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Archive for February, 2010

Friday Fun! (Dessert Pizza)

February 26, 2010 8 comments

When I was in middle school, Pizza Hut came out with dessert pizza.  I very rarely got to go out for dinner, as my parents didn’t have much money, but my middle school had a merit competition twice a year.  The kids who got over a certain number of merits for various things like memorizing Bible verses got to go out to Pizza Hut for the buffet, and let me tell you, the only reason I was memorizing Bible verses was for that dessert pizza.  But then suddenly dessert pizza vanished from the menus of pretty much every pizza place.  I thought they were gone forever.  Oh, I was so wrong.

This week it was my friend’s birthday, and three of us went out to a local bar.  My two friends were suddenly like, “Let’s get the dessert pizza.”  Wait. What?!  It arrived, and you guys, it is an ooey gooey amazingness of awesome.  It’s cinnamon, maple syrup, and sugar sauce with slices of apples topped by cream cheese like stuff.  The most delicious dessert pizza I’ve ever had.  I brought the leftovers home, and after eating them last night, my boyfriend and I promptly decided we needed more, so take-out it was!  Not to mention a left-over slice for breakfast.  Welcome back to my life, dessert pizza!

I realize my Friday Fun posts have a tendency to be about food, but dammit I love food!  Happy weekends, everyone!

5 More Questions About Books

February 25, 2010 6 comments

You guys may remember the previous meme post I did 5 Questions About Books, which I acquired from Syosset Public Library’s Readers and Reference blog.  Well, the lovely Sonia of the library, contacted me with the complete list of questions they use in case I wanted to do another meme!  Gotta love my fellow librarians ;-)  So here’s 5 More Questions About Books, and as before, feel free to use the meme yourself.

What book is on your nightstand right now?:
The Angry Heart: Overcoming Borderline and Addictive Disorders: An Interactive Self-Help Guide by Joseph Santoro, PhD.  It’s a great book, and I highly recommend it!

What is a book you’ve faked reading?:
Bleak House by Charles Dickens.  It was assigned for a required course in British literature.  I attempted to read it, but after a couple of chapters and with the other homework I had going on that semester, Sparknotes became my very dear friend.  For the record, I aced the exam questions on it. ;-)

What’s a book that’s changed your life?:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I was raised in a very traditional, religious, patriarchal manner, and this book was what spurred me on to investigate other ways of looking at the world.  Needless to say, I am no longer religious; I am a feminist.  This book is what started me on the path to free-thought, and I will always love Margaret Atwood for that.

Can you quote a favorite line from a book?:
“…If death
Consort with thee, death is to me as life;
So forcible within my heart I feel
The bond of nature draw me to my own;
My own in thee, for what thou art is mine:
Our state cannot be severed, we are one,
One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself.”
Adam to Eve, Paradise Lost by John Milton.  One of my favorite quotes of all time.

What’s your favorite book genre?:
This should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone, but dystopian literature followed closely by scifi with horror a super-duper close third.

Wolf Bite Wednesday (Hypocrisy of Humane Animal Farming)

February 24, 2010 9 comments

As a libertarian, I believe that adults should be able to do whatever they want to do as long as it doesn’t harm other living creatures.  This means that in what society sees as gray areas, I go with whatever side allows for more choice.  It also means I try to avoid being “militant” about anything and just hope that with the evidence I calmly present, people will change their minds.  Unfortunately, no matter how many times you present the evidence that evolution is real, some people still choose to teach their children that god made woman out of Adam’s rib.

One thing that I cannot stand and won’t stay quiet about, though, is hypocrisy, and it’s something I’ve been seeing cropping up more and more in the green movement.  You guys all know that I’m a vegetarian.  I wholeheartedly believe this is the right choice, and it’s one I want more people to make.  However, I respect whatever choice people make, because what you eat is your own business.  I have no problem with omnivores who say they enjoy being at the top of the food chain, that we’re naturally predators so we may as well enjoy it, etc…  They’ve decided what matters to them while acknowledging that this choice causes pain.  I don’t agree with the choice, but it’s not hypocritical.  I also have no problem with people who want organic animal farming due to a concern about chemicals in meat.  I think it’s kind of a silly thing to be concerned about, but again it’ s not hypocritical.

However, I have a serious problem with you people who purport to support organic “humane” animal farming out of a concern for the well-being of the animals and not yourself..  You are not concerned about the well-being of the animals.  If you were, you wouldn’t ask for them to die so you can enjoy a hamburger when you live in a nation with plenty of other ways to healthily feed yourself.  You’re claiming that you want the animals to be happy?  Take any animal from an organic farm and compare it being slaughtered to one being slaughtered at a factory farm.  Neither of them wants to die.  They both cry.  They both struggle to get away.  In a sense, it’s more humane for the factory farm to slaughter their animals, because they are in pain and suffering constantly.  You’re advocating to give an animal a paradise type of environment and then rip them out of it to kill them.  That does not make you a good person!!! DOES NOT.  It makes you a hypocrite.  If you actually cared about the animals, you wouldn’t eat them.  It really is that simple.

Book Review: Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

February 23, 2010 6 comments

Abstract painting on a book cover.Summary:
Connie, a 30-something Chicana of the 1970s who has led a rough life, enjoys the time she spends in 2137 at Mattapoisett with Luciente.  She believes she is a catcher and Luciente a receiver, which allows her to time travel in her mind.  Luciente tells her there are two possible futures, and they need her and all the downtrodden to fight and not give up or the utopian future of Mattapoisett will be lost.  Connie’s family and friends, however, believe she is schizophrenic and in need of their help.  Who is right?

Review:
I almost gave up on this in the first chapter when we discover that Connie’s daughter has been taken away from her due to child abuse.  Connie blames everything bad in her life on other people–the police, social workers, white people, her brother, etc…  She takes no responsibility for anything.  I was concerned that Connie’s opinions were the author’s opinions as well–blame society for everything and take no individual responsibility.  I was wrong about that, though, and I am very glad I didn’t stop reading.

Marge Piercy’s writing is astounding.  She sets up a complex social situation and leaves it open-ended for the reader to decide who is right, what the problems really are, who is to blame, how things can be fixed.  Unlike most books regarding time travel or mental illness, it is not obvious that Connie is actually time traveling or that she is schizophrenic.  This fact makes this a book that actually makes you think and ponder big questions.

The future world of Mattapoisett is of course the reason this book is considered a classic of feminist literature.  In this society it has been decided that all of the bad dualities of have and have not originate from the original division of male and female, so they have done everything they can to make gender a moot point.  The pronouns he and she are not used, replaced with “per,” which is short for “person.”  Women no longer bear children, instead they are scientifically made in a “breeder,” and then assigned three people to mother it.  These people can be men or women; they are all called mother.  In the future of Mattapoisett, women are allowed to be strong; men to be gentle, and that is just the tip of the iceberg of the interesting, thought-provoking elements of Mattapoisett.

At first I was concerned that this book is anti-psychiatry, but really it is just pro-compassion.  The reader is forced to observe the world from multiple atypical perspectives that force a questioning of world view.  More importantly though it helps the reader to put herself into another person’s perspective, which is something that it is easy to forget to do.  To me the key scene in the book (which doesn’t give away any spoilers) is when two people in Mattapoisett dislike each other and are not getting along.  The township gets them together and holds a council attempting to help each person see the situation from the other’s perspective, as well as to see the good in the other person.

What I’ve said barely touches the surface of the wonderful elements of this book.  I absolutely loved it, and it is a book I will keep and re-read multiple times.  I highly recommend it to all.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Movie Review: Black Dynamite (2009)

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Montage of Black Dynamite characters.Summary:
When Black Dynamite’s brother turns up dead, he comes out of ass kicking retirement to clean up the city streets.  There’s more going on than originally met his eye, though.  It’s a damn good thing the CIA reissued him his license to kill.

Review:
There’s not much that I love more in my movies than ones that are knowingly making fun of themselves.  Black Dynamite is simultaneously a satire of 1970s blaxploitation films and a mockery of itself.  The dialogue, characters, outfits, and story are so bad that they’re good, and it’s that bad on purpose.  That makes it awesome in my book.

The acting  is excellent.  You believe in the characters in spite of the ridiculous situations and conversations they’re having.  The soundtrack is amazing.  It sounds just like 1970s music, only it has specially written lyrics that go along with the story.  The storyline is so outlandish that it lands in the awesome zone.  If you enjoyed Bill Murray’s appearance in Zombieland, you’re going to like Black Dynamite‘s storyline.

Black Dynamite is hilarious and unique.  If you enjoy kitschy, crazy plot, dialogue, and characters, you’ll like it as much as I do.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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Movie Review: Fargo (1996)

February 19, 2010 8 comments

Woman next to a dead body in a snowy field.Summary:
A car dealer is in deep debt, and his wealthy father-in-law refuses to help him out.  Since his father-in-law’s one caveat regarding money is that he will never leave his daughter or grandson in trouble, the car dealer decides to get some men to kidnap his wife, and they will then split the ransom.  The plan, naturally, goes horribly awry.

Review:
I think this may be one of the more stupid critically acclaimed movies I’ve ever seen.

Let’s start with the plot.  Why is this man in massive debt?  Neither myself nor the person I was watching the movie with could quite figure that out.  It’s key to me as far as relating to the character to know how exactly he got into this debt to start with.  Similarly, why doesn’t the father-in-law consider getting his son-in-law out of debt taking care of the family?  It appears that the car dealer is in trouble, and you would think that the father-in-law would want to keep the man his daughter loves safe if for no other reason than to protect her heart.  Then there’s the fact that this is quite possibly the most predictable plot I’ve ever seen.  One of the kidnappers is crazy? Who’da thunk it?! *rolls eyes*

Moving on to the acting, it was terrible.  I’ve seen more facial expression and body language from stone statues than I saw on William H. Macy, who plays the car dealer.  The only way I can possibly comprehend Frances McDormand winning an Oscar for her performance is if she naturally has a bubbly, interesting personality, because it can’t be that challenging to play a character as boring as the pregnant police chief.  Then there’s the universally horrible midwest accents.  I’m friends with a woman who was born and raised in Michigan, and she does not sound like that.  She has a slight lilt to her o’s and a’s that is actually cute and attractive, not horribly mangled words such as what these actors purport midwesterners sound like.

It wasn’t until I looked up Fargo to find a movie poster that I discovered it’s supposed to be a “dark comedy.”  Oh, I laughed at parts of it alright, but not due to any comedic value.  You just have to laugh at a movie that’s this bad.

I don’t recommend anyone to see this movie, but it’s not excruciatingly painful to watch if you find yourself stuck in a room with it, which is the only thing saving it from a one star rating.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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On Writing in Books

February 18, 2010 8 comments

Growing up, I was taught that books are precious objects that we do not make any marks in.  Of course, most of our books were borrowed from the library, so this made perfect sense.

Then university came, along with my two very text-heavy majors–American History and English and American Literature.  I was encouraged to mark up my books, both the primary texts of my history courses and the literature of my English courses.  At first I was hesitant, using post-it notes stuck to the pages to mark my ideas.  After the course was over, I’d remove the post-it notes, leaving just a few highlighted passages.

Along came the year when I took two courses in a row that taught Paradise Lost.  The first course was about heresy in history and literature (freaking amazing class, dudes).  The second was on the Western Canon.  I opened my copy of Paradise Lost in Western Canon and found myself devastated that all of my heresy observations were gone.  Gone and never to return.  To this day I wish I had the notations I made during the exquisite heresy lectures.  Nothing taught me the vast possibilities in good literature like approaching Paradise Lost in these two different manners did.  And nothing showed me better the value of writing in a book.

My experience reading isn’t just for shits and giggles, as the saying goes.  I learn things about myself, about the world.  My perceptions and ideas flux and change.  There are the books that I read as a teen that I’ve re-read in my 20s, and I’ve wished that I could see on the page my reaction to the writing as a teenager.

The experience of reading a word or a phrase and having it strike you.  Of wanting to underline it.  Of wanting to note what it means to you right then.  Expand this to include notations of things you’ve learned in relation to this word or phrase, such as the fact that you googled it and discovered it was dangerous for the author to write such a thing at the time.  Or even just the definition of a word you didn’t know.

I know many people think it sullies a book to write in it, but I think it expands the book.  I know people who are disgusted if they check out a book from the library and it’s written in, but I find that to be a wonderful treasure.  I love seeing how someone else reacted to the same book.  Someone who I will never know beyond the fact that they were so moved by a passage that they felt the need to write “omg!!” alongside it or that they knew so much about Greek mythology that they noted which goddess a passage is referring to.

Reading should be interactive, and books are necessarily a part of that.  When I die and people clean out my personal library, I want the copies of my books to show the wear and tear that comes from truly interacting with the books you love.  I want them to be worn from multiple readings and covered with notations and highlighting made in different colors throughout the course of my life.  I want my books to reflect the impact that they’ve had on me, so I’ll continue to write in them.  Even if it means that when I decide in my minimalist way to let a book go that I have a more difficult time finding someone to swap with.

Friday Fun! (On Tuesday!)

February 16, 2010 4 comments

I realized that I missed Friday Fun last week, and given that my current read is pretty long and a lack of movie watching, I haven’t posted since Thursday. My bad!

I took last Friday off of work and had Monday off for President’s Day.  Yay being a non-essential employee of a hospital!  I spent Friday running errands, shopping, and cooking.  I discovered a Stop n Shop that is closer to my apartment than the Shaws I had been frequenting, and let me tell you, their prices are insanely low!  Plus they have more vegetarian options than Shaws does.  I’m a total convert.

Although I don’t really observe Valentine’s Day (silly made-up holiday), it just so happens that mine and my boyfriend’s anniversary was this weekend, so we went out for dinner and pastries in the North End (along with the vast majority of the Boston populace, apparently.  It was a Twilight Zone of couples, folks).  It was lots of fun, plus he got me a Richard Alpert of Lost bobblehead, which will camp out in my apartment until things settle down at work.

Also this weekend, I paid my first visit to the Apple Store’s Genius Bar.  It wasn’t for me; it was for someone else’s iPhone.  I haven’t dared to bring in my baby, erm, MacBook, even though it does this freaky thing where it restarts if I close it.  It took observing someone else using the Genius Bar for me to realize that they are totally awesome!  They’re like librarians’ nerdy twins, and you guys should totally make appointments to use them.  It was some of the best customer service I’ve ever seen.  Just be sure to make your appointment online before you go, or you’ll wind up waiting a while.

For some bizarre reason, even though I had the longest weekend ever, my IBS decided to kick in on the first morning in 5 days I was supposed to go to work.  I seriously actually wanted to go to work today, but it was not to be.  Although I’ve told my boss about my IBS, I still feel bad every time I have to call in sick for it.  It happens around once a month, and sometimes I wonder what that seems like to people who don’t have IBS.  Do they really understand that I genuinely cannot come in to work?  Do they think I use it as an excuse to slack?  If any of you guys have any thoughts on how to discuss this with employers or coworkers, I’d appreciate it.  I’ve informed my boss that I have IBS, but sometimes I wonder if that was sufficient.

Hope you guys enjoy your evenings.  Don’t forget there’s a new episode of Lost tonight and a new Wolf Bite Wednesday tomorrow!

Book Review: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

February 11, 2010 1 comment

Red book coverSummary:
The US government is searching for new biological weapons by sending satellites into the edges of the atmosphere to collect bacteria strains that may exist there but not on earth.  Due to concerns of contamination on reentry, an emergency team called Wildfire is created as a contingency plan.  When a satellite crashes in the Arizona desert, grotesquely killing all but two residents of a small town, the team of scientists is put to the test in a race to protect humanity.

Review:
An up-front confession: Michael Crichton is one of my favorite authors.  I love how realistic his science is, and he writes suspense quite well.  I was therefore excited to read his first book.  Unfortunately, Andromeda Strain did not live up to these expectations.

The suspense is killed right off the bat with the narration style.  The story is told as if it is a report being written up by someone after the event.  This means that we not only know that some of humanity survives this impending doom, but that society is still held together enough to want a report.  If I’m sure that everything is going to turn out hunky dory in the end, I’m just not going to be all that concerned throughout the book.  Similarly, the characters aren’t fleshed out as well as in later books.  They are basically their careers.  Here’s the bacteriologist.  Here’s the professor.  here’s the surgeon.  They don’t come across as real, rounded people, so I completely failed to care about them at all.  This isn’t good for suspense, because if I don’t care about the characters, I’m not going to worry about them too much.

Crichton’s ability to set a scene shines through well in this book, however.  Wildfire’s underground station is vividly imagined, as is the scene at the small town in Arizona.  It was simultaneously gruesome and exciting.  Similarly, his ability to weave real science into a fake scenario is carried off flawlessly here.  The glimmers of the writing that would later appear in Jurassic Park and Prey is clear.

Speaking of the science, Andromeda Strain doesn’t age well.  An entire page is devoted to explaining binary like it’s this huge complicated thing, which it isn’t to anyone who grew up with computers.  Indeed, a lot of the book is devoted to explaining the huge computer in Wildfire’s base.  Unlike biological science, in which the basics stay the same, technology changes rapidly.  I don’t think it’s a wise choice to focus on in a scientific thriller, unless you are projecting plausible possibilities in technology in the future.  Or super awesome possible technology the government may already have.  Crichton does this really well in Prey, which is all about nanotechnology.  Science horror needs to take me into a world that is a bit more awesome than my own, not lamer.  Thankfully, Crichton figured this out in his later books.

If you’re a Michael Crichton fan, The Andromeda Strain is worth the read to see where he started.  If you’re new to him though, I’d recommend starting with some of his later books such as Jurassic Park or Prey.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Bought at Violet’s Book Exchange

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Wolf Bite Wednesday (Impossible Graduate Assignments)

February 10, 2010 2 comments

Dear professors and adjunct professors who teach graduate level courses,

I’m imagining there must be some super-secret meeting of you folks where you all agree upon how to be evil to us as some form of rite of passage to earn our graduate degrees.  It’s not enough that we’ve already fought our way through high school, the SATs, freshman year of undergrad, the rest of undergrad, and the epic painful life choice of what the hell am I going to do for a career.  It’s also not enough that most of us are working real jobs while we also partake in endless hours of class and homework.  For some reason, these are not enough dues paid.  We must pay more.  Enter the class work or homework that you, the professor, know has no answer or solution.  The unsolvable problem.  The unattainable quest.

I have never encountered this in my education before.  I may have banged my head against the table attempting to solve for x in high school algebra, but I was always confident that there was indeed an answer.  My teacher could never be so cruel as to assign an unsolvable problem.  Other things may have changed throughout my education–citation style desired, writing style desired, form notes should be taken in–but this one thing remained true.  There was always an answer to the problem.

Then grad school came.  I will never forget the endless hours I spent attempting to figure out how to update a mythical library’s computers so that all of them would run in a similar capability level within a certain budget only to find out after the assignment was handed in that the problem was impossible! Hah!  See, what I learned there is, in the real world, sometimes there is no solution.

Well duh!  I know that sometimes it sucks in the real world.  I know sometimes there’s just not enough money for what you need.  I didn’t live on a intern’s salary of $120 a month and expect to be able to eat anything beyond pasta and olive oil.  This, however, is not the real world.  This is school.  You are not being creative.  You are not teaching us a valuable lesson.  If you really were concerned about this, you could do something like tell us in lecture that sometimes your budget isn’t big enough to do what your boss wants you to do.  Or sometimes databases suck and won’t work to find what you need.  Or you could create an actually useful assignment that doesn’t lie to us and tell us “your boss is being an asshole and expects you to do all this with this minuscule amount of money. Figure out the best solution you can that might make him happy.”

You are not being creative when you make us do class work consisting of attempts to find articles in databases that you know won’t be there.  You could just tell us “this database is only good for these types of things.”  I mean, isn’t that what grad school is for?  To teach us the librarian-fu secrets that will make us look bad-ass on the job?

For the love of god, we are paying enough dues already.  We’ve been running on less than healthy amounts of sleep since we were around 16 years old.  We’ve chugged unhealthy amounts of caffeine, studied endlessly for standardized tests, filled out confusing as fuck application forms, and more.  Grad school should be about helping us, not giving us more hoops to jump through.

So, please, please, stop giving us assignments you know are impossible to solve.

If you don’t, I swear I’ll stop caring about them altogether.

Sincerely,

One annoyed grad student

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