn’t own any vegetarian cookbooks.  A lot of peanut butter sandwiches were consumed that year.  The second year was a bit easier since I was just starting college and the cafeteria always offered a vegetarian selection.  As the years progressed, Jess and I found some vegetarian cookbooks we enjoyed and when we visited Mom and Dad, they were always willing to try out a new recipe.

When a vegetarian stops eating meat, after a while the body will stop producing the enzymes that break down and help digest the meat.  Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.

About 8 years into being a vegetarian, I took a little trip and visited my two best friends from high school.  We went out to eat at one of my favorite local Italian places.  My family and I had gone there on countless occasions when we lived in Illinois.  But after I moved away, I missed it, especially the warm bread and butter that came with every meal.  Imagine my excitement as I sat down in one of my favorite restaurants after a decade of being away.

There weren’t many vegetarian options on the menu so I went with the cheese ravioli with marinara sauce.  One of my friends ordered the same thing.  As we chomped away at our salad and bread (yummy!), we chatted and caught up on our lives.  The entrees came and I eagerly dug into mine.  About half way through the meal, I started to feel a little dizzy and something was not sitting well with my stomach.  I excused myself to the bathroom.  When I came back, I felt better and figuring that it was just a fluke, I started eating again, finishing off my ravioli.  But the same thing happened.  Again, I went to the bathroom.  I was feeling a lot worse this time and so I stayed in there a little longer.  At one point some teenage girls came in and one exclaimed, “It smells like shit in here!” and I thought, “Well, we are in a bathroom…”

After paying for the meal I was starting to regret eating, my friends and I headed outside.  I’d moved to the stage of nausea and it wasn’t easy to walk without wanting to throw up.  We couldn’t figure out what it was that was making me so sick.  It wasn’t food poisoning because no one else was sick.

I refused to get in Lynn’s new car until I felt better so we stayed out in the cool night air for a bit.  As I emptied my stomach behind my once-favorite Italian restaurant, Celeste crossed the road to get me some water and gum (I’d never fully appreciated gum until that point!).

I felt a little better after that but still nauseated.  Lynn drove me back to her place, a plastic bag gripped in my hands and the window rolled down so I could feel the air on my face.  I crawled into bed that night, apologizing profusely for ruining the evening.  Like any true friend, Lynn was only concerned about my well-being.

The next morning I woke.  The nausea was still present but considerably less than when I’d fallen asleep.  I forced myself out of bed and through my morning routine.  My sister was taking the train up from the South and I had to pick her up.  The station was halfway between Lynn’s place and my place, but still a good hour and a half away.  I figured that if I could just make it there, then Jess could drive the rest of the way.

It was a rough ride, but I didn’t get sick.  By the time we were close to home, I’d started to crave crackers.  My health improved as the day progressed.

It wasn’t until three months later, when Lynn was visiting me, that I learned why I’d gotten so sick.  The marinara sauce was actually the same sauce as the beef sauce.  They just strained the beef out.  So all the beef juice was still in the sauce that I’d so readily consumed.  After 8 years of being a vegetarian, my body knew of only one way to deal with the beef juice: expel it.

Now I know to ask when eating out if my veggie burger is cooked on the same grill as the hamburgers (a surprising number are; I have to shout out to Cheeseburger In Paradise, the only restaurant I’ve found that has a separate grill for everything).  So, if you’re dining out with me and I start asking questions about how my food is prepared, don’t make a snide remark about “picky eating.”  (And don’t tell me I can “just eat a salad.”  Do you eat salads for your meal?  No, and neither do I.)  If you do, I may just purposefully eat something cooked with beef juice just to throw up on you.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2010 in About me, Food, Rants

 

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Why my sister is not allowed to eat cupcakes around me

My older sister, Jess, and I talk on the phone at least once a week. For a while now we’ve had a rule: no eating cupcakes while on the phone. It’s not because they make a lot of noise or because we find it rude to be eating and talking on the phone at the same time. No, our reason is so no one dies.

A few years ago Jess and I were chatting away as usual. I don’t remember what we were even talking about, but I had Jess in stitches. I enjoy hearing her laugh and I continued on with my story. After a few silent minutes, however, I said Jess’ name. There was no answer. I tried again but still with no avail. I looked at my phone to make sure the call hadn’t dropped (it hadn’t) and that there was a signal (there was). I was dumbstruck. What had happened?

Shortly there after Jess came back on the line by announcing, “I’m back!”  I asked where she’d gone and silently wondered why she hadn’t informed me that she was going somewhere.

It turned out that while she was laughing at my hilarious story, she was also eating cupcakes. At one point she inhaled some of the cupcake crumbs and started choking on them. She dropped the phone and ran to the bathroom to try to get it out.  Meanwhile, I’d continued rattle on, unaware of the danger that was happening on the other end of the phone.

We laugh about it now (with empty mouths) but we learned a lesson: food and funny do not go together.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2010 in About me, Food

 

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