Saturday, August 30, 2008

Reading Device? I don't think so...

The latest reading craze is a portable reading device. They are manufactured under several names--if you are an Amazon user you have probably heard of the Kindle.

My husband just bought one of these, and I must say that every thing that appalled me about a hand held internet reading device before one arrived in my home still appalls me now. This reading device is so repulsive--I could not even look at it. I won't bother to describe it or its features--mostly because just looking at it sends cold chills up and down my spine. Suffice to say, my husband is thrilled that at the push of a button you can download any book from among 160,000 titles and begin reading. No more driving to the bookstore or waiting in the library queue or waiting for your special order to arrive by mail. You just push a button a voila--the words are there on your screen.

I have begun to panic that this portable reading device is the beginning of the end for books and bookstores and libraries. My husband challenges me.

"Why do you care? Books are wasteful. They take up resources. With my reading device, no trees are cut down and no gas is wasted driving to the library."

Okay, I feel bad about that, but look what is at stake!

I love books. I love how they feel--smooth and cool. I love to turn pages and I love the way you can set them side by side on your shelves and reminisc about fond memories with favorite characters, or what you learned from some intrepid heroine. I love the different sizes and covers. I love the picture of the author on the back and I love how they smell. I have always worshipped at the altar of books, and I know that any answer can be found in a bookstore or a library--the shelves and aisles are filled with possibilities.

I cannot imagine having no books in my house. In the case of the portable reading device--I think you don't even get diskettes or computer chips. I think you simply get a little link to click on your hand held device.

I cannot imagine a sadder world than one where all my books are condensed to a few clicks on a computer screen. Can you?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Empire of Scrounge

Interested in Dumpster Diving? Love to pick through trash? Are your greatest treasures found free on the side of the road? Empire of Scrounge is a fascinating account of one man's 8 month odyssey through the trash bins and dumpsters of his town in Texas.

For those 8 months he made his living and took notes of the myraid of things he found--discarded. His stories of rescuing and living off of the abandoned detritus of America became a commentary on the wasteful consumer culture of which we are all a part.

This book asks us to take a serious look at what we consume and how we consume it. It also weaves an interesting tale about the intersection of what is legal and what is illegal as it crosses thresholds with trash dumpsters and found objects.

This book is available from NYU press.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I just got tagged by an old friend from my res hall days. SSS worked for KT at the same time I did. I've been catching up with him lately at his blog All I'm Saying. I feel honored because SSS's blog is very very funny and thoughtful, and he has someone from every state and even a few other countries reading his blog. I have about 5 people who read my blog.

So here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post these six rules on your blog.
3. Write 6 random things about yourself.
4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person you have tagged know by leaving a comment on their blog. 6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted.

6 Random Things about myself:

1. KT from lucky girl is one of my top role models in life. She was one of my first bosses ever and she really taught me a lot about how to do work stuff. Unfortunately, I am only half the boss she ever was. I am lucky to have worked with her.

2. I have frequent insomnia. I don't use any medication or sleep aids. I just don't beleive in them. Maybe a cup of chammomile tea.

3. Best show ever: Battlestar Galactica (Modern version--not the cheesy one from the 70s.) Nothing like watching Starbuck kick a little cylon bootie.

4. It is almost November again. While I am excited for November to be over so we can get this election behind us, I am equally excited for: NANOWRIMO. I have actually won this contest three of the four years I have entered. For those of you squeamish about 50,000 words in 30 days. Try what my friend Steph did: Nanoblopomo!

5. I really don't understand conservative Christianity. Wasn't Jesus a radical?

6. I have two overdue library books.

I will tag:

Steph at Steph's Cup of Tea.
Sweetcakes at Two Boys and a Beagle
Anna Pieka Valentine
Zenabu at What was I thinking?
Bloomington Girl

Thanks all!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Putting it Out There

I have been reading a lot lately about people who "put it out there". They wish for something or pray for something. They put out their wishes and wants and needs to the universe and wait for the response from God or the gods and it appears. I am not really sure how to put it out there. I guess I will blog about it.

I want to take a class on how to dance like they do in the musicals. I do not necessarily need to be on stage. I do not want to sing while I do it. I just want to move my body the way Meryl Streep does in Momma Mia. I want to do it to the beat of fun music and I want to do it with other people.

Years ago when I was a grad assistant at Collins, the students entered a dance competition called IU SING. The students choreographed two numbers. One was to Iko Iko and the other was to the Banana Boat song. (You know, Hey Mr. Talley Man talley me bananas). I joined them for rehearsals and performed at the competition and I enjoyed every minute of it.

So if I could design the class myself it would be someone who teaches us fun dances to fun familiar musical songs and we just dance them over and over until we get it right. Then we come back the next time and do it again. I've been searching different local organizations and cannot find much of a class that fits this description. Does anyone have any ideas?

Friday, August 15, 2008

What was your best summer read?

I am interested to hear what you read this summer? The best? The Worst?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Best Summer Read: Lost on Planet China by Maarten Troost

Maarten Troost wrote a great travel memoir a few years ago called The Sex Lives of Cannibals. It chronicled the two years he lived on a remote South Sea Island. Nothing I would ever want to do after reading his book. It sounded awful, but it was a fun read.

My husband picked up Lost on Planet China and I read it this summer very quickly. Our intrepid traveler spent a few months wondering around that enigmatic country known as China.

He is funny, thought provoking and simply a master at translating his own experiences to meaningful tales for the armchair traveler. You'll laugh; you'll cry; you'll want to run out and learn Mandarin.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Liquid Jade

I became a fan of tea because of two very special friends. I must admit, my drink of preference is coffee and my second choice is dry red wine. But for the sheer enjoyment of company and slowing down and feeling at peace, I am glad I discovered tea.

I have been to several tea shoppes, tea houses, tea parties and afternoon teas at fancy hotels. I am always carried away by the utter civility of it all. So this book caught my eye at the library a few weeks ago: Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West by Beatrice Hohenegger.

It is not a fast read, but Ms Hohenegger has many small chapters on the history of tea which have interesting tales about tea and its discovery and importance in the East and its arrival and importance in the west.

Here are a few nuggets from this fun history of tea:

*Lu Yu the tea sage wrote, "Drinking tea is an act of consciousness and a celebration of life."

*The Bodhidahrma first intertwined tea and meditation.

*A sincere heart is at the center of tea.

*In merry old England tea is credited with generating an early feminist movement.

I am off to brew a cuppa. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wanted: A Transgendered Hero

This evening I was at a local cafe, enjoying a latte before I left for a writing circle that I was facilitating. I was reading and generally mulling over life when the owner of the cafe who happens to be a transgendered person (A man who dresses like a woman.) came over and started a conversation with me.

Somehow it came out that I was a writer and she quickly told me that she had a great idea for a novel, and would I write it?

"What is that?" I ask.

"Someone needs to write a novel where the hero is transgendered. All transgendered people in the movies or in books are weirdos or killers or evil. You need to write something that shows us in a positive light."

She quickly went away to bus some tables, but she had me thinking... are there positive images of transgendered people in the movies? Certainly there must be some. I offered Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie.

"Doesn't count," she said when she returned. "Dorothea wasn't really trans. Dustin Hoffman was playing a woman to get a job. Same with Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. It can't be a comedy. It has to be a real hero hero."

We paddled around a few other famous transgendered movie roles, but none of them fit my new friend's definition of positive role model and hero.

So now I am trying to decide how I would write this character. I would need to ask a lot of questions of transgendered people and find out exactly what's going on when they choose to don the clothing of another sex.

I told my friend that she should write the novel. She told me she couldn't write at all, and she was content to let it be my mission. Help me! I am stuck on a transgendered detective in a series of mystery novels. What sort of novel would you write if you were asked to tell a story of a transgendered hero?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Memoir -vs- Anti-memoir

I spent the better part of this past week reading two very compelling memoirs. The first was a slash and burn take no prisoners account of Marya Hornbacher's 10 year struggle with Anorexia and Bulimia called Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia. Her stories of dieting down to a mere 52 pounds and ignoring all of the humans who wanted to help her was positively gruesome. The pleasure in reading was in the voyeurism of it all. What horrifying act can we watch the author perform this time? How can she further degrade her already abused body? Or better yet--How is it that she is so different than me?

It left me feeling sort of sick--the literary equivalent of watching the ambulance race up to a bad car wreck. In fact, many memoirs leave me with that same feeling: I read this because these true stories of other people's lives are so hideous and chilling that I can't help but look and read.

I did stumble across another memoir this week and the author--the child of a celebrity has chosen to call it an anti-memoir. I suppose because it is not really about an awful life. I am not reading it becuase it is horrifying and over the top, I am reading it because it is well written and actually this man could be like me or any one of my friends. He has normal friends and small problems and he writes about them with sincerity and pathos and they are interspersed with his tales of growing up with a celebrity dad. I am surprised at how much good writing and real life tales actually are more enjoyable than the terrifying ones.

This is not a daddy dearest tell all, this is not stories of his horrible addictions or wanton life. This is just a dad who has written an anti-memoir. A story for the rest of us.

So please go to the library and check out: My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life: an anti-memoir by Adam Nimoy (that's right, Mr. Spock's son)

Why I love the Library

I have made good use of my public library over these past few months.

When I hear about a good book on the radio or via a fellow reader, I go immediately to the on-line card catalog at the library. I find it and place a request. The library notifies me when it is ready and waiting at the circulation desk. I have a running list of about 10 books and every few days I get a note in my email in-box that the book I want is ready.

It has been a good habit to get into this summer. I have spent a lot less on books at Borders and enjoyed them just as much. The library has a more varied and older selection so when I started to feel the need to take a look at Wendell Berry stories and essays, I did not have to buy them all to figure out I only wanted one or two of them.

Viva the library!